Posts tagged: Steve Eminger

More Tortorella brilliance

We here at BSB are big fans of John Tortorella. Sure, he’s curt with the media, but we aren’t media, so we really don’t care what he says in interviews. We are more concerned with his on ice decisions, his roster decisions, and how he handles the locker room. This brilliant move covers the third aspect, and it is directly related to Chris Kreider.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC pointed out –during his weekly 30 Thoughts column– that Torts approached the team about the Kreider signing:

Tortorella asked the team to trust the organization’s decision to bring in Chris Kreider so late in the season, knowing it could upset chemistry.

It was likely a short discussion, but it was one of those necessary discussions. The Rangers won 50 games without Kreider, so why would they risk bringing him in for the playoffs? The Rangers were the top seed, and did it all through hard work and playing for each other. What if Kreider didn’t fit in with that mentality? It was a big risk.

Tortorella asked for trust. They gave it to him. Kreider rewarded him.

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Time to insert Eminger

Prior to Game Two, coach John Tortorella made a key decision for his lineup just before puck drop. With Brian Boyle able to play, Tortorella had to decide to sit one of Steve Eminger or Stu Bickel. Both played in Game One, and neither hit five minutes of ice time. Bickel has not been seeing anywhere near the ice time he saw in the regular season, and Eminger has only played in one playoff game since permanently losing his spot to Bickel.

After Bickel’s giveaway led to the Mike Knuble goal on Monday, Bickel saw just one more shift, and it wasn’t until midway through the second period. After that one shift, he didn’t play again for the rest of the game.

So now it is likely that Eminger will be inserted into the lineup. With Bickel in the chateau-bow-wow, it only makes logical sense that Eminger will dress in Bickel’s place. But dressing Eminger comes with some uncertainty as he has not been the same Steve Eminger since separating his shoulder in December.

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Game Seven Musings

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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Replacing Boyle in the lineup

When Chris Neil took out Brian Boyle with a questionable hit on Saturday night, he took out the Rangers most effective forward. He took out their leading scorer, top defensive forward, and top penalty killer in this series. He took out the only player that has managed to get under the skin of the Senators. It’s a big blow to the Rangers, and not a player easily replaced. The best the Rangers can do is find some sort of lineup option that maximizes the return of Carl Hagelin, and minimizes the departure of Boyle. This is no easy task.

Side note: Is it great for the depth of the team to say that Boyle has been the best forward, or is it a sign of weakness in the top six? Tough call there.

The good news, as mentioned above, is that Hagelin will be returning to the lineup tonight after serving his three game suspension for elbowing and concussing Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. The addition of Hagelin adds some much needed speed and puck possession to the lineup, which also helps minimize the negative effects of having their top defensive forward out of the lineup.

This leaves the Rangers with a few lineup options to consider for the game, and while none are perfect, they give the Rangers much needed flexibility.

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Lineup decisions: Kreider or Eminger?

Update 12:40pm: Per Andrew Gross, John Scott has a nameplate above a locker tonight. Steve Eminger, Jeff Woywitka, and more importantly Chris Kreider do not have name plates up. This likely means Scott will be inserted into the lineup tonight.

Original Post: With the news that Carl Hagelin is gone for the next three games, the Rangers have a few decisions they need to make regarding the lineup. The loss of Hagelin is a big loss, as the Rangers lose their fastest skater and a top six forward. That is not easily replaced in the lineup. Rookie Chris Kreider is the best option to fill in for Hagelin, as discussed earlier today, but the coaching staff may be hesitant to insert the rookie into the lineup so quickly.

The reasoning here is that Kreider may not be the best option for a series that has taken a dirty, physical, and nasty turn. Zenon Konopka, Chris Neil, and Matt Carkner have taken liberties with the Rangers, and there might be some retribution.

Since John Scott is likely not the answer the Rangers are looking for, that leaves another option that I mentioned on Twitter. When the club had a few injuries at forward, they left Stu Bickel in the lineup at forward on the fourth line, and inserted Steve Eminger into the lineup on defense. This is still an option for the Rangers, who may want to have some added toughness up front without losing much on defense.

Flexibility is nice, and it’s tough to really say there’s a right and wrong answer here for the Rangers. It really depends on what the coaching staff feels is a bigger need for Game Three. Do they need to replace the skill, or do they need the toughness? Personally, I would insert Kreider, but I don’t coach the team.

A Bickel/Eminger Rotation?

When news broke that Steve Eminger was activated off injured reserve, the assumption was that Stu Bickel would be replaced in the lineup. After all, Bickel played just ten shifts and six minutes in the previous game against the Sabres. However, coach John Tortorella gave us some relatively surprising news, and stated that Bickel would play against the Flyers, and Eminger would remain a healthy scratch for that game.

There were likely many reasons for such a move, and the most obvious one is that Bickel provides some much needed toughness on the blue line with Michael Sauer out of the lineup indefinitely. Eminger is a fine bottom pairing defenseman, but he does not have that snarl that Bickel has. That snarl was much needed yesterday, with the Flyers dressing their goon squad.

