Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daily Recap: Will Flaws Derail Playoffs; Should Del Zotto Sit; Avery Slew Foot; Drury Out Longer; Prospect Review

Most of the talk this morning was still about the Crosby slew foot on Callahan, though I tried to avoid most of it after saying my piece on it last night.  Instead this morning I focused on areas of the game that are preventing the Rangers from being a sure playoff team or even taking a step further and contending.  The list was long and varied in terms of things on the ice, off the ice and even which ice they play on.  The full thoughts can be found here.

Later I would go on to look at reasons why Michael Del Zotto’s time to take a seat has finally come and to the surprise of many possibly the focus was on the offensive and not the defensive side of the ice.  There is so much talent there and the main problem in all phases of the game is that he is trying to rely on that talent to bail him out and not have to fully think the game out.  When he slows down and plays simple the talent will show out all on its own.  Full thoughts here.

During the afternoon I looked at the latest drama in the saga that is Chris Drury recovering from his finger problem.  Personally I am pretty fed up with the situation, and that is in the article but so is why the return was pushed back, when we might expect him back and what he is doing in the meantime.  All of that is here.

I did have a moment of weakness in terms of the Crosby conversation because I had heard from various Penguins fans, quite possibly the only group that actually believes Crosby did nothing wrong that Sean Avery slew footed or attempted to slew foot Crosby in the third period.  I asked each of these people for the video that showed it and told them I would post any such video.  After getting no response I did my work looking for it and it turns out I believe they are referring to the play in the third period in which Crosby got a penalty call for taking down Avery.  I put up a video of the play which comes with analysis from NHL Network.  You decided as it is here.

Finally I ended the night and the month of stories, my first full month with the site by taking a look at the Rangers prospects, how they fared in November and their overall play for the year.  That “report” can be found here.

Rangers Prospect Review: November

Last month I took a look at the prospects a month into the season and since it is now the end of November it is time to check in on the group again.  Same disclaimers apply in that points do not reveal all there is about level of play a prospect or any hockey player for that matter is playing at.  Also, the variance in the leagues in terms of quality of competition can alter what statistically would qualify as quality production. 

Head of the Class:
Ryan Bourque – The 2008 3rd round pick Ryan Bourque had a spectacular month of November with 8 goals, and 11 assists boosting his year totals to 13 goals 18 assists in just 21 games this season.  Bourque was the best prospect for the Rangers in the month displaying his skill and toughness in just about every game.

Chris Drury Return Postponed; When Will He Find His Stick?

For all of two periods this season the Rangers have had a skater wearing the 'C' on the ice trying to help them change last years disappointment into something more this season.  In the second period of the home opener, Chris Drury, who had missed all of training camp and the first two regular season games recovering from a broken finger he received in a training camp scrimmage would break the same finger again; in the same place and another place.  That was October 15th.  It is now November 30th and if the recovery from his second finger injury did not feel enough like the human version of a baseball rain delay we have today's news to make it worse. 

Larry Brooks reported this morning the CT on Chris Drury's finger did not yield good results and that his already seemingly forever return has been pushed back further.  The report was that the tests showed the finger had not fully healed to this point.  This Friday is going to be seven weeks since he broke the finger and with these reports I would not expect to see him back on the ice for at least two more weeks.

Like it or not and many fans do not especially at 7.05 million a year, the Rangers need Drury to help counter their awful faceoff numbers (29th in the league) and to help with the penalty kill, though other than against Tampa the PK has had a clean sheet in 10 straight games.  

All I keep thinking is that it is just a finger, get over it and be the leader that the letter on your sweater says you are supposed to be.  This whole situation has really soured me on Drury as I wrote about last week in a piece titled, "Chris Drury: The Time Has Come to Lead and Earn the 'C' Or Give It Up" and you can read by clicking on the link in the title.  Then yesterday there was talk on NHL live that Drury returning would add leadership to the team and it left me scratching my head because I cannot see how being derailed by a finger for two months of the year can show any less.  I know I am taking the situation a little far as injuries happen and they all heal at their own pace, but at some point it is about pain tolerance and as much as I have praised Drury over the years for his willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots it makes me even more dumbfounded at this situation.

If there is good news from the Brooks report I guess it is that he says Drury is apparently going to be permitted to skate with a stick in the next couple days and yes I can hear Rangers fans now muttering under their breath that they hope he finds a stick real soon or at least some pucks and gets back out there; I concur with the sentiment obviously.

Video: Did Sean Avery Attempt to Slew Foot Crosby?

Since the end of last nights game against the Penguins I have heard from various Pens fans that Avery attempted to slew foot Crosby later in the game and instead Crosby got a cheap penalty when Avery embellished the elbow.  I will stipulate without question that the elbow was embellished as Avery embellishes most contact he gets to try and draw penalties, much like Crosby does in fact.  Anyway back to the point I have asked each one for video of the apparent slew foot attempt by Avery on Crosby and received no response.  I went looking and all I could find with this NHL Network clip which actually says the play was a second attempted slew foot by Crosby on Avery.  I make no claims, just let you discuss this one.

To any Pens fan if this is not the incident you are referring to let me know and the offer still stands that any video showing Avery slew footing will go up as my beef is with the play more than the player involved. It is dirty, dangerous and needs to be out of the game.

Michael Del Zotto: Time Has Come To Watch and Learn

At different points I have speculated on what the Rangers should do with Michael Del Zotto not only for right now, but to further his development into the type of player he can be for them.  Typically the focus of the negative side has been on his defensive mistakes and how he keeps repeating them as being the main source of frustration with his development.  That is not the case today.  Today the frustration is with the other side of the puck in terms of his passing and shooting issues.  The defensive issues are still there though to be fair he has not had a significant brain cramp giveaway in front of the net in about a week and he made a very nice sliding defensive play last night to stop a two-on-one with Crosby.

The strength of Del Zotto’s game was supposed to be his offensive prowess and his ability to quarterback the power play after all it is the reason he was rushed to the NHL when he was not defensively ready and it was his hot offensive start last year that kept him here the full season.  The offense other than the age has been the most commonly used excuse to put up with the defensive screw ups and yet this season the offense simply is not there.  We can talk about things like the sophomore jinx/slump, but I would rather spend the time trying to fix the problem then deal with the myths.

Rangers Roadblocks To Being Legit; Can They Be Fixed?

Yesterday, I asked if the Rangers record through 25 games was legit and if it meant anything in terms of their playoff chances and if they could become a contender.  Last night’s game against the Penguins showed me again that they are not ready to be the latter for sure and maybe not even the former.  The game exposed a lot of the different weaknesses that the Rangers have exhibited at times throughout the season and so today we look at what the Rangers must fix to become a legitimate playoff caliber team.  Some of these items I have discussed at different points on over the last month so hang with me if pieces of it sound familiar.

Weaknesses of the Rangers:
Failure to establish a home ice advantage:  With last night’s loss the Rangers fell to a paltry 5-7-1 and even worse 1-6 against teams .500 or better at home.  I understand you are going to lose some games to the better teams no matter where you play them, but 1-6 is disgraceful in your own building especially when you spent an entire offseason preaching about how you had to be better in your own building.  Other than beating Chicago the best win they have at home in terms of opponent is Buffalo without Miller or Calgary with the others being NJ and Edmonton.  As of right now there is only one team in the entire league with more regulation home loses than the Rangers currently have and that is Buffalo with 8.  You cannot be a contender, a playoff team or even a good team if you are getting that little production in the standings from your home games.

Failure to beat good teams: As I spoke of yesterday the Rangers have struggled against not just the best teams but good teams as with last night’s loss they are 3-9 against teams currently in the playoffs and 5-9 against teams .500 or better.  Since the Rangers will play the Eastern Conference teams more it is important to note they are 2-6 against the .500 or better teams in the East.  It is good to feast on those beneath you, but there comes a time where you have to at least play close to .500 against the better teams.  The failure to beat the good teams is partly due to the next weakness.

Failure to play a full sixty minutes:  The Rangers have had very few games this year where they played well in all three periods and lately have gotten into a lull where against the poorer teams they get away with playing one, maybe two solid periods and getting the win.  That might work in the short term and against the weaker teams, but there is no future success for playing partial games, especially against good teams.  Look no further than both games against Colorado, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington, and last night against Pittsburgh as signs that one bad period against a talented team and you end up with nothing to show for whatever other good you did. 

