via The Rangers Tribune
Marc Staal’s post-concussion headaches, leading to his absence from the lineup, have taken a major blow to the Ranger defense. Your blue-line will never be the same without its best player, and that’s a pretty simple concept to grasp if you ask me. In Staal’s absence, though, opportunities have arose for others players on this team to show that they belong. This has been the case for defenseman Tim Erixon, who is coming along nicely and looking more and more comfortable out on the ice each game.
Last night’s match was the ultimate test for the Swedish-raised rookie. Going back to the city where he was drafted to play against the team that was forced to trade him last summer brought along enough emotional ties as is, but Erixon faced added adversity when the boos rained down from the crowd each time he touched the puck. Erixon handled the situation like a true professional, which is a microcosm of the steps he’s taken in his game since opening weekend.
“I heard (the boos), but I didn’t really think about it. I just tried to go out there and play my game. Oh yeah, I heard it, but I don’t really care about it. They didn’t bother me.”
It may sound odd, but the best compliment to get as a rookie defenseman is from your goaltender, not the coach, and Erixon earned high praise from Henrik Lundqvist after last night’s game…
“I thought Tim was really solid with all that booing every time he touched the puck. He’s calm as a kid, and I don’t think he gets that worked up, which is good for a defenseman. He stays really calm, and that’s his game. He looks relaxed. It’s a great thing to have a young defenseman that doesn’t get bothered by anything. I was impressed by him tonight.”
Erixon was nervous to start the season, and that’s why he was not the same player we saw in the prospects tournament in early September. Since then, though, he’s begun to settle in and calm his game down. On my list of the Rangers’ best defensemen to this point, Erixon is right up there behind Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. No more turnovers, no more missed coverages and he’s showing his offensive side more often as well.
There’s no guaruntee that he will remain with the team once Marc Staal and Mike Sauer return, but Tim has definitely caught the attention of head coach John Tortorella with his developing play…
“I thought (Erixon) handled himself tremendously. With everything around him, I thought he handled himself very, very well.”
Personally, two of either Woywitka, Eminger or Del Zotto should get the ixnay before Erixon does once Staal and Sauer are back in the lineup. For some reason, I think Torts may feel the same way. Just a gut thing, really.