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Posts tagged: Brandon Prust

Rangers/Panthers Recap

The Rangers played a very strong game in another contest that could have easily been a letdown.  The Panthers really hung around in this one behind some solid goaltending by Scott Clemmensen, but in the end, the Blueshirts were too much for Florida, winning 3-2 in overtime.  Onto the bullets…

  • It took the Rangers about 10 minutes during the first period to find their legs, but once that happened they really took it to the Panthers.  There were long stretches during this game that I completely forgot Marty Biron was playing.
  • The Rangers had a huge shots advantage in this one, outshooting the Cats 41-21.  It could have been over 50 if the Rangers could just hit the net a little more.  Obviously, to find major negatives with this team right now is nitpicking, but I just wish they would hit the net when they have a clear lane.  Make the goalie work for it.
  • The Dubi-Richards-Cally combo was the best line on the ice tonight.   They were working down low and moving the puck well.  It seemed like every time they were on the ice Clemmensen had to deal with a puck bouncing around his crease.  Getting garbage to the net is a huge part of this unit’s game and as the Winter Classic confirms, it is quite effective when you can create that kind of havoc in front.
  • Gabby was missing from about the first half of the game, but really came on in the third period and launched that beauty in overtime.  Bad gap control by the Florida defenders on that one.
  • I thought Prust, Fedotenko and Rupp all played tremendous games.  Feds had all kinds of snarl in his performance tonight and Rupp and Prust showed some serious chemistry out there.
  • One thing that played a huge role in the Rangers’ success tonight was the presence of an aggressive forecheck.  Not only does this kind of pressure lead to turnovers and offensive zone chances, but it also tires out the Florida defenders and keeps the puck out of the Rangers’ defensive zone.  It was the main reason the Panthers were held to 21 shots.
  • Speaking of which, another very solid game for the defense.
  • Marty Biron played a solid, if unspectacular game tonight.  The first goal was a beauty, so no fault to Marty there.  The second one, on the other hand, could have sent the momentum right back to Florida.  He got caught leaning/thinking pass and got beat on a shot I’m quite sure he’d want back.  Fortunately, the Rangers held it together and came away with a nice win.  Biron plays such a stoic, calm game, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate him for how easy he makes difficult saves look.  Nothing more you could ask from a backup.
  • As I mentioned before, Clemmensen played a very solid game and controlled rebounds nicely.  I would have loved to see the Rangers challenge him up high more, if nothing else just to change his eye level.  He was the only reason this game made it to overtime.
  • As for any potential bad blood after the Kopecky/Del Zotto incident from the last time the teams met, there was only one notable scrum during this one.  Looks like both teams decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

Right back at to tomorrow as the Rangers travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at 7pm.

Musings: The Final 2011 Edition

It’s a Musings day, the last of 2011 and what a year it has been. The Rangers have given us a lot to smile about toward the end of this year haven’t they? Without further ado, let’s throw ourselves into another post of ramblings

New York Rangers 2011. What do you think of when you think of this year’s edition? I think progress, youth, a bright future and significant change. This team has added quality players like Brad Richards, quality prospects like Tim Erixon and JT Miller and have become a team that looks like it can contend perhaps sooner rather than later. Let’s hope 2012 carries on like ’11 is ending.

It’s the World Junior Championship and that means JT Miller is representing the Rangers on Team USA. So far Miller has a goal and is +2 in 2 games (one win, one loss) for the American team. Being the youngest player on the roster Miller should learn a huge amount during the tournament. In general, it’s becoming a very productive season for Miller who’s having a fine year in the OHL too.

Martin Biron lost a game on Wednesday. That doesn’t happen too often.

Brad Richards is really in a mid season funk isn’t he? I’m surprised the boo-boys haven’t jumped out and questioned the signing yet but it is what it is: a slump and nothing else, even if pointless in 5 games is a rarity for the center.

That said, last year, and many seasons previous, when a big player like Richards slumped there wasn’t people there to pick up the slack. This edition of the Rangers is different. Gaborik has been scorching hot, his line has been consistently productive and guys like Carl Hagelin have provided secondary offense. That’s depth my friends. Richards’ slump simply emphasises it.

