The Rangers' effort in their 2011-12 home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday was disgraceful. Actually, maybe I am wrong in using the word "effort" to describe what happened that night because there simply was no effort beyond the first period of play. From top to bottom, everything with the Blueshirts' game was ugly, even the goaltending, which is very rare when Henrik Lundqvist is in net. They will have a chance to redeem themselves this afternoon in front of their home crowd, which was disgusted walking out of the transformed MSG two nights ago, when they faceoff with the Ottawa Senators (5-5-0) for the first time this season.
Ottawa enters today's contest on a four-game winning streak after getting off to a slow start to begin the year. The Sens have been led by none other than Jason Spezza, who heads the team in scoring with 13 points. 13 points? The most any Ranger has right now is 5 (Richards, Gaborik and Fedotenko). While the Senators have scored a lot, though, they've also been prone to allowing goals as well. They are 28th in the league in goal differential, having allowed eight more goals then they've scored.
But regardless of the opponent and what their strengths and weaknesses are, the Rangers need to come out of the gate playing their game tonight. I know I've said that in pretty much every pregame I've written this season, but until they actually come out and do it, I am going to continue writing it.
The team's forecheck has been nonexistent for a majority of the season so far, and head coach John Tortorella has continued to switch up the offensive lines in hope that it will get certain trios going. Clearly, though, it's the system that has hit a bump in the road, not the line combinations, but admitting that would be admitting that he is partially at fault, and Torts will not be doing that anytime soon. There's an ego to preserve there, you know.
What was put together on offense during practice yesterday was really the icing on the cake as far as "seeing everything" goes. Erik Christensen was placed on the first line, instead of Brad Richards, to center Marian Gaborik and Wojtek Wolski. Allow me to remind you that Christensen has not registered a single point in six games played and has been invisible in each and every one of those games as well. Yet the coach still gives him opportunities on the powerplay and now the top line, when meanwhile the guy should have been placed on waivers weeks ago.
I don't really give a damn what Tortorella says at this point, there is no logical reason that Erik Christensen should be on the first line. I don't know what part of "he doesn't care" that Torts does not understand about Christensen. I have never seen a more hesitant, hollow-hearted player than "crusher" in a Ranger uniform in my life, and now he is centering the first line instead of the $60 million playmaker that GM Glen Sather signed for that exact reason over the summer.
Richards, instead, will be on the second line with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Dubi and Cally play a very different game than Richards, so I don't foresee any success coming as a result of this move. Tortorella should know Richards better than anyone, but based on what I've seen of Richie, I don't expect to see him forecheck hard with those two like Stepan did towards the end of the game on Thursday. And that's not a knock on Richards, I'm just explaining the differences.
Speaking of Stepan, he and Artem Anisimov will be joining Kris Newbury on the fourth line today. And that's all I have to say about that, because the stupidity involved there speaks for itself.
But it's not all on the offense, because defensively the Rangers were no better on Thursday night. There was way too much scrambling in their own zone, which in turn gave them no chance to turn things around and get offensive rushes going. Michael Del Zotto was a major victim of this, and I'm not trying to throw Michael under the bus here as many of you claim. If you can't see that he had a horrible outing on Thursday than you should see an eye doctor.
Since there was no morning skate today, I do not have an official lineup to share with you. However, what you see below is most likely what John Tortorella will be going with.
New York Rangers (Probable) Lineup