Friday, February 27, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Quebec Nordiques

Saturday night's game will be on Channel 11 here in New York, a throwback to the days when the Rangers were on local broadcast television. It is a nice touch, but it is no National Hockey Night.

Where We Are: Life at the Garden is same as it ever was.

Where They Are: Moved to Colorado. What kind of crap is that?

Who To Watch For: Their roster still has the names Stastny, Sakic and Foote on it more than a decade after the move. Unreal. Granted, it is Peter Stastny's son Paul, Joe Sakic has gotten so old and senile that he can't work a snowblower and Adam Foote screwed over the Columbus Blue Jackets - a team that didn't exist while there was hockey in Quebec - to come home and use Denver's altitude to avoid the ravages of his advanced age.

What To Watch For: A complete lack of the brilliant combination of speed, grit and flair that marked so many of Quebec's best teams. Ugly jerseys that don't even have a single fleur de lis on them.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The franchise to move back to Quebec City. Chris Drury to show up to play against the team that drafted him in the third round of the '94 draft. A good old time tussle or two.

Also Check Out: Quebec Nordiques Preservation Society and Quebec Nordiques Legends for the real team, Mile High Hockey, All Things Aves and my personal favourite Jibble Scribbits for the current pretenders.

31-24-8: More Of The Same

Ugh, do I really have to go over this one? Blah, blah, blah, more of the crappy same play, blah, blah. Some glimpses of John Tortorella's influence were shown during the Ranger 2-1 loss but they were just as ineffective as the Ranger offense was. The defense jumped up when they could, the fourth line barely played and the Rangers ventured into the tough scoring zones more often. But they missed the net wide on open shots from the wing, missed mostly-empty nets and were 0-3 on the power play, including a disgraceful 5-on-3 opportunity.

If the Rangers score on that at the start of the third period, then they probably win the game. If Ryan Callahan puts the puck in on his wide open second period breakaway, then they probably win the game. If Brandon Dubinsky's goal in the first minute counted, then they probably win the game. But none of the above happened, so they definitely lost. Again.

Frankly, it is not a big deal to have Florida pass the Rangers in the standings, the Panthers pretty much assured themselves of a playoff spot when they let Olli Jokinen go last summer. The big deal is that the Rangers couldn't score and didn't even earn a point in a game they led for 44 minutes and 16 seconds. The big deal is that the Sabres and Hurricanes went to a shootout so each of them earned points to draw within one (and Buffalo has a game in hand). And now that Cindy Crosby has a shooter alongside him in Chris Kunitz, the Pens are sure to make a run so New York's playoff position is becoming quite perilous.

Well, some randomness from the Garden:

*It took until late in the third period for people to finally start chanting - "FIRE SATHER!" with me. Is that how long it took for them to realize that the current state of the team wasn't Renney's fault?

*Craig Anderson looked terrible flopping around the Florida crease and the Rangers made him look like Dominik Hasek.

*By my rough count, Markus Naslund's goal was his fifth this season where the puck happened to hit off of him and go into the net. I mean, it is nice for someone in a Ranger jersey to actually score, but it would be nice to see a skill goal for once. And two sloppy, stupid penalties? What is wrong with this guy?

*What ever happened to Chris Drury's skills? Dru looked lost out there and yet he continues to get prime ice time on the special teams.

*As I said during the game, will Aaron Voros please put himself out of my misery? What a waste of a jersey.

*How do the Rangers dominate in the faceoff circle 37-18 and yet still seemed to be on their heels half the game?

*Wade Redden had a good game. There, I said it.

*Michal Rozsival did not. Rozy can't keep the puck in the damned zone and never plays the body. Sounds a lot like what we used to say about his former partner Marek Malik ...

*A Bronx Tale was a helluva movie and the best line from it was "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent." The writers could have been watching Nik Zherdev.

*I don't envy Henrik Lundqvist. Hank played a solid game, gave up one good goal and one bad goal and yet his team still loss. It can't be good for his psyche to know that his best still isn't good enough to get a win.

*I really, really hope the Rangers don't trade Blair Betts next week but I won't be shocked if they do. Betts is rock solid and dirt cheap and a unrestricted free agent after this season. I will probably expand on this more in a trade deadline primer next week but it ran through my mind this evening. It would be sad to see him go.

*It is great to finally see Dan Girardi alongside Marc Staal but it is an absolute shame that it comes with the two playing some of the worse hockey of their young careers. If Staal plays the body instead of stick checking, Florida doesn't score the game-winner.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Markus Naslund - one goal.
2-Nathan Horton - one goal.
1-Craig Anderson - 40 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - Dubi played his best game in months. Of course, he didn't score (at least one that counted) but he was one of the few Rangers who pressed the action.
2-Horton - He is finally turning into that top line center that Florida has hoped he would be since he was drafted third overall in that ridiculously wonderful 2003 draft - one ahead of Nik Zherdev and nine before Hugh Jessiman.
1-Jay Bouwmeester - Bouwmeester played half the game, literally - 29:58. He is a big kid who never seems to panic under duress and makes smart, quick passes to jump start the Panther rush. He's good.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Florida Panthers

Nothing like getting right back on the horse, is there? The Rangers can't dwell on how much they screwed up John Tortorella's debut because they are back in action Wednesday night against Florida at the Garden.

Where We Are: Not in a very good position, especially since Tom Renney is finally realizing now how he screwed up. Too little, too late.

Where They Are: Including the Panthers 2-1 win over the Rangers Feb. 13th, they have gone W-L-W-L-W-L. Following that pattern, we're screwed. But, if it is of any help, after beating the Bruins 2-0 on Saturday, the Panthers last game was a 6-1 slaughter at the hands of the B's on Tuesday when big Byron Bitz made them his bitch and got vengeance for the loss with two goals of his own. Tomas Vokoun, who had played nine straight games, actually rode the bench for that one so odds are good he will be in the crease across from Henrik.

Who To Watch For: Stephen Weiss regularly does well against the Blueshirts, Nathan Horton is growing into a No. 1 center (finally) and David Booth is a dangerous sniper. But the main guy to watch is Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester is a stud and will trigger a huge bidding war this summer if the Panthers don't re-sign him. There is all sorts of talk about him being dealt at the deadline but I can't imagine Florida will do it, not when they have a playoff spot all but wrapped up.

What To Watch For: Another effort like that in Toronto where some players don't try, some players try hard and others try too hard. Bad habits don't just go away.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: More ice time for Colton Orr, Scott Gomez to manage to not cause a single offside all game long (haha), Wade Redden to keep his scoring streak alive and Markus Naslund to keep the gloves on.

Also Check Out: On Frozen Pond (not the fantastic Caps one, this is a good MSM one by a Miami Herald writer who writes from his heart and loves the game) and Litter Box Cats over at SBN.

31-23-8: No Change, Not Yet

The John Tortorella era began tonight in Toronto and it looked a lot like the Tom Renney era - a lot of totally random lines, a lot of missed passes and a lot of turnovers. And it ended in much the same way, losing to a worse team 2-1 in a shootout.

During the first intermission Pierre McGuire said that New York Ranger fans had to like what they saw in the first period and I know I wasn't all that impressed. I didn't see anything different then what I saw in Sunday's first period. A few players played hard and smart, others played soft and dumb and no one scored. The game went on pretty much just like that and the Rangers again escaped with a point they didn't deserve. Sure they made it past an overtime penalty this time but the three pathetic excuses for shootout attempts washed away any positive from that.

There certainly was a little more puck pressure than there had been in previous games (did I notice actual forechecking??) but the Rangers still could not outplay a team that had far less talent then they did. They were outworked by a younger, hungrier squad and it showed. Tomorrow should be just as scary, but as I said before, I'm giving Torts a free pass until the Islander game.

More on this one:

*Wade Redden, shooting? Wade Redden, scoring? Wade Redden, scoring on the power play? Wow. I don't know about you but my mind is blown.

*Good thing Rozy was his usual poor self, otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with myself. For every good play he makes, he screws two or three up. Remember when he was our No. 1 defenseman? I do. Now he is four, at best.

*Thank you NHL Network!! If you invested in the premium channel you were able to watch their telecast of the TSN feed of the game. It was *awesome* listening to the Canada crew instead of Joe Micheletti. There was intelligent, insightful analysis for once; wonderful!! Of course, it wasn't wonderful to hear McGuire give Bruce Driver a Cup he didn't earn (incorrectly saying he was a Ranger in '94) but with the amount that that guy talks, he is sure to say something stupid once in a rare while. With Micheletti, it is constant.

*Then again, TSN spent time talking about how wonderful Ryan Callahan was playing but it was his weak stick check that allowed Nik Hagman to score the equalizer. He was sitting high and just waved his stick at Hagman after the Leaf got out from under Marc Staal. If Callahan lays the body, Hagman doesn't get the shot off. It all goes back to what I've been saying for months and Tortorella said earlier - the Rangers have to act, not react. I would have expected better from Cally.

*Why fix something that isn't broken? The one constant this season has been the good work of the penalty kill and Tortorella decided to switch it up, changing the personnel around. The only reason I can think for him to do that is for the sake of his own ego and if that is how things are going to be during his tenure, we will be in trouble.

*In the postgame presser Tortorella said that he thought the Rangers looked tired in the third period and I don't know about that. As I said up top, I just think they were outworked by a team that cared more than they did.

*Was it me or were there a lotta empty seats down low at the Air Canada Center? It certainly seemed like there were wide swaths of missing yuppies.

*Why wasn't the second period Ponikarovsky hit on Freddie Sjostrom boarding or charging? He lined him up and hit him on the numbers. I am all for that kind of play, but how a hit like that can get Ryan Hollweg suspended and it isn't even two minutes for Pony is stupefying. Yes, I know Holly was an idiot, but a dangerous play is a dangerous play no matter which moron is making it.

*Speaking of morons, the Mexican't side of Scott Gomez made an appearance. McGuire spent half the game pointing out every single mistake Gomez made, and there were alot of them. If it took a first round draft pick, would you trade it and Gomez to Florida for Jay Bouwmeester? I would. (They probably wouldn't.)

*On the other hand, Chris Drury had a pretty good game. This was the kind of night he should have, being as he can't score. Drury worked the crease, battled for loose pucks and led all players with five blocked shots.

*Colton Orr was given three more minutes then he was on Sunday and he made the most of them. The big man was a physical force who made smart plays with the puck and got a few scoring chances. Despite getting less time than any other Ranger, he still led the Blueshirts with four hits (tied with Cally). I continue to be dumbfounded why he doesn't get more opportunities to play.

*At the same time, I wish I could be surprised at all of the opportunities Markus Naslund gets and wastes. The former Canuck captain is clearly well past his prime and every shift he gets is a wasted opportunity to get someone with a future a chance. And what the bloody hell was his 'fight' with Ian White? That was ridiculous!

*At least Naslund can look back and say he played his hardest. Nik Zherdev? Not so much. What was that pathetic shootout attempt? This guy has otherworldly talent, why does he not have any confidence in it and no heart?

*Stat of the night - Rangers won 18 of 54 faceoffs, 33%. That is pathetic, especially against the Leafs. Concede the puck, concede the momentum.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaime Sifers - no points.
2-Pavel Kubina - no points.
1-Vesa Toskala - 31 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mikhail Grabovski - He dominated in the faceoff circle (11-2), was a constant offensive threat and made a smart little pass to Hagman on the Toronto goal.
2-Sifers - I always rave about Luke Schenn but this kid deserves some accolades. What a game. He was physical, calm in his own end and seemingly always in the right position.
1-Nikolai Kulemin - Kulemin learned from his own mistake. He saw how Henrik stood square to him on the overtime breakaway and took away the bottom of the net so he came in from an angle in the shootout and fired a high wrister past Hank's blocker. Smart move by a youngster.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Did We Miss This?!?

Credit to Puck Daddy for actually finding a hockey on FoxSports and a great article to boot: today marks 30 years since Denis Potvin became Public Enemy No. 1 in MSG.

The damned chant has lasted through the ages and rings out during every single game at the Garden. To be honest, I am quite sick of the chant and yell "Crosby Sucks" instead against all teams other than the Isles or Panthers. Which is convenient as Potvin will be in the building tomorrow night broadcasting the Florida game. So the chant will be worthwhile then but against Atlanta, or Toronto, or Vancouver ... why??? Just make it stop! And if you can't whistle well ... ugh!!!

What do you guys think?

Mark Bell??

I just heard on NHL Live that the Rangers picked up Mark Bell. Toronto's annoying talk radio FAN590 has it on their front page right now (12:30pm) but no accredited MSM Ranger site has mentioned it and the Rangers have yet to send out a press release. EDIT - TSN now has it, thanks Kukla.

Mark Bell, if you haven't heard of him, is a drunk idiot who has spent time in jail after a hit and run while DUI. Exactly what the Rangers need to do - bring an alcoholic into New York City, where booze is available 24/7. Did the organization totally forget what happened with Sandis Bozolinch?

On the ice Bell is a big body who can't do much of anything. The Pension Plan guys looked at him a while back and showed that he can hit. He does have two 20 goal seasons in his career but that was a long time ago - well before he hit the bottle and another car. I mean look at his numbers, he is a grinding forward who eeked out some points. And, looking at his fighting record, the Rangers just picked up another Aaron Voros. We need a scorer, and Sather is wasting salary cap room on another fourth line nobody.

And Tom Renney got fired.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A New Era Begins ...

... But will it be a good one?

Early entries to the poll find you guys split on John Tortorella's impact, at least where this season is concerned. Back before the season I said that the Rangers need "a cult of personality to lead them." Granted I was talking about the captain rather than the coach but either way there is a man in that room willing to step up and act like a leader.

Now can he lead them somewhere good? I'm not so sure but I am willing to wait and see. The team that got him a Cup was a really good team - they had leaders in Old Man Andreychuk and Timmy Taylor, superstar scorers in Vinny 04 and Mini-Marty, power play puck movers in Boyle and Kubina, a true game-breaking goaltender in Twitchy-bulin and a solid cast of background characters (Stillman, Sarich, etc.). That is a whole lotta talent right there and all the coach had to do is point it in the right direction. The Rangers need significantly more than that.

Tortorella made many hockey people believers but still could do nothing to stop his team from slipping through his fingers. Sure the GM took away his top weapons, but he made young players miserable and the Blueshirts need to develop theirs since they are in contract hell thanks to Sather.

Who knows, he may turn over a new leaf here. No one can say right now. The simple fact is that Tortorella's every move will be watched but he will get a free pass for the rest of the season - a pass named Renney. Sorry, but that pass doesn't work here. The way I see it, Torts has three games - Wednesday in Toronto, Thursday against the Panthers and Saturday against the Aves - until he can be called on the carpet. The next game after the Aves is March 5th on the Island. That is four full game-free, travel-free days to work, including trade deadline day. Outside of some miracle deal by Sather that will change three or more players, on March 5th Tortorella will know what he has and what he can do with it before he takes on the Isles. That night, the team can't 'just' show up. They can't fight the good fight and maybe win in a shootout. They have to win outright, and preferably win big against the worst team in the NHL.

Until then, we can just sit back and see how the players play. They are auditioning for their jobs so let's hope that they play well but without a system - offensive or defensive - it is all on them, not on the coach.

It should be interesting.

Peepin' Foes: Toronto Maple Leafs

Where We Are: Throw everything out. New coach, new pressure.

Where They Are: Toronto has earned points in four of their last five games but only beat us. The Leafs also just held an awesome outdoor practice for their fans, something that the Rangers (and every NHL team) would be wise to do. Instead the Rangers practice in seclusion in a quiet yuppy corner of Westchester, nice.

Who To Watch For: I heart Luke Schenn. Lee Stempniak is a true offensive talent and a helluva steal from St. Louis. Dominic Moore was almost nonexistent in New York but you can't count him out and Borat Antropov has been raising his trade value of late so he may just show up for this one.

What To Watch For: Toronto is coming off of two emotional games - the return of Sundin and the overtime win over us - so if the Rangers play with the spark that should come from the new coach, the Blueshirts should be able jump all over the Leafs. They will just have to maintain the intensity all game - not like in Hockey Night In Hell.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Ranger team that plays like they care. Jason Blake getting smacked around like a rented mule; I always hated that guy on the Islanders. Colton Orr playing more than 3:42. Petr Prucha playing, period.

Also Check Out: Down Goes Brown, Toronto Mike, the Bitter Leaf Fan (aren't they all?) and personal fav Pension Plan Puppets. PPP is probably one of the top-five best team-specific blogs out there covering our fair sport so definitely check out their corner of SB Nation.

Yes Glen, It Is Time For A Change

Well, now that Glen Sather has managed to shove the blame for his failings upon someone else yet again, I figured it might be good to look at just what he has done. Sather was officially hired by the Rangers June 1st, 2000. Let's take a look at some of his more memorable works - both good and bad - using Outside The Garden's transaction listings ...

July 1st, 2000 - Signed Vladimir Malakhov for four years for $14 million

June 24th, 2001 - Traded Adam Graves to San Jose for Mikael Samuelsson

August 20th, 2001 - Traded Jan Hlavac, Kim Johnsson, Pavel Brendl and 2003 3rd Round Pick to Philadelphia for Eric Lindros

March 18th, 2002 - Traded Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak, 2002 1st Round Pick, 2002 2nd Round Pick and 2003 4th Round Pick to Florida for Pavel Bure and 2002 2nd Round Pick

March 19th, 2002 - Traded Mike York and 2002 4th Round Pick to Edmonton for Tom Poti and Rem Murray

June 26th, 2002 - Traded Theo Fleury to San Jose for a 2002 6th Round Pick

July 1st, 2002 - Signed Bobby Holik for five years for $45 million

July 2nd, 2002 - Signed Darius Kasparaitus for six years for $25.5 million

December 12th, 2002 - Traded Tomas Kloucek, Rem Murray and Marek Zidlicky to Nashville for Mike Dunham

January 8th, 2003 - Traded 2004 4th Round Pick to Chicago for Boris Mironov

February 10th, 2003 - Traded Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard, Rico Fata, Richard Lintner and cash to Pittsburgh for Alexei Kovalev, Dan Lacouture, Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson

March 11th, 2003 - Traded Radek Dvorak and Cory Cross to Edmonton for Anson Carter and Ales Pisa

August 14th, 2003 - Re-signed Tom Poti for two years at $5.9 million

September 3rd, 2003 - Signed Boris Mironov for one year at $1,925,000

January 23rd, 2004 - Traded Anson Carter to Washington for Jaromir Jagr and cash

March 2nd, 2004 - Traded Alexei Kovalev to Montreal for Josef Balej and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 3rd, 2004 - Traded Briant Leetch and a Conditional Draft Pick to Toronto for Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen, a 2004 1st Round Pick and a 2005 2nd Round Pick

March 3rd, 2004 - Traded Petr Nedved and Jussi Markkanen to Edmonton for Dwight Helminen, Stephen Valiquette and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 6th, 2004 - Traded Chris Simon and Conditional 2004 7th Round Draft Pick to Calgary for Jamie McLenna, Blair Betts and Greg Moore

March 8th, 2004 - Traded Matt Barnaby and a 2004 3rd Round Pick to Colorado for Chris McAllister, David Liffiton and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 8th, 2004 - Traded Vladimir Makarov to Philadelphia for Rick Kozak and a 2005 2nd Round Draft Pick

March 9th, 2004 - Traded Martin Rucinsky to Vancouver Canucks for R J Umberger and Martin Grenier

March 9th, 2004 - Traded Greg de Vries to Ottawa for Karel Rachunek and Alexandre Giroux

August 10th, 2004 - Signed Michael Nylander for three years for $8.9 million

July 29th, 2005 - Paid out Bobby Holik

August 2nd, 2005 - Signed Marek Malik for three years for $7.5 million

August 2nd, 2005 - Signed Martin Straka for one year for $3 million

October 7th, 2005 - Traded Jozef Balej to Vancouver with conditional pick for Fedor Fedorov

January 8th, 2006 - Traded Maxim Kondratiev for Petr Sykora and 2007 4th round pick

March 9th, 2006 - Traded 2006 3rd Round Pick to Anaheim for Sandis Ozolinsh

July 1st, 2006 - Signed Matt Cullen for four years for $11.2 million

July 3rd, 2006 - Signed Aaron Ward for two years for $5.5 million

July 9th, 2006 - Signed Brendan Shanahan for one year for $4 million

February 5th, 2007 - Traded Jan Marek, Marc-Andre Cliche and Jason Ward for Sean Avery and John Seymour

July 1st, 2007 - Signed Scott Gomez for seven years for $51.5 million

July 1st, 2007 - Signed Chris Drury for five years for $35.25 million

July 17th, 2007 - Traded Matt Cullen to Carolina for Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a 2008 3rd Round Pick

February 26th, 2008 - Traded Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa to Phoenix for Fredrik Sjostrom, Josh Gratton and David LeNeveu

February 26th, 2008 - Traded 6th Round pick to St. Louis for Christian Backman

July 1st, 2008 - Signed Aaron Voros for three years for $3 million

July 1st, 2008 - Signed Wade Redden for six years for $39 million

July 2nd, 2008 - Traded Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman to Columbus for Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche

Tom Renney came in just prior to the lockout to finish off a terrible season, and then guided the franchise through the "new" NHL and into the playoffs three straight years. If/when John Tortorella fails to bring in a even playoff team this year he will be let off the hook. But no Cup by 2012? Let's hope that Sather is the one to take the fall then ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sather Says ...

I eavesdropped on the conference call. John Tortorella has been named coach of the New York Rangers, he is heading to New York and will meet with the media tomorrow after practice. Tampa does not get any compensation and it is a multiyear deal. Jim Schoenfeld will be an interim assistant coach, he never wanted the head job. The conference call started 15 minutes late and the operator clearly wasn't paying attention.

"We've been thinking about [firing Renney] for the last couple of weeks and I could see the team starting to slide."

"First of all, Tom will take some time off but he is absolutely welcome to stay with the organization."

"I think [Tortorella] is going to bring that fiery attitude that has been missing."

On Torts coming back: "Things have a way of coming full circle."

"I think we all have to take responsibility for this. we think we have a better hockey team than we have had the last 10 games.

"You can't point your finger at Tom, you have to point it at everyone."

"I think some of the players have not played as well as they can to date."

"Torts will bring a lot more fire to his approach ... a lot of these guys have thrived under that kind of coaching and we thought we had to get a lot more fire under there."

"We have to be more of an attack team then a team that will back in."

Dubi of Blueshirt Bulletin asked if he wanted to pull a Kovalev, "First of all I would have a difficult time picking one guy if you give him a day or two of rest and ... it didn't cross my mind."

On Sean Avery, "[Tortorella] doesn't have the history with Sean that we do. I think that over time he could learn to love him like I have." "We'll deal with [Avery] in the next week I'm sure."

"No, the overtime loss last night wouldn't have changed my mind. I've had it in the back of my mind for a few days."

At the start of the year "we were a fast, puck possessive hockey club that was determined and worked very hard ... we got away from that and that's why we made a coaching change."

Happy Trails Tom

"I thought we played hard. Anything drastic, is to go outside of what the needs are right now. We are going to continue to play hard, stay the course, keep working hard (and) go after wins." --Tom Renney, after last night's loss
Sorry Tom, staying the course just isn't good enough. After staying up so late last night, I awoke to the news that Renney was canned, and I can't say I am shocked. I don't think anyone is.

Perry Pearn was also thankfully shown the door, something that should have happened at least a year ago, if not more. He openly admitted that the power play was his responsibility and the special team is more of a disaster than Penn Station at 3am on a Saturday night. Mike Pelino and Benoit Allaire kept their jobs, which is good because they are both capable and intelligent. Pelino has the players' ears and Allaire has made Hank into a top five NHL goaltender.

But back to Renney. Say what you will, the man coached the team to three straight playoff appearances. He managed to keep the enigmatic Jaromir Jagr interested while not letting the Sean Avery circus get out of hand. He brought back some honour and respect to a franchise that had failed so often since 1994 and was largely responsible for the lockout.

Don't fool yourself, firing Renney will not solve this team's woes. Glen Sather dragged the team down with big money signings at the turn over the century and he has done it again this last summer. The money mistakes won't be fixed by putting a firebrand behind the bench but it should help.

Renney too often threw his hands up, either not knowing what was going wrong or not being able to fix it. And when a coach does that, a negative light is shown on the general manager and the Rangers general manager is a petty, petty man. Sather plays the recluse to hide his incompetence while collecting his massive paycheque and when people started to blame him of all people for the team's woes, well ... he just can't have that.

So Renney takes the fall. As I said, he was a good coach, who did some good things for the Rangers. He will get another job somewhere else and I for one certainly wish him luck. He just wasn't the right coach for Sather's crop of overpaid miscreants and now the dark master general manager has his big chance to pick that proper person to head the ship. Let's hope he picks well (but I wouldn't bet on it).

31-23-7: Legendary Blue/Not-So-Legendary Loss

There is a whole lot to talk about after Sunday night's 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto so let's just get right into it, and I apologize in advance for the randomness but I tried to keep it mostly chronological:

*One of my favourite hockey memories is sitting in my grandparents' bedroom as a kid and watching as Ray Bourque skated over to Phil Esposito and removed his No. 7 jersey to reveal the 77 he willingly took to honour the Boston great. It provides a great contrast to the rain of boos that showered down on Michal Rozsival as he skated onto the ice during the ceremony wearing 33. And was it somehow poetic justice that after a night of turnovers and boos, Rozy scores the last minute goal to force overtime? Hmmm ...

*Speaking of Boston greats, why were there none included in the Howell/Bathgate ceremony? The other Original Six teams were represented, but no Bruins??

*Somehow Chicago's Stan Mikita received the largest ovation of anyone introduced during that ceremony who were not Ranger retired numbers. It is sad when the majority of the fans have never heard of great players for their own franchise like Andy Hebenton but acknowledge another team's alumni.

*But then again, I said "majority of the fans" and there weren't many of them during the ceremony. At the time that it started, I would say that there were close to 8,000 empty seats. The building filled out for the game, which is just sad - man, do people have their priorities mixed up.

*Ranger Rewind completely eliminated the long, rambling drunken speech by Rod Gilbert. Gotta love Rod but, wow, he made virtually no sense.

*He did make mention that the honour for Bathgate and Howell was well overdue, and he was completely correct. Had these two been raised to the rafters 20 years ago, they would have gotten the full ovations they deserved. To their credit, neither one made any mention of the slap to the face and neither one looked the least bit disappointed by the poor showing by the fans.

*It was also poor of the Garden to give away a piece of crappy paper - I'm sorry, a Ranger Timeline - instead of replica banners as they had for the '94s.

*If the Islanders can recognize Bill Torrey with a banner, the Rangers should do something for Emile Francis. It was a shame he couldn't take part in this evening's festivities and you have to hope that everything is ok with his family.

*Was it me or did Lou Fontinato look like death warmed over? Give that man a gray robe and a sickle and watch out.

*There is just something right about hearing "Oh Canada" before a hockey game.

*After a strong first shift to start the game, the Rangers then proceeded to play not to lose for the next 45 minutes. It wasn't until Toronto was finally able to exploit one of the many Blueshirt blueline mistakes and score that the Blueshirts woke up and played hockey.

*The fans were quick to boo Tom Renney for the two Too Many Men penalties but blame should go solely to Wade Redden for the first one. Redden, who had just served his senseless interference call, was supposed to go right for the bench out of the box and he started to. But, alas, the play came by and he turned away from the bench to make a hit and his replacement had already jumped the boards. It is stupid plays like that that help get your coach fired. And if anyone needs to be removed from the Rangers, it is not Tom Renney, it is Wade Redden.

*When he goes, you can also throw out the garbage - Aaron Voros. I was admittedly one of his biggest advocates when the Rangers signed him and he is continually proving me wrong. His purpose now seems to be to get his face beaten in and take bad penalties. That Renney felt the need to put him on the power play is just plain stupid. But then again, Redden got power play time too so maybe it is just a reward for players who were able to fool Sather into giving them contracts that they do not deserve.

*Getting back to Redden for a second, there was a great shift late in the third period when the Tom Renney Line Generator put together Callahan, Sjostrom and Korpikoski and the diaper dandies pressed the Leafs deep into their own end. That was until they passed the puck out to Redden and he had a soft shot blocked out of the zone. And those kids have five more seasons of having that idiot ruin their plays ahead of them ... if Sather doesn't trade them first.

*Chris Drury had 25 minutes of ice time in which he did ... well, did he do anything? I think he helped kill a penalty and a power play or two. But other than that, not much of anything. In fact, Drury was on the ice as Toronto took a 2-1 lead and when they won in overtime. Meanwhile Colton Orr had less than four minutes (in which he drew a penalty) and was quite cold when he was on the ice as John Mitchell scored the first goal of the game.

*Not that the Leafs' opening goal was Orr's fault. Mitchell was left standing alone between Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to scoop up and rebound and deposit it over the sprawled Lundqvist. It was almost as bad as the second goal when Ian White just decided to score and the Rangers decided to let him do it.

*As White scored, they were still announcing Scott Gomez's game-tying tally which was honestly an absolutely stunning goal that just makes you wonder why he doesn't do it more often. Gomez absolutely flew into the Toronto zone, went around the defense and slipped the puck under Toskala. It was gorgeous. It was about damn time. And it had better happen again ... soon.

*Gomez scored that on the rush, Rozy scored the second goal with Hank pulled, and yet the power play still went an impotent 0-3. However, there were no shorthanded goals against so we have to be happy about that. Dan Fritsche scored a power play goal for Minnesota tonight - just thought I would throw that out there.

*Stat of the night - the statistician somehow saw 41 shots by the Rangers. No way. But still, if he did see that many, how come Rozy only had three count? I saw him fire at least eight, most of which made it through to Toskala.

*Here is an idea for the next poll - who is more frustrating to watch, Zherdev or Naslund? Nazzy gets into better spots and then screws things up while Z makes great moves and loses the puck before he even gets to good spots. My money is on Z.

*They announced on MSG that it was Jim Ramsey's 1,500th game. The Garden did not recognize it inside the building - that is ridiculous and sad. Ramsey is more of a Ranger than any of the meatbags currently wearing blue, red and white and he deserved some kind of public acknowledgment of his milestone.

*I am not sure I can emphasize this enough - Wade Redden = BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

*And finally, you guys are quick on me when I don't properly address anythign negative done by my boy Betts so I have to mention it - Bettsy took a stupid, stupid penalty in overtime that led to the game-winning goal. Yep, it was dumb, yep, it cost them the game. But they still got a point they didn't deserve so the result is far better than what I expected. I'm still disappointed in Bettsy though.

*PHW Three Stars, which were clearly submitted before the end of regulation:
3-Ian White - one goal.
2-Vesa Toskala - 39 saves.
1-Pavel Kubina - three assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Rozy - Sure he was booed, sure he had a turnover or two, but he finally got the memo to shoot the damned puck and he secured a point that his team didn't deserve.
2-Kubina - He is everything Redden was supposed to be - smart, poised and capable.
1-Harry Howell/Andy Bathgate - Two true blue Ranger gentlemen got their just reward, after all these years. Their candor, wit and grace was a pleasure to behold.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

31-23-6: No Show In Buffalo

For a broad statement of the game, the Rangers really didn't show up in Buffalo on Saturday night. Sure they played well in some spots - and they certainly showed more life than in other recent games - but after beating the Isles you would think that they would be able to get the ball rolling. They didn't. And in fact, I think one of the Sabres walked around Michal Rozsival and knocked it past Henrik.

I am sure that I am going to get some nasty comments and e-mails but I don't care: despite the debacle, Scott Gomez just made his biggest contribution to the Rangers since coming to New York. Sure, he had a helluva series against the Devils but the way Avery had Mmmaarrrtttyyy off his game, the Rangers could have won anyway. But to singlehandedly eliminate a prime rival from the playoffs? That doesn't happen too often. By sending Ryan Miller out limping in what they are calling a high ankle sprain (fingers crossed), the Sabres are half the team they were. Sure they held on to beat the Rangers 4-2 tonight, but does anyone think Patrick Lalime can carry a team anymore? If it is a serious injury, then Darcy Regier will have to make a move for a keeper, and like most deadline deals, perhaps it will blow up in his face. Much like the Tom Renney Chemistry Set.

Don't be fooled folks, the Rangers will be fighting the good fight right up until the end for the final spots in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh, Carolina and these Sabres will all be in the mix. What they have that the Rangers don't? Scoring. What the Rangers have that they don't? Goaltending. Let's pray that Henrik is up to the task.

*Speaking of such, when are the Rangers going to stop stick checking and help Hank out? If they weren't blindly swinging their sticks around, the Sabres wouldn't have scored such a pretty first goal. And if Rozy knew how to play the body, Derek Roy couldn't have made such a nice pass. But what can you do?

*Hank could do nothing on the second goal. All of the Rangers were skating backwards, giving the Sabres the zone and the extra space gave them the time and the screen to get the goal. Is there any bigger nightmare for a Ranger fan (or goaltender) than having Kalinin and Redden on the ice at the same time?

*You gotta love Sam but when he attributes the Blueshirts struggles to confidence I want to strangle him. How can you lose confidence when you are making MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR??? I know I'd be walking on sunshine ... woa-oh! But seriously, everybody hurts when the team loses, but going home to a big house and a buttload of money certainly makes things easier, especially when you aren't in danger of being laid off like so many other people nowadays. So don't tell me they don't have confidence, they have that ... the problem is that they have security.

*Even shorthanded, how do you leave the opposition's top scorer open in the slot? With Rozy handily pushed aside by Paul Gaustad, Marc Staal had given Derek Roy a ton of room and he swooped in to score the power play goal to make it a 3-0 game.

*Side note: The Rangers must really be scared of having their sell-out streak broken by suddenly announcing that there will be a t-shirt giveaway for the game against the Panthers next week. This is the first shirt giveaway in years and the announcement during the third period was the first that I had heard of it.

*It would be easy to blame Wade Redden for pinching on Buffalo's fourth goal but if Dan Girardi played the body on Tim Connolly, the bobblehead couldn't have made the pass to Jochen Hecht for the goal. This goes back to the earlier point that the Ranger defense is softer than a bunch of beanie babies and is just as likely to cost the Blueshirts a playoff spot as the offense's lack of ... well ... offense.

*Who do you think booed Gomez more? The Sabre fans after he hit Miller or the Ranger fans back on Wednesday?

*The Ranger first goal really shouldn't have counted as Nazzy kicked it in. As my buddy Pete said "it was clearly redirected on purpose...but it stands. Buffalo got robbed of a goaltender and a goal. And what's worse...these three clowns earn a point - Gomez, Drury and Naz ... on the power play!" I couldn't have said it better.

*Kudos to Colton Orr for caring, he was one of the few to have a pulse. Granted, he isn't making the best decisions, but at least he is making decisions, which is more than half the roster.

*The only other Ranger I want to give an attaboy to is Ryan Callahan. Cally played hard in front of his family and friends. He just needs to start putting the puck in the net a little more often - but that can be said for Pru and the Korpedo (did anyone else hear Sam say that the MSG crew came up with that nickname?? Hilarious!).

*What good is Nigel Dawes if he can't score on wide open opportunity after wide open opportunity when it counts? I still think that any of the kids in Hartford would be an upgrade. And maybe if Anisimov got a chance, he wouldn't put on a performance like his debut as Frankenstein. Sure he got a goal with five minutes left, but the kid can't score when it counts and frankly, that is what we need right now and down the line. Is he a better prospect than Frankenstein? Can he score more than Parenteau?

*Stat of the night: Wade Redden 25:21 of ice time, no hits, no blocked shots, -2. Erik Reitz 8:51 of ice time, three blocked shots, one hit, +1.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tim Connolly - no concussions one assist.
2-Daniel Paille - one goal.
1-Derek Roy - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Paul Gaustad - A big body in the middle willing to hit and pay the price in the slot? Who'da thunk that it could work?!?
2-Roy - In addition to his offensive prowess, he also blocked a few shots and was great in the faceoff dot.
1-Gomez - Nice work taking out Miller.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sundaaaaaaaaaay

And I keep getting e-mails that there are tickets still available. For shame. These guys were just as great and just as important to Blueshirt history as Richter, Graves and Leetch.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

31-22-6: Pruuuuu!

My deepest apologies folks, this will be it for the game; I have the flu. Hope to return to normal programming for Saturday and Sunday game wraps.

For the second straight game the momentum was changed by a fight and this time it was in the Rangers favour. But if I was to tell you it was Petr Prucha, who not only actually dressed for the game but was the Rangers best player, you would have thought I was out of my mind. And you would be right.

But the kid won the tussle against Sean Bergenheim and he pretty much sent a message to his coach that he doesn't quite 'wear down' when he actually sees the ice. A great effort by Pru and a solid, if not convincing win over the evil Isles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

Rangers vs. Isles tonight at the Garden, need I say more? Good, because I am quite busy and this is going to be short.

Where We Are: Ugh, no comment.

Where They Are: The Islanders followed up a five game losing streak with a good 3-2 shootout win over the sinking Penguins on Monday afternoon.

Who To Watch For: Sean Bergenheim has three assists in his last two games and is a tough little kid. Overhyped Okposo has one goal in his last six games, but if he was a Ranger that would actually be pretty good. And I always keep an eye on Richard Park, who is quite dangerous - especially on the penalty kill.

What To Watch For: Actually, it is what to listen for - hear how the Garden faithful jump all over the Blueshirts at the first sign of adversity tonight. Too many bad results of late and a visit by the hard-working rival Isles is a recipe for disaster.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A win. Glen Sather's firing. Actual appropriate 'Potvin Sucks' chants.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If We Didn't Already Have A Reason ...

If Aaron Voros hadn't given enough proof that he is useless on the ice in recent months, today comes the news that Cam Janssen intentionally sought Voros out last night because he knew he could kick his ass.

As I mentioned in my wrap of the 2-1 loss, the game turned on that fight and Glen has owned up to his mistakes with Rissmiller and Fritsche, it is time he did with Voros as well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

30-22-6: Sleeping In St. Louis

The Rangers celebrated Blair Betts' birthday by getting beaten 2-1 by a last place team. Nice work guys. The Blueshirts can't score and a defensive breakdown allowed a harder-working but less-skilled team to net the game-winning past Hank, who actually played pretty well. It wasn't a blowout, it wasn't a bad effort, it just wasn't a win against a team they needed to beat.

As for a statement ... well, it doesn't bode well for the stretch run. Two seasons ago Sean Avery came to the Rangers just in time to turn the season around with a shootout win against the Blues. This time there was no Avery, no heart, no win.

Playing the blame game, a just look at the usual suspects. Tom Renney had the completely useless Wade Redden on the ice for power plays and for the pivotal final seconds - moer than 24 minutes in total. Scott Gomez didn't do much of anything. Rozy's tendency to turn the puck over struck again (but luckily didn't end up in the back of the net). Nik Zherdev has more skill then anyone else on the ice but he couldn't use it to get a single good scoring chance. Chris Drury had a few good chances but after taking all of the blame after Philly, he couldn't stop his teammates from sleepskating through this one. And Glen Sather brought all of these idiots to Broadway.

Ah well, there is always Wednesday against the Isles ... a loss there - no matter how close - will cause havoc.

*Since the Rangers pissed on Bettsy's birthday, the least they can do is give the guy a new contract. He played a solid game, as did his linemates and Ryan Callahan. That foursome have been the only constants this season and they deserve kudos.

*I rip on Joe Micheletti constantly but as much as he is unlistenable, at least MSG is watchable. Versus, notsomuch. The camerawork was outright horrible and the director made bad call after bad call. I nearly got motion sickness as the main game-cam tried to jerk back and forth while poorly tracking the puck - perhaps if he had loosened the shot up a bit, he wouldn't have to swing like that. And the director changed shots at bad times, missing plenty of action.

*However, all credit given and due to the production staff to get an interview with John Davidson. There is just something right with listening to JD while the Rangers are playing ... granted, he did have a slip of the tongue and say that the Blues 'have 10 or 12 young people that they need to get to the Rangers.' Oops, but sure, we could use more good young players since our older folks aren't faring particularly well.

*Now, I said that Renney is here for the long haul in a Puck Daddy roundtable, but what the hell? He uses his timeout in the second period of a 0-0 game, but he doesn't use it when Philadelphia scores two goals in a minute. And whatever stellar game-plan that he detailed during the break failed on the ensuing faceoff and allowed the Blues to get traffic in front of the net that they used to screen Hank for their first goal. Genius.

*And the thing was that I turned to my dad and said that the Blues were going to score within two minutes of Aaron Voros getting his ass kicked. How the smaller Cam Janssen used him as a punching bag and energized St. Louis was yet another abomination in this season of horrors. Voros can't score, can't skate, can't stickhandle, can't play defense, can't fight. Glen Sather already rectified his mistakes with Rissmiller and Fritsche, it is time to cut ties with Voros too.

*That being said, Nigel Dawes wasn't missed.

*A quick look at the good and the bad and the ugly of tonight's Ranger power play:
Good - No shorthanded goals against.
Bad - Still no goals for.
Ugly - With Jay McClemment without a stick during the second Ranger power play, the Blueshirts didn't take advantage and couldn't get a shot on goal.
*There is nothing ugly about those third jerseys the Blues were wearing. Absolutely gorgeous sweaters and hopefully they will use them as their primaries next season.

*I guess nice sweaters don't draw fans, as the building looked half empty. I thought the Rangers were one of the biggest draws in the league? Oh yeah, the Philly game yesterday was a national broadcast ...

*Great shot by Korpikoski on the lone Ranger goal. Grip it and rip it - what a concept. And yet he still saw just 8:36 of ice time. Another loss or two and hopefully this team will become a seller at the trade deadline. Perhaps then someone will take Naslund so Korpikoski or another one of the kids can actually get on the ice. But I wouldn't bet on it.

*Dubi played his best game in a while. It didn't result in a goal, but small steps, small steps ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.
2-B.J. Crombeen - one goal.
1-Chris Mason - 19 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - A solid rebound of an effort after the Sunday disaster.
2-Barret Jackman - A defensive rock like the Rangers haven't have since Beuk, Jackman put up solid numbers in 23:23, one assist, one hit, three blocked shots and 19 easy saves for Mason.
1-Cam Janssen - The grinning goon beat the living hell out of Voros and woke up his team, completely negating the impact of the solid throttling of Tyson Strachan by Colton Orr.

Peepin' Foes: St. Louis Blues

Where We Are: Free fallin'. Those hoping for a trade for former Blueshirts blueliner Matt Schneider can think again; we are stuck with Kalinin it appears. And I'm not quite sure Sean Avery will be our savior - check out the roundtable over at Puck Daddy about Avery that I was so nicely included in. Puck Daddy Rocks /kissing ass

Where They Are: They are a better team than their record shows, but not by much. Ever since Sarah Palin ruined them the way she ruined McCain's chances, they haven't been the same. Their goaltending has struggled regularly but they did get a great effort from Chris Mason the other day though with a 1-0 shutout of the Blackhawks.

Who To Watch For: The Boston Bruins have to still be mad at giving up Brad Boyes, who has turned into the Blues best scoring threat. Boyes has incredible hands and a knack for getting into good scoring positions. Andy McDonald is their best centerman since Adam Oates and they have a wealth of good young forwards learning the game, from former roller hockey prodigy TJ Oshie to future Team USA checker David Backes. Patrick Berglund is a legitimate Calder candidate but there isn't much on the blueline aside from Barret Jackman. Times have been tough for him lately as he doesn't have much help with Eric Brewer out and Jay McKee showing his age (and getting scratched).

What To Watch For: This, more than any game thus far this season, is a statement game. The Ranger effort level will show if they are going to roll over and call it a year or make a real run at the playoffs.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Ranger team that wants to win. A Ranger team that wants to score. A Ranger team that stands up for each other. A Ranger team that is smart with and without the puck. Oh, and Cam Janssen to hopefully get his smirking face beat in. I hate that guy.

Also Check Out: Mirtle wanted the best and he got it with St. Louis Game Time - his game preview for today is great - and there is another forum site over at Let's Go Blues.

Scotty's Solutions Pt. 1

“I take full responsibility for where this team is right now. That’s incumbent with the position. My job is to correct this, get us wining, get us feeing better about ourselves. I look to be a solution. It’s as simple as that.” -- Tom Renney, 2/15/09

It is getting quite tiresome seeing the many failings of this team so how about we try to step into Renney's role and find some ways to win? For part 1, let's address the biggest issue, the power play.

The man advantage has only proven to give an advantage to opposing teams this season so it is time to shake it up. There is no way to impart a new philosophy than adding new people so here are the two units I recommend:
Unit 1

Unit 2
The biggest change from the current philosophy is that both units use a talent forward at the point. Let's face it, they are no more defensive liabilities than Rozy or Redden currently are and they actually add a scoring threat. Not to mention that it is much easier to quarterback a power play from up high then it is on the halfboards (unless you are a monster like Jagr was).

Unit 1 Details: Earlier in the season Zherdev proved that he knows how to backcheck when he wants to and let's face it, he is the slickest stickhandler on the team. Having him up high would draw the penalty killers up high, leaving more room for the forwards to swarm around the paint and cause chaos. Drury has shown a willingness to pay the price in front and Prucha has never shied away from crashing the crease. We have yet to see what the Korpedo can do, but I would love to find out. Aside from being the unit's defensive conscience, Staal would be the safety valve if Z can't get the puck down low, especially with that heavy shot he has - he just would need to use it more often.

Unit 2 Details: I've been pushing for Orr on a power play unit since Christmastime. Let the big man loose and see what he can do - he is definitely an improvement on Voros. Dubi is Dubi; he is still learning what his size is capable of and he has pretty good hands. Sjostrom is relentless, fast and can help defensive coverage if Naslund was to slide in from the point. Naslund has lost a step but he still is a saavy player and has shown that he is money in the high slot. It might be easier for him to get there cycling from the point then from down low. And Mara has been the steadiest presence on the blueline in all three zones so if his stupid fight with Asham hasn't cost him his season, he should keep a spot on the power play.

Key Omissions: Gomez, Callahan, Rozy and Redden. Gomez carries the puck across the neutral zone like no other but his little curl and dump garbage is a joke. He doesn't have the size, strength or shot of Jagr so his attempts to QB the power play from down low have been a complete failure. Cally is spectacular off of the rush ... once settled into the zone, notsomuch. Besides, keeping him on the bench would keep him energized to keep the opposition unsettled once they reach even strength. There is a good defenseman trapped inside Rozy. The Czech has shown flashes of it every now and again and he just needs to get the confidence back to be a top D all of the time. As for Redden, well, he doesn't belong in the NHL anymore, much less sitting on the point turning the puck over on a power play unit.

So what do you guys think?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

30-21-6: Another National Embarrassment

Not a single thing that went wrong on Sunday afternoon hasn't already happened so far this season. The thing was that they all came together at once and on national television. The 10-2 debacle in Dallas was nearly as bad but it was against the Stars, in Dallas, on a Friday and on MSG. This was against a division rival, in the Garden, on a Sunday afternoon and on NBC.

So, basically, now you guys are seeing everything I have been saying for most of the season.

This is not to gloat, not to say 'I told you so,' not to say I saw things no one else saw. It was right there for everyone to see, just too many of you didn't want to see it and frankly you didn't have to with the record that the Blueshirts put together in the early going.

Well, now that the cat is fully out of the bag and has soiled the rug, we can start trying to move onwards. The laundry list of problems is long and there are no easy answers. Sean Avery won't cure all. Tom Renney's dismissal won't cure all. Getting someone, anyone, to trade for some of the overpriced miscreants will certainly help but let's face it - no one will. We are stuck with Scott Gomez, stuck with Chris Drury and stuck with Wade Redden. So, in this salary cap world, the thing to do is hope for prospect development to fill the many gaps.

To get these kids to develop you have to put them in situations where they can learn, and where they can succeed. Having Staal, Korpikoski and Prucha sitting on the bench during power plays is not giving them the opportunity to succeed. And, let's face it, they can't do any worse than the personnel that has been called over the boards time and time again to date.

*I was lucky enough to have a copy of the game so I was able to go back and enjoy this one again. When Mike Milbury says that the Rangers have "some bad free agent acquisitions, no question about that" you know things are bad. As Milbury walked off the ice after the broadcast I yelled to him thanks for ruining the Islanders and got a nasty look for my efforts. The man knows how to screw up a hockey team and Glen Sather is no better.

*Frankly, it was nice to see Mike Richards score on the 3-on-5. Was it sad, horrifying, disgusting? Of course! But as a hockey fan, you don't get to see that happen very often. Not a single Ranger skated their hardest to try to get Richards and the Flyer easily scored past the hapless Hank, who shouldn't have started in the first place (considering Vally's record against Philly).

*Now my question - one I am sure Flyer fans would be asking if they didn't go on to score three more goals - is why wasn't a penalty shot called on the next play when Dan Girardi literally jumped on the back of Simon Gagne during his shorthanded breakaway? Gagne beat Redden up the ice and Girardi had to cover for his inept partner, as he has all season long (stunting his growth; Girardi needs to play alongside Marc Staal, that simple - for their sake and for the Rangers sake).

*While I am asking things, why did Colton Orr go nuts and try to get into a fight after the Rangers finally got on the scoreboard? Too little, too late. And where was Tom Renney's time out? We kept asking each other why he wasn't using it but the best answer I could come up with was that the coach simply didn't have any answers ...

*Please, someone tell me why PA Parenteau isn't getting a chance to play. He has to be better than Nigel Dawes. Dawes is not good defensively, can't play on the special teams and has been reluctant to play physically. Parenteau will at least shoot the damned puck - he has 180, more than any current Ranger has - and he has 23 goals, more than any current Ranger has.

*Ah, Brandon Dubinsky. Dubi was one of the few Rangers to skate hard in the second period and all it ended up in was him getting his ass kicked by the bigger, older, smarter Scotty Hartnell. Why Hartnell didn't get an extra penalty for instigating while wearing a visor is beyond me.

*On the fisticuffs note, why in the world would Paul Mara fight Arron Asham behind a play??? He took exception to a perfectly fair hit by the one-dimensional goon (former Islander and Devil) while and now the Rangers have lost their most consistent defenseman for who knows how long. If Mara wanted the score to be settled, he should have been able to turn to Colt or Eric Reitz. Yes, I know that runs contrary to man code and all that but there is pride and there is stupidity. You don't see Chris Drury or Markus Naslund fighting ... oh, wait ... never mind.

*Now I was as happy as anyone to see Petr Prucha get a chance to play, but why? Renney said again and again that he put Voros in the lineup to add size and power so he inserts the smaller Prucha against the tougher Flyers? Huh?

*Prucha did try, and he worked hard but given Renney's track record, it may be the last we will see of him for a while. Damn shame.

*Ryan Callahan was the best Ranger on the ice throughout the game yet again but since when did he start channelling Marty Straka? He made a few great breaks down the wing only to pull up and wait for a pass. So frustrating ... like everything else on this night.

*They dominated in the faceoff dot 37-15 yet didn't seem to carry play until late in the third period.

*Renney finally benched some of his "stars" down the stretch in the third period. It is hard to say if he was finally trying to enforce some accountability or he was just trying to keep them from wearing down before tomorrow's game in St. Louis.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Kimmo Timonen - no points.
2-Mike Richards - one goal.
1-Claude Giroux - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marty Biron - The 35 save total was an inflated number, as the Rangers are apt to do with weak, outside shots but Biron does deserve credit for weathering the late Ranger press. It was too little, too late but Biron held his ground and made the needed saves to keep the Rangers at bay.
2-Mike Richards - A nice 3-on-5 goal, rock solid, energetic play and all of the calm, collected leadership that Chris Drury seems incapable of providing.
1-John Stevens - Stevens put forth a simple, yet efficient game plan that allowed the Rangers to make their mistakes and he put out the personnel to take advantage of them.

Peepin' Foes: Philadelphia Flyers

Sorry folks, this will be really short:

Where We Are: The Rangers played a strong game but came up short against the Florida Panthers on Friday night, losing in a shootout.

Where They Are: They beat up on the Islanders 5-1 at a matinee on Saturday afternoon.

Who To Watch For: Mike Richards is really, really good - a top five all around NHL talent. Jeff Carter has been sick this season scoring goals. Heh, a goal scorer. It would be awesome if the Rangers had one of those.

What To Watch For: The Blueshirts have really struggled in matinee matches so a slow start should doom them against the physical Flyers.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: I will hope for the same thing as last time - a power play goal. That would be a nice change. And a few good tilts as they have old foe Arron Asham in addition to cementhead Riley Cote.

Also Check Out: Their blogosphere is woefully underdeveloped but the best I could find was Broad Street Hockey over at SBN.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

30-20-6: A Point Is A Point (Updated)

It is hard to be disappointed by the 2-1 loss to Florida on Friday night. The Panthers are young and hungry while the Rangers are fat and lazy and the Blueshirts went into their building and escaped with a point. They played a good, tight road game and got a good performance by their netminder to make the trip a success. Florida is one of the hottest teams in the league and they very well could edge us out for the final playoff spot once the reckoning comes.

Get used to these tight affairs because as long as the power play struggles, Tom Renney will entrench himself and his team deeper and deeper into a defensive shell to win. And with team starting to get into the stretch run, Renney is realizing that his failures to date has cost them and every single point will be huge.


*They are re-airing the postgame show after Rewind and I just caught Al and Stan recommending that the Rangers put Colton Orr on the power play to work the slot - like he did on Sjostrom's goal this evening. Hey, great call guys, it's just one I made months ago. How soon until they agree with me that Marc Staal needs to be out there on the point instead of Wade Redden? It was the second straight game and the umpteenth this season that had the power play worked as a power play should, the Rangers would have skated away with a win. Meanwhile, at full strength, Staal unleashed some heavy shots that resulted in good rebounds that the Blueshirts unfortunately couldn't capitalize upon. But the idea was the right one and a needed element for the special team.

*It is funny but all those folks who gave me a hard time for my fandom of Blair Betts have gotten awfully quiet of late. I wonder why ... What a great assist on the Sjo goal.

*The AP recap of the game mentioned that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance. Considering his obsession with changing the sport to add scoring, how much fun do you think he had watching a goaltending clinic?

*Nik Zherdev will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. If the Rangers re-sign him, it will be a dreadful mistake. Zherdev almost never plays to his potential and sleep-skates the rest of the time. His half-hearted attempt at a backhand during the shootout was telegraphed and pathetically weak.

*Now you could also use those same adjectives for Michal Rozsival's play. He was horrible in the Ranger zone yet again, making Redden look like Rod Langway. Rozy just couldn't make a single simple play to get the puck out of the end and it resulted in chance after chance for the Panthers. Redden was his usual soft self but luckily, like Rozy, his partner was there to bail him out. Does Redden ever play the body??

*Look at Rozy and Redden, then look at Jay Bouwmeester. That kid is a beast and unlike the two Rangers, Bouwmeester will deserve the massive contract he will get. He was huge in this one, skating for 29 minutes and making several smart plays on both sides of the ice.

*Does Aaron Voros do anything of any worth out there? The guy is an idiot. All he seems to do is take bad penalties nowadays. Sure Petr Prucha is much smaller but he plays much bigger and much smarter.

*Please, someone get Sam and Joe some paper towels to clean up. They had to make a mess of the broadcast booth over that save Hank made in the third period on Nathan Horton. And you know what? It wasn't even that good of a save. The better part was his initial kick save as they shot had been deflected; all he had to do was roll over to stop Horton, who clearly missed the memo that says shoot high on Hank if you want to score.

*Florida's regulation goal was just like two of the ones they scored on Thursday night - they forced a turnover, moved to the puck into scoring position and got off a quick shot. It would be wondrous if the Rangers could pull off something like that but they would need to learn how to forecheck first (Ryan Callahan being the exception).

*My buddy Pete has moved out of NY and Center Ice picked up the Panthers feed so he had to listen to Denis Potvin of all people. And you know what? He said that the Islander scum was better than Joe Micheletti. Then again, I've been saying a screwdriver to the eardrum is better than Joe so I am not a fair judge.

*While I am harping on MSG, did anyone rush right out to get NY Life after seeing their logo onscreen throughout overtime and most of the shootout?

*Did Nigel Dawes do anything, aside from miss in the shootout (again)? After watching the Devils/Bruins tilt for work tonight, letting Shanny go so this kid could get a regular roster spot seems to be a bigger and bigger mistake. Too old and too slow Shanahan was huge defensively tonight and has chipped in five points in 10 games. Dawes has two in his last 10 and is useless defensively.

*Stat of the night: Scott Gomez went 12-3 in the faceoff circle. At least he did one thing well; Chris Drury was useless in this one. Although I have to say that Dru probably looked much worse then he really because he was skating with Cally, who was fantastic.

*Just how stupid is Brandon Dubinsky? His team is racing up the ice with a man advantage and he instead turns to take on Greg Campbell for a rematch from last season. Dubi has to be smarter if he is going to mature into a real hockey player ... and he should learn how to fight like a man too, leave that hugging stuff for the MMA losers.

*The other tussle in the game was Paul Mara vs. Nick Boynton after David Booth crumpled beneath a Mara crosscheck. It proved not to be much of a fight as Mara clearly didn't want to go - but inexplicably, he threw down his gloves. If you are going to get a five minute major just for ditching your mittens, you might as well use your fists ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Richard Zednik - shootout game-winner.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 42 saves.
1-Tomas Vokoun - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Bouwmeester - Tomas Vokoun may have gotten the win but Bouwmeester was the rock. As I mentioned, the Rangers had problems getting to any rebounds and that was a credit to Bouwmeester's efforts.
2-Hank - Clean shots, deflected shots, shots on rebounds ... Hank had 'em all. The one goal against wasn't his fault and had his teammates played a little bit better, the Zednik shootout finisher would never have happened. Sure, he should have had it, but the Blueshirts should have been able to get at least one past Vokoun in the silly skills comp.
1-Cally - In a game with end-to-end action and a lot of hitting, Cally proved to excel at it all. He laid several big hits, made some good shots and killed penalties. Cally definitely out-shone Horton, Booth and the other kittens.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Florida Panthers

In the continuing curiosity that is the NHL scheduling, the Rangers are on a one game road trip to Florida to face the Panthers Friday night. I guess it is a quick one-off because the Prague games against the Lightning took a game in Tampa away. Still, it's kinda strange considering they travelled to Dallas last week ... *shrug*

Where We Are: We actually are coming off of a win! A power play goal really could have won the game in regulation, but any win over the hot Washington Capitals is a good one, so what if it took a fluke goal in the shootout?

Where They Are: Florida is coming off of a dominating 5-0 win over Carolina Thursday night. Catching a team on the second half of back-to-backs is usually a good thing but Florida is just so young and their goaltending is so good that it may not matter. The Panthers took advantage of Canes mistakes and jumped all over them. Since Tomas Vokoun started, it is likely that we will see Craig Anderson but the backup actually has better numbers than the starter so that isn't the boon one would hope for.

Who To Watch For: Luckily they are without Rostislav Olesz, who hasn't played since December. Olesz always seemed to step up his game against the Rangers and he is thankfully out with a pulled groin. Of course Florida still has Stephen Weiss, who also does well against the Blueshirts, and Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester is everything that Wade Redden isn't - strong, dependable and worth every penny of the massive contract he is about to get. Nathan Horton had a huge game against the Canes and is finally turning into the game-breaking power player they spoke of years ago and Cory Stillman is proving he still has some gas in the tank, nearly averaging a point per game (31 in 37).

What To Watch For: See how the Rangers come out of the gates - are they going to be the quick-skating, hard-hitting team that started the Caps game or are they going to fall asleep in the sun and play as badly as they did in Jersey on Monday? Seeing as the Cats don't have a goon for Colt to beat up, we may be in for a long night.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: How about a power play goal? That would be a nice change.

Also Check Out: On Frozen Pond (not the fantastic Caps one, this is a good MSM one by a Miami Herald writer who writes from his heart and loves the game) and Litter Box Cats over at SBN.

Interesting Fact: After watching Mike Green tune us up for two goals, the topic of defensive hat tricks was brought up in the bar Wednesday night. Just two Blueshirt blueliners scored three in a game in the last 30 years, and both were against Philly - Brian Leetch and Reijo Ruotsalainen. Leetchie did it in the '95 playoffs against Ron Hextall (good call Mr. X) and Reijo pulled the trick in a regular season game in March of '82 against Pelle Lindbergh (RIP). Now it is virtually impossible for the current crop of Ranger rearguards to pull it off but if Bobby or Del Zotto progress as everyone hopes, you never know ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

30-20-5: Wild One Vs. Washington

Wild is the best way to describe the Rangers 5-4 shootout win over the Capitals tonight. What else can you say? There were back-to-back-fights early on, the inept Ranger offense scored four goals in regulation despite the inept power play going 0-5 with the man advantage and a fluky goal in the fourth round of the skills competition secured two points for the home side.

It wasn't pretty, it was infuriating at times and it was far from reassuring but as my buddy Mr. X from the Blue Seats said, you just gotta win them right now. It isn't about style points.

*During our postgame chat, Mr. X brought up an interesting thought - because of Lauri Korpikoski's development, Brandon Dubinsky has become expendable. I am not sure I am ready to write Dubi off at this point, but if he doesn't regain his scoring touch soon, he could make for some great trade bait. Nigel Dawes made a great play on the Naslund goal and scored in the shootout but certainly should be worried come deadline day as he can't seem to keep a consistent effort this season.

*Can anyone explain why Aaron Voros felt the need to fight Matt Bradley right after the exciting main event of Brashear and Orr? Does Voros actually think he needs to earn his roster position by fighting? The spot is his as long as Petr Prucha is the only other player vying for the slot.

*Pru had 22 power play points over 68 games played coming out of the lockout so why shouldn't he be given a look over Voros? If not for the pathetic "man advantage," the Rangers could have won this in regulation. Redden and Drury got a ton of ice time and neither one put together anything resembling a good scoring chance. Mr. X thinks that Drury is hurt and it is as good a theory as any why he looked so bad of late. Redden has no excuse for his lack of offensive talent but some credit must be given as he played one of his best games defensively this season.

*It was good that Alex Semin didn't return for a bongo encore as that little extra offense could very well have sank the Rangers.

*As for that other Alex, even when Ovechkin doesn't score, he is still a huge part of the game. He worried the Ranger defense, played physically (13 hits!!), scored in the shootout and got himself a nice cross-ice helper on Mike Green's first goal of the night.

*Nik Zherdev's disappearing act is now getting tiresome and is certainly dragging the Blueshirt offense down. How someone with so much skill can't put 2+2 together is quite frustrating.

*Oh Tom Poti, how I still hate thee. I was asked how they rank and I think Poti is my No. 1 and Redden has passed Malik. It is a tough call, they are/were all just so bad and tried so little while earning so much ...

*On that note, Scott Gomez wasn't particularly good in this one. Most of the power play woes can be attributed to him but he did collect a pair of assists at even strength - granted one was a completely undeserved second assist but a point is a point, right?

*I'm sure there is more but I am exhausted so feel free to chime in in the comments with anything I missed/skipped.

*And finally:
PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one goal and one assist.
2-Mike Green - two goals.
1-Lauri Korpikoski - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Paul Mara - Sure he scored a goal but his best work was in the Ranger end as he stepped up to challenge the persistent Capital attack, including Ovie.
2-Cally - He was the best Ranger on the ice but you have to wonder why he can't perform with the same reckless abandon every night.
1-Green - Not only did he score on to suh-weeeeeeeet shots, he was also solid on defense in more than 28 minutes of ice time.