The season that began for the Rangers six weeks ago, looking just as dismal as the one that ended last spring, may have turned a corner. In the midst of a five-game winning streak, the Rangers have won four in a row on the road, a significant change from the 0-5-1 road record the team had going before the first win of the current run. What has made the difference is not the heralded Scott Gomez/Chris Drury acquisitions, but the emergence of smaller-name players from every line – and a revitalized Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Gomez got off to a slow start, and though he has spent much of November on a point-scoring streak (two goals and 10 assists in nine games), his impact has been less than many predicted. Meanwhile, the impact that Michal Rozsival, Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery have had far exceeds expectations.
Avery has provided two goals, six assists and 22 penalty minutes (second only to Colton Orr, with 31) worth of morale building. He’s often found in the corners and along the boards, picking up team spirits while knocking down opponents. That Avery can also score makes him an invaluable addition to a team that ended last season in dire need of cohesion and aggressive, assertive play.
Rozsival is a somewhat less aggressive sort, though he’s managed to serve 16 minutes in the box, but the productive defenseman started the week with six goals and five assists on only 27 shots on goal, the best shooting percentage on the team. For the Rangers, who have had nothing but trouble finding productive, two-way defenseman since players like Brian Leetch and Jeff Beukeboom left the team, Rozsival is an absolutely invaluable asset.
While some of the older players, like Rozsival, are providing new levels of support, some of the younger ones are taking the opportunity to make their marks. Dubinsky, a 21-year-old Rangers draft pick, has garnered plenty of praise for his play. “I love to play with him, he’s more talented than a lot of people thought,” said linemate Jaromir Jagr, of the center who scored two goals and two assists in the first 20 games.
With two home and two road games left in November, there’s a long way to go before it’s clear if the Rangers have really achieved a level of cohesion and achievement that can last through the inevitable losses through to the playoffs. For now, fans have hope that the newly acquired and newly energized players providing a lift to the team can keep it up long enough to make for a happy Garden holiday.