Thursday, January 20, 2011

Video: Dan Girardi Saves A Goal

Rangers Brutal Defensive Effort Costs Them in 4-1 Loss To Carolina

Those looking for the Rangers to build on last night’s domination were sorely disappointed in tonight’s effort in Carolina falling 4-1 to the Hurricanes.  The offense reverted to how it had been playing before last night and the defense had its worst game in a long time with numerous mistakes in terms of odd-man rushes and blown assignments.  The game with all the injuries the team is fighting through right now was far too open as they do not have the skill throughout the lineup to play an up and down game.  They have to stick to their grinding system and that certainly was absent from tonight’s game.

The game started out in flying fashion with chances on both sides, but the All-Star goaltenders were up to the task early on. Dan Girardi would help out his goaltender at 2:19 of the period when he stopped a sure goal by clearing the puck off the goal line.  At 5:39 the Rangers would not get as lucky when Mats Zuccarello tried to clear a puck out from behind Henrik Lundqvist, but would knock it off Henrik’s skate and into the net for a Chad Larose goal to make it 1-0 Carolina.

The Rangers game would slip after giving up the opening goal and the chances would keep coming for the Hurricanes.  The Canes would make it 2-0 on the power play when the penalty kill did an awful job of moving leaving Jussi Jokinen alone in front to deflect a Joe Corvo point shot in.  Girardi had to close the space down and either take the body or control the stick on the play.

Early in the second period, after Gaborik gets the puck stuck in his skates Carolina ends up going the other way with a breakaway for Brandon Sutter who deked Lundqvist and slid the puck under him on the backhand.  On this one it was a breakdown on Anisimov getting beat down the ice and Marc Staal failing to get over and cover for Girardi who fanned when he stepped up in the neutral zone.

A couple of fights late in the second would try and spark the team.  First it was Brandon Purst taking on Jay Harrison and after getting inside late in the bout Prust would land the biggest blow of the fight and win.  Immediately after the ensuing drop of the puck Kris Newbury would abuse Ryan Carter.

Just past the midway point in the third period, Brandon Prust would get the team on the board with a goal from the slot that beat Ward high glove.  The play would start in the defensive zone with Ryan McDonagh feeding Chad Kolarik who made a beautiful diagonal pass to Prust to create the play.  The assists for McDonagh and Kolarik were the first NHL points for each guy.

If one thought a rally was in the cards Jeff Skinner would end those thoughts with just over four minutes to go when he would stuff one in from the crease.  On the play Marc Staal was burned wide by Chad LaRose who threw it in front to Skinner who was free when Derek Stepan failed to properly check his stick.
The Rangers best forward in the game was Chad Kolarik who was making his team debut this evening.  He was consistently involved and creating chances during his 8:48 on the ice.  Frankly it is shocking to see he only played 8:48 as it felt like he was out there much more than that.  In the limited time he had the assist and four shots.

Offensively the Rangers created chances getting 40 shots on goal, but once again they could not solve Cam Ward.  Marian Gaborik disappeared once again, so we will find out Saturday if yesterday was the fluke or tonight was just an off night.

The entire defense was pretty brutal tonight, but the worst offenders were Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who are typically the team’s rocks back there.  I have no doubt that Tortorella will harp them hard for their defensive effort and you cannot blame that on the new guys because it was the guys who have been here all year and beyond that were bad.

Kolarik In, Dupont Scratched; Whale of a Fourth Line; Lundqvist Starts

Andrew Gross says Brodie Dupont will take the ice for warmups but is going to be scratched, while Chad Kolarik will make his debut this evening.

The only other possibility was for Weise to be scratched to make room for Dupont.  Kolarik was the first one called yesterday, so seeing him be the choice over Dupont should not be surprising.  The team, despite seven goals last night, needs offensive skill and Kolarik provides a higher likelihood of that than does Dupont.

In terms of the of the lines, Andrew Gross says that Kolarik will play on the fourth line with Newbury and Weise to form an all Connecticut Whale line.  The players have played with one another at different points and in different situations so there should be familiarity in that sense.  Will be interesting to see how much time they get or if Tortorella shortens up the game to a three line game for the most part.

