Going into a season, it is generally obvious which players the coaching staff will rely on heavily throughout the year. For the Rangers, if you had to pick players that the coaching staff was going to rely on, the guesses would include the usual suspects, plus maybe more responsibility on the third line of Sean Avery, Derek Stepan, and Ruslan Fedotenko. However, due to the rash of injuries the Rangers have faced thus far, a good number of those players are now watching from the press box, waiting for their various injuries to heal. This has forced coach John Tortorella to adjust based on replacement players, and performance this season.
This season, the TOI leaders amongst defensemen are the ones you would expect:
|Michael Del Zotto||24:25|
It’s only been eight games, but it is telling that the pairing of Rozsival/Del Zotto has assumed the TOI leadership positioning. This is likely due to their PP TOI, as they are the primary defensemen used on the powerplay. However, it does go to show that despite certain people’s distaste for Rozsival, he is an integral part of this roster.
The absence of Sean Avery might surprise a few people here, especially with Frolov on this list. However, Avery doesn’t play on the powerplay as often as Frolov, so that accounts for the difference in ice time for the two. The presence of Dubinsky, Callahan, and Anisimov as the top three really does illustrate how much the coaching staff has come to depend on this line at even strength, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill.
Speaking of the penalty kill, nine players average over 1:30 on the kill per game, and five average over 2:00 on the kill:
|Michael Del Zotto||1:39|
What is most interesting about this list is that Fedotenko and Boyle are getting significant penalty kill time. Tortorella seems to rely on four defense and five forwards for the kill, and while his top-four are clearly defined, the bottom-five are all given significant time on the kill. This is also without Chris Drury, who will likely bump one of Fedotenko or Boyle from the penalty kill unit. Both have played fairly well in this role in Drury’s absence though.
As for the powerplay, the Rangers (sans Gaborik) have two clearly defined units, and one clearly defined top unit:
|Michael Del Zotto||5:41|
However, this is going to be subject to massive change relatively soon, as Christensen is slowly finding himself in the proverbial dog house. I am a bit surprised that Fedotenko doesn’t get more powerplay time, especially since he is playing very well at even strength (1-4-5). Considering the bet I have with a Pens fan, more PP time for Fedotenko would me just fine.
As the season progresses, and players return from injury, the balance of TOI is going to shift away from some of the players on these lists, particularly the ones that will be given less responsibiltiy (Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko) or scratched (Christensen). But it is expected for the coaching staff to continually lean on the Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line in all scenarios. On defense, it’s clear that the top-four defensemen will be carrying the brunt of the ice time. That is the troublesome part, as there is only so much ice time they can take before they just get exhausted. That third pairing needs to get better, and fast.