Something that is really starting to bother me on this subject is the notion from the players and even fans after some of these games of focusing on a specific period and saying, well if they did that more they would have won.  The game that comes to mind the most is the Tampa game where in trying to sugarcoat some of the performance people talked about winning the third period and how the team ran out time on a comeback.  Sorry, but for me that is utter garbage seeing as how it was 5-0 game and the other team stopped pressing the same way they were when they dominated you for two periods.  You either show up and play for 60 minutes or you don’t and there is no let me extrapolate the good periods to see what would have happened at least not that matters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Daily Recap: Rangers Trip Up; Crosby/Dubinsky Video; Rangers for Real?; Gaborik Plays; Prospect News

Lots of controversy this evening so might as well start with that and see where we go from there.  In the actual game the Rangers lost 3-1 because they were simply outplayed, most decisively in the second period and when the Rangers had their own chances they failed to make the most of them.  The full recap of the game itself is here.

During the course of the game is where all the talk will be about tonight and the next few days as in the first period of the game Sidney Crosby clearly slew footed Ryan Callahan and not only was a penalty not called for the play on Crosby but one was instead called on Callahan.  Video of the play is here.  During the intermission in an interview with Al Trautwig on MSG, Dubinsky was shown the play and asked about it and during his comments he called it a dirty play, said that is the kind of player Crosby is and that Crosby also complains a lot.  Must see for all Rangers fans and that video is here.

That takes care of the game itself, before the game there was a question as to whether Gaborik would play tonight but he did which lead to me posting about that, the lines that were being used and how I would change those line here.

The most viewed and discussed topic of the day was my post on how real the Rangers start was or was not based on the details of the season thus far.  I looked at the things they are doing that would make them a contender and also where they are falling short to be where they want to be.  My full thoughts and lots of user thoughts on the topic can be found here.  This turned out to be one of the better interactive discussions that have been had on the site to this point, which makes me happy because discussion is the entire point of the exercise.

Finally there was some prospect news in that Ethan Werek and Christian Thomas were kept off the invite list to the Canadian World Junior Championships camp.  It is disappointing that they are not going, but not the end of the world by any means.  The story can be found here.

Also in the prospect realm I took a very brief look at the Whale game from Sunday in which the team improved to 2-0 under their new name and logo.  The game featured a shutout by Cameron Talbot, a beautiful pass by Mats Zuccarello for a goal and the kind of goal all Rangers fans want to see Evgeny Grachev scoring on a regular basis.  The story and the highlights of the game can be found here.

Dubinsky Calls Crosby Dirty During Interview w/ Video

This is the real video I have been waiting for all night, the interview that Brandon Dubinsky did with Al during the first intermission where he said what we all know is true about Sidney Crosby. Good for your Dubi.  Video of the Crosby slew foot is here.

Rangers Tripped Up By Crosby and Penguins in 3-1 Loss

The Rangers took the ice tonight looking to win their third straight and answer my question from this morning about if they were real in beating one of the better teams in the league, but things were not just meant to be against the Penguins on this evening. The Rangers would fall 3-1 in a game that will be the talk of tomorrow more for a non-scoring play than the outcome or the goals that made it that way. To not fully rehash my take on the cheap play that was the Crosby slew foot I will just direct you to the post that contains the video as well, which can be found here. What I will say now is that if it was anyone other than Crosby that is an automatic suspension so let the league prove they are not in his pocket and make him sit for it.

As for the rest of the action the Rangers would be exposed on this night for the same things that have troubled them against the good teams all season. They have been susceptible to teams with speed up front, teams that make quick passing plays and defense that move the puck quickly and blunt the Rangers forecheck. The second period would eventually be the undoing of the club as a 1-0 first period lead for Pittsburgh would turn into a 3-1 deficit for the Rangers. It was a very similar scene to that in Colorado during the second of that game, except this time it was only Letang and Conner netting goals 1:15 apart instead of four of them. The only highlight of the period other than the Avery fight following Pittsburgh’s 3rd goal was Marian Gaborik’s goal at 16:19 to give the Rangers some life. The Rangers played a much better third period as they were able to impose the physical game much more and create chances including powerplays but they missed the net so many times it didn’t matter and they never could get within one to make it interesting.

