Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday's Cap Wrap and Oil Pre-game Thoughts. . . [updated]

So I actually saw Saturdays Rangers/Capitals game live from DC on Saturday. I'd never been to Verizon Center before and have to report, it's very nice. Very easy to drive to, parking right across the street, and in a good, safe area. And a really beautiful arena at only about 10 or so years old. The people I ran into were nice, both fans and employees. No complaints and I would happiliy go again and tell others to do the same.

The game on the other hand left something to be desired.

The Capitals most definitely came ready to play. Undefeated at home so far this season, they used it to their advantage. The Rangers, on the other hand, looked hungover from Thursday's wild victory over Tampa Bay. They were not awake, pretty flat, and it was kinda hard to watch at times. Thankfully the speed of the game was at least a little improved over the Rangers other lackluster games.

I don't know what I thought about the two goals the Capitals scored. I still have yet to see a replay of the net off the mooring goal. Perhaps that can be argued. As for the second goal, where Hank was nudged in the crease, I don't know how much an argument there is there either.
So while I don't have complaints on the goals scored, I do have to complain that the Rangers, again, weren't willing to stick up for themselves or for Henrik. If there was even a bit of traffic in front of him, which there most definitely was, and he got bumped a few times, there should be some reprocussions. On this team, however, they don't seem to have that rough and tumble mindset. And that's a shame. A little tussle would have done something to make the game more exciting, perhaps.

Overall, I have the following to say. I don't think one person, with maybe the exception of Hank, has been consistent this year. Usually, in my experience, you often have at least one player clicking constantly. They might go dry for a short while, but then they come back. Who has been that player? I mean with the exception of Mara and perhaps Callahan, not many of these guys seem to be "in the game" night in and night out. Correct me if I'm wrong.

On that note, these have been my observations of the Drury/Prucha/Dawes line the last 3 games. (Note, Prucha played 10/25 and 10/27, DNP 10/30 and 11/1, and has played the last three games). They are not a good line. I think whoever thought they would be to start the season was sadly mistaken (I am willing to admit that BEFORE the season, I thought they'd be a good, solid, and permanent line. Oh how little I knew back then!). But whoever thought they would be a good combo at this juncture of the season , I certainly think that's an even worse prediction. They are simply not effective. They are, in all honesty and to a lay-man observer, quite the same players. All of them. They shuffle around and try to get in good position to - - get the puck. Not to pass it, but to receive it. I am not calling them selfish players because they appear to be trying to play as a unit. I am just saying they are all in similar mold. They are not working. I often see all three in the same exact position on the ice. Whether digging in the corners, or standing in front of thet net for a deflection. They are all doing the same exact thing. Dawes, presumably and if he didn't appear slower and still unready to start the season, and Prucha, again, based on when he was most successful, need to have people dishing them the puck in prime locations. That isn't happening. And this isn't even a knock on Drury. It's just that he too, seems to have no clue what is going on this season, for the most part. Was his game against Tampa Bay on last Thursday a good one? Definitely. But over 90% of this season, he has looked lost and been ineffective on anything except the PK. If he has a good night on faceoffs, it's still not really helping the situation. Drury was 60% on the night on faceoffs Saturday. The team was a dreadful 38%. And win or lose, the Rangers faceoffs do not seem to end up generating goals. Quite obviously not good.

I guess what I am saying is this. Drury is Drury and the Rangers are stuck with him, good, bad,or indifferent, and I, personally, hope there are more games like Thusday versus Tampa in him. Dawes, in my mind and I don't think I'm alone, has probably been one of the least effective on the team, but yet somehow seems immune to benching. Prucha, who I have defended, has looked more flat in his last two, than he did in the 3 previous games he played. (Note, it was he and not Dawes that got the bench in favor of Sjostrom for the last few shifts Saturday). I am not sure of much, but if Prucha's going to be successful at all, I am sure it cannot be with Drury. It has to be with Gomez or Dubinsky. And I don't think that will happen because . . .

