*UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: Moments after this post came word that Thomas Pock has accepted a two-week conditioning assignment in Hartford. This seems to make sense given Pock’s lack of playing time, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens once he’s done.*
I suppose in this holiday season, the emphasis should be on the things that really matter in life — family, friends, the poetry of a well-executed 2-on-1. Instead I choose to focus on my iPod, which crapped out on me at some point late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, and is now sitting sitting brain dead on my dining room table.
This is devastating stuff, readers, especially since half my music collection may have been wiped out in the process. Even worse, this morning at the gym I suffered the indignity of working out to — I shudder even to write the words — a portable compact disc player, which is sort of like Jaromir Jagr being asked to go back to a stick with no curve.
Oh, the humanity!!!
But enough of my woes. Of greater importance to you is that “the Rangers have won three straight games”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061211/SPORTS01/612110360/1046/SPORTS for only the second time this season, this just a week after a crushing 7-4 loss to the Islanders. Is this what we can expect all year — solid play followed by incompetence, followed by an inspired resurgence? I wouldn’t be surprised, but at the very least it makes my job more interesting.
So without further ado, let’s get to some of your questions.
*Q: Sam, can you ask Renney why, despite trying other things to get Cullen going, he has not tried to put him on the point for the PP, where he was so effective for the Cup Champs? — Brian*
A: The reasons for Matt Cullen not being used on the point on the power play seem to vary, from Renney prefering Martin Straka in that role, to the fact that the coach likes Cullen, alongside Petr Prucha and Adam Hall, as an integral part of the second power-play unit. Whether any of those reasons suffice is open for interpretation. Meanwhile, the comical trials of Matt Cullen continued last night against the Panthers, when the forward not only failed to convert on several golden opportunities, but was nearly decapitated in the process. I say it’s comical because there are two kinds of scoring droughts: one when a guy simply can’t score, and another when a guy can’t score and sees his entire game suffer as a result. Cullen continues to be extremely effective in his myriad roles — even strength, power play, and on the penalty kill — but put the puck on his stick in front of the net, and he suddenly turns into Colton Orr.
*Q: How you doin Sam? Doesn’t it bother you that Renney bases his goalie decision off a little chart he creates? I mean now we realize why Lundqvist doesnt get some of the games heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s supposed to get after great wins….Now why is it that Brodeur plays the majority of the games, Richter played the majority of the games and yet we still have to plug Weekes in there? Lundqvist is a big boy, he can handle the pressure. — Newman*
A: Helllooooooo Newman (sorry, couldn’t resist). Yes, the goalie plan that Renney talked about yesterday, in which the coach maps out his starters at the beginning of each month, is a little odd. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One, the coach said he still can stray from it when he wants. And two, I think the coach would be a fool NOT to spread out the goaltending duties as he has. One reason is that Weekes, as proven yesterday, can be just as effective as Lundqvist on a given night. And secondly, there’s no point in risking burning out Lundqvist at this early juncture in the season Maybe physically and emotionally Lundqvist can handle it, but the occasional break is only going to help him, and if he knows that Weekes can step in quite capably, it’s only going to push him to work harder. The reason why Martin Brodeur plays as often as he does is the Devils don’t have that luxury. The Rangers do, and they should use it to their advantage.
*Q: Sam, what are your thoughts on Ortmeyer coming back? Do you think he will add a lot to the lineup? Talk to me about those 3rd and 4th line guys and who you think will be the odd man out in coming week. Thanks. — Nick*
A: Nick, I do think Ortmeyer will be an important addition given his energy level and the defensive approach he brings, not to mention the symbolic lift of returning from such a potentially devastating condition. That said, I think you need to be careful in with your expectations. Ortmeyer was a fourth-line player for most of last year, and it’s not like he turned into a 50-goal-scorer in the months since. Moreover, the Rangers are currently in abundance of these type of third- and fourth-line players who don’t contribute much in the way of offense, so Ortmeyer’s return doesn’t really address their most pressing needs (i.e. secondary scoring). That said, as I mentioned, he is a valuable, popular player and one would hope that his return would also mean more minutes for Ryan Hollweg, who I happen to think is underutilized. As for the odd man out, I would imagine the short term solution would be to force Thomas Pock to take that conditioning assignment in Hartford (*SEE ABOVE*). Otherwise, I’d expect Colton Orr to be the one sent packing.
*Q: Any thoughts on Immonen? More specifically any thoughts from the coaching staff on how he has played this week? — Len*
A: Len, I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation, but it’s worth noting that the Rangers are 3-0 with Immonen (and Darius Kasparaitis) in the lineup. Maybe that’s just a coincidence. Or maybe the center has allowed the Rangers more of a balance with their forward lines. I think Jarkko has been solid. He seems to always be in the right place, and he’s smart enough to almost always make the right decisions with the puck. More important, when I asked Renney about him yesterday, the coach said many of the same things. That said, the coach also admitted that this continues to be a probationary period for the prospect, so Immonen might need to do a little bit more than just making good decisions.
OK, folks, that’s all for now. But I’ll check in as the day goes on.