Thursday, March 31, 2011

41-31-5: Cut Down By The Sabres

An optimist will look back at Wednesday night's 1-0 Ranger loss to the Sabres and say it was just so close. That person could say that the Rangers had goals stolen from them by the officials, the iron and Buffalo's double backup goaltender while just one puck got past Henrik Lundqvist.

Optimism rarely flies here. You can't use that larceny as an excuse for the piss-poor performance by the Blueshirts. You just can't. Perhaps they spent Tuesday night on Chippewa so they spent the first two periods working through a hangover. Perhaps they just didn't think the game was as important as they claimed it was in the build up to the battle. Either way, they didn't come ready to play and allowed the Sabres to suffocate them.

Lindy Ruff has been around forever because he knows how to coach. He made Chris Drury look like a NHL star so the coach clearly has significant skills. On this night he made his undertalented team out-work, out-hustle and out-think their opponents. They scored a big power play goal and then trapped the life out of the Rangers. Tortorella's team picked up their play but couldn't find a way to break through the boring Buffalo defense.

Yes the Rangers only dropped to drop to 8-2-1 in their past 11 and they still are in postseason position but, come playoff time, teams have to be able to take advantage of their few chances and then grind out a win. Buffalo did that. The Rangers did not.

Shudder to think that they play this poorly against the Islanders tomorrow because you know that they will be spoiling to play spoilers, especially in their own building.


*Very little credit should go to Jhonas Enroth as he made one good save in the game. Enroth stopped Derek Stepan's one-timer from Marian Gaborik with a spectacular stop in the first minute of the third period. The young Swede made 22 other saves but he did not have to work for them.

*Gaborik took five shots, seemingly aiming for Enroth's pads. You would think the Slovakian Slacker would have seen Enroth's tendency to go down early and shoot high but each one went right at the young netminder. This was one of the 20 or so games this season where the Rangers desperately needed a goal from Gaborik and he couldn't come through.

*Brian Boyle has come through several times this season by just putting his head down and shooting. Boyle has 21 goals to just 12 assists. So what could have possibly possessed him to attempt to thread a pass to Cally on their shorthanded two-on-one? The pass was blocked, Buffalo went back the other way and Hank let Tim Connolly score short side.

*Whatever happened to Hank's knee was not the problem on that as the 'injury' happened at the end of the frame. No matter how many times Joe Micheletti said that Hank was hit by a stick, the replay clearly showed that - as is his tendency - the goaltender went down early, opened his pads up and the shot hit his unprotected knee. Bad luck.

*By the way, Buffalo showed that you can put someone in other than your starter and still win an important game if you play good team defense. The Rangers have played good team defense of late so why is Torts to reluctant to allow Chad Johnson to get a chance?

*The Blueshirts had trouble with their dump-and-chase breakouts so why did they keep their best stickhandler Erik Christensen on the bench? And, as they kept dumping and chasing, why did they limit the ice time of one of their best forecheckers Brandon Prust?

*On one hand Sean Avery seeing just over 10 minutes of ice time was quite the improvement from the last five games when he didn't crack 8:30. On the other hand, Avery was the best Ranger forward on the ice so he probably deserved more. Sean stayed onsides, drew the defense when he had the puck, battled for it when he didn't and set up his teammates several times only to see them blow chances. Imagine what he could do with regular, capable linemates. Woe-tek Wolski has not been capable for a while (13 game goal drought).

*Dan Girardi has been great of late so it is hard to get upset over one mistake but he simply allowed Connolly to walk into the zone and never closed with him. Sure the Rangers were shorthanded but he had McDonagh with him so he should have stepped up instead of trying a meager stick check.

*The Blueshirts won 33 of 55 faceoffs. Someone who has some time needs to crunch the numbers but don't be surprised if the Rangers come out with a better record when they don't dominate the draws.

*The good, the bad and the awfulness of MSG was on display. The good was showing Cally and Prust on camera when promoting the Steve McDonald Extra Effort Award. The bad was MSG2 not being available in HD. The awfulness, well, of course that was Joe Micheletti. His banshee calls foretell the death of my hearing because I want to take an icepick to my eardrum while listening to him. Horrific.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tim Connolly - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.
1-Jhonas Enroth - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thomas Vanek - The Austrian was dominant early, forcing Hank into making big saves. Gaborik barely made Enroth sweat.
2-Connolly - What the hell, that was a nice shot. It should have been stopped but it was pretty. He didn't try to send a feed across the ice, he just shot the puck. And it went in. What a concept.
1-Lindy Ruff - Buffalo is missing Derek Roy (and several other starters) and yet the team is still in playoff position. Ruff has the Sabres buying in to his system and playing his game. It is boring, it is ugly, but it has been working because he gets them to play 60 minutes a night, every night.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

41-30-5: Beatin' Bahston Rahks Wicked Hahd

On March 21st, 2010 the Rangers lost 2-1 to Boston in one of their worst efforts of the season. They bounced back by beating the Islanders 5-0 three days later. On March 24th, 2011 the Rangers lost 2-1 to Ottawa in one of their worst efforts of the season. They bounced back Saturday with a 1-0 win over the Bruins.

Seeing as five goals against the Islanders pretty much equates to one against Boston, I would say that is an interesting co-inky-dink. The fact is being bandied about is the Rangers having scored just three goals over the last three games and yet came away with five out of six points. The numbers themselves are quite surprising and it is outright shocking when you consider how poorly they played against Florida and Ottawa. But those two games in the Garden simply can't compare to this one in the Gahden.

There have been a few times this season that the opponent has upped their effort and threw everything - including the kitchen sink - at the Ranger crease. And the Rangers, well, the Rangers were outstanding. Pressure builds diamonds and the Blueshirts shone as Boston upped the ante. It was periods like the third that give faith that this team has what it takes to win somewhere down the line. They can survive the siege, just wait until they go on the offensive.


*As the saying goes, "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'" so the talk about Prospal sliding into the circle before the puck drop is ridiculous. It happens on many faceoffs; Prospal tried to stop, the linesman wasn't paying attention, so be it, it happens. Both Boston defensemen were standing still and Rich Peverley - who lost the draw in the first place - watched the puck and let Step skate by to get into position for the redirection. Whoops, his bad. THe linesman screwed up but this whole thing would be moot if three Bs did their jobs.

*Patrice Bergeron is not the kind of player out to injure another guy. He just isn't. But, that being said, he made no attempt to avoid Lundqvist and slammed hard into Hank. And for that he should have been destroyed by the Blueshirts but, yet again, they decided to err on the side of caution and not take an extra penalty. How many hits does it take to knock Lundqvist out? We are slowly finding out because no one has the nerve to send the message, damn the consequences.

*Would really love if the Rangers could get a Milan Lucic-type player.

*Hate Boston but damned if Shippin' Up To Boston by the Dropkick Murphys isn't one heckuva catchy tune. Far better than that Jay Z New York crap.

*Nice of Sean Avery to come back to the lineup. He instantly made an impact by breaking up a Boston breakaway. Granted, it was by fighting Greg Campbell and surely getting back into the league's ill graces. Let's hope Sean doesn't sneeze on anyone next game because he is sure to get the book thrown at him. Perhaps Torts realized that so he limited him to less than six minutes.

*As a coworker called them - Avery-Christensen-Wolski: the "I Don't Know What To Do With You" line.

*Wolski, Christy, Dubi, Staal and McCabe all had more than five minutes of power play time and the unit went 0-4. They had a few good moments when they actually did the unthinkable and go to the net but they just couldn't beat Rask. Given the way they have played this year it really needs to be renamed a man disadvantage.

*Love the older lady with the hardhat and flashing glasses. They showed her during the second intermission and she sits near me in the Garden. There just aren't enough Ranger fan personalities left anymore. And no, Larry doesn't count. His schtick is old and annoying and he simply can't dance. The fat guy in Philly is so much better, and that is simply sad.

*Anyone else - aside from the Bruins - miss seeing Marc Savard out there?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tuukka Rask - 22 saves.
2-Dan Girardi - no points.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - While the defense was stellar, someone still had to stop the puck and the King did just that. Lundqvist was strong - as he often is - and he hung in there after the crash to survive the trainwreck of a third period.
2-Girardi - Danny G was one of those who helped Hank get by. He played his position, he covered for Staal, he was physical ... good stuff.
1-Ryan McDonagh - Do you recall the "Thank You Kessel" chants in Boston earlier this season after Tyler Seguin scored on Toronto? The Rangers should bust out a "Thank You Gomez" for McD. This kid is proving to be a gift and one much needed and well received.

Friday, March 25, 2011

40-30-5: No Debating This Point

This post was going to be a highly sarcastic ode to the greatness that is the New York Rangers franchise for all of those who feel this space has been too sardonic this season. Well, that is completely unnecessary as the Rangers justified virtually every word that has been written here in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Yes, the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators. And this was not like the two New Jersey losses to Ottawa that ended their magical run. The Devils went down swinging; the Rangers went through the motions. It was an atrocious exhibition of hockey and we are quite lucky that the Blueshirts were able to salvage a point out of it.

Why the Rangers decided to play two tight, grind-it-out games against two lottery pick teams, two teams that shouldn't be able to carry their jocks is beyond me. Both Florida and Ottawa were missing one of their major offensive weapons (Weiss and Alfredsson) and yet the Rangers let them dictate the pace. Yes, the Rangers had more control against the Panthers but they never pressed the advantage. And they seemed perfectly content to play for the point from the opening faceoff against Ottawa. The fans were listless as the team was lifeless and neither should have left the building feeling satisfied.

Onto the notes because time is tight for me this evening:

*Maybe there really is something wrong with Marc Staal because he cruised through the neutral zone instead of getting back into position. By the time he decided to go after Ryan Shannon it was too late and Butler's pass was on the mark. Of course, Staal made up for it later on with his falling feed to Brandon Prust but Staal has never let up before so seeing him coasting back was confusing at best. EDIT: I saw the jerseys wrong and thought it was Staal blowing the coverage, not Gaborik, who was the culprit. My mistake and apologies to Staalsie.

*Very happy to see Prust score. Really don't have much more to say on that. Yay Prust.

*Mike Sauer showed his age, taking himself off the ice in exchange for Zack Smith. Smith, a no-class kid with eight points in 46 games entering the night, is not worth a defenseman of his caliber and Sauer needs to learn that. And to do it when the Rangers were established in the Ottawa zone was just stupid.

*Had no idea Christensen was playing until he blew his shootout attempt. The ice looked poor, so why the Rangers all tried to handle the puck deep is beyond me. Zuccarello really needs to learn a new move for next season.

*Perhaps it was because Torts decided to keep Christy off the ice he went back to juggling lines, something that - of course - didn't work. Still not sure what Wojtek Wolski did to get two shifts late in the third and another in overtime.

*Wouldn't it be something if Gaborik started to earn his salary at some point? Because he hasn't for the majority of this season. The Slovakian Slacker has been average at best, padding his stats against poor opponents.

*It wasn't surprising that Erik Karlsson scored the shootout winner considering that the kid probably grew up watching Hank play back in Sweden.

*Nice little scrum with 1:40 left in the third but where was that kind of emotion the rest of the night? It might have been nice to have someone around to spark the team, Sean Avery perhaps ... ?

*Just saw the stats, Derek Stepan lost 11 of 13 faceoffs. How is that even possible?

*Has there been a single game in the Garden when the puck didn't ring off the iron at least once, if not twice?

*Chris Neil wears an A for Ottawa. That is just so far beyond ridiculous. Could you imagine Pittsburgh giving an A to Matt Cooke? Oh, wait ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
2-Erik Karlsson - shootout goal.
1-Craig Anderson - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Anderson - Anderson didn't have any Ice Girls to distract him, so he played a pretty solid game - not that he was particularly tested. When he was with Colorado this season he would singlehandedly lose games for the Aves so this was an interesting surprise.
2-Nick Foligno - I remember watching his old man play and, in Mike's later years he wasn't flashy but he got the job done. Like father, like son.
1-Karlsson - The kid played a ton of minutes, moved the puck well and jumped into the attack. And, oh yeah, he was the only one to score in the skill competition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

40-30-4: Two Letters

Tonight's 1-0 victory over Florida is best summed up with two letters - Z and W. Z as in Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz because it was a godawful, dull affair and W as in Win. Thankfully style doesn't count in the standings, because this one was atrocious. The Blueshirts played down to the level of their atrocious opponents and yet somehow escaped with two points in the standings.

And, at this time of the year, that is all that we can hope for. But let's hope that those points are the only things that the Rangers take away from tonight. They were woefully bad in all areas but the clawless Panthers weren't good enough to take advantage so it is all for the better.


*Hank's best saves came on shots that were going wide, and he was falling all over the place. Why Chad Johnson did not get the call for this one is beyond me, especially after Buffalo lost in OT to Nashville on Sunday. But hey, if Torts wants to ride Hank the rest of the way with a bad neck, that is up to him. In past summers we have heard about mystery injuries suffered by Hank - headaches, hips, whatever - so at least we know what is ailing him now and what could very well cost this team their season.

*Perhaps some credit should be given for the Rangers discipline as they did not take a single penalty. Perhaps credit should not be given because it wasn't like they were trying all that hard. Penalties happen when you are giving it all and you take it over the line. Both teams stayed well below the line in this borefest, and thus there was just one two minute minor. The Ranger power play was pathetic - as it often is in the Garden - but that is alright as they managed to score five-on-five.

