Saturday, February 12, 2011

Del Zotto Scratched, Eminger In; Tortorella Blows Up Forward Lines

When a team loses six straight, no matter how much they talk about how well they have played and the luck has not come, the coach is going to make some changes in hopes of changing the results.  The headline of those changes will be that everyone’s favorite scapegoat for last night’s loss, Michael Del Zotto, is being scratched from the lineup and Steve Eminger will be back in.  There is no doubt that Del Zotto blew it on the turnover/penalty that led to the power play, but that is not what cost the Rangers the game.  If the team does what it has done so often in killing off the chance, instead of allowing Evander Kane multiple uncontested chances, then the scapegoating of Del Zotto would be less today.  In fact, if we want to discuss which defensive player had the worse night, then Matt Gilroy would get the nod for me last night.
According to Andrew Gross, Michael Del Zotto will remain with the team even though he is going to be scratched for tomorrow’s game.  I worry about the way this scenario is being handled by the coaching staff and the development of this particular young player.  If you have a player with a confidence problem and you continued to send him out there when he was not ready, benching him after last night’s play only reinforces the negative thoughts and the belief that he might have been a main cause for the loss.  Even worse than that, benching him as opposed to sending him down to play is not helping his development.  The best place for Del Zotto is to get consistent time in the AHL and work through all of these things without fear of the mistakes costing him a spot in the lineup.  It is a knee-jerk reaction like this to bench him over that play that causes him to play absolutely terrified hockey when he is out there.
I am happy to see Eminger back in the lineup because I did not truly buy the reasons for him being benched and hopefully he plays well enough to maintain his spot.  What brining Eminger back in the lineup does other than adding some more physical play is it allows Matt Gilroy more freedom to roam on the ice.  Gilroy has played very tentative hockey while paired with Del Zotto and hopefully now he will get back to doing what was making him so successful a few weeks ago.
Beyond Del Zotto, after staying with the same lines for the last three games, today coach John Tortorella blew all of the lines apart and came up with some interesting combinations when he put humpty dumpty back together again.
Also per Andrew Gross, the new lines at practice were:

Brandon Dubinsky-Vinny Prospal-Marian Gaborik
Wojtek Wolski-Brian Boyle-Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery-Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan
Mats Zuccarello-Erik Christensen-Brandon Prust
These lines really confuse me in different ways, so let’s go line by line.
  • I have no issue with the first line combination, but Prospal is clearly laboring at times to skate right now and mainly out of a refusal to move Dubinsky back to center, Vinny is asked to skate more playing the middle and I do not understand that.
  • Boyle over the last four or five games seems like he is completely out of gas from playing more minutes and against a higher level competition than he ever has in the NHL, but now he is being put with Callahan and Wolski and presumably being asked to add minutes to the tires.  Also, I am not a huge fan of separating Boyle and Prust, even if they have not produced much of late.
  • I like the idea of moving Stepan to the wing, but the left side would be a more natural spot for him and leaving him with at least one of Wolski and Zuccarello would be better for chemistry purposes.  There is no way anyone on this line wins a faceoff either.
  • To put Zuccarello with Christensen and Prust on what is presumably the fourth line seems like a waste of his skill set and means he is unlikely to get anything resembling significant minutes.
I would rather see a lineup looking something like this:

Video of John Tortorella courtesy of Jesse Spector’s Blueshirts Blog: