Archive for Artem Anisimov

When you’re a team sitting at the top of the NHL standings there’s usually not much to moan about. The Rangers have been blessed with production and top quality performances from all over the roster including the top six. A team cannot win consistently if it doesn’t get production from its key guys and the Rangers have been getting it. To the grades…

Marian Gaborik. In December we discussed the possibility of whether Gaborik was the league’s best right wing this season. That kind of says it all about the year he’s having. On pace to establish a new career high in goals, Gaborik is flirting with the magical 50 mark. Despite occasional stretches without production he’s been remarkably consistent and blew past his subpar 10/11 season goal total with less than half the season gone. Gaborik is the Rangers best offensive talent and he’s showing it. Fully healthy, he looks explosive; the sky’s the limit this season. A+

Ryan Callahan. The most underrated captain in the league? The best player in the league no one ever talks about? The Rangers captain does it all. He’s 4th in the league in hits, was on course for a 30 goal season and gives 100% every single shift. Seven power play goals, three game winners and a short-hander suggest Callahan produces in every scenario. If there was any kind of criticism of Callahan it may be that he’s taken a few too many penalties this season but that would be nitpicking in a brilliant season for the best Rangers captain in several seasons. A+

Brandon Dubinsky. This is a tough grade because it depends what your expectations are for the talented Alaskan. Dubinsky has had a pretty rough first half even though he’s clearly improved recently. The bottom line however is that for a player making around $4m annually, counted on to be an offensive contributor, a physical leader on a blue collar team then 5 goals and 21 points do not cut it. Nor does the 6% shooting percentage or the meagre 76 shots. Luckily for Dubinsky, the team has great depth and have coped without consistent production from him. Slowly turning his year around, it’s almost like a new addition making the Rangers potentially even more dangerous. C-

Derek Stepan. Please remember this kid is 21. He’s centering the top line on the NHL’s best team (points wise), is likely to comfortably surpass his rookie totals and doesn’t look out of place at all. Stepan was an eagerly anticipated prospect but I’m not sure many people thought he would be this good, this quickly. He still has some developing to do, like his shot selection, but when his contract expires he’ll likely be a lot better financially next time he signs on the dotted line. Stepan is scoring important goals (but not enough), playing a pivotal role in Gaborik’s bounce back year and is growing up right before our eyes. Rarely do you see Stepan make a bad decision and his passing ability is incredible, as we saw once again throughout the Coyotes win last night. A huge future lies ahead. B+

Artem Anisimov. The Russian is another player showing solid progression this year. Unfortunately he has cooled off lately; pointless in eight games. Anisimov has a tendency to be streaky, and he needs to score more goals but a lot of the work Anisimov has done this season has not shown up on the score board. He’s a nice fit on the top line with Gaborik and Stepan and has handled his move to the wing nicely. His play along the boards has improved immeasurably and don’t forget Anisimov is also still young at 23 and figures to have room to develop offensively. If his production ever catches up to his talent then he could be a monster. B-

Brad Richards. Like Dubinsky, critiquing Richards’ season so far depends on what your expectations were. If you judge Richards with the massive contract in mind or place much emphasis on the relatively small stretch where he wasn’t contributing offensively then it may not look that impressive. If you measure the impact his presence has had on the rest of the roster (depth), the clutch goal scoring or the way he has influenced players like Del Zotto then Richards has been a great addition and has had a fine beginning to his Rangers tenure. That said, one of the key reasons for his signing was to help fix the powerplay and he hasn’t managed to help turn it into a more effective unit.

Despite being on course for his first 30 goal season he’s also on course for his lowest points total since 08/09. Of course that total would have led the Rangers over the last few years but it’s a different measuring stick for an elite player. Richards’ faceoff results have been quite inconsistent this year too, much like his production. Richards has improved defensively as the year has developed which no doubt helps his game when not scoring. The best part of Richards’ year is that there should be more to come. Lined up with Callahan and Dubinsky, the Rangers now have two quality scoring lines. When was the last time they could say that? If Dubinsky really has turned his year around, expect more from Richards as a result too. B-

In case you missed it. We also wrote report cards for our bottom six forwards, defense, & goalies.

