Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preseason: Rangers 5, Red Wings 1

Oh man, oh man, oh man. If only this was the regular season. The Rangers improved to 3-1 in the preseason by absolutely dominating Detroit's b-team, as my buddy Eric called them. The Blueshirts controlled the puck, controlled the pace of play, were strong in their own zone and put in some pretty goals. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, me, for one.

All I am asking for is that they play this way during real play, against real teams. It would be nice to believe that this stellar exhibition season is a sign of things to come but we all know that it is virtually meaningless. That being said, some notes on the night:

*All food and drink, from what I have seen, is more expensive at the Garden. Gotta pay for the renovation somehow ... sadly the real fans won't be around to enjoy the fruit of their money's labour but that is another post for another time. Granted, it may be worth all of the extra money as I heard Micheletti was atrocious yet again.

*There was a sizable crowd - more than there were for the Devils game. And the best parts of it? No Dancing Larry and only one Potvin Sucks Whistle.

*The most important thing to come out of the evening was a return to form by Henrik Lundqvist. After looking horrible in his first exhibition match Hank looked quite solid in this one. There were two plays where he extended his legs going cross crease where I gasped but he bounced right up and showed no signs of soreness. Thank freakin' goodness, we're screwed if we have to rely on Islander Biron.

*His counterpart, Jimmy Howard, was horrible. And because of that it is hard to judge the Ranger goals - he looked like he wasn't comfortable in the least. Granted, the defensive corps in front of him so clearly missed the steady presence of the greatest defenseman of our generation, Nick Lidstrom. Down the line though, you can see the Detroit defense will be in good hands with Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith once they develop a little more. Very impressed with Smith.

*If it is tough to judge our offense because of their defense, then it was also tough to judge our defense because of their offense. Without Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom and Cleary Detroit's forwards had little finish. Franzen was bad, Bertuzzi was barely there and Hudler was horrendous.

*But even with the Wings missing their top talent, I was still able to make some observations. Sauer and Valentenko are really making it tough on the Ranger brass for who to keep. Both played solid defense, limited the mistakes and contributed to the offense. In an ideal world, they would both be kept while Rozsival would join Redden down in Hartford. Rozy made several bad passes and he made a classic Redden play, fumbling the puck at the blueline on the power play without any pressure around him. I would rather deal with some growing pains with the kids than deal with more mental mistakes from the overpaid millionaire. MDZ was far better in his own end than he was in his previous appearance and deserves some accolades for that (see, I admitted it Bob!), as well as his ever-present offensive acumen.

*Todd White, have fun in Hartford. It wasn't like Erik Christensen was particularly good but White was weak. He needed to step up his game and, frankly, he didn't. Granted he was saddled with Prust and Boogaard but you would skill like to see more out of the veteran. He didn't see a second of penalty killing time but that isn't his fault, Torts needs to see if this guy can do more than a little north-south skating between two goons.

*Boogaard, by the way, will never again have the scoring chances that he had on this night and he couldn't score on them. So thus far this preseason he hasn't fought, he hasn't scored, he can barely skate ... and we have four years of him. Thankfully Ottawa has Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Neil and Frank Lessard so we are almost certain to see Boogaard do what he is getting paid for this weekend.

*Sean Avery didn't get an assist on Derek Stepan's goal but it was his hard work that kept the play alive. He has been nothing short of fantastic this preseason, shaking my fears that he would lose his job. Of course, I thought he would lose it to Fedotenko, and the two actually complimented each other well in this game.

*Frolov, Gabby and Stepan made for a good line so it would be nice to see them together come opening night. So here is the team I would like to see when the puck drops for real:

Dubi-Christy (Drury)-Cally

Whatcha think?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quick Look At The Cuts

I vented a little bit on Twitter but figured I would add some analysis here...

Goal (1): Chad Johnson
Defense (1): Wade Redden
Forward (6): Dane Byers*, Evgeny Grachev, Kris Newbury*, Dale Weise, Jeremy Williams*, Mats Zuccarello
* Player must clear waivers prior to being assigned to Hartford
Wade Redden, hahahaha. If Wade ends up in Hartford I will actually be quite disappointed. As mentioned in this space multiple times, I really think he should head overseas. Why let his stink of failure infect the kids on the farm? They will start to believe that they too can play mediocre hockey and make big money, and we simply can't have that.

As for the rest of the guys, we are certain to see at least some of them down the road. It is disappointing Zuccarello was sent down but it is probably best - he can continue to adjust to North American hockey outside of the critical eye of New York. From all indications, he will make the show sooner rather than later. Grachev on the other hand ... well, I don't have the faith that others do but - as has been pointed out to me - he is just 20 years old so there is plenty of time. Weise wasted a chance to make the show but he also a youngster so patience and hard work may pay off down the road. Johnson definitely needs to get his head straight and stop giving up soft goals. Byers, Newbury and Williams will be the leadership core of the Pack/Whale this year. Both Byers (Hartford's captain) and Newbury showed that they can skate with the big boys if the injury bug takes its toll on the Rangers.

Defense (3): Garnet Exelby, Brandon Manning, Alexei Semenov
As I tweeted, I wonder where Semenov's wife will let him play now. His size is intoxicating but he simply isn't that good. Hands of cement, skates of cement ... Exelby seemed to have a head of cement and blew perhaps his last chance at a NHL job. Manning, well, who?

Goal (2): Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist
Defense (9): Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michal Rozsival, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal, Pavel Valentenko
Forward (16): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Derek Boogaard, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Frolov, Marian Gaborik, Tim Kennedy, Vinny Prospal, Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Todd White
Probably the biggest surprise here, for me at least, is that the Rangers kept Sauer in camp - and it is a pleasant surprise as I've been rooting for this kid to come through for a while. Still, it will be tough for him to make the next batch of cuts with the group of blueliners around him. The Rangers may or may not carry seven defensemen but if they do, there are three spots for Eminger, Hobey, McD, Sauer and Valentenko. Of those five McD is almost a certainty and Hobey has looked great. Valentenko's toughness has been impressive but the bosses surely want Eminger's experience around ... Wednesday night will be interesting.

Up front there are 16 players for 12 spots, maybe 13 or 14 depending on what Torts wants to carry. Vinny Prospal has lucked out with his injury - what timing - so he hasn't had to fight for his job. Rather than Fedotenko threatening Vaclav for his spot, it looks like he is battling Avery and maybe even Kennedy. Kennedy was far better on the wing than down the middle, and Boyle was better in the middle than on the wing. Having Kennedy, Boogey and Prust allows the Rangers to play matchups with their fourth line. I would say Stepan is certain to make opening night with Drury out. So at least one player will be cut and my guess is either White or Christy. Wednesday will be quite interesting ...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preseason: Red Wings 5, Rangers 3

Another day, another preseason game. And sadly, a loss.

But seeing as the 5-3 defeat at the hands of Detroit was just another exhibition, the final result is of little consequence. What happened and how the individual Rangers played was what was important - and it was clearly a game of individuals for the Blueshirts. With a few exceptions, there was little line chemistry up front and there was absolutely none on the blueline. So just how did those individuals do?

The Standouts:
*Sean Avery: A night after his antics went a bit over the top, Avery reined in his emotions and played a smart game. He still harassed the Wings, but he managed to go penalty-free while remaining involved in the flow of the game. And he got a goal for his efforts and his willingness to work the front of the crease. I've repeated it again and again and again and again and again and again, if you pay the price, good things happen.

*Pavel Valentenko: Yes he was a step too slow. Yes he made mistakes. But when he saw Tomas Holmstrom camping out in front of the Ranger net he went after him. I will gladly take the two minutes shorthanded in return for the message being sent - get the hell away from our goaltender.

*Alex Frolov: During a pre-recorded interview, Avery said that Frolov was underrated defensively and I can see why. The Russian is responsibly in his own end and good positionally. In this game it resulted in the shorthanded two-on-one that got Arty a goal.

*Ryan McDonagh: Wade who? McD played nearly 25 minutes and certainly showed NHL ability. He suffered a bit from the rotating partners but once he settles in, he will be a capably and reliable part of the Blueshirt blueline.

