by Patrick Hoffman on 09/28/08 at 12:40 AM ET
New York Ranger beat writers and fans alike are wondering why the team has had trouble scoring in the preseason. They are also wondering why the team has made every goalie look like Patrick Roy.
Folks, this is why they call it preseason. Ranger head coach Tom Renney is doing his usual juggle the lines routine and the lines are doing everything they can to gel before beginning the regular season next weekend against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So, should Ranger fans be worried about the team’s offense? In one simple word, NO!
Let’s look at the positives. Newcomer Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez have showed chemistry in the three games that they have played in together. Gomez seems to know where Naslund is going to be before the play happens and more importantly, Naslund is not afraid to shoot the puck. This could be seen in today’s 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils as Gomez feathered a nice pass to Naslund who beat goaltender Scott Clemmensen with a nice top corner shot. The more and more they play together, the better they will be.
Nikolai Zherdev has also been solid for the Blueshirts, even getting back on defense today to breakup an odd man rush. Zherdev even managed to do well killing penalties today and was rewarded when he scored a shorthanded goal off a nice feed from Brandon Dubinsky. If Zherdev can play hard every single night, he should have no problem shining on Broadway.
Fans were probably puzzled as to why Renney split up the Naslund-Gomez-Zherdev line and they should be. In their first two games together, the line buzzed around the opposition’s net, generated an array of scoring chances and even looked comfortable together. However, Renney split them up this afternoon to see what other kinds of lines he could generate and it backfired on him. If this team is to succeed, there needs to be more continuity with the lines and hopefully, Renney got that message this afternoon.
Another positive is that the team was not afraid to shoot the puck. On Monday night against the Senators, they had 38 shots. In two games against the Lightning, they had over 80 shots on goal. This team didn’t hesitate to shoot (not like they did last season at least) but unfortunately, they struggled to finish. That’s what writers and fans have been harping on the most this past week.
The Rangers did this a lot early last season. They would throw 35-40 pucks on net and yet, come away with may be one or two goals, and this was a team that had Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery, Chris Drury and Gomez.
Again, I know that it’s only preseason so there is no reason to worry now. However, if this team wants to have any chance of winning hockey games this year, guys like Naslund, Zherdev, Gomez, Drury, Dubinsky and even Nigel Dawes have to score.
Renney believes that these guys can do it and hopefully, they’ll be able to prove it to Ranger fans very, very soon.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.