Shoot the puck? Are you sure about that?

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Update, 2:15 p.m.: As expected, the lineup stays the same against the Caps, with Marek Malik a healthy scratch for the third straight game. All this “courtesy of my co-owner Zipay”:http://weblogs.newsday.com/sports/hockey/rangers/blog/, who made it to the morning skate.

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You may recall that “delightfully ironic moment last month”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2007/11/07/oh-the-irony/ when an injured Marty Straka was seated behind a bunch of us writers in the press box at Nassau Coliseum, and he, too, joined the chorus of Rangers fans imploring the players on the ice to shoot.

bilde-1.jpgThe irony takes on even more meaning now that Straka is back playing — and of course, back passing up shots along with the rest of his teammates.

If anything, it underscores the issue is complicated, as “I wrote in my story in today’s paper”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071212/SPORTS01/712120391/1046/RSS0905.

Because as much as we’d like to ridicule the Rangers for being a bunch of trigger-shy, finesse players always looking for the perfect play, the reality is a clean look at the net these days is about as common as a one-sentence Tom Renney answer. Straka couldn’t see as much when he was temporarily confined to the press box. But put him back on the ice and the lack of shooting lanes is obvious.

“It’s hard,” he told me. “Sometimes there is half a second where you can shoot the puck and if you miss that, you can’t. The fans don’t see the guys in the lane or the stick in the lane. So it’s hard to shoot. And obviously it’s hard for them because they want to see more shots and it is more exciting. But sometimes they think it’s there but it’s not. You know you’re going to hit the guy.”

Of course, this isn’t to exonerate the Rangers completely since other teams are scoring more goals than they are, and even one of their own, Brendan Shanahan has managed to get off 135 shots on goal in the first 30 games. The lack of shooting lanes is not an excuse when Michal Rozsival has the puck at the point and he, almost instinctively, stuffs it back to Jaromir Jagr when Jagr is covered by three players.But I’ve seen the problem only grow this year, and it’s the main reason in my eyes that scoring is down. As I mentioned the other day, the main reason the Rangers aren’t shooting is the fear that shots will get blocked and it will send opponents back the other way.

And it explains why a lot of defensemen are actually missing the net on purpose because they’re trying to either hit a forward who can tip a shot in, or have the puck carom off the end boards and from there, they can get a good bounce.

In other words, pond hockey it isn’t.

For more on this topic, I talked to Brendan Shanahan about it, and here’s what he had to say (Note the playing of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” in the background):

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64 Comments

  1. This is EXACTLY why Dawes needs to be up NOW. He always looks to shoot, and it’s evident by the numbers he’s putting up.

  2. The league should ban players from diving to block a shot. If the leave their feet to block, it would be a 2 minute penalty. That might make a difference.

  3. The only thing you didn’t mention Sam is the fact that the Rangers are one of the conference leaders in shots taken. It’s really to do with the kind of shots this team takes and I agree with you about the Rozsival/Jagr love affair is going overboard now. I can’t stand it when I hear fans yell shoot when it is pretty clear that the shots they would be taking would only be easily blocked. Nevertheless, they need to figure out a way they can really work the puck around the perimeter a little bit quicker to open up those .5 second lanes and maybe make them last .8 seconds.

  4. “The league should ban players from diving to block a shot. If the leave their feet to block, it would be a 2 minute penalty. That might make a difference.”

    This isn’t intramural floor hockey at Ramapo College, this is the NHL. You do what it takes to win. And if diving to block a shot helps to win, then you leave it in the game.

  5. It isn’t that hard to fake a shot, if the player leaves his feet, you go around him. It’s the frickin NHL. If you can’t master a move that is perfected by D8 Chelsea Piers players, than you shouldn’t be there.

  6. Nasty – I THINK he was kidding. I sure as hell hope he was.

    Zac – great point about cycling. We don’t do a heck of a lot of it, esp on the PP. I think if you look back at when the PP was REALLY struggling, we’d probably see 4-5 passes then cough up the puck. By cycling better we can move the puck around the zone without passing too much – thus opening up the lanes for 1-timers by Shanny, or allowing Jags to walk off the half boards and fire a wrister.

    You think Dawes plays on sunday and takes the spot of whoever has the worst game tonight?

  7. Getting shots on the PP is simple, I don’t know why this team can’t manage to do it. Players need to MOVE. They can’t be stationary and just pass the puck around. When you move, a defender must move with you. This opens up these “lanes” that the Rangers claim aren’t there.

    It isn’t like every powerplay is failing. Why don’t they just take some tape of Montreal’s powerplay and copy it? They seem to be having significant success.

  8. Maybe the league should have a penalty if your stick breaks. Cause whoever designed them should be shot. No pun intended.
    Oh just kidding…
    How many opportunities have been missed because a stick broke. These sticks absolutely suck. Sure they are lighter but they can’t hold up to any abuse and are as unreliable as Malik… and are therefore USELESS!!!

  9. sam, nice read. maybe all of the idiots that can’t stop yelling ‘shoot’ regardless of circumstances will understand a little more.

  10. I think a lot of the reason some fans still get on the teams case to shoot more is a result of years and years in the past that they weren’t shooting the puck with open lanes the size of Howard Bergers mouth.

    I think we’d all agree that there were plenty of games in the past(pre-lockout) that we didn’t shoot enough.

  11. The problem is that nowadays you see so many players winding up for big slap shots. As a result, forwards and defensemen have time to drop in front of a shot or square up to the shooter. Much like the wrist shot, the quick snap shot is a lost art.

    Prucha27 is on target. The Rangers PP (at least the Jagr unit) looks like five guys waiting for a bus. There is little player movement so no lanes open up – especially when the opponent can sit in a box because no one is front of the net).

    Just watch when other teams score power plays against the Rangers. More often than not, the opponent has one man in front and there is a lot of cycling going on. Moving the puck and moving players causes the defense to move out of position and out of the box. All of sudden, those clogged shooting lanes start to open up.

  12. I think when the fans are chanting “shoot the puck” they don’t mean it immediately, they just want the team to start taking a more active role in actually scoring goals.

    Sam — you should post audio like that more often. I love hearing what guys have to say without it being cut down to a single sound byte.

  13. Anthony M, this is EXACTLY what I was talking about the other day on this blog with the slapper vs a snapper and a wrister!

    Beer Me, the blades are heated to like 34 degrees or something and provide a very small wet surface on which they glide. Kinda like a fresh sheet of ice versus a very scratched up sheet, the fresh one always is a little faster. Gretzky skated on some of these and said, “I would still be playing if we had these.” It is a concept that they are looking at. Could make the game even faster but if everyone has them I don’t see how it really gives more edge to anyone.

    We need to crush the Caps tonight.

  14. Seems like with the quality of the ice surface (and the league’s decision to crack down on too many players on it during pre-period warmups) they wouldn’t be too excited about heated skate blades.

  15. excuses, they are telegraphing their shots. If they pass once, or twice & shot the lane will be open. Theu refuse to get in front. It’s Renney’s system of them worrying about D. Their breakout from their own zone is confused. Not enough set plays. Look at the OT goal, that’s what teams are doing. CRISS CROSS WAKE UP!

  16. OUCH !!

    Fluery is out 6 to 8 weeks for the Pens.

    I guess we’ll be seeing Cujo in the near future. Lol unless there comfy with getting destroyed 8 – 2. That was a great game to watch, even though Flyer fans had something to smile about.

    With all of these Duck trade rujmors swirling around today, i wonder who there gonna let go. Everyone keeps saying Schneider. That would even things out with the “amazing D” Keith Jones was going crazy about.

    Anyway, i wonder if NYR will make a trade to make Dawes a regular for the team. Who knows. Even if we trade Hoss, and bench Hollywood, or Orrsie, then you’ll still have to put players on the 4th line, that you wouldnt want there. Who knows what will happen.

  17. lol… Toward the end of the interview, I may be crazy, but did Shanny say block shocking not once, but twice?? heheheheh cute.

  18. Know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see us throw caution to the wind for a game, abandon all systems, play a run-n-gun, back-n-forth game with tons of speed. I’d like to do it on Sunday vs. the ‘yotes. No better chance.

    I know I’m talking out of my ass right now, but I’d just like to see the highest skill level of these guys all in one game. And for Hank’s sake, it better be friggin god-like! Cause he’d be tested for sure.

  19. Knowing when to shoot and when to pass is an instinct.

    Right now, this team’s confidence (at least offensively) is shot. Once things start to roll (God I pray that they start to roll at some point) they won’t be thinking “Should I shoot… or should I wait to make a pass… well… coach is saying shoot, so I guess… here goes”

    They’ll just be doing it and not thinking about it. That’s what’s missing and it’s not something you can work on. It’s confidence… plain and simple.

  20. On the PP when NYR does decide to shoot, then its blocked and we give up a short handed breakaway. Then Hank has to save the day.

    The PP needs to change. Big time. I dont know why the first unit has so much trouble.

    If Renney was using his head, he would put the second unit on first, cause they can actually gain the zone without taking a minute off the clock. This way when the first unit comes on for the PP, most likely they will be in the zone going for the faceoff.

    Its fuggin pathetic, i mean Kovalev is having a damn good season so far, and Jagr is having a horrible season. I dont know how many assists Kovalev has, but i know he’s been scoring some goals. Im sick of this BS, Jagr stops scoring, then he puts a multi point game up, and gets everyones hopes up, only to play like shit the next few games.

    But as long as they make it to the playoffs, thats all that matters. Then you’ll get to see who diserves there money.

  21. Orr – that made me think of something. You know, we heard early on, before the season started that this team was built for the playoffs.

    Sitting in and around 1st place and in the top 4/5 of the conference I think would satisfy the brass of the organ-i-zation. Let’s just hope that the plan works.

  22. BEER

    You never know..Last season it looked like NYR was making the playoffs, until that 7 game losing streak happened, and they were fighting to make it in. As dramatic and cool as that was, you dont want to go through that again.

    Im definitely not gonna get over confident with this team. They most likely will make the playoffs, but with the way the rest of the conference is playing, its gonna get tough.

    But if they make it, then hopefully we get home ice advantage. I’d love it, if NYR won the division, that would be perfect.

  23. Shoot the puck is a symptom. A symptom of a larger problem. Obviously when everyone is yelling shoot the puck the right thing to do isn’t shoot the puck from just anywhere.

    I’ve watched the games and this is what I see (based only on the PP) The excuse being used here is there are no shooting lanes…there are no shooting lanes. It’s easy for fans to yell shoot the puck when they’re not on the ice! I say crapolia to that.

    Let’s go back and look at the tapes. puck is passed to Mr. Jagr or point man or whoever. Said player gets puck and ponders his next move for a few seconds. He’s not moving. There is very little movement by the other 4 players on the ice. This is creating the impression that there isn’t a whole lot going on here.

    Ok so said person has looked around and the D is playing the lanes perfect. Perfect because if there is no movement then it’s pretty damn easy to cover a shooting/passing lane.

    This results in an allowable pass to another player who goes through the exact same sequence. Surprise Surprise no shot taken.

    BORING!…and Unforgivable! This has been going on all season. But wait…not all season.

    There are blips and moments when the puck handler DOES try to create a shooting/passing lane. In fact move the puck handler and you start to see the ENTIRE Ranger attack force moving. This causes confusion and ultimatley results in a nice pass or shot on NET!

    So my conclusion is that either the Rangers are not following orders, coaching staff does not believe the Ranger players are capable of moving the puck once set up or the coaching staff if creating an injustice to players and fans.

  24. I always thought there were two power play stategies. Work the puck down low for a pass and shoot goal or get the puck to the points for a shot with bodies in front.

    Is the problem that neither strategy is being executed properly???

  25. I was just taking a look at our salary/FA situation. Dawes/Montoya/Moore(& others) are FA’s after this season. So if you bring Dawes up for too long and he scores ‘too much’, then you better hope he’s ready to go next season, cause he’ll be earning. Montoya’s contract being up just assures that he’ll be dealt as soon as Hank re-up’s.

    Not to mention that Toots AND Girardi are FA’s too. I’m quite sure they’ll be getting a raise.

    Avery being hurt is both hurting and possibly helping the team at the same time. If his #’s stay low, so does his paycheck.

    Of course there are others that we know won’t be back (see #8 & #81). However, if #81 wants to pay US, then maybe he can carry the puck bag.

    This game is soooo important tonight. With no game until Sunday, it’d be nice to stay on a high note for a few days.

  26. JAY

    The 2nd unit is doing good. The problem is, Renney keeps starting the Jagr unit first, and they eat up time trying to gain the zone, and the have 1 to 0 shots by the time they get off the ice, and by the time they get off, there’s barely enough time for Gomer’s unit to work with, and if there is, they cut it short to get Jags unit back on. Its ridiculous, Jagr’s PP unit hasnt done anything, they scored 1 PP goal in the Sens game, and have barely done anything all season long.

    Like i said, it would be smart to play Rozi on the 2nd unit, so he can shoot the puck more, and Gomez has set him up a few times this year for some beauty goals.

    Im up and down with Renney, same days he is a good coach then some days i wonder why he is a coach.

  27. When is Renney going to wake up and put Dubinsky on the third line? This is getting rediculous!!

    Renney has a good system installed but it is to a fault. He over analyzes everything and has his team thinking they can only win if they sit back. It is a trend… Renney always makes a good decision but only after waiting too long and the team suffers for it.

    It is obvious to everybody that Dubinsky is not ready for the load he has been assigned but why can’t Renney see it? The PP is horrible! There isn’t another coach in the NHL that would have continued this experiment any longer. Why Tom? Why!!!

  28. Nevermind, – got it – channel 48. I don’t think NYR/TMC could make it any more difficult to figure out what channel they are playing on when it’s not MSG1.

  29. How is it so difficult? They said it’s on FSNNY, that’s a lot easier than MSG2 which could change from one broadcast to the next. At least this gets listed as “NHL Hockey.”

    I heard the “Potvin sucks” whistle in Washington just now, but nobody said anything after it. Strange.

  30. rangers have been outplayed for 2 periods now…lucky the score is 2-2. let’s see how they come out in the 3rd.

  31. As soon as I saw that weak clearing attempt by the Capitals, I thought that might be bad for them. That was pretty dumb by Backstrom.

    I think the Rangers were the better team in the first, only outplayed in the second and third so far, and the score reflects that.

  32. unfortunate to lose like that…but we should never have stopped playing after we went up early

  33. Doodie Machetto on

    Let me preface this post and possibly add perhaps qualify it a little bit by saying this: I am a big Jagr fan.

    That said, I think he may be washed up. Now, granted, a washed up Jagr is still better than 85% of the forwards in the league, but I think the problem is that they ride him like he is still the force he was just a couple of season’s ago. It’s time to make him a part of a line, and not a line by himself. And what I know for a fact is that he is being harder on himself when he doesn’t play that well than anybody else could be. It’s pretty sad to see.

    We played about 20 minutes of hockey tonight (the first 10, and about 10 mins of the third period). Unfortunate to go down in OT the way we did. Man, that Mike Green is something else, he pulled two sick moves and almost scored right at the end of regulation, too.

    Anyway, congrats to Nigel Dawes, and to be honest, I think he and Dubinsky should trade places. Renney says he doesn’t like Dawes’ defensive game, but he cannot even remotely be pleased with what he sees game in and game out form Dubinsky who seems perpetually lost in the defensive zone. As for the center situation, I see three options:

    1) Straka centers Jagr.
    2) Drury centers Jagr, and Avery centers the third line.
    3) Drury centers Jagr, and slide either Callahan or Prucha to center to see if they can handle it. I read in a report (I think it was Zipay) that Callahan was doing a faceoff practice with Betts, Gomez, and either Dubinsky or Drury.