*The one goal that beat the Florida keeper came courtesy of Brandon Dubinsky. Dubi tried to set up Arty for a one-timer that the Russian couldn't handle (because there was a Panther actually standing near him, making him nervous or something) and the puck slid out to the right wing. Cally came over to take control and swing it back to the slot. Dubi, who was completely left alone by Florida, skated right through the slot unmolested to chip home Cally's feed and that was that. Sweet stuff. The BAR Boys (Brandon, Arty & Ryan) have recaptured most of the magic they had earlier this season before Cally was injured.

*The Panthers dominated in the faceoff circle and yet they often turned the puck right over to the Rangers. The Rangers used that to their advantage to outshoot their opponent but, for as good of a goaltender as Tomas Vokoun is, they hardly tested him. Pete DeBoer's team had little trouble clearing out what few rebounds there were and Vokoun simply pulled the puck out of the logo on his chest the rest of the time. That man has stood on his head in the Garden several times in his career - this night was not one of them, he just got the job done.

*The Garden renovations are continuing and are continuing to inconvenience the paying audience. Bathrooms are closed, food stands are closed and now several rows behind the goals and two wheelchair sections have been blocked off. This is just like my time in college - they renovated a perfectly good campus, forcing everyone to live in a construction area. Future students would enjoy the fruits of that labour while my class was the sacrificial lambs to so-called progress. And now the university wonders why we don't donate as much as other generations. Sadly Dolan won't see his revenues go down by much as he is already pricing this group of sacrificial lambs out of the building and there are plenty of tourists and companies around to pick up the paychecks. Sad.

*The fans made a few half-hearted efforts to get into the action but all of the chants fell as flat as the Ranger play. The building exploded when Dubi scored but it was the lone moment of real excitement in the audience aside from the anthem. The Garden of Dreams girl who sang it did a nice job.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Tomas Vokoun - 32 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 22 saves.
1-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ranger Fans - Didn't see a single person sleeping - quite the accomplishment.
2-Vokoun - The netminder swallowed up easy shot after easy shot. He is going to make some team quite happy come July 1st.
1-Dubi - He scored a goal so we didn't have to see a shootout between these teams. First star material right there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

39-30-4: Can You Smell What We're Cooke-ing?

On Sunday Matt Cooke was Matt Cooke and Matt Cooke tried to injure an opponent. Same old headhunting Matt Cooke. The referees finally realized he was Matt Cooke and tossed Pittsburgh assistant captain Matt Cooke out of the game - which the Rangers won 5-2. Since everyone else will dwell on Matt Cooke's idiocy, I figured I would join in and say Matt Cooke as many times as possible.

Of course, it took Ryan Callahan's blood to hit the ice for the Rangers to wake up and score (more on that later) but most recaps will surely revolve around Cooke. Frankly, I don't care if he gets suspended or not. The Rangers and Pens do not meet for the rest of the regular season and it is doubtful that any suspension will last more than the 10 games Pittsburgh has left. And there is zero chance any dismissal will extend into the playoffs.

And it appears that those will be a playoffs that the Rangers will be participating in. Carolina is crashing, the Devils' magic is running out and Toronto, well, is Toronto. There is still some time left so you never know but good showings at the Garden this week will be huge. They will be tough (Ottawa is enjoying their spoiler role) but if the Rangers can battle the way they did today back at home, the Blueshirts will be in a good spot. We'll see; after that awesome overtime game in November the boys fell flat two days later at the Garden against Boston. Be wary of the happy hangovers ...


*This win makes it three-for-three this season in Pittsburgh, where the ice is more heavily tilted towards the home team than any other outside of Montreal. It is positively some Rocky-type toughness to come away with wins against all odds.

*By allowing Montreal to run the crease without consequences the other day we saw James Neal head to the paint on the first shift and Max Talbot to follow later in the period. And again, the first person to stand up for Hank was none other than Ryan Callahan. The same Callahan who was gouged by Matt Niskanen, the same Callahan who scored the eventual game winner. If Brandon Prust has been the soul of this team, Callahan has been it's heart. Chris Drury never took the team on his shoulders like this, and for that matter nor did Jaromir Jagr.

*As mentioned above, it wasn't until Niskanen clipped Cally that the Ranger power play woke up. The boys wasted 3:18 of Cooke's major before the second call, and then another 1:34 of 5-on-3 time until Gaborik scored. In the meantime Zuccarello's bad idea to pass to a covered Christensen ended up in the back of the net for a Penguins shorty. Awful.

*It was nice to see Gabby go to the net on his goal. In fact, three of the five Ranger goals came from guys heading to the slot. Arty somehow slid in their unmolested to make it 1-0, Gabby dished the puck and headed low where he banged in McCabe's rebound and Step came crashing after McDonagh was foiled by Fleury. It is this willingness to go to the tough areas that gives me hope for this team. All too often too many of them allow themselves to be kept out on the perimeter.

*Marc Staal's surprise injury hurt the team early on as Girardi and Eminger clearly had no chemistry. They had no idea where they were supposed to be and were caught scrambling several times. But when things got tough in the third they tightened up, McDonagh and Sauer really stepped up and everyone finally helped Hank out. It was fantastic seeing Sauer and Girardi (and Dubinsky) get angry on the penalty kill with three minutes left.

*Seriously, how lucky are we that Sauer and McDonagh have been so solid this season. And to think two years ago Sauer was a injury-prone, borderline prospect and we seemed damned to have to suffer through five more seasons of Scott Gomez.

*Dan Bylsma is acclaimed to be a great coach but if so, why did he limit Ranger-killer Mike Rupp to seven minutes? Max Talbot played 19 but aside from "drawing" the Callahan penalty by crashing Hank, what did he accomplish?

*On ice time, Fedotenko played two minutes more than Gaborik - and deservedly so. Gabby played just two shifts in the third, scoring on his second one. It just goes to show that Torts has finally woken up and seen that Slovakian Slacker doesn't given it his best every shift and has lost whatever defensive acumen Jacques Lemaire taught him in Minnesota.

*The funny thing is that Gabby's goal should have been waved off, if there was any consistency in NHL officiating. As Pierre pointed out on the broadcast, last night Detroit had a goal waved off for Tomas Holmstrom being in front, and Holmstrom wasn't in the crease like Dubi was. Ah well, a (non)call in our favour for once.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and two assists.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 38 saves.
1-Ryan Callahan - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - Aside from the obvious, Dubinsky has been much improved at the faceoff dot of late and that has been huge for the Rangers.
2-Cally - Callahan bled for the Blueshirts today in yet another gutsy performance by the future captain.
1-Hank - If not for Henrik's heroics this game was a Penguins blowout long before Matt Cooke's careless elbow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

38-30-4: No Habs No

The Rangers' victory tonight was tainted by a trio of disappointments. Sure, they defeated the exhausted Habs 6-3 but not every team will allow you to play for 25 minutes and win. How many teams will you be able to beat when your top goaltender is injured? And the Rangers have been good on the road and this might as well have been a road game given the number of Montreal fans in the building.

