Thursday, December 30, 2010

22-14-2: Last Place Devils

The Rangers played the last game of the calendar year on Wednesday night, defeating the Devils 3-1. By my count, the Rangers finished 2010 with a 42-34-8 record over 84 games. If you take one win and one loss away to get to the NHL season of 82 then the team earned 90 points in all - enough to get them seven place in the East last year (Philly & Montreal both had 88). Right now it is too early in the 10-11 season to be looking at the playoff picture but it is heartening to see them sitting in sixth, they have earned it.

Yes, that is my giving them credit because the team is winning many of the games that they don't deserve to win. As with the game against the Islanders, the Rangers played quite poorly against the Devils but they escaped with the victory. They let a listless team full of grinders and minor leaguers hang in there with them but ultimately edged them out to escape with two points. And that is what matters.


*It is quite believable that if Zach Parise remained healthy, John MacLean would still be New Jersey coach and the Devs would be competitive. But Parise didn't, MacLean was fired, and we got to enjoy one of the greatest, most enjoyable chants of all time: "Last Place Devils" clap clap clapclapclap.

*That hit that Sean Avery absorbed in the first period will be in every montage used in the Prudential Center probably for as long as it stands. While you have to wish that he could have gotten a measure of revenge with a goal, he did have a solid game and skated away with a Ranger win - which is probably the truest gauge of his success. Said it before, said it again: when Avery plays well the Rangers win games, whether he contributes on the scoreboard or not.

*Each team hit the iron once. The Ranger hit came off the stick of Gilroy and it popped up all the way over the netting behind the goal - an impressive, rare feat. That was the only impressive thing about Gilroy as he played his worst game since getting back in the lineup. Lucky for him MDZ's stomach flu somehow strained his groin ...

*As he has done all season, Brian Boyle scored by just putting his head down and shooting the puck. Many players would try to be fancy when facing Fatso but Boyle just took the shot and it evaded the corpulent keeper to make it 1-0.

*The second Ranger goal - the one that stood up as the game winner - came off of Michal Rozsival's stick. Rozy actually would have missed the four foot-by-six foot goal despite standing five feet away but his shot hit Andy Greene and bounced in. You have to smile when you see the box score with him being listed as having scored but it had nothing to do with his ability (which is quite lacking of late).

*Dan Girardi has very quietly had two poor games in a row. Luckily Marc Staal has not.

*Colin White is quite the tough guy hiding behind a plexiglass shield that comes down to his chin.

*This is sad but I had totally forgotten that Dainius Zubrus was still in the NHL and I had no idea he was 6'5, 225. When Zubrus fought Brian Boyle in the second period he certainly held his own.

*The good and the bad: the Ranger penalty kill went 4-4, the Ranger power play went 0-4. Of course how hard is it to kill penalties when you face an opposing unit that includes Zubrus, lazy Kovalchuk (he actually was on for all eight minutes of the man advantage in the game), past-his-prime grinder Langenbrunner, minor leaguer David Clarkson, and someone named Zharkov? As for the power play, paging Marion Gaborik ... The majority of the Ranger power play goals this season have been scored off the rush; the special team is far from special once in the zone (if they can even get set up in the zone). That has to change if they are to be successful in the long run.

*Jason Arnott certainly has not been the same player he was prior to his 2008 celebration concussion. He should really hunt down Radulov in Russia and kick his ass - it would be a better use of his energy than letting his emotions get the better of him and take dumb unsportsmanlike penalties. He used to be quite the player, but you can't really see that anymore. Not that I'm complaining, just observing.

*MZA saw less time but was no less useful for the Rangers. The Little Viking saw less than eight minutes on the ice and was rarely put in a position where he could contribute. You have to wonder why Torts hid him from the Devils. His linemate Mr. Softy hurt himself crashing into the net behind Fatso, which works out because it has resulted in Dale Weise getting called up. It could be quite interesting if Torts pairs Weise with MZA and, say, Avery.

*How exactly does the music director at the Rock go straight from Beyonce's "Single Ladies" to Pantera's "Mouth for War"?? But the entertainment staff does well: their mascot is fun, their kiss cam was hilarious, their dancers are fetching and they got rid of that spastic dancing idiot who used to throw tee shirts around.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Martin Brodeur - 23 saves.
2-Michal Rozsival - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 43 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - Prusty played 18:31, his highest amount of ice time this season. And he deserved every second of it. All this guy does is work hard.
2-Mike Sauer - Staal may have nearly played half the game but Sauer made the most of his limited time with another good showing. His consistently solid performances has given him a pairing with Hobey Gilroy - meaning Torts has faith that he can take care of business while Gilroy gambles upice.
1-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game by making saves in traffic, dealing with Devils on his doorstep and avoiding any softies. He could have folded after his flopping allowed Zajac to score but instead he buckled down and took care of business. A good performance to end the year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

21-14-2: A Sad Seven

Condemning one's self to little sleep and no shower facilities for several days in the name of hockey sounded a bit foolhearty to me but it wasn't just hockey - it was Rangers vs. the Islanders. Hate the Pens, hate the Flyers, hate the Devils ... loathe the Islanders. It is a deep-seated hatred that was ingrained over years of grade school abuse. So every victory has been a delight and the vindication that came with the sweep in '94 drew outright euphoria.

But after watching the Rangers annihilate the Islanders 7-2 on Monday night, there are few happy feelings. If anything there is an emptiness, a sense of melancholy.

How can you despise the current crop of orange and blue? Sure there are despicable players like Trevor Gillies but as a whole, you just have to feel bad for them. The Rangers beat up an exhausted team of mediocre AHL talent ... so what? It wasn't a gauge of ability, merely a exhibition in the Blueshirts ability to show up to work. They did. Yay. They didn't play particularly well in the least and they still scored seven goals, whoopa dee doo. I mean, sure past incarnations of this franchise would have played down to the Isles level, but it is hard to imagine any current Ranger, any NHL player playing that poorly - outside of Michal Rozsival.

So we take the two points and move on to the Devils on Wednesday. But let's face it, a repeat of tonight's performance will not be impressive as it will be expected. The question is this: has the bar been raised for the Rangers, or has it just been lowered for our atrocious enemies?


*The Rangers came out from their Christmas break lethargic and unimpressive. Despite outshooting the Isles in the first 18-12, they were lucky to be tied at two. But once the second period hit, the Blueshirts realized that shooting the puck directly at old man Roloson wasn't getting them anywhere so they mixed things up and started scoring. By the third period, Rolo needed the Rolaids as his team completely abandoned him and he finally looked every second of his 41 years.

*If MDZ was benched because of some sense of accountability, then he should be brought back to the lineup because of one. Rozsival is an outright liability and his continued presence hurts the team in the short term (goals against on a nightly basis) and in the long term (development of the youngsters). He has never won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold or World Championship gold - why is his experience be so treasured when his abilities have never helped a team win?

*Alex Frolov averages 2:14 of power play time per game and saw nearly two minutes on the man advantage in this one. And yet he has no power play goals and just one power play assist. Perhaps it is time to try Prust, Avery or even Fedotenko on the unit - at least you know they will battle around the net.

*Totally random but I spotted Dru, Boyle and Girardi walking in Penn Station after the game, followed by MDZ and Prust - who were accompanied by a pair of young ladies. I said 'good win' and Dru shot me a nasty look. How could he know I dislike him so? Think he remembered my Redden sign? Haha. Ok, enough stalking talking.

*One of the Zambonis broke down right at the start of the second intermission. I hope the kid who was supposed to ride it will get another shot. That looks like fun; I wanna ride the Zamboni!

*There was a surprisingly solid crowd - not the sellout listed on the Game Summary but well over 10K. Amazingly there were numerous Islander fans as well but there weren't any fights that I saw; must be the holiday spirit.

*Oh, season ticket reps said that they had no plans to do anything for those who couldn't make it. They just put a note or complaint on the account and claimed that they may address it at a future date. Not give a ticket back for a future date but deal with the complaint at a future date. Stay classy Dolan.

*Maybe BJ Wisniewski was just rehearsing for his future career when he made that gesture at Avery earlier this season. Because he certainly did not look like someone who is capable of making money playing puck for much longer in this one. Had his shot late in the first not hit the post and gone in, it would have made it 3-1 Isles and a totally different game.

