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Hradek: Struggles for Rangers, Bryzgalov, Luongo

Friday, 10.28.2011 / 12:41 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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Hradek: Struggles for Rangers, Bryzgalov, Luongo
NHL.com analyst E.J. Hradek ponders the Rangers' goal-scoring woes as well as a pair of netminders who must step up their game in Ilya Bryzgalov and Roberto Luongo
After touring Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Western Canada for the past month (with a short stopover on Long Island), the Rangers made an unsuccessful return to the "transformed" Madison Square Garden on Thursday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
 
While the building had a different look to it, the team seemed eerily similar to the offensively-challenged bunch that's been working on Broadway for the past few seasons.

Unable to build on a first-period lead (they had a couple of goals wiped out due to goaltender interference), the Rangers were beaten when usually reliable star stopper Henrik Lundqvist surrendered a couple of softies.
 
Marian Gaborik
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 5
SOG: 32 | +/-: 0
The Blueshirts hope to offer their fans a few more goals -- to go along with their home building's new amenities -- when they host the suddenly streaking Senators on Saturday afternoon.
 
Here are a few more thoughts concerning the weekend slate:
 
* Peter Laviolette thought his days of shuffling goalies were over when the club inked Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract during the summer. Not even a month into the new season, however, Bryzgalov is suffering a crisis of confidence. At least, that's what he told the Philadelphia media Thursday night after a wild 9-8 loss to the visiting Jets.
 
"I have zero confidence in myself right now," said the downtrodden Bryzgalov, after giving up the final four goals on just 10 shots.
 
In eight games, the former Coyotes star has a 3-4-1 record with a 3.45 goals-against average and .870 save percentage. Clearly, that's not the October he was hoping for.
 
With the Hurricanes coming to town Saturday, Laviolette will have an interesting choice to make: Bryzgalov or backup Sergei Bobrovsky, who gave up five goals on 15 shots in starting Thursday's score-a-thon.
 

EJ's Instant Analysis

Analyst EJ Hradek shares his take on all the news around the National Hockey League.

Personally, I'd send Bryzgalov back to the crease. I don't see much good in letting him stew over a few bad performances. And the Flyers -- working without injured captain Chris Pronger -- need to tighten their game in front of their goaltender. A strong two-way effort would make things a lot easier for the goalie, whoever it is.
 
* On the other coast, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is dealing with a goaltending issue of his own. Notorious slow starter Roberto Luongo was yanked in his last start after giving up three goals in just under 27 minutes to the upstart Oilers last Tuesday. Vigneault subsequently turned to backup Cory Schneider for the club's next game, but he dropped a 3-0 decision to the visiting Blues.
 
Vigneault figures to go back to Luongo against the Capitals on Saturday. The Canucks' top stopper certainly has to improve upon a 3.45 GAA and a .868 save percentage. Luongo's history would indicate that he'll get back on track. If he doesn't do it soon, however, Vigneault is going to have some real tough decisions to make.
 
* Back east, the Bruins and Canadiens will complete a home-and-home series Saturday in Montreal (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS). After a brutal start, the Habs have won their last two games, beating the Flyers and Bruins. Coincidentally, the victories came on the heels of the odd Wednesday afternoon firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn. I say coincidentally because I see no connection between the change and the club’s recent results.
 
The Canadiens' poor early-season performance had more to do -- in my view -- with the number of injuries suffered to an already average roster. The Habs still are waiting for Andrei Markov's return. An elite defender when healthy, Markov continues to rehab his surgically-repaired knee.
 
Experienced defensemen Jaroslav Spacek and Chris Campoli also have missed significant time due to injury. You just can't have that many key blueliners out of the lineup and expect to be all that successful.
Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential