What a Weird Weekend
All I can say is wow! Yeah, it's Halloween weekend but what the hell is up with the Rangers? First, they drop a game to Ottawa in which they led 4 - 1 with roughly 12 minutes left. Ottawa tallied three straight before downing the Rangers in the shootout. Not a good start to the weekend there.
Next we had news of all the roster shuffling. With Tim Erixon struggling some and only seeing seven-plus minutes of ice-time Saturday, the best thing to do is to send him down to Hartford (which they did) and let him get 20+ minutes and playing in all situations.
News of Erixon's demotion brought on the inevitable hopes/prayers that the move was due to a miraculous and ultra-secretive recovery by Marc Staal. Considering he hasn't practiced with the team in weeks anyone who was hoping for a surprise return was just fooling themselves. No, a trade or possible signing of UFA D Anton Stralman (more on him later) is plausible but for now Jeff Woywitka will skate as the sixth defenseman.
Kris Newbury, who had done nothing of note in his six game, was returned to the AHL. In his place comes big and physical winger Andre Deveaux. Deveaux had six points (four goals, two assists) in nine games with the Whale. It's hoped he will make some sort of an impact on the fourth line which has struggled mightily to make any contributions.
Mike Rupp, who signed a nice, three-year deal in the offseason, has sat out the last two games with a knee problem. Apparently it's not getting any better so the Rangers decided to make another move to add some grit to the bottom lines. Shockingly, the Rangers are reportedly going to place Sean Avery on recall waivers with the intent of calling him up in time to play in Thursday's home contest against the Ducks. Avery could be claimed with the claiming team being on the hook for 1/4 of his cap hit, or just less than $1 million, but that outcome is very unlikely.
Just when you thought the monster was dead, Glen Sather has decided to produce the third and hopefully final installment of the Sean Avery horror movie franchise (perhaps more on that on Better With Popcorn).
This news came out of the blue and shocked almost every Rangers fan. Nearly everyone believed once Avery was waived and sent to Connecticut in the AHL that his NHL career was over. Even Avery himself thought as much. He stated in an interview with Katie Strang of ESPN when asked if he thought he may be be recalled by the Rangers, "Probably not," and "I doubt it." Now he's poised to make his Rangers return in a few days.
Look, as surprising as this news is and as much as I was in favor of waiving him in the first place, this is an opportunity for Sean to show he can still be an effective NHL player. The skill has always been there but will he be able to play with an edge and maintain his composure at the same time? If he can he would be a welcome addition to a team tha could use a little fire and someone who will engage consistently on the forecheck. The Rangers aren't far from being the team we envisioned but they need to play hard consistently more than they've showed so far this season. If Avery can spark the team the way he did when he was first acquired from L.A. years back then it's a good move.
Some Rangers fans think this reflects poorly on the Rangers organization. They reason it looks as if the club doesn't have a plan. Look, if anything it shows that Torts cares most about winning and not about any perceived vendetta he supposedly carries for Avery. The team needs a spark and is missing a guy they were counting on to fill a physical role on the club's fourth line. What's the harm in giving Avery a final chance to show he has a place on the Rangers roster. A motivated and focused Avery could be a useful piece for the Rangers.
Back to Stralman. He was in the Devils camp on a tryout and was expected to receive a contract offer from the Devils. I presume with Bryce Salvador returning healthy and the Devils desire to give a chance to their youngsters that there just wasn't room for Stralman at this time. Regardless no contract offer came from New Jersey.
The Rangers were interested in Stralman earlier when they learned Staal might be out for a while. The Rangers reportedly offered the Swedish defender a deal but he has yet to accept or decline. Supposedly he has an offer to play in Sweden as well.
Stralman is a skilled puck-mover and has a good, hard shot from the point. That makes him a solid PP option. He does not play with any physicality whatsoever.
The Rangers have been outshot in every game this season and have had a hard time getting the puck out of their own zone. Stralman may be able to help if he can get to the puck and make a good first pass out of the zone.
Additionally, were it not for what some have called a favorable major penalty call against Ottawa which subsequently led to two PP goals on the ensuing five minute man-advantage, the Blue Shirts PP has stunk. After those two goals the Rangers still rank 20th in the NHL converting 14.7% of their PP opportunities. Stralman's shot form the point could give the Rangers another option and might make the PP more dangerous.
It wouldn't be the top-four defenseman the Rangers will ultimately need should Staal miss much more time but Stralman would add some depth and skill to the Rangers blue line.
Let's talk about that Zenon Kenopka penalty from Saturday. Some have said it was a border line call in the first place. Um, yeah, BS. Anisimov was playing the puck and never saw Kenopka bearing down on him. He didn't let up when he hit Anisimov and drove him face-first into the boards. It was such an obvious boarding call that it's not even funny.
Look, was it a major penalty? I don't know; I thought so as I watched the game. Anisimov was in a vulnerable position and Kenopka, as I said, didn't let up on the contact. I imagine the fact it looked like Anisimov may have been hurt badly played a part in the penalty call and how I felt about it. Still, for anyone to suggest it was a border-line penalty? Those people need their eyes checked.
For comparative purposes, Brian Boyle was whistled for boarding Sergei Gonchar in the first period. I thought that was a bad call and shouldn't have been a penalty. Why? Well, Gonchar saw Boyle coming and turned to face the boards as he was hit. Gonchar put himself in that position and in my opinion Boyle let up some on the contact.
If we want to go by precedents then if Boyle's hit was worth two then Kenopka's was worth the major.
Ah, I can't forget about the hit later in the game that helped turn momentum in Ottawa's favor. with just under eight minute remaining and the Rangers still holding a two-goal advantage, Wojtek Wolski was called for "illegal check to the head" of Daniel Alfredsson. Wolski certainly seemed to lean into the contact as the two players skated by each other. Some said it was an elbow; I thought it was a shoulder. Still, it was illegal and I suspected it would warrant further disciplinary action.
As for the penalty only being two minutes; yeah, I can see the argument. I've seen plays like that get called a major penalty as well as drawing just a two minute stop in the sin bin. If it had been called a major I would have been upset. But only because it would have put my team down a man for five minutes.
After the game Wolski and Tortorella both argued the play shouldn't have been a penalty. I don't know what they were looking at and/or thinking then. As I said, it appeared Wolski leaned into Alfdredsson.
Incidentally, I have yet to hear any word on Alfredsson's condition. Lets' just hope it isn't a concussion. We know all too well how bad those can be.