Friday, February 18, 2011

Lundqvist Cannot Save Rangers As Team Mails It In Against Rival Devils

Watching tonight you would not believe that the Rangers were the team that was sitting in 7th place in the Eastern Conference and that the Devils were the team that spent months at the bottom of the NHL standings.  From start to finish the Devils outworked and simply competed harder the New York Rangers and if not for Henrik Lundqvist the final score would have been a lot worse than 1-0.  I thought this was the worst 60 minutes effort of the season and while I do not believe a whole lot in the shot totals, a 15 shot effort has to speak to that to some extent.  The lack of urgency in this game was a startling sight to witness and if it is not remedied they will get blown out Sunday.  This discussion about fatigue here and there is nonsense.  I am not going to waste my time or insult your intelligence, this was not just about a team that was a step slow tonight, this was about a team that mailed it in.
The first period started out pretty even with the first really good chances coming about 3:30 in as Erik Christensen would make a pretty feed to spring Mats Zuccarello, but Johan Hedberg would stop him multiple times.  As the play continued Zuccarello worked behind the net and fed Christensen out fron while Hedberg was down, but Christensen rushed the shot and missed the net.  The Devils would collect the puck and spring Brian Rolston on a breakaway that was turned aside by Henrik Lundqvist. 
The second half of the period saw the Devils utterly dominate the play and if not for Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers would have been down multiple goals.  The last shot the Rangers managed to record was with 7:03 left in the period.  Staal and Girardi had an awful first period and their lack of clearing the crease is only getting worse, especially when compared to how Sauer and McDonagh do it.
The early second period action saw the Devils continue the domination that marked the end of the first.  Sauer took an early penalty that the Rangers would kill off.  During the kill Marian Gaborik was out with the second unit and I understand they want to get him more ice, but you cannot put Gaborik out there to guard Kovalchuk’s point spot because he is certainly not getting in the way of those bombs.
Marc Staal’s rough night got worse just after eight minutes into the period as he failed to keep the puck in and the right point and when he tried to recover he stumbled down, which allowed Kovalchuk to have a clear breakaway and he cashed in by beating Lundqvist low glove side.  The goal at 8:18 of the second gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.  This was the seventh straight game and 11th in 12 that the Rangers surrendered the opening goal of the game.
The Rangers would get a power play right after surrendering the goal, but it generated nothing.  The team had little to no energy until late in the period when Mats Zuccarello would once again get feisty in front of the net challenging Colin White.  Have to love the heart and intensity that Zuccarello plays the game with as he has absolutely no fear.
The third period would see a better effort, where they hit the post in the opening moments of the period, but overall it was still a lousy effort by the team as a whole. 
  • Mats Zuccarello was by far the Rangers best forward tonight, playing with more energy and fire than possibly the rest of them combined
  • Marian Gaborik was invisible and only made to look worse by how dominant Kovalchuk was
  • Vinny Prospal’s skating is getting worse as the games go on, not better.  The team is simply asking too much of him and I would not be surprised to see him take a rest soon.
  • Staal from the opening shifts had no legs tonight and yet he still was sent out there 27:53.  This has to stop or he is going to be toast the final 10 games.
  • Sauer and McDonagh were the best pair once again
  • Gilroy played better tonight than he has of late as he started to jump in the play more
  • Lundqvist was excellent in this one despite the result

Video: Mats Zuccarello Aasen Thanks Norwegian Fans

Rangers rookie Mats Zuccarello took some time out of Casino night earlier this week to send a message to all the Norwegian fans who have been supporting him so strongly as he adjusts to the North American game and the NHL.  I also want to send out my thanks to the all the Norwegian fans who have come to the site to read about my take on the Norwegian Hobbit and his work with the Rangers.

Rangers/Trade Deadline Chat

Kris Newbury Sent Back To CT Whale

According to the AHL transactions page, the New York Rangers have sent forward Kris Newbury back to the Connecticut Whale today.  The move was expected as Newbury was called up to take the place of the hurting Wojtek Wolski, but Wolski was able to play last night, which left Newbury as a healthy scratch.  In the end it was a tough break for Newbury, but I would take him being the first recall this time as a sign that if any injuries happen in the near future, ie before Fedotenko returns, it will once again be Newbury who comes up.  That can always change depending on which player is hurt and the role they need a callup to play, but this was a good sign of confidence in Newbury.

Stick salute to Dave Shapiro at Blue Seat Blogs for finding this first.

Grachev Showing Signs Of Developing, Will the Rangers and Fans Be Patient Enough To Wait?

Among New York Rangers fans there has been a great deal of frustration with 20-year-old prospect Evgeny Grachev.  The expectations levels were simply too high based on his performance in the Ontario Hockey with the Brampton Battalion.  There was this idea that he was going to come into pro hockey as a 19-year-old and dominate, forcing his way onto the Rangers NHL club where he would score a number of goals.  When that did not happen last year the groans began and they only intensified to start this season.  Reality is there were known flaws in his game before he turned pro last season and they were exposed in the AHL.  The willingness of many fans to give up on a talent like Grachev because he is not NHL ready does not surprise me, but shows how expectations cloud the judgment and patience that players are afforded in their development.

Today on A.J. Atchue has a great feature on Evgeny Grachev's development in Hartford and how now, a year and a half into his professional career, he is learning what it takes to be a professional player and having his all-around game round into NHL form.

From Atchue's piece: 
Grachev, who turns 21 on Monday, stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 222 pounds, offering a towering presence wherever he is on the ice. Harnessing that size and strength and combining it with the ability to create offensive opportunities has been a work in progress, but he's beginning to show signs of turning the corner.
"He's certainly a strong skater. He has a big shot, and he's strong on the puck," said Rangers Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld, who also serves as GM of the Whale. "He's starting to develop a complete game, which is one of our goals with him. He was a big scorer in junior, and he's worked hard at becoming a more complete player."
Grachev certainly was off to another slow start this year, but after a torrid January he has already surpassed last year’s goal total of 12, with 13 goals in 48 games this season.  In speaking to his all-around development he has gone from a minus 13 last season to currently playing at a team leading plus 11.
"I think he's made great strides in the past month and a half here," Whale coach Ken Gernander said. "All kids develop at a different rate, and sometimes the guys with physical traits such as Evgeny have to work on doing things a little quicker when they get to the next level. They can't rely so much on their physical skills where maybe they were able to get by at lower levels."
The real key to the change in Grachev’s game over the last couple of months has been Gernander using him on the penalty kill as it has kept Evgeny more involved in the game and allowed him to showcase his overall skill level.  It will be interesting to watch to see with most of the Whale are back in Connecticut with the Rangers getting healthy if Grachev can keep up the strides he made while they were gone and he had to be an offensive force for the team.  The signs are positive and in no way should the organization of the fans give up on this kid just yet.  Development is different for each prospect and for a fan base that cried out for young players and a youth movement the willingness to toss him overboard because he is not ready immediately is disconcerting to me.  It is that sense of urgency that had him rushed in the first place and now he is just catching up to where he should have been right now.  While I am willing to give Grachev more time there is still pressure on him though as he is being passed by other prospects in the system and more are on the way, so he will have to continue showing development or his chance may slip right on by.

Video: Christensen Pulls a Forsberg, Zuccarello Pulls Magic Hobbit In Shootout

Video: Tortorella "We've Got Some Balls"

Coach John Tortorella had another classic press conference moment tonight when talking about the tenacity and bounce back ability of this New York Rangers club, he was not shy in saying, "we've got some balls."

Watch the full press conference: