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Posts tagged: Mike Rupp

A Classic Winter Classic. The Recap

From the disrespectful attitude towards the Canadian national anthem, to the putrid Orange Flyers Winter Classic Jersey’s, to the terrible NBC coverage – there was a lot not to like today for Rangers fans. Luckily for Rangers fans there was a lot to like about the final score, the determination they showed in coming back to win and yeah, the moral victory in the jersey stakes.

The Rangers were the second best team over the first two periods. They couldn’t impose their game, got little-to-no sustained pressure on the Flyers and seemed to be a step behind the play. They didn’t give up however, had the world’s best goalie in net and once again, found a way to win a tight game. The Flyers couldn’t match the Rangers intensity in the third and their desire to win the one on one battles, so it’s not surprising the Rangers won an oh-so-tight 3-2 affair. What a game, what an ending, what a (Rangers) goaltender.

Let’s start the quick hits backwards, with the ending:

You want the definition of clutch play? 19.6 seconds left on the clock when Lundqvist out waits Danny Briere on the incorrectly called penalty shot to preserve the Rangers one goal lead. Lundqvist was spectacular throughout and that was a fitting climax for the league’s best goaltender on the league’s biggest stage.

The Rangers actually started the game well with Callahan having a great chance to begin the first. They were hard in to the corners and had some good early pressure but they couldn’t keep it up and as stated, struggled to do so until the third period.

You want more examples of the brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist? His early saves on Jagr and Giroux. The one (on Jagr) was patience, standing up to the Czech legend and taking the space away from Jagr. On the Giroux chance he was surprisingly aggressive and made a great poke check which likely caught Giroux off guard. There were other, multiple spectacular stops throughout the game by Lundqvist. Great goaltending. Again.

They weren’t at their best in this game but Anisimov and Gaborik did create some chances. However Stepan had a relatively poor game, his worst in some time. Defensively he was off while he was less visible offensively than his line mates. Anisimov was good on the puck while Gaborik showed off some nice awareness and his usual speed.

Throughout the first two periods the Rangers defensive coverage wasn’t great. One occasion early on, Voracek was wide open on the right hand side but luckily fanned on his shot – no one was near him.

The Rangers also caused several turnovers giving the Flyers some good offensive zone opportunities. There were simply too many neutral zone breakdowns by the Blueshirts (not Blueshits, Mike Milbury).

Before the Mike Rupp show began I had made a note on how Bobrovsky was pretty solid. Then the clock struck twelve and he turned into a pumpkin. Not just because of Rupp’s second goal either. He gave up several juicy rebounds and made a few routine saves look harder than they should have been.

It’s worth noting how carefully the Rangers were managing Marc Staal’s comeback as he had just  3:40 of ice time after one (compared to Girardi’s 10:46) and 9:35 after two. Very un-Staal like minutes but it was the right way to handle him.

  • Thought on Brian Boyle: he had a great hit by Boyle to open the second period –why doesn’t he do that more often? That aside, good in the face-off circle which was much needed.
  • Another defensive concern: despite nothing materializing from it I didn’t like one instance when the puck broke for the Flyers in the Rangers zone and the trailing Ranger (Mitchell) left his man in the middle and migrated toward the puck to help out his beaten team-mate. Had a Flyer got control of the puck he’d have had a team-mate standing in front of Lundqvist completely alone.

The first two periods the Rangers lost a ton of puck battles all over the ice. Credit to the way the team rebounded in the third. The Rangers won much more battles in the last period. A coincidence that they won the period? I think not.

More physicality: Brandon Dubinsky had a nice hit on Bourdon – he’s more effective when he plays a physical game. He was involved in the game winner though and generally played an intelligent game, especially how he handled the puck at times.

  • Schenn’s goal 7:34 left in the second? After Matt Carle threw it on net, there was a big bounce right in front of Lundqvist that created a juicy rebound which a streaking Schenn chipped into the net. It’s hard to criticise Lundqvist given the bounce but Schenn did the right thing by going toward the net. More concern should be how Schenn was left unattended going to the net.
  • My issue on the second Flyers goal? While Del Zotto was caught up the ice pinching (leaving an odd man rush) the winger needed to recognise the pinch by Del Zotto and cover him: it was another breakdown in the Rangers play.

Mike Rupp; by far his best game as a Ranger and not just because of the two goals – but obviously they were huge. Loved the Jagr salute by the way. Following a great pass from Prust, Rupp used Meszaros as a screen to beat Bobrovsky with a neat wrister for his first. That was a terrible defensive play from Meszaros by the way and Bobrovsky was helpless on the goal.

One point the Rangers had a 2-on-0 and Stepan should never have passed and instead taken the shot. One too many passes ruined a great chance which was created from a nice turnover by Gaborik. The botched play was symptomatic of Stepan’s day.

Kudos to Prust for two nice assist’s today by the way. Clearly he can play the game, it’s just been to rare this season from the gritty forward.

Despite having an average game, Brad Richards scored the eventual GWG off a rebound following great work from Callahan and Dubinsky. Richards roofed a rolling puck into the net. Nice finish.

After the Richards goal the Rangers began to finally establish their cycling game down low. For the first time in the game they were able to play their own game. Exhibit A: they had great pressure with about five minutes left of the third controlling the puck, getting lots of shots off and creating  traffic, eating up a ton of clock.

The closing minutes of this game were simply spectacular. The incredibly inconsistent referees attempted to hand the Flyers a tying goal but they couldn’t get it. How? First of all the power play was questionable. Then, as Callahan goes down the ice and gets pulled down, how the referees see a penalty on both the Flyer and Callahan is beyond. Finally, with little evidence to prove McDonagh closed his hand on the puck in a goal mouth scramble they award a penalty shot. Incredible decision making.

Side note: If you hear in the coming days or weeks that Henrik Lundqvist has a new love in his life it’s me. Today’s game hooked me in. I love you Henrik. God knows how I’d react if that was a Cup Final game seven. Henrik; Call me…..

So hey, the biggest stage so far and the Rangers find a way to win again. Tell me you don’t feel good right now, I dare you. This team is for real, far from perfect, but they don’t give in. Let’s enjoy this ride shall we? Oh and big up to the man with a cigar for walking into Philadelphia and guaranteeing a victory. I’m smoking my Cuban right now for you Glenny boy. 

Rupp, Wolski To IR

Following up with the news that winger Mike Rupp will have knee surgery, the enforcer has been placed on long term injured reserve. Also placed on LTIR was Wojtek Wolski, who re-injured his groin Thursday against the Ducks, after sitting out a good portion of the Western Canada road trip with the same injury. Groin injuries are tricky, so his timetable for a return is likely up in the air as well.

With both players on IR –and Marc Staal, the Rangers have some additional cap space to work with when trying to fill holes. We highlighted how Staal’s trip to LTIR made it possible for Sean Avery’s return earlier, but now with additional cap space the Rangers may be able to find some room for someone like Mats Zuccarello or another player with a higher cap hit.

Of course, the Rangers current replacements (ie: Andre Deveaux) have been playing very well as an injury replacement, and the Rangers might not need another replacement yet. If a top-nine forward goes down, then you might see a Zuccarello or a Carl Hagelin be called up.

Rupp To Have Knee Surgery

It looks like Mike Rupp’s wonky knee is a bit wonkier than initially thought. Andrew Gross is reporting that Rupp will undergo othorscopic surgery next week, and a timetable for his return is uncertain. The Rangers had this issue with both Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury last year, as both had lingering knee issues that required orthoscopic surgery. Both players were out the majority of the season following surgery, as it was initially unclear what was wrong with them. This appears to be the same situation with Rupp, as the team (via Gross) has said they have no idea when Rupp will be back.

