As an overly cynical yet die-hard Ranger Fan, I have been humbled by the consistent performance of this team throughout the season. Of course there have been times I have been irate and outright dumbfounded at the conclusion of games (see: Edmonton, St. Louis, and our first Florida game to just name a few), but at the end of day, the wins and loss column is all that matters. And after our thrilling Winter Classic victory yesterday in that disgusting city they call Philadelphia, our New York Rangers sit on top of the NHL all by themselves.
Quick starts are certainly not unchartered territory for the Rangers, as they have started strong in four of the five past seasons, only to find themselves fighting desperately for the right to compete for Lord Stanley come April. So while a lot of Ranger fans sense something special is brewing here on Broadway, I will proceed with a bit more caution and still say we are an overachieving six seed with the potential of wreaking havoc come spring. Regardless of how this season transpires, these early points the Rangers are accumulating now will prove to be invaluable, and I honestly hope the Blueshirts continue to prove me wrong. With all this being said, here a few thoughts on our beloved Rangers in no particular order:
Brad Richards was the most coveted free agent this past offseason, and it was only fitting that Glen Sather opened up his wallet to award him a 9 year, $60 million dollar contract. For that kind of mula, you would think the Rangers were getting a top game breaker who impacts the the game almost every time he jumps over the boards, right? Wrong. Richards at times has shown flashes of brilliance, but for the most part, in my opinion, he has been non-existent in many games leaving me to wonder if he had been a healthy scratch, or sent to Hartford with Avery. Before everyone jumps on me for this assessment of Richey, I will provide the flip side of the argument. Richards has fit in extremely well with our team enhancing the chemistry and further providing a nice balance of talented youth and experienced veterans. While he has not propelled the power play in the ways we had hoped, (lets’ be honest here though, what can really save our power play? Tim Tebow couldn’t even help it), he has provided several late game heroics, most notably in Phoenix, and as recently as yesterday in the Classic. The late game goals Richards has CONSISTENTLY provided are priceless, allowing me to forgive him and his salary when he takes nights off every now and then.
Ryan Callahan. Wow. Not much negative to say here. Our captain has hands down been our most consistent player leading our team night in and night out with his effort. Whether on the power play, penalty kill, or even-strength, this guy is a gamer. He can be utilized in all scenarios and makes his presence known every shift.
Boyle, Fedotenko, and Rupp. Where to begin with this motley crew? It is only fitting I discuss them all at the same time, because they simply don’t belong on this team. They are a disgrace to the uniform. Even Rupp’s performance yesterday cannot change my feelings. In addition to not belonging on this team, I’m not sure any team in the NHL would take fliers on these guys. The have a combined 10 goals (Boyle-2, Feds-5, and Rupp-3) this year, and if you don’t include Rupp who missed most of the season, it is a combined 7! Seven goals from Boyle and Feds who have not missed a single game this year. In 15 games Avery alone netted 3 goals. Not to mention all of the other intangibles he provides to our team a nightly basis. They would even be a questionable 4th line to me. But because they are all “Torts” guys, their position in the lineup is cemented. (NOTE: If Feds didn’t score those two goals in Game 7 vs. Calgary in ’04, neither would have a job right now.) Boyle has not scored a goal since the Washington game back in November, and God only knows the next time he will find the back of the net. Probably never. He’s completely and utterly useless. I can only think of three less logical and shocking events in life than the presence of Boyle, Feds and Rupp in the Ranger lineup: 1) The beheading of Ned Starks in The Game of Thrones. (Sorry if i ruined it for you, but if you haven’t seen this show by now it deserves to be ruined for you) 2) A blackjack dealer pulling a 5 card 21 after showing a 6, and (3) Toney Douglas of the New York Knicks taking any jump shot. Please let me know any other suggestions of events that would be less rationale.
Dubinsky is a tricky one. A long scoring slump to begin the season sent him down to the third and fourth line for a considerable amount of time. Even before he was demoted I thought he was playing well, despite his inability to put the biscuit in the basket. Dubs has to be, and will be, a critical player for us if we are to make any sort of a run come playoff time, and I am very happy to see his play coming alive as of late, scoring goals against the Islanders, Capitals, and the Panthers.
The Stepan, Gaborik, and Anisimov line has been our ONLY great line of the season. If this line is not evidence enough to Torts that trusting and keeping a line together is the only way to develop consistency, well, I don’t know what will be. Torts is always tinkering with line combinations to change the flow of the game in an attempt to gain momentum because he thinks he’s so f*cking smart. (Truthfully, I wanted to photoshop Torts ugly head on a stake for this post…no such luck.) I for one hate this coaching style because it does not allow the players to develop a chemistry with one another. The only line that has been kept together through good and bad has been the Step, Gab, Arty one. Just seems a bit ironic.
Next up is Florida at home Thursday night. Definitely an expected and realistic two points for the Rangers, but I’m sure Torts will f*ck it up by moving Boyle onto the Step-Gabs-Arty line…that f*cking condescending prick.
I can only hope the Rangers continue to humble me.