Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Meanderings

No proper Peepin' Foes for the Pens, as we just played them. Sorry, just some random notes:

*Matt Cooke got two games for his hit on Arty. A guy with a history of trying to hurt people getting a slap on the wrist. It is like being suspended from school for these guys - ooo, you miss your friends but hey, you don't have to go to school. These guys get a nice break from the long grind and they are multimillionaires, losing two day's worth of salary means a whole lot less than it would to you or I.

*Denis Potvin has been on NHL on the Fly a bit lately. He still sucks.

*Which "calming" presence that was missing on Saturday do you think was a bigger factor in the loss? No Hank or no Redden? Yeah, thought so.

*The Rangers will certainly claim a complete sellout for tonight's tussle with the Pens but the building won't be full again. Rangers Ticket Exchange had 864 seats being sold by season ticket holders remaining at 2 p.m. and plenty more were available on eBay. Prices are too high and the product isn't entertaining enough.

*If Glen Sather ever had the nerve to talk to the fans - you know, be accountable to the people he is supposed to entertain - I can only imagine his explanation for having Donald Brashear making more than a million bucks when you can have the younger, cheaper, more mobile Dane Byers on the lineup. Dane beat up a baby Isle over the weekend, accounting himself well despite the presence of visors. Is he a heavyweight? No. Do the Rangers need a heavyweight? Brash hasn't been one all season, so why not save the money?

*I will not, NOT stop lamenting the loss of Blair Betts - even with Bettsy on the IR for the second time this season. Brian Boyle is a waste of a jersey (what an offensive improvement, he has three points, Betts has two - and in 12 less games) and the Rangers are a woeful 47.3% in the faceoff circle. Sorry Torts, you can't play your all offense, puck possession style if you can't get the puck. Hopefully Dubi will come back and improve upon the percentage a bit but Drury, Boyle and Arty need a lot more practice or, better yet, need to be replaced.

I'm sure there is more but I have to get moving. Catch you guys tonight with a recap of the game ...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

13-12-1: The Inevitable Failure

My buddy Eric, a season ticket holder himself, made the statement tonight that "the Rangers take the fun out of hockey. It's not fun, it is not enjoyable watching this team. They make me hate hockey." Strong words from a diehard fan but you know what? I can't fault him for it. Glen Sather used our hard-earned money to build a fundamentally un-sound squad full of mercenaries who have no chemistry and seemingly no pride. How it took until the end of the game and the near-decapitation of Arty Anisimov for these guys to show a spark is inexplicable and inexcusable. Sure they drew back to within one twice but the final result was never in doubt.

We knew that Steve Valiquette was prone to mental slips - as the horror shows against Toronto and Dallas year proved - but to see it against a divisional rival is just disgusting. Three goals in four minutes to completely turn a 1-0 lead on the road into a 3-1 hole and whatever you call the third period debacle is simply unacceptable. Valley may be a helluva guy, as the Ice Hockey in Harlem folks said when they honoured him, but he is not a good goaltender. His save percentage is well, well below .900 and the players don't step up their play in front of him, as most teams do for their backup.

He certainly shouldn't have started but that wasn't his call to make, that was Tortorella's. This marks the second time this season that the coach started Hank in a game he shouldn't have, overlooking the looming, tougher opponent. First we were torn apart by the Sharks, now we let the Pens march right over us. This team should get used to be walking on because it won't be long before we are the doormat of the East. At least we will get a lottery pick ...

You can only partially blame Valley for the mental mistake that was the Mark Eaton goal. After Hobey scored to bring the Blueshirts back within one at 3-2, Eaton killed the Ranger rally with a goal with 0.4 seconds left in the second period while the Rangers stood around waiting for the buzzer to sound. But then Vally went out and fell apart in terrible fashion after the Rangers opened the third with a goal. First there was the ridiculous flopping on the second Cindy goal, then he simply missed Pascal Dupuis' shot with his glove and didn't even flinch when Crosby's third goal of the game and Kris Letang's tally sailed past him.

There are four young goaltenders in the organization - perhaps it is time one of them is given a shot to show what they've got in the NHL. And if not, why not a free agent? Kevin Weekes surely still has the itch. Hell, Curtis Joseph never officially retired, why not? He couldn't possibly be worse than Valley (shhh Leaf fans, shhhh. I'm making a point).

More ranting:

*You knew that this was going to be a night of asinine mind games from Tortorella when he put Drury/Brashear/Voros out for the back end of the power play in the opening minutes of the game. Pittsburgh opens the door to let the Rangers score and Tortorella puts out three guys who stare at the house. From there on out, Torts jumbled the lines - to hell with chemistry, it's overrated - and kept Enver Lisin on the bench. It was like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers, "My team is on the floor." Better to lose the game to send the message. But Gene Hackman won in the end. Torts has been around for 54 games and hasn't won a thing. Thus far his big message seems to be that he demands respect he doesn't deserve, the captain of a sinking ship.

*The on-ice captain, Chris Drury, is utterly useless and unless something miraculous happens, will go down as the worst player to wear the C in Ranger history. Look at the list of captains, it's not even close. Brian Leetch was a terrible captain but was great Ranger before he donned the letter. Even Kelly Kisio came close to averaging a point per game.

*After the NFL Network flap during the Broncos game, will MSG offer a public apology for keeping the on-ice microphones up, allowing everyone hear Bill Guerin yell "fuck off" twice loudly when he was called for hooking in the early minutes of the second period?

*I was also watching Hockey Night In Canada (Caps/Habs) and during the Hotstove segment Mike Milbury mentioned that he once had made a deal with the Rangers to trade Ziggy Palffy for five million dollars. Palffy was an Islander from '93-'99 and Milbury likely wasn't to trade him in his first two seasons and the Isles finished in last the next three so that means that Ziggy could have come to the Garden to skate alongside Gretzky. Could you imagine?!?

*Also in the 'only in our dreams' section, the Pens gave away hats to their fans! Remember when the Rangers used to do that? But that was before the lockout made hockey more fan-friendly. Of course, the Pens fans gave them all back when Cindy got his third, but still, I would love the chance for a new hat. You know none of these Rangers will post a hat trick, so we will get to keep our treats.

*Anyone else notice Ryan Callahan in the first period when Avery was called for goalie interference? Avery was on the boards with several Pens closing in on him and Cally had his arms out keeping them away. Cally must have been auditioning for bouncer for Warren 77 since this hockey thing isn't the most appealing profession right about now. And, to his credit, he tangled with the Cookie Monster later and landed a few punches before Cooke did him a favour by grabbing him in a bear hug to end the hostilities before Cally got hurt.

*MSG's headhunter camera caught a battle between Gabby and Brooks Orpik early on that was a thing of beauty. Orpik stood up the Ranger sniper and didn't give him more than a few feet of room from the time he crossed the Penguins blueline until the puck was cleared. That is what a defenseman is supposed to do and the Rangers don't have a single defender capable of doing that. Staal was like that for a few minutes last season against Ovie but that was a wonderful exception to the post-lockout rule that the Ranger defense has to be soft and lazy in their own end.

*Speaking of soft and lazy, when MSG showed Brashear in the penalty box after he went after (and barely got) Cooke himself, there was a Ranger fan sitting nearby wearing a No. 6 jersey. Wade Redden, we don't miss you. At all.

*Gina Malkin tied the game at one after the Rangers iced the puck and were forced to keep Aaron Voros on the ice. With Voros scrambling around chasing Crosby, Chris Higgins watching the play from the hash marks, Brashear wondering why the ground was so cold and the light so bright without fire and MDZ and Gilroy trapped behind the goal line, Malkin was able to dunk the puck past Valley. The first of many failures by the Blueshirts on this night.

*Even worse was Crosby's goal but I have come to realize since the lockout that the Rangers feel no need to actually cover one of the best players in the NHL so seeing Cindy skate past Chris Drury was not surprising. Dru gave Sid all the time in the world on the very next play, allowing him to find Max Talbot alone for another easy goal past Valley to make it a 3-1 game.

*You can blame the Talbot goal a little bit on Avery for letting his man go, but if you do that then you have to give Avery credit for causing chaos in front of Fleury to allow Hobey Gilroy to score to make it a 3-2 game. Who would have thought that having a Ranger working the paint would be a good thing?!?

*Avery also had a helluva pass to Rozy for the defenseman to score the third Ranger goal of the game. Granted, Valley gave that goal right back with the aforementioned awful fish-out-of-water flopping but hey, Rozy scored.