Does anyone else think the coach’s comment regarding the Caps’ defensive liabilities was a little controversial? He was clearly frustrated but rarely does he openly criticise the opponents like that. That said, he was right – everyone knows Semin and co. hate going backwards.

I’m not buying in to some people’s suggestion that Dubinsky is back, yet. He’s got a long way to go before anyone can announce his return to being a contributor. If anything he’s needed more now than ever if Richards’ slump continues much longer.

Oh look, another game Brian Boyle didn’t contribute offensively (awkward silence).

So, if the Rangers were to lose to the Panthers Friday and lord forbid, lose the Winter Classic, all of a sudden the Rangers would own a three game losing streak. You just know a bunch of fans would press the panic button. It’s an 82 game season, there’ll be losing streaks. If it happened I’d still be confident in this team going forward.

What’s wrong with Brandon Prust? Are Prust and Boyle’s coinciding disappointing season’s coincidence or do they really affect each other’s games that much?

Question Time:

  • First to make the Rangers: Kreider or Miller?
  • Who will be the Rangers top scoring center this season?
  • Would you rather keep Erixon in the line-up or Woywitka?
  • Is Mike Rupp benchable yet?
  • Sean Avery anyone?

So, just a couple of days left in 2011. Personally, it’s been an interesting one for me – amongst the highlights, seeing the Rangers open the season in Stockholm and forgetting what happened in the Pens-Rangers game at the MSG in November because Dave and I were that drunk. Well I was anyway. 

On behalf of all of us at the blog, Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2012 is a great one for you, me and the Rangers. Here’s to it. 

Brandon Prust’s Decreasing Role – A Good Thing

As has been said countless times on this site; when Ruslan FedotenkoBrian BoyleBrandon Prust is your fourth line, then you have the makings of a contender. Well, at least in Brandon Prust’s case, he is on his way if not already arrived at the fourth line. With such little ice time last night against the Isles (less than 6 minutes) and an ever-dwindling role on the team Prust is nowhere near as relevant as he was last year. However, that is a good thing and if anything just a sign that this team is developing and is deeper than it was the year previous.

Prust fans should not worry however. With less ice time comes less focus, but that doesn’t mean Prust isn’t a valuable player for the Rangers. He’s a heck of a gritty player and will go to war for his team and teammates and he’ll likely be a major factor again this season. But he needs to get healthy and Rangers fans need to realise it cannot be a good thing when the Prust’s of this world are getting 15 minutes a game like he was last year. The Rangers lacked the ability to hold on to the puck last year and part of the reason was the lack of skill on the ice.

Sean Avery has re-emerged, and based purely on the past two games (albeit against inferior opponents) Avery has a legitimate role on this team. Avery is still unique when he plays like he can. He has a healthy dose of skill, is an intelligent hockey player (at times), and is a pest who can bring a physical, relentless style to the game. If the Rangers can have both Avery and Prust firing on all cylinders this season, then my-o-my this team can go places.

Avery, Prust, Fedotenko, Ryan Callahan and even Brandon Dubinsky give this team a boat load of grittiness and effort. Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan, and Artem Anisimov bring the skill and finesse to the table. Combine the two and you have the makings of a perfect blend amongst the forward group.

In an ideal world, Prust (and his line) will get between 8-11 minutes per game and be a physical factor. They’ll harass the opposition and create space for the skilled lines to do their thing. Prust will chip in the odd goal, assist, fight and everything he does but it can only bode well when the top six are playing the important minutes because they are – and will be – the difference makers for this club.

Benching Mr. Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky needs to be benched; he’s been bad plain and simple. A culture is established, as are habits good and bad, at the start of a season. Discussing Dubinsky’s performance isn’t a knee jerk reaction to one grim team performance (in Edmonton) but this ugly, sloppy start to the year has brought about a message that needs to be given to a player that has had an awful start to his season.

