Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts On Game 4

First off, with no Betts and no Avery the lines will be reconfigured. Here is what I would go with:
P.A. Parenteau-Moore-Dawes
Do I think Renney go with that? No, I am pretty sure that we will see Petr Prucha back in and I don't think Ryan Hollweg will be back.

On Holly, I really believe that people are being too hard on him for the boarding penalty on Petr Sykora. Was it a bad penalty, at a bad time? Yep. Did we lose because of it? Absolutely not. The team was terrible for most of the game. It wasn't Hollweg who just stood still, watching the Penguins pass the puck around before scoring both their fourth and fifth goals. People are quick to jump on him for being a one-dimensional goon but they have forgotten how he provided a spark during any one of those games during the midseason doldrums.

A great moment that I didn't address last night - the Staal on Staal hit. That was awesome. While I am sure their parents weren't too happy, I am sure it wasn't the first time the boys hit each other and it pretty much served to level the ledger after Jordan's goal on Sunday.

But back to the future: there shouldn't be much of a change in game-plan for Game 4. Let's face it folks, this series was pretty much a post and a whistle away from the Rangers having a 2-1 lead despite playing far below their capabilities. And there is absolutely no reason not to empty the tank and leave everything out on the ice in Game 4. These guys will have all summer to recover (or two days until a Game 5).

If it does prove to be the final game of the year, be sure to keep checking back here because I won't take much of an offseason. There will be report cards, Scotty Hockey All Stars, Stanley Cup coverage, some draft and free agency coverage and more!

Best Wishes Sean

TSN is reporting Sean Avery has a lacerated spleen after the Daily News reported he had cardiac arrest last night. Sam Weinman confirms the spleen while refuting the heart attack. Keep up with his Rangers Report for the latest, as he is the fastest and best of the beat writers.

The Rangers are now confirming it as well; he is done for the year.

All too often we dwell on the games and forget that they are actually played by people. Sean was demonized and lionized by various groups of fans but now everyone should just hope he is ok and wish him a speedy recovery.

R2, G3: There Is Always Tomorrow, Right??????

That is pretty much what the Rangers are trying to fool themselves into believing after they played lousy hockey for 50 minutes of the game against the Penguins on Tuesday night. Just two Rangers can look at themselves in the mirror and honestly say they left everything on the ice in this one: Jaromir Jagr and Ryan Callahan. And the thing that bothers me is that I wrote the same thing after Game 2 as well. Nothing changed in this 5-3 loss; the Pens took control early and had it the whole game.

People want to pin Ryan Hollweg up as the reason that the Rangers lost, but it wasn't entirely his fault. The Ranger goaltending was awful, the defense porous, the fitness lacking, the coaching poor, the shot selection dubious, the passing was off the mark, the power play ... ugh. They put up nearly 40 shots on net but more than 20 went right into the logo on Fleury's chest. The Pens defense forced the issue and shut the Blueshirts down. What can you say? They were awful, even when they had climbed back to tie the game. You could feel it was a matter of time before Pittsburgh would score again.

*If this truly is the last series of Jaromir Jagr's career, then at least he is going out strong. I rode this guy for months for playing disinterested, halfhearted hockey and I was asked why I was so upset, because he was still picking up some points. Well, this is why - he can play at this level but chose not to for so very long. Jagr showed the passion and skill that earned him the reputation of best European to every play in the NHL. He skates, he shot, he stood up for his teammates, he made good passes, he cared.

*We have said that Tom Renney's loyalty has been his downfall and tonight it was. He promised Christian Backman a shot and has stayed with him, and Backman hasn't repaid his faith. He was his usual bad self and one has to wonder how the steady, veteran, calm, strong presence of Jason Strudwick would have effected the other defenders. Renney might have worried about the speed of the Pens and how slow Studs is, but it doesn't matter how fast the blueline is when they are making mistakes, turning over the puck and letting forwards set up camp in front of the goaltender.

*Renney's loyalty extends, of course, to his coaching staff and the continued employment of Perry Pearn is baffling. Pearn is in charge of the power play and - just like during the regular season - it was predictable, inefficient and cost the Rangers the game.

*How can these guys be professional athletes if they can't play for two straight minutes? Watching the penalty kill literally stand still and watch the Penguins set up what would be the game winning goal was horrifying.

*We can't complain about the officiating in this one. It was pretty fair, with calls both good and bad going both ways. The only exception is seeing all of the roughing calls given for the scrum after the Rangers first goal - Kris Letang outright throws punches and slams Dubinsky to the ice and gets a roughing call, along with everyone else.

*Of course, it also was infuriating to see Cindy Crosby not get an unsportsmanlike for running right after the refs time after time and complaining for minutes on end, but that is to be expected. Gretzky did the same thing so the superstar rule gets called there.

*Did Sean Avery play? I couldn't tell.

*Rozy say nearly 27 minutes of ice time and really wasn't all that good. When he asks for a raise in the offseason, it wouldn't be bad decision to let him walk. He has incredible gaps in his defensive play and all of that offense he showed in the regular season seems to have disappeared now that the other team steps up its pressure.

*Even though Drury came back from his second period injury, if its the least bit serious it might not be a bad idea to shut him down for Thursday. I don't think he would allow it, being the warrior that he is, but if there is any kind of risk then the Rangers need to keep the next six years of his contract in mind.

*Speaking of the future: Callahan had a really good game aside from his high sticking penalty, Dubinsky had some good moments and Dawes did alright with his increased ice time. Toots and Girardi weren't very good, but they weren't very bad either.

*Seeing Scott Gomez grin while being interviewed in the post game interviews is making me sick. I know its his nature but seriously man, I know you have a long contract here but this will very likely be your best chance to win (at least for three, four years) so watching it get flushed down the toilet has to effect you. Oh look, MSG, NY just switched to an interview with Slash from Guns N Roses. So, I feel better; let's talk to an old rock star instead dwelling on the demise of the cornerstone of your network. Oy.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaromir Jagr - goal and an assist.
2-Marc-Andre Fleury - 36 saves.
1-Evgeni Malkin - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Rob Scuderi/Brooks Orpik - These two were great keeping the Rangers to the outside, blocking shots, banging bodies ... they made the Blueshirts blueliners look terrible by comparison.
2-Malkin - What a combination of size and skill. For a while people were saying he was Messier to Cindy's Gretzky, but he might be the Mario, just with a willingness to hit.
1-Jagr - He was the best player on the ice, what can you say? Too bad his intensity wasn't infectious.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Avery-Proof Equipment??

As the NHL and NHLPA announced today, a committee has been formed to find ways to make goaltender equipment smaller while maintaining its protection. Even though goal scoring is actually up these playoffs, I think its a great idea as netminders have turned into Marshmallow Men.

In an odd choice, the three goaltenders included in said committee are: Martin Brodeur of New Jersey, Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, Ryan Miller of Buffalo. What do they have in common? None of the three are playing right now. All three are from New York-area teams. All three have a healthy dislike for a certain Sean Avery. Wonder what equipment changes they may come up with:

*Sharper stick blades, better to chop him in the groin.

*Extendable blockers, better to punch him in the back of the head.

*Weighted catching gloves, better to knock him out of the way.

*Masks that stay on, so they don't look like this.

*Chest protector with a spring loaded boxing glove inside, so they don't have to leave the crease to clock him.

*Margarita mix in water bottles, so they can put all of the ice shavings to good use; easier to cope when drunk.

*X-ray vision goggles, so they can see though him. Or blinders, so they can ignore him.

*And you can't forget sunblock dispensers on top of the net, to keep away the burns from the red light as he scores.

You Know Its Bad ...

... When even Forbes Magazine is calling you out for being childish:
When the referees do not call the other team for being in the same area of the ice as Crosby, Mr. Penguin whines like a 12 year girl old shut out of a Hannah Montana concert.

Bravo business folks, bravo.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

R2, G2: Rangers No-Show

In playoff hockey, the team that leaves it all on the ice is the one who prevails. Simply said, the Rangers have yet to do it. They didn't even seem to break a sweat until late in the third period, when the urgency factor kicked in. And that is just not good enough. They limp home down 2-0 after losing Game 2 2-0. They tried to adapt their style of play to the way the Pens play and it didn't work.

A quick note before I get into the other ranting: the Rangers should be able to face the Penguins without Hal Gill for Game 3 after he threw his gloves down to go after Sean Avery at the end of the game.
NHL Rule 56: Fisticuffs

An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.

(NEW for 2005-06) A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime, shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major for fighting, a ten minute misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension.
It's that simple, in black and white. The league has to call it. Ok, onto the other stuff:

*NBC set a bad standard from the start. First, they open the coverage with the game call from Game 1 - which incorrectly attributed the game-winning goal to Cindy - and then, minutes later, Eddie O (the former Pittsburgh coach) says outright that Cindy is not a diver. Ok, so the table is tilted towards the crybaby at the top. At least the other former Pittsburgh employee, Pierre McGuire picked his spots throughout the game. So much for objective journalism.

*Just as you had to know NBC would fellate Crosby and the Pens, the officials were going to weigh in and help out. A ridiculously quick whistle by Dan O'Halloran with the puck sliding into the net late in the third period cost the Blueshirts the equalizer. At least Gary Bettman can go to sleep tonight knowing his money-maker is in prime position to advance to the next round.

*The Rangers actually tested Marc-Andre Fleury once in the first two periods (when Callahan found Drury in the first). That just isn't enough; the Pens netminder is young and not very good - why the Rangers don't go hard at him the way they went at Marty Brodeur is beyond me. He got himself a shutout by making maybe two good stops, and that is all that he needed to do.

*Ain't that something? Marc Staal makes a terrible play on the penalty kill, losing the puck in the corner, and his younger brother capitalizes to give Pittsburgh the first goal of the game. Now I don't have any siblings, but I would think that will hurt for a long, long, long time.

*It took 14 minutes for Cindy to fall to the ice convincingly. I won't say she dived, but he leaned back and put all of his body weight on Toots so when the Ranger defenseman tried to turn away, Cindy hit the deck and earned a penalty. Eddie O can call it 'gamesmanship' all he wants but its still not right. A few minutes later Jagr was unceremoniously dumped to the ice by Hal Gill and Frankenstein wasn't shown the box. How soon until the NHL turns into the Italian Serie A soccer league with every player going down like he was molested the second contact is made? Personally, I give it another season or two but it certainly won't be long with the officiating being how it is.

*What a nice dig by Mike Richter during the second intermission. Talking to Pierre McGuirre and Mike Milbury, Richter was asked about '94 and he turned to Milbury and said 'you know what its like, its a marathon.' Well, Milbury does but he never won a ring! Slimey Bahston bastard.

*Someone put together a search team and find Brendan Shanahan.

*Why does Tom Renney call his time out after the Penguins put the game out of reach?

*Also on Renney, hopefully this Petr Prucha experiment was a one-game thing. The fourth line was pretty much useless in the game. Prucha was his usual punching bag self and couldn't get anything going offensively. Ryan Hollweg played well in the first round, its time to get him back in the lineup.

*The Rangers need to work on their shot selection. They had 22 shots blocked which only reinforced my earlier comment that they weren't getting themselves into good scoring positions.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.
2-Jordan Staal - game-winning goal.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 26 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The Blueshirts blueline was porous yet again and he stood tall to keep his team in the game.
2-Jaromir Jagr - Regular readers know that Jagr doesn't make this list often for good reason. In this game he played like he cared, like he wanted the puck, like he was the captain of the team.
1-Jordan Staal - He was solid killing penalties and scored the game-winner.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

R2, G1: Absolutely Awful

I am not all that sure where to start. I deleted much of what I wrote during the game proper just because I couldn't stand to look at it. The Rangers opened the second round of the playoffs in close to the worse way possible. They fell into every trap set by the Penguins and lost 5-4. I guess that is a good thing: the Blueshirts were a post away from going to overtime after playing a terrible game that was mostly dictated by the opposition.

The people who are raving about how amazing the game is are just blinded by the score - 'Oooh, goals! Yay!.' Perhaps it was the time off but there was a lot of broken plays for both teams and it just ended up being garbage hockey on bad ice with bad officials. Pens fans are happy they won the game and they should be, the first game of a series is huge. Onto more ranting:

*For all of Tom Renney's preaching about the Rangers needing to play their own game, he couldn't get the boys to execute it. I hate when I am right, but as I said just hours before the game the Rangers couldn't afford to get into a track meet and they did. I said they had to watch out for the dirty play of Jarkko Ruutu and they didn't. I said Christian Backman has to play a simple, smart game and he didn't.

*The Blueshirts blueline was ... ugh. Outside of Marc Staal, the other five defenders made mistake after mistake and Hank could only bail them out so much. They seemed to be funneling the puck and the Pens forwards towards the crease, instead of away from it. And when the Pens tried to play on the outside, the defenders chased them and went far out of position. For all of the offensive upside that Rozy and Backman supposedly add to the team, their defensive shortcomings cost the Rangers throughout the season and throughout the game tonight. Terrible.

*The refs made questionable calls and didn't make smart ones for both sides, which is troubling but typical of the stripes this season. It is something the league has refused to address so far but will have to during the summer. Dubious officiating leads to credibility questions and this league can NOT afford to undergo a scandal like the NBA did ... I am not saying anyone is betting on the games, but to have four officials out there and so many missed or misplaced calls is inexcusable.

*Hank made a few nice saves but gave up some soft goals and that is just inexcusable at this time of year. Luckily Fleury was just as bad but still. Goaltending wins Stanley Cups and we didn't get the goaltending that we need to get the hardware.

*I thought were playing the Penguins, not the Canadiens. Losing a big lead like that gave me flashbacks of that horror show in Montreal earlier this season.

*And despite the post I made a few weeks back, I have to address Versus ... just, wow. A p.r. firm e-mailed before the game asking me if I would put a banner up on this page (for free). I refused because of how poorly the network handles hockey. And let me tell you, they didn't change my opinion with this broadcast: the play-by-play guy was openly lauding the Penguins, the director made bad camera changes, the cameramen lost the puck on numerous occasions, the producer kept that shrill moron woman Chris Simpson involved in the broadcast and that intermission show? Ugh! What a bunch of no-talent hacks who speak just so they could hear their own voices.

*Ok, so before I kill myself or anyone else, let me get to the good stuff. Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal played great games wire-to-wire. Jaromir Jagr took a bad penalty but had moments of sheer brilliance. Sean Avery scored again. Brandon Dubinsky came out on fire. Um ... that's about it from here.

*Nigel Dawes needs to get more than 11 minutes of ice time. All he does is get himself into scoring positions and he is fast enough to keep up with the quick Pens. If the defense can find some semblance of responsibility, then he should be given some more minutes.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - two assists.
2-Jarkko Ruutu - one goal and 10, 10! hits.
1-Cindy Crosby - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tyler Kennedy - I hate the fact that they have this kid because I love the way he plays. He presses the action, makes smart decisions with the puck and skates every second.
2-Marc Staal - Its like Shawshank: he swam through sewage and came out clean on the other side. Three hits, two blocked shots, two assists and plus two.
1-Ryan Malone - Malkin was barely there, Cindy made a few nice passes but was far from the game-breaker. Malone played as close to a perfect power forward game as possible without actually scoring (he had two assists). He moved the puck, took good shots, played in traffic, laid down some good hits.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Last Minute Pep Talk

We are just hours before the puck drops on the second round of the playoffs for the Rangers. There is a few things to keep in mind:

*The Pens will throw everything they have at Hank, damn the consequences. They are young, they make mistakes and the Blueshirts have to take advantage of them. They also skate just as hard and maybe even faster so the Rangers can't let it devolve into a track meet.

*Jarkko Ruutu is a dirtier player than Sean so the Rangers have to be careful. For everything that has been accused of our fair Avery, he doesn't actually try to hurt people. Jarkko does. He throws elbows, slew foots, and makes illegal checks while headhunting. And he has a prior history with Jagr so watch out. Don't play down to his level and don't retaliate. If you have to cry to the refs, then so be it, because you know sure as hell Cindy would do the same thing.

*Colton Orr is on purely as a counter to Georges Laraque, but he isn't nearly as good. Rein Orr in because he is going out there with something to prove and that is a dangerous thing for an enforcer.

*Gary Roberts, for all of his curmudgeonly ranting, isn't playing. He can growl and scowl all he likes as he sits this one out with injury. And when he plays later in the series, it really won't matter because he hasn't been an important factor in a game since he left the Flames back in the mid-90's ...

*Like it or not, Christian Backman is playing. He claimed that he was "trying to do too much" when he first came to the Rangers and thus took all of those penalties. Renney has to reinforce simplicity of game to him. Don't let him be Tom Poti. Man do I hate Tom Poti.

*Head over to the New York Times Slap Shot blog and you can check out my latest Hockey Night in Blogdom Partisan Preview. I attack the Pens fans a little bit, perhaps unfairly, but the facts hold that they had a average attendance the year before the lockout of under 12,000 people. That's even worse than the Islanders; how sad.

*The bandwagon fans that show up tonight will be a loud, obnoxious, booing 'white out' and the Pensblog has kicked into high gear with their Photoshop fun. What better way to stick it in all of their faces than to win? Let's Go Rangers!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So It's Set: Rangers vs. Penguins

It is official, the New York Rangers will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs thanks to the Flyers 3-2 overtime win over the Caps tonight. Now Washington must hate Tom Poti as much as I do, thanks to his bad overtime penalty that led to the game-winner. Nice.

But back to us ... here is how we fared against Pittsburgh so far this season:

10-23-07: 1-0 loss at Pitt
11-8-07: 4-2 win at MSG
11-17-07: 4-3 OT win at Pitt
12-18-07: 4-0 win at MSG
1-14-08: 4-1 loss at Pitt
3-18-08: 5-2 win at MSG
3-30-08: 3-1 loss at Pitt
3-31-08: 2-1 OT win at MSG

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Friday, April 25th in Pittsburgh
Game 2: Sunday, April 27th in Pittsburgh, 2pm
Game 3: Tuesday, April 29th at MSG
Game 4: Thursday, May 1st at MSG
*Game 5: Sunday, May 4th in Pittsburgh, 2pm
*Game 6: Monday, May 5th at MSG
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 7th in Pittsburgh

The Rangers played the Pens three times in the playoffs and lost all three. The biggest moment of the three series was in 1991 when Adam Graves slashed Mario Lemieux, 'breaking' his wrist. Graves, who had seven goals in those playoffs, was suspended and the series turned for Pittsburgh. Mario made a miraculous recovery and was back the next series to lead the Pens to the Stanley Cup. The last playoff meeting was in 1996, a 4-1 loss in the second round.

Keys to this Series:
*Someone has to give Cindy a binky so he can't cry to the refs. They will enter the series looking to favour the poster boy and his team, but if he starts complaining, we could be in trouble.

*Georges Laraque cannot be allowed to dictate the game. His physical play has to be countered so don't be surprised to see a return of Colton Orr. It would hurt to see Ryan Hollweg's speed taken out of the lineup but someone has to stand up to the gentleman giant. But at the same time - there should be absolutely no goonery for the sake of goonery - this is playoff hockey.

*On the same note, don't hammer Hal Gill. Pittsburgh acquired him purely for this series to shut down Jagr. Keep Jagr and the rest of the Ranger forwards as far away from Gill's reach as possible. He has zero speed so keep swarming the net, but don't plant yourself there unless he is getting testy and you can draw a penalty. Aside from him, the Pens defense is fast but weak and mistake-prone - go hard.

*Also take a lot of shots because Marc-Andre Fleury really isn't that great. He has stepped up his play since coming back from an ankle sprain, but he still gives up bad rebounds and loses his positioning.

*Remember Petr Sykora has a vicious wrist shot and is incredibly dangers, especially on the power play. Best yet, don't take any penalties.

*Marian Hossa has yet to be Marian Hossa for the Pens; don't let him remember how to dominate games. And for that matter, don't let Evgeni Malkin go free because he is probably the best all-around player in the NHL.

Must read blogs (aside from mine): The Pensblog and Empty Netters.



It appears that everyone's favourite fatso has cried his way out of representing his country. Sean Avery apparently hurt his feelings so he doesn't want to play anymore, he is just going to take his pads and go home.
Brodeur said it was "The circus with the Rangers," and especially, "You Know Who," who made him look "tired mentally," as coach Brent Sutter put it.
So let me get this right, you lost the series because you played like crap, and yet you were still invited to play for your country - one of the highest honours a hockey player can receive - and you don't wanna play no mo?? Poor baby!

Ah, yet another classless move by the biggest whiner in hockey. Guess that's just par for the course, right?

Monday, April 21, 2008


So super blogger Greg Wyshynski has recently taken over the so-called NHL Experts Blog over at Yahoo!

Greg was kind/insane enough to ask me to write an obituary for the dearly departed New Jersey Devils. So I did. Let me know what you think ...

First the New York Times, now Yahoo!, and next?

The world!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

This Could Be Fun ...

As the Rangers still are forced to await their future, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, I just wanted give you something to look forward to in the possible match up with the Pens:

Let's Go Rangers!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

R1, G5: No Mo' Mmmaaaaarrrrrrrttttyyy

For those that immediately turn to me for near-instant feedback on the game, I apologize. I had a prior engagement so I missed the game and was forced to to tape it - that's like Tivo'ing it, just with quality loss. I turned my cell off, had a nice evening, then came home to watch the fireworks - which made it a great night. The Rangers rushed out to a wonderful lead, blew most of it with a typical bad second period and clung to their lead until the buzzer. Thankfully the Devils didn't have the firepower to equalize and force the Rangers to 'play for the shootout' (I am well aware that there isn't a shootout in the playoffs, but it is a phrase to describe their boring, defensive, avoid-mistakes-at-all-costs play late in a game).

*I said before the series that Mmmaaaaarrrrrrrttttyyy would dote on Sean Avery to the point of distraction. However, early on the series it was Scott Gomez who was the focal point. Well, say what you want on Avery's Game 3 antics, they certainly grabbed the spotlight and returned him to the limelight. That left Gomez free again to do what he does best, and in this game it got him the goal to make it 3-1.

