Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cardboard Dreams

Over at Puck Daddy, Sean Leahy has come up with a fun contest for Photoshopped hockey cards. After the craziness this summer with their Bettman contest, this should wind up to being good for some laughs. Check out all of the details of this one here; the contest is running for another two weeks and you can win boxes of new cards if they choose your creation.

I luckily had a little bit of time last night so I got started on my submissions. Here's my first few, feel free to link yours in the comments:

29-18-4: Barely Beaten By The B's

All of the hockey reformists who demand more scoring need only to have caught today's 1-0 game between the Rangers and Bruins to change their mind. The Original Six matchup had end-to-end action, scoring chances, hitting and excitement throughout its three periods and was a delight to watch.

Sadly the Rangers came in on the wrong side of the final score but it was one of their better efforts this season. There is no shame in losing to the best team in the conference on their ice by one goal. None. It was a helluva hockey game and one of the most enjoyable this season (but of course, like the San Jose game, it was not on the Garden ice).

For those that missed the game, the Bruin website actually has a cool blow-by-blow account if you want to check out what happened.

*In the Peepin' Foes I mentioned that the Bruins would use their size to beat the Rangers and they did just that. The first period seemed like the Rangers were playing against their big brothers, just getting smacked away every time they went into the Boston zone. They stepped up in the second before a solid hit by Milan Lucic on the little Nigel Dawes allowed Dennis Wideman to get the shot that Marc Savard deflected for the first goal.

*Now on that goal, just how does Savvy get open? The Ranger defense has the bad tendency to allow the opposition's top scorers to get free in good positions time and time again. Buffalo's Chris Drury on the doorstep with 7.7 seconds left in the playoffs, Cindy Crosby in the last minute of the game multiple times since the lockout - and on and on - these guys are great hockey players, stick a body on them! Granted, if Dawes wasn't fumbling for the puck in his feet, it wouldn't have gotten to Wideman ...

*It is not like the Ranger power play is anything good, but for Tom Renney to sabotage it further than he already has with poor strategy and player choice is ridiculous. How in the world do you get a too many men on the ice penalty while you are on the power play?? Does he have any control back there? I know he rarely shows emotion, but is he even paying any attention? And why in the world would he suddenly start juggling lines late in the third period? It wasn't like his lines weren't getting chances; he should have been changing his strategy, not personnel.

*Perhaps I spoke too soon on the lack of injuries and possibility of seeing new acquisition Erik Reitz in a Ranger jersey. Dmitri Kalinin seemed to tweak his groin (too easy) late in the first period didn't come back after that. Nice timing. But if he is done for a while, let's hope the former Wild Reitz turns out better than Voros has. Perhaps his size will be a big help as the big Bruins D showed just how good a physically strong unit could be defending their netminder.

*While I still think that Petr Prucha deserved to play, Voros had his best game in months. He hustled and used his size to his advantage without taking dumb penalties or overextending himself.

*Shawn Thornton played a big role for the B's in the third period, showing that a good who can skate can contribute. Sadly Renney didn't respond and use his tough guy in Colton Orr at all. Orr didn't see the ice in the third period and played less time in the game than the injured Kalinin did. Instead we got to see the so-called skill players throw ineffective shot after ineffective shot towards the net and not follow up the rebounds. For the one time Zherdev missed on the doorstep, he was knocked away a dozen others and he deflected a good point shot away from the goal. Markus Naslund was completely ineffective and Scott Gomez used his wicked-fast speed to get in deep but couldn't connect on a single good pass. Oh, and he was terrible in the faceoff circle too, winning just three of his 17 drops. Mexican't.

*Uber hottie 21 year old Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone dropped the puck during the ceremonial faceoff. I really don't have much of a comment, I just wanted to mention it. She looks even better than she did in Beijing ...

*I had the opportunity to watch the game on NESN and have to say that Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley are miles beyond Sam and Joe. While Sam does a little bit of a better job than the homer Jack, the Boston boys have chemistry and it really does wonders for the watching experience. Not listening to Joe was truly terrific and it was refreshing hearing an analyst who actually knows what he is talking about and actually analyzes the play rather than mimicking the play-by-play guy.

*An aside: NESN had NHLPA head Paul Kelly on during the first intermission and the players are lucky to have a man as intelligent and well spoken as he is to head their union. Among the tidbits, he said that since the CBA issue is done for a while, they are going to focus on expanding the game to Europe with exhibition games and the World Cup and they are also going to take a look at the fighting issue - perhaps getting rid of 'planned' bouts. This game didn't have a single tussle and you didn't miss the fisticuffs but I still think they need to be a legal part of the sport.

*The Boston crew pointed out that there was a large number of Blueshirts in the Boston crowd and you could clearly hear 'Let's Go Rangers' chants throughout the game. Jack Edwards went so far as to say that there were "too many." Good work to you folks who made the trip!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.
2-Marc Savard - one goal.
1-Tuuka Rask - 35 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - Most of the Ranger scoring chances came through Cally's hard work. The kid showed no effects of the flu that sidelined him last game and came out of the gates flying.
2-Dennis Wideman - Wideman and Aaron Ward were rocks on the Boston blueline but Wideman gets the edge as he last-second lunge tipped away a gimme goal by Nik Zherdev miday through the third period.
1-Tuuka Rask/Henrik Lundqvist - Man, Toronto fans must be piiiiiiiiissed. The Leafs traded Rask away and if he continues to play like this, he will eventually be a superstar in this league. Rask, who was just called up from the A, was calm and collected under fire and looked every bit like the professional across the ice from him. Lundqvist didn't look anything like the goaltender who lost the game for the Rangers in Pittsburgh and was only beaten by the narrowest of margins.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Boston Bruins

The Rangers head up to Bahston tomara fah a tussle with the wicked new Big, Bad Bruins. Now if you know which Ranger squad will step on the Gahden ice - the one that played the first two periods on Wednesday or the one that played the third - give me a call, cause I want the lotto numbers.

Where We Are: Yesterday the Rangers traded a solid spare part in Dan Fritsche for minor thug defenseman Erik Reitz. But frankly, who cares? He is likely going to never see the light of day, especially if they continue to be the only team in the NHL without a player on the injury list. There is virtually no way Tom Renney will grow a pair and suddenly start holding Redden or Kalinin accountable for their incompetence after 50 games of egregious flubs. If he was willing to, Corey Potter proved he was more than capable of playing in the NHL and he has much more upside than Reitz, who gets his ass kicked more often then not.

Where They Are: Boston hasn't lost in regulation of their last four games and blew a tough one against the Devils on Thursday. They rallied from down 2-0 to go up 3-2, then Hepatitis Elias tied the game with less than two minutes left and Jersey won in overtime on a goal by our buddy Langenbrunner. The B's are still in first place in the East, 11 points clear of the Devils, and are 16 points clear of the Habs in the Northeast.

Who To Watch For: Man, that trade of Marc Savard for Jan Hlavac just looks worse and worse as years go by. Dealt on arguably the worse day in the last 30 years of Ranger history, Savard has gone on to become one of the premier playmakers in the NHL. Savvy was an entertaining All Star and has 59 points in 49 games this season. Young David Krejci is learning from him and is a dangerous, dangerous offensive threat. On the wings there are capable scorers in Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Mike Ryder and Cam Neely Milan Lucic.

What To Watch For: Lucic (6'4, 220), Wheeler (6'5, 214), Shawn Thornton (6'2, 209) and Byron Bitz (6'5, 215) to use their size and toughness to physically batter the physically incapable Ranger blueline to crash the net and get to Henrik Lundqvist. Hank, if you recall, was ran a couple of times in the first two periods of the Pens game before he utterly fell apart during the disastrous third.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Colton Orr do his job and discourage B's from playing the body. Hank to find his glove again, which I think the Pens tossed in one of the three rivers outside the Igloo.

Also Check Out: Hub Hockey - fan sites don't get much better than that. Two other good ones are Stanley Cup of Chowder and Cornelius Hardenbergh and the Hockey Blog Adventure.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Say It Ain't So Sam, Say It Ain't So!!!!!!

Probably my favourite blogger on the internet - with all due respect to Puck Daddy, Mirtle, Leahy and Schultzy - Sam Weinman is leaving the Ranger beat. As most of you know, I turn first to Sam's Rangers Report for breaking news and commentary. He always wrote with a fun, self-depreciating tone that always came from the heart and did something no MSM writer do - directly relate to us fans, perhaps because at heart Sam is a Ranger fan. As I've admitted, I have never really spoken to the man but after reading his daily work, I (and the rest of his followers) feel like we know him - a testament to his open, honest style.

While I used to read Carp's (his replacement) stuff years and years ago, and Zipay is still in action over at Newsday, this is a huge loss to the Ranger fanbase. First Dellapina, then Weinman. It is a tough day for Blueshirt journalism. But still, I have to offer my best wishes to him in his future endeavors ... even if they are in golf. Golf!

29-17-4: A Tale of Two Games

I wish I could make this up but I stayed late at work to watch the Ranger game and left right after the second period. I was taping the game at home so I figured I would watch it when I got in. Leaving work I thought 'wow, this may be the best-played game of the season, I can't even make fun of Redden.' So after commuting home, I threw the tape in and some interference made it unwatchable. As MSG+'s replay wasn't until 12:30am, I figured I would just check out the final box score and kill the suspense.


Well, I guess the band-aid theory is a good one - just rip it off and get a quick little pain, as opposed to slowly peeling it and drawing out the agony. For you folks who sat through it, I feel for you - I stayed up to watch the replay. For those that didn't, the Rangers fell apart in the third period and allowed a 1-1 game to turn into a 6-2 loss.

It was pathetic, it was disgraceful and it was more than enough proof that Tom Renney is not the man to get the Rangers to the Cup. As I have pointed out multiple times this season, this coach cannot motivate his players, makes imbecilic roster moves and cannot adapt to game situations. Sure he is nice, but a coach isn't supposed to be the players' friend, a coach is supposed to be a ruthless dictator who demands victory and is relentless in the pursuit thereof.

When a team is as infuriatingly inconsistent as the Rangers are, a change has to be made. Let's face it, you and I both know that the coach won't go but the topic deserves to be broached as this rollercoaster ride is making me ill.

Some notes:

*Was the Colton Orr vs. Eric Godard tilt off of the opening faceoff an ominous sign of things to come? Both goons traded solid punches for the majority of the bout before Orr faded and Godard beat him down to the ice. It certainly seems like a harbinger in hindsight as Renney stupidly put Orr out for the opening faceoff opposite Godard - a flaw in his gameplan. The risk/reward of the staged buffoonery simply wasn't worth it, especially on the road.

*Granted, as I said at the top, the first two periods of play were as good as any that the Rangers have played. Of course, their power play went 0-for-3 and they outshot the Pens 18-8 in the second period without scoring but that kind of thing has to be expected of this Ranger squad. Sadly now monumental collapses are also to be expected ...

*But hey, Aaron Voros got himself a point! Somehow Voros was awarded with an assist when Brandon Dubinsky's feed hit him in the back but hey, it will be something bandied about by Tom Renney when he defends the slow-footed, cement-handed idiot's place in the lineup. To include him on a team that has problems scoring is just foolish. When Callahan came down with the flu, there should have been a call made to Hartford to bring up either PA Parenteau (if he doesn't have to make it through waivers) or AHL All Star Artem Anisimov. Both of them are averaging a point per game - something NO Ranger is currently doing. Voros can't score, he can't fight - that's him getting knocked over by Cindy Crosby ... what can he do aside from collect the salary that my season ticket money is paying?

*Now this may be considered heresy but perhaps it is time for the King to rest. After the game Henrik Lundqvist told the AP that "I just lost my game in the third, totally, and that’s definitely not good enough." It isn't good enough and it isn't like this is the first time this has happened this season. Actually, by my count, it is the fifth. When you consider that Stephen Valiquette has had it happen just once and that one time was as much as the rest of the team's fault as it was his, perhaps it is time for Valley to get a few more starts - even on back-to-back nights.

*Jordan Staal's goal was a terrible goal for Hank to allow but the worse part of the play was watching Michal Rozsival give Staal several feet of room in the corner to make the play. He should have hammered him through the boards but Rozy isn't that kind of defenseman. Sadly, none of the Ranger blueliners are that kind of a defenseman.

*A crease-clearer perhaps would have also helped out on Wang-Tang Letang's first goal of the night as Hank was clearly distracted by Malkin wandering about the crease, allowing Letang to fire it past his glove. Letang's second goal wasn't much better as he forced Kalinin to turn over the puck then took advantage of the room Paul Mara gave him to fire another puck past the Ranger netminder. Another complete failure by the Ranger back end.

*Do you think it is coincidence that Redden and Kalinin were both in the penalty box when Sykora essentially iced the game with his second goal of the night (making it 4-1)? We have gotten spoiled as Ranger fans seeing Blair Betts and Chris Drury all too-often bail out the boys when they are down 5-on-3 but when you have a sniper like Sykora on the opposition, a goal is all but a given.

*Crosby's goal on the other other hand was pure luck. He had a ton of room and time to throw the backhand at the net (thanks for nothing Redden) and frankly, you could have beaten Hank with a beachball by that point of the game.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Petr Sykora - two goals.
2-Sidney Crosby - one goal and three assists.
1-Kris Letang - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Whitney - His injury, much like Gonchar's, will likely prove to be quite the boon for the Pens as he will be fresh for the playoffs. He grabbed two assists, blocked five shots and skated for 25 minutes - not a bad stat line for someone who has played a month.
2-Malkin - Yes Cindy came out of this one with four points but he wasn't as good as Gina, who seemed to continually press the Rangers deep into their end. Crosby has the flash, Malkin has the substance.
1-Jordan Staal - Talking to some friends a few months back I said the Pens ought to let Staal go. He had the sophomore slump and slow start this season but he proved tonight that he has the potential to be a top flight power forward.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

29-16-4: Back To Business

The Rangers returned to action tonight and weathered the Hurricanes, coming out with a close 3-2 victory. It wasn't all that pretty, there weren't a ton of highlights, but it was a good win. A team has to be thankful to beat the teams that they are expected to beat and Carolina is an intensely beatable team.

*That isn't to say that the Canes were devoid of talent. Aside from misplaying a rebound into the slot, Cam Ward did a helluva job for them. The Rangers often tested his lateral movement and smoothly moved post-to-post. Granted, he wasn't as good in this one as his opponent was. It seemed like Stephen Valiquette didn't face a single shot that wasn't tipped, deflected or redirected in the first period and on a regular basis throughout the remainder of regulation. And he turned his brain off and let his reflexes make the saves. Solid piece of netminding by the Ranger backup.

*For the first time in months, I will not call Scott Gomez the Mexican't. Sure he still can't win big faceoffs and he still can't come anywhere close to living up to his ridiculous contract, but he did score one impressive goal and did well in the final minutes to help blunt the late Carolina push for the equalizer.

*While I will give Gomez a nod, I still feel that Wade Redden is nothing short of useless. Redden is a better paid version of Dmitri Kalinin - who was soft and stupid by the way, as per usual. Where Kalinin is simply incapable of coherent play, Redden just doesn't seem to care enough. The two penalties he took were both needless and lazy and he was culpable on one of the two Carolina tallies. The official scorers and Mr. X from teh Blue Seats thought they saw something in his game tonight (he was awarded with five blocked shots by the generous scorers) but I just didn't see it.

*Where Redden was given time to feel shame, Voros managed to stay on the ice and continue his pointless lack of production. He came close to getting penalties in after-whistle scrums on several occasions and never came close to any kind of offensive contribution. Tom Renney can talk all he want about Voros' size but he has been incapable of using it productively for almost three months so what's the point? Petr Prucha must have slept with Renney's daughter to have been scratched in lieu of this oversized clown. It has been a terrible stroke of bad luck for prospect Dane Byers to have been injured so early in the season in Hartford or he would have supplanted Voros and the oversized former Wild player could be waived like Rissmiller and now Fritsche.

*On the subject of size, Colton Orr didn't have much of a role. The Canes don't have a tough guy (or any toughness judging by this game) so Orr didn't get very involved. His linemates, however, were nothing short of rock solid. Freddie Sjostrom and Blair Betts were fantastic killing penalties as per always and, if Orr can continue to progress, their unit could prove to be as good as Detroit's classic Grind Line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty - the line which held down the fort for several Stanley Cup winners.

*As remarkable as it sounds to me as I type this, Michal Rozsival was really quite good defensively for the Rangers. After months of outright imbecility in his own end, Rozy had himself a steady game, matching the low-key efforts of his partner Marc Staal. Marc didn't beat on his big brother Eric the way he does Jordan but he still had a good game.

*Did Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour play? This guy had been outright dominant for the Canes in recent years and barely saw him in this game (even though he assisted on both goals against). How the mighty have fallen. But on the same note, the man who wears the C for the Rangers wasn't particularly involved in this one but he gets a pass as his team came out triumphant.

*Is it me or is Nik Zherdev just thiiiiiiiiiiiis close to becoming a top flight player? Tonight he made a beautiful feed on the Dubi goal and had full control of the puck whenever it touched his stick. He also backchecked, which is just wonderful to see. But there is just something, something perhaps between his ears, that is keeping him from becoming the successful version of Alex Kovalev (the one that helped win the '94 Cup).

*The second period may have been devoid of goals and big saves or hits, but it may have been one of the most entertaining second periods in the Garden this season. The game opened up and featured nice passing and end to end action. Trippy.

*There was actually a guy in the next section over from me wearing a Henrik Lundqvist player tee from the All-Star Game. Why in the world would anyone want to commemorate his six-goals-on-21-shots second period in Montreal??

*Here is an interesting thought: with the essential demise of the Whalers, how could would it have been for the MSG music director to play Brass Bonanza at some point on this evening? That woulda been awesome. It amazes me how the guy/girl does such a bad job during the game (playing Chelsea club music at obscene levels during most breaks) and they do such a good job after the game - tonight they played The Scorpions "Rock You Like A Hurricane" (and they have played the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" after we beat the Devils).

*The Garden was half empty at the opening faceoff but filled out nicely. Unfortunately it filled with people who weren't all that pumped to see hockey, leading to one boring building. There was little energy and few chants - I don't think there was a single "Let's Go Rangers" that made its way all around the arena.

*Oh, and thanks to Lauri Korpikoski for making his way back into the arena. By sliding back into the lineup and scoring a goal after being senselessly subbed against Anaheim, he helped prove that Tom Renney is clueless when it comes to his lineup and he needs to leave things that are working alone. If it ain't broke ...

*And on a side note, I doubt I will be able to get to a Peepin' Foes for tomorrow's 7:30pm tilt against the Penguins. I'm sorry about that but I have a hunch work will be quite busy. All you need to know is that Cindy Crosby is likely to make a miraculous recovery from whatever injury it was he used as an excuse not to play in the All Star Game and is expected to face the Rangers. That means that the calls won't go the Ranger way and that the broadcasters will spent a significant amount of time bowing down to the Cole Harbour Queen.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.
2-Markus Naslund - two assists.
1-Scott Gomez - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gomez - This is painful but I have to give credit where credit is due. Did you see his goal? What a shot!! I still don't like him in the least, but I can appreciate beauty when I see it ...
2-Dubi - Not only did the kid had the game winner, he also went a remarkable 13-2 in the faceoff circle. Dubi is capable of dominating but he just needs to get all of the aspects of his game happening at once.
1-Stephen Valiquette - Valley has already proven himself worthy of more starts than he gets and continues to come through when actually called upon. It is nice to have at least one capable goaltender you can rely upon every night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Carolina Hurricanes

The Rangers return to action tonight after the All Star break. Three Blueshirts made it to Montreal, and one of them actually did well - Marc Staal. Henrik Lundqvist gave up six goals on 21 shots, Brandon Dubinsky spent a ton of time trying to set up his YoungStarteammates to no avail while Staal chipped in two goals for the sophomores in their loss. I always said he needed to be more involved in the offense ...

Where We Are: It really is hard to say as the team has been off for a week. All momentum is gone, both good and bad. These guys didn't play, they didn't practice until Monday ... this just sounds worse and worse.

Where They Are: That's the good thing - the Whalers are coming off of the same vacation. However, they had just one player at the ASG, Marc's brother Eric and he managed just one of the East's 11 goals (the second one). Granted, few of their other players deserved to make it. Rod Brind'Amour has been horrible so far this season (and is helping to kill several of my fantasy teams) and Cam Ward has been insanely streaky.

Who To Watch For: I guess Staal isn't so bad but keep an eye out for the strong Scott Walker, the slimy Sergei Samsonov and a personal fav of mine, Ray Whitney. Walker is a power forward (something we wish we had), Samsonov has an impressive tendency to pop up out of nowhere to score and Whitney is leading the Canes in scoring. He has been one of the most underrated players in the NHL for 1,023 games; he was San Jose's second pick in their first entry draft back in 1991!!

What To Watch For: I would say watch out for a slow start but the Rangers were horrible for the first 10 minutes of their game against the Ducks last week and look how that turned out ...

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Ranger special teams remaining special, Marc beating Eric in the battle of the Staals and Stephen Valiquette to get more goal support than he did the last time he started - the 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo back on January 9th. I was sick to my stomach that day and hopefully will escape this night without the projectile vomiting.

Also Check Out: Red and Black Hockey, Canes Country and Lord Stanley's Blog.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report for up-to-the-minute updates on our boys. He scared the hell out of me yesterday by saying that Renney wasn't going to change the lineup - leaving Voros and Fritsche in - but that proved to be incorrect information. *whew*

Sunday, January 25, 2009


After allowing six goals on 21 shots, do you think Henrik Lundqvist was wishing Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin were around to help him out a little?

Just wondering ...

C'mon Already ...

The woman who founded the Special Olympics is a wonderful, wonderful lady. But for Versus to waste a full intermission segment on a long-winded feature about her during the NHL All Star Game is a slight to the league. This is a "showcase" event for the NHL and Versus doesn't want to talk about hockey. It was bad enough that the lead-in for the game was a bicycling race, but this is ridiculous.

And Gary Bettman is happy with the league's partnership with them? Just how desperate is he?

Advice To File Away

Luckily next year we won't be subjected to the awfulness that is the Versus All Star Skills experience due to the Olympics, but here is some advice for the network (or, hopefully, their replacements) for the 2011 broadcast:

*The biggest thing is that less is more. Less replays, less camera angles, less graphics, less announcers.

*On that last note, Versus has gotten it right by mic'ing players. Marc Savard did a much, much better job giving colour and insight than Brian Engblom did. Engblom was completely useless and got in the way of Doc calling the action. One of the best parts of the skills is that the players are out on the ice actually having fun. Letting them talk actually shows that these guys have personality and only helps sell the game. Listening to Engblom does not.

*When players like Zdeno Chara do something wonderful - like putting up their own money to make their event more exciting and charitable - it is the broadcaster's job to tell you that it is happening but not after the fact. Listening to Engblom and Doc go back and forth trying to figure out how much money was actually given to Right To Play as Chara was getting the trophy was infuriating. It was probably the best story to come out of the night and it should have been bandied about throughout the telecast or at least previewed with a short feature interviewing the players involved.

*An aside - as a friend pointed out to me, it would be nice if the entire ASG was for charity. Like NHL players need the extra stipends? But while that would never happen, the league itself should partner with the NHLPA to at least put money on the line for the YoungStars exhibition. Any kind of motivation would be nice as the kids clearly were out there killing time playing a boring game of shinny.

*Speaking of the YoungStars, if the rules stay the same - running time, six minute periods - then the host broadcaster would do well to actually save the replays for the breaks. Yes, it is common sense but the production clowns at Versus clearly doesn't have any as they missed half of the action and several of the goals.

*Trying to be fancy with tons of cameras also ends up in lost action. Versus made the mistake in using unorthodox angles to show the breakaway competition. It's cool to see the ice-level action, but that is what replays are for. Using the usual high-center ice game angle to show the live action would show just how different or special these plays are compared to the normal run-of-the-mill shootout attempts.

*What happened to the pin camera inside the targets for replays in the accuracy competition? It was always cool to see the puck coming right at the camera. Or did McDonalds not allow that this year?

*For the hardest shot competition, a ice-level super-slo-mo camera would have been perfect to show the sheer power of the shooters. Here is a simple fact: things look cool in super slow motion. There is an entire awesome show dedicated to that on the Discovery Channel.

*Hire a professional to man the audio boards. Whoever Versus had did a terrible job jockeying the levels and us fans at home paid the price. The audio tech would jarringly open and close mics so you didn't really hear what was going on. During the intros, we caught the ovation for Vinny04 but missed most of the boos for Kaberle and the Bruins.

*Getting back to the announcer part, do you really need to have talent talking during the breakaway contests? Just so they can go "wow," or explain what you just saw? Why not just keep the arena and player mics on so the television feel like they are there? Like I need Engblom telling me, "look, he's using props" as Ovie puts on a hat? I can see that, thanks. I would rather hear the players on the benches asking 'what the hell is he doing now' or something to that effect.

*And this is more for the league than for the broadcaster, but enough with the live rock music. The players are the spectacle, as you can see from the pic at the top of this post. We don't need some random woman who can hardly sing butchering rock classics with some organist playing like he is in Amadeus.

But whatever, as I said, this is just some thoughts to file away as there will be no All Star Game next year. Instead we will get to see the best players in the game actually trying as they play for national pride in the Olympics. That will be great and you can be assured that NBC, who didn't want the ASG, will handle them better than Versus handled Montreal.

Sloppy Seconds

Saturday, January 24, 2009


That is the only way one can describe the All Stars skills broadcast on Versus right now. It may be the worst telecast of a sporting event I have ever seen, which includes the disgraceful display that Versus made with indoor lacrosse a few years back. The camerawork is poor, the directing is terrible, they are missing live action for bad-angle replays, they are not showing some replays, the ugly graphics promoting non-hockey garbage are everywhere, the announcers are doing a poor job (sorry Doc) ... wow is this awful.

If the NHL thinks they are going to sell the sport this way, they are sorely mistaken.

Killin' Time: Friday Night Edition

After staring blankly at my computer for a few hours trying not to write the same NHL-All-Star-Game-is-a-complete-waste-of-time piece, I figured I would revive the Killin' Time feature from this summer, which featured some random ramblings. So here are five thoughts on this late Friday night:

*On the All Star Game, with the suspensions (or non suspensions depending on where you read it) of Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom do you think this was a calculated move? Ken Holland is a well acknowledged hockey genius and before the season started had to know that some of his top guns would be selected to the ASG. So you think that he petitioned the NHL at the time to schedule Detroit's first game after the break against a perceived softie of a team in Columbus? Let's face it, before the rise of Calder Trophy contender Steve Mason, the Jackets were a joke (even with the offseason additions, and especially compared to the Wings). Hmmm ...

*Here is a terrible thought: What would happen if Henrik Lundqvist got hurt this weekend in Montreal? If anyone is up to build a lynch mob to storm the NHL Store to find Bettman, lemme know. And doesn't the pic of Gary to the right just say it all? Smug SOB.

*Even though it was not important enough to make the game story in the local paper, the Canadian rags are jumping all over the Klotz story from Philadelphia where an AHL player suffered seizures after being knocked out during a fight. The subject of fisticuffs in hockey has been a hot topic of late and with the big guns congregating in Montreal, Klotz going down certainly does not bode well for us fight fans. And that is especially so since it comes days before a game that, no matter how bad it really is, the NHL will hail as a complete success. And you can be sure that the heartless display of the league's greed will pass without a single bout. So if you can have such a 'successful' game without any fighting, why should they allow fighting regularly??

*While a lot of eyes in Montreal will be on West Islip's Mike Komisarek, I randomly came across a news tidbit about another Long Island native - goaltender Bobby Goepfert. Goepfert, a goaltender from Kings Park, has apparently left the toil of the North American minor leagues to join the Red Bulls in Salzburg, Austria. Yes, there is a hockey team named after the energy drink and yes, it is a professional organization. Best of luck to Bobby in his new world.

*And if any of you are betting folks, and are really hard up for stuff to lay your money on in this disgrace of a hockey game, take a look at the experienced mid-level stars for your MVP. Taking a look at prior MVPs - aside from Wayne and Mario - many of the players to take the honour came into the game with little to no expectations. The big stars usually have a ton of press commitments so the game is an after-thought and the young players are in too much awe to play their best, leaving quality players with some experience under their belts to rise up - guys like Briere and Staal the last two years, and Bill Guerin, Mark Recchi and Vinny Damphousse among others in years past. That being said, since I would hedge my bets, my picks are Shane Doan from the West and Marc Savard from the East ... enjoy the festivities!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Hate The Penguins ...

... But I have to tip my hat to them for this story.

There are some things that transcend rivalries and even the sport itself.

Great work guys.

(Credit to Puck Daddy for the find.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

28-16-4: Well Wasn't That Special?

For the first time this season, both of the Rangers special teams were actually special and they accounted for all four goals as the Blueshirts beat the Mighty Ducks 4-2 tonight. Two power play goals and two shorthanded goals gave the Rangers the edge over a bigger, more motivated Anaheim team in what proved to be a heckuva game to watch.

After an initial 10 minutes of hockey where the Rangers played like they did during Sunday's heartless shutout loss at the hands of the Penguins, the home side stepped up their play and put on a show for a surprisingly good Tuesday crowd at the Garden. The power play, which has been utterly terrible for much of this season, scored two goals by doing the things that get goals - shooting the damned puck and crashing the crease. Back on the other side of the ice, with Henrik holding his positions well, the penalty kill eliminated the advantage brought by two of the best defensemen in the NHL by stepping up to the shooters and forcing turnovers. It was, frankly, beautiful.

As a friend said after the game, this team is a tease. It is remarkable how they can get everything to click at times and how they can look so utterly disinterested and awful at others. That is a topic that I have addressed before and will likely return to many times throughout this season but not on this evening. Tonight, the Rangers earned themselves a pass on my questioning of the leadership. Well, except for Tom Renney. The Clueless Coach has absolutely no idea on how to build his roster or how to develop chemistry on it. The additions of Aaron Voros and Dan Fritche both backfired and Renney's ridiculous line rotations cannot be good for the health of the team. At one point, it seemed like he didn't ice the same line once as he revolved wingers like it was going out of style. But we won so he surely won't have learned his lesson. What a doubled edge sword that is ...

*Voros and Fritsche were added as an adjustment due to Anaheim's size. Neither one made an impact, at least a positive one. Voros did try his damnedest to work the crease but didn't succeed in anything except earning a few bad penalties. And he deserved more, going after guys after whistles, trying to act tough (which he shouldn't since he fights just as poorly as Dubi). As for Fritche, the former Blue Jacket's energy went to waste as he couldn't lay any good hits and he couldn't get through traffic - with one exception as he beat out an icing call. There is no way Renney, Glen Sather, or anyone for that matter could look at this game and say that Petr Prucha and Lauri Korpikoski would have done worse than their replacements. And the negative impact on their psyche of being canned despite playing hard nosed hockey every shift of every game they skated in cannot be measured.

*Stemming from that, the Rangers won this game playing their hockey. They can't play another team's hockey. That means that they shouldn't adjust their game plan entirely to match that of an opponent - they are built to play a certain way and when they get away from that, they get into trouble. They can't play "big" like the Ducks, they can't play puck possession like the Wings, they can't get into track meets with the Caps. The Rangers need to make it hard to get into their own zone, need to get Hank the time and space to do that voodoo that he does so well, need to score off of the rush and need to make man-advantages into advantages, not opportunities for the other team to score.

*But back to the positive and tonight's man advantages. Markus Naslund opened the scoring for the Rangers by twisting in the high slot and firing a shot through traffic. It was nice to see the Swede still playing - after many nights of nothing, Naslund seems to pop up once every few games to score a goal. I remember when he was a dangerous sniper who could score on any given rush. Ah, memories. The other power play tally came with him working the crease (as Voros was benched for being an idiot) and Mexican't Scott Gomez resurfacing to chip a loose puck in from the doorstep. Gomez had earlier earned a second assist on Naslund's goal, but second assists, for the most part, shouldn't count. He spent most of the game being marginalized by the big Duck defense but, seeing as he did score a goal and (to steal a phrase) "that's what you're paid for Braiden."

*The penalty kill unit has been the one steady strength of the franchise this campaign and the boys turned the tables and scored two shorthanded goals in this one. Freddie Sjostrom made a strong play inside the blueline and took off like a bat out of hell, bursting down the wing before firing a beautiful shot upper corner, far side past Jonas Hiller. And the other shortie came courtesy of Blair Betts, who forced a turnover with the team skating 4-on-6 and got the puck into the empty net to ice the game.

*As regular readers know, Bettsy is my favourite Ranger and he showed everyone the skills that have earned my adoration in this one (even in just nine minutes of ice time). Earlier in the third period he was out there killing a penalty and broke his stick. He kept his wits about him, tightened up his spacing and went on to block a shot that deflected out of the zone. The play earned a standing ovation from a good portion of the Garden crowd and deservedly so. If the Selke Trophy truly went to the best defensive forward in the NHL, Betts would be on the short list. An argument could be made that he is the most important Ranger not named Lundqvist and he certainly should be Glen Sather's first priority to re-sign as he becomes unrestricted this offseason. Say what you want about the possibilities held by Anisimov or any of the other kids, Betts has proven his worth in the Rangers zone and in the faceoff circle and all championship teams have a guy like that.

*The mighty mustache of George Parros didn't have an impact in this game, aside from beating Wade Redden flatfooted at one point. Sadly he and Colton Orr didn't dance but there was no lack of fisticuffs as Brandon Dubinsky got the edge over Drew Miller in a MMA submission match (earning a pat on his ass from his opponent) and Ryan Callahan got tossed around like a rag doll by Travis Moen after being slewfooted by the dirty Duck (thanks Mr. X for pointing out the cause, I had missed it).

*Something I did catch was a fantastic shift where Dan Girardi and Marc Staal combined to break up two Duck rushes. Staal had been unable to complete a change and got left out on the ice with Girardi and the two were great together. They knocked the puck away and got it right out of the zone both times. For all of Renney's incessant line juggling, these two kids haven't seen the ice together and after that shift, you have to wonder why. Aside from the thought that that would put the defensively lacking Redden and Rozsival together, the gain could be entirely worth it - not only for this season but going forward. Girardi hasn't been the same since Tyutin got shipped out since he seems to be trying to do too much to cover up for Redden's multitude of inadequacies. Putting him across from the strong Staal may be just what he needs to get his game going in the right direction again.

*It was an interesting choice by the Garden staff to follow up their new movie-quote montage with Dancing Larry but it seemed to work. The decision to follow the iconic scene from Network ("I want you all to get up ...") with Adam Sandler making a stupid voice saying 'Let's go Rangers' did not work. It almost seemed like he was making fun of us. Damn that Happy Gilmore.

*Stat of the night: Chris Pronger, 28:42 of ice time. Scott Niedermayer, 29:00.

*On that note, Orrsie got less than five minutes and yet he was the only Ranger who showed up to play from the start. He got scoring chances on each of his first two chances. Let me repeat that - Colton Orr got scoring chances on each of his first two shifts. Voros, who didn't get squat, skated for 12 minutes.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Scott Gomez - one goal and one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
1-Blair Betts - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Nazzy - I don't see how the Professional Hockey Writers chose Gomez over Naslund. I just don't get it. As I mentioned before, Gomez's assist was a gift while his goal came courtesy of Naslund's hard work in front of the net. And Nazzy's tally came on a perfect shot ...
2-Hank - As Mr. X from the Blue Seats mentioned to me, early on it looked like the Ducks were 'storming the beach at Normandy.' Hank held his ground and gave his team a chance to wake up and get into the game.
1-Bettsy - When he was re-signed the last time, I joked to a friend, "what do you think those negotiations were like? 'Hey Blair, want a contract?' 'Sure! Thanks!'" This time it won't go nearly as easily. His worth has gone up as more teams have seen how valuable his skill set truly is. Sign him now Glen, while you still can.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Hate You Glen

Peepin' Foes: Anaheim Ducks

The Rangers are back at the Garden for one of their four January home games Tuesday, a 7 p.m. face off against the Anaheim Ducks. It is the second (and last) time the two teams will meet; the Rangers won the first leg back in December, 3-1.

Where We Are: The Blueshirts are coming off of a 3-1-1 road trip that looks a lot better than it feels - primarily because of the bad taste the Rangers left in our mouths with a lackadaisical loss to the pitiful Pens on Sunday.

Where They Are: Anaheim is an astounding 20 points behind San Jose, their Pacific Division foes. They have lost four of their last six games, including embarassments to Tampa and L.A. but defeated the Devils last Sunday and the Minnesota Wild this Saturday.

Who To Watch For: Ryan Getzlaf always uses his size to his advantage when he faces the Rangers and with good cause - the Blueshirts are soft. If anyone other than Marc Staal ends up covering him, watch out. Bobby Ryan, a southern Jersey native who happened to be drafted after that Crosby crybaby, is averaging nearly a point per game. The kid has some serious skills and deserves recognition, even if he grew up a Flyer fan. Also, more under the radar, is Andrew Ebbett. Ebbett went undrafted after four years at Michigan (including a freshman season under Captain Jed Ortmeyer) and spent a few seasons in the AHL before the Duckies called him up in December. Ebbett has four points in his last five games and is even seeing some power play time.

What To Watch For: As I mentioned, the Rangers are soft so if the bigger Ducks play to their size, then Hank could find himself under seige. And while Anaheim is causing chaos, Corey Perry will pop up at opportune times to pot a goal or two.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers actually playing like they care - especially at home; what a nice change that would be. Chris Pronger managing not to elbow, step on or cheap shot anyone. A rematch of last year's heavyweight battle between Orr and Parros.

Also Check Out: MVN has On The Pond while the almighty Mirtle brought The Battle of California to SBN. There is also the Girl With A Puck and a good MSM Ducks blog at the Orange County Register.

As always, I recommend people check out Sam Weinman's Ranger Report. Apparently Dan Fritsche and Aaron Voros both practiced Monday, so don't be shocked to see either or both in the lineup - both are more bigger than Dawsie, Pru and the Korpedo and you know Renney is more than willing to bench his young players at whim ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

27-16-4: Puttering Out In Pittsburgh

The Rangers came into Pittsburgh today on a nice roll to play against a divisional foe who has been reeling of late and all-too-predictable fell flat on their faces. New York allowed themselves to be kept out on the perimeter and couldn't break the ice as they got shut out 3-0 by the Pens.

Perhaps there was too much emotion invested in the penalty-fest on Friday, perhaps afternoon starts don't agree with the players and their precious routines, perhaps this team just doesn't have the leadership to keep the team motivated game-in-and-game-out. It doesn't matter. The loss is in the books and the Blueshirts sullied what had been a stellar road trip with a vanilla loss to a injury-riddled team.

*Henrik Lundqvist should feel bad after this one. Allowing a light shot by an AHL nobody in Chris Menard to beat him over the shoulder is unacceptable, no matter how perfect the feed from former Ranger Petr Sykora. The play was telegraphed and Hank went down too soon. Then he didn't learn from his mistake and dropped to his knees again when Tyler Kennedy skated in alone and snapped off a shot to make it a 2-0 game.

*But perhaps Hank's shortcomings aren't entirely his fault. Thus far this season he has shown an inability to get rolling for long periods of time and after three great starts, why should he start an afternoon away game against a lesser opponent? This would have been a perfect opportunity to get the capable Stephen Valiquette a start and allow Hank some rest before starting against the tough Ducks at home on Tuesday.

*How is this for curious decisions: the NBC production staff decided to put the talent on camera to talk about the state of the Rangers instead of showing a replay of the first penalty of the game, a legit two minute hook by Chris Drury. After the controversy around the officiating on Friday - which they had already talked about - the network should have felt obligated to show the call instead of giving Eddie O cameratime.

*Speaking of replays, they showed two of the Menard goal and both were cut so tightly that you couldn't actually see what happened. You would have thought that NBC would had shaken off the rust with the Winter Classic ...

*I guess kudos are in store for the Rangers not to retaliate to the big hit on Rozsival in the first period, as the goonery surrounding checking lately has reached preposterous levels. But at the same time, why didn't someone take a run at Whitney or Crosby the next shift? Credit to Colton Orr for chasing down Crosby the next period and goading him into a penalty. It is not pretty, it doesn't mesh with the Code, but the league has taken the code out of the players' hands so who says they have to abide by it? That isn't to say that they should run around and cheap shot (or run the goaltender like Matt Cooke did), but targeting the top players and get them off of their games is good hockey. Esa Tikkanen made a career out of it.

*When big, slow, dumb Eric Godard is blocking your shots, there is something wrong. Wade Redden is a disgrace.

*The Crosby dive to get a penalty shot was classic Cindy - undress a defenseman (Redden, of course), then fall down like you are shot when a stick touches you from behind. Just how does his feet fall out from under him when there is a hook to his midsection?

*They don't make them all that swift in Pittsburgh, huh? Late in the second period they showed Steeler fans in the crowd posing for the cameras holding up Terrible Towels and one of them was upside down. SMRT.

*I like Pierre McGuire. He is interesting, intelligent and well spoken - even if I disagree with some of his opinions. His observation late in the first that the Rangers were giving the Pens too much space was spot-on. Getting solid analysis is a refreshing change from the buffoonery we are usually force fed by Joe Micheletti.

*At the same time, when Doc made the joke that "you feel shame when you sit in the penalty box" Eddie O replied "Thank you Mr. Dunlop." Major, major negative points for for that. The original line in Slap Shot was by Denis Lemieux!! No wonder Olczyk got fired from coaching, HE DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HOCKEY. That was exemplified later in the period when Eddie called the Mexican't Gomez one of the Rangers "top players."

*Gomez really is selfish fool. He was on the ice to kill a penalty in the third period and he started challenging Philippe Boucher to a fight. In the Pens zone, while the puck is headed back into the Ranger end. Tell me why he has that letter on his jersey again?

*Why don't the Rangers forecheck? Paul Mara and Dmitri Kalinin looked terrible allowing Petr Sykora to slip in and score the Pens third goal, but if there was a body on Ryan Whitney, then the defenseman wouldn't have had the time and space to spot the perfect pass up-ice ... just like McGuire said earlier, but didn't point out at the time of the goal.

*And another question for you: when you have a 4-on-3 power play with Crosby and Malkin in the penalty box, why wouldn't the Rangers have three forwards and a defenseman on the ice? Putting both Rozy and Redden out there is a piss-poor move by Renney, especially when you are being blown out 3-0. Redden has one power play point in his last 23 games, just what is he going to do out there?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Minard - one goal.
2-Petr Sykora - one goal and one assist.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 33 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tyler Kennedy - I have always liked this kid because he hustles and he did in this game. When he is on, like in this game, he is disruptive with his energy and relentlessness. And his release on the goal was purty.
2-Jordan Staal - Was there a shift when the Pens were deep in the Ranger zone when Staal wasn't on the ice? He was all over the place, on the power play, on the penalty kill ... for the first time in a while, he won the battle of the Staals.
1-Sykora - I never understood why the Rangers got rid of him. Sykora is a solid sniper who is a capable puck handler and is responsible defensively - exactly what the Rangers could use (among other things).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Pittsburgh Penguins

The NBC season gets underway Sunday as the Rangers face the Penguins at 12:30 in Pittsburgh.

Where We Are: Whether you agree with me or not that the penalties that were called in Chicago yesterday were fair, there is no disputing that the Rangers played one helluva game to escape the Windy City with a 3-2 win. That makes three victories in a row, all on the road. Not too shabby.

Where They Are: Marc-Andre Fleury has finally proven that he is a fraud, so the Pens just picked up Mathieu Garon from the Oilers. There is no word on if he will start on Sunday just yet so keep an eye on Goalie Post for the lastest news. Outside of the crease, it seems like half of the Pens roster is hurt. The Pens homepage updated their injury situation this afternoon, and apparently we will get away without having to face the thug Brooks Orpik but the Cole Harbour Crybaby Crosby will be back in action. It's a nationally televised game, of course the limelight lover will miraculously get healthy in time to play ...

Who To Watch For: Matt Cooke put together a two goal performance in the last Pens game, a 3-1 win over the Ducks. Miro Satan, as always, steps his game up against the Rangers and that Gina Malkin sure is something when the Blueshirts are on the other side of the ice.

What To Watch For: If you thought that the ice was slanted towards Chicago on Friday, just wait for this one as there is no way that the refs will let anyone touch Cindy with the 'world' watching.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: I will continue to pray for a Staal vs. Staal bout at center ice, but since that isn't likely to happen, how about a nice blowout performance? The Pens are reeling ... of course that makes them more dangerous but they simply are not a top-tier team this season and the Rangers are attempting to prove that they are. So let's prove it already.

Also Check Out: Empty Netters, which is the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's stellar link-happy blog, the recently-relocated snarky photoshop-heavy awesomeness of The PensBlog, SBN's Pensburgh and with Sean Leahy selling out moving to Puck Daddy full time, Going Five Hole has gone the way of the dinosaur. Happy trails my friend.

And, as always, head over to Weinman's Ranger Report and Zipay's Blue Notes. Zipay is saying that Dan Girardi is good to go for tomorrow after yesterday's tilt with Cam Barker.

27-15-4: Windy City Win

Putting the tape into the VCR tonight, I expected to sit back and enjoy a hockey game. Who knew it would lead to a crisis of faith? The 3-2 overtime win over Chicago had both extremes. Moments like Brandon Dubinsky's goal and the two minute five-on-three kill to end the first period had me out of my seat, beaming. On the other side of the coin, watching Rozy chasing after the ref to complain and seeing Tom Renney showing emotion for seemingly the first time ever as he bitched and moaned had me ashamed to be a fan.

And being forced to listen to that jerk Joe Micheletti call it just made things worse. Let's face it, as the replays showed, every call that the refs made was legit. That simple. Where the Blueshirts were smarter in their previous three games, they were sloppy here and deserved to be whistled for every minor in this one.

While I agree that there should be a "let them play" mentality, it doesn't happen most of the time in the post-lockout NHL during the regular season - no matter how many times you point out that 'there is a big crowd in Chicago on a Friday night.' Micheletti's job is to analyze the game, not to step on a soapbox.

That's my job.

*The idiotic new tendency among NHLers to fight after fair hits continued tonight. After Dan Girardi hit Kris Versteeg in the second period, Cam Barker immediately came over to challenge Girardi and the Ranger defenseman accommodated him. Barker got an extra penalty and the Blueshirts shockingly took advantage of it, but why? Why would Girardi throw down his gloves? To defend his fair hit? Why let some bum draft bust threaten your livelihood for no reason? I don't get it.

*Among the second period penalties was a 10 minute misconduct to Marc Staal. We never fully saw why he got it, but it was great. As Renney is too much of a softie to ever lay the stick, the kid essentially got benched after playing a period and a half of immature hockey - chasing after pucks, chasing after players, taking lazy penalties ... Staal didn't have his head in the game and got punished. While one didn't beget the other, the result was a good one and at the end of the night it looked like the lesson was learned as Staal simplified his game and played smarter.

*What. A. Goal. Lauri Korpikoski draws everyone to him as he drifts deep down the wing and swings the puck back to Brandon Dubinsky in the slot for a slam dunk to make it a 2-1 game. Wow. Our Finnish phenom made a remarkable rush and perfect pass. Someone find Khabibulin's jock, it was last seen floating away in Lake Michigan.

*Skate, pull up, pass. Skate, pull up, pass. Skate, pull up, pass. Skate, pull up, pass. I hate you Scott Gomez. And the second intermission interview where he managed both to cry about the penalties and be rude to John Giannone? Heartless, self-serving Mexican't. As I've said, that A on his chest doesn't stand for Assistant Captain.

*His overpriced compatriot, Chris Drury, lived up to his letter on this night. Aside from playing a huge part in the penalty kills, Drury came through in the overtime to tip Wade Redden's soft shot past the Bulin Wall to win the game with his second goal of the night. This is one of the few occasions where the fact that Drury has no personality paid off. Had he been the fiery type, he likely would have emulated his coach and gone nuts over the penalties. Instead he stayed grounded, kept plugging and came through.

*Redden, I guess, also deserves some credit. Not much, but some. He did throw the puck on net instead of passing it away so that's a good thing. Of course, it helps bring him up to par after he didn't cover Jon Toews on the Hawks' first goal of the night, but after so many nights when all he does is hurt the team, we have to be thankful for an evening like this.

*If I was a Chicago fan, man would I be pissed. Just one power play goal? You want to give due to the Rangers kill, but at some point, you have to wonder what is wrong. Then again, if I rooted for the Hawks I would have been giddy over the performance of some of the guys, like Dustin Byfuglien (strong like bull) and James Wisniewski (he was everywhere! 28:23??).

*It was cute having the Rangers dads hanging around and having a good time, but it is long past time that the Blueshirts honour the hockey moms. Say what you want about how the dads gave them their love for the game, the moms were likely the ones making sure they had a clean jersey and a good meal and got them to the rink on time.

*For all of those Nik Zherdev defenders out there, if Z wasn't a one-dimensional player, he would have actually played a part in this game. All of the league's greats play in all situations. Z is not, and likely never will be, one of the elite.

*And I have always been quick to defend Freddie Sjostrom but find myself lacking ammunition in this one. Did Sjo even play? Colton Orr was on the ice just more than half the amount of time that Sjostrom was and he was noticeable every shift ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
2-Brent Seabrook - one goal.
1-Chris Drury - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mara - 26:59 of ice time, an astounding 8:21 of it on the kill. And he is the Rangers fifth defenseman?? The lumberjack has been the Paul Bunyan of the blueline all season and tonight just showed how huge he could be.
2-Dru - The two power play goals were certainly nice but his work on the penalty kills just cannot be underestimated. Where Gomez couldn't clear the puck out time and time again, it was Dru who helped recover the puck and get it out.
1-Hank - An old hockey adage says that the goaltender is your best penalty killer and the King was. As the players in front of him lost their composure, he was calm and cool and skated off with a win. All hail.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Chicago Blackhawks

Damnable fate! The Rangers are in Chicago tonight to play the Blackhawks, just two weeks after I left the Second City. Apparently the atmosphere is back in the United Center and the Blueshirts will battle the Hawks before more than 20,000 bandwagon fans. Sorry about the delay folks, I had this started and just finally got a chance to finish it off.

Historically: The Rangers have played Chicago more than any other team in the NHL besides Boston and are 234-241-98-1. Recent history had the Rangers come home from Prague to open the Garden against the Baby Hawks with a nice 4-2 win.

Where We Are Now: The Rangers are coming off of two straight close wins against bad teams.

Where They Are Now: They are also coming off of two straight wins and are just seven point behind the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division with three games in hand. Who'da thunk it??

Who To Watch For: Kane, Toews, Campbell, Havlat, Sharp, Versteeg ... pick your poison. A lotta scary good, young talent out there. And they have that idiot goon Ben Eager to run around and protect them, while Adam Burish rides shotgun.

What To Watch For: Redden and company falling apart, specifically on the power play where the Hawks speed will surely cost us a shortie or two.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Future Blue looking better then the Baby Hawks and Eager getting a beating at the hands of the mighty Orr.

Also Check Out: Second City Hockey, Third Man In, the Fifth Feather and the greatly named Ghost of Ed Litzenberger.

And, as always, head over to Weinman's Ranger Report. I have been asked if I know him personally and the answer is no, the dude just does a bang-up job ...

I Don't Get Why They Hate Him So ...

The Store is having a big sale and check out one of the first results on the list, right behind useless Prague merch that didn't sell ...

A Light Is Turned Off In The Bronx

I don't like baseball. It is long, it is boring, it is made up of overpaid babies who rarely play every game in a season, even though the actual work that they do in a game is minimal. And thus I rarely pay attention to the sport and certainly don't waste my team reading blogs about it. However, glancing at Deadspin today, I saw that they offered their condolences to those that knew and were close to a Yankee blogger who passed away, Todd Drew.

Drew, a 42 year old diehard fan of the pinstripes, lost his battle with cancer Wednesday night.

He maintained Yankees for Justice which seems like a solid blog. But what I really would love for you to read is this piece he guest-wrote over at the Journal News site just over a year ago. It was truly a brilliant article about baseball and the Bronx but it really shows how sports and our society are intertwined, and wonderfully so.

RIP Mr. Drew.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

26-15-4: Yep, Potvin Sucks

According to a friend of mine, let's call him TrottierFan#1, roughly 40% of the fans at Nassau Mausoleum tonight were rooting for the away side. When asked why it was that the minority was so loud with the chanting, he pointed out that it's "easy to be louder when your team is better and winning."

I like that.

Well, the Rangers were better and they won, 2-1. Was it a resounding victory? Absolutely not. But the Blueshirts looked like a better team that just barely edged out these same Isles 5-4 last month. Now is that because they played down to the Isles' level? Or the Isles played up to theirs?

My guess is the former but I'd bet on the latter.

*Much like his teammates, Hank was good but not great. He was beaten at least twice (one post) and rarely had to make a highlight save. His positioning in his last three wins has pretty much ensured that. As he said in the postgame on Saturday, he is "keeping the puck in front" of him and that means the world.

*Is there any wonder that the power play goal that the Rangers scored the game winner on came off of the rush by the young, dynamic power play unit? The unit that stands around passing incessantly nearly gave up a shorthanded goal on several occasions this evening ...

*While I won't attack the Mexican't for his role in the power play fallacies (tonight), I was going to harp on his lazy offensive zone penalty. However, he did make it back to par by setting up the equalizer by Chris Drury. Gomez knocked down a poor clearing pass and dropped it to Drury, who perfectly threaded it through an Islander defender and past Danis to tie the game at one. That's what you're paid for, Braden!

*Five of Drury's 29 points came in his four games against the Islanders. It is great he steps up his game against the evil Isles, but for his salary, he needs to expand that success to teams that aren't headed for the draft lottery.

*What a disgrace of an opening goal against. First Blair Betts loses a defensive zone faceoff, then the Rangers - specifically Wade "In and Drown" Redden - stood around while the Islanders threw the puck on net and finally scored through a Colton Orr screen.

*Al Trautwig interviewed Redden during the first intermission and he didn't ask the question most burning in Ranger fans hearts - "Wade, do you feel like a crook, stealing the Rangers money?" Instead he asked if Redden thinks he is playing better now and, of course, Wade said yes. Clearly.

*For the Ranger fans, seeing Joey Mac go down will likely prove to be bad thing. It sounds good, but it isn't. Prior to the game they were courting former Ranger killer Wade Dubielewicz and you can only imagine that they will double their offer now. As for the injury, I still have no idea where that "strained groin" came in considering he barely reached for the puck on the play they kept showing on MSG.

*Correct me if I am wrong, all of that talk about Mike Dunham getting his gear to back Danis up was pointless, because Dunham could never have gotten in the game. You can't add someone to your roster once the puck drops, can you??

*It was nice of the MSG guys to put together a clip reel showing Tim Jackman running around hitting people heading into the second period. They neglected to include him dodging Orr's challenge by the Isles bench. The instigator rule gets players hurt. That simple.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 33 saves.
1-Nigel Dawes - game-winning goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - Another big strong game from the big strong kid. He is finally playing like he did at the start of the season and just needs to start converting the chances he is getting around the net.
2-Chris Drury - There is something to be said about someone who steps up his game against rivals, especially the rival I loathe most.
1-Ryan Callahan - Brooksie may be talking about re-signing Z, but if the Rangers let this kid go this team will be so very much worse. When Pru was on the bench and Dawsie and Dubi were ineffective, it was Cally who kept his feet moving and contributed where he could. The kid is a bowling ball on most shifts and he is seeing the ice better each game; his potential has yet to be reached.

Just Make Him Stop!

As the Rangers prepare to play the Isles, the beat writers have decided to pick up on the story that RFA-to-be Nik Zherdev and the Blueshirts have begun negotiations for a new contract.

Unfortunately the "him" in my headline is not Nik Zherdev. It's Glen Sather.

Giving Glen the ability to negotiate contracts, especially long-term deals, is like giving the keys to a 95 year old man who can't see over the steering wheel. He may have once had the ability to drive, but that day has long past and now he can't even see the road.

Talking to Z is a lot more reasonable than, say, handing a six year deal to an underachieving 31 year old defenseman who was ran out of his last city. But the only thing that mercurial Zherdev has proven thus far in his tenure as a Ranger is that he is unreliable. To hand a player like that a long term deal is simply dangerous. Yes, Z could turn into a game-breaking skill forward like Ilya Kovalchuk. He could also get bored of the NHL in a year or two and run home like Alexei Morozov. Or he could simply turn into an albatross around the neck of the Rangers like ... I donno, Scott Gomez.

Big money, long-term contracts should be reserved home grown products who have bright futures. They should not be handed to players heading into the downside of their careers (Redden), players who have never averaged a point per game (Chris Drury), players who have no heart (Gomez) or players who were other teams' problems (Z).

While the thought of allowing a player with Z's talent slip away is a little saddening, as an RFA the Rangers would get draft picks in return. Then again, if he would be so inclined to come back on a one or two year stint at a reasonable rate then, sure, bring him back. But to just throw cash blindly at players of dubious talent/character/motivation is just foolish.

Glen, please, put the pen down and step away from the desk. Slowly, slowly, slowly ...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

The Rangers will return to the Mausoleum tomorrow to take on Gordon's Fishermen. Zipay is already reporting that DP will be out for the Isles, while Hank will get another start for the Blueshirts.

Where We Are: The Rangers played back-to-back games on the road Friday and Saturday and came away with three points. That's pretty good. They played boring, defensive we-can-win-in-regulation-but-if-it-goes-to-an-OT-or-a-shootout-we-are-fine-with-that-too hockey which the Rodent believes will be the start of a trend.

Where They Are: The Isles are limping in after losing four straight road games. Had they not put five shots on net in the second period of the opener against Phoenix, perhaps they wouldn't have lost there, and they probably got screwed out of at least point in Edmonton on a kicked goal, But it couldn't have happened to a better team ...

Who To Watch For: Richard Park is always dangerous against the Rangers, especially with their tendency to give the puck up in bad spots on the power play. Kyle Okposo has also been on a tear with eight points in his last eight games.

What To Watch For: See if the Rangers can keep this up-tempo, low-risk hockey up against a team that is desperate for a win, especially one against their rivals. Also see which Hank shows up - the one who stopped 60 of 60 shots against the Pens and Sens, or the one who missed five of 24 against Montreal. He gave up four to the Isles at the Garden last time, making it waaay too close for comfort.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: In a word? Domination.

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 and Steve Zipay's Blue Notes for up-to-the-minute updates on the Blueshirts. And, if you didn't grab it last time, 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)

Sunday, January 11, 2009