Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Forget Ocho-Cinco We Got Nueve-Seis

Oh why not get the season started with some stars of the night already as if you caught the New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils on Wednesday evening then you saw a lot to like from the kids in this game.

First Star

In his first appearance with the Rangers Chad Johnson did not disappoint despite the Rangers losing in the shootout 3-2, Johnson showed that the Rangers picked up a pretty good goalie for just a 5th round pick.

Johnson gave up just one power play goal while facing 20 shots and it took an almost perfect shot from Travis Zajac to beat him in the shoot-out. Johnson showed that he is not going to be just your average first year player as he displayed the form that made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker last year while with the Alaska Nanooks.

Showing no sign of nerves, it was as if after giving up that power play goal on the first shot he faced that Johnson got confidence in his game. Johnson displayed all the good parts of his game from staying in position, reading through screens, limiting any rebounds and showing off a very solid glove hand.

Johnson has good size (6'3, 200) and a composure that flat out impresses as you wonder what it takes to rattle him. The Devils tried screens, they tried contact and nothing they did got Johnson off his game.

But even though this was just one game this is exactly the kind of performance the Rangers need to get from the backup goalie for Tortorella to feel confident in giving Henrik a night off. You could see that the Rangers knew that if they gave up an odd man rush that Johnson would cover for them.

In our book Johnson could be exactly what the Rangers need should anything happen to Henrik.

Second Star

Once upon a time former Ranger coach John Muckler said for a rookie to make his team they had to out perform the veterans. One has to think that after 2 games Matt Gilroy would make a Muckler team.

Gilroy is leaving little question that one of the open spots on the blueline belongs to him. It appears that John Tortorella has a lot of confidence in last year's Hobey Baker winner as Gilroy lead all Rangers in ice time with 28:00.

Even better is that Gilroy performed well whether it was on the power play (5:30), the penalty kill (4:36) or at even strength (17:54). After some jitters in the first period against the Bruins; Gilroy has been a steady performer at both ends of the ice.

During the off-season, we felt that Gilroy could make Michal Rozsival expendable because of Gilroy's stronger defensive play by mid-season. Gilroy is actually much further ahead of what we thought his learning curve would be.

Against the Devils we just loved the backhand Gilroy used to score the Ranger's first goal and it had a lot more on it than your average backhand. The way Devil's goalie Yanik Danis reacted said the same thing as there was nothing Danis could do to stop it.

Gilroy also scored the Ranger's only goal in the shootout showing a nice head and shoulders deke that caught Danis off-guard. John Tortorella has once decision being taken out of his hand which is exactly what you want to see in training camp.

Still we believe the best pairing for Gilroy remains Dan Girardi and not Wade Redden.

Third Star

Can not take any credit for saying Jordan Owens is a player as it very much belongs to Mitch Beck of Howlings. Beck has been saying for the last year that Owens was not just an AHL player and deserved a shot at the NHL.

Owens made old Mitch look pretty good with a 2nd star performance scoring the tying goal with a wicked looking wrist shot off a feed from Michael Del Zotto at 11:46 of the 3rd period. It also made John Tortorella look pretty good as well since Owens was not originally scheduled to play in this game but Tortorella wanted a look at him and inserted him into the lineup.

Now we got to say that Owens deserves a second look rather than a cut to the Hartford camp. Owens made a good case for himself and one of the openings on the 4th line. He also did not look like playing at this level rattled him as he played with a nice confidence as if he had been playing in the NHL for a while now.

Owens was used on both specialty units and played within himself not trying to force issues, staying in his defensive coverages and on the attack going right to the net. We liked how Owens held his own in corner battles while finishing off his checks.

Owens is also the kind of story Ranger fans just love; an undrafted free agent who started with a Hartford contract not an NHL one and worked his way up the ladder from Charlotte of the ECHL. Owens earned himself a Ranger contract and against the Devils showed why he deserved it.



Yes Michael Del Zotto has not had a bad camp and has not played that badly in the 2 exhibition games but if we was to offer advice to MDZ it would be as our friend Kate said: "Breathe." The Del Zotto you guys are seeing is not the same one we know from Oshawa and London.

To us it looks like Del Zotto is fighting with himself to make sure he does not make any mistakes which as everyone knows is the best way to insure that you will make the mistakes. Michael is not being the fun loving guy we know he is and that to us is why he has not broken out.

We would say to Michael to stop worrying if you are going to make mistakes because the best way for you to develop is go ahead and make your mistakes in order to learn from them. Stop worrying about the expectations of anyone and just go play hockey the Michael Del Zotto way.

Relax, go have some fun on the ice, be that creative player we know you are and everything will work out. The world will not end if you do not make the team this year as you can ask your buddy Staal what that extra year in the OHL did for him.

Then we have Evgeny Grachev who played 10:17 with most of his ice time coming on the power play. Sorry Coach but only 3+ minutes at even strength is not a good idea whether or not you want to look at others.

Grachev needs his ice time and as much as he can get if you want to speed up his development. Having him play limited minutes does not help him get into the flow of the game and make the case for why he should be at Hartford playing 20+ minutes a night rather than limited minutes as a special teams player.

Now let us see if John Tortorella walks his talk as the Ranger cuts have not been made yet public but if we were making the cuts then Aaron Voros, Brian Boyle, and Patrick Rissmiller deserve a chance to hook up with someone else now cause they are not the right players for this system.

Pierre Parenteau showed he is a better skater and as a 4th liner would offer more offense than any of those 3. His size would not be a problem given that his linemate would be Donald Brashear and despite not liking Brashear ourselves, even we acknowledge only a fool would run Brashear's linemate.

Parenteau showed a good 2 way game which made those 3 expendable. For now we keep Tyler Arnason for his experience as a penalty killer but he is on the bubble as well.

Among the kids, we feel bad but Cory Potter is a victim of numbers and is not going to make the Rangers but he too deserves a chance to show someone he can play in the NHL. We also seriously doubt the Rangers because of the cap will be able to carry a 7th defender and will use the excuse that Hartford is real close just in case of emergencies.

We believe the final spot on the Blueline is between Michael Sauer and Bobby Sanguinetti with Sauer the favorite because he plays a better defense and could partner with Redden or Rozsival better than Sangs can. Ilkka Heikkinen discovered playing against AHLers that the North American game is a bit harder to adjust to than he thought. Some time in the AHL would not hurt him.

As for goalies, the question is who to keep at the moment Matt Zaba or Chad Johnson? We say keep Johnson as you can still use Zaba in one of the exhibition games without his being on the roster.

In any case it will be interesting to see which "lucky" 8 are kept tomorow.

(All pictures courtesy of the New York Rangers)


Amos said...

Chad Nueve-Seis... I like it... it fits with my nickname giving fit I had a month ago... I still laugh out loud thinking about Ryan "The Swedish Chef" Borque haha

Lee said...

FYI - Kenny Roche signed w Charlotte:,