Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grabovski Goes Spin-o-rama then Forehand For Shootout Beauty (Video)

The talent of Mikhail Grabovski has never been in question during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs but the production and capitalization on that talent has not always been.  The consistency has been coming of late and tonight he not only scored a goal in regulation play but flashed the talent beautifully on what might be the move of the year. 

During the shootout Grabovski came wide down the right side and drove towards the middle making a relatively late move to the spin-o-rama and from where he was you would have thought he had to shoot it with the backhand, but he did the full spin, pulled the puck back and then lifted over the helpless Conklin on the forehand.  The scariest part of the whole exercise was how easy he made it look.

Video: Tuukka Rask Diving Stop; Did He Top Tim Thomas For Save of Year?

The Boston Bruins fans already had the leader for save of the year with the dive by Tim Thomas against Toronto, but now they probably the top two with the only question being whether tonight's grand larceny by Tuukka Rask or Thomas is the better one.

Pregame: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars

The Rangers kick off the second half by heading out on a two game trip to the Western Conference that kicks off with the surprising Dallas Stars.  The team is obviously hoping for better results than their last two game road trip which was in Florida last weekend and looking to build on the momentum of Zuccarello’s overtime winner.  Both of these teams have exceeded preseason expectations as the Rangers come in 7th in the Eastern Conference with 49 points while the Stars an even more impressive 3rd in the tough Western Conference with 52 points on the year.  The Rangers will put their 13-7-1 road record on the line against a very good 12-6-3 home mark for Dallas.  Coach John Tortorella has repeatedly said this week that it is only going to get tougher from here and matchups like this are what he is referring to.

New York Rangers (23-15-3) at Dallas Stars (24-13-4)

Key Opposing Player: Brad Richards (18-29-47)

Rangers Lineup:

Dubinsky - Stepan - Zuccarello
Avery - Anisimov - Gaborik
Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
Frolov - Drury - Weise

Staal - Girardi
Eminger - Sauer
McDonagh - Gilroy


Scratches: Rozsival (rib injury), Erik Christensen (knee), Derek Boogaard (concussion)

Wednesday night against Carolina was the Rangers most complete game in some time as they got back to the style of play they need to utilize in order to be a successful club.  The team had its best game in terms of puck possession, forecheck pressure and also defensively in terms of limiting the odd-man rushes against.  The Rangers had three effective lines against Carolina and will likely employ the same units in this game. 

The biggest question mark to whether they will have the same kind of game will be if Sean Avery and Marian Gaborik will show the same sort of involvement in the play they had the other night.  With Sean Avery returning to Dallas for the first time since 2008 it is safe to assume that he will ready to go for this one.  You can also assume that the Dallas players who were there during his tenure will ready as well and do not be surprised if Avery ends up having to drop the gloves before the night is over.

The key line for the Rangers in producing offensive chances will once again be the combination of Dubinsky, Stepan and Zuccarello.  For the past two games since they were put back together and really all three in which they were a unit they have done a great job of creating chances, but a little more finish would always be appreciated.  The net should certainly seem bigger to Zuccarello-Aasen after getting his first career NHL goal in the last game and let us hope it sparks him on a hot streak.

Defensively it will come down to Henrik Lundqvist who has been stellar of late and will need to be again against a very dangerous Stars offense.  As usual the burden will be on Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to not only shut down the opponents best players, but to eat minutes like Brodeur eats through the buffet line.  In the last game Staal played 30:10 while Girardi only logged 29:18 and I would not expect any less work as they try to neutralize Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, and James Neal.

While Brad Richards will get the majority of the attention from the New York media due to speculation around him possibly becoming a Ranger as I said there is more to this offense than just one great player.  Loui Eriksson has 44 points, Mike Ribiero 34, James Neal 30, and Brendan Morrow 27.  The Rangers by contrast only have one player with more than 23 in Dubinsky who has 34.  It will be beyond just Staal and Girardi if the Rangers are going to slow this offense down.

Prediction: Dallas 3, Rangers 2

With Rozsival Hurting Ryan McDonagh May Debut On Road Trip.

When Rangers defender Ryan McDonagh was called up earlier this week the coaching staff made it pretty clear the intent was to get a firsthand look at him in practice situations but that he was unlikely to get into game action.  That plan of action might just be adjusted this weekend with Michal Rozsival dealing with an assortment of ailments, most specifically a rib issue that has been plaguing him the past games.  According to Larry Brooks in the New York Post Rozsival the injury to his rib cage area forced Rozsival to did not play for the last 15 minutes of last night’s overtime game against Carolina. 

