Mon 28 Jan 2008
The Rangers jump from the frying pan into the fire as they start the figurative second half of the season in Carolina on Tuesday night.Ã‚Â The Blueshirts face a difficult task in keeping the Ã¢â‚¬Å“momentumÃ¢â‚¬Â of their two wins over the Atlanta Thrashers as the return to action with a four game in six days road trip.Ã‚Â Actually, the Rangers play six of their next eight games on the road.
While the Rangers are 9-2-0 in the 11 games they have played against the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, the NHL did not do the Rangers any favors by scheduling four consecutive road games.
Why all the doom gloom as the Rangers return to action?
The Blueshirts have not won a game on the road since defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 29.Ã‚Â They are 0-3-2 in their last five road games and 1-5-4 in their last 10 games away from Madison Square Garden.Ã‚Â The lone win was a 5-2 matinee victory over the Ottawa Senators on December 1.
An even more stagger statistic is that only two of the above-mentioned nine wins came on the road Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a pair of back-to-back wins against the Devils and Flyers in mid-November (a pair of 4-2 victories).
Returning to the idea of momentum, any momentum the Rangers have had this season seems to fluctuate game-to-game, and in some cases period-to-period.Ã‚Â The only consistency the Rangers have shown this season is their inconsistency.
The Rangers inability to find any inconsistency and their inability to produce points on the road puts them in a position where their margin for error is slim Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially if their road woes continue.
If the Blueshirts want to prevent Glen Sather from playing wheeler-dealer at the trade deadline, they must pick up their play on the road.Ã‚Â The Rangers will play none of their next 13 games on the road.Ã‚Â That stretch takes them up through February 24.Ã‚Â The NHL traded deadline is two days later and the Rangers donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t return to action until February 28 when they play at Carolina.
There is an interesting twist about three of those four home games the Rangers will have.Ã‚Â They will play host to three Western Conference teams: Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.Ã‚Â Given the Rangers one point in their three game Western Canada trip, all bets are off as to how the Rangers will fare against the leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s California contingent.
The key to the Rangers playoff push begins and ends with consistency.Ã‚Â They must find a way to raise their level play for 60 minutes.Ã‚Â It will require Henrik Lundqvist returning to his Vezina Trophy performance of last season.Ã‚Â It will require veterans like Chris Drury, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan stepping up their play and their leadership Ã¢â‚¬â€œ both on and off the ice.
It will require Sean Avery to stay healthy and continue to walk the fine line of super pest and penalty liability.
It will require youngsters like Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal working through the tough times that rookies face as the games gain in importance.
It will require Tom Renney to step up his tough love and coming down harder on those players who are not doing their jobs.
It will require the Rangers to find a common ground when it comes to their power play.Ã‚Â The Rangers best play with the man advantage comes when the team actively moves the puck (and themselves) in an attempt to open the shooting lanes and setting screens in front of the net.
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