*How many Devils do you think went into the locker room taking a page from Dino Ciccarelli, saying "I can't believe I shook that friggin' guys hand"?? Oh yeah, not all of them: Mmmaaaaarrrrrrrttttyyy continued to show he is more classless than he claims Avery is by not shaking his hand after the game. The one tradition that truly sets hockey apart from the other sports symbolizing sportsmanship and that bum pisses on it by being childish. What a piece of garbage.

*There was a loud, proud contingent of Ranger fans at the game. Why is it that when people talk about contracting the NHL, New Jersey is never mentioned? They had a brand new building to attract people this season and still can't sell the place out without a sizable contingent of enemy fans. Pathetic; at least the Islanders can still complain about playing in Fort Never-Win. I also caught the end of the game's reair on MSG+ and can just laugh at Chico. After Dubi scored the empty netter, he said, 'I am showing my allegiance here, but you shouldn't be hearing the building go crazy when you are scored against at home.' And later going so far as to say "this is making me sick." Poor guy, he is just now realizing he has wasted years covering a paper-thin franchise that has never done anything positive for the sport of hockey, other than drafting future Ranger stars like Scott Gomez, Brendan Shanahan and Pat Verbeek.

*Jaromir Jagr, wow. His power play goal to make it 2-1 was the Jagr of two seasons ago: he used the room given to him and took a pin-point shot that beat Mmmaaaaarrrrrrrttttyyy. But someone, anyone, please tell Jagr to buzz his facial hair. Even though the mustache is supposed to run straight down through his soul patch, it just looks like he has a Charlie Chaplin/Hitler thing going on.

*I know I said I wasn't going to complain about the broadcast, and with the tape I was able to avoid the Devil-favouring studio show, but Sam Rosen certainly hasn't been himself. He has always had to pick up the slack for Joe Micheletti's incompetence/idiocy, but he hasn't been on the ball the way he used to. He spends too much time scene-setting and less calling the play. And whomever was doing the main game-camera clearly had trouble following the puck, which is just awful.

*So Girardi knocks the puck away from Madden late in the third period, Madden loses his footing and is awarded a penalty shot. Ok, I get it (no, not really, but I'm still not complaining, really). But at least Madden continued to prove me correct in my point that he has no offensive skills to speak of by taking that abortion of a penalty shot that Hank easily handled.

*Hey, I have something good to say about Christian Backman! Unlike the other tall, soft, useless defenseman on the roster, the Devils haven't been able to take advantage of his many mistakes. Last year every gaffe by Malik ended up behind Hank ... See? I can be nice ...

*I could be mistaken, but I don't see the ref's name listed on the box score under the assists for Jersey's third goal. If they didn't make the incorrect call on Dubi - its not interference when the puck is right there - then there wouldn't have been a five-on-three and the puck would have never deflected off of Toot's arm into the net. Catch how I did that? I didn't outright complain about the officiating, like I said I wouldn't; I just pointed out an omission by the official scorekeeper. BTW - Dubi also got the Devil's second goal hung on him as it deflected off of him on net, but that was justified: he made the rookie mistake of losing track of what was going on elsewhere on the ice. Nice to see him tap in the empty netter for some redemption.

*I love how tough John Madden, Colin White and Paul Martin are behind their visors. Clarkson and Rupp may be despicable hockey players, but at least they play dirty face-to-face. Provoking behind plexiglas is spineless.

*I know some people will harass the fourth line for being trapped deep, allowing the first goal against. Backman went flying out of position, Mara chased his man, and Ryan Hollweg was forced to plug the slot, while allowing his man loose - the rodent Gionta, who capitalized.

*Did I ask where Nigel Dawes was earlier this series? My bad. Brilliant cross-ice pass by him to set up Captain America for his goal to make it 4-1.

*By my count, Freddie Sjostrom said "you know" 14 times during his first intermission standup interview. That has to be some kind of record ...

*Also in the realm of numbers, the Rangers blocked eight shots while the Devils stood in front of just one and the Devils racked up 29 hits to the Blueshirts' 15. Jersey was still given two more power plays though ... (still not complaining about the officiating - just pointing out a fact).

*PHW Three Stars
3-Patrik Elias- one goal.
2-Chris Drury - one goal.
1-Jaromir Jagr - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - the kid did everything short of score. He got more ice time than every forward aside from Gomez and skated his heart out. Awesome display.
2-Jaromir Jagr - he didn't take any bad penalties and finally used his size and strength to his advantage and it paid off in spades.
1-Sean Avery - he played his role of the pest perfectly and managed to distract an entire team. He also was the bigger man and showed Mmmaaaaarrrrrrrttttyyy's true colours as a classless egomaniac.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Today In History ...

Courtesy of the NHL Media folks:

April 18, 1994 - The New York Rangers posted their second consecutive 6-0 shutout against the New York Islanders to open the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers became the first club to open the postseason with consecutive shutouts since the Buffalo Sabres defeated Montreal 1-0 and 3-0 in 1983.

Suck It Up

So I had started to do a long-winded piece on the problems the NHL has had in presenting the games, both in the arenas and on television, and you know what? I decided that I don't care. Not now.

The league has botched the marketing of the game for years, the Garden has whitewashed their game presentation so its bland fodder for corporate clients and I don't care. Not now.

The officiating has been ... well, I won't even get started on that one.

We may sit on the eve of something pretty damn impressive, so why should we bitch endlessly about things out of our control? That does include officiating, by the way - every blog on the web can complain about the ineptness of the refs and that won't sway Gary Bettman, so at this point, why bother?

This is the time of year that hockey players show distinction from their fellow athletes by toughing it out. Broken bones, open wounds ... who cares: The Stanley Cup is in sight.

Now is the time for us, as fans, to tough it out. The pitiful officiating isn't going to change their ways (unless Sean Avery dares to try something else new), the droll game night operations folks aren't going to get any better, the inept, annoying colour commentators on television aren't going to become any more watchable.

Deal with it. You have to, and you know why? Because the excitement that they try so hard to manufacture is already there. You bring it. I bring it. We all bring it.

Thunderous ovations, nail-biting silences, unadulterated joy, crushing misery. It's all there and it all starts with the determination of the players and is reinforced with our passion. And that is something that the commissioner has never understood. You can't force that upon the unwilling; that depth of emotion is instilled in the fabric of the game and it calls to those who truly get it - those who appreciate every blocked shot, every clearing pass, every hit, every shift. That's us, and that is something they won't take away from us. It survived the goons. It survived the trap. It survived the lockout.

We are in the throes of the playoffs folks and when that beautiful, beautiful trophy is raised in the air none of the petty nonsense will matter anymore. So suck it up, quit your crying and let's just enjoy some hard-fought, leave-it-all-on-the-ice hockey.

I reserve the right to take everything I just wrote back the second the refs buy into another one of Mmmmmaaaaarrrttttyyy's dives and it costs us the game.

Signs, Signs ...

Game 3:

Game 4:

... let's hope I don't have to make another for this round ...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

R1, G4: Sweet Redemption

What a game at the Garden!

With some of the nay-sayers already predicting loss (not me, for once), the Rangers came out and battled the Devils to a hard-earned 5-3 win on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Hudson River Rivalry.

For Marc Staal, it was sweet redemption (hence, the title of this). After having the game-winning overtime goal go in off of his skate in Sunday's loss, his third period shot in Game 4 found its way through traffic to blow past Marty Brodeur. The tally would stand up as the game-winning goal and the Blueshirts have some breathing room heading into Friday's road home game in Newark's Prudential Center.

Thank goodness, because my nerves couldn't stand much more. Here's what was causing me to bite my nails all night:

*As one incredibly wonderful fan pointed out in a well-crafted sign, diving counts as unsportsmanlike conduct and Mmmaaaaaarrrrttttyyy was not very sporting on this evening. On several occasions the overrated crybaby turned the game into his own personal tryout for the Canadian swim team that is headed to Beijing this summer. He dove back and forth across the crease as if it would earn him a medal and, in one instance, it earned him a two minute minor for (what else but) diving. My question is why was a interference call made on Sjostrom when the second player, Mmmmaaaaaarrrrttttyyy, embellished the play enough to be called for diving? And where was the dive on the play later in the game when Jagr cut into the crease and Mmmmmaaaaaaarrrrrttttyyy went for another swim?

*That brings up the point that the officiating maintained its dubious track record of being inconsistent and unfair. Why is it that no penalty is called when Sean Avery is pinned to the ice for 15 seconds by a Devil and a minor is given to Jaromir Jagr when he is being punched in the face? And Jersey has the nerve to complain about the officiating when every call, outside of the end of Game 2, has been in their favour. The joke that the officials are three blind mice is outdated; these guys aren't just blind, they are stupid as well. Inconsistent, incompetent officiating needs to be eradicated ASAP. These games aren't about the refs, they are about the players and they need to keep it that way; no one wants to pay to see a game decided by a whistle.

*On whistling: just stop it already with the 'Potvin Sucks' whistles. Love them when we are playing the Islanders, but against the Devils it is just annoying and out of place. If anything, its a Devil fan executing their rip off version where the Potvin is replaced with Rangers. Either way, it has no place in the Garden late in the third period during a tight game against New Jersey.

*Back to that nonsense with goaltending ... Jay Pandolfo told the AP that “I guess we have find a way to do the same thing to their goalie. They are getting away with it, we should be able to get away with it, too.” For one, I didn't realize that Mmmaaaaarrrrtttyyy's acting job was good enough to fool his own teammates and for two, when you hit players into your own goaltender its your fault, not that of the other players. Idiot.

*It was nice of the Devils trainer to go all the way down the ice to see a trainer give Mmmmmaaaarrrrtttyyy a towel to cry into when he went for that second swim, losing his helmet in the process.

*A fellow season subscriber and I agreed that Nigel Dawes has seemingly disappeared in this series. After dominating the Devils in the regular season, he has yet to make his presence felt.

*Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, on the other hand, have been invaluable physical forces that create plays and opportunities for their linemates. These kids are the best Rangers youngsters since Doug Weight and Tony Amonte.

*Christian Backman had 23 minute of ice time, including 3:45 of power play time. Things he achieved in that time?? NOTHING. It is infuriating that he is being groomed to be Rozy's replacement so we will be stuck with him for years to come. What a waste of a perfectly good jersey. I have heard from a good source that Bobby Sanguinetti is already looking like a star in the AHL so maybe he can beat Backman for a spot on the blueline next season.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - goal and an assist.
2-Marty Straka - goal and an assist.
1-Marc Staal - game-winning goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - rock solid defense. He had eight hits and an assist in less than 17 minutes of work. His defensive acumen allowed Toots to make a few offensive plays without making me nervous.
2-Scott Gomez - yet again he didn't dominate but he definitely played a stronger game than he had in Game 3. He won faceoff after faceoff, netted two goals and continued to open up the ice with his puck carrying skills.
1-Marc Staal - the kid played more than 23 minutes of solid hockey. He was mobile, moved the puck smoothly and stood his ground defensively.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Proof Positive The NHL Hates NY

If the horrifying excuse for officiating hasn't been enough to give the Rangers the disadvantage, the league is now making up more rules to call the Blueshirts on. After yesterday's highly entertaining, exceptional job of screening Martin Brodeur by Sean Avery, the league has decided to legislate against him:

NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 14, 2008) -- National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell today issued the following advisory on the interpretation of Rule 75 - Unsportsmanlike Conduct: "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

So it is perfectly acceptable for the player to wave his arms and stick around, as long as his ass is to the netminder? This is just another arbitrary rule for the incompetent officials to mangle. What happens if the puck is behind the net and is shot out to the point with a guy in the crease? If he doesn't see the puck come out and turn around quick enough, he could be culpable as he moves back and forth looking for the puck.

Say what you want about sportsmanship and honour, Sean Avery played the game within the rules and the amount of press that it got triggered the league to legislate against him. If this wasn't a playoff game, if this wasn't Martin Brodeur, if this wasn't Sean Avery, this rule wouldn't have been made. The league is as childish and immature as they claim Avery to be and its pathetic.

But at the end of the day, they are the people in charge and you can't do anything about it. The best possible solution? The Rangers need to win the Stanley Cup so Avery's name is immortalized forever.

Today In History ...

Courtesy of the NHL Media folks:

April 14, 1928 - In only their second season as an NHL franchise, the New York Rangers captured the 1928 Stanley Cup with a 2-1 triumph over the Montreal Maroons in the final game of the best-of-five title series. The Rangers became only the second American team in history to win the Stanley Cup, joining the 1917 champion Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

R1, G3: You Know You Have To Play OT Too, Right?

Two games to one is still a nice lead, right?

After the Rangers allowed the Devils to press the action in the third period, they came up on the wrong side of a 4-3 score but still have control in the series. There are a lot of random things so I will cut to the chase:

*To be blunt, the game-winning goal came off of the skate of Marc Staal, and that sucked to see. You don't want to lose a game on a goal like that but this is the NHL playoffs and any goal is a good goal, ugly or not. It was heart-wrenching to see that it was Staal that was the culprit but in the long run I do think it will help him be a better defenseman. The same goes with his ill-advised clearing attempt that led to the second goal against. He had rebounded with a huge hit to put a Devil into his own bench and several smart defensive plays that broke up the Jersey attack. We all-too-often forget that he is a rookie and that this is a learning process for him. Norris Trophy winners aren't made overnight folks, and this kid has the tools to one day win one so this could be a good thing, in the long run.

*At the same time, that was a bad goal to give up, but it wasn't as bad as the Devils third goal. Hank seemed to lose his balance, going down way too early, and couldn't swim his way back upstream to make the save. He made some good stops other than that but wasn't the superstar that he was in the first two games of the series. We need that Swedish sensation if we are to go all the way - or to even get past the Newark nancies.

*Those dastardly Devils did well enough to win but were certainly helped out by the officiating in this one. I hate, hate blaming the stripes but they certainly didn't help the matter and didn't seem to call the game evenly. They allowed some clear interference calls go, while calling Tyutin for 'closing his hand on the puck'? Give me a break, it wasn't like he grabbed it and threw it down the ice at Maaaaarrrrttttyyyyy.

*That overrated excuse for a goaltender gave up what I am sure Devil fans will say were two soft goals. He also managed to dive several times and he drew a penalty by attacking Sean Avery. Amazing how that works, he draws attention to the pest and, since the newer officials in the league call the games as much upon reputation as what they actually see, that was enough to give Jersey the advantage.

*As for the Rangers: the boys played a good game, up until the overtime. Maybe they were too used to playing for the point and the shootout, but up until the last few minutes of the third and the overtime, they skated hard. Chris Drury continued to prove he will do whatever it takes to get the job done, Brandon Dubinsky played a hardnosed game that belied his inexperience and even Marty Straka skated well and got a few good scoring chances. The fourth line was exceptional, Ryan Callahan was a force all over the ice and Avery was ... well, Avery. He battled, he postured, he pestered, he scored; we really should resign that guy ...

*Christian Backman was a disgrace to the uniform again, taking not one but two stupid penalties. And this time he wasn't able to redeem himself on the offensive end so his ledger sits deep in the red.

*Scott Gomez wasn't as dominant a force as he was in Newark. He had some issues as he carried the puck through the neutral zone. He seemed to either lose possession as the defenders closed or made an ill-advised pass that didn't help out his linemates. I am not sure if those troubles were his fault or a symptom of improved New Jersey defense.

*The in-house 'entertainment' was horrid with a guitar seemingly dueling the organ for most obnoxious sounds they could manage. Now jack up the volume on their horrendous playing and you have deafening noise that is even worse than the canned crap pop music that they insist on blaring at obnoxious decibel levels.

*However, I will give them some credit for allowing Dancing Larry to make an appearance. Larry is just another true blue fan and his routine has become as much a part of the Garden experience as the goal song. We missed you Larry, homo or not.

*Some other blue blooded fan, who some say is dashingly handsome, put up a fun banner at the back of section 329/330 ... who could that have been??? (Me!)

*PHR Three Stars
3-Jaromir Jagr - three assists.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals.
1-John Madden - game winning goal (were they serious? He got lucky, that wasn't skill, ugh!)

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Sergei Brylin - just what I get for ragging on the guy the other day. He scored a goal, had three hits and was noticeable on the ice in just 10 minutes of ice time.
2-Avery - at this point, what more can you say? He does everything he can to give his team the advantage, and we love him for it.
1-Dubi - he had two goals, six hits and a blocked shot and won 17 of 27 faceoffs. Enough with the numbers, the kid dominated. Jason Arnott Redux.

Screening Or Unsportsmanlike?

Everyone across the hockey universe seems to be going nuts over Sean Avery's conduct prior to his goal tonight so I felt I would put a separate post on the incident. First off, watch the play if you didn't already see it:

Now, as gratifying as Avery's goal was, his silly attempt to screen Maaaaarrrrtttyyy prior to that has drawn quite the uproar, with the CBC folks (not Don Cherry, of course) going on as to how it had no place in hockey.

