While I'm no NHL coach, just a mites division coach, there are some things that I think we must see from Renney and the Rangers this year.
Things Renney Must Do
-The Powerplay last year was just awful at times. In the playoffs, it was a key advantage that Pittsburgh had, and they took advantage of it. Our inablity to capitalize our PP chances at an acceptable rate would not only hurt us during the season, but it would spell our demise in the playoffs aswell. While it was assistant coach Perry Pearn who ran the PP last season, Renney is still the head coach, and thus should be atleast trying to taking care of it. Last year's PP saw a huge reliance on Jaromir Jagr, even when his numbers were falling. This year, Renney and his staff must come up with a solution, one that will use all of our offensive weapons to their fullest potential. One can guarantee that Redden will be QB for the first unit. While he won't score 20 goals from the point, he is sure to be there, passing the puck off to everyone, and hopefully keeping our PP a lot less predictable then it has been in previous years. They will also need a bigger body in front of the net, as well as wingers who will play flexible, and won't always be in the same spot. We need to make sure that this year, we keep the enemy PK guessing. Keep our guys moving, don't bunch up, and don't stand still. If everyone is in a fixed position, it makes for an easier job on the PK, one that doesn't make them tired. If we keep moving, so will they, and a tired unit that's one man short is never a good thing, that is of course, unless you are playing against them.
Last season, we saw the Rangers get off to a very slow start. Their 2-5-1 start came at a time when there were huge expectations for them coming out of the gate. It seemed like the breaking point when in those last two games, in which they went 0-1-1, they did not score a goal. Henrik Lundqvist only let in one in the two games, but the team literally did could not give him any support. Even the injured Sean Avery wasn't scoring any hot celebs. This year, things cannot repeat themselves for the Rangers to be taken seriously. A Quick start, maybe something like going 7-2-1 in their first 10 would be good, but perhaps would be to much to ask with the European trip to start the year. If they come out of the game at around 6-4, then the trip might not have taken so much away from them. They need to show that the games in Prague are not going to affect their season long term, and by coming out of the gate hard, or atleast above average, they can easily make a big first impression on the rest of the league.
-Eastern Conference Finals
Another second round exit would be tough to deal with. Anything less would be disaster. Even with the loss of some key players, there are still great expectations that only get multiplied each time someone writes an article like this one. While this might not be a cup or bust year for them, an improvement is necessary for Renney to stay off of the chopping block.
-Home Ice Advantage
Just making the playoffs will not be acceptable. While finishing 5th again wouldn't be catastrophic, it might be key for them to finish in the top 4. An atlantic division title would be great, but there would be no shame in losing the division to Bettman's Baby Birds, the Penguins. Everyone else though, we must beat. We haven't seen a playoff series open in the garden since 1996, but now, it's about time to show that we won't be underdogs in a series.
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