The Rangers could jump right back in the middle of this playoff picture by picking up four juicy points this weekend against bottom feeders Philadelphia and Chicago. If they play with the same tenacity and determination that they did in dispatching Tampa Bay, Washington and Carolina by a combined 14-3 score the Rangers will have come a long way back from what looked like a disaster finish.
Going into Saturdays schedule the Rangers will have played one less game than the Islanders and Maple Leafs who we trail both by three points. They will have played two less games than the Canadiens which we trail by three points and we have played three less games than Carolina which we trail by four points. Saturday the Leafs play the Oilers while the Islanders play the Devils. The Canadiens play the Hurricanes Saturday and the Blue Jackets Sunday.
As the Rangers did to Washington and Tampa Bay they completely dismantled Carolina. Their special teams were perfect. Three for three on the power play with the scorers being Nylander (19), Rachunek (4) and Shanahan (28). The penalty killing was also perfect killing all three Carolina attempts. The Rangers power play now ranks eighth in the league with a 19.4% success rate. San Jose is first with a 23.4% success rate. The penalty kill is now ranked sixteenth with a 82.2% success rate. Vancouver is first with a 88.8% success rate. There were nine different players on the three power plays for the Rangers a far cry from the same five that would spend the entire two minutes on the power play. Also there was the Jagr unit and the Shanahan unit and the mix and match unit. All were effective.
So far the difference and main reason for the sudden turnaround have been varied. Of course the addition of Sean Avery has been big and quite surprising. He brings more than an edge, he brings talent and speed. Speaking of speed, Pascul Dupuis brings a lot of it along with a nose for the puck. He scored his first goal as a Ranger, his eleventh of the season, by crashing the net. Will wonders never cease. The use of two separate lines on the power play has been a big factor and Cullen playing the point has been an asset. Also, Cullen is now the third line center, which is where he belonged all along. So what took Tom Renney so long to make these basic changes that fans have been screaming about all year. It comes under the heading of, don't ask, don't tell.
The Rangers will be playing two teams with nothing to lose. The Flyers rented Forsberg to Nashville for the rest of the season. Want to bet he is back with the Flyers next year. I don't believe the Flyers have won a game without Forsberg but you can rest assured that the Flyers will play like a wounded bear against the Rangers tomorrow. The Blackhawks are pretty bad this year. Point wise, they are the fourth worst team in the NHL. Can Lundqvist play back to back games after this grind? Will Renney gamble and go with Stephen Valiquette on Sunday? If the Prince breaks down the season will go with it.
Problem is the Rangers are very bad at the Garden. They are 11-12-3 at home and 17-12-2 on the road. They have fifteen more home games and ten on the road so we have to pick it up at home. The Rangers play eight of the next nine at the Garden with their away game being against the Devils. Jagr claims the poor home record is because the Rangers get stirred up by the Garden crowd and try to put on a show. Interesting take. The best show the Rangers could put on is the one they put on last Friday against Tampa Bay. That should be the model for the rest of the season.
ICINGS: Despite getting only an assist Jagr played a great game on his birthday. He had the unique experience of watching one of his shots hit both goalposts. He also stormed the nets and was denied a goal after a review. His assist was a thing of beauty as three Hurricanes went to him as he passed the puck to Nylander, who was voted number one star of the game. Rachunek was number two and Andrew Ladd of Carolina was number three. Carolina out hit the Rangers 43-34. Wow! Tyutin with seven and Ortmeyer with six led all players with hits. Four Hurricanes had five hits.
February 16, 2007
Blueshirts Continue On Their Power Trip
Reborn Rangers Roll On In Raleigh
Blueshirts Turn On The Power
February 15, 2007
Weekes Out, Valiquette Up
Surging Rangers May Be Too Rested
Blueshirts Gear For Playoff Push
Rangers Finding More Power After Split