Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Gift That Needs Fine Tuning

A funny thing happened when the New York Rangers were looking to dump Scott Gomez and his fat contract; they picked up a high quality promising defenseman by the name of Ryan McDonagh.

As soon as the trade was announced that the emails started coming from Montreal Canadian fans saying what a bad move their team had made. They were unhappy that the Rangers were being given the 12th pick from the 2007 NHL draft.

McDonagh is more than Ranger fans may realize as the goal and assist that McDonagh put up as this was the offensive side of McDonagh's game that in all honesty has not been as quick to develop as his defensive game. The Rangers and fans of the Wisconsin Badgers will tell you that they have known all along that McDonagh could score.

With Marc Staal and Micheal Sauer out of the lineup then McDonagh has to mature and develop faster than might be fair to ask of him but the Rangers have no other option. With the rumored "Staal announcement" reportedly to be made on Wednesday then McDonagh is going to have to have more nights like he did against the Canucks.

And while nobody wants to rain on a happy the Rangers really only played 20 minutes of hockey against the Vancouver Canucks. This is not a 1-1-2 team as it has more talent than that but there are some holes that need to be plugged; the sooner the better.

Henrik Lundqvist

Nothing underlined the importance of a Henrik Lundqvist remaining at the top of his game than the 1st two periods. It was more than the 28 shots on goal but rather the high quality of scoring chances.

No offensive support, not playing with any real discipline yet again and allowing the Canucks to set up in the slot untouched should have gotten the Ranger blown out in any other game. But Henrik was the master of this game and many ways you can make the claim that it was Henrik who broke the spirit of the Canucks.

The way he was playing you can just imagine that while 1-0 was bad; going up 2-0 the way Henrik was playing took all the wind out of the Canucks. If the Canucks could not score on him in the 1st two periods then how would they score when now he has a lead?

Lundqvist was just outstanding in this game as the Rangers should take the tape of this game and show it to the other 4 prospect goalies the Rangers have. How he set up, how he played the angles and how he remained in total balance was right out of the goalie textbook.

It also highlighted the importance of Marty Biron as for the Rangers to continue to get these kinds of performances out of Lundqvist then John Tortorella badly needs to give Biron 20-25 starts this season. Last season was the first time Lundqvist did not play in 70 or more games.

Every game off during the season that Lundqvist gets off means come playoff time the Rangers will have a Lundqvist who is not suffering from exhaustion. Do that and the Lundqvist you saw last night just might just might have the same kind of performance in the playoffs something we have yet to see from Lundqvist in the playoffs.

Poor Self Discipline

Last night was a rare evening where I could devote full attention to the Rangers and quite honestly while it is easy to blame the coach for the lack of player discipline on the ice at the same time one has to also blame the player leadership and the players themselves. Hockey 101 says if you keep moving your feet then the ref will call the other guy for something everytime.

Forget blaming the guys in the stripes as the standard has not changed one bit over the year. Holding whether it is the player or the stick happens when you stop moving your own feet. You are standing still and the other guy gets a step on you so you reach out and up goes a refs arm.

That is why Prust got glued to the bench in the 2nd period because there is not one excuse for that kind of penalty. Tortorella can not glue 18 skaters to the bench when people stop skating and stop thinking.

That is where Ryan Callahan and the others wearing the letter on their  uniforms need to get on their teammates.

In this case it is up to the players to be policing themselves because it is their teammates who are making their lives harder than it should be. And if the Rangers have more nights where they give any team 8 power plays they will lose more than they win.

The Power Play

Watching the Ranger power play was a horror story in itself as if you want to know the biggest reason why the Ranger power play is so terrible then go back last year, the year before that and the year before that. In other words this never ending problem is all because the Rangers fail to do one thing.

It is just like those penalties you are taking as you are not skating so you are not generating scoring chances.

They just do not move or "cycle" but rather try to play individual plays or expect someone else to make the play. When you do not move around then you make it easy for the penalty kill to defend you.

The Rangers do not move around at all on the power play which means the defense can stay in their box or their diamond knowing that 2 guys are on the point, 2 guys are on the side and 1 guy is playing with the puck.

Yet since the Rangers came back from the lockout they have done the same thing with their power play and scratch their heads wondering why they can not score on it. Even worse is that the cure to the Ranger power play woes is so simple it is embarrassing.

Skate, move and cycle the puck and you will generate scoring chances or draw another penalty. When you are moving then the defense is stretched, space is opened and players can move to spots they want to shoot from.

The more you move the harder it is for the defense to keep track of where everyone is on the ice, you have the extra player so someone should be always be open. It sounds so simple doesn't it but yet it seems beyond the Ranger's ability to figure out.

That one is on the coach because cycling the puck is Basic Hockey 101 and if aren't sticking your foot in the rear ends of the players who are just standing around then you have to go. There is no excuse why the Rangers do not have 1 single power play goal this season but this is also the same tired story about the Ranger power play.

Just move and keep moving,

(McDonagh/New York Rangers)

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