by Steve Giacobello
Well……It looks like the position that the Rangers thought they were most solid in, and had the most confidence in starting the season, has turned out to be their biggest problem, their biggest nightmare, and the biggest reason why they are going to be forced to make yet another desperation trade to try and patch another hole in order to try and salvage a season that very easily can be over by the All-Star break.
Glen Sather’s decision over the summer to go with 19 yr. old Dan Blackburn as Mike Richter’s backup, rather than sign a reliable veteran goaltender (..see Corey Schwab..) to back-up his starter who has had the past three seasons ended early by major injuries, has proven costly. The decision to use Blackburn as the #2 goalie is not only a decision at the moment that is hurting the Rangers….It’s a decision that is hurting Blackburn as well. The Rangers would have been better off making Blackburn the starter, and using Richter as the back-up. Think about it like this…..Being a back-up goalie is the hardest, most do or die position in the game. As a back-up, you rarely get any playing time, but when called upon, the pressure to win games is extremely high. As a back-up, you’re expected to jump in and show no signs of inexperience or rust, and at the same time, give the #1 guy a rest and give your team a chance to win hockey games. A back-up will get MAYBE one…two… starts in a row, usually against a weak team, and with long periods of time in- between starts. Then it’s back to the bench. A bad performance, a loss, or even a bad goal by a back-up sticks in the mind of the players, the coaching staff, the starting goalie, the fans, and most of all…the back-up himself. Confidence can be lost very quickly for a back-up goaltender.
And in the case of an injury to the #1…..the focus and pressure applied to the back-up is much more higher. Not quite a healthy situation for a 19 yr. old to be thrown into…wouldn’t you agree?? Add all of the pressure mentioned above to the fact that we’re talking about New York, and the Rangers, and I fail to find any positive affect this can have on Dan Blackburn. The pressure on this team is enormous for many reasons…..(location, payroll, lack of post-season play the last 5 seasons, new coaching staff, off season UFA’s that were signed, etc……). The Rangers are sinking…sinking fast. This means the pressure builds and the criticism starts to pour in on the players as both a team, and as individuals.
Confidence under these conditions drops for all types of players….young, old, rookie and veteran. If you need proof, just look at the long list of superstar players that have come and gone here in New York with little or no production. They all speak of the pressure that surrounds this team when asked for a reason as to why thing’s didn’t work out for them as a Ranger.
This is just not a good situation for a player like Blackburn at this time of his career. Blackburn is not in a small market, on a small market team, with little or no expectations and a large margin for error. This is New York….the Rangers….with high expectations…and a huge load of pressure to perform at a high level.
Danny needs to be sent to Hartford, and he needs to stay in Hartford. This needs to be done not only because of the damaging affects the current status of the team might have on him, but also because I don’t believe he’s that good of a goalie at all right now.
Look……I don’t like to pass judgment on a 19 yr. old, and I’m not saying he can’t, or won’t improve and become a star goaltender one day in the NHL. But at this point in time, I just don’t see one part to his game that grabs me, or strikes me as a strong point.
Granted his defensive help has been non-existent at times, (Kaspar….a minus -16!!!!), but let’s be honest here: He’s terrible one on one and at challenging the shooter…he backs in and gives up the entire net. He’s horrible reading the play on odd man rushes…he just throws himself from post to post. He goes down WAY to early…the scouting report is obvious on him….”shoot it high”. He doesn’t handle the puck well…give always by him from behind the net have resulted in quite a few goals this year. He needs lots of help in playing his angles…being beat down low on the stick or glove side on shots from the blueline just shouldn’t happen.
He needs time folks…Lot’s of it….Time to work on his skills, because from what I’ve seen of him so far; his skill level is low and not close to NHL ready. (…why am I having a flashback of Corey Hirsh right now!!!)
The Rangers need to do the right thing here and return Blackburn to the AHL where there’s less pressure, more patience, and more time for him to improve his game.
Right now he’s hurting the Rangers.
But worst of all….the Rangers are hurting him.