Thursday, February 3, 2011

Prospal Great In Return, But Lundqvist Falters As Rangers Fall 3-2 To Devils

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
The Rangers can talk about the chances and how close they came both at the end of the first and the end of the game, but the reality is this team has blown five prime points in their last three games by getting complacent in their play.  Good teams, playoff teams, beat the teams they are supposed to beat and take every game with a sense of seriousness and urgency to not let inferior teams hang around.  The Rangers have failed to do that in each of the last three games and only have one point as a result.

There is no doubt that on this night the blame starts in net with Henrik Lundqvist.  Fact of the matter is that he simply was not good enough tonight and his coach said so after the game.  Those who will seek to use a performance like this to bring up nonsense like Henrik is garbage and the Rangers should trade him are morons and not fans of the team.  Plain and simple it was a bad night and everyone is going to have them.  The key for the Rangers is to hae it stop right here because they are going nowhere without Lundqvist at the top of his game.

If there is a bright spot to take from this game it is clearly the play of Vinny Prospal.  For a guy who has missed the entire season to this point, Vinny played like he was at full speed in this one.  There was some rust, but that was to be expected.  What I did not expect was for Prospal to be able to go through the whole game with the kind of impact he had tonight as for me he was clearly the Rangers best forward in the game.  We will find out tomorrow if the game for Prospal was the adrenaline of being back or it was something he can build on, but on this night he was clearly the positive note.  The celebration after his goal was pure Prospal and the kind of enthusiasm this team could use more of.

Details of the game below.

Video: Tortorella Calls Out Henrik Lundqvist Post-Game

Following a lackluster performance from his star goalie Rangers' coach John Tortorella was not afraid to "call a spade a spade" and call out Henrik Lundqvist for not being at the level the club needs him to be right now.
“Let’s call a spade a spade." Tortorella said. "Our goaltending hasn’t been there, certainly not at the level it needs to be this time of year. The Florida game we did everything but win it. The last game, too, prior to this one, we played well enough to win…We get five out of the six points if we get just decent goaltending.”

Thursday Night Fights: Bruins Stars Three Fights First Four Seconds of Game (Video)

Tonight’s contest between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars did not take long to get interesting. One second after the puck was dropped to start the game, Boston's Greg Campbell Dallas’ Steve Ott squared off in a scrap that Ott would win. 
Following the next faceoff, all of one second later, the Bruins' Shawn Thornton took on Dallas' Krys Barch in a battle that the Bruins would come out on top off. 
Obviously they had not had enough as just two seconds later it would be Adam McQuaid and Brian Sutherby’s turn to do the dance, which would end with McQuaid knocking down Sutherby to give the Bruins a 2-1 edge in the three bouts in the first four seconds of the game.
If that was enough of a reason to make sure you are watching an NHL game as at the start the Bruins would then score two goals in the first 1:20 of the game.

Newbury Back To Connecticut; Predictions On Lines for Tonight

The New York Rangers have announced that they have sent Kris Newbury back to the Connectict Whale.  Newbury registered one assist and 35 penalty minutes in eight games with the Rangers.  In the early games Newbury showed himself well and played hard in each game, but was reckless at times in trying to make something happen.  The move to send him down is mainly due to the returns of injured forwards over the last few games and specifically the return of Prospal tonight, which would have made Newbury a scratch from the lineup.  This move is the last “easy” decision the Rangers will have when it comes to the roster as injured players get healthy.  When Christensen and Fedotenko get back then it will be a regular who would have to get benched to make room for guys.

Based on practice yesterday thinking tonight's lines will be:

Are Rangers Asking Too Much of Vinny Prospal?

The soon to be 36-year-old Vinny Prospal, a man who has missed the entire season recovering from a major knee will make his return to the New York Rangers lineup tonight looking to pick up where he was last season.  Prospal was tremendous for New York last season as he finished second on the team with 58 points.   Based on practice the expectation is that he can since Prospal will be thrown right back in there with Marian Gaborik in hopes of rekindling the magic the two shared last season.  Of all the players that have tried to fill the role of Gaborik’s playmaker since he arrived in New York, Prospal has been bay far the most successful.  His absence has been evident in the struggles Marian has had this season.  The number of combinations coach John Tortorella has tried to get Gaborik going to this point is verging on the absurd at this point, so there should be no surprise that when his security blanket is finally ready to play that the coach pulls it out and tries to wrap Gaborik in it.
There is no telling if going to the past will help the Rangers today or in the future, but it was a move that was destined to happen for anyone that really follows how Tortorella operates.  The question for me was never if Vinny would be put with Gaborik, if he got back, but for how long he could remain there and how effective he would be. 

Certain things about Vinny Prospal will go without question.  There is no doubt that Prospal will bring energy, intensity and enthusiasm to the team.  Prospal is a player who while he looks like he would be a flashy type player does the blue collar things that this particular Rangers team is known for.  He is not afraid to work in the corners, is hard on the puck and his vision, passing and wrist short are all very good weapons when he is at the top of his game.

The problem is everything about what he can do this year, not last year or in his career, is unknown.  It is a lot to ask of a guy who has not played in ten months to fix the team’s inconsistent star, who has not meshed with any combination this season for more than a game at a time. 

“I hope he jump-starts me because I’m the one that’s coming back,” Prospal joked after practice. “Obviously we need (Gaborik) to start scoring important goals for us just like he did all of last year. He knows himself that he’s been a little slow in that regard so hopefully (my return) will help. I am going to try everything that is possible to help him, as well.”

Vinny is right on all counts and it should be Gaborik that is getting Prospal going, but unfortunately Marian has been unable to get himself on track this year so the pressure is on Vinny.  It is a lot to ask of a guy who just a few weeks ago openly wondered if he would ever play again to slot in as a top line player on a team that is seeking to make and advance within the playoffs.  It is a lot to ask of a knee that was constantly failing to respond to rehabilitation to jump back in and play the approximately 20 minutes a night that Gaborik plays and expect it to withstand.  Add to that, Prospal will be asked to do all of those things while wearing a knee brace for the first time in his career.  Tonight and going forward we will find out if it is too much to ask.

Henrik Lundqvist & Justin Bieber at Knicks Game (Photos, Video)

I guess I am too old to know or understand who Bieber is, but I certainly know who Henrik Lundqvist is and to have him supporting the local NBA team is a good thing, just like CC Sabathia coming to Tuesday's Rangers game.

They put Bieber on the big screen and he got a mixed reaction to say the least as many in the crowd booed the popstar. Henrik Lundqvist leaned over and talked to the kid and probably told him that he knows what is like to be booed in the Garden. He could tell them about the morons who gave him the mock cheer a couple weeks ago against the Flyers. Very classy move by Henrik as was pointed out by Mike Breen.