No one wants to panic or read too much into the Rangers lackluster seven-game start but it has to be at least somewhat concerning that the Rangers offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders yet. The acquisition of Nash was supposed to elevate the Rangers mediocre offattack into the upper echelon of the league but through seven contests the Blueshirts are averaging a paltry 2.29 goals-per-game. Four times this year the Rangers have scored two or fewer goals. That’s not going to cut it.
Nash is expected to lead the way and while he has just one goal so far he’s far from the problem. The Rangers top line of Nash, Gaborik and Richards has combined for 8 goals and 20 points. Prorated that would add up to 94 goals and 234 points. That’s more than adequate for a #1 line. No, the problem isn’t the top line that has accounted for half of the team’s goal total this year; it’s with the guys who are supposed to be providing the secondary scoring.
Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider were all expected to chip in with some offense to lessen the burden on the top guys. They’ve combined for two goals and five assists in 30 games played. And you wonder why the Rangers as a team are struggling to score goals. However, aside from getting some scoring from the above named players, is there another way for the Rangers to increase their goal-scoring output? How about getting some contributions from a defense corps whose offensive talents might be underrated?
Okay, we know MDZ is a talented offensive player but what about the other guys back there? I sincerely believe both Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal have more offense to give; McD in particular. Twice in recent games I’ve seen McD smoothly shift from forehand to backhand, once while carrying the puck into the offensive zone and avoiding a defender and the other time in his own zone to fend off an onrushing forechecker. It was a small thing in the context of a 60-minute game but it shows some real puck-handling ability.
There is evidence that I am not the only one that thinks the defense can boost the offensive attack. It seems to me that the blueliners have been far more active pinching in and jumping into the play looking to get involved offensively. Whether that is just an impression I have or it’s actually a conscious effort by the D to contribute more, there is some factual evidence to support that belief.
Last season, the club’s top five defensemen (Staal, Girardi, McD, MDZ and Stalman) averaged 6.83 SOG per game. This year that number is up to 8.28. They’ve also missed more shots on average than last year suggesting that while they may not be getting all of their attempts on net, there is at least a concerted effort on the part of the blueline to shoot the puck more.
In their most recent wins, 5 – 2 over Toronto and 2 – 1 against Philadelphia, MDZ and Staal combined for three goals and three assists. They had a hand in five of the seven goals scored in those contests. If the Rangers can get more of that type of offensive contributions from the defensemen it will reduce the reliance the Rangers have on their top line and will make the Rangers a better offensive club. Secondary scoring doesn’t have to just come from the forwards; defensemen can score goals too.
Gilroy – I think Torts is a great coach. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with every decision he makes. Take for example his decision to use Bickel at forward and moving Mike Rupp up to the third line with Brian Boyle and Benn Ferriero. Rupp is only slightly faster a skater than the Statue of Liberty and even after taking lessons from Barb Underhill, Brian Boyle isn’t exactly Pavel Bure in his prime (for that matter, Boyle probably isn’t the skater the Bure of today is).
Ferriero on the other hand, is fast and his skating ability seems wasted on a line with Rupp and Boyle. Meanwhile Torts insists on dressing Stu Bickel as a 4th line W and Matt Gilroy as a 3rd pair D. Gilroy, who happens to be a decent skater himself, can also play F. Here’s a novel concept; if you want Bickel in the lineup then use him as a 3rd pair D and have Gilroy play on the 3rd line where his speed can at least give Ferriero a running mate on wing who can keep up. Is that any worse than what Torts is trotting out there in the absence of Callahan anyway?
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