Sunday, January 31, 2010

24-24-7: Professional Heartbreakers

Gonna make this pretty quick as the Rangers hit the ice again tonight at 8 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche (MSG). The Rangers spent Saturday night being the professional heartbreakers they are. Sorry puck bunnies, I mean it in the manner how they torture their fans on ice. The Blueshirts came out flat, got behind big and, just when you thought they had rolled over and died, decided to play some hockey to climb back into the game. And, of course, they just didn't have enough to tie it up, falling 3-2 to Phoenix.

When the team flicks the switch like they did, you can clearly see the problem with the team's leadership - they are capable of playing pretty well, they just don't. After claiming that hitting the road would be best for the team, they hit the road and were roadkill the first period, allowing three bad goals. They didn't entirely suck in the second period as Chad NueveSies got his legs under him and then most everyone turned on the hockey in the third period to pot two goals and come within a post of tying the game. But what can you do? That's the Rangers.


*Nothing like Michal Rozsival taking a bad penalty right when the Rangers are pressing the hardest. Wade Redden may be a clueless wuss, but at least he isn't an idiot. Well, not a total one at least. Rozy had a hat trick of stupid penalties and should feel much shame. He should also be banished back to the Czech Republic. But, seeing as Torts' "accountability," is sure to stay in the lineup.

*On the penalty note, the Blueshirts gave the Coyotes seven power plays. Seven. Sure Gabby's 'boarding' was borderline but the overall lack of discipline is just unforgivable. And it came simply because the team was outskated and outworked by the younger, faster Coyotes.

*Pressed into action at the last second, all credit given and due to young Chad NueveSies. He was under siege as the team broke down in front of him in the first period and couldn't be faulted for at least two of the three goals against. Once he got his act together, he gave the team a chance to get back into the game.

*And they did with two great goals. Erik Christensen, who I said should not have been split from Gabby when Prospal returned, was back riding shotgun with the Slovak and the two scored on a tic-tac-toe 2-on-1. That goal set up Sean Avery's as he broke in with Chris Higgins on a 2-on-1 and the last play had LaBarbara thinking pass. We, as Ranger fans, know that there is no one in their right mind who would pass to Chris Higgins nowadays but LaBarbara didn't realize that and gave Avery room to shoot.

*I watched the Coyotes broadcast so I got to see the Teppo Numminen ceremony pregame. For those of you watching on MSG+, it wasn't anything too special but it was nice to see the former Jet get his due. Dave Strader, by the way, is a fantastic play-by-play announcer. He was a joy to listen to, even if his partner Tyson Nash wasn't.

*As I tweeted, the FSN cameras caught Muhammad Ali in the crowd and he looked like he was enjoying himself, which I think is just fantastic. Ali's body may be gone but his mind is still there and he found joy in hockey. That's just great.

*Chris Drury? Not great. Worst captain ever. He has all of three power play assists and no goals this season and yet Tortorella is using him on the point. He had what, three shots blocked in a row before losing the puck? And his stupid penalty earlier? He may be one helluva guy in the room but he is a disaster on the ice. Perhaps it is time to give the C to a youngster, like Staal? It has worked for his brother ...

*Aaron Voros has been one of the hardest working Rangers on the ice during this recent slide, so why did he barely play?

*Kind of appropriate that rookie Finn Sami Lepisto scores his first goal on a night when the greatest Finnish defenseman probably of all-time gets honoured (some credit given to Kimmo Timonen, but not much).

*PHW Three Stars
3-Vernon Fiddler - two assists.
2-Martin Hanzal - no points.
1-Sami Lepisto - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - It is amazing to watch all of his hard work and effort sucked into the void that is Chris Drury but that doesn't stop him from skating his ass off.
2-Petr Prucha - When the Rangers were trying to get their game together, who was there to lay down a hit? Petr Prucha. Who forechecked, backchecked and showed the kind of relentlessness that garnered so many fans in New York? Petr Prucha.
1-Fiddler - This guy is one of the underrated talents in the NHL. He plays smart, solid two-way hockey. Moving from Nashville has added some offense but it hasn't cost him his defensive prowess.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Phoenix Coyotes

Apparently the Coyotes stayed in Phoenix as the Rangers are out in the desert for an 8pm EST faceoff against the dogs (MSG+).

Where We Are: Losers of four straight, tied with Tampa at 55 points but the Bolts hold the final playoff spot with a game in hand.

Where They Are: Fourth place in the West after winning three of their last four.

Who To Watch For: Winnipeg Jet Shane Doan continues to shine in the desert. This guy has been the franchise for far too long and remains vastly under-appreciated. Love the heart, love the dedication, hate that he is in Phoenix. Defenseman Keith Yandle has four points in his last four games with three goals but it is usually Ed Jovanovski who causes trouble for the Rangers. Leading goal scorer Scottie Upshall is banged up and may not play but you had better believe that a certain Petr Prucha will be more than excited to get in the lineup.

What To Watch For: See if the road really is what the Rangers needed, because being coddled here at home clearly hasn't worked. Nothing like giving Hank a bit of a break before the Olympics ... oh wait, the clearly burned out Swede will be back in the net again for the Blueshirts. If Peter Mueller has a good game perhaps it will sell Sather on giving up some costly package for the underachieving American youngster.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Signs of life. Some kind of injury to get Redden out of the lineup since Tortorella's accountability is clearly BS. Enver Lisin to light up his old team. Pru not to. Voros vs. Bissonnette. Ilya Bryzgalov to have an off night.

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

Good Job Glen

"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."--Glen Sather on a conference call on July 1st.

Colton Orr: 55 games, two goals, two assists, -3, 112 PIM, 12 fights

Donald Brashear: 36 games, 0 goals, one assist, -9, 73 PIM, nine fights

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"The best thing for us is to get out of town." --John Tortorella after last night's 5-1 loss to Carolina.
No John, the best thing for us is for you to get out of town. You can't make these players play well while they are at home, you have a problem. They play for an Original Six franchise in one of the best buildings in the NHL and yet they have suuuuuucked in their own arena for most of this season with a sad 12-17 record (a loss is a loss, and 17 is third worst in the league). They are coddled in their country club practice facility, sequestered from the fans as much as possible and spoiled with first class travel and accommodations. But heading out to the other side of the country to play three exciting young teams is what's best for the Rangers right now. Yeah, that's it.

24-23-7: Beer Me

In the seminal movie Animal House, John Belushi turns to Flounder after Flounder's uncle's car has been wrecked beyong belief and utters perhaps the soundest words that every Ranger fan should abide by: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

Because alcohol is about all that can make watching hockey at MSG tolerable right about now. The team is a rudderless ship stuck in the doldrums of mid-winter hockey. How a squad that can put up 14 goals in two games a week ago can lose all that momentum and collapse so completely is the fault of the so-called leadership. From the Stealth GM (thanks Ranger Pundit) to the Screamer coach to the Little Leaguer captain, this team doesn't have anyone who can pick the team up, say 'let's go' and carry them to victory.

Sather is an unfriendly ghost who appears in public about as often as Haley's Comet. Tortorella would rather tangle with beat writers than tangle with the issues plaguing his team. Marian Gaborik has the skills but not the means to carry the team on the ice. Ryan Callahan has the means but not the reputation. Chris Drury has the reputation but not the skills nor the means. This team, as it's built, is better off being razed than being patched before the deadline. There are no players available that can completely change the losing identity of the team. The change needs to start at the top and it needs to happen soon.

Without the leadership pointing the team in the right direction, they have become awash in lackluster play. Their leaders aren't leading, their stars aren't starring, and their role players are being stuck in roles beyond their means. That Enver Lisin and Arty Anisimov are playing on a plane high above that of Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik is just horrifying.

