Guest blogger: Lowell Blum … Rangers-HC Slovan in review



1) The Rangers were totally outplayed by an adrenalized Slovakian team until midway in the second period when the Rangers received a 5 on 3 for a full two minutes. The Rangers scored twice on beautiful passing and from then on dominated the game. The capacity crowd of 10,000 was extremely reserved; hand clapping and some chanting was the measure of their enthusiasm. There were, however, a number of cheerleaders dancing in the aisles and a guy with a megaphone exhorting the crowd apparently to little avail.

2) Richards is a hockey artist. He appears so relaxed and he sees the ice exceptionally well. Gretzky once said that when he was in “the zone” the game appeared to come to him in slow motion. I get the feeling Richards also inhabits that zone. He has a wonderful feel for angles and invariably leads his wingers so they receive the pass in full stride. I love how he is committed to getting pucks on net either by shooting, passing through the crease or by passing in front from behind the net. He makes players better not only by placing them in a position to succeed, but also by example: Today, for instance, I saw MDZ doing some very good things on the PP that I’d never seen from him before and they were some of the same things I’ve been seeing from Richards.

3) I’d like to see Boyle remain on the first line. For all of Richards’ offensive genius he is a liability on defense: He is a minus-77 for his career despite point a game offensive production. Watching him, I don’t see much of a commitment to defense.  Boyle is a superb defensive player who can make up for Richards and Gabby’s defensive deficiencies. Boyle is also a player on the come who despite a great year in 2010 still has plenty of offensive upside. He is also the forechecking presence that Wolski isn’t. Gaborik was trying to score and please the crowd, but he was not effective on this day. I still don’t see that amazing wrist shot that seemed to disappear after the shoulder injury.

4) Stepan played well. He said he worked on his shot this summer and he’s unveiled a one-legged snap shot where he lifts his left leg off the ground while shooting. Looks funny, but has good velocity. He also seems to have bulked up; I saw a photo of him and his neck was huge compared to last year. He was very visible all game with crisp passes, shots on goal and some nice hits. I doubt a sophomore slump.

5) Artie was really skating well. He showed terrific hands on his goal. He too looks more muscular. Callahan was Callahan. Zuke made some excellent passes, competed for the puck and threw a thunderous check that wiped out a 6-5 heavyweight. He too looks like he’s added some muscle. Dubi, EC and Feds had quiet games. Rupp is not a great player but he is a complete player. He’s got great hockey sense; he ‘s very physical but doesn’t take bad penalties. He passes well, can score some goals and of course he can fight. Prust was his usual amazing self on the PK. How many times have we seen him pin the puck behind the opponents net and defy them to take it away. Time and time again he’s eaten chunks of seconds off the penalty. Additionally, he’s always a threat to put in a short-hander. He’s gotta be one of the best bang for your buck guys in the NHL. Wolski and Avery sat out. Wolski had a groin and they didn’t know whether or not Avery was  hurt. Sauer didn’t play.

6) Watching Girardi is to watch a master technician. He exudes confidence. He’s not the biggest or most athletic, but he understands positioning so well; he has a knack of getting himself between the puck and his man along the boards so that he can take control of the puck for a good outlet pass. His positioning on shot blocking is unmatched. He has his occasional lapses but over all his passing is sound and his shot is usually accurate.

7) Hank played the entire game and was brilliant. They really had some great opportunities in the first half of the game because the Rangers kept taking penalties. He stopped everything except for the one shot on which he was screened and didn’t appear to see the puck. He appears to have improved his stick handling and instead of holding the puck for faceoffs, he’s been unloading it for a quick transition.

8) Torts and Micheletti have been talking up Stu Bickel but I don’t see much of a player there. He has zero offensive game, He doesn’t handle the puck well and he takes way too many penalties. To his credit, he hits and he does try to keep the crease clean. Brendan Bell is an OK journeyman who has a little bit of offense in his game but not much. I like Eminger. If they plan to play MDZ on the third pair, they’ll need to match him with a stay at home guy like Emmy. Matching MDZ with Gilroy last year was a bad idea. Speaking of Gilroy, does anyone else wish he were still around.