The No-Shows:
*Both goaltenders: Martin Biron and Chad Johnson both allowed bad goals, with Johnson's horrible showing on the Holmstrom shot being the worst of the worst. That is two terrible goals in two periods of work by DosNueve so he has bought his ticket to Hartford. And, if reports are to be believed, he will even be pushed for his starting job there by Cam Talbot. Biron was still rusty but let's face it, it will take him time to get the stink of the Islanders off.

*Evgeni Grachev: Perhaps I have been a bit hasty labeling him Pavel Brendl II, I am willing to admit that. Grachev is still a kid so he still has time to avoid the bust label, but he isn't doing himself any favours. You can teach a lot of things in hockey, but you can't teach desire. A player has to have the drive to succeed and the confidence that comes with it if he is going to make the show. By all on-ice indications to date, Grachev doesn't have either.

*Alexei Semenov: Semenov is big. Semenov is slow. Semenov is going to develop a hump the way he skates. He lumbers around hunched over, making himself seem smaller than he really is - exactly the opposite of what he should be doing. Management is enamoured with his size but if Frankenstein can't play big, he shouldn't play at all.

As for some of the other guys, Mats Zuccarello is making strides towards adjusting to NHL play but he clearly isn't there yet. Erik Christensen had a back-and-forth game and his top-line position is certainly being threatened by Derek Stepan. As dynamic as Brian Boyle was against the Devils, he looked one-dimensional and outright incompetent at times against Detroit. Mike Sauer wasn't able to keep up with the Wings' pace but I really don't want to write him off just yet.

Torts said that a wave of cuts are likely for Monday and we will see who is standing after that. The building blocks are here for a respectable team this season but, as we just saw, the Rangers are still not even close to the elite talents in the NHL.

Preseason: Rangers 5, Devils 4 OT

On a day where the Rangers lighten our hearts with the wonderful news that Wade Redden was waived, it is hilariously sad that the Blueshirts blueline looked absolutely horrific in the face of the Devils. But all of that would matter if the Rangers played a NHL game tonight but the silly exhibition in Jersey was certainly not.

It was a ridiculous, disjointed, mess filled with individuals trying to make names for themselves - Rangers, Devils & referees. Apparently Paul Devorski and Chris Ciamaga were able to renew their officiating stripes by screwing over Sean Avery - like part of the hazing to get into the frat. 'Dude, I did it, the brothers did it, everyone has to do it...' Avery collected no points and 14 PIM while his potential replacement, Ruslan Fedotenko, had a goal and two assists.

The other free agents on tryouts were Alexei Semenov and Garnett Exelby. Semenov was the most sound of the defensemen but he really can't skate so it isn't like he could wander far. XLB was bad. Eminger was better but not by much - he is a borderline NHLer and he played like it. Definitely need to see more of Pavel Valentenko while Matt Gilroy was definitely impressive. Hobey certainly played with more confidence and poise than he had last season. The sixth defenseman, MDZ, well, you aren't going to like what I have to say about him.

I wanted the Rangers to draft John Carlson in '09 and I think this season Carlson will far surpass MDZ. And I think Bobby Sanguinetti, who MDZ essentially replaced, will have more points than the Ranger now that he will get NHL ice time. Outraged? Well it shouldn't be at me and instead at the youngster who did not appear to improve himself in any way in the offseason.

Del Zotto scored a gimme of a goal - Hedberg was grossly out of position (that he was missing a stick was meaningless, he got caught too high in his crease and overcommitted). But we knew he has offensive skills, what I wanted to see was an improvement in his own zone and the kid was even worse than his -20 self from last season. It was game 1 for him so maybe it was rust but he didn't show a single sign that he is ready to make that leap to reliable defenseman what I had hoped for. Check that, I had hoped for a Doughty-esque improvement but will settle for basic reliability.

Hank wasn't good but after a life of leisure all summer, it is hard to expect him to be. He will find his shape quickly once the games get real, at least that is what we need to pray for. No more hidden excuses for sub-par play - migraines, family, knee, whatever. Without Wade around to bail him out he will have to be that much better this season. Hahahahaha. Sorry, I had to.

On offense, if Callahan is the only one of the players in this 'game' to make the opening night roster I would be ok with that. Sure Avery got screwed but he also acted like a fool - dodging a real fight to get slap happy at a skill player is just pathetic, even if it is Kovy. He showed a nice willingness to go to the crease and cause havoc but it is hard to saw if Tortorella will see it that way. Torts seemed to like Kennedy's effort. I thought he skated hard but I don't see him as being a top NHL player - an AHL star for sure but NHL? He is small and his decision making doesn't seem to match his foot speed - how can he fit into the Ranger roster? His speed would be wasted with fourth-line goons, the third line is all but spoken for once Dru comes back and Kennedy doesn't have top six talent.

Speaking of... Arty scored a goal but he also scored last preseason too, the real test for him will be to see if he shows up during the regular season without a tough guy riding shotgun for him. Grachev was just as invisible as Jeremy Williams, which is pathetic. White supposedly begged the trainers to let him play but didn't play with any of the accompanying desperation. Byers fell down more than a few notches in my book by trying to catch Hepatitis before getting smacked around by Minor Leaguer Clarkson. Weise and Newbury did nothing that showed they are anything more than minor leaguers themselves. I think that just leaves Boogaard alone, which is where he will be most this season. For the second straight night he couldn't pick a fight nor do any kind of 'intimidating' that defended his teammates.

As of 1:30a the Rangers had not announced their cuts but I wouldn't be surprised to see Williams, Grachev and Byers bounced to Hartford with XLB cut outright. We shall have to see - which is the mantra for now. It's preseason and tonight was just the second exhibition of preseason at that - a start, nothing more. Lotta time to form opinions as the Blueshirt brass tries to form a team. The Blueshirts will be back in action Sunday evening at 5 in Detroit.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preseason: Rangers 4, Devils 3 OT

Sure it was over 80 degrees in New York today but even the heat couldn't stifle the excitement of hockey finally returning to the Garden. And while many of us would have just been happy to see some pucks, the Rangers beat the Devils in a - dare I say it? dare, dare - thrilling 4-3 overtime game.

Oh there was rust and sloppy play, don't get me wrong, but both teams came out strong and played fun, end-to-end hockey. Seven goals, two fights and one failure nicknamed Fatso made for a nice night out.

So I just turned on the television to watch Ranger Rewind and see if I miss anything and the voices of Sam, Joe and Chico doing commentary start making my skin crawl. Several people had texted me during the game to tell me they were the broadcast team but you just can't wrap your mind around just how annoying they are unless you actually hear them. Wow.

Since I can't bare to listen to them cackle, I will just do a quick Ranger-by-Ranger scouting report from what I saw from section 329. Besides, it was a preseason game, there is no point in harping on individual moments...

*Marty Biron: Was hardly tested and yet allowed two goals. He seemed to have a bit of rust that should shake off over the preseason. Still, at this point, I find it hard to root for the former Islander and Flyer.

*Derek Boogaard: He's big. And we certainly should get used to the theatrics of tonight where he lumbered around, threatened to fight PL3 and did nothing. He had a few big checks but I'm not sure they were lined up so much as the big man not being able to stop.

*Brian Boyle: Man was I ready to dump on him. He was so soft and he played so ugly we called him Susan last season. This time around, well, let's hope he can replicate tonight's effort down the line. A few big hits, a solid showing in a fight (despite being jumped by Mair) and one sexy goal. Brian Boyle. Wow. Keep in mind though that he played like this when he debuted in LA in February of '08 and then turned into Susan.

*Erik Christensen: Christy showed some flashes of skill and even had a moment or two of that chemistry with Gabby we saw last spring but he is definitely a ways away from regular season form.

*Brandon Dubinsky: Dubi disappeared for several stretches of the night but when you noticed him, you noticed him. Good size, good hands, good drive.

*Ruslan Fedotenko: Another performance like this and my worries that he will take Sean Avery's job will go away. The Tank didn't play like he had much left in the tank. He kept his legs moving but he didn't go particularly fast, didn't go far and didn't achieve much along the way. He did bump Mmmaaarrtttyyy, giving the goaltender his opportunity to try out for Canada's 2012 Olympic diving team.

*Alex Frolov: His opportunism was awesome - that steal and goal basically sent Fatso into cardiac shock. Frolov's skill has never been questioned, his drive has. He was willing to put his big body in front to block Brodeur and payed the price for it but whether it was just a good first impression or a sign of things to come will help determine just how far the Rangers can go this year.

*Marian Gaborik: My buddy texted me after the game asking where were those two goals back in April and I laughed. Upon further thought, he's right. But why couldn't he come up with those goals during crunch time? He was tired from the Olympics and other teams could key in on him and shut down the Rangers. If Frolov comes through, Gabby will have more of the time and space to score like he did tonight.

*Dan Girardi: I'm pretty sure he was the screen in front on the Zajac goal but that's ok. We know what he can do and he just needs to shake off the rust and re-find the chemistry with Staalsie.

*Chad Johnson: For 18 minutes and 14 seconds I was hugely impressed with him and upset that the Rangers went out and robbed him a chance of backing up Hank. Then he gave up a Michael Leighton-esque softie that forced overtime. DosNueve was strong on his skates, good with his positioning and anticipation ... and then let a goal go through his legs. Unacceptable.

*Tim Kennedy: Despite watching at least a dozen Sabre games last season, I really didn't realize just how small he was. Kennedy got bumped from the puck a few times and did absolutely nothing on the power play but he showed good quickness. He still has plenty to prove over the rest of preseason.

*Ryan McDonagh: Um, Mr. Redden? Your services won't be needed any longer, thanks. After a shakey start that saw him take a bad penalty, McD shook it off and played with a poise beyond his years. His timing was good, his decision making was good, his positioning was good ... my biggest concern will be if he can avoid hitting the post-collegiate wall the way Hobey did last year.

*Brandon Prust: Prust disappointed in the offensive end but came through in the tough guy department, even if he pulled that one-hand-on-the-glass nonsense that he did when he first came to the Rangers. He won his fight by decision but could be more than just a top middleweight, a solid power forward - something he showed alongside Arty and Shelley late last year.

*Michal Rozsival: Ya know, it is hard to find flaws in his performance. Rozy was reluctant to shoot but was far more decisive with the puck than he has been in a long time. As long as he keeps that up and avoids any kind of idiocy in his own end, he can avoid the derisive boos from the last two seasons.

*Michael Sauer: If there was one Ranger I wanted to see succeed it was Sauer and he disappointed. Sauer took himself out of position to make a few hits and also took a bad penalty. The rest of the time he quietly went about clearing the puck but if he is going to be one dimensional, he has to be perfect at that one dimension.

*Alexei Semenov: Lurch is big but not all that tough. He proved again he was quite capable at a simple style of defense but he showed that last season too. He is nothing better than a seventh defenseman, if that.

*Marc Staal: A clear case of rust. Staal was mostly solid but made a few mental mistakes that won't happen once he gets his skates under him.

*Derek Stepan: Like McD, Stepan had a shakey start but overcame it and showed a very, very good awareness of the ice. His passing was top notch and his positioning was pretty good but I'm not sure he is ready to be a prime time player just yet - have to see more over the next few weeks.

*Dale Weise: Another disappointment. Weise has good size and knows how to use it but he didn't seem to get his skates under him. He would get going, the play was turn in another direction and he had trouble adjusting. He was just a step too slow for my taste and will have to put the pieces together if he is to avoid Dane Byers' fate - NHL-caliber drive and strength but AHL thought processes.

*Mats Zuccarello: How can you not root for the little guy? The Devils went after Zuccarello on his first few shifts, giving him a rude welcome to the NHL. When he finally realized that looking for the ref to make a call was a waste of time, Zuke was far better. His stick seems to be taller than he is but he puck handled well and got off a few good chances. He will need to convert a few of them and keep showing his ability to adapt to the NHL game if he is to catch on but the talent is there.

Programming note: I won't be there on Saturday in Newark but should be able to do a quick write-up. Frankly, the only thing I want the Rangers to get out of it is a healthy Hank.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Master Post

A one-stop shop for my silly scribblings about the other teams ahead of this coming season ...

New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins

Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlanta Thrashers
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues

Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Minnesota Wild
Vancouver Canucks

Anaheim Ducks
Dallas Stars
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Washington Capitals

Well, well, well. Washington. Last but not least. My pal Poti. Yep. PotiPotiPotiPoti. PeanutButtaPotiTime. The man who "has the grit the team needs" was just rewarded with a two-year contract extension worth nearly three mil per season.


Tom Frickin' Poti.

Oh, and they have that Ovechkin guy too.

Familiar Foes: Captain Caveman is joined by Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green in Washington's packed arsenal of talent. Former Ranger Mike Knuble is still working in the trenches and the rest of DC's second stringers remain unchanged in Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann. It is expected that Semyon Varlamov will take over the starting goaltender position as the Caps let Three-Or-More walk. If you've forgotten, Varlamov is the kid who helped Washington bounce back and beat us in Tortorella's Folly (the first round of the playoffs two years back).

N00bz: Seeing as Washington blew a 3-1 series lead to Montreal due to the red-hot goaltending of Halak, the Caps went out and added a goon in DJ King. Yeah, that makes sense. Whatever. In that playoff series All-American Hero John Carlson turned a lot of heads and is expected to make the defense full time, as should another youngster - Karl Alzner.

Last Year: Thursday, October 8th 4-3 Ranger win; Tuesday, November 17th 4-2 Capital win; Thursday, February 4th 6-5 Capital win; and Saturday, March 6th 2-0 Capital win.

This Year: Tuesday, November 9th at MSG; Sunday, December 12th at MSG; Monday, January 24th in DC; and Friday, February 25th in DC.

What They Mean To Blue: POOOOTTTTTIIIIIIIII. And a bunch of losses. All four games last season were interesting affairs that were quite close but Washington rightly took three of four last season. They could very well replicate that feat again this season as long as Varly isn't atrocious. And if he is, his two backups Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby both have big NHL futures ahead of them.

Renovation Update

From the Rangers today:
"Please Pardon Our Appearance" as we transform The World's Most Famous Arena into the world's most state-of-the-art arena.


It's time for some hockey! We couldn't be more excited as we enter the 2010-11 New York Rangers season and celebrate our 85th Anniversary! The tradition, passion and loyalty that defines the blueshirt faithful begins with you! There is tremendous excitement surrounding the upcoming season which promises to be an unforgettable experience for the entire Rangers family. We thank you for being a valued season subscriber and look forward to sharing many exciting moments with you at The Garden this season!

As you know, Madison Square Garden is currently undergoing a comprehensive, top-to-bottom Transformation that will dramatically enhance the experience for all of our guests. We are well on our way, as you will soon see, on a project that will continue until the 2013-14 season to transform The World's Most Famous Arena into the world's most state-of-the-art arena. Over the past several months construction workers have been working around the clock completing the necessary structural work to prepare for the massive changes ahead. Some of this work will continue throughout the season. We are taking all possible steps to minimize disruptions to fans, however this will mean some changes this season to your Rangers experience.

Over the next couple months there will be construction related activity in the North and South Concierge areas of The Garden. As a result, please note the following:

*The Play-by-Play Restaurant has now been permanently closed

*The Club Bar & Grill will be temporarily closed during the pre-season (reopening in early October)

*The escalators and Terrace level outside the club will also be temporarily closed

Until further notice, we ask that all Subscribers and guests with Club Level seating enter The Garden through the main box office lobby. Also, as a reminder, when fully operational, only those Subscribers and guests who have purchased Club Level Seats and/or Suites have access to the North and South Concierge entrances.

We will continue to provide ongoing updates throughout the Transformation process. There will also be additional staff on site throughout the course of the Transformation to assist with any questions and help direct you around areas that may be temporarily out of service. If you have any questions, please call your Dedicated Account Executive or the Season Subscriptions Department at 212-465-6050. For answers to many frequently asked questions, please visit us online.


Scott O'Neil
President, Madison Square Garden Sports
Well that is annoying, I used to go down by the Play-by-Play to pick up the free copies of the night's rosters. Hopefully they relocate them somewhere accessible ...

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Vancouver Canucks

The losers from 1994 just may be contenders in 2010. Vancouver reloaded and reorganized this summer in an effort to push them over the hump and into Cup contention. The biggest move has not been completed as the C was stripped from Roberto Luongo and has yet to find a new sweater. While Lou clearly was capable of dealing with the media crush that comes with a Canadian captaincy, his on-ice play suffered. Now that the responsibility stripped away, the hope is that his game will return to its near-Vezina form.

The Canucks lost in the second round of the playoffs to the eventual Cup winners but Lou allowed 19 goals in the four losses. I still maintain that the result had less to do with his quality of play and the absence of defensive stalwart Willie Mitchell but with Lou wearing the C, he was hung with the disappointment.

Familiar Foes: The Sedin twins still have that creepy telepathic thing going, leading the offense. They combined for 197 points last season despite Daniel missing 19 games. That is just ridiculous. Ryan Kesler finally began getting some of the credit due thanks to a solid Olympic showing and all-around dynamic play. Kesler and Alex Burrows both have the combination of skill and grit that teams - both real and fantasy - drool over. Former Ranger Mikael Samuelsson continues to quietly contribute - he had 30 goals last season - and the speedy Mason Raymond keeps on improving. Mitchell is gone but Kevin Bieksa was not traded (yet) and he and Shane O'Brien bring the toughness to the blueline that skill guys Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler lack. Poor Sami Salo is injured again.

N00bz: Even with Salo out and Mitchell in LA, the Vancouver blueline will be alright as they acquired Keith Ballard from Florida and Dan Hamhuis (from Nashville via Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). The Canucks gave our boy Manny Malhotra a big money deal and also brought in former Islander Raffi Torres. Cody Hodgson, Vancouver's top pick in 2008, supposedly is close to returning after dealing with injuries that limited him to just 13 OHL games last season. Once he debuts in the NHL, all of the top 10 picks from the '08 draft will have made the show (just in case you forgot, the Rangers picked MDZ at 20 in that draft).

Last Year: Tuesday, November 3rd 4-1 Vancouver win.

This Year: Thursday, January 13th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: The Rangers are often in their mid-winter slump in January but this season the month should provide a lot of points for the Blueshirts as they face few top tier teams and only one Atlantic opponent. Vancouver will be in town in the midst of a five game road trip and a rip of three games in four days - Isles on Tuesday, Rangers on Thursday and Caps on Friday of that week. Those factors should set up an easy win for the Rangers but, as we saw last November and I found out at the Olympics, Vancouver is still kinda bitter about the whole '94 thing so they are certain to step up their game in the building where they blew it.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Toronto Maple Leafs

Oh the truculence. Has there been a single article written about Toronto that hasn't used Brian Burke's catchword this year? While it has been used ad nauseum, it is the sentiment that the GM has built the team around. The Leafs will not score a lot of goals and they won't blow you away with their skill, but they will be tough to play against.

Familiar Foes: The one-two punch of Sloppy Seconds - Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek - anchor the Buds' blueline. They will be joined by Francois Beauchemin, Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle. Yes, you were inundated with Kaberle trade talk last year as well as last summer but the sound and the fury signified nothing as the Czech playmaker didn't go anywhere. In net will be the same tandem that ended last season, JS Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson. The offense will revolve again around the talent of Phil Kessel and an underwhelming cast of second-hand players. Tyler Bozak, Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski will help out with some skill (not a whole lot) while our old pal Freddie Sjostrom adds defensive responsibility and Colton Orr adds on-ice accountability.

N00bz: Orr will be helped in the truculence department by Mike Brown, who was brought in this offseason from Anaheim. Bruek also acquired Crosby's buddy Colby Armstrong, Buffalo cast-off Clarke MacArthur and Cup winner Kris Versteeg. Luca Caputi came to the team in a deadline deal last season and is expected to play a big role, as is 2009 top draft pick Nazem Kadri.

Last Year: Monday, October 12th 7-2 Ranger win; Saturday, October 17th 4-1 Ranger win; Saturday, March 27th 3-2 Toronto OT win; and Wednesday, April 7th 5-1 Ranger win

This Year: Friday, October 15th at MSG; Thursday, October 21st in Toronto; Saturday, October 30th in Toronto; and Wednesday, January 19th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: With three early games, they will hopefully play their part in being steamrolled in yet another hot start by the Rangers. The Blueshirts came out of the gates quite well the last two seasons and having the hapless Leafs should certainly help make it three in a row. It will also be interesting to see the inevitable Orr vs Boogaard heavyweight battle. Orr basically ended Donald Brashear's Ranger career before it started - and we are forever indebted to him for it - so he will prove a litmus test for our new goon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa team that will take on the NHL this season is far different than the one that ended the last campaign. New owner, new GM, new coach, even some new players. All that newness is certain to go through some growing pains but the pieces that are in place were hand selected and quite capable at filling their new positions. I mean, c'mon, Steve Yzerman is the new man in charge and Stevie Y can do no wrong in my book. Sure I was less than happy that his handiwork with Team Canada resulted in a USA loss in Vancouver but let's face it, the Americans just weren't as good. In just a few weeks of work, Stevie Y has all but ensured that Tampa is a far better team than last season - one that the Rangers will have to be quite wary of.

Familiar Foes: No matter how many times he was traded in the Montreal media, Vinny Lecavalier remains a member of the Lightning. Ryan Malone and Marty St Louis also remain, as do Tampa's top picks Steve Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Steve Downie Syndrome showed last season that he can retain a modicum of sanity and play a big part in the offense.

N00bz: Stevie Y was quite busy changing the culture and giving Guy Boucher the pieces he needs to improve the quad. First and foremost is Simon Gagne. If the former Flyer can keep the concussion symptoms at bay, he could play the triggerman on a new French Connection with Vinny and Marty. Pavel Kubina came back to feed the forwards and keep the heat off of new netminder Dan Ellis. No matter what problems Ellis has, stopping the puck hasn't been one and he should all but send incumbent Mike Smith out of town. Brett Clark was also added to help shore up a pretty thin defense. Up front familiar face Adam Hall will be joined by two other former Rangers - Dominic Moore and Mitch Fritz - and old foes Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim from the Islanders. The common thread running through the five former New Yorkers? Toughness. They will add the grit while the French folks and that Stamkos kid take care of the skill. Somewhere in between is Carter Ashton. Brent's boy is big - 6'3, 215 - and could make quite the impact in the NHL but with Stevie Y in charge, he is likely to head for the AHL for some seasoning (as Yzerman's old team did with most every prospect ever).

Last Year: Friday, November 27th 5-1 Tampa win; Tuesday, January 19th 8-2 Ranger win; Sunday, February 14th 5-2 Ranger win; and Friday, April 2nd 5-0 Ranger win

This Year: Wednesday, November 24th in Tampa; Thursday, December 23th at MSG; Saturday, January 1st in Tampa; and Sunday, February 27th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: The Bolts should be one of the teams taking on the Rangers for one of the lower playoff seeds. Seeing as the Blueshirts went 3-1 against them last time around - including that amazing 8-2 beating - this season should see them as a far more difficult opponent.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: St. Louis Blues

The other day I was talking about the huge mistake that it was letting Don Maloney go instead of installing him as GM in Sather's spot. Well, with the Blues come John Davidson. I mean, what can you say about JD? For some he was the big goalie who came oh-so-close to the Cup in 79 but to many of us he was the warm voice that taught us the game of hockey, night in and night out on MSG. And now he is teaching St. Louis to care again about their team. Long gone are the days of Hull and Oates but the new generation that JD built is slowly coming together. He has to be hoping that the kids he has accumulated are ready for prime time as this year's team will be without old stars Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk.

