In preparation for Game 1 under the new regime, here's what we know to expect:
- A more up-tempo and aggressive style
- More ice time for the top lines
- Less ice time for the fourth line
- More puck movement from the defense
- More opportunities against Henrik Lundqvist
In typical John Tortorella fashion, the Rangers get going with his new system tonight, a mere 24 hours or so after learning from it. Don't get Tortorella mistaken, however, he knows that he can't build Rome in a day and needs time to evaluate this group.
The lines will be as follows:
I believe this is the strongest lineup that the Rangers can field at this point. It should open up some offensive opportunity with Zherdev and Gomez while providing a hard-nosed second line with offensive potential.
The third line should also be able to contribute offensively, particularly if they are kept together long enough to jell. If Tortorella keeps the lines together consistently, this will be a major change from the previous coaching staff.
Chemistry was one component that the Rangers have struggled with since the lockout. Who works with who? If these combinations work, Tortorella looks like a genius. If they don't and he refuses to change them, he is no better than Tom Renney.
Another interesting change is on defense, which Interim Assistant Coach Jim Schoenfeld is now handling. The pairings will be as follows:
Rozsival - Redden
Staal - Girardi
Kalinin - Reitz
It almost seems that the coaches are taking the EA Sports NHL '09 approach, take the players with the highest rating and front load them.
One positive about this is accountabliity, something the team has lacked this season. Your million dollar players have to perform and will be given the ice time to do so. A negative, however, is that ability and money do not necessarily mean that players will mesh.
The Staal and Girardi pairing will be very exciting to see. Reitz will most likely rotate with Kalinin once Paul Mara comes back, perhaps on the weekend.
Redden and Rozsival are the x-factor. If it works, the Rangers will have an offensive pairing that could have a tremendous impact, particularly on the power play. Consider also that both have struggled mightily this season and could perhaps lift each other's games.
Or this could end up in more defensive zone blunders and missed coverages.
But that's why we watch.
More to come tonight...
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