The Rangers Rise Again

Last season’s New York Rangers defense proved  to be among the cream of the crop in terms of NHL defensive cores.

Of course, it always helps when you have a stud-goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist skating around and filling the net with his 6’1” frame.

Hank can’t do it all himself though, and the Rangers defense took it up a couple of notches when they finally let go of Wade Redden, put Ryan McDonagh in the lineup and let their youth grow into their roles. It wasn’t often you saw a game where the Rangers let in more than two goals.

The Rangers got off to a pretty rocky start this season, but they’ve picked it up these past several games and now stand 7-3-3. That’s not bad for a team that came out with their best defender being injured with a concussion and a general sluggishness.

Most, if not all, Rangers fans saw the concern with Marc Staal not being in that opening lineup. Staal’s always been pretty good, but 2010-11 was a break-out season for him. It was his first time being selected to an All-Star team and he solidified himself as a member of the first defensive pair with Dan Girardi.

I’ll be honest, I know the defense is good, but not having Staal around raised a couple of red flags. If these last few games have proven anything though, it’s that not having Staal hasn’t impacted the Rangers too horribly.

Girardi and McDonagh have been solid on the top pair, and Michael Del Zotto has come back in and shown that he is capable of playing at this level. He had a pretty drastic sophomore slump, but he could have just permanently tanked altogether. It seems like MDZ is back and he’s come around to stay for good this time.

The interesting part is the recent signee for the Rangers. 25-year-old Swedish player Anton Stralman was signed for $900,000 this past week in order to fill in defensive woes while Staal is away. Stralman recently played for the Columbus Blue Jackets and will make his Rangers debut within the coming games.

With the Rangers only carrying six defenders at the moment, getting anyone to come in and be a seventh man is pretty vital. No one has been playing poorly, per se, but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra man with the team.

However, Stralman tried out with the Devils over the summer and didn’t make their roster. This is troublesome, but at the same time he did have 17 assists with the Blue Jackets last season. If Stralman is truly coming in to help alleviate the problems the Rangers do face with Staal not being in the lineup, his only objective is to keep the NHL’s elite as far away from goal-scoring opportunities as much as he can.

Tim Erixon is in the AHL for now, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be making another appearance for the Rangers sometime later in the season. More or less everyone involved with the Rangers organization can’t stop talking about his potential and how good he’s going to be.

All in all, we’re defensively safe. For now.