I don't want to belittle the Canes because they did what they had to to win; all credit given to them for the victory for the simple reason that they didn't shoot themselves in the foot. They gave the Rangers some chances but they allowed their goaltender to see the puck and the goaltender stopped the puck. 37 times. Admittedly Cam Ward made maybe a half dozen saves that were really quite impressive - side to side slides, quick gloves or that stick sweep that had half the arena crying for replays. Six, out of 38 shots against. His counterpart wasn't as lucky. Henrik hardly saw the shots that went past him and when he did, it appeared that he couldn't be bothered to stop them - that second goal? Ugh! Even a hungry donkey will stop going after the carrot if the load he is pulling is too great.

Very quick notes:

*Tom Renney and John Tortorella couldn't be more different in terms of temperament and primary coaching philosophy. So why do both juggle as much as clowns in the circus? Torts follows Renney in arbitrarily changing the lines multiple times over the course of a game? If he can't figure out what works through the first, sayyyyy 50 games of the season, what makes him think that putting different people over the boards now is going to strike gold?

*The old hockey adage is that your team is most vulnerable in the five minutes after they score a goal. When it comes to the Rangers, it has been the next minute (singular) in the last two games. Again, it comes back to leadership as these guys are complacent even for a second and the opponent jumps all over it.

*Ales Kotalik, welcome back to the lineup. Games may change but the story remains the same - loved the turnover that led to a shorthanded Carolina breakaway. Clown.

*Why did Hank start? If the franchise really thought he deserved to get some rest this season, starting Chad Johnson would have been a much wiser move for a home game against the Canes. And, frankly, NueveSies would have been much better. There are no excuses for three of the five goals Hank allowed.

*How does Wade Redden spend time stuck on the bench while Drury keeps getting regular shifts? MDZ was atrocious but at least he has the excuse of youth and overuse - the veterans have been horrid all their Ranger careers.

*Anyone else get some perverse satisfaction in seeing reverse carpetbagger Aaron Ward writhing on the ice in pain?

*Far less than a full Garden tonight but luckily not many Carolina fans. A smattering of Hartford jerseys and you can't begrudge them their fandom. Hartford? The Whale? That is hardcore.

*How do the refs call playing with a broken stick on a Cane when a Ranger blatantly did it a period earlier and skated off scot free?

*How pathetic is it that people still clap when the Rangers get power plays? When I see an opposing player skate into the penalty box, all I can think is 'no shorties, no shorties, please no shorties...'

*I said it in Peepin' Foes and stick to it - Eric Staal is playing up to the responsibility that the captaincy brings him. Making the switch from Rod Brind'Amour to Staal was a great move by Carolina management; too bad it happened two months too late to make a difference.

*I sit next to a season ticket holder of 20 years who happens to hate the Rangers; he is a Flyer fan who just happens to live in NY. But even he said that he was sick of seeing the Rangers skate into the zone with one hand on their stick, only to lose the puck.

*The Garden ice has a terrible reputation, one that is quite deserved, but it must be pointed out that both teams have to skate on it. So how is it that the Rangers are the ones that seem incapable of connecting on the majority of their passes?

*Free tee shirts for those who attended the game! Nice to see a real giveaway at the Garden. Sad to see a less than real NHL hockey team.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Sergei Samsonov - two goals.
2-Eric Staal - two goals.
1-Cam Ward - 37 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tom Kostopolis - The Carolina tough guy collected two assists and killed penalties. Not that that is a big achievement against the Ranger power play, but to see a fighter capable and trusted to do that is impressive.
2-Ward - That reach-back sweep was pretty awesome.
1-Eric Staal - If giving him the captaincy is all it took to get him to step up his game, perhaps the Ranger C should go to his little brother? Actually, I want it to go to Cally but Marc wouldn't be a bad alternative. Any of the real Rangers would be better than Drury or the other old, overpaid mercenaries.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Carolina Hurricanes

After an actual practice day yesterday, the Rangers will see if it pays off when they face off against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at the Garden (7 p.m., MSG).

Where We Are: Six losses in the last eight games but no longer on a ridiculous shutout streak after scoring two against the Pens in the latest heartbreaking loss. To recycle a line from the wrap, up 2-1 the Rangers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when a slashing penalty got the snowball rolling for Pittsburgh. That is how slim the mistake margin is for the Blueshirts nowadays, they have to be as close to perfect to get two points. And that is pathetic with their payroll. But whatever, we're getting used to it, right?

Where They Are: Carolina is the least in the East but have won two of their last three games, setting New York up for a big bad loss tonight. The Canes just beat up the not-so-big, not-so-bad Bruins on Monday 5-1.

Who To Watch For: Unlike our captain, who seems to have gotten even worse since the letter was stitched on his sweater last season, Eric Staal has gotten better. The Canes took the captaincy away from Rod Brind'Amour, who seemingly has passed his expiration date. He has 19 points in his last 12 games but what shutout by his brother Marc in the 2-1 Ranger win back on January 2nd. Shootout star and Olympic oversight Jussi Jokinen is proving the Finns wrong with 12 points in his last eight games. Chad LaRose has done very little since starring during the Carolina Cup run but also has been good lately. And the eternally young and underrated Ray Whitney is still around working his magic. No Tuomu Ruutu or Scott Walker, thankfully as both are injured.

What To Watch For: The Rangers played a prety decent first period against Montreal before falling apart in the second. Carolina kicked into gear against Boston and scored three goals in the second period. So 1+1=2 and the second period tonight could be very ugly.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Marian Gaborik to slip out of his slump. Our Staal to play as physical as he did against the other brother on Monday. Arty Anisimov to prove that those two goals weren't a fluke. Ales Kotalik to come back and blast that cannon through Cam Ward. Tom Kostopoulos vs Aaron Voros.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

24-22-7: At Least We Got Two Goals, Right?

The Rangers pulled out one of their classic scripts on Monday night - get a lead, get a penalty, fall apart - as they fell to Pittsburgh 4-2 at the Garden. It always hurts losing to Cindy and company but the Blueshirts manage to do it in spectacular fashion time after time after time. Luckily this one wasn't on a hat trick like the last two matchups, although Chris Conner (who?) came quite close. But yet again a Ranger rally is subverted by their own stupidity and incompetence.

New York opened with a dreadful effort through the first period but escaped the frame only trailing 1-0. They battled back with two goals to take the lead but a terrible Marian Gaborik penalty opened the door for the Penguins and they waddled through. Two quick goals later, the Rangers were back behind the eight ball and rolled over. After the match Mr. X from the Blue Seats pulled out one of his favourite sayings, "they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory yet again."

Notes (I have to come up with a better gimmick than just 'Notes' - that's boring - how about My True Blue Views? Spilled Beer? Ice Chips? Feel free to chime in in the comments):

*Do you think John Tortorella plays 'duck, duck, goose' to come up with his line pairings? Just a thought.

*When your team is struggling to put together wins, you want them to play simple, straight-forward hockey. In the third period Brandon Dubinsky made a blind drop pass to no one that started a Pittsburgh rush. He looked to the sky upset and seemingly in shock but that is what he gets for being cute. Too often the so-called talented players are being too cute with the puck.

*It must be noted that Torts gave the Rangers Sunday off without practice while the Penguins played and won a tough 2-1 game against the Flyers. And yet the Rangers were the ones who looked tired, slow and sloppy on the ice ...

*In trying to think of good things coming out of this loss, I came up with two: the Rangers scored two more goals than they did in their last two games and I never have to wear that damned Rozsival jersey ever again. What happened to the player who was so good late in that Blues game? Does he have to get hammered by a big check to wake up for a little while? If that is the case, I know several people more than willing to hit him ...

*Hank shouldn't have let the go-ahead goal in but, let's face it, he was under siege all night. The guy has to feel like the folks in the Alamo at this point. He is surrounded and alone, taking shot after shot after shot. It used to be that a 2.32 gaa was pretty damned good but on these Rangers, it is about 2.32 too high.

*Marc-Andre Fleury had missed the last five games with a finger injury, so you would think the Rangers would want to crash his net and make it difficult for him to get any rhythm in his return. You would think that, right? Apparently the Rangers didn't.

*Hey, Fleury made that one glove save look awfully impressive, didn't he? Classic Ricky Henderson over-embellishment and now we will be stuck with seeing that damned 'highlight' in Versus melts for months to come. (Thanks to Sergeant Bob for the ballplayer comparison.)

*Speaking of 'highlights,' Donald Brashear had a board-rattling hit. Of course, it was meaningless and certainly did nothing to erase the gaffe that led to the first goal against but, hey, he got some applause (not from me). When your team is struggling to score goals, well, you want to add Brashear to the lineup instead of Erik Christensen, the guy who put up points when Prospal went out. That's smart coaching, right? Eric Godard, by the way, played less than a minute, Brash played more than five and yet Godard got a shot on net, Brash did not. So much for adding offense.

*Prospal, by the way, has been virtually useless since returning from said injury. Maybe he rushed back too fast, maybe the Olympic break will help him get his game in order, who knows? Whatever it is, he is a shadow of the player he was before he went down and this team needs him to be a top line talent.

*It is hard to say that Chris Drury is the shadow of a player he was at any time during his Ranger career as he was never particularly good but he has been outright terrible of late and Torts rewarded him with a ton of ice time and point on the power play. He can't win a big faceoff if his life depended on it right now and I just hope that some kind of mysterious 'injury' pops up so he has to beg off from Team USA so he doesn't embarrass himself (and the team) on an international level. As I've said before, he will go down as the worst captain in Ranger history.

*Almost six minutes straight of power play time and the Rangers managed what, three shots? Is Perry Pearn still on the payroll? It was tough watching them struggle to get over the blueline and then panic with the puck once they did but they didn't allow any shorthanded goals so at least they had that going for them.

*Just as I asked anyone listening in Section 329 if they thought that Torts threw Anisimov on the first line as a F-you to Larry Brooks, Arty scored. I think that, and his second goal on the jam-in, were the ultimate F-you to Brooksie. But now it will take several more performances like tonight to truly prove Brooks (and I) wrong that Arty needs time in Hartford.

*Torts made a colossal mistake taking Avery away from Boyle and Voros and sliding him alongside Dru and Cally. Not even Avery could spark the two slumping Olympic-bound players and, in taking him away, Torts broke up a solid unit that was the Blueshirts best of late. The thought has to be that Sean would get more and better chances with more and better linemates but, let's face it, Boyle and Voros have been playing at a higher level of hockey than Dru and Cally the last three games (but I must admit that Cally's defensive play to stop the third period shorty breakaway was pretty great).

*Speaking of slumps, it is quite sad when Enver Lisin is getting better scoring opportunities than Marian Gaborik. Sure Lisin isn't covered as tightly, but since when has that been a problem for Gabby?

*For those of you calling foul time and time again when Avery got bumped, punched, slashed, whatever throughout the game, did you really think that the officiating would do him any favours on a national broadcast against darling Cindy? Really?

*Loved seeing Cindy skating down the ice in the third period with his arm around the ref's waist begging for a call. Some things never change; water's wet, the sky is blue and Cindy is a crybaby.

*I don't know if anyone else did but I booed Dan Girardi every time he touched the puck in the first period. My point was made, and he admittedly got better as the night went on. He can be so solid and so important to this team but to see him stand by when teammates are getting creamed can not be tolerated and can not be forgotten.

*Marc Staal had a small stretch in the game where he was the best player on the ice. He jumped into an attack at the right time, he made a big stop and had back-to-back big checks.

*Chris Higgins keeps on trying; too bad he can't convert that to scoring. But he did do some nice penalty killing work tonight.

*I'm not sure if it is the state of the team of the state of the economy that caused it but the Garden was not close to capacity yet again. It is especially sad when you consider household name Crosby was playing and many people not being able to watch at home as it was exclusively on Versus. And, to boot, many season ticket holders clearly dealt their tickets away to Penguin fans as there was a huge contingent of bandwagon fans in the house.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Sidney Crosby - two assists.
2-Artem Anisimov - two goals.
1-Chris Conner - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Pascal Dupuis - Ol' Eyebrows himself was strong on the Pittsburgh penalty kill, started the rush that got the Pens the go-ahead goal and potted an empty netter. It is amazing how well he plays in MSG when he isn't wearing a Ranger jersey.
2-Conner - Who?
1-Sergei Gonchar - I am definitely loathe to give him too much credit but he is among the elite blueliners in the NHL and is everything that Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival are not. Like them he isn't particularly physical but he makes really smart plays with and without the puck.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers return from a rotten road trip to play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, 7 p.m. on Versus. Seeing as an anonymous poster seems to feel it is my lack of Peepin' Foes that is causing the Ranger slide and I am quite superstitious (already have that damned Rozsival jersey out and ready to go), I felt it was worth a shot to slap this thing together in my five minutes of free time tonight - anything for a win over Cindy at home.

Where We Are: Floundering. As per usual, the Rangers raised expectations with two great games last week only to urinate all over them with the games in Philadelphia and Montreal. But, we still have 55 points and sit in playoff position - even with Philly in sixth and Montreal in eighth (the Flyers have a game in hand on the Rangers, and the Rangers have a game in hand on the Habs). Of course, both Boston and the Islanders are only one point out, Florida is two back and Atlanta and Tampa are three back; that's parity for you folks.

Where They Are: Fourth place in the conference, 10 points ahead of the Rangers after having played one more game. The Pens are coming off of an emotional afternoon win at the Wachovia Center Sunday. Where the Blueshirts lost 2-0, the Pens won 2-1. So that means we should lose 4-0 if my math is right. Man, I hope it isn't.

Who To Watch For: Well, seeing as Mike Rupp has already victimized the Rangers this season, anyone and everyone on the Pittsburgh squad is worth watching out for. In case you were curious, Cindy has 16 points in his last nine games while Gina has eight in his last four. But as long as Gabby stays away from Hungry Hungry Hippo Matt Cooke, they should hopefully survive unscathed. And Marc-Andre Fleury may return from a broken left ring finger after missing four games while Pascal Dupuis is still trying to figure out where he is and Max Talbot and Chris Kunitz are also out.

What To Watch For: Check the beat writer blogs to see if Torts shakes up the roster. After four shutouts in seven games, he has all the justification he needs to bring back Alice and Brash, even if they are both grossly incompetent. We just have to hope that he won't swap out Voros and Lisin as they have been two of the better Rangers the last two games; how about Drury and Prospal? That would surely send a message...

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A goal by the Rangers. That is about all I am hoping to see at this point. Emotion, effort and any other signs of life would be good. A win would be better. But, the way they played the last two games, I would settle for a goal. With Eric Godard not having fought in two games, he needs to justify his salary so he may go at Brash or Voros so seeing them win a fight would be nice.

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"You can say it's a lack of preparation, but that's BS; it's a lack of competitiveness. I don't have the explanation for it. I don't know if it's us not holding each other accountable, or what, but it's a total lack of respect for our fans and the organization. It's a joke." -Sean Avery to the New York Post
And that is why we love him.

