Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daily Recap: Rangers Trounce Caps; Dubi fights Ovie; Frolov Being Traded?; Zuccarello/Whale Shining

After a game like last night the world for the New York Rangers can seem pretty bleak, but a game like tonight goes a long way to erasing that memory.  Early in the season there was a lot of discussion of the rollercoaster action that was this team and there is no greater swing in the rollercoaster of emotions than what has been the last 28 hours with this team.  Tonight the Rangers would paste the frustrated Washington Capitals behind a total team effort that saw the Rangers dominate the Caps in every phase of the game.  The full game story is in the link in terms of all the details of key plays in the game including each of the seven goals the team would net in the onslaught.  The game was led by the Rangers homegrown talent which is always great to see and featured a Gordie Howe hat-trick for Brandon Dubinsky who has been the Rangers best player this season.  There is also a note about the disgraceful actions of some fans during the game.

As many of you know the Gordie How hat-trick is a goal, an assist and a fight and for the fight Brandon Dubinsky would take on a very frustrated Alex Ovechkin during the second period with the Rangers already up 4-0.  In the video you will see what led to the fight, and the fight itself which Dubinsky clearly won and Ovechkin deserved a couple of instigator penalties for in terms of starting the fight and then starting it while wearing a visor.

The other NHL story for the Rangers today was about a rumor that the Rangers are trying to trade Alex Frolov.  I am not a big fan of the source, but I think most Rangers fans are hoping that it is true and that Frolov is moved.  See exactly what the rumor says and my take on why it would be coming out now and if that reason only further diminishes the value the Rangers could get.

Finally most of the rest of the day was spent on the Connecticut Whale and Mats Zuccarello in particular.  This morning coming off the awful offensive performance I revisited the calls for Zuccarello to be called up  For the Whale itself I looked at Saturday’s game against the first place Manchester Monarchs and how Zuccarello, McDonagh and Grachev led the way in a Whale Feast.  The recap details all the action, the significance of the plays for each guy involved and has the highlights of the game from the Whale organization.  It is truly amazing to see how big a turnaround this team has made in the last three weeks and while I bashed the staff down there when they struggled I must give them their stick salute for the work going on right now. looking at what I had said before, what if anything had changed based both on the Rangers and his own situation.

Rangers Paste Frustrated Capitals In Total Team Effort

 What a difference a night makes.  After failing to convert on just about anything last night the New York Rangers looked like they could do no wrong tonight whether it be the goal onslaught or the posts that the Capitals hit four different times in the game.  This is the kind of game the Rangers needed with this stretch of games and there is nothing negative to say about the way the team performed.  Over the past few weeks even when the Rangers have won their games it has left a lot to be desired in terms of the way they have played and then there have been the efforts in the losses but tonight was like a different team and a tremendous result came out of it.  We will see if the Rangers who have not been good at it can build on a performance like this and take it from game to game because these are the kinds of efforts that if done consistently can let them not only play with and beat any team in the league but be considered a contender.  The question as usual with this team though is if they can bring that consistency.

That said before I get to all the good stuff I sadly have to scold the classlessness of some and far too many Rangers fans that were in the building tonight who cheered when Alex Ovechkin was hit in the third period by Alex Semin’s shot on his knee.  It is one thing to boo him when he touches the puck and cheer when our guys shut him down, but you never boo an injury to ANYONE.  What makes it worse for me is that those same fans who were cheering Ovechkin being hurt would be setting this city ablaze if in another building an injury to Gaborik, Lundqvist, Staal, Callahan or any Rangers player had been hurt and the other fans cheered.  We are better than that kind of behavior and I expect not just next time but every time for our fan base to show that.  Now onto the game.

The first period in all honesty was not that great of a period for either side as each team would have chances but neither really put an imprint on the game, but the Rangers would get the only marker of the period late when a great shift by Frolov, Boyle and Prust would get cashed in.  Brandon Prust kept the puck alive and finally threw the puck at the net and it would deflect off Tom Poti’s skate at 17:57 of the period.

