The Rangers Are Homeward Bound

The three-country, two-continent road trip is finally over

The Rangers will christen the revamped Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, an event that likely means more to Cablevision suits than it does to the team.

For the players and coaches, it will nice to just sleep in their own beds and know which money to use when they go out to pick up the morning coffee for a change. The team has played their first seven games of the season in places like Prague, Uniondale and Winnepeg, but they have yet to play once in Manhattan because of the renovations at MSG.

Winnepeg was the last of those stops on Monday night and we got a fairly typical performance from the 2011-2012 Rangers. They were outplayed for long stretches of the game, looked short on top-end talent and ran the power play like they wouldn't score if they were playing against a team of fifth-graders.

Yet they won, just as they did in two of the other three games in the Candian segment of their endless road trip. Ryan Callahan banked a shot off the skate of a Jets defenseman and Martin Biron played a splendid game in goal to account for a 2-1 victory.

That means the Rangers are coming home with a 3-2-2 record, pretty good given the circumstances, and fantastic given how poorly the Rangers played most of the time. If it wasn't for Henrik Lundqvist (and Biron on Monday), they might not have won a single game.

Things got so bad in a loss to Edmonton that John Tortorella's entire postgame press conference consisted of telling reporters that the team "sucked from head to toe" before walking away. They weren't quite that bad most of the time, but they did look like a team that's going to struggle over the long haul.

All of which leads us to ask how much the team has changed from last year's group? The energy and enthusiasm that the Rangers have on a nightly basis is great to see, but the fact that the team still lacks scoring punch leaves you to wonder just how they can hope to improve on the white-knuckle playoff drives of recent seasons. 

Yes, they've been without Marc Staal for the entire run and Michael Sauer for most of it and that puts undue strain on defensemen who should be playing less or not at all. Still, the addition of Brad Richards was supposed to make for a more potent offense. He's been pretty good, but there's been no trickle-down effect.

The good news is that the team now has six straight at-home games to figure things out. That schedule should give them a chance to get their legs back under them without having to deal with the difficulties that come from playing on the road.

If things come together, this job of treading water to start the season will seem like much more. If they don't, it will just look like the prelude to another long season for the Blueshirts.

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