You would figure that after Hank had to take it upon himself to pounce on crybaby Pacioretty when they were in Montreal that his teammates would ensure that no Canadiens would touch him. Instead they let him get ran not once, but twice. The first was by P.K. Subban and the second by Benoit Pouliot. In the first case Mike Sauer made the mistake of honouring him by taking off his helmet in attempt for a fair fight - something Subban certainly does not deserve. The second time, when Hank was actually hurt NOTHING HAPPENED. Sure Pouliot was helped on his way by Steve Eminger but so what? He didn't try to get out of the way and the only reaction was some harsh words from Brian Boyle. No one made him pay. Not right after the hit, not after Pouliot came out of the penalty box. Sure the Rangers scored on the ensuing power play but who cares? Isn't the pride worth more than putting the two points at risk? Nice to get the two, but how many more will you lose when the other teams realize they can cruise through your crease without consequence? Or, even worse, how many will you lose when your franchise player is put out of the lineup by some nobody like Benoit Pouliot?

It was the only thing that could have made me more ashamed on this night than I was to see a Garden completely overrun by Canadiens. That is all Dolan right there, and I hope he enjoyed seeing so much red around the arena. When you rape your fans for cash the way they are doing, of course the fans are going to look for ways to make some money back. And that is what they did, dealing their tickets to the enemy. There were entire sections full of bleu blanc et rouge, idiots in red spandex and guys running around with Montreal flags. And not a single thing was done to them. Oh, how times have changed.


*The first period was perhaps as good a 20 minute span as the Rangers have played all season. Then they followed it by yet another awful second period and a weak third. It was a letdown that brought back bad memories of the Montreal Massacre but this time the Habs didn't have enough left in the tank to complete the comeback.

*The Price was wrong, bitch. Even Bob Barker coulda scored on Carey in this one.

*BJ Wisniewski, who Brian Boyle used as a screen to make it 5-1, scored in the second period when - surprise surprise - the Rangers let Mike Cammalleri crash the crease and gave Gomez free reign to slide in front to screen.

*Arty's goal was pretty, but we have always known he is capable of scoring when there is no opponent around to touch or even breathe on him and knock him off his skates.

*Not sure how Anisimov was given the primary assist on the reviewed Callahan goal as it was Dubi who made a gorgeous drive to the net. It would have been nice if the Garden would have showed the replay while we waited for Toronto to make the call that the ref three feet away couldn't make but it seems against their policy to play them during goal reviews. Which sucks.

*Love Brandon Prust - want him to win the Steve Mac award - but his decision to fight Travis Moen a second into the game for the spectacle of it all was outright stupid. He put himself at risk for yet another injury by engaging in a pointless bout - especially with Mike Rupp, Max Talbot and Matt Cooke on the agenda for Sunday. Dumb.

*Nice of Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik to score to make up for their awfulness on the Subban strike. They just stood there, a few feet away, waiting for him to shoot.

*Vinny's goal - which came in the third and made it 6-3 - was the lone power play goal. The team went 1-5 and that isn't good enough when you consider the Habs didn't have big Hal Gill out there.

*Bryan McCabe played as if he was still on the Leafs as they were smacked around by their rivals. Perhaps his worst game as a Ranger. McDonagh wasn't as bad but you would have thought that he would have been better against the team that only thought he was worth that smirking jerk Gomez.

*Not really sure why they had those PS22 kids sing the anthem, they really weren't all that good. I still think they got the slot at the Oscars because Hollywood felt guilty for not recognizing more minority movie makers. If the Garden was really itching for a bunch of kids, the Harlem Boys Choir has always done a wonderful rendition. But let's be serious here - no one does a better job than the duo that is John Amirante and his toupe.

*No Sean Avery, as he was scratched. Can't say it was a surprise after his undisciplined display against the Isles but it was still a little disappointing. Would the Habs been as willing to terrorize Hank if they knew the Rangers had someone just as willing to run through the paint? We'll never know ...

*For all of those who think that the Rangers' Heritage jerseys were bad luck, they still won anyway.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - one assist.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal and one assist.
1-Artem Anisimov - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - He may not be the center solution for Gaborik but that doesn't mean he can't be a first-line center. When he plays with the power that he possesses, he can be the Jason Arnott/Rod Brind'Amour kind of force in the middle.
2-Cally - Another gritty effort by Captain Callahan.
1-Dan Girardi - Girardi scored the go-ahead goal and grabbed the assist on Prospal's with a soft shot that was easily deflected. And he played 28 minutes - five of which were shorthanded - collected four hits and three blocked shots. Solid work.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

37-30-4: One Odd Evening

Tonight's Ranger game was completely atypical of the team that we have grown to know over the course of this season. Playing a young, hard-skating team the Rangers matched their opponent's effort. Coming off of a big, emotional win the Rangers didn't have a let-down. Drastically outshooting the opponent didn't result in the glorification of a mediocre goalkeeper. Getting a two-man advantage actually resulted in a goal. Dominating at the faceoff dot actually allowed them to control play. Wearing the Blue Shirts at the Garden wasn't a curse. Granted all of those atypical things happened against a hapless Islander team but still, it was quite the night on Broadway as the Rangers beat the Islanders 6-3.

If they can make the atypical typical by doing it again on Friday, then I will really be impressed. Big if.


*As Mr. X from the Blue Seats said to me, 'good effort, except for those first five minutes in the second period.'

*Decent showing of Islander fans but just one minor scrum in the crowd that I caught. The fans in general were a little bit louder than usual but the building really didn't have the emotion and animosity that it used to. This is definitely far, far away from the heyday of this rivalry. And there have been more Potvin Sucks whistles in random games against Western Conference teams than there were on this night, which is just pathetic. Loved the "Season's Over" chant late in the third though.

*Definitely understand those that have to run for a train or have work early the next day but this was yet another win that saw the final buzzer sound in a half-empty arena. Frankly it takes away from the joy of the moment.

*There have been few bigger Avery apologists out there than me and even I have to throw up my hands after this one. A perfect opportunity to do what he does so well and he goes out there with no control. Instead of a trained police dog being allowed off the leash to go after the bad guys, we had a rabid animal who turned and bit us in the hand. So disappointing.

*That being said, his boarding call came from Micheal Haley (who can't spell his own name right) intentionally turned towards the boards to wait for the puck. Avery didn't expect Haley to stand there in a vulnerable position and he finished his check (to which Haley milked the moment, exaggerating his "injury' in an attempt to draw a five minute major - didn't work).