The second period was the best period of the season for the Rangers, though some of that luck I spoke of came into play as well as the Rangers would score four times and be saved by three posts that could have made it a different game.  Right off the start in the second Michael Del Zotto would make a very good play in center disrupting the Caps rush up the ice, eventually the puck would end up with Artem Anisimov in the neutral zone.  Anisimov would take the puck from there skating over the offensive blue line and ripping a wrister through Hannan’s legs and over the glove of Varlamov to make it 2-0 59 seconds into the frame.  The goal was Anisimov’s first in his last 11 games.

On the next shift more hard from Artem would draw a penalty to Scott Hannan and the Rangers would cash this opportunity in.  After a good shift Staal would work the puck to Rozsvial who gave it back to Staal who took the shot and Marian Gaborik would make a beautiful deflection through the five hole making it 3-0 3:07 into the period.  This would lead to Bruce Boudreau calling a time out and giving his team the business.
Unfortunately for the Capitals the response to their coach would be on delay as Alex Ovechkin would fail to dump the puck in deep and on a bad line change Brandon Dubinsky was left alone with the puck and he would score again through the five hole to make it 4-0 at 4:30 mark.

The Caps would start to get emotionally involved in the game when at 5:16 of the period Hendricks would challenge Michael Sauer to a fight and Sauer would oblige.  The fight was not much other than a few shots and a takedown though Hendricks would take a few liberties on the ice. 

The fighting side would continue when after a hip check from Alex Ovechkin to Dan Girardi, which was clean, Ovie would skate out to center ice and drop the gloves with Brandon Dubinsky as the frustration for the Caps captain had just boiled over at that point.  Dubinsky would win the fight and the video of the whole thing can be seen here.

Right after the fight Girardi would take a penalty and you felt even up 4-0 this was a crucial moment for the Rangers to kill this off.  Well not only did they kill it off but 35 seconds into the kill Marc Staal after making the defensive play in the corner would feed Brandon Prust who played the puck up to Brian Boyle.  Boyle would carry the puck into the zone and had a streaking Staal with him for the two-on-one and after delaying the pass Boyle would feed Staal for the shorthanded goal at 10:42 that made it 5-0.

The third period the Rangers would not let off the gas at least on the scoreboard as 4:11 into the period after a beautiful fake back to the point that froze the Capitals defense, Dubinsky would spin and play a forehand pass to the slot for Ryan Callahan who would double hit the shot into the net to make it 6-0 and complete Dubinsky’s Gordie Howe hat trick.

Things would get chippy after that as 12:29 into the period there were issues with Avery and Hendricks that we will come back to.  At 13:31 of the game Callahan would end the scoring as on a two on one with Dubinsky Cally kept the puck and ripped a shot high glove to beat Varlamov and make it 7-0.

In getting back to Avery and Hendricks they would battle as soon as they got out of the box much like Avery and Tootoo from the Nashville game.  The fight itself was unspectacular but as I brought up Hendricks taking liberties earlier when on the ice Avery did it too and that cannot be tolerated either.  The rest of the game there were scrums and some bad blood but the Capitals at least showed some fight in the third.  There was also the incident I referenced at the top with Ovechkin so no need to do it again.

What does need to happen again however is the Rangers matching this kind of effort on Wednesday against the Penguins
  • The entire team played an excellent game but the standouts for me were Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan, Prust, Staal and Lundqvist.
  • Henrik bounced back in a huge way making excellent glove saves at multiple times in a blowout where it would have been ok to give one up but he wanted the shutout.
  • Huge night for the Rangers homegrown talent.
  • Rangers now 8-0-0 in second game of back-to-back

Brandon Dubinsky Fights Alexander Ovechkin (Video)

Has the frustration in the nation's capital reached the boiling point for its hockey team as well?  In the second period of tonight's New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals game with the Rangers dominating play frustration boiled over for Alex Ovechkin who threw a hip check on Dan Girardi that while clean would draw the ire of the Rangers. Ovie would then skate out to the neutral zone and try fighting Brandon Dubinsky to get his team going but they would fail as well as Dubinsky after taking an early shot from Ovechkin would clearly get the better of him.  Ovechkin deserved to be called for the instigator as he clearly dropped the gloves and initiated the fight, but maybe the referees felt sorry for the Capitals star having to watch his team in this game.

