Wednesday, December 19, 2007

17-13-3: We Needed That

The New York Rangers defeated a Pittsburgh Penguins squad that had two days off and played like they were still on holiday. Hank came back from injury and played well, the stars did their jobs and scored and the Blueshirts won 4-0. With three huge, tough games ahead (Minnesota, Colorado and Ottawa), the boys needed a good effort and got one. So after a night of celebrating and with a full day of work ahead in a few hours, I will get right to the observations:

*First off, and most importantly, I have to vent about the lowlight of the evening. Hank blocks a puck that goes high into the air, steps about a foot out of the crease to make the catch, does so, and gets popped by Gary Roberts. The Rangers converge on Roberts and push and shove. Roberts gets two for goaltender interference. Of course, the Rangers didn't score a power play goal but for once, they also didn't give up a single shorthanded chance so I'll call that a wash. Whatever; my point is that when Roberts came out and was back on the ice. Colton Orr harassed him and tried to pick a fight. It didn't work. I won't re-ignite the instigator conversation, but in this case - penalty or not - it shouldn't have mattered. A Ranger, preferably Orr since Mitch Fritz is still on the fritz in Hartford, should have skated over and beaten the hell out of Roberts. The game was in hand and this surly old geezer has the nerve to hit your goaltender, the cornerstone of the franchise, the biggest reason that you have won any games this season, and you don't go over and pummel the bastard? What? There is no excuse; the AARP member should have been sent back to the home with at least, *at least* a black eye. I am not saying he should go Simon the Barbarian on the guy, but getting in his face and knocking his jaw askew should have been the goal. And no one did that ... for shame.

*Ok, onto a happier note: the pregame announcement that Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa were scratched were a sure sign of a good night and it proved to be so. Malik's slow, defensive incompetence could not disrupt the defensive chemistry and Hossa's uselessness could not force the more capable Nigel Dawes out of the lineup. Fantastic.

*So those were moves 1 and 1a by Tom Renney to regain some form of job security. Move 2 was the placement of Gomez, rather than Chris Drury with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. While I still won't decry Brandon Dubinsky and his solid work on that top line, picking Gomez for the center slot worked out as the line played a smoother game.

*That is not to say that Jagr played well. He got on the scoresheet with a second assist that was more coincidence than relevance - being the last Ranger to tough the puck before it went to Straka, who got it to Gomez for the first goal of the game. Jagr was more involved than in last game but its still so many billions of miles from where he was even two years ago that its pathetic.

*And I still call Jagr's captaincy into question. From what I saw, Ryan Hollweg got a misconduct in the third period for standing up for himself after being hit from behind into the boards by Tyler Kennedy. He didn't swing his stick at the guy, didn't slew foot him, didn't do anything but get back in the guy's face and shove him and for that he was handed a 10 minute penalty for his efforts. From my vantage point, Jagr looked unwilling to go talk to the refs, then when he finally went over to hear the explanation for the call, didn't stand up for his teammate and just accepted the wrong call but an officiating crew who had made several dubious calls (for both teams).

*Speaking of Hollweg, I think he played a solid game (no matter what some would say ... Eric). He hit, he drew penalties and was responsible defensively. He even got a shot on net - granted it was right into the penguin on Dany Sabourin's chest, but it was on net, something several other Rangers can't say.

*Fedor Tuytin rebounded from Phoenix with a solid effort. He and Danny G remain the Rangers top defensive pair.

*Rozy, who had been the team's top D the last two seasons, was utterly atrocious yet again. Unfortunately, as the alternative is the return of Malik, Rozy has to stay in the lineup rather than be a healthy scratch and feel shame. But the biggest shame is his apparent loss of confidence and defensive acumen. He has been passing up shots, fumbling the puck and losing his assignments. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think his need to find his game is more important than that of Jagr. This team can find other offensive weapons, it cannot have a weak link on the blueline if it is to succeed.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
2-Scott Gomez - two goals
1-Hank - 18 save shutout

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gomez - he went to the net and shot the puck. What a concept.
2-Rangers defense, other than Rozy - aside from one superhuman effort from Evgeni Malkin in the second period, they were able to keep rebounds away from the Pens and marginalized Cindy Crosby.
1-Hank - shaking off an injury, he didn't have to face a lot of action but his effort was huge and hugely important.