The problems for the club are the same as they have been for the past few years in that they struggle against the best teams, do not control their home ice, the powerplay is inconsistent and they expect Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out of every defensive mistake. The team also has become accustomed this season to getting away with playing one good period and getting a result but as tonight, the second game against Boston and Tampa showed that will not cut it against the best teams. As nice as their record looks in the standings a game like this shows why they cannot be considered a contender nor can they be deemed a lock for a playoff spot. Still a lot of work to do and now that the brutal November schedule is over they get a few days off before playing four winnable games against the Islanders and Senators
  • Gaborik got more ice and was more effective tonight than I was expecting based on the health reports
  • Dubinsky's comments on Crosby were not only spot on but show why he is maturing into a leader on this club
  • Brandon Prust is fearless as he will fight anyone at any time
  • Avery had another involved game this evening, which is always good to see
  • Girardi did not play a good game tonight
  • Staal had some good hits but was out of position on one goal and beaten by speed consistently
  • Michael Del Zotto’s shooting is getting to comical absurdity as much as he misses the net
  • Lundqvist made some brilliant saves but was not as sharp tonight as the last two.

Tonight's scoring plays:
First period:
At 5:10 of the period the Penguins would break the seal on the scoring as Max Talbot would beat Lundqvist with a shot after Ruslan Fedotenko after catching the puck out of the air ran into Marc Staal and dropped the puck right at Talbot’s feet in the slot.

Second period:

At 12:01 of the second Crosby would tip a backhand pass to Pascal Dupuis who would give it back to Crosby and he would find Kris Letang wide open in the slot. On the play Marc Staal was caught too aggressive above the blue line and ended up out of the play.

1:15 later the Penguins would run the play I just described leading to an eventual three-on-two that would eventually end up on the stick of Chris Conner and he would beat Lundqvist low stick side for a 3-0 lead.

16:19 Michal Rozsival would hit Gaborik with a stretch pass and Marian would fire a snap shot in to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Crosby Slew Foots Callahan Yet Callahan Gets The Penalty W/Video

Everything up that point in the period no longer mattered because while we watch Marc Staal light up Kris Letang on the boards Sidney Crosby was busy slew footing Ryan Callahan in center and to add insult to potential injury it would Ryan Callahan who would be called for interference on the play.  I try as much as possible to not avoid complaining about the refs and even more the conspiracy bias theories, but this was absolutely absurd as it was clearly an intentional play by Crosby and to not only have to watch him get away with but be rewarded by the other team being called for a penalty was beyond words. 

While I was beyond words, one person who was not was Brandon Dubinsky during a first period intermission interview said, ““Yeah I mean that’s just a dirty play he tries to get away with all that kind of nonsense and complains a lot.”  That is why Dubinsky has become a leader on this club.  Video of the Dubinsky comments is here.

Rangers Final Lineup vs Pittsburgh: Gaborik In: Gilroy Scratch; Lines

According the Andrew Gross it looks like Marian Gaborik is going to give it a go tonight and that Matt Gilroy will be the scratch from the lineup.

The lines in warmups were:

They keep giving Frolov chances to do something, anything, at the beginning of games, and tonight no different though I dont really see him as a fit with Boyle and Prust.  Avery would fit well on that line or I would think about Boyle-Anisimov-Prust to have Boyle play the role of Shelley from that line late last year.


Whale Move To 2-0 In New Uniforms Behind Talbot SO, Grachev Goal, Zuccarello Helpers

I am not going to do a full recap of the game other than to say maybe things are starting to turn around down in the A for the Rangers affiliate as after a 1-9-1-2 stretch they are 4-1-0-1 in their last six games.  This stretch coincides with the return of Dale Weise and multiple moves the club has made in trying to reshape the locker room whether it be bringing in Kolarik for Byers; sending out Williams and getting Bickel or giving up future consideration for Eizenman.  Along with those moves the play of the Rangers youngsters has improved, especially the defenders who are all watching their plus/minus figures rise as the team fares better.