This could be one of those injuries where Rupp winds up out anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the healing process, and what is actually wrong with his knee. Until then, it looks like Andre Deveaux and/or Sean Avery could be with the team for an extended period of time.

Sauer In, Woywitka Out; Zuccarello Injured?

The big news from this morning is that defenseman Mike Sauer will in fact be in the lineup tonight for the New York Rangers after missing the the majority of the first seven games with a sprained shoulder. That means tha Jeff Woywitka will be the healthy scratch. In other injury news, it looks like Mike Rupp might miss tonight’s home opener with a nagging knee injury. That won’t effect the lineup too much though, if the lines below (per Katie Strang of ESPN NY) are what coach John Tortorella sticks with:

Ruslan Fedotenko-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Wojtek Wolski-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Erik Christensen-Artem Anisimov-Mike Rupp/Kris Newbury

It looks like one of Rupp or Newbury will be the healthy scratch against the Leafs tonight, depending on Rupp’s status. The Leafs are a tough team off to a hot start, and they are always very physical against the Rangers. The assumption with leaving Christensen in the lineup in lieu of some added toughness is to provide Anisimov with some semblance of skill on his line. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Fedotenko plays with the Richards/Gaborik connection, and how long he lasts on that top line. Expect some line juggling tonight if these don’t mesh.

In some AHL news, The New York Rangers Blog has picked up on a Norwegian website claiming that Mats Zuccarello has suffered a concussion as a result of the cheap Adam Mair hit. It is unknown how long he will be out, or the validity of the article itself. So, take it for what it’s worth.

The Inevitable Question: What Happens To The Fourth Line If Wolski Returns?

When news broke of the new lines, specifically with Wojtek Wolski out with an injury, and Erik Christensen centering Mike Rupp and Mats Zuccarello, the outside question was about what would happen should Wolski return. Wolski won’t be out forever, and he is certainly an upgrade over Christensen, but they do not play the same position. In fact, none on that fourth line are true centers, only Rupp has played the position to any success.

For the sake of this post, let’s hope that the top three lines click and don’t need any tinkering. Now that that’s out of the way, we can look at the four players who would compete for the three spots in the lineup, of which three are considered to be wingers. The one center –Christensen– is likely to be the one scratched should Wolski return to the lineup. This is what we would call an interesting situation.

Last season, Christensen won 49.4% of his face offs (over 600 taken). That’s not all that great, and certainly not a reason to keep him in the lineup. As for Rupp, he won 50.6% of his face offs, but only took 162 (82 won) last year. His past years with the Penguins and Devils don’t help much either, as his numbers fluctuated from poor (44%) to decent (51%), but he never took more than 160 in a season. It’s tough to say how well he would do with full time center duties, but he’s an under 50% career in the circle.

In a pinch, Rupp could fake it as a center, but Christensen is really the only true center among those four. It’s interesting to note that Kris Newbury is pretty good with face offs (60% last year, small sample size), and he would likely be the first call up for injury.

There is always going to be the talk of trades, but it’s too early in the season for that. Plus, you never know what happens with injuries. Ryan Callahan is good for an injury a season with the way he plays, so having bodies around isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally, someone plays their way out of the lineup, so this “problem” may solve itself in time.

Was All The Redden Heartache Worth It?

Given all the criticism, cap difficulties and roster management issues that were among the fallout from that horrible Redden deal; were they all worth it if Glen Sather and the Rangers finally learned their lessons?

We’ve discussed many times over the past couple of years how Sather has actually performed admirably since the summer of Wade. Since that summer, Redden has provided the organisation with a highly praised mentor down on the farm – an unexpected bonus and certainly not the desired effect of his signing.

However what is most obvious since the day the Rangers signed an even then fading Redden is the absence of any further crazy deals. Yes, Boogaard’s deal was a little generous but at the time he was an organisational need. Yes, Mike Rupp’s may be a year too long (wait to see how that plays out first) and yes, Brad Richards’ deal is one of crazy length but the Rangers got the best free agent for a great cap hit, took advantage of CBA loop holes and paid less than other teams offered because the player wanted to come to New York.

The point here is that after all the (justified) media and fan mocking of the Rangers for the Redden deal the club has focussed on integrating youth into the line-up and kept on adding prospect depth to the franchise. The club has resisted any obscene acquisitions and has cut away veterans if their play didn’t deserve retention. Maybe Wade Redden’s deal gave the Rangers two things; a great mentor in the minors and a financial conscience? Who’d have thought it?

What A Focussed Sean Avery Means

A successful Sean Avery makes the Rangers much deeper and it’s possibly in everyone’s interest that it happens. That sentence is a fact and believe it or not it’s probably in the prospect’s vying with Avery’s interest too. Why? Competition breeds performance and Avery is a competitor. It’s hard to imagine Avery will give up his roster spot without a fight.

An on-form Avery can be moved around the line up to create favourable match-ups. We know what he can bring this team when he’s on his game (the sand paper, the hustle, the added skill) but it’s the fact he can play effectively on any kind of line whether it be a scoring or checking one that makes him especially useful.

The fact he enters this year’s camp playing for both his immediate and long term future (if there’s even one to play for) should be a good thing. It should act as motivation for Avery and he’s better when there’s a carrot being dangled and this carrot is no Vogue intern-ship. If day one is anything to go by (though in all honesty it’s far, far too early to draw any kind of picture of how camp will go) then Avery’s impressive performance bodes well.

Imagine a fourth line of Avery – Boyle – Prust or even Avery – Christensen – Rupp. There are a million combinations that you could list as a potential fourth line and having guys like Avery and Rupp that far down the line-up highlight the potential depth the Rangers could have. Avery against most team’s fourth lines represents a mismatch in favour of the Rangers – providing he’s focussed and makes the team. How Avery goes through training camp is definitely a subplot to watch.

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.

2011 Offseason: Sather’s Best?

There were many question marks for the Rangers that were pushed to the front of fans’ minds when they were eliminated from the playoffs in April.  Would the Rangers sign all of their key RFAs? Would the Rangers address the gaping hole at top-six center? Would that gaping hole be fixed by Brad Richards? Would they be able to fill holes on the bottom defense pairing? Would any of these contracts be a hindrance to the cap?  Well, three months later, we have answers to all these questions.  And you know what, the general feeling is that the Rangers passed this year’s offseason exam with flying colors.

Starting with the RFAs –assuming Ryan Callahan is signed to a deal, the Rangers signed every key RFA they had to sign.  But to be honest, signing them was pretty much expected, although some of us were waiting on bated breath for official word.  The difficult part was managing to get all RFAs signed to deals that fit under the salary cap.  When all is said and done, the Rangers will have spent approximately $12.5 million on their five RFAs (assuming Callahan comes in at $4.5 million).  That comes to an average of $2.5 million for those five players.  Not too shabby.

Next was Brad Richards. Everyone knew he was Broadway bound.  But what surprised us all was the cap hit of the finalized deal.  The Rangers got their man, their top line center, for a cap hit of $6.667 million, the 25th highest cap hit in the league.  Richards scored 77 points last season, good for 10th in the league, while missing 10 games with an injury.  If you put those numbers into a full 82 game season, that calculates out to 87 points and just outside the top five in scoring.

To make room for Richards, the Rangers made a very difficult decision to buy out captain Chris Drury.  The decision gave the organization an extra $3.3 million in cap space to work with, which was essential in getting Richards under contract.  All in all, the Rangers essentially replaced Chris Drury with Brad Richards.  Also, not too shabby.

Mike Rupp was a questionable signing at the time, but he gives the Rangers much needed grit on the bottom six forwards.  More importantly, he will take some of the enforcing duties away from Brandon Prust.  Rupp may have received a little more money than most would have liked, but he’s not a cap killer.   In addition to Rupp, the Rangers added (re-added) Ruslan Fedotenko and Steve Eminger to round out the roster.

Perhaps the biggest thing that separates this year from all the other years Glen Sather has been at the helm is that there really wasn’t a signing that made you say “what the…?”.  The signing that resulted in a big facepalm never materialized; although we were really close when rumors of the Rangers pursuing Andrew Brunnette surfaced on July 1.

Haters will always hate, and will point to Brad Richards as another “Sather payday”.  However, the difference between this signing and the signings of past is that this filled a hole in the Rangers roster.  The signings of past were attempts to build the roster, which is completely different from filling holes.  The roster has been built, holes have been filled.  The Rangers are still in great salary cap standing, and will end up with a little more than $1 million in wiggle room at the start of the season.

A core of young players, veterans filling holes, cap space, balanced roster.  When was the last time you were able to say that about the Rangers?

New Emphasis on Experience?

Rangers fans for years, clamoured for a re-build. Fans wanted home grown players to provide the core. Well, Rangers fans got their wish. Next season, while the team will be led offensively by expensive free agents like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, the team will be a vastly home grown one.  However this year’s free agency period (but not exclusively evidenced by free agents) has shown a new, greater emphasis on experience throughout the league. Teams are looking to add experience even if it costs them good quality prospects and draft picks. More than ever, teams are looking to win now.

If you are lucky your team will have done it the right way; build a core and add to it. This is what the Rangers have done. They have added 3 cup winners this off season by retaining Fedotenko, recruiting Mike Rupp and winning the Richards sweepstakes. 2 of those players have scored cup winning goals and Richards is a Conn Smythe winner – impressive experience. We recently discussed the differences (and similarities) between the Rangers the Bruins. One of the things we identified was the extra playoff experience the Bruins enjoyed. This summer, the Rangers addressed that. However it is a growing trend around the league.

Example 1: San Jose

The Sharks have been a cup contender for several years and their better players are getting older. Is the Sharks’ window to win closing? With a core in place the Sharks gave up some serious youth when they traded the likes of top prospect Charlie Coyle and young winger Devin Setoguchi to bring in Brent Burns and earlier this week they moved Danny Heatley to acquire Martin Havlat. The Sharks also added veterans such as Michael Handzus and have prioritised the experience Burns and Handzus bring over having patience in waiting for kids like Coyle to arrive. Is this win now?

Example 2: Washington

If you’re a Capitals fan you probably feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. The Caps had a stable of young goaltenders but like San Jose, seemingly began to crave experience over youth. Luckily for the Caps they too benefit from a great core so the risk of prioritising experience over youth is less. Having bagged a surprising return of picks for young goaltender Semyon Varlamov from the re-building Avalanche, the Caps went out and added veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun for the bargain rate of $1.5m. Vokoun gives them a huge upgrade in experience and skill at a position of need for the Caps. The Caps however already began to crave more veteran presence last season when they added Jason Arnott at the deadline while they also acquired Marc Sturm and Scott Hannan – all experienced players.

There are several examples throughout the league to evidence that more than ever experience is back in fashion and highly sought after. Veterans are not an afterthought but are becoming a priority. Simon Gagne is taking his impressive career and big game experience to ambitious LA for two years, Chicago looked for some experience and added it in Andrew Brunette, the Pens added veteran presence with Steve Sullivan, while the Florida Panthers went crazy and added some quality, plenty of quantity and a lot of experience with players such as Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore and Tomas Fleischmann.

It seems the Rangers may be at the forefront of an increasing trend in the league but most importantly, thanks to a solid few years building they are doing it the right way. They’re following a successful blue print. The Rangers have a core in place, they have several more talented picks on their way in the system but have now added crucial experience as they look to take the next step. Hopefully they take that next step next season.