Thursday, January 13, 2011

Video: Torts "I'd Try To Break His Ankles" Postgame

John Tortorella is known for having some entertaining press conferences, but his brutal honesty in tonight's presser was something to behold.  When asked about the missed spear call on Staal by Burrows, the coach certainly did not hold back.

“It’s ridiculous,” Tortorella said. “It’s dangerous. The thing that bothers me is how don’t you see it? And that’s what was told to me, that they didn’t see it. That’s a dangerous play on Marc Staal. It’s beyond me how two guys don’t see it. If I’m Marc Staal, I try to retaliate too. I try to break his ankles.”

Good for Tortorella for standing up for his star defender.

Wolski Goal, Lundqvist Shutout Lead Rangers Over Canucks

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
Tonight the New York Rangers made a statement that if they play their game they can beat anyone in this league with their 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.  It takes an effort like the Rangers had tonight when you are trying to beat a team that has not lost in regulation since December 5 of last year, a stretch that lasted 17 games before tonight.
Anyone who says 1-0 hockey games cannot be exciting needs to watch this game and then claim that because it had everything.  There were scoring chances, great saves, wonderful penalty killing, huge hits and suspense to the final buzzer.  This was the best game of the season so far and the atmosphere in the Garden was tremendous as it reflected the effort given by their boys on the ice.
The only goal of the evening would come from the new guy as Wojtek Wolski would score 7:18 into the second period off a scramble in front where Marian Gaborik had hit the post and Wolski cleaned up the rebound for the power play tally.  What will not show up on the box score is the play by Ryan McDonagh that made the power play possible when he stepped up in the neutral zone to intercept a Vancouver pass and then played a beautiful chip pass down the boards to Artem Ansiimov who broke in and gots pulled down leading to a power play.
Other than that goal the story of the night was Henrik Lundqvist’s 31 saves for his sixth shutout this season and the defense the Rangers played.  The Brian Boyle, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust line was phenomenal on both ends of the ice tonight and especially in shutting down the Sedin line.
The biggest moment of the game was when the Rangers killed off a 5-on-3 power play for the league’s number one power play unit during the second period.  The disadvantage started after Alex Burrows got away with spearing Marc Staal in the groin and on the retaliation slashed at Burrows skates and was called for a two minute tripping minor.  To make matters worse with Staal in the box Chris Drury would deflect the puck out of midair over the glass and be called for a delay of game penalty.  Both calls were bogus, but the Rangers did not let that impact them as they killed the 47 second 5-on-3 and then the 1:13 5-on-4 led by Brian Boyle first and foremost.
Henrik was at his best late in the game and finished off a tremendous win.
  • Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust by far the line of the night
  • Dubinsky with tremendous effort again
  • Gaborik had plenty of chances tonight but whether it be posts or failed breakaways he cannot finish for his life right now
  • Wolski gave great effort on both sides of the ice
  • All six defenders played tremendous especially McDonagh and Gilroy in their shifts against the Kesler line which was what many worried about coming in.  People assumed that Staal and Girardi would do what they do but worried about the lower lines hurting the Rangers and those two in particular were great in preventing that.

Alex Burrows Spears Marc Staal In "Nether Regions"; Suspension Likely (Video)

During the second period of tonight's New York Rangers Vancouver Canucks game Alex Burrows used his stick as a weapon jacking it upwards while it was between Marc Staal's legs.  Following the move Staal fell to the ice in obvious and understandable pain. While on the ice Staal slashed at Burrows skates and took Burrows down receiving a two minute minor for tripping.  The fact that Staal received a penalty on the play was not surprising, but that he was the only one getting a call was. One would expect the league to step in and review the play with a suspension for Burrows and his egregious use of his stick as a weapon. 

Video is from the Canucks broadcast.

Video: Why Rangers Can Win Cup with Don LaGreca and Dan Rosen

Video starts out strong citing the goaltending, coaching and system, but then they question whether young defense and grinding style will burn out the team. interesting watch.

