The 2013 season has gotten off to a terrible start for the New York Rangers. The Rangers, however, made progress in a 2-0 win Wednesday over the Washington Capitals but that win came at a price as Ryan Callahan suffered a broken thumb that will now keep him out 3-4 weeks.
To say that the Rangers need Callahan right now would be an understatement. The Rangers currently rank 27th in the NHL in goals per game with a meager 1.8, hardly the improvement fans were expecting when Alain Vigneault was brought in. Contrast that with a defense that ranks 29th in the league, allowing 4.2 goals per game, and it is easy to see why the Rangers have struggled out of the gate. Now, without Callahan, their second-leading goal-scorer with three goals, the Rangers offense will struggle even more.
The Rangers are currently without Rick Nash who is nursing a concussion, so their offense has already been playing without their top scoring threat since the third game. The team, as a whole, has only scored 11 goals through six games with seven of those goals coming from the sticks of Brad Richards and Callahan.
Someone will have to step up in Callahan’s absence. The problem is the Rangers don’t have that person right now. Derek Stepan could be that person but he hasn’t show much after missing most of camp and the preseason due to a lack of a contract. Derick Brassard looked fantastic in the playoffs last year and showed flashes of being a potential star player after coming over in the trade that sent Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, Brassard hasn’t had much of an impact so far this season.
Instead of expecting one person to step up the Rangers will need the team as a whole to do it. They will need to play smarter hockey, play like they did on Wednesday. They will need to be aggressive for all three periods, to keep their forecheck up, to force the opposing team to turn the puck over and to put the puck on the opposing net. Just as importantly, they will need to pay the kind of defense they played on Wednesday against the Capitals and keep the pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist because right now Lundqvist is the Rangers’ best chance of competing until the offense figures it out.