Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hoping For Offensive Spark Rangers Reuinite Christensen With Gaborik, Prospal

Looking for a spark to the offense, coach John Tortorella made changes to the lines he used last night in preparation for Game 2 tomorrow night against the Capitals.  Nothing is official at this point, but the general practice for Tortorella is the lines he uses in practice are the ones he uses in games the following day.

Tinkering with the lines is certainly nothing new for Tortorella and certainly should not surprise after the team failed to generate any sense of consistent offense in Game 1. The biggest move was moving Erik Christensen from the fourth line, playing 10:54, to the top line with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal.  Reuniting Prospal, Christensen and Gaborik is a move that Tortorella has played before this season in hopes of rekindling the magic the trio showed at times last season.  

Christensen certainly has the talent and skill to be effective in that role, but his consistency in exercising those abilities has always been the issue with him.  Right now the Rangers would try just about anything to get Marian Gaborik scoring goals, which he has not done in 10 games now.  

Artem Anisimov was moved down to the fourth line with either Mats Zuccarello/Sean Avery and Chris Drury.  Anisimov might start the game on the fourth line, but he will have opportunities early in the game to show he can be a factor during the game and potentially move up the lineup.  The other two lines were Wolski, Boyle, Prust and Stepan between Dubinsky and Fedotenko. 

Rangers Should Turn To Avery In Game 2

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella went with his gut in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals.  The coach played Mats Zuccarello and Matt Gilroy over Sean Avery and Steve Eminger.  One of those decisions appears to have worked, at least for the first game, but the other might need to be rectified as the series progresses. 

Despite the game lasting nearly four full periods of action Zuccarello was only the ice for a mere 7:34 of ice time, with only 3:24 coming after the first period.  If Zuccarello or Avery are going to have their minutes limited to that extent, then it should be Avery who plays.  The fear with him is over the potential for a bad penalty that will cost the team, but right now they need the energy he can bring to the lineup. 

Avery is not the player he was a few years ago and certainly does not play the same style that made him so effective when he initially came to New York, but he could still provide a boost to the lineup right now.  His ability to spark his team and get under the skin of the other team is something that playoff hockey is all about.  The playoff grind is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one and if you have a potential chip that can unnerve the opposition you have to play it.

Tortorella has to forget about the 2009 series and let Avery play as he is capable because he can be a wildcard for the Rangers in the series.  As with all wildcards they can be that in a good way for you or in a bad way that hurts you, but if you are going to nail someone to the bench during the games it should be Avery for the edge he can add and not Zuccarello who has lost confidence in his skill right now.  Zuccarello is still better off back in Hartford playing minutes crucial to his development for the future.