Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pen-manship: Rangers Search For Answers After 2 Losses

With 8-3 and 5-2 losses to hang their heads on, the Rangers forge on. With back-to-back losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins in ugly fashion, the New York Rangers find themselves in a tumultuous situation.

Their record over the past 19 games is something to feel rather disgusted at (6-12-1), considering the team started out 7-1. Yet, despite the effort being adequate, the team has gaping holes in every part of the lineup.

For starters, the goaltending has not been up to par. Backup Steven Valiquette, whose been a journeyman throughout his career and found a home with the New York Rangers, started the 1st game of a back-to-back with Pittsburgh and gave up 8 goals with the team around him playing very loose defensively. Henrik Lundqvist must share the blame as well. Although solid for the majority of the year and constantly making brilliant saves to keep the Rangers close, too many times Lundqvist has let a soft goal go in or not made the big save when needed.

The defense is becoming more and more exposed each game. Rookies Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy have provided much needed offensive flair yet they’re young and inexperienced. Veterans like Michal Rosival and Wade Redden are supposed to provide veteran leadership.

While Redden has been steady so far this season, Rosival has been mediocre at best and him, combined with Redden, take up nearly $12 million in salary cap space. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the team’s number 1 D-pair, have been inconsistent at best, blowing a good number of defensive coverage’s each game.

Aside from Marian Gaborik, who has been an absolute savior, and Vinny Prospal, arguably the best off-season acquisition in Glen Sather’s tenure, secondary scoring has been non-existent. Christopher Higgins, part of the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal, only has 2 goals. Captain Chris Drury, back in the lineup after suffering a concussion, has not provided enough offense for the amount of money he makes. Ales Kotalik, who started off hot and brought a revival to the Rangers’ power play, has fizzled lately and found himself in John Tortorella’s doghouse along with winger Enver Lisin, Tortorella’s apparent whipping boy.

The back-to-back series with the Penguins exposed the glaring weaknesses with the Rangers team this season. Management must have shared the same sentiment, executing some personnel moves this week with the team being off until Saturday’s match-up against Buffalo. The Rangers waived goalie Steve Valiquette and recalled net minder Chad “not Ocho Cinco” Johnson and claimed center Erik Christensen off waivers.

With Dubinsky still out with a broken bone in his hand, the Rangers are hoping Christensen, 25, can provide some offensive ability in his absence. The Rangers are hoping for an abundance of things at this point, some consistent hockey would be a starting point.