Making the most of it


OK, you want the good news or the bad news first?

The bad news for those Rangers fans who feel the defense is far and away the team’s weakest link is that those defensive pairings don’t seem to be going away any time soon. But the other side to consider is that the more those players play together, the more palatable they are to each other, and to everyone else.


Look, I’m not trying to sugarcoat it here. I don’t think anyone’s going to look at the team’s backline personnel and expect highlight film material (well, actually, you do, but it’s still coming from the opposing forwards). But for all of Tom Renney’s stubbornness in fielding the same struggling players night-after-night, maybe we’re actually starting to see some dividends.

“It’s so many little things,” Renney said. “It’s about supporting each other with or without the puck. It’s positional play in general. It’s about the transition game knowing when to jump, where to jump, who’s jumping. It just seems like there’s more synchronicity between the two guys.”

Is this a coach making the most out of the hand he’s dealt? Maybe. I don’t have enough of an insight into what’s going on behind closed doors (i.e. who is being shopped around and who isn’t). But with neither Thomas Pock or Darius Kasparaitis nipping at their heels — Renney didn’t make it seem like either was likely for tomorrow against the Penguins — the starting six are at least entering the neighborhood of competence. And at this point right now, maybe that’s all you can ask.

A few other insights:

  • Renney admitted that he’s probably going to withold the name of the starting goalie until game days because if he does announce Henrik Lundqvist, it will give an opponent an extra opportunity to study Lundqvist’s tendencies in shootouts. I asked the coach if he would ever consider starting Kevin Weekes but then plugging in Lundqvist, who is perfect in shootouts so far, after overtime. Renney said it was something he’d entertain, but when I asked Lundqvist about it, the goalie sounded reluctant.

    “It would be tough. It takes a couple of minutes to get the feel for the puck, so it would be tough to come in like that,” Lundqvist said.

  • Aaron Ward is generally an upbeat guy, but the Rangers defenseman and University of Michigan alum is not optimistic about his Wolverines tomorrow against Ohio State.

    “23-17 Ohio State,” Ward said when I asked him to predict the score.

    Bear in mind this conversation took place before news spread of the passing of Bo Schembechler. I’m assuming Ward knew Schembechler, but by the time I had the chance to ask Ward about it, I couldn’t find him.

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    1. I thought you couldn’t change the goaltender before the shootout unless there was an injury? I sort of remember that happening in Buffalo last season against the Rangers with the Sabres goaltenders.

    2. Jen,

      I’m pretty sure you’re right about that, and also that if you DO change your goaltender, he is not allowed to have any “warm up” time. Maybe someone else can provide more insight.

    3. Well, I knew that this defensive core that the rangers brain trust has put together wasn’t going anywhere because lets be realistic, who would want them. The only pairing that is good is ward and tuytin. I know one thing and that is I’m tired about talking about it so since where stuck with them I’m done taliking about them. I will say though don’t expect to go far in to the playoffs and that is if we make the playoffs.

    4. Yea, maybe “good news” is pushing it. What I meant to say is there is a slight upside to sticking with these guys, and that is they should get better.

    5. DoodieMachetto on

      “What I meant to say is there is a slight upside to sticking with these guys, and that is they should get better.”

      Sounds like a John Maddenism: “Here’s a guy who, when he practices, he gets better!”

      Not very encouraging.

    6. OMG……

      You think this defense is getting better?

      I think as the season wears on and the games get tougher and tighter they are going to be exposed like the girl-scouts on ice that they are.

      All an opponent has to do is drive to the net and our “defense” is helpless to stop them. We have zero physical presence outside of Ward and occasionally Tyutin’s hip checks.

      So far every time this defense is pressured they are exposed. The only hope they have is for the Rangers to commit to playing defense first and that only happens for about 30 of the 60 minutes they are supposed to play.

      Reality is going to hit a lot of fans very hard this year.

    7. here’s what is not being said by Renney. In order for weak Dmen like the Rangers have to be even slightly presentable or effective in the defensive end, they have to play an overemphasized stay-at-home style that keeps them from jumping up into the play and helping increase Ranger scoring 5-on-5. you will notice that the Canes’ do want their Dmen to jump into the rush, and are willing to sacrifice an occasional 2-on-1 to do it. They won the Stanley Cup playing that way, so it does work if done correctly.

      the Rangers are near the bottom of the league in 5-on-5 effectiveness, and that is because of Renney having the reins on the Dmen he can’t trust to join the rush.

      case in point. the 2 Dmen who are supposedly offensive talents, Bozo and Raccoon, have ZERO goals. and the only goals even strength by Ranger Dmen are 2 by A. Ward and 1 by Roszival. and of course Ward learned that in Det. and Caro., so you have the grand total of 1 goal even strength by a Ranger Dman not named Ward.

      Far and away the leading 5-on-5 team is Det. and they of course have Dmen like Lidstrom and Schneider who score goals.

      If Renney can’t trust his Dmen to join the rush because they are too poor at getting back into position, or the forwards are too lax on backchecking in those situations, then the Rangers will continue being a one dimensional team with most of their eggs in the basket of two overused vet stars.

    8. Pock has an even-strength goal, and it was a beauty when he joined the rush, but Renney won’t let him play, so that just makes the problem worse. Pock might as as well be on Mars as far as Renney is concerned.

    9. Hey Samwise, Is Renney seriously aware of the immense fan backlash over his decision to sit Pock? I just seriously cannot see the harm in substituting the 2 sitting defenceman with Malik/Rozival or Rachenuk/Ozolinsh. At least for 1 game just to appease the fans…Whats to lose? If they are successful, then great, you have found a solution to the problem,…and If the plan fails horribly, then he can rub it into everyones face who says he’s crazy. Its a win-win situation. Is he stubborn,…or ignorant?

    10. 4Rangers –
      You’re right about how the best teams in the league have defensemen who join the rush, and in talking to Ozolinsh today, it sounds like as much as he wants to do so, he doesn’t trust himself enough to be really effective. You almost wonder if it makes more sense to have Ozo with a more stay-at-home player, since Rachunek has a similar style as well. The problem, as we know, is the Rangers don’t have anyone else who fits that description.

      Regarding Pock, I still don’t get it, and in talking to Tom today it sounds like Pock has a better chance of getting in at forward that at D. A mistake? Not sure. But again, it gets back to the fact that Renney, perhaps stubbornly, wants to keep his pairings together to help them maintain some momentum. And my point is that for all the drawbacks that brings, which we’ve discussed at length here — it does help those guys get comfortable with one another.

    11. Sam, right. But with Ozo that is just the problem, and why I have never wanted him. if he plays with an offensive emphasis, he is a complete disaster defensively, no matter who he is paired with. Last year Ranger fans saw how he plays when he is freelancing offensively, and it is awful, and has been for years.

      But I think that guys like Ward, Rosival and Tyutin could do more on the rush if Renney allowed them, but it has to be a team strategy that includes the forwards, not haphazard spur-of-the-moment guesswork.

    12. hockeymanrangers on

      Not much to write about, until Renny listens to us (come on Renny can’t you read, I promise I won’t charge you for my information) about replacing some of our defenseman and struggling forwards. NY keeps limping along and if we don’t do something soon it could just cost us the playoffs. Look how tight it was last year, it went right down to the wire. How long is Renny going to let these guys find their game. I keep looking for the shake up and it just never comes. Other than that I am just a little curious as to how we will do Saturday up against the young boys, they are very very fast. And I know Malik will not be able to conjur up enough energy to keep up. Good luck Ranger fans.

    13. Sam, I can’t take another mistake or lazy penalty by Malik!! I’m pulling my hair out here!!!

    14. If you have watched any of the ranger games this year against the young teams like buffalo and pittsburg the rangers don’t do well. I actually should say that there defense doesn’t do well. They usually skate circles around guys like malik, rachunek and Ozolish. The only bright spot is that the penguins played tonight against buffalo so hopefully those young studs are a little tired. I wouldn’t count on it and I like to know where anybody has seen any offensive skills from rachunek and Ozolish, I haven’t seen it myself but I’ll take people’s word for it that they do have such skills. If they do than maybe both Ozolish and rachunek should play up front, can’t be any worse than on defense.

    15. Speaking of lazy penalties,…is Jagr out of his mind or what? He loves taking “late 3rd period no reason whatsoever for taking a penalty” penalties. In the offensive zone for no particular reason, he puts his stick out and waterskies, or trips someone. AND ITS ALWAYS WHEN A GAME HANGS IN THE BALANCE! One in particular against Pittsburgh directly cost us a point (maybe 2) by taking a completely needless penalty in the last minute of a tied game. With 3 seconds left, they scored…bye bye points. I have caught him doing this at least 6 or 7 times lately.
      If it werent for his offence…

    16. I noticed yagr’s lazy penalties this year alot more than last year. It could be that he feels pressure as the captain of the team knowing that the team depends on him scoring (way to much) and also overworked that he gets tired and fustrated and he ends up hooking.

    17. You know…I always used to hate when fans would use words like “We” or “Us” whan referring to the team they root for. (ie: WE really need to shore up the defence. or Malik cost US the game)…now I am starting to doing it too. Shame on me.

    18. 4Rangers said: “the Rangers are near the bottom of the league in 5-on-5 effectiveness, and that is because of Renney having the reins on the Dmen he can’t trust to join the rush.”

      Actually, they’re tied for 10th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring.

