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Weekes: Playing safe could end up costing Rangers

by Kevin Weekes

The Marian Gaborik trade has really helped the New York Rangers. Gaborik is a premier player and a huge goal scorer, but right now based on the way the Rangers play -- and I'm going to get into that more in a little bit -- the trade has really helped them.

They were short on depth. They have some star players, but the Rangers had lost a lot of their depth up front. Those guys [they got for Gaborik] have come in and played exceptionally well, particularly Derick Brassard. He has been really good for the Rangers, and has helped slot guys in and given them some of the depth they lost when they made the Rick Nash trade.

They did that trade at the expense of their depth, and then Brandon Prust didn't re-sign, Ruslan Fedotenko, who was a good player for them, left, they traded Mike Rupp -- they had some depth on the third and fourth lines last year that they didn't have this year.

Guys like Brassard and Derek Dorsett have come in and helped that depth. I also like the way John Moore has played on the back end, so the Gaborik trade has worked out.

I think one of the challenges for the Rangers is they have one of the best goalies in the world -- it is between Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick in my mind -- but they just play such a safe style of hockey. It is shot blocking all the time, collapsing around Lundqvist all the time.

I believe the Rangers would be at their best if they opened it up a little bit. If you have a goalie like Lundqvist, you can afford to take some chances and make some plays. I just feel that they've spent too much time playing conservatively, too much time playing in their zone, too much time blocking shots and collapsing in and around Hank.

I'd like to see them still pay attention to defensive details, but not always at the expense of making plays. When you have a goalie like that, I really think you can go the other way a little.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a great example, their effort in Game 2 against the Detroit Red Wings notwithstanding. They are at their best when they are pushing the pace and looking to play in the other team's zone.

Now, they are still committed to playing defensively, but they have two-way players. Their coaching staff has really sold a very talented group of players on the value of playing without the puck.

It's also as if the Rangers are too focused on playing defense and not enough on their offensive attack. I really think they need to try and make more plays, maybe add an element of risk to their game. Again, they've got Lundqvist back there, so I think it would suit them well.

I played for John Tortorella with Tampa Bay. The NHL now is different. Things go in cycles.

When he was coaching in Tampa, he had different personnel and the League was different when they won the Stanley Cup. He had Brad Richards, who won the Conn Smythe, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Vinny Prospal -- they had tons of weapons. They also had Nikolai Khabibulin, who was the top goalie or a top-three goalie at the time.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 6-3-2
GAA: 1.60 | SVP: 0.947
You look at the game now and it isn't only about skill. It is about skill and power. Look at last year -- the Los Angeles Kings played a power-based game, but they really added some skill to their lineup when they got Jeff Carter and reunited him with Mike Richards. They had the skill with Anze Kopitar and Richards and Jarret Stoll, but then they came at you with Jordan Nolan and Dwight King and those guys.

Once they made the Carter trade, everyone was able to slide into the right spots and roles in the lineup, and they were able to back that up with Jonathan Quick, who was all-world.

If you look at the Rangers now, they have the right guys in the right roles. Ryan Callahan is a perfect example. He's an all-situations player, a responsible player, but he can also make some plays and score goals.

I think the Rangers have a lot of weapons, but I think some of their guys are so pre-programmed to collapse in front of the net and to block shots. I do think that is a big part of any team's mindset, but if you have Henrik, you don't always need the forwards coming down and collapsing on top of your defensemen.

I think the forwards could do a better job if they were able to stay higher, above the faceoff dots and maybe even at the top of the circles. It would put them in better positions to make plays.

Ryan McDonagh
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 10 | +/-: 1
The Rangers also have good defensemen who can make plays. Anton Stralman can make plays. Marc Staal, if he can get back in the lineup after an injury, can make plays.

Ryan McDonagh is an excellent young defenseman who can make plays. Dan Girardi is an All-Star who is a shutdown guy, but he can still make a good first play. Then there's Michael Del Zotto, who is an offensive guy by nature.

I look at that team, and they are a more-skilled team offensively than they've shown. I think if they want to continue on in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they need to start making some plays. It's not like they'd be asking guys to go outside what they're capable of.

I think it would actually give them a better chance of advancing against Boston if they think more offensively and change the way they are playing.

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