Rangers Willing To Listen On Marian Gaborik?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If there is one thing about the New York Rangers surprising season that stands out as the most disappointing it is the lack of impact Marian Gaborik has had.  Injuries have been a huge roadblock, especially to Ryan Callahan, and Alex Frolov never came close to what was expected of him, but neither match Gaborik for me.  Expectation levels play a large role in disappointment levels and with Gaborik I was expecting impact more on in line with last season.  On the surface his 23 points in 30 games seems productive though the amount of impactful games does not match those numbers.  The combination of expectations and the level of effort the team has made especially to get him going adds to the disappointment in its failure to happen.  In in an interesting twist to the story today it seems like the team might be willing to not only stop trying, but cut bait.

Per Larry Brooks this morning the Rangers would be willing to listen to offers for their star winger between now and the February 28 trade deadline.  The move is not one where they are actively shopping the 28-year-old sniper in the second year of a five year deal, but as Brooks says, “the fact No. 10 is not untouchable halfway through his second year in blue is all you need to know about the depths of his disappointing season.”

The best line of the article for me concerned this incessant need by many to seek excuses for Gaborik when Brooks wrote, “But not this year, not so far, and unless Gaborik himself wishes to change his story and admit to playing hurt, it's fruitless to seek excuses for a player who has never offered one.”

As I wrote ten days ago when I broached the subject of trading Marian Gaborik, he is clearly the Rangers most skilled offensive player.  Gaborik at his best is clearly better for this team then whatever immediate return they would get, but this team needs that version of Gaborik again.  Even though suggested the team consider moving Gaborik I am surprised to see this report so soon after the team made the move to acquire the talented yet underachieving Wojtek Wolski for Michal Rozsival.  There were obviously cap savings that played a role in the Wolski deal, but in its largest frame the move was clearly done with that intention of getting Gaborik going again.  The best scenario for the franchise obviously is one that sees Gaborik return to his form as one the elite snipers in the league.  This happening would push the Rangers to the brink of contention this season and in the future.  The duo of Gaborik and Wolski will certainly get some time together to try and find one another's top form, but if the team either slumps or continues to win without Gaborik being a significant contributor look for the rumblings about moving Gaborik to grow.  That said I would not expect a move if the team is in contention unless it brings back a significant piece that can contribute immediately.

Injury News: Callahan Not Cleared With Stick; Christensen No Brace?; Boogaard Still Suffering

Update: Per Andrew Gross in his pregame meeting with the media John Tortorella projected the return of Callahan to be following the All-Star break. Along with that there was an update on Prospal who is reporting no swelling in the knee in this latest attempt to get back and that the return of Boogaard this season is seen as unlikely.  Check out Rangers Rants for more details.

Original Story:
Per Andrew Gross, Rangers injured right wing Ryan Callahan was not cleared to hold a stick following his examination on Tuesday night.  There is no official update on his timetable but one should expect that this ends any hopes of Callahan making it back into the lineup before the All-star break.  Answering my query as to whether that was a good assumption, Mr. Gross replied Callahan was likely out until then and reiterated that the full eight weeks would place a Callahan return at February 9.
This is obviously a blow for the Rangers for their heart and soul guy continue to be out of the lineup, but as I said this should not be unexpected in that he was expected to miss six to eight weeks and the excitement of many when they heard about Callahan skating again meaning he would be back sooner was more hopeful than anything else.
In other injury news Jesse Spector reports that Erik Christensen was in the building walking around without a brace on his injured knee.  In a follow-up Mr. Spector is clear to point out not to read too much into the lack of a brace for Christensen as it might have been for treatment purposes and not that the brace is no longer necessary.
As Dave discussed yesterday it is yet to be seen what role, if any, Christensen will have on the club when the healthy bodies return to the lineup, but getting him healthy as soon as possible is in the best interest of the Rangers even if it is as a spare forward or trade piece to a team that is seeking a potential offensive boost and shootout specialist.
Also the reports on Derek Boogaard still do not have him as without symptoms so expect him to be out for significantly longer if he even returns at all.

Leadership Dictates Drury Step Aside; Elevate Callahan, Letter Dubinsky

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
When Chris Drury signed with the New York Rangers on July 1, 2007 the expectation was they were getting a very good two way forward that was known as a great leader and a clutch performer.  Chris was all of those things his first year and with the departure of captain Jaromir Jagr to the KHL following the season on October 3, 2008 he was named the 25th captain of the New York Rangers.  I personally was very happy with the decision to make him the captain when it happened and even for his second season in New York, first as captain, was satisfied with his play even if it would never match the contract he was awarded.  Now the time has come to reevaluate Drury’s viability as the captain of this hockey club as much for what others are doing and proving they can handle as what Chris is no longer doing.

All season the Rangers have talked about their young core and building around them, having them be the ones that in their maturation lead this team and the reality is they have had that happen to an extent I do not believe they could have imagined all at once.  You have had Ryan Callahan take the reins of the club and lead it as not just an assistant but the captain of the team.  You have had Marc Staal accept the responsibility of his letter and use it as fuel to elevate his own game while leading his defensive core.  It is obvious those two should retain their letters, but what we have failed to see is the leadership that is befitting of wearing the ‘C’ from the man who currently holds that honor, Chris Drury.  Giving up his captaincy to fully turn the team over to the youth would be the best act of leadership Drury has brought to this organization.

I do not want to diminish the intangibles that Chris Drury brings to the team on the ice or in the locker room as I think they are important to the club in significant ways.  What I am saying however is that those things he brings he can bring without the benefit of the title and that the organization long terms would benefit from allowing the young players to assume the mantle of leadership in an official capacity.  Personally I believe the title has become a burden on Drury and shedding off it might help his performance on the ice where he has become basically a 10-12 minute role player instead of the two-way second line player he was signed to be for the club. 

Let Callahan take the ‘C’ and I do not mean next year or when Drury’s contract is over, but right now for he has earned, Staal have the ‘A’ be made permanent instead of this until Vinny Prospal comes back scenario and finally give Brandon Dubinsky a letter with the other ‘A’ as he has earned it on and off the ice this season with his leadership.  I have all the respect in the world for Drury and Prospal for what they bring in the room, and I would expect as veterans all that they bring would be given in the same amount and taken in with the same respect by the others in the room regardless of them having a letter on their sweater.  My hope though is this is not some sort of coup or that the organization has to do it, rather that in the spirit of the leadership everyone praises Drury for showing that he does it in the best interest of the club.

The reality is neither of Drury or Prospal is part of the future of this organization and if you want to truly build around this core give them the keys to the team in every way.  The core has taken the responsibility for the team and is the driving force for why the team stands in the position it does today so now is the time to give them he titles that go with what they mean.

Daily Recap: Offensive Struggles Slump or Bad Sign; Stepan With Gaborik, Off PP Point; Torts Best Coach?

Following last night’s loss today was a day spent mainly discussing the New York Rangers offense and its recent struggles not to create chances, but to finish those chances having led to just eight goals in the six games the team has played in January.  With the Rangers history of offensive struggles anytime that the team goes through a stretch like this there tends to be a higher level of concern than there would be for other teams without that history.  I took a look at why the recent offensive struggles were a cause for that concern and what the team might be able to do to correct the issues they have been having this month.  There are a series of potential causes for the struggles from being just unlucky to having overachieved offensive before and everything in between and hopefully against the Canucks Thursday night the team will make all those causes moot and implement some of those potential solutions in a rout.

Speaking of their next game and the struggling offense at practice today the Rangers made some changes both in their even strength lines and their power play personnel to try and spark such a turnaround in the results.  The major move in terms of the line combinations was to switch the two centers now having Stepan play with Wolski and Gaborik while Ansimov would move between Dubinsky and Zuccarello.  On the man advantage the change was to take Derek Stepan off the point where he struggled on Tuesday night and move him back to a forward on the unit.  I analyze how each of those moves might impact the Rangers offense as well as had a discussion about the whether or not Sean Avery belonged on the fourth line following many fans complaining about how he was demoted following his three straight solid performances.

Also on the agenda was this growing talk concerning John Tortorella and the coach of the year race.  There are links to the various high profile hockey writers that peg Torts as their winner for the Jack Adams at the midpoint of the year and I analyze what the case for Tortorella winning the award is.  The case is a compelling one with all the injuries, young players and overall talent level to be where the Rangers currently are and I believe he should be given serious consideration for the award, but do not think he should be the winner right now.  Check out the details of the case and who I would give the award to inside.

Finally in the videos there was the response to last week’s Price pose when Fleury returned the gesture in kind.  Bet the NHL would love to see that in the playoffs.