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.