Friday, February 11, 2011
W2W4: Rangers vs. Thrashers
By Mike Hume
The Rangers square off against the Thrashers in Atlanta Friday night. As both teams are battling for one of the East’s final playoff spots, here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops down south.
The Rangers spent a disproportionate amount of practice time working on the power play this week, and with good reason. The Blueshirts have just three power-play goals in their last 27 chances -- a success rate of just 11 percent. Tonight’s opponent may help spark that unit as well. The Thrashers sport the second-worst penalty kill in the league at 76.2 percent. Perhaps that’s part of the reason Atlanta is the NHL’s only team with a record under .500 when scoring first, a fact that should tell the Rangers they shouldn’t get discouraged if they fall behind early.
Brian Boyle has been a revelation this season. Plain and simple he might be the most consistent Ranger on any given night and that doesn’t even take into account his career-best 18 goals. But he’s been held without a point in his last three and reports from the rink have noted he looks a little fatigued or possibly even injured. Boyle’s sacrificed his body numerous times this season and the toll could be catching up with him. That said, the Rangers really need his offensive contributions. By my count they’re 10-5-1 in games in which the Boyler has scored a goal.
You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough ...
Henrik Lundqvist has looked shaky ever since the All-Star game and he’s told reporters several times in the past week that a lot of it is a confidence issue. If Lundqvist can’t get his head right the Rangers’ playoff hopes may vanish right quick. However the team’s top stopper has rebounded from a rough stretch earlier this season and there’s no reason he can’t do it again. Tonight may provide a confidence-building opportunity as Lundqvist has performed to a 2.15 GAA and .916 save percentage while posting a 7-3 career record against Atlanta.