With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror and Rick Nash on the backburner until summertime, the Rangers stayed put with the exception of picking up the Blackhawks’ “Andre the Giant”: John Scott. But as much of the New York media (myself included) has written, keeping their homegrown players and chemistry together is extremely important for this unit, and staying idle instead of blowing up the team dynamic illustrated impressive restraint by General Manager Glen Sather.
The Rangers got off to a slow, messy start in their game last Friday, falling to the Islander 2-0 and handing them the early opportunity to put the game out of reach before the first 10 minutes had elapsed.
If this sounds familiar, it is because a virtually identical situation unfolded against Chicago five days earlier, with backup Martin Biron again being victimized in the beginning minutes before settling down enough to give the Blueshirts a chance. In the tilt versus the Isles, the Rangers battled back, converting on powerplay opportunities, outhitting and outshooting their Long Island foes before falling in a shootout.
The loss was their third in four games, but the next two games had a very different tune as Lundqvist started both and the Rangers fought hard for two hotly contested wins. Both victories saw the Rangers succeed in their best areas: dominating along the walls, controlling puck possession in their opponent’s zone and the neutral zone, using puck pressure to force teams to dump the puck in and then playing tough defense, and breaking out successfully. (In their loss to the Islanders, as well as their overtime win against the Sabres the next day, the Rangers utilized the long-stretch transitional pass on breakouts. Gaborik was the beneficiary of this with picturesque passes from Anisimov and then Del Zotto.)
Here are three players who have been playing out of their minds lately.
Carl Haeglin: He should merit serious consideration for the Calder Trophy because of how extraordinarily impressively he is playing. Watching him every night, I almost feel like he is cursed to have won the Fastest Skater Competition during the All-Star Game. While that brought him much deserved national attention, the dimensions to his game far exceed his being typecast as just a speed player.
Haeglin wins pucks in the corners, passes well in all three zones, creates turnovers using that blazing speed, forces defensemen to backpedal because of how quick and elusive he is. Most importantly, he has adopted a nastiness to his game -- not to mention a pair of mitts to match his skates, as he can stickhandle while keeping a very low center of gravity, which makes him very tough to knock off the puck.