Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dylan McIlrath Out Tonight With Knee Injury

Per Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park, New York Rangers 2010 1st round pick Dylan McIlrath will miss tonight’s game with a knee injury that he suffered in last night’s game.  According to Jeff D’Andrea of the Moose Jaw Time Herald the injury occurred late in the second period of the game and Dylan did not return.  McIlrath’s knee is being called a tweak and it will be reevaluated Monday when Moose Jaw returns home.

More when it is available.

Video: AHL Coach Roy Sommer Has Puck Break Nose, Still Returns to Bench

The phrase “he’s a hockey player,” is one that is used a lot to describe the toughness of players in the game and how they might come back from injuries to play when athletes in other sports might not.  During Friday night’s Manchester Monarchs, Worchester Sharks AHL game, Sharks coach Roy Sommer showed that the saying applies to the guys behind the bench as well.
During play in the first period of the game a clearing attempted deflect out of play and smashed Sommer in the nose.  In the immediate aftermath Sommer went down behind the bench and would eventually head off with the trainer to get checked out.  No one would have thought less of Sommer not returning with what turned out to be a broken nose, but he was having none of that.
Sommer would return to the bench having only missed 2:28 of game action.  When he came back he had Q-Tips sticking out of his nose, a piece of tape on the bridge of the busted nose and it did not matter because… “He’s a hockey coach.”
The team would not make the efforts and toughness of the coach to return go to waste as they would get a shootout victory in the game.  You can bet when your coach does something like that the players on the team with think twice before they complain about any sort of minor injuries.

Video: Sean Avery vs Alexandre Picard Fight

Power Play Failures Haunt Rangers In 2-0 Loss To Canadiens

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
The Rangers went into Montreal this afternoon in search of two points to move up in the Eastern Conference standings and to end a three game losing streak.  Unfortunately when the final horn went they lost 2-0 to the Canadiens and will head to Detroit riding a season high four game losing skid.  Overall in the game the Rangers did a lot of good things.  The team was much more consistent with their forecheck than they have been of late, and Martin Biron was excellent in the net.  The rest of the story was the same as it has been recently with the Rangers failing to capitalize on their chances, falling behind and then attempting a furious comeback in the third period. 

There is only so long though that we can pump up the effort and the chances as positive things before not only is the story old, but the team will be looking down the barrel of missing the playoffs.  There are no moral victories in February.  This is not horseshoe’s or hand grenades so close does not count.  The team needs results on the scoreboard and in the standings.
The first period of the game was one of the more entertaining ones of the season for me.  Both teams played a quick end to end game with some bite and some venom between the two sides.  It had the feel of a playoff atmosphere.  The intensity was only heightened when Brian Boyle coming in on the forecheck hit Jaroslav Spacek in the head with his left arm.  Moments after that there was a large scrum behind the Canadiencs net involving Boyle, Prust and Avery.  Eventually Avery would drop the gloves with Alexandre Picard in a relatively entertaining bout.  Despite the action the game would remain scoreless after one.
During the second period the Rangers dominated the action with their forecheck and it led to them having four consecutive power plays.  Unfortunately for them there is no decline option in the NHL for the power plays because the team would have been better off if there was one.  On those four chances with the man advantage the team managed only one measly shot on goal.  I remarked during the game after the third power play that the Rangers had dominated four of the last ten minutes of the game; the other six they were on the power play.
Late in the second period, it would be the Canadiens who would capitalize on their chance to take the lead.  Scott Gomez would be the benefactor of a lively bounce off the boards behind the Rangers net, show patience with the puck and roof a shot over Martin Biron from the side of the net.  On the play the Rangers also had a defensive breakdown in coverage which allowed Gomez to be so patient on the play.  The goal at 18:34 of the second period would give Montreal a 1-0 lead heading into the final period.
The third period was the a typical third period for the Rangers, furious pressure and control of the chances.  New York outshot Montreal 19-6 in the third, but still were unable to put one behind Carey Price.  Well, that is not exactly true, they did have one tip from Ryan Callahan go behind Price, but he was able to clear the puck out of the crease before it could cross the goal line.
The game would be put away by Tomas Plekanec with 37.4 seconds left in the game when he converted into an empty net.  On the play Mats Zuccarello at a chance to stop the puck with his hand, but instead had it bounce over his stick and Plekanec was off the other way.
  • Sean Avery was the best player on the ice for the Rangers today.
  • After being reunited the Wolski-Stepan-Zuccarello line went back to the form they had before at least in created chances, if not in finishing them.
  • Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan also had their opportunities in this game.
  • The only line that failed to really generate anything was Prospal-Christensen-Gaborik though Vinny was again good individually.  Marian is out of excuses.

Video: Did KHL's Denis Kulyash beat Zdeno Chara with 110 mph shot?