Last night Cam Talbot would stop 25 shots on his way to his second shutout. As you will see in the highlights the first goal was generated by a beautiful passing play from Kolarik to Zuccarello to Newbury.  The second and maybe most important for Rangers fans was watching Evgeny Grachev play the way he needs to play to be successful using his size and speed to get around and fend off a check while driving the net and finishing.  The exhale you see from him on the highlights says all you need to know about how big that goal was for him and let us hope it gets him going.  On the third and final goal would once again come form the trio of Zuccarello, Newbury and Kolarik as the law firm would start the play with Newbury finding Zuke for a shot and the rebound being put in by Kolarik.  All goals were scored in the third period which is a nice change from blowing leads late in the third each of the last two nights.

Rangers Prospects Ethan Werek and Christian Thomas Left Off Canadian WJC Invite List

Today the Canadian World Junior camp roster was announced and there was some reason for hope that a couple of Rangers prospects would get an invitation to the festivities.  The two main hopefuls for the New York Rangers were 2009 2nd round pick Ethan Werek and 2010 2nd round pick Christian Thomas.  Werek was at the camp over the summer so he probably had a better chance to make it, but he still needed a strong push in November and he just did not get that.  Overall for the month Werek had a respectable 5 games 4 assists performance in his 11 games, but he was held scoreless in four of his last five games before this announcement and that probably sealed his fate. 

Christian Thomas was a long shot coming into the year, especially considering he was not invited to the camp over the summer but his spectacular play this season with 18 goals and 16 assists in just 22 games was thought to put him in the running.  Overall in November Thomas numbers were down sans an incredible two game stretch in which he netted 5 goals and had 5 helpers on his way to OHL and CHL player of the week.  In his other 8 games this month he only had 2 goals and 5 assists and as Jess Rubenstein astutely as always pointed in a tweet:
His size I suppose is being one factor, he struggled against the Russians in the SSS is another
Do not take the lack of inclusion for either of these players as a statement on their future abilities with the Rangers as both are very talented and playing very good hockey.  The Canadian ranks are very deep as we see every year and this does not mean you should think any less of these players because they did not make it.   Werek is still someone I envision as a potential top 6 forward in the NHL and Thomas a tremendous sniper down the line.  Missing out on the experience is a negative in that playing against the best makes you better, but with both expect them to continue their hard work and development for the bigger picture of being a Ranger.

The Rangers are expected to have four prospects in the World Junior Championships this year with Ryan Bourque and Chris Kreider playing for team USA as they look to repeat; Jesper Fasth (2010 6th round pick) playing for the Swedes and Roman Horak (2009 5th round pick) representing the Czech Republic

Rangers Record Through 25 Games; Is It For Real?

So the Rangers are now 25 games into their 2010-2011 campaign and the overall record looks very good at 14-10-1 especially considering they have been without their best scorer for half the games, their captain for all but one game, their second leading scorer from last season the whole year and a key defenseman for nine games.  The question for me today is how legit is the record in terms of looking forward and seeing how for real this team is as a playoff or more contender.  There is the only quote from Bill Parcells that you are what your record says you are and for the Rangers right now it says they are the sixth best team in the Eastern Conference, but let’s look deeper to see how likely it is they stay there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daily Recap: Gaborik Stunting Dubinsky; Gilroy Trade Rumors; Penguins Preview; Whale Debut; Fights

Obviously no game today, but there are no days off here, so there were plenty of potential conversation pieces to go through on the site today.  The day started off with one asking if Marian Gaborik and his presence is actually holding back the progression of Brandon Dubinsky.  In seeking an answer or at least to flush out the thought process I looked at my observations of differences in Dubinsky’s play with and without Gaborik in the lineup along with how his number do or do not change based on when Gaborik plays and how that coincides with Dubinsky’s minutes.  The full article can be found here.

After that I dealt with the latest Rangers rumor, this one involving the team potentially dealing out Matt Gilroy.  The idea of the team trading Gilroy away when he is almost assuredly going back to the press box as soon as tomorrow if Gaborik and/or Boogaard can dress is a very feasible one.  The problem I had with the rumor was not the idea of Gilroy getting dealt but acting like he actually had some value right now when the organization has killed it for two years.  The full article is here.

This afternoon I took a look at the debut game for the rebranded Connecticut Whale in which a huge crowd showed up for what turned out to be an exciting game that ended with the Whale pulling out the win in a shootout.  Full details of the game and highlights can be found here.

There were a couple of posts unrelated to the Rangers today on the site which I rarely do, but hey it was Sunday.  The first was about the joke that has become Lebron and the Heat when he bumped his coach in a timeout last night.  The point of the post was not just to whine about Lebron but to seriously ask if anyone could see a disgrace like that happening between a coach and player in the NHL during a game.  I could definitely see it in a locker room or in the press, whatever on that, but in the arena cannot see that happening in the NHL.  Share your thoughts and see the video here.

The other non-Rangers related post today was about Evander Kane and how he might be the best fighter in the NHL not that he is a high volume fighter or any of that, but his combination of balance, speed and power is scary.  There were videos of today’s fight where he tagged Matt Hunwick early in the fight, but Hunwick would to his credit hold on during the scrap.  There was also a video that should make every Rangers fan happy in watching Kane knock out Matt Cooke.  The commentary and both fight videos are here.

In a change of pace because the pregame threads were getting lost in the shuffle I decided that on non-game days where the Rangers played the next day I would put the pregame out the night before to let people see it.  So tonight I put out a preview of tomorrow’s game against the Penguins where the Rangers will be going for their third straight win while the Pens will be seeking seven in a row.  The full preview can be found here.

Finally I updated the prospect stats page through the games completed today, so check out how all the kids are doing here.

Pregame: Rangers Look For Third Straight Over Marching Penguins 11/29/2010

In doing some site reviews I have come to the conclusion that between other stories on the site and all the other blogs with pregame thoughts that the pregame stories I have been doing have not been getting read.  In an effort to fix that issue on days when the Rangers have the day off before the game I am going to preview the following night’s game the night before.  So now let’s look at the matchup with the Penguins tomorrow at MSG.

Rangers (14-10-1) at Pittsburgh (15-8-2)
Key Opposing Player: Sidney Crosby (18-22-40)

The Rangers enter the game coming off two straight wins to end their three game trip and will return home to play the Penguins.  It is a very similar scenario to the last time they were going into a matchup with the Pens in that the Rangers had won two in a row and were looking now to prove they could do it against a higher quality opponent.  In the last meeting the Rangers had probably their biggest character game of the year as they overcame numerous bad calls and going from up 1-0 to down 2-1 in a matter of moments late in the game to force OT and win it in the extra action.  The key to that game was Henrik Lundqvist who stood on his head and stole the outcome making 37 saves, many of the spectacular variety.  On the offensive side of the game for the Rangers Brandon Dubinsky was the man as he created both goals with tremendous plays and passes setting up Marc Staal for the tying SHG and Ryan Callahan for the OT winner. As big as that win was it will mean nothing once they drop the puck to start this game.

The Rangers as I said have won two in a row to close their road trip, but the level at which they played will not cut it against the Penguins.  As of now there is no word on if Marian Gaborik will be back in the lineup, and the Rangers certainly could use him, but regardless the Rangers have shown this year they have to play a certain style to win.  When this team does not get in on the forecheck, cycle the puck and play physically they generate little to no offensive threats.  Brandon Dubinsky is going to have to play with that mentality he brought to the game at the end against the Pens where he just refused to let them lose and that they could not stop him.  When he plays with that mentality he can be an elite player, but he does not always have that mindset especially if Gaborik is in the lineup.  I expect Sean Avery to do some things in this one as he has played with more energy the last couple of games, I just worry that because these are the Penguins and they get every possible call that because he is Avery the Rangers will get twice as many calls against them.