Steve Zipay reported the following this afternoon, via twitter:
Michal Rozsival hurt ribs in Florida game, twisted muscle again in battle on boards last night, treatment today, will try to skate in the AM
There had already been speculation about Rozsival being a healthy scratch over the past week or so based on a slippage in his play since his return from shoulder and knee issues earlier in the year.  This rib issue might be the perfect cover for the Rangers to give Rozsival the game off while getting a look at McDonagh in the heat of game action, and we all know how much the Rangers love cover stories.

If McDonagh does play I would ease him on the third pair to play with Matt Gilroy, allowing Gilroy to move back to his more natural right side of defense.  What this would do is take Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer who have played well together earlier this season as the second pair on defense. 

As my twitter conversation with Jesse Spector reminded me there will not be a lot of difference in the amount of ice time between the second and third pairs, but I believe there is a huge difference in the level of competition so let McDonagh get his feet wet in the shallower water and then he will swim all on his own.  What Rangers fans should expect from McDonagh is a solid, smart defensive defender who will make the simple play and take the body, which is what this team needs right now and would compliment Gilroy’s aggressive style well.

Video: Artem Anisimov and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen Interviews 1/5/2011

Great to see Artem Anisimov getting more and more confident with his command of English that he would do an interview even if it is with Giannone.

Zuccarello did a great job not only talking about what it felt like but praising the work of Dubinsky and his respect for his parents work to get him there. Funny to hear him classify it as a lucky goal because it took great skill to pull it off.

All credit to @cathybytes for the videos.

Rangers Midseason Award Winners Are...?

Getty Images
After last night's game the New York Rangers are exactly halfway through the 2010-11 campaign and to this point the Rangers have performed above the expectations of many, including myself.  As the team arrives at the middle of their season now is as good a time as any to reflect back on the first half and give out awards for player performance so far.  After 41 games the Rangers currently 7th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 23-15-3.  In order for the Rangers to maintain their current standing as a playoff team and continue to exceed expectations all of the players I mention today will have to continue to play at their high levels and those who have underachieved will have to join the festivities in a more constructive way.  Seeing as how we are at the half way point the winners might be a little more in line with conventional thinking in comparison with those at the quarter pole as the cream does rise to the top. 

Daily Recap: Zuccarello-Aasen Wins It (w/Video); Trades To Fill Rangers Holes?; WJC Update

In a game that from the very start felt like it was destined for overtime the New York Rangers game against Carolina would end up meeting that destiny.  Luckily for the Rangers in addition to Brandon Dubinsky and Henrik Lundqvist the guys that are expected to carry the team on this night it would be the “Norwegian Hobbit” that stood tallest when it was over.  Mats Zuccarello-Aasen would get the overtime winner to make himself lord of MSG for the evening and fulfill another step in his destiny to become an excellent NHL hockey player. 

As a team the Rangers played a much better hockey game from start to finish than they have for a while now and they were rewarded at the end of the night.  The full game story details what went as always including which players stood out most, links to video of the goal and Brandon Prust fight as well, but I need to say something about Dubinsky here.  Zuccarello got the goal and all the attention that will go with that and Henrik was phenomenal again in this game, but if you pick a player that won this game for the Rangers for me it Brandon Dubinsky.  Maybe I feel the need to say that because MSG decided he was not one of the three stars of the game even though his hard work created both goals or maybe it is as acknowledgement of his season.  Tonight certainly was not the first time that has happened this season and with the way that kid is going it will be far from the last.  I will have more to say on Dubinsky tomorrow at least.

It is amazing the way a win like that will make you forget about the struggles of the team over the weekend or any of the weaknesses the team has had in different areas over the first half, but that was today’s topic on the side.  Taking a look back at the first half to see the strengths of the club and where the holes are to see what was the most pressing need to fill and if there was a trade/player out there who could fill the void.  There were needs addressed in both the forward and defensive cores many of which are not new topics, but out of the discussion both in the article and the comments some interesting names to fill those needs arose.  Well worth the time to check it out and throw your voice into the discussion.

On the final day of the World Junior Championships in Buffalo it was very good day for New York Rangers prospects as USA faced Sweden and all three of the USA prospects in the tournament had an impact.  In the game itself Chris Kreider had two goals including this two-on-one goal that clinched the bronze for the USA.  Ryan Bourque had an assist and Jesper Fasth had a goal for the Swedish team.  I full highlights of the game as well as a discussion of how all four of the Rangers prospects did over the full tournament that you can find here.  I did not watch it because I was watching the Rangers game but to imagine the collective mourning in Canada blowing a 3-0 lead to lose 5-3 to Russia and cost them the gold medal makes me smile having watched how they handled their win over the US team the other night.

Onto the videos: