Saturday, April 30, 2011

The NYR Facts Of Life: #97 Matt Gilroy

For each player who suited up in a Blueshirt this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have. And this time around we start with the high numbers and work our way down so we begin with #97, Matt Gilroy.

#97's #s: 58 games, 3 goals, 8 assists, +5, 14 PIM (5 playoff games, one goal, -1, 2 PIM).

Take the good: Hobey stepped up his game in the playoffs and was pretty solid. Well, at least solid enough to keep veteran Steve Eminger in the press box. The Rangers scored just eight goals in the five games of the playoffs and he had one of them. Either Gilroy's confidence grew or he was just desperate to make an impression but he was more willing to jump into the attack later in the season. At the start he was more physical than he was in '09-10 but the offense was absent. His plus/minute went from even in that rookie season to a +5 this time around.

Take the bad: That was the only statistical category to improve. Gilroy had his points per game, hits per game, blocks per game, ice time per game and, hell, even the actual number of games decline. The ice time dropped by over two minutes as he was leapfrogged by a pair of rookies on the depth chart. His skill set seemed to lend well to the Tortorella offensive experiment but Gilroy didn't do enough up front that he was sent back to the blueline before the game was over.

Take them both and then we have: A guy turning 27 this summer who showed little ability to justify his $1.75 million two-year contract for either of the years. He was let off the hook for his struggles in the opening season because of the transition from college to pros but the sophomore slump did little to indicate that there is a future for him in the NHL, much less in New York.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The NYR Facts Of Life: Intro

Sadly the offseason is under way for the Rangers but at least this time it comes after a (all-too-fast) trip to the playoffs. While the battle for the Cup continues we have the time for some self-examination and, so, that is just what we will do. Tomorrow will see the revival of the The Facts Of Life from last year; feel free to check out the initial incarnation's master post here. For each Ranger to make an appearance this season we will take the good, we will take the bad and take them both and see what we have.

Unlike last year, this time around it will be done in reverse number order so we build to the heart of the lineup instead of ending with some one-game wonders and Matt Gilroy. Hobey's Facts will be up tomorrow and hopefully I'll be able to get one new guy up each day. Hopefully.

Eurotrippin' Again

The Rangers announced today that their preseason slate of games will include a match against HC Sparta Prague on September 29th.

The Blueshirts alerted the media with a stark press release while Sparta held a press conference. The Czech side finished 12th in the Extraliga LednĂ­ho Hokeje table (out of 14) last season so they also debuted a new coach, one of the assistants on the Czech national team. During their disappointing campaign Marty Rucinsky and Jan Hlavac both played nine games for them while former Blue Jacket David Vyborny was around for most of the schedule. Rucinsky was traded away early and, from what I can tell, Hlavac came over from Sweden midseason. The team, which is over 100 years old, has a very classical sounding song sung by the fans but they did have a tribute rock song written by a local band. So they have that going for them.

The Sparta website mentioned that the Rangers are expected to arrive on the 27th of September but that could very well change. Regardless, this is the first fixture to be announced and certainly not the last. Seeing as the Blueshirts don't open the NHL regular season until October 7th, they will certainly fit in another exhibition game or two after this one. My personal hope is for one in Oslo, Norway and another in Gothenberg, Sweden. Oslo, however, might be out of the question unless they can get one of the other NHL teams to play against them there - the Norwegian league isn't particularly good but you never know; the Bruins played Belfast last year.

Where the Rangers games against the Lightning back in '08 took place in the O2 Arena in Prague, this exhibition will take place in Sparta's building, the Tesla Arena. The capacity is 12,950, about 5,000 less than the other venue. Tickets will cost 600 CZK ($40) to 1,300 CZK ($80) and will be on sale in mid-May.

Scotty doesn't know (!) if he will be there for the whole thing but he does know that he had to make that gag in this post. And that is the last time I will refer to myself in the third person. As of this moment, the Rangers' ticket reps have no info in regards to tickets to the Stockholm games, which went on sale in Sweden a few weeks back - much less those of this one. In 2008 the Rangers did not release Prague tickets to their U.S. fans - you had to buy trip packages from the team that cost as much as a season ticket in the Garden. I ended up catching the two preseason efforts in Bern, Switzerland before heading to the Czech beer garden in Queens to watch the games against the Lightning. Hopefully that won't happen this time around, stay tuned.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Five To Forget

As Dave W mentioned in the comments for the Five For The Future, there was sure to be the antithesis of those great games - five atrocious evenings that are best for the Blueshirts to forget. Going into depth on them will be to painful, so this is just a quick look to throw some dirt on the coffins.

*Note that the double overtime Game 4 loss against the Capitals is not on this list. That utter failure should not be forgotten, it should be used as motivation for this summer, next season and the rest of the Rangers' careers.

Dishonourable mention: November 19th, 5-1 loss against the Avalanche and March 24th, 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators.

5 - October 15th, 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs: Hard to distinguish who was worse that night, Ace Frehley or the Rangers.

4 - March 3rd, 3-1 loss to the Wild: One of the many games where they blew an early lead, the Rangers looked lifeless against a lousy team that was in the midst of a 2-9-2 slide.

3 - January 2nd, 3-0 loss to the Panthers: The first of two losses in January to Florida. The Panthers. The Rangers lost to the Panthers twice in a month, and this one was a shutout.