      4Rangers said: “Far and away the leading 5-on-5 team is Det. and they of course have Dmen like Lidstrom and Schneider who score goals.”

      Actually, they’re 14th.

    19. hey gil, you don’t know jack. I said 5-on-5 EFFECTIVENESS. look at the stat on the NHL stats page, team comparison reports, under Summary, under the 5-on-5 F/A column, and you will see that the rangers are at 0.90, below avg., and that Det. is at 2.67 with calgary second, far back at 1.93

    20. it is how many you score 5-on-5 compared against how many you give up. yes, they have scored 35 goals 5-on-5, but they have surrendered 39 goals 5-on-5. get it?

      giving up 4 more than you score is NOT effective.

    21. Gil
      November 18th, 2006 at 12:45 am
      4Rangers said: “the Rangers are near the bottom of the league in 5-on-5 effectiveness, and that is because of Renney having the reins on the Dmen he can’t trust to join the rush.�

      Actually, they’re tied for 10th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring.

      4Rangers said: “Far and away the leading 5-on-5 team is Det. and they of course have Dmen like Lidstrom and Schneider who score goals.�

      Actually, they’re 14th.

      Hey Gil your WRONG and 4Rangers is right.check your facts!

    22. Tom G: First of all its JAGR..with a J, second of all, I very Rairly see anyone skating circle around Rachunek or Ozo, tehy actuyl do a VERY good job at keeping guys to teh outside, now tehy (usually) dont paly phisical untill the puck is in teh corners, than both will get their noses a little dirty, moreso than Malik. But their problems are when they TRY to get right up no a guy that they get beat…Malik on the other hand cant keep them to the outside or stop them one on one, and I tinhk its because they arnt affraid of getting hit, at least occasianaly Rachunek and Ozo will play teh body so it keeps guys honest…but OZO can still manouver rather well, his top speed just isnt what it used to be, he can change direction really well, as can Rachunek, most nights thats why not to many scoreing chances happen when they are out there…it just so happens that when they do mess up, it is spectacular so it seems most Rangers fans are blind to how well they play before and after the mistake. A disapointment in my eyes for how knowlegible Rangers fans are with most things, they can be so blind at the same time.

    23. 4Rangers…Soooooo…your saying that by getting teh Defenders MORE out fo position so the Rangers can score MORE 5 on 5 will make tehm more effective?? I thought you were talking about goal scoreing efectivness…so by looking at that the rangers ARE effective offensivly 5 on 5 and the defender DONT need to getinto tyeh play because as you pointed out, they give up to many goals 5 on 5, so the defense SHOULD stay BACK not jump in…the forwards are doing just fine withough them…in fact a forward should stay back as well so they can stop more gaols against…than by your reasoning they will be more effective 5 on 5…

    24. Hey Wildcard, I know jagr is spelled with a j, I have butter fingers when it comes to typing and before you point out somebodies typo error do you think you can spell “tehy actuyl””teh”paly””arnt””manouver”scoreing”,that’s being just a little hypercritical and if anybody is blind it’s you if you think those guys are good. I just go by what I see and I been watching hockey for a long time and know when a player is good or not. I even played hockey when I was younger so i do no something about hockey. I’m not saying I know everything because i don’t and neither does anyone else.

    25. Rich said: “Hey Gil your WRONG and 4Rangers is right.check your facts!”

      That’s right, Detroit dropped to 15th based on last night’s results:

      Rank | Team | 5-on-5 Goals For
      1 | BUF | 53
      2 | OTT | 45
      3 | CAR | 43
      4 | TOR | 42
      5 | ATL | 42
      6 | ANA | 42
      7 | COL | 39
      8 | NSH | 38
      9 | TBL | 37
      10 | NYR | 35
      11 | WSH | 35
      12 | EDM | 35
      13 | FLA | 34
      14 | PIT | 33
      15 | DET | 32


    26. I’d have to agree with Gil on this one. The goals against 5 on 5 lies mostly on our defense which we all know isn’t pretty. There’s a difference between being effective (which they clearly are – ranked 10th) and being efficient (which they aren’t because they don’t know how to utilize their defensemen properly). So in fact 4Rangers and Rich, you guys are wrong, unless you change your wording around.

    27. Hey, gil, can you friggin’ read , or what? I said Goals for MINUS GOALS AGAINST, dip. the Rangers are MINUS 4 in the 5-on-5 dept. they have allowed 39 while scoring 35. If you can’t comprehend that, then no one can help you.

      I said very clearly in my post to look up the 5-on-5 F/A column. that’s goals for AND AGAINST !! if you can’t understand that, then you are beyond wasting time on.

      I wrote the post, folks, so don’t tell me what I meant.

      Sam had no problem understanding it. “4Rangers – You’re right about how the best teams in the league have defensemen who join the rush,” etc.

      The end.

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