The off-season acquisition of Rick Nash was meant to take a 1st place team and put them over the top. No one expected the Rangers to start the year with a 5-5 record and be sitting in 9th place of the Eastern Conference. It is not to say they won’t reach this level, but things have had a rough go through ten games.
Following a string of good performances fueled by the returns of Chris Kreider and Ryan Callahan and the promotion of JT Miller, the Rangers look to be on the right path. The youth movement has increased the effort of the whole team and John Tortorella once again feels more comfortable running all four lines. The only area still needing improvement? Their biggest strength, the defense.
Cue the unofficial captain of the defense, Dan Girardi. After missing a total of two games over the first five and a half seasons, Girardi has missed the Rangers last two exhibitions with an undisclosed injury. That tells you everything you need to know about how much discomfort Girardi has been in. Fortunately he was able to make it through an entire practice and is set to return Sunday night. This will be a huge shot in the arm for an underperforming defense.
Anton Stralman has stepped up big this season, but without Girardi the 3rd defensive pairing is certainly not ideal and the defense as a whole has been reeling. There has been too many turnovers, too much running around, and not enough blocked shots. A healthy Girardi helps cure all three of those problems and sure up the biggest current issue.
With Henrik Lundqvist looking back to form, the offense showing some semblance of life, and now the defense about to be shored up, the Rangers are ready to get things rolling. If the Rangers special teams would have showed up against the Devils this team might be on a three game winning streak and really looking up.
The team finally looks to have its swagger back and Girardi’s return should help take them to where we expected them to be.