Sunday, January 2, 2011

Video: Cam Janssen vs. Krys Barch Brawl Fight Of Year Contender

St. Louis Blue Cam Janssen and Dallas Star Krys Barch are no strangers to fighting one another as they have squared off numerous times before, but tonight's bout might not only top all the others they have had but be the best fight of the year.  The best part other than the huge blows they threw and landed on one another would have to be Janssen literally asking for Barch best shot (1:01) and then at two different times (1:11, 1:22) it appears they nod in agreement to let one arm throw hay-makers and then switch hands.  Classic brawl.

Video: Torts Post-game: Livid About Bad Penalty; Won't Talk About MDZ

As usual Torts was entertaining in his comments.  Thoughts on the loss of Fedotenko were 100% accurate and you noticed the things he does a lot more when he was out than you otherwise realize when he plays.  Thought Avery did a decent job with Boyle and Prust in the 3rd.

Agree it was a bad penalty by Weise as any penalty in the offensive zone, but that penalty was not what cost the Rangers the game and to talk about kids working through things all season and then bench him the rest of the night after it is, pick an adjective. 

Find it interesting that he did not want to talk about Del Zotto without watching the tape but unprompted felt the need to praise Gaborik's play.  Maybe nothing to it, but seemed like a sort of give back for singling him out last night.

Rangers Outplayed By Panthers; Vokoun Stymies Any Rally Hopes in 3-0 Loss

The Rangers certainly did not start 2011 in the way they would have liked with this Florida trip as they only come away with one of four points and while there was the positive battle and finding a way to get a point in last night’s game tonight there was no such positive takeaway.  The team once again tried to rely on a big third period to bail them out after a bad first, decent second and assumed that since it was a lower level team they could get away with it.  Tonight the magic was not there and give a lot of credit for that to Tomas Vokoun.  Vokoun would make 32 saves on the night including a couple of robberies on Prust, Dubinsky and Zuccarello to name a few.  If Vokoun was anywhere other than in Florida with the Panthers he would get the recognition he deserves as a top goaltender in the league.

For the Rangers after hoping against hope that last night’s late tying goal would spark their offensive star, Marian Gaborik it was not there today as he was mostly invisible in the game and on his best chance of the night he frankly choked the play off the side of the net.  We can rehash all the talk about if he is hurt or pressing or whatever you like, but he has to be better than he has been.  Performances like the last two nights, even the goal are why I felt the need to discuss whether the time has come for the Rangers to at least think about trading out their star winger. Gaborik obviously was not the only one this weekend as plenty of guys have failed to make their presence felt in this game and both games, but he is the star so he gets more credit and more blame than he might deserve.  

Overall the Rangers are going to have to be better if they want to hold on to all the work they did to this point in the season because some teams behind them are starting to figure it out and it will only get tougher from here.  All the guys who have played well will have to maintain and those who have not need to show up as the injuries are really starting to catch up the club which frankly has been lucky of late with the light schedule.

In game thoughts:
The Rangers awful play in the first periods is becoming an alarming trend at this point.  They were dominated by a team that on paper is vastly inferior, but had much more desire to actually play the game.  If not for Martin Biron they would have been trailing instead of tied at the end of one. 

If their play was not bad enough in its own right the number of guys who were coming up injured after  blocking shots only made it worse.  Of all of them Ruslan Fedotenko was by far the most serious when at 12:21 of the first period he blocked of Brian McCabe drive from the point off his hand, and in a true testimony to his toughness Fedotenko would get back up, stay on the ice and continue going down to block shots for the rest of the shift.  He would not return for the rest of the game, but after the game it was announced it was not broken, but a bad bruise, so that is good news.

The second period was only marginally better than the first in terms of energy level, but they were still outplayed by a mediocre team.  The Panthers would strike first when David Booth would put home the goal off a scramble in front that ended with Martin Biron on his back with Radislav Olesz on top of him.  Biron complained for goalie interference and he was certainly bumped but as the replays showed it was his own defender, Steve Eminger, who pushed Olesz into Biron. The power play goal for Florida made it 1-0 Florida 11:32 into the second and was only their 12th goal in 125 chances with the man advantage. The score would remain 1-0 the rest of the period. 

The Rangers were still pretty flat early in the third when it appeared at least momentarily that Florida had scored a second goal on another scramble play in front.  The play would be reviewed and determined that Stillman did kick the puck in so no goal at 3:23 of the period.  Suddenly after more than two periods of boring play once the non-goal occurred the game was suddenly end to end chances.  The Rangers had some great chances for Prust, Zuccarello and Gaborik had a wide open net off a beautiful pass from Steve Eminger that Vokoun had no chance on but he flubbed it off the side of the net.

At 8:50 of the period Chris Higgins made a beautiful defensive play then steamrolled up the boards into the Rangers zone, toe dragged the puck and Michael Del Zotto I guess thought he was playing D sliding passed him and then Higgins actually finished.  If he had made moves like that when he was a Ranger they never would have traded him.

The Rangers would get more chances, but could not solve Vokoun and Weiss would finally add an empty net goal from Stephen Weiss at 18:30 to finish it 3-0.
  • Dubinsky, Stepan, Zuccarello was the best line throughout the game
  • Prust was very good and created chances but could not finish in the final period
  • If Michael Del Zotto is being judged on today’s performance he is going right back to the press box if not the minors as he played tight, scared hockey and still had a number of mental mistakes like pinching with two forwards down low on the puck and the slide way too early on Higgins goal.
  • Biron played well tonight with 33 saves and deserved a better result

Grachev Reminds Us Not To Give Up On Him Just Yet in 6-2 Whale Win

The Connecticut Whale kept their unbelievable run going as in the new year with their new home jerseys they defeated the Providence Bruins 6-2.  With the win the Whale have now won four straight and are an amazing 14-2-0-3 in their last 19 which has vaulted them all the way to second in the division, fourth in the conference.  The fact that the Whale are continuing their hot play despite losing two of their better players in Mats Zuccarello and Dale Weise to call-ups shows just how far this team has come.

The Whale would get on the board early behind Brodie Dupont and Kris Newbury working a pretty give and go move where Dupont fed Newbury along the wall and then streaked toward the net taking the return at the right wing circle and firing it low stick side to make it 1-0 just 3:15 in. 

Tim Kennedy would continue his recent hot play by taking a feed from Devin Didiomete and beating the goaltender short side at 16:08 of the first.  The Bruins would answer quickly as just 1:11 later Lane MacDermid would fire a shot from the point that beat Cam Talbot high glove after Andrew Bodnarchuk won the battle along the wall and fed the puck back to the point.  The Whale as they have done so often in this hot run would answer back quickly as just 1:27 after the Bruins cut it to 2-1 it would be Evgeny Grachev restoring the two goal lead.   On the play Chad Kolarik from behind the Bruins net would feed the puck to a pinching Wade Redden who played a short pass to Grachev in the slot and he would quickly flip it top shelf for his fifth goal of the season.  Grachev certainly was not done; more on him at the end.

After the flurry of scoring to end the first there would only be one tally in the second and it was by the Whale when Jeremy Williams would tally his 19th of the season on the power play.  On the play Wade Redden would have his attempted point shot blocked and the puck would find Grachev in the high slot who would play it back to Williams at the point who would fire it in at 4:05 of the second to make it 4-1.

The Whale continued their push early in the third with a goal from Justin Soryal and after the Bruins cut it to 5-2 on a goal from Jordan Caron the Whale would cap the scoring at 16:48 on a goal from the recently demoted Todd White.  On the goal Grachev would feed Jeremy Williams who wound up for the shot but instead of shooting on the goal he played the shot pass perfectly off the stick of White to make it 6-2.

Now on to Grachev personally, and to say that the time Evgeny Grachev has spent in Hartford over the last two years has been disappointing would be a vast understatement.  Following his tremendous season in Junior for the Brampton Battalion in which he scored 40 goals and had 40 assists in just 60 games the world was expected of the young Russian winger, but he has just not been able to put it together yet in the professional ranks.  The labels like enigmatic and even bust have started to make their way off the tongues of Rangers fans with more regularity and even relative ease, but last night Grachev sent a reminder of what his talent is capable of doing if you do not quit on him.

The most interesting thing I found was over at Howlings, where they do a great job of covering the Whale if you have not already found, was the post-game quotes that talk about how the thing that has Grachev more engaged right now is his use on the penalty kill.  From the linked article:
“I’ve been getting more ice time playing PK (penalty kill), and that helped me stay in the game more,” said Grachev, whose fifth goal of the season was his first game-winner. “Before when we got penalties, you have to sit for awhile, it kind of takes you out of the game, but now I feel like I’m staying in the game more, once I get going I’m staying on the ice and it has helped me a lot. I feel more comfortable the more I play the more ice time I have.”
I have been as hard as anyone on Gernander early in the year but this is exactly the kind of a move a young player like Grachev needs because the biggest knock on him has been his focus so to make sure he is out there more and keeping him engaged in the game will only be beneficial to him.  Right now is a crucial chance for Grachev with both Zuccarello and Weise who had moved in front of him on the Whale roster up in NY he will get more opportunities as was seen with his power play work today and if he continues to produce he will stay there even if other guys return.  The talent is most certainly still in there so before you go giving up on it just yet let’s see if this kind of game can spark more consistency out of Grachev.

Lineup Changes: Del Zotto In, Gilroy Out; Biron Starts; Gaborik Moved Down; Zuke Up

In yesterday's daily recap I speculated that coach John Tortorella would find a reason to get Michael Del Zotto back into the lineup for this evening's game and he is doing just that, so after sitting out four straight #4 will be back on the ice for the Rangers.  In that same spot I speculated that rightly or wrongly and in my opinion wrongly it could Matt Gilroy who is the one who gets punished for the OT play last night and shown the press box once again which it will be.  Why Steve Eminger is automatically gifted his spot in the lineup right now is beyond me as his play has slipped significantly since his own injury a few weeks back.  Hopefully Del Zotto will play well and Gilroy will be back in their next time out.

Many speculated yesterday that today's game appeared to be a prime spot to get Martin Biron back in the lineup and that is exactly what is going to happen.  Biron has not seen action since defeating the Coyotes on December 16, 2010 so he certainly needed to get some work in.  On the year Biron is 6-2 with a 2.43 goals against average and .911 save percentage, so let us hope the Biron who has been very good in all but two of his outings is the one that makes the appearance today.

Tonight's Lines:

About time Gaborik got demoted and putting Dubinsky, Stepan and Zuccarello back together after they played well for their one game together is something worth watching.

Time For Rangers To Consider Trading Marian Gaborik?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Marian Gaborik is the New York Rangers most skilled offensive player without question.  The problem for the team right now is they have a player who seems unwilling to consistently do what is necessary to have those talents make a true difference for his team.  Instead what you have is player with star talent who is playing enigmatic hockey where he will show up for certain games, but then go invisible on other nights.  Worse than that fact though is the fact that a team which is built on an identity of toughness and grit, with a next man up mentality has their most skilled offensive player not fit that mold. 

The beauty of this Rangers team has been the idea that everyone plays for the name on the front and not the one on the back; that all guys get what they earn, but when it comes to Gaborik the same rules need not apply.  We change lines regularly to get him going.  There is no other player on the team we try so hard to accommodate in this way.  We hear excuses for why he might be playing poorly whether they be injuries, confidence or lack of quality with him.  No other player is given this level of excuse and when anyone else struggles it is a statement on them and their quality as opposed to everyone else.

Video: Colton Orr Pounds Chris Neil In Tremendous Fight

The bad blood between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs always makes for some entertaining games and some great fights and Saturday night was no different.  Colton Orr was a busy man on Saturday night as he would end up fighting Matt Carker in the first, and then this tremendous fight between he and Chris Neil in the third period.  Carkner got some shots in, but Orr clearly wins this one.

Daily Recap: Rangers Lose In OT; Torts Calls Out Gabby?; Boyle Team MVP?; MDZ Sits Again; Isles Trade; Crosby Hit

Lots to talk about around the NHL on New Year’s Day though you would not know that from watching NHLN tonight as it seemed only the Winter Classic was played today.  In the world of the New York Rangers there was a game that at least a few of the players decided to show up for, though not enough to pull out a win down in Tampa.  The combination of Henrik Lundqvist and a late goal would let the Rangers salvage a point they really did not deserve from this particular game.  The full game story details what went on during play, which guys I think actually showed up tonight and the one big one who while having a big moment late was MIA far too much.

Following the game during his press conference John Tortorella started off fiery with John Giannone when Giannone suggested that the team was satisfied with getting a point out of the game.  Also in the presser Torts discussed Marian Gaborik seemingly calling him out again to produce more and talking about a possible confidence problem with his star winger.  Check out the linked video and see if you think I am reading his mannerisms the same way you are.

Video: Steckel Levels Crosby; Clean, Accidental Hit or Blindside Head Shot?

At the end of the second period of the Winter Classic tonight Capitals forward David Steckel collided with Sidney Crosby sending Crosby down to the ice where he would remain momentarily and would then be looked at on the bench.  The hit has sparked a debate that seems to depend on where you stand on Sidney Crosby in general as to what you thought of the hit.  Those who hate him want to make David Steckel the early favorite for man of the year in 2011 and those who love Crosby want him strung up for being a dirty player.  Before my take, let's watch some video.

Here's the hit from the NBC and CBC views:



After looking at both videos the NBC one definitely looks worse as from that angle you cannot see what the intent of Steckel was and see Crosby tumble.  On the CBC video, especially the second one it appears that the contact is made as Steckel is actually trying to avoid Crosby and get up the ice to follow the play.  Either way there definitely appears to be some contact between the shoulder pads of Steckel and the head of Crosby on the play, but with his arms down and no intent I do not see the league doing anything about it even though it in actuality is a hit from the blind side.

More amazing to me was that no Penguin really did anything about it after it initially happened as we have seen a lot of retaliation plays in the NHL this season for clean hits on far less important players to the teams involved.