Friday, October 14, 2011

Rangers Not A Playoff Team?

Following the signing of Brad Richards many of the “experts” have written the New York Rangers are locks to make the playoffs and some have even said they could be threats to contend.  Rob Simpson obviously did not get that memo.  Simpson, writing at Hockey Buzz, wrote that the Rangers are still extremely flawed and his estimation are not even a playoff team this season.
And along those same lines, adding Brad Richards didn’t suddenly make the New York Rangers the fourth or fifth seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. In fact, it’s highly questionable whether they’ll make it in at all.
Simpson went on to call the Rangers a one-line team, which is a complete fallacy by ignoring the skill and production of Dubinsy, Anisimov and Callahan as a group last season.  However, many of the questions he raises about the roster are absolutely true, and the Rangers will need to answer them on the ice instead of expecting anyone to hand them anything as the “experts” have done since the end of last season.   

The negatives and/or questions from Simpson…
For different reasons and to different degrees, here’s a list that includes those likely to be around: Wolski (desire), Anisimov (next step), Stepan (2nd year), Zuccarello (size), Boyle (consistency), Christensen (minutes), Staal (health), McDonagh (experience), Sauer (consistency), Del Zotto (see above), Erixon (opportunity).
On the positive side Simpson does look at what is working in the Rangers favor and that is exactly what everyone would expect it to be…
The Rangers have three important things running in their favor. 1) Goaltending. 2) Work ethic. 3) Team identity (related to number 2) and buy-in. Wait! Four things. 4) Plenty of weak brothers in the East, including Winnipeg, Florida and Ottawa that won’t contend for anything.
All of those items are absolutely working in New York’s favor as long as the team plays to that work ethic and identity they had last season instead of waiting for the skill of Richards and Gaborik to do the job for them.  The skill must complement the identity or the Rangers will lose the edge they had over their opposition on most nights.  Outworking teams is what made this team fun to watch and brought hope for the future as the skill was growing with the hard-work they were putting forth.  Even with Richards, Gaborik and improvements from players like Anisimov and Stepan, the Rangers are not going to be the most talented team on the ice against the upper echelon team’s in the league.  Work ethic can counter than on any given night and as long as the Rangers remember that part of it they can prove Simpson wrong and make the playoffs when all is said and done.

Video: Lightning Test Out New Tesla Coils

The Tampa Bay Lighting are in the process of starting their 2011-12 season with a 5 game road trip because of $40 million in renovations being done to the St. Pete Time’s Forum.  While there are a number different items being added or modified the one that everyone has been waiting to see is the Tesla coils.  The coils are set to shoot off lightning bolts each time the team scores a goal at home this season.  As if a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals with a young superstar like Steven Stamkos or a superstar like Martin St. Louis, who only improves with age, needed more excitement to bring in fans, this will certainly create even more buzz.

Here is video, via @FelixPotvin, of them testing the coils out.

Wonder how many people want to go see the Lightning in Tampa just to see those live.

Sauer Out Against Islanders Saturday

Update (12:50PM): Sauer officially out tomorrow against Islanders.  Will make the Western trip but no timetable on when he will be back in the lineup.

Every team in the NHL will have to deal with their share of injuries during the 2011-12 season, but the New York Rangers are being hit hard on defense with injuries right now.  Already without Marc Staal (concussion), Michael Sauer missed another day of practice today (shoulder).  Sauer has not practiced at all since the team returned from Europe and Andrew Gross tweeted that Sauer is likely to miss tomorrow’s game against the Islanders.

If Sauer does miss the game the Rangers are looking at Del Zotto, Erixon, Woywitka and Eminger as the bottom four defenders in the lineup.  Those defensive pairings from practice…

Del Zotto-Erixon

While McDonagh and Girardi will certainly eat a ton of minutes regardless of whether Sauer goes tomorrow, looking at that bottom four against the speed and skill of the Islanders is a scary proposition for the Rangers.  Mitigating the loss of Staal is enough to deal with, but being without both Staal and Sauer is a huge blow the Rangers defense corps.

In terms of those four playing tomorrow, pairing Erixon and Del Zotto seems like a recipe for disaster at even strength defensively.  Both have played reasonably well in the first two games, but both have their defensive shortcomings at this point so putting the two young defenders together might not be the best move.  Del Zotto pairing with Eminger while Woywitka plays with Erixon seems like a more balanced approach, but regardless the loss of Sauer from the lineup would likely be very evident tomorrow.