The play for Dubinsky defines the difference in his game this season as he has consistently taken up for his teammates at every turn as have the Rangers for the most part this season to their credit.  Enjoy the fight.

Zuccarello, McDonagh, Grachev Lead Way As Whale Feast On Monarchs in 5-1 Win

The Connecticut Whale continued their excellent play last night when they took on the first place Manchester Monarchs by dominating on course to a 5-1 victory.  The Whale who had an entire week off would show no signs of rust in their game on this night. The victory brought the Whale all the way back to the .500 mark at 11-11-2-4 and extended their run to 3 straight victories and 5-0-0-1 since the change to from the Wolf Pack to the Whale.  The game was led by another strong outing from some of the young guys with Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh and Evgeny Grachev playing important roles as well as Kris Newbury continuing his recent hot play.

The Whale would have a couple of good opportunities for Zuccarello and Newbury stopped early on but would finally break the seal at 12:11 of the first period when Ryan McDonagh would score his first professional goal on a slapper from the point.  The goal was a big step for McDonagh who struggled mightily early on in his first professional season but has been playing much better the last month and on the goal there was no sense of hesitation to fire the one-timer.  After struggling all the way to -8 early in the year with his +1 in this game McDonagh has worked his way all the way back Even.

The Whale would extend the lead just 12 seconds later when Kris Newbury would streak in and beat Jeff Zatkoff five hole on a wrist shot.  The goal for Newbury was third on the year and with his assist later on Newbury now has 2 goals and 8 assists in his last five games.

The Whale were not done as Mats Zuccarello would get in on the act at 15:45 of the first with his 11th goal of the year when after his initial shot was stopped  by the goaltender Newbury would flip the puck back into the slot and a hard drive by Zuccarello to the front of the net would leave him there to take the rebound on the backhand and deposit in high glove the net.  The Whale would not get the 3-0 lead at the end of one period though when Wade Redden turned the puck over and the Monarchs would cash it in on a deflection off Niemi and by Johnson with just 20 seconds left in the period.

For all the bashing that Wade Redden has taken from Rangers fans, most of it deserved, a play like he had early in the second is why he has been a positive to that AHL team and the fans should give him credit for that as well.  Early in the second Pavel Valentenko got hammered by Rich Clune who is a tough guy and Redden while not one immediately came to the aid of his teammate and regardless of the outcome it was a symbol of why the entire team has been better lately.  The team has been doing a phenomenal job of late in standing up for one another when the situation calls for it.

Zuccarello would strike again with his 12th of the season at 11:57 of the period on a play where hustle and determination is the best way to describe the goal.  Zuke was tripped up just inside the offensive zone and would still find a way to play the puck towards the corner from the ice.  Kris Newbury would get to the puck, survey the ice and then find a wide open Zuke for a pass in the slot that the Hobbit would put home.

Another aspect of the Whale’s hot streak has been scoring in bunches and they would do it for the second time in this game as 1:12 after that goal they would strike again this time from Evgeny Grachev.  On this goal Grachev would carry the puck into the zone play a drop back pass to Dale Weise but instead of watch Grachev continued skating to the net and he would be rewarded.  The shot by Weise would leave a rebound in the crease and Grachev was right there to stick home his 4th goal of the season.  The overall numbers on Grachev still look awful but on the brighter side it was his third goal in the last five games and all have been on plays that show he is finding how he should be scoring.  Also Grachev now has at least 2 shots in all four games this month and 9 of his last ten games so he is being more active which is always a positive.

