As the NHL season progresses past the midway point, are the New York Rangers the favorite to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup? Check out the Ice Report.
The Rangers are currently playing some great hockey and have only dropped 3 of their last 15 games. In that span they have 2 impressive victorys over rival Philadelphia and another win over a very tough and underrated Nashville Squad. The Rangers have one of the top goaltenders in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. Their defense is perhaps the most impressive part of the team though. Lead by alternate captains Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the defense combine physicality, mobility, and the ability to contribute offensively. Third year defenseman Michael Del Zotto has recovered nicely from a sophomore slump and currently leads the team in plus-minus. Ryan McDonagh has shown that he is ready for an increased role when he was given the responsibility of playing in place of Marc Staal earlier in the year. Combined with Lundquvist, the Rangers defense is giving up only 2.0 goals per game, first in the league.
Offensively the Rangers are nothing to laugh at either. Free agent acquisition Brad Richards has not disappointed and All-Star Marian Gaborik is currently among the league leaders in scoring. Ryan Callahan , Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky all provide some size and grit to the Rangers offense, which will be very valuable come April, May, and perhaps June. Barring injuries, I fully expect the Eastern Conference to go through New York.
If the Blues truly plan to contend for the Central Division lead then these next 2 games against Edmonton and Buffalo are huge. Both of these teams are struggling right now and the Blues need to capitalize and grab these 4 points before they go back to Detroit on Monday.
Will the real Christ Stewart and Patrik Berglund please stand up? Berglund has been absolutely invisible for the past week. He needs to use his big body and cut to the net more when he has the puck, and be stronger on his stick. Stewart needs to get back to playing physical and focus on winning the battles in the dirty areas of the ice.
It’s nice to see the return of Kris Russel tonight. Ian Cole has filled in well, but Russel and Roman Polak have a good chemistry with their contrasting styles of play.
GAMES TO WATCH
Penguins at New York – 1-19-12 – The struggling Pens will get Kris Letang back in the line-up for the first time in months
Ottawa at San Jose – 1-19-12- The surging Senators will get a good test as they go into the Shark Tank and take on the Pacific Division Leaders
Chicago at Nashville – 1-21-12- These two Central Division Rivals go head-to-head in what promises to be a physical game with a big 2 points on the line