9) MDZ is playing better albeit against inferior competition. His compete level is much much higher than before. He’s throwing his body around with abandon. His overall focus seems better. Hopefully he’s becoming a professional. He’s been more efficient on the PP and seems to have imbibed some of the Richards way of doing things there. Defensively he has to go beyond trying to maul his man and learn the art of taking the puck away for a quick outlet pass. When he’s on the ice, the puck spends too much time in the defensive zone. He needs to apply the techniques he’s been taught. Ideally I’d like to see him spend a year in Whaledom, but with the injuries and Erixon’s inability to make the varsity, that may not be in the cards.

10) Speaking of the Whale, they should have a heckuva team this year. Many good young players and Talbot’s got game. We should be able to count on them for callup help this year. Last year I believe 10 different players were called up and they didn’t produce a single goal. Grachev played in 10 games and had, as I recall, a total of six shots on goal. Bourque is the guy I’m watching. I’m sure mgmt knows they’ve got something in him. Because of the depth on the varsity, they can afford to let him get some experience in CT. I think we’ll see more of him as the season progresses.

11) Lastly, kudos to Micheletti for doing a good job instead of just being a shill and wannabe comedian. He finally offered some criticism of Ranger players much in the fashion of Edzo and JD and he kept his attention on the game instead of other stuff.

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  1. What is everyones opinion of these teams the Ranger’s are playing. They seem pretty good it takes a period for the Ranger’s to get used to the bigger ice. I don’t think we will see if the preseason has preped them to play LA in Stockholm until that time. What I want to know is that game on the the larger ice?

  2. RealRangerFan on

    Nice article until the comment about “Clueless Joe” Michiletti. He is horrible. Just won’t shut up. Can’t hold JD’s jock as an analyst.

  3. SteveC- after today’s game they start practicing on regular, NHL-size ice, and will play both games on NHL-size ice.

  4. Nice write up. I did not get to watch much of this preseason so as usual I am appreciative of this blog.

  5. billybleedsblue on

    A good read — very encouraging angle on most everybody. Let’s Go Rangers!!!!!

  6. JD as the gold standard, please. He was the biggest, baddest shill for the incompetent reign of error that hit this franchise from the fall of 1997 till barely a few minutes ago was John Davidson. Never told the truth about Messier Part Deux, about Low, about Trottier, about Campbell —- and of course Sather. Micheletti may stink, but he is no worse than JD.

  7. RealRanger/Hospodar – I used to hate JD’s commentary(and agree on him being a shill) right up until Dickeletti got a job. I’d gleefully take JD back now.

  8. Great Article!! I’m not sure anyone has brought this up, but I wanted to ask everyone there general opinion. Lundquivst is getting older, and the team has some very talented young players, along with some very good veterans. At what point this season do they Rangers Management take a chance and maybe move some youth for veterans and make a run?? I know it’s hard to say now, but does anyone else feel the Rangers are good, but just need something to get over that hump. Richards is a great player but do you see him carrying the team in the playoffs? Who do you think we could get to take us to that next level? Plus wouldn’t you think it would be an Offensiive Defenseman?

    Just some stuff I was talking over with my son….he’s only 12 so to him this team is awesome and going all the way!!

  9. Thanks ilb had not noticed that! I think the annoucers can’t help being shills it’s part of their
    responsiblilities. Some guys make it less noticeable.

  10. Cynar – We saw Thomas win the cup at 37 and Roloson go to the semi-finals at 41 last year. Age isn’t as much of a factor as some make it out to be. When I look at Hank, I see a goalie who is in top physical shape and(knock on wood) hasn’t really been injury prone throughout his career. I don’t see a reason why he couldn’t play at the top of his game well into his 30s. Considering this, I see no need to rush it with the Rangers. The have the ponies in the barn to make a go at it, and there’s no need to jump the gun unless there’s a deal that’s simply too good to be true. If a franchise player comes available(like Weber for instance), then fine. But to go after a guy who is in the last year of his contract and likely won’t resign is senseless at this point when we’ve got Miller and Kreider in the wings.