Categories : Forwards
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Hockey Tactics: Executing 2-on-1s

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If you’ve ever followed a twitter feed during a Rangers telecast, then you’re probably aware of the attempts at “color analysis” that often take place. Now I’m not one to call out the preponderance of errors from the Joe Micheletti’s to be, but I do cringe at some of the faulty finger pointing.

To alleviate some of this we figured it’s about time we get back to basics and open up our hockey systems playbook. Today we will focus on executing 2-on-1s, since they often produce plenty of tweets that will read, “OMG! Dubi should have shot the puck!” or “Why the **** did Richards pass?”

In today’s NHL, an odd man situation is often a team’s best chance to score, thanks to an ever increasing sophistication to team defense & penalty killing. That’s why it is crucial these rushes be executed to perfection.

The most important aspect to getting a good quality shot on net in these situations is reading the defender. First you have to read the defender’s body position. Is he cheating toward you or his playing the pass? Defenders are taught to take away your “time and space.” This means if he’s cheating towards you, then his goal is to force you wide and eliminate your shooting angle. You also have to be cognizant of the defender’s handedness. Is his forehand facing you or is his backhand? His stick angle will tell you if he’s playing the shot or the pass.

For example, in this image below Cally and Dubi are on a 2-on-1 rush that ends with Cally putting a soft wrister right into the keeper’s belly. Looking at the photo and his options. Do you think he made the right decision?

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
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Is Gaborik League’s Best?

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Marian Gaborik is on course for 50 goals this season. How impressive is it? Well in the entire history of the Rangers organisation you can count on one hand the amount of players that have reached that milestone as a Blueshirt. If he gets there it will be a hell of a feat.

Pointing out that potential milestone is just one way of acknowledging the tremendous year the Slovakian winger is having. Gaborik’s goal scoring exploits and overall form this season this may also a question as to his status among the game’s best. Is the Rangers winger the best right wing in the game this season?

Gaborik is doing so many things right this season. First of all he’s playing a better defensive game and showing a much better (and more consistent) effort to get the puck back. In the offensive zone he’s putting the puck on net as much as possible while he’s very effective on the power play (on course for 13 powerplay goals, which would be his second best return).

Above all, Gaborik is going to the high traffic areas to score a lot of his goals. How many have you seen come from rebounds and right in front of the net? A lot. He’s effective too as his 17% success rate suggests. In short, there isn’t anything Gaborik is doing wrong right now and he deserves to be acknowledged among the best.

When people think of the best right wings in the game people usually think Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Martin St Louis, Jerome Iginla and Corey Perry. Gaborik stands eye to eye with all of them. Perry sports an ugly -11 and isn’t leading the Ducks to any kind of success this season. St Louis is having a solid but unspectacular season in Tampa, while Iginla isn’t the same force he was in recent seasons. Only Kane and Hossa of the aforementioned few are having excellent years offensively. Which brings us to another point in the argument for Gaborik as the league’s best right winger.

Gaborik is doing everything so successfully this season with two kids as line mates. While Derek Stepan is absolutely on his way to forging a fine career and Artem Anisimov is improving every season, Gaborik doesn’t have the benefit of a Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos or Ryan Getzlaf as an elite center as Brad Richards is doing just nicely on the second line. Gaborik doesn’t have a Bobby Ryan or Patrick Sharp on his opposite wing. Yes, Gaborik is part of a line blessed with chemistry and has two very talented youngsters to assist him but he certainly hasn’t the same calibre of line mates (yet) to feed off.

As Gaborik potentially works towards career highs in total shots, power play goals, game winning goals and most importantly total goals the Slovakian star deserves to be – at the very least – in the discussion as the league’s best right winger. He deserves an all star nod and hopefully when he pots number 50 later this season he’ll be deserving of a huge ovation from the Garden faithful.


Tangible Progress – Part One

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I feel pretty qualified (even from afar) to be able to pass judgement on how the Rangers have progressed over the first, now almost third, of the season.  Why? Simple really. We all watch the games but I was there for games one and two in Sweden and I was there for arguably there two stiffest challenges to date against the Flyers and Penguins. In between there has been a lot of development if you ask me. So, without further delay let’s talk Rangers, but in stages. Today, we’ll discuss the kids on this team and how they have done.

What concerned me most prior to – and following – the two losses in Sweden was the depth in the defensive department and whether the lines – and personnel – could mesh in time after a completely disjointed preseason. Its one thing to beat middling European clubs (no disrespect) but it’s quite another to be ready for NHL play with a makeshift preparation.

I also had concerns about some of the young talent (legitimate talent) and whether they were ready or able to grab responsibility. Could this team get more scoring? Could this team compete with the more skilled teams in the league? Could this team progress to the next level?

To all the above concerns, they are concerns no more. I think we can all say with both hysteria and realism, that the Rangers have gone to a next level in their development, regardless of last night’s pretty ugly loss. The best part of it all is the results have been obvious on the eye. They have, as the title of this post suggests being tangible. So, what about the kids?

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Reviewing the 2006 Draft

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Drafts are a tricky beast. It is almost impossible to really evaluate how a team did on draft day, or for several years following the draft. The general rule of thumb is to wait three or four years before really digging down and seeing how a team performed in the draft. Waiting five years, as we have done with this post and the 2006 draft, just adds a little more solid fact to what the results are.

First Round (20th overall) – Bobby Sanguinetti, D, Owen Sound Attack
NHL Stats: 5 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 4 PIM

The Rangers were looking to address the need for an offensive defenseman, and got their man with Sanguinetti who posted a line of 14-51-65 in his draft year with the Attack. He followed that up with two more strong years in the OHL with Owen Sound and Brampton before joining the Hartford Wolfpack. Sangs put up good offensive numbers, but struggled in his own zone. His work ethic and attitude were also questioned numerous times. The Rangers traded Sanguinetti at the 2010 draft for a sixth round pick (Jesper Fasth) and a second round pick (used to trade for Tim Erixon). Even if Sangs did not pan out, drafting him led to the Rangers acquiring two solid prospects.

Result: Bust, but overall outcome still pending.
Players Passed: Claude Giroux (PHI – 21st overall), Patrik Berglund (STL – 25th overall), Nick Foligno (OTT – 28th overall).

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Categories : Draft, Prospects
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Apparently Derek Stepan is part of the Rangers young core. Well, the sun goes down at night if you didn’t already know. Most people that took notice of the 2nd year Rangers’ rookie year will know what kind of a player the Rangers might have on their hands. Anyone that followed his career prior to landing in New York knows that Stepan can handle big games too. The World Junior Championships being exhibit A.

At this stage of his career however, there may be a better question to consider. Instead of whether Stepan is part of the Ranger core (he is – duh); what is his upside both statistically and in terms of roster spot? Has it changed since he burst on to the scene with a hat trick last season?

What is perhaps most impressive with Stepan is a key ingredient required for sustained success in the New York sports world: temperament. Stepan had a poor start to this season – at least offensively speaking. How often did you see him vent his frustration or how often did you see him smash a stick against the boards? Never. Stepan is a grounded individual with vision and a huge dose of skill. I’ll bet you that his approach to the game played a big part in the recent turnaround in his play (and production).

His pass for Marian Gaborik’s first goal against the Jets was a great display of accuracy, patience (allowing the play to develop) and awareness. He knew very well that he had one of the best shooters in the game in perfect position to his right. Derek Stepan makes good decisions. At this stage Rangers fans will be enthused by the depth at center if Stepan and Anisimov continue to grow their game. For the record: given the prospects en route to the big club (Kreider, Thomas, Hagelin, Miller) do not think Anisimov’s future lies on the wing unless he blows the roof off of the renovated MSG offensively.