Memo To NHL Players: Don't Fight Evander Kane with Video vs Hunwick/Cooke

In case the league has not learned by now maybe today's destruction of Matt Hunwick will teach them to stop challenging Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers to a fight because while he does not fight all that often he absolutely destroys people when he drops the gloves.  The kid has tremendous strength and balance that allows him to throw thunderous shots without exposing himself to being hurt on the shots coming back.  This message for my purposes is directed at Brandon Prust who I know will fight anyone, just do not do it. Don't take my word for it though just watch his last two fights:

Today against Matt Hunwick

The Classic Knockout vs Matt Cooke:

OT: Lebron Bumps Coach; Would It Ever Happen in NHL?

Yes, this is a hockey blog and a Rangers blog at that, so the moment in and of itself has nothing to do with either. The part that is NHL related is how it keeps making me think about how this would never happen in hockey.  Can you imagine Henrik Lundqvist or Marian Gaborik running into John Tortorella on purpose and during a game no less?  People can say what they want about how it was accidental, but watch the video again and you will clearly see that after the contact he elbow flares out instead of saying pulling his arm back to show it was not meant.

I am not trying to call hockey players saints by any means, but there seems to be a difference in the respect level between players and coaches in the two leagues in how their disagreements can be carried out especially by what is supposed to be the best player in the game.

Whale Rides Wave Of Huge Crowd To Shootout Win In Connecticut Debut

Last night in Hartford was the debut performance of the Connecticut Whale and regardless of the outcome of the hockey game the support given by the fans on this night would have made it a victory for the franchise.  On the night the attendance figure was 13,089 which was the second highest total in history for an AHL game played in Hartford only trailing 14,115 fans that were there on January 24, 1998.  Obviously this was just one game, but there are NHL franchises that would do anything to have that kind of attendance figure pop up on a nightly basis and is why whenever there is talk of relocating teams Hartford is a place that a lot of people will discuss as getting a return of the NHL.

Now for the game itself in the end the Whale would avenge the loss their former brand the Wolf Pack suffered the night before at the hands of Bridgeport Sound Tigers.  The game the night before had an embarrassing end as the club would turn a sure victory and a 3-0 lead in the final 7 minutes of action into a 4-3 SO loss, which is chronicled here.  This game just as the one the night before would go to OT and eventually a shootout with the final result being the key change as the Whale would take it 3-2.

Saturday’s crowd was second only in franchise annals to an attendance of 14,115 for a game against Springfield on Jan. 24, 1998 – and Baldwin got special enjoyment when Jeremy Williams beat goalie Nathan Lawson high to the glove side to give the Whale a 3-2 shootout victory, their first in four tries this season.

Rumor: Rangers Trading Matt Gilroy?

The rumor mill continues to churn this morning as the weatherman of reporters Bruce Garroich has yet another rumor involving the Rangers Matt Gilroy.  I have no problem with Matt Gilroy rumors as he is clearly the odd man out in the seven man defense grouping with his number of healthy scratches and following playing every game when Michal Rozsival was injured only getting 5:14 of playing time last night in Rozsival’s return to the club.  So now let’s get to the rumor and then I will look at what to make of it.  The rumor, in this morning’s Ottawa Sun was as follows:
If the Rangers decide to go get a centre, and they’re expected to make a move for Richards before the trade deadline, they may deal D Matt Gilroy as part of package. The 26-year-old has a cap hit of $1.75 million and will be an RFA next summer. He’s been passed on the depth chart by Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer. Gilroy is young enough that he could bring return. GM Glen Sather can’t afford to wait much longer.
My thoughts inside.

Is Marian Gaborik Holding Brandon Dubinsky Back?

