Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rangers Reaping Rewards of Avery Playing With an Edge Again

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Sean Avery is back in the New York Rangers lineup and back to playing the type of hockey he needs to so that he can be effective.  Down the stretch of the season there was a lot of discussion about not only his role this year, but his future with the Rangers organization.  Avery was a healthy scratch in five of the Rangers' final 11 games, as well as the first game of the playoffs.  Since being inserted into the lineup for Game 2 he has played like the Sean Avery of the past in that his energy level has been consistently high, he has been effective on the forecheck and caused havoc for the opposition.   He has logged 19:07 of ice time in the two games. 
There is still the lingering possibility that on any shift Avery is on the ice there is the risk he could explode and hurt the team with a bad penalty, but he has played smart disciplined hockey in the series and has helped to make his line with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust the Rangers best line. 
Avery has impressed to the point that the Rangers sent Mats Zuccarello down the AHL because he was not going to get back in the lineup.  His play has been so effective that it led coach John Tortorella to praise the winger.  Matt Ehalt of had the following quote:
"I think in the minutes he played (in Game 3), he was pretty consistent, as far as getting in on the forecheck, getting around the net, finishing his checks," Tortorella said. "Sean's biggest assets are his legs. If he starts thinking, he hurts himself. He just needs to go play and use his legs."
That quote from Tortorella is accurate, but also speaks to the way Avery has been mismanaged this year.  Avery is a player who has to play on the edge and without overthinking the game.  The problem is when the coach makes it clear that any mistake or bad penalty will lead to him sitting on the bench, then you end up with a player who does not do the things that makes them most effective.   

In the series Avery has been able to strike the balance between the energy the team needs and the discipline that Tortorella demands.  The Rangers need that balance to continue if they are going to even the series this evening as the Avery, Boyle, Prust line sets the tone for everything New York wants to do in this series.