*Brian Boyle's short side goal was exactly the kind of softie that has plagued Henrik for years, so it was nice to see it scored for us rather than against. And Boyle had yet another big game - when he simplifies things he does so well because he constantly works hard. And hard work pays off, as Ruslan Fedotenko can attest to. Tank is older, slower and doesn't have the hands he once had but he keeps plugging and has been a delightful surprise of a training camp invite.

*Gillies vs Prust. What the hell?

*MZA had another solid performance but, as I said after his first NHL game, he needs to work on his play away from the puck. As a forward, you can't just stand around waiting for the play to come to you (unless you are Jaromir Jagr).

*Arty needs to work on most everything, but his strength - or lack thereof - is his biggest issue. Anisimov is consistently knocked off the puck, knocked to the ice or knocked away from scoring areas.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and one assist.
2-Brian Boyle - one goal and two assists.
1-Matt Gilroy - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - The kid's confidence has finally gone up and it shows.
2-Boyle/Fed/Prust - A line that has remained together for more than five minutes? They must be good!
1-Hobey - The kid is definitely making a case to stay in the lineup, and it is about time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

20-14-2: Not Such A Happy Holiday

The Rangers lost to the Lightning last night 4-3 after a 11 round shootout. It was a disappointing, sloppy loss that was perfect for the audience. Much of the Garden faithful had sold off their season tickets for the night, leaving a 'just happy to be here' holiday crowd.

There was none of the bitterness, none of the waiting for the next shoe to drop, none of the inherent disappointment that is usually present. Perhaps that is because there was little of the usual level of puck knowledge. The building cheered for the most minor of achievements (look at Arty rolling around the ice! Look at Frolov blow a chance on the doorstep! Woo!) and it was utterly delighted to watch the stupid skills competition determine the outcome. And it chanted Potvin Sucks well over a dozen times and delighted in Dancing Larry's tired, annoying antics.

Admittedly it was an interesting change from the norm but, honestly, thank goodness Christmas comes but once a year.


*The Rangers pulled out a classic from their playbook: they made a bad goaltender look good. Joey McDonald, Rick DiPietro, Scott Clemmensen, Dan Ellis. It was the second time the Blueshirts turned Ellis into Vezina - the first being a 37 save performance when he was with Nashville. They took too many shots from the perimeter and were in ill position to take advantage of the rebounds.

*Why we can't have a capable, or at least competent, defensive corps is beyond me. People love to say that we Ranger fans love to have a goat on defense but that is entirely not the case; we are just consistently saddled with at least one utterly incapable, pillow soft sieve. Michal Rozsival put the team behind the eight ball with his early feed to Marty St. Louis and Tortorella inexplicably rewarded him with a team high 25:33 of ice time and an attempt in the shootout. Are you freaking kidding me? Rozsival had a strong start to the season - no denying that - but he then got hurt (again) and has since returned to his atrocious self. It is even more painful as Steve Eminger had stepped up his game while Rozy was out and, now that the Czech is back, has returned to the sub-par level that he started at. So instead of having at least one of them being capable NHL defensemen, we are stuck with a pair of underachievers.

*Why Brandon Prust didn't get an attempt in the shootout was beyond me. A friend pointed it out - the guy has five goals this season, three shorthanded. And he was left on the bench in lieu of Rozsival (two goals, none in his last 20 games) and Chris Drury (none in his five games this year).

*Well, I sure hope that this loss doesn't ruin Dru's Christmas. That would just be sad, a captain who would be upset that his own personal failure screwed his team out of a much-needed point against a conference rival.

*The NHL needs to do something, anything, to try to get teams to play to win in overtime. Because when Tortorella is putting Fedotenko and Drury out on the ice on a four-on-four, you know he isn't trying to win the game. Dru was out there for 1:34 of the five minutes despite having three game winning goals in his last 163 games (just one of which came in OT, vs. Chicago on Jan. 16, 2009).

*People have been harping on Sean Avery not being Sean Avery but he continues to work hard. At this point he has pretty much played alongside the entire roster, getting little stability in his linemates or his role. How is he expected to achieve when saddled with Todd White and Erik Christensen? Mr. Softie is at least proving to be a shootout specialist but White is a waste of space. Perhaps Sather is afraid of Dolan's wrath should he bury another big contract in the minors. At least Prospal will take his spot soon, but who knows how that veteran will play seeing as he sucked the second half of last season himself.

*Mats Zuccarello Aasen made his debut and fared quite well, but he also showed he is a not-ready-for-primetime player just yet. MZA, who scored in the shootout, showed great hands, good instincts and a good drive - battling through checks and laying a few hits himself. But his play away from the puck was quite lacking, something that more time in Hartford should improve. MZA actually looked good on the point on the power play for the few seconds he was out there but, at even strength he needs to realize that he simply can't stand around waiting for the puck.

*Matt Gilroy earned himself another game or two with an adequate performance. He definitely seemed more comfortable than he had been, perhaps because he was paired with the rock-solid Mike Sauer.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Malone - shootout-winning goal.
2-Alex Frolov - one goal.
1-Martin St. Louis - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - His third period equalizer was a thing of beauty.
2-Pavel Kubina - A Czech defenseman who doesn't pass to the other team? Who is remotely capable in his own zone? Who actually contributes to his team's offense? Whatwhatwhat? After years and years of Malik and Rozsival, just kinda figured that all Czech defensemen were incompetent.
1-St. Louis - The mighty midget is super fast, super skilled and super smart. We can only pray that at least one of our undersized young stars (MZA, Ryan Bourque, Christian Thomas) turns into a player nearly as good as him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Donald Vs. The Boogeyman

The Rangers will play their 36th game of the season on Thursday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning and the news has broken that Derek Boogaard will not play. Boogey's status is unknown as, in addition to the shoulder strain that he has been out with, he is suffering from headaches - one of the tell-tale signs of a concussion. It would not be the first time he missed time because of a brain injury; Boogaard missed the preseason and first few games of the '09-10 campaign in Minnesota as well.

If you did not see it, both shoulder and head injuries pretty clearly happened in the quick ass kicking handed to Boogaard by Matt Carkner earlier this month.

I posed the question on Twitter last week: which was the worse signing, Boogaard or Donald Brashear.

The circumstances of the Donald Brashear signing can not be brought into the conversation, as that would easily tilt it towards the old man. The guy nearly killed the Rangers' Blair Betts, a hit that essentially won the playoff series for the Caps as it knocked the penalty killer (and fan favourite!) out. And then Glen Sather had the nerve to bring him into the Blueshirt locker room. Despicable.

But that was before he pulled on a Ranger sweater so what needs to be considered in the argument is everything that he did while wearing a Blueshirt. The Brashear contract was two years, $1.4m per. At the time the GM said, "We think that Brashear gives you a couple of other things. He is quicker (then Colton Orr), he can get under the puck a little faster and under the style of game we are going to play we think he will be more effective for us."

Well, he wasn't.

Brashear played 36 games total as a Ranger, missing 17 of the team's 53 matches due to injuries before being benched for good ahead of his banishment to Hartford in February. He is now in the Quebec senior league, apparently rediscovering his scoring touch but as a Ranger Brash had no goals despite 18 shots, collected one assist, was -9 and had 73 PIM on nine fights. He went 3-4-2 in those battles, according to Not one of those fights were in the defense of a teammate, in retaliation of something the opposition did or at a time when the team needed the energy boost.

After letting Brash's replacement Jody Shelley go to the rival Flyers, Sather ignored prolific tough guy (and faceoff wiz) Zenon Konopka for the heaviest of the heavyweights, Derek Boogaard. He handed him a four year deal worth a total of $6.5 million ($1.625 cap hit per year according to CapGeek). This time Sather said, "Derek is obviously the biggest and the toughest. We need that. Too many times last year I saw guys scraping snow into Henrik's face, and I didn't like it. I don't think we'll be seeing that anymore."

Except we have.

Like Brashear, Boogaard has yet to fight in a spot when he was needed and he has done nothing to discourage opposing teams from hitting Hank. Also plagued with injuries, Boogaard has played 22 of the 35 games to date. He has had a goal (on just four shots) and an assist, was even (+/-), 45 PIM on seven fighting majors. Hockeyfights has him at 4-2-1 but perhaps his finest moment was not in a game, but prior to one - when he slid between Avery and Carcillo.

Now we can't definitively say that Boogaard has been a bust. His tenure is not at an end, or at least not that we know of (concussions are nothing to mess around with). But the debate can be raised: which was the worse signing, Boogaard or Donald Brashear?

Wasn't It Nice Of Him To Pose?

Hmm, I think they based the snowman on Mmmmaaaaaarrrrtttttyyyy ... nah, the snowman is too thin and jolly ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

20-14-1: All Good Things ...

The Ranger win streak came to a disappointing conclusion on Saturday afternoon as the Blueshirts were beaten by the Broad Street Bullies 4-1 down in Philly.

It was an impossible streak to maintain considering the opponents they faced while putting it together. They weren't facing a slumping side or a pair of middling teams featuring backup goaltenders. They faced the NHL leaders. Even with Chris Pronger out, the Philly roster is the strongest of the bunch and they dominated stretches of the game.

That isn't to say that the Rangers didn't have many chances to win, but that they have a good excuse for losing.


*Another excuse? The continued employment of Michal Rozsival and Michael Del Zotto. The pairing was nothing short of atrocious, directly accountable for the first three Philly goals. They both step up at inopportune times to add nothing to the play in the other end, they both abandon their positions and coverages and they both aren't physically strong enough to matter in the Ranger zone. That Torts keeps this pair of offensive defensemen (dual meaning completely intended) together is shocking considering how well both Eminger and Sauer have been through much of this season. Eminger's play has deteriorated since Rozy returned for injury, and thus when the Czech went down late in the second period it was only natural to pray for something serious. And, like most prayers, it was not answered.

*Although our prayers of seeing Dale Weise get a shot in the NHL finally came to fruition and he did not disappoint. Weise was physical, Weise went to the net, Weise nearly scored and Weise punched Dan Carcillo in the face. I would say that is a successful debut.

*Of course the fact that the 16th forward on the team - one that played less than seven minutes (4:26 through two periods) - was the best Ranger on the ice not named Lundqvist is just pathetic. Can you believe that the Marian Gaborik that dressed this afternoon once scored five goals in one game? The only way I can is when I accept that it came against the Rangers.

*But Gabby wasn't the only forward to disappear. In fact, most of the guys seemed more interested in watching the Flyers work than actually doing something about it. They gifted the blueline to them, they gave them space and the forecheck was lacking (aside from the Boyle-Prust-Feds line).

*Brandon Dubinsky is simply not being put in a position to succeed when stuck on a line with Arty Anisimov and Alex Frolov. But he isn't helping himself or his linemates when he can't win a faceoff if his life depended on it.

*Torts, of course, ended up desperate and juggled the lines around. It was an experiment that worked at least in one case: Frolov's second period shift alongside Stepan and Mr. Softie was quite possibly his best as a Ranger ... not like that is saying much but still. Frolov actually battled for the puck and ended up making a great feed to Step for the goal.

*If Mike Richards was on any other team in the NHL not in the Atlantic Division, he would be my favourite player. The guy is just outstanding in all areas of the ice.

*Why is it that when Hank plays in Philly (and most everywhere else, but especially Philly) he gets absolutely no help from his teammates? When his backup sees action there, the guys tighten up and don't leave players wide open on the doorstep (as they did twice in this one). He clearly wanted the first Zherdev goal back but it is hard to fault him for it. There was no way he was stopping Nodl or Leino and it was just bad luck on the second Z tally.

*Still miss you Bettsy!

*Wouldn't it have been nice to have had Fedor Tyutin around to hip check Nik Zherdev?

*With Brandon Prust playing this hard night after night, can you imagine how well he will play when he is actually healthy?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Andreas Nodl - one goal.
2-Kimmo Timonen - one assist.
1-Nikolay Zherdev - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Claude Giroux - Giroux is simply dangerous. He was a constant threat to score and yet didn't have a single shot on goal. He gifted Nodl the second goal by drawing the (incompetent) defenders and sliding a perfect pass to the open Austrian.
2-Richards - Did you see the pass to Zherdev on the first goal? 'Nuff said.
1-Zherdev - It must feel amazing for Z to score against the team that unceremoniously dropped him. That's for him, for us it sucks; hopefully next game someone snaps his shield in half. Only four more games against these guys ...

Friday, December 17, 2010

20-13-1: Kicking The Dogs

The Rangers edged out the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout at the Garden on Thursday night. As usual, if you are expecting a wonderful wrap raving about the resilience of a scrappy bunch of overachievers who are surely headed to the Stanley Cup, you are in the wrong damn place. Much like on Wednesday, the Blueshirts were outplayed for two periods and yet managed to steal two points on the inept performance of the opposition's backup goaltender.

Somehow I don't think that Philadelphia will be as accommodating on Saturday.

But on this night even though it wasn't pretty it was two points and they are nice to add to the bunch that have been collected of late. There are a few tough months coming up and every point is big; stealing two from a Western Conference opponent is very necessary if the team is to be in the hunt come April.


*As a friend said, "the Garden went from chanting 'Henrik! Henrik! Henrik!' to 'Marty! Marty! Marty!' during the same game, without changing goaltenders. Biron was completely horrific in allowing the three Phoenix goals during regulation and got quite lucky in the skills competition to earn the victory. But between the two he seemed to collect himself and made a few decent saves - maybe because of the moral support given to him by Chris Drury. The captain tapped the netminder on the pads after the second goal and the keeper then kept the team in the game the rest of the night. Oh yeah, the reassuring power of a Little League Champion.

*But seriously, it is hard to dog Dru in this one as that worked, and he won the faceoff that set up Stepan's equalizer - a draw that would have been lost by likely anyone else currently on the Ranger roster. He is no Ryan Callahan, he doesn't deserve 90% of his salary, he is the worst interview in the NHL, he can't score, he doesn't belong on the power play buuuuuuuut he can contribute in other ways and he did so on this night.

*Which is more than can be said about Marian Gaborik. It is nice to see the team able to pot a few goals without him but that has been the story of the season. Something has to spark the Slovak and soon. Aside from the hat tricks against Edmonton and the Isles, I believe he has all of three goals in 18 games. He has yet to pick the team up on his back when they needed it and they have still managed to put together this winning record. But how long will it last?

*Back to Biron for a second. The guy comes to the Rangers not just because they were the first desperate team to come to his door with a contract on July 1st but because he wanted to work with Benoit Allaire. Benoit and his brother are the goaltending geniuses who perfected the butterfly ... so why was it that Biron gave up all three goals while in awkward positions? He grossly misplayed the puck on the first and third Phoenix goals while he lost his angle while looking for it on the second. He got lucky Hanzal shuffled the puck across the goal mouth late in the second period and in the shootout he got lucky Radim Vrbata was unable to lift the puck but, luck or not, he managed to improve to 6-2 on the season.

*Alex Frolov doing a spin 'o rama coming into the Phoenix zone in the first period may have been one of the funniest things I have seen at the Garden.

*What does Tortorella think he can achieve by putting Frolov, Drury and MDZ on the power play?

*MDZ was the worst Ranger on the ice yet again. A year ago to the day that the kid put on a stellar performance against the Islanders, it is clear he is not just suffering from a sophomore slump but is outright regressing. Both Eminger and Sauer are more deserving of ice time and yet this kid keeps being featured. On the other bench on this evening was Kyle Turris, who Phoenix smartly sent to the minors last season and is all the better for it. The Rangers should follow suit with MDZ.

*Much like with Biron, Michal Rozsival overcame an atrocious start with some solid play late in regulation. Seriously.

*Sean Avery had himself a nice little game. He avoided the wrath of the refs, had a few good scoring chances, set up a goal and drew two power plays with his hard work. As Avery didn't make himself the story of the night, his performance won't make the headlines but it was a good one.

*When do you think the Garden brass will realize that having a DJ spin bad remixes of rock songs is annoying and unnecessary?

*There is nothing quite like watching the last five minutes through your hands, praying that the team doesn't screw up the point they rallied to earn.

*No Prucha, no Hollweg, no Ortmeyer in the Phoenix roster - drag. No Bryzgalov - lucky.

*Glad to see Dubi get a few good chances despite his better half Callahan being on the shelf. Just a shame he couldn't convert any of them; he hit the crossbar in the first period. It is dumbfounding though why, when on a two-on-one with Avery, Dubi decided to pull up and feed the trailing MDZ of all incompetent teammates for a shot when he had a lane himself or a chance to find Avery at the doorstep.

*Yep, still hate Derek Morris.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Erik Christensen - shootout goal.
2-Brandon Prust - shorthanded goal.
1-Dan Girardi - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - During a grossly inconsistant season the one sure thing is Prust's work ethic night in and night out. For him to be rewarded for his hustle with a huge shorthanded goal was wonderful to watch.
2-Marc Staal - Ray Whitney has been quite good against the Rangers in recent history and yet you could hardly tell he played tonight, thanks to Staal.
1-Girardi - The other half of the shutdown pairing, Girardi also starred on the other side of the ice. He fired home the first Ranger goal of the game and sent the puck down the ice for Prust to chase (and eventually score) during the penalty kill.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

19-13-1: Thanks Brent!

Sometimes I don't mind rewriting an article. I had a nice piece started about how the pendulum was bound to swing the other way after Sunday's success. Instead, that one has been dumped into the digital darkness and here is a recap of the laughable Blueshirts 4-1 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

And it was laughable. In typical fashion the Rangers were completely dominated by the Penguins. But then something happened - they got a shot on net. Early in the game I tweeted that a traffic cone could have played goal for the Pens over the first two periods. After the third, the Pens probably wished they had a traffic cone in net rather than Brent Johnson. Johnson allowed four bad goals to give the game away. He was, simply said, horrendous. He was down on his knees too early, he overcommitted to shots, his angles were off and he gave up four goals in less than seven minutes, two in 15 seconds.

Now the question is how did they suddenly start taking advantage of his horrendousness? Was it the Pens just getting tired after playing on Tuesday? Was it Sean Avery showing the first sign of life with his fight against Arron Asham? Or was it just luck? I don't have an answer, but it did make me laugh seeing goal after goal go in from - as Jim from Blueshirt Banter corrected me - "the three worst Ranger forwards, and Boyle." It wasn't secondary scoring that did it, it was tertiary. Gotta love how in the photo up top even Boyle was shocked that Frolov scored.

It is nice to celebrate the win and the fact that the pucks keep going in for the Rangers but Ryan Callahan's shot block that broke his hand is awfully sobering. His absence from the lineup could (and likely will) be far more costly than the extended breaks taken by Gabby, Drury, Vinny and Boogey. Marty Straka, Drury and now Cally - the Blueshirts need to learn to block shots with other body parts.

A few notes before an early bedtime:

*The Penguins had the game tied at two but the tally was taken away after a ridiculous incidental contact call on Pascal Dupuis' eyebrows. Rozy backed him into Hank as Malkin scored but the officials waved off the goal. That they did it is a surprise, that they did it in Pittsburgh is a shock, that Rozy sucks is obvious. And his partner, MDZ, was made to look absolutely ridiculous on the play - the kid was lying on the ice waving his stick around as the Penguins skated right around him. MDZ continues to be completely atrocious; something needs to be done.

*As Ranger fans, we have to pray that there were some NHL scouts (Scouts?) in the crowd. They witnessed Alex Frolov scoring and setting up Boyle's goal, and thus his trade value is as high as it will ever be. Sather needs to deal him away right now before everyone realizes just how bad he has become. Funny how he gained a little confidence from the goal and went right back to his old ways with a wraparound that even Johnson was able to stop.

*The Ranger power play went 1-3, with the lone goal coming from Mr. Softie the Backstabber. That goal came off the rush, as have a very large percentage of the man advantage goals this season. The special team is simply not special when they set up in the opposing zone, if they can even set up in there or even get in there.

*As mentioned, Avery fought Asham. Why Asham would entertain Avery with a fight was stupid, and that he did not get his arm free to unload that big right was lucky for Avery. Nice work by Sean, even if he ended it with his signature cheap shots when they were already down on the ice.

*Chris Drury did all of his signature stuff: blocked shots, took faceoffs (went 4-1), skated hard and didn't come remotely close to scoring. Welcome back cap. Ugh. Eight million bucks this season. He needs to gain a bit of that scoring touch he had in Buffalo if he is to replace Cally's contributions.

*The game was on MSG 2. I mean, seriously? The most famous guy in the league against the Garden's top tenant and the game was not on either of their top two networks. Something wrong with that.

*Joe Micheletti just stop already. I'm not sure if I find him more loathsome than Matt Cooke and Max Talbot but it is close.

*As tweeted, Hank was bumped a few times and Boogaard was nowhere to be found. Boogey can't protect the King through the television. He just needs to make like Godzilla and sink back into the Pacific Ocean so we can get a enforcer who can actually play and contribute.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
2-Brian Boyle - one goal and one assist.
1-Alex Frolov - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - No soft goals. Hank stayed square to the shooter, kept his movements short and simple - leaving little opportunities for the Penguins to capitalize.
2-Marc Staal - His partner Dan Girardi would deserve a share of this star if not for a horrible play on the lone Pittsburgh goal. The two were solid, keeping Sidney out of scoring areas and limiting the space Malkin had to dangle (outside of that one time).
1-Johnson - Thanks Pens for starting your backup for the first time in over two weeks. Johnson, who has gone W-L-W-L-W-L now in his last six, frankly sucked. A netminder with some composure would have made at least one decent save in the third period.

Monday, December 13, 2010

18-13-1: Life After Death Experience?

Jet lag is a bitch. And you know what? I'm quite thankful for it.

Yesterday I flew home from Sweden and essentially went right to the Garden for the Ranger game. After the Blueshirts beat the Capitals 7-0, I figured the flight must have gone down in the Atlantic. There was no way they won that game, the way they won that game. Just no way. I was surrounded by good friends and had an all-around delightful time. Despite what many think, I'm not a horrible person, maybe I was rewarded for a good life with a final hallucination. The proverbial white light.

But then I thought about it, 'what, even in my last moments I can't see the Rangers win the Stanley Cup?' But then I thought again that that was entirely plausible too as there is no way in heaven or on earth that this team is capable of winning the Cup. And it wasn't until waking today with a severe case of jet lag that I realized that the game really happened or this is hell. Seeing as the Isles and Devils still suck, it can't be hell so the jet lag proves that the Rangers did, indeed, beat the Capitals 7-0 last night.


As it is so many hours after the event, and I have yet to see the replay, I will keep this pretty quick:

*There are few greater individual achievements in my book than a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and Dubi grabbed the third of his NHL career. Granted, the fight was after a perfectly legal, solid hip check but it was against Alexander Ovechkin so that made it ok considering all of the liberties the superstar usually takes. And Dubinsky, for once, didn't lose the fight, which made it even better.

*The other two fights were quick scraps against the same guy, Washington's lightweight Matt Hendricks. Mike Sauer lost again, but Sean Avery fared better than usual. The only issue that should be addressed is Avery's penchant for late punches after the players end up on the ice. Avery saw just over seven minutes of action and yet had his name chanted twice by the building.

*Brandon Prust didn't get to fight - his tussle was quickly broken up - but that didn't stop him from having an outstanding game. The forechecking and physicality that he and Ryan Callahan bring are huge reasons for the Rangers success. All too often the team sits back and allows the opponents to press the action but these two, in particular, push back. Torts trusts both to play in all situations and they have rewarded that trust with delightful play. Love it.

*Hahaha, Poti you suck.

*There was a pretty good crowd in the building, with far less Cap fans than usual. We don't need Dancing Larry, we don't need a dozen Potvin Sucks chants and we definitely don't need that horrific music selection and idiot gimmicks. One of the Blue Crew cheerleaders came up and tried to get my section to wave their hands around like idiots to battle another section. I observed that we were at the hockey game and not the circus. All of the season ticket holders refrained from acting like fools and we 'lost' the battle of which section would look stupider. Thankfully.

*Wouldn't it have been great if the Garden staff played a Caribbean ditty heavy on the bongos when Alex Semin started shoving in a scrum?

