2002-11-16 / Sports

Metro Hockey Update: Random Ramblings

By Andrei Petrovitch

Hockey Columnist

The ten-game mark has come and gone, and by now every team in the National Hockey League has shaken off the summer rust. Well, at least they should have by now. The Rangers and Devils seem to be in the same categories they were last year (losers and winners, respectively), while the Islanders have regressed to the category they were in two years ago (major losers).

But hope is not lost for the teams of Manhattan and Long Island; despite the chicken-little doomsday scenarios popular among Metro hockey fans, there is still plenty of time for each team to get its act together. Likewise, there is plenty of time for a successful team like the Devils to run out of gas. Remember the Metro Hockey Update's official motto: The Stanley Cup is awarded in June...NOT OCTOBER OR NOVEMBER!!!!!

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the season for all three teams thus far:

-What happened to the Devil's power play? Sure, the defense and goaltending have come through (the lone aberration being the team's 6-3 loss on 11/9 versus the Edmonton Oilers). But the power play is ranked dead last in the league, with the team scoring only 5 goals in 62 times with the man advantage. Fortunately for the Jersey swamp dwellers, even strength scoring has certainly not been a concern; the point totals are pretty much spread evenly throughout the lineup, with John Madden and Scott Gomez tied with the team lead with 9 points each in 12 games.

While performing well at even strength is certainly important, an adept power play can make all the difference in a close, defensive game. The Devils possess too much talent to not score with the man advantage. Once newcomer Jeff Friesen gets fully adjusted to his new surroundings, the power play will get better.

-Speaking of Friesen...the trade that brought him to the Devils with Oleg Tverdovsky from the Mighty Ducks in exchange for Petr Sykora is, so far, looking better for Anaheim. Sykora has 10 points in 15 games, including 4 power play goals. Tverdovsky and Friesen have 6 and 5 points, respectively, in 12 games. And no, none of them came on the power play.

-While we're on the subject of power plays, let's take a look at the Rangers. The team certainly misses the crease-crashing and aggressive corner work provided by Bobby Holik. Also, it has only been in the past 2 games that the team has tried to execute a straightforward "overload" type system to crowd and outman penalty killers on one side of the ice during power plays.

Typically, the Rangers use a more passive and elaborate "umbrella" system designed to spread out penalty killers and create lanes for shooting and passing. However, such a system also spreads out the offense, so much so that defenders, by forming a "box" pattern on the ice, can intercept passes and force point shots to be taken at bad angles. Needless to say, such a system is useless against younger and more aggressive Eastern Conference teams.

-Attention Glen Sather: Don't waste your time inquiring about the availability of Marius Czerkawski. Likewise, don't cry over the departure of Martin Rucinsky. Your new sniper is none other than Rem Murray, who scored 2 goals and 1 assist in the Ranger's 5-4 victory on San Jose on Monday night.

Okay, so the term sniper may be an exaggeration, considering that Murray functions better in the role of a checker. But, you have to admit that he has good hockey sense and fits in well on the left wing of any of the team's centers. With the Rangers weaknesses on the wing positions, Murray's contributions are certainly significant - and welcome!

-By the way...when did Sharks winger (and former Ranger) Todd "Heartbeat" Harvey start taking anger management lessons from Theo Fleury?

-Why is Ranger assistant coach Ted Green wearing a headset on the bench...a headset that, as reported on Monday's MSG network telecast, is used to communicate with Ranger management? Hello people!!!!!! The coaching staff must be given autonomy to run the bench and implement strategy during games; these are certainly NOT tasks to be performed by Glen Sather, his assistant Don Maloney, or anyone else who does not have the word "coach" in his job title. The Update has said it before, and will say it again: coaching by committee systems always fail. Always.

-Speaking of coaching: Bryan Trottier was JUSTIFIED in putting out the goon squad near the end of Saturday night's game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. Jody Shelley the Blue Jackets had taken slashes at Ranger goalie Dan Blackburn, and that just cannot be allowed. The problem with the Ranger teams of the past was that they were too soft. Teammates never stuck up for one another and allowed the team's best players to be intimidated or hurt. By sending out Krzystof Oliwa, Sandy McCarthy and Matthew Barnaby, Trottier announced to the league that the free ride is over. When your team keeps getting shafted by the refs, you have to enforce the law by any means necessary.

-Alright, enough already...where is the real Chris Osgood? And what has been done to him? Really, he can't be the guy with the unsightly .850 save percentage, right? Perhaps Islander fans are worrying too much; chances are he'll find his game. A bigger issue for the Isles is (surprise!) the team's utter lack of scoring depth. Brad Isbister is still...well, the same old Brad Isbister, and Alexei Yashin has forgotten that he's a number one center. It makes little sense, however, for General Manager Mike Milbury to deal for the Montreal Canadiens' Chad Kilger, a perennial underachiever who has managed to play himself off of 5 teams before the age of 30. A better and likelier choice would be Viktor Kozlov and/or Valeri Bure, both of the cash-strapped Florida Panthers.

-Gasp! New York Post hockey columnist Larry Brooks has actually been making sense lately! Has anyone else noticed?

-Finally, The Update's favorite Metro area hockey player is.... Ronald Petrovicky of the Rangers. Why? His last name. 'Nuff said.

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