I am a few days late with it, but I was traveling this past week, so I guess that can be excused. I hope.
But before too much time passes, I wanted to kinda give a rundown/summary of the players on the Rangers and how their 1st "half" of the season has been going in my opinion. You will not ever see me doing grades for something like this, because grades are so, well how do you really quantify them. So I won't try. Instead you get rambling mess. With that, here we go.
#30 - Henrik Lundqvist. If not for Hank, and his play in October and November, this team would not be over .500. This team would be, honestly, they'd probably be near the bottom of the conference in my opinion. For a while they could not score more than 2 goals. Hank, while not even having his "BEST" year perhaps, has done all he can do and more to keep them in the race, and keep them in that race with actually a stellar record. Stellar in comparison to their form of play that is. All due credit to Hank. And if the Rangers defense hadn't played so horrifically and had helped him to a shutout or two (he's still at zero for the year, folks), I'd think after 3 years of consequtive nominations, he'd be in good shape for the Vezina. (Although Tim Thomas and the ever-stellar Evgeni Nabakovmight have something to say about that).
#18 - Marc Staal. If there is a bright light on the Rangers defense and a bright light for the future of the Rangers organization, it is this guy. Poised beyond his years, Staal is one of the few players on the Rangers to not only not make mistakes, but to actually seem to grow and improve at a rapid pace. He's young, all of 21-years-old, and he plays like he's been doing it for 10 years. He's also one of the few guys to keep his promises from before the season. He said he had made a committment to getting stronger and to hitting and finishing his checks. That guy has done nothing but remain committed to that. That commitment shows AND it's been effective. I admire that so much. If I had to pick a favorite player, he'd be it. He is not Brian Leetch. He will not be Brian Leetch. He's not in that mold. But if he could and would add a little offense, he'd be more than Rangers fans can ask for. And honestly, he already is. A pleasure to watch.
#40 - Steve Valiquette. Steve Valiquette is one of the few players I truly admire on this Rangers squad right now. A funny guy with a great mind and an eloquent way of speaking, he's entertaining in all degrees. He also happens to be a genuinely great backup. And I still, along with others, agree he could start in this league. The Rangers tend not to use him so much, but I am thrilled they have used him more so far this year. He is rarely the reason they lose. I mean, sure, people can look at that Toronto melt-down and say, he could have had some of those five goals in under six minutes. But I really feel sometimes there are just collapses - team wide - and you cannot stop the bleeding. He's not perfect, but you know what. He's damn good.
#27 - Paul Mara. Great team guy. This guy took less money to play for NY. He wanted to be a Ranger. And he plays like he knows what that truly means. I only wish more of his teammates would understand and emulate that behavior. A guy who is not a defensive liability. A guy who will stick up - words and gloves - and do the job, as needed. Just a really big bargain. Also happens to be very funny, which on a team of cookie-cutter bores, helps a great deal, let me tell you. I'd take 2 more Paul Mara's. I really would.
#24 - Ryan Callahan. If I'd take 2 more Paul Mara's, I'd take 4 more Ryan Callahans. With a scoring touch. That's Callahan's only problem - one the whole team suffers from right now it seems - and that's that he can't seem to score as much as he should or even deserves to. I'll check after a game and see how many hits Callahan has and be amazed. There is rarely a game he doesn't skate at 100%, hitting everything, forechecking, and being quick on the puck. A great attitude. And someone you wouldn't mind paying because you know you are getting your money's worth. Sure, more goals would be nice, but on a team where offense is apparently not the end-game, I'll take a good attitude and high-energy for sure.
#13 - Nikolai Zherdev. If not for Nikolai Zherdev, this team would be a lot more boring. There. I said it. Call me biased, and honestly if you've kept up with my blog at all, you might think I am, but Z is one of the few people on this team that remind me about what is and can be good about the sport I love. Passion. Dazzle-me skill. A want to play and a desire to make a sick move. He can. He does. If not squashed by a system - or a lack thereof - I think we'd be treated to even more of the good things Z has to offer. But think about it. If not for Z, who is leading the team in points, where would this team who is literally un-able to score, - where would they be??
The Better Than Average.
#5 - Dan Girardi. Solidly the #3 defensemen, there is not much to complain about with Dan's game. Not much to go ooo-wow about either, but not much to complain about. I feel bad but Girardi is just there for me. He's not their best d man. But he's solid. And on a team where you so often stand out on defense for the wrong reasons, I appreciate Girardi. And you know what's more, he's young. And he, hopefully, will only get better. If he could (of would be allowed to) gain some offensive prowess, he'd be a lot more impressive.
#15 - Blair Betts. Now, I know. I know. I was on this guy in pre-season. I also last year and the year before really defended the guy. He is under-rated and extremely under-valued. He does exactly what is expected of him. He deserves more goals. He deserves more in general. Like so many others, he's boring. But you know what, the Rangers have in him a great PKer and a great faceoff guy. If that's what they wanted, that's what they got. I still think that the Rangers could have benefitted and should have given one Czech player who had a great camp (yes, Petr Nedved) a shot on this team. But Betts consistency this year (and before it) has made me realize I didn't want Petr instead of Betts, but rather Petr instead of one of our more over-hyped over-priced American centers. Hell, Betts has shown more moves than Drury or Gomez combined and has already potted more goals this year than he did last year so to complain about him would be unwarranted.
#91 - Markus Naslund. You might be saying, $4 million for this guy. But I'm saying, yes $4 for this guy is fine in my book. He shows more heart than our captain and his fellow assistant. He shows when he's angry. He sticks up for his teammates, verbally. He's not a bad guy to have around. And despite his bad +/-, he is one of the few scorers the Rangers have. He can play with most people. And I honestly think his numbers would be even better is someone would set him up. He still has a pretty shot which he should use more. I may miss our Czech contingent, but I do not regret the Rangers getting Naslund. One of the few big name free-agent moves (or the non-big name free-agent moves) I do not regret.
The Good For What They Are Good For:
#28 - Colton Orr. No one expected Orr to be a scoring jaugernaut. And no one expected him to do anything fancy. He's done neither. But he has improved both his skating and his puck handling ability. And both should be credited. I do think the playing every game and playing only five minutes a night is wearing thin. I feel there are times he does not need to be dressed. When the Rangers have Mara, Dubinsky, Voros, Callahan, and a handful of guys that will scrap when necessary, I do not think we need Orr against teams that are not NY, NJ, Philly, Ottawa, etc. I think the other guys can do that job. But at the same time, Orr is not a liability. He literally is what he is. And I can't fault him for that.
The Started Fast and Slowed Down:
#34 - Aaron Voros. I lauded this guy in the beginning of the year for being "my kinda Ranger." And he is. He still is. But, unfortunately, the scoring went from mad-crazy to non-existent. Remember when he was leading the league in scoring? What happened to the standing in front of the net to get garbage goals? It worked. Surely he'd slow down, as expected. But there does not seem to be much left in the wake of that. I like him. I do. Good team guy, good attitude. And a better personality than most. But there has to be something more. And right now, without the ability to wreck havoc a la one Sean Avery, or PK or PP, he is not really worth his spot right now. Perhaps that's why he finallly came out. I wish he'd be the guy on the Playstation Line again, I really do. But right now, I'm just not sure.
I'm exhausted and have been writing wayyyyy too long right now. So, with that, I'm going to bed. But, a preview of tomorrow's part two where I will go over:
See if you can guess who.