Wednesday, March 31, 2010

34-32-10: First Period, What First Period?


Tuesday night's 4-3 Ranger victory over the Islanders was quite the rarity - not in that the Blueshirts won (3-2-1 this season) but that Henrik Lundqvist allowed two terrible goals and the team won.

Both tallies by Blake Comeau were softies and yet the Ranger offensive explosion of four goals was good enough to hold off the Islanders. There was no Sean Avery in the lineup but the Rangers still got in the head of Dwayne Roloson to rally from a 2-0 deficit. Rolo was bumped in the first period (actually his own teammate shoved Erik Christensen into him) and then again in the second by Vinny Prospal (who Rolo had hacked and slashed all shift before being tripped up heading towards the crease). Rolo lost his cool and then lost his angles, allowing two goals before the end of the frame.

For those of us rooting against a postseason for the Rangers, it was a perfect evening. As blog buddy NYR34 pointed out, we beat the Isles and still didn't grab any ground on eighth place as Atlanta and Boston both won.

Notes on this one from the Island:

*The Rangers were horrid in the first period, coming out completely flat. Then all of a sudden they showed up for the rest of the game. Wonder what, if anything, Torts said to wake them up ... somehow I doubt they heard me screaming "you are losing! To the Islanders!!!!" from the last row in the building.

*Congrats to Gabby for hitting the 40 goal mark. He scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period on a quick feed from Aaron Voros. The People's Champ threw the puck out to the slot and Gabby banged it home. The Slovak is so good sometimes, too bad the Rangers need him to be so good all the time.

*Prospal has been dogged in this space for his disappearing act this season and he will again tonight. After being a nonfactor for so long, wow he can unleash a wrister like he did to score the first Ranger goal of the game? It was gorgeous. And then the aforementioned creasework around Rolo in the second ... he can be a major factor so why isn't he?

*Richard Park seemed to win every faceoff he took and was out for most of the Ranger power play time. I miss Blair Betts.

*That being said, the Ranger PK was awesome killing 1:02 of a 5-on-3 just seconds after Vinny's goal. It was a massive kill and it gave the Blueshirts the chance they needed to come through to tie and pass the Isles later in the period.

*Just walking into the Mausoleum made me feel like I need a tetanus shot. What a decrepit dump.

*I hate that the Isles ripped off Philly and Anaheim by stealing Pennywise's Bro Hymn as a goal song. Great tune by a great band, soiled by the blue and orange.

*An Islander fan in front of me kept on saying how it was the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on the ice. As I replied, the Tigers were facing plenty of Wolf Pack pups. Anders Eriksson continued to play well on the blueline and really should be out there mentoring Matt Gilroy instead of replacing him (Wade Redden is a disaster). Corey Locke wasn't really given a chance to show off what he can do. He is a small playmaker and how can he make plays when paired with Chris Drury? Hopefully he gets another chance before getting sent back down. P.A. Parenteau may or may not have played himself back to Hartford. I caught him watching the play and not hustling on several occasions but, then again, he did have an assist and a good amount of ice time so he clearly has gained the trust of the brass - something poor Enver Lisin never really was able to.

*Hard to understand why there was a Ranger viewing party at Mulcaheys when there were still seats available at the Coliseum. I landed a pair upstairs game day no problem.

*Olli Jokinen's game-tying goal was hilarious. Kyle Okposo's stick just snapped. One second he had a whole hockey stick. Next second he didn't. It left the puck in the circle and Olli didn't hesitate, firing it past Rolo. Think Okposo will take a look at a better twig? He should get wood.

*Michal Rozsival wore the A again and set a wonderful example for his teammates with a terrible penalty. Rozy did end up with more ice time then anyone else but made a lot of questionable passes. No matter how many times Torts throws him over the boards, Rozy is still far from the player he was when Jagr was around (which isn't even saying that much).

*Was there anyone else praying for a bench clearing brawl when the players tangled at the end of the second period? Old time hockey!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Blake Comeau - two goals.
2-Vaclav Prospal - one goal and one assist.
1-Olli Jokinen - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - 40 is a fantastic achievement on this team.
2-Marc Staal - Another huge defensive game by the team's best blueliner and he finally netted himself a goal. Maybe it is because he actually got it on net rather than a foot or two wide but whatever, he scored! Go Staalsie!
1-Prospal - He lurked around the crease and skated through every shift. He is one of the Rangers who personifies the whole lack of consistency that has hurt the team so much this season. But on this night, he was fantastic.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hmmm ...

Press release from the Rangers:
Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan, last year's winner of the team's Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, is in the running for another honor this season -- the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award...
What does it say when Cally gets the call for consideration for a leadership award while the actual New York Rangers team captain, Chris Drury, does not?

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

After beating the Isles last week at the Garden, the Rangers will have a chance to repeat the feat at the Mausoleum on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on MSG, and no, this one won't be in 3d. The facilities in Uniondale are barely good enough to put out a 2d signal.

Where We Are: Tim Thomas continued his suck job this season for Boston and the Bruins lost to Buffalo last night, keeping that damned door open for the Blueshirts. That was the B's game in hand so with 75 games played, they have 80 points to the Rangers' 76 (Atlanta has 78 in 76 games played). Philly and Montreal each have 82 points in 76 games so, frankly, any of the five teams could make the playoffs with a decent run to end the season.

Where They Are: In the running for a lotto pick. The Islanders are even with Florida and Tampa (both of whom we play this week) with 72 points - third-worse in the NHL ahead of Toronto (who we play next week) and Edmonton. After losing last Wednesday to the Rangers, the Isles beat Calgary and Columbus to enter this on a win 'streak.'

Who To Watch For: The Islanders scored seven goals in those two wins and they came from seven different players so there is no one hot hand. So keep an eye on the usual suspects in JT, Okposo and Streit as well as Jon Sim, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson - all of whom step up against the Blueshirts. Dwayne Roloson has made more than 30 saves in six of his last seven starts but, that being said, he played last game so the Rangers could very well face Martin Biron, who got the W against the Flames.

What To Watch For: How the Rangers come out without their two biggest sparkplugs in Sean Avery and Ryan Callahan. How the call-ups handle their slots - especially little Corey Locke, who was brought in from Hartford Tuesday. Locke has starred in the AHL (80 points in 73 games) but will be playing just his second NHL game. If Torts is smart and puts the little puck distributor with Marian Gaborik on the power play, perhaps the unit could actually score a goal or two. Perhaps.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: I may not want the Rangers to make the playoffs, but that desire pales in comparison to my loathing for the Isles so how about we go for another five goal explosion? Gabby showing up to dominate. No more good Rangers getting hurt (hey, Wade, that doesn't include you). Chris Drury to recapture his anti-Isles magic. The Islanders tanking for a better shot at the draft lottery.

Also Check Out: Mike the Islesblogger, Dee the obsessed Isles 7th Woman (she has another at Eklund's site but I won't link that place), Chris Botta's Point Blank and Lighthouse Hockey, SBN's Isles blog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

33-32-10: The Rangers Return


After surprising the faithful with a pair of wins midweek, the Rangers we know and loathe returned to blow a two-goal lead and lose to the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Saturday night.

Whew, I was starting to believe in the Blueshirts again.

That belief was thoroughly dashed as the Rangers blew chance after chance to build upon their lead and let the limp Leafs get back into the game. Wow, does that sound familiar or what? At least it will be all over soon, right?

Notes:

*The difference between the Devil game and this one? Chris Drury won the faceoff when it counted in New Jersey. He won that one and went on to score to force OT against the Devils; he lost the defensive zone draw in overtime that led to the game-winner.

*John Tortorella decided to scratch Hobey Gilroy for this game in lieu of Wade Redden - who also has had a tough time of late (to say the least). It is not the first time he decided to scratch a youngster at the expense of a vet. Because that vet was good ole Wade, Torts thought it would be wise to put his offensive prowess on the ice for the four-on-four overtime. And Redden promptly pinned Hank's right leg, sending the goaltender on his back and allowing Kulemin to score. Shocking.

*Anders Eriksson, Gilroy's replacement, was not bad. He saw a good amount of ice time and handled himself well. He should remain in the lineup - at Wade's expense - for the next game (rest of the season).

*P.A. Parenteau, Ryan Callahan's sub, was also pretty good ... he did score a goal after all. That goal, by the way, came thanks to him, and only him. If you watch the replay, you can see that Olli Jokinen actually loses the puck in traffic - he doesn't pass it. Olli still stinks and, as I tweeted, the tight iso of his face by MSG will haunt my dreams for a while.