There was some question about whether John Tortorella would stick with Henrik Lundqvist for both games in the back-to-back but after a relatively light night last night he will ride the hot hand and put his number one in there again.

Overall Lineup:
Avery - Anisimov - Gaborik
Wolski - Stepan - Zuccarello
Drury - Boyle - Prust
Kolarik - Newbury - Weise

Staal - Girardi
Gilroy - Sauer
McDonagh - Eminger


Rangers Mentality In Face Of Injuries Makes Them Team To Be Feared

To say that the 2010-11 New York Rangers have been decimated by injuries would be a significant understatement.  What cannot be overstated however is the depth to which this team has taken on the mentality of a fighter.  No matter who or how many players go down they find a way to keep winning games.  There is that mentality of the next man up and tonight it will be Chad Kolarik and Brodie Dupont who get their turn as new players to the roster.  With their additions to the roster the Rangers now have seven rookies on their active roster, but do not feel sorry for them because they do not feel sorry for themselves. 

The mentality starts at the top with coach John Tortorella.

"You can't worry about how difficult it is," Tortorella said. "You have to find a way to get it done. We have five games in seven nights here. There's no time to think, no time to whine. It's time to fight and you have to find a way to get points."

That is the mentality this team has taken on and each turn they have flipped the conventional wisdom that the injury they just suffered would cripple their surprising season.  The fact that it has yet to do so should no longer be a surprise, just a fact of how this team has taken on the identity of just that; a team.  There are no individuals that this team must have to succeed though certain guys may have larger roles.  The idea of this group is that each man will do whatever job is necessary to get the points.

Losing Dubinsky and Fedotenko are no doubt blows to the team as there are no replacements what those two bring.  You could tell that in the face of John Tortorella when he got the news on the bench during the game and then after as he addressed the loss of those two.

“Those are two of my main guys in so many areas,” he said.

No one guy will fill either the role(s) of either player, but they will do what they have done all season where different players step into different parts of the void and allow the team to maintain their overall level. 

There is still plenty of talent left on the Rangers roster.  Up front the team has the Gaborik and Wolski as the proven NHL scorers while Stepan and Zuccarello have shown tremendously in their rookie seasons.  Add that to the grit and skill of Boyle, Avery, Prust and Anisimov and that is a very solid top eight.  Chris Drury while offensively challenged can play his role in holding down the penalty killing and leadership spots while the Whale players can pitch in where needed.

Do not discount the back end either as the the young defense core rising to the occasion night in and night out.  Then there is the King.  As long as the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes they are never out of anything.

In the end what the Rangers have done in the short and long term in overcoming these massive injuries is prove they have a mentality that when they get healthy will make them a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

Marian Gaborik Back In Form or Just Another Tease? Why Last Night Might Be Different

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
For much of the season the New York Rangers have been searching for their star sniper and waiting for Marian Gaborik to regain his form of last season.  Last night, at least for one night, the wait was over. Gaborik busted out of his personal eight-game scoring drought last night with a huge four-goal game just when the Rangers needed it most.  Having just lost their leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky the pressure on Gaborik to return to form was only going to grow and he relieved all the pressure with a goal only someone who has been there as often as he has can.  His move on Jonas Gustavsson and the patience it displayed did not strike anyone who saw it as a player who was down on confidence.  It was the move of a pure goal scorer.  The patience and the precision showed that Gaborik has stopped thinking about the game and just started playing it again.

Once he broke the seal on the slump you knew there would be no stopping him for the rest of the night, which was a huge relief for Rangers’ fans, but now we need Marian to keep the magic going.  The way that will happen is not just shown in the number of goals that Gaborik scores, but the mentality in which he plays.  If you notice the difference in Gaborik last night more than anything else was where he was located on the ice.  Gone was the man who hung along the boards and skated around the periphery.  Back was the vulture who attacked the scoring areas and was willing to take punishment if necessary to finish for his club.  There is no denying the pure talent Gaborik has to finish, but it is the mentality and his willingness to put himself in those areas where he can truly be a sniper that had been missing.

