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Roundtable Discussion: Games 1-5

This is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the events of each segment of five Rangers games. The sites involved are 5-hole, SNY Rangers Blog, Blue Seat Blogs, The Rangers Tribune, and Bleeding All Blue. There will also be a short prospects piece by The Prospect Park.

The first five games of the season have finally been played which now allows us to start a new feature here at 5-hole. Every five games, writers from 5-hole, SNY Rangers Blog, Blue Seat Blogs, The Rangers Tribune,  Bleeding All Blue, The Prospect Park, and hopefully at some point Blueshirt Banter will be discussing the events of those games and what it means for the New York Rangers.

Before we get to the roundtable, here’s a list of the 5 games included in this discussion:

Rangers @ Kings (Stockholm) – 3-2, L/OT
Rangers @ Ducks (Stockholm) – 2-1, L/SO
Rangers @ Islanders – 4-2, L
Rangers @ Canucks – 4-0, W
Rangers @ Flames – 3-2, W/OT

1. Who was the best Ranger over the last 5 games? Who was the worst?

Eric (5-hole) – There’s no question that the best Ranger over the first five games has been Henrik Lundqvist. He has kept the Rangers in every game except the Islanders game (arguably). He’s also had some crazy saves so far in this young season and had to stand on his head while the team in front of him can barely get any shots on goal. Honorable Mention to Richards , Girardi and Gaborik.

Chris (Blue Seat Blogs) - Best Ranger to date is without doubt Lundqvist. He has willed this team to two wins, kept them in every game and has been dominant. The Rangers may be the one of the few teams that can cope with injuries to their blue line because they have the BEST goalie in the league. Honorable mention to a re-energised Gaborik.

Adam (SNY Rangersblog) - Marian Gaborik. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational, but we expected that. Gabby has been flying on the ice and skating the way he did two seasons ago. Brad Richards has helped him a lot but Gabby took it upon himself to get better and he did.

Marc (5-hole) - Best: The easy answer is Lundqvist.  His performance in the Vancouver game was one of the greatest displays of goaltending I’ve seen in a long time.  Just unreal.  Honorable mention: Ryan McDonagh.  He participated in the play of the week with his assist on the 4th goal in Vancouver (see video below), and his OT finish against Calgary was clutch.  His defense has been solid too.

Michael (Bleeding All Blue) - Lundqvist is the obvious answer to this as he is the sole reason that the team has points in 4 of these 5 games when they haven’t played a really solid game in any of them.   Beyond Henrik it has to be Girardi chewing through minutes or McDonagh stepping his game up on both ends to help the team cope with the loss of Staal.

Aaron (5-hole) - I know a lot of people are going to put Lundqvist here, but I’m going to go with Dan Girardi.  Honorable mention goes to Brad Richards and McDonagh.  Girardi has provided solid defense playing about 29 minutes a night, which is unreal.  With Staal and Sauer out, Girardi has really stepped up and provided us necessary defense.  Without him, this team is losing games 5-1 every night if Lundqvist doesn’t channel his inner Ken Dryden.

Nick (The Rangers Tribune) – I think you would be crazy not to say that Henrik Lundqvist has been the best Ranger through the first five games of the season. He is the only reason why they have any points in the standings right now and has stood on his head in each and every game. You’d think it is impossible for a goalie of his caliber to improve even further, but he has done just that this season. He is more aggressive in the crease, his glove has looked much sharper and he has gotten off to a much better start than he did a year ago. Lundqvist has been the best Ranger by far and away to this point – there really is no competition. Honorable mentions would have to go to Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marian Gaborik.

2. Which was the Best game? Worst game?

Eric- The best game in terms of outcome was the Canucks game, but if we’re going by the full 60 minutes then it was the game against the Flames. It was the first game that the Rangers had put in a fairly consistant effort. Plus that whole McDonagh scoring with a second left thing was pretty cool. The worst game was definitely the Ducks game. There was no offense to be found, Lundqvist was forced to stand on his head to even keep the Rangers in the game, and it took a pretty sweet  goal from Richards to even tie the game. The point they got from the game was undeserved.

Chris - I’ll say the best game was the Canucks game purely for the Lundqvist show and whatever the shot count, it was a good win against a great team. However, the Rangers have yet to play an entire game and will get caught out if they don’t find some more consistency.

Adam - The best game was against Calgary as it was the teams best effort of the season. Torts kept talking about the consistent effort that they brought in that game. The best period was against Vancouver in the third, but the second period in that game was atrocious.

Marc - Best: Vancouver. Lundqvist’s performance kept them in it, then the offensive explosion in the 3rd period buried the Canucks.  The blowout seemed even sweeter in light of Bieksa’s obnoxious antics after his fight against Dubinsky.
Worst: Islander game.  Blame the refs if you want, but the fact is the Rangers took some bad penalties in this game that killed any momentum they might have had.  Also, the Rangers made a lot of neutral zone turnovers leading to chances for the Isles (several on Rangers power plays).

Michael - Best: Calgary. Thought the game against the Flames was the closest they have come to a solid performance overall.  Much better first period than in the rest of the games, but still not putting 60 minutes together.
Worst: Anaheim.  Awful effort to only manage 15 shots in a game, take six penalties and then go 0-7 on the power play.

Aaron - Best Game is hands down the Vancouver game.  Lundqvist played out of his mind and shut out the defending Western Conference Champions.  Didn’t help his team decided not to score until the third period, but when they did oh man this team was clicking on all cylinders.  Mike Rupp even got in on the scoring!  Love that guy.  Worst game?  Probably the Anaheim game.  We were in Europe (crazy things ALWAYS happen in Europe), didn’t have a competent defense, and relied on Brad Richards to bail us out (probably a common theme this year).  Just an overall bad game.  Except for Lundqvist that guy is awesome.

Nick - In terms of 60-minute efforts, I would have to say that the best game for the Rangers so far was their 3-2 win over the Flames in overtime. They played well defensively and maintained a certain effort for the entire game. That was their first full 60-minute performance. Their worst game, on the other hand, had to be the 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, also in overtime. The only reason they got a point in that game was because of Henrik Lundqvist. They looked fatigued and had nothing in the tank to give.

3. What are the Rangers doing right/wrong?

Eric – Henrik Lundqvist, the PK and Gaborik and Richards. Richards and Gaborik have been outstanding.Richards with a point per game and Gaborik with a goal in every game except the Ducks game.  The PK has been playing very well but we wouldn’t be seeing it so much if they’d stop taking such stupid penalties. Defensive zone, Neutral zone, Offensive zone! It doesn’t matter where they are. They’ll just clutch and grab like it’s 1999!  The problem is clutch and grab penalties are indicative of slow teams. The Rangers aren’t a slow team. This is why I don’t understand why they have been taking so many penalties.

Chris - Penalties, penalties, penalties… They need to cut them down. It’s pretty simple. What do I like? I like the aggression on the penalty kill and I like the current make-up of the top line. I also love that this is the third youngest club in the league (slightly off topic).

Adam - They have started to play “Rangers Hockey” the last two games and that is very encouraging as it only showed up in bits and pieces in the first three games. They are still taking too many penalties, especially in key situations. Luckily the PK has been good.

Marc - Right: They have this guy playing goalie who is pretty freakin good.
Wrong: Taking a lot of bad penalties.  Note: not all penalties are bad, but when a Ranger takes a penalty because of some pointless clutching/grabbing in the offensive zone, it makes me want to tear my hair out.

Michael – Right: Lundqvist stopping nearly everything he sees.  Early development of chemistry between Gaborik and Richards.  Penalty kill is helping to erase a lot of the awful penalties the team is taking.
Wrong: Penalties.  Lazy stick infractions have to end, especially in the offensive zone.  Play of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line is suspect.

Aaron - The Rangers are sustaining offensive pressure for the first time in a long time.  I saw this a lot in the Calgary game and it was surprising.  I like seeing this.  The Rangers PP however is not doing things right.  They need to change this and get better.  Fast.

Nick - I think their biggest strength to this point has been their penalty-kill. They’ve spent so much time in the box in the first five games that a strong PK was required in order to prevent a blowout. Thankfully they’ve killed off nearly all of them to keep the games close. And obviously their biggest weakness would then be their discipline. They need to stop taking so many penalties and give themselves more time to work at even strength.

4. What was the best play of the last 5 games?
Eric – Brad Richard’s goal against the Ducks. Let’s go inside the mind of a Brad Richards:
dododo dododo dododo
Yo dawg I gotta put the team on my back dawg. I gotta hit this space the size of a postage stamp to tie the game.

Chris – I’m going with the Lundqvist save (at 3.57 of the second) on Bobby Ryan in the Ducks game in Sweden. That sliding save was immense. The subsequent reaction from the crowd made it even better. They were eating out of the palm of his hand.

Adam – Gaborik’s goal against the Islanders. It was the exact reason they brought in Brad Richards and a great play. Easier choice than sifting through the great saves that Hank made.

Marc – 4th goal against Vancouver (Gaborik from McDonagh and Richards):

Richards comes up the ice 1 on 3, but he slams the brakes right after he crosses the blue line to set up a sweet delay. This gives Gaborik time to fly by everyone to get down low. Meanwhile, two of the Canucks D-men slam the brakes to stay with Richards, who then hits McDonagh streaking down the middle with a perfect pass. McDonagh at full speed, D-men standing still… McDonagh easily splits the D, then pulls Luongo over to his forehand side and touches the back back across to Gaborik, who is sitting backdoor and slams the puck home. Great play all around. (By the way, the “delay” is a textbook hockey move that works at all levels of the game).

Michael – Lundqvist making an early save of the year candidate when he robbed Bobby Ryan in the second period against the Ducks.

Aaron – Ryan McDonagh’s goal easily.

Nick – Lundqvist kick-save on Bobby Ryan.

5. Which game in the next segment will be the toughest/easiest?

Eric – The games against the Oilers, Jets and Sens will probably be the toughest and the game against the Sharks will probably be a breeze for them. This is because the Rangers generally play like garbage against teams they should be and not against teams they shouldn’t.

Chris – The Edmonton and Winnipeg games should be the easiest but are also classic let-down/banana skin games. The hardest game will be the Leafs game. Considering the pressure from an expectant home crowd in the home opener, a hot Leafs team – there will be lots to overcome.

Adam – The Senators will be the easiest as they can’t seem to get out of their own way. The toughest will be the Oilers. They are young, but they have the kind of firepower that could wreak havoc on the Rangers D.

Marc – Going by early season records, it looks like 4 games against teams (like the Rangers) who are still trying to find their stride. The Toronto game is the exception. It will be the Rangers home opener (and you never know how the team will react) and the Leafs have looked pretty good.

Michael – Toughest would appear to be Toronto with the way they have started. Kessel is scorching and Reimer has continued his solid play from last season. Easiest is a tossup between Winnipeg and Ottawa. I would lean towards Ottawa who has been blown out a number of times already and having the game at home. However, as we know all too well the Rangers usually have trouble with those types of games.

Aaron – Winnipeg and San Jose. The Rangers never beat teams they are supposed to. Pavlec is going to destroy them. Also, San Jose is really good. I’m very scared of them.

Nick – To be honest, I think their toughest game will be the home opener against the Maple Leafs. Why? Because there will be so much pressure on the team to win that night with the crowd amped up in the newly renovated MSG and since it’s week three of the season and they haven’t plead at home yet. Their easiest game SHOULD come on Monday when they play the Winnipeg Jets. That’s a game they should grab a W in.

6. Should the slow start be attributed to the trip to Europe or is it just the team?

Eric – I think it’s a little bit of both. Some players haven’t hit their stride yet (Dubinsky, Callahan). Some have (Gaborik, Lundqvist). They didn’t get much practice on NHL Ice or against NHL teams before going to Europe but I think the period when that excuse is even acceptable at all is coming to an end.

Chris – It hasn’t been that slow of a start but what it has been over the first 5 games comes down to a few things. An inconvenient pre-season, the travel surrounding it and there are not many teams (if any) that can seamlessly move on from losing two of their top 4 defenseman. I think they have coped reasonably well.

Adam – Not talking about Europe. No excuses.

Marc – Maybe a little of both. The Europe trip probably didn’t help, but the team has several new pieces and it’s reasonable to expect an adjustment period. I think the bigger issue might be the Staal injury. He’s been the anchor of the defense for a few seasons, and without him other players have had to take on a bigger role. Some good results (McDonagh). Some not so great (Eminger).

Michael – Some of both. The trip and the lack of legit practices has certainly hurt the team early, but there are certainly some flaws in this team as well. Injuries to Staal and Sauer are certainly a concern, but for the most part the defense has held up though a large amount of that can be attributed to the fantastic play of Lundqvist. Offensively the second line has yet to get going as well as Ruslan Fedotenko being invisible as key players that set the tone for the Rangers system.

Aaron – Like I said nothing good happens in Europe. Ever. They were tired, playing meaningless preseason games and got limited to no practice. I don’t understand why this was a good idea.

Nick – Both. The trip to Europe definitely had a negative effect on them and by the time the trip was over they didn’t even want to be there anymore. At the same time, they’ve struggled defensively and on the powerplay, which is a team problem. And like I said above, they need to stay out of the penalty box.

7. Who sits when Sauer returns?

Eric – It’s probably gonna be Woywitka.

Chris – I’m not convinced – yet – who sits (when Sauer returns) as I think it’s a bit of an audition between Eminger, Woywitka and Erixon. It seems likely to be Woywitka but you never know. He’s been a decent pick-up as he cost nothing but dollars.

Adam – Jeff Woywitka should sit when Sauer returns. The delay of game penalty may have done him in, but he needs more time in practice to learn the system. I would send Tim Erixon down when Marc Staal comes back just so he can take a little bit of a step back and not play in such a pressurized situation.

Marc – Probably Woywitka, but maybe Eminger or Erixon

Michael – Woywitka.

Aaron – Woywitka. Who the hell is that guy! He’s sullying Wade Redden’s number. (Ed. Note: He’s serious, folks.)

Nick – Probably Jeff Woywitka. Erixon has played too well to take him out and Del Zotto should get the opportunity over Woywitka. The real question is what happens when Marc Staal returns?

8. What do you think of the MSG 150?

Eric – Skip to 51 seconds:

Chris – Being in the UK and have somewhat limited exposure to your side of the world I can’t answer the MSG150 question! sorry

Adam – The MSG 150 is horrible, but has lots of potential. Just show highlights and make it unique for each period. Don’t harp on the same stuff in the second as you did in the first. Why would I watch if I have already seen 95% of what Bill Pidto is talking about. The idea is interesting, but it is far from a finished product.

Marc – Bill Pidto! with YOUR M-S-G… ONE FIFTYYY!!!

Michael – One of the worst segments ever, but could just be because Pidto is hosting it.

Aaron – Huh? I live in Atlanta, I don’t get MSG

Nick – I’ve enjoyed it so far since I am always interested in what’s going on around the league. I don’t always agree with what is said, but I like the concept.

9. The NBA is locked out. Where’s Al Trautwig?

Eric – Pretty sure I saw him wandering around Madison Square Garden muttering something about a transformation.

Chris – The NBA is locked out? really? When did that happen? Do we care? Maybe the ice surface will improve? Is Patrick Ewing making a comeback?

Adam – Al only does home games for some reason. We get Bill Pidto for all the road games.

Marc – I think Trautwig was covering the Ukrainian National Gymnastics Championship this week.

Michael – Supervising the renovations at MSG. Trautwig rarely goes on the road anyway.

Aaron – Walt Clyde Fraizer is the consummate wingman. Al Trautwig is hitting the ladies with him in their free time!

Nick – Who cares….

Next Five games:
10/22 Rangers @ Oilers 10:00pm
10/24 Rangers @ Jets 8:30pm
10/27 Rangers vs. Maple Leafs 7:00pm
10/29 Rangers vs. Senators 3:00pm
10/31 Rangers vs. Sharks 7:00pm

Prospects Prospectus with Jess from The Prospect Park:

Best of the bunch:
JT Miller is the kid who is really impressing me the most. For starters his conditioning is way better than anyone expected. His Plymouth Whalers just finished a 3 games in 3 nights weekend and Miller had points in all 3 games including 2 goals in the 3rd game.

Miller is way stronger than he looks as I watched him in a fight take on a guy equal in size but totally manhandle him like a rag doll. The one thing though that I really love the most about Miller is how basic he keeps his game.

He always has himself in a position to shoot and his eye/hand coordination is fast. Miller picks a spot where he wants to shoot from and goes there but once there you are not moving him. Because he keeps his game simple he gets his shot off so quickly that nobody has time to react to it.

Steven Forgarty is the prospect who did not attend Traverse City because he wants to remain NCAA eligible. He is playing in the BCHL which is Junior A (just below the WHL in terms of talent). He is a huge 6’3 200 who is 5-2-7 but he is very much a project as he is raw raw green. He is the kid the Rangers used the pick they got for Grachev on.

The Rangers wanted him to play in the WHL but Fogarty wants to attend Notre Dame next year. If he goes NCAA route then he is 3-4 years away at best.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re awesome. The next roundtable should be posted on SNY Rangersblog after the Sharks game on Halloween.

About the author:  Eric is a lifelong Rangers fan and is currently studying Computer Engineering at Hofstra University. You can follow him on Twitter: @5holeEric

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