24-21-7: Habs And Hab Nots

The Ranger offense disappeared for the fourth time in seven games as they were blown out by Montreal 6-0 on Saturday night. The result was never in doubt after Sean Avery was given a tongue lashing by the officials early in the first period. You knew that the refs would not give the Blueshirts any favours in the Bell Centre on Hockey Night in Canada and it instantly put them behind the eight ball.

With the Canadiens - an already fast team - flying on the emotion of over 20,000 screaming fans, it was only a matter of time before they blew through the weak Ranger blueline. If Dan Girardi didn't guarantee his exit from New York by watching Gaborik get beaten on Thursday, he certainly ensured he wouldn't be re-upped when he was beaten by Max Lapierre to an icing and played ballerina watching the Habs move the puck back and forth around him. Not to mention the other three goals that he just happened to be victimized on. He is a restricted free agent and is a prime target to get dealt at the deadline. It is a shame because he is a capable kid and the maybe even the steadiest of the current corps. But is that really saying much when you consider Redden, Rozsival and two rookies? On a defensively aware team Girardi is a solid third or fourth defenseman. On John Tortorella's team defense, what team defense? squad, he is not capable of being the top shutdown defenseman.

No time to expound further so onto some notes:

*Sorry for the pun up top, Habs and Hab nots but it is quite appropriate. Montreal had team speed and used it, the Rangers did not. Montreal had motivation and they used it, the Rangers did not. Montreal had scoring, the Rangers did not.

*'Chris Drury's scoring woes can be overlooked because he does the other things, like win faceoffs and kill penalties.' Heard that four or five times this season, right? Well he lost a defensive zone faceoff that initiated Montreal's first goal of the night (by the damned MexiCan't) and he was on the ice on the penalty kill for Montreal's sixth. Great work Cap.

*CBC dubbed the Boyle-Voros-Avery unit the "Crash Line" and it did crash the Canadien side of the ice. But there has to be a better name for them, should they stay together long enough. Regardless, they were the most consistent unit of the game and didn't see the ice nearly enough. The same goes for Enver Lisin - the only Ranger with the speed to keep up with the Habs' Lollipop Guild.

*Voros had a helluva fight with Ryan O'Byrne but, seriously, it would have meant a lot more had it happened amid the second period onslaught.

*Watching HNIC on CBC was an utter delight. Kevin Weekes did colour and he was delightful to listen to. Insightful, intelligent commentary throughout the game ... it was wonderful. Damn shame he was calling such a bad game. And Don Cherry, by the way, is still awesome. Say what you want about his commentary - "you just don't fight Europeans!" Really? - that he takes time out to remember fallen soldiers is pure class.

*Several friends wrote and tweeted that Micheletti kept talking about the Montreal Massacre when they came back from 5-0, blah blah blah. Did he really think that these Rangers are mentally strong enough to do something like that?

*Do you think that Wade Redden was trying to give the puck to Montreal? And he makes almost a million bucks more than Andrei Markov - a real defenseman.

*Jed Ortmeyer scored two goals tonight for San Jose. No, it has nothing to do with this Ranger game but yes, it makes me happy. Go Jed!

*Also not Ranger-related, Florida's Kenndal McArdle did an interview on CBC after scoring his first NHL goal tonight. It would not be worth speaking of had McArdle not have an obvious speech impediment. McArdle battled through and did a great job. You know that his family and friends had to be so proud and it really was nice to see so congrats to him!

*Both Hank and Matt Zaba made big saves for the Blueshirts and, honestly, could hardly be faulted for any of the goals against as they were hung out to dry. You would like to have Hank stop Camamalalalalleri's first goal but few goaltenders could have grabbed it. Same with Plekanec's remarkable backhand in the third period - that was one helluva shot.

*Right now the Montreal trade of Guillaume Latendresse for Minnesota's Benoit Pouliot looks like the most even trade in NHL history. It is early but both guys are starring for their new teams. Makes you kind of wonder which Ranger could use a change of scenery ...

*Did Vinny Prospal play? Christy was more visible than Vaclav and he played nine less minutes.

*My buddy Pete asked a question I initially shrugged off but it is worth posing - do you think the 'fight' with Carcillo had any effect on Gabby's hands? He had two clear misses in the first period that he usually would bury.

*After such wonderful performances last week, how could Cally and Dubi be so invisible on a such a grand stage? Wait, don't answer that ...

*I am sure there is more but time is short. As I tweeted, the Rangers decided not to practice on Sunday, because after you were shutout for the fourth time in seven games there really isn't much for you to practice, right?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaro Spacek - two assists.
2-Jaro Halak - 32 saves.
1-Michael Cammalleri - two goals and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Zabadaba - Baptism by fire and the kid came out alright. Sure he gave up two goals but he could hardly be faulted for either. As for Halak, Gabby's future teammate barely had to make a save; the iron stopped two of the best Blueshirt chances.
2-Plekanec - He was everything Vinny Prospal wasn't in this game.
1-Camamalalalalleri - The former Flame sliced and diced his way though the Ranger zone all night long.

Friday, January 22, 2010

24-20-7: The Inevitable Fall Hurts

You just knew that the back-to-back Garden blowouts were too good to be true. The Rangers came back to earth with a mortifying bad performance against the Philadelphia Flyers (again). I showed up at the Wachovia Center but apparently most of the Blueshirts did not. It was a horrific performance where, in a span of a few minutes, the team's best skater got beat up and no one stepped in to help and the star goaltender was ran and still everyone stood by. After the second incident, I tore off my jersey and refused to wear it the rest of the game. If the Rangers aren't proud enough to stand up for themselves, I sure as hell won't stand up for them. I love this team but to say that I was furious would be an understatement.

Yes, Gaborik was standing up for himself and went at Carcillo. But, two weeks ago Alexander Ovechkin was standing up for himself and went at Steve Downie. In Ovie's case, Matt Bradley came flying in because you don't let your superstar player fight some idiot goon!!!!!! The Rangers? They watched. Dan Girardi, who I usually let off the hook for rare mistakes because of my fandom, was feet away and let it happen. Disgraceful. Completely and utterly disgraceful.

So not only did everyone watch as Carcillo kicked the crap out of Gaborik, Gaborik was in the penalty box when Sideshow Bob Hartnell took a four minute double minor for high sticking so he couldn't score what would have been the equalizer. As for the running of Hank, no one ever stands up the King. Why would they? We would only be in lottery position if not for him but he has been fair game since forever.

If that wasn't bad enough, Sean Avery later breaks up the best sustained pressure of the period by selfishly fighting Sideshow Bob. I love Avery, but that was sheer idiocy. From my understanding, the ringleader of this circus act, John Tortorella was screaming his head off on the bench but we know how little everyone listens to him anymore. Maybe not the ringleader so much as head clown ...


*The first period was piss poor on the Rangers part. The only line that was able to pressure the Flyers was the line that started the game - Avery-Boyle-Voros. So, of course, Tortorella broke them up by the middle of the second period and was grasping at straws throughout the third.

*Avery's second fight of the night was against Carcillo seemingly for some sort of vengeance but he didn't get it. Sure, he fared better than he did in the two-punch knockout by Sideshow Bob but it didn't do anything. In fact, Gabby took a dumb penalty that Philly was able to score on with 2.5 seconds left in the period - adding an exclamation point to the ass kicking they were handing the Rangers in the frame.

*Voros opened the third period with a fight against Arron Asham but it just seemed to be Voros trying to ensure he would keep his spot in the lineup over Brashear, who surely would have been sent out to do something earlier (but likely would not have, or would have lost).

*And, remarkably, despite the physical beating the Bullies were handing the Blueshirts, the Rangers were still in the game. As I am sure many have said, they used up all of their goals in the two previous wins and had nothing left for this one. Ray Emery didn't have to make a single difficult stop in a 24-save shutout. When you consider that Enver Lisin of all people had the best chances, you can guess at how bad it really was.

*Chris Drury spent half the game looking like newborn Bambie, slipping all over the ice. When he wasn't flat on the ice, he chased the play and made bad decisions when he got the puck. That's the captain and a member of Team USA ...

*Flyers fans are terrible. They weren't particularly tough or rude but the place wouldn't get a single good 'Let's Go Flyers' chant going at the same time. The only time they found a little synch was to holler "Avery Sucks!" which is hilarious when you consider the kinds of clowns their franchise employs. Hypocrisy, thy name is Philadelphia.

*They didn't have "God Bless America" before the game, which was a huge disappointment for me. I grew up listening to my dad tell stories of the Spectrum and Kate Smith singing that song and instead they had some annoying blonde woman do a poor version of the regular anthem. Weak.

*The friends I went to the game with had some issues and had to deal with the Wachovia Center security (nothing malevolent I assure you) and they found the staff incredibly kind and accommodating.

*On a semi-related note, the upper bowl seating at the Wachovia is quite steep. You really feel high above and far away when you sit up there, as I did.

*James van Riemsdyk scored what would be the game-winning goal on a two-on-one that was all thanks to my pal Michal Rozsival. And I have to wear his jersey on Monday? Ugh.

*The Mike Richards insurance goal came off Marc Staal's skate but, as my buddy Eric vehemently pointed out, the play shouldn't have happened as Chris Higgins could/should have cleared the puck prior to that. If Higgins was having issues before, he clearly is falling apart now that he is saddled with Lisin and Anisimov as his underwhelming linemates.

*Traffic to and from the Wachovia Center sucked and parking cost $15. That's insane. Even the Islanders are more reasonable.

*Was it me or did Philly go offsides a dozen or so times? It just got ridiculous after a while, which was surprising after the first 10 minutes of the game flew by.

*I was pleased that the Ranger goal was waved off after the final buzzer as that left a big fat 0 next to their name on the scoreboard - matching their heart and effort in this game. We can only hope that this loss, like the 6-0 game in December, proves to be a aberration in a run of solid results ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ray Emery - 24 saves.
2-James van Riemsdyk - one goal.
1-Mike Richards - one power play goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - As per usual, Lundqvist gave the Rangers a chance to win with big saves.
2-Sideshow Bob - Hartnell kept Avery off of his game - kicked his ass even - and pushed the Philadelphia attack forward. If he was a better player, he easily could have scored a pair of goals.
1-Carcillo - What can you say? He is a smart goon. He goaded the best player on the opposing team into a fight, taking him off the ice for five full minutes and pulling the lone weapon from the Ranger power play. Gabby was thrown off and took a bad penalty soonafter, setting up the JVR goal. Good for Carcillo; that's just good hockey right there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Islanders vs. Devils: A No-Win Situation

On Monday I was enlisted by the Long Island Press' hockey writer to take some photos at the Islander game and, with his blessing, I'm sharing some of the shots here for your consumption. It was a no-win situation for a Ranger fan such as myself but, to be honest, I was hoping the Devils would win sheerly because I loathe the Isles more and they will be battling us for a low playoff seed in a few months. So what happens? The Isles outworked the Devils all over the ice, Zach Parise disappeared and Mmmmaaarrrtttyyy was pulled as the Isles shut Jersey out 4-0. Typical. But it still was a pleasure to shoot and I am thankful for having the opportunity!

24-19-7: In A Word? Domination!

Unlike last week's game against Ottawa, there was no letdown after a strong Ranger effort as they followed up the 6-2 win over Montreal with a 8-2 demolition of the Tampa Bay Lightning that wasn't nearly as close as the score shows.


The Rangers kept playing the same style with the same energy as they did on Sunday while the Bolts were bad. Very, very, very bad. Not just bad as in tired from playing on Monday night but bad as in woeful. On one side you want to say that the Rangers made them look like a minor league team and on the other, they really played like a minor league team. Tampa was terrible and the Rangers could have easily struck for a dozen goals or more. Instead, there was the usual assortment of posts and easy rebounds not banged in. But we come here today not to bury the Bolts but to praise the Blueshirts.

And there is enough praise to go around as 16 players recorded points (thanks Gregger for the stat). No one was woeful. No one needs to be called out on the carpet. Even the pointless Anisimov deserves reprieve - but only because I feel like being nice.

I'm not going to break down the game goal by goal ... and can't really considering it was a Versus game so there is no Rangers in 60 (Booooo) but there are still some things to be said:

*It was great seeing Gabby and Vinny break out for some points finally but, let's face it, that is what they are paid to do and the Lightning didn't make it too difficult. **Spoiler Alert** Neither of them will make my stars because of it. They are skilled players, they are supposed to be able to eat up teams like Tampa when teams like Tampa are this terrible.

*I mentioned during the third period that if someone said to me a month ago that Aaron Voros' name would be chanted in MSG, I would have died laughing. My friend Joe said, 'a month ago? try a week!' And the Garden crowd was really chanting Voros' name after another great effort by the big man. He fought that the NHL's PIM leader Zenon Konopka and didn't do too badly - he lost, but didn't do too badly (as he did in the Malone fight later on). Voros then goaded Konopka into taking 12 more minutes in the box by turning him down for a rematch ... and then scored on the ensuing power play! Wow. That is like superstar stuff. Jarome Iginla or something. Freaking wow.

*It is kind of funny that Tampa tried to intimidate the Rangers off the bat by sending Konopka out on the ice seeing as all it did was ensure the Blueshirts were awake and into the game. Without the fisticuffs off the bat, do the Rangers get off to as good a start? I'm not sure. I mean, they would still have won seeing how bad Tampa was but it may not have been such a dominating performance.

*Hello, Donald Brashear? Your services are no longer required here. Not like you still had those services to provide, and we didn't want you in the first place, but like the dinosaur, you are now extinct.

*Of course, going into Philly on Thursday, does Tortorella plug Brash back in to the lineup? I wouldn't put it past him and could hardly blame him because you certainly don't want to see Dubi throw down the gloves again should any of their thugs do anything. Lappy, Cote, Carcillo, Pronger ... all tougher opponents than Jeff Halpern, who had his first fight since March of 2007.

*Tortorella, finally, deserves some credit. After a solid game, the 'fourth' line of Voros-Boyle-Avery (which was more of a third line considering how useless Arty is) was rewarded for their work. As I mentioned Voros got Konopka to take the penalty by turning down his invitation to dance and Torts put him and his linemates back on for the ensuing power play. I turned to my buddy Mike and said, 'wouldn't it be great if they scored to boot?' And less than 10 seconds later Voros banged in the puck to make it a 7-2 game. Now that is justifying the coach's faith.

*The refs continued to grind their axes for poor Sean Avery, and Avery turned that frustration to his benefit by standing at the end of the bench jabbering away with Bugsy Malone and Downie Syndrome. Malone should be better than that but Downie is young and dumb so it was fully expected from him. I'm just a little surprised that Downie didn't chase Avery down and instigate a fight.

*Even the third member of the unit, big Brian Boyle wasn't bad. Notice I didn;t call him Susan as he has toughened up his play of late. It is still pretty ugly - but it is working. He had some chances tonight and, if he keeps playing like this, he will pot a few more pucks before the end of the season.

*Chris Higgins scored! Enver Lisin scored! Dan Girardi scored! Marc Staal scored! I just ... wow. Words can't express how impressed I am and how much I hope this boosts the confidence of the team going into a tough stretch - in Philly where the Flyers are desperate to turn things around, in Montreal where the Habs will be out for revenge and home against Pittsburgh. Crosby scored six points tonight against the Isles. Six!

