Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Staal showing poise

It's been a while since I posted. The good pc's been in the shop for over a week and right now, I'm actually on an old machine which works elsewhere. Stop the presses!

In any event, we were at the last two Ranger games- both wins against Atlantic Division rivals which is never a bad time. Lot of fun actually!

In watching rookie defenseman Marc Staal, it's hard not to admire the kid's poise. The former No.1 pick is starting to show what all the hype was about. He's a Staal. Remember?

In place of the injured Marek "Big Bird" Malik paired alongside Michal Rozsival, the 19 year-old out of Thunder Bay Ontario has seen a hike in ice-time moving up from the third pair to top status. Sure, he's gotten help from the solid underrated unspectacular tandem of Tyutin-Girardi who btw are logging 20+ minutes a night. Neither is over 25.

In the Devil game, while Rozsival again struggled, Staal made no glaring mistakes against an aggressive quick forechecking team which generated chances. However, last night was even better. More noticeable was Staal's stickhandling ability to lug the puck out of harm's way and up ice. He was as cool as could be against division leader Philadelphia.

Truth be told, it was by far the Rangers' best game as our blogger Lenny already pointed out last night. But what I liked most was seeing how Staal used his skating to jump into the play. Something that we haven't seen much of in the club's first 13 contests.

In fact, there was one play which stood out where Marc got the puck at a vacated point and took it hard to the net going to the backhand narrowly missing his first NHL goal. If he had converted that, it would've been highlight reel.

If Staal continues to show this sort of maturity, I see no reason why he shouldn't remain paired with the slower Rozsival who needs a quicker partner at this point, especially when he's having a rough go of it. Rozy is probably the Blueshirts' best defenseman. But right now, he's clearly unsure of himself and has not been as sharp in making the right decisions. It needs to be quicker. When he's himself, the puck comes out of the zone easier.

Malik has been whipped up on quite a bit. Sometimes, it's deserved after a dreadful start to this promising Ranger campaign. But before he went down, the lanky positional D had turned his game around. He's still quite valuable because he can log lots of minutes and play in almost any situation. I see no reason why he can't return and team with Mara for now on the third pair until Rozsival rediscovers his game.

I realize the chances of this happening are about as slim as my shot with Shakira. But if our coach can come to his collective senses and team Gomez with two speedsters including Steve's favorite punk Avery who last I checked had a much better resume than the budding second-year Devil antagonist Clarkson, then maybe Renney can conclude that Staal should stay with Rozy for now.

I must also say that Gomez is starting to look like the player they went out and paid a lot of cash for. He's now carrying the puck blueline to blueline backing up the D and finding teammates. Isn't it nice when your linemates are quick enough to be on the same page? I always knew Prucha and Gomez would be a natural combo. Especially when one considers that the affable playmaking pivot worked well with Gionta in The Swamp.

Great move also by the coach to try Dubinsky with Jagr. While the points aren't coming yet for the other promising freshman, he's really doing a lot of good board work with JJ and Hossa. No.68's other two might not have gotten on the scoresheet last night but they couldn't be handled by the Flyers down low which led to two late penalties and Brendan Shanahan's fourth of the season which sealed the victory on an impressive 5-1 homestand. Actually, Shanny's I think came after some great work by Avery.

P.S. That scrap by Avery against the brave Mike Richards was excellent last night. What a way to start it off! P.S. Last I checked, Richards was every bit as skilled as Parise. Yet he's already had at least three scraps this year and centers the Flyers' much improved second line.

Guess they didn't teach fighting at North Dakota :P.

As for the goalie, what can be said which hasn't already?!?!?!?!?! Henrik's the man and unless Pascal Leclaire keeps up this act on a much more defensive oriented Blue Jackets' team, it says in this space that King Henrik will be holding his first Vezina by next June. Let's hope that isn't the only piece of hardware! We did pick him before the year.

If this team really wants to gain respect, coming out with a 'W' against Ted Nolan's gritty hardworking bunch would do wonders at Nassau Coliseum. Especially for their psyche on the road where they've yet to record a win (1 SO loss at Boston).

It should be fun to watch. Here's to the fireworks!

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