The Rangers have to be pretty happy about where they are in the early going. By beating the defending champion Blackhawks by 3-2 at the Garden last night, they improved to 6-4-1 — a record made all the more respectable when you consider the talent currently on their injured list. Some patterns are developing: lots of blocked shots, still a bit too much reliance on Henrik Lundqvist, and perhaps most encouragingly, a line of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov that’s been clicking all season.
Callahan and Dubinsky, especially, have carried the Rangers in the absence of Marian Gaborik: Callahan’s consistent hard work has been translating into points (he’s currently on a seven-game point-scoring streak), and no one’s benefited more than Brandon Dubinsky, whose two goals last night — one in the final minute of the first period, and another in the first minute of the third period — gave him seven on the season. Of course, their value to the team extends beyond offense, and indeed it was Dubinsky’s hustle that cleared the puck out of the zone toward the end of the 26 tense, shorthanded seconds that they killed off to seal the victory.
Last year, if a team had scored to tie the game early in the third period, things may have unraveled. Last night, the Rangers answered right back, on a nifty goal by Erik Christensen, who picked his corner over Marty Turco’s left shoulder. We’ve written before that judging the Rangers by their first dozen or so games hasn’t proven to be wise over the past few years. (And Larry Brooks reminds us today that the Rangers once got a hot start out of the bizarre Dubinsky-Voros-Zherdev line.) But developing a line as strong as this one — one of homegrown players who don’t appear to be playing in over the heads — bodes well for the months ahead.