Rest the Rangers?March 9, 2012, by
At what stage – if any – should John Tortorella consider resting Rangers for a game or two with the playoffs approaching? It’s a key consideration for the coach as particularly in the recent stretch of games some players have started to evidence wear and tear from the long season, probably because of the way this blue collar Rangers team play the game.
The issue of rest is a tricky one because of the hard charging and getting healthy Penguins (winners of seven straight), the benefits securing home ice advantage throughout the playoffs would provide and, don’t discount organisational pressure/desire toward securing home ice and the associated financial advantages an extra game or two would mean. Points mean prizes folks.
Dan Girardi has looked mortal over the last few games. His turnover that led to Jordan Caron’s goal in the Boston game was very un-Dan Girardi and it may have been the result of mental fatigue. Girardi almost always makes the right decision, the sensible decision. In that instance he misread the play and tossed it through center ice – we saw the result.
That said Girardi isn’t the only one who has begun to look jaded. The team generally has been scrambling a lot, has been handsomely outshot in their recent 1-1-1 streak and look perhaps a step off the pace. This team gets away with it and continues to rack up results because they never give in and the effort level is always high. However, once a tank is running on empty there is only so long even the hardest working team can go on.
Players like Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust don’t voluntarily take a seat. They play through pain so a ‘rest break’ would be foreign to them. If anyone takes a seat it will be because the coach has told them to. Not an easy situation to negotiate.
There could be benefits from any rest, aside from the health factor. If a few Rangers sat for a game or two it might allow the team to give more NHL experience to the likes of Tim Erixon at the back or a final gauge of whether Zuccarello can cut it with the Rangers up front; with injuries in deep playoff runs so frequent having potential call ups recently involved in the NHL could be beneficial; plenty to think about for the coaching staff.
Fantasy hockey fanatics out there will worry about Henrik Lundqvist too. Probably the easiest and most likely position to justify an extended break would be in goal. If the Rangers can maintain a healthy lead in the division heading in to the last week or two there’s a good chance Biron sees a few games more than he normally would – a refreshing change to when the Rangers have had to rely on Lundqvist just to get in to the playoffs. A well rested King come playoff time? Sign me up.