Rick Nash and the New York Rangers put an end to the Lightning win streak last weekend at the Forum. Will the Bolts return the favor tonight? - USA TODAY Sports
A quick Q&A with our colleagues at Blue Shirt Banter to learn how close the Rangers are to their A-game, who won the Rupp-for-Powe/Palmieri trade, and how to measure success amidst high expectations.
Let's just pretend that game in Boston last night never happened. What? Oh. Never Mind.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have apparently escaped from Boston and blizzard-central to the island of Manhattan, where they will face the up-and-down New York Rangers in a 7:30 game tonight. Then, after a week on the road, the Bolts will return home. They have yet to earn a point in the standings on this trip (0-2-postponed), having lost three straight. Meanwhile, the 2013 Rangers remain a work-in-progress and look to keep the momentum going from their decisive win over the Islanders Thursday.
I checked in with Joe Fortunato, managing editor at Blueshirt Banter, yesterday to get his thoughts on the State of the Rangers ten games into the season. Thanks to Joe for taking the time to give us a better understanding of what's happening behind the hype.
Carolyn Christians, Raw Charge:
1) Like many top NHL clubs this year, the New York Rangers are off to a slower-than-expected start. At 5-5-0, they are hovering just below the playoff line in the East. Thursday, their 4-1 win at home over the Islanders featured rookie J.T. Miller scoring twice on two shots and Henrik Lundqvist back to performing like a Vezina contender. On paper, this roster appears to have the ingredients to be dominating opponents every night, and not relying on a 19-year-old to spark the offense. How much of the Rangers' struggle to find consistency is related to the shortened preseason and what indications do you see that they are, as a group, starting to establish chemistry and compete level that will push them to that next level?
Joe Fortunato, Blueshirt Banter:
I think you'll find that any John Tortorella team -- and you guys should know this well -- need a preseason to be successful.
The Rangers made a pretty dramatic overhaul of players, and with the addition of Rick Nash they transformed themselves into a team that needs to rely on their speed and talent more than their ability to grind games away. Sure, the slow start can be attributed to the shortened season, or the overhaul of players. Many Rangers didn't play overseas, either, so getting back into game shape has been an issue.
As for signs the Rangers are on their way back? I need to see a few more strings of wins before I'm ready to say anything. Consistency has been a major problem so far this season.
2) GM Glen Sather made a depth trade this week sending Mike Rupp to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri. How does this deal help the team and, related, if the Rangers were to add one piece before the trade deadline, what position do you think needs to be addressed first and foremost?
Well, honestly, it's a huge win for the Rangers. I'm shocked that Sather got anything for Rupp, let alone a younger player whose skill is sorely needed on the team in addition to a solid prospect. That's not a shot at Rupp either. I liked him as a player, he just never fit in the John Tortorella system. Powe will kill penalties, take some of the defensive responsibilities away from other players and, oh yeah, actually play meaningful minutes. That helps too.
3) Finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference standings at end of the regular season last April, the Rangers were pushed to the limits in the first two rounds of the playoffs, with the Ottawa Senators, then the Washington Capitals, forcing both of those series to a game 7. In the Conference championship series, the New Jersey Devils put an end to the Rangers hopes for their first Stanley Cup in nearly 20 years. The blockbuster trade for Rick Nash last July added to the expectations, a year after the signing of Brad Richards had similarly raised the bar. So, how far do the Rangers need to go in this year's playoffs in order for the team and the fans to feel like the season was a success?
The New York media is never satisfied, so to make everyone happy the team would need to bring the Stanley Cup back to the Canyon Of Heroes. Realistically? Any fans basing a team's worth on this shortened season are making an error.
I'm not saying the team that eventually wins the Cup wouldn't have earned it, I'm just saying that so many different things can happen in a season like this you simply can't make too much judgement of a team based off of it. I think anything less than missing the playoffs (even this year) would be a massive disappointment.