Friday, April 30, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #26 Erik Christensen

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. With the various albatrosses killing our cap and no faith in Hartford, Glen Sather turned to the waiver wire to pick up #26 Erik Christensen.

#26's #s: 49 games, eight goals, 18 assists, +14, 24 PIM.

Take the good: There were low expectations for Christensen when he was selected off the wire from Anaheim and he surprised everyone by immediately showing an on-ice rapport with Marian Gaborik. In one of Tortorella's many blunders this season, he refused to believe/accept that Christy complemented Gabby well and waited weeks before putting the two together on a (semi-) permanent basis. Christy repeatedly said during the stretch run that he was playing for a NHL job next season and the results proved it; he had eight points over his final 10 games including one of the best goals by a Blueshirt the entire year. In a rarity among the Rangers, he spoke frankly and honestly and was given the John Halligan Good Guy Award for it.

Take the bad: Christensen was the first Ranger shooter in the final shootout and had a less-than-stellar effort with a weak move and a weaker wrister from in close. Christy certainly worked well with Gabby but oftentimes he was too deferential to the Slovak sniper, passing when he should have shot. He had just three more shots (77) than Olli Jokinen did (74) in 23 more games - sure he is a different kind of player but that is just ridiculous considering the open ice he received when he was out there with Gabby. Just four of Christensen's 26 points came on the power play; his one goal with the man advantage came all the way back on New Year's Eve. He had two goals over his final 15 games, and they both came in the same game against the Leafs ... if that even counts, as they are the Leafs.

Take them both and then we have: Someone who deserves a NHL job next season, and perhaps even one with the Rangers. Christensen worked hard and stepped up his game come crunch time. He proved he was capable of holding down a top-six slot and, unless Sather can swing another deal to get rid of Redden, the GM won't be able to afford a top-line pivot to play with Gabby; Christy will come cheap. At the least, he can fill the position while Derek Stepan enjoys another season at Wisconsin.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #25 Anders Eriksson

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. At the trade deadline the Rangers gave up Miika Wiikman and a seventh round pick in the 2011 draft for #25, Anders Eriksson.

#25's #s: 8 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, +2, 0 PIM.

Take the good: The Rangers picked up a solid defenseman for a goaltending prospect who was never going to get a shot and a low level pick. After being called up at the end of March he had four games of more than 16 minutes of ice time and just one with less than 13. The salt-n-pepper-bearded 35-year-old brought one Cup ring and more than 1,000 professional games of experience (NHL, AHL, Sweden and Russia) to the team and showed no panic while playing smart, positional hockey.

Take the bad: Tortorella plugged Eriksson into the lineup at the expense of Hobey Gilroy, rather than the real problem on the blueline, Wade Redden. Gilroy would have benefitted from playing alongside the calm Eriksson and the team would have benefitted from being without the turnover-prone, soft albatross Redden.

Take them both and then we have: Another great trade by Sather. Too bad Glen is incompetent when it comes to signing players because he has been quite adept at dealing them of late. Eriksson is good fifth or sixth defenseman or an exceptional seventh-defenseman to have around. Seeing as Ryan McDonagh is staying in college, Corey Potter is poised to move on as a UFA and the team has shown no trust in Mike Sauer, Ilkka Heikkinen and Bobby Sanguinetti, keeping Eriksson another year is a prudent option.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #24 Ryan Callahan

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. What we have here is many folks' favourite Ranger, #24 Ryan Callahan.

#24's #s: 77 games, 19 goals (9 ppg), 18 assists (11 ppa), -12, 48 PIM.

Take the good: Callahan earned his second straight Steven McDonald Extra Effort and for good cause - no matter the situation, no matter the date, no matter the opponent he skated his ass off. Cally had 285 hits - third in the NHL behind Cal Clutterbuck and Dustin Brown - along with 81 blocked shots while playing in all situations. He had just two fights this season but one he was standing up for himself and the other he was standing up for teammates.

Take the bad: As the season began, we actually expected Callahan to be a better scorer than last season, not worse. He had three less goals (and three less points) in four fewer games while going one span of 18 games with just one goal and another with one over 14. Cally seemed just as snakebitten as Chris Higgins and yet he was allowed off the hook, perhaps because Higgins had the game on his stick a few times where Cally did not. Callahan had six games where he didn't manage a single shot, four of which came after the Olympic break. His knee injury was not his fault but his absence in the last game of the season definitely qualifies as 'bad'.

Take them both and then we have: A 25 year old who has hopefully not plateaued in terms of his on-ice development. You'd like to hope that the game he had in January against the Habs where he had two goals, two assists and seven shots showed that he is capable of better and bigger things but that may have just been a good night. At the same time, Callahan took on part of the leadership mantle with an A and that had to have had an impact on his play - and likely with these Rangers and the season that they had, it was a negative impact at that. What he learned from it and what he does next year (a contract season) should really let us know what we have.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nothing Like Planning Ahead

Think the Rangers are planning on having a draft party for the fans with Marian Gaborik? Yeah, I don't think so either ...

The NYR Facts Of Life: #23 Chris Drury

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. I probably should have done it in reverse number order as the last two weeks will largely be devoid of 'stars' but what the hell; it's now the captain's turn, #23 Chris Drury.

#23's #s: 77 games, 14 goals, 18 assists, -10, 31 PIM.

Take the good: Dru was a solid third/fourth line center. He won some faceoffs, killed penalties, blocked shots and backchecked well. In fact, he blocked 97 shots over the season, 22 more than a defenseman Wade Redden ... but that really isn't saying too much, does it? Three of his 14 goals came during the team's 7-2-1 final stretch, which just goes to show he could have been be a better asset to the team had he applied himself all season long - as goes the captain, so goes the team perhaps?)

Take the bad: He was regularly on the second line, he was paid like a superstar ($8,050,000 this season with a salary cap hit of 7) and had the lowest point total of his career (32) while averaging 17:45 of ice time a game. That includes just over two minutes of power play time a night where he racked up eight points (two goals). While we don't know what went on inside the room, Drury was clearly not a vocal leader on the ice and his interviews were cliche-ridden and dull. But at least he didn't say anything stupid like his 'not gonna let a loss ruin Christmas' comment from a few years back.

Take them both and then we have: When Tim Taylor was named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in '06-07, I thought it was a fantastic move - a hardworking, lower-line veteran who didn't score a lot (six points in 71 games) but worked hard in the trenches and selflessly did the little things that help a team win. John Tortorella was the head coach of that Tampa team, and here in New York he has another Taylor-esque captain. The only problem is the pressure to play Drury on higher lines, a pressure that comes from his salary and the lack of depth up the middle. Thank you Glen Sather.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Congrats Jed!

From the NHL:
NEW YORK (April 26, 2010) -- Kurtis Foster of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jed Ortmeyer of the San Jose Sharks and Jose Theodore of the Washington Capitals are the three finalists for the 2009-10 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” the National Hockey League announced today.
Well, my vote is clear but so is the winner - a bad broken leg (Foster) or some blood clots (Jed) doesn't compare to losing a kid and then starting a charity (Theodore). I was actually surprised to read the real story about Three-or-More, figuring instead that they gave him the nomination for overcoming hair loss and a STD.

Joking aside, all three of the candidates showed 'qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey' so congrats to all three. Especially Jed.

The NYR Facts Of Life: #22 Brian Boyle

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad then take them both and see what we have. It is time for the biggest guy on the roster, 6'7 #22 Brian Boyle.

