Before I get to the point of this particular blog entry, let me admit that I did not see all of Wednesday's Rangers game versus Tampa Bay. I made it to a bar that had the game on with about 8 minutes to go in the 3rd. Hoped actually for reasons that can't exactly be mentioned here that Tampa Bay would tie it and the game would go longer (I know, how can I not be more clear? sorry!) and got my wish. The game went to a shootout and shock of shocks, the Rangers won. But I was glad for it. And Naslund (goals 8 and 9 and the first goal in the shootout) looked on the surface to have had a strong night. Zherdev potted the other deciding shootout goal.
My question on that, though, remains - is this or is this not, still the case of one line producing? If it wasn't Zherdev and Dubinsky on Monday, and now Naslund on Wednesday, what other line is scoring goals? Don't get me wrong. I think it is great these guys are producing. Almost nothing would make me happier than seeing these three play consistently and well - because so far this season, when Dubinsky and Zherdev are playing well, so is the team - and having Naslund play well is an added bonus to that. BUT...that means the Rangers still have a Betts/Sjo/Orr tandem of solidity, a ever-changing third line of inconsistency, and a "1st? line" of Gomez/Drury/Callahan that combines the two 7-million dollar centers in what I feel is a doomed relationship.
Am I alone? I'm not sure. The Rangers on Monday obviously garnered some sort of boost from having Gomez back. But he or his line, minus the empty netter, did not appear on the final game sheet for goals or assists. Callahan's energy alone makes him a key part of the Rangers team. But, didn't we already realize the Gomez and Drury pairing left something to be desired. I ...have no idea what else to think on that.
Except. [And now after a little rambling], we get to the point of the blog. Larry Brooks, again, brought attention to the Petr Prucha "situation." I am applauding him for seemingly being the only one to give full page time to this "situation" and I'm grateful for it. There is either something more to it than meets the eye or nothing to it - which means Renney is lying through is teeth. I'd like to pull a few quotes from the article:
After saying he's been giving the Prucha "situation" a lot of thought recently and might play him tonight against Florida, Tom Renney says:
"If not, though, then Hartford will become a consideration . . . We've got to get Petr playing, for his good and the good of the organization. A conditioning assignment has helped to jump-start other players, so I see no reason why it wouldn't have the same impact for Petr."
To which I ask, and why not at ANY early point than now. . . after he's been sitting since November 8th and has NOT played in more than THREE consecutive games this year, does this ONLY NOW cross the coach's mind?
He goes on to say that Nigel Dawes is more of a playmaker than Prucha, and that he has played Dan Fritsche 8 consecutive games (count 'em - 8) so he can wrap his head around what Dan has to offer. And then:
"I know what Petr can do. I know that he can score and has scored in this league, 52 goals his first two seasons. I don't care who he was on the ice with, that tells me something. Now he needs the opportunity. I know that."
"It would be easy for me to say that when he plays, he needs to score, but considering the circumstances, I don't know that he can. So it's B.S. for me to say that he's been given a shot and can't do it. He needs playing time."
Hallelluja! The coach has woken up. Someone has shown him the light. Hallelluja!
Here we have Renney saying it's all B.S. to imply Prucha has been given the opportunity to succeed (an opportunity in training camp that Renney himself said he most definitely would be giving the young forward to start this year) when quite obviously he's been a) shuffled in and out of the lineup and not in it for more than 3 games in a row, b) been playing with the worst possible combinations when he is in the lineup, and c) given about 45 seconds of powerplay time all year. I've been saying the above all year now.
So I'm applauding Tom for saying the above. But...I'm just not sure whether he's actually hearing what he himself is saying. Whether it will sink in. Whether if Prucha does get the opportunity to play tonight, whether or not he'll get the opportunity to play eight straight games in a good situation so it can be determined whether or not his "situation" is worthy of further consideration. I don't know.
My personal fear is that if he plays tonight he'll be on a the line with whoever does not come out of the lineup - Korpikoski, Fritsche, Voros - and be stuck in a similar line of disillusionment. That's my fear. My hope is that he plays with Callahan and Gomez so we the fans, the team, the coaches, can actually see what he plays like when he's on a line with a true set-up guy. And on the power play, having someone dish him the puck. See if he can't pot a goal and build his confidence.
Of course the most bittersweet part of all of this remains that despite his "situation" Prucha has not asked for a trade, does not want a trade, and wants to play and remain loyal to the Rangers. An organization that, this year at least, has not appeared to be looking to act in his own best interest.
Prucha said: "Tom told me to stay positive and patient and that I am still a valuable player for the Rangers. It's been very difficult, but I love the Rangers, and this is the place I want to play."
Larry said" "Still, somehow, it remains impossible to wipe the smile off the irrepressible winger's face. He remains optimistic. He remains committed to the Rangers. He just wants to play."
That says miles about his character. A loyal, want-only-the-best-for-the-team type guy. There are probably too few.
I guess a few of us still have some faith.