Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shoot The Puck!

You and I are probably a lot like each other, We sit and watch the Rangers on the PowerPlay. We see some Ranger alone at the point with the puck, just standing there, waiting. Waiting with the puck. Waiting for I-don't-know-what. And then we stand up, in our living room, for no reason we stand up, and we start yelling at the TV:

“Shoot The Puck!”

It's more than advice. And it's more than strategy. It's a feeling in the gut. It's an emotion. We can't stand it any more and we start to yell.

Shoot The Puck!”

Because it's so obvious to us that you can't score unless you shoot. And that there's no benefit to just standing there not shooting.

Of course, we are not professional hockey coaches, you and I. We don't know all the complicated stuff that John Tortorella knows about hockey. So when the Rangers go 1-10 on the PowerPlay, you know he's going to have a much more technical analysis than we do in our living rooms.

Well, here's Tortorella's quote from yesterday:

"We were looking at tapes of Montreal, the best power play in the league and they did nothing but take point shots, they've got a pretty good guy in Markov and they were just banging away. We're trying to get across to Michael (Del Zotto) that he does not always have to give it to Gabby, he does not always have to give it to Kotalik. If he just takes some wrist shots....The key for Michael is that when there's someone in front he sees of his color, his uniform, throw it on the net and things will open up elsewhere.”

In other words: Montreal has the best powerplay in the NHL. And what do they do? They shoot the puck. From the Point. Over and over again.

And so, in practice this week, the Rangers are in powerplay formation and Tortorella is telling them the exact same thing you and I have been yelling at our TVs.

“Shoot The Puck”

(Or, in Tortorella's case we'll bet there's an expletive or two thrown in for emphasis.)

Anyway, here's your game preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing? It will be the Ottawa Senators – a team that has lost five straight games and has not won since January 3rd. They are 22-21-4 and on the verge of tumbling below the playoff Line-O-Death as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, with five other teams within 4 points of them. The Rangers at 22-17-7, sit 3 points and 2 playoff slots above them.

Primary Skaters: Michalek and Fisher and 16 and 15 goals respectively. Dan Alfredsson leads the team in assists with 22 (but he is injured). And it is left winger Nick Foligno that has the teams best plus-minus (+8).

In Net: 26 game appearances each for Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliot. Leclaire has a 3.07 GAA and Elliot has a 2.91. Both men have save percentages under .900, which is frankly, terrible.

Scoring & Defense: The Senators have scored 127 goals to our 120. But they have let up 147 goals to our 123.

Special Effects: Our Powerplay has been fading and is at 19.3% right now, but is still much better than the Senator's 14.0%. On the PK we also dominate. We kill penalties at an 86.4% rate while Ottawa stops only 82.1%.

Scheduling Conflicts: The Senators played and lost Tuesday 6-1 (to Atlanta). We played and lost Tuesday in a 96 shot marathon that went to shootout. So I'd say we're more tired , particularly Henrik Lundqvist.

Probable Lines:

Line One: Prospal-Christensen-Gaborik. I'm liking this line a lot. So far Christensen has been a great acquisition by Sather.

Line Two: Dubinsky-Drury-Callahan. It would be great if this crew could catch fire. With Dubi on the line they have some real firepower on line two for the first time in a while.

Line Three: Avery-Anisimov-Higgins. Avery's foot is sore from a blocked shot Tuesday – but I'm hoping he will play.

Line Four: Brashear-Boyle-Kotalik. Some scoring from down here would be great – and Koty has that super-hard shot.

On Defense: The same

Del Zotto-Girardi

In Goal: I am guessing that Chad Johnson will appear over the weekend when the Rangers play on back-to-back nights. But with hank being warn out from a tough game Tuesday – I would rest him here too. Torts probably won't though.

Dave Puck Predicts: We win 3-1.

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