Rangers Shuffle Deck and Find an Ace - NBC New York

Rangers Shuffle Deck and Find an Ace

Rangers remain in playoff position with 5-2 win in Philly



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    Richards breaks through and Rangers get a win they need.

    Brad Richards has been so off this season that it's a wonder there hasn't been a congressional inquiry into what happened to his scoring touch. 

    All year, John Tortorella has been trying to get Richards and Rick Nash to form the partnership that tantalized minds when Nash was originally acquired in a trade with Columbus. There have been flashes here and there, but the overall result has been far less enjoyable. 

    Richards has been invisible while Nash has played much better with other linemates, a reality that Tortorella accepted last night by shuffling his lines. Nash played with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin while Richards skated on a third line with Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider. 

    The results made Tortorella look like a genius on the night he won his 400th game as an NHL coach. Nash scored twice and Richards had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 thumping of the Flyers that kept the Blueshirts in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

    There was more pace than we've seen in the last few games as everyone seemed to take happily to their new linemates and the Flyers struggled to keep up with a team rolling three lines with skilled players on them. The superline idea of Nash, Richards and Marian Gaborik remains a tempting one, but nights like Tuesday make you think that the team's better off when they're applying pressure regardless of who is on the ice. 

    Such an approach requires much from the six forwards after the big three in the pecking order, a need that seems easier to satisfy when they get to play off of their talented teammates instead of relying solely on one another to generate activity.

    Things won't always roll as easily as they did in Philly on Tuesday, of course, but it's hard to argue with the evidence pointing to a diffuse Rangers team being better than the one that stacks up their star forwards. 

    More change may be coming to the team, what with Mats Zuccarello on his way back to New York and the trade deadline looming as a chance to improve a team that's hanging onto their playoff spot by a thin margin. Tortorella may need to shuffle again, but it seems there's a blueprint to follow and it would be silly for the Rangers to resume trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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