What everyone but the Rangers know is this: Special Teams win games.
Last year our New York Rangers excelled on the Penalty Kill - at least they did until Brashear nearly separated Blair Betts from his noggin. The Rangers league-leading PK skill kept them in hockey games and got a low scoring team into the playoffs.
On the flip side though - last year's Rangers were horrendous on the Power Play. This man-advantage shortcoming proved to be their undoing. They languished as a low scoring team - mounting the pressure on their lone superstar - Henrik - until in the end he faltered under the crushing load.
The lesson here is obvious: Special teams win games.
So what is the John Tortorella - Glen Sather braintrust doing about it? (Maybe I should call the two of them John-Glen for short)
Step one: they dismantle the Penalty Kill - refusing to make any sort of overture to Blair Betts - they just cleaned his blood off the ice and pretended he was never here in the first place. And Sjostrom was likewise dispatched without even a quick thanks for all his hard work.
And Step Two: they wheel and deal all off season but still manage to arrive at training camp with no true Power Play quarterback.
And how has this played out through pre-season? Three of the first five contests were decided by Special teams - with two of those resulting in Ranger loses.
Now it's still pretty early. And to be fair, Tortorella is just now starting to focus on Special Team play. And believe me, he is pushing his squad to improve their power play.
But it stands to reason that without Betts and "Shoe" our Penalty Kill unit will be taking a step back - how could it not? And so the PP team will need to take a step forward just to break even. Look - we're very excited about this year's team. We even like most of the off-season moves by the John-Glen duo. But if this is going to be a special year - we'll need our Special Teams to step up.
Because Special Teams win games.
Just ask Lawrence Tynes.
In other news - The Washington Capitals will be re-entering MSG tomorrow night for the first meeting between us and them since the playoffs. It's still pre-season - but I have a feeling it's not going to feel that way tonight. But to confuse matters - much of the bad blood would be directed at Brashear - but he switched teams. Puck drops at 7:00. Gloves to drop soon after?
[An assist and Thank You to our reader who pointed out I misspelled the Giant's Place Kicker's name - it's fixed now.]