Rangers don't need to make a big move
Michael Rushton, NHL Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
New York fans made it clear on Sunday just how much they want the Rangers to pursue Columbus Blue Jackets superstar Rick Nash.
After Nash scored a game-tying goal with 1:33 left in Sunday's game at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirt faithful showered the forward with a chant of, "We don't want you."
Then the current Rangers went out and did what they do best: win a hockey game.
With Sunday's 3-2 overtime win against the Blue Jackets, the Rangers sit on top of the Eastern Conference with 81 points. That is nine more than the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in the standings and New York has just two losses in nine games this month. The club hasn't lost two in a row since Dec. 13-15.
The statistics say that the Rangers don't need Nash. Yes, they rank in the middle of the pack with 2.77 goals per game, but thanks to star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, they are yielding the second-fewest goals per outing at 1.96.
The play on the ice also says the Rangers can succeed without Nash. Take the game-winning goal versus the Blue Jackets on Sunday. Sniper Marian Gaborik, New York's leading scorer with 27 goals and 50 points, collected the loose puck at the top of the left circle, but instead of shooting it, he sent a quick pass down to Michael Del Zotto. The defenseman then sent the disc across the slot to a wide-open Derek Stepan, who tapped it in from the left side.
"You look at us throughout the whole season, we're a character group, a lot of resilience and we showed it again tonight," Del Zotto said afterward.
The tic-tac-toe play showed just how much chemistry the Rangers have this season. Making a move for a player the caliber of Nash would certainly cost New York a player or two off its current roster in addition to prospects and draft picks.
With New York leading its conference, the pressure is on the big-market club to make a run at a Stanley Cup championship. But what isn't broke doesn't need to be fixed, and while the Rangers will certainly see themselves attached to each name who is made available before the trade deadline on Feb. 27, disrupting the current roster could bring more harm than good. Head coach John Tortorella is aware of this prospect.
"I know all the owners and general managers are always looking to try to improve their team, but there's certain situations and things are discussed as far as chemistry, I'll give you that," Tortorella told reporters following practice on Saturday.
"I like the club. I like this hockey club."
And what is not to like? It's not like the Rangers are short on talent. They have perennial Vezina Trophy candidate Lundqvist in net and have nabbed a pair of the biggest names to hit the free agency market over the past few years in Gaborik and Brad Richards.
Lundqvist is probably the biggest reason the Rangers don't need to break the bank before the trade deadline. He leads the league with a .940 save percentage and seven shutouts while ranking second with a 1.56 goals against average. Not only that, but he instills a confidence on the ice that allows his teammates to take chances on the offensive end knowing, that he will be there to bail them out.
While Lundqvist knows that Nash is a talent, he and the rest of the Rangers are trying not to pay attention to what they can't control.
"He's a good player, no question," Lundqvist said of Nash. "I've faced him a lot over the years on national teams and here in the NHL. Skilled guy, strong with the puck, great shooter. We're used to it now over the years to have a lot of speculations this time of the year and I don't really pay attention to it much."
One Ranger, though, who probably can't wait until next week's trade deadline to pass is Brandon Dubinsky, who has seen his name pop up in a number of rumors, including the Nash rumblings.
The 25-year-old logged a career-high 24 goals a season ago, but has just six through 54 games this season.
"If (a trade) happens, listen, that is part of the game and it would stink because, obviously, I love it here, but I'm not really putting too much thought into it. I'm just trying to put my game in order, so I can help this team," Dubinsky said on Saturday.
The Rangers are just about guaranteed to make a move at some point before the deadline, but would be better served going after a veteran or low-cost rental player. In fact, an approach similar to division-rival Philadelphia is ideal. The Flyers added two skaters to their blue line last week in Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman in separate trades that cost them a total of four draft picks and a fringe minor-leaguer.
Caution is the approach the Rangers should take in regards to making a deal and in the end it could have the Madison Square Garden faithful unleashing more positive chants come playoff time.