#22's #s: 71 games, four goals, two assists, -6, 47 PIM.

Take the good: Boyle had a few good moments that showed why the Rangers wasted a third round pick in the upcoming draft. When he was paired with Sean Avery and Aaron Voros, they were actually a solid unit that forechecked and caused havoc on the opposition. He saw an average of 8:24 in ice time and he had a career-high six points!

Take the bad: He had five points in '07-08 and five in '08-09 ... in eight and 28 games respectively. See a bad trend? And he had four goals in each of those campaigns too. Brought in to replace Blair Betts, Boyle couldn't win very many faceoffs, he wasn't particularly adept at killing penalties and he had 12 less points than Bettsy despite playing eight more games. For all of his extra size, he had all of three fights - two in the same game and none after November. He had 143 hits, roughly half that of Ryan Callahan ... for someone nearly seven feet tall on skates and playing on a checking line, getting two hits a game isn't a whole helluva lot.

Take them both and then we have: Someone who has one more season on a deal that went from two-way this year to one-way, meaning Boyle is prime to be dealt or waived. From the outside he seemed to be a good team guy with a good sense of humour and he roomed with MDZ, allegedly keeping the kid out of trouble. Of course, bringing the teenager to a college party and getting him beer isn't being a good role model.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #21 Chris Higgins

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. One of my biggest, personal letdowns of the season is today's selection, #21 Chris Higgins.

#21's #s: 55 games, 6 goals (on 137 shots), 8 assists, -9, 32 PIM.

Take the good: As a New York native and with family in FDNY and NYPD, he was an instant fan favourite. Smithtown had that incredible goal (3:50 mark) just after New Years to beat the Bruins. He showed small flashes of that kind of skill throughout his tenure as a Ranger but he mainly got into good spots thanks to his constant hustle around the ice. As the team sank lower and lower into the doldrums of the season, the one thing you could honestly say was "at least he's trying."

Take the bad: It is one thing to try and another thing to succeed. Higgins busted his ass but couldn't score - odd-man rushes, breakaways, scrums, empty nets ... if he converted on half of those he would have easily reached the 20 goals we penciled in for him, and it likely would have happened before New Years. He was -4 against the Penguins in the 5-2, Mike Rupp hat trick game. Mike Rupp. Hat trick. It took Higgins 27 games before he got his third goal of the season.

Take them both and then we have: A good New York kid who couldn't get his act together in front of his friends and family. Maybe he was holding his stick too tight, maybe he was enjoying being home too much, whatever ... the simple truth is that Chris couldn't cut it on Broadway. Luckily Sather showed off his magic and essentially got the younger, cheaper, tougher Brandon Prust for him at the deadline.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #20 Vinny Prospal

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad then take them both and see what we have. It's time for the first man with a letter, alternate captain #20 Vaclav Vinny Prospal.

#20's #s: 75 games, 20 goals (6 ppg, 1 shg, 4 gwg), 38 assists, +8, 32 PIM.

Take the good: Prospal was the one player to show some chemistry with Marian Gaborik and anyone who could make the superstar comfortable is ok in our book. He started the season on fire with everyone ranting and raving what a brilliant addition he was to the team. That reputation carried through much of the season, even through a 14 game pre-Christmas goal drought. He got hot again going into the Olympic break with 11 points over nine games. And outside of the numbers, Prospal showed a passion and dedication for the team every time MSG decided to turn their cameras on him in postgame interviews.

Take the bad: Vinny wasn't able to shove anything up Tortorella's butt this season as he was one of the veterans who disappeared when the going got tough. In the team's six regulation losses and four OTLs after the break, Prospal managed just one goal and two assists. He didn't even manage a single shot in the final game against the Flyers. That photo above, I believe, came when he broke his 14 game, preChristmas scoring drought. For a first liner, 14 games is just too long to go cold.

Take them both and then we have: Someone who was quite good for the money he was being paid. Seeing as the Rangers only had to pay him $1.15 mil, that is a good deal for a first-liner to ride shotgun with Gaborik. But if the cost was higher, he would have been even more of a disappointment given his performance in crunch time. The decision to re-sign him this offseason will be a tough one to make.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #18 Marc Staal

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. While Jordan Staal was nominated for the Selke Trophy this week, he isn't getting the honour of this treatment but his brother, #18 Marc Staal is.

#18's #s: 82 games, 8 goals, 19 assists, +11, 44 PIM.

Take the good: Literally and figuratively Staalsie didn't take a night off. By far the team's best and most reliable defenseman, he played on the top pairing all season long - first with Dan Girardi, then back with Rozy, then back with Girardi again. Staal had less than 20 minutes of ice time just seven times this season and the Rangers went 2-4-1 over that span. He struggled early with John Tortorella's coaching, seemingly not knowing if/when he should attack or stay back or what but by the middle of the season he found a comfort area and was much improved. And at the end of the year, hell, he had a three game goal streak!

Take the bad: While Staal struggled with the system (or lack thereof depending on who you talk to), he tried to do too much and was too careless with the puck. He improved over the course of the season but it still happened on occasion - like at the start of the Flyer game at the Garden in April. He was by far the best defenseman on the team but, looking at the unit, that isn't saying too much. He does a lot of things right but Staal is still a ways a way from the upper echelon of NHL defenders.

Take them both and then we have: A 23 year old leading the Blueshirt blueline. Staal has yet to reach his potential and still was named to Canada's World Championship team - no small feat considering the depth of talent up there. He will face tough competition over the rest of his career to haul home a Norris (damn that Doughty is good) but if they do ever make a defensive defenseman award down the line, our Staal brother certainly will be in the running.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #17 Brandon Dubinsky

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad then take them both and see what we have. What we have for today is #17 Brandon Dubinsky.

#17's #s: 69 games, 20 goals (6 ppg, 2 shg, 5 gwg!), 24 assists, +9, 54 PIM.

Take the good: I refuse to back down from my long-time belief that Dubinsky can be Jason Arnott and there were moments where Dubi lived up to that expectation, using his size and skills to go to the net with passion and pot a few goals. I mean, seriously, look at the hands he flashed on this play. When the team buckled down late in the season, he stepped up to the plate and played some of his best hockey. If you recall, during the run, he hammered at Jeff Finger when Finger hit Gabby - one of the few times this season when a Blueshirt stood up for his 'brother'. Dubi actually fought just two times this season - less than he did the last two years - but he actually won both fights!

Take the bad: Dubi missed the first week of training camp because of a contract dispute and then had to skip a slew of games in November with a broken hand. He had a 10 game goal slump prior to the injury and a pair of seven game skids after that coincided with team slides. When Rangers lost five straight at the end of January, Dubi had all of one assist. For someone who was penciled in as the first-line center, Dubi never filled that role the way we hoped and did some of his best work when not paired with Marian Gaborik.

Take them both and then we have: As I said over at NBC's ProHockeyTalk, I found Dubinsky to be the most frustrating Ranger this season. His potential is still there, it is still great, but he didn't come close to living up to it this season.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #16 Sean Avery

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad then take them both and see what we have. And we are up to the infamous Sean Avery.

#16's #s: 69 games, 11 goals, 20 assists, even, 160 PIM.