*The blown breakaway will probably haunt Erik Christensen for a while. I don't buy into the MSG line that Beauchemin threw Christy off on that - I think he just waited too long. That being said, at least he got the chance and he did get an assist on Dubi's goal. Where was Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal?

*Prospal was tagged with a boarding call on the dive by Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf saw Vinny, backhanded the puck away, put his head down and let himself get bumped from behind. Sloppy Seconds yet again followed in Avery's ... path ... and sold the play like he was going for Oscar gold.

*Avery was having himself a solid game before his skate caught in a rut as he was chasing the puck and seemingly blew out his knee. Just what we needed; can the season please end before Hank gets hurt?

*Hank can't be faulted for two of the three goals against. On the first Toronto tally both Dubi and Christy blew the backcheck to allow Johnny Mitchell to get the one-timer from the slot. The second goal was a typical softy by the Swede, with him giving up the short-side post. And like I mentioned, Redden was the main reason for the game-winner. But a team should be able to survive one goal a game. A team that is better than the Rangers I guess.

*Hank's counterpart, Jonas Gustavsson, really does deserve some credit for his outstanding performance. Toronto has one heckuva talent on their hands with the Monster and once Komisarek gets back next season, they will have a rock-solid back end.

*Jody Shelley earned a few good chances thanks to his hard work and his very presence gave Arty confidence yet again. Sadly the kid couldn't convert like last game. But his play was still a improvement over where he was just a week back.

*Former fourth liner Freddie Sjostrom had a Freddie Sjostrom game with good speed and lotsa blocked shots. Colton Orr tried to pick a fight early but essentially disappeared after Jody refused the offer to dance.

*Interesting stat of the night: Tyler Bozak was on the ice for both Ranger goals against and no goals for ... and yet he dominated at the dot, going 14-6 in faceoffs.

*Marc Staal was awesome, showing Luke Schenn the player he can grow into. Dan Girardi wasn't as bad as his -3 would indicate and Michal Rozsival, yes, Michal Rozsival was pretty solid. I am as surprised as you are.

*Further proving that my luck blows, I dropped Tomas Kaberle yesterday from my fantasy team. Kaberle had one point in 13 games since the Olympics, an assist, and was -8 over that span. Tonight? One goal, one assist and +3. Sorry everyone, my bad.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
2-Jonas Gustavsson - 36 saves.
1-Nikolai Kulemin - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gustavsson - Is the Monster the next King? Certainly shows some of the same signs.
2-Kulemin - Who is this kid, where did he come from and why isn't Enver Lisin as good as him?
1-Mikhail Grabovski - Made a great play on the Mitchell goal and won the faceoff in overtime.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Toronto Maple Leafs

The typical, if improbable, late run at the postseason continues on Hockey Night In Canada tomorrow as the Blueshirts face the blue and white of the Maple Leafs in Toronto at 7pm on MSG (also available streaming in Punjabi thanks to CBC - not that I speak a word of the language, I just think it's cool that they do that).

Where We Are: Really grating on my nerves. After losing three straight, the Rangers have rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Isles and Devils. If this team was capable of playing this way all along, then why didn't they? The four points have pulled them back into the playoff picture as Boston continues to fall apart without Savvy.

Where They Are: Winners of three of their last four and six of their last eight, Toronto's kids are coming together to give the Bruins a worse-than-expected draft pick (the one they dealt for Phil Kessel). The Leafs last game was a win over Atlanta in overtime 2-1 on a suh-weet deflection by Belarussian street fighter Mikhail Grabovski on Thursday night.

Who To Watch For: Most everyone on the Leafs is playing for a job next season so they are all dangerous but Tyler Bozak is leading the way, flashing skill and heart unexpected of someone who wasn't drafted. Phil Kessel has been proving well worth the picks Brian Burke surrendered and Dion Phaneuf far outweighs the package that went to Calgary. Luca Caputi came to Toronto at the deadline and became an instant fan favourite up there. Viktor Stalberg has wicked speed and is beginning to harness it in a good way. Former Ranger Jamie Lundmark was scratched against Atlanta so who knows if he will play but Freddie Sjostrom and Colton Orr are roster regulars for the Leafs.

What To Watch For: Sloppy Seconds Phaneuf going after Sean Avery. Tomas Kaberle snapping a slump where he has just one point in his last 14 games. Which goaltender Ron Wilson throws at us - Jonas Gustavsson and J.S. Giguere have been platooning every other game but the Monster has won each of his last six and surely wants to show off his stuff in front Hank. Jiggy has allowed three or more goals in five of his seven games since the break. How Anders Eriksson fares in his first action as a Ranger, as Hobey Gilroy may be scratched (as per a Larry Brooks tweet).

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Avery getting Phaneuf out of action early. Gabby taking advantage of the absence of Mike Komisarek to pot a few pucks. MDZ outplaying Luke Schenn. Ryan Callahan not playing if he really is hurt, or maybe capitalizing on one of his many scoring chances if he does dress - Zip just tweeted that P.A. Parenteau was recalled so perhaps Cally is out. Garnet Exelby not intentionally headhunting, as he is apt to do. Arty continuing to feel safe with the big boys and taking advantage of the extra space. Shelley vs Orr.

Also Check Out: Down Goes Brown (who often combines with Bloge Salming to form the Voltron of hockey humour), Toronto Mike, the Bitter Leaf Fan (aren't they all?) and of course the Pension Plan Puppets. PPP is probably one of the top-five best team-specific blogs out there covering our fair sport so definitely check out their corner of SB Nation.

33-32-9: What Is There To Say?


After losing to Boston on Sunday it seemed we could finally put the toe tag on the 2009-2010 season. And it was none too soon as the team racked up disappointing loss after disappointing loss and the prospect of drafting a good prospect was so much more appealing than the prospect of a first round playoff spanking.

Well, don't bother doing your mock drafts just yet. Between the Flyers and Bruins doing their best to fall out of playoff position and the Rangers beating both metro-area rivals, there is still life in the season. For better or worse.

The Blueshirts followed up their 5-0 win over the Isles on Wednesday with a highly unlikely 4-3 shootout win over the Devils this evening. The four points moved them within three of Boston, who have a game in hand but lost to Tampa tonight. At this point, I am just throwing my hands in the air and riding the tide to the second week of April. I wanted the Rangers to win games, they lost them. I wanted them to lose games (for their own good), they won them. But of course, when I wanted them to lose tonight I still found myself pissed off when Jersey opened the scoring in the first period.

Guess the head and heart don't always agree, huh?

One thing is for certain: we are headed for a heartbreak, either in coming so close to the playoffs and not making it (and giving up a chance at the draft lotto) or in making the playoffs and getting crushed in the first round.

Whatever, just riiiiide the tide and deal with the final destination when we wash up on the shore. Notes on tonight; all photos taken off of Getty's site, and thus the watermarks. Yahoo! had just one up from the game at time of posting:

*First off, best wishes to Ryan Callahan for a quick recovery. It looked like he tweaked his knee falling on the endboards and he didn't play a second of the third period. Cally is all but certain to repeat as the Steve McDonald extra effort winner and it is sad to see the one guy who plays every night put on the shelf by a freak fall.

*Chris Drury's goal in the final seconds was so remarkable. Gotta give credit where credit is due - he actually won an important faceoff, MDZ not only kept the puck in but fed it down the boards. Christy made a cute pass to someone on his own team. And that someone was Drury, who jammed it through Fatso's fivehole. Quick, Dru, buy a lotto ticket! Oh wait, you cashed one in when Sather gave you that deal. Going through old game stats, this was the second time he has actually been 'Captain Clutch' - last year he had an OT goal against Chicago. The year before, he didn't have the C and had an OT goal against Pittsburgh as well as a goal with seven seconds left against Edmonton to force OT. Well worth that deal Slats gave him, don't you think?

*Sean Avery had another Sean Avery game and it paid off again. Let's see if he can manage the same kind of ... enthusiasm ... against a non-rival like Toronto. It is his home town and the media there loathes him so he will have that going for him.

*The Leafs will have Colton Orr and Jody Shelley got in a warm-up bout by taking on Andrew Peters. Shelley seemed to work the jab well but couldn't buckle Peters with his big punches and Peters took him out with a great late right.

*The loss didn't seem to temper his spirits and Shelley combined with Brandon Prust to provide confidence for Arty Anisimov. Apparently the soft Soviet needs a pair of bodyguards to play at a NHL level but whatever the reason, the goal Arty scored was a beaut. He collected the puck, outwaited Mmmmaaaaarrrttttyyyy and snapped home a perfect wrister.

*Erik Christensen had a perfect shot as well for the lone goal in the shootout. Between that and his feed to Dru on the game-tying goal, Christy should have taken Vinny Prospal out of the equation come crunch time going forward. Torts went with Vaclav in overtime alongside Arty but hopefully he won't be so loyal next time and ride the hot hand instead of the familiar one.

*During the game I was working on a piece for a big-name blog (one I will leave nameless until they use it) about how I found Brandon Dubinsky to be the most frustrating Ranger this season. I will post a link when it gets posted or put it up here if not so you can read my rationalization. Regardless, Dubi came up with a good game at the Rock and got a goal for his efforts (and those of Sean Avery). He played a smart, simple game and got the puck at the net - the basic recipe for success in the NHL.

*Ladies, if your boyfriend or fiance get you tickets in the first row of an arena behind one of the team benches where the camera shoots, it might be wise not to wear a skirt.

*Perhaps it is a spring thing for Olli Jokinen now to come to a new team, make a nice first impression and then do his best to prove it wrong the rest of the way. We should have heeded the warnings from the Flames fans ...


*Amazing how the puck bounces. Rozy skates for over a half hour, gives up several huge scoring chances to the Devils and comes out of the game +2. Dan Girardi is out there for 26 solid minutes against Jersey's finest and leaves the Rock -2. Plus/minus is an illusion folks; Marek Malik looked like a capable blueliner on paper. Rozy was bailed out more than once by his partner, Marc Staal.

*Staal, like Girardi, logged some tough minutes in this one. As he did against the Islanders, Staalsie played to his strengths and looked like the player he was last year, rather than the sad shadow of himself that skated around earlier this season - lost under Tort's tutelage.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Patrik Elias - one goal and one assist.
2-Jamie Langenbrunner - one goal.
1-Chris Drury - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Elias - Like Langenbrunner, Hepatitis steps up his play against the Rangers. If not for a masterful glove save by Hank, he would have tied the shootout.
2-Hank - And Hank did make that save, along with two others in the shootout and 35 over the rest of the game. He should have had Langenbrunner's goal (off the bad line change and Wade Redden ambivolence) but he made a half dozen huge stops that kept the Rangers alive.
1-Christensen - Cast aside from Anaheim, Christy was big yet again for the Blueshirts. His success in the faceoff circle throughout the night put him on the ice as a safety net for that final draw. If Dru was tossed from the circle, Christy could have taken the faceoff. Dru wasn't but Christy still made his presence pay off with the feed for the clutch goal. And to have the nerve to go short side on Mmmmaaarrrtttyyyy in the shootout? First star stuff.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

32-32-9: Beating The Isles Is Always Good


What a bittersweet victory. The Rangers beat the Islanders 5-0 on Wednesday night in the Garden and I can't think of a better way to describe it: bittersweet.

The sweet part comes from ...

... beating the Islanders. For some folks, like myself, there is nothing more gratifying outside of winning the Stanley Cup.

... the scoring-ly challenged Rangers posting a five-spot. Two games after needing a lucky bounce just to get on the scoreboard against a weakened team, they scored again and again and again and again and again.

... Henrik Lundvist posting a clean sheet. Not a single softie allowed by the King.

... winning at home. The Blueshirts have been dreadful on Broadway and had already allowed the Isles to come into the building and take two wins away.

... Brandon Prust fighting Trevor Gillies and not needing the boards to hold him up.

... the Islander fan in front of me getting up after the second period and leaving, feeling no hope and having no reason to stay.

Now, the bitter part stems from ...

... the team simply playing themselves farther down the draft board and keeping foolish post-season hopes alive.

... a two minute five-on-three where the Rangers couldn't score. Two full minutes of bad passing and ill-advised shots. Sure they scored right after with the man advantage but they

... three, four breakaways and a pair of posts. If the Rangers were a better team, they would have won 10-0, not 5-0. And 10-0 is an estimate that even takes into account Rolo's impressive performance.

... the motivation, energy and ability shown on the ice that hasn't been there for 95% of the games to date this season.

... outshooting the Isles 17-3 in the second period and having no goals to show for it.

If it was the spirit of the rivalry or the 'desperation' they claim to have that sparked this win, then the Rangers should be able to keep rolling over Fatso tomorrow. We'll just have to see.

Some random notes:

*The article I quoted from yesterday was blissfully wrong as the number of 3d camera locations were fewer and didn't block too many people.

*Of course, there weren't that many people in the Garden. Attendance peaked at maybe 17,000. Maybe. At the opening faceoff it was probably closer to 12, 13k and by the time the final buzzer sounded was around 10. I just read that there were around 2,500 folks at the 3d viewing; I wonder how many were given free tickets.

*Prust was one of the best Rangers on the ice. He isn't a pretty player or a particularly good fighter but the kid doesn't stop skating.

*What was more ridiculous: Tim Jackman's cage or Trevor Gillies' biker 'stache? Who does Jackman think he is? Stephane Robidas?

*As can be expected, my love for Sean Avery continues. I don't see how someone could be a Ranger fan and not love him. He is entertaining. That is what hockey is supposed to be, entertaining.

*On the flip side of the coin is Olli Jokinen. Jokinen was horrid for yet another night, missing chances, bumping into his own teammates and losing faceoff after faceoff. The best thing about him is that his salary will come off the books after the season. So he has that going for him.

*There are no redeeming factors for Jon Sim. I don't like that guy.

*If I didn't see Kyle Okposo's name in the box score, I wouldn't have believed you if you said he played.

*Brian Boyle was not missed. Boyle was bounced from the lineup for Enver Lisin, who continued to show he is a lesser version of Petr Prucha.

*Enver's bff Arty Anisimov scored a goal, getting a gift rebound that he converted with a nice wrister. His skills have never been in doubt in this space - it is everything else that has been questioned.

*Has there been a better waiver wire pick-up this season than Erik Christensen? Christy was cast-off from Anaheim and has been a solid top-six forward on this team - he nearly had a goal to go with his two assists but Rolo made a nice save on Christy's breakaway. I had thought he tipped home Girardi's shot on the power play to make it 5-0 but he hadn't - still, his screen gave the defenseman the goal.

*Oh, to the Islander fans out there: woooooooooooooo!!!!!!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
2-Sean Avery - one assist.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - Sure it wasn't too hard containing the pop-gun Islander offense but Staal showed a good poise and moved the puck cleaner than he has in a while. He was stoned on a great scoring chance but grabbed an assist on the play thanks to Dubi getting the rebound over to Gabby to make it 2-0.
2-Gabby - Man, it woulda been nice to see him get a hat trick. So close. But he looked in his best form since his time with Slovakia so that is definitely a plus.
1-Avery - Did you expect anyone else? Sean managed to distract the entire Islander squad and drew several penalties. He did his job and he did it quite well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Be Ready For Bad Viewing

The Sports Video Group has a nuts and bolts look at the 3D broadcast planned for the Ranger/Isle game tomorrow here. For folks who are going to the game and are nonTV geeks who won't care about most of the piece, the important part is thus:
"the decision was made to place the cameras about three rows from the back of the lower level with a camera at center ice and cameras at the slash position but a bit more towards center ice then usual so that the nets around the rink are not in the way. Those three cameras will look over the glass since feedback from demo footage shot in Boston during the NHL Winter Classic found that scratches on the glass are more visible in 3D. But two additional cameras will be located behind the glass."
So, frankly, the people that were relocated, the people in the rows directly behind the cameras and those folks in the 100s, 200s and 300s will all have obscured views in some shape or form. When someone downstairs merely stands up for a few seconds he or she gets screamed at for blocking the view. Now they will have static cameras there throughout the night.

And it is all for people who are paying $20 - or anywhere from $30 to $100 less than the actually ticket holders who will be in the building proper - can watch the game on tv downstairs in the theater in 3d.

Nice, right?

Could this franchise give a bigger middle finger to the season ticket holders right about now? The owner and GM have zero public appearances, the coach is best known for blowing up at the media, and the team on the ice is a pathetic disgrace to the jerseys they wear. Yet again we have to pay for the bloated egos and wallets of the Dolan family.

Don't start with the "well, don't go then" nonsense. Loving the Blueshirt is something greater than the greedy ownership or idiotic front office ... to many of us, it is part of the foundation of ourselves - a life-time love affair, albeit a one-way romance. So we're going to keep buying tickets, we're going to keep heading to the Garden, we're going to keep cheering. We just don't have to like it.

And I don't know about you guys, but I certainly don't right about now ...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

Nothing like a rivalry game at the Garden right? The Rangers play the Islanders on Wednesday at 7pm on MSG - or in MSG on 3d or even real life 3d. Considering the state of the franchise, there should be plenty of seats available inside the Garden itself for lower-than-face values... And still, why would anyone pay $20 to watch it on tv wearing stupid glasses at the Theater? To hear Messier and company re-hash '94 during breaks? Shameless money grab by the Blueshirts as per usual, they just want blood from a stone. But we knew that.

Where We Are: Just signed a kid from Alaska who likely won't see the light of the NHL for at least two seasons, if at all. I read somewhere Jess from Prospect Park being unimpressed by the kid but don't recall where it was. Either way, even with Girardi getting the boot this summer, the other five guys aren't going anywhere for a while and Ryan McDonagh is already being pencilled in for next season by some. And next season is what we should be concentrating on as the Rangers are five points behind the Bruins, who have a game in hand.

Where They Are: Despite a roster that is largely devoid of talent outside of JT, the Isles are just three points behind the Blueshirts. How pathetic is that? Damn Rangers. The Isles are 4-4-2 since the Olympics but only one of the six losses was by more than one goal. The kids are trying, and it is admirable considering that their captain is out for the year and the blueline is so badly battered; they have Radek Martinek and Andy MacDonald out with injury and had traded away Andy Sutton at the deadline. DP is also injured, but there is no news with that, just laughs.

Who To Watch For: JT is good, Kyle Okposo may actually be a decent player some day and Matt Moulson has surprised many with his work this season. But it would be no surprise to see Blake Comeau, Jon Sim or Trent Hunter come through for the Fishermen. Hunter hasn't scored in 16 games, looks like he is facing the Rangers at the right time. I enjoy watching Richard Park - just look at the picture, the guy will do anything for his team. He doesn't have much skill but the guy works his ass off, and that is always appreciated. Even for an Islander.

What To Watch For: If Rolo starts in net, we know he can face a lot of shots and shut down the opposition. And with Avery and Cally possibly out with injury, there should be little actual pressure on the Isles net so Rolo's life will be that much easier. See how many bad penalties the Rangers take, if Olli Jokinen can get break that three mark he set last game. See how bad the Ranger power play is. See all of the Islander fans in the building - and there will be a lot of them - talk trash and pick fights, because everyone loves to kick a dog when it is down and these Rangers are dogs.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Cally and Avery taking the night off to heal and Alex Auld giving Hank a break ... hey, I said hopefully. You know Torts will start Hank and pressure Cally and Avery to come back in a futile gesture to get the points and keep the illusion of playoff hopes alive. Some goals would be nice. A good fight or two - it can be in the stands for all I care; actually it would be better there because the fans actually care. Someone to hit Sean Bergenheim, that guy is annoying.

Also Check Out: Mike the Islesblogger, Dee the obsessed Isles 7th Woman (she has another at Eklund's site but I won't link that place), Chris Botta's Point Blank and Lighthouse Hockey, the mandatory SBN blog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

31-32-9: At Least It's Almost Over

Hooray! The Rangers continued to show their true colours on Sunday and they surely aren't the brilliant blue, white and red that adorns the jersey. This incarnation of Broadway bunch are a lot closer to the bums rahter than the Blueshirts of old. The franchise was horrific for so very many years but you knew one thing - they were doing the best they could. This team claims that they are but haven't showed it on the ice.

They certainly didn't show it in Boston as they lost 2-1 in what they hyped as a Game 7. In the first minute alone they had three turnovers and an odd-man rush against. Way to get up for the game guys. It was a mistake-filled, sloppy affair that wasn't nearly as close as the scoreline showed. Between Hank making several saves he shouldn't have and MDZ's goal off a lucky deflection, the result should have been far worse. And to Boston no less.

I've used the phrase 'they should be embarrassed' before but let's face it, they are too pampered and make too much money to get embarrassed. For many of them, their pride resides in their bank account and it shows on the ice. Others are trying hard but are simply not that good. But that's ok, because the season is almost blissfully over. Is it a coincidence that on the same day Tiger Woods speaks, the Rangers get that much closer to the golf course? Hmmm ...

Some quick notes because, frankly, I don't care anymore:

*Anyone else get flashbacks of Jeff Van Gundy during that Brandon Prust/Steve Begin fight? Prust actually didn't have the glass to hold him up for once and Begin promptly falls and grabs onto his leg. Priceless.

*The first Boston goal pretty much came because no one trusts Michal Rozsival to do his job. Andrew Ference comes down Rozy's side of the ice and two forwards came over to help him out. Staal covered his man across the ice because Rozy sure wasn't going to cover the guy - he was too busy watching Ference skate in from 10 feet away.

*The second goal started as an odd man rush and turned into a four on four with Olli Jokinen losing his man. Jokinen had a hat trick ... of penalties in this game. None were more egregious than the one in the first period as it negated what would have been a five-on-three.

*Not like the team could score on a power play - even with a two man advantage. They would be too busy losing the face offs and icing the puck. The new NHL rules opened up the ice and gave most teams more of an advantage with the man advantage. Just how is it that the Ranger power play has gotten worse since the lockout?!?

*Cally got hurt and left the game. The worst thing that can happen will be for the coaching staff to rush him back and let him play on Wednesday. So you can pretty much expect him to be there against the Isles.

*I hate cut this short, but like I said, I don't care. It is shocking/horrifying/disgraceful/pathetic how one of the Original Six teams in the NHL can make me hate watching/thinking/writing/talking about hockey. But that is what has happened time and time again this season (and the last one, and the one before that). Thank you James Dolan. Thank you Glen Sather. Thank you John Tortorella. You all suck.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Vladimir Sobotka - one assist.
2-Steve Begin - one pathetic ass kicking.
1-Tuukka Rask - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dennis Seidenberg - While the Rangers did well to abort most of their own scoring chances, Seidenberg played more than 28 minutes and helped take care of the rest.
2-Sobotka - Fiery little fella.
1-Any Ranger fan who is able to delude themselves that the Blueshirts are a) still in the playoff hunt, b) entertaining, c) worth what they are paid and d) not the most infuriating franchise in sport.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Boston Bruins

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! The Rangers will face their Original Six foes, the Boston Bruins with - what everyone is saying - their playoff lives on the line. If they win, the slow death that is the end of this atrocious season continues. If they lose, it will be all-but-over. As you can see in the poll, fans seem to be split as to what they want.

But, you know, once a horse is critically injured, they just shoot it. This team was hobbled from the start thanks to its coach and general manager. So I'm in the contingent that will be hoping that the Bruins fire the shotgun tomorrow.

The game will be at 12:30 on NBC.

Where We Are: Thanks to Atlanta ridding themselves of the albatrosses that were Lehtinen and Kovalchuk, they supplanted the Blueshirts for ninth place last night. The Thrashers beat the listing Philly ship 5-2, despite a goal by Blair Betts. Poor Bettsy. Atlanta has 73 points in 71 games, the Rangers have 71 in 71.

Where They Are: Boston has 74 in 70 and are still sitting in eight place despite being just 1-8-3 at home since the Winter Classic. And I thought we sucked in the Garden ... The Bruins have lost three of their last four and are looking so bad that Stanley Cup of Chowder is calling for fans to stop showing up and for Claude Julien to be fired. And his team is in a playoff position.

Who To Watch For: Marc Savard is out so there are no real big guns. Mark Recchi is like 65 years old and yet still manages to kill the Rangers. Marco Sturm is slumping, as is Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic is a shadow of himself. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were doing well but both have been nicked up - Bergeron has a bad knee and Krejci was out in that storm there last week to start his car and didn't have his jacket on. Maybe it settled in his kidneys.

What To Watch For: Whether or not all of the rhetoric that the Rangers have thrown out there about this being a Game 7 and do or die and about desperation is just words. Boston snapping out of their funk and coming together without Savvy now that the Cooke specter has been lifted (poorly if you ask me, but whatever).

What We'll (Hopefully) See: AS I said, I'm hoping for a loss. And not just a loss - a big loss, a disastrous loss. Do I think it would change anything? No, not really, but I kinda hope so. We all know that Dolan only cares about dollars and not making the players literally robs him of millions. He has to notice that. But I would also love to see Avery knock Thomas upside the head again and maybe Shawn Thornton vs Jody Shelley. But that would be asking a lot as Shelley seems to be another enforcer who doesn't want to fight - filling Brashear's shoes quite capably.

Also Check Out: Hub Hockey, Stanley Cup of Chowder, Cornelius Hardenbergh and the Hockey Blog Adventure and the Boston Globe's Bruins Blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

31-31-9: Not Good


Prior to this evening's match I came to the decision that I am just going to enjoy the rest of this ride. Come mid-June, there will be no hockey so something is better than nothing. The 4-3 loss to St. Louis made me question that. How could something so good - NHL hockey - cause so much anguish? Well, it is because these New York Rangers are ... well, I've run out of adjectives this season. Let's just go with 'not good.' They are not good. At all.

The team doesn't listen to John Tortorella and John Tortorella doesn't listen to himself. They play gray-arena hockey somewhere in the ether between 'safe-is-death' and Renney's responsibility. Wherever it is, it isn't good. Nothing changed, nothing new happened on the ice tonight during the 4-3 loss to St. Louis that hasn't gone on all year long and the result was the same - the lost to a team they were capable of beating. End Of Story.

Of course I can't just end my post so onto the notes:

"As Mr. X from the Blue Seats said to be after the game, "never in all my years of watching hockey have I seen defensemen beaten to the puck when they had three strides so often. All night long."

*The defensemen were atrocious, all six of them. Marc Staal used to be a solid player - ever since Torts tried to add offense to the kid's game, his play has lowered to the level of the players around him, who all seem to be drowning. Girardi, MDZ, Hobey, Rozy, Redden ... all horrible. Girardi was the best of the bunch in this one but that really isn't saying anything.

*Redden scored a goal. Yippee. It had most of section 329 turning around to yell at me for all of the ranting I was doing earlier. As I replied, 'he still owes us one." Redden's ineptness set up St. Louis' second goal and then he took a bad penalty to give them their third. For those that thought it was wrong of the Garden to boo when they announced that he had scored, think about this: two goals and $8.1 million for this season and FOUR MORE YEARS TO GO.

*Granted, that third goal was one heckuva softie by Hank, who didn't have a good game. Four goals on 13 shots against is unacceptable - no matter the screens, deflections and ineptness of the squad in front of him. That being said, the Garden fans who kept giving him the Bronx cheer really shouldn't have done it, considering what the Swede has done this season. It's not his fault that two of the Blues goals came right off perfect passes from Rangers.

*T.J. Oshie is really fun to watch, no wonder they love him in St. Louis.

*Up 2-1 with something like a minute and a half left in the first period, Tortorella wasted his timeout for a senseless icing. That timeout might have been nice to have, say, in the third period when they were down a goal and flailing aimlessly.

*Credit to Brandon Prust for not flailing too aimlessly at Brad Winchester in their first period bout. He landed some bombs, which almost makes up for the comedy that was him holding onto the boards behind him to keep his balance, something he does every fight.

*Credit to me, I called Brad Boyes scoring in the Peepin' Foes. Sure, I said he would net a hat trick but for someone with 12 goals coming into the game, one is still pretty amazing. If there is one thing the Rangers are good at, it is helping guys get off the snide - i.e. Boyes and Mike Weaver, who scored his first goal in nearly 200 games. Boyes' came right off the bat, just 1:10 in, showing that the Blueshirts did not come out ready to play. As per usual.

*Later in the first period Sean Avery drew a penalty and the Ranger power play, as they are apt to do, blew it. They gave BJ Crombeen a breakaway that was easily handled by Hank. He tripped over the goaltender and slammed into the boards playing dead. The Rangers would have had a five-on-three rush the other way but the ref blew the whistle. Somehow Crombeen got right up, skated past the Ranger bench talking trash the entire way. Someone call the Pope, it was a miraculous recovery.

*But then again, the Blueshirts had a legit five-on-three power play during the game and it was worse than their even strength play. Like I said waaaaay up top, nothing in this game was something they haven't pulled before.

*Did Brandon Dubinsky play? Wasn't sure.

*What makes me really sad about the evening is that the Boston Bruins are just as pathetic as we are right about now. They have a chance to open up the lead for the playoff spot and get shut out by Pittsburgh. And instead of getting proper retribution for Cooke nearly killing Savard, they have their thug give him an honourable way out. Makes you sad for the state of the league - Boston should have targeted Cindy or Fleury. Cooke may very well have cost the Bruins a playoff spot (possibly to us, the horror) and his team is none the worse for wear. Weak.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brad Boyes - one goal.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal and two assists.
1-Paul Kariya - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - Three points and it still seemed like he didn't do enough. The Slovak blew a few more chances and let himself be marginalized by the forechecking of the baby Blues.
2-Eric Brewer - The event summary said that Brewer had 12 hits in the game but it seemed like he had 12 on Avery alone. He was hitting anything that came to the slot so the Rangers rarely went there. Like they need an excuse not to go there.
1-Kariya - It is hard to say that he was the best player in the game but the wily vet deserves credit for one sexy goal to finish off the Blueshirts. The game-winning goal was the 400th of his career, a career that won't put him in the Hall of Fame. But if there was a Hall of Very Good, he would have a slot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peepin' Foes: St. Louis Blues

John Davidson returns to the Garden Thursday night with his St. Louis Blues in tow for a 7pm game against the Blueshirts (on MSG Network). Well, we know the Blues will be in town, hopefully J.D. will be with them as it is always so, so great seeing him back on the broadcasts; it makes you hate Joe Micheletti that much more every time.

Where We Are: As Andrew Gross pointed out his posts today, Torts is in a terse mood and trying new lines, exactly what you want from your leader while you make a final run at the playoffs. And even though it is probably best for the team (and us fans) not to make the postseason, the Rangers are only three points behind Boston, who has just one game in hand.

Where They Are: Amazingly, St. Louis fans are having the same conversations we are having - is it best for the team not to make the second season??? They have a higher hill to climb than the Rangers, trailing eighth place Detroit by seven points but they had won four of five out of the Olympic break prior to losing Sunday and Tuesday (to Minnesota and Colorado respectively).

Who To Watch For: J.D. is doing things right and his rebuilding efforts are coming to fruition - there is a lot of young, good talent on that roster. From Olympians David Backes, Erik Johnson and Roman Polak to future Olympians Patrik Berglund and T. J. Oshie, the Blues will be loaded for a few years to come. Berglund has eight points in his last nine games. There is solid veteran talent in Walt Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya and Barret Jackman, provided they are healthy. If not, there are a few guys mid-stride in Andy MacDonald, Thomas Alex Steen and Jay McClement that are capable of contributing.

What To Watch For: See just how much chemistry the new Ranger lines have. A half empty Garden - they aren't winning and are playing a random West team devoid of 'name' stars so who wants to spend a ton of money to see them on the day after St. Patrick's? See the young tough kids taking advantage of the Pillsbury-soft Ranger blueline to get at Hank. Brad Boyes scored 43 goals two years ago, 33 last year and has just 12 now ... which means that the Rangers should give up a hat trick to him.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Signs of life from Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and Olli Jokinen. The Chris Mason in goal that has allowed eight goals in his last four periods of play, not the one that shut down the Islanders. Cam Janssen vs Sean Avery in a who-can-be-a-bigger-pain-in-the-ass contest. B.J. Crombeen vs. Jody Shelley in a legitimate, not pre-planned, not fight for the sake of fighting fight.

Also Check Out: SBN's St. Louis Game Time is the top St. Louis site IMO but you can also stop by Let's Go Blues and Jeremy Rutherford's MSM blog Morning Skate.

31-30-9: That Was Desperation?

For all of the pregame talk about desperation, there was very little of it in MSG on Tuesday night as the Rangers lost to the Canadiens 3-1 in a dull, lifeless affair. It was pretty much par for the course for these Rangers, who have often followed up good wins with lackluster efforts. You just kinda hoped that with the playoff carrot hanging so close, they would lunge to get it.

They didn't.

The Rangers were the Rangers were the Rangers. The power play was 0-5 and if they managed two shots over that time, that was a lot. The one time they put a body in front of the net and got the puck there, they scored. Well, the one time they put a body in front of the Montreal net they scored. They piled the bodies in front of Hank and it resulted in both real Canadien goals (the third was an empty netter).

