By Brian Monzo
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It seems like over the past few seasons, the Rangers were preparing for 2011-12.
As the Rangers get ready to host Dallas tonight at MSG, they sit at 17-6-4, good for second place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Flyers with a game in hand. For once, it seems like all the offseason work, the drafting and everything in between is panning out.
What has lead to this early success? Contributions from all the Rangers' players. Aside from Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, players like Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan have stepped up. Stepan has 7 goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 27 games and Anisimov has 19 points in 27 games.
Three defensemen have double digits in points. Michael Del Zotto has had a turnaround season thus far, with 14 points and a gigantic +15 on the ice. Ryan McDonagh has 13 points and and Dan Girardi has 12 points.
The one guy that has been hurting the team offensively is Brandon Dubinsky. His one goal in 27 games is tough to accept. I understand he does a lot of things well, and I am a true believer in his game, but I think it is time for Dubinsky to take one game and watch from the press box. We all know John Tortorella is a huge fan of Dubinsky, but he needs to be better, and I am sure he knows. This worked with Michael Nylander a few seasons back, and I think it will have the same effect on No. 17.
Not to be forgotten, of course, if the goaltending situation. Henrik Lundqvist, well on his way to seventh straight 30-plus win season, is playing to a GAA of 2.08. His classy backup, Marty Biron, is 5-1-0 with a GAA of 1.79. It doesn't matter who is in net -- either goalie is going to give the team a chance to win.
Another huge difference with this team is the true feeling of confidence. I don't think this team feels like any team is better then them. Does that make them the best team in the league? No. Is confidence something this team has lacked for a few seasons? Absolutely. If you don't think you can win, you probably won't. If you think you will win, you are halfway there.
Don't forget the watch HBO's "24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic," giving an amazing behind the scenes look of the Rangers and the Flyers as they prepare for the Winter Classic on January 2. It's a great series, and should be a blast to watch.
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