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Consitency, Discipline, Role Players Will be Key

1/14/10

Over the last month or so the Rangers have again shown signs of life by earning points in 12 of their last 13 games, including eight wins, and shooting up into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. But as we should have learned after the Blueshirts' hot start is that this success is no guarantee.

If the Rangers want to make a run at the playoffs, and maybe even the division (they trail leader New Jersey by 14 points) they are going to have to show consistency for the first time all year. That doesn't mean that they will get points in virtually every game, but they need to play well in every game. They have the capacity to do so, as long as they stay out of the box. During their slump earlier this season, they took penalty after penalty and rarely skated 5-on-5. This will be crucial to continuing recent success.

Since the Rangers are so young and without production from the older guys like Chris Drury, I think they might struggle to remain consistent - Particularly with the Olympic break looming in February.

Back in Henrik's rookie year the Rangers were one of the hottest teams in the league heading into that break. But during that time, they seemed to lose all of their chemistry and Henrik cooled off considerably. They snuck into the playoffs banged up and got swept by the Devils. I fear that we could see the same type of thing this year.

This team shows a lot of similarities to that one, even though they are more talented. Superstar Marian Gaborik carries the offense much the way Jaromir Jagr did and there are still a lot of defensive letdowns that require great saves from Henrik. If either one of these play even a notch below their "A" game, it will be difficult for New York to remain consistent.

What has been nice on this little run though is watching the play of Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen. Though I'm sure they both benefit from playing on a line with Gabby, the two are not only playing well, but scoring. I found it very odd that Tortorella would break that line up, even though Vinny Prospal returned. Production from role players like them will also be pivotal to consistent winning.

I think the Rangers have a real good shot at getting in the playoffs, actually I believe they definitely will. The challenge will be getting a high seed, which I'm unsure about because they haven't been able to win games consistently without a major drought in between. I think the five or six seed is the most realistic finish for the Rangers, but the four seed is possible if they continue to get points in nearly every game.

-Mike Valvano

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