Take the good: As Avery goes, so go the Rangers. He returned to his normal, acerbic self at the end of the season and the Blueshirts took off. Avery at his best drives the other team to distraction and still manages to chip in the occasional goal or two. He had nine points over the 12 games he played in after the Olympics and his absence was certainly a factor in the final loss as the Flyers had no trouble keeping the Rangers on their heels. And who can forget Avery mocking Max Talbot? That was one of the highlights of the season.

Take the bad: When Sean wasn't being Sean, the Rangers suffered. Avery was emasculated in the '09 playoffs and had trouble finding his manhood (as Torts had it in a box somewhere). Without it, Avery spent a solid amount of the season disappearing into the background, which is somewhere someone with his talents certainly can't be. He had three goal droughts that lasted more than 10 games (15, 19 and 11); he didn't score once in the entire month of December.

Take them both and then we have: The little engine that powers the Rangers and entertains the hell out of us fans - and at a reasonable price thanks to Dallas. This season he was as inconsistent as the team around him but the good thing is that in the postmortem interviews he seems to realize that. Hopefully he learns from it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #12 Olli Jokinen

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. There were two #12s this season and, after glancing at Ales Kotalik yesterday, it's Olli Jokinen's turn.

#12's #s: 26 games, 4 goals (1 ppg), 11 assists, +1, 22 PIM.

Take the good: Jokinen scored an overtime game-winner against Pittsburgh just prior to the Olympic break and a commanding performance against Toronto in the third-to-last game of the season. What he did with his facial hair provided a interesting conversation every time. Jokinen is a UFA as of July 1st, and with that date his salary comes off the Ranger books.

Take the bad: Five multi-point games meant that he was blanked 15 times in 26 games. For a self-described shooter, Jokinen managed just one shot six times (including the last game of the season) and was held without a shot once (the penultimate game). Had his lone power play goal in his second game with the team, then didn't score another the rest of the way. Oh yeah, and he missed his most important shot - the shootout "effort" in Philly that ended the season. As happened when with the Panthers, Coyotes and Flames, when the pressure was on him, he couldn't step up his game.

Take them both and then we have: Even a return to the Eastern Conference couldn't get Jokinen back to his scoring ways but playing with ever-changing wingers certainly didn't help. But, at the end of the day, Jokinen was just the solution to the Kotalik problem.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #12 Ales Kotalik

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. There were two #12s this season so let's begin with the guy who wore it first, Ales Kotalik.

#12's #s: 45 games, 8 goals (4 ppg), 14 assists (12 ppa), -18, 38 PIM.

Take the good: Glen Sather was able to deal Kotalik and his three year, nine mil contract to Calgary for Olli Jokinen's expiring deal and, as bad as Jokinen was at times, he was far better than Kotalik. That being said, Kotalik's slap shot was just as strong as reported (he just couldn't get it on net nine times out of 10). During the too-good-to-be-true 7-1 start (that proved to be too good to be true), he had seven points and went on to average a point per game over the first 12.

Take the bad: Pretty much everything after that was horrendous. Kotalik could not be trusted during five-on-five play, he could not be trusted on the point on the power play and the chemistry everyone hoped for with Chris Drury didn't exist. There was nothing quite like the dread you felt when the puck was sent from deep in the offensive zone back to Kotalik because the odds that he would miss it and the other team would get a breakaway were so high.

Take them both and then we have: Someone who never quite found his place on Broadway. And - like Scott Gomez - a horrible signing but a brilliant trade by Glen Sather.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #10 Marian Gaborik

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. Today we look at top-scorer #10, Marian Gaborik.

#8's #s: 76 games, 42 goals (14 ppg, 1 shg, 4 gwg), 44 assists, +15, 37 PIM.

Take the good: He was healthy! I set the over-under at the 17 games he played last season and he blew it away with 76, setting a personal record in points with 86. Fourth in the NHL with 42 goals, Gabby was pretty much the be-all-end all of the Ranger offense and despite that, he was often able to slip their coverage to grab some great goals. That he managed 44 assists with a revolving cast of wingers goes to show just how talented he is. He also was willing to show that he would stand up for himself, as he did with dirtbag Dan Carcillo.

Take the bad: Minnesota fans warned that Gabby wasn't a big game guy (just one assist in six games in the '08 playoffs) and he did nothing to prove them wrong. In the two biggest games of the season, vs Boston and vs Philly, Gabby came out with donuts. And he was dumb enough to fight Carcillo; maybe he thought his teammates would help him out (damn you Girardi) but it is one thing to shove back at the guy who hit you and it is another to throw off the gloves. He should know that his hands are too valuable to be wasted on Carcillo's ugly face.

Take them both and then we have: The best signing Glen Sather has made during his tenure (not that that is saying much), even if it seemed like a gamble, and even though we are just one year into a five year deal. Gabby is the lone skating star on the team and it's his offense that carried the Rangers to the few midwinter wins that they had. We just have to hope that, at 28, he can still grow into a clutch player.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #8 Brandon Prust

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. Today we look at tougher-than-Turcotte #8, Brandon Prust.

#8's #s: 26 games (with NYR), 4 goals (2 gwg), 5 assists, +3, 65 PIM.

Take the good: Prust went from a throw-in on the Jokinen deal to being one of the best Blueshirts down the stretch. He seemed to evolve from a one-dimensional goon to a forechecking power forward over the short span he was on Broadway and was 1/3 of the so-called "fourth line" that carried the team. His hard work at even strength and on the penalty kill earned him more minutes and he made the most of them. And he did it all for the sum total of $178,756; he made $500,000 on the year.

Take the bad: Prust is an RFA this summer and surely will command interest around the league. He was tied with Lappy for the second-most fighting majors in the NHL with 25. Seven of those fights came after the trade and Hockeyfights has him 3-2-2 which is certainly debatable. His tendency to reach behind him with his loose hand to hold onto the glass or boards was utterly infuriating. Before being paired with Arty and Shelley, he chugged along as a third line nothing or fourth line thug; what happens when he is lined up with other players and/or the ice time goes away?

Take them both and then we have: Someone who should be qualified as soon as possible. Say what you want about Sather, acquiring this kid was huge as he provided a spark and a toughness that Donald Brashear never did. Seeing that he is just 26, he certainly can grow to be a part of the young core of this team ... if he can maintain the same level of desire and effort, something we all know is difficult to do in New York City.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #6 Wade Redden

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. Today we look at everyone's favourite $8 million man, #6: defenseman Wade Redden.

#6's #s: 75 games, 2 goals, 12 assists, +8, 27 PIM.

Take the good: Wade made eight mil this year but only $6.5 was on the cap, so that's good. But seriously, at the end of the season Redden proved that he was an almost-capable third pairing defenseman; he minimized mistakes by keeping his game simple and playing as far away from the puck as he could. Prior to that he showed he had a bit of a backbone by arguing with Tortorella when Torts sent him to the press box but that emotion never translated to his play on the ice.

Take the bad: Redden's former partner in Ottawa Zdeno Chara made half a mil less this year and he is a Norris Trophy winner. Redden? The only hardware he could win is the Lady Byng because he is so soft. Then again, he showed off just how tough he was by beating up a soft frenchman on Montreal in Benoit Pouliot - not exactly Georges Laraque. When paired with Girardi or Gilroy, he visibly set back the youngsters' development as they often had to cover for him and scramble back once his much vaunted 'first pass out of the zone' went directly to an opposing player.

Take them both and then we have: To steal one of my own lines, he is a "highly paid albatross who damns this team to sail the seas of mediocrity." An utter waste of salary cap space, Redden has already made the top five in every list of the worst free agent signings in hockey history ... and he has four more years left on his deal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: #5 Dan Girardi

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. Today's target is #5, defenseman Dan Girardi.

#5's #s: 82 games, 6 goals (1 ppg, 1 shg), 18 assists, -2, 53 PIM.

Take the good: Girardi improved from -14 in Tom Renney's system to just -2 in Tortorella's, which is quite an achievement. He scored eight of his 24 points over the final 16 games as the team made their push for the playoffs. It can even be said that Girardi combined with Marc Staal to give the Rangers their first legitimate number one pairing since Leetch/Beukeboom.

Take the bad: Let's face it, they ARE NOT Leetch/Beukeboom. We'll get to Staal later but Girardi spent several months chasing the puck around. He is all too quick to go down to the ice to attempt to block a shot, allowing the opposition to use him as a screen or to simply skate around him. He has a decent shot that he rarely uses and even more rarely gets on net. And we can certainly not forget the biggest offense of the season: Girardi stood just feet away from Marian Gaborik as the star was handed his lunch by dirtbag Dan Carcillo back in January.

Take them both and then we have: A young player who is still improving three seasons in. After that atrocious incident, Girardi took on Scott Hartnell after the evil muppet ran over young Arty in the season's penultimate match. Girardi has proved to be a capable defender - far more capable than two of his overpaid blueline brothers - but it is hard to see if he can become anything more and will be worth a big raise this offseason.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Game, Love & The Rangers

While I was in Philly for that fateful, horrible January game against the Flyers, I popped into a used book store near UPenn. I flipped through the stacks of beaten and battered sci fi books and was about to leave before thinking to look at the sports section. There, in the far back corner of the musty store was an original copy of Ken Dryden's book, The Game. I took the faded dust cover off to find that it was a bright red hardcover with a blue binding. Combined with the white of the pages, you have the blue, blanc et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens, Dryden's team. After years of hearing good reviews that raved just enough about it to peak my curiosity but not my wallet, I finally decided to buy it. I read a few pages on the ride home after the loss but, once home, I set the book on a stack of other unread books, preempted by television, internet, life.

Randomly yesterday I decided to pick it up again and began working my way further through Dryden's well-written prose. I am still far from the finish but I came across a passage that I needed to share here. It was originally written about the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were in the depths of the ineptitude of the Harold Ballard era. I took license to change it to the Rangers as it certainly correlates with the current state of the Rangers and unequivocally describes exactly how I feel right now, with the Blueshirts' season over:
'It is easy to say that a fan can stay at home, or at home he can change a channel and watch something else. But it isn't as simple as that. A sports fan loves his sport. A fan in New York loves hockey, and if the Rangers are bad, he loses something he loves and has no way to replace the loss.'
The playoffs start tonight and I'll hop on the bandwagon of my secondary and tertiary favourite teams by Dryden is right, something is gone and it won't be the same watching these games. The highs won't be as high and the lows certainly won't be as low.

It will be glorious to see the Stanley Cup raise, but with our boys not in the battle, it is somewhat hollow, and we can only hope and pray that next season will be able to fill that which went missing. Sadly, things being what they are here on Broadway, that feeling of loss as become all too familiar and those hopes and prayers have gone unanswered.

And yet still we hope, and still we pray, because us fans in New York love our hockey and that love can not, and will not, be lost.

The NYR Facts Of Life: #4 Michael Del Zotto

This is the first installment of The Facts Of Life: New York Rangers. It will be a daily feature here where we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have for each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season.

After much debate, it's been decided to go in number order so without further delay, let's look at #4, defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

#4's #s: 80 games, 9 goals (4ppg), 28 assists, -20, 32 PIM.

Take the good: MDZ broke onto the scene on fire with 12 points in his first 12 games. He showed off the skills that had drawn the comparisons to that Leetch guy and eventually averaged close to 19 minutes on the ice a night. He saw ice time in all situations and got physically tougher over the course of his 80 games (he missed two after being gutted by Geno Malkin's skate).

Take the bad: MDZ often put himself out of position trying to make hits and was pretty bad in his own zone. His ability in front of Hank did not improve at all over the course of the year and he ended up a team-worse -20. The kid was scoreless in 49 games, including slumps of seven and nine games as well as the final four. In the all-important final game against the Flyers, he played just 14:14 as Torts didn't trust him to be able to safely handle the Broad Street Bullies.

Take them both and then we have: A 19 year old who gained a lot of good experience. That simple. Would a midwinter trip to Hartford have been beneficial in the long term? Perhaps, but what's done is done, MDZ is a NHLer now and hopefully will be one for a long time. Something to keep in mind: Drew Doughty had 27 points in 81 games and was -17 last season, his rookie year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The NYR Facts Of Life: Intro

One of the worst things when you are a kid is the agonizing wait for your report card. Will you do well and get rewarded by your parents? Will you flunk and have to redo the grade all over again? Will you do better or worse than all of your friends, and thus be mocked all summer long? So, in the spirit of the Rangers this season, I am going to prolong the torture a while and do something entirely different first.

And with that I begin a new series, The Facts Of Life: New York Rangers. For each player we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have.

Take the good: Self-explanatory.
Take the bad: Self-explanatory.
Take them both and then we have: Final assessment.

Once I get through every Blueshirt - starting tomorrow; gonna try for one a day depending on the real world - I'll wrap it all with the aforementioned report card. Sound good to you guys? (Not like you have a choice, but still...)

Monday, April 12, 2010

38-34-10: We Are Who We Thought We Were

The Rangers proved they were the team that we thought they were on Sunday afternoon: a team that just wasn't good enough for the playoffs. Despite a heroic performance by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers couldn't score and ultimately fell to the Flyers 2-1 in a shootout. They were officially eliminated from the playoffs and did just what most of us dreaded: they made us believe in them before breaking everyone's hearts with failure.

The lesson here is that a team can't start playing three weeks before the end of the season and think they will make the playoffs and that we should never believe in the Blueshirts, at least not until they really give us a real team to believe in. This collection of mercenaries and not-ready-for-primetime players managed just 25 shots in 65 minutes and couldn't get more than one goal past Brian Boucher. Brian Boucher. And that one goal? It came off of a goon crashing the slot, not the superstar sniper, not the gritty kids, not the highly paid albatrosses who damn this team to sail the seas of mediocrity.

But there is plenty of time to pick apart the carcass of the 2009-10 Ranger season - make sure you check back for report cards and all sorts of fun offseason fare - so here are some notes on this match:

*The selections for the shootout pretty much says it all: waiver wire pickup Erik Christensen, minor leaguer P.A. Parenteau and Calgary cast-off Olli Jokinen. No matter their past successes in the skill competition, none of them are products of the system and none of them the big money free agents signed by the franchise.

*As I said prior to the game, Parenteau simply couldn't match up the bigger, stronger Flyers. It showed in his two penalties, the second of which was the equalizer.

*You would think that Tom Renney was still the head coach of the Rangers the way they took the early lead and sat back and tried to hold it.

*People's Champ Aaron Voros fought Ian Laperriere at the beginning of the second period apparently for the sole reason of electrifying the Flyer faithful even further.

*Vinny Prospal didn't manage a single shot against his former team and Gaborik managed just two. Brian Boyle had two shots and Brian Boyle is, well, Brian Boyle.

