Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Comeback Kids

Two New York Ranger prospects saw their seasons at a crossroads on Friday evening and thankfully for both of them that they came away with badly needed wins.

For Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers, they were playing in an elimination game against the Calgary Hitmen in Calgary. Trailing 3 games to 1, the Tigers needed a big game out of their entire team and thankfully they got it.

Kundratek had a secondary assist along being a +1 as the Tigers won 5-4 to send the series back to Medicine Hat for a game 6 on Sunday. The Tigers did not make it easy for themselves as they came out of the 1st period trailing 3-1 but rallied with 4 unanswered goals in the 2nd and 3rd period.

For Kundratek it was his 5th point of the playoffs and he improved to a +5 during this playoff season.

Meanwhile in Brandon, Sam Klassen and his Saskatoon Blades were looking to dig themselves out of a 2-0 series hole with the Brandon Wheat Kings after losing the first 2 games on their home ice. Having won game 3, the Blades were looking to tie up the series and turn it into a best of 3.

The Blades did that but like the Tigers had to do it the hard way coming back in the 3rd period to earn a 4-3 win. Klassen did his job on defense going a +2 while holding the Wheat King's top scorers to just one very late goal (19:29 of the 3rd with the extra attacker).

This has been a very strange playoff season as nobody seems to want to win their own home games. For us this is the 3rd series where the home team lost most of their home games and won on the road.

Well the Blades will not have long to wait to go for their 3rd road win in this series as Game 5 is on Saturday night.

While you are waiting for the Ranger's own elimination game on Sunday afternoon; make sure you check out the NCAA Championship final featuring Wisconsin with Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh taking on Chris Kreider and Boston College. The game is on ESPN starting at 7 PM EDT and we are sorry but you will have to listen to Barry Melrose and Gary Thorne get everything wrong.

But this game should be worth it as to be honest we just do not know who to favor in this one. If you had asked us prior to Boston College's win over Miami then we would have said Wisconsin but things have changed.

We had watched all 3 teams in a lot of games this season and to be honest, we thought Miami because of their team speed and overall defense was going to finally win the Championship. What Boston College did against them was lay a beating on Miami like nobody else had done this season and no we do not think this was a off-night by Miami.
This was a very good Boston College team that beat them and now we wonder if Wisconsin should be the underdog here. Wisconsin like Miami has been at the top of the college hockey polls all year long while Boston College has been coming on strong in the 2nd half.

This one is going to be tough but we think Wisconsin will win in part because of their better defensive corps. One other thing; while we are 100% sure that Ryan McDonagh should turn pro no matter what the outcome of the game is.

As for Derek Stepan, we would advise against it but if Wisconsin does win then there will nothing for Stepan to return to at Wisconsin. A gold medal and a championship would leave little incentive for Stepan to return back to Wisconsin. 

Stepan still needs work on his overall game (especially his face-off skills) but in every key area; he is very close to being ready for Hartford. McDonagh we believe needs a short learning period in Hartford but he will be ready within half a season if not sooner.

(Kundratek courtesy of the Medicine Hat Tigers)


elroy said...

Jess - I read somewhere (was it here?) that Stepan may leave Wisconsin for Canadian Juniors, I believe out west

Jess Rubenstein said...

Stepan could go to Hartford and het paid, something he does not get in the WHL. He would not gain anything unless he and the NYR could not come to terms.
Even then I know he wants to be a Ranger

Brian said...

Could you expand on why you think Step should stay, or maybe link me to a previous article where you talk about it more in depth? I'm certainly no expert on Step, WCHA, or the AHL, but it seems to me that Step has a lot more to gain from a 80-game season in a professional league than a 30-game season in the NCAAs.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Brian Let us start with that if you include the WJC and exhibition games to Stepan's total's this season then he has actually played closer to 55 games this season.
Stepan still needs work on face-off, consistency and improvement on his body none of which he would be able to work on at Hartford.
Staying another season at Wisconsin also allows him to become a team leader as well as giving him a chance to dominate at this level. Mike Eaves IMO is a much better teacher as a coach than Germander is.

Stepan turns 20 in June which is also another factor and because of the rules in college hockey; Stepan is expected to be a better skill player which the Rangers will need him to be when he does join him.

elroy said...

found the reference to Stepan going junior-hockey, it was Brooks in the NYPost:

"If Stepan, the sophomore center who was captain of Team USA's gold-medal 2010 World Junior tournament squad, leaves school, it is generally believed he would play junior hockey next season for the WHL Calgary Hitmen."

Jess Rubenstein said...


Let me understand you here; you are citing Larry Brooks who spends next to no time covering the Ranger prospects other than draft time.

BTW if you subscribe to the Blueshirt Bulletin in the next issue there will be an interview I did with Derek Stepan.

I would say my sources into Wisconsin are way more reliable than Larry Brooks. They are on the scene all the time.

If Stepan leaves Wisconsin it will be for the money of the Rangers, at age 20 he is not going to spend one season as an overage player in the WHL.

If he did that then it would mean he would be trying to become a free agent to sign with another NHL team which he has indicated is not what he wants to do.

He plans on becoming a Ranger.

Sorry if this sounds harsh but when it comes to the NYC Ranger media they tend to be out of touch when it comes to the prospects.