The RANGERS are currently…CHASING STANLEY! With a record of 7-2-1 through their first ten games, the Rangers are playing just over two games above their historical winning average, and OGA calls them the first team of the 2008-09 season to clinch a playoff berth. PLUS: At 90.5%, the NYR Penalty Kill is currently 5th in the NHL…Allowing an average of 26.5 shots per game (7th in NHL)...Tied for 2nd-best win pct. when opponent scores first (.750)...1.90 GAA good for 3rd in NHL...Voros: 5G, 4A, +3, 13 PIM...Dubinsky: 4G, 6A, +3, 15 PIM, 3 GWG...Girardi: 1G, 6A, even, 4 PIM, 3 multi-point games...Lundqvist: 5-2-1, .926 sv%, 2.01 GAA...Valiquette: 2-0-0, .939 sv%, 1.44 GAA...Voros-Dubinsky-Zherdev line most effective through 1st 10 games...Stellar netminding has made up for occasional defensive lapses. MINUS: PP at 14.6% and Goals/Game average of 2.50 are both 23rd in NHL...Faceoff win pct. of 49.2% is 20th in NHL...Drury: 0G, 2A, -3, 4 PIM...Dawes: 1G, 0A, even, 2 PIM...At times in the early going, the Rangers have been surprisingly flat - most notably in first ten minutes against DET, and against Chicago's Kane-Toews line. Overall, New York is off to a great start. To have a serious shot at the Cup, though, they'll need consistent secondary scoring.
In the next ten games, the RANGERS are likely to…extend their lead over the PQC. Post-Lockout, the Blueshirts have a combined record of 21-8-1 in Games 11-20, and will be aided by a relatively easy schedule: They play 6 of 10 at home, with no road trip longer than one game. Also, those road trips are all in the Eastern time zone (at NYI, TOR, WSH and NJD). The Rangers do not play any back-to-back games during this period, so Valiquette will be lucky to get more than one start. At home, New York will host PIT (minus Whitney and Gonchar), ATL, a woeful NYI club, struggling TBL, EDM and BOS. This should be a good time for the Rangers to get their Power Play going (they've had good puck movement, but they're not finishing as often as they should AND have already allowed two SHG), get Chris Drury going (28 shots, 0 goals), and accumulate as many points as possible, as the schedule only gets tougher from here. Look for Aaron Voros to firmly establish himself as a Fan Favorite at MSG, and make the loss of Avery look like a very smart move by GM Glen Sather.
Follow the Blueshirts' progress through the season on The OGA Blogs and with the NYR Game 20 Report, on sale at The OGA Store 15 November. Until then, Big Tex says, "Let's Go RANGERS!"