Well folks, here we are. The Rangers are almost done with their 2011-12 regular season and all eyes are on the last five games of the season and possible postseason scenarios.
Honestly, I really thought the stress would be over after they clinched a playoff spot on March 19’s game against the Devils. After all, the stress of season’s past has come from the whole ordeal of whether or not this team was good enough to make the playoffs. You’d think rectifying that problem would make things better.
Not this year.
Frankly, no one knows what the Rangers will be up against in the first round. They’ll either finish first and face Buffalo or Washington (my money’s on Buffalo) or they’ll finish fourth and face Philadelphia.
Neither of these options are wonderful. Buffalo matches up well with the Rangers, but the Flyers will bang the Rangers around. It’s not like the cakewalk the Devils are going to have against Florida.
There is no best/worst case scenario, but this doesn’t mean everything’s lost. After watching the game against Detroit on March 21, you can’t help but buy into the fact that the Rangers can be competitive with anyone in the league. Sure, there isn’t much the Rangers can coast with, but they shouldn’t be counted out against anyone.
There are a few things the Rangers need to fix before the playoffs, so let’s get to our to-do list, alright?
The power play– This has been the song and dance of the Rangers’ 2011-12 season; a very good team with one of the worst power plays in the league. But honestly, it has picked up within the past couple of weeks.
Brad Richards bringing his A-Game this past month has helped pick the power play up, but it’s still pretty bad. While failure may not be an automatic assumption anymore, saying “maybe something will happen here” isn’t much better.
The Rangers need to set up on every power play, it can’t be a once a game kind of thing. If they get five power plays a game, that should be two or three goals right there. Look at how the Rangers have done this season, and now think of how much farther ahead they would be in the conference if their
power play wasn’t so bad.
This power play can be improved if…
Michael Del Zotto gets smart– Del Zotto isn’t a bad hockey player. He has all the talent in the world. But if anyone ever needed to grow a brain and click with running a power play, it’s him. He needs to look up and realize his surroundings.
And if Del Zotto does this, the team will minimize…
Turnovers- They’re literally everywhere now. I can’t remember the last time the Rangers got by a game without giving up a goal after allowing a turnover. This is undoubtedly happening because fatigue and laziness that inevitably comes with the end of a season, especially for a team that battles hard 90 percent of the time.
Hopefully this will get fixed up once they hit the postseason. But turnovers aren’t so bad if the Rangers can get…
Secondhand Scoring– First of all, welcome back Brian Boyle. Where have you been?
Secondhand scoring is the one absolute, most important thing the Rangers need if they want not only the first place spot, but a long trip in the playoffs. Gaborik may be approaching 40 goals, Callahan may be approaching 30 and Richards may have picked up his game, but that isn’t going to be enough against teams like Buffalo and Philadelphia and maybe even Pittsburgh.
Brandon Dubinsky’s resurgence has been an extreme help for the Rangers these past couple of weeks. The team missed Dubinsky’s scoring this season, and his lack of scoring definitely played a part in losses throughout the season.
But that was then and this is now. He’s been an impact player, especially in the games against Toronto and Minnesota. If Dubinsky can keep producing and other secondhand scorers like Boyle and Artem Anisimov can come forth, who knows? The Rangers could have a real shot this year.