By Eric Bancker
During the 2008 offseason New York Rangers general manager, Glen Sather, re-signed defenseman Michal Rozsival to a 4 year/$20 million deal and many Rangers fans were happy to have the offensive defenseman back after a 13 goal campaign in 2007-2008. Rozsival was at the top of his game and the Rangers seemed like they had a legitimate powerplay quarterback on defense. After signing that contract Rozsival’s numbers declined and many felt as though he had given up after getting his big pay-day. Many fans called for Rozsival to either be traded or bought out of his current contract. Since the Rangers had already internally decided to bury Wade Redden and his massive contract to the minors, so any sort of deal to get rid of Rozsival was out of the question.
This year has been a different story for the 32-year-old defenseman. Rozsival has six points in the Rangers first eight games, two goals and four assists, three of his assists have come on the powerplay which ties his total from last year. Rozsival already has two goals on the young season after last season where he only scored three goals all season. Rozsival didn’t score his second goal last season until March 4th against his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rozsival also didn’t reach six points last year until November 27th which again was against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So whats different this year for Rozsival?
The very simple answer is that Rozsival is shooting the puck. Even though Rozsival has only registered seven shots on goal he is throwing the puck at the net more often and its leading to opportunities for the Rangers offense to score goals. Over the past few seasons it seems as though Rozsival lost confidence in his shot and in himself. He would pass the puck in obvious shooting situations and it was frustrating to watch. Whenever you would tune into a New York Rangers broadcast you would hear the Rangers color analyst, Joe Micheletti, say “The Rangers coaching staff really worked with Rozsival on shooting the puck in yesterday’s practice” then you would see the results for one game and then it wouldn’t be there for the next week or two.
It’s not only Rozsival that has benefited from shooting the puck more. The Rangers top four defenseman, Michal Rozsival, Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, have registered 16 points total this season so far. The Rangers have scored 26 goals this season which means these four defenseman have registered points on 61% of the Rangers goals while last season they only contributed on 50% of the teams goals. That’s a big increase from last year and even though its early in the season it seems as though the Rangers defensive corps is starting to come together and its something the Rangers will need to fall back on as the season progresses.