I said before the season started that if the Rangers were at .500 after their long, hard start to the year when they got back to New York, then it would be a solid start. However the Rangers are sitting on their 2-2-2 record almost purely because of their all-world goaltender and a few select individual performances. There is almost no consistency, discipline or consistent work ethic. No one encapsulates all that more than Brandon Dubinsky. I called for a benching a few days ago and Brandon Prust got the treatment for a period, and rightly so. Prust reacted in a positive, productive manner.

Dubinsky is much more important than Prust in the grand scheme of things. He’s meant to be an offensive leader, he is a physical presence and as a home grown Ranger he is an example to a large part of the young squad. Dubinsky is an emotional guy; maybe it’s time Tortorella lit a fire under Dubinsky and got him going. Make no mistake, Dubinsky isn’t the only player that warrants the dog house treatment – unfortunately there are several deserving candidates but an example needs to be made out of an important player. Is Dubinsky an important player? Absolutely and his new deal and elevated status is causing his goalless start to be discussed around the league.

Back to the beginning of this post; back to culture and habits. The Rangers need to right some of the wrongs while they still can. They need to make sure players are held accountable and the players need to know that only consistent work ethic, energy and application will suffice. The Rangers have a ton of young ability but it’s not all the type of ability that can simply ‘skill’ their way to victories. Without the Rangers work rate, desire and hunger night-in-night-out this team can’t succeed. It starts with the likes of Dubinsky.

Prust’s Tricky Situation

Despite a great season last time around, when Brandon Prust became an integral (albeit surprising) Ranger there could be some difficulty finding an ideal spot for Prust on this year’s team. Prust is obviously going to make the side; after all he became a dangerous penalty killer last season as well as a fearless competitor. However, his role this year is somewhat complicated by the fact he still hasn’t been cleared for physical contact and won’t be until the Rangers hit Europe – meaning the gritty winger won’t have had an ideal pre-season whatsoever.

His line mates from last season – primarily Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko – will have a full camp under their belts with different line mates as well as accumulating plenty of ice time. The Rangers have a lot of wingers desperate to make the team out of camp including physical winger Dale Weise, speedy Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello. One of those, if not more, may head to Europe because of injuries persisting on the roster to players such as Prust.

So what if a Hagelin or Weise finds great chemistry in the bottom six, especially with Prust’s former line? Again, to repeat, Prust isn’t going anywhere. His play last year built up a lot of credit and he’s a great find for the Rangers but he may be moved around the roster if chemistry is built up in his absence. Not an ideal scenario for the fan favourite.

Staal, Prust being held out of scrimmages

Via Larry Brooks, the Rangers are holding Marc Staal out of scrimmages because of lingering post-concussion symptoms from that hit he took from his brother Eric back in late February. Doctors have cleared Staal for contact, but the team is being cautious after the symptoms resurfaced over the summer. John Tortorella will address the situation later today, but Brooks says the club’s top defenseman is expected to be held out of all three North American exhibition games.

I’ll update the post if any more info becomes available, but obviously this is pretty serious. Brain injuries are no joke, regardless of how important the player is to the team.

Update: Torts confirmed that Staal will not play in any of the first three exhibition games, but doctors have indeed cleared him for contact. Staal was diagnosed with a concussion after the hit, then returned to the lineup after passing a baseline test. He started experiencing headaches over the summer, and then passed another recent baseline test. Tortorella says Staal is progressing “very nicely,” they’re just being very cautious.

In other news, Brandon Prust will also be held out of the team’s first three exhibition games after having offseason shoulder surgery. No contact for him for another two weeks.

Mike Rupp – Potential Surprise

Amid the hysteria of Traverse City (and rightly so, given the results so far) as well as the expectancy placed on more fashionable Rangers forwards such as Richards and Gaborik is a man that has come to the Rangers without much fanfare. Mike Rupp could become a good weapon for the Rangers in more ways than one.

Rupp’s first job as a Ranger apparently will be to ease the burden of the enforcer role that has weighed heavy on Brandon Prust’s shoulders. Prust has too often played injured because the man simply doesn’t back down which while being commendable could become counterproductive given his increasing affectivity.