*Apparently Arty thought it wise to attempt a feed to Boyle and his mistake ended up in the Ranger net on the aforementioned power play goal. I'm still not sure what either one was doing out on the ice killing a penalty in the most important game of the year but that just goes back to coaching.

*Anders Eriksson was rock solid yet again. It'll be sad to see him go with R&R still on the payroll.

Is there anything else worth agonizing over on this one? Feel free to plug it in in the comments. As mentioned above, there will be more post-season posts where I'll do a postmortem.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Carle - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 47 saves (46+1)
1-Claude Giroux - shootout goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Carle - Carle ate up the ice time and kept the Flyer offense pushing forward. Sure he wasn't as thuggish as some of his teammates but Carle, along with Timonen, didn't let their team dilly dally in their own end for long.
2-Peter Laviolette - The Flyer bench boss didn't have his team consistently giving up their own blue line or making line changes on rushes. He wanted them to put on the pressure and they did all game long.
1-Hank - The Rangers had no place being in this game and yet the King put on one of the best performances of his career to give them a chance. And they blew it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

38-33-10: One Down, One To Go

It is difficult not to fall prey to hyperbole after the hockey played at MSG on Friday night but you know what? I am not even going to try. The 4-3 Ranger win over the Flyers was the most exciting game the Blueshirts have played this season and perhaps the most exciting regular season game in years.

It had it all - goals by stars, goals by unlikely sources, astounding saves, tough physical play ... edge-of-your-seat, end-to-end action most of the night. And all of it was witnessed by a deafeningly-loud, sellout crowd that reveled in the moment.

What a night.

Should things not go the Ranger way on Sunday, not that I want to think of that now but should they not, it is pretty great that the Rangers left the Garden on a high note - especially after all of the troubles that the team has had on home ice this season. The rhetorical question must be asked: if the Rangers had this kind of effort in them, why did it take 80 games for it to show up?

Ok, ok, I'll stop the cynicism for a few to enjoy this one a little bit longer.


*Is there anything like seeing Steven McDonald? That man gives a great pep talk and it is an honour to have him in the building year after year. And congrats to Ryan Callahan for winning the Extra Effort award. Well deserved.

*Lost in the celebrations was Callahan's early exit. It came courtesy of Chris Pronger, who goes out there to intentionally injure the opposition and yet somehow is still hailed as a star. As Pronger headhunted and knocked Cally out, someone should have gone after Jeff Carter's foot. Old time hockey. Yeah, I know, the Rangers just aren't that tough.

*Their toughest guys have been two of the best players and losing them for extended minutes would be a big blow. Who would think that we would be asking where would we be without Brandon Prust and Jody Shelley right now? Shelley ... well we have to celebrate the goal he scored and not the empty net he blew; Brian Boucher gets zero credit for his diving stick save considering he nearly shot the puck into his own net and Shelley left the puck on the ice. He didn't make the same mistake earlier when he took a quick pass from Prust and went to the net, chipping it past Boucher to make it a 2-1 game.

*When Arty got crushed by the evil muppet Scott Hartnell you knew someone would seek justice and it happened to be Dan Girardi. It was a nice juxtaposition from Girardi's lack of action in the Carcillo-Gabby incident but at the same time, losing one of the team's best defenders for five minutes with nine minutes to go is dangerous.

*After one minute of action many felt that this game would be the same as Wednesday, with the Rangers playing the part of the Leafs. Philly scored and Aaron Voros was called for a penalty. It seemed like the night was over before it started but the Rangers killed the penalty, kept skating and, once Dan Carcillo clipped Prust, the door opened and Chris Drury pulled the team through with the equalizing power play goal.

*Dru's goal was deja vu all over again. It was just like the miraculous equalizer in the win over New Jersey a few weeks back where Erik Christensen grabbed the coverage and made an picture-perfect pass to find Dru on the doorstep. Drury is at his best when he lets the defenders concentrate on the bigger threats before popping up in a good spot to pot the goal. 7.7 seconds.

*Poor People's Champ. Voros was called for two dubious penalties in the game - the one off that early faceoff that seemed quite trumped up and the other a late hit that was somehow interference on a player who wasn't moving. Both penalties were blissfully killed but man, Philly came soooo close on the second one. Voros owes Hank a dinner for the kick save he made on that kill.

*Marc Staal bounced back nicely from his mistake - the giveaway that opened the game's scoring - and played some tough minutes late. As with Lundqvist, the Rangers can't afford bad defensive turnovers from Staal like the one on the Richards goal too often - especially when they already have to deal with Rozy, Redden and MDZ's defensive deficiencies.

*No surprise that Rozy was on Danny Briere's side and let baby face get a clean shot for the Flyers second goal. Absolutely no surprise that Rozy actually kicked Richards' second goal in. This guy is a disaster. He makes Wade Redden look like Rod Langway.

*It is a shame that Dale Weise never got a shot to earn a NHL start because he would have been an appropriate replacement for P.A. Parenteau. It was clear in this one that P.A. is simply not big enough and strong enough to be a factor against the Flyers.

*I didn't win Blueshirts Off Our Backs. Again. Dammit.

*Anders Eriksson has very quietly been very solid.

*There were less Flyer fans than in games past, perhaps as it was the season ender. No matter what the reason, it was nice not having a lot of orange in the building.

*Arron Asham is a dirtbag.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 24 saves.
2-Mike Richards - two goals.
1-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - Prust will be an RFA this offseason and - as his play has shown - should be considered a priority to be re-signed. His hustle and toughness are proving to be great compliments to some actual hockey skill. He had it in junior, now it is translating to the big time on Broadway. Beautiful.
2-Dubi - He has disappeared on and off this season but he steps up his game against the Flyers every time and this one was no exception.
1-Gabby - Sure he got lucky that his shot hit Mat Carle's stick and fluttered past Boucher but there was no luck involved in his assist on Dubi's goal. All World talent.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Philadelphia Flyers

As if a game against the Flyers wouldn't be special, Friday night's fight is the most important match of the season for the Rangers. Faceoff is at 7 at the Garden and can be seen on Versus or MSG-Plus. For those going, they announced during Wednesday's game that the team is giving out t-shirts - an actual giveaway! It must be one heckuva occasion ...

Where We Are: Two wins and we're in. That simple. As John Giannone tweeted tonight, "Regulation L Fri means elimination. OT loss puts PHI & MTL in playoff and BOS would need 1 pt in last 2 gms or NYR loss Sun." Boston has 87 points with two games to go and Montreal has 87 with one left.

Where They Are: The Flyers have 86 and we have 84 with the home-and-home left on the agenda. Philly lost the first two games they played this month but won the last two - beating Detroit 4-3 on Sunday and Toronto 2-0 Tuesday. Neither win was convincing as Detroit had backup Chris Osgood in net and zero tough guys in the lineup to counter the Flyer thugs. Toronto ... well, we saw just how good they were on Wednesday and they came inches away from forcing overtime.

Who To Watch For: That evil muppet Scott Hartnell hasn't scored in 10 games and won't have Sean Avery on the ice to counter his antics (or distract him). Jeff Carter is coming off of a broken left foot but is likely to make the lineup. Claude Giroux has six points in his last five games, picking up some slack for the slumping Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. And you can never forget about Arron Asham; the former Isle and Devil always steps up his game against the Rangers and has four points in his last six.