  11. billybleedsblue on

    Hospodar, being a former Rangers’ player and then getting paid by the organization to commentate games makes JD a shill? He was there to analyze the games, not to pick apart the organization as some fans may have wanted. What, if JD ran his mouth about let’s say Trottier, there would be people saying “The tail is wagging the dog” when Trottier was fired. JD stuck to his job when the cameras were on, and he did it well IMO. There’s no need to label him a shill. BTW, I’d take him back in a heartbeat over the yes-man Joe M…

  12. Billy — We’ll disagree I guess. Because — for example — in all his years as an analyst I never heard him once tell the audience how important it is to defend the blue line against even-manned rushes. Not once. For years the Rangers D backed in on 2-on-3s, 2-on-2s, 3-on-3s when the worst peewee coach in history knows that is a recipe for disaster. Not once did this supposedly brilliant analyst break down how permitting a non-threatening rush to enter the offensive zone without being confronted immediately is a no-no of the first order in hockey. Never. Not once. And it happened right before his eyes ten times a night. Good riddance.

  13. I agree Phil, I was just wondering what people think it will take to get to the next level? I mean we have a lot of youth right now, and of course I hope they all turn out to be as good as their suppose to be. That being said do you think any of those younger guys could be turned into a franchise player now? Like if we had traded for Richards, I was wondering what player out there would we go after. Weber would be great, and I think it is the defense were we would be looking. Just thought it would spark a good debate. :)

  14. billybleedsblue on

    Hospodar, ok, that’s a good point. I remember yelling “stand them up at the blue line” at the TV myself years ago. It would be more than fair for an analyst to get on a team for basics like that. I still feel ‘shill’ is a bit harsh though. Also, I admit my fondness for JD is affected by some sense of nostalgia. Who wouldn’t love to again hear him bellow, “Oh baby!?” Like I’ve said in the past, at least JD was willing to disagree with Sam sometimes, which is a counterbalance that is non-existent for today’s duo.

  15. Stranger Nation on

    Agree with Boyle on 1st line – makes sense for now as Wusskie adds very little –

    if Step is centering 3rd line, can he win the crucial draws?

  16. Cynar – IMO the best thing we can do to get to the next level is show patience, just let players continue to develop and be patient. If we try and take the express route we’ll most likely fail. The time may come for making a trade of some significance but I don’t see that as being now.

  17. BroadwayBlueShirts on

    The Rangers are missing an elite LW to get to the next level. imo

    Say if Parise was on this team, they likely would be favorites out of the East.

    As long as Staal is healthy, I think the defense core is fine. I know people complain about lack of offense but if McDonaugh Sauer continue to be like a mini shut down pair, things will be fine.
    The lack of offense from the D just isn’t a big deal to me.

  18. Wicky©the game isn't over until somebody cries!! on

    Morning ILB and all!!

    Nice write up, thanks!

    did you get the trade??

  19. Wicky©the game isn't over until somebody cries!! on

    crosby on IR


    thought you guys needed to be excited about something!

  20. Wicky©the game isn't over until somebody cries!! on

    a hattie on a weak assen bigger rink (hello, anyone here??)

  21. Wicky©the game isn't over until somebody cries!! on

    horak made the flames opening night roster and grachev did on the blues as well

  22. wick – Beat me to it

    Roman Horak has made the Calgary Flames, they expect him to replace Jarome Iginla.

    Looks like we got the short end of that deal.

  23. >>As long as Staal is healthy, I think the defense core is fine.

    The defence isn’t mean enough. It needs a guy that opponents will hate playing against.

  24. Lowell

    Yeah…I was sorry to see Gilroy depart, the day after it happened. Hope he works into that Bolt’s defense.. but then again, I still long for Mara so what do I know. but hey, I thought those Swiss guys earned their goals..they had a very nice passing game, skated like commandos on ice, and took advantage of every thing the Rangers gave them. I should point out also that they had plenty of room to work in…….but am I alone in feeling queasy about the look of Gaborik so far this season?

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