Familiar Foes: The Blues have built a core of players and have stuck with them. Olympians David Backes and Erik Johnson are the two most prominent faces but the rest of the names will ring a bell: Brad Boyes, Pat Berglund, Alex Steen, TJ Oshie, Cam Janssen, Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Blues will be praying last season's 42 point performance by Boyes was an aberration after two straight seasons of improvement. Oshie is one of the most exciting young players to watch in the NHL but his production has yet to match his energy level. Jackman and Brewer, the two pillars of the defense, will attempt to get through a full season without injury.

N00bz: They will be called upon to keep the crease clear for Jaro Halak, the biggest offseason acquisition by the Blues. And all it cost them was Lars Eller and Ian Schultz - two middling prospects. Halak has a safety net in Ty Conklin but he has a big beard to fill, coming in and taking Chris Mason's job. That St. Louis was able to take Montreal's playoff hero and not have to give up blue chip blueliner Alex Pietrangelo was a pleasant surprise and should be quite the boon if he can live up to half of the hype. TJ Hensick (Colorado) and Vlad Sobotka (Boston) were also added in the offseason but neither one will be called upon to star.

Last Year: Saturday, January 16th, 4-1 Blues win and Thursday, March 18th, a 4-3 Blues win.

This Year: Sunday, November 7th at MSG and Saturday, January 8th in St. Louis.

What They Mean To Blue: It is hard to say that they are a look at what we could have become with JD at the helm as the situation he stepped in to there was significantly different than the mess he walked away from here. But when you look at the four points the Rangers pissed away in two pathetic performances last season, you see two games where the Blues completely outworked the Blueshirts - something JD surely would not have allowed.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: San Jose Sharks

Alas, that nice Ranger connection we had with the Sharks is gone. Manny Malhotra used San Jose to revive his career and get a good-money gig with Vancouver this summer. Jed Ortmeyer (Jed!) got hurt last spring, underwent double hernia surgery, became a UFA and was not even invited back to Shark camp. Those heartless bastards.

Familiar Foes: The big three will be back - Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and speed racer Dany Heatley. Dan Boyle bounced right back from scoring on his own team during the playoffs and continues to quarterback their attack. Joe Pavelski rose to prominence during that futile playoff run and turned it into a big contract - whether he can keep it going will be key. Devin Setoguchi also has plenty to prove - he needs to show he can find consistency. Pickles Vlasic, Douglas Murray and deadline acquisition Nic Wallin will provide consistency on defense in front of a new netminder.

N00bz: That new netminder will be either Antti Niemi or Antero Niittymaki, San Jose's two biggest signings. You kinda feel bad for Niitty as he was all set to take the gig when Doug Wilson picked up Niemi after the Hawks let him go. Niitty was red hot last fall and was (stupidly) passed over by Team Finland, sending him back to earth; he will be pushed hard by the Cup-winning, younger Finn Niemi. Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja insanely spurned Detroit and is in Shark camp on a tryout - he will face some tough competition to break in from streaky offensive youngster Jason Demers and old reliable Kent Huskins. No one replaced bruiser Brad Staubitz but the tough Jamal Mayers was added to take Jed's job so he will stand up for his teammates while taking regular shifts alongside Scotty Nichol.

Last Year: Monday, October 19th 7-3 Sharks win.

This Year: Saturday, March 12th in San Jose.

What They Mean To Blue: Not too much. The Rangers play Anaheim three days prior, so they will have plenty of time to enjoy some fun in the sun before facing the Sharks. Even without Nabokov in net, San Jose should still compete in the West, meaning a loss by the Blueshirts won't be the shocking end of the world. No matter the result, after that game the farthest the Rangers will have to travel will be Pittsburgh.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Pittsburgh Penguins

DESTINY HAS A NEW HOME is the new catch phrase for the Penguins this season as they move from the antiquated Igloo to the Consol Energy Center. Yeah. Destiny. Being the NHL's darlings has nothing to do with it.

It is easy to abhor the Pens. Very, very easy. They have many loathable players, they have had significant success against the Rangers and they put us in the position of rooting for the damned French in the playoffs. They are on national tv all the time (four of our six games will be on Versus or NBC), they are getting a second Winter Classic and they make the Blueshirts look bad by being excessively friendly to their fans. Wah, wah, freakin' wah, I know, I know.

Those bandwagon Penguin fans always throw "you wish you had Crosby and our team" in our faces and they are - in general - wrong. We don't wish we had that crybaby, we don't wish we had that idiot Cooke or the rest of the clowns ... we wish we had their franchise. The franchise that cares. The franchise that understands that they should service the fans or at least work as partners. The franchise that adapts and changes with new challenges.

Familiar Foes: You know 'im, you hate 'im, you're inundated with 'im in eeeeeevery damned NHL promotion - Sidneyyyyyyyyyy Crosssssssssssssssssbbbyyyy. Boo. Cindy will have his usual runningmates around: Geno Malkin, Free Candy Orpik, DayGloSmile Fleury, Dammit Cookie, Eyebrows Dupuis, WangBang Letang, Shhhh Talbot, Mike F-ing Hat Trick Rupp, etc. Jordan Staal is still on the Pens but will miss the start of the season with an infection and Eric Godard is sure to miss plenty of games with "can't skate scratchitis."

N00bz: There is virtually no need for Godard anymore as they have Talbot, Rupp and new acquisition Arron Asham all capable of tussling while skating. It is hard to hate Asham as he clearly selects his teams to give the Rangers the most trouble, now having played for every other team in the Atlantic - gotta appreciate that kind of hatred. Others added by Pittsburgh also have a lot of experience against us: Paul Martin from the Devils and Mike Comrie of the Islanders (via Edmonton and Ottawa). Martin will be joined by shot blocker extraordinaire Zbynek Michalek on the blueline, where former Ranger Corey Potter may (doubtfully but hopefully) be given a shot.

Last Year: Friday, October 2nd 3-2 Penguins win; Saturday, November 28th 8-3 Penguins win; Monday, November 30th 5-2 Penguins win; Monday, January 25th 4-2 Penguins win; Friday, February 12th 3-2 Rangers overtime win; and Thursday, March 4th 5-4 Penguins overtime win.

This Year: Monday, November 15th in Pittsburgh; Monday, November 29th @ MSG; Wednesday, December 15th in Pittsburgh; Tuesday, February 1st @ MSG; Sunday, February 13th @ MSG; Sunday, March 20th in Pittsburgh.

What They Mean To Blue: As you can see, the Pens easily represented the difference between making the playoffs and not making it last season - especially when they blew a 4-3 third period lead in that late March overtime loss. Going 1-4-1 against a division rival, even one as admittedly skilled as Cindy's side, is unacceptable.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Phoenix Coyotes

Don Maloney has cobbled together quite the intriguing team out in the desert and, for his efforts, was the recipient of the first NHL General Manager of the Year Award back in June. It took him just three years after leaving the Rangers to take the job and be recognized as the top GM in the league; meanwhile fans organize Fire Sather rallies here in New York.

But we've come not to bury Glen but to celebrate Don. His team won 50 games last season and made it to the playoffs, where they lost in a thrilling seven-game series. Don has done it with a mish-mash of low-cost castoffs from other teams around the league - his first crop of self-drafted Coyotes will compete for spots this season in Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Brett MacLean, Viktor Tikhonov and maybe even Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Turris and Boedker both saw action two seasons back but Jack Adams winner Dave Tippett rightly sent them back to the farm for more development. This season should see them getting decent shots at making the roster.

Familiar Foes: They will have to work for it as the backbone of the 50 win team still remains. Shane Doan leads a group of young snipers that really stepped up last season - Lee Stempniak, Wojktek Wolski, Radim Vrbata. Taylor Pyatt, Scottie Upshall and Vernon Fiddler keep up the physical, two-way grind side of play up front. In the back, JovoCop, former Islander Adrian Aucoin and former Ranger Derek Morris make up the ancient anchor of the defensive corps. Kurt Sauer, Keith Yandle and Sami Lepisto fill out the unit but will be pushed by 2009 top pick Ekman-Larsson, who is simply a stud. Sauer, like his brother Mike here in NY, has battled injuries (he missed all but one game last season) and has plenty to prove. The crease is pretty much closed with Ilya Bryzgalov starting and former Rangers Jason Labarbera and Al Montoya left to pick up the scraps. They are two of six Blueshirts on the Coyotes depth chart: Morris, Petr Prucha, Lauri Korpikoski and Ryan Hollweg (so that's where he went...) are the others. Holly isn't likely to make the NHL as there are plenty of grinders and BizNasty (Paul Bissonnette) holds down the enforcer gig.