*Yay Marian Gaborik scored two goals. Let's see him score when the team really needs him to. He had a perfectly good breakaway to open the scoring and he blew it. Once Cally put the Rangers back into the lead at 3-2, then Gabby was able to break through for a goal.

*Woulda loved if Ruslan Fedotenko's iron shot had gone in. Been loving his play the last few games and it would be nice to see him rewarded with a goal.

*Still have yet to figure out what Mike Sauer has against Matt Martin. Stupid kid shouldn't be fighting without cause. What happens if he breaks his hand on the other guy's face? Sauer's partner Ryan McDonagh was great for much of the evening, the first Isles goal aside. He went chasing after an Isle behind the net abandoning the slot and allowing Matt Moulson tipped home Jack Hillen's shot. A rare rookie mistake by the kid.

*Seeing how good those two have been and how solid a veteran pairing as McCabe and Eminger can be (at times), Torts should lessen the ice time for Staal and Girardi. They certainly appear to be overworked.

*Anyone else enjoy seeing Arty get angry in that third period scrum?

*PA Parenteau's goal was pretty.

*The Garden music was even more obnoxiously loud than it usually was, making it quite difficult to hold a conversation. Utterly infuriating.

*Larry stumbled down the stairs, too bad he didn't go over the railing so we can do without his idiotic dancing henceforth.

*Congrats to Bryan McCabe on scoring his first goal as a Ranger. It was spectacular - not by the means how it went in, but in that it came on a 5-on-3 power play. As mentioned above, usually you can immediately mark those two man advantages as wasted opportunities.

*Zenon Konopka skated just over 10 minutes for the Isles. Is there anyone out there that thinks Derek Boogaard, when finally healthy, will be able to come anywhere close to that?

*Brandon Prust = 2011 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner. Well not yet, but if not, it will be a criminal oversight. Bum shoulder and all and he still put up a shorty and nearly added another if not for the iron.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Erik Christensen - one goal and one assist.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal and one assist.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gaborik - Gabby pulled a Boyle and just shot the damned puck. Good things happen when you do that, you know.
2-Christensen - Mr. Softie has nine points in his last seven games. Seriously. Colour me surprised.
1-Cally - Captain Callahan went to the net all night long and the Rangers were rewarded for the effort. He was the screen on the first Gaborik goal, the screen on the McCabe goal and he was swarming around the net to score the go-ahead goal.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

36-30-4: Smile You Son Of A Bitch

The Rangers put the anti-shark cage in the water and they went in the water. The Sharks were in the water. The first place Pacific Division Sharks. And back home the taxidermy man surely had a heart attack when he heard that the Rangers came out of the water with two points.

Man, Jaws is a classic flick. Jaws never gets old and neither goes gritty performances like the one the Blueshirts had tonight to top San Jose 3-2 in a shootout. It was one of the most entertaining exhibitions this season because the boys heard the bell after the Anaheim loss and they answered it.

Seeing as the clocks spun forward this will be brief:

*"It's only pain." How that isn't on tee shirts everywhere is beyond me. I was telling a friend overseas about Brandon Prust's line from earlier this season and he replied, "that's some serious macho shit right there" and he is right. Prust gets hammered early and yet he stands up for a teammate and tangles with former Flyer Ben Eager. He stays in the game and his hard work sets up Mike Sauer's go-ahead goal. It is not unbelievable to think that he will have to undergo major shoulder surgery this summer and yet night after night he is putting it on the line for the team. How can you be a fan and not appreciate that?

*It is impossible to appreciate the officiating. Eric Furlatt and Bill McCreary did a piss-poor job calling the game. And it is infuriating. The zebras should be invisible and yet time and time again this season the men in stripes have stepped into the story. How disappointing and annoying.

*The Rangers rushing to Hank's aid was just the opposite. Seeing the scrums break out after the Sharks circled too close to our keeper was heartwarming. It makes you believe that these guys are finally getting it - no one can come close to the crease, or else.

*If I had more time I would look up the team's record based on faceoff performance. At rough glance the Rangers have won more games when they lost more draws then they won.

*As a buddy pointed out, Matt Gilroy and Bryan McCabe were completely outclassed. What exactly is the benefit of having Hobey play over Steve Eminger? And on the same token, wouldn't Mats Zuccarello be best served playing 20 minutes across every situation in Hartford instead of eight minutes here? Zuke was invisible for most of the night and he blew the one thing he was counted on for - a shootout attempt.

*Mr. Softie Erik Christensen also blew his breakaway but he scored late in the first period. You have to figure that he cemented his spot in the lineup for at least another game or two. If only because Torts will use any excuse he can to get rid of Sean Avery.

*Kinda wonder what advice Chad Johnson could have given the Ranger shooters, considering he has barely had a cup of coffee in the NHL, much lest built up biographies of opposing netminders.

*Another really gritty performance from Fedotenko. Seeing as he was a training camp invite, he shouldn't count towards the balance sheet that is Sather's track record when it comes to free agent signings. If he did, you would have to start giving old Glen some credit ...

*Douglas Murray deserved a beating.

*About to get to the three stars and Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh didn't make either list. But that is not to say that the kids weren't alright. You simply can not tell that they are rookies when you watch them. The same goes for Stepan but he isn't as integral a piece as the two blueliners are. Young, strong and willing to do whatever is needed to get the job done in their own end. Great stuff.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dan Boyle - two assists.
2-Dan Girardi - no points.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Eager - Cast aside by Chicago, old Ben is a heckuva old time hockey player when he keeps his wits about him.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - All respect to Girardi's nine blocked shots but Dubi was phenomenal in the third period. When Cally was called for the hook, Dubi killed much of the penalty himself. He identified that he had no help on the shorthanded rush so he ate time on the boards before passing the puck all the way back to waste more time. Then, in the final minutes, he used his strength to hold off the Sharks and keep the puck in their end. Oh yeah, and he scored the game-winner in the skills competition. Not a bad night of work.
1-Hank - Maybe it was because he saw a Finn across the ice and he wanted to display Swedish dominance, maybe it was because the boys stepped up in front of him. Who knows? But either way Hank was calm under pressure after starting the game shakey.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

35-30-4: ReDuckulous

An earlier draft of this blog was all about the blame game: who to pin this latest lost on. Anisimov, Dubinsky, Tortorella and Gaborik were my leading candidates. Arty was directly responsible for the first three goals against. Dubi had three great chances to score and blew them all. Torts didn't have an answer to Anaheim's attack and never did anything to kick his team in the ass. Gabby didn't show up until it was too late. Hey, Ron Duguay pinned it on warm weather and palm trees so at least all of these are at least tangible and defensible.

