Sunday, January 30, 2011

N.Y. RANGERS ~ More Grinding Awaits The Blueshirts


Marc Staal - D
Henrik Lundqvist - G

Record ~ 29-20-3;  61 Points
Third Place - Atlantic Division
Sixth Seed in Eastern Conference

In Conference ~ 8th
Overall ~ 12th

In Conference ~ 4th
Overall ~ 7th

Current Relevant Injuries:

*Ryan Callahan
*Brandon Dubinsky
*Erik Christensen
....They are all due back and should be in good working order.

Apathetic Injuries:

*Alex Frolov - He became the new Nick Zherdev.  He was supposed to come here with a suitcase filled with 20+ goals.  Instead, he showed up with a brown paper bag filled with rocks.   He's done for the season and out of our hair.

*Vinny Prospal - Who knows when he's coming back and he'll turn 36 yrs old in February.  He must never again have the "A" on his jersey.  As a matter of fact, just don't give him his jersey back.  We've washed our hands of him.  Even if he comes back healthy tomorrow, there is no way to incorporate him into the plan now.  The team Vinny Prospal "played on" has moved on.  He should not be able to come back on the ice, (if cleared), and steal minutes from any of the Boys or more importantly, Sean Avery.  That's just rant-talk, but if he does come back, he must be a daily healthy scratch or relegated to the fourth line with Chris Drury.

*Derek Boogaard - He came in out of shape, over-weight, and in his fights he was slow and outmatched.  What happened to this brawling 28 year old Heavyweight Champ?  If you saw him in a WILD uniform, he was a beast.  Then, he came here to become the Least he could be.  I thought this was a great signing at the time!  Unbelievable.  He's most likely done for the season also.

We love Henrik don't we?  He's our Liege...for sure.  Our All*Star Goalie is indispensable to us.  Well, our KING better get his House in order then.  I know you really can't compare the two sets of numbers, but Marty Biron has a better SV% and GAA than our starter.  That's just a little play on numbers.  But, Our Guy, the modern-day innovator of the Stinker, needs to be a lot more consistent; That's all.  He's had a peeks-and-valleys season.  His 21-16 reflects that.  In his last 5 games tending net, he - Lost-Won-Lost-Won-Lost.

Our inconsistent Goalie does however lead NHL Net Minders in Shut-Outs with seven.  But when he's bad, he completely falls apart.  But in Henrik we trust, and I'm sure we're in agreement that he'll be fine.

Marty Biron, after a hot start, has cooled.  But he should still continue providing us with capable back-up support.  Coach Torts should be able to get what he wants out of Marty, and that's a fresher Henrik Lundqvist in April.

The Human Turnover and Blueline Blunder, Michal Rozsival is gone.  Wade Redden, for the moment is safely toiling far away in NHL Siberia.

In the mean-time, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh continue to learn and impress.  Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy and Dan Girardi (who should be skating again when play resumes) should all be given their due credit for their parts in making the Rangers 7th in the NHL in Goals Against.

Marc Staal has not only emerged as an NHL Star, he's become the Rangers true leader on the ice.  He, and all our current young Defensemen, to include Michael Del Zotto (I heard you boo), have far exceeded the caliber of play in the neutral zone and defensive ends more than any other tandems of Blueliners in the last seven years.

Glen Sather can really do himself and his reputation some justice if he can plunk down a solid Defenseman at or before the trade deadline to reinforce a squad being spread really thin.  The Rangers need someone with size at the position who can Crunch!  Dan Girardi, give him credit, can not be the one sticking-up for Marc Staal when someone lays a questionable hit on him.  Additionally, we're not making teams pay enough of a price for loitering in front of Henrik.  Our Goalie resorted to taking matters into his own hands one game when he got his turf crashed into by Atlanta.

That must stop.  Glen Sather has to find someone that will give other teams something to think about other than taking liberties on our goalie and crashing our net.  We need someone who can stand somebody up and stop a rush cold in their tracks at the defensive blueline.  We need Crunch.

We play defense well.  We control the neutral zone more effectively than we did in the past; we make better outlet passes out of our zone and transition well; and over-all we're just being smarter under Coach Torts.  Offensively speaking, the D can work with what we already have in hand.  What Glen Sather needs to do is get that Cruncher who will stay home waiting for invaders.

We might still be waiting for Marian Gaborik to arrive at full force, but their is no denying he's been most effective this season when he's been assigned to a line with Sean Avery at his side.  Gaborik has clearly been putting in his work and has actually been skating well and positioning himself in the right places.  So maybe it's only a matter of a few more games following the All Star break before he'll start to put the puck past goalies at last year's rate.  His opportunities have been there and he's completely healthy now.  He stumbled upon some success earlier in his season with Ruslan Fedotenko at his side.  But he hasn't been better than when he plays with Avery.  And that's exactly where Coach Torts should leave THEM; ....Together. 

Without the aid of hyperbole, I think it's very safe to say, there are fewer players in Hockey today who play better down low and from behind the net than Sean Avery.  I can't express that sentiment enough.  He is at his best from behind the net; not just digging out pucks and winning battles; but by using vision, anticipation and precision, his passes from behind net are killer.  Marian Gaborik now has a new line-mate whom he can greatly benefit from.

