Friday, December 10, 2010

Daily Recap: Worst Moves This Offseason; Eminger Transformation; Blue Jackets Preview; Prospect Updates; Sauer Goal/Lundqvist Save Video

Today was a combination of looking back and looking ahead.  This morning I took a look back at the summer for the New York Rangers which has been mostly praised for the moves that were made.  I took a look at the players/moves that might not fall so much on the good side of the ledger and which one might be the worst of all of them so see who did and did not make the list, who I chose as the worst move of all and share your opinions on who you would pick.

Later I looked at a move that to start the season I might have put on that list of either worst moves or at least guys to get out of here in looking at Steve Eminger.  After discussing what the initial expectations for Eminger were, the frustration with his awful play in the preseason and early regular season I looked at how he has transformed from dreadful to an invaluable member of the defense for this club.  I looked at the role Eminger played both in filling in for Rozsival and how he played a major role in the decision to sit MDZ against Ottawa.  Also there is an update on his injury from last game.

In looking forward I previewed tomorrow’s game and how the Rangers are looking for two straight against the originally surging and now sliding Columbus Blue Jackets who just sent 2008 1st round pick Nikita Filatov down to the AHL to get his game together.  In the pregame I laid out my keys to the game and how the Blue Jackets present the Rangers with an issue they have struggled to deal with all year, so check it out and see what that is.

Finally there were two pieces of business that carried over from yesterday with one being the video of Michael Sauer game winner along with Henrik Lundqvist robbery of Mike Fisher from last night’s game and the other being my reaction to the NHL not disciplining Matt Carkner for his blood flicking incident last night as it was a disgrace to the game.  How the NHL plans on being taken seriously when they cannot consistently discipline players is beyond me.

In prospect news just a boxscore rundown:
Horak 3A (all on PP)
McIlrath 1A +3
Thomas  1G +1
Werek scoreless

Video: Sauer First NHL Goal/PP Game winnger; Lundqvist Robs Fisher of Hat-trick

Mike Sauer getting his first NHL goal

Lundqvist robbing Fisher of the Hat-trick

Pregame: New York Rangers Look For Two Straight Against Struggling Blue Jackets

The New York Rangers are kicking off a very tough six game stretch in Columbus Saturday night agains the Blue Jackets.  They will be looking to win their second in a row after winning a rather ugly game on Thursday night against the Senators.  The Rangers will be look to extend on their phenomenal 11-4 road record and the Jackets 7-7-1 home record certainly adds to the hopes of that.  Columbus comes in struggling after a fast start going 1-5-1 in their last seven outings.  With the following five games on the schedule the Rangers will need to pick up these points.

New York Rangers (17-12-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (15-11-1)

Key Opposition Player: Rick Nash (14-7-21)

Rangers Lineup:
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan– Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery – Brian Boyle – Brandon Prust
Alex Frolov– Erik Christensen –Todd White

Marc Staal -Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Michal Rozsival
Matt Gilroy – Michael Sauer


(Lines are likely to be different tomorrow, but White is likely in with Boogaard back in NY and I am assuming that Eminger will not go tomorrow based on today’s reports)

The Rangers did what was necessary in Ottawa and among the highlights for the club was the work of the newly formed top line as all three of Fedotenko, Stepan and Gaborik played well as individuals and with one another combining on two goals in the game.  The team will certainly look for that to continue unlike the last time that Gaborik has new linemates had a huge first outing and nothing after.  Derek Stepan has been among the Rangers best players over the past three weeks and has a point in every game he has started with Gaborik.  If he keeps those things up his name will become more and more prevalent in some personal award conversations as well as locking down his place in the lineup.

Everyone will be hoping that the empty net goal that Brandon Dubinsky got late in the game against Ottawa will spark his offensive game which has tailed off considerable of late.  The goal, his 13th on the season, was only Dubinsky’s first in 9 games and third in his last 17 games.  To say that his contributions to the offense are critical to the viability of this team would be an understatement.  He is still doing the other things in his game but goals are something the club needs from him with some regularity.

On defense the Rangers will need to be much better in this game compared to the last game or they will be in a lot of trouble.  Columbus is a team that has the thing that gives the Rangers the most problems; speed.  Everyone knows about Rick Nash but there is a good deal of other talent in Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek, R.J. Umberger all who have speed and skill which has certainly hurt the Rangers.  In net for the Jackets is likely to be Steve Mason since Matieu Garon started in their last game against the Blues.  Mason has been up and down this season but has the ability to shut down the opposition on any given night.

Prediction: Rangers 3-2 (Stepan, Callahan, Prust)

Carkner Gets Last Flick: No Punishment Is a Disgrace

By now I am sure you have seen the incident, if you have not the video is here, in which following a fight against Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers, Matt Carkner flicked blook at the Rangers bench and the NHL has decided that is totally fine as Carkner was not suspended and is playing as I write this against the New Jersey Devils this evening.   How this action is seen as less heinous than the throat-slash or the simulation of sex act is beyond me and just shows how big a joke the NHL suspension policy truly has becomes.  The justification for those suspensions was that it was a violation of the obscene gesture rule, well what would you call flicking blood at someone; gentlemanly conduct?  As I said last night it is not clear from the video that he actually flicked blood or not nor if it hit any Rangers and Carkner denied that he did following the game but none of that matters as to whether the act should have merited a suspension.  The differential should have been in the severity not condoning a player for doing some utterly disgraceful.  The NHL wonders why it cannot clean up the conduct in the game and the real reason is they have zero consistency in the ways in which they enforce their rules.  A hit by one person is a suspension while if done by another it is not.  It truly is a lottery system and this time Matt Carkner came up a winner and fans of the sport came up snake eyes.

Steve Eminger: From Dreadful to Invaluable Line of Rangers Defense

This morning I looked at the biggest potential mistakes the New York Rangers made this offseason and in doing so I also cited the moves that have been met with general approval like the Steve Eminger trade.  When the trade initially happened I thought it was a good move if only it gave the Rangers a chance to finally get real value out of the Voros signing and bring in a cheap 6th/7th defender who had NHL experience.  My expectations for Eminger were low especially when you think about a team that was going to be thin on defense just traded him for Voros of all players. 

When training camp started I had Eminger likely battling Gilroy for the 6/7 spot with Ryan McDonagh having a good shot at making the club.  Through the camp and preseason Eminger showed absolutely nothing in his game that said he was deserving of a spot on this club as he was slow, out of position and soft in the games he played.  In Eminger’s defense he was slowed by a groin issue at the time.  When the final rosters came out I was very happy that Michael Sauer was kept on the club because I thought he earned but I was vocal in my displeasure over Eminger being kept around as I did not believe his performance to that point warranted it.  I bashed the move as mainly a cop-out to the waiver system that instead of risking losing him they kept him on the club and sent down the two defenders left in the competition that were not subject to waivers; Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.

Early in the season my frustration continued as Eminger was still playing poorly yet he was being put in the lineup over Matt Gilroy and/or Michael Sauer, but then Emminger started to play a simple and more physical game that helped him in his positioning.  The solid play he was starting to display was earning him more and responsibility on the club and then came the injury to Michal Rozsival that would sideline Rozi for 9 games.  At the time Rozi was arguably the second best defender on the club for the early season and I saw his loss as a huge void for the Rangers.  The coaching staff turned to Eminger to fill that void and other than a few hiccups he filled in the top four role very well in the absence of Rozi in all facets of the game.  When Rozsival came back into the lineup, like a good soldier, Eminger went back to the third pair having done his job well and once again being paired with Michael Sauer.

Following the return of Rozsival I stated numerous times on this blog that the play of Eminger during Rozsival’s injury would allow for the Rangers to drop Michael Del Zotto down in the lineup or sit him to let him regroup and work on his game.  Yesterday much of the talk in Ranger world during the day was about how MDZ was a healthy scratch for last night’s game against the Senators, which was the right move, but that move never gets made if not for the presence, play and faith the team has in Eminger right now.  That faith is no misplaced either as Eminger currently ranks number second on the team in blocked shots and third on among the defense in hits while only Michael Sauer has less giveaways than Eminger among the defense.

Last night Eminger was injured during the game and is being reported as day to day with a back strain hopefully Emmy will be back quickly the blue line needs you.

As someone who I believe justifiably bashed Eminger when he was playing poorly I must also praise the excellent job he did in not only proving his worth in terms of a roster spot and dressing for the team but he has become an invaluable member of the blue-line so I will gladly eat crow for my early criticisms of Emmy and hope that he keeps his up.  In an offseason where many moves were praised it might just turn out that a trade that was mainly under the radar was the best move of all.

What Was/Will Be the Rangers Biggest Mistake In the Off-season?

With the completion of last night’s game the New York Rangers are now 30 games into their season which is no real milestone, but a nice round number and a pretty good sample size by which to judge some players and how they have performed.  Instead of talking about the team as a whole or one individual player I want to take a look back at the most recent off-season which by all accounts was considered a good one for Glen Sather and company.  Obviously with the number of moves a team makes in the off-season there will be those that succeed and those that fail.  Today’s topic is about the failures and which one is now or will go down as the biggest failure for Rangers management.

As I said for the front office the moves have been widely seen as good whether it be in free agency with signing Martin Biron and giving the team a legitimate backup goaltender or trading away something basically useless in Voros and getting Steve Eminger who has played better than certainly I expected in being a legit top 4 quality defender of late or in seemingly getting another steal in the second round with Christian Thomas.  On the other end of the spectrum we have those that look to have no panned out or that something that directly could have happened instead appears to be better or at least further along.

Video: Tortorella "Don't Grind Me" On Carkner; Admits D Struggled; Praises Top Line

Daily Recap: Rangers Win Ugly; MDZ Scratched; Carkner Blood Incident; Drury Prospal On Mend, Good Thing?

After having the last three days off following a disappointing effort and result against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday the Rangers returned to the ice today against the same foe.  The game was not much prettier than the last go round, but the result was certainly better as the Rangers got a much needed two points by virtue of the win. Sauer Atones For Early Mistake With Game Winner To Lead Rangers to Ugly Win discusses the game in its entirety from the key plays to the best players and even the bonehead ones that nearly cost the Rangers the W.  Good gritty win for the team in a game that really the fitting result would have been a loss for each based on quality.

From during the game there is Video: Boogaard vs Carkner fight in which both guys landed some punches but Carkner landed the best one and possibly broke Boogey’s nose.  More importantly than the fight itself was the disgraceful act committed by Matt Carkner after the fight when at the very least he simulated flicking blood at the New York Rangers bench. Video: Carkner Flicks Blood At Rangers Bench? Suspension Coming? has a clip of what Carkner did and while it is unclear if there was actual flicking of blood or if it ever reached the bench it does not make the act itself any less reprehensible.  I fully expect a suspension of at least the two games handed out earlier this year for the simulated sex act by James Wisniewski against the Rangers and Sean Avery.

In terms of news before the game the big news concerned the Rangers lineup both for tonight and for the future in terms of returning players from injury Rangers Lineup News: Michael Del Zotto Healthy Scratch; Gilroy In; Prospal and Drury Updates detailed the Rangers deciding to finally allow struggling second year defender Michael Del Zotto to sit and watch for the game to see if that approach would help him fix some of his struggles.  In his place Matt Gilroy got back into the lineup.  Also there were updates on what exactly Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal are able to do right now and when they might be able to return to the lineup.  Check it out to see my thoughts on the Del Zotto move and those updates.

Speaking of Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal this morning I took a look at the following question: Are the Rangers A Better Team Without Drury and Prospal? The question itself has a number of important angles in terms of talent on the club but also the roles each player has carved out and how the returns might change the way some players have been to this point in the season.