Derek Stepan could round out as a very nice, high end second line center; a compliment to Brad Richards. For those fans that think that’s not a good place to be or even an insult check out some of the other teams in the league who have had recent success. Having a good one-two punch down the middle is a great recipe for success. Look at the Penguins, the Wings, the Sharks, Canucks – they all have impressive center depth.

Back to the question at hand; what is Stepan’s potential upside? Rangers’ fans should (would?) gladly accept a 50-60 point playmaker with an impressive hockey IQ and defensive conscience any day of the week. That Stepan’s offensive production may be capped because of Richards being ahead of him in the depth chart should be immaterial. Having a great 1-2 punch is what matters most and the way Stepan is going recently, the Rangers appear to be on their way to having a lethal combo on their hands.

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Musings On Duck Day

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Good morning humans. The Ducks are on tap today and after the loss in Sweden the Rangers will be more than keen to even the score, especially when you consider how little offense they mustered in that game. Anyway, it’s a musing’s day so let’s get in to it before the Rangers go duck hunting tonight.

Lauri Korpikoski has 3 goals to start the season and has 5 points in 11 games (after having 40 points last season). The Rangers gave up on the talented Fin too soon; however I’m not sure he’d have ever scored as frequently in NY. The ice time, role on the roster he has and patience level with players is a lot different in Phoenix. The Coyotes can afford to let a player have growing pains (his first year in their organisation the perfect example) whereby in a market like NY that would never be possible.

Tim Kennedy was demoted to the AHL again last night. Anyone still have complaints about his time with the Rangers? He’s a marginal NHL’er.


How frustrating is the loss to Ottawa still? Well, firstly a 5-3-2 record would look a lot better but the extra point would mean a playoff spot rather than looking in from the outside. Every point is critical in Bettman’s parity league. Hopefully the Rangers kick on and don’t end up in a playoff scramble although several teams expected to be in the playoffs have had indifferent starts, no one more so than Boston.

Forgotten Prospect

Chad Johnson; remember him? The Whale and Rangers player was named AHL goaltender of the month for October and thoroughly deserved it. The Whale has had a good start to the year and Johnson has been a huge part of it. Johnson has a 1.69 GAA, .942 save percentage to go with 3 wins and a shutout. He hasn’t been beaten in normal time. However, where does he fit in the organisation going forward? If Biron continues to play well he’d likely be brought back for at least another year and Johnson isn’t a young prospect anymore. His NHL window is closing; it may be closed in this organisation already.

Steve Eminger is -7 in just 10 games. He’ll be sitting as soon the team has the resources to allow a benching.

The Kids Are Alright?

The impressive win against the Sharks may have been more important for the performance of several players than the 2 points gained. Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan played some of their best hockey of the season while Ryan Callahan played the kind of all action game that the Rangers have come to expect – and need – from their captain. Brandon Dubinsky was much improved and all of a sudden Marian Gaborik doesn’t look like he’s taking on the world on his own (offensively speaking). If the supporting cast/core can do their thing then Brad Richards and Gaborik will have much more space and opportunity to do theirs. It all bodes well.

Christensen Sighting

He still doesn’t deserve his roster spot but credit where it’s due, Erik Christensen had a huge impact on the Sharks game. Two excellent assists and generally better play from EC mean the recalled Avery will watch from the stands tonight. The biggest question is can Christensen follow it up with another game tonight? Every indication is that he can’t. Otherwise he wouldn’t be such a frustrating player to watch but maybe the Avery effect will squeeze a little more production out of the skilled center. Competition for places is crucial to success so if Avery’s presence means Christensen earns a regular spot in the line-up that’s fine by me. Key word being earns.

Brilliant Biron

Just a quick tip of the (Broadway) hat to Martin Biron as we close out musings for another week. He’s played in 3 games, has a miniscule 1.38GAA and a mighty .947 save percentage. They are awesome numbers. On the rare occasion the King has a night off can any team in the league be more confident in their backup than the Rangers? With his role clearly defined (he could string together 6 shutout wins and there’d still be no goalie controversy) Biron is comfortable on this team and it shows. His play is a big reason why the Rangers have had a decent start to the year given the issues they have faced. Kudos Marty.

Categories : Musings
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Hallå Musings Day!

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This may be my favourite edition of Musings, even more so than Becky’s fine effort. Why you ask? Because as you read this I am sipping the first vodka and coke on my flight to Stockholm! Hallå!!! That’s hello in Swedish, though I’m sure you could have guessed. Anyway, following a busy few days and an even busier few to come, let’s get to it.

Sean Avery I. I couldn’t start this without mentioning the former Ranger. Waived, gone but not forgotten. Assuming he never plays a game in red white and blue again I’ll think of Avery for what could have been. He could have been a great agitator who made an impact every game but that simply wasn’t the fact.

Sean Avery II: A good impact (a la Wade Redden) or a bad impact (a la Patrick Rissmiller) down on the farm?

Quiet preseason? Doesn’t matter. Have any of you got any concerns about Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Brian Boyle? Thought not. Core players that only poor health could stop productive years.

Kings Watch: Player I’m most excited to watch? Dustin Brown. Not Anze Kopitar, not Drew Doughty. I want to see how physical he really is or whether a lot of his big rep is media talk.

Ducks Watch: I am ridiculously excited to see Teemu Selanne in person. Along with Jaromir Jagr (RIP) he is the greatest scorer Europe ever produced, to this point.

From the limited exposure I had to the pre-season, I thought Brendan Bell looked good enough that he didn’t warrant being waived, especially under the circumstances (injuries).

Dale Weise won’t be missed. I was a fan of the guy but there are plenty of players that can play in the bottom six still in the organisation, and he didn’t stand out in the few chances he got so good luck to him in riot land Vancouver.

Me, all me! To some of you this isn’t much but I’m pretty chuffed (you have that word in the US?) that I get to watch the Rangers 4 times in person in the next 6 weeks. For a Brit-Ranger-fan, that’s pretty damn cool.

I’m delighted Tim Erixon is getting a chance on opening night. I’m distraught the Rangers are apparently looking at Paul Mara though. That ship has sailed folks. He can come back to grow a beard in April though.

Sweden is an expensive place to drink. I am currently not feeling well (doctor actually advised me to stay home)…. but you can be rest assured that I will be doing my damndest to have a damn fine weekend. My wallet is shaking with fear.

Brandon Dubinsky on the top line is the right call. On the current roster he’s the best option with his style. It’s a shame the Dubi-Artie-Cally line get’s split up but if Artem Anisimov carries his form on and Callahan well, plays like he usually does, then whoever ends up on the left (Feds?) won’t struggle. The beauty of this roster is that there is a lot of flexibility.

I’m going to provide some pictures over the next few days of the globe and of Stockholm and any Ranger stuff that’s interesting; if I can get past my technophobia.

  • Prediction one: Erik Christensen will not finish the season with the Rangers.
  • Prediction two: Ryan Bourque will finish the season with the Rangers.
  • Game one prediction: Rangers 4 Kings 3 (calling Gabby for the GWG)
  • Game two prediction: Rangers 3 Ducks 2 (OT) (Wolski with the GWG – don’t laugh)

See you soon peeps; and wish me safe travels. GO RANGERS!!!!

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A Quick Look Ahead

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The Rangers defense did not look good against Zug – an understatement. It hasn’t looked particularly good throughout the European tour in all honesty. So much of that has to do with the absence of Marc Staal which will now stretch in to the regular season. It also has to do with Mike Sauer of course. The Rangers’ defense is patched up and will be for a little while longer and it’s at this stage a few things need to be preached.

  • First of all, the team needs to be allowed some patience. Patience above all for the injured players to get back to full health; the fact the Rangers have a decent stretch without a game after getting back to the US helps Marc Staal in particular. Thanks to this gap between fixtures, it is the right thing to not rush the one critical defenseman on this team.
  • Secondly, another form of patience is required. This is not the easiest of starts for the Rangers. They are entering the season on the back of a gruelling trip, starting in Stockholm against two very good teams and likely with a patchwork defense. Thanks to the MSG renovations they start with a lot of road games. If you offered me, as a fan, a .500 start to the season in the first 8 games I’d take it. This team will get healthy, it will gel and looking at the schedule this team will get some nice home stands to (hopefully) take advantage of later in the year. No panic please, if this team doesn’t have a great record to begin with.
  • Thirdly, let the kids play. If a Stu Bickel or a Brendan Bell or a Tim Erixon or a Michael Del Zotto play significant minutes and the results are mixed don’t worry, they are learning. OK, so Bell is a veteran but the point here is that they have to learn at some point. When you have the likes of Staal and Mike Sauer returning you can afford to hand out some ice time knowing core players are on the way back. Long term, the team will know a lot more about a few of these defensemen thanks to the start of this season. Going forward that is obviously a good thing.
  • Finally with the Rangers defense being banged up, maybe the emphasis will be more on the forwards and given some of their recent performances that is a good thing. Until the Rangers get their main guys on the blueline back it may be a chance for John Tortorella to play a different kind of game. A more offensively inclined one.
  • Looking at the pre-seasons of Artem Anisimov, Mats Zuccarello and Mike Rupp; of the developing chemistry between Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and the relatively promising start by Wojtek Wolski on their left there is a chance here for Tortorella to perhaps let the shackles off, even if it’s just for the first few games. The coach can take advantage of the great form of some of the kids like Anisimov. Let them play.

The Kings and Ducks fixtures in Stockholm are clearly important, but they aren’t critical. After all they are games one and two of a long season. Let’s enjoy them for what they are; a unique start to the year and a chance for the team to develop some chemistry. Don’t worry; Lundqvist will make sure this team gets some points in his home country.

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Artie or Stepan…. Or Both?

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This post is pretty inflammatory as I’m fully aware there is currently room for both players on the roster but depending on how the season goes for both young players (and for some prospects as well) there may be an interesting decision looming for the Rangers in the relatively near future.

Artem Anisimov has developed steadily, if perhaps a little slowly. However, if his pre-season is anything to go by he seems primed for a really impressive season. He is of course in possession of a new contract; confidence from your employers does wonders for your own confidence, in any walk of life. Then there is Derek Stepan, who was at times a revelation as a rookie and seems more mature than his age should allow. Stepan too has had a solid pre-season but his place on the roster (not security, but rather location) seems more in-flux than Anisimov’s.

There is a danger that one of these players could severely out play the other this season, although competition is a good thing. It’s healthy. However, when you consider the spots up for grabs beyond this season maybe the two players are auditioning – to an extent. Captain Ryan Callahan is here to stay, the team have committed long term to Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky and (barring a disastrous year) Marian Gaborik. There aren’t many top six spots to give out after this year especially with the Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan line looking like a keeper, although with John Tortorella that’s never a certainty.

Now, throw into the mix the much anticipated arrival next year of the likes of Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, maybe a Ryan Bourque or Carl Hagelin and given his impressive first camp, JT Miller. Just to name a few. Is it therefore possible that one of Stepan (who really needs to improve his face off skills) or Anisimov (who still needs to add muscle) could become moveable? Could they be rendered unnecessary?

Naturally this is hypothetical at this stage and as discussed, depth and competition for places is a nice problem to have. It’s also the product of good drafting. However it is worth considering that two very, very popular young, home-grown Rangers are playing for their futures, against each other – alongside each other this season. Room for both long-term? Maybe.  It’s just another little sub-plot to consider during the season.

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