What To Watch For: The Rangers attacking hard and fast - that goal by Christy in the opening seconds of Wednesday's game pretty much ended the game before it started and if the Rangers can get to Boucher quickly, it could help stem the tide. Ian Laperriere, Danny Carcillo, Chris Pronger and Asham to hit anything and everything. Their physical brand of hockey cowed the Wings on Sunday and is their bread and butter.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A resolute Ranger defense that doesn't allow Hartnell to harass Hank. None of the Blueshirts pulling a Colton Orr and attacking a Flyer unprovoked; shockingly enough Shelley, Prust and Voros are more valuable on the ice than off it. However, if there is just cause, pulling an Orr is a good thing, as evidenced by this battle from Tuesday. Olli Jokinen shooting the puck - he had eight shots against Toronto and it was his best game since the break. Marian Gaborik sticking it to Carcillo with a hat trick.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2010

37-33-10: Well That Was ... Easy

They say that teams already eliminated from the playoff hunt are extra dangerous as their players have nothing to lose and are playing for a position on the team next season. Well, there was absolutely nothing dangerous about the Maple Leafs on Wednesday as they rolled over and took the 5-1 beating at the hands of the Rangers.

Erik Christensen opened the scoring just 21 seconds in, Colton Orr made a spectacle of himself by instigating a fight with Jody Shelley and Toronto spent the rest of the opening period on their heels. Once they went down 3-0, they all but gave up - which is good for the Rangers as they took their foot off the gas and fell asleep at the wheel, awakening only after Dion Phaneuf scored in the third period.

It was a boring bout for about 45 minutes but the excitement level was not what was important - the two points the Rangers pulled from it were. Back in December a good friend started selling off most of the rest of his season tickets, saying he would keep his Flyer tickets - just in case it would be an important game. I laughed at him, replying that we would be out of it long before the final two games. He would be laughing now if he, along with everyone else, wasn't at the edge of his seat praying the Blueshirts can pull it off. All I hoped for in this season was to either fly high or go down in flames but of course the Rangers have to skim the tree tops all the way, making for one insanely nerve racking ride.

Some notes:

*Hank doesn't allow any softies and the Rangers win. Coincidence? I think not.

*Christensen had a pair of goals in the first period and almost completed the hat trick in the second but alas, it was not to be. Christy was outstanding for a period and a half or so and could have had about five goals. Oh well.

*Michal Rozsival also came just short of grabbing a hat trick ... one of bad penalties. Rozy took two terrible minors, and he wonders why he gets booed, even when he gets goals or assists (he did have a nice feed for a second assist in this one, on Prospal's goal). Even our old friend Wade Redden had a better game than Rozy - and that is pathetic.

*Another game, another too many men on the ice penalty. Are the Rangers not the worst team in the NHL when it comes to changing likes or what?

*Mandatory Metal: Chris Drury had the post hit for the evening, late in the first period. The puck so clearly hit the iron that it was shocking that the officials decided to review the shot.

*Off topic: how pathetic is it that MSG Network keeps airing those ProFiles? I caught No. 2 Brian Leetch when I got home, which refers to 'someday when Brian gets his number raised to the rafters...' Ok, that someday was more than two years ago. Time to either update the program or chuck it. I know that MSG is cheap but even re-airing those Vaults 1,800 times is better because at least those are evergreen.

*While I am ripping on MSG, is there anyone out there that enjoys the guitar that attempts to play along with the organ? It's like nails on the chalkboard to me.

*Kept hearing all of those Potvin Sucks chants and am pretty curious as to what everyone has against old Felix?

*Speaking of chanting, it was fun to get in on the "Sloppy Seconds" jeer for Phaneuf but - as a friend pointed out to me - what took the Blue Seaters so long to start it? They waited until Dion scored before becoming emboldened.

*Brandon Prust had his three game goal streak broken but he did manage to get an assist on the "People's Champ" Aaron Voros' third period goal. Always love it when the grit guys get goals and Voros' was a beaut. Prust almost had one earlier on a breakaway but he had too much speed and was easily stopped by the Monster.

*Freddie Sjostrom is a great penalty killer, to be sure, but not so great the Rangers can use him as an excuse for their pathetic 0-for-4 total with the man advantage.

*Hope Dan Girardi was watching from the bench - he is good at watching, don'cha know - as Brandon Dubinsky jumped Jeff Finger after the Leaf d-man crushed Marian Gaborik on the boards. Perhaps Girardi learned something.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.
2-Vinny Prospal - one goal and one assist.
1-Erik Christensen - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - The kid collected a pair of assists and came to defend Gabby. It is sad that I have to recognize the kid for doing it but the team has left their star out there to dry too often this season.
2-Olli Jokinen - The freaky-looking Finn had one of his best games as a Ranger, collecting a goal and an assist. When he first came to NY he described himself as more of a shooter than a playmaker and he shot the puck a game-high eight times. If that is what it takes for him to contribute, then shoot away!
1-Christensen - I thought about taking it away from him because he didn't come out to wave to the crowd when he was named the PHW first star but his first period was too good to be denied.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

36-33-10: One Save & We're Done

The shock of Henrik Lundqvist being pulled in the second period tonight didn't quite rival that of Tretiak getting yanked in the Miracle game but it was close. Replacing your star goaltender in one of the most important - if not the most important - game(s) of the season certainly comes with an element of surprise. John Tortorella's bold move came after Hank gave up the third goal in what was to be a 5-2 Ranger loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The King had allowed three goals on 16 shots but the Blueshirts were only behind by one when the hook came out. Hank was clearly upset and who could blame him? Two of the three goals against weren't his fault but were due to the half-assed efforts of the team in front of him. Torts pulling this act was a clear sign of the helplessness he feels at not being able to properly prepare and motivate his players. Let's hope that it was one of the LAST moves by a desperate man before he loses his job.

That being said, Hank's benching did provide a short boost but when Marian Gaborik was stopped by Ryan Miller (more on that later), all of the energy was gone and Miller's side smoothly closed out the victory. That is the difference between good teams and ours - when a good team goes down and/or misses a big chance, they still believe they can win and keep putting out the effort that it takes to pull that off. All of the mind games that Torts has pulled and all of the terrible results that they have brought about this season have helped sap that belief.

Even with the loss, the Rangers still have a far better record on the road then at home. In New York they are spoiled with their luxury homes, their luxury practice facility and us, the best fans in the NHL. We are also the stupidest, seeing as we keep paying for that luxury that clearly makes life too comfortable for them to play tough.

I would launch into my usual notes but really, there is another game tonight so here are some quick hits:

*Arty, Shelley and Prust was the best line again; that Arty had twice as many shots as Gabby pretty much says it all.

*Cally came back and was tough for a period or so before fading.

*MDZ still is not good in his own end. Not even close. But he is still a teenager so we will still let him off the hook (sorry Hobey, you are just a few years too old - stay in the press box like a good boy).

*Lindy Ruff is one helluva coach - look at the names on that roster and then look at the top of the Northeast Division, and it hasn't all been the Ryan Miller show.

*I called in the Peepin Foes that Drew Stafford would score. Rangers = slump busters.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Drew Stafford - one goal and one assist.
2-Steve Montador - two assists.
1-Tyler Ennis - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tyler Myers - It should come down to Myers vs. Howard for the Calder this year. I give the edge to Howard but only because he is the last line of defense, Myers has Miller. But Miller is quite lucky to have the gargantuan kid in front of him.
2-Tyler Ennis - Great performance by the little guy. He was everything Corey Locke wasn't given the opportunity to be.
1-Miller - Marian Gaborik had the entire net to shoot on but he placed the shot right in the middle: a point right where Miller could move laterally across and get. Miller made it look impressive - he had overcommitted in the first place - but the point is that he made it. And that was the game.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Buffalo Sabres

There are 78 down, four to go and still the Ranger fate is up in their air. Game 79 is tonight in Buffalo as the Rangers duel with the Sabres at 7 pm on MSG-Plus because the Knicks - who are 11 games out of a playoff spot - take precedence with a tip off against the Celtics. Because anyone who cares about a New York/Boston rivalry will want to watch that instead of Sox/Yanks.

Where We Are: In a must-win situation. The Rangers are in ninth place, two points behind Philly in eighth and three behind Boston in seventh - with a game in hand on both. The Bruins are off until Thursday but there will be scoreboard watching tonight as the Flyers face Toronto as we battle Buffalo. The Blueshirts carry a 5-0-1 record into the game but, frankly, have not faced a good team over that six game span.

Where They Are: The Sabres have already clinched a playoff spot and lead Ottawa by five points (and have a game in hand) in the race for the Northeast Division. After a 7-1 run to end March, Buffalo opened April with losses to Toronto and Montreal.

Who To Watch For: Not Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly or our old friend Pat Kaleta - all of whom are out with injury. Undersized minor leaguers Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis have both slid into the lineup and Ennis has been quite good with five points in six games. Aside from them there is the usual duo of Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Drew Stafford has been incredibly cold with one goal over the last 25 games so the Rangers being the Rangers, he is incredibly dangerous - as is Raffi Torres, who is on a 11 game goal drought himself.

What To Watch For: Ryan Callahan being stupid and rushing himself back into action, if the Post is to be believed. If he doesn't play, check out hartford call-up Dale Weise - a power forward type who has passed Dane Byers on the depth chart. Watch for Tyler Myers resuming his campaign for the Calder Trophy - the rookie averaged more than a point per game over the 12 games prior to the last two Buffalo losses, where he was pointless and -2 in each. And see Patrick Lalime possibly getting the start for the Sabres - he was stellar in his last two performances and has a winning career record against the Rangers; Ryan Miller has to rest some time.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Sabres stinking as bad as the air around their arena. Marc Staal making it four in a row. The 'fourth' line continuing to excel. Chris Drury to show off some of the skill that made him loved in Buffalo. Erik Christensen and P.A. Parenteau doing everything they can to earn jobs for next season.

Also Check Out: Shots off the Crossbar and SBN's Die By The Blade.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

36-32-10: Putting Down The Putty Tats

The Rangers pulled even with Philadelphia on points on Saturday night by beating the Florida Panthers 4-1. The Blueshirts battled back from a 1-0 deficit in their first third-period comeback of the season and are right in the thick of the LEastern Conference playoff race.

The Rangers improved to 5-0-1 over the last six games. Before you get too excited, keep in mind that the only half-decent team they faced was New Jersey in this run and the Devils are slumping (3-3-3 in their last nine).

The Ranger run has led to the new poll on the right; make sure you vote. My pick was "Not really" - not because I had faith that the Rangers would show their skill but because I had faith that they would end up breaking our hearts yet again and what better way than this? Either they will roll all the way into the playoffs before failing in the first round or fall just short thanks to the season-ending home-and-home with the Flyers. No matter what, Heartbreak Hotel for the True Blue.

There was nothing heartbreaking about this evening's action so I'll just jump into the randomness:

*The People's Champ Aaron Voros got into it with Nick Tarnasky in the first period. Tarnasky landed several big bombs in the brawl before the Panther literally pulled Voros' leg out from under him. Already down on the ice, the linesmen then jumped on the two fighters, sending Voros backwards with his leg pinned under him. Luckily he just tweaked his knee and was able to get back into the game, especially because he went on to set up Drury's goal.

*That goal pretty much should have been happening all season long. Good positioning allowed Voros to keep the puck in the Florida zone, then he saw a lane so he shot it. Dru went to the net and banged the rebound home. There was nothing cute about the play, nothing fancy ... just smart, simple hockey.

*For all of the early season talk about MDZ and Matt Gilroy being Leetch-like, Marc Staal has been scoring like the legendary blueliner of late. Yesterday he scored on a snap shot off the wing and tonight he rushed through the neutral zone and over the blueline before pulling up to use the defender as a screen to score from above the circle. Staalsie has been seriously good of late and it isn't so surprising that his teammates are following suit and stepping up their game.

*The game wrap on has quotes from several players that Staal's goal was the turning point in the game but the Rangers did have chances throughout the second period, they just couldn't convert on them. Arty Anisimov blew a chance skating through the slot and Vinny Prospal couldn't dunk home a puck from the doorstep to name two. Maybe it is that the Rangers didn't believe they could score before Staal's puck went in but the Panthers certainly didn't appear to have the momentum after the Rangers got their legs back mid-second period - they were clearly tired at the outset.

*For the second straight night Hank played up to his royal moniker and avoided any soft goals against. Hank got lucky that Kamil Kreps' shot early in the third found iron and that Corey Stillman missed an empty net a minute later because either would have sapped the momentum that (may or may not have) came from the Staal goal. The one Florida tally - Keith Ballard's - came on a blast through a screen of three players so you can hardly fault the netminder. All told though, the King made 19 saves in all but it must be stated that this Panther team doesn't have the claws it once did.

*As I tweeted, Jody Shelley is proving to be an articulate and interesting interview. He has also showed off some hockey smarts as he fits in on the line with Prust and Arty. If he shows up for the Philly games the way we need him to and sticks around for next season, I wouldn't mind seeing him back on Broadway next season - maybe even with an A on his sweater (should Prospal not return). It would certainly send a message!

*Erik Christensen has spoken about the need to step up his game to play for a job for next season. Well, losing 11 of 11 faceoffs isn't stepping things up. He has been a solid player but his future is still quite cloudy and performances like tonight's darkens those clouds.

*After the Tampa game Torts said that he needed to get a better look at Corey Locke. So what did he do? He put Locke on the ice for all of four minutes. It is always good to root for the little guy and Locke is quite little so hopefully he will get a shot to show off what he's got.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Keith Ballard - one goal.
2-Brandon Prust - one goal.
1-Marc Staal - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - Another game, another goal. Ho hum. North-south power pucks is making Sather look better and better for adding this tough guy to the roster.
2-Staal - I nearly gave this star to Voros for his fight and assist but Staal's goal was just so pretty and Staalsie did have more than 25 minutes of ice time.
1-Dan Girardi - It wasn't too long ago that Girardi had all but played himself off of Broadway but in this game he was a physical force making smart defensive plays and quick passes. He had a big hit and a lot of blocked shots. We'll never forget the Gaborik/Carcillo incident but more games like this will let us forgive him for it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Awake To Awesomeness

I wake up this afternoon and open up my web browser, which automatically goes to my home page of Yahoo! and what do I see?

If you haven't already seen our fine friend Marek Malik's gaffe, the link is here. I must say, it is so enjoyable to watch him do that for a team other than the Rangers. But after seeing that on Yahoo at the start of my day, what could possibly make this day any better?

35-32-10: Terrific In Tampa?

Regular readers know that I am not easily sold on Ranger success and ... well, I'm still not. The Rangers annihilated a terrible Tampa team Friday night 5-0. Was it fun to watch? Absolutely. Was it any indication of actual skill or talent? Only the lack thereof on the Lightning squad. The Bolts were astoundingly awful all over the ice.

