Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Bye Week is Over! Rangers Finally Face Florida

Hey – there's a Ranger Hockey game tonight. Just like in the old days.

After playing – and winning - 7 games in 16 days – your Rangers have played exactly one game – a loss to Montreal – since a week ago Tuesday. It felt a little like the bye week in the National Football League. Let's hope out heroes made good use of the time off, resting the injured, and practicing the Power Play and their offense in general

But finally – we have a real live opponent to face off against: the Florida Panthers.

Our warm weather foes lead the Southwest Division with a record of 11-6-3. Their last game was a thoroughly enjoyable come-from-behind win over Martin Brodeur and that Newark team named after Satan (New Jersey Devils). The Panthers were down 3-0 and stormed back to win 4-3.

Florida has the leagues 8th highest Goals per game average at 3.0. Their goals against is 11th best at 2.4 . We would love to have their power play stats: they are 7th in the league with a 20% scoring rate. Their Penalty kill is middling at 82.1% (16th overall).

The Rangers brought some wounded teammates along on the Florida trip. Mike Rupp, Wojtek Wolski and – for the first time – Marc Staal – flew down with the team. This is really the first ray of sunshine on Staal for the longest time. He's been cleared for light activity – and now is at least able to walk around and talk with his teammates. It took about 10 months for Crosby to return to the Penguins – but for Staal we have no idea. The thing with Marc is – we don't know where the clock starts – from the Eric Staal hit, from the end of last season, or what?

Anyway – having him along with the team on this trip was a very classy move by John Tortorella. He may not be long on patience or one-on-one people skills – but he respects and protects his players in important ways. I don't have to work with the man every day – but form this distance – I like him as our coach.

Stralman Watch: Anton Stralman – who the Rangers signed November 5th and seem to have forgotten about since then – practiced with the team on Tuesday – most notably with the powerplay unit. Considering that we are 28th in the NHL on powerplay goals – I'd say we should try anything and everything at this point. But if I could add a small suggestion, Stralman or otherwise, it might help the Rangers to SHOOT THE PUCK a little more often in the Man-Up situations. Just putting it out there.

So, on to Florida to see if we can snap this brutal stretch of 7 days without a victory (just one game of course, but still) and get moving again.

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