Rangers Look to Turn it Around Against the Lightning

Joe CorreiaCorrespondent INovember 6, 2008

After two less-than-stellar performances this past Saturday and Tuesday nights against the Leafs and Islanders, respectively, the Garden faithful have already managed to find a new scapegoat to replace Marek Malik (who, by the way, makes his triumphant return to the Garden as a member of the Lightning tonight).

It now appears that Michal Rozsival is the new target of the boo birds. Rozy has earned the jeers not only for his horrific play, namely in the most recent game Tuesday night against the Islanders, but also for the amount that he is being paid after signing a four-year extension worth $20 million with the Rangers in the offseason. With the signing of Redden for six years at $39 million, signing both of these defensemen was not a smart move on Sather's part to begin with.

For the record, I did not like the signing in the offseason when it was first made public. With contract extensions due for Dubinsky and Zherdev this offseason and for Staal and Girardi next offseason, the Rangers are in for a very tricky financial future where the cap will most likely not increase substantially when the players I listed above are due for raises.

In regards to Rozsival's most recent play, I will be the first to defend him and say that while in the defensive zone, he makes the smart play and clears the puck out of the zone in a very swift manner. However, when it comes to the power play in the offensive zone, it is a complete different story.

Rozy has a rocket of a shot, but instantly holds off on the shot and passes it off if a penalty killer on the opposing team even breathes into his shooting lane. Also, as evidenced by the most recent game, I would say that Rozsival is among the worst point men in the Eastern Conference in terms of puck control and positioning. I will go on record and say that he was directly responsible for both goals that the Islanders scored on Tuesday night.

Giveaways at the blue line that lead to odd man rushes for the shorthanded team are inexcusable. These giveaways were caused most in part due to poor positioning, and could have easily been prevented.

This leads me to my next point. The power play for the Rangers has been abysmal. Guys such as Dubinsky and Voros that are comfortable crashing the net for rebounds and working in the corners become useless when anyone out on the ice refuses to shoot.

Although it may be due to an elbow injury, Redden has all of a sudden stopped firing hard shots from the point. I described the situation with Rozsival above, and while Mara has intentions of shooting, his shots have not been hitting the net recently and have often led to the opposing team clearing the puck out of the zone.

You may ask me why a guy like Voros has gone on a multiple game dry streak for points. This is mostly due to the fact that not many quality shots are getting to the opposing team's goalie where a guy like Voros, Callahan, or Dubinsky could knock in a rebound. Start shooting on the power play, guys. You're almost making me miss the days of Jagr running the power play from the right half boards.

However, the ultimate problem that I feel has contributed to the team's poor play as of late is a complete 180 in terms of style of game played.

This team went from a free-wheeling, hard working, aggressive forechecking team in the first five games to reverting to the old trap system employed the past couple of years when the old guard of Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, and Nylander were still on the team. The days of being that type of team are over.

I feel that the talents of guys like Redden, Drury, Gomez, and Zherdev are being wasted, to an extent, because of this relapse in team philosophy. The type of game that these players play will thrive more in a system of a quick North-South game that allows defensemen to join the fast breakout and rushes that a guy like Gomez is notorious for. Believe me, it is no coincidence that the Rangers were 5-0 during the stretch of time where they played this system.

Perhaps playing Tampa Bay again tonight will revive old memories of how the Rangers played this style of game earlier this season. We as a fan base just need to have faith that our Blueshirts will turn things around before things start to get ugly.