After every game of the 2011-12 season, each Rangers player will be assigned a letter grade based on his individual performance, impact on the game and outlook going forward.
As much as I want to give every player an “F” and move on to what will now be an important game in Winnipeg on Monday night, let’s take a look at the grades:
Gaborik was about as dominating as a player can be without actually putting a puck in the net or an assist on the board. As he has done in every game this season, he was all over the ice. Even more impressive than the speed shown on his two breakaway opportunities was his tenacity on the forecheck and willingness to help out on the defensive end.
With all of Tortorella’s line juggling (which was excessive in my opinion), it seemed as though Gaborik’s line was consistently the most effective in the offensive zone. Going forward, I firmly believe that Tortorella needs to allow the chemistry between Richards and Gaborik to continue to grow and mix and match to find a fit on the other wing (Wolski?).
It was a typical day at the office for Girardi who led the team in shifts and ice time. This type shutdown defensive effort from the Rangers' best player is becoming a nightly occurrence.
Girardi was kept off the power-play unit in the early part of the game to keep him matched up against Edmonton’s top line—a tactical strategy astutely pointed out by the MSG broadcast team. In the third period, however, Girardi took over for Brad Richards as the power-play quarterback, orchestrating a slightly more effective man advantage and hitting Gaborik with a brilliant pass for a breakaway opportunity.
With a fight, three shots and three hits, Prust was the only other offensive bright spot for a Rangers team that struggled to create scoring chances all night long. After a benching in Vancouver, Prust seems to have regained his usual energetic form.
In the latter stages of the third period, Prust was used heavily on the Rangers top line with Gaborik—a clear sign of this team’s lack of offensive depth.
Breathe a sigh of relief Rangers fans. Lundqvist left last night’s game in rapid fashion midway through the third period with an apparent injury that luckily turned out to only be cramping. Despite the Rangers early season reliance on the King, I fully expect to see Marty Biron in net on Monday night in Winnipeg.
As far as the game is concerned, Lundqvist was on point for most of the night swallowing up Edmonton shots coming in mostly from the periphery. Overall, a typical Lundqvist performance, although I think he would certainly want the Potter goal back as it appeared that he was simply beaten by a hard, rising shot.
Stepan was a little more noticeable in last night’s game compared to the previous five. I thought his ice vision was excellent, and he created shot opportunities for others on multiple occasions. For all the good, however, Stepan missed the net on an open shot by nearly five feet during a crucial five-on-three—something that is unacceptable at the NHL level.
Going forward, Stepan might be an interesting option to play the point on the power play if Richards continues to struggle. He has shown the ability to remain calm and collected with the puck on his stick and has proven to be a capable passer.
McDonagh added to his string of strong games last night and is quickly developing into the reliable top four defenseman that we as fans all expected coming in to this season. He once again displayed excellent skating power and ability to navigate the neutral zone.
Of the few scoring chances that the Rangers managed to create, a large portion of them came with McDonagh on the ice. Three blocked shots and two hits also contributed to an excellent all-around game.
Michael Del Zotto
In what was, in my opinion, his strongest game of the young season, Del Zotto finally put together a strong defensive effort. Rather than trying to outmuscle attacking forwards, Del Zotto played to his strengths using a quick stick and a long skating stride to win loose puck battles.
He played the entire game with his head on a swivel avoiding the glaring mistake and succeeding in making quick, smart passes exiting the defensive zone. Tortorella rewarded a more disciplined Del Zotto with over 22 minutes of ice time.
Eminger contributed a solid defensive game last night—an effort that should be further commended considering he had to cover for his disastrous defensive partner, Brendan Bell, for most of the night. Despite logging only 13 minutes of ice time, Eminger threw his body around (two hits) and provided some semblance of stability on the Rangers third defensive pairing.
I am not going get on Eminger for the first Edmonton goal as the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Bell and Brian Boyle. However, Eminger might have been better served to step up on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and not allow him to hold the puck in front of Lundqvist as long as he did. Again, not his fault, but certainly a play that a more skilled NHL defenseman could have made.
Erixon was invisible for most of the night, a good thing by most standards for a defenseman. Having said that, however, he was very shaky in his own end in the first period, bailed out on more than one occasion by, of all people, Michael Del Zotto.
Erixon has been good, but not great, so far and should find himself right in the middle of a very interesting roster spot battle once Marc Staal and Michael Sauer are ready to return.
Overall, Boyle had a pretty good game against Edmonton. I thought his line was clearly the most effective grouping offensively throughout the first half of the game. Boyle stayed aggressive with strong forecheck play over the course of all three periods despite being limited by a demotion to the fourth line later in the game.
Boyle is going to be kicking himself, however, for an ill-advised double-team down in the offense zone that led directly to Edmonton’s first goal. With Fedotenko tied up with Ryan Whitney behind the Edmonton net, Boyle decided jump in as the third man. Before Boyle could make a play, Whitney feathered a well-timed pass out of the offensive zone leading to an odd-man rush and a goal with not one, but two Rangers trapped in the offensive zone.
