I’ve seen about 30 or so basketball games the last month as part of my, you know, real job. And something occurred to me between hoops games, while watching the Rangers last night.
If I were their coach, I’d take them to a basketball court and show them how to play a zone defense. How you keep the opponent with the rock on the outside, force him to take long shots. How you don’t go diving out at him, taking yourself completely out of position, trying to block a pass inside. If you defend inside, the ball stays outside. I’ve seen teams with very limited size and skill do this very effectively.
Now I know hockey’s a different animal, and defending the pass is much more difficult — it is a little disc, rather than a pumpkin, after all — but the same theory can apply. You give up the long, bad-angle shot, and let your goaltender have that, and defend/box out the opponent down low. Once you go sliding to ice, if the puck gets by you, your goalie is going to have a ton of problems.
Might even find himself on the bench in another loss.
So we saw two more goals last night scored while Dan Girardi is sliding out of the picture, one of them off his stick. Granted, his partner had another brutal game … again, you live with Michael Del Zotto’s mistakes now, because he’s going to go through this eventually, so it might as well be this year. But trying to do too much only exaggerates Del Zotto’s mistakes.
1) Mark Fraser, who coughed up the puck on the Brandon Prust goal — looked as if he knew Prust was coming — was stapled to the bench after that. Accountability.
2) Was it just me, or was Sean Avery also sitting out most of the third period?
3) Do the Rangers ever kill a Wade Redden penalty?
4) Redden got knocked down on that silly 3-on-1, slow-motion goal, and it could have been interference. The mistake was Ryan Callahan trying to thread a cross-ice pass with Redden in deep.
5) The Rangers scored three goals, but I didn’t think they created a lot of offense. They got the Prust goal on a gift. Erik Christensen scored a terrific goal (or a lousy one, depending on your view, because I think it was Kovalchuk who just waved at him in the high slot). Other than that, they forechecked sporadically, kept offensive-zone possession occasionally. This against a team that had been struggling and, honestly, didn’t play a great game either.
6) I know John Tortorella just wants to get his top line going, but I don’t know if saying that over and over again helps them. And, really, it’s one top-line player.
7) That was obviously Jody Shelley’s best game as a Ranger. They will need him to play that way these last 15.