Saturday, October 31, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Boston Bruins

The Rangers will have to get rid of the Halloween hangover quickly as they are back in action Sunday at 1pm against the Boston Bruins in the real Garden (not the Gahden).

Where We Are: Attempting to recover from lackluster loss after lackluster loss with a game at home before heading out for a three game swing through western Canada.

Where They Are: Playing the second of back-to-back games. Boston scored two third period goals today to defeat Edmonton 2-0 and continue their season-long trend of win-a-game-lose-a-game.

Who To Watch For: With no Marc Savard and no Milan Lucic (both injured), other players are having to step up. Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm are both recovered from major injuries and attempting to fill their rolls. They aren't as good but do lead the team in scoring. David Krejci is suffering from big contract hangover, thankfully, but Derek Morris has seven points in 11 games and is helping lead the rush. Our old Montreal adversary Steve Begin is a Bruin now so Hank had better protect his paint. And you can't forget Mount Chara, which can score on that sick slapper or by deflection from in front.

What To Watch For: The Rangers have been notoriously terrible in matinee matches either from sleeping in and never getting started or taking midafternoon naps and falling apart later on. Lately they have been sleeping through night games so maybe the rolls are reversed.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean Avery to remember that he is Sean Avery and reacquaint himself with Tim Thomas - that is, if he is healthy enough to play. Dane Byers is still with the team so perhaps he isn't. The Rangers sent Marian Gaborik's replacement down today so it will be nice to see him return. Hopefully we will see him return in style with a goal or three. And Shawn Thornton vs Brash, but I doubt it since Thornton can win so Brash will likely avoid him all game.

Also Check Out: Hub Hockey, Stanley Cup of Chowder and Cornelius Hardenbergh and the Hockey Blog Adventure.

8-5-1: Another Day, Another Loss

If I was John Tortorella, I don't put my team on the ice on Saturday. For the final day of Hockey Fights Cancer month, I take them to Schneider's or Sloan Kettering or any number of the great hospitals in the New York area. Bring the boys to trick or treat with some of the real sick kids. The children would love it, and the team could see what it really means to fight. The patients battle every day for every day, and perhaps the Rangers would realize that the least they could do is play their game as hard as they can.

The Blueshirts turned in another half-hearted performance against a bad team on Friday night, losing to the Minnesota Wild 3-2.

There are no excuses to be had. The injury bug strikes every team and it took Marian Gaborik, Sean Avery and Chris Higgins (allegedly). The remaining roster still could have won, easily. Instead they cruised around the nice Xcel Center ice, making the home team look good while leaving their goalie out to dry time after time.

*How or why do you match the Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, Petr Sykora trio with the fourth line? They don't have the speed, they don't have the skill and, frankly, they don't have a clue. The mismatch allowed Sykora do do what he does best - get the Rangers back for unceremoniously dropping him after a good season just after the lockout. In addition to a second assist on the Belanger goal, Sykora finished the tic-tac-toe passing play that opened the night's scoring. He did it against us on Pittsburgh, he did it against us again.

*That play was started by Donald Brashear. For all of those folks out there who called me out on the carpet for badmouthing Brash, are you starting to realize why yet? Not only is he inept with a hockey stick, he is a big, dumb coward who doesn't help his team in most any way. The Rangers lacked energy, the Wild dressed not one but two over-sized tough guys and yet Brash didn't dance with either. Derek Boogaard is one of the top five, if not top three fighters in the league and caused havoc around the Ranger crease every chance he got. Brashear? Nowhere to be found. Now for all of you apologists out there who want to throw the mystery injury out there, if he was too "sore" to fight, he shouldn't have been playing. If Dane Byers can make it to the arena in time to play, surely another of his teammates could have made the journey.

*And Byers scored to boot. How pathetic is it that Hartford players account for two of the three Ranger goals in the last two games? I like Byers - I think he has a future in the NHL - but the fact that he can get the puck in and Callahan/Prospal/Dubinsky/Drury/Kotalik can not is kinda sad.

*Being outshot 25-13 over the first two periods is outright inexcusable.

*Enver Lisin showed off some of that world class speed in the loss. Damn shame his linemates couldn't keep up with him.

*That the game was telecast on the Armed Services Networks is even worse. The Rangers were not just embarrassed in Minnesota, but worldwide. High class move by Brandon Dubinsky to thank the soldiers during his intermission interview. Now if he could have just scored a goal for those servicemen ... They are risking their lives every day overseas and the government 'rewards' them by making them listen to Joe Micheletti? Now that is waterboarding in it's worse form.

*Something else that really isn't funny is Chris Drury's continuing presence in the lineup. It was his ghost of a stickcheck that allowed Antti Miettinen to score what proved to be the game-winner. Accountability. Heard the word a hundred times. Sitting the captain now would show that it means something.

*Micheletti can rave all he wants to about Wade Redden's pinch on Byer's goal but if the defenseman missed it, it would have been an odd man rush the other way. There is a difference between being lucky and being good and we have learned the hard way that Redden is far from good. Granted, he wasn't particularly bad either.

*MDZ also had that kind of take-it-or-leave-it performance, which is sad seeing that he got so much ice time. His long, bouncing pass started the play that Marc Staal scored on but it was inches away from being picked off for what would have been a three-on-two. He is still a kid and still has a lot to learn.

*Did Matt Gilroy play? I couldn't tell.

*The Blueshirt blueline sure could use a Greg Zanon or a Nick Schultz. Staal and Girardi are close in capability but not as experienced. Perhaps it is time to split them up?

*I have to admit to my ears perking up every time they said Scott. They were talking about Minnesota's John Scott but still. I remember when the Blueshirts called up that goon Richard Scott from Hartford and wanting his jersey. Ah, memories.

*There surely is more worth talking about in this fresh memory but dwelling on another debacle such as this is pointless. The Rangers have a great chance to rebound with a game on home ice before heading west again, let's hope they make the most of it. I don't think they will, but you never know.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Antti Miettinen - one goal.
2-Mikko Koivu - two assists.
1-Petr Sykora - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Without the bevy of kicksaves early and a good glove in the second, this game could/should/would have been much worse. The Rangers did little to clog up the shooting lanes and it showed.
2-Sykora - Nothing like a little vengeance. Too bad Aaron Voros couldn't pull something like that off.
1-Koivu - You had to diminish his brother's rock-solid career but Mikko is much more talented. He has all of the tools and once he gets them working with linemates that are up to speed, he will be outright awesome.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Minnesota Wild

The Rangers are back in action tonight in Minnesota, facing the Wild. The good news is that they don't have Marian Gaborik on their side. The bad news is that neither will we. Andrew Gross said Gabby was doubtful yesterday so I can't imagine much would change to get him to play against a struggling western team but who knows with our genius head coach.

Where We Are: Attempting to pick ourselves up out of the sewage of Long Island and clean ourselves off. With just one win in the last five games, things have got to turn for the better soon ... right?!?!?

Where They Are: Hoping things turn for the better as well. A new GM, a new coach and a new superstar hasn't been the recipe for success as of yet. Minnesota is 3-9-0 and coming off of two loses, the most recent being a 4-3 loss to Nashville on a third period shorthanded goal against. Eesh. At least they have those sexy new jerseys ...

Who To Watch For: The Wild brought in Martin Havlat to replace Gabby and it hasn't worked so far. Havlat is -10 in 10 games with just one goal. He is too good of a player to be this bad so the Rangers will have to keep close tabs on him. Brent Burns is slowly turning his bad start around and new captain Mikko Koivu is more than capable of racking up points. Personally, I also love watching Nick Schultz, one of the best shut-down defensive defensemen in the NHL.

What To Watch For: Cal Clutterbuck to go hit for hit with Ryan Callahan. Nicklas Backstrom to go save for save with Henrik. The Rangers to have to work harder to get shots through shot-blocking genius Greg Zanon and on net. See if the Blueshirts can actually win some faceoffs.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Boogeyman vs. Brashear, if Brash's "soreness" goes away in time. If not, Aaron Voros to step up and do something against his old team. Chris Higgins to score - I am going to keep hoping for that one, it may be a fool's errand but perhaps not - he does have the skill. PA Paranteau to go two-for-two. Redden and Rozy to grow a pair and play the body.

Also Check Out: I'll be honest, I haven't had a chance to check these since last season but they rocked then so why not now? View from Section 216, Hitting The Post, 18,568 Reasons Why and SBN's Hockey Wilderness.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

8-4-1: Ugh

Before I get into tonight's disasterpiece, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone. This is the 1,000th post here at Scotty Hockey and I really appreciate everyone's support and readership. I had no idea when I was talked into starting this in the summer of '07 that it would become such a big part of my life and something that has drawn so many readers worldwide. And for that, I thank you all.

It is somehow appropriate that the milestone proves to be a game wrap against the Islanders, right?

Sadly it is a tale of woe, of a horrendous lack of effort against the worst team in the league. You would think Tom Renney was still coaching as the Rangers played down to (and actually far below) the level of the opposition. The result was a 3-1 loss to the Islanders. The Islanders. Makes me want to puke.

The good thing? The game was at the Mausoleum. This is usually the kind of result that comes in our building - the Isles goalie gets hyper-inflated save numbers, defensive gaffes lead to goals and the Blueshirts get outworked by a more motivated team. Then again, if the Isles stepped up their game like this against us in their building, just think of how they will play in ours when they really have nothing to lose ...

*You can't use Marian Gaborik's injury as an excuse, the Islanders still don't have half the talent that the Rangers do but simply played with three times more passion. The Blueshirts hit the iron five times by my count. Five. Just a little extra effort and it would have been a different game. Instead we were left with a disgraceful display against a rival, not to mention one that won just their second game of the season.

*Could you get a worse start? Bad turnover, Wade Redden and Matt Gilroy both deep to allow a perfect home-run pass and Hank off his angle to allow a minor leaguer to score on a slow wrister inside the post. What an embarrassment. A minute in. Check that, 55 seconds. Ugh.

*Gotta love Wade Redden's exhibition of defense on the third Islander goal: he put his stick out and turned his head away. But that was how the Rangers played most of the night - scared. Rozy's abortion of a hand pass was the catalyst for that goal and he seemed to be afraid to get down and actually hit the damn puck.

*Don't get me wrong, there was effort there. I though Ales Kotalik and Ryan Callahan worked their asses off. They skated hard, shot when they had the opportunities and played the body. Dubi and Vinny weren't terrible either.

*The referees certainly did the Rangers no favours. Not only did they seem to get in the way of the play multiple times, but they missed blatant boarding calls on Andy Sutton and Jon Sim and went back to the old way of officiating Sean Avery.

*Nate Thompson is a dirtbag.

*Yay for PA!!!!!! Great to see Pierre score and it it came off of some really hard work by the Rangers. Higgins and Dubinsky got the puck deep and threw some big checks, the puck came to Paranteau and he fired a perfect backhand past Rolo to tie the game at one. First career goal and none too soon as some of the other guns have been pretty quiet. (Chrises, I'm looking at you.)

*Perhaps it is time for Torts to use his ice-time accountability and bench either one of them. Sitting Drury would send one helluva message but does the coach have the cahones?? I don't remember a single shot by Dru and he seemed to lose every faceoff he took. Why does he get so much time when he can't make anything happen (and Arty get so little despite that spin-o-rama)?

*Was Butch Goring hit in the head a few too many times as a player? Seriously, he sounds permanently concussed. I had to watch the Islander-cast and they went to him as the sideline reporter and damn, what the hell. Aside from his ability to state the obvious, he seemed to have trouble getting the words out. Still, Goring, the homer Bill Jaffe and the grating Howie Rose were better than having to listen to Micheletti.

*Rose and Jaffe pointed out that there were several fights in the stands so for all those that were there, feel free to share. As I said at while at work, 'its probably better that I'm not there, I'd likely be right in the middle of that, headed for jail.' What a frustrating exhibition and to have those low-life Islander fans rubbing it in? Restraint would be the million dollar word.

*On that note, how was it that no Ranger went after Sean Bergenheim? That pest was around Hank all night with no retribution. Aside from Avery's tumble over Rolo - which he was pushed into - the Rangers rarely made the Islander goaltender's life difficult in the paint.

*He played exactly how Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros should have but seemed utterly incapable of doing so. They seem to think they have skill of some kind. Stop trying to handle the puck - cement hands are no good at stickhandling - and go to the net!!!

*Fox caught Messier in the stands at Yankee Stadium. Guess he had just as much fun as he woulda had out on the Island too.

*That's about it, I'm spent. Why dwell on this when we can start dreading the next five games? Away at Minnesota (tough), matinee at home against Boston (we stink at matinees), then three in western Canada. Guess we get lucky Luongo is out but surely Tom Renney will do everything in his power to make the Oilers play hard against us and Calgary is quite good. I wonder when Valley will play; he certainly should/could have started this one ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jack Hillen - two assists.
2-Kyle Okposo - one goal.
1-Dwayne Roloson - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thompson - Don't like him because he made the Rangers look so bad. This is a guy with no skill to speak of and yet he made life difficult for the Rangers all night long, during play and after whistles. Dirtbag.
2-Rolo - The posts are a goalie's best friends and good friends make you a better person. Guess that makes him great in this one.
1-John Tavares - I hate to say it but the top draft pick was good. He was a constant threat and he went hard to the net, even after hurting his arm/elbow/vagina/whatever.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

The Rangers will be going up against the first game of the World Series when they take on the Islanders out at the Mausoleum on Wednesday night. Hopefully, by the time first pitch is thrown at 7:57, the Rangers will already be well ahead. How upset must the Islanders be that one of their three guaranteed sellouts isn't a guaranteed sellout due to a baseball game?? Ha!

Where We Are: Likely without Marian Gaborik, but still in good shape. Pierre Parenteau was called up to fill in for him (just in case) and PA has had the hot stick of late, leading the AHL in scoring with eight goals in nine games for the Pack. The Rangers won their last game (thankfully) after a losing streak.

Where They Are: The Islanders are on a three-game losing streak after winning a game - the only game they've won all year (and one that they needed the skills competition to win). To no one's surprise, they stink.

Who To Watch For: Tavares came out of the gates scoring as expected but hasn't been on the scorecard in four games. Nonetheless, he has raised the game of the concussed Kyle Okposo and Rob Brown Matt Moulson. Swiss Miss Mark Streit has been underwhelming, as has the free agent goaltending of Mmmmaaaaaarrrttttyyyy Biron and Dwayne Roloson. Our old friend Brendan Witt has the second-worse plus/minus in the NHL at -10 (Brent Burns is -11).

What To Watch For: How the Ranger offense adjusts without Gabby. The Rangers' discipline level; five of Tavares' seven points came with a man advantage. Tim Jackman and/or Nate Thompson crease crashing. Sean Avery on the Island, 'nuff said there.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Mausoleum full of Ranger fans. Chris Higgins to finally score. Chris Drury to step up and play his best hockey, as he always does against the Isles. Hobey Gilroy to play big in front of a hometown crowd. Brashear to do his job for once and protect Hank.

Also Check Out: Mike the Islesblogger is a good guy rooting for the wrong team, the sweet-looking Dee is actually the obsessed Isles 7th Woman and Chris Botta has stayed with the beat Point Blank despite getting canned by them. What a nice guy. For the SBN fans out there, they have the hopefully inaccurately named Lighthouse Hockey; go Kate Murray! Turn out the Lighthouse!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

8-3-1: First Line Fixes Streak

It is amazing that the Rangers break a painful losing streak with a five goal effort and yet it still feels like a loss. Seeing as the NHL is as secretive as the CIA in their injury status, we simply don't know how Marian Gaborik is. Did we win the game, and lose the season? Who knows? This is the first but likely not the last night were we will be left wondering, and that is quite unfortunate - especially as his line contributed four goals and five assists in the 5-2 win over Phoenix.

Very few folks in the Garden knew that he got hurt in the first place - leading to a smattering of boos when he didn't come out after being named first star of the night. I had a few good friends text me as soon as it was mentioned on the broadcast so we brainstormed and couldn't see anything big that happened to Gabby. There was a play along the boards in the Coyotes zone in the second period where he was checked but he played well after that. Watching Ranger Rewind, I noticed he fell over Hank awkwardly five minutes into the third and could have tweaked a knee ...

But, since we won't know his status until at least Tuesday if not Wednesday at puck drop, let's not panic just yet and look at this evening's victory:

*So we won't talk about his injury but let's rave about his skill: Gabby is good. Like, real good. Like, how were the Coyotes so stupid as to let him skate into the slot alone to score on a perfect one-timer from Brandon Dubinsky? That he was free for his second goal was no surprise as it was on the power play but still, you would think they would endeavour to cover a guy with a release as good as his.

*Dubi, by the way, certainly responded to his Montreal benching with really good work at both ends of the ice. Chris Higgins wasn't as impressive but he wasn't bad. He got himself a great scoring chance early on but missed the net and blew a shorthanded chance in the second. One of these days, one of these days. It would make for a nice story line for it to come on the Island on Wednesday ...

*What the hell was that boarding call on Vinny Prospal in the first period? Is checking now illegal? And the Avery rules were in effect, with him getting a phantom slashing call and no call when he was unceremoniously dumped to the ice by a Phoenix defenseman.

*Speaking of incredulous questions, how do you give Donald Brashear an assist on the Arty Anisimov goal? There is a Phoenix shot blocked, the puck comes out to Brian Boyle and Boyle and Ansimov pass the puck back and forth all the way up the ice. So what exactly was Brash's contribution? Not taking a penalty on the play?

*It was shocking to see Ilya Bryzgalov play so bad. Can't give him a hard time on the first Gabby goal but the other three were stoppable. Hey, all the better for us, right?

*I made a comment after his second goal, saying how nice it was to have a win. Hey, up four goals, the win is in the bag, right??? (Unless it is against Montreal, in Montreal.) Of course, the Rangers then sat back and let Dave Tippett's team put two in to make a game of it. Ah, the Scotty Hockey hex. And you guys wonder why I prefer to be pessimistic ...

*It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night and I bought a book and a hat. I hope other folks who went bought stuff too. Great cause. I turned on MSG to hear Joe Micheletti say, in talking about the kids from Sloan Kettering, that "I wish I had some of what they have." Really. I kid you not. Now, he was talking about their courage and not their cancer, but it came out wrong. This guy is a clown, surely there is someone capable of providing good colour commentary out there. I'd offer, but I think it would come out at bit like this.

*There was a nice video tribute to Bill Chadwick during a tv timeout but sadly few people in the Garden really knew who he was. Nonetheless, the crowd did itself proud and put together a decent ovation in the Big Whistle's memory.

*Petr Prucha didn't get an ovation. There was a smattering of Pru's when he took the puck on his first shift but he - and Lauri Korpikoski - were complete nonfactors.

*It's been mentioned here before but Ales Kotalik's shot is just awe-inspiring. That damn thing is a cannon and when it is off the mark, it just booms off of the endboards.

*Those virtual ads on the boards on the MSG telecast really don't interfere with the play and less and less fans are speaking out about them. That is great but how long until they attempt virtual ads down on the ice as well?

*After Matt Gilroy's gaffe gave the Canadiens a win on Saturday, he settled down and looked solid against the Coyotes. Granted, the Desert Dogs don't have anywhere near the offensive skill that the Habs do but this was a good one for the confidence. MDZ was also good and is certainly making the most of his power play time (which is nice considering it feeds the goal machine that is Prospal/Gaborik).

*People keep nominating Staalsie for the other "A" but, after listening to Prospal talk after the second period, I think Vinny deserves some consideration. He was serious, he was smart, he understands the head coach well and he is integral to the team's future success.

*Talking about the captaincy, what is up with Chris Drury? He seemed better in the faceoff circle but took a bad hit of some kind. It looked like he got hit high by a puck but he went off the ice with an arm hanging so who knows? He didn't miss a shift so hopefully he is really ok as the Rangers face the Islanders next and that is the only team he seems able to score against.

*I'm pretty sure I saw Jari Kurri down in the purple seats. I still think he was vastly overrated - even in his prime - and the deal to get the past-his-prime version with with Marty McSorley and Shane Churla for Ray Ferraro, Ian Laperriere, Mattias Norstrom, Nathan Lafayette and a pick was one of the franchise's worse.

*Loved the whistle war late in the third period as the idiots kept trying to do the Potvin Sucks whistle and other guys just piped up to interrupt. Once a game, cool. Five times - in a row - in the third period against Phoenix? Not cool.

*Why does Hank insist on coming out of the crease? His fumble with the puck led to the shorthanded goal against. Nothing ever good comes out of Hank's wanderings. Otherwise he was Hank - one of the best in the business.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Enver Lisin - one goal and one assist.
2-Vinny Prospal - one goal and two assists.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Michael Del Zotto - MDZ collected two assists for his offensive acumen and is showing such great poise. Perhaps down the line, once they get more experience, he and Hobey will to be a great pairing.
2-Prospal - If he can play this kind hockey now, just wait until the team heads to Tampa when he can slap them directly in the face for buying him out.
1-Gaborik - Get well soon Gabby. Please? Pretty please?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Phoenix Coyotes

Petr Prucha and Lauri Korpikoski make their return to the Garden on Monday night as the Phoenix Coyotes come to take on the Rangers. Pru has two goals and one assist in nine games while the Korpedo is pointless in six. (Enver Lisin has six points in 11 games so I guess we won that deal, at least thus far.)

Phoenix should be out of their element, seeing that the arena will actually have fans in it so hopefully us fans will throw them off their game. Then again, if the Yankees are playing a Game 7 and Ranger fans decide that they have better things to do with a Monday night than watch the Gretzky-less Coyotes, then the Garden won't necessarily be as much of a benefit.

Where We Are: Falling apart. Three bad losses in a row marked by a lack of discipline, a lack of physicality and a lack of proper accountability.

Where They Are: Phoenix, 6-3-0, had a four game win streak snapped on Saturday by L.A. The Yotes beat San Jose, St. Louis, Boston and Detroit ... a tough bunch to beat.

Who To Watch For: Winnipeg Jet Shane Doan continues to shine in the desert. This guy has been the franchise for far too long and remains vastly under-appreciated. Love the heart, love the dedication, hate that he is in Phoenix. Former Flyer Scottie Upshall is a big part of the offense, as is JovoCop Ed Jovanovski and the ageless Robert Lang. Matthew Lombardi came in the Olli Jokinen deal from Calgary and is fitting in just fine with Upshall and the underachieving Peter Mueller.

What To Watch For: Brandon Dubinsky to come out flying after his benching. Taylor Pyatt taking advantage of the soft Blueshirt blueline to cause havoc around Hank. Former Isle Adrian Aucoin having all the time in the world to fire long bombs from the point during power plays. Ilya Bryzgalov to continue to be red hot and shut down opposing shooters.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Chris Higgins to come out flying after his benching. Marc Staal not allowing Taylor Pyatt to cause havoc around Hank. Former Isle Adrian Aucoin not getting the time or space to get off that shot of his, and the Rangers not to take stupid penalties. Ilya Bryzgalov to get cold and not be able to stop a beach ball.

Also Check Out: The Corner of Section 420 And Glendale, Hip Shot Blog, SBN's Five For Howling and the MSM Ice Chips from Jim Gintonio of The Arizona Republic.

7-3-1: Madness In Montreal

Nights like tonight are going to happen a lot this season. We knew it coming in, so it should be no surprise. Still, it sucks. Quite a bit in fact.

The Rangers blew a two goal lead to fall 5-4 in overtime against the Original Six rival Montreal Canadiens. They were sloppy, they were lazy and they were undisciplined. For all of the tough talk from Torts, the coach seemed incapable of reining his players in. But how could he be all that mad? They played his all-attack, jump-in-the-rush system and they were burned for it by a faster, smarter team.

Just a warning, there is plenty of bitterness below:

*Since day one, this team struggled inside the blueline. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are quite good - as three and four defensemen. They have been thrust into the top pairing and have yet to get their play to a consistent level where either one deserve it. They have their moments - loved the jump save by Danny to keep the puck in on the Kotalik goal - but neither is mature enough to be top pairing guys.

*Matt Gilroy scored a power play goal. Yay. Matt Gilroy waved at Mike Cammalleri as Cams cut into the slot to score the game-winner in overtime. Boo. Ah, the ups and downs of youth. That kind of stuff has to be expected from a rookie. But what is he doing out on the ice in overtime to begin with?

*Not only did Chris Higgins not score, he was out of position plenty, took a bad penalty and was benched for the third period. Welcome home Higs! Way to shove it in the Montreal fans' faces for being in their doghouse so often by jumping into ours.

*On the other side of the coin, the MexiCan't played a motivated game and collected a pair of assists. I gotta say, I loved that dive he took, he almost sold it too. Almost. Maybe shouldn't have grabbed the Ranger stick before falling ...

*Brandon Dubinsky saw the bench a bunch late. In the second period Dubi turned the puck over in the neutral zone, which led to the Habs second goal of the night. Tortorella seemingly believed that goal was what lost the game for the team, as he threw Dubi under the bus during the postgame for the gaffe. One turnover does not a loss like this make.

*In the end Dubi saw just 8:51 in ice time. Vinny Prospal played 24:51. And yet it was Prospal's stupid, careless penalty that jump started the Canadiens comeback. Ah, hypocritical accountability - the Tortorella way. And then Cams skated right past Prospal on his way to score the game-winner. But not a poor word was said from waht I heard ...

*Soon after that D'Agostini goal Marian Gaborik scored a tremendous one of his own to put the Rangers up by two. We knew Gabby was good, but damn is he blowing the locks off. That tap-the-puck-behind-the-back-to-himself to set up the breakaway was amazing. Shows of skill like that are just going to make it that much more painful when he inevitably gets injured.

*When Dubi and Max Lapierre went crashing into Hank it certainly appeared that our season was over. Hank writhing in pain = bad, very, very bad. It is the third time by my recollection that Hank got nailed this season by one of his own players who was rushing to backcheck. But the Rangers are playing that open-ice, all-attack system so that is what you are gonna get.

*Picking at an old scab, when you take stupid penalty after stupid penalty, your penalty kill had better be great. It wasn't, but don't worry, the muscle of Voros and Boyle was much more important than, say, Blair Betts' selflessness would have been. Hope everyone enjoyed the beating Boyle laid on Matt D'Agostini.

*But Chris Drury was out there to kill penalties. The captain, like Torts' pal Prospal, hasn't heard a bad word from the coach yet and continues his poor play. Dru took a penalty, had one shot and went 9-9 in the circle. Certainly not the kind of effort expected from the captain of the New York Rangers.

*Sean Avery did not get credited with a single hit. How is that possible?

*Before I get to the stars and call it a (miserable) night, I just want to say RIP to the Big Whistle. My dad had fond memories of the man who, I must admit, I thought had already passed. I've mentioned it before but my first memory was when I was three and my dad was yelling "Shoot the puck Barry" at the tv - the line Bill Chadwick is best known for from his day as an announcer.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.
2-Brian Gionta - two assists.
1-Mike Cammalleri - three goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Paul Mara - Mara had the quiet, workman-like effort that he so often had as a Ranger and we so desperately miss now. That is not to say that Rozy and Redden were bad (they actually weren't) but there is no calm personality that can settle things down anymore.
2-Gionta - That feed to Cams from his belly was awesome.
1-Cama-lama-ding-dong - Tip of the hat to the hat trick. Cams has a helluva lotta speed and is making the transition to the East look easy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Montreal Canadiens

The Rangers head up to the Bell Centre for a Hockey Night In Canada match against the Habs Saturday night. Great arena, great atmosphere, silly French-Canadians - as I've said in the past, everyone should go there once.

Where We Are: Back on earth, picking up the pieces of shattered dreams, looking for answers ... being overly melodramatic just 10 games into the season.

Where They Are: The Habs won two, lost five, then won two. Jaro Halak was in net for both of the last two wins so perhaps they have finally realized that Carey Price is more Steve Penney than Jesus. Montreal's last game was a 5-1 romp over the Isles on Thursday.

Who To Watch For: We saw that a motivated MexiCan't was a MexiCan when he faced the Devils in the playoffs so if Scott Gomez feels particularly vengeful, he could dominate. Gomez has five points in nine games, proving once again that he is not a point per game player - even with Lollipop Guild representative Brian Gionta and Mike Cama-lama-ding-dong playing alongside him on the power plays. Paul Mara has five assists and has played as big as his beard, which is huge. Former Long Island Jawz star Glen Metropolit has four points in three games (and you thought that Brash had it tough? Check out Metro's history). And Tomas Plekanec, who is such a fantasy hockey tease, is currently leading the team in scoring.

What To Watch For: Gomez to dive and cry to the refs like he did against the Thrashers on Tuesday (1:22 mark) - when it didn't work he got all tough - high class character right there. Gionta to skate through everyone's legs to pop up and score a goal or two, as he always did for the Devils against us. Brashear to miraculously heal from his "soreness" to play in his hometown.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Three passes in a row. Disciplined hockey - the mighty midgets are good with the man advantage so we need to keep the goals on the top shelf out of their reach. The defense to not allow Travis Moen to crash into Hank. A triumphant return by Chris Higgins that includes a goddamned goal (pardon the language; it is frustrating). Gentleman Georges Laraque (he of the incredible Octane ad) vs. Brash.

Also Check Out: All Habs, the fun Four Habs Fans, SBN's Eyes on the Prize and a thorough MSM blog from the Gazette called Habs Inside/Out.

7-3-0: At Least It Wasn't A Shutout

Entering this evening's game between the Rangers and the Devils I thought that the Rangers would lose and I prayed it wasn't a shutout. The worse thing I could imagine seeing on Garden ice is Mmmmmaaaaarrrtttyyyyy celebrating another record. Luckily, he didn't get it as the Rangers scored twice in what would be a 4-2 loss.

To the Blueshirts credit, they had several chances to draw even after giving up that pathetic excuse for a go-ahead goal by Dainius Zubrus. But they didn't, and they lost their second straight. Seeing as they face a motivated Mexican't in Montreal on Saturday, hot Phoenix Coyotes on Monday and the always-tough Islanders after that, these two losses could snowball real fast.

So what happened and what has to be done going forward?

*The Rangers need to find some chemistry. As my buddy the Gregger pointed out, they didn't seem to be on the same page with each other as passes went awry and players were forced to dump pucks as they found themselves without support.

*Of course, having Torts take a page out of the Renney playbook and start juggling lines with the game in reach certainly didn't help. With Renney it was a clear sign of a desperate man. I'm not sure what it is with Torts, yet.

*Sean Avery has to find the edge and go back to playing there. After the refs came down hard on him against San Jose, he seemed to sit back in this one. Avery stayed away from Mmmmmaaaarrrtttyyy and didn't have a big encounter with David Clarkson. He did have a helluva fight with Mike Mottau, but - somehow - the Devils got the boost and scored minutes later.

*The Rangers blueline bites. There is no presence in front of the crease and no one is particularly physical. Marc Staal was horrendous and culpable in all three of the real Devil goals, plus he got hurt somehow (perhaps a puck to the groin, I couldn't tell) in the second period and wasn't the same. He struggled skating and could hardly get to his feet after falling along the boards on the play that led to Ales Kotalik's goal.

*Matt Gilroy seems to be feeling the wrath of Redden Syndrome - the same disease that sapped the skill out of Girardi last season - and struggled to get his positioning right.

*Rozy actually had a good game and made a great defensive play in the second period that left my jaw on the ground. I wish I could remember the details but I am still in shock.

*As impressed as I was by that Rozy play, MDZ was probably the best Ranger skater. The kid stood up for Hank, made good passes and was able to keep up with his men. Seeing him diving after the Parise shot towards the empty net was really a telling testament to his effort.

*Considering Ryan Callahan missed practice Wednesday with the flu (!), that he could even play in this was remarkable and that he had several good scoring chances as well was all the more impressive.

*Dru and Higs, however, need to get their games together. They were invisible. Brian Boyle played more than 10 minutes less than both of them and he had more of an impact with a good scoring chance. That's just sad.

*I called Arty Anisimov wooden after his first game last season, but watching him lumber around out there for yet another game I think he may have earned the moniker Frankenstein. I think he (and Enver Lisin for that matter) would benefit from Geno Grachev coming back. Something about that big kid made Arty play with more confidence (and grace).

*Brash didn't play, citing "soreness." From what? He didn't do ANYTHING against San Jose. Why not just admit that he was scratched because Jersey scratched Peters and Aaron Voros is just as capable as Brash to waste four minutes of ice time doing nothing?

*I'm sure there is more but I didn't catch Rangers Rewind; right after the game ended I went right to a concert and got home quite late. As always, feel free to fill in the blanks and add your two cents in the comments.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dainius Zubrus - one goal.
2-Ales Kotalik - one goal and one assist.
1-Zach Parise - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Johnny Oduya - Where Oduya was responsible for the Devils loss in the first Battle of the Hudson this season, he turned his fortunes around tonight with a very strong performance. He was solid and when he finally did something dumb (the interference penalty), the game was already won.
2-Mmmmmaaaaarrrtttyyyyy - While I am loathe to give him credit for most anything, Fatso did make some big saves.
1-Colin White - White's third period desperation dive to knock the puck away from Cally saved the game for the Devils. That simple. Sure Parise grabbed a few points, but White's play was more pivotal.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peepin' Foes: New Jersey Devils

The Rangers had better have patched all of their wounds from the Shark attack because they are back in action against Mmmmaaaarrrttttyyyy tonight at the Garden. Luckily for us (and everyone else), the game will be on MSG at 7 (booo Versus).

Where We Are: Coming off of two days rest where the team hopefully soulsearched and learned from their many mistakes during the savage beating on Monday. But still 7-2-0 and second in the Atlantic.

Where They Are: Third in the Atlantic, with a 4-3-0 record. Three of those wins came on the road. Their last game was their first and only win at home, a 2-0 sleeper over Carolina that got Mmmmaaaarrrttttyyyy closer to another record he doesn't deserve.

Who To Watch For: Jamie Langenbrunner had the game-winner in that win and always loves to hate the Rangers. Parise and Zajac are still around, as is Rob Niedermayer- the guy who scored the early goal that set off the Torts Time Out Tirade when we played them last. Still no Patrick Elias, who is out recovering from groin surgery.

What To Watch For: Sean Avery vs. Fatso. Sean Avery vs. minor leaguer David Clarkson. Everything else is secondary.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean work his magic on Mmmmaaaarrrttttyyyy. A considerably better effort than Monday. Chris Higgins score a goal. Wade Redden to start swinging his purse around - with all of the money the Rangers are giving him, it should have some weight behind it.

Also Check Out: The solid Fire & Ice, In Lou We Trust and Rich Chere's MSM blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ice Hockey In Harlem Auction

It's a decent amount of money to get in the door but the cash goes to a good cause and not to the Dolans so that is a good thing. They usually have some good things up for auction and several Rangers are sure to be there. Perhaps Valley will have redeemed himself for Monday's mistakes by then ...

More on Ice Hockey in Harlem here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thought Of The Night

I've hacked and slashed at the NHL Network before and posted my list of suggestions for improvement. In that post I said that I was fine with the former cast of characters on NHL on the Fly.

I didn't realize what I was missing. The idea to add Kevin Weekes is proving to be genius. I saw him earlier in the year on Hockey Night In Canada and he seemed a little out of place in a postgame interview with Pat Quinn but on the Fly set, Weeksie is stellar. He is comfortable, he provides insight and information that you don't usually get. He knows his stuff - pointing out which goalie wears which gear? Huet had RBK back in Montreal? wow - and he communicates well. I certainly think he is making the usually competent Pittsburgh homer Bob Errey look poor by comparison.

As we've seen with JD, Razor and Panger, goaltenders make good analysts and Weeksie is proving to be no exception. Congrats to him and a pat on the back to the NHL Network for putting him on. So, now that the NHL Network has raised the talent level, how soon until MSG follows suit? Don't let the door hitcha Joe ...

Adding Dandenault To The D?

This afternoon Zip dropped the rumour that Mathieu Dandenault may be heading to Hartford and possibly, eventually Broadway.

That's not great news, but it's not bad news.

San Jose has a good stock of young prospects so it is of little surprise that Dandenault couldn't catch on there. I watched a lot of him back when he was with Detroit and found him to be a smart, capable puck mover. He has good vision and has no problem jumping in the rush. Dandenault can be an emergency third or fourth line forward if needed and transitions up front seamlessly. He is 33, has three Cups and over 950 NHL games of experience (including playoffs). At the same time, the glaring hole in the Ranger blueline - you know, the hole Dany Heatley skated right through last night - is the lack of physical defensemen. And Dandenault is not a crease-clearing defenseman. He will stand up for himself and his teammates though and is tougher than at least one of his prospective teammates.

While it says something that Sather doesn't want to bring up any of the Pack kids as a seventh defenseman - either that they are not ready for the show or that they will be better served playing rather than sitting in the box - giving Dandenault a shot has little downside.

7-2-0: Pride Before The Fall

John Tortorella outright said that the New York Rangers didn't have the conditioning to win the Stanley Cup last season so he tried to send a message, rather than coach to win. Sure, he wanted to win - that goes without saying - but the message was more important.

Tortorella knew that the Ranger win streak would have to come to an end sometime, so puts his star goaltender in to get the easy points against the worst team in the conference, and his backup in against one of the top three teams in the NHL. A loss to the Sharks wouldn't be as bad as a loss against Jersey (Thursday), a loss against Montreal (Saturday) or a loss against Phoenix (Monday).

The idea makes sense. It sucks, but it makes sense. Of course, Torts' pride is bigger than the success of the team, so he suddenly wanted to pull a win out of the jaws of defeat. It was far, far too late. Pulling Valley for the third period was a horrendous move and likely hurt the team far more than the seven goals San Jose scored in their 7-3 demolition of the Rangers tonight.

Did he really think that his team could score three or more goals against Evgeni Nabokov in the third period? Especially with his team playing as poorly as they were? The only thing that happened was that he pissed off his star goaltender and likely injured the confidence that carried the team to seven straight wins. Good job coach.

Now Torts has two days to attempt to patch the damage he caused before the Rangers face the Devils. Good luck with that; Jersey always steps up their game against the Blueshirts and will be ready to pounce.

Before we start dreading Thursday, more on tonight's debacle as I saw it from section 329. There is no re-air on that network, MSG didn't pick it up and the NHL Network will re-air the Vancouver game. It's better that way I guess.

A quick look at the goals against:
1-Brad Staubitz's goal was intensely savable, a shot low glove side past Valley. Awful.
2-Dany Heatley just walked through the defense. Yeah, why cover one of the best scorers in the NHL?
3-Our (former) boy Jed Ortmeyer scored by lurking around the crease and cashing in on some garbage.
4-Devin Setoguchi's was another one where he didn't have to pay a price for hanging out aroung the crease.
5-His second was another savable shot that Valley waved at as it went by.
6-Ryan Vesce scored because no one bothered to cover the midget as he followed up a Heatley shot. And someone in his family loudly celebrated too - you could hear it clearly in the quiet Garden.
7-And Patrick Marleau closed it out with a one-timer.

I guess now the Rangers know the difference between an exhausted Ducks team and a flying Sharks team, huh?? Not the team to put your crappy backup in against if you want to win. But I guess that is a big IF if you are John Tortorella.

Some more notes:

*All Enver Lisin's goal did in the third period was ensure that Jed's goal wasn't the game-winner.

*It was really interesting inside the Garden when Jed scored. Some fans booed, some fans cheered and everyone started talking. I just think there was a bit of shock that Jed scored and that the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead. Blowing 2-0 leads is sooooo 2007.

*The officiating was soooo 2008-09. After the media made such a big deal over how Sean Avery had no PIM, the referees made up a call to put him in the box. And, seeing as they didn't call any of the seven or so clear infractions against him, he finally got frustrated and took a second penalty, a bad penalty. Hopefully it will not be a sign of things to come because it is pathetic and annoying to watch zebras ref with chips on their shoulders.

*Loved the goal that they waved off because of an early whistle. Where was the review? The Rangers had one stupid whistle waived off on video review last game, why not tonight?

*So, Donald Brashear was added to protect his teammates and yet he did nothing to protect Avery. The team was flat and blews a 2-0 lead, where was he to have that big fight to get the pendulum to swing back to his team? Nowhere. As ludicrous as it is to say, it is time to dress Aaron Voros. At least he checks people.

*Wade Redden ... words fail me. Liek Mr. X from the Blue Seats said

*It says something when the best scoring chance over the last 30 minutes was by Brian Boyle, and he missed the net.

*Did the Rangers win any faceoffs? The box score says that Scott Nichol was 8-2 but I didn't catch him losing a single one.

*Anyone else have a heart attack when Jody Shelley raced into the Ranger zone in the third period and Hank rushed out towards him?

*Since I don't want to go to the stars on a bad note, MDZ's goal was nice. Just like one of his other goals, he was pinching on the power play and was in the right place at the right time to bang in the puck in a empty net. Nice work kiddo.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Patrick Marleau - one goal and two assists.
2-Dany Heatley - one goal, one assist and no car accidents (didn't think I would get through an entire post about a game with him without mentioning it, did you?).
1-Devin Setoguchi - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Setoguchi - Jonathan Cheech-who?
2-Jed - He helped keep Gabby off his game, scored a goal and made a few big hits. I miss him as a Ranger.
1-Torts - His poor decisions put his team in a position to lose and he did nothing to help them turn the tables. First star for the Sharks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peepin' Foes: San Jose Sharks

All hail the return of Jed! Sure the Sharks will be the best opponent the Rangers have faced since the Pens on opening night when they enter the Garden Monday night. Sure the Rangers are riding a seven game win streak. But Jed is coming back to the Garden! What more do you need to know?

It will be Ortmeyer's first game back in New York since signing with Nashville in 2007. Since then he tore up his knee, went through blood clots again, spent some time in the AHL (with Milwaukee, who suck because they wouldn't let me buy a game-used jersey because I couldn't go to their season-ending sale in person) and signed with San Jose. He has just one point (that goal I mentioned) in eight games but is seeing 13 or so minutes of ice time.

If that isn't enough to get you excited - and I don't see how it couldn't be - here is a regular Peepin' Foes.

Where We Are: Flying. Seven wins in a row certainly adds some confidence to the crew and the ship seems headed in the right direction. Granted, two wins were against the Leafs, but wins are wins and points add up.

Where They Are: San Jose is 4-3-1. After losing to the Caps last Thursday, they bounced back with a win over the Isles. Good for them! Everyone should be able to nurse their wounds with wins over them.

Who To Watch For: Much like MDZ in Toronto, young Ryan Vesce grew up a Ranger fan so he will be looking to step up his game - and he managed to stick it to the Isles with a goal to boot. Oh, and there is Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, a revitalized Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi and two of the better defensemen in the game in Dan Boyle and Rob Blake. But that's about it. Oh no, I forgot Nabby. Yeah, their goalie is kinda good too.

What To Watch For: The Rangers discipline. San Jose's power play has been ever bit as good as ours (who would have thought I would ever say that in a positive way?) so the Blueshirts have to stay out of the box. The Sharks are dominant in the faceoff circle, in no small part due to the addition of Manny Malhotra.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Jed to get a warm welcome. The Rangers to be able to run with the Sharks. Marian Gaborik to outshine Heatley. Donald Brashear vs. Jody Shelley (who will hopefully use his fists and not his writing skills). And Chris Higgins to score a damned goal already.

Also Check Out: SBN's Fear The Fin, The Chum Bucket, the almighty Mike Chen and the Mercury News' Working The Corners.

7-1-0: Beating The Beatable

How sad is your franchise when you have to celebrate a mid-90s team that never won anything and bring in Bill Berg, Mark Osbourne and Felix Potvin to represent them?

The answer - as we saw - was very, very sad. The Rangers easily beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday night, their second win over the cellar-dwellers in a week. How lucky are the Blueshirts to face these guys twice before Phil Kessel shows up and they get their acts together?

*Doooooooob. Brandon Dubinsky opened the scoring with a snipe of a shot. Skating four on four the Rangers had a three-on-one break and the defenseman cut off the pass. Dubi kept his head up and when the defenseman fell, shot it over him and past Joey MacDonald, who was off his angle. Perfect shot on a perfect play. Of course, he had a great chance to score on a 2-on-1 in the third and he shot it over the net but small steps, small steps. One of these days he will be a first line center.

*It was fantastic (and about time) that the Rangers were defending the crease in the first period. My dad floated the idea that Hank should go all Billy Smith on opposition forwards and while I laughed at him when he said it, the man is right - a sentiment echoed on the broadcast by Dave Maloney.

*At the same time, it was not fantastic seeing Rozy shove Lee Stempiak directly into Hank on a rush in the first period. Granted, Hank still made the save on that rodent Jason Blake but Hank is taking some hard hits waaaaaay to early in the season. And for Rozy to come in like that so late on the play is very high on the not good scale.

*How can you not love Sean Avery? He was all over the ice causing chaos. He 'falls' on Joey Mac stick-first and gets jumped on by two Leafs, then skates to the bench and sits down smiling. And after Sean was roughed up by Ian White in the first period, karma saw his deflected shot in the second come up and strike White in the face. Don't mess with the Zohan!

*Talk about bringing the smiles, Marc Staal scored on an old-school wrap-around! For one, Staalsie actually scored! For two, that move actually worked! Greatness.

*MDZ got one great screen from two Toronto players to score a power play goal to make it 3-0. Always a fairytale when guys can score at home, and it was one MSG reminded viewers of multiple times.

*And why did they MSG feel the need to show that silly clip of Toronto playing dodgeball in practice so many times? Who cares? They stink at hockey, so they are trying out another sport, good for them (har, har).

*Now I can't even give Toronto credit for their lone goal. It was quite disgraceful. Enver Lisin turns the puck over, Marc Staal slides right through the play, Dan Girardi has the puck go through his legs and Hank was already down on the ice and couldn't make the save as Ian White scores. Embarrassing ...

* ... just like Donald Brashear. Brash lumbered around looking to start trouble at all of the wrong times. When the Leafs came looking for him, he didn't want any part of them. He jostled with Whitehill, he jostled with Orr, he jostled with Komisarek. And nothing came out of any of it. It was just comical to watch him lose the puck in his own skates in the last minute as he broke into the Toronto zone. USELESS.

*Poor Chris Higgins. Higs was the favourite in the poll to score first but Marc Staal and Enver Lisin were both able to get on the board while he remains goal-less. One of these days, one of these days.

*Was there really any reason why Valley couldn't start this game, what with the Sharks and Devils coming up? Was Torts afraid of the Rangers losing two easy points? Was he talked into it by Hank, who just wanted to play? Was he afraid of too much rest for the king? Sure Hank made a few big saves but it was the Leafs, c'mon!

*Another query - who is worse at defense, Michal Rozsival, Wade Redden or Jeff Finger? Sorry Leafs fans, I think you win this one. Who would have thought that there were worse NHL defenseman than the overpaid Ranger pair?

*I'm sure there is more but after 11 hours of work tonight, I have no idea what it may be so feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ian White - one goal.
2-Marc Staal - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Sean Avery - There is nothing quite like Avery playing in his element. Surrounded by fans who hate him and against players who want to kill him, Avery steps up his game. No points except those in the standings and that is alright with me.
2-Michael Del Zotto - Let's get all Motley Crue and reminisce about Home, Sweet Home. MDZ spent a ton of money on tickets to play in front of friends and family and put on a show for them. He scored a power play goal and played his most physical game yet.
1-Marc Staal - Staalsie took a big step towards becoming the superstar defenseman we all hope he will be. He manhandled Toronto and helped shut them down with six and a half minutes of ice time shorthanded. He had four hits, two blocked shots, a take-away and - oh yeah - a goal.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Toronto Maple Leafs

Taking the train home tonight from an exceptional dinner with friends, a old hippie came up to me and asked the time. So, I told the grey-haired, frayed pony-tailed, round sunglass-wearing-at-night burnout the time, 1 am. He turned back to me (as I was wearing a Ranger thermal under my Ranger jacket) and said 'thanks maaaaaaaaaaaann, and go Rangers! Go, go Rangers!!' When I didn't immediately join in his exuberance, he started ranting at me 'ya gotta belieeeeeeeeve man, ya gotta belieeeeeeeeve!!!!!!'

