After taking a break from the "Analyzing the Rangers" series for a week, I decided it was time to bring it back and analyze the defense. Defense is clearly the weakness of the Rangers and it should be interesting to break down the six players who I believe will make it into the lineup. As usual, all comments are welcome. Part 6, Here we go:
Left Defense: #8 Marek Malik
Personal: 32 years old from Ostrava, Czech Republic. Stands 6 ft 6 in and 240 lbs. Shoots lefty. Drafted 72nd overall by Hartford. Entering his 3rd season with the Rangers. Contract: 1 yr 2.5 mil. 2007 stats: 69 gms, 2 g, 19 a, +32.
Strengths: Malik is a good defensman who at times is fairly solid at all ends of the ice. He makes many good plays on the defensive end and is very good at making solid outlet passes in the neutral zone.
He is good at winning battles in front of the net because of his size and reach. Offensively, he has a decent wrist shot that can find the back of the net during the few times he goes deep into the offensive zone. His most famous offensive play was a beautiful, between the legs, shootout goal that ended a 15 rounder against Washington in 2005-06. His good performance is represented by the +32 that he recorded last season. He has good endurance and can handle the 20+ minutes per game that he gets as the veteran of the Rangers defense.
Weaknesses: Malik's game leaves a lot to be desired. Defensively he is prone to make mental errors and his bad postioning and lack of thought results in pucks deflecting off of his stick or skate and into the net. He refuses to use his massive frame and play physically an is reluctant to throw the big hit or fight for the puck in the corners. He makes mistakes at the worst of times and has many-a-time passed a puck to an opposing player. He is slow and opposing forwards blow by him as they drive to the net. He is hated by the fans who are calling for a trade and even if he isnt traded, he will likely not re-sign next July.
Why Line #1?
Malik is a good defenseman who loses focus and makes mistakes. He is hated but his numbers point to the fact that he is at least a decent defender. He must play with Rozsival who can clean up the mess he makes and together, they form a so-so top line.
Right Defense: #3 Michal Rosíval
Personal: 28 years old from Vlasim, Czech Republic. Stands 6 ft 2 in and 210 lbs. Shoots righty. Drafted 105 by Pittsburgh. Entering his 3rd season with the Rangers. Contract: 1 yr 2.1 mil. 2007 stats: 80 gms, 10 g, 30 a, +10.
Advantages: Michal is the Rangers' best defenseman. He is solid in the defensive end and can break up scoring chances. He will not hesitate to use the body and can throw the big check.
Unlike Malik, he rarely makes mistakes, has sound poisitioning and is solid in transition. Offensively, he has a hard shot that when put on net, will often result in a goal, as shown when his shot beat Buffalo in double overtime of game 3 in the second round. He knows when to join the rush and scored a few goals from deep in the offensive zone.
He is a good power play QB and picks up alot of assists from dishing the puck to Jagr. He has good speed and will not get beat often on a one on one. With a good hockey sense and good skills, Michal is a solid defensman and great fit for the top line.
Weaknesses: Rozsival lacks the excellent skills to be a true first line defenseman. He is the best on the team but would be a second liner on most other teams. He has no skills that stand out aside from his shot, which he does not use often. On the power play, he is reluctant to pull the trigger despite his excellent shot and, like many others, cannot help but pass the puck to Jagr. He will soon be surpassed by the young Rangers defensemen in Tyutin, Girardi and Staal, and if the Rangers acquire a top defenseman, as predicted, in the next couple of years, Michal will find himself on the second line.
Why Line #1?
Rosival is the Rangers best defender and is needed to keep Malik in line. He should have another good season as he will be playing with better offensive linemates. Gomez will create odd-man-rushes for the top line and Rozsival should have a career year offensively.
Line #1 Grade: B
This is an average defensive line that is weak for a top line. As a whole, they are solid on defense and offense but not remarkable in either catagory. Both defenseman are in their contract years so effort and success may increase. However, unless Lundqvist can bail them out consistantly, they will have to improve if the Rangers want to make a serious cup run.
Looking forward to writing, reading and breathing hockey with all of you this season.