*Marc Staal scored a gorgeous goal to open the night's scoring. Who in the world, outside of the Staal family, thought he was capable of scoring like that? We had always hoped, prayed, dreamed, imagined that there was an offensive dimension to his game but to carry a man on his back and shoot the puck in on his backhand like that was pretty damned impressive. So we have that going for us, right?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brooks Orpik - two assists.
2-Evgeni Malkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Sidney Crosby - three goals and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - He scored, he set up a goal, he hit people and he jumped Ruslan Fedotenko. Sure there was no reason that we saw for him to do it, but that's Sean Avery. Welcome back dude.
2-Crosby - You know how painful it is for me to put Cindy here? But five points can't be denied.
1-Valley - Another goaltender might have made it difficult for the Pens to score eight goals.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Blueshirts are right back in action Saturday night in Pittsburgh to faceoff against Cosby and company at 7:30 on MSG.

Where We Are: Coming off of a horrific, disappointing loss, so either a team with a shattered confidence or with something to prove. From all indications in recent history, I would say the former.

Where They Are: Pittsburgh too either has a shattered confidence or with something to prove after losing to the Islanders - the Islanders - Friday, 3-2. Granted, it was their second loss in their last seven games so perhaps they won't be too despondent. Damn.

Who To Watch For: You know the names, they are obnoxious just the same. Crosby, Malkin, Guerin, Gonchar, Cooke, Fedotenko ... even that idiot former Devil Mike Rupp. Doubtful we will face the injured Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski or Jay McKee. Check that, Goligoski and Letang will be back. Dammit.

What To Watch For: Chris Bourque, Ray's older son, has three assists in 18 games this season; the Rangers being the Rangers, he should score. Brent Johnson started vs. the Isles so we will get the Day Glo smile of Marc-Andre Fleury. See if Prospal/Gaborik can take advantage of the new parts to the Pittsburgh blueline kids Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy and former Colorado Cup winner Martin Skoula. Brashear to battle Eric Godard in a foolish attempt at revenge for Godard's win in the season-opener.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Blueshirts to leave the laziness in the sunshine of Florida and play hockey. The trend of Rangers standing up for each other to continue. Someone to knock Crosby out for the season. Bobby Sanguinetti to play better - he clearly looked nervous in his debut, although he had the team falling apart around him so it wasn't entirely his fault. Ryan Callahan to score again. Sean Avery to out-Avery Matt Cooke. Our Staal to be better than theirs.

Also Check Out: With the bandwagon as big as it ever was, the Pens blogosphere is booming but the best of the best is Empty Netters (the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's stellar link-happy blog), the snarky photoshop-heavy awesomeness of The PensBlog and SBN's Pensburgh.

Friday, November 27, 2009

13-11-1: Disappointment, Thy Name Is Rangers

I re-wrote half of this thing and the damned computer crashed, forcing me to do it again. I am not sure I could be much madder at the Rangers right about now.

In what you would believe would be the one game where the Rangers would step up their play, they floundered and fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1.

This team is quite good at blowing any goodwill they gain as quickly as possible and as horribly as possible. They ditch Gomez but sign Brashear. They beat Phoenix but lose to the Islanders. They put up two great efforts in a pair of wins but lose in this disgraceful, embarrassing fashion. Neither John Tortorella nor Vinny Prospal found any measure of revenge against their former team as their current squad looked like they would rather be out on the beach than in the rink.

Below you will find a whole of of complaining about the awful officiating and some other randomness:

*Whatever happened to goaltenders being fair game outside of their crease? Ales Kotalik ran into Mike Smith and gets called for charging. These guys are coddled as much as quarterbacks in the NFL and it is just stupid, especially as they wear more protection than anyone else. Not to mention that Hank gets run over actually inside the paint and there are no calls made. But Smith can hang out behind his own net to draw a penalty. Hypocrisy.

*To be fair, how in the world does the referee miss the high stick by P.A. Parenteau on Paul "Can I buy a vowel" Szczechura??? The guy was standing two feet away facing them. But at the same time, Victor Hedman holds onto Arty Anisimov's stick and Tampa ends up with a power play. So I guess at the end of the day, these stripes were utter and complete idiots both ways.

*Kurtis Foster converted on the Kotalik power play with a Kotalik-esque one-timer.

*Steve Downie's power play goal was perfect as well as he tapped home a pass from Midget Marty with Rozy out of position in the slot. Big surprise there.

*Hank proved why he is regarded as one of the best goaltenders in the business with his back-and-forth saves midway through the first period. He went post to post and back to make three huge saves and keep the Rangers in the game. As I said prior to the game, he shouldn't have started and I can't blame him on three of the four goals he allowed.

*How can someone as big as Brian Boyle be completely unable to fight? How embarrassing, not once but twice.

*You have to love that Donald Brashear finally picked a fight in the final minutes. Sadly it was at the 5:45 mark so his instigator (which was somehow called as a rough and a 10 minute misconduct) will not get an automatic suspension - something I am sure was not a coincidence. He also attempted to pick a fight after Boyle went in the box for his first tussle but it was about two goals too late to do anything but let's face it, Brash hasn't positively contributed once this entire season so why start now?

*It is no small miracle that the referees didn't call Sean Avery for an instigator when he came to the aid of MDZ early in the first period. Perhaps they realized they couldn't call it as they broke up what would have been an interesting fight between Sean and Vinny Lecavalier (my money would be on the bigger Bolt, sorry Sean). But it was a perfect opportunity for the Avery Rules to be invoked but they weren't.

*But, of course, Tampa scored right after the incident. How you match Brian Boyle and Enver Lisin against the Stamkos/St. Louis line is beyond me. The Lightning had last change but why would you put your third line out for a defensive zone faceoff like that in the first place? Especially with someone who can't win faceoffs?!?

*Considering most stations normally pre-tape the open to game broadcasts, how/why did they let Sam stutter through the John Tortorella pregame quote that was transcribed on the screen?

*Chris Drury loses a defensive zone faceoff clearly and Foster scores another one-timer goal, making it a 5-0 game. Welcome back Cap, didn't recognize you last game but I see you now!

*Ryan Callahan broke through for one pretty goal, too bad it was too little, too late for this one. Perhaps it will be the start of something great with two games against Cindy and the Penguins on the slate.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Walker - one assist.
2-Kurtis Foster - two goals.
1-Marty St. Louis - three assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Steven Stamkos - Let's face it, the kid has some serious skills.
2-Andrej Meszaros - He played a ton of time but it was his big blast that did the trick. Meszaros' slap shot that broke the glass behind Hank in the opening minutes must have intimidated the hell out of the Rangers because they played scared.
1-St. Louis - Sure he is too short to ride the roller coasters but he sure can play hockey, huh?

Peepin' Foes: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Florida swing continues on Friday as the Rangers attempt to weather the Lightning in Tampa - 7:30 on MSG Plus.

Where We Are: Well, heck, it appears we are on a winning streak. How about that?

Where They Are: Tampa has just one win in their last four games and are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oh, the shame, the horror, the sadness. Rick Tocchet has them playing some attacking hockey and the Bolts just happen to be 5-1-4 at home.

Who To Watch For: No, Marek Malik is no longer with them. He went back to the Czech league, is playing with first place HC Vítkovice and has four assists in eight games (and, of course is +3). I've seen Stamkos this season and he looks nothing like the meek rookie we faced last season. And, let's face it, he scored himself one helluva goal the other day. Our old friend Ryan Malone has been red hot, while the tag team of Vinny04 and Little Marty are still around.

What To Watch For: The Rangers to rest on their laurels of two wins in a row. Wade Redden dashing our dreams and playing. Who comes out of the lineup for Ales Kotalik, especially as Voros and Brash may be called upon to counter Zenon Konopka. If Antero Niittymaki starts, then we may have ourselves a rematch between 2006 Olympic gold medal goaltenders. But I don't see why Valley shouldn't play with two games against the Penguins coming up.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: No Redden. Chris Higgins and Ryan Callahan to put the damned puck in the net - go to your home, don't you like your home? Someone hammer Steve Downie the way he cheap shots everyone else. Gabby to evade his former Wild teammate Stephane Veilleux to keep up his sensational scoring. Voros/Malone III.

Also Check Out: The Hockey Bay, the MSM Lightning Strikes and SBN's Raw Charge are worth checking out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Links

Just two quick reads as you suffer from bloated belly this Thanksgiving evening.

First off, my original list here on the blog of what I am thankful for back in 2007. It is amazing how little things have changed.

And secondly, Eric at 5-Hole posted a fun list of what the Blueshirts are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Good stuff.

13-10-1: P.A. Is OK

P.A. Parenteau played shootout savior for a second time this season as his tally in the skills competition gave the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Panthers in Florida tonight.

Not bad for a guy too small, too soft and too slow for the NHL, right?

Despite the low scoreline, this one was just as exciting as the seven goal game, if a bit more nerve-racking. As it is late on this holiday eve, I will just jump into it:

*Victor Oreskovich made the dreams of many Ranger fans come true by taking out Wade Redden four minutes into the game with a hard, clean check into the endboards. Wade left the game and didn't return, we can only hope that the injury is severe (perhaps permanent?) and he can be put on the long term IR so we can get all of that wasted money back. Harsh? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

*Oreskovich later made another great hit, catching Vinny Prospal unawares. Hobey Gilroy jumped the fellow rookie for a quick tussle. Hobey got an instigator for his troubles, leaving the Rangers with four defensemen. My buddy Eric sent me txt after txt calling Hobey an idiot as it left the team with just four defensemen. He may be right - the Panthers did equalize later in the period - but the more I think about it, the better opinion I have of Hobey for it. To date, the kid has been soft. MDZ hits everything in sight nowadays but Gilroy has been far from physical. By going after Oreskovich, Hobey proved that he isn't afraid to throw down his gloves and he proved that he is willing to stand up for his teammates. Short term trouble for long term benefit and hopefully Hobey will be a Ranger for quite a long time.

*Google "Oreskovich" - you will thank me.

*There was another fight on the night. Donald Brashear wanted at Oreskovich but Steve MacIntyre answered the bell. Brash bit off more than he could chew as he went from chasing after a rookie who isn't particularly tough to tangling with a minor league heavyweight. After Brash complained to the refs about Boll keeping him tight in the game against Columbus, he held on for his life against the bigger, stronger, smarter MacIntyre. The two grappled for a while, throwing some punches before Mac got Brash to loosen up with a rib shot before getting the knockout hook to Brash's head. Mac, by the way, is 29 and makes $550k; Brash is 37 and getting $1.5 mil.

*I was all ready to harass the other overpaid Rangers in Drury and Rozy but can't as they played pretty well. While I didn't notice Dru until the second period, he did step up his game and get involved - something he wasn't doing prior to his concussion. Perhaps the Glencross hit knocked some sense into him - it's still too early to tell. As for Rozy, he stepped up his game with the more ice time he received. Maybe it is a Florida thing, the best game I remember him playing was down there back in ... '06?

*The other D - MDZ, Girardi and especially Staalsie - did yeoman work. And, keep in mind, all three are unable to rent a car.

*Sean Avery needs to take that pass in the third period - sure it was hard, sure it was a little behind him - but he can't turn over the puck like that at the Ranger blueline. Bad mistake.

*Arty Anisimov needs to learn how to take a faceoff. He was horrific at the dot for yet another game.

*Ryan Callahan proved that he doesn't have to score to be a huge part of the team. He seems to have realized that and thrown himself into the other aspects of his play. Chris Higgins, on the other hand, has not. He had chances gift wrapped for him and couldn't finish. He has to either capitalize on them or change the way he plays - perhaps setting up as a screen rather than curling around to find lanes. I don't know but it certainly is just as frustrating for us watching him as I am sure it is frustrating for him to keep missing.

*Watching the Ranger power play is frustrating too. Perry Pearn, you still around somewhere?

*Emile "The Cat" Francis was at the game and MSG caught up with him. As they said, he looks terrific for being over 80 and he still knows the game and pulls no punches. It is a shame the Rangers can't find a way to get him more involved up here as he is so clearly associated with this franchise. But at the same time, he mentioned he hangs out with former Islander GM Bill Torrey - that is fraternizing with the enemy!! I would think he would know better (haha).

I'm sure there is more but it's late and I have to call it an evening (sorry). Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night. Or something like that ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tomas Vokoun - 27 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 25 saves.
1-P.A. Parenteau - shootout game-winner.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - He is a threat to score every shift and his scoring touch is among the best in the world. And now he leads the NHL in goals. Not too shabby ...
2-Keith Ballard - It is easy to rave about the performance of the Ranger D (I have and I will) but Ballard was just as good for the kitty cats. He is a smart, tough defender who eats up the minutes and covers the opposition's top talent.
1-Staal/Girardi/MDZ - All three played more than 27 minutes, with Staalsie playing almost as much as Ballard (30:24, three seconds shy) - so much for cutting down his time and simplifying things, huh? Outstanding work by the frat boys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Florida Panthers

The Rangers start a three game road trip by facing the Panthers in Florida on Wednesday night (7:30 pm, MSG).

Where We Are: Seven. Yep, seven. Coming off of a win, and not just a win - a win where there were seven goals scored. By the Rangers. Wooooooo!!!!!

Where They Are: After beating us on Saturday, Florida returned home to play the Penguins on Monday and lost 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers blew a 2-0 lead after two periods to lose on a Crosby power play goal in OT. Tomas Vokoun made 42 saves in all but still came up without a win.

Who To Watch For: Nathan Horton is on a roll with eight points over his last six games. Steven Reinprecht is still good and still underrated and that Frolik kid isn't bad.

What To Watch For: The Rangers possibly to be a bit thrown off as Chris Drury returns, because after your roster explodes for seven goals, you need to make a change to it. (No, Drury's "talent" isn't something that needs to get in the lineup as soon as possible.) The Panthers' confidence level - either they are crushed after blowing the game to the Pens or they are still rolling, having not lost in regulation for the last seven games.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Seven more goals. Donald Brashear to be scratched. Avery continue to be a difference maker. Hobey and MDZ to get themselves into good spots. Higgins to stick with the Gabby line. Cally, Dru and Lisin to find some kind of chemistry and not collectively suck. The Panthers not wearing those terrible third jerseys they debuted against the Penguins. I'm with the overwhelming majority over at Puck Daddy saying they are a massive FAIL - the colours don't work, the secondary logo is lame, the lettering is boring ... disappointing. Hopefully nothing about the Rangers will disappoint (but I doubt it).

Also Check Out: There aren't many blogs about the Cats but they do have The Rat Trick, On Frozen Pond (different from the Caps one) and SBN's Litter Box Cats.

12-10-1: Pinch Me

Monday was Garden of Dreams Awareness Night in New York and, as my buddy Chris said, it truly was a Garden of dreams: the Rangers scored seven goals.



They scored seven goals.

They being the Rangers.


The Rangers. Scored seven goals.

I am not drunk or otherwise chemically affected.

I am not dreaming, otherwise there would be more females and less clothing.

The Rangers scored seven goals. In one game.

I'm just as shocked as I am giddy.

The Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-4. Seeeeeeven. Seven. Sure they scored that many against Toronto but that was during the 7-0 run at the beginning of the season, which feels like years ago at this point.

While I am basking in the glow that is seven goals in the Garden - by the Rangers - let me rack my mind for some details:

*The Garden wasn't close to being sold out, yet again. And, just as sadly, very few fans were still in the building at the final buzzer to give the Rangers the thunderous ovation they deserved for finally scoring some goals. (Seven!!!!!!)

*Amazing that combining grit with talent could be a recipe for success but Chris Higgins worked well with Gabby and Prospal. Higgins did the dirty work, freeing Gabby to find the open spaces where he could get good shots off and make things happen.

*How wonderful was it that Hobey Gilroy scores a magnificent breakaway goal and the in-house camera folks catch Brian Leetch or all people smiling ice-side? What a great moment and hopefully the kid will continue to grow and improve to be able to accept that torch.

*And I just turned on Ranger Rewind to see that MSG found Leetch smirking after the MDZ goal! That is pretty awesome. But at the same time, it seemed pretty shocking that his shot made it past Mason. It seemed to just float past Mason's outstretched glove - not that I'm complaining ...

*Credit to Wade Redden, yes Wade Redden, for a decent effort. He actually got a good shot off towards Arty Anisimov for the youngster to redirect past Steve Mason. And, later in the game, he stood up for Hank when Hank was on the receiving end of a late jab and a snow shower. Granted, that's what he is supposed to do but we have to be happy with what we get nowadays.

*I'm happy that Sean Avery was able to find his manhood again. Avery worried less about being called for a penalty and more about going to the net and it paid off in a pair of goals. He was the catalyst that the Rangers need him to be and let's pray he can keep it up.

*Also have to pray that the Rangers keep P.A. Parenteau up because his offensive intelligence is really quite apparent most shifts. Tonight he had two assists, including the brilliant backhand across the red line to find Gilroy cutting for that Leetchian goal. He also was physical and held his ground in post-whistle scrums.

*The Rangers were quite disciplined. They took just one minor penalty and, thus, minimized the impact of Rick Nash.

*Gotta love Hank's penchant for heading pucks away - not for his tendency to leave the crease - but for using his mask to stop shots. You know things are going well for him when he does it. At the same time, poor Mathieu Garon took a shot to the mask and looked a bit out of it.

Now that some of the sheer joy that seven goals brings is fading, it must be said that all was not awesome in this one:

*After going up 7-2, the Rangers hit a few posts in the next few minutes but then proceeded to take their skates off of the Blue Jackets throats. Instead of finishing them off and blowing them out of the water, the Rangers played half-assed for 25 or so minutes and Columbus was able to capitalize for two goals to make the scoreline more respectable. If they were a better team, it would not have been too difficult to make up the rest of their deficit.

*Cally was one of the guys who found the iron, the poor SOB can't buy a goal right now but he is working hard so hopefully it will come (and soon).

*Ales Kotalik couldn't get out of his own way.

*How sad is it that this is the second time this season that John Tortorella has had to use a time out to remind his team that they were actually playing a hockey game? He called the break after Columbus' fourth line scored their second goal of the first 10 minutes to make it a 2-0 game. What does it say about the psyche of the team that they need to be whipped by the jockey to remember that they are in the race.

*Torts wanted more offense out of his fourth line and got rid of Bettsy, Sjostrom and Orr. Well, the line he has now certainly is offensive. That I help pay for Voros, Brashear and Boyle to "play" professional hockey offends me. Boyle couldn't get out of his own way. Voros had a good fight with Jared Boll (that finished in a draw at best) but did little else. Brashear wrestled with Boll himself - a fight Boll didn't seem to want to be in. Brash did draw a first period penalty and later almost had a breakaway (that he would have blown) but Voros was busy throwing big punches at Boll behind the play. Ha ha.

*Rick Nash looked terrible and Ken Hitchcock somehow didn't see that Torts' time out worked so well and so he held onto his. Two intelligent hockey people who were clearly off their game, to our gain. What a nice change that is from the norm.

*The Garden needs to start showing more replays. It has been an issue for a long time but Avery's goal tonight was a good display of why. There is no reason we should all have to stand around wondering what in the hell is happening for so long without being able to see replays. And they need to start announcing the scoring quicker as well - they take forever and they still get it wrong and need to announce corrections. What's the delay?

*Potvin sucks. I know. You know. He knows. His family knows. But neither he nor his family were in the building so why the hell are we chanting that every 30 seconds? This was one of those games were it was incessant and infuriating.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Artem Anisimov - one goal and two assists.
2-Sean Avery - two goals.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Boll - Sorry Arty but Boll was better. The BJ fourth liner didn't see a lot of ice time but put up a goal and an assist and had two fights.
2-Avery - So thaaaat's the Sean were remember and love to watch. I was wondering where he had gone.
1-Gabby - Having Higgins take some of the physical heat off of him certainly helped as he flashed that stellar talent of his. We certainly knew he was good when he was signed, but did anyone know or even imagine him scoring 32 points in 21 games?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blueshirts are back in action Monday night at the Garden, facing off against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 - thankfully on MSG and not Versus.

Where We Are: Do I really have to remind you?

Where They Are: Sitting on the Girlie Bench (great sign lady). Columbus is a point ahead of Detroit in the Central, and is trailing the division-leading Hawks by three. They haven't lost in regulation over their last four games - three wins and a shootout loss to Nashville. They are playing the second game of a five-games-in-eight-days road trip; they head to Montreal to play on Tuesday.

Who To Watch For: Rick Nash is a hockey god. Kristian Huselius is streaky but extremely skilled. Youngster Jake Voracek won't win the Calder but is putting together a solid season. Raffi Torres has just one assist but nine goals - five on the power play. And the Columbus defense has been contributing a lot lately too, with Anton Stralman and former Ranger Fedor Tyutin leading the way. Yeah, Toots has six assists in his last three games. Oh yeah, where is Zherdev now? What is the state of our defense now? Thanks Glen.

What To Watch For: What kind of jump the Rangers get, and if it is a good one, can they can keep it up through the second period? See who Torts has decided to pair with Prospal and Gabby. While you watch him juggle lines, see if he is still bullishly clinging to the struggling defensive pairings.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Someone not wearing 10 or 20 score a goal. Marc Staal to shut down Nash. Aaron Voros to beat up Jared Boll. Steve Mason to play like the sieve he was in Detroit (eight goals allowed on 27 shots) and not the savior he was in Nashville (45 saves in the loss). A real sell-out crowd, not the made up lie that the Garden has been perpetuating.

Also Check Out: I don't know of many outside of SBN's The Cannon and Bethany's Hockey Rants over at Kukla.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

11-10-1: Do You Think They Feel Shame?

I ask that question because I am not sure. The Ranger surely didn't show much pride, spark or fire in their 3-2 loss to Florida tonight. The Panthers, playing their third game in four days, vastly outplayed New York for 55 or so minutes - despite playing without their top two forwards and despite getting into town at 3 am after their 2-1 overtime with in Detroit Friday night.

All of that talk from John Tortorella about conditioning and his side was out-skated. It is one thing to lose to a more talented team, it is another to consistently lose in this fashion. These Blueshirts either care too much or not at all. Judging from what we have seen night after night in recent weeks, I sadly have to say it is the latter. These guys need to look in their wallets and realize where all of that money has come from and what it was supposed to have bought.

*The first way us fans can show our dislike for the state of the team is to stop showing up, and it certainly appears that the message is getting through. There were wide swaths of empty seats in the 100 and 200 level sections for this game, which is almost as pathetic as the team's "effort". This team is so terrible that they can't fill the Garden on a Saturday night in November. That says something. Sure the economy isn't great and people are likely saving their money for presents next month but sports thrive in economic turbulence - people need something to believe in, but there is little to believe in on Broadway.

*What does it say about a team that puts Donald Brashear and Aaron Voros in the lineup that a 19 year old rookie offensive-defenseman is the most physical player on the ice? MDZ's hit jump started the Garden and his teammates and they came right down to score their second goal of the night. Yes, the kid made kid mistakes at the end as he struggled to keep the puck in the Florida zone but he is a kid.

*His gaffes were nothing compared to the utter inability of the his teammates to win big faceoffs. Sure, you would hope/think/pray that Dru or Dubi will be able to help that when they return but neither one is particularly proficient. It comes down tot eh quandary we faced this offseason - we don't have a number one center.

*I certainly don't understand why they aren't giving Corey Locke a shot. Locke is a natural center, a guy who puts up points. He is undersized, but the over-sized Arty Anisimov is incapable of putting the puck in the net so why not try something different?

*On that note, why is Torts so bullish on changing up the defensive pairings? This a familiar rant of mine of late but that doesn't make it less true - the Ranger blueline blows. There is no chemistry, no physicality and no success. Gilroy, Girardi, Staal and MDZ are trying to do too much, while Redden and Rozy are doing far too little.

*They aren't helping Hank out at all and, watching him, he certainly needs help. It seems like he has gone from one bad goal every two or three games to at least one per night, if not two. Several people pointed out the FAN's take on possibly trading the King, thinking that it is farcical. From the way he has played of late, I can understand where WFAN is coming from. I disagree at the moment but I understand. Hopefully the Olympics will serve to strengthen Hank's confidence because playing behind this bunch of ... certainly isn't helping.

*Is P.A. Parenteau being set up to be a fall guy or what? Torts is throwing him out on the ice with the third and fourth line scrubs when he clearly needs to play with talent to score. Parenteau certainly fared better than Enver Lisin, who looked ridiculous losing the puck in his feet late in the game. That broken foot is clearly effecting his play and perhaps it is time he took some time off.

*Sean Avery played better, but still has a long way to go to be the player he was before Tortorella castrated him. Unfortunately the team doesn't have a ton of time for Aves to recover some of his manhood, they need goals now.

*After bitching about the boys for a while, let's go after the officiating. How in the world was Ryan Callahan given a boarding penalty early on? The Panther sees him, turns his back intentionally to face the glass and Cally bumps him - bumps, not hits. There were several hits just like that later in the game - several where the Rangers didn't see the guy coming - and there were no calls. And anyone else catch the linesman rubbing Kotalik into the boards in the final minutes? Like the Rangers weren't marginalizing themselves enough, the stripes had to help out.

*Hey Redden, you suck.

*Hey Steven Reinprecht, you don't. When healthy, he is among the most underrated players in the NHL. Kinda wish the Rangers had some underrated talent for once. Then again, I kinda wish they had some talent period. Outside of Gaborik.

*Dom Moore looked like a pee wee player out there, with his full cage and slight stature. And yet, Moore was solid for the Panthers. Forget aboot it.

*Imagine how much worse this loss would have been if Florida's top two forwards (Booth and Stillman) had been healthy enough to play ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tomas Vokoun - 32 saves.
2-Vinny Prospal - one goal and one assist.
1-Nathan Horton - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gaborik - Sure, he may be a Hossa-esque star who can't carry an offense on his own, but his the only Ranger who is doing anything so he should get some accolades.
2-Kenndal McArdle - I have no idea who the hell he is but he seemed to hit everyone who came near him. He collected an assist on the fluke Leopold goal too.
1-Reinprecht - He has a good nose for the net and a willingness to follow it no matter how difficult a task it may be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Florida Panthers

The Rangers come off of a three day break to battle the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at the Garden (7p, MSG).

Where We Are: Struggling to find scoring. Larry Brooks wrote a column detailing all of the issues with the team and Blueshirt Banter finally thinks we should start looking at Torts as the cause of some of the troubles, so I am feeling quite validated as all that both say have been detailed in this space to date. It is nice to go from 'that pessimist who is never happy' to the realist who wasn't blinded by the shiny 7-0 streak.

Where They Are: The Ranger game will be Florida's third in four days. They beat the Sabres in Buffalo 6-2 on Wednesday, beat Detroit 2-1 in overtime tonight and will be back east for our game tomorrow.

Who To Watch For: Wily vets Steven Reinprecht and Cory Stillman are proving that they have plenty left in the tank (EDIT: Stillman hurt his knee and won't be playing. Boo ya!). Michael Frolik is finally finding some of his potential. Nathan Horton is on a three game point streak but hasn't elevated his game to star status just yet. And you know former Rangers Radek Dvorak and Dom Moore (forget aboot it) would love to score in Garden again.

What To Watch For: Bryan McCabe has just 10 points but is certainly capable of making the Panthers power play a force to contend with should the Rangers get sloppy. Scott Clemmensen is expected to start UPDATE: looks like Vokoun as Clemmensen made 39 saves (!) against the Wings; not like that is any help as Vokoun has one of, if not the, best save percentage since the lockout. See what kind of jump the Rangers get out of the puck drop, a slow start could doom them. That is, if they can't find the secondary scoring they need so badly. And see if they can get through an underrated defense that includes the tough Keith Ballard and Bryan Allen.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Florida too tired to put up a fight. The Avery Rules not to be in effect. Sean, Higgins, Cally ... hell, anyone who isn't Gabby or Vinny to score a damn goal. Redden and Rozy not to lose the game for the team, and then have Torts hurt the confidence of the rookies as a result. Someone to beat up Greg Campbell, if only to get back at his dad for being so bad for the sport.

Also Check Out: There aren't many blogs about the Cats but they do have The Rat Trick, On Frozen Pond (different from the Caps one) and SBN's Litter Box Cats.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Re-Post: Ice Hockey In Harlem Auction Tonight

More on Ice Hockey in Harlem here.

This also arrived in my e-mail yesterday, if you can't make tonight's auction:
You can also check out Adam Graves, Dan Girardi, Marian Gaborik, and other members of the Rangers at the Family Dynamics Annual Event on Thursday, Nov.19 at MSG. Help score a goal against child abuse and neglect while enjoying some activities with your kids, an autograph session with the Rangers, and a live auction. For more details about the event and ticket info, click here.

11-9-1: My Kingdom For Some Shots

You kind of expected the Washington Capitals to defeat the New York Rangers tonight, what with Ovechkin coming back and the Rangers being so bad, but as they are apt to do, the Blueshirts tempted and teased before ultimately falling apart. Washington won 4-2 as Ovie made a triumphant return to the ice.

As good as he is - and he clearly didn't lose a step during his absence - the Rangers still could have won before a (surprise, surprise) Wade Redden defensive lapse allowed Matt Bradley to score what would be the game-winner. You can talk about scoring woes and reluctance to shoot as much as you want (and I will, don't worry) but sloppy defense lost the game.

And Wade had made a great defensive stop in the second period too ... what a shame. For eight million bucks this season, you would think we could at least get Tom Poti-esque level of play or even something on the degree of Igor Ulanov ineptitude but not Marek Malik-ish embarrassment. What a scale of suckitude we can build from our blueline this century. It's shameful. Everyone knows the cliche, defense wins championships and this franchise isn't winning anything with Redden - or Rozsival for that matter - wearing the colours.

Just got into the house and read the AP wire report over at Yahoo where John Tortorella had the nerve to blame the Bradley goal on Matt Gilroy not being able to catch up to Bradley from behind? Are you kidding me? What does Redden have to do to get a lashing? Sleep with Sather's wife? Keep blaming the kids Torts, they will still be here when you get rightfully fired at the end of the year.

*Discussing the match with Mr. X from the Blue Seats after the game, we agreed that the Rangers played a good 20 minutes - the first 10 and the last 10 before the Bradley goal. They skated hard, worked the puck to the net and battled for position in the offensive zone. It was just the over 40 minutes where they looked lost, bored and all-around awful.

*The Blueshirts were stuck on 11 shots for what seemed like an hour, even though there was a post hit inside that span of time. They let the Caps fill the middle of the ice and remained out on the perimeter, looking an awful lot like the Renney Rangers.

*Speaking of them, another friend of the blog (Eric) made the good call that Perry Pearn must have been back in charge of the power play. They made one pass too many too many times, allowing the Caps to close all of the lanes. Semyon Varlamov rarely had to make a good save while Hank was under siege much of the evening.

*You can talk about the penalty troubles - and Ovechkin's return on a national tv night certainly helps lend to a conspiracy theory - but the simple fact was that the Rangers didn't play smart hockey. Rozsival shouldn't be chasing a player around the defensive zone, because he can't keep up and will do something dumb.

*At the same time, an allowance should be made for the Sean Avery Rules as Aves was called for a soft penalty and spent half of his night getting knocked around. He still drew a penalty but if the Rangers pulled half of what the Caps did to, say, Ovie then there would have been several more penalties called.

*Avery played his most spirited match since the playoff benching but it still didn't get him anywhere. He would draw the defense, of course, but linemates never got the puck to the net and Avery never got through the coverage to slide into the slot and get one of his inyourface! goals. At least we saw Cally step up and defend Avery in a scrum in the first period; it is about time these guys stood up for each other.

*Lord knows Donald Brashear won't be the one to do it. The Neanderthal was useless as always and Jon Tortorella inexplicably put him out on the ice right after Washington scored to tie the game. Brash seems to get on the ice, circle a few times while watching the play before remembering where the bench is and taking his rightful seat upon it. It was comical to see him watching Voros fight Bradley, then go over to the penalty box when Voros sat down. What was the conversation like? 'Hey Aaron, you fight good.' 'Yeah Donald, I didn't stop too many punches with my face this time!' 'Me like fights.' 'I don't, but at least I can say I did something tonight - change things up a little.' 'You make him bleed. Blood gooooood. Fire baaaaaad.'

*Following a Frankenstein reference, where was Arty Anisimov? The kid has the amazing capacity to be invisible despite being over six feet tall. It is remarkable. You remember when he scored those two goals? Me too, too bad they were in preseason.

*To take a break from the badmouthing, Marian Gaborik is good. Very, very good. Unfortunately, as in Minnesota, he can score but he can't carry a team singlehandedly to victory. Damn shame right there, because we need him to.

*Let's get back to the bashing because it is so easy and so appropriate after yet another home loss. Ales Kotalik? Thanks for nothing tonight. Cally and Chris Higgins couldn't score either but at least they battled hard out on the ice. And, honestly, I think the Higgins-at-center experiment is working well as he has stepped up his game and playing smarter hockey. Let Drury stay away as long as he has to ... longer even so we can get his salary off the cap and get someone who can score onto the team.

*I like P.A. Parenteau and think he put in a good effort but, correct me if I'm wrong, he didn't take a single shot all night. For an AHL scoring ace, you would think he would understand that you have to shoot to score.

*Can you imagine what the final result would have been if Mike Knuble and/or Alex Semin had played? I was so thankful to see Semin scratched and figured that would be a big boost for the Blueshirts. I was wrong.

*But on that same note, when will Brooks Laich get some recognition outside of Washington? This nobody is racking up the points this year and making the big Caps injuries not hurt nearly as much as they should. Watching him just enhances the hurt that tis he Rangers secondary scoring or lack thereof.

*The Garden brass made the massive mistake of going to Dancing Grandma during the regular Dancing Larry television timeout. Not only did she get booed and have the fans chant for Larry, but the Caps came out of the break and scored. The next stoppage Larry was allowed to do his thing but by then it was too late. Redden's disgrace had taken the air out of the building and nothing outside of Gabby completing his hat trick could have put it back.

*Redden and Rozy may be doing their best to disappoint night after night but I still hate you Poti!!!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Bradley - one goal.
2-Marian Gaborik - two goals.
1-Alex Ovechkin - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Gabby's two goals were big but Hank held his ground as the Rangers let the Caps come at the crease in waves. Sure he gave up three goals but he gave the team a chance to win the game, something they certainly didn't deserve. Eleven shots in a period and a half against a team with Tom Poti on defense. Pathetic.
2-Ovie - Is there anything he can't do? I love that he is finally getting booed every time he touches the puck, shows his level of stardom.
1-Matt Bradley - As depressing as it was for us Ranger fans, it was just impressive that this guy skated off the ice bleeding after getting his ass kicked in the first period and came back to score the game-winning goal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Washington Capitals

The Blueshirts are back on Broadway Tuesday night looking to build off their win in Ottawa against the Washington Capitals. The game is due to start at 7 pm, will be on Versus and is sure to be entertaining. Not the Versus telecast - that will likely suck - but the game itself.

Alexander Ovechkin is due to return, which certainly presents one heckuva quandary: on one hand we will be privileged enough to see the best hockey player on the planet - something hockey fans in, say, Switzerland will never get to witness in person. On the other hand, why the hell does he have to come back against us? Isn't it bad enough that the Rangers have won just three of their last eight games? It's not faaairrrrrrr!!!!!!!

*stamps feet and pouts*

Where We Are: Playing the Caps for the second time this season, the first being a cardiac-inducing 4-3 win in the Phone Booth amid that 7-0 run last month. Yes, it really was only last month. Feels like quite longer, donnit?

Where They Are: Looking to bounce back from a 5-2 loss to the Devils. They lost to Jersey on the fourth, won four games in a row and then lost to Jersey again. How depressing. If the Rangers lost two straight to Mmmaaaarrrtttyyy I'd be borderline suicidal, or in a murderous rage; either way, it ain't good to be the Rangers.

Who To Watch For: Oh, there are a few guys. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green are all upper echelon. Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison and Tomas Fleischmann are successfully providing secondary scoring and rookie Mathieu Perreault has five points in his first six NHL games. Mike Knuble is out after finger surgery, so that's something. Right?

What To Watch For: Ranger discipline - they have given their last two opponents 11 power plays with Atlanta scoring twice. The kill was spectacular against Ottawa, but let's face it, the Sens don't have the power play talent that Washington has. The Caps don't have a goon so this would be the perfect chance for Brashear to do some damage, send a message and cause chaos (like he did against us when Torts stupidly benched Colton Orr in the playoffs) but let's face it, he hasn't contributed anything to the team so far so why would things change now?

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Everyone's favourite ex-Ranger Tom Poti to play like he did while wearing a Blueshirt and cause his team to lose with half-hearted, stupid play ... essentially to out-Poti Rozsival. Sean Avery to remember that he is Sean Avery. Someone other than Gabby or Prospal to score, preferably Cally as he has one goal in the last 14 games. Marc Staal to continue his stellar work shutting down Ovie, Dan Girardi to keep blocking pucks and someone to remember to cover Nick Backstrom every minute of every shift because he is scary good.

Also Check Out: Japer's Rink rocks the block - and if you can't make it to the Garden, head over there to hang out during the game because they are some fun folks. But don't troll, they don't like trolls. There are plenty of other Caps blogs out there, but why go elsewhere after you went to the best?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

11-8-1: Afternoon Delight

The Rangers rebounded from their Atlanta escapade with a 2-1 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators Saturday afternoon. The low scoreline belies a lot of drama and end-to-end action in the matinee match and, frankly, it was great to see (if a bit hard on the heart).

Sorry that there are no pics and few numbers, I ran out to Lamb of God/Metallica at the Garden. I may or may not update further ...

*First off, WHAT. A. KILL. Girardi, Staal and Cally played their hearts out killing Ales Kotalik's second dumb penalty of the game in overtime. They were outstanding stepping to shooters, getting in the passing lanes and blocking shot after shot. How the hell does the rest of the team play so bad, so half heartedly for so long when players like this are willing to give it all. Dy-no-mite kill, one of the best moments I have seen by the Blueshirts all season.

*There are few things in hockey that I enjoy more than shorthanded goals and it was great to see the Blueshirts score one (rather than have one scored against them). Gabby makes a great play at the Ranger blueline, hustles the puck up and finds Vinny Prospal breaking on the far side for a perfect one-timer. Gotta love that he retrieved the puck from the ref, as it was the first shortie of his career.

*For as dynamic as P.A. Parenteau was through the first period - and in the shootout, hehe - his half-hearted skate back up the ice left Brian Lee alone as the trailer on a four-on-three that opened the game's scoring. Sorry kiddo, this isn't the AHL, you have to skate hard every second. Sure Ales Kotalik was also trotting back up the ice, but he has already earned a spot on the roster with that shot of his - P.A. still has to earn it. You can almost forgive his empty net miss in the final seconds, seeing as Chris Higgins also blew a gimme seconds earlier, hitting the iron.

*Semi-related: Is it me or is Marian Gaborik the only Ranger with a quick shot release? I mean, PA and Vinny seemed pretty quick but the rest of the boys were bad - and Arty's shootout attempt was torturous.

*The Blueshirts still didn't stand up for each other physically, with who else but Sean Avery getting batted around time after time. With four minutes left in the first Sean Avery hits big Matt Carkner, Chris Neil confronts Avery, Carkner comes back around and nary another Ranger around. Avery gets cross checked across the crease late in the third and nothing. Since they are certain to take bad penalties, why not take some good ones standing up for each other?

*Slightly OT - in case you didn't know, and you likely didn't, I am on Twitter now @truebluefan329. I am still getting into it so I will flesh it out further and update it more soon.

*As I tweeted during the game: "This Rangers power play is brought to you by Acela Express, because it will be a train wreck." It went 0-4 and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

*What are the odds that Redden realized how much he missed life in Ottawa and won't come back to New York? I'm not sure why he got the same reception of boos as he does in New York, seeing as he had such a nice pass to Jason Spezza early, let Jonathan Cheechoo get a wide open breakaway later in the first and let the Sens have a great power play chance in the second as he struggled to pick his stick up off the ice. The guy can't catch a break, but at least he can go cry into his eight million dollar salary this season.

*Amazing how most of the best Ottawa opportunities seemed to come when Rozsival was on the ice. Tortorella is rightfully limiting his ice time compared to the rest of the blueline but he doesn't even deserve what he gets. Brooksie was right, Bobby couldn't possibly be worse.

*Second period situation: Brashear skates into the Ottawa zone, passes to Boyle, Boyle has room in the high slot, Boyle passes it to Voros ... and the play is broken up.

*Jason Spezza was heavily hacked and slashed in traffic all game. his wood stick didn't break, and the Rangers weren't penalized. The new sticks cause more nonsensical penalties than they cause goals.

*Lyndon Slewidge does a nice job with the anthems - it was nice for MSG to show it. And every game should include the Canadian anthem, but preferably in all english, not the bastardized version that Slewidge has to sing in the Canadian capital.

*What do you think it would take for MSG to get rid of Joe, and how can we arrange it?

*I love that local commercial that Cablevision runs on MSG for 2 Brothers Scrap Metal. A hot high school girl calls her friend, asking what she should do with all of her scrap metal. Her friend asks her dad, who says to call 2 Brothers, then they cut to 2 Brothers taking a huge pile of scrap metal away from the first girl's driveway. Are there a lot of high school girls with this kind of problem nowadays? Is it really a demographic that they need to address?

*How pathetic/sad is it that great tickets are available for Tuesday's game against Washington? The team we played against in the playoffs, the team with the most exciting player in the NHL ... and there are still tickets available.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Phillips - no points, one shot and two turnovers that I saw .... ???????
2-Brian Elliott - 27 saves.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 35 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars

Friday, November 13, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Ottawa Senators

The schedule surges on and the Rangers are back in action Saturday with an afternoon matinee up in Kanata. They face off against the Senators at 2 p.m. on MSG or CBC for the lucky ones.

Where We Are: Trying to re-inflate the egos after a pretty flat 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday night. The loss was the third in their last four and fifth in their last seven games. Not good, not good at all.

Where They Are: Ottawa is coming off of an embarrassing 5-1 loss at the hands of former goaltender Ray Emery and the Flyers. The Sens still sit just three points behind the Rangers in the standings, with three games in hand.

Who To Watch For: The usual suspects in Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. Milan Michalek, who Ottawa got in return for Dany Heatley, has seven goals and is tied for the team lead with Mike Fisher - better known as Mr. Carrie Underwood. Former Ranger Alex Kovalev has been completely underwhelming with just eight points in 16 games, which likely means he will be good for a hat trick on Saturday. Ryan Shannon, who I had high hopes for this season, has just one assist in 11 games (typical).

What To Watch For: Everyone's favourite scumbag Jarkko Ruutu is still a Sen, as is general pain Chris Neil. Neil is second in the NHL with 60 PIM and his teammate Matt Carkner is sixth with 50. Combine that with Ruutu's 43 and you have three guys who are going to take it to the Rangers physically. Good thing they demoted Dane Byers and called up P.A. Parenteau.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers finally realizing they are a team and standing up for each other. The Blueshirts to be like Bettsy and score a power play goal. Jarkko to do something stupid and get himself suspended forever. Kotalik to get that shot of his on net more. Higgins and Callahan to break through and score a goal or two. Brian Boyle to win a faceoff. Rozsival to not suck too badly.

Also Check Out: Sens Army and Five For Smiting and Black Aces, no not Nick Kypreos and Mike Hartman.

Friday Afternoon Transaction

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that forward P.A. Parenteau has been recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL), and forward Dane Byers has been assigned to Hartford.
Apparently Byers didn't provide enough offense playing six minutes while paired with Voros and Brashear Thursday night so he was banished back to the minors. At least P.A. will get the chance that Byers wasn't given - a slot alongside actual hockey players.

And Rozy will still dress and play 15 minutes or so on Saturday. That is accountability folks ...

10-8-1: Days Off Don't Help

Don't let the 5-3 scoreline or the 36-27 shot total fool you, the Rangers were dominated tonight by the Atlanta Thrashers. Yep, the Atlanta Thrashers.

It was atrocious, and yet the Blueshirts were a post and a crossbar away from winning the game. I guess that is a good thing, but walking out of the Garden I don't feel the least bit good about the Ranger performance. Atlanta kept them bottled up in their own end for long stretches, had little trouble breaking up most Ranger rushes and kept the shots away from the danger zones. You would think that after finally getting a few days off to practice the Rangers would be better, not worse. You would think that.

Efforts like this make you wonder if the team has tuned out Tortorella already or simply have no clue or capability to play his hard-nosed, open ice hockey. The slot remains empty with no one paying the price to go to the net, the defense isn't helping the offense and isn't playing defense, and players are passing up good shots while taking bad ones.

The upside is that the Rangers have a cupcake of a game on Saturday against the Senators where they have a good chance of pulling out a W. Tonight the Sens allowed Blair Betts to score a power play goal - I kid you not. But that isn't until Saturday so let's look at the misery that was this evening:

*The night started in entertaining fashion with Sean Avery talking trash to Colby Armstrong throughout warm-ups. Unfortunately, the game started, Armstrong scored 19 seconds in and Avery took a cross checking penalty less than two minutes later. And that was all we saw of Sean Avery for the night. Perhaps he was afraid of incurring further wrath at the hands of Kerry Frasier, perhaps he was afraid of incurring further wrath at the hands of John Tortorella, who knows but the result was an invisible Avery. And the Rangers need the exact opposite. I love Aves, but he has to step up and provide some secondary scoring.

*The same goes for Cally, who blew a perfect chance on the doorstep. I loved the thought of Cally across from Higgins but perhaps it is time Torts pulled the two stone-handed players apart. Cally should fill the slot across from Gabby as Lisin has clearly lost a step with his foot injury.

*Torts also needs to re-think his defense, Girardi/Staal has stagnated, Gilroy is carrying Redden and the pairing of Rozy and MDZ .... ugh. Rozy's tenure as a Ranger should have ended with Jaromir Jagr's, seeing as he has been horrendous ever since his Czechmate left town. Tonight he helped lower the bar even further with some of his worst play this season. His laissez faire defense just doesn't work and it led directly to two Atlanta goals and his passing is constantly off the mark, putting teammates in bad spots. The sight of him staring at Hank shrugging his shoulders after the Kane goal was ... I don't have the words. He makes Redden look like Rod Langway. That bad. And the whole Tortorella accountability thing is officially a bad joke.

*Why did Torts waste his timeout with nine minutes remaining? He gave the Thrashers a breather, clearly didn't inspire the Ranger power play and was without his break when he needed it in the final minutes. Very questionable.

*Several folks who watched the game on TV said that MDZ was indeed tripped by Peverley as he flew into the Thrasher zone and his momentum carried him forward and got a mistaken diving penalty but from my seat it looked like a dive of Brodeurian proportions.

*Just as I had predicted, Brashear got into a pointless fight against Boulton early on. The score was 1-1, he wasn't standing up for a teammate, he was just trying to justify his contract with more buffoonery. He took on a guy he knew he could beat, and proceeded to throw dozens of punches at the guy's helmet. One could only hope that he hurt his hand again and will be out for a prolonged time. I doubt it, seeing as he circled around the ice for a few more shifts but one can pray.

*The other fisticuffs came courtesy of Cally, who took on young Zach Bogosian after Bogosian ran him. Cally laid on the ice, looked for a penalty, didn't get one, had none of his teammates come to his aid and took him on himself. I'm not sure why he didn't get an instigator, but the referees in the NHL seem to have no idea how to call that mistake of a rule nine times out of 10.

*Brian Boyle got a goal, playing trailer on a rush and banging in a rebound. The tally helped level the table after some horrendous play in the Ranger end. The big guy got some good time and pretty much proved that he doesn't belong any higher than the fourth line in an ideal world; I think I saw him win one faceoff all night. I want to see Corey Locke called up because Torts' experiment of three centers clearly failed on this occasion and Locke is racking up points in the A. Torts got so desperate that he even put out Byers, Brash and Voros by themselves after Boyle scored. The sad thing? They killed the clock in the Atlanta end better than the second and third lines were able to do. The saddest thing? Any momentum gained from the goal was completely killed.

*If the Hartford crew doesn't think Locke can do the job, then Sather needs to look elsewhere. Atlanta's Rich Peverley came off of the garbage heap and has flourished as their first-line center. They need more people who can score, that simple. Gabby is outstanding but he can't win alone.

*Peverley and Ilya Kovalchuk were an interesting contrast to Prospal and Gaborik. While their styles are different, I would say that their skill and talent are a wash. Gabby, yet again, was the one Ranger to consistently put himself into good spots to score while Kovalchuk created something out of nothing time and time again.

*The Garden wanted $55 to heat press a name plate on a jersey. Just to heat press it on, not sew it. What the hell?

*Max Afinogenov really is bad. No wonder he frustrated Buffalo fans so badly. He blew several gimme goals for A-T-L. He got his empty netter after Vinny Prospal made the same mistake several Rangers made over the night - passing up the shot to try for force a foolish cross-ice pass on a midget goaltender.

*Borat was a little bit better, going hard to Hank but he couldn't get himself good vengeance with a goal. Thank goodness for small favours.

*I typed almost all of this on the train before getting home just now to finish it up and head to bed. I tuned into MSG and caught the last three minutes of Rangers in 60 where Sam and Joe seem to have traded in their journalist credentials to become PR shrills. Let's face it, they always have been but it was worse than usual.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Rich Peverley - one goal and two assists.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist. And he didn't even bother to come out to salute the crowd after it. Classless.
1-Ilya Kovalchuk - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - How can you fault Hank for the loss? He had no chance at stopping three of the four goals against and without him, the game would have been 5-1 by the end of the first.
2-Gabby - When he gets inevitably injured, we will be screwed.
1-Kovalchuk - Kovy is all-world and it shows. He can't lead the Thrashers to Stanley Cup success but when his skills are combined with other big talents, he is scary - thus the Russian success in the World Championships. Watch out Vancouver.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Atlanta Thrashers

“When you play against them with a different team you don’t feel that- the energy of the building. But when I played for them - I cannot even explain it. It’s something special. The fans were unbelievable. Bad or good times they were there for you. They were the sixth player on the ice for sure.” -Nik Antropov to Blueland
Well, we get to be the sixth player again tonight as Borat's new bunch of buddies, the Atlanta Thrashers, come into the Garden to play the Rangers at 7pm (on MSG for those who can't make it, or those masochists who like listening to Micheletti).

Where We Are: Coming off of a four day break after a 1-2 western Canada swing. Not enough time to get Drury or Dubi back but enough time to allow Brashear back on the ice; Zip wrote that the Rangers are going with three centers, meaning a return to the lineup for both Brash and Voros ... can't wait.

Where They Are: Faring pretty well considering that Kovy and Kane have been hurt. Three wins in their last five games, but one of the losses was to the Isles, which is shameful. Of course, we lost to the Islanders too, but that is even worse and we aren't talking about us right now.

