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Olympics Offer Frightening Future for Ranger Fans

1/6/10
By Ray Smith

As the Rangers continued to depend on King Henrik in a 3-2 win over the Bruins on Monday night, the Garden Faithful can’t help but to be a little nervous. While the Blueshirts have depended on their net-minder to carry the burden of their 21st ranked offense, something big is coming that could spoil the Rangers plans for a sweet second half of the season.

Following the NHL lockout, the league instituted many changes. One of these changes was the creation of an “Olympic break” in February every four years. The Olympics provide hockey fans worldwide the opportunity to see global stars compete for national pride. While players seem to enjoy the opportunity to play for their country, as advertised by Monday’s Versus 2nd intermission report, this year’s Olympic break will be detrimental to the New York Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist has played in 38 games after his win over the Bruins, tying him for first in the league in games played with Martin Brodeur. The large workload of Lundqvist coupled with the disappearance of a reliable backup is going to hurt the Rangers. Valiquette has been sent down and Matt Zaba, their new backup, has yet to prove that he can be a reliable goalie. Besides Marian Gaborik, the New York Ranger forwards have been leaning on a great performance night in and night out from number 30.

If Ranger fans look just a month ahead, they would see a break in the schedule for the team. This will result in a majority of the Rangers lounging at home and getting some needed rest. However, this will not be a break for Lundqvist. Even after playing in a majority of the Ranger games, Lundqvist will without a doubt play in as many games necessary to bring home gold once again for Sweden.

At a time where Lundqvist deserves a break, he will get just the opposite. The King of the Garden will have even more games to play; this time with pride on the line.

Not only will the Olympic break hurt the Rangers goaltender, but it will also have an impact on the non-existent captain of the Rangers. Drury, who has one more point than agitator Sean Avery, has played a crucial part in the downfall of the Ranger offense. The only plausible excuse is that the Ranger captain has been playing with an injury. If this is true, then extra games in Vancouver are not what Drury needs. Hopefully he is just adjusting to the new offense with Marian Gaborik. Maybe I’m wrong, and the Olympic break will jumpstart the captain’s season, but 36 games for the captain haven’t done it yet, so I’m not too optimistic.

In February 2006, at the start of the first NHL Olympic break, the New York Rangers were flying high on a 6 game road trip, earning points in 10 of 12 games leading up to the mid-season intermission. Following the break, the Rangers lost 15 of the remaining 24 games and were swept in the first round by the Devils in their first playoff appearance in nine years. The Rangers still made the playoffs that year, but they were in a great position in early February 2006. Now, with the team fighting for the 8th seed, they can not avoid another let down like they had in ’06. A rested Lundqvist is the key to a playoff run this year, and unless Matt Zaba or Steve Valiquette of the Rangers can be a reliable fill-in, the Broadway Blueshirts will be looking at another early playoff exit. Hopefully, the offense clicks for these Rangers soon, because King Henrik might not always be there to save the day.

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