As I said in the musings post earlier today, all I saw of the Ducks game last night was the box score. It told me enough to write this post. Again as I said earlier today, the Rangers in my opinion are deeper than the Ducks, have more upside and boast one of the very elite goalies in the game. The difference between the two teams last night (to an extent) was the top level talent. More specifically, the fact that top talent has played together (and built chemistry together) for a significant period of time.
John Tortorella has this team on the right path –whether they play beyond 82 games this year or not. He has had to incorporate a lot of youth, deal with significant injuries and cope with the disappearing act of his best goal scorer for long stretches. That’s a lot to deal with even for the Scotty Bowman’s of this world. However one criticism Tortorella has always had thrown at him is his constant line juggling and it’s a justified critique.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have had their own dry spells. They have had runs of poor play but they have also had opportunities to play through them. Partly because the Ducks rely on the trio so much but also because the Ducks appear to realise what chemistry means. The trio have an understanding almost second to none in the league and may just be the best line in the league, all things considered. The Rangers don’t have that. They don’t have or allow for chemistry and they don’t have a trio (yet) that can play on the same line with that top level talent equal to the Ducks fab three.
How many play mates has Marian Gaborik had? How many different lines has Sean Avery being on? Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko are perhaps the only line that stuck together for an extended period of time but even they were broken up during a bad spell following Fedotenko’s return. Rarely are players afforded the chance to play through slumps in NY. Tortorella should look to find Gaborik running mates for the longer run (and thus move Prospal elsewhere). Regardless of his season to date Gaborik is the Rangers best player – build around him. The Rangers do have the makings of an excellent line with Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan (though even this has been broken up with Dubinsky moving around) but this line is and never will be a top line. It could be a good 2nd line but let’s see how they develop. No, the real issue at hand is that the Rangers need to find a solution for the first line.
Is this an issue that ‘only’ gets resolved in the summer? Are the answers to the Rangers prayers Brad Richards and maybe even Chris Kreider on Gaborik’s line? Who knows but, if not this year, Tortorella needs to really emphasise chemistry and lines combinations for next season starting as soon as this year ends. The Ducks showed the Rangers what a real 1st line can do. The Rangers have youth and depth; it’s time they also found their own first line.