Lackluster play and inability to get pucks past Tim Thomas translated into a 3-1 loss for the home team. Brandon Dubinsky scored the lone goal for the Blueshirts, with under a minute to play. Henrik Lundqvist looked a little shakey at times, and the offense stuggled getting anything going. The defense looked a little better, with Marek Malik back on the bench in favor of Jason Strudwick.
The big story after the game was that Tom Renney was openly upset with the team's play, something that hasn't been seen all season. Brendan Shanahan was non-existant in the team's last 20 minutes of play, being sat down to rest his various injuries.
Renney has stated that while he is disappointed in the team's play, he feels that the players on the team now are the players that he will win with. I have to agree. It's hard to imagine a team with Scott Gomez, Martin Straka, Jaromir Jagr, Shanahan, Chris Drury, Petr Prucha and Sean Avery not putting pucks in the net. If I were head coach of the Rangers, I would shake some things up, maybe to look like this:
The top line seems to be going now that Straka is healthy again, so leave that line alone. The second line is the line that's struggling. For whatever reason, Drury has not hit his stride yet in New York. Maybe playing with Shanahan has made him feel like he has to dish the puck off more rather than shoot it. Brandon Dubinsky's play of late has been stellar. Bump him up during his hot play and let him center Shanahan and Avery. Move Drury down to the third line and let him add some defense to a line that is mediocre defensively. Prucha and Dawes will benefit with Drury at the center, possibly creating more scoring opportunities. Fourth line remains the same as well. So to sum it up in a pretty little chart:
Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Shanahan - Dubinsky - Avery
Dawes - Drury - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg
The only thing I don't like about this scenario is that it is breaking up a line that seems to have found some chemistry in Dawes, Dubinsky and Prucha. One thing being thrown around is to move Drury back over to wing, but he has been our best faceoff man recently. If he were to move to wing, Avery would probably shift back to center, and he is not as good in the circle as Drury.
One thing that is evident is our need for another solid defenseman. Jason Strudwick and Marek Malik rotating isn't so bad, but it isn't ideal. I don't have any surefire solutions, and the only name that comes to mind is the expensive Mathieu Schneider. He will undoubtedly cost us in players and in salary, but would be great to have on the back line. Maybe we can find a solid d-man in someone no one would imagine. The top four are fine, and Paul Mara paired with a mediocre player isn't bad. I just want someone extremely defensive.
We will see what happens with this team in the coming weeks. Tomorrow and Thursday we take on another team that we should beat easily, if we show up. Atlanta is a good team, but not nearly as good as we have the potential to be. I'll check in with an update mid-day or early evening.