*Sure glad the Caps traded the mercurial Tomas Fleischmann for Scott Hannan, as the Rangers were able to take advantage of his many shortcomings. In fact, the Rangers did very well to use the Capitals to score as what, five? of the goals came off screens or deflections off Cap players? The Blueshirts simply shot the puck, they didn't try to do too much fancy nonsense and it paid off. A blue collar, north-south game will be - and has been - the recipe for success. When they get away from it they lose so what will it take for the team to stick with it? I don't know.

*It wouldn't be me if I didn't point out some of the team's shortcomings. The team still sucked in the faceoff circle, losing 32 of 56 draws - despite going 7-0 when Washington had rookie Marcus Johansson at the dot. Alex Frolov is goodfornothing, Mr. Softie the Backstabber doesn't have the drive to be a good player, Eminger's play continues to deteriorate as Rozy gets more of his ice time and MDZ should be back in the press box (or in Hartford preferably). The power play went 1-3; it was nice that the unit scored but during the other two man advantages the Rangers didn't get a single shot off.

*Ovechkin without a beard looks weird.

*Many folks around me felt that Ryan Callahan deserved a star for his two goals and the ton of hits he had but there were three better candidates. Cally's importance and ability can not be understated but, with a number of players having great performances, he didn't make the stars in the PHW or my eyes.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal, one assist and +4.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.
1-Marc Staal - one goal, one assist and +3.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Hank's glove save was awesome but there weren't that many great saves needed. He played simple, solid puck and didn't give up a softie. He was beat four times - three within moments of each other - but thankfully the iron was there to bail him out. But that glove save was pretty damned impressive.
2-Dubi - Gordie Howe Hatty. Said it for years now: Dubinsky can be as big of a impact player as Jason Arnott was for the Cup-winning Devils, a combination of size, skill, determination and physicality. Games like this prove it.
1-Staal - Not only did the d-man score that sexy shorthanded goal and set up Gabby's power play tally but he shut down Ovechkin. There is something about playing against Captain Caveman that brings out the best in Staal and it is so fun to see.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

17-13-1: Rangers Have No Teeth Against BJs

The Blueshirts lost to Columbus tonight 3-1. Didn't get to see it, didn't get to hear it. Caught the highlight, scoured the numbers and kept up with twitter feeds so a few notes:

*Horrible soft goal given up by Hank - there is no defending that. But to hang him with the loss when the Rangers scored all of one goal against the Blue Jackets is ridiculous. They were essentially the same team that the Rangers racked up seven on last season and Mason had given up at least two goals in 14 of his 17 prior appearances this season. But the Rangers netted one. Just ... one.

*The Rangers were dominated in the faceoff dot (again), the Ranger power play went just 1-5 and Alex Frolov inexplicably received more than 15 minutes of ice time despite doing nothing to deserve it except whine to Russian media. You have to figure Torts was showcasing him for a trade and you have to wonder who in the hell would take him at this stage in his career. But someone took Kotalik so you never know.

*Nice of Mr. Softie the Backstabber to take a penalty to allow Columbus to tie the game just when the Rangers appeared to take control of the action. He was beat on a faceoff 28 seconds prior... and the Dubi promptly lost the faceoff on the penalty kill. The team ranked 25th in the league at the dot entering the night. Think Yanic Perreault is willing to come out of retirement to take a draw or two for us? And even more ridiculous, as Sather wanted a tough guy, had he grabbed Zenon Konopka instead of Boogey we would have one of the best faceoff guys in the league.

*Think it is a coincidence that the Rangers scored their lone power play goal when MDZ was not in the ice, despite the kid skating 4:29 with the man advantage?

*Who knew Rick Nash was still in the NHL?

*I will be back in the States Sunday night so we will be back to regular wraps for the Caps.

*PHW Three Stars
3- Samuel Pahlsson - 18-3 record in faceoffs.
2- Steve Mason - 32 saves.
1- Rick Nash - two goals and one assist.

Your Three Stars

Thursday, December 9, 2010

17-12-1: Road Warriors

So the Rangers won on the road, huh? Nice. They bounced back from Sunday's defeat to beat the very same team four days later, 5-3.

For this one - and Sunday too perhaps - I ask that you guys to fill me in on what you observed in the comments (more than usual). Why? Because I didn't observe anything - my ancient PowerBook couldn't get video for the game while I am away on holiday. Listened to the audio of the Ottawa broadcast for a period until the 'take a look at this/right here/on the left side of your screen' got to be too much for me. That idiot Denis Potvin sucks. Switched to the Ottawa radio broadcast, which wasn't bad but c'mon, hockey and radio works even worse than hockey and television.

Just a few notes; no photos as I've been up nearly 24 hours:

*Heard on the radio 1: "Handful of Rangers are not sharp... but Gaborik has been their best player by far." Two primary assists helps attest to that but the blown breakaway in the third after the equalizer hurts. As to the Rangers not being sharp, what did you expect when they were hanging around the city for a few days, likely enjoying all it had to offer???

*Wonder what Torts said to snap them out of it during the second intermission ... and if this doesn't add evidence to my theory that they suck at home because of big fun in the big city, I don't know what will.

*Heard on the radio 2: "How did Elliot let that one go in?!? That is a terrible softie to give up." Somehow appropriate for a goal by Mr. Softie the Backstabber himself.

*Avery and Prust battle and Mike Sauer scores to break the deadlock. On a power play no less. Speaks volumes about this team. Very happy for Sauer to not only get his first NHL goal but to have it come in that situation and prove to be the game winner ... awesomeness.

*Why is it that the Rangers make Ottawa's secondary scorers into stars? It would be one thing if Alfredsson and Spezza made them look dumb but to be outshined and outworked by Fisher, Kelly and Foligno? Again? Inexcusable.

*It is hard to feel bad for Fisher as he goes home to that wife of his but dude was robbed of a hat trick at least twice - first by the post and then by Hank's glove save. How good was that? The radio guy nearly busted a lung raving about it.

*Caught the Boogaard fight here and he got his ass kicked. For the heavyweight champ, he seems to take quite a bit of damage in these bouts, even the ones that he wins (which definitely does not include this one). Glen needs to find a way to get rid of this contract Gomez style. Look at what Boogey does for the Rangers and look at what Carkner does for the Sens - that is why the signing was a mistake: Boogaard lurches around for a few minutes hoping for a fight while Carkner takes a regular shift and kills penalties.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - one assist.
2-Marian Gaborik - two assists.
1-Mike Fisher - two goals.

Your Three Stars

Monday, December 6, 2010

16-12-1: See What Happens?

On Sunday evening the Rangers played the same dreadfully sloppy, piss-poor puck that gained them a win against the Isles on Friday but this time they did it against an actual NHL team, so they lost. New York fell to Ottawa in a 3-1 dreary, dreadful display of boring hockey.

The Senators, coming off of an equally dull 1-0 shootout win against Buffalo, seemed more than content to let the Rangers press the action but the Blueshirts were more than happy to keep passing them the puck. No, no, I insist. The Sens then played a lifeless road game - trying not to lose - and the Rangers were all too content to gift them the win for their lack of effort. They fell back on their heels, welcoming Ottawa into their zone time after time and eventually even the Sens were able to score.


*My guest for the evening was taking in her first-ever live hockey game. Amazing how ridiculous I looked for explaining to her prior to the match that hockey was nothing like how it is on tv - it is fast and exciting and full of life! Yeah, not so much on this night.

*Both goaltenders should be ashamed for letting up shorthanded goals on open shots shortside. On Kelly's Derek Stepan blew the play at the blueline but that was one of those bumps in the road Tortorella kept saying the team had to deal with while getting the kids ice time.

*Being 0-4 with the man advantage is utterly unacceptable, especially as two of those power plays were virtually back-to-back. Ottawa was a man down for nearly four straight minutes and New York barely had opportunities. The Rangers didn't get a single shot on the first infraction and grabbed three on the second - none within 10 feet of the Senator crease.

*It is understandable that Tortorella would want to spark Arty and Frolov but to keep putting them on the ice during the power play is just senseless. They can't score. They can't create. They can't maintain puck possession. Their ice time isn't sparking anything except for the opposition's hopes that they will be able to kill the penalty.

*Said it before this season but it is getting blatant: something needs to be done to stem Del Zotto's decline. How is playing him again and again doing him any service? This isn't a sophomore slump as it kicked in at the midway mark of his freshman campaign and it is not showing any signs of abating anytime soon. He has talent, he has physical ability ... if confidence is the problem, well, he isn't about to gain any playing on this team.

