Blueshirt faithful, we are finally starting to see the Rangers we got used to last season. The Rangers had a solid performance against the Tampa Bay
Lightning on Sunday and are now 3-1 in the month of February. A big test on Tuesday awaits the Rangers as the team will head to Boston to face off against the Bruins for the third time this season. But recently the Rangers look like they have figured things out in this bizarre short season of hockey. With two convincing wins against the Islanders and Lightning the Rangers look like they are returning to the elite team we saw a year ago. More importantly they may even look better. But before we declare the Rangers as the best team in the NHL let me go through the negatives first. The defense was average against the Lightning on Sunday. They were horrible in the first period and got better as the game went on. They still need to tighten things up on defense if they want to compete for the Cup later on in the year. There is no way they will win in the playoffs when they are constantly giving up odd-man rushes and breakaways. The defense needs to play better and the forwards need to play better consistent defense as they did a year ago. That was really the only glaring negative from Sunday and from their recent stretch of play. Wait, I forgot the power play. Once again they did not convert on the power play even though it looks like their man-advantage is getting better. Other than that there isn’t much to report badly about the Rangers. In fact, for the first time this year I am starting to feel pretty good about this team. I have noticed a lot of positives developing with this team. The Rangers have finally figured out what to do with their lines. Each line is playing well, has chemistry, has been consistent, and can score at any time. Personally, I loved the Rangers 4th line on Sunday. Asham, Halpern, and Powe are a terrific 4th pairing. They’re aggressive, they go to the net, they play physical and they keep it very simple. The Ranger’s bottom six were a nightmare to start the year but it looks as if these forwards fit Tort’s system perfectly. Ryan Callahan’s goal was all because of Darroll Powe and his forecheck. Asham scored as well. This line can give the Ranger’s other top lines much needed rest during the season and provide the Rangers with a spark that they were lacking. The other three lines are looking very effective as well. Miller is one heck of a hockey player already, (Thank you Gordie Clark) with Kreider and Callahan the third line poses a threat to score. The line of Richards, Gaborik, and Pyatt has a perfect balance with a power forward, a setup man, and a sniper. They looked good so far and have created many chances. And finally the top line of Nash, Hagelin and Stepan. Stepan looked better in the last two games from his rough start to begin the year. Hagelin and Nash are studs. Hagelin creates so much with his speed and he is starting to learn how to finish. When Nash starts to really score and find his touch this will be one scary line. All the lines are complete and the best thing about these lines is that they can all be equally effective and strike at any time. All four lines can score and be offensive threats. This is something I have never seen from the New York Ranger organization for the last 10 years. If you’re an opposing team who do you put your best top defense against? That will be a tough question to answer for the opponent when they play the Rangers. Finally, the King is coming back into his regular form. Lundqvist has been very solid this year so far, especially for not playing anywhere during the lockout. He just has either given up a bad goal occasionally or he hasn’t made a god-like save like he usually has in the past. In the last two games he has looked like the Vezina winning goalie we know he is. If it wasn’t for a bad line change he would have recorded his first shutout of the season. The Rangers seem to have found their game but a big test comes on Tuesday. That game will say a lot about the Rangers and where they are as a team. If the Rangers can continue to work on special teams and tighten up their defense, we could be looking at deep run into June.