The bottom six forwards get a raw deal sometimes. Many base their usefulness on their offensive output, and unfortunately that is just not the role of the bottom six forward. Sure, contributing offensively is nice, but the role of these players is to shut down the opposition’s top lines. They are the ones that do the dirty work, they keep the opposing goons in check, they wear down the opposition.
So based on the above, let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.
Boy did Boyle have some major responsibilities this season. He was generally responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and was given the job of shutting them down. He also was the guy that Torts turned to when he needed a defensive zone face off win. People look to his drop in scoring (11-15-26 this year, a drop from 21-14-35 last year) and they assume Boyle has just been awful. That’s not the case. Boyle started just 28.8% of all his shifts in the offensive zone, good for lowest rate on the team. But yet, he managed to finish 43.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The result: a player that did his job. He handled the defensive zone pressure and set up the Rangers in the offensive zone. Oh, and he was tied with Brad Richards and John Mitchell for second on the team in face off win percentage (51.8%).
In the playoffs, Boyle was clearly getting under the Ottawa Senators’ skin, which is why Chris Neil decided to target him with a head shot. Boyle was one of the most effective Ranger forwards before the concussion, and was clearly not the same after. Mid-season: B/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+.
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The future of Brandon Dubinsky has been talked about to death. It’s testament to the talent and dedication displayed as a Ranger by Dubinsky that his future is as talked about as it is. However, what should the Rangers do? Should they keep him? How does Dubinsky impact the Rangers immediate future?
Revisiting a Rick Nash acquisition this summer is likely but acquiring the Blue Jacket should only be a serious consideration if the package is reasonable and cap space goes back to Columbus. That would make Dubinsky (once again) a leading contender for a move. At the very least, should Zach Parise decide he wants to explore free agency in July you can bet your house that Glen Sather will be inquiring about and enticing Parise to join the Blueshirts.
If either premier talent becomes a Ranger over the summer there will need to be casualties in either (or both) assets or financial space. This keeps bringing us back to Dubinsky and whether his use to the franchise going forward would best be served as a player or as a trade chip.
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Whether you agree with the suspension or not, Brandon Prust will not be playing in tonight’s Game 4 against the Devils. With the opportunity to build a two game lead, the Rangers will be without one of their warriors and top penalty killers. It’s a blow, but not a blow that can’t be overcome. Unlike with Carl Hagelin, the Rangers have a few options readily available to replace Prust for the one game ban.
Option 1: Brandon Dubinsky
This option is the best option for the Rangers. With Dubi cleared for contact and partaking in optional skates, he is on the cusp of returning to action. It has to be assumed that if Dubi can play, then he will play. Dubi would be a perfect fit to replace Prust, as Dubi can slide in quietly to a fourth line role for this game, and ease back into playoff hockey. Plus, if Dubi comes back, the penalty kill won’t suffer too much with Prust out.
Option 2: Insert Stu Bickel at forward
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The big news out of practice today was that Brandon Dubinsky was on the ice in a non-contact jersey. This is great news for the Rangers, who have been missing Dubinsky since he went down with his lower body injury. Dubinsky has been sorely missed on the penalty kill, as evidenced last game when Brian Boyle took a penalty, and Derek Stepan was forced to kill the penalty. Of course, the end result was a Devil’s goal.
There is still no timetable for Dubinsky’s return, but the fact that he is skating is great news. Considering it was his leg that was an issue, him being able to be on the ice and moving around can only be seen as a good thing. He likely won’t play tomorrow, but if all goes well I’d assume he will be back sooner rather than later.
As for the lines from practice, there was one minor change, as Mike Rupp moved up to skate with Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov. Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell, and Brandon Prust were the fourth line.
Artem Anisimov still isn’t playing to the level he has the ability to reach. It is this statement that makes Anisimov both frustrating and exciting at the same time. That all said, Anisimov has provided plenty of big moments for the Rangers this off season and has quietly put together a solid playoffs even if it has been punctuated with poor games and an occasional trip to Hotel ride-the-pine.
A side plot of his offseason may be how Anisimov has pushed his teammate Brandon Dubinsky further toward the exit door. Earlier this season we discussed the potential ‘play off’ between Anisimov and Dubinsky in regard to a future with the Rangers. Both are blessed with skill and ability and both have been productive Rangers yet both have often left you hoping, expecting more.
With the Rick Nash rumours and the apparent inclusion of Dubinsky in the Nash package every man and his dog is aware that inside Madison Square Garden the lust is starting to wear off of Dubi. He’s likely in play and his future is clearly tenuous. He’s not earning his Benjamin’s.
To an extent one could have argued the same about Anisimov. However, the Russian has stepped up (somewhat) this post season while Dubinsky has first been mired in an awful campaign and secondly has now had to sit and watch his teammates work towards a Cup. Dubinsky was poor in last year’s playoffs and one point in seven this time around doesn’t inspire confidence he can do it better any time soon.
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Everyday on Twitter, I see the beat writers giving answers to the same question: Did Brandon Dubinsky skate? The answer has been ‘no’, and the answer will likely be ‘no’ for the forseeable future. Dubinsky is still using his walking boot and has not skated since the Ottawa series. Prior to that, Dubinsky was alternating between second line duties and third line duties (following the injury to Brian Boyle), although this was before Chris Kreider was inserted into the top six.
With Boyle back, and Kreider showing he deserves his top six minutes, the question about the Rangers missing Dubinsky hasn’t been brought up too often. After all, why question something if the Rangers are winning? John Mitchell is doing just fine on the fourth line, and won a key face off that led to Marc Staal’s overtime winner in Game Five of the Washington series. Mike Rupp is playing very well. Ruslan Fedotenko is too.
So the question becomes: If Dubinsky comes back, who would sit? Does the team even miss him?
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It’s a bit of a slow day today. So here are some notes (in bullet point format) from practice, courtesy of Rick Carpiniello:
It is troubling to see that Dubinsky is still on crutches. Makes you wonder how long he is going to be out. At first I thought this could be connected to his stress fracture from last season, but that was on his left leg, not his right. So much for my theory. I still think Dubi plays again before this round is over. It’s the playoffs, he will do anything to get in the lineup.
Welcome to the biggest game in the Rangers recent history, well since the lock out. Those of you who disagree, by all means do so but it doesn’t get much bigger than a do or die game 7 on home ice as the conference’s top seed. Especially with the defending champs and possibly biggest threat (Pens) already out. Musings Time.
Marian Gaborik needs to step up yes, but he hasn’t been that bad. We need more of him, but its times like this that attention is given to the guys like Gaborik and depth guys step up. Exhibit A: Brian Boyle. Exhibit B: Chris Kreider.
Brandon Dubinsky has zero points in six games. Would you like me to remind you how much he earns? What’s the likelihood Dubinsky plays well tonight? I didn’t think so either. See you in a different uniform next October Brandon.
Henrik Lundqvist, Vezina Trophy nominee. Well we’ve heard that before. I just hope the voters take into account the division he played in, his absolute position as most vital Ranger and the fact well, hey… it’s his turn.
The Pens are out. The Bruins are out. The Caps have a goaltending sub plot this April. The Devils and the Panthers aren’t all that scary…. Hey, if this team actually gets past this tricky, awkward Senators team there’s real opportunity to progress. Yes, I am not concerned about the team with Bryzgalov in net.
I wonder how long Brian Boyle is going to be out and how damaging that is to the Rangers (assuming they can squeak past Ottawa).
Respect Time: There is a legitimate chance Daniel Alfredsson, a true modern great of the game, plays his last NHL game tonight at the Garden. Against any other team I’d hope he had a few left in him. Maybe he comes back next year but if he doesn’t…. happy retirement Danny boy.
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So the Rangers lost another heartbreaker last night in overtime. It’s their second loss to the Senators in the series, both coming in overtime. The fan base is on edge, and for good reason. The Senators are a good team, and a team that the Rangers do not match up well against. It’s going to be a stressful series, that’s for sure. But enough of that, let’s get to the musings for the day.
I’m in the process of reading a book called “Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers”, and there was a great quote in the book, from none other than Mark Messier:
“Leadership isn’t about the win, it’s about how you rebound after the loss.”
This statement is more true now, in this series, than ever before. The Rangers have more leaders on this team with Cup experience than the Senators. It’s time for the leaders to take charge. In fact, one of the leaders –Mike Rupp– almost won the game for the Rangers in overtime with his forecheck in the Senators zone. People still rip on Rupp for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it’s the contract, but I get the sense that it’s a feeling of “he doesn’t do anything for this club.” That is so false, it pains me every time I see it. Hockey is more than goals and assists. It’s about dirty work, especially playoff hockey.
Speaking of playoff hockey, is last night’s game what we are reduced to? There were a toal of 12 penalties last night totaling 24 PIMs. Some were legitimate calls, but I can point to two penalties, one per team, that were questionable at best. Ryan McDonagh’s “trip” on Zenon Kenopka in the first period and Zach Smith’s “interference” on Ruslan Fedotenko in the second period were very iffy calls. But such is the life after a dirty first two games. The refs aren’t going to allow this stuff to fly. This is now a special teams series, and that makes most people nervous.
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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Carl Hagelin was suspended (questionably) for 3 games for elbowing Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head during game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Due to this turn of events, the Rangers have lost a key cog in their top line, and one of their biggest speed/forechecking threats.
Chris Kreider was inserted into the lineup in Hagelin’s place for game 3 and acquitted himself well for a pro debut in the middle of a playoff series. By the third period, however, Torts felt that Kreider wasn’t ready to be that guy for the top line and inserted Derek Stepan. The question remains going into Game 4 on Wednesday, who is the right guy to take Hagelin’s spot on the top unit?
Let’s take a look at some possibilities…
- Ryan Callahan- Captain Cally does just about everything for the Rangers, so why not install him on the top line? He could be a huge boon to the forecheck and allow for Richards and Gabby a little more room to operate down low. He also has an unfailing nose for the net, and if those two can generate shots on goal, Cally is a good bet to bang in some rebounds.
- Brandon Dubinsky- Last season’s leading scorer, Dubi would seem to possess the skill set to complement the top line nicely. He has a decent set of hands and can bring some jam to a finesse unit. However, he has had trouble finding the back of the net this season, and has often looked lost between passing and shooting. But, who knows, maybe playing with talent like Gaborik and Richards is just the thing to light the fire under Dubi’s offensive game. Read more »