Thursday, November 25, 2010

Daily Recap: Rangers D Lags For Lundqvist; Drury Has To Earn His Letter; Practice News on Lines, Rozsival, Team Meeting; Thank you and Viewing Party

Before I get to hockey I want to say that I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving probably filled with good family and good fun and hopefully no turkey coma.  I also want to be serious and tell you how thankful I am for the support of all of you with the new site and that it humbles and drives me to work even harder with it.  As I have said before, the reason that I do this is to try to lend a voice to a lot of Rangers fans out there and when they take the time out of there day to read what I have put together that makes the act of doing it worthwhile.  Enjoy your night; don’t spend too much money on Black Friday and now onto today’s hockey.

On this Thanksgiving it was a relatively quiet day on Bleeding All Blue, but there were a few articles put out today.  This morning I took a look at something that has been brewing for a long time for the Rangers and noticed by probably most all Rangers fans over the years in that the Rangers seem to play better defensively for the backup goaltenders than they do for Henrik Lundqvist.  With the help of Ranger Smurf and his statistics I took a look at the staggering differential in the number of scoring chances the Rangers allow when Henrik is in the net versus what the way they limit them when Martin Biron plays.

This afternoon I took a look at Chris Drury and how over the past few seasons I have defended him from the critics not for the contract he has but for the importance he has had to this team in different areas even if the scoring numbers had slipped dramatically.  Right now I cannot defend the way this rehabilitation from a finger is being handled whether it be a month to get back on the ice and skate and still being unable to grip a stick, that must be some break is all I can think.  While we are talking eight weeks for the Captain to get back from a finger problem you have other players playing through injuries every game with the most glaring example being someone like Brandon Prust.  Other players have stepped up in the absence of Drury both on the ice and in the room but it is time for the Captain to earn his letter or give it up.

Final hockey piece there was news from today’s practice that included a team meeting, new lines, an update on the Michal Rozsival injury situation and even something on Chris Drury.  All the details are here.

Lastly tomorrow for the Rangers game at Florida, Blueshirt Banter is holding a viewing party at Poitin Still Irish Restaurant and Pub in Hackensack, NJ.  I do not know if I will personally be able to attend but there will be plenty of the best Rangers bloggers out there in attendance, a live episode of Blueshirt Banter radio and Ranger legends Nick Fotiu, Ron Greschner and Chris Kotsopoulos will be in the house.  I would recommend the even to all and point you to Blueshirt Banter to get more information, though I am sure all you already know the way.

Rangers Thanksgiving Practice News: Team Meeting; New Lines; Rozsival Takes Contact But Still Out; Drury Skates No Stick

The Rangers had practice on the holiday and hopefully they did it more energy than last night's first two periods which looked like a vacation day being taken.  There are reports that while Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron worked with goalie coach Benoit Allaire on the ice the rest of the team had a meeting presumably to address the atrocious effort last night and maybe even the coach calling out his star in the media. Gaborik for his part did say he has to do more and he is looking forward to playing with Dubinsky.  I for one expect a better effort tomorrow and that should be obvious in that if they do not respond after the last performance things will turn ugly quickly, but my question is not if they will respond but how long will it last this time?
When they take the ice tomorrow expect to see different lines on the ice.  You knew it was coming when the team could not muster much consistent pressure as Tortorella does not need much of an excuse to start playing match maker with his lines.  The only line that survived the roulette wheel today in practice was the fourth line, which frankly surprises me.  The reason I am surprised is despite the ineffectiveness of the top two lines lately the third line that was Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust has remained good and been the best combination so to break them up seems counterproductive.

