Must win?

32

No, I’m not sure you can say that about any game at this point. However…..take a look at the Eastern Conference after the Devils’ come-from-behind win last night against Montreal, and the Rangers are now squarely outside the playoff picture with 30 points.

With that in mind, you don’t want to pass up an opportunity tonight against the promising but still vulnerable Penguins.

Some quick thoughts after the morning skate:

  • Now that Jarkko Immonen is here, and now that we know he’s getting a shot on the second line tonight, the next question is how much latitude the prospect will be allowed in his first NHL game of the year. It’s an important point: it’s one thing to throw a Ryan Callahan or Nigel Dawes or even Thomas Pock in the occasional game. But those players should be afforded the opportunity to make mistakes in the interest of long-term growth.

    I asked Tom Renney about that today and here’s what the coach said.

    “I’m hoping we have the opportunity to have more than one look at him obviously. If we do that that means it’s worked or there’s reason to believe it will work….As long as I believe there’s reason to pursue it, I’m happy with that.”

    Naturally, Renney isn’t one for making promises, but unless Immonen starts teeing the puck up on a regular basis for the likes of Crosby and Malkin tonight, one would hope this is not his only audition.

  • Speaking of Immonen, Renney agreed for all the center’s intellect and playmaking ability, his foot speed, or lack thereof. is his one drawback. Keep an eye on that tonight and see if it’s a factor. Renney said it was the one area he asked Immonen to work on during the off-season, but he also acknowledged there’s only so much an athlete can do. “Some guys are physiologically challenged.” Oh, so that’s what I am. Here I was thinking I was just slow.
  • Darius Kasparaitis is a go for tonight as well, taking Sandis Ozolinsh’s place alongside Karel Rachunek. But unlike with Immonen, it’s unclear whether tonight is Kaspar’s lone shot. What Renney did say is there is also the chance that Sandis Ozolinsh and Kasparaitis could be in the lineup together on Saturday (What’s Russian for, “I thought you had him”?)Anyway, that’s not to say that will be the case. But let’s just say tonight’s an important game for Kasparaitis.
  • Rangers fans, I know these are trying times, but look on the bright side: your team is a lot better off than their corporate brethren, the Knicks (here’s my colleague and friend Mike Dougherty’s “entertaining blog”:http://knicks.lohudblogs.com on the team). Since my mom was hosting her book club last night, my old man was exiled to our house, where he subjected me to the Knicks’ awful outing against the Washington Wizards (this sounds like the premise of a bad sitcom episode, doesn’t it?). Personally, I think my dad would have been better off listening to the women in my mom’s book club. Instead he opted for a night of yelling at the TV every time the Knicks made a poor play, which averaged out to about every seven seconds.

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    32 Comments

    1. Too funny…

      Samwise:
      ^your team is a lot better off than their corporate brethren, the Knicks^

      I know, but for 7 years we were better than sucky, and instead of getting to the playoffs or getting a good draft pick, we got squat for hovering in between. It would be nice for them to pick a side.

    2. Doodie Machetto on

      Looks like we’re back to hovering.

      Sam, I call any game against a team in your division a must win. That’s a possible 2pts against them that you can have and that they won’t have against you, good for a 4 pt differential if things go the other way. That’s huge.

      They dropped that game against the Isles- if they had won it, we would have 32 pts and they would have 29. Instead they have 31 and are in the playoff picture, and we have 30 and are out.

    3. Doodie Machetto on

      Things like that can come back and haunt you late in a season if the playoff picture is tight. Look at Toronto and Vancouver last season.

    4. I’ve always felt Immonen makes up for his lack of speed with his gift for playmaking and vision of the ice. We’ll see if that holds true.

    5. Sam:

      Does Renney point out the weaknesses of his veterans as readily as he does the young guys? Seems to me that he protects the vets from criticism but is more than willing to point out the flaws in a young guys’ game. To say that Immonen might be “physiologically challenged” before the guy has even played a game is shameful. That was an instance when the coach should have been more circumspect. Sounds like he’s setting him up for failure (could it be because someone else in the org is telling him to give Immonen a chance?).

    6. Question:

      How did Immo look playing with Shanny and Cullen… I personaly think that Prucha should be on the second and Cullen should be centering the third, but maybe there’s something in the trio that Renny sees that we the fans haven’t…. wonderin if you could shed a little light on that Sam… do they seem to click well (granted it’s only a practice) but maybe they showed something promising to you…

    7. And to follow that up:

      What about this line of Hollweg Prucha and Hall? that might be a bigger question mark IMO

      Thanks alot Sam

    8. Rob —
      It’s very difficult to gauge a couple of practices since many of the drills aren’t 5-on-5 and invariably it’s a tad slower than in game situations. Which brings me to my next point….
      Twin — Renney’s remark about Immonen’s speed came after praising all the other parts of his game, and it came in a direct response to a question (from MSG’s Sam Rosen) about what the coach told the player he needed to work on after last year. It was all very innocuous. Bear in mind, also, that Renney and the Rangers staff have the same sort of end of the year conversations with everyone else on the team.

      Sam

    9. While it makes me feel better when I look at the state of the Knicks, I can’t help but feel awful for people in my family that follow the Knicks, Rangers, Giants, and Mets.

    10. Sam

      How did you see Kaspar in practice the last couple of days ?
      Do you think that he is ready to go ????

      What about Pöck ??? I heard about that he was paired up with Kaspar during practice ??

      Wouldn´t that even better to let the duo intact in favor of Rachunek ???

      What is the problem with Cullen centering second line ??? It is just the reason that he is pressuring himself too much ??? How do you like to move him to wing ????

    11. I gotta agree on moving Cullen to the wingspot– much like a jason blake (yes, i too hate to reference the isles), but creating that speed off the wing would be great not only on the forecheck, but possibly pressuring the opposing D in the offensive zone, working for possible breakaways– could be a VERY good thing–

      We need to win this game, as at the end of the season we could very well be fighting the pens for that last spot– i agree with the poster above– all division games should be must wins!

    12. Sam,

      my question is the same has HockeyBasedNYC’s. Does Hank or Kev get the start?

      thanks!!!

      AZ

    13. Sam Rosen should have been asking about Kaspar’s foot speed, since that is what the coaches have supposedly been testing in practice all these weeks.

    14. It will be interesting to see the player matchups. Renney will have the last change. Therien will want to have Crosby or Malkin on as much as he can vs. the Raccoon-Kaspar duo

    15. Sam,

      I agree with 4Rangers about Renney’s penchant for criticizing the kids before they’ve done anything wrong, while refusing to criticize the veterans even after they’ve made untold mistakes.

      It’s obvious to me that Renney wants a veteran team which will make an all-out run at the Cup. He doesn’t trust any youngsters who don’t have lots of NHL experience. After all, this may be his only shot as a coach to make a splash. Coaching careers don’t last forever. And if he doesn’t win here, he knows that Sather will use him as a scapegoat (to save his own job) and he’ll be gone, maybe forever.

      He should be talking about Malik’s immobility, Rachunek’s and Ozolinsh’s and Roszival’s lousy defensive positioning, J. Ward’s and Bett’s and Hossa’s and Cullen’s inability to put the puck in the ocean, and Weekes losing his concentration and letting in easy goals.

      Instead he’s focusing on an immaterial aspect of a kid’s game, IMO to deflect criticism from the vets. Immonen has been successful everywhere he played so far. Let’s get a good look at him before we rush to judgement.

    16. Immonen managed to step in for Rucchin last year with some success. Granted, Cullen isn’t injured, but may not have reached a level of confidence that he is happy with, and might benefit from a break, or might not. Prucha, energetic, frenetic, unstopable Prucha might not be best placed on a checking unit, but instead add some teeth to a toothless fourth unit. On to the next question: Why not bring in Pock? Can he kill penalties? Is there a space for him on the power play? No, and No. How many players can a team have that do not play on the power play, and do not kill penalties? Hollweg does neither, yet, and Orr, who sits tonight most likely, does neither as well. With Ozo out of the lineup, Tyutin becomes the point man on the second power play unit, which probably includes Cullen, Hall, Prucha, and Rachunik. What we have seen makes perfect sense as far as team construction and capabilities is concerned. Sufficent PP and PK players, and one less player who, while valuable at even strength, has more work to before he can take a solid lineup spot (Orr). Each player has work do to, and each can do more, or different things more effectively, but to say that the coach isn’t of sound mind is, in almost all cases, emotional biases getting the best of us.

    17. baron, it should also be noted that the Canes won the cup with a kid rookie goalie, Cam Ward, winning the MVP award, and a 21 y.o. kid one of the key factors up front in Eric Staal

    18. Doodie Machetto on

      ZG- Actually, Pock can definitely play point on the PP, and can do so instead of Rachunek. That’s why people are upset about Rachunek being in and not Pock.

    19. ZG:

      Is there really a place on the power play for Roszival? Why is Straka on the point when Cullen should be there? Why isn’t the 2nd powerplay unit given more ice time when the first unit is sometimes clueless?

      And who says that Pock couldn’t be a great PP quarterback? His puckhandling skills are very good, he’s fast, and has a very hard shot. I’d rather see him out there than Roszival, who refuses to shoot, can’t keep the puck in, and is a revolving door on defense.

      Our PP success so far has come almost entirely from JJ or Shanahan getting open for shots, with Nylander, Straka, etc. picking up some rebounds. The point men have done nothing so far this season except to try to set up JJ or BS. Other teams catch on very fast and they are simply stopping those passes now.

      When things aren’t working, if you keep doing things the same way you’re bound to keep getting the same results. Let’s try Cullen on first PP point, Pock on 2nd PP point. They can’t be any worse than what we have now. I’m betting they would be much better.

    20. Doodie Machetto on

      “Other teams catch on very fast and they are simply stopping those passes now.”

      I hate to essentially repeat what Wildcard has been saying, but everything youre saying about the PP being ineffective is totally wrong. Third best in the league. It seems to be working fine. It’s actually been getting better as the season has progressed.

      The 5 on 3 has been weak, but Jagr and Shanny are the pointmen there and they shoot like crazy, so the shooting from the point theory goes out the window on that one.

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