*As I am beating old drums, the team had Saturday night off in New York City and then lost their ninth home game of the season (out of 15). Maybe Avery shouldn't be concerned with P.A. Parenteau going to clubs so much as he should be his teammates (and maybe even himself).

*The official Event Summary shows that the Rangers were credited with 41 hits, which just goes to show what a frivolous, subjective category hits are. To think that those numbers will be used by agents to inflate salaries is offensive to me. Nothing beats a good hit, but let's be realistic folks - there were not 41 hits by both teams combined in that snore of a hockey game.

*Avery attempted no shots, Gaborik attempted two (one missed the net) and Mr. Softie the Backstabber missed the net on two. When your 'top' line can get one shot on net the entire night, there is something very, very wrong. Stepan/Dubi/Cally got nine of 14 attempts on goal but they aren't as offensively skilled.

*Mr. Softie the Backstabber slacked on his defensive coverage and Steve Eminger was caught on the wrong side of the crease, allowing Kelly to get in and score the game-winner. And allowing Jarkko to set up the game-winning goal just twists the knife around the wound. Loathe that guy.

*How the hell do you have Derek Boogaard playing in the same game as Matt Carkner and don't have a heavyweight bout? If Tortorella saw that the team was so lifeless at the start that he had to call a timeout four minutes in, how does he not at least try to have Boogaard do what he is paid for? Even if the goon jumps Carkner or just ends Jarkko Ruutu's career, he would have justified his salary. Instead we saw him circle around for four minutes of nothingness.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 22 saves.
2-Chris Kelly - three goals.
1-Pascal Leclaire - 25 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
Second straight game no player stood out enough to deserve recognition. The PHW named both goaltenders because, hell, they couldn't think of anyone else and in a low scoring game that is the great cop out. Neither goaltender was particularly good, and Kelly's achievement was unimpressive. It was great, great seeing Brandon Prust get a goal but a good goaltender woulda grabbed it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

16-11-1: No Style Points For This One

The Rangers finished off a home and home sweep against the Islanders with a 2-0 victory on Friday night. It was perhaps the worst hockey game in terms of skill and quality of play since I covered the BC Icemen of the UHL. Both teams were atrocious, the officiating was inexplicable and the crowd was dead. On evenings like this you just have to pray that it wasn't someone's first hockey game because they will never come back. Horrible.

But the Rangers were on the good side of the scoreline. Woo hoo and yippee! Let's take the points and - after this post - never speak of this game again.

MSG-Plus re-aired the Knicks game this early morning instead of this so this is based on my observations in the building itself ... which is probably better because I would fall asleep witnessing this affair for a second time:

*The only thing that would make one believe that the Rangers are capable of making the playoffs are the two points. The Rangers beat a team they were supposed to. That is it. The team from Mystery, Alaska had more talent than the Islanders - and I mean the actors, not the characters they were portraying. For the Blueshirts to have such a tough time against a bunch of players barely fit for the ECHL is horrifying.

*Not a single Ranger had a good game. Not one. Hank pitched a shutout but was barely challenged - hell, he didn't face a single shot over the first 15 minutes of the match and three the entire first period. As for everyone else, they were disjointed and sloppy yet again. Passes were off, shots were off, they didn't play like a unit. Just atrocious.

*The lone real goal was a bomb by Marc Staal that Dwyane Roloson never saw. Just as I was raging how Alex Frolov skated behind the Islander net, he came around and slid right in front of Rolo - setting a perfect screen. He still sucks, but at least he contributed something. It was a power play goal that looks good in the number column and betrays the fact that the special team isn't special in the least. They have trouble gaining the zone, their passes are telegraphed, they have trouble holding the blueline and no one is willing to take any kind of punishment in the slot. Frolov slid in there untouched as the Isles didn't bother to concern themselves with him - can you blame them?

*Even with catching NHL on the Fly, I still have yet to see the Ryan Callahan "elbow" on Frans Nielsen. It was included in the highlight but certainly did not look like an elbow to me and the replay was unclear. The NHL Network did not include the Avery roughing and ensuing misconduct, both of which seemed completely unfounded. If the league doesn't want this guy to play, just ban him for life. Letting him play and then sending him to the box on trumped up charges just helps folks shape their tin foil conspiracy hats.

*What do you think the conversation was like when Torts sent Mr. Softie the Backstabber into the box to serve Avery's rough?

*Jesse Joensuu going after Cally for the aforementioned elbow was unnecessary and the ensuing fight was woeful for the Islander but great for the Ranger. Cally smartly tied up the Finn and didn't waste his hands beating on a clown in a visor.

*It boggles my mind how the stripes will call a diving penalty and yet still penalize the alleged infraction that caused it. And they always seem to do it; I don't recall a single unsportsmanlike conduct diving that wasn't attached to another penalty. Ever.

*How Madison Square Garden Music Director Ray Castoldi still has a job is beyond me. The music was especially awful on this evening as it centered around Ray jamming on his keyboard with a below-par guitarist, a drummer and a mop-haired DJ chick who just seemed to hit play and gyrate. My ears objected.

*Back-to-back games and no Main Event between heavyweights Boogaard and Konopka. If there ever was a dull game that could have used the excitement of a big bout - even one that was pre-arranged - this was it. What a tedious affair.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dwayne Roloson - 19 saves.
2-Marc Staal - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 17 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
Not a single player deserves to be honoured after this one; maybe give Dolan some props because he was able to take back a big league gate receipt for a minor league match.

Friday, December 3, 2010

15-11-1: Well That Doesn't Happen Often

The Blueshirts blew two two-goal leads during a sloppy game against a hardworking rival ... and they won anyway. How about that? The Rangers prevailed over the Islanders 6-5 in a disjointed affair on Thursday night.

Just going to jump into it:

*It was the opener of a home and home, which is so properly named as the Rangers are playing a pair of home games. There were more people rooting for the team playing against the Rangers when the Pens were in Garden on Monday than there were in the Mausoleum on this evening. The Ranger goal song was sung, Potvin Sucks was whistled and 'DP Sucks' thundered around the building. The mass of True Blue, combined with the fact that it wasn't a sell-out, really shows what a horrible franchise the Islanders are. They should move. Or fold. Either or.

*The goaltending was atrocious but neither netminder received much help. We got to see just how 'good' Biron truly is when the team isn't the shot-blocking, defensive dynamo in front of him. It was mentioned in this space that he would be nothing without the boys playing the way they had in front of him and he proved it on this evening. Point for me. Point for John Tortorella too as somehow seeing Biron yanked reinvigorated the Rangers.

*The two soft Russians have been busted down the lineup and they have yet to show they care about it. They are both playing on the periphery and spending more and more time on the bench. Rightly so. How soon until Frolov and Anisimov are benched? If you ask me, the sooner the better. Perhaps an injection of Whale will help invigorate the roster ... Dale Weise anyone?

*Speaking of pulpous people, I saw Mr. Softie The Backstabber staring daggers at his linemate Sean Avery on several occasions but the addition of the Grate One was perfect on this night. The 'top' line is balanced with a grinder, a playmaker and a sniper. Avery made things happen and made room for his new mates and, in turn, his new mates had the speed and skill to keep him onsides. They accounted for four goals and five assists. Not too shabby.

*The opposition may hate him, his teammates may not like him but Avery is more important to this team than anyone outside of Henrik Lundqvist. When Avery is Avery the Rangers are winners. It has been this way since he came to New York (the first time) and is the reason why us fans adore him so. So all of you fine fans of other franchises, hate him all you want because we will take him being ... acerbic ... any/every time.

*It was amusing watching that fat troll of a AHLer Jon Sim try to goad Sean into some kind of stupidity and credit to Sean for avoiding it.

*But the funniest moment was between Michal Rozsival and P.A. Parenteau. Late in the third period the two went back and forth deep in the Ranger zone and the whistle blew. They got together on the endboards checking and shoving before the midget Parenteau looked up at Rozy and the two broke into a smile and laughed. "Oh, I didn't know it was you, sorry bout that." He also lined up across from Brandon Prust at one point and the two started jawing, then giggling.