Prust has been a revelation since arriving to New York as a throw-in, but Mike Rupp has the potential to have a similar effect. Blessed with great size and a decent scoring touch, Rupp can play both the physical game as well as contribute on the ice. He has the potential to be another under the radar addition if he pans out well; much like Prust, Fedotenko, and Boyle in recent times.

With all the focus on the Rangers kids in Traverse and the announcement (of the worst kept secret in NY hockey) that Ryan Callahan was to be made captain players like Rupp will have been able to go about their business and prepare for the season relatively unnoticed, something that will benefit players entering the new year.

Rupp’s last two seasons in Pittsburgh resulted in 17 and 19 point seasons, which is pretty solid stuff for someone that in all likelihood will be a fourth liner in New York. Rupp does have potential to produce more, and if he does, he’ll certainly add to the depth of the club. Physically speaking,  Rupp has hit 120 penalty minutes each of the last three seasons so you know he likes to play the game using his massive frame.

Brandon Prust also wasn’t a heavy scorer before he came to New York, but has since flirted with 30 points and become a real threat on the penalty kill.  While Rupp may not be the same kind of player on the PK, don’t rule out a guy that has a 13 goal season and a 6’5 230lb body being used in front of the net on the power play. Make no mistake, Rupp is a massive body and if the Rangers want to ‘go big’; having guys like Rupp and Brian Boyle will certainly allow them to.

The only minor knock on the Rupp signing was the slightly generous contract, but it’s not likely to be a big burden for someone that can legitimately hope to score double figure goal totals each season, given the opportunity. Mike Rupp could be a great, underrated signing and if he comes close to the impact Brandon Prust has had, then he’ll become a great addition and the Rangers will be well set throughout the line-up.

Building the right way, in more than one way

It is clear that over the last few seasons Glen Sather, John Tortorella, and the organisation have stuck to a plan for the future. They have built from within, they have built from the back end out, and they have stuck with youth (for the most part) even in difficult times.

What may be overseen in the impressive and promising rebuild, is the fact that the Rangers have not only drafted well, but have also built to suit a game plan that highlights the physical nature of the Rangers’ squad for the present and the future.

Dare I say it, while Ryan Callahan plays the right way; he is not actually built the ‘right way’. However, looking at the potential roster, you may be surprised to see the Rangers are a very big and physically imposing side, at least on paper.

Tortorella likes to dump and chase, likes his side to play a game that requires a relentless forecheck, high levels of effort, and good play along the boards and in the corners. The Rangers physically, are well designed for this.

Looking purely at the five defenseman on the current roster, not a single one is listed at less than 6’1 or 203 lbs. Looking at the forwards, only Callahan and Sean Avery are listed under 6 feet tall, while only five forwards are listed under 200 lbs – this includes Avery, Callahan, and Brandon Prust. None of that trio will ever be considered ‘soft’ players.

Even looking among the prospects, there are many that boast a good physical presence. Whether it be Fogarty at 6’2, Kreider at 6’3 217lbs, or Yogan and Wilson at 6’3 and 6’2 respectively. There is plenty more size on the way through the system at forward. Indeed, guys like Hagelin and Zuccarello are rarities coming in at under 6 ft.

It gets even more pronounced on the defensive side. Tim Erixon is a big body, Dylan Mcilrath is physically a beast at 6’5, and Pavel Valentenko at 6’2 225lbs, has the physical side to go with his aggressive demeanour. In fact the defense is going to be big for a long time to come. Not a single defensive prospect under 26 (and there are 15 listed ‘in the system’) comes in under 6’ft.

The Rangers – at least on paper – are built the right way, in more than one way. They have had a concept in place and drafted to a plan. This is yet more evidence that the Rangers are doing things efficiently these days.

Improving The Third Line

Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust are two very important pieces of the Rangers heading into next season. Reports suggest the team is also considering bringing back Fedotenko as well. Does that mean one of the most effective third lines in the entire league could be re-united when the Rangers hit the ice in Stockholm? It shouldn’t. Giving Fedotenko a new deal as a reward for a solid and surprising season is a good idea, giving him a two year deal is a bad idea. Giving him ice time ahead of the likes of Carl Hagelin is an even worse idea.

Michigan product Hagelin should make the team out of camp and he should be thrown on the third line (along with likely 3rd line candidates, Prust and Boyle) straight away. He should be put there, allowed to learn and make mistakes without the threat of demotion or diminishing ice time.

As harsh as it sounds, Hagelin is the future of this team, 32 year old Fedotenko is not. What Fedotenko should be next year is an affordable luxury; a useful player on the 4th line that can be moved up and down the line-up when necessary. The Rangers are deep enough to accommodate Hagelin on the third line and deep enough that they can tolerate any potential growing pains. Boyle and Prust are the type of team-first, hard working guys that could really help a guy like Hagelin develop on the fly.

Then there is the balance of the proposed line. Boyle has the size and ability to go straight to the net effectively. We have seen him score goals this past season by protecting the puck impressively and driving forward. Brandon Prust makes any defense stay honest and will hit everything that moves and forecheck with ferocity. What both of these players may lack is pure skill. Hagelin offers more skill, additional goal scoring ability and great skating and would really round out the line. Hagelin offers more of an offensive threat than Fedotenko would.

The best part of this is that it is a line that could stick together for some time. Boyle is only 26, Prust is 27 and the youngster would be Hagelin at just 22. It could be a line with good two-way ability and physicality and could become an effective third line. All three players have defensive ability and play the penalty kill. Concerned about the positions? Prust and Hagelin in particular appear to be flexible positionally so the fact both are listed as left wings should not pose an issue. Fedotenko was also listed as a left wing yet the trio of Fedotenko – Boyle – Prust thrived in 2010-11.

The Rangers have shown a willingness to blood youngsters in the past few seasons and that shouldn’t change next season. Ruslan Fedotenko has earned a new deal but he should not be a hurdle prospects like Hagelin should have to overcome. Hagelin should get the opportunity to make his Rangers debut in his home country and ideally on the third line. What all this discussion about the third line also highlights is the depth the Rangers boast. Players such as Sean Avery haven’t even entered the discussion for the third line, while Fedotenko would be best served on the fourth .

Should the Rangers sign Brad Richards then all of a sudden even Boyle seems destined for fourth line minutes as there is no way (following such a promising rookie year) that Derek Stepan drops that far and one has to imagine Anisimov is more likely a top 6 rather than a bottom 6 player at this point. Good problems facing the Rangers next season one of which is improving the third line.

Wolski, Del Zotto, Prust To Work With Barbara Underhill

Via Blueshirts United, Brian Boyle answered questions from fans yesterday as a part of an offseason fan interaction promotion. One of the questions asked was about his training with Barbara Underhill, if he would be training with her this summer, and if any Rangers would be training with him.  The answer was very positive.  Boyle stated that not only would he be continuing his training with the former Olympic skater, but teammates Wojtek Wolski, Michael Del Zotto, and possibly Brandon Prust will be joining him as well.

The news about Wolski and Del Zotto joining Boyle in the skating training is fantastic news.  Both Wolski and Del Zotto had underwhelming seasons, which has led to a demotion for Del Zotto and rumors of a buyout for Wolski.  Both players are in similar positions as Boyle was at the end of last season, their roster spots in jeopardy barring a significant showing in camp.  As for Prust, his roster spot isn’t in doubt, but imagine what he can do if he improved on his skating a bit?

Saying that the training worked for Boyle is a tremendous understatement, as Boyle quadrupled his output offensively and was a force on the ice.  He went from borderline 13th forward to core piece on the third line.  Del Zotto is a key to the future of the franchise, and if Wolski shows improvement, he may answer the Left Wing Connundrum and provide some support for Marian Gaborik.

*** Additional Note By The Suit: For those of you who are unfamiliar with what power skating coaches teach, a lot of the drills are designed around skating and turning on your edges like inside edge – outside edge crossovers, toe cuts, transitions, etc. The purpose of these drills isn’t just to make you “skate faster,” but to become more explosive while making your stride more balanced and efficient.

As far as Boyle goes, I think his posture was a lot better this past season, as well as his overall technique. His arms didn’t seem to be flailing as much and he looked like he was skating more effortlessly. This is what a power skating coach will teach you.