*And this performance is why the Rangers don't need Vinny Lecavalier. Lecavalier did nothing, zilch, zero, nada to help his team turn around their luck. He had the goal early on but completely became a nonfactor. It is hard to say whether or not he was unable or unwilling to spark them but he didn't do anything. Midget St. Louis did more, Malone did more, Seen Stamkos did more ... Vinny04 was nowhere to be found. The Rangers could use another game-breaker, not another over-paid veteran working on the fringe.

*Speaking of such, Redden and Rozsival were acceptable. That is about it - acceptable, I'm being happy and nice today, remember? Basking in the glow of the second straight convincing Ranger win. Sure Staal, Girardi and MDZ are all better and more important defenders but the albatrosses didn't do anything to take the wind out of the team's sails tonight. Not even the Rozy penalty ...

*It is a good sign that the one thing I was upset most over this evening didn't even happen during the game. The Rangers held an alumni forum for season ticket holders with Pete Stemkowski, Steve Vickers and Ron Duguay prior to the game. There was no beer. I was not pleased.

*There was an idiot in the 200 level wearing a Tampa jersey who kept standing up to provoke the crowd and later revealed a Devils t-shirt under his Lightning sweater. He was serenaded with 'Asshole' chants but how the guy made it though the entire game without getting his ass kicked surprised me and certainly speaks to the more genteel Garden of today. Sad.

*As mentioned, superstition dictated that I wear my Rozy jersey again for this game. And I did. And we won. And it will be back Monday night. Dammit.

*I'm sure there is more but I have a insanely busy seven days starting so I am gonna crash. No guarantees of a Peepin' Foes for any of the next three games but I will try. I will be in Philly for the Flyer game Thursday so if I don't end up in jail, I will have a wrap sometime after that. No Rozy jersey down there, the superstition only holds for home games (I hope).

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and one assist.
2-Vinny Prospal - one goal and one assist.
1-Marian Gaborik - four assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Smithtown - Higgins' hard work finally paid off with a goal and an assist. Let's hope it is the start of something good.
2-Dubi - Gordie Howe hat tricks are awesome.
1-Voros - All out effort all night with smart play and grit earned him that ovation. Bravo sir, bravo.

>>Psst, someone look outside and tell me if you see flying pigs ...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Tampa Bay Lightning

A week ago the Rangers played a thrilling game against New Jersey and followed it up with a woeful performance against Ottawa. Sunday the Rangers played a thrilling game against Montreal and we will see how they follow it up Tuesday when they face Tampa Bay at the Garden (7 p.m. on Versus).

Where We Are: Coming off of one exciting win against the Habs and 4-2-3 since the calendar change. But at the same time, just one point ahead of the eighth place Islanders. The Islanders. Ugh.

Where They Are: Playing the second half of back-to-backs after beating Carolina 3-2 tonight. They sit in 13th place with 48 points but are just four back of the Isles. Parity and all that crap I guess. Tampa is 4-4 in 2010 and lost a home and home against the Panthers before beating the Canes.

Who To Watch For: Dustin Tokarski played a perfect period in relief in one of those losses to Florida but has yet to start a NHL game. I'm not quite sure an organization even as dysfunctional as the Bolts would throw the kid in to make his first start in MSG so we will likely see Antero Niittymaki play for the second straight night (Mike Smith is hurt). You never know though. Outside of the crease there are the usual suspects in mighty midget Marty St. Louis, Vinny04 Lecavalier, Seen Steve Stamkos, Ryan Bugsy Malone and Steve Downie Syndrome.

What To Watch For: Donald Brashear possibly getting back in the lineup if only to justify his existence by fighting Zenon Konopka. But, seeing as Z is the NHL leader in PIM, Brash will go back to his role as the Cowardly Lion allowing Aaron Voros to play. Which is ok too for your fisticuff folks as Voros and Malone have a history. See if the Ranger D step up and keep Bugsy away from Hank. See if any Ranger forward is bold enough to throw themselves in front of a Kurtis Foster slap shot from the point. See how they were able to fit "Szczechura" on the back of a jersey.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Ranger effort on par with that of the second two periods on Monday. The scoring binge continuing, and perhaps Vinny Prospal putting one (or two or three) in against his former team. Hank not letting fellow Swede Mattias Ohlund to score and out-dueling the Finny Niitty. Jewish Jeff Halpern eating too much at Katz's and snapping his four game point streak. Ohlund being exhausted after skating for more than 25 minutes - including five on the penalty kill - against Carolina.

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

23-19-7: Now That Was Quite A Game

"Hey Reg! Reg! What did you say to him?"

"I told him his wife was a d*ke."



That stellar exchange, of course, came from Slap Shot as Mo wondered what Reggie Dunlop said to set off Ducks goaltender Tommy Hanrahan. We will never know what John Tortorella said to the Rangers during the first intermission of Sunday's game that set them off but whatever it was, it must have been just as much of a gem. All of a sudden the passes that were getting caught in skates were on the mark, the shots were on the net, the rebounds were pounced upon, the soft players played tough ... geez, I mean, Wade Redden got into a fight. And won!

And the Rangers won, defeating their Original Six rival Montreal Canadiens 6-2. It was exciting and it was convincing, two adjectives that you could hardly ever use in the Garden this season. The Blueshirts being the Blueshirts, they will likely fall flat on their faces against Tampa on Tuesday but let's just bask in the afterglow of this one for a little while. Notes:

*Wade Redden fighting. OMFG. If you made me make a list of people possibly getting into a fight on Sunday night, Redden would have been somewhere in the same area as Dancing Grandma. But Wade tossed down his gloves and traded blows with Benoit Pouliot in revenge for Pouliot's head-shot on Christensen. Redden fared quite well in a wild battle considering neither player ever fights and received his first ever ovation in MSG. Redden has scored, gotten assists and still his name was booed when it was announced. He fights and the building goes bananas. Do we think that it justifies the $8.1 million he is making this season? Abso-f-ing-lutely not. Do we appreciate he finally breaking a sweat and some blood vessels in the name of the team? Very much so.

*That tussle came just four minutes after Sean Avery tangled with (and kicked the crap out of) Josh Gorges in another battle. After Avery got called for two garbage calls in the first period (keep grinding that ax refs), Avery didn't calm down or disappear, he was Sean Avery and showed that he will back up his barbs with his fists. The only shame is that he only traded harsh words with Scott Gomez and not punches.

*The MexiCan't was booed heartily for most of the night. While a good friend of mine believes that Ranger fans should thank Gomez for accepting the trade to Montreal, I disagree. I don't think he had a choice in the matter (even with the contract clause) and it was only proper to voice our disapproval for his lackluster career in a Blueshirt. We paid too much money to watch the smirking clown circle senselessly and play such halfhearted pucks.

*The other half of that Sather summer signing, Chris Drury, had one of his best games in a long, looooong time. He showed more emotion on the ice when he disputed the second period penalty call then he has all season long and then channeled that emotion into his play. Drury played well on the power play keeping the puck in the Habs zone, he went sliding to break up a two-on-one and then collected an goal and an assist in the third period. I ripped on Drury over at Puck Daddy on a post about him being named to Team USA but could be convinced that I was wrong if he proves that this display was anything more than an aberration.

*The power play, by the way, still only went one-for six. But I won't go too nuts about it seeing as the kill actually scored a shorthanded goal. There are few things I enjoy more than shorties so when Dubi followed up Cally's breakaway to score the equalizer, I went nuts. Awesomeness.

