Sunday, November 30, 2008

17-8-2: Sleepskating

Hockey players have very precise routines. Most, if not all of them, take a nap prior to the game. As games are often in the evening, the players work out in the morning, eat lunch, take a nap and then head to the arena. It is a solid schedule and does well to keep the guys fresh and physically prepared for their games. Unfortunately, the Ranger game against the Panthers today was at 1 p.m. and no one set off an alarm to wake the boys to remind them they were supposed to play.

On Kid's Day (sic, thanks Gregger), the Rangers set a terrible example for future Blue by "playing" with no heart, no motivation and no skill. The shockingly untalented Panthers team did work hard and pounced on the Blueshirt blemishes to win at MSG 4-0 (look at the picture, even they are surprised that they scored). Not only did the Rangers set a bad example, but if this was some of those kids' first game ever, they will likely never come back. Heck, I am an insane, obsessive fan and I hardly want to return to the Garden ever again.

So what did it? Was it the timing? They are professional athletes so all joking aside, I don't think so. I think it was complacency, laziness and bad coaching - with the first two being results of the third. Tom Renney is a great teacher, there is absolutely no denying that. But the man is not a motivator and when you have a payroll like the Rangers, you need someone to use the stick every now and again because the players all have a ton of carrots with those contracts.

Onto some notes:

*After just badmouthing Renney, I do have to give him credit for pulling Henrik after the third goal. There is no reason to keep your top goaltender in the net when the team isn't playing in front of him. I heard that they showed a very angry Lundqvist on the bench after that and that is great. He has every right to be pissed and at least someone in a Ranger jersey showed a little emotion.

*Speaking of that, why did it take a high elbow late in the third period to get someone to fight? And, for that matter, you can hardly call that a fight as Aaron Voros grapples, he doesn't punch. These hugfests bother me; be a man and throw down.

*Chris Drury needs to spend time every practice with a 2X4 or two across the bottom of the goal and shoot puck after puck after puck over it. His buddy Gomez just needs to learn how to shoot at all because the other teams know at this point that he is just going to pass it off. The predictability killed the team last year with Jagr, and it is killing them this year with him.

*The other man to wear a letter on his jersey, Markus Naslund, certainly did not play up to it. He was invisible on the Florida side of the ice except when he was taking bad offsides or a dumb penalty.

*Nik Zherdev was also elusive on the ice tonight but he came from Columbus with this M.O. - sometimes he dominates, sometimes he hibernates. You just have to be ready for it.

*The Rangers got off some good shots in the first five, 10 minutes of the game but they weren't following them up and crashing the crease. Craig Anderson allowed some ridiculous rebounds but there was no one there to capitalize.

*Perhaps there is something to the 'fragile male ego' theory because Michal Rozsival played slightly better than he had been while the team was in Tampa but once he got booed during the announcement of the starting lineup, he was terrible here. Then again, it is hard to call him out when Redden, Staal and Mara were just as bad. I hardly noticed Dan Girardi out there and Dmitri Kalinin played his usual poor game but ended up being the best of the blueliners. What a nightmare.

*Someone a few sections from me pointed out that there must be a sniper in the 400s because the Rangers kept falling. That gunman must have been just aiming for the home team because it seemed to me that the Panthers were skating on the same ice and had little trouble keeping their edges ...

*Some credit to the management for how they handled Kid's Day (sic). Having a kid announce the team at the start, a young girl sing the anthem and kids guest in the organ booth (no matter how bad they were) were nice touches. I am not giving a lot of credit because there was not a giveaway of any kind - which goes so far when you are that young - and the Knicks city kids dancing during the second intermission was pointless.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Radek Dvorak - two assists.
2-Craig Anderson - 37 saves.
1-Stephen Weiss - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - He came to play, his teammates didn't. There was little he could do on the three he let in.
2-Karlis Skrastins - The defenseman didn't have to do much to keep the Rangers out on the perimeter but he still racked up four blocked shots to go with two assists.
1-All of the dads who managed to keep their kids from crying or sleeping during this one. I know I wanted to cry ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bartering With Burke

Today the Toronto Maple Leafs finally admitted to the worst-kept secret in acquiring Brian Burke as their general manager. While the Rangers' dealings with Toronto haven't been great of late (outright horrible if you ask me), I thought it would be interesting to see what the Blueshirts dealings have been with Burke, a Stanley Cup-winning general manager. Using Outside The Garden's excellent transaction log, here is what I found (with commentary):

1992-93 Brian Burke is GM of the Hartford Whalers
07.09.1992 - Tim Kerr Traded to Hartford Whalers for Future Considerations.
Kerr's glory days with the Flyers were well behind him and after scoring 18 points in 32 games with the Rangers, he only managed six in 22 with the Whale before retiring. Those considerations became a 1993 seventh round pick, Sergei Kondrashkin, who never played in North America.

1998-2004 Brian Burke is GM of the Vancouver Canucks
03.09.2004 - Martin Rucinsky Traded to Vancouver Canucks for R.J. Umberger and Martin Grenier.
Umberger was unable to reach a contract agreement with the Rangers and the Blueshirts got a compensatory 2nd round pick from the Canucks in return - Umberger, of course, signed with Philly and is now underachieving in Columbus. Grenier was a minor league goon who is now in Russia. Rucinsky came back to Broadway after the lockout and averaged more than a point per game with his boy Jagr.

2005-2008 Brian Burke is GM of the Anaheim Ducks
08.23.2005 - Steve Rucchin Acquired via Trade from Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for Trevor Gillies and conditional 2007 pick.
Gillies is another career minor league goon and the Rangers took on Rucchin's salary for the cash-strapped Ducks and made good use of the former captain as a checking center. I have no idea what happened with that pick.

01.08.2006 - Maxim Kondratiev Traded to Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for Petr Sykora and 2007 4th round pick.
Kondratiev spent some time in Portland, a lot of time in Russia, four games for the Ducks and stopped by Ranger camp this year before heading home. Meanwhile, Sykora had 31 points in 40 games and looked good in Ranger blue but the team decided not to re-sign him and he went to Edmonton before heading to Pittsburgh and riding shotgun for Gina Malkin. I couldn't find what happened to that pick.

03.09.2006 - Sandis Ozolinsh Acquired via Trade from Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for 2006 3rd Round Pick.
A former Norris finalist, Ozolinsh played parts of two seasons with the Rangers and was horrible. He was defensively suspect and his alcoholism certainly didn't help. He got sober again and San Jose gave him a shot before he returned home to Latvia this summer. As for the pick, it became defenseman John de Gray, who still plays in the Ducks minor league system with the Iowa Chops but isn't likely to see the NHL.

So what does it all mean? Very little. Burke easily dealt with the Rangers while he was in the West but now that he is in the East he may not be as willing. Plus, since he is at the helm of a rebuilding Toronto team, he will likely be looking for youth that the Rangers aren't ready to part with. While Petr Prucha is still in the early stages of his NHL career, Glen Sather would be foolish to trade him away to another Eastern team, just in the off case that the kid does develop the way we have always hoped. But, you never know ...

17-7-2: Can't We Win In Regulation?

Did anyone else notice the tight shot of Henrik Lundqvist in the third period? He looked wide-eyed and shellshocked a la Denis Lemieux in Slap Shot. It was hilarious! But I have to say that it wasn't funny a few minutes later when the Rangers let David Booth skate alone into the zone on the far side to score the equalizer at three. Poor Hank had no help most of the night and yet he still bailed the boys out in the shootout as they won 4-3.

That makes back-to-back games where the Blueshirts blew late leads against bad teams only to pull out wins in the skills competition. However, there is some silver lining on it as both came on the road against foes in another division who aren't likely headed for the playoffs so the charity points won't hurt us.

And onto some notes:

*Lauri Korpikoski skated just 6:42, had one assist and was +2. Dan Fritsche had one goal and one hit in 6:20. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury both skated around 25 minutes and had no points. Time to start rolling four lines Renney.

*Brandon Dubinsky played his best game in ages and went 11-1 at the dot with six shots on goal. It's a good start ...

*What a nice way to start, huh? Two minutes into the game Nik Zherdev got a step on his man and his stick on the puck to put the Rangers up with an early goal. Less than a minute later Dan Fritsche showed some of his untapped offensive potential with good stickhandling on a bouncing puck to wrist the puck past Craig Anderson.

*Not to be missed was Paul Mara perfectly handing Nick Tarnasky on Florida's next rush down the ice. The positioning kept the Panther from getting off a good shot and the Rangers escaped the two-minute-after-you-score danger zone. Of course, things went south after that, but it was impressive.

*His partner, however, allowed the Panthers to get on the scoreboard. Dmitri Kalinin couldn't control a bouncing puck behind the net and hesitated long enough before heading back into the slot to cover Radek Dvorak, even if Dvorak kicked it in (debatable).

*I watched this game alongside the Buffalo/Pittsburgh game and can't decide which announcer I loathe more - Joe Micheletti or Rick Jeanneret. Joe doesn't know (anything) while Rick is a howling homer. Tough call there.

*I do have to agree with Joe that Dvorak deserves to be suspended for his third period slew foot on Freddie Sjostrom. That is just low. And Dvorak isn't a star like Gina Malkin so its ok to suspend him for offenses like that.

*There appears to be little toughness in Aaron Voros' game anymore. Yes, he scored a pretty goal on a good wrister but the big forward seems to be angling himself so he avoids hits along the board rather than welcoming contact. He needs to be physical to be good in this league and if Dane Byers wasn't hurt in Hartford, I would be advocating for the former Wild winger be benched. The second period tussle that got him a penalty was because he was defending a teammate - which is appreciated - but he has to be strong all over the ice and force the play to be valuable game in and game out - fortune like that befell him on his goal doesn't happen every game.

*I know the Rangers didn't sign Drury for his scoring touch but c'mon man, you are getting right there!! Who are you taking scoring advice from now? Blair Betts??

*Speaking of advice, Michal Rozsival needs to listen to the advice that all fans give - SHOOT!! Renney trusts him enough to put him back on the power play and he still doesn't have the confidence to unload a shot from the point. His blast set up Zherdev's goal earlier in the game and yet he passed away chance after chance on the special team (esp. in the second period). And I won't even discuss his mediocre defensive play or bad second period penalty or inability to knock a loose puck out of the crease ... but he ended up +3 with two assists so he musta been stellar!

*His new/old sidekick, Marc Staal, is a stud. It has been mentioned several times this season but he is growing - albeit slowly - into the star everyone hoped he would be. His boarding call in the third period was the kind of marginal penalty that isn't called every game so you can hardly blame him for it.

*Not only does MSG marginalize trivia now, but they had tech difficulties with putting the answer up this evening (Mike York has the most assists in a two game span). I don't get it, everyone had fun with trivia - why is it so dry now - when they have it at all ... ?? The Buffalo MSG broadcast had it and it was fun too (and I got it right! Who was the first Sabre inducted into their hall of fame? Tim Horton, Gilbert Perrault or Roger Crozier?).

*Totally OT - Does anyone actually think those Geico caveman commercials are even remotely funny anymore?

*Maybe I was wrong, Markus Naslund clearly has something left in the tank. Hopefully he will continue his career revival and elevate the team with his play.

*Shades of Marty Straka six minutes into the third period: Zherdev skates in on a break with an edge on Jay Bouwmeester and pulls up to wait for his teammates, who are far less capable scorers. Ryan Callahan did the same thing later in the period but let's face it, Cally doesn't have the speed or hands of Zherdev so it made sense.

*PHW Three Stars
3-David Booth - one goal.
2-Aaron Voros - one goal.
1-Nik Zherdev - one regulation goal, one shootout goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Colton Orr - Without a rival goon, Orr actually had to play hockey and he proved he has it in him.
2-Jay Bouwmeester - How does someone that big skate so well?
1-Henrik Lundqvist - The King comes through again after the team falls apart in front of him.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Florida Panthers

After nearly letting a win slip away in Tampa on Wednesday, the Rangers are in Sunrise where they will face the Panthers tonight.

Where We Are: The Rangers are clinging to first place in the East, holding a two point advantage over the Boston Bruins, who have three games in hand, and a five point advantage in the Atlantic Division over Pittsburgh, who have five games in hand.

Where They Are: They have just one win in their last four games and came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Devils on Wednesday to force overtime but lost in the 4-on-4. The Panthers are tied with Atlanta and Dallas as the worse team in the NHL with just 18 points in 21 games.

Who To Watch For: David Booth. The kid can't pass worth a damn but has quite the scoring touch - 11 of his 13 points are goals. Florida just traded Wade Belak so there will be no beating of the albino by Colton. Rostislav Olesz always seems to step up his game against the Rangers and he is playing with quick youngster Mike Frolik, who has yet to reach his stellar potential. Also keep an eye on Jay Bouwmeester as he may be auditioning for a trade deadline deal ...

What To Watch For: Another slow start by the Rangers could doom them because if Craig Anderson gets on a roll, he can be invincible in the Panther net.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers playing to their potential, and not down to the level of the Panthers. Michal Rozsival have a second good game this season.

Also Check Out: On Frozen Pond (not the fantastic Caps one, this is a good MSM one by a Miami Herald writer who writes from his heart and loves the game - much like Sam Weinman's Ranger Report, just not as awesome).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time To Be Thankful

Last year I wrote a good list of the things I am thankful for and because I am swamped at work, I think I will just cop out and republish that. The only addition that I have is that I am thankful for all of you. This blog is getting four times as many page views per day than it was a year ago and I just want to say thanks to everyone who was reading then and everyone who has joined since. Here is to another year of growth, another year of good hockey and another year of health and happiness. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Originally posted on Nov. 22, 2007:

So I figured I would do something nice while watching the Sens Pens game tonight and list some of the things that I am thankful for:

*First off, that when I google hockey and turkey, I come up with pictures of the Turkish National Team playing Iceland. It just goes to show that there are people who love the game as much as we do all over the world.

*More importantly, if that's possible, my friends and family ... *awwwwwww* ... whatever, I can be mushy sometimes.

*The New York Rangers, of course. Need I explain?

*Madison Square Garden and the other New York Rangers fans. I couldn't be happier forking over four grand a year to spend time with strangers in a building an hour away from home.

*That Cindy Crosby is as good as she is. It makes it so much more fun hating her. And that Tom Poti and Marek Malik are as terrible as they are. It makes it that much easier hating them.

*The lockout. While it did nothing to fix the financial problems of the league, it did make it a lot more exciting (this Pens Sens game is 5-5!) and it also exposed me to even more international and minor league hockey (RIP Danbury Trashers).

*Hockey Fights Cancer, Athletes Against Autism and the countless other charities that hockey teams and players are involved with. Using their power and popularity for good!

*50/50 raffles and other in-game fundraisers. I never win them, but the feeling of anticipation of hearing the numbers is so great every time. At the least, I'm glad my money goes to a good cause.

*The Original Six jerseys. Say what you want about the Yankees pinstripes or the Celtics green, hockey's Original Six sweaters are the best uniforms in sports and each one is iconic.

*My loyal readers and commenters, without you guys, I would just be wasting my time.

*Hartford, the Whale, beating Hartford once, maybe twice in a lifetime and making Wayne Gretzky's head bleed for super fan No. 99. The old EA NHL games were great and made for some hilarious cinematic moments.

*Speaking of which, Slap Shot. Greatest hockey movie, greatest comedy ever!

*Roller hockey. So shlubs like me that can't ice skate can still play the greatest game on earth.

*That every arena sells hot soft pretzels. Its a great snack and a pregame ritual.

*Players that throw pucks over the glass to kids, making souvenirs and memories that last a lifetime.

*Idiot superfans like the moron on Long Island with the gold confetti wig. The passion is admirable, if incredibly misplaced.

*Joey Kocur's bloody knuckles and other the other war wounds sustained by the tough guys of the NHL. They do it all for the team.

*The Hockey News. Sixty years of being the best sport-specific publication on the newsstand and my favourite thing to read.

*Owners like Ted Leonis and Charles Wang, who are willing to try new things to advance the game and increase its appeal.

*Vintage NHL gear. I'm wearing my Nordiques Joe Sakic player-tee right now. How cool is that?

*Olympic hockey. Every four years the best take on the best playing for pride. Simply incredible.

*And I think I will wrap this up with the Stanley Cup. I've been around it four times and the sheer amount of awe it inspires every time is amazing. Truly the greatest trophy in all of sport.

16-7-2: Beating the Bolts

I wish I could provide my usual coverage of tonight's Ranger shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning but I cannot. I read the recap but you know that never gives the full picture. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was at the Islander game and MSG has decided not to re-air the game this evening. According to the channel guide, there will be "Rangers in 60" from 6am-7am but that is it.

Instead of replaying it tomorrow - a slow sports day in New York - they are airing 10 straight episodes of the "50 Greatest Moments at MSG," that mediocre documentary series that fell far short of the hype. I will try to tape the early morning cut of the game (I'm not in the modern age with DVR/Tivo) and update this but can make no guarantees.

Instead, I ask you guys to use the comments to point out the big stuff and answer some questions:

*Was Michal Rozsival actually good? The box score had him assisting on both goals in regulation. How about Markus Naslund, who was credited with both goals and scored in the shootout ...

*One of those was a power play goal and yet the unit still went 1-6. Were they that bad?

*Were the Rangers playing for overtime, even with a one goal lead? Is that how Tampa tied it late?

*Nik Zherdev fought Steve Stamkos? Wtf??

*While there is little surprise that Colton Orr fought David Koci, was there any actual reason for it? Or was Orr lowering himself back down the level of a common goon and fighting another meathead for the sake of justifying their paycheck?

*The Rangers were outhit 26-11, what happened? Where was Cally?

*How was My Lil' Buddy Marek Malik??

*Are the PHW three stars worthy choices?
3-Evgeny Artyukhin - seven hits.
2-Michal Rozsival - two assists.
1-Markus Naslund - two goals and a third in the shootout.

Reviving My Faith In Fisticuffs

After watching a boring MMA-esque hugfest on Long Island between Mitch Fritz and Eric Godard, it is utterly fantastic to come home and see an outright battle in Columbus between one of my favourite players in Dan Carcillo and upstart Derek Dorsett. One of the comments on that one said it was a candidate for Fight of the Year and I would have to agree. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Hits

Just a few items of interest for the moment:

*Courtesy of the NHL: Today in 1917 the National Hockey League was founded. The original teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Arenas, and Quebec Bulldogs (who announced that they would not operate during the inaugural season). The first game wasn't played until December 19th.

*Also 33 years ago today the MSG ice was the site of Bobby Orr's last game with Boston. And, of course, he had a goal and an assist as the Big, Bad Bruins beat the Blueshirts 6-4. Many folks forget that Orr went to Chicago to hobble around on his bad knees for 26 games.

*The NHL's media update e-mail today also included a link to the ECHL's announcement of their Hall of Fame Class. The minor league's Hall is actually virtual but it still counts. The reason I point it out is because John Brophy is being inducted in this class and Brophy was the inspiration for Reg Dunlop in "Slap Shot."

*Speaking of "Slap Shot," do not, DO NOT waste your time seeing the straight-to-dvd sequel that is coming out. While Puck Daddy was almost kind in Greg's review, this movie sucked. Granted, it was better than the Baldwin abortion that was "Slap Shot 2," but it was more like a bad "Mighty Ducks" sequel with worse acting. Yes Mark Messier pops up with a cameo, but he even seems to be laughing at how bad it is.

*If you want a good story - nay, a great story - head over to the Times today for their look at Robert Müller, the goalie with brain cancer. It is a touching story that luckily has yet to come to an end.

*And finally, I will be heading to the Islanders/Penguins game tonight with camera in hand. That means I will be catching Rangers in 60 later on to do my game report for Rangers/Bolts so feel free to check in and point out all that I missed. Let's Go Rangers!

Peepin' Foes: Tampa Bay Lightning

After the satisfying 4-1 win on Monday, the Rangers went south for the first of two games in the Sunshine State. We just beat the Bolts 5-2 earlier this month on the strength of a Chris Drury hat trick. Can Captain Clutch come through again? Can Nik Zherdev find some consistency and repeat his stellar play for two games in a row for the first time this season? Can the Ranger defense make less mistakes than the Lightning's? Hell if I know. That is why they play the games, but let's hope the answers are yes.

Oh, and the game is on MSG 2 (Cablevision ch. 14 or 414) here in New York and starts at 7:30; the Vancouver game also started at that late time and you remember what happened then ...

Where We Are: Hopefully not having too much fun in the sun of Florida. The Rangers have consistently played down to the level of their opponents and it will be too easy to slack off in Tampa, especially coming off of a strong home win.

Where They Are: They got their hats handed to them by the Devils on Sunday 7-3. The scary thing is that Ollie Kolzig made some utterly incredible saves and yet he still gave up five goals on 28 shots over a period and a half before being pulled. The Tampa defense was absolutely horrid and allowed 45 shots by the Jersey offense. Jersey offense. Did you ever think those two words would be put together in any other way than 'Jersey kills offense' or 'Jersey has no offense' or 'Jersey smells offensively?'

Who To Watch For: Vinny04. No matter how bad the team is around him, Vinny Lecavalier remains one of the top all-around talents in the NHL. Ryan Malone, who was -4 in the Devil debacle, has always been tough on the Rangers. And Steve Stamkos is getting more ice time now that Melrose is gone and - as we saw early in the season - the kid has some serious skills.

What To Watch For: See which defenseman hurts his team more - Marek Malik or Michal Rozsival. But for the bigger picture, watch to see if the Rangers can find the motivation to show up against a terrible team with a joke of a coach. (Sorry Rick, you are almost as bad as Barry. On Sunday it appeared as though he was asking Gary Roberts for coaching advice during the game. Pathetic!)

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Scott Gomez to score a boatload of points to prove how wonderful everyone says he is. Blair Betts to score again and continue his campaign for the Selke Trophy. And most importantly, a motived Ranger team that is playing like they have something to prove.

Also Check Out: Both Lightning Strikes and Bolts Blog do well to keep up with the goings on of the Tampa team and are well written. However, neither mentions that they are giving away Vinny Lecavalier 'third jersey' tee shirts at tomorrow's game ...

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

15-7-2: A Return To Form?

After the Rangers' 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, I asked a few friends if they thought that this game would mark a turning point. You know, bounce back from two bad, bad, bad, bad, bad losses with a win in front of the home crowd ... well, as Mr. X from the Blue Seats pointed out, there are no turning points in November and I would have to agree.

It was a nice victory but, let's face it, they were playing an opponent from another conference and could have easily lost if not for some brilliant play by Henrik Lundqvist.

*Scott Gomez may have won an outrageous 19 faceoffs in his return from vacation injury but I can honestly say that I hardly saw him out there. For all of the talk about how he would be a puck carrying savior for this team, he really didn't appear to do all that much. However, the Rangers think that he 'propelled' them to victory so I guess the Mexican Alaskan is on his way to sainthood for performing a miracle.

*Gomez may have taken back his A, but Blair Betts had an incredible game without it. Betts was his usual solid citizen in the Ranger end and had several good scoring chances - capitalizing on one sweeeeeeeeeeet goal to tie the game at one.

*Nik Zherdev set Bettsy up with a pretty pass and I will ruin the surprise now and say he was the first star of the game. Zherdev flashed the game-breaking skills that we had hoped for when he was acquired. He handled the puck with ease, he made tape-to-tape passes, he took good shots and he was defensively responsible. Now if he could only do all of these things on any kind of consistent basis we would be set.

*Consistency is also a quality that Brandon Dubinsky needs to acquire. Dubi played with some strength and went hard to the net to force play and get some chances. He also got his ass kicked by Daniel Carcillo (and I may be mistaken but I thought I heard Carcillo actually laughing) but we won't talk about that.

*Dubi looked good between Zherdev and Markus Naslund, who subbed on that line since Aaron Voros has firmly entered Chateau Bow Wow. Voros played with Dan Fritsche and Lauri Korpikoski, a criminal waste of Korpikoski's growing talent ...

*There is few things as impressive as the growth that Marc Staal is showing every game. He is getting stronger, he is learning his responsibilities and how to deal with various situations and, most importantly, he is getting more confident - especially when he has the puck on his stick. At this rate, he should have a Norris Trophy in five to seven years.

*As for the two guys who are getting paid as if they were Norris winners, Michal Rozsival was his now-typical terrible self while Wade Redden had one of his best games as a Ranger. Helping him was yet another good game by Dan Girardi, who scored on a seeing-eye slapper from the point on the power play.

*Shane Doan is one helluva hockey player. He does it all for Phoenix and wears the captaincy well for a young team that can look to him for an example of hard work paying off.

*Ed Jovanovski blocked five shots. This is the same injury-riddled Jovocop that dominated on the Florida blueline once upon a time. Guess the old horse isn't ready for the glue factory just yet.

*Speaking of the elderly, who knew Ken Klee was still in the NHL??? I didn't ...

*Hey Peter Mueller, pick up the phone because Team USA is calling. They want your equipment order for Vancouver 2010. This kid is one great young talent and he was made in the U.S. to boot!! The thought of him skating with Pat Kane makes me proud to be an American.

*Side note on the Yotes: they released their third jerseys the other day. I don't particularly like them and was talking with a friend about how cool it would have been if they had made it blue, red and white like the old Winnipeg Jets jerseys with the moon logo in the middle.

*Instead of playing the Rangers' Victory Song, the Garden played Sweet Caroline after the final buzzer. Heresy!

*Spotted in section 71: a Patrick Rissmiller jersey. But why? What could possibly possess someone? Was it his dad or something ... ???

*Stat of the game: Ryan Callahan had seven hits. The new Little Ball of Hate has been doing quite well of late and is probably the most fun Ranger to watch shift to shift because you know he is leaving it all out on the ice.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - Gordie Howe hat trick.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 35 saves.
1-Nikolai Zherdev - three assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Blair Betts - With or without the A, Betts is a leader on the Rangers and he played like it tonight. What a goal ...
2-Hank - After Lisin scored the first goal of the game - and a pretty one it was - the Blueshirts seemed more than willing to let Phoenix build upon their lead. Luckily Hank said no, he wasn't about to go down like that and stood on his head to keep the Rangers in it.
1-Zherdev - If he only played like this every game ... instead he has only displayed it two, maybe three times this season. If Tom Renney could get him to do it regularly, then hand that man the Jack Adams.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Are You Kidding?

This is ridiculous:
[Toronto] has acquired forward Lee Stempniak from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo and forward Alex Steen.

The Leafs utterly rob the Blues, getting a solid young American scoring winger for Thomas Steen's disappointing son and Don Cherry's favourite, the oft-injured Colaiacovo. That is insane. Glen Sather couldn't get Stempniak for a package of Prucha or Dawes and/or the oft-injured Mike Sauer or picks? This is twice this franchise passed up on getting Stemper - the first being the mistaken drafting of his Dartmouth teammate Huge Mistake Hugh Jessiman. Ugh.

Fixing MSG's Mistakes

Buried in the Post this weekend was a very interesting little tidbit on MSG's programming.

Phil Mushnick write in his column that:
"MSG, NY," the nightly catch-all studio show, as well as "Inside the Rangers" and other shows, will be kaput, as of Jan. 1. All were bleeding bucks while registering no ratings. MSG will expand Knicks and Rangers pre and post-game shows.

Cablevision, as always when it loses expensive programming, will pass some of the savings on to subscribers. Sure it will.

While I am slightly saddened because a friend of mine will lose some freelance work, the demise of "MSG, NY" and "Inside the Rangers" has been long coming. Both shows royally stunk, which is why the ratings were so bad.

I pointed out how poor "MSG, NY" was eight months ago and will not shed a tear now that its gone. It was a poor concept from the start. In this day and age where there is so many tools available to test show concepts before they go to air, I am just curious why the MSG bigwigs didn't use any of them before flushing so much money down the tubes. Music updates are great. Sports highlights are great. Together? Not so great. Not even so good. Actually ... really, really bad. The show had no flow and was a public relations vehicle for the Garden's properties rather than an actual news show.

And the same goes for "Inside the Rangers." Instead of being an actual look inside the locker room, it was a glossy advertisement. Rarely was there any candor from the players, everything seemed droll and rehearsed. Sure there was a gem or two, but overall it was frankly boring. And, let's face it, the host, Scott Lasky, was a tool. This show could have been great - look at Islanders Insider on MSG-Plus - but instead it was a benign, boring commercial for the team.

On the other side of the coin, MSG has done pretty well to address the need for a good hockey show with its "Hockey Night Live" panel program. I don't necessarily agree with the folks on the panel - Ron Duguay, Ken Daneyko and Butch Goring - but the concept is a good one. I just ask that they remove part-time host Deb Placey from it as she clearly acts the fool most of the time and is known to many as more of a puck bunny than a journalist. No complaints about Al Trautwig, as he does a solid job. He knows what he is talking about and when he doesn't, he admits it and asks the smart questions that other fans like himself would be asking.

Mushnick joked that the savings from these cuts would be passed on to the customers but even if a small portion was used to improve the actual game broadcasts and the pre- and post-game shows, then this is a win-win situation. The production folks who work on-site at the games know what they are doing and it shows. The only negative side is more face time for Joe Micheletti; perhaps he will go in the next wave of network cuts and Dave Maloney can take his spot in the booth.

One can only hope ...

Many thanks to my friend Greg for pointing out the Post piece; I would have totally missed it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Phoenix Coyotes

Last season the Wayne Gretzky-led Phoenix Coyotes came into MSG and outskated the Rangers throughout a 5-1 trouncing. It was a dispassionate affair for the Rangers, who floated through the game, took several bad penalties and wasted a good effort from Stephen Valiquette.

Sound familiar?

Where We Are: The Rangers are coming off that pathetic 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators. I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Where They Are: Phoenix has lost five straight games, including one in a shootout and another in overtime. That makes them that much more dangerous, considering Ottawa had a six game losing streak (two in shootouts) before they embarrassed the Blueshirts.

Who To Watch For: Shane Doan, a personal favourite and former Winnipeg Jet, is averaging a point per game and is always dangerous - especially now that Olli Jokinen is around to help take off some of the load. Dan Carcillo scored his first goal of the season in Phoenix's last game and it may be the opening to some floodgates as the former goon surprisingly has good hands. The Coyotes also carry a ton of quick kids who are riding the rollercoaster of their rookie seasons and could strike at any time - Tikhonov, Porter, Turris, Boedker ...

What To Watch For: Todd Fedoruk going hard to the net. Yes, he is sure to be a little intimidated by the man who broke his face, but Fedoruk has added some offense to his physical skills and Gretzky uses him down low quite a bit. Also keep an eye on the Rangers, because if they don't come out flying, this game will be over quick.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers coming out flying. They need to play with passion, they need to play with cohesion, they need to play smart and they need to play to win - as opposed to playing not to lose, something they appear to do all too often.

Also Check Out: Hip Shot Blog is a fantastic one-stop-shop of info. Rookie Viktor Tikhonov (the grandson of that Tikhonov) has a blog but that isn't updated all that often and sadly, the solid One Fan's Perspective also hasn't been updated in over a week.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wendel, Wow

Just a quick note on this, the number retirement ceremony for Wendel Clark tonight was absolutely perfect. It wasn't filled with over an hour of honourifics, boring speaches and gifts. Clark's number went up in a ceremony that had the same class and dignity that the Leafs winger carried himself for most of his underappreciated NHL career.

One can only hope that the Rangers do the same for Adam Graves in February.

(Screw YouTube for deleting the link I initially found; let's hope this one stays.)

14-7-2: Don't Tell Me To Calm Down

That's it. The next person who says that the Rangers are a good team is going to get a beating. After suffering through their contemptible 4-1 defeat at the hands of the injury-riddled Ottawa Senators I am ready to snap. The Rangers are a deeply flawed franchise and something has to be done by the all-too-patient coaching staff.

However, as a guy at work just pointed out to me, the only good thing about this recent run of poor play is that it is still relatively early. There is time for the players to turn things around but I am too pessimistic; I can't imagine anyone trading for these guys and I don't see them having the skills to be a top tier team.

Before I get too over the top, I am just going to get into my game-time ranting:

*Ottawa wore their third jerseys, and they were very mediocre looking. The whole black trend has been way overdone and on a bad tv, their players look like black stick figures. I love the big font for the number on the back, which is quite easy to read, but having SENS across the front? What? Why? Did the designer not know how to spell Senators?

*I hate away games because that means I have to listen to Joe Micheletti call an entire game. I can't take him in Rangers in 60, and over a full game I just want to drive a screwdriver through my eardrum. He is annoying, obnoxious and seemingly blind and stupid. He may be a very nice human being, but I loathe that man as a broadcaster.

*On the other hand, I feel quite bad for John Giannone. Scott Gomez has picked on Giannone regularly throughout the season and their second period intermission interview was outright painful. How disgracefully unprofessional and utterly unfunny of Gomez to continually harass the MSG reporter. For shame. I didn't like Gomez much before, being a former Devil who got a huge contract he didn't deserve and someone who smiles during interviews after losses, but this just ended it for me. Listening to Sam and Joe in the third period say that the Rangers' recent struggles are due to his being out makes me ill.

*His absence had nothing to do with the Rangers getting put on their heels early in this one. Moments after Dan Girardi broke up a 2-on-1 less than two minutes into the game by getting back to block the one-timer on the far side, Michal Rozsival took a unnecessary hooking penalty.

*The Rangers killed that meaningless infraction, but couldn't kill the next penalty when Paul Mara proved to be as big of an idiot as Rozy. Seconds after the kill, Mara went after Jarkko Ruutu. Ruutu, who should still be suspended for his elbow, is entirely not worth it. Mara roughed him up but to really get revenge, the Rangers should have taken Craig Berube's advice and gone after Spezza. Ruutu won't learn, he won't change his style and he will keep trying to injure people until the NHL comes to their senses and throws him out of the league. How he doesn't merit at least extra attention from the officials is shocking to me. If they had been watching him, then Daniel Alfredsson's goal to make it a 3-0 game would have been waived off. Why is there a blind spot when it comes to Ruutu and yet Ryan Hollweg and Sean Avery were watched like hawks? All three are clowns who try to hurt opposing players ...

*The Ottawa power play goal that opened the game's scoring came on Rozsival being handily beaten by Dany Heatley. Just why hasn't Rozy been benched yet? When does Tom Renney finally realize that he can't play himself out of this slump? He has been a shadow of himself this entire season - 23 games - and yet Renney has left him in the lineup. There is loyalty, and then there is stupidity.

*Wade Redden got a standing ovation during a stoppage in the first period when his picture was shown on the big board. Do you think the Sens would be willing to take him back?? One can only hope. And pray. And beg.

*Redden was caught on Jesse Winchester's goal defending against a 2-on-1 when it was a one-on-one and he moved over to Winchester too late to stop the kid's backhander past Valley that made it 3-0.

*The recent Ranger scoring woes have really started affecting how they play. I have given a lot of credit to Nigel Dawes for elevating his physical play of late but he gripped his stick too tight and blew an open net in the first period. Moments later Blair Betts had a chance and he couldn't elevate the puck over the fallen Alex Auld. Not like Bettsy could do it even when the Rangers as a team are scoring well, but that isn't the point.

*I have been asking this at games regularly over the last few weeks: who do you think kills penalties better, the opposing penalty killers or the Ranger power play?

*There were some good things for the Blueshirts: Valley was pretty damn good, Marc Staal played a solid game, Markus Naslund actually scored a goal and Freddie Sjostrom skated really, really hard.

*And since I am trying to salvage something positive in this, here is the Happy Stat of the Game: Brandon Dubinsky won 11 of the 14 faceoffs he took. If he can remember how to go to the net, then he might be dangerous once again.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Alexandre Picard - one assist.
2-Jarkko Ruutu - one assist.
1-Daniel Alfredsson - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Valiquette - The Ranger netminder made 32 saves and gave his team a chance to win (that they didn't deserve). Valley had no chance at stopping three of the four goals against and will sadly be hung with his second loss of the season.
2-Picard - This kid was a major part of the deal that sent Andrej Mezsaros to Tampa and Ottawa definitely seems to have won that trade. Picard was good positionally, blocked shots and nearly had two assists - with the second being called back due to Nick Foligno's high stick in the second period. He should be good for years to come.
1-Ruutu - How can you take anything away from him? Yes, he is a disgrace to hockey but yes, his job is to be a pest and he did his job. The Rangers went out of their way to attack this loser and were distracted from what should have been their true goal - WINNING THE DAMN GAME!

You Know Your Franchise Is In Trouble When ... 2

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Ottawa Senators

In the back half of a almost home-and-home with the Senators, the Rangers will be in Ottawa on Saturday. For those not paying attention, the Blueshirts beat the Sens 2-1 in a boring shootout on Monday. The Senators were tired and the Rangers were uninspired, leading to a dull couple of periods, a few minutes of excitement, then five listless minutes of overtime before a shootout. But the Rangers won, so yay! Maybe they can do it again at 3 pm tomorrow.

Where We Are: The Rangers are coming off one of the most embarrassing beatings they have taken since last season. But they are still in first place, wooo! It won't last unless they bounce back in a big way. Michal Rozsival, who sucked against the Sens, was even worse against Canucks and has the most to prove both to his teammates and the fans.

Where They Are: Ottawa has lost six in a row, including the last two in a shootout. First there was blowing a 1-0 lead to lose to the Rangers, then Thursday they lost the lead twice on their way to losing in the fourth round of the shootout to Montreal. The Sens gave the Habs just one power play in the game, which they scored on. With the Ranger power play being what it is, Ottawa's discipline may prove to be a good thing.

Who To Watch For: Young defenseman Alexandre Picard stepped up his game against Montreal and collected to assists. Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson are still incredible and all were strong; Heatley scored in regulation and Spezza scored in the shootout.

What To Watch For: Ottawa's Mike Fisher and Chris Neil are both out with injury so there will be some new kids out trying to make names for themselves. Without a designated goon, Cody Bass battled Steve Begin in Montreal so who knows who will answer the bell when the Rangers come ringing for Jarkko Ruutu, because you know sure as hell that Ruutu won't. The Sens will have four straight days off after the afternoon tilt so they may make a huge effort, knowing they have time to relax afterwards.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers coming out of the locker room flying, their defense a smooth, puck moving wall and Ruutu getting what he deserves.

Also Check Out: Sens Army and SENSHobo.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys.

Respecting Two Rivals

Two former NHL warriors are getting their numbers raised to the rafters by their respective teams on Saturday: Montreal's Patrick Roy and Toronto's Wendel Clark.

By my quick research, Roy finished his career 21-10-4 against the Blueshirts, with the highlight being the victor against Vezina winner John Vanbiesbrouck and the Rangers in the 1986 playoffs on the way to the Stanley Cup.

Here is a classic Roy moment against the Rangers:

I don't know what is more impressive, that Roy would try that or just how much fun Sam and J.D. had calling the play. (Joe Micheletti has got to go.)

Quick great story: my dad met Roy back in the early 90s at a Canadiens practice right before my birthday and he asked for an autograph for me. Roy signed a sheet of paper wishing me a happy birthday (which I still treasure) and my dad told him that I wanted to be a goalie one day. Roy's response? "Why??" Priceless.

The way Clark played was far from priceless - the bruising winger made his opponents pay the price every game. Clark played Old Time Hockey the way it was meant to be done and had a strong NHL career. Everyone remembers his rough and tumble work for Toronto, but he did spend some time on Long Island.

Clark was traded to the Isles before the '95-96 season by Quebec and had 43 points in 58 games with 60 PIM. Two of those points came in the three games that he played against the Rangers but both were assists despite putting 10 shots on goal. Clark was shipped off of the Island before the end of the season to his old team of Toronto along with Matt Schneider in return for Kenny Jonsson and the first round pick that turned out to be Roberto Luongo of all people. Trippy, right?

If that doesn't make you dislike him, then perhaps his demolition of Ranger defenseman Mark Hardy will in some classic Youtube gold:

Sadly injuries cut his career short but his reputation was cemented and he is a god in Toronto. And despite the harsh end to Roy's time in Montreal, he is still loved by the hardcore Habs fans. That kind of respect can't be quantified but it can be appreciated so congratulations to both of them for being recognized for all they gave to their teams; I am just glad we don't have to face either of them ever again ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

14-6-2: Don't Believe The Hype

The standings show the New York Rangers in first place of the Eastern Conference. While I have pointed out the deficiencies of this team, people keep throwing that fact right back at me - first place, first place, first place. They neglect to point out that the Rangers have played at least two, if not three games more than anyone else. They neglect to point out that most of those points have come from beating bad teams.

Tonight the Rangers played a good team. Not a great team. A good team. And they were blown out of the water 6-3 in a game that wasn't even that close. Vancouver even had a clear goal waved off by the officials due to a bad call by the ref and a replay that didn't prove beyond a shadow of the doubt that the puck went across the goal line. But they didn't need it. The Canucks put the Rangers on their heels early and dictated the play for much of the night on their way to a solid win to bounce back from their defeat at the hands of the Islanders. That's right, the Islanders beat the Canucks and the Canucks hammered the Rangers. Not good. So, so very not good.

*The crutch was kicked out from under the Rangers as Henrik Lundqvist played a pedestrian game. Hank gave up five goals before giving himself the hook and heading to the bench. It is hard to blame him for at least three of those five but with a incompetent defensive corps and a offense that has trouble scoring, Hank has to be great - and he wasn't. It is a shame that he will shoulder so much of the blame for this loss but the Rangers need perfection from him to succeed and they didn't get it.

*Apologists for the offense will point out that the power play went 2-6 in this one but the turning point came in the first period. Shane O'Brien took the first of his many penalties in the game and the Ranger power play couldn't put the puck in despite getting acres of landscape to shoot at. Instead, Alex Burrows scored a shorthanded goal and the snowball started rolling down the mountain.

*Chris Drury did what he could to stop the avalanche but even his pretty goal wasn't enough. What gets me is that he was signed for his leadership, not because of his scoring ability - where are the guys who were signed for those skills??

*Willie Mitchell had a helluva game - six blocked shots, four hits, and +1 in 25:23 of ice time. He makes $3.5 million a year. Think they will trade him? We could use an actual defensman ...

*That is because the Rangers waste salary cap space and roster spots on Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden - the two biggest wastes of money in the NHL. Neither one proved to be capable of anything in this game, failing on both sides of the ice. When you invest $10.5 million in two players, you expect some things in return and three shorthanded goals against on their turnovers certainly isn't one of those things. They are horrid and yet Tom Renney does nothing to motivate them. I was asked if it was too early to buy out their contracts and I tendered the idea that they should be lent to the Russian League, just to get them out of the Garden. Neither one is a realistic option and we will just have to sit and hope that they remember how to be top flight defensemen - even if neither one ever achieved that level of skill.

*Nik Zherdev's level of skill is scary. Z made some stellar moves, as per usual, but either he deked around two guys just to lose the puck to a third or he couldn't get off a shot after making a stunning move.

*The heavyweight battle between Darcy Hordichuk and Colton Orr never materialized. The two chatted over the red line during warmups but Orr took a bad penalty with the team down 4-1 in the second period and never saw the ice again. Why carry an enforcer if you aren't going to use him to spark your team when needed?

*Why haven't the Canucks retired Pavel Bure's number? Even without it being in the rafters, I was surprised to see No. 10 out on the ice (Ryan Johnson? who?).

*The game started at 7:30 to accommodate Canadian broadcaster TSN and that led to the sign of the night. There was a woman holding an oaktag that said:
Thank you
So very much
There was a surprising number of Vancouver fans and they all seemed to be cheering for their former captain in addition to their own team. Seeing that kind of love and respect makes you appreciate having him more. I just hope he shows us the kind of effort that he gave to them; he hasn't come close yet. He had a few good moments, skating nearly 23 minutes, but doesn't have the jump or strength that he once did and had trouble getting into good scoring positions.

*What also was odd was the complete inability of the Rangers connect on their passes and get out of their zone in the first period. It looked like the Canucks were playing the little Rangers, completely dominating the Rangers. Maybe it was that 7:30 start: the Rangers just thought it was the second period so they didn't really try.

*Is Dmitri Kalinin the best Ranger defenseman right now? Rozy and Redden are awful, Mara is playing frustrated, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are trying to do too much ... while Kalinin has been almost solid. I'm scared!!

*There was a new logo on the ice - that of Vitamin Water. They have tried to do more subtle advertising before by getting Hank to wear their hat during interviews but now there is a bottle painted on the ice. It looked quite weird and, unfortunately, didn't make me want to drink their product seeing as the Rangers soiled the ice it was advertised on with this stinker of a game.

*Why would Tom Renney call a timeout with two minutes left in the game trailing 5-3? Wouldn't it have made more sense earlier, when the Rangers actually had a realistic chance of catching up?

*The kids - Lauri Korpikoski, Dan Fritsche, Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky - all put together mediocre, inconsistent efforts and the door is now open for Petr Prucha to return to the ice.

*Speaking of returns, when Scott Gomez "returns from his vacation" (as my buddy Jay phrased it), here is a thought: play him on defense. Gomez knows how to play in his own zone - thank you Lou - and he can skate the puck across the neutral zone to jumpstart the rush. He can't be any worse then Redden or Rozy in the Ranger zone and his passing and skating skills are miles above both ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jannik Hansen - two assists.
2-Kyle Wellwood - one goal.
1-Alex Burrows - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Stephen Valiquette - Valley came in and stopped all 15 shots he faced to give the Rangers a chance to battle back. They didn't, but it wasn't his fault.
2-Burrows - Burrows is a role player but man can his wheels roll. He showed off lightning fast speed that allowed him to blow by the slow, soft, out of position defenders.
1-Hansen - The Dane, a 2004 9th round draft pick, continued his stellar start to the season with a few points but the reason he gets the top star is because he also went down to block a big shot in the late second period and got nailed up high. But, like Braydon Coburn in that Versus commercial, he came back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Vancouver Canucks

Two of the best goaltenders, probably the two best goaltenders in the NHL will stare at each other across the Garden ice tonight as Captain Roberto Luongo leads the Vancouver Canucks against King Henrik Lundqvist's New York Rangers. Seeing as a King is better than a captain, we should be in good shape ...

Where We Are: The Rangers have won three straight games including back-to-back shootouts. Monday's was a boring affair that saw more power play woes and more late heroics - and, of course, more stellar goaltending. Nik Zherdev and Aaron Voros were chastised for lack of effort, while Colton Orr, Fred Sjostrom and Nigel Dawes were rewarded for their play.

Where They Are: Vancouver has lost two shootouts in their last three games and are coming off of the second one - a 2-1 loss to the Islanders. (What is it with the Rangers picking up their trash?) The Canucks are 10-6-2 and trail the Wild by one point in the Northwest (but Minnesota has two games in hand).

Who To Watch For: Pavol Demitra returned from a rib injury and collected four points in his last two games - if he wasn't so fragile, he would be a top player in the league. The Nucks also have the creepy identical Sedin twins, the speedy Mason Raymond and the resurgent Kyle Wellwood. I always liked Wellwood in Toronto but the Leafs let him go and all he has done for Vancouver is score seven goals in 13 games. Luckily they are without defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who broke his foot, and they will have a tired Alex Edler, who went out in the storm last week to start his car without his jacket on and missed several games with the flu.

What To Watch For: The Vancouver line of Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and rookie Jannik Hansen plays with an edge and can get creative at times. They will certainly press the action and keep the inadequate Ranger D on their heels. At the same time, they will run into Hank and that should be that. The Sedin twins may beat him for one or two but, with Callahan playing the Burrows role for the Rangers, the Blueshirts should be able to cause enough chaos in front of Luongo to tame the former Panther.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Ranger power play do something, anything good. A standout performance from former Canuck captain Markus Naslund (preferably on the aforementioned power play). Michal Rozsival remember how to play defense and not get booed the entire night. A heavyweight bout between Colt and Darcy Hordichuk and a middleweight between Pyatt or Burrows and Voros. Voros had three fights with Canucks last year but all three opponents are no longer on the team.

Also Check Out: Waiting For Stanley and Canucks and Beyond.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys. Sam really is the best of the beat guys covering the Blueshirts and today he took a deserving look at the relationship between Travis Roy and Chris Drury. Thanksgiving may be a week away but if Roy's story doesn't make you appreciate all you have, I don't know what will.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

14-5-2: *Yawn* Another Shootout ...

For the second straight game, the Rangers came from behind to win in a shootout, as they beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1. While that sounds like a tightly, played battle to the buzzer, it wasn't. There were people outright sleeping in the stands for stretches of the game as the teams went back and forth afraid to make mistakes and unable to get into scoring positions.

There appear to be two schools of thought among Ranger fans right now: the ones who are happy and content with the team since they are indeed in first place and the ones who feel that this team is vastly underachieving and playing some crappy hockey. Regular readers know I am in the latter but I am attempting to dance along the fence a la Garfield in the moonlight. This team is in first, and all of the points that have been accumulated will be huge when the season hits its doldrums in January. However, passes aren't finding sticks, the team has trouble working into good positions to shoot, the power play is an utter joke and none of the so-called stars have been any good (except for Hank).

So any optimism has to be tempered at this point as it is still quite early in the long, long regular season.

*First things first, how is it that the NHL claims to want to protect their players and outlaw hooliganism? The lip service they give it is utterly shocking considering Jarkko Ruutu is allowed to have a career in the league. Ruutu goes out on the ice with the sole purpose to hurt other players. He doesn't try to score. The classless clown tries to elbow, board, hook and slash the people who are actually out there playing. Is there some offensive upside there? Perhaps; he was selected to go in the shootout over Dany Heatley, but whatever talent he has is utterly outweighed by his desire to inflict injury. Hey Gary, get this goon off of the ice! And if you don't, then stop telling anyone who listens that you care about the well-being of your players.

*While I am addressing our fair commish, something has to be done about the point system. This is old news but watching the Rangers just reinforces the need for a change. Why not make it three points for a regulation win, two for a overtime win and one for a shootout win? Henrik Lundqvist has been incredible in the talent competition and it has led to the Rangers playing defensive, boring hockey in the four-on-four overtime. They put one man deep and keep three high to bide their time until Hank can bail them out in the breakaway contest. Bor-ingggggg.

*It was nice to see the Make a Wish kid drop the puck before the game. I am a sucker for that kind of thing and everyone should donate some money to a charity as they get ready to give thanks later this month.

*I got home to turn on Rangers in 60 just in time to hear Joe Micheletti thinking that the Rangers were arguing where a faceoff would be when in actuality, Wade Redden had clearly shot the puck right over the boards. How is it that he misses that and my entire section sees it?? Sam saw it, and he was sitting right next to him! How this guy keeps his job is beyond me.

*Ah Rozy, you stink. Rozsival was picked off of his coverage of Daniel Alfredsson down low, allowing the Ottawa captain to score the first goal of the game. If Rozy played with any kind of strength, then Alfredsson wouldn't have been able to get off of the boards, much less use a pick to get into the slot. You just can't use the sumo-style defense of pushing people around. Unlike the fat Japanese wrestlers, these guys have a considerable amount of agility and they can get around your pathetic shoving.

*There was nothing pathetic about the hard work of the Rangers fourth liners. Freddie Sjostrom had the game-tying goal, Blair Betts wore the A better than Scott Gomez ever did yet again and Colton Orr's sheer effort resulted in him getting a power play shift (even if his teammates couldn't get into the Ottawa zone and give him a chance to work the paint). The young Rangers seem to be picking up on how these three are playing and now you see them step up their games. The epitome of that is Nigel Dawes, who even handed out a few hits in this one. If he keeps battling out there like that, we will have to start calling him Rutiger after the Notre Dame hero - "he's so little!!"

*Nik Zherdev should start watching those guys because he coasted his way through regulation, despite having an opponent that was ripe for the picking with his spectacular stickhandling. As my buddy Hockey John pointed out, he was benched for a while in the second and third periods but more has to be done to reinforce that coasting is unacceptable. That is called accountability ... hold on ... never mind, Tom Renney doesn't know what that word means. If he did, how could you explain Rozy's place in the lineup?