Outside of an egregious slashing penalty with time winding down in the second period, Newbury played a fantastic game. He threw his body around to the tune of five hits, registered a shot on goal and earned double-digit ice time for the first time this season. Despite the ineffective play of his linemates, Newbury was very noticeable, something that bodes well for a player of his type going forward.
Newbury has to know that you cannot take a penalty in the neutral zone with under five seconds remaining in the period. On what was essentially a meaningless play, he took away any momentum the Rangers may have had heading into the third period with an unnecessarily aggressive play on a Edmonton defenseman content on letting time expire. That type of play is not acceptable and ruined what was an otherwise strong performance.
I guess we couldn’t expect the point streak to continue forever. In what was clearly his worst game as a Ranger, Richards failed to register a point and was stripped of his power-play quarterback duties late in the game.
Richards was terrible all night long in all facets of the game. He lost five of eight faceoffs and was especially ineffective on the power play. I don’t care how good you are, you will not have success with the man advantage if you do not keep your feet moving. Richards seemed content to literally stand still with the puck on the Rangers five-on-three opportunity, and he paid for it with a reduction in his ice time later in the game. Let’s get this guy back with Gaborik and move forward.
I thought the Captain had a decent all-around game and might have ended up with a goal if not for a last-second reaction save by the mostly untested Nikolai Khabibulin. In the end, however, I still need to see some points on the score sheet. On nights like this where Callahan cannot stand out on the penalty kill due to limited opportunities, he needs to find other ways to make a positive impact on the game. Last night, he could not, and turned in a very average performance.
My concern in general with Fedotenko is not with what he does do, but more with what he doesn’t do—and what he doesn’t do is create scoring opportunities. There is no doubt that he is a hard-working player, and with the right pieces around him, can be a part of a championship-caliber team. On this team, however, his pedestrian games are becoming all to commonplace.
It is starting to look like Dubinsky has become the go-to face-off man with the departure of Chris Drury. Dubinsky took a team-high 14 faceoffs last night, including a majority of the important puck possession draws in the offensive and defensive zone.
In winning only 6-of-14, Dubinsky has to do better if he is going to be expected to be the man taking important draws. Until he can increase his success rate to over 50 percent, Tortorella needs to strongly consider exploring other options (Anisimov, Boyle) for important faceoffs late in the game.
Saturday night was an absolute disaster of a game for Anisimov, culminating in a whopping zero minutes of ice time in the third period. This has to be a big blow to his confidence, but something he will have to overcome in order to reestablish himself in the good graces of Coach Tortorella.
Despite the struggles of his linemates, Dubinsky and Callahan, Anisimov has been made the scapegoat. Whether it be a lack of effort or an unfortunate series of bounces, Anisimov has to right the ship if wants to keep his spot as a top six forward on this team.
Did I really see Tortorella put Christensen on the power play? That is the kind of decision that gets a guy fired. All joking aside, with Wolski apparently healthy, it’s hard to imagine Christensen dressing Monday night in Winnipeg. Giving a guy that does less with more than almost any player I’ve ever seen is a complete waste of a roster spot and needs to be corrected, starting now.
I admit that this grade might be a little bit harsh for a young player playing in his first game of the season. Bell showed a decent ability to skate with the puck and create offense, registering two shots in limited playing time. Unfortunately, the positive attributes accolades end there.
First and foremost, Bell, along with Boyle, was directly responsible for Edmonton’s first goal. While I appreciate his willingness to pinch, he has to realize that his team already has two forwards trapped down behind the goal line.
Even further, he has to realize that he is out there against the other team’s top line, with three players capable of changing the balance of the ice at a moments notice. Bell made absolutely no play on the puck, exposing his defensive partner Eminger to a fast break and an easy goal against.
What was even more bothersome, however, was his play in the defensive zone. When faced with strong forecheck by the opposition, Bell looked absolutely lost. He chased the man in front of the net without any awareness of where the puck might be heading, like a peewee hockey player in way over his head. One has to question why Bell should be playing play over Jeff Woywitka, who has proven to be a steady and consistent defender over the course of his short time in New York.
Rupp had actually put together a decent game through the first two periods, showing better strength and aggressiveness on the forecheck. I could care less, however, because the penalty he took early in the third period made me want to jump onto the ice and take away his jersey right then and there.
After a successful penalty kill to start the third period, and with the team trying to build momentum, Rupp chased a puck into the offensive zone. Rupp, the bigger player, tried to gain position not with his body, but rather with his stick, slashing the defenseman two or three times before getting called for a devastating two-minute hooking penalty.
After making the most blatantly lazy play on the young season, Rupp has done nothing to convince me that he can be an effective fourth-line player for this team. Tortorella and the Rangers need to figure out what they have with Rupp and make a personnel decision if necessary moving forward.