*Cally, Dubi, Dru, Gabby and Vinny all picked up multiple points. Poor Chris Higgins, facing his former team, was shut out. Smithtown even saw time on the power play but couldn't get things together. At one point in the first period he was chasing after the puck the way a puppy chases after a ball as the playground kids threw it around. He is definitely trying, but he isn't succeeding and that needs to change.

*For all of the physical play, and the tide turning on Montreal in the second period, you would think Georges Laraques would have been called upon to do that voodoo that he does so well but he was barely there. Like our boy Brashear, perhaps this goon's day is done.

*The Canadiens' vaunted Lollipop Guild power play was quite unimpressive. They allowed the shorthanded goal and only scored on a tally that should not have counted. Brian Gionta knocked the puck in with a high stick but the referee waited a second before pointing and calling it a goal. By him making that call on the ice, it would take a definitive replay to overturn the goal, and there are very few definitive angles that show high sticks. So, of course, the goal withstood the review and Hank used the next tv timeout to talk to the ref and show him that when the goaltender on his knees, his helmet is at the level of the crossbar and Gionta's stick was over his helmet. But since Gionta is a oompa loompa, the ref clearly didn't believe that he could get his stick up that high so he wasn't swayed by Hank's demonstration.

*Video replay worked in our favour on Cally's power play goal. From up in my perch in 329, I had the perfect view and there was zero doubt that it crossed the goal line. Of course, there was a ref right behind the net who somehow didn't call it in in the first place but the NHL officiating has been disgraceful of late.

*Nice to see Paul Mara get miraculously cured when he saw Drury go to the penalty box for the second period high stick. The lumberjack fell like a ton of bricks on the contact - which he initiated by hitting himself with Drury's stick - and laid on the ice in oh-so-much pain until Drury was escorted away. Mara then got back up on his skates, praise Jesus, and chased after the refs when he saw that he was being called for the hold. What's the adage? If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'??

*As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, because Rozsival was so good in St. Louis, I would wear my replica jersey of his to the Garden tonight. Well I did. And we won so superstition dictates that I have to wear it again. Sonofabitch.

*There was a massive Montreal presence in the building - surely over a thousand fans. There are few things as gratifying as mockingly chanting their silly soccer chant right back at them after the Ranger turned the tables. Ole, ole, ole, ole ... and the brief USA, USA chant was priceless. As they just said on the broadcast, the building has been waiting for signs of life for a long time and it was so great to see them tonight and be able to roar in response.

*Way back at the top I said that John Tortorella must have said something to spur the turnaround. Watching Ranger Rewind, Ryan Callahan said that they just stuck with their game and things went well. If that is the case, then this team is even more infuriating than I thought because it shows that they are always capable of turnarounds like this and periods like the second. They just don't/won't do it.

*You know, these Original Six games are just so good, that it is such a shame that we have the Lightning to look forward to next. It has been said before, these old rivalries should be encouraged and honoured. Forget Hockey Weekend Across America, forget Hockey Day in Canada, how about Original Six Saturday? One day every year when all six teams play each other. Chicago/Detroit was awesome today, Rangers/Habs was great but Toronto and Boston both had the day off. Have just three games on a Saturday, play them in a row, heck, maybe play one outdoors. These games are always special and should be treated as such.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one goal and two assists.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals and one assist.
1-Ryan Callahan - two goals and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Wade Redden - Yes, I made Redden a star. The guy got into a fight, how could I not? And it was a good fight, both in its cause and result. Looking back on this game down the road, it won't be the game where Gabby broke a slump or where Dubi and Cally were outstanding, it will be the game when Wade Redden fought.
2-Hank - Sure he made just 18 saves but most were big ones. The goals against weren't his fault and he didn't allow a single softie to get the Habs back in the game.
1-Dubi/Cally - Like I said, they were outstanding. Both have worked hard all season long but tonight all of the pieces came together. A lot of that is due to Gabby regaining his touch and Montreal's moronic defense (Martin is a terrible coach) but it is nice to give props to the young cornerstones of the organization.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

22-19-7: Mediocrity

When talking about the Rangers tonight with my friend Andrea, I was quite disgusted and bluntly said that "we suck."

She replied that no, "even worse, we're mediocre."

And that is completely true, and completely saddening. The Rangers aren't a good team but they aren't a bad team. There is the talent there to win a string of games and revive your faith, but there is also little heart and dedication to keep that string going. It has been the same for years where the team overspends just enough to ensure they can't rebuild with top draft picks and overspends on just the wrong players so there is no chemistry and the house of cards falls apart far before the Finals. So very sad, so very Rangers.

This night marked the second straight game where the Blueshirts were beaten by a desperate young team that worked harder than they did, as the Rangers lost 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues. Notes:

*Question for you: your team has pulled the goaltender and is down two goals. Do you a) put in the player who had the top chances all night long or b) put in your defensive specialist captain with one goal in his last 11 games?

*Brian Boyle's goal is the epitome of why Los Angeles Kings fans hate him. He has the ability to spin off a check, take a pass with the softest of hands and snap it into the goal and yet he can only pull it off once every 30, 40 games. At the same time, he is listed as having gone 0-10 in the faceoff circle on the Event Summary.

*Prior to the game Ales Kotalik told Andrew Gross that he had "no explanation" why he would possibly have been scratched. Hopefully he got that explanation from watching Enver Lisin. Lisin took Kotalik's spot and played with all of the heart and effort that has been completely lacking from Kotalik. Lisin used his assets to his advantage, getting scoring chances and drawing a penalty. Kotalik has rarely been anything more than a detriment to the team.

*As for the other sub, Aaron Voros also played like he wanted to stay in the starting lineup. If he can maintain that level of physicality, there is no reason for Donald Brashear to ever pull on a Blueshirt again.

*Chad "DosNueve" Johnson really had a good game. Sure Alex Steen's goal wasn't pretty but it wasn't like it was entirely the goaltender's fault. Steen skated into the zone, behind the net and back out again without a single Ranger getting within two feet of him. It was embarrassing watching the Rangers watch Thomas' kid score that one. The other two goals weren't DosNueve's fault as there was no stopping the one-timer and the second shot deflected in off a Ranger.

*John Tortorella keeps juggling the lines but hasn't separated Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik yet. It is a move I would definitely try seeing as both are struggling to find their 2009 form. Wish I knew where Gabby's lightning-fast shot release has gone but he needs to find it ASAP.

*Michal Rozsival, who I have admitted is playing quite well of late, earned all sorts of respect. Rozy got ran right into the stanchion, needed help getting to the locker room but sacked up and came back. And he came back and played great with two defensive stops that I saw as well as an actual check and even a good shot on goal. I may even pull my Rozsival sweater out of the closet to wear to the Garden for tonight's game.

*No Peepin' Foes for this evening's match against the Canadiens (7 pm, MSG). They are 2-1-1 in their last four but will be coming off of a 4-2 loss to the Senators Saturday. Jesus Price played net so Jaro Halak will likely get the start in the Garden. The MexiCan't Gomez has points in each of the last four games (one goal and four assists) and has 14 points in his last 11. Can't wait to boo him, but look forward to applauding Paul Mara.

*PHW Three Stars
3-T.J. Oshie - one assist.
2-Alex Steen - one goal and one assist.
1-Roman Polak - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Lisin - Best Ranger on the ice, for better or worse.
2-Polak - On a night where MDZ and Hobey combined for zero shots, seeing a young defenseman star for the other team was quite disappointing.
1-Keith Tkachuk - No front teeth, no fear. A veteran leader that grabbed a pair of assists and dominated at the dot. Makes you hate Drury just that much more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Peepin' Foes: St. Louis Blues

Pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix pix ... hopefully the Rangers shoot as much tonight as the kids used to do when they were trying to win that damned video game on Channel 11 back in the day. The Blueshirts will be on WPIX at 8 pm to faceoff against the St. Louis Blues.

Where We Are: Coming off one of weak half-assed excuse for an effort after one impressive run. Was the 2-0 loss to the Sens an aberration like the 6-0 destruction at the hands of the Flyers? We will certainly find out.

Where They Are: St. Louis is on a three game win streak after a disappointing 0-5-2 run that saw them drop down the Western Conference Standings. Amid that slide, they ditched their head coach. They are 13th in the west but are just seven points behind eighth place LA with a game in hand. Sadly they just lost a megafan and my condolences go out to his family.

Who To Watch For: All American hero David Backes is a tough bastard who can score and he leads a large contingent of skilled kids: roller hockey star TJ Oshie (he of the check on the hit-happy Cal Clutterbuck in front of the hot chick in the picture on the right), David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Erik Johnson. Walt Keith Tkachuk is playing the part of toothless Bobby Clarke after taking a puck to the grill two weeks back while Paul Kariya has returned from another concussion; they are old and far from their prime but there is still a little left in the tank. Not much, but a little. Brad Boyes and Andy MacDonald are 1 and 2 in St. Louis in points but that isn't saying much as neither is close to a point per game. Andy Mac leads the team in goals with 14. Yeah. With our luck, they should put up six or seven on us, right? Let's hope not.

What To Watch For: If Tortorella needs to blow a timeout to motivate his players. Donald Brashear possibly being out with injury after getting his ass kicked by Matt Carkner, and thus avoiding B.J. Crombeen and Cam Janssen - both of whom would clobber the caveman. Barret Jackman playing the kind of tough, strong defensive defense that the Rangers have needed for years. Erik Christensen to get a single shot on goal - one more than against the Sens.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The convincing win we wanted on Thursday. Avery yapping at Janssen like they did in the old days, with Avery showing up the cement-headed former Devil with a goal or two. Marian Gaborik to get back to his scoring ways. Vinny Prospal to get his legs back. Hobey Gilroy to put college dropout Erik Johnson in his place. MSG to realize that Micheletti is no real replacement for JD and convince Davidson to give up his cushy gig as king of the Blues kingdom.

Also Check Out: I don't check many Blues sites to tell you the truth. I should, seeing as they are at times a very exciting team. I have always enjoyed St. Louis Game Time, even after SBN snatched him up and I occasionally look at Let's Go Blues.

Friday, January 15, 2010

22-18-7: Oh So Typical

On Tuesday night the New York Rangers played up to their opponents and Thursday night they played down to them. The players and the coaching staff harped upon "consistency" earlier this season, and the Rangers were consistent - for every big-time, heart-warming effort, they come right back and crush your soul with a disgusting disappointment. I guess we have to be thankful that Thursday's tilt was a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators as it was the kind of letdown that happens against the Islanders on a seemingly regular basis - a younger, hungrier team outworked the more talented, complacent, overpaid clowns wearing Blueshirts.

Ottawa was desperate to break a five game losing streak and was filled with AHLers filling on for their injured top-end talent. New York was drunk on their recent success and staggered out onto the ice to be out-hustled buzzer to buzzer. The score was 2-0 and the shots were 33-32 but the game wasn't nearly as close. If the Senators had any skill, they would have gotten out of the first period ahead 4-0 with two posts and two blown empty nets. Instead, it took until the 18:46 mark of the third period for them to break onto the scoreboard and bust the hearts and hopes of the Garden crowd.

The coach clearly has no answers. The general manager/president doesn't care. The players are happy to collect their money and be coddled by one of the nicest over-spending organizations in our sport. So what do you expect? On some nights they will get by on talent alone, on others they will get by on the back of Henrik Lundqvist and on the rest they will fail ever so painfully. Like tonight.


*Hank was furious when he was finally scored on and smashed his stick to pieces. Major kudos to one of the Garden ice guys who retrieved the stick and passed it through a photographer window after the game to a little kid. That is one awesome souvenir.

*Chris Campoli? Really? Of all of the Senators, why did it have to be a former Islander that scored the game-winner?

*And why was Arty Anisimov out on the ice for it? The great Russian void spent most of the game ensuring all of Sean Avery's efforts were for naught and got clocked in the third period. And yet Tortorella puts him over the boards with a point in the standings on the line. You hope that giving kids big minutes in big situations pays off, but you do that when you are hopelessly out of the playoffs. Even with Vinny Prospal a winded shell of the player he was pre-injury, there still was no reason for Arty to be out there with the game on the line. This kid needs to be sent back to Hartford to gain 20 pounds of muscle and an understanding that he can't sit back and watch the plays around him.

*Avery, by the way, was the only Ranger actively going after the puck and pressing the action. The rest of his teammates showed the most emotion and effort pushing and shoving in after-whistle scrums.

*Donald Brashear apologists - did you folks enjoy his performance? Two fights for fighting's sake and two losses. The first tussle with Matt Carkner Brashear auditioned for the role of Huggy Bear in the Broadway version of Starsky & Hutch before being pulled to the ice. In the sequel, Brash landed a few punches before Carkner clocked him. Ruutu and Neil were running around, starting many of the aforementioned post-whistle scrums and Brash fights in two staged bouts and loses both. Neanderthal.

*Now I know that the current Sens logo is ugly, but why did most Rangers feel they had to shoot the puck right at it? Mmmmiiiiikkkkkeeeee Brodeur made two, maybe three tough saves in the entire game as the Blueshirts kept throwing the puck at his chest from the middle of the circles.

*It is painful to say it but Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were both terrible, to the point where they were worse than Rozy. Ugh, I feel dirty for just typing that but it's true.

*Hobey Gilroy was barely there but he showed that he is capable of carrying the puck 200 feet with one impressive rush in the third period. It was just a shame that he couldn't finish it. As a friend mentioned the other day, if Hobey was the 19 year old and MDZ the 25 year old, things would make much more sense this season.

*Both Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik blew breakaways with barely a move. That is the captain who is supposed to be clutch and the superstar scorer who hasn't scored in four games. Sure both were slightly covered and Drury drew a power play but both should be able to score on those opportunities. Because lord knows the PP won't put the puck in.

*The power play was 0-2 and awful as usual but at least they didn't give up any shorthanded goals. I consider any Ranger man advantage a success when they don't allow any shorties. It's the little things in life, you know?

*During a break, the Garden had a thing about Haiti and Red Cross donations - which I find hilarious. The Rangers play above Penn Station where dozens of homeless and mentally ill sleep for a few hours every single night, but they aren't as sexy a cause as earthquake relief in a third world country.

*I couldn't bring my sign and risk my season tickets but I still held out some hope that the Sens would take Wade Redden back. They didn't. Dammit.

*Just threw on Ranger Rewind and am watching Dan Blackburn be interviewed by John Giannone. I always liked Blackburn and cringed when Giannone asked him how he wasn't bitter about being forced to retire at 25. That is just a horrible question. Still, the kid handled it with class so that was nice to see.

*Blair Betts was -4 in Philly's 4-0 blanking by Toronto. That has nothing to do with the Ranger game, just something else to depress me tonight.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Campoli - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
1-Mike Brodeur - 32 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Chris Phillips/Anton Volchenkov - Why couldn't we get Phillips instead of Redden? Phillips is quiet but consistently solid and skates alongside Volchenkov as one outstanding shutdown pairing. Of course the Rangers didn't test them too often but I won't take anything away from them.
2-Hank - The Rangers don't support him offensively. The Rangers don't support him defensively. And yet he still gives them a chance to win. Long live the King.
1-Cory Clouston - Clouston had his team ready to play. John Tortorella did not. Clouston's team skated off the ice with two points. Tortorella's didn't. That simple.