The highlight of my night was Brendan Shanahan saying "hey guys" to my buddy and I as we walked past him heading out. Now I am a big fan of Shanny's and all, but when the highlight of a night at Madison Square Garden is someone saying hello to you in passing, that's one pretty awful evening.

Just a few notes, because I can't palate much more:

*The Blueshirts wasted an incredible performance from Henrik Lundqvist, much like they have been wasting his performances for the last three seasons. To quote Slap Shot, "trade me right fucking now!"

*Did the first line play tonight? Wasn't sure. Didn't notice Gabby much, saw Vinny Prospal serving a pair of penalties and Olli Jokinen hit a short-side post but that was about it.

*According to CapGeek, Arty Anisimov is indeed on a two-way contract. Perhaps Glen Sather doesn't realize that, keeping the kid in the lineup. His continued presence would be fine if this team was rebuilding and not attempting to make the playoffs. But this team isn't and Arty has rarely been an asset this season. He has 21 points and has had a few moments but the only time he looked like he truly belonged was in preseason with those two highlight-reel goals. He can't win faceoffs, he gets pushed off the puck easily, he skates around cluelessly at least half the time and he has no chemistry with anyone on the team outside of the oft-scratched Enver Lisin. On this evening he stumbled around and had a goal go in off of him and took a bad penalty. The goal was embarrassing; the replay just now on NHL On The Fly seemed to show Arty shoving MDZ out of the way just to kick the puck past Hank. Unreal.

*Knowing they needed the points, Boston fired 37 shots on net in their 5-2 win over Carolina. The Rangers took 20 on Jaro Halak. Jody Shelley had two, Marian Gaborik had one and Ryan Callahan had none. What is wrong with that picture?

*After scoring on Sunday, Michal Rozsival went right back to being terrible. He missed an open shot wide and completely blew a centering pass to him while in the slot. And he sucks at defense too.

*Did anyone get a good view of what happened with Sean Avery at the end of the game to warrant 17 minutes in penalties? I have yet to see any Youtubes and On The Fly didn't include it in their highlight. I saw Avery and Gomez come together, then Hal Gill launch himself at Avery before everyone else rushed in and grabbed a partner to slow dance with. Avery got two for cross checking, five for slashing (?!?) and a gamer. Did he hit Gomez in the head with his stick McSorley-on-Brashear style? Gomez got a rough while Gill got off unpenalized. I don't get it.

*There were a lot of Montreal fans in the building, but few that were actually French Canadian. Weird and annoying.

*And that is it for me on this one. At least we get to see John Davidson return to the Garden on Thursday ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Sergei Kostitsyn - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
1-Glen Metropolit - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - The only Ranger who looked the least bit interested in winning.
2-Hank - Hard to say if Hank was concentrating on winning or just surviving as he was under siege as usual.
1-MexiCan't - Yep, Scott Gomez. Gomez controlled the pace and style of play all night and no one did anything about it. Yes, this was one miserable match.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Link Of The Night

Elliotte Friedman of the CBC wrote a great piece about former Ranger draft pick Jamie Lundmark and how all of his moving around the hockey world has affected his family. Definitely check it out here.

Since you may not stick around for all of his 30 thoughts, I'll just quote #29 for you here:
"Saw one game Donald Brashear played in the AHL, and it was embarrassing. How many fighters have played 1,000 games? Craig Berube, Tie Domi and Brashear. That's something to be proud of, but watching him aimlessly run at these guys was sad. In retaliation, I think some of the Marlies were asking him how he was enjoying his final month of hockey."
No further comment needed. Mr. Friedman is one of the many great Hockey Night In Canada talents and a definite folk to follow on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Montreal Canadiens

The Ranger run of desperation continues on Tuesday night with a Original Six tilt against the Habs. Montreal comes to town for a 7:30 face off on Versus. That network will have Hockey Central on at 7, but I think that the late drop is more a symptom of RDS, the French network that covers the Canadiens.

Where We Are: For the fourth straight season the Rangers are trying to finish the season strong and make the playoffs. Just looked over old schedules and this is what I saw for the last 25 games of each campaign since the lockout:
2005-06: 10-11-4 (2-0-0 pre-Olympics).
2006-07: 14-6-5.
2007-08: 14-3-8.
2008-09: 12-9-4.
2009-10: 6-4-2 with 13 to go including tonight (3-2-0 pre-Olympics).
Where They Are: Having played one more game than the Rangers (70), the Habs sit in seventh with 76 points. They are even with sixth place Philly but the Flyers have two games in hand. Montreal is on fi-ya, having won five straight and six of seven since the Olympics.

Who To Watch For: Our old friend the MexiCan't was scoreless in the last two games for the Canadiens but put up 10 points over the four before that. Another former Ranger, 'Forget Aboot It' Dominic Moore has seven points in nine games since the Habs added him at the deadline. Sergei Kostitsyn is one of the players who got a boost from playing in Vancouver - he had five points in four games with Belarus and has looked quite good of late. I watched the last two Montreal games (against Edmonton and Boston) and he moved himself to good scoring positions and capitalized on them. Michael Cammalleri is out with injury but the oompa loompa Brian Gionta has six points in his last six games. Leading scorer Tomas Plekanec hurt himself in practice today.

What To Watch For: How the refs handle Sean Avery. They gave him some leeway against Philly and he drew two penalties; last time we played Montreal, he was called for an early penalty and disappeared the rest of the night. Jaroslav Halak shutting down the Ranger offense. Like Kostitsyn, Jaro has been red hot since starring in the Olympics - 5-0. Hal Gill hammering Marian Gaborik the way he used to destroy Jagr. Andrei Markov making magic the way he does. Markov is amazingly underrated; he moves the puck well, has a good slapshot and isn't afraid of going deep to make a play.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Avery infuriating the Habs. Rozy scoring again (hahaha). A strong contingent of Ranger fans drowning out what has been a loud, annoying French presence in the Garden. Few dumb penalties for the Rangers as the Habs PP is pretty good - lookin' at you Olli Jokinen. How about Olli showing up and potting a few points? The MexiCan't playing like he did as a Ranger: endlessly circling, putting his teammates offside and laughing all the way to defeat.

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

31-29-9: A-very Fun Afternoon


The other night at work, after the win in Atlanta, a co-worker said to me that I must be happy that the Rangers are making their annual late push for the playoffs. I laughed and launched into the rant that I had blogged in the Thrasher recap: winning is nice and all but it would be in our best long-term interest to lose. Well, I guess we have to live for today and today the Rangers beat the Flyers 3-1 at the Garden.

A win against a rival is always great, a win over the rival who embarrassed us in their building two months ago is even better. Sure Dan Carcillo didn't get his comeuppance for the Gaborik incident but, you know what? Beating them in the manner that we did was just as satisfying. The Blueshirts minimized their mistakes, got two goals from Sean Avery and had Brandon Dubinsky beat the living hell out of their captain, Mike Richards. Let's face it, seeing that dirtbag Carcillo go down would have been nice but Philadelphia's captain? Money.

Notes:

*If you didn't see that tussle, take a look. Dubi dismantles Richards quick - gets the helmet right off, got the jersey up and used his strength to keep Richards down while landing some bombs. Brandon Dubinsky. Look at where he came from; too bad his offensive progression has not been as extreme. I feel like a broken record but if he can ever put everything together, he can be as good as Jason Arnott was in his prime.

*Now the reason for the headline for this piece: Sean Avery was outstanding. Avery drew a few power plays and scored a few goals in an 'engaging' performance. It was awesome to watch but keep one thing in mind - it totally justified Tortorella's actions. Now we don't know if Avery stepped up his game because of the benching or because he was facing his old adversary Sideshow Scott Hartnell. But no matter the real reason, Torts comes out of the move looking golden - which may or may not be a good thing. If he realizes that scratching a player does result in improved play, perhaps he will do it more often - accountability and all that.

*Of course, I still want Michal Rozsival to take a seat. Every dog has his day and this was his - a perfect power play one-timer that went off the post and in for the eventual game-winner. It was Tom Poti-esque. How appropriate. No, I did not boo when he scored, I was doubled over laughing hysterically. Let's have some more laughs - caption the photo to the right of Rozy and Christy.