The third had no scoring and lots of fighting.  The game by Zuccarello and his two goals have only aided to the calls for him to be up in New York which I wrote about here this morning.

Also, over at Blue Seat Blogs there is a story on the Rangers allowing Tim Kennedy to seek a trade, so check that out.

Rumor: Rangers Trying To Deal Frolov

In news that will come as a shock to no one who follows the New York Rangers the team is said to be attempting to trade summer signing Alex Frolov.  This was bound to happen soon anyway, but Frolov may have served to speed up the process with his heart to heart in the Russian news complaining about his ice time over the past week.  In a move that can only be justified as an attempt to showcase Frolov for other prospective clubs since his whining in the press Frolov has been moved up from the fourth to the third line and being inserted into power play minutes neither of which he has earned with his play.  The speculation of this comes from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun and the full comment is the following:
The Rangers are trying to move LW Alex Frolov to just about anybody. They don't want much in return for Frolov, who was signed as a UFA in the off-season to a one-year, $3-million deal. GM Glen Sather is having a hard time finding any takers and Frolov didn't help matters by complaining to a Russian journalist about his ice time last week. It's believed the Senators looked at Frolov, but they don't need any more soft forwards
To say that the Rangers are not looking for much in return for Frolov should be considered an understatement cause a bag of pucks would be of more use right now to the club.  As long as they do not take on any players with additional years on their contract I do not think anyone really cares who they get for him, though I would personally rather have a draft pick.  I presume a lot of teams will be hesitant and while the Russian article might have hurt Frolov with the Rangers it certainly did not help his trade value as any future team now has to be wary of this kind of behavior.  There are enough teams struggling to score that I presume eventually one of them will take the gamble on Frolov, but it could take longer than Rangers fans are prepared to wait.

Mats Zuccarello Time Needs To Come Now

I give in.  Just a few days ago I addressed the calls for Mats Zuccarello to be called up due to his recent hot play and I said that it was still too early for the move to be made but the combination of watching the Rangers play another inept game that lacked any offensive creativity and Zuke scoring another two goals for the red-hot Whale have made me rethink my position and say it is time to give the kid a shot.  Zuccarello now has 12 goals and 8 assists in 28 games on the year but an even more impressive 10 goals and 8 assists in his last 16 contests only to get more impressive 6 goals and 6 assists in 10 games and finally 3 goals and 1 assist in his last two.  The point of breaking it down to that extent is to show that he is getting better and better and when he is on his game he not only gets points but he gets them in bunches with seven multi-point games on the season.

When I talked about this on Wednesday I said that one of the main issues I had with calling Zuke up right now was where he would play in the lineup given that it was unlikely any of the top 3 lines would be a place he would be put and that the impending returns of Drury and Prospal only further complicated those issues.  Scratch all of that out now as well because if I have to witness another game of Alex Frolov on the power play I might have the uncontrollable desire to wrap a car around a tree, but luckily for me I do not drive.  In the comments Shurshik14 suggested letting Zuke play on the top line with Stepan and Gaborik and while I said that is a lot to put on a kid still adjusting to the North American game, at this point it is truly worth a shot.

The frustrating thing watching the Rangers is not just the lack of scoring which fans by now are relatively used to it is the utter lack of creativity in the lineup and if there is one thing that Mats is a lock to bring it is some flash and creativity.  You have a player who sees the ice exceptionally well, is a very good passer and for a change is someone who can finish the play.  Add that to your best playmaking center and your best offensive player all three of which can pass, skate, and score and it could be a very dynamic combination.  The only issue playing those three together is that either Stepan has to be the grinder in the corners more than he does now with a Fedotenko of the line will just have to use their skill instead of playing the dump and chase style, not that a little less of that would be a bad thing. 

Maybe it is funny, maybe it is not but to me it is because hearing Torts today say that Zuke was not ready only helps me believe that calling him up is the right move and maybe even that Torts believes that because he does have a history of saying one thing and doing another with the media.  So let a stop showcasing Afro and instead call-up the Hobbit not named Frodo.