Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello From Chicago

Hiya folks, how's life? I just wanted to check in from the chilly second city. The pic above of the rink was taken from the roof over at Murphy's, one of the many bars with bleachers up on the roof around Wrigley. After heading back downstairs to watch the Red Wings smoke the Blackhawks 4-0, I ventured outside where it was snowing:

Oh, and before I forget, we tried to talk our way inside through the utility gate but to no avail. We still got a neat perspective of the grandeur that the players will feel:

I didn't head over to Wrigley today but saw the inside of the Intercontinental Hotel, which is the downtown headquarters of the Classic and is plastered with logos. A few blocks away is a Blackhawks team shop and I managed to not spend too much money. Go me! Tomorrow should be quite amazing. For more reading this evening, check out the Goal Line Report where Patrick decided to do an interview with ... me?!?


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

23-13-3: Mixed Emotions At MSG

The Rangers defeated the Bridgeport Sound Tigers New York Islanders 5-4 tonight at Madison Square Garden in an eventful, exciting game. I really should be quite pleased.


Unfortunately there were as many negatives to come out of this match as there were positives. Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes played the games of their lives. Yay! Henrik Lundqvist and the Ranger defense ... well .... boooo, The Rangers played their rivals and won a huge game on home ice. Yay! The Rangers played down to the level of their injury riddled opponent and nearly lost. Booooo.

It was a huge game because Tom Renney called out his team prior to it and the final result shows they answered it. And many of his players did, or did just enough not to be called out again. Markus Naslund was invisible until he popped up with that goal. Michal Rozsival was terrible defensively but he scored so he leaves with a par on his card. Wade Redden? He got himself a second assist. Woo hoo!! An assist, poor defensive play and the continual degradation of Dan Girardi's game just doesn't seem worth $6.5 million. Several people turned around to me saying the Mexican't Scott Gomez had a great game but despite collecting two points, there were at least three, four other scoring opportunities he blew to go along with multiple turnovers.

At the end of the night, the Rangers played just well enough to beat the worst team in the league. Let's hope they play better next time. Some notes:

*My buddy the Gregger mentioned before the game that he thought that Valley should have started instead of Hank and he was certainly proved right. Valley, like Prucha, has played well when given an opportunity to play and needs to be given more opportunities. Hank isn't playing himself out of this rut - he is making poor decisions and is getting beaten on shots that he clearly is capable of stopping.

*On the other side of the ice, we were surprised to see Joey Mac lead the Isles out for warmups. He acquitted himself pretty well but I am admittedly thankful because I truly believe that DP's presence would have resulted in an Islander win.

*Petr Prucha put on a stellar performance for his first start in ages but do you really think that it earned him a position on the roster? The first time the Rangers play a 'tough team' you can be assured that he will be back on the bench so Renney can bring in the "physical presence" of Aaron Voros.

*On the physical note, the game did feature one helluva heavyweight bout in Colton Orr vs. Mitch Fritz. While Fritz did land some good punches with his outrageously long arms, Orr landed the big blows and bloodied the big man, sending him back to the trailer park with his tail between his legs and blood running down his face. None of the Islanders were particularly physical after that solid display of fisticuffs. (Of course, there was no reason for it other than to justify Fritz being in the NHL - he did skate for 1:40 of ice time total - but I am tired of fighting that battle... and why did Versus switch to the wide camera in the middle of the fight??? Wow are they terrible.)

*Not even Mike Comrie, who went to aid Kyle Okposo after Nigel Dawes knocked the wind out of him with a fantastic check. The Garden did roar at the mighty mites duking it out but Dawes really should have taken his helmet off. Fighting with a visor is just wrong. Then again, Comrie didn't attempt to get Dawsie's bucket off and just resorted to Street Fighter-esque uppercuts so who's fault is that?

*But back to Dawes, who definitely played his best game as a Ranger. He kept his skates moving throughout his shifts, he was physically involved, he swarmed around the Islander net and he scored. Outside of the scoring, the same could be said for Ryan Callahan and Lauri Korpikoski ... youth was served. The problem is that there just aren't enough kids on this roster and the ones we have aren't really game-breakers.

*Nik Zherdev should be considered both as he is still on the near side of 25 and he has skills most people can only dream of. After his time in Columbus we were warned about his enigmatic play and yet this team still had him penciled in for 30 goals. On this night he was horrid. Z skated into traffic and turned the puck over, wasted power play time skating around without creating anything and was a nonfactor - certainly not something you want from your first line winger.

*I would love to espouse more on the shortcomings of the overpriced players or the 0-for-5 power play but, alas, I have to get some sleep before heading to Chicago for Thursday's Winter Classic. Like with last year, I plan on reporting back so keep tuning in!!

*Oh, before I finish off with the stars, I want to reiterate that Dmitri Kalinin's salary would be better spent paying him to play in Russia. He has reached his peak and makes mistakes left and right. Corey Potter will make mistakes but he is young and has a much higher upside than Kalinin's current level.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one assist.
2-Scott Gomez - one goal and one assist.
1-Petr Prucha - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - The kid was a wrecking ball, as usual. He nearly killed Trent Hunter with one helluva check and continually forced the action deep in the Islander zone.
2-Pru - He played like he had something to prove and it showed. It is amazing how wonderful motivated hockey looks ...
1-Dawsie - Was there anything Dawsie didn't do in this one? Best game of his career to date ... but can he keep it up? Hopefully!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hmmm ...

Anyone else think that this report via TSN is a bit curious?
Russia's federal Investigative Committee said a chemical analysis of the samples allowed experts to conclude "that for several months Alexei Cherepanov engaged in blood doping." There was no elaboration, and a spokeswoman at the committee refused to comment further.

This is a country that got raked over the coals internationally for not having the right medical staff and equipment available to save Cherry's life so now - two and a half months later - they are trying to place blame on the kid himself? There is no way for him to defend himself, so why not? They will save a little face and the only people who get hurt are his family. What do they care?

Growing up in the late stages of the Cold War it was easy to laugh off stories of the big bad Commies changing facts for their anti-capitalist propaganda but is this any different? The Russians were embarrassed by their own media and around the world so for them to turn the tables on the deceased makes too much sense. As Mel Gibson said in Conspiracy Theory, "A good conspiracy is unprovable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line" and the Russians clearly screwed up this situation from the start ...

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

The Rangers will add another chapter to the age-old rivalry against the Islanders tonight when they faceoff at the Garden. For those watching at home, I believe it is a Versus exclusive game ... that sucks, but so does Denis Potvin.

Where We Are: I really don't want to talk about it. Sorry.

Where They Are: The Isles got points out of each of their last two games after Toronto rolled over to them 4-1 and the Sabres blew a two goal lead with two minutes left in the game on their way to a shootout win. Half of their team is injured or banged up, including expected starter Rick DiPietro. DP got the win against the Leafs, then complained that he was sore so he didn't even bother to go to Buffalo on Saturday. What a warrior.

Who To Watch For: The ancient Bill Guerin has four points in those last two games and Richard Park is always, always dangerous - especially on the penalty kill. Of the many kids on the Isles roster, Josh Bailey has a ton of skill but hasn't realized it yet and Kyle Okposo is proving that he was a tad overhyped after leaving the Golden Gophers early. He isn't bad, but he isn't a franchise savior.

What To Watch For: The Rangers will inevitably make DP look like a hockey god. The Blueshirts have the bad trend of taking low percentage shot after low percentage shot against Islander goaltenders to inflate their save percentage. And last season DP went 3-1 against the better New York team - whether that was a symptom of Ted Nolan's coaching has yet to be determined ...

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The utter annihilation of the Islanders - say, 10-1. And DP blowing out his hip again. That would make this Ranger fan quite happy. But closer to reality, let's hope to see a Ranger team play inspired hockey against a major rival while not allowing a single shorthanded goal.

Also Check Out: Islesblogger, Dee's 7th Woman and of course Chris Botta's Point Blank.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys. And I definitely think that that you should hit up iTunes and pick up the classic Zambonis track, "Johnny Got Suspended."
A long time ago
my friend Johnny got suspended for wearing
an 'Islanders Sucks' t-shirt.The teacher said to him,
'Young man, you will report to the office
and talk to the principal there.'

The principal said to Johnny,
'I'm ashamed.
Where's your brain
to wear such a slogan in a public place?
I called your mom.
There she is right now. She said,

What can I say?
I'm in a state
of disarray.
You will be punished,
that's for sure.
But your father says he's proud
and the Rangers rule!'

got suspended
for wearing
an 'Islanders Sucks' t-shirt.
Oh yes he did. (x4)

got suspended
for wearing
an 'Islanders Sucks' t-shirt.
Oh yes he did. (x8)

Remembering Mike Gartner

Tonight Mike Gartner rightfully had his number retired in Washington. Lest it be forgotten, Gartner was a helluva Ranger as well. While he will never see his #22 raised to the rafters of the Garden, his contributions to the team should be honoured as well. Gartner, seen on the right wearing the captain's C when Mark Messier was out, was respected for his speed, skill, smarts and dedication to the jersey. He had a great scoring touch and often electrified the Garden crowd while playing a big part in the community as well.

Gartner, who came in a trade for Ulf Dahlen in 1990, had 312 points in 351 games wearing a Blueshirt before he was cast away before the Cup run so Mark Messier could bring in the overrated and undeserving Glen Anderson (for shame Hall of Fame, for shame - it isn't the Hall of Pretty Good With Great Teammates). Gartner never got to sip from Stanley but had a helluva career and deserves to be remembered fondly here in New York because he gave his all as a Ranger and was pretty damn successful. We could definitely use a player of his ilk right about now ...

Best wishes Mike, and congratulations!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

22-13-3: Rangers Give Fans Coal

The Rangers have now officially ruined the Christmas spirit in New York. First they stop playing after a period against the Capitals, then they never really start playing against the Devils. If you or I put in such a pathetic half-hearted effort at our jobs, we would be fired. That simple.

Listening to Rangers in 60, Dave Maloney and Joe Micheletti (idiot) put Henrik Lundqvist on the hook for the loss with about two minutes left in the game. Don't get me wrong, Hank didn't play well - he should have stopped Hepatitis Elias' shorthanded breakaway - but to place the main blame on the netminder is foolish. The failure here lies with Tom Renney and Glen Sather.

The coaching staff didn't prepare the poorly constructed team to come out hard after their holiday break. And on top of that, they put the team down early with the stupid too many men on the ice penalty and it just snowballed from there. There is nothing positive to come out of this 4-2 debacle on the Ranger side. And the worst thing that makes it all hurt that much more is that the team utterly gave up at the end. After Zach Parise scored to make it 4-2, the Rangers didn't look like they wanted to play any more. There was absolutely no urgency, no interest, no anything. They just wanted to kill the clock and go home. My disgust with this franchise knows no bounds right about now.

*Let's start with that Parise goal. It was the only time that I noticed Chris Drury on the ice the entire night and it was because he couldn't cover the young Devil. Parise got body position and Drury didn't have the muscle or speed to get inside of him. Just as egregious was a stationary Scott Gomez hanging out between the hashmarks just watching the play. The only other time I noticed Gomez was when he tripped over himself and fell behind the Ranger net. These are the on-ice leaders of the Rangers. They take up 14.4 million dollars of cap space this season and, for that money, have given the team 46 points (16 goals) in 61 games with a -20 total. That seems worth it, right??

*While talking about money for nothing, Wade Redden. Yeah. No.

*It being a Saturday game during holiday season, there was a large transient crowd in the Garden. These are people who kinda like the team, but don't usually come to games and are treating themselves, or indulging their curiosity. By the end of the night the one question I heard asked in the hallways several times was "this team is in first place??? Really????"

*I refused to take part in a "Fire Renney" chant that started up in the third period, for the sole reason that there is no way on earth that Renney will be canned at least as long as this team is near the top of the standings. So why bother? Once the East catches up with all of their games in hand, the Blueshirts will be back down to where I predicted them to be - fighting for the final playoff spot.

*And no matter how bad the Ranger power play is - and man is it bad - Perry Pearn is safe as long as Renney is in charge. And that will at least be for another season or two of disappointing disasters. Both Renney and Sather are loyal to a fault, and the product on the ice is suffering for it.

*Conspiracy theorists were abuzz with the reasons for Michal Rozsival's absence but there is likely no cause for it. If he wasn't having mysterious family problems when he was being booed left and right and playing piss poor hockey, then there is no reason to make one up now. Hopefully whatever was wrong with his family gets resolved.

*I say that not because I wish he returns, just because you don't want anything bad to happen to these people's families. With them themselves perhaps, but not their families. And Corey Potter didn't do too poorly in his place. The kid made a few rookie mistakes and was forced to do double duty as defenseman and babysitter for Dmitri Kalinin so what do you expect the result to be?

*Before I get suicidal, I do have to find a positive in the performance. Lauri Korpikoski had an utterly fantastic shift killing a penalty in the first period where he took the puck to the Devils zone, skated around, pulled it back out past the blue line, dumped it back in and then went in to follow it and laid down a hit. It was beautiful.

*What happened to Brandon Dubinsky? He seems to be getting into decent spots but his hands and strength appears to have abandoned him.

*The Devils had both David Clarkson and Mike Rupp on their roster tonight - a pair of minor league thugs. Why didn't Renney sent Voros or Orr out to pick a fight with one of those clowns? There were several good times for it and yet there was just one instance tonight where Orr approached Clarkson and was quickly separated by a linesman so nothing happened.

*Stat of the night: The Mexican't Gomez won two of 15 faceoffs he took in the game. And he is the Rangers' star first line center.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Scott Clemmensen - 31 saves.
2-Patrik Elias - one goal and one assist.
1-Travis Zajac - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Paul Martin - No one will ever mistake him for any of the great Devil defensemen of the turn of the century but Martin played more than 25 minutes, gave Clemmensen time and space to stop the impotent Ranger shots and made some good first passes.
2-Zajac - The former Fighting Sioux fought well in this one, taking part in three of the four Jersey goals. His feed to Hepatitis on the shorty was a sweet pass.
1-Zach Parise - Parise singlehandedly swarmed the Ranger net all night. He ended up with eight shots and one goal but he was constantly weaving in and around the flatfooted Ranger defenders to worry Hank. It was impressive.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peepin' Foes: New Jersey Devils

The Rangers return to the Garden ice tonight at 7:30 pm to play the New Jersey Devils for the fourth time this season. The Blueshirts won the first two games by a combined score of 9-3 and lost the third 8-5 in a complete headshaker at the Rock.

Where We Are: Who knows? It is the first game after the Xmas break so the team that comes out on the ice could be very different than the one that limped off of it after blowing a four goal lead on Tuesday. Or at least I hope it will be ...

Where They Are: The Devils came back from break last night with a 1-0 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jersey now hasn't scored a goal in their last seven regulation periods. Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac both missed empty nets and the Devs had a reaaaaally close call go against them as Mark Eaton kicked a puck out of the goal just before it crossed the line.

Who To Watch For: The usual suspects Zach Parise, Hepatitis Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner are always dangerous against the Rangers. Langenbrunner, in fact, is one of the few players on either team who seems to really play with a chip on his shoulder - he really doesn't like the Rangers and I can respect that. Scott Clemmensen has been amazing but keep an eye out at Goalie Post to see if he will start the second half of the back-to-back. Kevin Weekes is still their backup but he allowed four goals in two periods during the Blueshirts 5-2 win over the Devs earlier this season.

What To Watch For: If reports are true and Aaron Voros will take a seat to Petr Prucha, watch Pru battle to prove he belongs yet again. When he came back last time, he was one of the best Rangers on the ice for all three games he played in - there is something to be said for playing with motivation.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: It would be nice for Mexican't Scott Gomez to play the way he did in the playoffs last season against his former team when he simply dominated them (but don't hold your breath). There are no fighters worth speaking of on the Devils but you can be sure that David Clarkson will try to incite something. Idiot. Should it come down to it, hopefully Colton Orr will knock him out like he did to Todd Fedoruk way back when.

Also Check Out: The solid Fire & Ice, my fellow NY Times Hockey Night in Blogdom In Lou We Trust and Rich Chere's MSM blog.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Scotty 2008

As I actually have Christmas off for the first time in a few years, I figured I would pick up some extra work and help out the jolly fat man in giving gifts to the New York Rangers. Some have been naughty, some have been nice some didn't get the message last year so I am giving them the same thing twice ...


Blair Betts: An A for his sweater. After quietly contributing on the penalty kill since coming to the Rangers, Bettsy has maintained his defensive acumen while consistently attacking the net this season and leading by example.

Ryan Callahan: How about the nickname "Beeker"? Pat Verbeek retired as the only NHL player with 500 goals and 1,500 penalty minutes - I think Cally can do the same. He has shown the scoring touch, he just needs a little more grit to go with that moxie.

Nigel Dawes: This is a tough one. If you asked two weeks ago, I would say a new team to play for but he really has revived his game since then. Perhaps his gift should be consistency?

Chris Drury: The ability to score on a breakaway. Dru has blown at least six breakaway opportunities that I recall so far this season ...

Brandon Dubinsky: Some tapes of a young Jason Arnott so he can see how a big, strong pivot with good hands can grow first into an All Star, then into a Stanley Cup Champion.

Dan Fritsche: A lecture from Eddie O or Mike Hartman or any of the other 1994 Black Aces on how to handle being on the practice squad and stepping up when his number is called.

Scott Gomez: This t-shirt and a jersey without an A on the shoulder.

Lauri Korpikoski: More ice time. This kid has the skill to be a solid NHL player, he just needs a chance to gain the experience needed to go with it.

Markus Naslund: Some chemistry with Drury (or Gomez). Naslund has showed that he still has gas left in the tank, noe he just needs to find the same comfort level with a center that he had with Brendan Morrison.

Colton Orr: Power play time. Colt has shown he is willing to work, that he is willing to pay the price to battle around the crease. Now the Rangers needs to let him do it more often.

Petr Prucha: A chance to be a regular NHLer. Prucha's three game stint earlier this month showed that even Tom Renney's coaching couldn't quench his desire to play and he should be allowed to - even if it is not in New York.

Fredrik Sjostrom: Someone to translate his website into english. Freddie seems to have a ton of personality, it would be nice for the fans to see it.

Aaron Voros: A nice Christmas greeting from his pal Mike Smith and some raw meat to keep in his fridge for the next time he gets his face beaten in.

Nikolai Zherdev: Some quality time with his fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin. Hopefully AO's passion to play will rub off on Z because we've seen that he has almost the same level of skill (start at the 1:40 mark and forgive the music).

Dan Girardi: A new defensive partner. Girardi was perfectly complimented by Fedor Tyutin last season. Despite playing most of the 37 games alongside Wade Redden, he has had absolutely no chemistry with the former Senator and his play has clearly suffered.

Dmitri Kalinin: A plane ticket back to Russia. A KHL team will be thankful to add a player of his 'calibur' and won't notice his complete lack of edge, effort and enthusiasm.

Paul Mara: More shooting lanes. Mara has arguably been the most consistent defenseman on the team but he needs to get that heavy shot of his on net more often.

Corey Potter: A chance to prove himself. While many hardcore fans think that he is the solution to the Ranger defensive woes, he is just a kid. Let him play and let him show what he can do.

Wade Redden: Some heart. Jaromir Jagr got the Tim Man treatment last year and Redden is a fitting recipient this time around. If he had some (any) heart, he would actually skate hard and maybe, maybe justify some of his $6.5 million contract. The only way he would justify all of it would be to play like Bobby Orr or Nik Lidstrom and that isn't going to happen, but something is more than nothing.

Michal Rozsival: The same thing as last year - a pack of Post-Its to remind him to play defense. Rozy has had three moments this season that I recalled where he made strong defensive plays so he has it in him, he just needs to remember to do it all of the time.

Marc Staal: A Rod Langway Award. So far this season he has been the best defensive defenseman in the league and deserves some recognition as such.

Henrik Lundqvist: Three new defensemen in front of him, preferably ones who actually will protect the crease and not turn the puck over so much ...

Stephen Valiquette: Continued success against Philadelphia. The Rangers play the Flyers five times down the stretch and will need Vally to continue to stand tall and squash the orange attack.

Tom Renney: Last year it was a whip because he had to "force the team to buy into his game plan." This year it is a Zippo. He needs something to get this team afire ...

Benoit Allaire: More time in Hartford. Miika Wiikman looked like he had the skill to be an NHL goaltender but to day has looked shakey with the Pack so Benoit needs to work his magic.

Perry Pearn: A new job. He has proven incapable of making the power play work ... for two seasons now. And this season his special team has allowed a NHL high 10 shorthanded goals. Time to go Perry.

Mike Pelino: Something nice to give his dad. His old man gave me a Victoria Cup puck when I was in Switzerland so I hope he gets something nice from his son.

Glen Sather: A gold watch because it is time for Glen to retire. You built one helluva team in Edmonton, no one can take that away from you. But you ruined the Rangers not once, but twice by spending like a drunken sailor on shore lead. It is time to start enjoying the golden years ...

And to all of you: Kind wishes during this holiday season for health, happiness and good hockey!!

Let's Go Rangers!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When MSG Hospitality Is Not So Hospitable

Derek over at the Battle of New York shared a disturbing tale today of some fellow Garden Faithful getting the heave ho during last night's debacle:
A couple of MSG security guards played the role of Scrooge ejecting three spectators who donned Ranger jerseys and sat in the last row.

The reason was that they were not “properly seated.”

This is far from the first time that the security guards have overreacted during a game. During games you regularly see two guys arguing in the crowd - perhaps over words or spilled beer - and 25 security guards come rushing over as if Osama Bin Laden was spotted in the crowd. Don't get me wrong, there are some decent guards (usually off duty cops) who do what they have to to keep order and that is it. But the majority of the green jackets around the Garden come across as hired thugs just looking for an excuse to flex the little power given to them. They blow things out of proportion while doing it, creating an even larger spectacle that often takes focus away from the game. It is ridiculous and it creates even more dangerous situations.

While I have mostly avoided such situations, I also have a bone to pick with the red coats - the ushers. The ones down by the expensive seats have been around forever and will manhandle you if you are in the seat of the proper ticketholder - during warm-ups! I have no problem with moving, just have some courtesy and ask. Courtesy is also lacking with the ushers up in the 300s. Several times this season, in their attempts to curry favour and earn a dollar or two of a tip, they are showing people to their seats while play is going on. As I am near an aisle, they block my view and I voice my dissent - politely (at first) and never with blue language. On one occasion I pointed out that the usher should know better and was told "go f--k yourself." Wow, what courtesy. Last season I had another usher who stood a foot in front of me figuring out where row M was (my part of the section only goes up to L) and, after I said he should know better, threaten to throw me out or kick my ass - I was allowed to choose. I chose to point out that there were dozens of witnesses and he should go back to doing his job. He did.

My point is that while there are some fantastic Garden staffers making life better for us customers - from the hot dog guy who makes his way around the 300s ("C'mon guys, who's hungry??) to the beer girls at the rock n' roll bar downstairs (Let's go Range-asssssss!!!!) - but there are a good number of those who need to be replaced. We spend a lot, a LOT of money at the Garden and get very little (few giveaways, fewer deals and right now, disappointing effort from the players). The least they could do is treat us nicely and offer a modicum of respect.

22-12-3: Tom Renney Fails Rangers Again

Thanks to a sub-par effort by Henrik Lundqvist and the "coaching" of Tom Renney, the Rangers blew a 4-0 lead to lose in overtime 5-4 to the Washington Capitals tonight.

Well, at least we got a point, right?

That point is of little solace to most Ranger fans as they watched an utterly commanding first period performance deteriorate into a debacle of near Montreal proportions. As I texted a friend after the first period, "no lead is safe" and it proved prophetic as Renney couldn't motivate the troops to keep playing three periods. Instead, they started counting the presents beneath the tree and the ever-hungry Alexander Ovechkin feasted on a nice turkey dinner.

When players start resting on their laurels it is up to the leadership to keep the fires burning and Renney is too much of a player's coach to stoke the coals. And the so-called leaders that are wearing uniforms on this team aren't fiery in the least. You simply can't have a passive coach and a passive captain for just this reason. So when Ovechkin kicked at Tiny Tim's crutch (Lundqvist) with a fluke goal, the boy didn't fight to stand, he just fell and fell hard.

But let's start with the good:

*The first period was probably the second best period that the Rangers played this season. The best being the third period in San Jose.

*Ryan Callahan and Nigel Dawes were offensive threats all night long and Paul Mara played a rather good game on the blueline.

Ok, that's it so let's get to the rest:

*As I mentioned above, the fluke goal seemed to knock Lundqvist off and even with the poor effort in front of him, he should have had at least two, if not three of the goals against him. Watching shots sail by his glove made me long for the days when John Vanbiesbrouck was a Ranger. The Beezer had one quick catching hand.

*The Capitals had their number one goaltender, Brent Johnson, ill so he could barely finish out the first period after relieving the awful Jose Theodore. Washington also was without their number one and number two defensemen in Mike Green and Tom Poti (boooooooooooo). And they were without their top goon in Donald Brashear. And the Rangers were missing ... no one. And the Caps won.

*An interesting observation made by a buddy who works for the Garden - with captain Chris Clark out with injury, no one on the Caps was wearing a C. And yet they still seemed poised and motivated. Perhaps they can share their secret with the Rangers? I don't think so either.

*Wherefor art tho Nik Zherdev? With a young defense and a terrible goaltender across from him, Z should have been able to eat them alive. But instead he was barely there, looking just as enigmatic as the Columbus folks warned us he would be. He got an assist on Nazzy's game-opening goal (which was a wonderful set play) but then he vanished ...

*My seat at the Garden is next to a Ranger-hating Flyer fan who just comes to the games because he loves hockey and lives in New York. He made the remark that Scott Gomez was a helluva Devil. And I would have to agree. Unfortunately he is a terrible Ranger. The Mexican't was worthless in this one, collecting a second assist while skating all sorts of circles to nowhere. He doesn't backcheck, his passes are off the mark when he isn't just softly dumping the puck away before he can get hit and he rarely shoots. For seven million dollars a year.

*For six and a half we have Wade Redden too. Another colossal waste of cash, Redden doesn't even look like he is trying to contribute. A fantastic example was during the first period this evening. The Rangers were trapped in their zone and Dan Girardi blocked a shot. He was clearly hurting but with the puck deep, he maintained his position in the slot covering his man. When his guy went to the boards to get the puck, he followed. The puck went back around the boards and Girardi went back to the slot with his man. The puck went behind the net and Girardi hit his man. The puck came out high and a Cap took a shot that Hank turned away. Girardi dove into the corner and lofted it out of the zone. But it was Redden who raced to the bench first. For shame.

*The other overpaid defenseman, Michal Rozsival, brought his confidence back with him from the West Coast and played his strongest period in ages to open the game. Not only did he score, but he made a big defensive play as well and played the body on another two occasions. But those laurels got comfortable and he regressed back to his passive mode of defense and that helped the Caps victimize the Rangers on several goals.

*Marc Staal did a really solid job keeping the lightning that is Ovechkin in a bottle for most of their corresponding shifts. But, even with last change, Renney continued to not match up lines and allowed Ovechkin to run free and power Washington back into the game.

*How does Colton Orr get seven minutes of ice time while Aaron Voros gets nearly 11? Voros now has one point (an assist) in his last 11 games. Orr has one point (a goal) in his last 11 games. Orr is responsible defensively, hits people and can fight. Voros ... well, he is good at stopping punches with his face.

*The Ranger power play went 0-3, but luckily didn't give up a shorthanded goal. How sad is it that not allowing a goal is a solid consolation for a punchless attack? Ugh.

*I mentioned last time that Blair Betts simply cannot take penalties because he is just too valuable and tonight he took a penalty - a kneeing call in the third period. What happened? Viktor Kozlov scored on the power play to make it a 4-3 game.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - two goals.
2-Shaone Morrisonn - game-winning goal.
1-Alexander Ovechkin - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Nick Backstrom - Riding shotgun to Ovie has its privileges. Three assists and solid work at both ends of the ice.
2-Cally - The New Ball of Hate was the only Ranger to play wire to wire. If he grows a little bit of a mean streak, watch out.
1-AO - The only reason he isn't a megastar is because it is harder to pronounce Ovechkin than it is to pronounce Crosby. Ovie is by far the better player and he plays hockey the way it is meant to be played - with the utmost in effort and enjoyment. It is a true pleasure to watch him play.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Washington Capitals

Where We Are: The Rangers are just back from a fantastically successful tour of the wild, wild west. There was a regulation win, an overtime win and a loss against the best team in the NHL. It was definitely my favourite loss of the season and one of the better ones in a long, long time. What the hell am I talking about? Effort. Heart. Desire. Perseverance. Dedication. Everything I could ask for. Of course, little of those characteristics were shown by the high priced talent on this team but - after watching every single game this season - I now expect those guys to fail so when they don't hurt the team too badly while carrying away their carts of cash, I walk away pleased.

Where They Are: Washington followed up a five game winning streak by getting curbstomped by the Flyers 7-1 on Saturday. Much like with the Sharks, the Caps may be pumped to prove themselves. Or then again, maybe they just will start down a long road that will see them fall out of first in the Southeast, but I doubt it.

Who To Watch For: Brett Leonhardt. Seriously, if this guy is walking around the Garden, he deserves to be applauded - what an amazing story. Down on the ice there will of course be the incredible AO, who is worth the price of admission himself. The other Alex, Semin (hehe), is hurting but the Caps also have a stud in Nicklas Backstrom, a steady vet in Viktor Kozlov and a never-say-die grinder who can contribute in Brooks Laich. My boy Tom Poti might not play after straining his groin; sometimes the jokes write themselves ...

What To Watch For: Donald Brashear to have a big shift or two to physically intimidate the Rangers. Brent Johnson to stand on his head, if he starts. The Rangers power play to finally work against a kill that is sixth worse in the NHL at 79.6%.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Another strong performance by the Blueshirts - no resting on their laurels!! These Caps are ravaged by injuries and the Rangers need to take advantage of that by taking the game to them. That sequence during the San Jose game in the third period where the Rangers ran the Sharks ragged? How about a whole game of that? As well as Brashear vs. Brendan Shanahan 2. Oh, he isn't around (yet)? How about Orr vs. Ovechkin 2? Great work by Joe Micheletti in that second clip there. Dainus Zubrus? Jesus, pay attention. The whole building knew he rocked Ovie.

Also Check Out: The Caps have arguably the best blogbase around the league in terms of skill, info and access - if only because of their owner Ted Leonsis, who has his own well-maintained page. Probably the best not owned by him are personal fav Japer's Rink, On Frozen Blog and the diverse DC sports blog Off Wing Opinion.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report and Steve Zipay's Blue Notes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How Did We Miss This??

A British friend just alerted me to some pretty neat news - the Germans will be hosting an outdoor hockey game of their own:
On May 7, 2010, history will be made as the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championship will be played in a football (soccer) stadium with a potential capacity of 75,976.

Should the Germans sell out the game, it would create a new world record for hockey attendance in a single game, breaking the current record of 74,554, which was set between American University teams Michigan State and Michigan in East Lansing, Michigan in 2001. Tickets for the opening game are already available and cost 19 Euros (standing). The lowest priced seating ticket is 29 Euros.

Here is a good news piece on it, sorry I couldn't figure out how to encode it. This is good news, of course, as hockey will be seen by many more eyes. Let's face it, Chicago will be awesome (I'm going!!) but it won't catch the international eye the way a match at a football stadium would. This year's world championship is being held in Bern, Switzerland - the same arena that the Rangers won the Victoria Cup in. That is a nice building but as any Euro will tell you, there is nothing like a football match for atmosphere. And to have, say, Germany face the Russians or the Canadians on Shalke's pitch should be incredible!

Hmm, I wonder how much the flight will cost ... better start saving now ...

22-12-2: Falling Just Short

With my ranting and raving here on the blog, I have been accused of being a bad loser. It is true, I hate to lose and I hate to watch the Rangers lose. But I am ok with it when the Blueshirts go down swinging. And that is what they did tonight. They recovered from a early 2-0 deficit but still fell 3-2 to the NHL-leading San Jose Sharks. On the way they outshot San Jose 17-7 in the third period. Did they miss prime scoring chances? Yep. But they shot the puck, they pressed the action and they didn't fold in the face of a very talented team. It was beautifully heartbreaking.

And I will take that anytime; it is why I am a sports fan.

Enough with the heartwarming stuff. We did lose. If you look at the other 14 losses this season, perhaps the only one that matched up with this loss to San Jose was the 5-4 overtime defeat at the hands of Detroit. You know what that proves? That this Ranger team plays to the level of their opponents. And that should be laid at the feet of the coach and the captain - if they can't motivate the troops game-in-and-game-out, then they shouldn't be the leaders.

And onto more of this evening's festivities:

*To a degree, all three San Jose goals were stoppable. The first power play goal came on a telegraphed shot from Dan Boyle that Hank appeared to be able to see, the second came after Hank pulled himself out of position and the third Hank had a good angle on Patrick Marleau but the Shark captain still put it through him.

*Everyone knows that I am a huge fan of Blair Betts but had he not taken the high sticking call to put the Blueshirts down two men, there is no way that San Jose scores two power play goals. It is a sad thing to say but of all of the Rangers, having Betts in the penalty box is the most costly. He seems to know it too, having only taken one minor penalty to date this season. That one also put the Rangers down two men but it came against Florida and, well, they suck ... the Sharks don't and they scored two power play goals.

*Anyone else notice the soundbite MSG played of Joe Thornton talking about San Jose's 6-0 embarrassment at the hands of Detroit? He was smiling!! No wonder the people in Boston disliked him so much. It is the same reason I loathe Scott Gomez. Yes, players have to get over losses, put them behind them and all that but you want your stars - of all people - to hate to lose. Ever. Perhaps we were too spoiled by having Mark Messier here in New York.

*Speaking of the MSG broadcast ... in my continuing campaign to get Joe Micheletti canned, he put together another poor telecast tonight. The lowlights of this game being his perpetual apologizing for getting things wrong. While that is a regular thing with him, one of the worse came when he insisted Markus Naslund hurt his left side while Nazzy was clearly waving his right wrist around. Way to pay attention ace!

*Oh, and Micheletti said that Marleau was left open and scored because Naz went to the bench but the real reason was Scott Gomez was cherry picking up at the blueline. As the center on the play, he should be have been backchecking when Wade Redden's clearing attempt was sent back deep into the Ranger zone. The Mexican't stayed high hoping to collect a long pass and the San Jose center was left alone on the doorstep to score. A terrible display for someone who played under Lou Lamoriello.

*Neither Redden not Dmitri Malik Kalinin were as bad as they have been for the Rangers but they are still far, far away from being worth their contracts. Rozy took a bad penalty and Girardi made a few mistakes but luckily Staal was his solid self and Paul Mara played another big game on the blueline. To think I was ready to send him out of town after last season - he has been the most consistent defenseman on the team.

*How awesomely simple was Nik Zherev's goal? He picked a spot on arguably the best goaltender of the West and put the puck through it. What a shot. Why doesn't he do that against the lesser netminders he usually faces?? Oh wait, that does towards what I was saying back at the top ...

*George Gund III, the former owner of the Sharks who was honoured before the game, has some awesome eyebrows. I wish I had a good pic of those things.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Nik Zherdev - one goal.
2-Evgeni Nabokov - 32 saves.
1-Joe Thornton - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - Nine hits and a goal through persistent effort from the new Little Ball of Hate. It is a pleasure to watch this kid play hockey. If he gets a nasty edge to him like Beeker had? Wow.
2-Nabby - If Hank doesn't win the Vezina this season, then Nabby should get it. He is just an incredible netminder who was robbed last season. He gave up one bad goal (Z) and one good goal (Cally) while standing tall through the Rangers third period blitz.
1-Dan Boyle - He is everything for the Sharks that Wade Redden hasn't been for the Rangers: a true game-breaking offensive defenseman who is capable in his own zone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Peepin' Foes: San Jose Sharks

Where We Are: After sucking through four games earlier this month, the Blueshirts have bounced back with three straight wins - one of which that was actually in regulation! After beating Anaheim and the Kings on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Rangers to finish off their California roll tonight against the San Jose Sharks. The Rangers prevailed over them last year, and I wrote one of my favourite posts to date recapping that one but both teams have undergone some big changes so it really has no relevance on this one. We can only hope for a repeat of the effort (from both me and the team, lol).

Where They Are: They are coming off of a epic fail where the Detroit Red Wings took aim and blew them up 6-0. And yet they are still the best team in the NHL by at least five points. That debacle against the Wings on Thursday was just their fourth regulation loss in 32 games. Can you say Cup contender?

Who To Watch For: Not Kyle McLaren, who I wanted to trade for - he is now out for over a month after surgery. Jeremy Roenick is also done for a spell. But let's face it, neither one of these formerly prominent names really do much for the team nowadays (hell, McLaren was in the minors). Now the names are Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau. Oh yeah, and Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Evgeni Nabokov. They have so many weapons, it's scary.

What To Watch For: Which San Jose team jumps on the ice - the one that has lost two straight games and is reeling or the one that has lost two straight games and is pissed!

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Ranger team that steps up their game against a big opponent, like they did when they played Detroit back in the early moments of the season. Granted, we lost that one, but the effort was impressive. It would also be nice to see an impressive defensive effort from Michal Rozsival, now that he has regained some of his offensive touch (pun not intended, but amusing nonetheless). And, of course, a heavyweight bout between Colton Orr and Jody Shelley.

Also Check Out: The Battle of California, Two For Elbowing and Fear The Fin are probably the three best (especially with Mike Chen broadening his scope over at KK).

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report but seeing as he didn't go to Cali, Steve Zipay's Blue Notes is a good place to stop by.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Greetings From The New York Rangers

This Is Not Sour Grapes ...

... But it will sound like it. Mats Sundin's statement that "the Vancouver opportunity was simply the best overall fit" is a complete and utter lie. If I was a Vancouver fan, I would be upset. Sundin is a mercenary trying to ride into town as a hero.

He is not.

While I certainly wouldn't have minded seeing the big Swede in a Ranger sweater, I have maintained throughout this saga that the Blueshirts' biggest priority needed to be their defense. You can't win a championship with a blueline that is as underachieving and overpriced as the Rangers'.

Perhaps Sundin agrees with that. But nonetheless, his motivation towards picking the Canucks was about kroner, not Cups.

Most of the write-ups are saying that the deal he made with Vancouver is in the $5 million range for the rest of the season. For the Rangers to accommodate that, then Scott Gomez would indeed have been the best candidate to go (too bad that didn't work out, as I dislike the Mexican't). But Vancouver was one of the few teams that could fit in a contract that size and they weren't willing to commit to Gomez for that much money for six seasons, especially with the Sedin twins both up for free agency after this year, as are about a dozen other 'Nucks ... Plus what better way to follow up Trevor Linden's retirement than to bring in Sundin? His presence - or even the fact that the team was willing to go get him - may entice the Sedins to re-sign (even if Sundin is only around this season).

And to continue the Linden comparison, Vancouver is bringing in another old warrior who is well respected and will retire without winning a Stanley Cup. Sundin would have had a better chance in the weaker East, he would have had a lighter travel schedule, been a continent closer to Sweden and had a goaltender behind him that has already earned him Olympic gold.

This really is a good thing ... for the Rangers. Sundin and the Canucks will be under more pressure than ever to get results, especially with the Toronto media following their former captain. Meanwhile, the Rangers can look around the locker room and know that these are the guys that they are going to war with. It should strengthen team chemistry, give them something to prove (that they don't need Sundin to win) and it shouldn't lead to complacency - or at least any more than there already is.

Remember, the trade deadline is just over two months away ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh Well ...

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis today announced that the team has signed free agent centre Mats Sundin.

We didn't need him anyway, we need defensive defensemen.

But it certainly woulda been nice to see him don a Blueshirt...

22-11-2: Check And Mate

The Los Angeles Kings are everything you want in a young team. They are hard working and unrelenting and they took advantage of a tired New York squad playing for the second night in a row to attack, attack, attack. Luckily for the Rangers, their top young goaltender didn't play and the warm body that did fill the crease was terrible, allowing the Blueshirts to escape from L.A. with a 3-2 overtime win.

Actually, what let the Rangers finish the SoCal sweep was a stellar performance by Stephen Valiquette. Valley played every inch of his 6'6 frame and stood tall in the net despite the usual defensive deficiencies in front of him. He showed no signs of the mental lapse that hit him in Toronto and he stopped 39 shots.

*The Kings wore their new third jerseys and they are beautiful. While the black trend has been overdone in the new NHL, the Kings made it famous first and these jerseys give a nod to their old sweaters with a simple black, silver and white design. I half expected to see Gretz and Lucky Luc jump over the boards; great work by L.A.

*If Santa Claus wants to be kind, he will give Ranger fans the gift of a new colour announcer on MSG. Man oh man is Joe Micheletti annoying!! Someone took the time to explain just why he was so bad over on the HFBoards and the fact that there are people actually standing up for him disgusts me. He is atrocious and his mistaken analysis does a disservice to viewers. Dave Maloney has proven that he is capable; it is long past time to make the switch.

*Hey Joe, when Ryan Callahan was hauled down midway through the second period it wasn't close to a penalty shot, it was the definition of a penalty shot - Cally had a clear advantage; it's your job to point that out. Then on the ensuing power play, the absolute confusion as to why the next play was deserving of a penalty shot was infuriating. And that was BEFORE Micheletti admitted to not paying attention and missing the play entirely!!! Later, when MSG showed replays after the next break, Micheletti claimed he just had thought it was a innocent looking play. How did he think it was an innocent looking play when he didn't see it in the first place?

*As for the penalty shot that was awarded, it was not a "great, great goal" by Rozsival as Micheletti said. It was a whole lotta flash and a backhand that barely cleared LaBarbara's goal pad. Let's face it, any capable goaltender would have poked the puck off of Rozy's stick as the Czech was skating in slow motion. Now his goal in overtime, now that was an impressive shot. It was hard, it was through traffic, it was pinpoint perfect. And, if anything, it justified the Garden's pleas for him to just put his head down and shoot!!!

*Oh, Dmitri, you truly are horrible. Mr. Malik Kalinin took a bad penalty in the first period and the Kings took advantage by opening the game's scoring. Then he stood impotently as Dustin Brown tied the game at two. Kalinin turned the puck over time and time again and played his usual soft brand of defense. If the Rangers aren't willing to waive Redden and send him to Russia, why not Kalinin? At least Dmitri speaks the language there and can rejoin his old team. He proved that he still can pass the puck to them with a few nice feeds during the Victoria Cup ... And banishing him to Metallurg would clear up $2.1 million of cap space, as opposed to the $1.6m of Petr Prucha.

*Although I can't fully blame Kalinin for Brown's goal as he was standing right next to Rozy ... but the bigger issue is that if there was no instigator rule, Brown wouldn't have been on the ice. He deserved to get his ass kicked for running around hitting people and yet the instigator rule (and Renney's innate pacifism) let him get away with it. For shame.

*Perhaps it was because they were playing other skilled youngsters, but Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi both played better than they have in weeks. They were more involved, they were more physical and they were more fun to watch. I wasn't as impressed with Nigel Dawes as the Ranger broadcasting crew was, but he did play inspired hockey.

*On the other side of the coin, Wade Redden and Aaron Voros didn't seem capable of keeping pace. Redden was caught flat footed on several occasions and it boggles my mind that Voros got more ice time than Colton Orr, who can skate harder and faster while providing more physicality. And where was the Mexican't??? Blair Betts was a bigger offensive threat than Scott Gomez ...

*Stat of the night: Brandon Dubinsky was awarded nine hits, while Brown had seven. Was the off-ice official actually watching the game? And on that note:

*PHW Three Stars
3-Kyle Calder - one assist.
2-Michal Rozsival - two goals.
1-Patrick O'Sullivan - one goal.
(What the hell were they smoking?? Even if they made their picks before the end of the game, and even if you are a homer, how do you pick these three guys in this order to boot?)

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Rozy - He made these stars and it is not in a sarcastic manner, who'da thunk it.
2-Valley - A phenomenal display of Benoit Allair's hybrid style of goaltending. And he is the backup goaltender. The backup!
1-Marc Staal - Staalsie was the only Ranger to battle back against Brown, he pressed the action throughout the game and was the catalyst for the game-winner.

One Last Salute

Thank you Trevor, and congratulations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Los Angeles Kings

Where We Are: It seems like it was only hours ago that I was watching the Rangers 3-1 win over the Ducks on a snowy VHS record of the game. Oh wait, it was. No time to rest on the laurels of an actual regulation win ...

Where They Are: They lost goaltender Erik Ersberg to a groin injury in their last game, an impressive 3-2 shootout loss to the mighty San Jose Sharks. It is a good thing for the Rangers as the young Swede has been pretty damn good. In his place will be former Ranger Jason Labarbara, who has failed at most every chance to secure the starting goaltender position. But stepping back for a second, they took the Sharks to a shootout! The team many thought would be the worst of the West is actually above .500 (13-12-5) and have just one regulation loss in their last six games.

Who To Watch For: Where the Rangers pretended to rebuild through youth, Los Angeles really did it so there is a LOT of good, young players. There is the older kids - skillful Anze Kopitar and the rough and tumble captain Dustin Brown - and then there is the younger kids - Calder candidate Drew Doughty, the surprising Oscar Moller and the recently recalled Teddy Purcell (who has three points in three games since he was recalled last week). L.A. also got the biggest steal of the season in defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was left out in the numbers game in Detroit and picked off of the waiver wire by the Kings.

What To Watch For: Keep an eye on Derek Armstrong. The longtime Ranger farmhand has been their Blair Betts working in the trenches and popping up with big goals. Where we have the enigmatic Nik Zherdev, they have Alex Frolov but Frolov seems to be growing into a more consistent offensive threat and can make the Ranger defense look foolish if they aren't careful.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: While I was a little saddened not to see George Parros' mustache get rearranged by Colton Orr, if Orr doesn't battle Raitis Ivanans tonight I won't lose any sleep. The guy is a monster - in size, not skill - so unless the game play dictates it, there is no reason for Colt to lower himself to goondom.

Also Check Out: The Battle of California, Life in Hockeywood, A Queen Among Kings and the MSM Inside the Kings.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys and the latest news on Sundin, who may or may not admit he will be a Ranger on Thursday (damn, I had Friday night in the pool).

21-11-2: Quack, Quack, Quack Mr. Ducksworth

What a way to start a walk through the wild west, huh? The New York Rangers kicked off their California swing with a big, strong 3-1 win over a big, strong Anaheim Ducks team. The Ranger web page got it right when they wrote that the Blueshirts played a "textbook road game" in that it was tight and defensive but no matter how it was done, as my buddy Eric said, it was a "huge 2 pts." If they can beat LA tomorrow before the inevitable thrashing by the Sharks Saturday, this trip will be a huge success. But first things first:

*No wonder Tom Renney loves Nigel Dawes so much. Not because the kid actually scored for once, but because he is a robot. Dawes was interviewed by John Giannone in the tunnel after the game and you would never know that he scored the game-winning goal. His monotone delivery of cliche after cliche was remarkable. He is the exact kind of soldier that Renney wants - highs aren't too high, lows aren't too low, it's all about the team and the opposition will never get bulletin board material. NO PERSONALITY!!

*What makes that even more annoying is how impressive Dawes' goal really was. He easily picked off a bad pass and then walked around Chris Pronger like he was Marek Malik before wristing the puck through Swiss Miss Jonas Hiller. It was a pretty play and something the Rangers desperately need more of out of Dawesie.

*Speaking of Malik, regular readers know that I don't hold plus/minus in high regards as the measure of a player. However, it was nice to see Blair Betts skate away with a team-high +2. It was also great to hear from him during the second intermission in an interview. He has personality and is willing to admit his shortcomings. This guy deserves an A!!

*Scott Gomez (who doesn't deserve his A) yet again led the Rangers in ice time, skating 23:12. And what did he contribute in that time? Two shots and six wins out of 17 faceoffs taken. That is certainly not what this team needs and is playing him for. Perhaps the impending arrival of Mats Sundin will take some pressure off of the Mexican't and he can flourish again. After all, he never was the go-to guy in Jersey ...

*Was it really necessary for the MSG crew to talk about Sundin throughout the game? I am asking, I don't know. Perhaps because I have followed it since this summer, reading every article I could, I am just tired of the tale - even if the end is near. It is a huge story, however, and it would be a disservice to ignore it. What's the cliche? You can only play with the players you have?

*Two plays in the first period set the tone for the game. Teemu Selanne broke in on a rush down the right wing two minutes in and took an easy wrister that Hank handily turned away. Just minutes later the Swedish netminder was in the right spot to block a one-timer by Ryan Getzlaf during a Anaheim power play. The plays got Hank into the game early and helped him get into the minds of the Ducks as well - they seemed to try to make the perfect, pretty play after that instead of outright attacking the Ranger net. Even when they got around the blueliners, they tried to be too fancy and Hank was able to hold his ground and make easy saves.

*Perhaps because of the Ducks' timid tactics, Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden didn't look as bad as usual. Redden, by the way, makes just $250K less than Niedermayer and $250K more than Pronger. The two Ducks - both Norris Trophy winners - each skated for more than 27 minutes and regularly made their presence felt. Redden? Notsomuch.

*Why did Ryan Carter and Bobby Ryan see so little ice time? Both played less than 10 minutes but made the most of their time pressuring the Rangers. Carter even got an assist on the lone goal by the Ducks. I don't get what Randy Carlyle was thinking ...

*There was no heavyweight battle between Colton Orr and George Parros but Orr continued the feel-good story of the season with some good work on the shutdown BKO line. This is a guy who was called the worst skater in the NHL.

*There was some fisticuffs in the form of Aaron Voros vs. Steve Montador. It was a terrible Zach Stortini-type of fight - hold em close and try to inflict damage with short punches to the back of the head or to the body. Bor-ring ...

*How is it that the Honda Center gets to play good music like Living Color's "Cult of Personality" and several old Metallica tracks while MSG spins Kernkraft and other generic garbage?? So incredibly not fair.

*Let's hope that Brandon Dubinsky's 'lower body' injury proves not to be anything big. It happened late in the first period in a collision with Corey Perry and Dubi saw limited action the rest of the way.

*The Ducks have to hope that J.S. Giguere gets over his father's passing quickly. It is a terrible, terrible thing to say but Jiggy would have easily stopped both of the shots that the Rangers scored on. Hiller's positioning isn't as good and his glove is slower.

*There was a third Ranger goal but that really shouldn't count since the puck never went into the net. It is a NHL rule that if a player is pulled down on a breakaway towards an empty net that it is an automatic goal but c'mon, Z shoulda had to actually shoot the damned thing. And it was technically a power play goal, which makes the special team look better than it actually was.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jonas Hiller - 27 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 19 saves.
1-Nigel Dawes - game-winning goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Selanne - If there was any sign that Mats Sundin will be able to come in and contribute at his age, it is the play of Selanne. The Finnish Flash still flies at 37 and he was the only consistent offensive threat for the Ducks.
2-Hank - Where would the Rangers be without him? Probably last place. He was huge, even if he didn't have to show off his skills in a shootout.
1-Lauri Korpikoski - The Korpedo played the way that earned him that nickname. He threw his body around and pressed the action, which helped get Chris Drury his goal. In one of the few times I will ever agree with Joe Micheletti, it appeared to be Korpikoski's best game of the season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Peepin' Foes: Anaheim Ducks

After a long flight to the left coast, the Rangers are beginning a big swing through Cali, hitting all three teams. Tonight they face the Quack Attack in Anaheim at 10 p.m.

Where We Are: After a horrifying display against the Devils, the Rangers bounced back by beating the Carolina Hurricanes. It was yet another shootout victory for the Blueshirts, and one that certainly should not have gotten to extra time, much less the skills competition. But the Rangers defense was poor and the offence had trouble closing the deal, so Hank saved the Blueshirts yet again.

Where They Are: Anaheim has won three of their last four, with the loss being a tight 2-0 affair with the NHL-best San Jose Sharks (who will hammer us on Saturday). I watched their last game, a 4-2 win over Minnesota and they were pretty damn good themselves - they scored three goals on beautiful passing plays that the Wild defense was helpless to stop. That doesn't bode well now, does it?

Who To Watch For: Rookie Bobby Ryan has four points in his last four games while the other wunderkinds Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry continue to power the Flying V. Scott Niedermayer has always enjoyed beating on the Blueshirts and every Ranger has to watch out for Chris Pronger's elbows, those things are dangerous.

What To Watch For: The Rangers to use jet lag as an excuse for a sub-par defensive effort that lets the Ducks fly all over the ice and win by four or more goals. Or, a second straight superior performance by Henrik Lundvist that leads to New York's 10th shootout victory of the season.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Nik Zherdev channeling a young Teemu Selanne, Brandon Dubinsky being more of a force than Getzlaf and Markus Naslund playing better than his formor pivot Brendan Morrison. Oh yeah, and Parros vs. Orr, Voros vs. May and Lundvist vs. Giguere - with the last one being the netminders trading off spectacular saves, rather than punches. But punches would be fun too ...

Also Check Out: MVN has On The Pond while the almighty Mirtle just picked up The Battle of California, but there is also the Girl With A Puck and the MSM Ducks blog at the Orange County Register.

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

Any Publicity Is Good Publicity?

From NHL's daily media advisory today:
The Canada-themed Dec. 15 episode of CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" featured a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.

How desperate is the NHL? They want to point out minutia like this and yet 'sloppy seconds' - which put hockey on every news and sports station - brought out a six game suspension?

*Shaking head*

Picking Sundin's Sweater Number

Since everyone seems to be awarding the Rangers the winner of the Mats Sundin sweepstakes, I figured I would put the cart in front of the horse and try to figure out which jersey number the Swede will wear.

As near as I can tell, his number on Toronto, Quebec, Djurgårdens and the Swedish national team was always number 13 - his birthday (February 13th, 1971). Well, sorry "Sudden," we already have a 13 on the roster. Of course, Nik Zherdev is younger and seems respectful so he should willingly give the elder statesman the digit. Or, he could buy the number with some of the $74 million in career earnings that he has collected. But what if Z did the unthinkable and not give it to him? What number would Mats take?

How about No. 4, since 1+3=4 (yay math!) ... Twenty-eight Rangers pulled on that sweater but not a single forward since 1948 (Rene Trudell) and we need Sundin to score.

Sundin won an Olympic gold in '06 but six is Wade Redden's and no one wants anything that that guy has right about now.

The former Toronto captain has been an All Star nine times but that number will be going to the rafters this season thanks to another icon, Adam Graves.

Well, some players go for the reverse of the number they wanted, so Sundin could take 31. There are 11 Rangers in team history who wore it but just one was a skater, Rob Zamuner; the rest were goaltenders. Zamuner played just nine games in 1991-92 before going on to a mediocre career in Tampa and we just can't have mediocrity from Mats.

Since he wore 13 because of his birthday, what about keeping with that theme and taking 71? Only Brian Fahey has worn that number on a Blueshirt and with Tom Renney's undying loyalty to his current defenders, it isn't likely that Fahey will get to wear it again. I don't think so, the NHL markets 71 with Gina Malkin and we don't want to relate to one of the diving Penguins in any way.

What about 89, in honour of the year Quebec drafted him? Nah, too Mogilny.

He came over from Sweden in '90 but that would put him right next to fellow countryman Markus Naslund (91) and we can't have that. Sundin has to have more left in the tank than what Naslund has shown. Otherwise there wouldn't be such a huge bidding war for his services.

Well, I guess it has to be his #13 and that would make him the seventh Ranger to pull on that particular jersey. I looked at the other guys once before but here they are again:

Jack Stoddard, who was the NHL's tallest player for two seasons in the '50s at 6'3, was the first. American Bob Brooke came next and he was a big part of the 1985-86 Blueshirts that went deep into the playoffs. Good soldier Sergei Nemchinov went even further - to the Stanley Cup before being callously discarded and ending up with the other, lesser metropolitan area teams. After Sarge left, Sundin's teammate in Quebec Valeri Kamensky came in for two disappointing seasons at the turn of the century. He also played in a 'Legends' game before the Victoria Cup against Metallurg in Switzerland and proved that he is still a cherry-picker after all these years. When he wasn't re-signed, minor league goon Richard Scott picked up the unlucky number for 10 games over two seasons. And, of course, you all know Big Z and what he has and hasn't done while wearing 13 this season.

But think of all he could do once Sundin is by his side? Where his current center (Mexican't Scott Gomez) works the perimeter, the big Swede is willing to pay the price and be an actual hockey player, challenging defenses by using his size to get space in the good scoring zones - a la Jagr. He can also score off of the rush, fire one helluva slapshot and hit people. Sundin was also a captain for most of his career and maybe he will help bring accountability back to the locker room and force the defensemen to actually play some defense.

One could only pray ...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ottawa's Silly Scribe

The age of the newspaper is slowly coming to an end and before it goes, the old grey ladies are doing anything and everything they can to maintain readership. That includes putting more and more pressure on columnists to write outrageous and controversial pieces that are sure to get eyes.

Where we in New York have Larry Brooks - who crafted another fun fantasy this week - the folks in Ottawa have Bruce Garrioch. Garrioch's column today is priceless and focuses mainly on our Blueshirts.
League sources say the Rangers are one of the frontrunners if Sundin's preference is to stay in the East. He wants the chance to win a Stanley Cup, respects president/GM Glen Sather and would relish the chance to star on Broadway.

Of course Sather is salavating over the possibility of selling a slew of new jerseys but do you really think Sundin looked at the Rangers yesterday and thought, 'Wow, what a team, these guys are headed for the Cup???' And even if he did, do you think he imagined what the team would be like with him instead of Scott Gomez ...
The Canucks actually have the cap space to give Sundin $20 million over two years -- the offer they made in July. If the lose out, GM Mike Gillis will go shopping. The most likely targets will be the Rangers' Scott Gomez and Habs' Robert Lang. Gomez, who is making an average of $7.3 million for the next four years, has a limited no-movement clause, but could be convinced to go to Vancouver.

While I am no fan of the Mexican't, I can't imagine Sather cutting ties with his biggest signing since the lockout - even for Sundin. And do you think he would be willing to take on Sean Avery after so willingly cutting ties with him over the summer?
While Avery needs time to deal with his anger management issues, there are whispers the Stars have held talks with the Rangers about shipping him back to New York for D Michal Roszival, who has struggled and is on the block. The belief is the Rangers would then assign Avery and his salary to their AHL affiliate in Hartford until he's ready to play in the NHL.

Those whispers came from Scott Burnside's column, and really hold no water. But it is a nice thought that the Rangers would be able to get rid of the defensively-suspect Rozsival and his silly salary. On the other side of that deal, Avery would be much better in the Ranger locker room than in Hartford's. Let's face it, he would be a negative influence for the Wolf Pack prospects while on Broadway he would shake things up. Who cares if there is a little discord? Compacency has killed this team so far and Avery would certainly rock the boat. It would also give Tom Renney something to do, rather than stand behind the bench and look clueless. And apparently I am not the only one noticing that:
There are whispers that if they don't start winning more consistently, Renney could be in trouble. If that's the case, Pat Quinn, Team Canada's coach at the world junior championship, might not be out of work long when the tournament ends Jan. 5.

Quinn is an interesting choice. A two team Jack Adams Award winner as top coach, he never was able to guide a NHL team to the Stanley Cup. He took two squads to the final, but they lost to both New York teams (1980 where the Flyers choked and 1994 where the Canucks were just barely outclassed). Quinn certainly can handle the pressure of Broadway, having coached Toronto (and Mats Sundin) for seven seasons, but can he cope with working under Glen Sather?? And can he adjust to coaching in the new NHL? He was fired after the first post-lockout season.

But you have to admit, it would make for some more interesting columns ...