Chris Drury: The Time Has Come to Lead and Earn the 'C' Or Give It Up

For much of the last few seasons I have defended Captain Chris Drury from the people who have griped about his contract seeing as how it was not his fault Glen Sather decided to pay him like the superstar he never was and the elite scorer he never will be.  Some have loved to focus on his lack of goal and point scoring which is a valid argument to make seeing as how he was counted on to be a large offensive player in this organization, though I don’t find the contract side valid just because of what I said.  Drury has brought things to the table on the positive side in his tenure with the Rangers particularly his penalty killing, sacrificing of his body to block shots and faceoffs. Yes, all of those things are things you can pay guys like Blair Betts and Brian Boyle to do and do not need to spend 7 million a season for, which I will not dispute for a second.

Rangers Play Differently With Henrik Lundqvist Between The Pipes

Update 11/26/2010 10:35 AM: The following quote from Brandon Dubinsky to Jesse Spector says it all.

 “He’s one of the best goalies in the league, and we haven’t been very good in front of him,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “It just sucks, because he’s always been there for us and always been the rock for us. We’ve got to make sure we come prepared and play harder in front of him.”

Over the past few seasons I have joked about how the Rangers defensively seem to play better and harder for the backup than they do for Henrik Lundqvist.  Earlier this season after the big win in Toronto I suggested playing Biron again against Boston and in that article I wrote the following:

The other main reason I see is that I have noticed over the last few years that this team tends to focus a lot more defensively when a goalie other than Henrik is in the net.   I mean no disrespect to Martin Biron or the performance he put on last night because he was superb, but we have not seen that kind of team effort in game up to that point this year.  I do not know if the effort last night was about playing better in front of the backup goalie or if it was just the total team desperation, but what I would say is giving it another game to sink in and become more ritualized can be a good thing as opposed to them “letting up” because they have Lundqvist back there to be the proverbial bail out. 

This trend has continued throughout the season so far and while Lundqvist has certainly not played to his highest levels he has gotten little help and most of our worst defensive efforts in front of him.  Last night was no different as routinely men were left wide open in front, odd man rushes, even short-handed breakaways given up with the expectation that Henrik would bail them out.  There is no debating that over the years there have been plenty of nights where Henrik has done just that and bailed out a subpar defensive and offensive effort in supporting out and gotten the team a win it did not deserve.  The reality though is that the effort from a defense should not be contingent on which guy is wearing the mask behind them and the fact that it seems to be should embarrass every other man in that locker room, especially the six who are charged with being the ones closest to Henrik in his starts.

Daily Recap: Ranger Embarass Themselves; Avery At It Again; Torts Calls Them Out; What If On Stamkos

On this Thanksgiving Eve The Rangers would be in Tampa Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning though for two periods you would have thought someone forgot to inform the Rangers they had a game to play tonight.  The effort in the game was embarrassing in a 5-3 loss that looks a lot closer in a box-score than it did on the ice.  Following the game, John Tortorella in his press conference called out his best players for not showing up tonight and when asked specifically about Marian Gaborik said that he was one of those who was absent from the roll call on the ice.  The video of the press conference, here, is worth a watch because it is not the typical attention grabbing thing but a true honest assessment of the team and what went on in the game.

Other news from the game included my take on the Avery/Ohlund issue in the third period after a clean and legal hit by Ohlund on Erik Christensen.  Frankly it is becoming all too common in the NHL for guys to have to fight over perfect legal hits and personally it is becoming too common to witness the double standard some have when Avery is involved.  My take is here.

The other main stories of the day were my what if scenario about if the rumored trade for Steven Stamkos had happened and he had become a Ranger and the other was about how the Rangers change in approach this past offseason put them in a better position this year and the future.  In the Stamkos story I looked at what some of the rumored packages would have meant for the Rangers current construction and sought to see if the Rangers would be better had the move happened and if with him they would have been a contender.  I think the Rangers saw first-hand tonight how talented that young man is and how lethal he can be.  In the other story it was a talk about how the Rangers finally eschewed the big name, big dollar free agents and aside from Boogaard and to a lesser extent Biron waited for the market to lower prices on players and stockpiled players who only had one year contracts giving them players motivated to prove something and flexibility both financially and in terms of roster spots for the future.

Oh there was the pregame as well, in which my key matchup for the game happened to turn out to be dead on the money.