Thursday, February 4, 2010

Line One? Line Two? What Do We Do?

Let's try to remain positive. The Rangers have some relatively fresh faces in the lineup – they do have at least one victory in their last 7 games – and they are looking to increase that number when they return home tonight from their west coast road trip to take on the (hated) Washington Capitals.

The Capitals are riding high - first place in the Eastern Conference and a full 10 points above the next best team (the Devils). They lead the NHL defending champion Penguins by 11 points. They are the best team in hockey right now.

None of this is good for the Rangers - who are reeling - or for Henrik Lundqvist - who has personally lost 5 straight regulation games. I’m thinking that’s his worst streak ever – unless any of you can remember him doing this badly before.

But – to stay positive - our team appears to be still be hustling out there. We’re playing hard and trying to play team defense. And the recent addition of Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust has brought some more hope to the Blueshirts. But it has also brought some questions. First and foremost: How do we line these guys up?

I'm really interetsed to see how Tortorella sets his lines up tonight- and in particular where he plays Jokinen. Christensen seems to have some real chemistry with Gaborik and Prospal. You could keep him there - but then why do you trade for a first line center if he's not going to play on your first line? Olli could be another target for Prospal's creative passing. He could draw some attention away from Gabby. He could get the puck into the zone and set up Marian like a first line center is capable of. He could make our first line into something that can go toe to toe with any line in the league.

Of course - on the other hand - having multiple lines that can score is very important in the NHL - and having anyone besides Gaborik score for the Rangers is long overdue. Right now The Gifted One has 5 of our last 6 goals. If we drop Olli down to line two he could turn that into line 1a - making it an offensive force and giving the teams that play us problems in deciding when to play their best defensemen.

Either plan could work - or could fail. And of course, knowing John Tortorella - we'll probbaly see both combinations - and a dozen others - before the year is out.

Nobody asked me - but I'd try to put Dubinsky with Olli on the 2nd line to see if we can get that going.

I'm not going to predict a winner tonight - but I will predict:

- Rangers will play hard
- Olli will respond to his first-ever MSG game as a Ranger with a big game.
- Prust will punch somebody

This is the same Capitals team that won 3 straight to oust us from the playoffs last year. In a way - we've been trying to re-make the team to fix that ever since. We've had all this time to regroup and re-engineer ourselves. We know we don’t like Ovechkin and his mates. Let's see what Sather and Tortorella have come up with.

Puck drops at 7pm.

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