Friday, October 16, 2009

Suddenly, We Can Score!

As the Rangers enjoy a few days of well deserved rest - let's see if we can figure out exactly why we're 6-1 and near the top of the NHL in points.

This is an easy one. Suddenly, we can score. Last year we averaged a horrendous and heartbreaking 2.44 goals per game. It demoralized our team - and us - making our offense painful to watch and frustrating to play. But this year we are averaging an incredible 4.00 goals per game (28 goals in seven games). That puts us right at the top of the league (Pittsburgh is 13th with a 3.14 goals per game average)

And why are we scoring? It's a combination of conditioning, system, and talent:

Conditioning. Tortorella made sure his players showed up in shape - sending each one the now-famous letter telling them to work out in the off season and show up in top condition. Once training camp began Torts had the players massive amounts of laps and runs. The players who ignored Tort's warnings were collapsing on the ice - but the survivors have been playing with a new sense of energy and power. Even Wade Redden - who last year was a $6.5 million dollar lead weight around the Rangers' neck - this year has been contributing - one night putting three points on the board. And Tortorella has told the press that Wade's improvement has a lot to do with his being in better shape this year.

System: Under Renney, the Rangers played to save energy, protect Hank, and win 2-1. We tried to be the Devils - but we weren't - and really - for ethical reasons - we should never try to be. Torts looks at it differently. He figured if the puck was in the offensive zone - then no one could score on Lundqvist. So this year the Rangers are aggressive forecheckers. The result is more puck possession, more chances, and more goals.

Talent: In the end, your stamina and system can only take you so far. You need guys who know how to shoot. You need players who can beat the goalie and sound the buzzer. You need talent. And Glen Sather, this year, with John Trotorella's sage advice - on a tight budget - despite several salary cap weights around our necks - went out and brought us some real talent:

It starts with Marian Gaborik. Some pundits called this the worst move of the NHL off-season - but it is looking like the best. Gaborik has stayed healthy - and has shown that he can be a marvel with the puck. He's super fast with the stick handling - and able to get off a deadly accurate fast shot that goalies can't see coming. Gabs has 6 goals and 4 assists in seven games.

But it's more than one player. Vaclav Prospal has 10 points of his own. Ales Kotalik and his cannon shot has 7 points. And 19 year old defense man Michael Del Zotto has an incredible 7 points.

That's your four top scorers - and none of them were Rangers last year. Because in the end you can have all the stamina in the world and the best system - but all that gets you is puck possession. You need talent to finish.

And this year - the Rangers are finishing. They're scoring 4 goals a game. And if you give Hank 4 goals - we are going to win a lot of games this year.

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