Thursday, November 11, 2010

Losing Rozsival Creates Huge Void For Rangers

For many Rangers fans, especially coming into the season the thought of Michal Rozsival missing from the lineup was not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact for some it was advocated as the next move to make now that Wade Redden had finally been banished to Hartford.  I never bought into that theory and with his play so far this season Rozsival has proven not only to be a valuable asset to this team, but one that is critical to the defense.  It is true that the Rangers have a lot of talented defensive prospects in the system along with some young defenders at the NHL level but other than Staal and Girardi, Rozsival is really the only one who is truly capable of top 4 minutes, especially in defensive situations.

Before I go any further I want to kill this ridiculous conspiracy theory I saw in multiple places yesterday equating the timing of the injury announcement to Rozsival “being responsible” for the game winning goal against by the Capitals.  First, as I said yesterday while he is partially to blame for the goal, MDZ and Stepan will have to share in that blame.  Secondly, it is absurd to think that the Rangers would go without the guy who in my opinion has been their second best defender this season for a minimum of a week just to build him an excuse.  To me the conspiracy theory says more about the claimants than those they are accusing because it is as if they are seeking justification for the needless and baseless booing Rozi has suffered this season based on prior year’s performance and not his actual play this year.

Moving back to the topic at hand, the Rangers now go from a team that had three D that could be trusted in critical situations to just two and that only increases the burden for Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.  The assumption is that these two will be paired together again in Rozsival’s absence and their familiarity with each other will help to make whatever “adjustments” there are smooth.  What is not discussed as much is how Staal and Girardi the Rangers will ride these two for even more minutes because of the inability of the staff to trust the other four guys for large minutes.  I would expect a bump from 23:30 for Staal and 24:30 for Girardi to more like 28 minutes for each guy, which is a huge load.

The fallout of losing Rozsival continues deeper in the D core on multiple levels as apparently Steve Eminger will now move into a top 4 role and Matt Gilroy after being a healthy scratch the last five games will be back in the lineup.  The increased responsibility for Eminger is going to be a pretty significant jump considering he has only be playing around 14 minutes a night and will likely see more in the range of 18, depending on just how hard they push Staal and Girardi.  Eminger will also have a much greater role in killing penalties than he otherwise would and while his play has been solid of late I still do not feel comfortable with either of those two realities.

As I said the loss of Rozsival brings Gilroy back into the lineup and while it gives the young player another shot to prove his NHL worth, it also obviously weakens the Rangers seeing as there is a clear reason that he was not in the lineup for five straight games.  I would expect Gilroy and Sauer to get in the neighborhood of 14 minutes a night as has been customary for the 3rd pair so far this year, with Gilroy getting some 2nd unit PP time and Sauer’s role killing penalties increasing.

Yesterday in writing about the injury and the reports of how the defense would shift I said that in order to better balance the D I would have moved Sauer up maybe even all the way to play with Staal while leaving MDZ and Girardi together as Sauer of the Eminger, Sauer, Gilroy triumvirate for me has played the best overall and specifically in his own end.  If Tortorella goes as was suggested with Eminger moving up I will just have to hope for the sake of the club that Eminger can step into the role he is asked to play but whether all fans want to admit it or not, filling the shoes of Michal Rozsival this year is a big task.

It may sound crazy, but for me the loss of Rozsival is as big as losing Gaborik a few weeks back because in Rozi’s case there are so many less qualified people to take his place.  Obviously the Rangers have no one as talented or prolific a scorer as Gaborik, but they had enough guys who could step in and by committee fill the larger roles, on defense I am not so sure that is the case.  For my money Rozsival has been the second best defenseman this season behind on Dan Girardi and ahead of Marc Staal and losing him cannot be understated because in the loss they are losing a D with 2G, 6A, but also 23 min a game of TOI in any and all situations and those statistics do not account for his experience and leadership on a young defense core.  In terms of the number of games the Rangers are going to be short, if Rozsival is only out a week he likely misses Buffalo, Edmonton, Pittsburgh and probably Boston.  If it goes on the extra few days it could stretch to the mini trip out to Colorado and Minnesota.  Just as was the case with the injury to Gaborik other guys will have to step up and as a team the Rangers will have to play very sound fundamentally to cover for Rozsival's absence.