Going into the break, Coach Torts had Avery's minutes cranked up to 22 a game.  But that was born of necessity.  Otherwise, Coach Torts has consistently limited him to about 6 minutes this season.  At this point, it's not a Man-Crush I have, it's just that Avery has been that good and well behaved to boot.  Sure his penalty minutes are astronomical.  But are they really?  Please!...ok?  Take away from his PIM the fact that he can't catch a break from the whistle blowers and his PIM time goes down to a more respectable and less detrimental "high" number.

Michal Rozsival Wojtek Wolski has paid-off handsomely since being acquired.  Artem Anisimov has been a little up and down, but mostly good.  He along with Wolski, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello have provided the Rangers with youthful enthusiasm and inspired, hungry play.

And who are we without Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle?!  We'd quite literally be an ECHL level club without those two.  All conversations about this team's backbone and guts stop right here with them.  It wasn't the intended plan.  That's just the way it is.  And thank goodness!  Coach Torts has juggled every single player on his forward lines like bowling pins, flaming torches, and canteloupes; everyone except Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle that is.  They have been superlative together and Coach never even gets close to tampering with the pair.

The biggest dilemma facing the Rangers right now is not having Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky on the ice.  We've pulled out some gutsy wins in their absence, but they are the core, along with Marc Staal, of this team.  Not until their return can Coach Torts get some normalcy back into the lives of his Forward Lines.  That will go a long way towards eeking out more W's.


This may hurt, but it's the truth; - Chris Drury has become an outright drain on the system.  He is our least effective forward right now and he's bcome the most inconsequential player on the team.  Yet...! - this continues to go unspoken about by the Media experts.

Well folks, I have news for them.  I said this already once before.  It's time to take the C off Chris Drury's jersey and sew it on Marc Staal's.  He's your Captain now.  And when Brandon Dubinsky returns to action, he should do so with an A sewed on his jersey to go along with Ryan Callahan.

It's high-time the team made these changes to better reflect their identity.  Those three are the core of this team.  They should be made to wear the letters on their jerseys.  The way things stand right now with the Captain buried on the fourth line and Vinny Prospal's A out since forever...things remain skewed.

Make the change.


We've played 52 games... and in spite of our injuries, it looks like we are a playoff contender.  We are certainly a Top-10 NHL team.  In our conference we are presently 6th and of course only 8 make the tourney.  Montreal is in the 7th slot with 59 points and Atlanta is holding on to the 8th slot with 57 points.  The top team on the outside looking in would be Carolina.  The Carolina Hurricanes give me the creeps!  If any team is going to make life uncomfortable for us down the stretch, it's going to be them.

I think what we have now is what we'll go with after the trade deadline passes.  What can Glen Sather realistically do that won't cost too much in the way of losing players?  Which of our players would you make available?  I'm struggling with that aspect of the trade deadline as we speak.  And then does he try to secure a  defenseman or another forward, or both?

Coach Torts says this is more about building from the ground..up.  Glen Sather?  His original plan was such a complete failure.  And now thankfully to that failure, we have a very gritty, likeable, hard working, bunch of kids who apparently can play Hockey and can win games too!  Glen Sather's original plan was so bad, it's got us all buzzing about the playoffs on the back end of his mistakes.  Necessity was the Mother of this invention; Not Glen Sather; - So go figure.  But the reality is that if Sather's plan hadn't gotten injured in-mass, we wouldn't have been able to call up these kids and see how well they play together.

The hope here is that Coach Torts continues to exert his influence on Sather, and he continues to steer these kids the right way; which he has.  Is it safe to say Coach Torts has been the biggest influence on this entire club since he was brought in, but more particularly this season?  Yes indeed.  It's accurate and a fact.

He's cracking a hard whip.  And this team seems to like it.  Then he cracks it harder and they ask for another one.  That's the kind of team we have.  It's tough and gritty.  It's almost Spartan like how Coach Torts has brought them along.  They're just trying to out-work other teams while rising up to the challenges and adversity of playing physical Hockey without a reliable high-powered scoring threat.

The season will continue to be a hard grind towards April.  And now at the All*Star Break, I think everybody; Coach, Players and Fans alike, have finally grown comfortable in our own skin.  We know who we are and how we need to be in order to succeed.  That definitely means us fans too.

We've been a damn good Hockey club on the road.  But the Rangers need to be a better team at home.  If that means we fans have to make the place a little more nuts and hostile than usual for the visitors, then that's what we have to do!  It's not like we can't.  But all kidding aside, we do need to improve upon our home-ice record.

...And speaking of improvement, can anything be done to improve our Power Play?  Who knows!  It goes to show we're not a great team.  But we are a very good team and a tight bunch.

Being a 6th seeded team is a matter of perception as to whether you think that's the mark of a good team or not.  I guess that all depends which way your team is headed.  In our case, we've put in a lot of hard work and effort to earn our position.

More grinding awaits.

Tuesday night we host the Penguins who are still without Sid The Slew Crosby, as he still suffers from the affects of a concussion.  Then Thursday night, The Battle of the Hudson resumes against the suddenly resurgent New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

Let's Go Rangers!


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