N00bz: Maloney went out and signed The Wizard this summer, Ray Whitney. Whitney is the Energizer Bunny of the NHL, he just keeps going and going ... he was the second-ever draft pick of the San Jose Sharks, selected 23rd overall in 1991. He has played 1,072 regular season games and racked up 869 points, 58 of which came last season (which would have tied Vinny Prospal for second on the Rangers). Other summer signings were Eric Belanger and Andrew Ebbett. If Belanger can put the controversy with Washington behind him, his two-way skills should really help solidify the third line. Ebbett played (poorly) for three different NHL teams last season but two years ago racked up 32 points (24 assists) in 48 games for the Quack Attack. If he can recapture those puck distribution skills, he will join Turris and Martin Hanzal in the battle for for second-line center duties.

Last Year: Monday, October 26th 5-2 Ranger win; and Saturday, january 30th 3-2 Phoenix victory.

This Year: Thursday, December 16th @ MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: Aside from a heavy sigh when you realize Maloney could/should/would have taken the helm of the Rangers, not too much. The Blueshirts play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Versus the night before; the Coyotes are also playing that night but they will be at the Rock so their travel (and emotional letdown) will be minimal.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Philadelphia Flyers

You know, there may come a time where the last-game-of-the-season shootout loss that killed our playoff hopes will be a good thing. The loss put the Rangers in the 10 spot at the draft where they selected Dylan McIlrath, who may very well grow up to be a star on Broadway (like I and others have predicted). Sure he may well have still been on the board later in the round but ya never know and a first-round heartbreaking loss in the playoffs compared to a crease-clearing stud ... well, I take the kid and the possibility of a Cup down the line.

Hey, when you lose in that fashion, you have to take what you can get. We can also look at it as the Flyers had to band together to beat us and the brotherhood carried them to the Cup Finals. That good feeling and $2.25 will get you on the subway (for now). But at least they lost in the Finals. Nyeh nyeh.

Familiar Foes: The core of the Flyers will return - Briere, Carter, Hartnell, Richards, Pronger, Timonen. Claude Giroux, Dirtbag Dan Carcillo, Ian Laperriere, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle ... just anming them makes me grimace in anger. For some reason, Michael Leighton will also be back in net, despite him handing Pat Kane the Cup-winning goal.

N00bz: At the Finals everyone talked about how Philly was at a disadvantage because of their third defensive pairing so they went right out and got a new third defensive pairing - Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros. Up front there will definitely be two new Flyers, former Rangers Jody Shelley and Nik Zherdev. It is an interesting two-some as Shelley has all the heart and desire Zherdev doesn't possess while Zherdev has the speed and skill that Shelley could only dream of. Ville Leino was quite quiet through much of the regular season but starred in the playoffs so Philadelphia will be praying he can keep it going this fall, if only to replace the scoring provided by the departed Simon Gagne.

Last Year: Saturday, December 19th 2-1 Rangers win; Wednesday, December 30th 6-0 Flyers win; Thursday, January 21st 2-0 Flyers win; Sunday, March 14th 3-1 Ranger win; Friday, April 9th 4-3 Ranger win; and Sunday, April 11th 2-1 Flyer shootout victory.

This Year: Thursday, November 4th in Philly; Saturday, December 18th in Philly; Sunday, January 16th @ MSG; Sunday, February 20th @ MSG; Sunday, March 6th @ MSG; and Sunday, April 3rd in Philly.

What They Mean To Blue: A crushing defeat in the Finals could do one of two things 1-make a team hungrier or 2-make the team fall apart. If anyone can recover from losing, Pete Laviolette can ... after all, he coached the Islanders. The Flyers will again be a dangerous team, even with no goaltending for the umpteenth season.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Ottawa Senators

Oh, Senators. Folks say a rose by another other name smells just as sweet but whether you (correctly) call them the Kanata Sens or the more PR friendly Ottawa Sens, they still stink. Old stars, underachieving stars, foot soldiers who think they're stars because they marry stars, overachieving kids and a head-shaking goaltending platoon ... not a very good situation there. And yet they made the playoffs. Ain't that something?

Ottawa used an insane 13-1 run just ahead of the Olympics last winter to position themselves in the postseason before bowing out in six games to the Pens. That they took them to six games was no small wonder considering they couldn't settle on a starting goaltender. Brian Elliott looked like the man with 29 regular season wins but went 1-3-1 with one no-decision in his last six games. Pascal Leclair kept up his injury-prone ways but came in for Elliott and nearly saved the series against the Pens. Add in young Swedish stud Robin Lehner and Mike "I'm only related to Mmmaaarrrtttyyy when facing the Rangers" Brodeur this season and you have some fantasy-league frustrations. And seriously, how can you root for a team that can't help your fantasy team?

Familiar Foes: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev are all back - with Alfredsson and Kovy are both coming off surgery ... as are Milan Michalek, Chris Campoli and Filip Kuba. Kuba, btw, may have to go under the knife again as he just got hurt in camp. Nick Foligno might actually choose this year to break out and become better than his father ever was but that is a sizable 'might'. The two professional pain in the asses Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil somehow have not worn out their welcomes in Ottawa (they actually love them there! ugh!) and big Matt Carkner is becoming a folk hero with his pugilistic ways, even if it means he gets his ass handed to him by Colton Orr with some regularity.

N00bz: Kuba's absence would really hurt if the Sens hadn't signed Sergei Gonchar. So they may have lost the series against the Pens but they took one of their best assets. Ottawa can slot Gonchar alongside Chris Phillips and have one helluva first-line pairing on defense. Aside from Sergei, the Senators were pretty quiet on the free agent front but they did take Corey Locke away from the Rangers. As I ranted here throughout last season, I don't think the mighty mite got a fair shake and can add some scoring in the right NHL situation.

Last Year: Saturday, October 3rd 5-2 Ranger win; Saturday, November 14th 2-1 Ranger shootout win; Thursday, January 14th 2-0 Senators win; Tuesday, March 2nd 4-1 Ranger win

This Year: Friday, October 1st at MSG and Saturday, October 2nd in Ottawa preseason. Sunday, December 5th at MSG; Thursday, December 9th in Ottawa; Friday, March 4th in Ottawa; and Thursday, March 24th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: Hopefully they will mean one less team that will challenge the Rangers for a playoff spot but I doubt that. Probably the biggest impact the Senators will have are in those last two preseason games - they can hone the Rangers' edge heading into the season or they can grind it down and send the Blueshirts stumbling into the season. If Torts can't build line combinations and chemistry it could very well be the latter. Fingers crossed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

An Open Letter To Those At Camp 2010-11

Hello, and welcome to the New York Rangers,

There are some things you need to know before you get the 2010-2011 NHL season started as a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. I will attempt to lay them out for you to make your transition to New York easier. If you keep these in mind, your stay will be an enjoyable and, hopefully, productive one. Best of luck.

1- First and foremost, being a Ranger requires respect. Respect for your teammates. Respect for the jersey. Respect for the fans. Respect the Rangers. Everything else on this list falls under this dictum. Respect. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a complete way of being that will require hard work but the payoff is virtually limitless - watch the tape of Eddie Giacomin's return with the Red Wings.

2 - Always, ALWAYS have your teammate's back. There is nothing worse than seeing a player get hit in a vulnerable position without retribution. That especially goes for your goaltender and your superstar. Lookin' at you Dan-o.

3 - I mentioned hard work. That is what is expected of you. Anything less - let up for just one moment of one shift - and the results will be disastrous. During that lapse a goal may be scored against the Rangers, or it may not. Either way, someone will notice - I'm especially good at it and I sure as hell will call you on it. The Rangers are the most scrutinized NHL team not in Canada, both by the media and by the fans. You do not want to let up in this town. At the same time, even if things aren't going your way - go without scoring for games at a time, whatever - if you are visibly working hard you will given a pass for quite a while ... Chris Higgins made it for months. You may look around at the fans down by the ice and see the nice clothes, the Blackberries and the models, but don't be fooled: this is a blue collar fanbase that expects and appreciates hard work.

4 - Meet the fans, greet the fans. They are your best asset on the ice, better than any newfangled composite stick or heated skateblade. You may have played in the Garden in the past, you may have not. But you have never felt anything like it when you have 18,200 New Yorkers getting your back, helping you up, pushing you forward. At the same time, that 18,200 can be merciless. This goes back to No. 2, if you don't show maximum effort, you will face the ire of the fans and trust me, you won't enjoy it.

5 - Maximum effort is an understatement when the Islanders, Devils or Flyers are in town. Those are the times that you have to go above and beyond. There is no faster way to the hearts of the fans than through the franchise's biggest rivals. In this day and age of free agency (which may have brought you here), rivalries are harder to cling to for players - you may have friends and former teammates on the other side of the ice - but they are grossly important to the fans. Go out to dinner with your buds, go on vacation with them, whatever - from the second that puck drops, you had better be out for blood. Players come and go but that jersey that you pull on has been around for a long time and that means something. That Blueshirt comes with the baggage of hatred for wrongs past. It may sound petty, but it is a part of life. And, if you use it right - through the aforementioned hard work - then it is a very, very good thing.

6 - You know that quiet guy who is hanging around practice? The mild-mannered fellow with his name and number nine in the rafters. Listen to him. If he says something, it's for a reason. If he acts a certain way, it's for a reason. And that reason is always the betterment of the franchise and, frankly, the betterment of yourself. Pay attention to Adam Graves. You will not find a better role model in your search for what it means to be a Ranger. There is a reason why he is beloved in this city, and what he did on the ice is only part of the explanation. And that big, bald crying guy up in the office? Messier? Yeah, him too.

7 - Give not to temptation. New York never closes and there is fun to be had no matter what your vice may be. But if you give in to it, then you are breaking No. 1 on this list. There is a time and place for everything, and while you wear that jersey the time is not right for nefarious activities.

8 - Spend some time reading up on the past. The more you read about the 84 year history of the franchise, the more you will understand just how important No. 1 on this list is. A lot of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into building the Rangers and the least you can do is know who they were.

9 - Don't be afraid to speak your mind because honesty is indeed the best policy. Silly, right? Not at all. When speaking to the media or to the press, one of the worse things you can do is speak in benign cliches ... no matter what captain Drury does. There is no such thing as 110%. You can only take things one game, or one day, at a time. And you don't always get the bounces. We know that; tell us how, tell us why. You can't be afraid to show your personality, because that is who you are and we want to know you. We want to root for you. We want to see you succeed.

10 - Don't believe the hype. There are a lot of people playing pundit, a lot of people shooting their (our) mouths off. Expectations aren't as high as they have been in the past due to last year's failure but this is still New York and success is always demanded. But that will come if you work hard, listen to the coaches and play your game to the best of your ability.

This list may seem daunting, but you will be pulling on a Blueshirt and these are the things that come with the jersey.

Let's Go Rangers.

-Scotty Hockey

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: New York Islanders

My loathing for the Islanders knows no bounds so I will try to temper my blind hatred enough to actually provide a reasonable preview of them for you guys. It will be tough ... so very, very tough; just remember I did this the next time you guys get mad at me.

Familiar Foes: Rick DiPietro. Hahahaha. Just like last season, they think he is healthy enough to play and this time he may very well be able to play on Columbus Day. Anything beyond that, well, don't place any bets. That being said, even if DP does go down we've seen how Dwayne Roloson can singlehandedly keep the clowns competitive. Doug Weight - the Rangers second round pick in 1990 - returns to keep the C warm while John Tavares keeps learning the ropes. Trent Hunter and Jon Sim are somehow still in the NHL, even if their long-time runningmate Richard Park has headed overseas. Speaking of wingmen, Matt Moulson will be back attempting to show he wasn't a one-year wonder and Josh Bailey is going to try to start fulfilling his potential. Meanwhile, Mark Streit continues to be a slap in the face to Glen Sather. Yeah, goin' with Wade Redden was a muuuuuuuch better idea.

N00bz: Streit will be joined on the blueline by three new faces this fall - James Wisniewski, Milan Jurcina and Mark Eaton. It is hard to laugh at Snow's selections as the three vets can stabilize the back end. Up front Snow added PA Parenteau and Zenon Konopka. On one hand, you have to be happy that PA is going to get that fair NHL shot he has worked so hard to get but on the other hand, he is now the enemy so screw 'em. Konopka kills me as he is the first respectable enforcer the Isles have had since Mick Vukota (not that Mick was that respectable but whatever).

Last Year: Wednesday, October 28th 3-1 Isles; Wednesday, December 16th 2-1 Isles; Thursday, December 17th 5-2 Ranger win; Saturday, December 26th 3-2 OT Isles; Wednesday, March 24th 5-0 Rangers; Tuesday, March 30th 4-3 Ranger win.

This Year: Monday, October 10th at the Mausoleum; Thursday, December 2nd at the Mausoleum; Friday, December 3rd at the Garden; Monday, December 27th at the Garden; Tuesday, March 15th at the Garden; and Thursday, March 31st at the Mausoleum.

What They Mean To Blue: The bratty brother we never wanted always goes above and beyond to make us look bad. And sadly they do, pretty often. The Isles always step up their game when facing the Rangers and many times the Rangers don't respond in kind. But then again, the games against them are the best efforts we will get from Chris Drury all season long and the only times that Potvin Sucks can appropriately be whistled ...

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: New Jersey Devils

As chagrined as I am by it, the Devils have surpassed the Islanders as the Rangers' biggest rival. They aren't the Stanley Cup caliber team they were a few years back but they are still far better than the orange-and-blue clowns in Uniondale and a worthy adversary.

Familiar Foes: Let's face it, Mmmmaaaaaaaarrrrrtttyyyyyy leads a franchise full of familiar foes. Elias, Parise, Zubrus, Clarkson, blah blah hate them all. And the Ilya Kovalchuk contract odyssey/idiocy ended with the one-way Russian back at the Rock. Like anyone else would be that desperate for someone to bring in fans to give him that much money.

N00bz: Two of the most important n00bz aren't really n00bz at all: John MacLean behind the bench and Jason Arnott under center. Johnny Mac is a company man so his coaching philosophy shouldn't wander far from status quo. Arnott brings a big body who can put up a point per game when his teammates aren't injuring him in their celebrations. Lou bolstered the blueline with Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder and signed Johan Hedberg to bring Fatso his donuts.

Last Year: Monday, October 5th 3-2 Ranger win; October 22nd 4-2 Devil win; Tuesday, January 12th 1-0 shootout loss; Saturday, February 6th 3-1 Ranger win; Wednesday, March 10th 6-3 Devils win; Thursday, March 25th 4-3 Ranger shootout win.

This Year: Thursday, September 23rd at MSG and Saturday, September 25th in Newark preseason. Sunday, October 24th at MSG; Friday, November 5th in Newark; Wednesday, December 29th in Newark; Thursday, February 3rd at MSG; Friday, February 18th in Newark; Saturday, April 9th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: Three more Ranger home games? A louder crowd? Last season Tortorella sent a message to the team in the very first game by calling timeout and tearing them new orifices after they went behind early. Of course, the message was forgotten by Christmas, so what can he pull this time around that will stick? I don't know but I think we will certainly find out ...

