Friday, December 3, 2010

Sean Avery Showcasing His Top Line Abilities

A lot has been said and written in and by the press about Sean Avery over the years and most of it was less than flattering about the man Avery is and the way he goes about playing the game.  Last week following the Florida Panthers game I wrote a piece “Welcome Back Sean Avery, We Have Missed You,” in which I talked about how when Sean Avery decides he wants to focus on the hockey side, the skill side of the game instead of the antics side he can be a tremendous player.  I also said that I hoped to see more of that side to come as opposed to the other one.  Last night against the Islanders the forward with top six skills was on display in full force and with that version of Avery the team if they decide to play a full game and actually hit someone in front of their net can be dangerous.  
Elevated to the top line playing alongside Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik, Sean Avery decided that everything other than the hustling skilled player could wait.  The jump in his stride and the electricity he was going to bring all night was evident from the first shift of the night when he would end up with a shot from the slot that would hit DiPietro in the chest.  He did it all in terms of hitting, taking hits to make plays, forecheck, cycle and especially his passing.  On the first goal he would find Christensen for the beautiful shot that would give the Rangers the lead.  Early in the third he would single handily give the Rangers a two goal lead when he took the puck away from Trevor Gillies and fed a beautiful pass to a waiting Gaborik on the doorstep who would  put home his second of the night.  And on the game winner it was once again Avery doing all the dirty work in the corner before feeding the puck to Christensen who would have his shot end up with Gaborik for the winner.

As impressive as Avery was in every facet of the game last night skill wise just as impressive was how he kept his cool with any and all the antics thrown at him last night, especially in the third with Jon Sim.  Jon Sim knows that Avery is having a huge night and a swap of those two in the box is good for the Islanders but Avery resisted the temptation and kept himself on the ice.  Two weeks ago in this type of game Avery would have been more focused on Sim then what the team needed from him, probably takes the bait and renders himself useless to the club while he is in the box. 

Suggestions were made during the game that Avery played so well in part because being on the top line getting the spotlight around him motivates Sean to play better and while I have a problem with that notion, if it works then I will take it.  I disagree with the idea there because Avery was playing better his last couple games before this move and it could be that playing with more skill did not change his game necessarily but the increased skill level could convert on what he was creating.  The other side of that is if you need to be on the top line or in the spotlight to play with energy there is a different problem altogether because as a pro you should be earning the minutes you are getting regardless of whom you are put.

The media loves to focus on Avery and his antics and some of it is justified, but they do not spend enough time focusing on the fact that when he wants to he has the skill of a top 6 forward that is capable of getting 40+ points in a season.  The frustration for me with Avery is the guy that loses sight of  those facts the most is Avery himself.  Here is to hoping that John Tortorella has truly found the spark to light Avery’s fire because an effective and attuned Avery is the guy that showed up here from the Kings and made the Rangers record so much better with him in the lineup.  The skill is there and if Avery had the focus and determination to be the skill guy he is first he could truly be worthy of all the all-star push he is getting from the Ranger bloggers campaign to get him in, but for now let’s just hope it lasts for as long as possible.