The NY Hockey Report: The Jed Ortmeyer Experience
New York Ranger, Jed Ortmeyer, right (41) leaps around New Jersey Devils, Zach Parise (9) during a pre-season game at the Meadowlands. (AP Photo/ Jose F. Moreno)
By Joe McDonald
GREENBURGH, NY – Defensive players are always appreciated by the New York fans. The crowd always reacts to gritty work and supports the blue collar guy as much as the 30-goal scorer.
It was something Jed Ortmeyer learned his rookie season.
“You don’t get much reward for defensive play outside of your teammates and for the fans to get behind you, makes it fun to go out to the rink,” the 27 year-old forward said.
Signed as a free agent in the beginning of the 2003-04 season, Ortmeyer was called up after playing 13 games in Hartford. He immediately became a bright spot on a bad team and even though he only scored two goals and had four assists in 58 games. The Nebraska native was one of the few Rangers to fight for the puck in the corners.
But then the lockout came and Ortmeyer became one of the top players on the Hartford Wolf Pack. He used that opportunity to hone his skills and work on his offense. In 61 games, the forward ended up with 27 points.
“I got to do some power play and play on the first line,” Ortmeyer said. “Just the grind of the season and riding the bus to three and four in the morning, made me more polished and more focused mentally.”
So when this year opened, the forward was more proficient offensively. In the first six games, he has one goal with one assist. The University of Michigan standout said he stressed working on his offensive skills in the off-season, but Coach Tom Renney offered a different thought.
“The idea behind the attack is that [under the new rules] you can’t be held up in the corners, there are no obstructions and you can attack the net,” Renney said. “So if you put the put at the net, good things can happen. Ortmeyer is an example of that.”
It also helps for him to play on higher lines this season and at times he has found himself winging with Martin Straka this season.
“The line changes have been pretty different,” Ortmeyer said. “A couple of guys moved around a bit, but when you are on the line with great players, it really doesn’t matter a lot.”
It has been a tough beginning of the season for Martin Brodeur. Going into Tuesday’s game against the Panthers, the goal-keep sported a 2-3 record with a 3.60 goals against average. Part of the problem was the loss of defenseman Paul Martin, who was out with a back injury and it was no coincidence the Devils played better when he returned on for Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Panthers.
“It was nice to have him back,” Brodeur said after the win “At his young age , he is pretty poised out there. It makes it easier on the guys on the power play. He’s an important factor.”
With Martin in the lineup, the Devils goalkeeper stopped 21 of 24 shots and the team looked much more complete.
Opposing teams continued to bombard Islander goaltenders. After Rick DiPietro received a concussion in New York’s 5-3 victory in Washington last Thursday, backup Garth Snow had to endure 46 shots in Philadelphia two days later. Needless to say, the Flyers went onto an easy 5-1 win.
The lack of defense has been a problem for the Islanders the whole season and will continue to have trouble putting ‘Ws’ in the board if the onslaught doesn’t stop.
Conditioning is one reason why the Rangers have seen early season success. Going into the season, Renney made sure his Blueshirts would not be out-skated late in games.
“We paid particular attention to our fitness level this year on the ice and off of it,” the coach said. “We wanted to be physically fit so in the third period, so we could respond to the challenge.”