Anonymous said...

Scotty, how can you question Renney's job security? Jim Dolan aside, no professional sports owner would fire a coach who has taken a team that was a bottom dweller for half a decade to two straight playoff appearances. Moreover, last year Renney and the Rangers came within seven seconds of at least taking the Sabres (who many regarded were the East's best team) to a game seven with the possibility of winning in six. Also, the Rangers are two points out of first place in the division with one game in hand, and every player is still playing hard for him. It is absolutely ludicrous to even bring up Renney's job security.

Also, I seriously think that you would rather the Rangers lose a game than have to admit that Gomez, Jagr, and the "underachieving" Drury played well. This is basically because every comment you make comes from a contrarian disposition. You don't want to like any player that anyone else considers skilled. You would rather sit at your computer and praise Betts, Hollweg, and more than anyone, Ortmeyer (last year) than praise any "star" even when they are far more responsible for wins. By the way, I think you are the only person I have ever heard call Drury "underachieving." I wish that I were as "underachieving" as Drury.

Scotty Hockey said...

Ok, I will bite:
This is a New York team that spent huge amounts of money in the offseason to make the team a winner. What have you done for me lately? The coach was 7.7 seconds away from the conference finals but the coach made a mistake (wrong players on the ice) and the team lost. Now the ownership went out and signed the two biggest free agents and the team is not cohesive and not playing any particular system. New York demands/pays for results, if they aren't being seen, then the coaches are the ones who get the ax (see: New York Yankees).

Insofar as your other point, you are utterly incorrect. I would love to be able to say that Gomez, Jagr and Drury were playing well. They just aren't. Jagr was the best player in the world 10 years ago, then three years ago put together a remarkable season before suffering a stupid injury. That Jagr, and the one we have been seeing, are two different players. Drury is -4 and has just 23 points. Frankly, that is not enough from someone making 7.1 mllion dollars. Vinny Lecavalier is making the same amount and has over 50 points.
And I think you should spend more time going to games and reading New York newspapers and less time posting if I am the only person that you have heard call Drury underachieving this season.

The Dark Ranger said...


Woodside Acres said...

Aside from Renney's job security, which I think was more metaphorical than factual, Scotty hits on a lot of good points. To call Drury underachieving is plain wrong. Is he not putting up his typical numbers? Yes. But when has he ever been a third line player? You can't expect the guy to put up bigger numbers (this argument rings true for Prucha) and stick him with third line minutes. You want him to produce? Leave him with Shanny or Jagr. Even better, put Jagr down a line where his current play is suited. When he gets better, than move him up. As far as Rozy, he was terrible as I mentioned in my blog. For all the Malik haters out there, I still contest that Rozsival struggles defensively. P.S with everyone so happy about Malik's benching, why is no one asking the question: "Hey there is a near 3 million dollar guy sitting while a million dollar guy and three million dollar guy play third pairing. Anyone else find this a trifle waste of money?"

Brother P said...

Very happy with the performance last night. I also love the change in lines and hope they work. The problem I've noticed this season for Jagr is he isn't shooting the puck enough. He needs to stop being so pass first. Last season with the shoulder surgery I could understand shooting less but that was last season. SHOT THE PUCK JAGR!

Anonymous said...

Scotty, first of all, I hope you aren't arrogant enough to think that your blog is the only one I'm reading. Moving on, you say that the Rangers spent "a huge" amount of money in the off-season to get star players, but do you forget that the NHL has a salary cap? The Rangers have the same payroll as most other teams in the NHL, so by giving big money to Gomez and Drury, they also had to get rid of some money, so in reality they didn't spend a lot of money, they just moved money around. You can't use the Yankees firing of Torre as an example, because the Yankees DID spend more money than any team on players, so they expect at least to win the divison or a series win every year. Torre did not win either a series or a division last year, while renney swept a team.