*Sadly Derek Boogaard fought Trevor Gillies instead of Zenon Konopka, because Konopka would have fought like a man. Gillies challenged the champ and clearly couldn't keep up and inflict his share of damage. The guy is a joke - a pretender - while Konopka is a top-five tough guy. Sadly Boogaard has never shown Mike Sauer how to properly defend himself. Sauer now has three NHL fights and zero wins. But good for the kid for trying. Of course, when his team is setting up in the offensive zone probably in't the best time to do so but he is a rookie.

*The other rookie, Derek Stepan, needs to be a bit more proactive himself. Now paired with Dubi and Cally, Step seems to spend too much time watching them work rather than helping out. The kid has poise beyond his years, that is for sure, but if he raises his battle level to match the other Blue Bloods we will have one helluva line.

*I was at the game working as a photographer and if I can get permission from the publication, I will post some of the shots here one of these days. Surely there is more to talk about tonight but the boys are right back in action Friday night so we will call it here. See you at the other Ranger home ice, the Garden.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Blake Comeau - one goal and one assist.
2-Sean Avery - three assists.
1-Marian Gaborik - three goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Parenteau - P.A. played with a chip on his shoulder against his former team, even if he couldn't keep a straight face.
2-Gaborik - Hat tricks are awesome.
1-Avery - That hat trick wouldn't have happened had Gabby not lined up alongside Avery, who played one of his best games of the season.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

14-11-1: How Unpleasant

The pathetic display of pucks on Monday night was a game of men against boys and anytime there are men and boys around, you know Sidney Crosby had himself a good time. Crosby's cronies defeated the Rangers 3-1 in a game that didn't remotely resemble that scoreline. Had it not been for some Henrik heroics and the perfect positioning of the pipes behind him, it would have been a 9-1 affair. Easily.

After the Rangers attempted the play the Penguins run and gun game for the first few minutes and the Pens scored, the Blueshirts spent the rest of their game on their heels, letting Pittsburgh do anything and everything they wanted. Instead of playing the tight, smart defensive game that served them well in the teams' last matchup, the Rangers were an unorganized mess that couldn't do a damned thing right.

It was one of their worst performances of the season, and of course it came on home ice. How is one not to assume that these kids are enjoying Manhattan's allures a little too much when they're 5-7-1 at home and 9-4 on the road? Of the five home wins, only one was convincing and it was against Edmonton - a team that could be beaten by half of the AHL. They practice - or so they claim - up in their sequestered Westchester country club and amble into the Garden, do their business, collect extravagant paycheques and then head to their luxury apartments. What a life. When the team is on the road they are forced together, forced into a real regimen, forced to come together as a unit and they win. Amazing how that works.


*The lone Ranger goal came from Marian Gaborik, who did his best Brian Boyle impression and just shot the damned puck for once. What a concept.

*There was alot of rage at the officiating but it wasn't the zebras who lost this game. Crosby is a bitch and the Pens get the benefit of the doubt. We know that. But those same officials who missed alleged slewfoots also gave the Rangers three power plays that the Blueshirts pissed away like dollar bills at strip clubs.

*By my count the Rangers had four point blank opportunities that they either missed three feet wide or 15 feet high. The net is 4x6, how hard is it to just get the damned puck on net? Instead of being fancy and trying to pick corners, they need to just get it on goal and follow their shots. If the goalie makes the save, then there is a rebound or a chance to knock it loose. The second Marc-Andre Fleury touched the puck, the Rangers backed off - whether he had control or not.

*Michael Del Zotto was on the ice constantly, 25 minutes according to the box score but it seemed like more. And what did he do with it? Aside from one nice play - falling to block the pass on one of the 8,000 odd man rushes by the Pens - MDZ was atrocious. His passes don't put his teammates in good positions (when they are on the mark at all), he rarely shoots the puck, he can't hold the offensive blue line and he can't clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Torts keeps giving him more and more minutes and he keeps getting worse and worse.

*That isn't to say that the other defensemen were any better. Girardi kept pinching, Eminger was out of position, Staal was overwhelmed, Rozsival is .... ugh, Rozsival, and Sauer saw all of 13 minutes despite being the lone blueliner willing to hit the Penguins when they were around the Ranger net.

*Of the guys up front, Todd White was the best of the bunch and that pretty much says it all.

*Loved the white papers (asbestos!!) that came fluttering down from the ceiling in the third period. At least that led to some laughs.

*Also enjoyed the quick ceremony for Rod Gilbert, marking 50 years as a Ranger. MSG should have shone a spotlight on his retired number but whatever. He is the first and seemingly last home-grown Ranger scorer who spent his entire career here. Every other born-and-bred Blueshirt who could put the puck in was dealt away at some point. From Bathgate and Hadfield to Amonte and even Kovalev, they all ended up elsewhere.

*There were two fights in this one, Prust vs the Trasher Mike Rupp and Avery vs Tyler Kennedy. The only reason I could figure for the Prust fight was that he wanted to put a charge in the Rangers, but it was late in the first period so that excuse makes no sense. Just two tough guys going at it. Avery vs Kennedy just seemed to be Avery going for some pride after the team went down 3-0. The results were mixed as Gabby scored three minutes later but if the goal was a result of the fight, the emotion died once the puck went in.

*The emotion in the building ... well, there wasn't much. There were wide swaths of empty seats down low, upstairs we waited for either the Pens or the officials to screw us and smattered all around were too many Penguin fans. Horrible.

*Nice of Tortorella to use his timeout with 28 seconds left, just to let most of the fans leave early. Seriously, what was the point? To rub in the fact that his team couldn't create any offense with an empty net?

*The official event summary had the Rangers guilty of just two giveaways. I guess that the official scorer doesn't count the team passing the puck right to the Pens as giveaways; otherwise it would be 15-20. That same summary listed 86 hits. Maybe the official scorer simply wasn't watching this game ...

This team had better use the next two days working because you know that the Islanders will play high above their pay grades later this week and the last thing the Rangers need is to lose two games to them.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Sidney Crosby - one assist.
2-Marc-Andre Fleury - 25 saves.
1-Pascal Dupuis - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Deryk Engelland/Brooks Orpik - The two tough Penguin defensemen clearly intimidated the Rangers as no Blueshirts bothered Fleury. The Flower saw most shots and had time to grab any and all loose pucks.
2-Chris Connor - The little bastard was persistent. Connor, 5'9 with skates on (maybe) kept his feet moving and kept finding himself involved in the action. He could take a hit and keep the puck and create the play. Basically everything I hope MZA will do once he gets used to North America.
1-Kris Letang - With Arron Asham gone, Letang seems to have taken the dirtbag look away with that greasy mop of hair. But looks aside, Letang was instrumental in the Pittsburgh offense. Sometimes he was starting the rush, sometimes he was joining it. Letang has stepped up and filled Gonchar's skates well.

But as bad as this game was, at least Chris McGrath of Getty Images got this photo out of it to make us smile:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

14-10-1: Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

The Rangers will head back into the Garden for their matchup against the evil Penguins on a high note after beating Nashville 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday night. As it has been of late, it was a game where a few guys put their oars in the water and pulled the entire ship but they pulled hard enough to win.

There is cause for celebration as the team is heading in the right direction. After two periods of putrid play in Tampa, the boys have slowly picked things up. They took advantage of the Bolts to make the scoreline look respectable, then won despite being outplayed in Florida and tonight beat a well-coached grinding team at their own game. We'll see if they can keep this upward swing when they face Pittsburgh and their cronies the officials on Monday.

Just going to get right into it:

*Erik Christensen is infuriating. Mr. Softie the Backstabber blatantly kicked the puck in the net, then proceeded to miss a pair of perfect chances that were gift wrapped for him. He had those opportunities because he was standing around while his linemates were battling around him. The so-called skill guy doesn't seem to have chemistry with anyone other than Gaborik and can be pushed off the puck quite easily (more on another Ranger like that later). When his mistakes were presented to him during an intermission interview, he didn't seem the least bit upset. So, with the hate still seething from my pores, Christy goes on to score a pretty goal in the shootout. Sonofa... In the postgame interview he admitted to using the same move he does every time, which goes to show that Pekka Rinne doesn't do his homework. As @mleetch352 pointed out to me, Christy can score in the skill competition "maybe because there is no threat of being hit by the other team?"