The only way they could have performed worse was if they still had Marek Malik in their lineup and he pulled one of these. It is a damn shame that they don't still have our old friend because it would have been hilarious. Several members of the Lightning did their best imitations on this evening but ya just can't beat the real thing.

Credit must be given and the Rangers did beat the Bolts. They put the puck on the net, on one side of the ice and the goaltender didn't allow a single soft goal on the other. But at the same time, you have to realize that the Blueshirts are pulling the blinders down over our eyes, beating up bad teams ahead of the inevitable, heart-crushing fall, don't you?


*Zenon Konopka won eight of nine faceoffs that he took for Tampa but he failed when it counted most - he didn't find a dance partner to try to energize his teammates. The NHL leader in PIM didn't spend a second in the penalty box and ended up a -3.

*Meanwhile, Jody Shelley was a powerhouse for the Rangers. Yes, a powerhouse. And he took a bad penalty. Shelley made the monstrous Vladmir Mihalik (6'7, 222) look stupid on the opening goal, making room for Brandon Prust to crash the crease. He hammered the defenseman, snapping his stick on the collision, then he went to the net and curled out, drawing the still-steaming Mihalik away from the slot so Prust could skate in freely.

*And poor Mihalik had Vinny Prospal's pass attempt hit his skate and go past Mike Smith eight minutes later to make it a 3-0 game. Poor monster couldn't get a break.

*The Ranger scoring came from all over the lineup, as displayed by 16 players grabbing +1s on the night. The other two, MDZ and Rozy, were +2. A balanced attack? On the Rangers? Whaaaaa???

*Seen Stamkos? He was one of the Bolts who looked so bad on the second period 5-on-3. It looked like the roles were reversed out there with Tampa playing the Ranger part of staying on the outside without getting any good shots off.

*Congrats to Anders Eriksson on his first point as a Ranger, a second assist on the Kurtis Foster Dubi power play goal. Sure second assists shouldn't count but they do so good for the former Cup winner. An attaboy also goes out to the People's Champ Aaron Voros for notching a goal but let's face it, that was one sad effort by Antero Niittymaki.

*Steve Downie Syndrome deserves some accolades for coming back to the ice after a scary play in the first period. Downie got tangled up with Dan Girardi and took his own stick to the chest; scary. But he is a hockey player and he came back. Good man. Also nice to see Ranger trainer Jim Ramsey on the ice to help Downie - classy dude.

*I watched the game at the Flying Puck in the city. It is a half-hearted attempt at a hockey bar a block from the Garden. They have a hockey motif, they have hockey on tv but don't put the audio up on the broadcasts as a matter of practice. What the hell? And there was all of four people in the bar really watching the game, which is pathetic. If there were drink specials, some advertising, I donno, something the place could have packed 'em in on a Friday night for a important game for the Blueshirts...

*There is certainly more worth mentioning but little time as the Rangers are in action again Saturday night against Florida. Seeing as the Panthers have real goaltending and several players who step up against the Blueshirts (Weiss, Horton), it should be a interesting test. If the Rangers pull it out, they tie Philly ... simply amazing/sad.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.
2-Vinny Prospal - one goal.
1-Dan Girardi - one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - Sure Mike Smith swung and missed Staalsie's shot from the wing but he
2-Prust - Hidden behind that glass grabbing goon exterior there may just be a real hockey player in there. Perhaps he can channel that more often going forward.
1-Hank - No softies!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Tampa Bay Lightning

There are a half dozen games left in the Ranger regular season and they are making their spring Florida swing this weekend. They face Florida on Saturday and take on Tampa tonight (Friday). Just a heads up, the game is on MSG at 7:30, not 7.

Where We Are: Despite putting up more disappointments than happy endings (haha, happy endings), the Rangers are actually in decent shape to make the playoffs thanks to a 3-0-1 run over the last four games. The Blueshirts are in 10th place with 78 points. The roles have reversed and they now have at least a game in hand over the four teams directly ahead of them (two over Atlanta, who has 80 points). Philly, Montreal and Boston hold the last three playoff spots in the LEast but all have 82 points in 77 games. The Thrashers, Bruins and Flyers all lost on Thursday, making this weekend HUGE for the Ranger playoff hopes.

Where They Are: Tampa is the third worst team in the NHL ... despite having just four points less than the Rangers. Some folks call this parity, I just call it pathetic. The Bolts have three wins in their last five games and are coming off of a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Who To Watch For: Steve Downie. Somehow the kid often known as Downie Syndrome for his unthinkable idiocy has 46 points and 206 PIM and is the only player on his team positive in +/- with a +14. 14! Steve Stamkos scored his 46th goal in that win over the Pens (that is six more than Gabby). Marty St. Louis recorded two assists to hit the 90 point mark ... 10 more than Gabby and 35 more than New York's second leading scorer, Vinny Prospal. Damn, we are pathetic. Vinny Lecavalier has been a disappointment to many this season and he has 67 points ... 12 more than Vinny. Of course the Rangers have five more players with 20 or more points than Tampa but still ... they are Tampa!

What To Watch For: Another flat first period by the Rangers. How the Tampa goaltending fares; Antero Niittymaki gave up five goals the last time he faced the Blueshirts (in that 8-2 win in January) while Mike Smith allowed four in the pre-Olympic loss. Niitty has been the go-to guy for the Bolts but Smith is the one who held the Pens at bay on Wednesday so who knows who will start and just how good they will be.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury making it three straight games against the Lighting with a goal. P.A. Parenteau to continue his decent play of late and for Corey Locke to make an impression so the team will re-sign them both this summer (P.A. is a UFA, Locke is a RFA). Hank not giving up any soft goals, unlike the pair he allowed on the Isle. With Ryan Malone out with injury, the Rangers giving Hank some lanes to see the puck. An epic bout between Zenon Konopka and Jody Shelley, to determine just who's face looks worse.

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Playoff Ticket Plans

Seeing as Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyyy has such trouble beating Hank, the Devils found a new way to beat the Rangers ... through the front office:

The Blueshirts' ownership has demanded that season ticketholders pay for all four games of a series right off the bat and prefers you they for all four games of all four potential series. As we are not getting home ice, that is guaranteed money back and as we will quite possibly will not play in the postseason at all, there would be a full refund. In mid-summer they will either give the cash back for games not played or put the money towards next season's tickets.

Meanwhile, across the river, the Devils are offering up a new program:
Hello Devils' Fan,

The New Jersey Devils are offering a brand new option to get you in on the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff action! For the first time ever, we are introducing the “Pay as We Play” program.

Benefits of this unbelievable program include:
- Tickets to all Stanley Cup Playoff home games
- Only pay for games as they are confirmed to be taking place (So for right now, only pay for Games 1 and 2)
- $150 or $100 Food and Beverage Credit (based on seat location) for every 2 seats purchased
- Guaranteed same seats throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs (including the Stanley Cup Finals)

Tickets are available starting at just $40 per game in the upper level and $90 per game in the lower level.

New Jersey Devils
Prudential Center
165 Mulberry Street
Newark, NJ 07102
973.757.6370 (fax)
New Jersey Devils Hockey
Stanley Cup Champions 1995, 2000, 2003
It is such a shame that a) they are the Devils and b) they play in Newark because that is a great deal.