Sunday, April 24, 2011

What's Next 2011: New York Rangers

Unlike last year, the Rangers could not pull out a miracle on the Washington Capitals like happened last year with the Canadiens, making it the second time in three seasons the Rangers have been eliminated by the Capitals. Yet, it's not all bad-- this year they actually made the playoffs. Though the undoing of the team could be the injuries.

The loss of Ryan Callahan for the playoffs could have been the turning point for the team before the series even started, because while he may not have had a complete turnaround for the Rangers, he could have definitely provided an impact. They could have not been in the 8th slot if guys like Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik weren't injured for a decent amount of the year. It's always a "what-if" when it comes to injuries, but it probably couldn't have hurt to have all their guys in the line-up.

Yet, the best part of the Rangers continues to be Henrik Lunqvist, who put his 5th straight 35+ win season and sixth 30+ win season. However, the injury to Martin Biron, who wasn't playing horribly, may have worn down King Henrik; which could be the downfall if they can't get a guy who is able to get some help down the line. Maybe next season, Biron can stay healthy and will be able to help out Lundqvist with the workload, which will help Henrik for the playoff time.

The offense for the team yielded five 20-goal scorers, but out of the East-- only the Canadiens had a worse goals-for total of the playoff teams. Gaborik is a guy who could actually be an offensive force like last season, but he also has to stay healthy-- which has long been a problem for him. A decent story is the young guns coming up through the ranks, like a Derek Stephan and Mats Zuccarello (Aasan), who made a decent impact in their rookie campaigns. The big question is what to do with Chris Drury, who was fighting off an injury this year, but his tenure has never been the best in the Big Apple, which could result in a buy-out for the former Little League World Series champion.

On the blue-line, Marc Staal really showed his true colors and is starting to show his world-class shutdown ability. Being paired with Dan Girardi really helped the Rangers slow down a lot of the offenses, but beyond that-- now much to scream home about for the defense. Matt Gilroy spent a lot of time in press box, while Ryan McDonagh played decently while up on the team, but could be on the bus between Hartford and NYC. Luckily, Bryan McCabe will be off the Rangers.....if they don't do anything stupid like re-signing him.

All in all, it wasn't a total failure in terms of doing better than last year-- but how many more of these subpar performances will it take for John Tortorella to stay behind the bench. While he was able to bring some spark to the Rangers and spirited debates with Larry Brooks of the New York Post.....there's only so much a team could take before you have to cut bait and look elsewhere.

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