*Wade Redden faced his old team and he played an acceptable, yet unspectacular game. It is nice to see steady play from him but let's face it, for six-million-plus dollars a year you expect a bit more than that. Another friend pointed out that for the amount of money and the return that we have gotten, Redden and Rozy are the two most over-paid players in the NHL.

*Stat of the night: The Rangers recorded 53 (!) hits, led by Ryan Callahan's six. The only players without one were Zherdev and Lundqvist.

*Second stat of the night: Ottawa out-blocked the Blueshirts 19-5. And, believe it or not, Rozy had a team-high two. This isn't a bad thing - it means the guys are getting out of the way to allow Hank see the puck cleanly.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Fredrik Sjostrom - one goal.
2-Nikolai Zherdev - shootout game-winner.
1-Henrik Lundvist - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - The kid has Norris-type potential and is slowly growing into the man who will bring home that hardware.
2-Jason Spezza - Spezza was clearly the most talented skater on the ice. His skills are scary good and he showed them off in flashes tonight.
1-Hank - As always, the Swedish sensation was stellar. If not for his big saves - on redirects, on Volchenkov's breakaway, in the shootout - the Rangers lose this one big.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Ottawa Senators

The beautiful Canadian national anthem will again be sung in Madison Square Garden as the Ottawa Senators come to town tonight.

Where We Are: The Rangers have won back-to-back games against the Devils and the Bruins. Both were emotional, both were impressive in their own special way. While it was nice to beat up on Jersey, the win against the Bs is definitely bigger considering they are a better team playing better hockey right now and the Rangers were able to rally to win the game.

Where They Are: Ottawa are the losers of four straight games including disgraceful back-to-back failings against the Islanders. They have averaged a goal a game over that span while getting pretty solid goaltending from Alex Auld, who has taken over the starter position from Swiss Miss Martin Gerber, and played three of those four games. They remain a one-line team of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany "I used to drive a Ferrari" Heatley and Jason Spezza.

Who To Watch For: Any of those three guys. I happen to be a big fan of Spezza's and have been since watching him play for Binghamton and seeing what I think was his first pro fight (bottom of the page), even if he didn't get a major for it. He was standing up for a teammate despite being an underweight 'talent' forward. And man, does he have talent (and one great move that seems to keep working). The same goes for Heatley, who is clearly better on the ice then behind the wheel of a car. And Alfredsson has probably suffered a little because of living in the shadow of the other Swedish captain, Mats Sundin, but he has been one of the better all-around forwards of this decade. Also watch out for Filip Kuba - he took over for Redden and has collected 15 points in 17 games despite notching just one goal (10 points were on the power play).

What To Watch For: Jarkko Ruutu will inevitably attempt to injure a Ranger. He does it every time he plays the Blueshirts (and apparently most other teams as well) and yet has been allowed to keep a job in the NHL. He got a two game suspension for this, which should have been at least five but probably more considering his history. For shame.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Just like Joe Corvo in the first game of the current Senator slide, hopefully Redden will step up his game against his old team (Corvo scored the game-winner). Now you would also like to imagine Michal Rozsival bouncing back from his disgraceful performance on Saturday but with the Garden crowd sure to be on his back, it is highly unlikely. He has the same Czech sensibility that Malik did and that bum just kept digging his grave.

Also Check Out: Sens Army and SENSHobo.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys. Sam really is the best of the beat guys covering the Blueshirts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

13-5-2: Lucky Number 13

The NHL is veering very close to NBA territory and I hate to say it, but it is making for some exciting hockey. Team A comes out strong and takes a lead. Team A then backs off. Team B picks up their game and rallies. Ignore the first 40+ minutes but make sure you catch the ending because anything can happen. There were several games in the NHL like that tonight but, of course, we'll focus on the one in New York where the Rangers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to come back and win 3-2 in a shootout.

It was a helluva game and after a late evening of celebrating, I apologize for the lack of photos and I am just going to get right into the game:

*Original Six hockey is just something special and it would be something really sweet (and something really nerve-racking) to see these two teams meet in a seven-game series in the playoffs.

*Tom Renney/Glen Sather have to, HAVE TO bring in a seventh defensemen. Having no accountability has led to sloppy play and it nearly cost the Rangers the game. Michal Rozsival needs a taste of humility and fast, because he is simply horrible. For four million dollars you can't have a defenseman who can't be trusted with the puck. It is time to make up one of the NHL's new 'upper body' injuries (he's lost his head) and send him to the Pack for "conditioning."

*Perry Pearn has to take a road trip himself. Maybe there is somewhere wonderful where he can go and learn how to plan a power play and get the players to buy into it. They went 0-6 on the special team including two 5-on-3s and they were horrid. Putrid even. Another shorthanded goal against? Oy!

*It is amazing how the Rangers can spend so much time not playing their game, and all of a sudden turn things on. Naslund's game-tying goal was perfect Ranger hockey - Dubi draws the attention of the defenders as he breaks into the zone before sending it across to an unmarked Naslund for an open shot that found the back of the net. Beautiful.

*The hard work that led to the first Ranger goal was pretty too. Dan Fritsche and Lauri Korpikoski did all of the tough stuff along the endboards and Korpikoski sent a seeing-eye puck through traffic to Nigel Dawes in the slot for a one-timer goal. As I am big in saying I told you so, I told you so: Korpikoski has a lot to contribute but there will be growing pains and Dawes is at his best when he battles into the middle, rather than letting himself be marginalized on the wings.

*I also have to point out that I called a 4-2 Ranger win. Pretty close, aye?

*Credit can go around and Dubi deserves some for his work early in the third period. When Hank made an ill-advised foray out to play the puck, he lost his stick and Dubi was there to give him his. Smart move by the youngester.

*A guy in the section next to me recalled the Zdeno Chara shootout blast that beat the Blueshirts last season. It was a helluva shot and I gotta ask, why wasn't he included in Boston's shootout list?

*The so-called "fight" between Paul Mara and Chuck Kobasew was a joke. Kobasew chose to hug Mara and try to grind into the boards rather than fight him like a man. Granted, he likely would have gotten his hat handed to him, but at least he would have went down with some class. I still don't understand why, with the Rangers down 2-0 Colton Orr didn't take on Shawn Thornton. Orr, by the way, got a criminal 5:13 of ice time. He has worked hard to earn more and the coaching staff didn't deliver. Put him on the power play already!

*Speaking of trying to find ice time, my buddy Greg brought up a great question - when Gomez comes back on Monday, who comes out?? The Fritsche/Korpikoski/Dawes line was the Rangers best, how do you bench any of them??

*With Gomez out, his A for assistant captain went to Blair Betts for the second straight game and I have to say that it looked good there.

*Number of the night: 75. The two teams combined for 75 recorded hits. Tell my why we need to play Altanta four times ... ??

*PHW Three Stars
3-Lauri Korpikoski - One assist.
2-Chris Drury - Shootout game-winner.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Let's face it folks, the Bruins had the game won in regulation but they hit the post. They had the game tied in the shootout but they hit the post. Good luck helped out a great effort by the King.
2-Drury - Is there anyone else out there paying the same prices he is? Drury battles for every inch of space, nearly came up with a breakaway goal and scored his first shootout goal to win the game for the Rangers. Yeah Dru!
1-Tim Thomas - 29 saves and it is hard to fault him on the two others that went into the net. Thomas is really unorthodox, but he really get's the job done.