"It is a big challenge for me and everybody here," Gaborik said. "A lot of guys need to step up, including myself. We have had a lot of injuries this year. We can't make excuses. We have to keep it up and go with whoever we have in the lineup."

The mentality that is espoused in that quotation has been the Rangers philosophy in dealing with the myriad of injuries they have confronted this season and is exactly the one they need to have as they push forward.  Every night it must be up to someone to step to the forefront and take the challenge of pushing this team on towards their ultimate goals and filling in the roles of their missing members. 

While that is the right approach as a team, Marian Gaborik is still the man who has to put the offense on his back and carry it for a little while until the injury bug decides to take up residence somewhere else.  For one night Gaborik certainly played his role as the conquering hero and now the team needs him to display his magical powers on a more consistent basis.  If he continues with the regained confidence and mentality to be an attacker instead of reactionary the rest of the league better watch out because while other forwards keep dropping like flies the New York Rangers will be celebrating the return of their most dangerous weapon.  If this was just another tease at old form returning as his other huge games were, then the Rangers are in some short term trouble.

Daily Recap: Gaborik Explodes; Dubinsky, Fedotenko Hurt; Kolarik, Dupont Up; Trade Anisimov?; Bench Drury?

If there is one word to describe this New York Rangers hockey team it would have to be resilient.  Already without Callahan, Prospal, Christensen among others the team finds out before tonight’s game that they will be without Brandon Dubinsky for 3-4 weeks with a stress fracture of the leg.  Add that to a team that started the day full of questions not only about the offense as a whole, but star winger Marian Gaborik in particular, and tonight’s game could have been one where the squad felt sorry for themselves.  Not this team.  Not this year. 

What was witnessed instead was the team rally around who was left healthy and finding ways to get the job done.  Tonight it was Marian Gaborik who was tired of the stories about his benching and slumps and decided to end both of those by bringing back the magic with four goals on the night (video).  Add to Gaborik’s exploits goals from Boyle, Fedotenko, and Zuccarello and it made for a 7-0 drubbing of the Leafs.  The entire team played spectacularly and showed again that there will be no excuses made for injuries as they will just keep playing with whoever is left standing.

That mentality will be tested again as during the game Ruslan Fedotenko was lost for two weeks with a shoulder injury.  The loss of Dubinsky led to the recall of Chad Kolarik and after the game Tortorella announced that Brodie Dupont would take Fedotenko’s place. 

At some point the injuries are bound to catch up with the Rangers if not just for the sheer number but for which guys are getting hurt.  This team need’s its own medical center at this point with all the key guys that are down, but as long as they have Lundqvist in net they will be alive in most every game.  A hot streak from Marian Gaborik and they can certainly hold on until reinforcements hopefully arrive in February.  The debuts for Kolarik and Dupont when they happen will be the 6th and 7th NHL debuts the Rangers have had this year and the 7th and 8th rookies they have had in their lineup.  The fact they are where they are with those kinds of facts is a tribute to the coaching staff here, the player’s themselves and the staff of the Whale for preparing these players to be ready to fill the roles the NHL club needs. 

Before all the injuries and the brilliant game today there were two main articles to ponder over on the site.  The first one this morning concerned whether young center Artem Anisimov is part of the future or someone viewed as trade bait.  For whatever reason among a lot of Rangers fans there has been this belief that Artie will never develop to his full potential and in my opinion a rush to have him moved out for a better version.  I looked at the two versions of Anisimov that have been seen this season to see why those exist and made a comparison to a current Rangers who fans had similar opinions on and frustrations with as he found his way in the NHL.  I was surprised at the agreement in the comments on this one as well.

The other article dealt with the roster and what it would look like when the team got their full component of forwards back.  Obviously this was before two more injuries which at least for the short term make the conversation somewhat irrelevant, but the question still needs to be asked if Chris Drury should be benched when the team gets healthy?  Maybe I need to amend it say “if” at this rate.