It was a game that both teams desperately needed and only one team played like that for 60 minutes ... and it wasn't the Rangers. In an important matchup like that you need your best players to step up and the Ducks' did. Anaheim has an exceptional first line and all three of those guys stepped up their play to power the team to a 5-2 victory. The Rangers, well, they don't have any first line players. Gaborik has been so utterly underwhelming this season that he can hardly be considered top flight any longer and he was invisible for far too long before scoring in the third period.

If anything, Gabby's goal caused more problems than it solved. It brought the Rangers back within two and the team didn't bother to stand up for Hank as he was hit twice. No physical message was sent. No fight happened to warn teams away from hitting Hank or to turn the tide. The Rangers tried to claw back with mediocre chance after mediocre chance and mediocre goaltender Dan Ellis looked great stopping them. Typical Rangers. Riding a roller coaster down to the wire for a playoff spot is also typical, and the Ranger ride will continue on Saturday in San Jose.

Notes on this one:

*A tale of two top units. Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan-Lydman-Visnovsky = five goals, seven assists, +19. Dubi-Cally-Arty-Staal-Girardi = one goal, two assists, -16.

*Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brian Boyle all seemed to be playing hurt. When your energy guys have no energy you are in serious trouble.

*Catalyst Sean Avery had three shifts in the first period, four in the second, three in the third on his way to 8:28 in ice time. This is getting ridiculous. The only good thing is that Jarkko Ruutu was just as underused.

*Steve Eminger played with the Ducks, he knows their tendencies and he has been solid when inserted into the Ranger lineup. He was scratched for this one and the two guys who did play over him - McCabe and Gilroy - were little more than jersey fillers.

*Mats Zuccarello played over 15 and I'm pretty sure I only heard his name called once. He and Wolski were completely overwhelmed by the Duck defense, which is sad since that D is a shadow of the unit that won the Cup a few years back.

*The players who should be able to look in the mirror were Derek Stepan, Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh - the kids did their damnedest but it wasn't enough. Even though they accounted for the first goal of the game and had several other chances, Cally and Dubi just didn't have it like they did against the easier opponent that was the Flyers.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Corey Perry - two goals and one assist.
2-Bobby Ryan - one goal and three assists.
1-Lubomir Visnovsky - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Toni Lydman - Lydman was the picture of calm, collected consistency while he swiftly took care of business around the ice. Sharp, smart passing and good positioning ... as I tweeted, his signing last summer was probably the most underrated of them all. His partner Visnovsky racked up the points but they were just bad lucky by the Blueshirts.
2-Perry - Brandon Prust's old teammate on the London Knights spent four seasons under Dale Hunter's tutelage and look at him now: one of the best all-around players in the league. Too bad the Rangers ripped MDZ from Dale's clutches all too early.
1-Ryan - Silver was golden in this one. He used his size and skill to attack the Rangers, getting them to run around in their own end and leave openings to take advantage of.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

35-29-4: Have the guts, Got the glory

A friend from Philadelphia earlier this week explained to me how their city so identifies with and embraces the Rocky story that Rocky Balboa has become a real person to them. Sylvester Stalone's character is not just an image on the silver screen but a real hero, well deserving of the statue at the Museum of Art.

Well, on this afternoon Philly's favourite sons were less Rocky and more Apollo Creed, coming up against Ivan Drago. The Flyers had an image of excellence entering the ring but the real thing wasn't there when the bell rang and the fight got underway.

The Rangers put them on the ropes early and, unlike Drago, gave them several opportunities to get back into the bout with fights and bad penalties but the Flyers were too punch-drunk to respond and the Rangers skated away with a 7-0 win.

It was not entirely unlike the last 7-0 Sunday win, the blowout of the Caps back in December. Like Washington, Philadelphia came in on a losing streak and was just coming off of a tough loss the night before. But hey, whatever the reason was, the result was a good one as the Rangers were on the winning side. The Washington win opened up a 8-2-2 run so we can only hope that today's touchdown can get the ball rolling.


*As a season ticket holder near me kept yelling: "burn the blueshirts!!!" The Rangers went back to white at home (as they should) and their luck changed. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it was nice to win and very nice to see those classic sweaters again on the Garden ice.

*There really aren't many words to use about Captain Callahan's performance that haven't already been poured upon the gutty guy. It was just spectacular (and it marked the first time I've ever thrown my hat on the ice, so I can cross that off the old bucket list).

*It was a nice contrast to the Flyers captain, who cowardly picked a fight with Dubinsky and then held on for dear life. Nothing says toughness like starting with a guy while wearing a visor. When the leader pulls a Richie Pilon, there is no way the team is going to recover.

*Dubi shouldn't have fought him, because the risk wasn't worth the reward. Up 2-0 at the start of the second period is not the time to give the opponent an emotional boost and fighting a guy wearing glass is hell on the hands.

*Speaking of fights that shouldn't have happened, Brian Boyle was a disgrace. Fighting after a perfectly clean hit, fighting when your team is up 1-0 and fighting a legitimate tough guy all add up to one dumb thing to do. Boyle just got lucky that the Flyers power play had no energy to capitalize on his instigator. I'm all for standing up for your teammates but nonsense like this - it was just a good hit by Shelley - only adds evidence to the anti-fighting litigation.

*That being said, I woulda went wild had Arty Anisimov thrown off the gloves and fought Nik Zherdev during that second period scrum. That would have been spectacular.

*Arty skates in on a two-on-one with a defenseman standing a few feet away (guarding the pass) and blows a perfectly good opportunity to score. Less than five minutes later he gets another break, with no defensemen anywhere near and he scores a suh-weet goal. How about that?

*Mats Zuccarello accounted for the other two Ranger goals, one a simple shot on a two-on-one and the other a one-timer from the slot. He looked like Gaborik should have. Gabby missed a half dozen chances over the afternoon, two of which were head-scratchingly bad. He did get more opportunities than he was getting before the so-called concussion but he blew them just the same. Maybe it was just timing, something that will come back to him as he gets back in the flow. Maybe.

*As awful as Bobby Brian Boucher was, the man deserves credit. After being unceremoniously yanked, he didn't just sit on the bench and sulk. An errant puck ended up in the Philadelphia bench and he turned and tossed it to a young Ranger fan. Classy.

*Sean Avery saw a game-low 8:08 of ice time and should have scored a goal. Avery missed a hit (which was hilarious) and went to the net before being hauled down by Andrej Meszaros. Sure the puck his his leg but it was as he was falling - Meszaros' fault. Ah well, luckily the game didn't come close to coming down to one goal. But still, Avery is still making things happen and he isn't being rewarded. Or perhaps he is as he wasn't benched like Christensen.

