Sunday, December 26, 2010

Video: Joni Ortio Robs Chris Kreider in USA Finland WJC Game

Joni Ortio robs Chris Kreider

Team USA pulled out the 3-2 OT win against Team Finland tonight in each team's opening game of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships, but the best player on the ice was Finland goalie Joni Ortio as he kept Finland in the game long enough for them to tie it.  Ortio made a number of phenomenal saves, but none were better than when he robbed New York Rangers prospect Chris Kreider five minutes into the third period to keep the game at 2-1 USA.  The video of the play starts at 4:08 of the highlight clip with discussion of the play coming again at 5:28.

Zuccarello-Aasen Back vs Isles; Gaborik Practices, Hopes To Play; Del Zotto Healthy Scratch

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
The Rangers have announced this afternoon that Mats Zuccarello-Aasen will be recalled for tomorrow’s game against the Islanders.  The move is well deserved following the debut Zuccarello had against the Lightning, but was still considered to be somewhat uncertain and partially dependent upon the health of Marian Gaborik.  The announcement that Zuke will be back is said to be independent of Gaborik’s healthy as Gabby took part in practice today and is hopeful to play tomorrow.  The question that remains now will be what the Rangers lines will look like come game time, but here are what today’s lines looked like:

Dubinsky – Stepan – Gaborik
Frolov – Anisimov – Drury
Fedotenko – Boyle – Prust
Avery – Christensen – White

Even though I would slot Gaborik back into the lineup on that second line in place of Drury and put Zuccarello back with Dubinsky and Stepan since the trio worked so well against the Lightning I expect it will be Zuccarello that is moved instead and Gaborik comes in with Dubi and Step.  In conjunction with that expect Todd White to be scratched and Drury to take his spot on the fourth line.

To go with my assumption on the lines for tomorrow comes this according to @thenyrangers twitter feed:
Torts on Gaborik: "It's important that we get Gaby back in and feeling good about himself...we want him to be confident"
I want Gaborik to be confident and feeling good about himself as does every Rangers fan, but it is feeling more and more like coddling to me.  Interesting to see that Torts clearly intimated that Gaborik’s groin issue was new the other day before he sat out and then today Gaborik said it was bothering him for a few games before he finally sat so one is obviously lying and neither would rally be a good thing.

On defense it was announced that Michael Del Zotto, who is feeling better, will be a healthy scratch tomorrow and Matt Gilroy will stay in the lineup.  It was called part of the learning process for Del Zotto which it certainly is, but if this becomes any sort of longer term thing it will risk a Gilroy like erosion of confidence from a year ago. 

A Look At Rangers Forgotten WJC Prospects Roman Horak and Jesper Fasth

Jesper Fasth (Bruce Bennett/Getty)
Roman Horak

There has been a lot of attention in Rangers fan circles on Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque heading into the WJC, which is understandable considering they are the more recognizable names and will play for Team USA, but there are two other prospects to watch in Czech Roman Horak and Swede Jesper Fasth.

Horak, 2009 5th round pick, is currently playing for the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL.  Horak after having a very effective rookie season last year has taken the next step this season becoming a first line player and producing consistently with a line of 15-23-38 in just 30 games.  He has been so good that he made the TSN players to watch list from Scott Cullen (Bourque and Kreider also listed) who said:
A fifth-round selection of the Rangers in 2009, Horak has become an impact player in his second WHL season and should be counted on to provide offence.
With that improved play the views on Horak as potential fourth line center and phenomenal penalty kill have been changed for many and he is now seen as a legitimate third line threat in the NHL and possibly a top six forward down the line if the level of improvement continues.  

Fasth, 2010 6th round pick, is currently playing in the Swedish Elite League.  Before the draft the scouting report;
Fasth is a very good skater with nice acceleration and top speed. He works very hard, forechecks with impressive intensity and also create a lot of offense thanks to his agility and speed. Has decent hockey sense, technical skills and scoring ability, but it perhaps still more likely to develop into a role player.
After starting this season for the HV-71 junior team he would be promoted to the men’s team following a 3G 7A performance in the opening 6 games.  With the senior club he has put up 4G 6A in 26 games thus far.  Fasth with each thing I hear sounds more and more like Carl Hagelin 2.0 which if that turns out will be a great thing for Rangers fans and the organization.  He is yet another potential European steal that has speed and high hockey IQ which is something the Rangers have done an excellent job of finding the last few years.  He is unlikely to be here anytime soon, but leaving him alone over in Europe for a few seasons and it will be like adding a top pick down the line.  Of the four Rangers prospects I am looking forward to seeing him the most because of my lack of seeing him in live game action. 

Both Fasth and Horak will open their respective tournaments against Norway with Fasth playing them today at 4 and Horak getting his shot tomorrow at 7.  While the attention is on both Kreider and Bourque with Team USA (starting tonight at 8 on NHL Network-US) a favorite in the tournament Rangers fans should keep their eye on Horak and Fasth as they are just two more reasons the Rangers fans should be hopeful for the future.