Rapid Reaction: Wojtek Wolski Edition
OK, so he's only played in two games but there is a lot to be analyzed in those 37 minutes.
First off, I want to go back to a point I made earlier in the week, about Wojtek Wolski and him moving to New York.
I have nothing against Phoenix, I love the Coyotes, but he just moved to the biggest hockey market for one of the NHL's premiere teams. I have a funny feeling he's going to do everything he can to ensure that this works out.
Our good friend Andrew Gross, in his game recap today, discussed that very point as well; and proved my point.
Wolski particularly enjoyed the playoff-like atmosphere at the Garden, especially in the third period as the Rangers protected their one-goal lead. Each team had 11 shots over the final 20 minutes. Earlier this week, Wolski said he was anticipating getting to play in a strong hockey environment after 10 months as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. Wolski said while the Phoenix fans in the building were enthusiastic, there wasn't the natural love of hockey out in the desert. In fact, Wolski was saying how people in the surrounding communities to Glendale, say, in Scottsdale, aren't even sure where the arena is.
So Wolski really liked the ending when then Rangers, as is their recent tradition, went to center ice to raise their sticks and salute the crowd.
"Everybody jumped off (the bench)," Wolski said. "It did have the feeling of something special."
I honestly don't know much of Wolski's problems in Phoenix, but I do have a feeling that they are behind him. He found his way onto the biggest market and into the best atmosphere in hockey. He'll make it work.
Join me after the jump for some skill analysis.
I guess we should get to the best part of last night's game, the goal. Why don't we take a look at it, I do love my video evidence, and then go into what it means.
Notice anything? If you said "it was a dirty goal" or "it was a garbage goal" or even "WOW! someone in front of the net on the power play," you're correct.
If you watch Wolski's play over the past two games in a Rangers uniform you'll notice his play in the offensive zone.
You'll hear announcers talk about a players play without the puck. And generally, that refers to their defensive play or their positioning in the offensive zone. For Wolski, his play without the puck (offensively speaking) is top-flight. He's always in front of the net, or in the slot, when he doesn't have the puck.
More video evidence you say? Take a look at this sequence of events from the tail end of the first period yesterday night.
Wanna play where's Wolski? (P.S. I'm proud of this line) Check in front of the net, because not only did he screen the goalie on the original Marian Gaborik shot, but he also took a good hack at the rebound.
It's something that Ranger fans have been pining for, and it's something that might have found a solution. Again, it's only been two games, but the preliminary signs are incredibly positive.
Aside from his positioning, let's talk about his hands.
In his short Ranger career he's already wowed me with a group of good decisions. Now, don't misunderstand what I'm about to praise Wolski for as him doing anything special, but it's a great hockey play, and a play that the Rangers usually don't make.
Let's start here, he is good at cycling. No, it's not hard to cycle, but it's a talent to be able to act instinctively and cycle to the proper places on the ice. Thankfully, Wolski get's it.
Let me take you to a Rangers power play yesterday night, on the play before Wolski's goal. Here is the video.
OK, let's start from the beginning of this play.
The puck get's deflected into the corner, and all three of Brandon Dubinsky, Gaborik and Wolski go in after it. Wolski starts to move towards the front of the net, but the puck get's kicked out to the point. Wolski realizes that Gilroy (who is about to be pressured by the Canuck defense) might need an outlet, so he moves to the sideboards.
Gilroy plays the puck to the other defenseman (I can't see who) and that defenseman feeds it back to Gilroy. Now if you want to be technical, stop the video at 10 seconds. Wolski is the bottom player on your screen, almost at the point. He recognizes that Gilroy has the puck, and that he (Wolski) has a significant amount of open space between him and the net.
OK, play the video.
He moves a little closet to the net, takes the pass, and rips a shot before the defenseman can adjust. Sure, he didn't score, but it was a smart play, that created a great shot on the power play.
Alright guys, there's your rapid reaction.
Thoughts? The floor is yours.