*Ruslan Fedotenko is definitely re-finding his pre-injury form - he definitely adds even more ferocity to the team with his forechecking.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Mats Zuccarello - two goals.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 24 saves.
1-Ryan Callahan - four goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Arty - Perhaps it was because his old bodyguard was in the arena (Jody Shelley) but Arty was very involved. Zuke scored twice but those were just moments, not minutes. It is just a damn shame Arty didn't throw down with Zherdev.
2-Ryan McDonagh - All due respect to Hank but the goaltender had to make one real save all night. The King looked quite shakey yet again but McDonagh led the defensive corps that kept the puck moving up the ice.
1-Cally - No words needed, just one letter: C.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

34-29-4: Slump Bustin' Senators

There is nothing like facing off against the worst team in the league on the road to reignite the competitive fires. The Rangers bounced back from their (many) recent home failures with a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Friday night.

Of course, the Blueshirts didn't play all that different of a game than they did against Minnesota or Buffalo but it was enough to beat the woeful O's. The Senators screen door defense was just astounding when you remember the days that Chara and in-prime Redden and Philips ate up the minutes. Now their blueline is led by the past-his-prime Phillips, some soft Europeans and few kids who can't carry Sauer/McDonagh's jock.

But enough badmouthing them, let's just celebrate the two points. It would have been all-too-easy to let Craig Anderson steal this game and the Rangers didn't. They forechecked well, set screens, went hard to the crease and shot from good areas of the ice to throw off Anderson's angles. You have to hope that this one was a big confidence booster because the Blueshirt will go from facing the worst defensive corps in the league to the best on Sunday.

Some random notes:

*Sean Avery makes a great play on the Prospal goal and yet he sees the least amount of ice time on the team. Sure he saw 11:32 - more minutes than he did in his last six games - but that just isn't right. It is especially surprising when you consider that the team had a commanding 3-0 lead by the seven minute mark of the second period. Despite setting up Prospal's goal, Avery still doesn't have the trust of Tortorella. One has to wonder if he will ever get it. Perhaps Avery's declining of Neil's third period offer to dance will go a ways towards that but, at this point, it is doubtful.

*Henrik Lundqvist was extremely shakey early in the evening but settled down as the game went on. After railing for years that Hank needed to have more of a backbone when guys crash his crease, his attacking Chris Neil was nearly heart-stopping. If he gets hurt chasing down a clown like Neil, we are screwed.

*When that scrum broke out Brandon Prust stayed on the outside, grabbing Derek Smith - probably the least-physical player on the ice at the time. If that isn't telling that Prust isn't 100% I don't know what is.

*The days where the Sens had Havlat, Heatley or Hossa out on their power play are long gone. Hell, they didn't even have old Daniel Alfredsson. And yet they broke Hank's shutout with a seeing-eye shot through traffic five minutes into the third. They moved the puck back and forth laterally while stacking the slot and Gonchar remembered that he used to be good at hockey and scored. That's depressing.

*Arty Anisimov is so good when there is no one within three feet of him that is infuriating to see how much he sucks once the going gets tough. Beautiful goal though.

*How much longer are we going to let McCabe off the hook for the power play's woes? He saw more than three minutes of man advantage time and yet the unit went 0-4. His +3 rating for this game was very Malik-esque (just having the good luck to be on the ice at the right times).

*Brian Boyle 0 shots, one goal in his last nine games. Maybe he needs to head back to Barb for a refresher?

*Managed to get through this without bashing Tortorella so let me get a little in - if he lets Gaborik play on Sunday he should be fired on the spot. For 1- you don't rush a concussion back. 2- you don't bring an injured player back against the Flyers because they eat the weak. and 3-Gabby has just two goals in 17 career games against Philly. It just isn't worth it.

*What are the odds that - with no practice Saturday - the guys will stay in and make it a movie night and not go out drinking? Nevermind, lemme pull a Han Solo and say 'never tell me the odds.'

*PHW Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.
2-Dan Girardi - one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Anisimov - What the hell, give the kid some credit. He was involved all game and scored that sweet goal.
2-Steve Eminger - How exactly was this guy scratched in favour of Michael Del Zotto? Good, decisive puck movement and a smidge of physical play combine to add that stabilizing veteran sense that the Blueshirts blueline needs. Honestly did not see this happening when he was acquired for the People's Champ.
1-Derek Stepan - An impressive all-around game by the rookie, one that should build his confidence and re-energize him.

Friday, March 4, 2011

33-29-4: Home Sweet Dreadful Home

Home ice proved to be no advantage for the Rangers yet again as they lost to the Minnesota Wild at the Garden 3-1. Even when the team went up 1-0 in the first period there was a sense of dread in the air in the Garden and it proved justifiable as the Blueshirts proceeded to fall apart.

Where the loss to Tampa was acceptable because the boys clearly played hard but lost to a better team, this one was not. The Rangers not just played down to Minnesota's level but they played below it and they barely seemed to care. There was zero physical play - when the team was winning games and skating hard, they finished their checks and did what they had to to get to good areas of the ice. There was none of that this evening. This was a team that was happy to finally get a goal and sat on that, hoping it would hold up. When it didn't, they threw their hands up and went through the motions until the final buzzer.

It was a failure in leadership and a failure in coaching, yet again. Saying "well, we didn't score - we need to score goals" is a cop out when the team isn't doing the good things to earn those goals. Jose Theodore made 40 saves, maybe a half dozen were difficult and just one was even the least bit impressive. Sure you need to shoot a lot to get out of a slump but you need to follow those shots, get in that paint and make life difficult for the other team. The Rangers didn't.

Said it before the season and will hold onto the assertion now: the Rangers just aren't that good of a team and they will battle for a low playoff spot right to the very end. Like a mean girl, they tease you and tempt you and leave you standing there holding wilted flowers while some other guys have all the fun.


*The Rangers being so bad at home is really starting to hurt the fans. There were wide swaths of open seats and several people who were there showed up only because they couldn't get anyone to take their tickets.

*The one thing I personally was looking forward to was seeing Jed Ortmeyer but the Wild decided to send him down for Casey Wellman - a move that worked out as Wellman scored. It also probably worked for us because seeing Jed play as he always has would just have shown the contrast to the Rangers weak-willed effort.

*Wellman's goal was pathetic as all five Ranger skaters were inside the circles, between the dots. The Blueshirts simply collapsed down low and it gave Brent Burns all the time in the world to find Wellman for the goal.

*Brent Burns physically abused someone behind the Wild net in the second period and the Rangers never responded. It was awful.

*Brandon Dubinsky has been on the slow slide back to the lost little boy that he was after Jagr left for Siberia. He couldn't win faceoffs, he couldn't win physical battles and he tried to get rid of the puck every time it came to him. How he goes on a shorthanded two-on-one with Callahan and only manage a weak wrister wide shortside is utterly dumbfounding. No surprise that moments after he blew that opportunity Minnesota tied the game.