During All-Star weekend last week, Zdeno Chara broke his own record of 105.4 mph in Hardest Shot competition with a blast of 105.9 mph. 
Only a week later that record is said to have been broken during the KHL All-Star skills event. Denis Kulyash of Omsk Avangard, according to reports, demolished Chara's NHL record with a 110.343 mph (177.58 km/h) blast on his second attempt.  In the video they do not show the radar gun on the second attempt, but his first blast was shown at 169.02 km/h which converts to 105.03 mph.
There have to be questions regarding the validity of this in comparison to the NHL competition.  The biggest difference, at least from my eye, is the puck appears to be place closer to the net during the KHL competition than the NHL one.
The solution to any dispute over who is the current holder of the hardest shot is to have Chara and Kulyash shoot on the same ice.

Hat tip to Puck Daddy

Del Zotto In, Here to Stay?; Biron Starts; Drury Has Fluid Drained

Per Steve Zipay Martin Biron will get the start today against the Canadiens and Michael Del Zotto will remain in the lineup, while Steve Eminger is once again a healthy scratch.  The move to go to Biron is not unexpected considering Tortorella called out Lundqvist following the last game and the fact the Montreal has been a house of horrors for Henrik.  The day off gives him two more days of practice before they play in Detroit on Monday.
Leaving Michael Del Zotto in the lineup is on the other hand ridiculous.  I understand the desire to have him on the power play, but the first rule in this league is to keep the puck out of your own net and he clearly is not ready to help them accomplish that task.  Michael is playing scared hockey and should be playing in Connecticut not a crucial game in Montreal as the team tries to end a three game losing streak.  It is pure hypocrisy on Tortorella’s part to preach that this team needs to play defense first and generate offense off of it, and yet continue to stick Del Zotto out there purely for his offensive possibilities.
If that was not enough there was this quote from the Rangers official twitter feed:
Torts: "We want to develop our younger players, and especially with Michael--we sent him to minors, now we want to work with him here"
This has become some sort of a pride thing it appears.  Del Zotto is clearly not ready and getting beaten every night is not going to help neither his development nor his confidence for the long term.
In other news Steve Zipay tweets that Chris Drury had fluid drained from his left knee yesterday and is day-to-day with no return date.

Rangers Best Lineup Requires Reuniting Prospal-Christensen-Gaborik

In trying to explain the New York Rangers inconsistency and downright struggles to produce offense a divide emerges.  One side argues that the offense issues stem from the fact that the team is constantly changing lines.  The other side says the line changes are necessary since the team has failed to generate offensive results for long stretches.  I believe that the answer is some of both.  There are games where the lines do need to be changed up, but there is also a very large issue in the fact that no lines really get time to play together and develop chemistry.  The amount of injuries the team has had and issues reintegrating injured players into the lineup recently have only added to the issues.
There had to be some expectation of struggles for the players that missed significant time, but part of the reason the problem exists at the moment is that coach John Tortorella has gone away from lines that previously worked.  A large reason for the constant fluctuation in the forward lines has the inability to find a grouping that can get Marian Gaborik going for more than one or two games.  The inclination to get the star going is a good one, but the way it is playing out is not.  The team is breaking up what have been successful lines behind Gaborik in order to try and find his spark.  That might not be necessary now.
With Erik Christensen back in the lineup for the road trip and Chris Drury out, the goal of getting Gaborik going and keeping successful lines together do not have to collide.  Unfortunately, based on the lines from practice yesterday they will.  The projected lineup:


Those lines have Stepan still sacrifice multiple combinations that have worked better together in the past for no necessary reason.  For me there is a much simpler way to make the lines with these forwards that allows for players of similar styles and skill levels to play together in combinations that have worked in the past.  The combinations I would use would be the following:

Vinny Prospal – Erik Christensen – Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky – Artem Anisimov – Ryan Callahan
Wojtek Wolski – Derek Stepan – Mats Zuccarello
Sean Avery – Brian Boyle – Brandon Prust

The top line allows for Gaborik to play with the combination that afforded him the most success last season.  I do not believe Erik Christensen is a top line center, but the utter failure of Gaborik to create chemistry with another combination calls for at least an attempt at what has worked previously.  The line has the potential to spark Gaborik, help Prospal and bring consistency and value out of Christensen, while most importantly in my mind, allowing other lines to stay how they work best.

By putting that group together it does not change the combination of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan, which if they can find the form they had when they were carrying the team early in the season would be tremendous.  What the move also allows is the reuniting of Wolski, Stepan and Zuccarello.  This line was the Rangers best in January and the only line that consistently generated offense as the skill level of these three works very well in combination.  There is a level of chemistry there that none of the three have really found with other players for extended periods. 

Finally, you are left with a “fourth line” of Avery, Boyle and Prust.  If calling that unit the fourth line does not display the potential depth of the Rangers roster, nothing will.  All three of these players have similar styles in they are good on the forecheck, solid with puck possession and can play a grinding style.  Avery’s passing skill could mesh very well with Boyle’s new found goal scoring ability and they would bring tremendous energy to the team.

The combination of these four lines gives the Rangers better balance throughout the lineup, a history of success within in each unit and the ability to roll four lines consistently.