What Eminger lacks in toughness, he makes up for in footspeed and overall defensive play. It’s a bit of a give and take when it comes to dressing Eminger or Bickel. Eminger provides some nice overall defense, which is going to be useful against some of the quicker teams in the league. Bickel provides toughness, which is going to be userful against the tougher squads that like to deploy people like Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo.

Eminger’s return gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility that they didn’t have with Jeff Woywitka, and gives Torts some options in his matchups for any given game. It wouldn’t be considered a shocker to see Bickel continue to dress for games like the Flyers, while Eminger dresses for games against smaller and quicker teams. Both have minimal cap hits, so there is no long term damage to the cap in keeping both around.

Plus, keeping them both around creates competition. One will need to be moved when Sauer returns, so keeping them both around creates more incentive to play hard. This is one of those good problems to have.

Eminger Activated Off IR, Likely To Play Today

Update 10:45am: Eminger will not be playing tonight. The Rangers have decided to keep Stu Bickel in the lineup.

Original Post: In some good injury news, Steve Eminger has been activated off injured reserve and is likely to play today, according to Katie Strang. Eminger has been out since December 17 against Phoenix, when he separated his shoulder. Prior to the injury, Eminger had been playing top-four minutes while paired with Michael Del Zotto.

Eminger will likely play at the expense of rookie Stu Bickel, who was limited to just ten shifts and six minutes of ice time in the Rangers 1-0 win over the Sabres.

Sauer/Eminger Still Weeks Away

In the past few weeks, we have heard good news out of practice that both Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger were on the ice and skating with the team. Both were wearing non-contact jerseys, but the news was still good that they were skating. The Rangers could use one or both of them back, as it will only make their already strong blue line stronger.

With Eminger, there is an actual timeline for his return, as his injury is less complicated than Sauer’s. Surgery for Eminger’s separated shoulder occurred on December 19, and the timetable for a return was 8-10 weeks. Right now we are at the beginning of week five, so there is a minimum of three weeks until we can expect to see Eminger back in the lineup.

As for Sauer, the news of him skating was seen as great news, but then yesterday it was reported by Andrew Gross that he suffered a setback. Concussions are a tricky thing, so Sauer’s setback is disappointing, but not surprising. With the news that he had suffered a setback and was shut down for the week, it’s expected that he is at least three weeks away, but likely to be more.

Both will be back this season, but it looks like Eminger might be the first one to return, as his timeline for return is more definitive. Then again, it did take Marc Staal 40 games to come back from his concussion symptoms. There’s nothing wrong with cautious optimism, but the safe money would have Eminger back before the trading deadline, and Sauer back for the playoffs.

Halfway There Report Card: The Defense

With the halfway point of the season upon us (for the most part), and the Rangers in first place, it’s as good of a time as any to begin with the mid-point report cards. We are going to do these in a series of posts, with Chris covering the top six forwards, Suit covering the bottom six forwards, Justin covering the goalies, and myself covering the defense.

The Rangers have used a whopping 11 defensemen since the season started. This is mostly due to the Marc Staal injury, but other injuries along the way have forced the Rangers’ hand. Despite the obvious disadvantage, the Rangers have allowed just 82 goals against, good for second in the league. The Bruins top this, but let’s be honest: The Bruins are in a class above everyone else right now.  Let’s get to those grades:

Marc Staal: He’s played just a handful of games. Everyone knows he’s the rock on defense, and the Rangers just upgraded tremendously with him coming back. Grade: INC.

Dan Girardi: With Staal out indefinitely, the blue line was put in Girardi’s hands…and boy did he deliver. Girardi has been flawless in his own end. He plays the most minutes in the entire league, he plays against top competition, he consistently shuts down that top opposition, he has been contributing offensively, and he has been a leader for this young Rangers team. Grade: A+.

Ryan McDonagh: Staal’s injury opened up a spot for McDonagh on the top pairing, and he has been sensational in that role. He and Girardi have clicked, and aside from a few poor games, McDonagh has been a monster. Rick Carpiniello of LoHud calls him McMonster, and that’s exactly what he is. Throw in his growing offensive skills, and this sophomore defenseman has been a tremendous pickup. Thank you Mr. Gomez. Grade: A.

Michael Del Zotto: Another player that was forced to play up a pairing due to injury, Del Zotto has also been phenomenal. He leads the defensemen in scoring, and is fifth on the team in that same category with 23 points (5-18-23). He leads the team in assists, plus/minus, fan girls, and haters. Seriously, what else does this kid need to do? Sure, he makes a bad pass every now and then, but he’s 22 years old. I’ll take this from a 22 year old any day. Grade: A.

Mike Sauer: Currently out with a concussion, Sauer was the rock on the blue line that most thought was the reason for Del Zotto’s re-emergence.  Although Del Zotto has succeeded without Sauer in the lineup, Sauer is still an integral part of the Rangers blue line. He doesn’t put up the fancy numbers that Del Zotto does, he doesn’t garner the All Star consideration that Girardi does, but he just does his job. The best thing you can say about a defensive defenseman is that you don’t notice him, and rarely does Sauer go noticed. Grade: A.

