Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rangers drop one to Isles in shootout.

In a game that was mostly dominated by the New York Rangers, the other New York team took away the two points. Derek's recap covers the stats, I'll provide some analysis from my point of view.

- Henrik Lundqvist spent the better part of a month at the beginning of the season bailing the poor Ranger offense out. When the offense was scoring one or two goals a game, Lundqvist stood on his head. Now he has some solid offense behind him (three goals yesterday, but the Rangers in the four goal range recently) and Hank is in a slump. Is that all it is? A slump? Let's hope so. The Rangers threw some serious money at him a month or so ago and it would a shame to have him turn into another Mike Dunham. Maybe he needs to be spelled a little more. Maybe he can't handle the 65-70 game schedule that Martin Broudeur handles year in and year out. Stephen Valiquette has proven to be a solid backup, maybe he needs to start a few more games. No matter what though, March is a month of Eastern Conference opponents for the Blueshirts. Lundqvist needs to get his act together.

- A lot of criticism on Tom Renney for using Michal Rozsival in the shootout last night. It wasn't the 15th round, but the fifth. Renney hadn't yet put out players such as Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery or the secret weapon, Marek Malik. I'll be joining that group of critics, because to me, it just doesn't make sense. Maybe Renney thought that a different approach would throw Wade Dubielewicz off, or that Roszival saw something on the bench that he could try. Maybe Roszy's morale was dipped because of some shakey play recently (he played a good game yesterday, though) and wanted to try and boost it with a shootout goal. Maybe everyone on the bench went into an extreme sneezing fit and couldn't stop long enough to take a shot. Who knows? All that I know is that it was a poor choice. Is there any guarantee that one of the other guys on the bench would have scored? Absolutely not. I do think they had a better chance though.

- In a rivalry game of this calibre, I feel that the Rangers missed some of the energy that Petr Prucha and Ryan Hollweg bring to each and every game. Fredrik Sjorstrum was quiet, almost non-existent. With few penalties, Blair Betts was unnoticeable as well. Colton Orr threw some good hits, and got the crowd going. I have always been a fan of having a fourth line as a checking line. Shut down the opposing line for 45 seconds, throw some hits, have a scrap and forecheck hard. The Hollweg, Betts, Orr line was accomplishing that. Sjorstrum brings an element of scoring that a third line needs. With Ryan Callahan playing like a maniac recently, and Prucha waiting in the wings to get back in the lineup, I feel that you don't necessarily need Sjorstrum.

- Christian Backman started shaky again, but finished alright last night, and didn't even take a penalty. Not one.

- On the Avery front. His agent said that he hopes to continue talks with Glen Sather as soon as the season ends. If Avery continues to play the kind of hockey that he's playing with Jagr now, and if Jagr is resigned, I don't see Sather passing on the opportunity to keep the chemistry that the top line has. They are productive as a unit, and Avery has been semi-successful with every combination that he has played with this season.

I kind of expect a lineup change on Thursday. Callahan and Nigel Dawes are playing out-of-their mind hockey right now, and will be safe. Maybe Prucha or Hollweg gets in on the fourth line. The defense will remain the same most likely, though. Renney might be tempted to keep everything the same, as the Rangers have come away with points in 11 straight games, their best run since 1995-96. We'll see what happens. I'll check in before tomorrow's rematch.

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