You compare Levavalier to Drury, but the main reason the Rangers brought Drury in was for the intangibles, not for how many points he can put up. Drury was a cpatain in Buffalo, has won a stanley cup for multiple teams, while Lecavalier was stripped of his C for not being a team player and holding out on a contract. Don't call Drury an underachiever because of his numbers, I guarantee every Ranger will tell you he contributes so much more that the fans don't see.

Scotty Hockey said...

Ok, MinniMattC:
1 - I am not that arrogant, I just find it hard to believe that you haven't seen anyone else call Drury out on the carpet as his underachieving has been grossly evident.

2 - Even with the cap, the Rangers spend more than 26 NHL teams - - The cap went up, and the team didn't just move money around - they didn't can 13 million dollars worth of players from last season to add Gomez and Drury.

3 - You are correct, no one outside of that locker room can truly say what the Little Leaguer has contributed to team spirit. But judging from the outside, not much as this team doesn't play cohesively and rarely stands up for each other on the ice.

4 - If you want a better comparison for Vinny, how about Gomez? He was signed to put up points and has just 27. Will he improve? Likely, but at the moment, due to his adjusting to the team and Renney's line jockeying, he is underachieving. Just like Drury.

Pete said...

It's funny. Earlier in the week MMC was regaling us on how Jagr deserves to be captain of this team, and now he's saying that the Rangers brought in Drury for his leadership skills and captain experience.

No, Drury was brought in to score goals, help others score goals, and fill seats (another ability that fans tend to overlook, while GMs do not). This year, at his current rate, he is "projected" to score 20 goals and drop 37 assists. While Drury has averaged goals in the 20s over his 8 year career, his last two years have been 30+, last year at 37. The impression was/is that Drury was coming into his own as a goal scorer, while still being able to feed the rest of his line mates. I personally believe that these projections are off, and that his assists will level off much closer to the 30 mark, with goals being about where the "experts" expect.

Maybe Drury isn't grossly underachieving...but he is certainly a disappointment to fans who were lead to believe that Gomez and Drury were going to be everything short of Jesus Christ and Moses (sent to save us all, and lead us to the promised land, if you don't grasp the extended metaphor) for this team.

Which brings us full circle to the real matter at hand - mismanagement by the coaching staff.
Look, there's a problem with this team. Sure, they are only 2 points out of first in the Atlantic division, but, by comparison to the league, only 1 team from the Atlantic breaks the top 10, and that's the Devils in 9th place. Compared to the rest of the league, the Rangers have been playing marginal hockey (ranked 13th of 30). The catch phrase of the year is "they look great on paper." Hell, even the players are saying it about themselves. Let's be pragmatic here. A team that's supposed to be that good on paper but is performing under that mark has issues.

So, if you're going to deny the underachieving play of every member of the team, then the coach HAS to be at fault. If the coach isn't at fault, then it has to be the players. It could even be both. It doesn't seem like MMC wants to place blame on anyone here, and that's the type of attitude that will keep this team from advancing through the playoffs this year, because the coaching staff has its head in the sand too.

I'm possibly the biggest Petr Prucha fan in my section because he's 170lbs soaking wet and plays like he's 220. He checks more people than many of our defensive pairings. But that shouldn't be his role. He should be scoring. He was scoring. And then Renney went and switched up his positioning this season, and while his work ethic had been impeccable, you can tell that he doesn't have a clear understanding of what his place is on this team, and his play is suffering from it. He, sadly, is not alone. Hollweg has been forced to "turn down" his game because he has been labeled a goon and, as seen last night, is getting neutered by the officials. Renney is supposed to define his role and maybe let him know that, on the 4th line, the energy he brings is more important than contributing to the scoreboard, and his job is to bruise more and smarter and let the goals come when/if they can. I don't think his recent benching got that point across, if it was indeed the point at all.

Renney seems to be like a child trying to shove square pegs into round holes.

His job probably isn't on the line, but, you know what, maybe it should be.