Steve Eminger: Eminger had an atrocious start to the year. He just couldn’t do anything right, and was a bit of a whipping boy ’round these parts. However, when Sauer went down with his concussion, Emmy stepped up. Much like last year with the Michal Rozsival injury, Eminger assumed top four minutes and played like a champ. His start hurts his grade, but he gets significant bonus points for his ability to play up to his role, no matter what. His injury was supposed to be the one that crippled the Rangers, who were already without Staal and Sauer, but it didn’t. Grade: B.

Jeff Woywitka:Serviceable, reliable, tough, and surprisingly reliable. Much like Eminger, Woywitka was a whipping boy here after his poor start to the season. However, unlike Eminger, he played better as he got used to the John Tortorella way of life, and has been a great bottom pairing guy since. Maybe he has received too much ice time because of injuries, but the Rangers sure haven’t noticed. Kudos to Woywitka for persevering, and earning his continued stay with the Blueshirts. Grade: B.

Anton Stralman: Signed as a free agent a few weeks into the season, no one knew what to expect from Stalman. After a few weeks with the team, it was clear that Tortorella wasn’t a big fan, a point confirmed on HBO’s 24/7 last week. However as he has played, he has grown into a player that is not only reliable, but someone that Tortorella can play top-four minutes without hesitation. Stralman has been paired with Del Zotto, and both have flourished. Martin Biron might be the best offseason acquisition in a while, but the signing of Stralman might be the most underappreciated. Grade: A-.

Stu Bickel: The last man cut from the blue line in the preseason, Bickel earned a call up following Eminger’s separated shoulder and Woywitka’s bruised foot forced the Rangers’ hand. Bickel has been a physical presence on the blue line that has rarely made a mistake. He’s still a rookie, and yes his mistakes have and will come, but the Rangers couldn’t have asked for more from him. With Sauer out, Bickel has replaced that physicality that was sorely missing. Grade: B+.

Tim Erixon: He played in the beginning of the year when Sauer was out, and most recently while Woywitka was out. It’s clear he’s still not ready for the big show, but he’s a promising young defenseman that has done many things right. He’s only played 13 games, but it’s apparent the Rangers have a serious NHL player on their hands. Grade: INC.

Brendan Bell: Played one game. Grade: INC.

*Here is Justin’s mid-season report for the goalies & Suit’s report for our bottom six forwards. Stay tuned for reports on our top 6 forwards and our coaches.

Changes Are Coming On The Blue Line

Not sure if you guys caught this, but Marc Staal returned to the lineup in dramatic fashion, just in time for the Winter Classic. Again, if you missed this, I don’t blame you, the news was sort of buried amidst the other Winter Classic hooplah.

All kidding aside, Staal’s return marked the 11th defenseman the Rangers have used this season. Stepping back, it really is remarkable how they are this good despite playing everyone except my mother on defense this season.

With Staal back in the lineup, the obvious scratch choice was Jeff Woywitka, and as expected, he was scratched for the Winter Classic. Woywitka, claimed off waivers, was essentially an insurance policy and a body to dress for games. In all fairness, he exceeded expectations and was extremely serviceable. He came in, adjusted to the new system, and played some steady third line minutes…with some hiccups of course.

Now with Mike Sauer looking like he is on the path to return –he skated with the team– the Rangers are going to need to find a place to insert him when he returns. The only realistic options for replacement are Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel, as none of Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, or Michael Del Zotto will be sitting any time soon.

Considering the current pairings, it is my guess that Bickel will be the one who sits for Sauer, when he returns. It’s nothing against the kid, who has played very well (again with some hiccups) in his call up, it’s just a numbers game. It makes more sense for Bickel to be returned to the AHL and get significant ice time than for him to sit around as the healthy scratch for weeks at a time. It is for that same reason that I expect Woywitka to stick around for a long time, at least until Steve Eminger heals.

The decisions about scratches and replacements are easy decisions. The decisions for defensive pairings however is a very tough choice. Does John Tortorella go back to his bread-and-butter pairing of Staal-Girardi? Does he leave Girardi with McDonagh and put Staal with Sauer? Does Del Zotto get matched back up with Sauer, leaving Staal to play with Stralman? These are questions that can only be answered by the coaching staff and by the players’ performance on the ice.

Personally, I would go back to ole reliable: Staal/Girardi, McDonagh/Sauer, MDZ/Stralman. That gives the Rangers two legitimate shut down pairings that also have some offensive upside, plus the surprisingly strong pairing of MDZ/Stralman to give the top four much needed rest. That leaves Eminger as the odd man out, but you would have to assume Stralman and Eminger would be rotating. Assuming those three pairings play the way that is expected and the way that they have all year, the Rangers have one of the deepest blue lines in the league.

The Rangers haven’t played a single game this season with a full strength blue line, yet they remain in first place in the conference. The Times They Are a-Changin’.