And I bet he doesn't read this blog (and post anonymously).

Well, I'm trying to find faith and these two upcoming games will go far to help that. First off the Rangers play Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada (and thus this Peepin' Foes) and then Monday they face the high-powered Sharks. Last year the Rangers lost to San Jose out in California but it was one of their best-played games all season. But we will get to that on Sunday or Monday. For now, let's look at the Leafs:

Where We Are: The Rangers head into the Air Canada Center Saturday night carrying a six pack of wins - mmmmm, six pack of wiiiiiiins - and a whole lotta confidence.

Where They Are: Winless. After getting blown out in the Garden Monday, they lost to the Avalanche 4-1 Tuesday and have been off since. That will be three straight days licking their wounds and listing to the Toronto media call them out for sucking so badly. It will get even worse if we beat them again, seeing as the Leafs will have six more days off before their next game.

Who To Watch For: Everyone. Ron Wilson will surely pull out the spurs to try to kick these guys into giving it their all with so much time to recover afterwards. And embarrassment on Hockey Night in Canada is embarrassment of the highest level so if they don't come out hard heads will surely roll.

What To Watch For: Joey MacDonald to get hot and shut down the Ranger attack - he did it last year with the Isles so he has it in him, but I wouldn't bet on it. Mike Komisarek to respond to his coach and play like he did last season. Marian Gaborik to score another third period goal.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: MacDonald finding company in his crease as the Rangers go for vengeance for all of the crease-crashing in Tuesday's game. Brashear/Orr '09 II. Someone to send Jason Blake back to munchkinland. Sean Avery to continue to stick it to Toronto. Chris Higgins to finally knock one in. The Leafs failing to exploit Rozy and Redden's defensive incompetence. No mental slips like those made during last year's showing in Hockey Night In Hell.

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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blue$hirt$ United

The Rangers have promoted the heck out of their new money grab, called Blueshirts United. Tonight I received an e-mail invitation to join. And, oh yes, it is quite the money grab. Unless you spend a lot of it, you don't get very much. And season subscribers get all of a 15% discount. Guess we haven't spent enough already to be Fanatics, Captains or Legends - the three levels of membership. And is it any wonder that they launch this in the middle of a recession when they raised ticket prices and have trouble selling out home games?

The Legends level is where it's at, and of course it costs you two grand. You get to actually interact with the players - something regular season subscribers are not given the chance to outside of those controlled, no-autographs-allowed forums. It also gets you on the ice at the Garden for a pickup hockey game, something that normally costs three or four hundred bucks alone. Neat stuff, but worth an extra two grand? Personally I don't think so. But you can look at the three for yourself:




Now this is different than the official New York Rangers Fan Club. That club doesn't seem to be much of late. I was a member last season (for $25) and half of the meetings were cancelled (and, of course, I couldn't make the others). There was supposed to be some other things - a holiday party if I recall and something with the Maven - but those were cancelled too. So, for my money I got a flimsy membership card and a monthly newsletter with old Ranger news. Kinda sad, especially when they show that old photo of the legion of members together from back in the 40s or 50s in the opening montage at the Garden.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of unofficial 'clubs' - the folks who hang out at Harringtons, the various bands of blue seaters who meet up at the other Garden bars, the Play-by-Play people, the autograph seekers, etc. - but those are just friends hanging out and having a good time around the Rangers, which is what this is supposed to be about. It isn't supposed to be a shameless money grab, a way to cash in on the undying passion of the fanbase.

But if you want guaranteed Ranger gifts and the chance to empty your wallet for the benefit of the Dolans, click below to see the official invite and sign up!

6-1-0: Keep Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

I am not a believer. Not yet. It is simply too early. But damn, what a win. A visibly tired Rangers trumped the Kings 4-2 on Wednesday night for their sixth victory in a row. The Blueshirts didn't have the jump that Los Angeles did. They did have Henrik Lundqvist, and that made all the difference. The King shut down the Kings. Hank was huge from buzzer to buzzer and the Blueshirts offense didn't have too much trouble finding the holes in Erik Ersberg's armour.

*Ersberg wasn't bad - his rebound control was great early on - he just didn't win the game for Los Angeles. It is hard to say he lost it for them when they outshot the Rangers 10-1 in the third period and yet couldn't come back - but I'm sure he wants Gabby's goal back.

*Gabby's goal was his sixth of the young season and all of them came in the third period - a interesting stat that surely was mentioned on the broadcast as it was relayed to me by a half dozen people at the same time after his goal. It was a superstar's kind of goal too: take control of the puck with one hand, tempt the defenseman by moving slowly across the blue line and then kick it into that other gear before rifling a shot into the net. He's good. He's really good.

*And so is Hank. That awesome save on Teddy Purcell right after the first Ranger goal was a thing of beauty. And the rest of the game he was the cool, collected rock in net. He could hardly be faulted on the Ryan Smyth goal and the power play goal against was a deflection as well.

*You would think that Torts and his staff would do something (anything) to try to get some protection for Hank. Smyth was allowed to hang out around the slot and Hank was ran a few times yet again. Between the contact in the Leafs game and tonight, it is a good thing that the Rangers are off until Saturday so he can nurse his bruises.

*The official scorer should be given more than a little time off. It was hugely annoying to hear them announce corrected scorings for almost all of the goals. The Garden takes forever to announce the scoring as is, the least you can do is get it right.

*Did anyone else get a pain in the pit of their stomach when Sean Avery went off in the third period? Avery wasn't a huge factor against his former team but he is still a huge part of this team and needs to stay healthy and in the lineup. As my friend Andrea pointed out, the MSG promo with him (In your face, on the scoreboard) is a great one of the Grate One.

*Torts has been laying down the law pretty hard lately - MSG caught a rant on the bench during a second period tv timeout - which brings up the question, how long will the Rangers listen?

*To the NHL,
Please let me score. Pretty please? I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.
Chris Higgins

*I'm not sure anyone likes Michal Rozsival anymore. The only thing saving him from being booed every time he touches the puck is the huge level of suckitude exhibited by Wade Redden. After Torts came out and raved about Redden after his three point performance against the Leafs (a team that is neck and neck with Redden in terms of disappointing the fans), the defenseman had a horrific game. Bad turnovers, bad positioning, bad decisions ... Torts had to blow his timeout in the second period for no other reason than Redden moronically icing the puck despite being under no pressure whatsoever. That the two are paired together on the penalty kill is just offensive to me. Sure Torts doesn't have much of a choice but if they can use to forwards and one defenseman on 5-on-3s, they could go three and one on a regular kill too, right?

*Without the signing of a seventh defenseman, you can pretty much be sure that MDZ will be here past the 10th game this season. The kid netted a pair of assists and certainly has carved out a position as a power play specialist. It is a great spot for him to be in as he develops his game - less defensive responsibility and more talent to pass to. Hobey Gilroy, on the other hand, has been thrown right into the fire and has had his ups and downs. Mistakes have been made but they haven't ended up in the back of the net so that's a plus.

*Also a plus was that Brian Boyle got a goal against his old team. More power to him. But I think he needs some kind of mirror system or something so he can find all of those pucks that get lost in his feet.

*Donald Brashear can get lost. He wasn't missed. L.A.'s resident Neanderthal Ivanans took a bad penalty early on and hardly played the rest of the way. The only fisticuffs was a silly fight between Aaron Voros and Sean O'Donnell right after Boyle scored. Voros managed to not block that many punches with his face but it had to be ruled a draw at best.

*After the Rangers get through the Leafs/Sharks/Devils, perhaps they will consider benching both Voros and Brash. They will have the Habs/Yotes/Isles on the slate and the lack of a tough guy won't necessarily hurt them. They could bring up Geno Grachev again and give him a shot on the ice - Lisin and Arty certainly seem to be missing his presence. They don't have much chemistry with Avery or Kotalik so if one personnel move can get you three players back in return, why wouldn't you?

*I ragged on Kotalik during the game but re-watching the match on Rewind I have to admit that he wasn't that bad. Alice still has his troubles but his effort (and his shot) can not be denied.

*The MSG "talent" (and I use that word loosely when Micheletti is involved) have said a few times that Team USA could/should just utilize the Rangers second line of Cally, Higgins and Drury. While I will not refute the merit of that, the thought of seeing Cally playing across from L.A.'s Dustin Brown is quite tantalizing.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one goal.
2-Vinny Prospal - two goals and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - He doesn't take a shift off. His hard work gave Prospal his second goal of the game and he simply never stopped going to the net.
2-Gabby - I knew he was a great player but the things he does are just incredible. I was quite perturbed when Torts put him on the penalty kill but Gabby proved that was quite capable of playing in all situations. And, as I said when he scored, 'wow!'
1-Hank - The King showed that L.A. were just pretenders to the thrown.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Los Angeles Kings

Where We Are: Five dolla, five dolla, five dolla footlong. Five wins, five wins, five wins and countingggggg.

Where They Are: They are hot, having won four in a row - vs. San Jose, Minnesota, St. Louis and the Islanders. This will be game three of a six game road trip - not late enough for them to be tired. Perhaps having a night on the town between their win over the Isles and the Ranger game will knock them off their games. The allure of New York and all its vices ...

Who To Watch For: Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams are every bit as good as Prospal/Dubi/Gabby. Shocking, right? You could say that Drew Doughty is avoiding a sophomore slump. You could also say that he is turning into a bonafide star. He certainly deserved the Calder last year but 20-plus minutes of solid play as a rookie isn't as sexy as a few shutouts for a good defensive team with a great coach. Oh yeah, and there is Alexander Frolov in a contract year, hit-factory Dustin Brown and goaltender Jon Quick. Quick turned some heads last season and has been stellar so far. Edit: but thankfully, we won't have to face him. The guys at HFBoards saw that LA is planning on starting young Swede Erik Ersberg. Ersberg made some hugely great saves at times last season but gave up plenty of softies behind a weak D. It will be interesting to see how he fares in his season debut.

What To Watch For: The Kings won't come out flat. The Kings won't be tired. The Kings won't be intimidated. They are young and motivated and exciting. It could be one helluva track meet. Then again, the Rangers showed they could play slow-it-down, grind it out hockey against the Caps so perhaps they will be able to/be willing to do it here.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Someone to knock Ryan Smyth on his rear end when he sets up camp in the slot. The Ranger horses to outrace the Kings kids. Chris Higgins to finally score. Donald Brashear to do something productive.

Also Check Out: The Battle of California, Life in Hockeywood, A Queen Among Kings, Purple Crushed Velvet and Rich Hammond moved over to Kings Insider.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5-1-0: We Scored How Many?

Seven. The Rangers scored seven goals in a demolition of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seven. That kind of production hasn't been seen since April, 2007, when they hit that mark against the Leafs in another 7-2 win and seven against Atlanta in that playoff shutout. Goals are fun. We like goals. We like to see the Rangers score a lot of goals.

Of course, we can't get ahead of ourselves here either; the Rangers netted seven against one horrendous hockey club. But they did it, and they got a pair of points in the standings - and that is all that matters.

*I actually had a Leaf fan friend at the game and he pointed out that Toronto actually looked tired before the game even started. They were woeful. There was no speed, few passes connecting and a goaltender who couldn't block a breeze. For all of the money spent rebuilding their blueline, the Leafs D was in utter disarray.

*A lot of that was due to the relentless Ranger attack. The Blueshirts kept the heat on and rebounded from yet another doldrum of a second period to close out strong. At one time Vesa Toskala was seen as the same kind of star as Kiprusoff and Nabokov. Can you believe that? Ever since their goalie coach Warren Strelow passed away, Toskala has been terrible. And the Rangers kept throwing pucks at him and they kept going in.

*Dan Girardi got two, Sean Avery got two, Ryan Callahan got one, Marian Gaborik got one and even Wade Redden got one. Seriously. Wade Redden scored. It was a nice goal too, on a helluva shot. And he had two assists. Wade Redden. I cheered for him, really. He was his usual horrific self defensively - got walked around twice that I saw - but at least he was productive.

*Now I didn't cheer for Donald Brashear. In fact, I rooted against him in his bout with Colton Orr. Brash was clearly stronger than Orrsie and threw more punches but most were at Orr's helmet. Orr landed a few better punches and knocked Brash's helmet off but was tossed around like a rag doll. It was a Shakespearean fight - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

*Even with the win or draw in the tussle, Brashear gets a massive fail for his performance in this one. Why keep an enforcer in the lineup if he doesn't enforce anything? Toronto crashed the Ranger crease with ease and knocked into Hank at least four times that I saw. And where was the Donald?

*The Rangers did get a measure of revenge when Sean scored his second goal of the game with Jason Blake in the box for goaltender interference. But by then the game was well in hand so what message does that send? Blake scored a goal earlier and he cost his team a goal with the penalty. But he managed to nail the netminder and escaped unscathed (even with Avery jumping on him).

*I hate Jason Blake.

*For all of that talk about Betts, Sjostrom and Orr being no good because they wouldn't get to play due to Torts' philosophy of leaning heavily on his higher lines, there was a lot of parity on the ice this evening. Only Brash logged less than 10 minutes (9:15) and only Cally and Staalsie saw more than 20 (22:07 and 21:11 respectively).

*As for the new fourth liners, Voros was scratched and Boyle was invisible. Ales Kotalik was thrown with Boyle and Brash and he clearly does not fit with them. Different speed, different outlook, different ability. Kotalik still saw power play time and showed off that heavy howitzer of a shot that he has. He got a hold of one puck that he sent wide and it thundered into the endboards, wow.

*MDZ played pretty well. He had his ups and his downs over the game but when you think that he is 19 you can kind of accept it. Hobey Gilroy, on the other hand, was invisible for the second straight game. Definitely would like to see more out of him, and soon.

*As for the other blueliners, I mentioned Redden before (I will not compliment him again) while Rozy drew a penalty and managed to avoid big turnovers but he wasn't particularly good. Dan Girardi was particularly good; no cheapo empty netters tonight, just two good goals. After getting called onto the carpet for a mediocre preseason, Girardi has been the Rangers best blueliner. Staalsie has had his moments but at times seems to be doing too much.

*Chris Higgins can't buy a goal. This is good in that it will help lower his stock and his asking price this coming offseason, but it is bad in that he can't score. There will be a time where the Rangers will need scoring (whenever Gabby gets hurt) and Higgins will need to step up.

*Gabby can score: he has been everything we hoped for so far. And more, actually, with his penalty killing and occasional checking. At the same time, I say a little prayer every time he battles through traffic or works the boards ...

*The Garden reported another sell-out and you just have to laugh at the creative accounting. Both Sunday's game and tonight's had a lot of empty seats around the arena (several hundred, easily). If you can't fill the place to the gills on a Sunday matinee or a holiday evening, there is something wrong. You might as well be the Devils.

*The Leafs may have played poorly, but they definitely looked good doing it. Those jerseys were beautiful. You just can't beat Original Six sweaters.

*You can beat on idiots wearing Islander jerseys. What kind of person intentionally wears that rag to the Garden for a Ranger/Leaf game? And, how sad is the current state of our fans that he was able to walk out unscathed? Now I am all for respecting away fans, but when the guy is standing up asking for it ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Wade Redden - one goal and two assists.
2-Sean Avery - two goals.
1-Dan Girardi - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Vinny Prospal - Prospal quietly put together a great two-way game. He backchecked and made some solid defensive plays while collecting a pair of assists. Dru was almost as impressive ... almost.
2-Cally - Sometimes teams give players letters on their jersey and it weighs them down (Jagr, Leetch). Other times teams give players letters on their jersey and the player steps up his game to live up to the honour.
1-Avery - Of course. Avery was Avery: he made some good hits, took a lot more (including one big one from Colt), yapped quite a bit and scored two goals. That is one helluva performance.