Extreme Makeover: Rangers edition

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If there wasn’t already a sense of urgency around the Rangers after falling to 3-4 in Wednesday night’s slopfest against Nashville, there was the sight of the team skating to completely different line combinations this morning.

Put it this way: the only combination still intact is the defensive pairing of Darius Kasparaitis and Karel Rachunek, and they’ve been together A GRAND TOTAL OF TWO GAMES!

Beyond that and the fact that they were still wearing Rangers colors, it was a marked departure from the first two weeks of the season.

Plenty to discuss here, but first let me get to the combos:

Forwards
Prucha-Straka-Jagr
Cullen-Betts-Shanahan
Dawes-Nylander-J. Ward
Hossa/Orr-Hollweg-Hall

Defense:

Rozsival-Tyutin
Kasparaitis-Rachunek
A. Ward-Ozolinsh

Bear in mind that Tom Renney said he could change his mind before tomorrow night’s game in Toronto, but my read is that’s just something a coach just says. Also, no word on the starting goalie, but if past history is an indication, it will likely be Kevin Weekes.

Now, a couple of highlights:

  • The biggest, naturally, is Sandis Ozolinsh skating alongside Aaron Ward and likely taking Marek Malik’s place in the lineup after Malik was torched against the Predators. I know Ozolinsh is a lightning rod after the mishaps of last season, but the defenseman said his knee feels strong and that he’s reviewed extensively some of the defensive lapses from last season. Renney, meanwhile, said, that Ozolinsh’s work ethic and play has been “outstanding” thus far and that he has full confidence returning the player to the lineup. But even the coach acknowledged we won’t know for sure what we’re getting until Ozolinsh actually plays a game.
  • Oddly, Renney did sit Petr Prucha on Wednesday because he thought the wing needed to play to more of a north-south game; but now he’s rewarding Prucha with a spot on the first line. I like the move, if only because that line needs a jump and Prucha could be the guy to provide it. Martin Straka moves to center whiile Michael Nylander gets kicked back with Dawes and Jason Ward.
  • Matt Cullen moves to wing on the second line while Blair Betts takes over at center. Given that Cullen has been better at the offensive end than defensively, this might free him up while leaving the down low work to Betts.

    As Renney said, this could be a one-game experiment or it could be something that works longer than that. We’ll know soon enough. In other news, the coach did chew out his players quite audibly at one point this morning for their work on the backcheck.

    You can’t say he isn’t trying….

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    14 Comments

    1. Yeah, um, I’ve kinda had enough of Tom Renney.

      Cullen to wing? Blair “I had only 2 assists last year” Betts as the second line center?

      Mr. Swan Lake himself Michael Nylander between 2 guys who do best driving to the net?

      No Pöck?!?!?

      WTF? Sam, can you please kick Tom in the knee for me. Please?

    2. The Hossa experiment needs to end! I’d rather see Pock on the 4th line. He’s defensive-minded and he’ll shoot the puck.

      Straka needs to be off the PP. Pock or Ozo at the point. NYR is not shooting from the point.

      Please pass this on to Renney.

      Thanks!

    3. the lines send a message, could even work for a game or two (maybe). But are just to shake things up. Trying to get the east west players to go north south. Good luck.

    4. I’m kinda thinking this might make some sense:

      1. Prucha is moved to the first line to be the shooter on a line that currently has none. As we know, Straka and Nylander don’t shoot, and Jagr’s shot still isn’t 100%. With luck, this gets Prucha’s scoring going. Straka remains on the line to be the defensive conscience, since neither Jagr nor Nylander have put much effort into backchecking so far this season.

      2. Cullen gets moved to wing to get him going offensively by having Betts on the line at center to get back and cover his own zone. With Betts covering up defensively, maybe Cullen takes less reaching penalties trying to get back and cover the D. Betts has been moving the puck well lately, but he has absolutely no finish. Cullen and Shanny do.

      3. Nylander gets two wingers that will crash the net, meaning when he carries the puck over the opposing blueline he can throw it towards the net and count on two guys racing after it, instead of pulling up and waiting for Jagr and Straka to get into position for the perfect pass. Ward is fast, has been bullish on the puck lately, knows the defensive side of the game, and can get back in a hurry.

      4. The fourth line is largely unchanged. Hall and Hollweg will hit and grind. Orr/Hossa are the utility guys.

      On defense:

      1. Malik sits for poor play and bad penalties. Fans get what they want.

      2. Ward is a stay-at-home guy and covers Ozo when he presses for offense. Ozo’s introduction instantly makes the power play more lethal by getting Straka off the point.

      3. As much as Roszival – Tyutin worries me, Rachunek’s still re-learning the North American game and isn’t ready to take on the minutes Roszival pulls down. For that matter, either is Pock. Kaspar and Rachunek have played together before, so there’s an element of familiarity. Kaspar stays at home while Rachunek gets a little more leeway to try to find his offensive game. Rachunek’s speed helps compensate for the fact that Kaspar’s slow.

      Most importantly, it shakes up a line-up that clearly wasn’t working. I’m not saying it’s my dream line-up, but I can see where Renney’s coming from.

    5. Interesting pairings and thanks for the info on them, Sam!

      I think playing Dawes with Nylander may actually work, because Nylander may be able to feed Nigel the puck and Dawes seems to have a pretty accurate shot, when he gets to use it… More ice time and playing him with a proven NHL “playmaker” may be the key to getting Dawes going…

      As for Ozolish, it may be tough for him to get back into the fans good graces, but he may be able to get our PowerPlay going and he is certianly BY-FAR our most offensively talented D-Man… I’m willing to give him another chance, since I doubt our “D” can get much worse at this point, and without Pock in the lineup, his production from the Blueline is DESPERATELY NEEDED!

      I don’t mind Hall on the fourth line with Hollweg, because he can hit and that can be a solid “energy” line… I’d sit Hossa and play Orr (as most people know already), although against teams that aren’t overly tough, it’s not the end of the world when Orr sits… But sitting Orr against teams like the Devils and Islanders is a mistake in my opinion… If our teams needs anything, it’s toughness and passion… I don’t see that from Marcel Hossa most nights, but maybe he can surprise me one of these nights…

      Maybe these changes will indeed light a fire under the Rangers butts. Let’s hope so!!!

      LETS GO RANGERS !!!

    6. My only concern with the defensive pairings is the message being sent to Pock, and perhaps more specifically the message being sent to Malik.

      I hate to harp on any one individual player, but rewarding a bigger contract instead of hard work seems questionable.

      As for Ozolinsh, I could see that being a 5-10 game experiment. He’s a decent offensive d-man, but makes terrible passes in his own end that make me throw up in my mouth a little bit each time. If he continues to be a liability in his own end and is incapable of matching his somewhat decent offensive performance, I don’t see Mr. Ozolinsh lasting too long in this organization.

    7. I Like nyladner with Dawes. It sends a messege to the vets that you can be moved off of the top lines…and at the same time it gives Dawes a chance to have a vet feed him the puck who can really feed the puck well. The fact that Cullen has been the best faceoffman so far this year worried me…BUT he and betts can switch after faceoffs if needed…all in all, I dont think that these line arrangments will be any worse, most likely they will be better, at least for a game or two….than MAYBE after everyone gets the idea, things will return mostly to normal…or perhaps this makes a new line that sticks and is great for the rest of the year.

    8. Renney’s pick-‘em-out-of-a-hat line combos are a joke. Straka, his pet favorite, is weak at center and at the PP point.

      Betts, who couldn’t pass a kidney stone, is now expected to set up our leading goal scorer, Shanny.

      Nylander and dawes,who are not defensive specialists, are now apparently going to go vs. the opponents scoring line. Or, if it is straka vs. sundin, that is no good either.

      Then, on D, renney breaks up the only decent combo, Ward-Tyutin, to insert pylon Bozo. and he keeps that useless as you know what Raccoon-neck in there.

      Add weaks (sp.meant) to the whole thing, and you have a Renney experiment. I doubt his Frankenstein monster will work. He is just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    9. Hey, if these combo’s light a fire under some azzes and cause players to focus more on playing harder and making smarter choices, I say what the hell. Let’s see what’ll bring.

    10. firstly, laurie pretty much hit the nail on the head in my humble opinion, the logic is definatly there, but:

      i HATE Hossa. i see no point in him being here. he doesnt work. bring up inmonememnmemnm or Dubinsky.

      i don not agree withbreaking up A. Ward and tuytin. Rozival-Tuytin scares the hell out of me as well.

      Orr and Hollweg should not play in the same game.

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