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Blueshirts Heating Up

12/21/09

After beating the Hurricanes 3-1 tonight, the Rangers have won three consecutive games for the first time since that great stretch early in the season. Simply put, New York got this wins by playing better. There was no mystery, no lucky bounces, just better overall play.

No doubt Henrik Lundqvist has been the key to the three-game win streak. He's made at least 32 saves in all three games and recorded a phenomenal .963goals against over that span. But the team in front of him has been markedly improved at both ends of the ice.

Defensively, they've given up some good chances in the last three - mostly against Philly - and Lundqvist has made some terrific saves. However, he hasn't been forced to deal with second shots right on the doorstep like he was in previous games. If Henrik only has to face one shot at a time, opponents aren't going to score a lot of goals. The entire team has been much more calm, responsible, and done a better job clearing the crease recently.

Even though the Rangers still aren't scoring more than two goals per game, other than against the Isles in the first game of the win streak, so they have been getting several chances a game. Additionally, they are finally showing the ability to control the puck in the offensive zone, which takes a lot of pressure off the defense. I think that this is partially because Brandon Dubinskyhas returned and is playing well and other guys have stepped up.

The most notable improvement has been Artem Anisimov who seems to be gaining confidence with every game and scored a terrific goal against the Isles. The coaches have been pleased all year with his work ethic and willingness to learn the system, and that is starting to come to fruition.

Anisimov is not the only guy stepping up though. Captain Chris Drury ended a goal-scoring drought that seemed like it had been going on forever against the Isles and scored again in Philly. Chris Higgins continues to skate well and Enver Lisin has really emerged after seeing a significant decrease in ice time.

I really like what Tortorella has done as far as rotating lines over the last few games as well. Even though that top line is still seeing over 20 minutes per game, he seems to be throwing out all four lines a lot more. I really liked the combo of Erik Christensen, Ales Kotalik, and Donald Brashear on that fourth line tonight. They showed some grit but the first two can also add some goals.

And it was nice to see how well the entire defensive unit played tonight. I think that they all played well, and Marc Staal certainly deserved the empty-net goal after a terrific game. Those six will have to continue their strong play if New York wants to be succesful this year.

The Rangers finally seem to be getting their game back (after what seems like forever)and if they continue to stay hot, they can get themselves into playoff position in the next few games. They will return home to play Florida on Wednesday to end the road trip and hopefully keep the streak going in the last game before the Christmas break.

-Mike Valvano

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