The Nashville Predators, our hosts at 8:00 this evening, are also what the media has taken to calling a "bubble team." They're sitting in 8th, 3 points from 6th, 4 points minus a game-in-hand from 13th. Despite having lost their last two, they won 6 in a row before that, yet another bubble team that has all of a sudden been playing great hockey for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Plus, they have a roster containing an incomprehensible-for-New-Yorkers 8 defensemen, which meaninglessly includes Ranger-you-don't-remember Greg de Vries. Thus ends my knowledge of the Nashville Predators.
But as Torts teaches us, it's not about the opponent, it's about us. Where are we as a team, regal stomach problems aside? There are two equally viable schools of thought on the matter. One says that the Rangers did the best they could to shake things up late, but for a largely vanilla team this was not enough. With the additions of a new coach and some big personnel (Antropov) and personalities (Avery), we surged forward to win a handful against a bad Avalanche, a pathetic Islanders, and an inexplicably bush-league Manny Fernandez, while showing our true, old-school colors by being unable to even find the twine once against a Carolina team who is *actually* surging into the playoffs.
The other school of thought says that the Rangers made big important moves to dramatically change the face of the club, we're still getting our footing down, and we have nowhere to go but up. Before Carolina, we had scored 14 goals in 3 games, and losing one, especially to a team playing as well as Carolina has been playing lately, doesn't ruin that.
I'm not sure either school has it exactly right, but if we ARE that massively-improved team with nowhere to go but up, we only have 15 games left in which to prove that. It starts tonight, in Music City, USA, at 8:00. My dad (always right etc.) e-mailed me this afternoon: "Our season will be determined in the next 6 days." In those 6 days, we play in Nashville tonight, have a home-and-home against the Flyers over the weekend, and then play in Montréal Tuesday night. That would be 4 of these final 15. 8 points up for grabs, against good, playoff-bound teams that are playing hard right now. Now is where those proving grounds begin. Let's Go Rangers!
As an addendum, in lineup news, it seems that today Torts was shaking things up somewhat at practice. Avery moved up to Gomez's left (See? The media was right, Torts will never give him an honest chance.... Take a note, NHL. Now it's your turn to stop calling penalties on him like he's on probation), which I assume means Naslund skated with Drury and Antropov, and Dubinsky moved down to the Korpikoski line, as opposed to leaving Dubi where he was and moving Naslund down to the third line, but what do I know? Torts also broke up what I will as neutrally as possible call the shitty defensive pair and matched them with the Mara-Morris pair, putting Rozsival with Mara and Redden with Morris, leaving the actually-good Staal-Girardi pair intact. Will they skate like that tonight? We'll find out in 3 and a half hours.
Sometimes I wonder why anybody reads this (if anybody does, in fact, read this). Then I remember that people are getting paid to write shit like this, and all of a sudden this blog doesn't seem so bad.