by Patrick Hoffman on 02/15/13 at 11:39 AM ET
Brian Monzo, a producer and hockey writer at WFAN as well as a good friend of the blog, was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to give us his thoughts on the New York Rangers' play to date:
PH: I know it is still early on in the season but what are some of your general thoughts on the Rangers' play so far?
BM: I think they've played good at times and bad at times. Sometimes that happens in the same game (Bruins, Islanders games come to mind). I think some players have played well, and some players have not. It can be frustrating to watch, but I think you will start to see what we expect -- a good hockey team. They've gotten points and now find themselves only a few points out of first place. But it's definitely fair to say they need to play better.
PH: Why do you think the Rangers got off to the slow start that they did?
BM: Simple -- short training camp and lack of team chemistry. Some teams came out and have played great. For the Rangers it's been a struggle. I think we all know what they can be, and should be, but it's going to take more time for the team to get to that level. I also think Henrik Lundqvist seems to finally be getting into a groove, which will be a huge key to their success.
PH: What do you think of Tortorella's use of Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller? It seems that he has been more willing to sit Kreider this season.
BM: He likes using players he trusts and has gotten results from previously. As much as Ranger fans want to see Miller and Kreider getting big minutes game in and game out, it's just not going to happen here with Tortorella. They are going to need to earn their time. If they play well, as we've seen at times, they've been playing. When they struggle, they sit. It goes like that with most players on the team -- but it will be more visible when it's a rookie getting benched.
PH: What are your thoughts on the play of Rick Nash so far? Do you think Tortorella will ever find a consistent line to put him with?
BM: I think we will see him with Stepan and Hagelin for a while. The combination of all three seems to work. They all bring different things to the table. With Hagelin, we know it's his legs. With Nash, it's the combination of his skating, vision and ability to make plays. Stepan, while inconsistent, is a balance of everything and plays the center position well. In my opinion, he is overvalued by Rangers fans. They see him as a premier second line player -- for me, he is a decent, acceptable second line player -- but it not going to blow anyone away. As far as Nash goes -- you can see what he brings on the ice. He does things we haven't seen with the puck. His ability to find open ice and hit it hard is unlike anything I've seen. He makes everything seem so easy. Really incredible to watch.
PH: When it comes to the Rangers' defense, what impresses you the most about Ryan McDonagh?
BM: His ability to read the play is great. He knows where the puck is going to go. That said - I think he is struggling big time thus far this season. He was incredible last season. He was the Rangers best defenseman and it wasn't even close. This year, his offensive games hasn't been there and he is struggling with his work along the boards. Will he get passed it? Yes.. but it's something that needs to get fixed for this team to succeed.
PH: Going forward, what does the team need to do to ensure that they get into and stay in the top eight for the remainder of the season?
BM: SHOOT THE PUCK ON THE POWER PLAY. And get more consistency on both ends of the ice.
PH: Is there anything else you'd like to share with Kukla's Korner readers?
BM: Follow me on Twitter: BMonzoWFAN
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.