Is it too early to assess how the the Blueshirts are doing now that the Lone Ranger has ridden off into the sunset (Jaromir Jagr - Kontinental Hockey League) along with his trusty Czech mate Tonto (Martin Straka – Czech Extraliga)?
The early returns are no laughing matter. Some thought New York might struggle without the former five-time Art Ross winner. The Rangers are off to their best start since 1983-84 with a 5-1-0 record. Hi-yo Silver away, indeed.
By now you guys are probably sick and tired of hearing about Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros, so I won’t belabor that point too much here. The Dubinsky-Zherdev-Voros line has been on fire ever since Coach Tom Renney replaced an ineffective Nigel Dawes with big Aaron Voros.
I was going to comment on how refreshing it is when a coach keeps his lines together for more than one or two games. Of course it’s easy when everything is going well. I watched the Rangers get behind against Buffalo on Wednesday night and by the third period; Renney was changing lines quicker than it took Chris Drury to sign his five-year, $35 million dollar contract last year.
A defense consisting of Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Paul Mara, Marc Staal and Dmitri Kalinin doesn’t seem all that strong on paper, but it’s an effective group. Collectively, they can move the puck quickly up the ice and are physical enough to take care of business in protecting their meal ticket Henrik Lundqvist (insert Swedish meatball joke here).
Once the Gomez-Drury-Naslund line starts firing on all cylinders, this team is going to be even better. Those three are all established players and without question will finish within 5-10 points of where they did last year.
The players on the third and fourth lines have provided tons of energy with their skating and enthusiasm. I’ve been very impressed by how big Callahan plays; you would never know he’s only 185 pounds.
Finnish rookie, Lauri Korpikoski has impressed with his speed and aggressive forechecking. Other role players Dan Fritsche Colton Orr, Blair Betts and Freddy Sjostrom Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha provide good depth.
I see some similarities between some of the Rangers players and characters from the Fantastic Four and Avengers comic books.
Henrik Lundqvist with his superhuman agility and reflexes would naturally be the mighty Thor, the Norse God of Thunder.
Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch is Nikolai Zherdev; flashy, brash, capable of producing incredible hot streaks, but also has the potential to implode. Flame on Nik.
Chris Drury is Captain America. He doesn’t have any super-human powers, but when the chips are down, Captain America can be counted on to be at his best.
Now starring in the role of Thing is brawny Aaron Voros. It’s hammerin’ time. Sean who? The Rangers saved almost $3 million dollars a season in choosing not to re-sign Avery, although I would argue that Avery is more valuable than Voros, even with all the distractions that surround Barbie’s fashion consultant.
Wade Redden would be Mr Fantastic, capable of making those stretch passes and cerebral enough to be the leader of this defensive corps. Maybe Ottawa forgot that they chose to keep Redden over Chara in 2006 when they were both free agents?
Ironman had super-human acute sensory perceptions and extraordinary awareness, which sounds an awful lot like Scott Gomez when he has the puck.
I for one, think that bringing in Brendan Shanahan or Mats Sundin could potentially disrupt the chemistry that has been developing among this talented group. If injuries hit, then bringing in an old-timer with a positive attitude could help, but management should give this group a chance.
So far this season, the Rangers haven’t been overly dominant, but together they have been able to defeat many foes. If they are able to gel as a team and continue to get great goaltending from King Henrik, the Rangers will be a difficult squad to beat. Laugh at your own peril.