2002-11-02 / Sports

Don’t Panic Rangers Fans! A Metro Hockey Update

Hockey Columnist
By Andrei Petrovitch

Don't Panic Rangers Fans! A Metro Hockey Update
Hockey Columnist

What a surprise.

The New York Rangers, a patchwork team that many predicted would climb back into respectability, has struggled in the early going. Internet message boards are already buzzing with the panicked rantings of armchair General Managers, couch potato coaches, and would-be journalists - um, I mean, educated scribes with a deep passion for the noble game of professional Ice Hockey.

Stop Panicking!!!!!!!!

The playoffs start in April, not November. While the team can be much better, it isn't doomed just yet. Here's why:

1) A Meaner Complexion -

The latest incarnation of the Blueshirts is much tougher than its predecessor. Winger Ronald Petrovicky has provided additional grit and speed, and Matthew Barnaby has retained his edge while simultaneously de-emphasizing outright pugilism in favor of other basic hockey skills - you know, minor stuff like scoring and backchecking.

2) Team Tenacity -

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this year's team (despite Coach Bryan Trottier's bizarre reluctance to use Bobby Holik in an effective checking role) is its ability to mount glorious miracle comebacks that would probably make Al Michaels proud. Witness the October 28th match against the Phoenix Coyotes; instead of collapsing into shame after falling into a 2-0 deficit, the team played with enough discipline and determination to tie the game and eventually win it outright in overtime, courtesy of a Petr Nedved deflection. Two nights earlier the team rallied from behind to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This ability to soldier on instead of rolling over and dying is what makes this team different - and better - than last year's.

3) The Lindros-Bure connection

Why separate them? It was only when both play together that their respective talents get properly utilized. Witness the Phoenix game: Pavel Bure was able to score the tying goals only after being reunited with Eric Lindros as his playmaker. Most teams would pray to have one game breaker, but with Lindros and Bure, the Rangers have two. Even if both players do get shut down by opposing defensemen, other forwards such as Nedved and hard-working rookie Jamie Lundmark have shown that they can pick up some of the offensive slack. As Nedved and Lundmark steadily improve and as roles become more defined, team wise, scoring depth won't be a problem.

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