*Those aforementioned interviews, by the way, came with Dave Maloney seemingly inside a dark closet. What, MSG can't afford lighting? Even a small lamp atop the camera would have been better than looking at Mr. Softie cloaked in shadow, like a Sith lord or something.

*The King, meanwhile, showed that he has regained a bit of his form. While he was hardly tested by the Panthers, the Predators came right at him and he made several big saves. None were better than the one he made on a early break by Martin Erat, even if the Nashville goal came moments later.

*That goal came on Dan Girardi's stickhandling gaffe. It was a bouncing puck and it tantalized the usually steady blueliner - instead of turning and holding off the oncoming Wilson, Girardi started towards the boards but still didn't have possession and Carey's kid came in and scored. Random interesting thing about Carey, by the way, was the Rangers dealt him to Hartford with a third round pick for Jody Hull. The interesting part? The Whale selected Michael Nylander with that pick.

*It is sad that the current state of the Ranger power play makes me long for the Nylander/Jagr days because the power play sucked then too. But at least back then they were able to get the puck in the zone and stay there for a while. The current man advantage men are just awful, primarily because of MDZ. How long will we wait for something to click with this kid?

*Dubi, Cally, Avery, Prust, Girardi, Staal and Sauer all deserve attaboys for their efforts. Granted, Avery got his ass kicked by an eskimo but he can't be accused of lollygagging. Those guys make up the core of this team and who knows where we would be without them. Stepan has had games where he is right there with them but he clearly is still getting his skates under him.

*No, I didn't include Arty in that. Some credit must be given for his attempts to be more active than he was in Florida but I counted three times where he stickhandled into coverage and simply gave up possession of the puck. Most of his goals this season have come from sheer opportunism - it is nice that he has scored them but for a big, skilled kid he needs to be able to initiate the action with hard work instead of just capitalizing on others' efforts.

*Todd White played nearly 10 minutes. Could you tell? Me neither.

*Rozy returned to the lineup, weren't you excited to see him? Me neither. Rozsival clearly had his share of rust and yet Torts still gave him 22:22 of ice time, including more than two minutes with the man advantage. His timing was off, his positioning was off and he contributed little. Maybe it wasn't rust, because that is just like how he was before the injury ...

*Do you like Alex Frolov? Me neither. I would guess that noone, outside of his mother, does at this point. This guy is just awful and he is making three mil for it. Once he loses his spot on the top three lines once Prospal, Dru and Gabby come back, perhaps Sather can send him to Hartford and bring up a grinder like Dale Weise or Brodie Dupont. Brodie, by the way, might actually win a few faceoffs - something the Rangers struggle to do. That would be moot if MZA's acclimation to North America would go faster.

*MZA, by the way, had a four-game point streak (three goals and three assists) snapped tonight against Bridgeport. The team had 45 shots and MZA accounted for just two, not counting a blown attempt in the shootout. The Whale's new goon Stu Bickel had five shots, an assist and a fight.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Pekka Rinne - 23 saves.
2-Erik Christensen - shootout goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jerred Smithson - It is hard to pick just one of the grinding Predators - Goc and Ward also deserved consideration - but Smithson kept winning faceoffs, allowing Nashville to control play.
2-Cally - Callahan certainly needs a nickname and seeing how Little Ball of Hate is taken, is Captain acceptable? Well that handle will come in two seasons ...
1-Dubi - Hank may have made a few saves, Christy may have scored the game winner but Dubi was the best player on the ice by far. He was incredibly frustrating last season but that was because of his inconsistency - something he clearly has improved upon this season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

13-10-1: Too Much Turkey

Don't let the final 3-0 scoreline fool you, the Ranger victory over the Panthers on Friday night was not nearly that impressive. The Blueshirts came out utterly flat and were lucky that Shawn Matthias couldn't score in an empty net. Had Matthias put the puck in rather than have hit the post in the first period, then it may have been a very different affair down in Florida.

But he didn't, and the Rangers won. So there is cause for celebration, but don't go crazy because there were many issues. Let's take the two points and move on to Nashville, were a much strong opponent awaits. Here is a quick breakdown of the good and the bad in this one:

*Good: Brandon Prust, making $800k (thank you CapGeek), fought a heavyweight to a draw and scored a shorthanded goal. It was just awesome to see this guy finally put the puck in the net and it was the nail in the coffin of the Panthers.

*Good: Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves.

*Bad: Henrik Lundqvist had to make 40 saves. Against the Panthers.

*Good: Ryan Callahan scored a power play goal on a beautiful redirection.

*Bad: Marian Gaborik didn't score a power play goal. He didn't score a regular strength goal. In fact, he had all of two shots and only one of them made it on net. When the superstar sniper is on the ice for over 20 minutes and he only tries to shoot twice, there is a problem.

*Bad: Alex Frolov saw less than 10 minutes of ice time and didn't have a single shot. This guy is getting paid $3 million this season to score goals and he can't do a damned thing.

*Bad: The engaging Anisimov who paired with Dubi and Cally to pot some goals and press the action earlier this season is all but gone. Arty is back to playing on the perimeter and is quickly pushed off the puck when he gets it. He now has played 262 games in North America (108 NHL, 154 AHL) and he should realize he has to be stronger to contribute.

*Good: Mike Sauer is showing he can be the tough but quiet, stable presence on the blueline that the Rangers have lacked since they got rid of Fedor Tyutin. Toots combined a penchant for big hits with solid positioning and Sauer is getting there. Already he has shown he is willing to stand up for his teammates and for Hank, which is more than can be said for most Ranger defensemen since the lockout.

*Bad: Steve Eminger had his worst game in a while and his blue line fumble - a result of a bad pinch by MDZ - gave the Panthers a shorthanded 2-on-1 that they nearly scored on. Not to mention that he totally butchered the play that Chris Higgins scored on (which didn't count, that poor kid can't catch a break).

*Good: I believe it was either Cally or Mr. Softie the Backstabber who came back to make up for the defensive gaffe on the power play and laid out, forcing Weiss to wait too long to make his pass. By the time Santorelli got the puck, he had no room to life it past a lunging Lundqvist.

*Good: On the Ranger 2-on-1 Sean Avery smartly shot the puck low and to Clemmensen's right side, using the pillows to essentially feed the puck to Stepan. The Rangers usually fire that shot at the logo on the goalie's chest or fire it high and wide, giving the other team a break as the puck zooms around the boards and back towards the NY end.

*Bad: As I tweeted several times, the Fox Sports play-by-play guy Steve Goldstein was simply bad. There is little wonder that hockey isn't taking down there as this clown simply can't call it. He made several mistakes that just made me twitch. On the plus side though, Bill Lindsay was pretty good as an analyst - unlike Micheletti, he didn't shoot his mouth off just to hear himself speak. Another positive was FSN using cutie Allison Williams as the intermission host ... better to listen to her struggle to read pre-read copy than listen to Bill Pidto attempt to have a conversation with Ron Duguay.

*Bad: This isn't game related but Pidto was the wrong choice for the Tortorella/Keenan show. He just doesn't have the personality for it. The framework for a good show is there but the execution blew. And when Pidto jokingly asked Tortorella if he was going to do it again, Torts clearly hesitated - you could almost see the steam come out of his ears. He surely is being forced to do the show and that question made it obvious.

*Good: Well, this is good for Florida: Pete DeBoer clearly knows how to coach. He had his team playing more than the sum of their parts ... sadly for them that isn't saying much. He used his timeout well and he had the chutzpah to pull Clemmensen with four minutes left in an attempt to score. And - if not for stellar work by the Rangers (Girardi and Lundqvist in particular) - they would have.

*Bad: Those Panther sweaters suck. The colouring is a clear Penguin/Blues/Nashville/Columbus rip off, the main logo should be a shoulder patch and the font is completely uninspired and out of place.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - one goal.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 40 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Night in, night out you know what you are going to get from Callahan. You can almost see that C on his chest.
2-Prust - While premeditated fights for no reason are usually cringeworthy, his bout with Hordichuk showed that the Rangers weren't the same team that was mowed down in Tampa. It certainly put an extra spring in the Rangers' step and
1-Hank - I don't think he was particularly great in this one but he made the saves he needed to. He was facing an offensively challenged team and managed not to allow a single soft goal. Let's consider this a nice rebound from Tampa and move on.