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Nashville Predators

Ah, Nashville. Another Western Conference opponent we have rarely seen, and one we really didn't get to see last year as one of the 'great blizzards' swept through New York City and kept thousands of True Blue away from the Garden back in February. The Preds are also the one team that many people who do the name-all-the-NHL-teams tests often forget. It is easy to overlook the epitome of mediocrity in the NHL - they have an unassuming coach, a simple system and no superstars. Barry Trotz has yet to win a Jack Adams Award but he does deserve it for getting so much out of so little year after year.

Familiar Foes: No Jason Arnott anymore but a lot of the foot soldiers still remain - Steve Sullivan, David Legwand, JP Dumon, Martin Erat, Francis Bouillon, etc. The closest thing to stars they have are defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and goaltender Pekka Rinne. A big, technically solid Finn, Rinne may actually buck the Nashville trend of upstart goaltenders promptly losing their jobs to their backups. Patric Hornqvist came out of nowhere to save fantasy teams around the world last year with a 30 goal season but who knows if he will be able to avoid the sophomore slump. The big albino Wade Belak and the little annoying eskimo Jordin Tootoo are still providing the sandpaper in the Music City - setting up nice matchups for Boogaard and Avery/Cally. Colin Wilson - Carey's kid - scored a goal in the one game in the Garden last year and should be better in an injury-free season.

N00bz: When Arnott jumped ship David Poile picked up Matt Lombardi to replace him. Lombardi has never scored more than 20 goals before (in Calgary or Phoenix) but never was called upon to be the man like he is now. The Preds will hope Trots can bring out his best, same with former Ranger Jamie Lundmark and the lesser Kostitsyn, Sergei.

Last Year: Wednesday, February 10th, a 2-1 Nashville win.

This Year: Saturday, November 27th in Nashville.

What They Mean To Blue: A gut check. The game against the Predators comes at the back end of a stretch of six games in nine days, five of which are on the road, four are in a pair of back-to-backs - this one being the night after a Panther game.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Montreal Canadiens

There is nothing quite like facing Les Habitants, no matter how far they have fallen from the dynasty that they once were. The Bell Centre is, by far, the best place not in New York City to see a hockey game. Their fans are hardcore and it is utterly infuriating seeing them invade the Garden. But it does make for a better atmosphere in the building so no complaints there.

The only thing worth complaining about is how the Rangers can't seem to put forth an even effort against the Habs over the course of a season. From the 1979 Cup Finals to the horrible 6-5 loss in Montreal two seasons back to the two-goal lead blown in the first match last season to the January see-saw of going from a 6-2 win to a 6-0 loss in a span of six days, the Rangers simply let the Canadiens flip the switch. Unacceptable.

Familiar Foes: The mighty munchkins of Gionta, Gomez and playoff hero Cammalleri should still provide a large chunk of the Canadiens offense. Tomas Plekanec was re-signed and the Habs decided to keep Andrei Kostitsyn (while letting his brother go to Nashville). Andrei Markov will be back in bleu, blanc et rouge by the time the Canadiens take on the Rangers this season.

N00bz: As Markov heals, P.K. Subban will get plenty of ice time to prove that his superb playoff performance was not a fluke. Speaking of flukes, Carey Price is back in the Montreal crease so the Habs added Alex Auld to back him up. Personally I think that there will be another netminder by the end of 2010 (Jose Theodore?) but we will have to see. Seeing as they sent Halak packing, John Davidson only sent back a pair of mediocre prospects and one should make the Montreal roster - Lars Eller. But seeing as Eller couldn't make the bad Blues, he shouldn't threaten the Rangers too much. Benoit Pouliot came over late last year for Guillaume Latendresse and flourished - if he can keep it going he be a big threat for the Rangers.

Last Year: Saturday, October 24th 5-4 OT Habs win; Sunday, January 17th6-2 Ranger win; Saturday, January 23rd 6-0 Habs win; and Tuesday, March 16th 3-1 Habs win.

This Year: Tuesday, January 11th @ MSG; Saturday, January 15th in Montreal; Saturday, February 5th in Montreal; and Friday, March 18th @ MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: A rival for 85 years, there is no other team outside of the Atlantic Division who brings the kind of passion to MSG like the Habs do. Hopefully this season will see the Rangers finally keep the pressure on rather than being satisfied with momentary success.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Minnesota Wild

After missing last year's lone tilt at the Power Station (Xcel Energy Center) with an injury, Marian Gaborik should hopefully make his Minnesota return in late November. And he won't be alone as Wild folk hero Derek Boogaard will hopefully not have played himself out of the lineup by then. Hopefully.

Familiar Foes: The two Finns, Mikko Koivu and the other Nik Backstrom, still lead the Wild. They will be helping for a little help this season as the team looks to bounce back into the playoffs. That assistance should come from Martin Havlat, who should be over his new-contract hangover, and a healthy Brent Burns. Nick Schultz continues to be one of the NHLs best defensive defensemen and he is joined by Greg Zanon, one of the best shot-blockers. Feisty winger Cal Clutterbuck was one of just two players (Dustin Brown) to have more hits than Ryan Callahan last season. And it is easy to overlook Andrew Brunette but the player who was too slow for the NHL 15 years ago in Washington has had himself quite the career and should easily pass 1,000 games this season (he enters at 950, with 660 points).

N00bz: Guillaume Latendresse headed to Minnesota in one of the most even trades I've ever seen (from Montreal for Benoit Pouliot) and immediately took to his new surroundings. If he can keep it going he will be quite dangerous. Scumbag mercenary Matt Cullen decided to take the Wilds' money this season, perhaps he will actually show up and play for them. The Wild also took on former Devils and Hawks Cup-winner John Madden as well as San Jose's Brad Staubitz, who will take on the Boogeyman's old fight load. Jarod Palmer and Casey Wellman both helped beat up the baby Rangers in Traverse City and both should make this season's roster.

Last Year: Friday, October 30th, a 3-2 Wild win.

This Year: Saturday, November 20th in Minnesota and Thursday, March 3rd at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: The first game will be another gut check for the Rangers - will they step up for their teammates to make sure their 'homecoming' is a successful one. The second will be another stretch-run necessity.

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Los Angeles Kings

As another unfortunate spin of the NHL scheduling wheel, Alex Frolov will face his former team just once this coming season and it will be in New York. While the L.A. fans won't be able to give him any kind of reception, at least that means that we will get to see one of the most exciting young teams in the league. Los Angeles seemed to feel they were just a superstar scorer away from Stanley and went hard after Kovalchuk. That sales pitch failed and it lost them Frolov in the process. Their loss is (hopefully) our gain. But even without the one-way Russian, the Kings are still pointed towards the top with a fantastic core of young players and a few wiley vets.

Familiar Foes: Ahn-Jayyyyyyy! Anze Kopitar keeps getting better and better, bringing the skill while Dustin Brown wears the C and brings the grit. Ryan Smyth will look to have a healthy campaign and Wayne Simmonds still hasn't found the ceiling of his capabilities. Sloppy Seconds Jarrett Stoll and former Flyers Justin Williams and Michal Handzus also wear the purple, black and silver. St. Anthony's finest hockey player Rob Scuderi came to the Kings last year and helped solidify a defensive core long on talent but short on experience. Team USA's Jack Johnson and Matt Greene are both quite capable and then the Kings have that Drew Doughty kid, who's name will soon be synonymous with Norris.

N00bz: As if Doughty needed any more support, Los Angeles added Willie Mitchell (a Scotty Hockey favourite) this summer. Blue chippers Tom Hickey and Colten Teubert should both push for the final spot on the defense while hopefully another young stud, Andrei Loktionov can push for a position up front. As if Jon Quick wasn't good enough racking up 39 wins in 72 games last season, he will have tough competition from Jon Bernier this fall. Aside from the aforementioned Big Willie signing, the Kings were only able to grab consolation prize Alexei Ponikarovsky in the fight for left wing talent.

Last Year: Wednesday, October 14th 4-2 Ranger win and Tuesday, February 2nd 2-1 Kings win.

This Year: Thursday, February 17th @ MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: A look at what the Rangers may have been like had they foregone the Drury/Gomez free agent route as Jagr's NY career began to come to a close. And a good late-winter test at the start of the inevitable push for the playoffs.