*Arty Anisimov and Olli Jokinen should also be chastised for their poor play of late and both took bad penalties in this one. Arty got off the hook with a good kill by the Blueshirts in the third but Jokinen's stupid spinning slash three minutes in set up Philly's first goal. As a veteran, he should be smarter and his on-ice play has been lacking in general of late. No wonder Calgary was all too happy to get rid of him - he shows up once every once and a while and this day and age players in his position need to contribute all the time.

*The Rangers deserve credit for playing a physical game (for once). From MDZ's hit on Carcillo early on, the Blueshirts (aside from Wade Redden, of course) played the body. It was the smartest thing they could do as it kept the Flyers from carrying over any momentum from that dramatic win on Saturday.

*Anyone else panic a bit when Hank was ran over by that idiot Arron Asham in the second? Not just the hit, but the aftermath when skates were swinging around the crease and there was Hank, helmetless.

*For those of you who haven't, please vote in the poll on the right and follow me on Twitter. If you voted Yes! you want the Rangers in the playoffs, you are in the unenviable position of rooting for the Devils - yes, the Devils - tomorrow night as Fatso and company face Boston on Versus.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 17 saves.
2-Michal Rozsival - one goal.
1-Sean Avery - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - What a fight, seriously.
2-Erik Christensen - Christy was dominant on faceoffs and that went a long way towards controlling the action. He collected a pair of assists and was a constant threat on offense. This guy was a waiver wire pickup.
1-Avery - Yeah. Go Sean.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Philadelphia Flyers

Remember to turn your clocks forward tonight so you don't miss puck drop at the Garden on Sunday as the Rangers take on the Flyers at 3pm (on MSG, not NBC).

Where We Are: Coming off a win! The Blueshirts won in Blueland Friday night, beating the Thrashers 5-2. The scoreline was more convincing than the victory but a win is a win. The team has 69 points in 68 games and are at least three points out of eighth. It may be five by game-time as Boston plays Montreal on Hockey Night In Canada tonight.

Where They Are: Coming off of a unbelievable win against Chicago. Chris Pronger scored with three seconds left on the clock on an odd man rush. So hopefully Sunday will be a let down ... but I doubt it. Michael Leighton made 39 saves so Brian Boucher will likely get the call against the Rangers. The win gave Philly sixth place in the East with 76 points in 67 games.

Who To Watch For: Simon Gagne has six goals in Philly's seven games since the Olympic break and you can't forget the hat trick he posted at the Garden back in December. Jeff Carter has put up 10 goals in 12 games dating back before the Olympics that he didn't make. The ugly muppet Scott Hartnell was in a terrible slump entering this weekend but, of course, had a goal and an assist against Chicago so he will hope to widen the flood gates. Pronger is always a threat to either score or kill someone and Mike Richards is just an outstanding hockey player. Too bad he is a Flyer.

What To Watch For: The structure and desperation the Blueshirts claimed to be playing with in Atlanta. If he plays, which Sean Avery shows up. The Ranger power play scored two goals but still was too sloppy with the puck; can't ever forget the three-on-five goal scored by Richards at the Garden.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Vengeance. Win, lose or shootout, some Ranger had better step up and get blood for this. Vinny Prospal and Michael Del Zotto to have another good game. Arty Anisimov to do something, anything to justify his continued presence in the NHL. Some Czech league scouts in the crowd willing to pay Michal Rozsival to forgo the rest of his Ranger contract to go back to his homeland.

Also Check Out: Flyer Files is a MSM blog, SBN hosts Broad Street Hockey and you can stop by The 700 Level.

30-29-9: Headed For A Heartbreak

The frustration that is Ranger fandom continued on Friday night as the Blueshirts beat the Birds in Blueland 5-2. In and of itself, a victory over the Atlanta Thrashers is good thing. Winning is fun, everyone likes winning. But the point of the season is to win at the end, to take home that stunning Stanley Cup.

And these Rangers can't. So what's the point? After 1994 the team was bad but not bad enough. Since the lockout they've been good but not good enough. It is the mediocrity that causes my madness and the fact that it is acceptable to franchise management that outright infuriates.

Tonight's win moved the team within three points of Boston for eighth place in the East. Seeing as Savvy is out for the B's, it is easy to see the Rangers vaulting them for the final playoff spot. That would be a good thing if this team was built for a real run through the postseason but they are not - the flaws are simply too deep and there are simply too many of them. So the team will get into the playoffs, us fans will overspend for a few extra games only to have the Blueshirts rip our hearts out with another early exit and Dolan will have enough of a result to raise season ticket prices for the fifth straight season. And yet the franchise gets no closer to the final prize, yet again.

Some notes on this evening's exhibition, sorry for no photos there was nothing over at Yahoo! and I don't have the patience to search:

*The top story going into the game was that Sean Avery was benched, and it must be said that he was hardly missed. That he was benched for ineffectiveness is not outrageous. That other players have not been benched for outright ineptness is outrageous. Exhibit No. 1: Michal Rozsival. Rozy can't keep up with Max Afinogenov and the former Sabre sets up the first Atlanta goal. Rozy takes a bad penalty just 20 seconds after MDZ's goal to open the door for Atlanta. Rozy can't clear the puck and can't maintain his coverage and Atlanta scores their second goal.

*Arty Anisimov is Exhibit No. 2 on this night. Brian Boyle forces a turnover, Anisimov foolheartedly goes in one on three, loses the puck and ends up in the corner. Afinogenov goes the other way (passing a stick swinging Chris Drury along the way) and sets up the aforementioned first goal. Anisimov chases Colby Armstrong around the ice like an annoying puppy dog and trips him up, taking a bad penalty in the third period. And he couldn't win a draw to save his life.

*Exhibit No. 3, Wade Redden. Just because he has no right getting paid $33,679 a day. He wasn't good but he wasn't as bad as Rozy.

*Gaborik and Lundqvist, who both make more than Redden, actually earned their money on this night. Gabby finally got his groin under control (ha ha) and skated well. He got into good positions and showed off the offensive smarts that makes him one of the best snipers in the world. Hank was solid; he didn't make many exceptional saves but he didn't allow any softies as he held down the fort.

*Vinny Prospal and his terrible tan showed up again. Sure he scored in Jersey but this was the first game in a while where he complimented Gabby the way we have wanted him too when he was acquired.

*Michael Del Zotto had a goal credited him on a fluke play when a pass deflected off a defender past Hedberg but he did have an all-around good game. MDZ was far better in his own zone than he has been of late, which is good news going forward for the young player.

*Brandon Dubinsky didn't get on the scoresheet but his all-around play was better than it has been. If he ever finds some chemistry with some wingers, he just might become that star center we have been praying he becomes.

*As I tweeted (and if you don't follow me @truebluefan329 you should), I watched this game on Sportsouth and it one of the worse professional broadcasts I have witnessed. Their cameramen couldn't follow the puck and made me seasick, the director seemingly had no idea which shots to take when and the on-air talent was almost as clueless. No wonder no one watches hockey in Georgia.

*After following me on Twitter, head over to Puck Daddy and vote in the Golden Roar contest. A lot of great photoshop work on display at Cindy's expense.

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

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - When Staal doesn't try to do too much, he does so very much more. Rock solid performance.
2-Ryan Callahan - Can't stop, won't stop. Now if he could only score when there is a goaltender in the net...
1-Gabby - All World, when 100%.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Atlanta Thrashers

The Rangers can won't kick off the weekend the right way by beating the Thrashers in Atlanta tonight at 7:30p on MSG2. The Knicks are in Memphis and get MSG again - after getting the honour Wednesday, they lived down to expectations and lost 97-87 to the Spurs. Then again, expectations can't be high for A-T-L considering they lost all three games against them so far - two in shootouts.

Where We Are: Prior to the last game against Atlanta, a 2-1 shootout loss, I wrote this: Losers of six out of seven, the Rangers are bloated lifeless corpse of a once-proud franchise. Sure there have been good moments here and there but they get more and more difficult to watch with each passing game. If something magical doesn't happen starting in this game, all hope of the playoffs will be gone... Well, now that the Blueshirts lost four of the last four, most hope is lost. Not all, but that is because hope springs eternal and all that fandom crap.

Where They Are: They have 66 points in 66 games (we have 67 in 67 and eighth place Boston has 72 in 66). This is kind of a huge game for them seeing as they have lost their last four games. If they are to shock the world and win without Kovy, it starts against us.

