Both the Rangers and Senators look forward to hitting the reset button as Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals approaches – each club enters the post-season on a losing streak – but Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky is particularly eager to begin anew.
After leading the Rangers in scoring last season, Dubinsky has had a tumultuous 2011-12 replete with offensive slumps, trade rumors, benchings and injuries.
The 25-year-old forward hopes the playoffs are his chance to wipe the slate clean.
“It’s been a nightmare of a year for me,” he said. “That said, guys around me picked me up and played well enough to put us in a… great position to give us home-ice advantage and win the conference. That, to me, gives me a little bit more motivation to come out and make an impact.”
Dubinsky, who has 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games this season, is exactly the type of player the Rangers need to contribute should they make a deep post-season run as expected. The team’s top line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik has proven itself a force, but the Blueshirts need offensive balance to compete with the depth of Eastern Conference foes like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins.
The good news? Dubinsky has had a strong showing in past playoff runs with the Rangers. Since 2008, he has recorded seven goals and eight assists in 22 playoff games.
“I think, for me, the playoffs are sort of tailored to how I play,” Dubinsky said. “ [They’re] hard. They’re physical. They’re gritty. The goals aren’t pretty like they are in the regular season – they’re ugly and there [are] no small plays so you’ve got to be responsible. I feel like I’m a pretty responsible player out there.”
Coach John Tortorella hopes to see the playoffs elicit what he could not coax from Dubinsky during the regular season.
“His game isn’t dead-on but he’s beginning to show signs,” he said. “Especially for a young guy that’s had a struggle this year, I think it’s a really good mindset change for him.”
Tortorella underscored the importance of that not just for Dubinsky, but for the good of the entire team.
“It’s not [just] for him,” he said. “He wants to help the team and he’s the type of player in the playoffs that can get us to the next level.”