    Any thoughts?

  34. bad ice or no bad ice, rangers deserved to lose this game. end of story. FIRE RENNEY ASAP! HOW IS MARCEL HOSSA STILL ON THIS TEAM?? WHAT DOES HE BRING?? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

  35. announcers never once mentioned how sloppy the d was in clearing the zone, led to two goals and the penalty to strudwick at the end. the only defenseman i really have confidence in is Staal. rosi looks terrible and toots and girardi are not as steady as they have been. i also think strudwick needs to sit one down and we should bring up baranka or sauer.

    if the capitals are dumb enough to let ovechikin become a restricted free agent, that is a guy i would throw 10+ million at and let jagr, straka, shanny, rosival and malik leave to clear cap room

  36. bskul and the rest of th renney haters. go find an example of a coach with a team tied for 1st that has been let go. then return here and fill us all in. not before that.

    doodie – takes a knowing fan to admit that a player of that caliber has his best days behind him.

    li joe – did i say different? ufa or fa – they’re still going to try to cash-in. that was my point there.

    hank looked rattled after taking that shot wherever it hit him. never a good time for a goalie to through ups and downs, though its inevitable. rather it be now than in march/april. coulda been the difference tonight. 4 goals by us should be an easy win.

    disheartening to lose to washington, grabbed a road point. still up there in the division. gonna be a loooong 3 days.

  37. sam–during the 3rd period, renney took the jagr off the ice after an icing to put gomez out there and they showed jagr yelling at someone as he got back to the bench…any idea who he was yelling at and why?

  38. Doodie Machetto on

    “doodie – takes a knowing fan to admit that a player of that caliber has his best days behind him.”

    That’s why I mentioned that I’m a fan of his. If I was someone who was constantly riding him, I don’t think it would have as much effect. I hate it, because it’s sad to see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he hangs them up or goes back to the Czech Republic if it continues. I don’t know how he’s dealing with not being an elite player. I sure hope he can snap out of it though, and soon.

  39. yeah renny the moron will only lead the rangers to the playoffs 3 yrs in a row.. bring back ron lowe or others!!!!!!

    they played bad and got 1 point…

    the 4th line still stinks, big suprise…

  40. Man I was at the game tonight and they had NO breakouts at all, and very little on the forecheck. We played like crap, and 2 of our goals should have been stopped, their D wasn’t that good either. I saw a couple of plays where a Cap just got to a puck before one of our D in the defensive zone, not because the forward was faster but because it seemed like our D was lollygagging (Strudwick or Mara). 18 shot to 7 after the first period? Terrible.
    PP was atrocious again. Staka’s goal was nice though.

    If anyone is interested I have a ton of pics of warmups and throughout the game. I was quite close only like 12 rows back, I’ll upload and post a link here.

    Hank didn’t play so well after he got hurt. Anyone know what happened to him?

  41. Orr has been on the short end on his latest fights and that’s supposed to be his strength. Take him out of the lineup along with Hollweg (when Avery comes back), Callahan, who should have been sent down for conditioning, Prucha, who just looks lost and Malik

    Bring up Dawes, Baranka, Moore and Fritz. Put Hossa on the 4th line when Avery comes back. My lines would then be:

    Straka/Drury/Jagr

    Dawes/Dubi/Moore

    Avery/Gomez/Shanahan

    Hossa/Betts/Fritz

  42. Doodie Machetto on

    lenny, I don’t like a lot of your choices, but I do think you’ve got one that I wouldn’t mind entertaining: swapping Prucha and Dawes.

    They are both weak defensively, and Prucha’s confidence is shot. At least Dawes will score a few goals.

  43. That was a big bummer. They still can’t hold emotionally and they still can’t play a whole game and their PP is still laughable.

    The Rangers should look at the Caps PP. The way they pass to get Semin open shots is what the Blueshirts need. He might not score but he gets open lane chances.

  44. Okay a observation about the game coverage…
    What’s with Joe Micheletti, he gushes over Brendan Shananhan during the game, I mean I love him too but for goodness sakes. He acts like a school girl.

  45. Doodie Machetto on

    HA! you’re totally right, he has a complete man-crush on Shanny. As soon as Shanahan fell, he was so quick to defend him. If it was Jagr though, he would’ve said something about too much passing and not enough shooting.

    Maybe he’s hoping Shanny goes back to being a tranny?

  46. all i can say is – i like dubie and hes a hard working kid…but the fact is that dubie is a kid…

    everyone was excited on july 1st because we signed 2 centers that were supposed to give us 2 amazing scoring lines and allow our youngsters to take over the 3rd line. DRURY is supposed to be on the top line. I love Jagr, i hate to see him struggle…but the fact is that everyone spoils him. Everyone worries so much about which centers Jagr can play with… this year the question should have been: which wingers can play with Drury…because THAT is what we should focus on. Jagr is one of the top 20 goal scorers of all-time…but he has been through a tough injury and he’s wearing off slowly and painfully. We need to find Drury some linemates that can work with him because Drury wont put up points playing with Callahan and Prucha – even though the line works hard.

    It’s time to stop worrying about who Jagr gets along with the best…NYLANDER IS GONE…RUCHINSKY IS GONE….its time for Jagr to adjust HIS game instead of making everyone else adjust theirs…

    when avery gets back…

    Straka / Drury / Jagr
    Shanny / Gomez / PRUCHA
    Avery / Dubie / Cally
    Hollweg / Betts / Orr (or Greg Moore thrown into the mix)

    Everyone picks on Prucha because he’s off to a “slow start” — guess what, hes never even come CLOSE to seeing the ice time he got in 2005-2006. Give him that ice time again…then you’ll see the Prucha we all saw in 05-06. That wasn’t a fluke…

  47. Too many mistakes in the game to mention. One to laugh about is when Ovechin has all the time in the world to set up office in front of Lundqvist, make coffee and read the newspaper before eyeing up a deflection and scoring, while everyone else in blue shirts stands to admire and offer him marriage proposals.

  48. I am big Jagr fan as well BUT…

    It’s time to think about trading him, he’s just terrible last couple of games, he creates lots, I mean LOTS of turnovers, doesn’t shoot much, offesively he’s useless… hard to say but he should go, it’s still not too late to move him. Also, I’d send Dubinsky back to Hartford and bring Anisimov, Prucha or Hossa (or both) to Pack and Dawes and Moore back up. Somebody has to shake things up before it’s too late. I hate December.
    Henrik allowed sloppy 4th goal and he was NOT sharp at all. What is going on? Where is old King?

    …and PLEASE FIRE ISIAH!!! SHAME!!! Come on Dolan!!!

  49. Everyone who wonders why Renney gets on the young kids (Dawes for example) for not playing 2 way hockey, just look at what Dubinsky did (or didn’t do) on the Caps 2nd goal (I think it was goal 2…there were so many of them, I lost track.) It was an awful change by everyone there, that is no secret. But Dubi put for the lamest, weakest poke check with no body and the guy danced around him and put it top shelf. It is that kind of stuff that is just inexcusable. Tyutin had a lame giveaway. Drury looked invisble and maybe was the victim of a bad bounce in our zone but he was not even there last night. Hank let in a soft one too, maybe even two!

    Last night’s game was a horrendous effort. We were lucky to get away with 1 point. We were out hustled, out hit, out worked, and beaten to every puck. Plain and simple. The only silver lining was that Straka played well. The best line on the ice was Gomer, Shanny, and Hossa. Jags’ line did OK, but that change and Dubi’s hit cost us more than just one goal. It was deflating!

    I cannot tell if it is lack of preparation or lack of motivation but the team looks lost out there at times. I don’t know where to point the finger but it is getting frustrating to watch! We got a point, fine. We have games coming up against Phoenix and Pittsburgh before Minnesota, Carolina, Ottawa, and Vancouver in the near term. We will get toasted if we play as flat as we did last night.

    Annoying!

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