Who To Watch For: Seeing as the Thrashers have scored four goals in those four losses (total), you can't say that anyone in particular is coming in with a hot hand. Former Devil Niclas Bergfors started his tenure as a Thrasher off well but has cooled with the rest of the team. Slava Kozlov always kills us, Borat is sure to be tough and the Chuck Norris of hockey, Chris Chelios, is back in the NHL. Cheli can't score but it is always neat to see a future Hall of Famer in action.

What To Watch For: With Kari Lehtonen dealt to Dallas (and thus we have Alex Auld), Johan Hedberg has taken over the starters gig. The Moose kills us, every time. The Rangers throw a ton of rubber his way and he turns into Ken Dryden. Then again, with my luck picking goaltenders, Ondrej Pavelec could very well start and I've seen him do very well himself. See if the Rangers show any discipline. See how badly Redden and/or Rozy ruin any chance of victory. See how Tortorella changes the lines this time.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: As a Ranger fan I always hope to see a win but let's face it, it is best that they lose - and lose badly. The sooner the team is out of the race, the faller we fall, the better we shape we are in for the future. So watch the Rangers screw it all up by winning. At the least we should see a Jody Shelley vs Eric Boulton (or Evgeny Artyukhin) tilt.

Also Check Out: Atlanta keeps their own blog/PR machine called Blueland, the requisite MSM blog and the in-depth, well thought out fan blog Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons? (I hate the SBN name so I won't use it.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

29-29-9: Savin' Me Money!


Paying $65 to watch the Rangers lose 6-3 to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night was a bargain. Ticket prices for perspective playoff games at the Garden will run $88 so I saved $23 to see an extra game this season. There is no way this sorry group of losers wearing Blueshirts are making the playoffs so I figure I am coming out ahead. Sure I showed up for 60 minutes and the Rangers 30 against a major rival, but that's par for the course, right?

There was a good atmosphere at the Rock, I was with good friends, we had a good time despite the result - and at a cheaper cost than an inevitable embarrassment should the team stumble into the second season. I just had to smile as I walked out because there was nothing shocking about this loss, nothing heartbreaking. It was a prototypical Ranger failure where the stars can't score when they need to, the blueline is afraid to make contact with the opposition and no one is willing to step up when they need to. This team doesn't play for the coach, they don't play for each other and they barely play for their paycheques. Sure there have been some great moments this season where the guys show up, but let's face it, those are few and far between. So why cry over spilled milk from a cracked glass?

A few random rants:

*At no point after the Rangers went down 5-3 did anyone think they could mount a comeback - not even the players, judging by their performance. Good teams never say die, the Rangers, well, they don't seem to care either way.

*It was no wonder that Torts pulled Hank; the coach knew he couldn't motivate his team so why keep Hank on the ice only to lose? Alex Auld did ok in relief but the goal he allowed was as soft as Mmmmaaaaarrrrttttyyy's gut.

*We have four more years of Wade Redden. Yeah.

*Hopefully Jody Shelley played himself out of the lineup with his disastrous display on this night. After forehecking well the last two games, he seemed to be a a step slower, he took a dumb penalty and he got beaten up by a Frenchman with six career NHL fights. Sure he landed a few big ones but this should have been a easy KO for the big man. It was a draw at best.

*I haven't seen the post-game or read the beat guys blogs but I am sure the old "sometimes the bounces go our way, sometimes they don't" cliche was used. The funny thing is that the bounces go your way when you are working hard and doing things the right way. Then you are just flailing your stick around, crawling along the ice chasing after an opposing player or just skating around aimlessly, the bounces aren't going to go your way.

*Erik Christensen's goal was sexy. I mean, just wow. What a skill play slicing through the Devil defender before beating Mmmmaaaaarrrrtttyyyy.

*John Tortorella kept flipping and changing his lines, as he always does. If the coach can't find chemistry after 66 games, what makes him think he can do it down by two goals in the third period of game 67?

*Earlier in the day I pointed out that Dan Girardi was in the top 10 of blocked shots in the NHL, as a way of defending him. There is no defending him on this night. He was almost as bad as Wade Redden. Yeah, that is bad.

*Said it before, will say it again, Arty Anisimov has no place in the NHL. He can't skate with the big boys, no matter how many big minutes his coach has decided to give him nowadays. You could sneeze at him and he would give the puck up.

*Don't be surprised when Henrik Lundqvist requests a trade. He is wasting away here in Loserville and there is no hope on the horizon. You would think that a good looking guy in New York would be set with sponsorships and would want to stay for the money but outside of a minor deal with Vitamin Water, what has being in New York gotten Hank aside from migraines?

*Sean Avery could have and should have done much more in this one. How disappointing.

*Even worse? I have to give Fatso credit: his reach-back save on Gabby with the game tied at one was fantastic. At least Christy's goal left the large one looking for his jock strap.

*There were a few minor scuffles in the Rock crowd but it was overall a low key affair. How can you get worked up rooting for these Rangers? The Devil fans, however, are the most unoriginal fans I have ever seen. They rip off chants from the Rangers, chants from the Islanders and really play the part of annoying younger brother that no one cares about. If a Cup was won in New Jersey and no one that means anything were there to witness it, did it really happen? Ok, so I may not be heartbroken but I am a little bitter. Just a little.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Zach Parise - one goal and one assist.
2-Brian Rolston - one goal and one assist.
1-Jamie Langenbrunner - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Andy Greene - The young defenseman plays a smart game and makes good passes. He was rewarded with two assists in just over 21 minutes. It would be nice to see Ranger blueliners contributing again.
2-Langenbrunner - One great deflection goal and a full game of top-flight effort.
1-Rob Niedermayer - In the Peepin' Foes I said that the player to watch "will probably be Rob Niedermayer" and I was proven right. Scott's brother isn't nearly as skilled but he skates his ass off and does what most Rangers will not: he pays the price to make plays.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peepin' Foes: New Jersey Devils

The Rangers return to the Rock tomorrow to face off against Fatso and the New Jersey Devils. The game, which starts at 7, will be on MSG-Plus for Doc and Chico, MSG 2 for Sam and Joe ... because regular MSG will be showing the Knicks - the team that is 10 games out of a playoff spot, the team that is 8-20 on the road, the team that went 0-18 for three against one of the worst teams in NBA history the other day - as they get blown out by San Antonio at 8:30.

Where We Are: Losers of three straight, stuck in the battle for eighth place. Luckily Atlanta and Tampa - the two teams behind us - both lost tonight but Boston, the current holders of eighth, grabbed a point from the Toronto Maple Leafs (losing 4-3 in OT).

Where They Are: Back home after a three game swing through San Jose, Calgary and Edmonton. After beating the tough Sharks, they sucked the suck against the two Canadian teams. Mmmmaaarrrtttyyyy couldn't stop a beach ball in the Saddledome and New Jersey made the Oilers look like a young, exciting, skillful team instead of the bottom dwelling, lottery-bound losers that they are. I called the Ranger effort lackluster at times in recent games - which it was - but the Devils must have stopped by San Francisco before leaving California and left their hearts there. Yeah, its a bad pun, so what? You know what I mean.

Who To Watch For: It is easy to say Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk but let's face it, it will probably be Rob Niedermayer or that minor leaguer David Clarkson. Jamie Langenbrunner and Hepatitis Elias step up their game when they go up against the Rangers and have always had the Blueshirts' number. Paul Martin is thankfully still out with injury.

What To Watch For: The quality of the ice, Rich Chere pointed out that it was awful today. What kind of effort the Devils have coming out of the gate - are they tired from their road swing or energized by anger at their terrible results? The officials enforcing the Avery Rules. Hank's focus; he has dominated Mmmmaaarrrtttyyyy in the past (16-3-5) but clearly has looked like a beaten dog after his stellar efforts of late have been for naught. His defenseman playing the body - Torts talks about having to look at tape after each game and he has to have seen how the blueline have been a bunch of stick waving wankers so maybe he has finally gotten the message through? Ok, I did say maybe.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: MSG West jeering Mmmmaaarrrtttyyyy. Avery vs. Mmmmaaarrrtttyyyy. Avery avoiding Clarkson. Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal finally showing up for work now that the Olympics are long over. Kovalchuk being the non-factor he has been in so many meetings with the Rangers - I particularly enjoy when he loses his temper and does something dumb. Jody Shelley vs. Andrew Peters. Brandon Prust not fighting the bigger, stronger Mark Fraser and instead finally converting one of the scoring chances that his hard work has earned him of late.

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