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They're always looking down on us...ironically

By Marco J. Nolasco

Vancouver – the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and home to the Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks, with 76 points. Though Canuck fans and British Columbians have high spirits heading into the Olympic break, Ranger fans on the other side of the continent are looking up at their division leaders, cross-river rivals, New Jersey Devils.

Granted, it isn’t over until it’s over, but to this Ranger fan, there are three big reasons why the fat lady is on the verge of singing. For those of you wondering who the fat lady is, keep reading.

First off, you know it’s over when the only team in your division that is actually worse than you is from Long Island.

The second reason why the Rangers aren’t going anywhere came to me when I watched this team play a few weeks ago at The Garden against the Ottawa Senators, who currently lead the Northeast Division with 74 points, three fewer than the Devils.

I thought they looked like zombies on television, but live, these Rangers looked even more lifeless. They were out-worked, out-coached, and out-played all game; unable to score on Ottawa’s stiff, tense, lumbering, over-sized, and visibly gawky second-string goaltender. Yes, I know they were going through a scoring drought at the time and we can’t expect Gaborik to score every single game -- which brings me to the last piece of this Broadway Black and Blueshirt puzzle.

I hate to break it to you all, but the almighty Marian Gaborik is human after all, and he actually does bleed like the rest of us. Not only does the team’s sole offensive threat land himself a spot on the injured list, he is put there by his own goalie during breakaway practice.

What more could go wrong with this team? Please, allow me to add insult to injury…literally.

With Gaborik out, the Rangers must now rely on 31 year-old, long lost Geico caveman, Olli Jokinen. Not only did he play for the Flames, he invented fire. Let’s hope he keeps away from Gaborik; we don’t need Olli taking a skate to Marian’s neck like he did Richard Zednik’s two years ago in Buffalo.

When a team lacks passionate players, all striving to achieve the same goal, acquiring one or two star players is not nearly enough to compete for the cup. Historically, it has been expected of Glen Sather to over-pay for over-the-hill players in the hopes of bringing the success of 1994 into the new Millennium. That 1994 team had some stars, but it also had the right mix of everyday role players, all playing as a unit.

The Devils, on the other hand, have kept away from high profile, big name stars; their success coming from within, building from the ground up. They have always had their cohesive unit, their flawless system.

Now, they have added their big star.

If this past Friday night’s game against the Predators was any indication of Kovalchuk’s future in New Jersey, the fat lady will be singing sooner rather than later. Know who she is yet? Here’s a hint: She’s French-Canadian, over six feet tall, weighs over 200 pounds, and wears a red jersey with the number 30 on it.