This team, and myself included at this point, seem to have hung the world on Scott Gomez's shoulders. He's been yielded as being a great passer. And that may be. And he might just be this team's only true set up guy. Because apparently our defense are not at all good at the breakout passes they were so touted for. (Wade *cough* Redden). The Rangers are a team of guys that are a) too small to make things happen themselves (except draw penalties, and well, you know how well getting the man advantage has worked for them so far) or b) not capable of playing give and go. Just looking to do the 'go' part. And that doesn't add up. To take a quick look at some numbers, I went to (necessary and awesome site, btw) and took a look at the Rangers team to get a look at how many goals versus assists they have.

It breaks down as:

more G > A
Prucha (59G/45A)
Betts (24G/17A)

More A > G
Gomez (135G/397A)
Naslund (376G 459A)
Zherdev (81G/114A)
Drury (223G/307A)
Sjostrom (35G/42A)
Dubinsky (18G/35A)

G =/~ A (essentially equal)
Dawes (16G/16A)
Voros (13G/12A)
Orr (3G/4A)

For the record, Korpikoski, has one playoff goal in the NHL. His AHL numbers slightly favor scoring over setting up, but it's rather soon to tell.

And, honestly, can you really look at guys like Betts and Orr given their roles on the team? No. (Note Betts, in 05-06 and 06-07, had 8-9 goals each year. That dropped to 2 in 07-08 as his role changed). Can you say that Sjostrom, Dubinsky, Dawes, Prucha, Voros, or Callahan have had long enough careers to make any true speculation? No.

But what it comes down to is that Naslund, Drury, and even Zherdev have very similar rations of goals to assists. And Gomez is the only one that has a clear and distinct advantage of Assists to Goals - about a 3 assists for every 1 goal ratio. That's a set up guy. (Side note: currently, just a year and change into his careers, Dubinsky is operating at 2-1 for assists to goals).

But the numbers don't lie.

And that's a shame, because with seemingly untradable salaries like Gomez, Drury, Redden, and Rozsival, how do you go and get a guy that can be another set up guy? You probably don't. And until then, whatever line Gomez is on is going to be expected to shoulder the brunt of the scoring. And the lines with Drury and Betts will be around for defensive roles only, and as a result, the guys like Sjostrom, Orr, Prucha, Dawes, or who-ever are with them, will not be put in prime position to score. And consequently, the Rangers will lose game 2-1 like they did on Saturday because while they will be able to hold the opposition to 2 goals, they will not able to find the net at least 2 times to pull the game to overtime.

I said it the other day; I'm glad I'm not the coach. Because what can you possibly do? Continue switching lines to try and gain chemistry. And run the risk of switching too soon, too much, and too often. Or leave lines that like Drury/Dawes/Prucha out there that really will have little chance of succeeding as is.

The only thing I can say is that one Lauri Korpikoski, fresh off a Hartford hat trick, has been recalled and will, persumably, skate with the big club tonight. Who comes out - don't know. (I'd vote Dawes, but again, I don't get a vote and I certainly think it will be Prucha taking a seat). What will that do to the lines - no idea. Will any of this affect the dismal powerplay or general lackluster attitude? I can't imagine so.

But, as a fan, I'll hope. Considering they have the Oilers coming in fresh off a win in NJ last night, riding a new goaltender: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (Dru-enn-DeLaurien / think the car from Back to the Future!) and have been known to score more than two goals when given the chance, the Rangers have to be smart tonight.

Lastly, congratulations to Glenn Anderson, Igor Larionov, Ray Scapinello, and Ed Chymoweth who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this evening.

P.S. In doing some looking at all time assist leaders and the like, I had some wow moments. Doug Weight - has 2.6% more assists than goals per his career (268G/714A). Chelios, a guy who I never liked and, yes, it is noted his is a defenseman, has a ridiculous amount of career assists (185G/763A). And out of the active leaders and assist leaders for their career, Mike Modano, Mats Sundin and Joe Sakic are worth every penny. As if that were in question.

**Authors Edit: 11/10/08 - 1:05pm
According to the blogs, Nigel Dawes will sit so Korpikoski can play. Prucha will also sit, to make room for Dan Fritsche, who yes, is due a turn in at this point in the roulette/carousel/musical chairs game. I'm fine with this. Ideally would have liked to see Drury with Korpikoski and Prucha. But Fristche is due and I think it's more than time for Dawes to sit in favor of fresh blood. Game on! 6 hrs and counting til the opening faceoff. **

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