Rangers Top Line Hot At Right TimeMarch 21, 2011, by
With yesterday’s win over the Penguins, the Rangers made it four wins in a row, and wins in six of their last seven games. While the entire Rangers team has been producing during this run, the top line of Vinny Prospal-Erik Christensen-Marian Gaborik has been one of the teams top scoring lines. Gaborik has five goals and an assist in this time frame, Prospal has two goals and seven assists, and Christensen has two goals and four assists. That’s a total of nine goals and 12 assists for the top line during this run. The fact that this coincides with the Rangers winning streak is no coincidence.
The Rangers have had secondary scoring from their bottom three lines all season, with Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Brian Boyle all over 20 goals; and Derek Stepan (19) and Artem Anisimov (18) both within striking distance. What had been missing from the Rangers is the primary scoring, which is what they are getting in abundance right now. With the top line producing in ways we haven’t seen all season, the rest of the team benefits.
Marian Gaborik will always command top defensive pairings against, but his off-year has led to coaches shifting those top pairings to the Dubinsky-Ansimov-Callahan line. That shift led to a drop-off in production for that line. Now with Gaborik and Prospal producing top line numbers again, coaches once again have to shift their top defenders to face Gaborik. This means lesser quality defensemen for the Pack line. This means more opportunities from the Pack line, and more goals.
What also may be lost in the streak here is that the Rangers are finally starting to convert powerplay opportunities. Of the 21 points for the top line, ten of them have been on the powerplay, including four of the nine goals. Powerplay production sets apart the good from the great, especially in the playoffs. The addition of Bryan McCabe may not have a direct impact on the score sheet, but it is definitely spreading out the opposition’s penalty kill, and leading to more opportunities down low for the forwards, which they are converting.
Assuming the Rangers top line can continue scoring at least a goal per game, and continue with at least a 20% efficiency (8 for their last 23), then the Rangers are going to be a force to be reckoned with come April and May. They may not have enough to make a deep run, but they can definitely play spoiler in the first round, whoever they face.