The Rangers defense did not look good against Zug – an understatement. It hasn’t looked particularly good throughout the European tour in all honesty. So much of that has to do with the absence of Marc Staal which will now stretch in to the regular season. It also has to do with Mike Sauer of course. The Rangers’ defense is patched up and will be for a little while longer and it’s at this stage a few things need to be preached.
- First of all, the team needs to be allowed some patience. Patience above all for the injured players to get back to full health; the fact the Rangers have a decent stretch without a game after getting back to the US helps Marc Staal in particular. Thanks to this gap between fixtures, it is the right thing to not rush the one critical defenseman on this team.
- Secondly, another form of patience is required. This is not the easiest of starts for the Rangers. They are entering the season on the back of a gruelling trip, starting in Stockholm against two very good teams and likely with a patchwork defense. Thanks to the MSG renovations they start with a lot of road games. If you offered me, as a fan, a .500 start to the season in the first 8 games I’d take it. This team will get healthy, it will gel and looking at the schedule this team will get some nice home stands to (hopefully) take advantage of later in the year. No panic please, if this team doesn’t have a great record to begin with.
- Thirdly, let the kids play. If a Stu Bickel or a Brendan Bell or a Tim Erixon or a Michael Del Zotto play significant minutes and the results are mixed don’t worry, they are learning. OK, so Bell is a veteran but the point here is that they have to learn at some point. When you have the likes of Staal and Mike Sauer returning you can afford to hand out some ice time knowing core players are on the way back. Long term, the team will know a lot more about a few of these defensemen thanks to the start of this season. Going forward that is obviously a good thing.
- Finally with the Rangers defense being banged up, maybe the emphasis will be more on the forwards and given some of their recent performances that is a good thing. Until the Rangers get their main guys on the blueline back it may be a chance for John Tortorella to play a different kind of game. A more offensively inclined one.
- Looking at the pre-seasons of Artem Anisimov, Mats Zuccarello and Mike Rupp; of the developing chemistry between Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and the relatively promising start by Wojtek Wolski on their left there is a chance here for Tortorella to perhaps let the shackles off, even if it’s just for the first few games. The coach can take advantage of the great form of some of the kids like Anisimov. Let them play.
The Kings and Ducks fixtures in Stockholm are clearly important, but they aren’t critical. After all they are games one and two of a long season. Let’s enjoy them for what they are; a unique start to the year and a chance for the team to develop some chemistry. Don’t worry; Lundqvist will make sure this team gets some points in his home country.