We’ve got another huge Devils/Rangers game tonight, so we sat down with Rangers reporter Seth Rothman of InsideHockey.com to discuss the Blueshirts coming into today’s game.
Devils Insiders: We’ve seen the Rangers be a very up and down team this year, why is that the case? We know how good they can be, but why the inconsistency?
Seth Rothman: I wrote about this the other day and though people may think it’s crazy, I think the Rangers are one of the teams that got affected by the lockout moreso than other teams. John Tortorella’s training camp is known as being one of the tougher training camps out there and he only got a week, he wasn’t able to do his skate work. Even his two mile run that he has them do a few times, he wasn’t able to get it done. His system is predicated on being one of the most well conditioned teams in the league. Due to only having a six day training camp, the Rangers aren’t quite as conditioned as they’d like to be. They’re as conditioned as the other twenty-nine teams, but they need to be more conditioned to run their system, and i’m not sure they are.
DI: The Rangers have been good at home, but not so much on the road. Is there a reason for it?
Seth: They’re 4-7-1 on the road this season and there’s no easy answer for that. They’re 10-5-1 at MSG. Two seasons ago they were great on the road, but this season they haven’t been very good on the road. I wish I could give you an answer, but it’s one of those thing’s that’s very puzzling, there’s no real answer for it.
DI: Marian Gaborik, who was on fire to start the season has cooled off. What’s going on with him?
Seth: I think a lot of it is a confidence issue. There was one moment last night against Carolina, where Marian Gaborik had the puck and he looked like he should have shot it, but he held onto it for a second and the goaltender got into position and made the stop. If he shoots the puck immediately, it probably goes in, and the Rangers might have won in regulation. He’s holding onto the puck for that extra split second. I don’t know if it’s because his confidence is just shot, but there is a lot of thinking on the ice going on with him right now.
DI: Rick Nash really seems to be the rock for the team this year, can he carry this team to the playoffs?
Seth: Yes, but at the same time, the rest of the team has to play well too. If Gaborik can’t find his confidence, if Brad Richards can’t find his game, the Rangers are going to go nowhere. As important as Rick Nash is, and he is important, he can’t be the only one. There can’t be only one driver on the bus. Heck, if If Henrik Lundqvist can’t find his game, and let’s call a spade a spade, he has not been as good as he needs to be. He’s been okay, but he’s been a mid-range goaltender this season. He has not stolen a game yet. We’re 28 games in, but he hasn’t stolen a game yet. As important as Nash is, Lundqvist needs to steal the Rangers a few games if they’re going to continue to win this year.
DI: With the East so tight, how do we judge the Rangers and can we expect them to be a playoff team?
Seth: The Rangers have twenty games left. We started playing hockey two months ago and now there are twenty games left. This is such a weird season and it’s tough to judge this team right now. It’s tough to judge this season as a whole, and if it ends right now, the Rangers are out of the playoffs. I don’t know when you go into the off-season, for the teams that finish ninth of tenth, do you really judge the season as a failure? I know, obviously, that it is, but I guess the point is that it’s such a crap-shoot season, that it’s difficult to judge who the Rangers are, or what the Rangers are going to be this year. I know what they should be in an 82 game season, but will we ever see the real Rangers as they were constructed? It’s such a tough season to try and judge these teams, but it’s going to make for an even bigger challenge in the off-season, because if the Rangers miss the playoffs, does Glen Sather blow it up, or does he say “well this was only 48 games, let’s throw it away.” That’s going to be a big challenge for any team that doesn’t make the postseason.
DI: What can we expect from the Rangers tonight and moving forward the rest of the way?
Seth: The Rangers don’t have time to feel things out anymore, they need to go after it. This season, it doesn’t matter what seed they are in the playoffs. We saw what happened last season with the Kings, so all they need to do is get in. That’s all anybody cares about, is to just make it in. I noticed some good things from a couple of their defensemen last night. Michael Del Zotto has five shots, Dan Girardi had four, so if the Rangers can get more offense out of their d-corps, they’ll be much better off. For the last 45 minutes of last night’s game they outplayed Carolina and out-shot them 30-16 in the second and third periods. After the first period, they really found their way and dominated most of the game after that, so they need to be able to build on that effort. Last night was a big win, not just because it was a win, but because they won the way they need to play. Tonight they need to just play that same way that they played for most of the Carolina game, except for the entire 60 to 65 minutes. If they can do that and get a win, I think you’ll start to see them find their way.
You can follow Seth on Twitter @Rothmanhockey