---So I walk into my favorite liquor store to pick up some vino and the boss hits me with, "Hey Pundit, is this coach nuts or what, playing this Backman guy? He's awful."
Nuts? Who knows. Clueless? Definitely. I explain to him that he has no choice. The Stealth GM bought him and coach clueless has to play him. You remember the play, "Damn Yankees". The vamp, Gwen Virdon, sings the hit tune from the play, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets." The Stealth GM is Lola and whatever he wants he gets. He is not only the Stealth GM he is the Ad Hoc coach. So we needed a tough bruiser who could clear the crease and keep the opposing snipers at bay and what do we get? We get Malik II.
Defense. This is the second problem that faces the Rangers in the playoffs. For years it has been an axiom that in the playoffs you need eight good defensemen. If you count the bodies the Rangers have eight when Paul Mara is fully healed and returns to the lineup. So the Rangers will have the required eight bodies for the playoffs. The question is. How many good ones do they have? How many playoff battle hardened do they have? You could make the case that discounting Backman, they have six such defensemen. Remember, this will also be Marc Staal's first playoff appearance. But it's not Staal I'm worried about and neither should Ranger fans be worried about him.
First of all, Staal should be on the first unit with Rozsival but he won't as clueless will pair the frightening duo of Rozsival and Malik. I still see the blind passout of Malik on the stick of a Sabre in game two of last year's playoffs, leading to the tying goal and eventually defeat. Malik is soft and Rozsival is careless. This makes for a dangerous duo in front of Lundqvist, who fortunately has risen to the occasion to deflect their mistakes. Unfortunately this duo averages well over twenty minutes a game. This could be deadly for us.
The second unit of Tyutin and Girardi is our best pairing. Yes, Girardi occasionally resorts to the cutesy soft pass and Tyutin seems to have trouble getting his shots to the net, but overall they are solid. Tyutin is our most solid checker and should do it more often. Girardi is becoming more offensive oriented and has a decent shot from the point. This unit should be on the ice more, especially in tight games late in the game.
The third pairing is now Staal and Backman, but this unit should not stand. Upon Mara's return, Backman should go to the bench. However, don't bet on this happening. Coach clueless will use every excuse under the sun to keep Backman in the lineup. The guy who was booed out of St. Louis has now won the hearts of the Ranger hierarchy. Actually, the main man likes him.
The pairings on defense should be as such. Number one pairing should be Rozsival and Staal. Number two will be Tyutin and Girardi and the number three pairing should be Mara and Strudwick. Malik and Backman should keep each other company up in the blue seats, if they have the guts to sit there. As far as the power play goes, Staal and Mara should be on the first unit. Staal can quarterback it and Mara can be the shooter from the point. Up front on the first unit should be Drury, Avery and Prucha. That's my number one unit, what's yours? More important what does coach clueless have in store for us? Chances are he will play it safe and keep the Stealth GM happy. The question is: will the Ranger fans be happy?