How far will the Rangers get this season?

Thoughts From The Rangers' 2-1 Victory Over The Toronto Maple Leafs
Martin Biron shined, the team played phenomenal defense and Derek Boogaard had his first fight as a Ranger

Martin Biron

Martin Biron


The Blueshirts got back on track last night with a convincing win over one of the league’s hottest teams.  They only managed two goals, but the story of last night was goalie Martin Biron.  Here are some observations from the Rangers’ 2-1 victory over Toronto:


  • Biron performed exactly how everyone hoped he would.  The Rangers made it a priority to sign a capable backup goalie to spell Henrik Lundqvist and must already be pleased with their investment.  Biron isn’t going to steal games like Hank does, but he has plenty of experience as a starter in the NHL and has already proven that the Rangers won’t have to punt games when Lundqvist needs a break.  Biron was very good with his positioning all night, never needing an acrobatic save and calmly allowing the puck to come to him.  He gave up a couple juicy rebounds early, but after that the Leafs weren’t given many second chances.  The most noticeable difference when Biron is in net is his ability to play the puck.  For all that Lundqvist does, he’s a very weak puck handler.  On multiple occasions Biron skated behind the net and wacked the puck up along the boards to an open teammate.  Since the Rangers were so conscious about coming back to help Biron anyway, this created a ton of extra puck possession as the team was able to quickly reverse course and skate the puck to safety.

  • The Rangers have showed a much greater commitment to defense in recent years when Lundqvist is not in the lineup.  Last night’s effort was incredible; they blocked a ridiculous number of shots and were constantly in the shooting and passing lanes.  Former coach Tom Renney recognized that Lundqvist was his best player and tailored his scheme around playing off that strength.  On the other hand, John Tortorella is all about attacking and believes that having a standout goalie like Lundqvist gives him even more flexibility to go all-out on offense because Hank can bail him out.  Neither system has totally worked, but last night and other games when different goalies have started under Tortorella have been interesting case studies.  The Rangers protected their side of the ice with vigor and the Leafs had an extremely difficult time generating offense.  Tortorella obviously feels that for the Rangers to within without Hank, he has to tighten up defensively.  It worked last night at least.


  • I just don’t understand the need for an enforcer in today’s NHL.  Everyone knew that Derek Boogaard and Colton Orr were going to go last night, and sure enough they did.  So what?  A staged fight like that really doesn’t change momentum unless someone gets knocked out.  Otherwise, 95 percent of fights end the same way.  Two obvious fighters square off, there’s no clear winner, they go to the box, the players tap their sticks against the boards, and play resumes.  That seems pretty silly to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think fighting is an essential part of the game and can give a team a huge boost.  I just don’t understand what the point of an actual enforcer is.  If Marc Staal drops the gloves with someone, that can be a momentum boost as his teammates realize that a guy who isn’t usually overly physical is very serious about sending a message to the other team and rallying his own troops.  But nobody is going to take on Boogaard besides the league’s biggest and baddest enforcers.  Boogaard isn’t ‘protecting’ his teammates as everyone likes to say, because nobody else will challenge him and he only plays two minutes a game anyway.  A nasty defenseman like Chris Pronger or a straight up dirty player like Dan Carcillo are far bigger warnings to opponents to stay away from the Flyers’ stars than Boogaard is for the Rangers.  Boogaard may get deployed if somebody takes a run at Lundqvist or a cheap shot of Marian Gaborik, but he’s still only going to be fighting the other team’s biggest guy.  How does that send a message?  To keep the other team on its tip toes, having a dirty player willing to deliver an elbow to Sidney Crosby’s chops is far more effective.  It may result in penalty minutes very often, but it will make the opponent take notice.  I don’t see how guys like Boogaard do that. 



  • Given the option, the Rangers wouldn’t choose to play without Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury.  But in the long run it might not be the worst thing in the world to give some of the younger guys a couple weeks of huge responsibility just to see how they handle it.  Against the Avalanche, they struggled.  Last night they shined.  It’s probably going to be a little of both over the next few weeks, but these guys are the Rangers’ future, like it or not.  They’re not ready to carry the team by themselves, but in a year or two they might be.  The experience they’re getting now could prove to be invaluable.  


  • Derek Stepan was better last night than he has been since his hat trick season opener.  He seemed to be creating space for himself all over the ice and made more than a few very good passes.  His effort on Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal was a pleasure to watch.  I’ve made it well known on BB that I thought Stepan should have played this year in Hartford.  Honestly, I haven’t changed my mind on that.  He’s productive now, but I’ll always wonder how he would have handled an entire year of confidence-boosting, leadership, and scoring in the AHL before being thrust into a major role in the NHL.  Nevertheless, Stepan has made it very clear that he is fully capable of playing in the NHL right now.  As a youngster he’s going to disappear for stretches, that’s just part of development.  But there will be games, and stretches of games, where Stepan plays like this.  And boy is it fun to watch.


  • The Rangers’ other goal scorer, Artem Anisimov, was just as impressive.  Anisimov may not have the offensive ceiling of Stepan, but his all around game is phenomenal.  It’s rare to find a young forward come into the NHL so committed to defense, but Anisimov has been since day one and his offense is catching up.  His goal was a gift from Michal Rozsival, but more impressive was the play where he fended off two or three checks in front of Jonas Gustavsson and nearly slid a backhander into the net.  Anisimov is probably going to be a good second line center or a VERY good third line center when all is said and done.  But he’s the type of player that playoff teams have to have. 


  • The entire team played fantastic defense last night, but Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival really stood out.  Girardi is always steady, but he’s far more noticeable in games like that when he’s always in the right position.  Del Zotto has had a rough couple weeks, but he’s slowly figuring things out on defense.  The growing pains are part of his maturity, but he’ll get it.  And Rozsival is always like this.  One game, one shift even, he’ll turn the puck over on a Rangers power play and give the other team an odd man rush.  The next game or shift he’ll make three or four great plays and shut down the other team’s top line. 


  • Rozsival isn’t the only Ranger with Jekyll and Hyde issues.  It’s been like this for quite a while now, but the Rangers come out one night and completely outwork, outskate, and outscore the opponent.  Two days later, they’ll look completely disinterested and asleep.  This happened under Renney too and seems to be part of the team’s identity.  There are plenty of other teams that take nights off, but none like the Rangers.  It’s hard to fathom, because this team does have the talent to beat most opponents.  But the effort isn’t always there.  Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust will always go all out.  But the team as a whole doesn’t, and it’s baffling. 


Posted by Kevin Baumer | October 22, 2010 at 02:47 pm

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New York Rangers VS Chicago Blackhawks
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 3 0 0 - 3
Blackhawks 1 1 0 - 2

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