Despite the quality of opposition increasing in the coming two weeks, new signing Anton Stralman still not completely ready (despite playing in his first game the other day), and the continuing absence of Marc Staal the Rangers need to spread the ice time around a little more among the blue line.
It’s absurd that two Rangers blue liners (McDonagh and Girardi) average more than 25 minutes a game with Dan Girardi over 27 minutes per contest. Meanwhile, despite Mike Del Zotto showing solid progression this year he is not ready for the 22(ish) minutes per game he is receiving. Young players can burn out later in the year with so much expectancy on their shoulders, not to mention the actual physical demands, so if Tortorella wants to continue to ride his top 3 so hard, Stralman and Staal may come in and find the rest of the blue line is out of gas.
The Rangers coach needs to show a little more faith in the bottom pair or if they are not ready or able, he needs to turn to Connecticut for alternatives. The eventual arrival of Stralman will help alleviate the pressure on the top players (one assumes) but it still needs to be a healthier spread of ice time. The Rangers blue line has not been bad but it all comes down to the minute munchers at the top. That can’t continue over an 82 game season.
The bottom pair on the blue line reminds somewhat of a few seasons back when the team consistently carried just six defensemen and players began playing like their jobs were secure. Is that an issue here now? Or is Steve Eminger simply that terrible and Woywitka just that inconsistent?
Steve Eminger did an honorable job last season, stepping up in times of need. The Rangers can find out a lot about him if they give him more ice time over the next week or two. If he continues his dire play of this season then he needs to be cut loose. If he steps up and stabilizes his play then he becomes a legitimate alternative.
The Rangers need to spread the defensive minutes for a few reasons; the health and the long term well being of the guys at the top and to find out what they really have at the bottom. You’d rather find out who you can rely on by game 30 than have question marks come April.