Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Line Combinations; Forward at PP Point; Newbury Staying In, Weise Down?;

Stop me if you have heard this before, but the New York Rangers are changing their lines.  The Rangers are obviously in need of something to change when their offense has managed to score a mere 13 goals in nine games this month and so here comes the newest incarnation to try and reboot the offense.  According to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants this is what it looked like:

Fedotenko - Anisimov - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Boyle - Prust
Wolski - Stepan - Zuccarello
Avery - Newbury - Drury/Weise

For me these lines are the one line that worked on Sunday Wolski, Stepan and Zuccarello and throw the rest in a blender type moves.  The chemistry with Stepan and Zuccarello frees them up to play with most other wingers and be effective, but putting a skill guy like Wolski gives them three skill players to create offense.  The only thing you worry about with this line is that they can be banged around by bigger lines and defensive groups.  Wolski is a big body but not known for a physical game and Stepan and Zuccarello while willing to hit and take hits are not exactly giants out there.

Fedotenko and Anisimov have both worked with Gaborik before this season to varying degrees of success.  The reason that Fedotenko was taken away from Gaborik back in December after a six game stretch together was to reunite him with Boyle and Prust on the Rangers most consistent line this year.  Personally I do not like splitting up the consistent line in hopes of finding a spark for Gaborik, but that is what the Rangers keep doing.

Dubinsky playing with Boyle and Prust is an interesting combination that should certainly play phenomenal defensive hockey against the top opposition lines, but will they work well together offensively?  The three play similar styles in that they can grind, and Dubinsky’s skill might create more chances for his linemates and if that happens it will be successful.  Playing with defensively responsible players might also free Dubinsky up to be more aggressive offensively.  It is either that or playing with “checking line” type players will drain even more offensive instincts out of Dubinsky and the leading scorer on the team will slump.  Also have to be concerned with the number of minutes these three are going to play though as all will kill penalties, likely match the top line at even strength and at least Dubinsky will get power play work as well.

As for the fourth line it is what it will be though Totorella’s open praise of Kris Newbury today means that Dale Weise is likely headed back to the Whale after tomorrow so that he can play on Friday for Connecticut.  There is no reason to keep Weise here if he is going to be a scratch.

There were also some alterations made to the defensive pairings today which is a change from the recent past.

Marc Staal – Dan Girardi
Matt Gilroy – Michael Sauer
Ryan McDonagh – Steve Eminger

I like reuniting Gilroy and Sauer as Eminger’s play has slipped and Gilroy has earned the promotion.

In an effort to fix the power play they will once again make changes this time adding a fourth forward on the point with Gaborik, Wolski and Zuccarello the likely candidates.  I think all three have potential there, but Wolski strikes me as the most natural fit there.  Gaborik really needs to play a harder game if he is going to be successful and dancing around the point does not help him do that.  Zuccarello has the vision and skill to man the point, but is very effective down low and behind the net so having him at the point takes that away.  Wolski on the other hand does not really like a physical game, has a good shot and can pass the puck which all fits the mode of a point man.

In terms of the lines overall I expect they will not last that long and have some of my own ideas on how I would run them, but that is not important at the moment.  The reality is that the offense and more importantly the line changes will not stop until Gaborik starts scoring.

How Marian Gaborik Responds To Benching Will Answer Rangers Questions

Rangers could really do for a goal celebration

The questions and scrutiny surrounding Marian Gaborik were bound to come when the first pronounced slump for the Rangers’ offense met a bump in the road for the team’s record.  That point has come and from all the articles talking about how it was just a bump in the road it has become like he will never score another goal as long as he lives.  To set the record straight Marian Gaborik will score again and he will score many more goals in his career.  Beyond those there are the articles that seek to explain Gaborik’s struggles in the realm of all these other snipers who are having down seasons: Ovechkin, Semin, Kane, Kovalchuk.  While talking about the slumps those guys are in can ease some of the panic over Gaborik and his struggles, I frankly do not care if those guys ever score again as they do not wear a Blueshirt sweater.
The fact that the team only has 13 goals this month or that the team lead is two (Zuccarello, Wolski) shows that it is not just Gaborik who cannot bury the puck in the ocean right now, but the others do not have the combination of his skill, salary and expectations to go with them.  Now moving beyond all those parts of it Gaborik is sitting on an eight game drought since his last goal and fair or unfair with the entire offense struggling the expectations make Gaborik the first target for the media to turn to.  On Sunday he became the target for his coach as well with his benching for much of the second and third periods against the rival Flyers. 
When asked about the benching Gaborik responded with surprise according to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants,
“Yeah,” Gaborik said. “Obviously I haven’t produced much lately. Obviously, in these types of games, it’s a big game. I’m not giving up, I’ve just got to work harder, just try to get out of it, that’s the bottom line. Confidence is a very big part. The last few games, I felt good and we created chances. I think things were happening but it was not going in. It surprised me tonight to get benched. It’s the coach’s decision, that’s the bottom line. I have to produce and help this team win games.”
So what exactly is wrong with Marian Gaborik?  Is he still hurt?  Are Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen really that important to Gaborik production? How will Gaborik respond to the benching?
Nobody has the real answer to the first question or they would have fixed it by now, but there is definitely a confidence issue at play by this point.  If Gaborik is hurt my money is on his shoulder more than the groin which has been his historical nemesis.  When he needs to turn it on Gaborik seems to have the ability to accelerate and hit top gear at least in straight lines.  What you do not see is Gaborik coming off the wall and attacking the net to go to the dirty areas where he scored many of his “vulture” goals last year just being around when pucks would squirt free.  For me that is about the shoulder and being afraid of contact to reinjure it and would also explain why his wrist shot does not seem to have the same snap to it this year.  If he is still hurt then he needs to sit and get healthy because while I commend him for trying to play through it he is not helping the team in either the short or long term; especially if part of the reason is so he does not have to hear about being fragile.

I keep hearing about how Gaborik does not have Prospal, Christensen is hurt and there is no number one center on the team.  With last night’s news that Prospal does not seem optimistic about a return, Christensen possibly being the odd-man out of the lineup with recent moves and the fact Brad Richards is not coming this year all of those things need to go away. 
In terms of his response to the benching the quotation above has me worried about that because there does seem to be an aura of self-pity in it and that worries me both from a lack of realization in what he is not doing this year to get those goals and the confidence issue.  As bad as it sounds you want him to be angry about being benched; you want him to tell them he knows he is going to get out of it.  A little more bravado and swagger for Gaborik would not be a bad thing right now.  How he responds will tell us everything we need to know about Marian Gaborik as a long term answer for this team.  Fair or unfair Gaborik is the highest paid player on this team and he makes that money to score so until he does this story will not go away and the Rangers hopes of doing something this year will only decrease the longer he struggles.
If anyone comes up with a solution for the problem or finds Gaborik's offense give John Tortorella a call.

ECHL Coach Goes Berserk Hurling Sticks On Ice In Tantrum vs Referee (Video)

Watching a coach go crazy on the bench is always an entertaining event at a hockey game and this one was no different.  Kevin Colley, head coach of the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies lost his mind at the end of his team's Saturday night in a game against the Stockton Thunder.

Favorite parts in the video were:
  1. Equipment guy starts picking up sticks to prevent coach from throwing any more on the ice
  2. Where the announcers tell you that the guy going crazy actually is the director of hockey operations for the team as well as the coach.

Can you imagine being the owner of that team and someone's asks you about the insanity of this move and you have to tell them that you put that guy in charge of making the decisions on who is on the team as well?

Video Via [Puck Daddy]



Daily Recap: Stepan, Zuccarello MagicTogether; Prospal Finished?; Flyers Punch Prust Over Avery?

After a long weekend for the New York Rangers I wanted to start the regular week off on a positive note so instead of focusing on Gabby and his struggles I looked at what I saw as the highlight of the weekend; the emergence of Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello as a pair.  These two Rangers rookies have both shown great skill, poise and maturity in their short NHL careers, but they took it to another level this weekend when in both games they combined to lead the team charges back after subpar efforts early in both games.  The Rangers and their fans had high hopes for both of these young players when they signed their respective contracts this past summer, but I do not think anyone honestly envisioned either or both of them being this integral to the Rangers as they are right now this soon.  In the article I took a look at what makes them special individual and apparently as a pair, along with what it means for the Rangers this season and in the future.

In team news that is certainly not officially Vinny Prospal spoke at an event for season ticket holders about his future and to say he was not optimistic would be an understatement.  I took a look at the reports out of the event and whether the Rangers have already accounted for Prospal’s feelings with their moves.

With all the “controversy” that surrounded Sean Avery breaking the code and fighting Carle last night it was lost for the most part that Hartnell and Briere punched Brandon Prust from the bench towards the end of the game Sunday night.  The idea was that this move was a combination of Prust hitting Timmonen too hard and payback for Avery taking liberties on Carle. Watch the video and see what happened, but the most comical part of the whole scenario was Flyers fans talking about Prust was afraid to fight Richards on the play.  In the end only Briere was fined a whopping one thousand dollars just like what Dubinsky got for the Oilers incident where he got involved from the bench.

Finally there is video from the Rangers pregame of Mats Zuccarello playing goal against Martin Biron’s son Jacob.  It is hilarious not only to see Zuke play goal at his hobbit size, but the reaction of Jacob after is the best part.