If there’s one problem that has plagued the Rangers longer than the broken power play, it’s a lack of depth on defense.
You’ll never confuse Steve Eminger with a Norris Trophy candidate, but the 29-year-old has provided tremendous support for New York’s top blueliners over the last three seasons. Whether Eminger was asked to sit in the press box or absorb major minutes in the stead of an injured member of the rearguard, he has shown up ready to do his job. You can’t ask for more than that from a guy that made $750k last year. Read more »
As some of you may have noticed, the Rangers were awful on the power play again in 2013.
One of the simple fixes suggested by many has been to bring in a guy with a cannon point shot. That’d be a nice luxury to have, but the truth is that there are very few players in the league as effective at Zdeno Chara at breaking Ryan Callahan’s limbs calmly holding the blueline in the offensive zone while intermittently directing 100+ mph slappers through traffic at enemy goalies. New York has no one capable of doing that – in fact Dan Girardi probably has the hardest shot on the team, which is likely the sole reason John Tortorella has stubbornly deployed him on the man advantage in recent years – but few teams do.
Give me a puck mover like Boston has apparently found in Torey Krug over that point blast any day. Krug may have just enjoyed the best five-game stretch of his career, but he also single-handedly transformed one of the few power plays in the league worse than the Rangers into a high octane unit that converted 33% of its chances against the world’s best goalie. The Bruins already had Chara’s legendary rocket, but it was Krug’s heat-seeking shot, speed, decisiveness and poise with the puck that gave the Bruins a new dimension. Read more »
Let’s be clear about one thing, Del Zotto is a top-four defenseman in this league. He’s a top-50 guy, which puts him in the upper echelon of second pairing defensemen. He’s not perfect, he’s not going to do well against the top scorers in the league, but he will be able to hold his own. That said, the pairing of Del Zotto/Girardi has never worked. It didn’t work two years ago, it didn’t work last year, it won’t work this year.
A lot of noise has been made about how coach John Tortorella deploys his defensemen. Most of this is due to the coach playing five defensemen during last year’s playoff run, but some new noise has been made recently when Steve Eminger was benched for half of Game Four. But a lot of this is just noise, and the Rangers don’t even have a defenseman in the top-five in playoff ice time among defensemen.
In fact, only Dan Girardi is int he top-ten in ice time, averaging 26:53 of ice time per game, good for seventh highest in the playoffs. You read that correctly, not a single Ranger averages over 27 minutes of ice time. Next on the list –as expected– is Ryan McDonagh, who averages 24:57 of ice time, good for #17 on that list. This makes perfect sense, as this is the Rangers top defensive unit, and they should be getting a good portion of the minutes. When you have stud defensemen, you play them.
Last night, Marc Staal was a last-minute scratch from Game Four, forcing Steve Eminger back into the lineup. In Games One and Two, Eminger got enough ice time to give the others a rest, playing 10 minutes in Game One and 14 minutes in Game Two. After sitting out Game Three (with Staal in the lineup), Eminger played just six minutes in Game Four, and didn’t see the ice after a gaffe in the offensive zone that led to the Caps first goal.
Perhaps that is just a one game benching, much like we had seen with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. But we’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum (see: Bickel, Stu) where repeated gaffes led to barely five minutes of playing time per game. Eminger has seen his fair share of benching, but he has also seen top-four minutes under Torts.
When the Rangers traded Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline this year, the concern was adding more grit and toughness to the lineup. Having already added Ryane Clowe, the attention turned to what Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett bring to the group. John Moore was something of a mystery player. He wasn’t a throw in by any stretch, but he was a player that most of the fan base was unfamiliar with, and thus has no idea what we were getting back in the former first round pick from Chicago (hometown, not drafting team).
During his abbreviated tenure in New York (eight games, to be exact), Moore has been impressive. It’s becoming clear that he is becoming more comfortable in the system and is starting to make some really intelligent hockey decisions to go along with his raw tools. Read more »
Last night’s game was one of the most hard-fought and entertaining games we have seen in the past decade. It was one of the most important games of this season, and possibly the most important game in the Rangers/Islanders rivalry in almost 20 years. This is the type of game where –given coach John Tortorella’s penchant for leaning on his most trusted players– you would expect some of the depth players to see maybe four or five minutes of ice time. That was not the case last night.
Save for Arron Asham, each Ranger player spent the appropriate amount of time on the ice as per their role on the team. Darroll Powe, who is a fourth line player that kills penalties, saw 13 shifts and 9 minutes of ice time. Eight minutes of that was at even strength, and another minute was on the penalty kill. Taylor Pyatt, Powe’s linemate, does not kill penalties. He saw 8:15 at even strength and that was it (I’m discounting the four seconds of PP time for both, as that was the end of the PP for matchups).
In the third period of last night’s shootout loss to the Penguins, Michael Del Zotto caught James Neal with an elbow to the jaw behind the Rangers net (video above). Del Zotto said on MSG after the game that he was trying to brace himself for a hit, but the contact was a bit awkward, as it looked like Del Zotto was already past Neal, and stuck his right arm out.
Del Zotto doesn’t have a suspension history, or a history of dirty plays. As I watch this video (you can’t really watch it in slow-mo, everything happens in real-time, not slow-mo) it looks like MDZ does throw that elbow, but his back is to Neal so it’s hard to say whether he was intentionally aiming for him.
The league will need to make a decision fast, as the Rangers play tonight.
Update: Elliotte Friedman tweets that there will be no hearing for Del Zotto
Del Zotto has been solid lately, much needed by the Rangers
It won’t be a popular topic with many Rangers fans, but Michael Del Zotto has quietly gone about playing some very good hockey since returning from his injury. This return to form is also coinciding with the Rangers recent strong run, which is no coincidence.
Del Zotto’s form has been overshadowed by Ryan McDonagh’s own return to form, Marc Staal’s injury, Rick Nash’s free scoring ways and the partial re-emergence of a powerplay that has begun to make a positive difference once again (finally?). Perhaps this is the best way for Del Zotto. He gets the opportunity to float under the radar, and have the attention focused elsewhere.
In not being blamed for every defensive error committed by the Rangers, and partially forgotten about on the offensive side of the puck, Del Zotto has had the opportunity to play himself back in to form in relative peace and quiet. While other players take the plaudits, Del Zotto has gotten better.
Last night, Roman Hamrlik made his Rangers debut just hours after being claimed off waivers. Harmlik did not register a point, he was not on the ice for any goals, and he only recorded one shot on goal and one hit. But, Hamrlik instantly made the Rangers better. Yes, Marc Staal is out, and Hamrlik pretty much represented the only option. But regardless of Staal’s presence in the lineup, Hamrlik balances out this team.
For weeks now, we’ve seen Torts juggle between Stu Bickel, Steve Eminger, and Matt Gilroy on the bottom defense pairing. Very rarely did any of them see more than ten minutes per game. Last night, Hamrlik played 15 minutes (as did Eminger). With Hamrlik, the Rangers finally have a bottom defense pairing that the coach can rely on. Those extra five minutes means five minutes of extra rest for Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, and Anton Stralman.