Honestly, I had barely noticed it when it happened as I was watching the puck move out on the perimeter. Now, as a Ranger fan, I got a great laugh out of watching the replay - again, and again, and again. Let's be serious though folks, if there was no instigator penalty, Sean would have (rightly) gotten his ass kicked. It is well accepted that Avery has no class on the ice. The ever-respectable Chris Drury came by during play to talk to him and I am sure Renney, Shanny and Jagr (haha) will speak to him about it.

Ron MacLean, in that CBC clip, of course puts it on the refs to level a misconduct on him but officiating is just not the answer. The league has been attempting to over-officiate the games and that has just led to more questionable calls. The four blind mice shouldn't be allowed to dictate the flow and pace of games, that simple.

And you know what? Aside from the Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken stick waving, there is little to fault Avery for. If he wants to ignore the puck and jump around like an idiot in front of the goaltender, so be it. Why is it ok for Ryan Smyth and Tomas Holmstrom to make a career sticking their rear ends in the goaltender's faces, but Avery is vilified for facing his enemy? It should be on the defensemen to move the clown from the crease, not the officials.

Remove the instigator and allow the players to level their brand of frontier justice. For all of the people who say how primitive that is, hockey players earned a reputation for being classy, yet tough players with a ton of character long before Bettman came in to corporatize the sport.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Some Saturday Reading

As you kick back and prepare for the Rangers first home game of these playoffs, I want to recommend a good article on Mike Ricci. Medianews took a look at the former Shark/Nordique/Avalanche/Flyer/Coyote (found via Kukla).

He is another Scotty Hockey Hero and it is good to see that his passion for the game remains, even if he can no longer play it.

Ricci, always one of the ugliest players in the NHL, was also one of its most passionate. His hard work shift in and shift out was remarkable. I remember when he first came into the league I would get confused because there was Ricci, Recchi and Reekie all in the bigs at the same time. While Recchi had a long scoring career that culminated in a few rings (but still no idea that he should retire) and Reekie had 900+ games of yeoman defense, it was the wild Ricci's career that truly stood out to me. He looked ridiculous with all that hair and without all those teeth but it was the look of a real hockey player, a guy you wanted to play like and win with.

Best wishes to him and his Sharks, as long as they don't face the Blueshirts ...

Friday, April 11, 2008


I've used the Maaaaarrrrrtttttyyyy title several times this season, and it feels great every time. The man with the overinflated reputation and ego is being brought back to earth as the Rangers break through the Devils defense to actually get at the goaltender. Back when Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens were there to bail him out, Marty was hailed as a hero. Now everyone is seeing that he really isn't nearly as good as advertised.

HOWEVER, as much as he blew the game for Jersey with two bad goals, the officiating truly screwed them. With the game 2-1 in the last minute, Bettsy should have been given a hooking/interference call, Rozy should have been given a cross check and the linesmen mistakenly blew an icing on them when they were shorthanded. They will be very, very dangerous in Game 3 on Sunday.

But before then, more on tonight (pictures to be added later):

*I have to say that I find it incredibly awesome that there really are very few New Jersey Devil fans. Even on the broadcast, the Maaaaarrrrrrrttttty chants after the back-to-back goals were deafening. Magnificent. Is it any wonder that I said that Jersey isn't our biggest rival? You have to have someone to battle against to have a proper foil. They have few fans.

*So I said that in Game 1 Marty was obssessed with Gomez, and Gomer took advantage by setting up all three goals. This time, Sean finally got under his skin and man was it fun to watch. First the two jaw face to face in the second period, then Sean scores in the third (with Gomez on the doorstep). I had previously said that if Avery asks for $4, 5 million we would have to let him go. I take it back, hand that man a blank check.

*Yogi Berra is a traitor. Apparently he was a Ranger fan back when he played for the Yanks but MSG+ showed him with a Devil cap. He met and became friends with the Devils' owner so he roots for them down. That's just wrong ...

*The long first period delay while the Rock ice crew tried to combine their brain power to fix a friggin door luckily didn't cause the teams to lose any of the intensity that they had to start the game.

*I neglected to mention him in my wrap of the first game, but Marc Staal is playing like he is a 10 year veteran, not some kind of rookie. He is one of the few Ranger defenders that are making the Devils pay when they enter the zone and has remained remarkably poised while doing it. While Rozy and Toots have slacked here and there, Staal and Girardi have been steady, bailing their partners out.

*Mara shouldn't have taken the cage off of his helmet - he was making bigger hits and playing a stronger all-around game with it on. And seeing a more timid Mara longside the soft Swede Christian Backman really doesn't do well for my nerves.

*Speaking of Mr. Backman ... where to start. What a bum. Busts Zach Parise in the mouth for no reason and puts the Rangers down for four minutes (thank goodness for great killers). That list of fourth round picks makes me more and more angry.

*Jagr was a horse, scoring the Rangers first goal of the game but - as I am sure I will take flak for this - I think his linemate Brandon Dubinsky was better. Dubi mixed it up, moved the puck and played a game far beyond his years. I've said it a few times before, but I do think we are watching a young Jason Arnott. Hopefully he will collect the same rings that the former Devil did.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Sean Avery - one goal.
2-Jaromir Jagr - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Shanny - his penalty killing and grit won't show up on the scoresheet but they won the game for the Rangers as much as the Jagr and Avery goals did.
2-Avery - what a punk; love him.
1-Hank - in the playoffs your goaltender has to be your best player and on this night, he truly was. He made several huge saves and the lone goal against came on a perfect redirection by John Madden.