Catching up

Busy, busy, busy, but no time to fret.

The Rangers have a lot to think about between now and Thanksgiving starting with the power play.

It isn't enough anymore just to say the Rangers have a power-less play. That would be giving them too much credit. Bottom line: other teams score more on Rangers' power plays than they do.

Now over at HFBoards, they have a great thread going about the power play woes to the tune of "Our powerplay is so bad that..." and everyone just adds their quip.

So far, my favorite is: "The Rangers powerplay is so bad that Congress is preparing a bailout package for it."

Good line.

So how can we break down the powerplay? Simply. The Rangers have a one man attack and a straight horizontal approach. Meaning that one man tries to slip through all four defenders who are standing at the blue line, usually Naslund, Gomez, or Dubinsky and they set up a play.

The problem is that it is impossible to work. What are you taught at a young age? Dump and chase. Don't stickhandle through the neutral zone. No blind or cross ice passing. What do the Rangers do? All of the above.

For example, if the four penalty killers are lined up seemingly along the blue line, why would you try to skate in? Instead, it would be more prudent to dump and chase and outwork them on the boards.

Honestly, it seems like a systematic problem, not a personnel problem. The Rangers should a strong willed attack on the power play that comes with speed along the boards. Imagine dumping in and having Callahan or Zherdev chase to the corners.

The opponent would be forced to backup in leaving the blueline thinner. What does that mean? A varied attack. Keep 'em guessing.

I am not a genius and I can't imagine that Perry Pearn does not understand the flaw in the current mentality. Heck, maybe he's preaching it and the Rangers just aren't doing it. Regardless, the Rangers need to be better and some confidence in special teams will contribute in other areas of the ice.

In other news, I had some blogs posted that some computer issues prevented from uploading so here is an important snippet from last week:

I had a great time last night with the guys over at Ranger Nation. They do a great job and I want to thank them again for having me as a guest.

While it is easy to be excited over the last Rangers' victory, there is an unfortunate tiding amidst the win. The Hockey News has decided to discontinue their team blogs, meaning that I will no longer be blogging for them.

I would just like to take this moment to thank all the readers who made the experience wonderful and the fine folks at THN for giving me the opportunity. It was a privilege to work for the most prominent hockey publication in the world.

Hopefully I can find myself helping out in any way I can there, but for now it's back to the season and all the coverage will continue here.

There you have it. The end of a too-short tenure. Nonetheless, I am excited to continue my work here at Pucks and over at Ranger Nation. Also, if you are a member of the New York Rangers Fan Club, you will notice I am now the Editor-in-Chief of their newsletter, Rangers Review. At some point, I also hope to continue and contribute to the fine folks at Outside the Garden.
Errant Pucks: (A new feature with musings, rumblings and tidbits)

Shanny's Situation: Shanahan is reportedly at ends with the Flyers over salary. Could this be another ploy to make a last ditch effort on Broadway? I doubt it.
Fate sealed: It's clear the Rangers have a glut of second and third line forwards. Most feel Petr Prucha is on his way out. The wiley fan fave hasn't seen action in a while and is sitting in favor of Nigel Dawes and now Dan Fritsche. However, if you were trading an asset, wouldn't you want to increase his value by playing him?
All in stride: Has anyone else noticed the deceptive speed that the Rangers' centers have? Drury, Betts, and Korpikoski, in particular, have shown a whole second gear in their skating arsenal. My question is what took so long?

As always, more to come...

Devilish and Ranger Radio

What's not to like about an outstanding 40 minute effort last night that resulted in a big win over a depleted New Jersey squad?

Bottom line: 2 important points against a divisional opponent.

I am getting ahead of myself as I will discuss this and much more tonight on Ranger Nation Radio. Tune in at 10!

Will update after the show.

Memories abound

Who can recall last season when the Rangers were a win-one, lose-one team?

I am sure we all can. Which is why it is difficult to feel any sort of security with the Rangers play over the last handful of games.

Yes, they have bright spots, but at the same time they continue and lack cohesion. Unsettled line combinations, positioning miscues, etc. have all shown flaws in the Rangers' system. However, certain rushes, power plays, and defensive coverage have been phenomenal.

How, then, can the Rangers bring it all together?

We have spoke ad nauseum about settled line combinations (as has every other writer), so we will leave that alone for now.