*Brian Boyle appeared to have taken some lessons on how to be soft from Arty Anisimov. The big man could barely hold on to the puck and was pushed around several times. Boyle botched the play that led to Pierre-Marc Bouchard's goal, slowly skating into the corner to double team Brodziak, leaving Bouchard and Havlat open to make the play. Horrific.

*The lack of success on the power play is unacceptable. 0-4? Seriously? Yet again everyone tried to set up McCabe for the shot and it didn't take rocket science for the Wild to figure out where the puck was going and how to stop it.

*Yay Sean Avery scored! It's about time! Too bad that was one of just two times you could tell he was on the ice all game - the other being his late attempt to catch up to Bouchard after Boyle left him open.

*Derek Stepan has now played 25 more games than he did last year and you have to wonder if the extra games are finally getting to him. Now it could just be that the team relied upon him more when everyone was out with injury and he answered the bell but who knows? All that is apparent is that he isn't getting it done lately - much like many of his teammates.

*Paging Misters Zuccarello, Christensen, Wolski and Prospal. Wolski had 18 points in the 18 games after his trade from Colorado to Phoenix last season. He has 13 in 23 since the Rangers grabbed him from the desert. Zuke, who was manhandled by Burns late in the third and just went looking for the ref instead of standing up for himself, has an 18 game goal drought.

*Nice to see Marc Staal back but he clearly wasn't at 100%, just like Prust and Fedotenko.

*The MSG transformation is deeply underway and the lower concourse is all but closed off. All of the regular concessions have been closed but - not so shockingly - they managed to keep the sushi stand open. There is also one of the food courts but it was a madhouse even 45 minutes before puck drop. We are all being inconvenienced by the change and what will we get out of it? The honour of not being able to afford to come back anymore. Then again, if these aren't just growing pains that the Rangers are going through this season, plenty of tickets will be available for below face for years to come.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Pierre-Marc Bouchard - one goal and one assist.
2-Jose Theodore - 41 saves.
1-Kyle Brodziak - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-John Madden - It was like old times watching the former Devil have little problem shutting the Rangers down.
2-Brent Burns - The big Burns was good on both sides of the ice. He manhandled the Rangers and swiftly moved the puck around with smart passes.
1-Brodziak - Ryan Callahan, but with a goal.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

33-28-4: Dying By The Sword

The Rangers identity that they worked so hard to form cost them yet another game tonight as they lost 3-2 in an important bout with Buffalo. The Blueshirts came out flat, trailed but hung tough and - despite a valiant effort - fell short.

Not a lot of time for me so I will just get into it:

*They dropped to 14-15-3 at home, 2-5-1 last eight at MSG. The team has been especially bad at home for the last two seasons, seemingly ever since they started adding youngsters to the lineup - right about when much was made about the young bachelors moving into Manhattan. Coincidence?

*The officiating was even worse than it was against Tampa. Now could that have been fallout from Tortorella's postgame comments? Certainly possible. Also possible was this awful officiating crew trying to show their families at home that they are really in the NHL by doing their best to make an impact on the game. Pathetic penalties, posturing in the faceoff circles and just generally getting in the way. What made it even worse was that for all of their atrociousness in the second period, the clowns swallowed their whistles in the third period. The Blueshirts were mugged on several occasions as they pressed for the equalizer and yet the zebras suddenly went blind. I rarely believe in blaming the stripes but when they are this bad, you just can't overlook their 'contribution.'

*Miller made several good saves but the Rangers made him look even better. Derek Stepan had a mostly empty net to shoot out late in the second period and he fired it right at the middle, the one spot Miller could get to. Aside from Christensen's goal that made it 2-1, Miller was able to see every shot. He may have choked in the Olympics (for which I will never forgive him), but the guy is normally a pretty good goaltender so if he can see the shot, he's probably gonna stop it.

*Bryan McCabe showed off his other side - the one Toronto fans were so well acquainted with - on the second Buffalo goal. McCabe couldn't clear the puck, followed the puck away from his man and couldn't get back in time to stop Gaustad from finding Boyes (who had gotten loose because Sauer looked to cover for his partner). McCabe may get a pass for his shooting but even that isn't that great. Well, the shooting is but the way his teammates are now deferring to him, constantly looking for that shot isn't. They did it for Jagr, they did it for Gaborik and now they are doing it for McCabe. It really isn't difficult for the opposition to counter when you know where the puck is going.

*Zuccarello, who has come under fire for underwhelming regulation play, was the best player in the final few minutes. The puck that he put past Miller (only to see it sit on the goal line) came after he won a faceoff and went to the net. The Norwegian also hit the post and had several good passes go past unexpecting teammates.

*Vinny Prospal had his worst game of the season. The kids are the ones who are supposed to be inconsistent and mistake-prone, what is his excuse?

*Just looked at the game-sheet: how does Brandon Dubinsky go without a single shot on goal?

*The Christensen goal was a lot like Pat Kane's Cup-winner last June - only the shooter knew it was in for several heartbeats.

*MSG has always been bad with showing replays but they were especially lacking in this one - doing us a supreme disservice.

*Too many Sabre fans.

*Love, love, love Captain Callahan's effort but it would be nice if he could capitalize on more of the chances he earns with that effort.

*Speaking of players who give it all, the Rangers would be well served to sit Brandon Prust for a game or two. Prust is clearly skating around favoring his bum shoulder and he even seemed to intentionally avoid getting involved in a scrum with Shaone Morrisonn. The guy's guts are quite admirable but it is time for him to show off some smarts and tell Torts he needs to take some time. He isn't effective enough at 75%.

*His former BFF on the ice Brian Boyle also hasn't been himself. The 6'7 Boyle played smaller than Zuccarello - a sharp contrast from Buffalo's big man Paul Gaustad.

*It is impressive what Anisimov can do when he isn't being checked. He tiptoed through the tulips to the slot to score his goal but was bounced around the rest of the night. Said it before, will say it again: just 15, 20 pounds of muscle would make a world of difference.

*Matt Gilroy had a good chance to score, which was the only time in the last two, three games where he was noticeable. Let's hope this is a starting point for Hobey.

*Sean Avery was bounced between lines yet again. As we have seen, Avery can be a game-breaker but he needs some kind of chemistry with his linemates so he stops going or causing offsides all of the time. (And he needs to be allowed to be Avery, without having to worry that doing so will result in immediate reprimand.)

*On the way home I heard that Talbot was sent down and Johnson was called up; leads me to believe that if Hank can get the win on Thursday, Chad will see the Sens on Friday. Sadly that's a big IF right about now.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Artem Anisimov - one goal.
2-Ryan Miller - 29 saves.
1-Jochen Hecht - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Another gritty performance by the should-be Captain edges out MZA's late burst of effort.
2-Gaustad - He won faceoffs, he stood in front of Hank, he made a difference. Everything Boyle didn't do.
1-Miller - What the hell, give him credit for not allowing any soft goals.