Over the past few years the Rangers have been marred by inconsistency both in play and in overall results.  This season they have still had the rollercoaster feel at times, but the most consistent of all Rangers forwards, if not players I terms of effort and production has been Brandon Dubinsky.  From the moment he had his hot start to the season there has been a section of Rangers fans who could not believe the results due to past inconsistency and have been waiting for the slump to happen.  I will admit that I was not necessarily in the belief a slump was due, but more that the production would slow down especially with how well he was playing carrying the offensive load in the absence of Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal.  The slump just kept getting pushed back and back and then over the last five games I was not seeing the same level of effectiveness from Dubinsky in terms of creating chances on the offensive side of the ice.  There were references to the possibility that the line had gotten stale along with the dropping of hints as to the fatigue of the team without naming names as a reason for the drop in production.  Both of those could be very valid, but I started to think back to something I wrote when Marian Gaborik was coming back.  I said the following:
One of the keys for the Rangers though will be treat the game as if he still is not in the lineup.  What I mean is when you have a superstar out the other players feel the urgency to raise their individual and collective games and in this stretch certain players like Dubinsky and Boyle in particular did that, but what cannot happen is they fall into a lull thinking the star is back and will now carry the team.  If the Rangers play the way they showed they can without Gaborik and add his skill into the lineup the results overall should improve.
What I was noticing more and more was that Dubinsky was letting his offensive game take a back seat to Gaborik instead of pressing the issue as he was when Gaborik was out of the lineup.  Obviously this is not Marian Gaborik’s fault because it a mentality problem for Brandon but it does speak to how a superstar can in some ways stunt the growth of others around him.  What I mean is on a two-on-one if the superstar is not there, the player may shoot the puck while with him they look to force the pass instead of just playing their own game.  For Dubinsky the change has been most evident on the powerplay where he was running he unit with his puck possession along wall a lot while Gaborik was out and creating chances for himself or teammates but with Gaborik he was deferring.

Join me inside for more on how last night was different and the stats to possibly support what is being seen by my eyes.

Daily Recap: SO Win; Avery/Prust Fight; Dubinsky Untouchable?; Gaborik Out, Rozi Back, Should MDZ sit?

Coming off a less than stellar team performance but victory over the Florida Panthers the Rangers went into Saturday looking to build some momentum as they headed to Nashville.  For me the best way to continue that momentum was to go back with Henrik Lunqvist who after struggling for his prior few outings was spectacular in a 40 save shutout against the Panthers.  This morning I wrote about how staying with Lundqvist and letting him get the back to back action not only would help his confidence but it would give him another game to reinforce the positive habits he had in the game.  For many the focus was on the shutout and how that required the Rangers to go back to him tonight, but for me it was less about the final result as the way he got there with saves he had to make.  A large part of the inconsistency for Lundqvist this season has been his stance and how he has been going down early and being beaten on deflections high, but against Florida he stayed taller and it made a large difference.  Check out the whole post and what I am prescribing for the goaltending schedule the next week here.

My other point of focus in looking back to last night’s game was the play of Sean Avery who played his most impactful game in a while and so I welcomed him back to the hockey side of the game and the skilled player he can be and what that can mean to the club here.

In terms of tonight’s lineup there were a couple of updates, the initial being after the morning practice that talked about how Michal Rozsival was going to be back for the game, announced the start of Lundqvist.  After doing that I speculated that the likely scratch to make room for Rozsival was going to be Matt Gilroy, but I went on to discuss whether it should be Michael Del Zotto who actually took a seat instead, which can be found here.  The other post about the lineup would be late when it would be announced that Marian Gaborik was going to miss the game with the flu and that the Rangers since Derek Boogaard was once again unavailable would dress 11 forwards and 7 defense.  That post can be found here and within it I speculated on what I would use for lines to start the game.

For a full recap of the game you can go here but the quick version is that Henrik made key saves early, the Rangers got down and for the first time all season rallied when trailing after 2 to get a gutty shootout win.  Dubinsky and Callahan once again carried the club in the absence of Gaborik and were helped tonight by good efforts from Christensen, Boyle and Avery up front.  On defense Rozi was solid in his return, Sauer was steady as always, Eminger played well and Staal rebounded from a shaky first for a good overall game.

During the game tonight there were two fights; one with Sean Avery and Jordin Tootoo of which the video is here; the other with Brandon Prust and Shane O’Brien which is here.  In the fights I would have to say the Rangers went 1 and 1 though both had entertaining moments and should be checked out.

There were two other stories on the site today; one deal with a rumor mongerer saying Brandon Dubinsky was “untouchable” and I took a look at the rumor itself and then whether Dubinsky should be classified as untouchable here.  The other was about the finale of the AHL affiliate as the Hartford Wolfpack in which they collapsed, blowing a 3-0 lead in the third and lost in a shootout.  Inside are the details of the game including information on Mats Zuccarello, Dale Weise, Pavel Valentenko, Ryan McDonagh and that can be found here.