I would also look to the special teams and question the personnel. If the powerplay is snake bitten, then why not place a Petr Prucha on a line just to try? The last time the Rangers had power play success, he was a huge part of it.

The defensive system also has to be more stable for this core group to work. New York has shown a poor trend of getting caught up ice and unfortunately they are not all for the fleet footed (ahem, Michael Rozsival). Pride has been taken the past few seasons in a defense first mentality and it seems as if the Rangers have gotten away from it.

This is also evidenced by some weak play on the boards. When the Rangers play well, they are the first to the puck. Recently, they have not been so lucky. If the defense spent less time chasing and more time dictating the play, it will give the offense more of an opportunity to set up and less fumbling through the neutral zone.

What is intriguing is that the Rangers have won playoff style games without these facets in place. Hard work, will, and tenacity have brought the Rangers success and if they can now tighten the ship, they will be a legitimate threat throughout the conference.

Over at The Hockey News, I will be doing a gameday review. Also, check out my column on Ranger Nation.

Some answers, or just more questions?

Last night's 5 - 2 win against Tampa Bay gave Ranger fans some answers:
- The power play is capable of success
- Chris Drury has not lost his Buffalo-caliber scoring
- Michal Rozsival does not make a poor pass every time
- The Rangers can rebound after bad losses

However, with these answers also come questions.
- How could a power play that looks fairly cohesive last night, be so awful throughout the season thus far?
- What took Drury so long to find his scoring touch?
- If Rozsival is so capable as a defenseman, what could make him commit such egregious errors?
- If the Rangers can play so well against Tampa Bay, how could they collapse against the Islanders and Maple Leafs?

Both perspectives are valid and there is a middle ground. This team is still developing. We have seen some incredible rays of hope, but also seen their vulnerabilities.

The real question becomes: how will this team shake out?

Is this a deep team, with a nice mix of veteran experience and youthful exuberence? Is this a dramatically over-estimated team that is playing above their true talent level? Does this team have the abrasiveness and leadership to continue strong play throughout the season?

New York has yet to really answer these questions. Since game one, the fans have waited for a 60 - minute effort. A game in which they could identify what identity this franchise has. Yet, we have yet to really be able and establish such an identity.

The Rangers have a lot of inconsistencies. Consider it: consistent inconsistencies.

Sometimes they hit and are a hard nosed team. Other times, they merely try to rely on skating, fancy passing, and stickwork to lead them.

Occasionally they have exceptional special teams. More often, they are disjointed units that try and will their way through situations.

When will fans be able to establish this team identity?

Maybe their identity is that of inconsistency, but heart.

(Photo from Yahoo Images, Al Bello/ Getty Images)

Gameday: Rangers v. Islanders

The Rangers won the first, but are coming off a devastating third period loss against Toronto.

The Islanders lost the first, but are coming off an overtime victory against the Blue Jackets.

Two teams going in opposite directions? Not yet, but this game could determine such a thing.

Let's not get brash, it's one win for the Islanders and one loss for the Rangers, which is not enough to forget what each has done to this point in the season. The same reason you saw no mention of the debacle in the third period against Toronto, it's a hiccup, not a tragedy.

But as we all know and love, the Rangers - Islanders rivalry is renewed tonight at Madison Square Garden.

From the Islanders perspective, they have nothing to lose. The Rangers defeated them at home, so there will be a need for revenge. They have played better of late and will look to carry that momentum into Manhattan. Playing a quick and pressure game and keeping the Rangers special teams at bay will be very important.

For the Rangers, they have a bit more to lose. It's a home game against arguably their biggest rival. They need to recover from their last loss and show that they are indeed a complete team. Early will be key. The Rangers need to get to the young squad early on and maintain a physical game. Back-to-back is never easy so the Rangers have to wear the Islanders out in order to have success.

Yesterday, the Rangers fooled with some new line changes (again).

Naslund - Gomez - Callahan
Dawes - Drury - Prucha
Voros - Dubinsky - Zherdev
Sjostrom - Betts - Orr

These lines are the most balanced that the Rangers have. While Dan Fritsche and Pat Rissmiller will be sitting, you can see the parity and equity amongst these lines. Which line is the first? Which is the third? You can make an argument for all of them.

My predictions: Petr Prucha scores his first goal tonight. Wade Redden has a big game. Dubinsky has a stand out performance. The Isles Joey "Big Mac" and Mike Comrie also have strong games.

More to come...

(photo from NY Times)