Who To Watch For: The AP said for certain that Kovy was not playing and then they said that he was playing so I guess we will just have to wait and see. Also need to look out for Evander Kane as well. The kid has some great hands, a great shot and is pretty fast but is coming off of a foot injury. Without the two of them, Borat would skate on their top line with former Buffalo Sabre softie Maxim Afinogenov and Rich Peverley, who is probably the best player in the NHL that you have never heard of. Slava Kozlov is still around but even slower and more deliberate than he used to be. Zach Bogosian is learning that he can be defensively responsible while jumping into the attack and has six goals already.

What To Watch For: Ondrej Pavelec can catch fire and turn into a brick wall. I watched two of their games recently, one being his 50 save performance against the Sens. Sure the Sens stink, but he was amazing - outright amazing. Something to note is that he faced 30 or more shots in every one of his five wins this season. Keep an eye on the Ranger lines because juggling three centers with four lines of wingers should be interesting viewing, especially once they start getting tired. A Brashear/Boulton battle is likely if Brash's "hand" is up to it - Brash won their previous tilt so he won't run and hide like he does against real tough guys.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean going back to being Sean. Higgins to get a goal on home ice. Cally to re-find his scoring touch. Hank to be healthy and strong. Arty step up and play well with increased minutes. Gabby to show more skill and tenacity than every Thrasher combined.

Also Check Out: As linked to at the top - the team's own blog Blueland, the requisite MSM blog and the in-depth, well thought out fan blog Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons? (I hate the SBN name so I won't use it.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Link Of The Day

Wish I had seen it earlier:

A must click.

Happy Veteran's Day to those who served and a big good luck and get home safe to those who still do.

Lifer Forum

Last night the Rangers held their Lifer Season Subscriber Forum in the Grand Ballroom of the Manhatten Center. It really was a grand ballroom - a very impressive space that held what Ranger reps said was 1,200 subscribers.

Speaking in the now-typical forum fashion were Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Brian Boyle and Enver Lisin, with Sam and Joe MC-ing. Everyone got popcorn, a soda and a 'I am a Ranger' placard. There were no autographs or photos, with the players led in and out away from the fans. There was the usual giveaways - through trivia, raffle and selected seats - but I didn't get anything. I don't mind; like every year, I'm holding out hope for Blueshirts Off Our Backs.

Some things I learned:

*Marc Staal doesn't deserve the respect we give him. He saw the Drury hit, thought it was borderline and still did nothing.

*Staal is also narcoleptic.

*Lisin is the team's Yakov Smirnoff: hilarious for his broken english and blatant honesty. That, as well as his bro-mance with Arty Anisimov ...

*The players were told no ties but Hank showed up with a tie and a pocket square, something Staalsie ridiculed him for.

*Hank doesn't think that the extra games of the Olympics are too costly physically.

*And the only person he is afraid to take on in a shootout is he brother Joel - good thing he is back in Sweden.

*Cally takes that letter on his sweater really seriously, which is good to see.

*Joe is just as obnoxious live as he is on tv, and needs glasses. He tried to get Lisin to read something for him and Lisin - who can barely speak english much less read it - was of no help.

*Hank's sister thinks that the goaltender needs to start standing up for himself.

*Boyle really is a massive human being and comes from a massive family of 13 kids. And is a diehard Sawx fan - garnering plenty of boos.

*The Rangers greatly appreciate how their fans travel, thinking of Devil and Islander games as home games, even if most of them feel the Mausoleum is the worst building in the biz.

*And us Ranger fans are a passionate, slightly insane bunch. But let's face it, we knew that already.

More in-depth notes and quotes available at Beyond the Blueshirts

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Re-Drafting The NHL: New York Rangers

Back over the summer, through the beginning of the season, James over at Cycle Like The Sedins hosted a re-draft of the NHL with 30 bloggers taking the individual GM positions. Yours truly took the cigar from Glen Sather and re-built the Rangers. There are some hits and some misses, and I clearly had stars in my eyes with preseason performance (a mistake I make every season) but here is the team I built, round by round with cap hits:
1-20 (20) - Miikka Kiprusoff Cap Hit: $5,833,333
2-11 (41) - Dan Boyle Cap Hit: $6,666,667
3-20 (80) - Derek Roy Cap Hit: $4,000,000
4-11 (101) - Chris Kunitz Cap Hit: $3,725,000
5-20 (140) - Jason Arnott Cap Hit: $4,500,000
6-11 (161) - Marc Staal Cap Hit: $826,667
7-20 (200) - Nick Shultz Cap Hit: $3,500,000
8-11 (221) - Jason Pominville Cap Hit: $5,300,000
9-20 (260) - Ville Leino Cap Hit: $800,000
10-11 (281) - Trevor Daley Cap Hit: $2,300,000
11-20 (320) - Sean Avery Cap Hit: $1,938,000
12-11 (333) - Mikael Samuelsson Cap Hit: $2,500,000
13-20 (380) - Matt D'Agostini Cap Hit: $500,000
14-11 (401) - Freddie Sjostrom Cap Hit: $750,000
15-20 (440) - Artem Anisimov Cap Hit: $822,000
16-23 (473, from Colorado) - Karlis Skrastins Cap Hit: $1,375,000
17-20 (500) - Steve Begin - Cap Hit: $850,000
18-11 (521) - Sergei Shirokov - Cap Hit: $1,350,000
19-20 (560) - Shane Hnidy - Cap Hit: $750,000
19-29 (569, from Colorado) - Corey Crawford - Cap Hit: $800,000
20-11 (581) - Viktor Stahlberg - Cap Hit: $850,000
22-11 (641) - Jason Strudwick - Cap Hit: $700,000
23-20 (680) - Blair Betts - Cap Hit: $550,000
That is a grand total of $51.2 total, leaving $5.8 free for wiggle room at the deadline. And here is how I would set up the lineup:
Chris Kunitz-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville
Ville Leino-Jason Arnott-Mikael Samuelsson
Sean Avery-Steve Begin-Matt D'Agostini
Freddie Sjostrom-Blair Betts-Artem Anisimov
Sergei Shirokov/Viktor Stahlberg

Dan Boyle-Nick Schultz
Trevor Daley-Marc Staal
Karlis Skrastins-Shane Hnidy
Jason Strudwick

Miikka Kiprusoff
Corey Crawford
First off, I have no heavyweight. It is sad - for me of all people especially - but the guys I wanted were picked earlier than I was ready to take them. Still, I think there is solid team grit with Kunitz, Arnott, that entire third line, Hnidy and Strudwick. As long as we keep Avery out of his happy place and in the action, the third line will drive most everyone crazy with some serious energy and angst. Of course, they may take a penalty or two (or three or four) but that is why I reunited Sjostrom and Bettsy.

I think the scoring will come. Roy is a playmaker, Pominville a sniper and Kunitz a grinder - together there should be some chemistry. Arnott and Samuelsson are a pair, with Arnott working the slot and Samuelsson swooping around to take advantage of the chaos his partner causes, much like he did with Holmstrom in Detroit. I picked up Leino, Anisimov, Shirokov and Stahlberg thinking that the quartet could battle for that second line spot. They all have good attributes: Leino has a great shot, Anisimov has size and smarts, Shirokov can stickhandle in a phonebooth and Stahlberg has serious speed. Surely one can rise to the occasion, with the runner-up getting good time with the fourth line. And I do mean good time as I would roll four lines.

Our zone would pretty much take care of itself. Kipper is a workhorse and, as he proved several times this season, still has it within him to be a helluva netminder. I selected Crawford as a backup purely because he had a higher NHL10 rating than Antti Niemi, seeing as games will be simmed through the EA Sports title (eventually) and not knowing that Niemi would usurp him in Chicago so quickly.

Not that they will need to do that much as the blueline is quite robust. The jewel is Danny Boyle, one of the top three or four power play quarterbacks in the NHL. Seeing as he is quite adept in the offensive zone, I paired him with Schultz, who is great defensively and capable of making that first pass. Daley and Staalsie are both young, big two-way defenders who are smart with the puck. Skrastins has led such a quiet NHL career but is a hero in Latvia for good reason - he is one of the best shot blockers in the business. Paired with the bruising Hnidy, Skrastins will ensure that few good shots will get through to Kipper. Struds, who will be mandated to maintain his mustache, will be the all-important seventh defenseman and, likely, a player-coach.

There are players I wish I could have picked up (what GM doesn't have some of those?) and one I would immediately grab with a free agent addition - my boy Jed. Seeing as Ortmeyer is playing so well in San Jose, I'm sure I could find a spot for him back on Broadway. But all in all, I think these Blueshirts would make for a tough team to play against, one that could win a few games and maybe cause trouble in the playoffs.