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.