2 - April 7th, 3-0 loss to the Thrashers: The Rangers disgraced themselves by falling flat against Atlanta despite a pregame ceremony with Ryan Callahan and Steven McDonald.

1 - April 23rd, 3-1 loss to the Capitals: The Rangers had given up before this one even started.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Five For The Future

This season left a bad taste in the mouth, to say the least. The Rangers exited the Garden with a double overtime disappointment and exited the playoffs with an uninspired effort in DC. So rather than concentrate on those two unsatisfactory affairs, how about we look back at five great games that give hope for the team going forward? It was actually tough picking just five as I found seven great candidates so those are the honourable mentions. All - save one of the HMs - were against teams that finished higher than the Rangers in the standings, showing that the Rangers could play at an elite level. If only they could maintain that level over an entire 98 game season (82 + 16) ...

Honourable Mentions: January 9th, 2-1 win over the Blues and Sunday, March 20th, 5-2 win over the Penguins

5 - November 1st, 3-2 win over the Blackhawks: After a mediocre October the Rangers hosted the Hawks at the Garden in what turned out to be a defining game for the team. The Stanley Cup champs - even without Byfuglien and the other guys lost over the summer - were a far more skilled team but the Blueshirts battled and clawed their way to the victory.

4 - March 12th, 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks: After dominating the Flyers 7-0 at the Garden, the Rangers hit the road and ran right into Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and the rest of the Ducks. They lost that one 5-2 and could easily have collapsed against the Sharks but they battened down the hatches and sank the Sharks in a shootout. It kicked off a 6-0-1 streak that actually put them into sixth place in the East.

3 - December 12th, 7-0 win over the Capitals: This was the delightful domination that made it's way onto HBO as part of 24/7. Sure the Capitals were stumbling their way into winter but a seven spot on the eventual first place team was just sweet.

2 - November 15th, 3-2 overtime win over the Penguins: The Rangers entered Consol without a regulation win in their previous 15, 15! games in Pittsburgh. And this looked certain to become number 16 as the Pens struck for two goals in 38 seconds to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. They had the officials helping them all night long and the go-ahead goal was accompanied by a penalty to Hank. So what did the Rangers do? They rallied for their Swedish star, scored shorthanded to force overtime and won in the extra period.

1 - January 13th, 1-0 win over Vancouver: This was the best 60 minutes of hockey that the Rangers played all season. Prior to the game Torts told the media “we’re not going to win a hockey game 1-0 tonight” and yet they did. And - even more amazingly - they did it without Ryan Callahan. The Canucks had earned at least one point in 17 straight games (14-0-3) and they were stymied by a blue wall of battlers. The Rangers played at the same level of the eventual President's Trophy winners and even survived an unfortunate five-on-three on their way to victory. Who says that you have to have scoring to have a helluva hockey game? This one was a sheer delight and certainly shows that the Rangers have it in them to run with the best.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Monday For Mourning

After the Canucks lost last night, Vancouver fan Miss Kelli tweeted, "first person to say, 'It's only a game,' gets curb-stomped." I think many of us are empathetic to her, I know I am. That was just the emotion that I felt after the Rangers fell on Saturday. But I think it has begun it's transition from rage to simple sadness. As I walked out of work last night the security guard said to me, "sorry 'bout your Rangas man. Next year, next year.' And all I could do was shrug and thank him. The anger was gone, but hope clearly has not filled the void just yet.

Before it can, at least for me, there needs to be analysis, reflection and a bit of mourning for what could have been. Even though expectations from this corner were not high, there was always that little voice in the background that wished for (actually demanded) more. It led to the brand of harsh criticism that fills this space, and I can not thank all of you enough for reading it and adding your $0.02.

The fourth season worth of Scotty Hockey coverage will wrap up much the way the last one did, with a Facts Of Life look at every player and then the annual report card. Should the real world allow, there may also be coverage of the Cup Finals. So just to wrap this up, thanks again for stopping by, sucks that the Rangers' season is over and this blog ain't goin' nowhere so y'all come back now, ya hear?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

R1, Game 5: Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Hours of separation has lessened the murderous rage that imbued my spirit after the Rangers ended their season with a 3-1 loss to Washington. In its place is only confusion.

How could the team - led by their coach - talk about being ready for the most important game of their campaign and then produce ... that? The Rangers had a chance to win the first four games of this series; they had no chance this afternoon. Many have raved about the team's resilience and never-say-die attitude over the course of this season and yet the team simply folded after falling in double overtime in Game 4. All the rhetoric in the world couldn't bring back a team that left their hearts on the Garden ice.

The Rangers team that showed up in the Phone Booth played scared of making mistakes, scared of taking penalties and - with a few exceptions - scared of laying it all on the line for what they clearly believed to be a lost cause.

There is much left to be written about this team in this space but that will come in the days and months henceforth; this will stick to the loss. And on that, notes:

*Losing this game was acceptable in the grand scale of things - the team is young and had no real place in the playoffs to begin with, so the experience for the core was gravy. But in the moment, all it brings is sadness and disgust. Seeing Henrik Lundqvist sitting on the bench in the final minutes - very clearly wearing his emotions on his sleeve - was heartbreaking.

*Chris Drury's main reasons to be in the lineup over a Whale were his faceoffs and penalty killing ability. He went 6-6 at the dot and stumbled around the Ranger end while Mike Green scored the first goal of the game. He actually fell in front of Staal, allowing Green to get his second swing at the puck. And, to boot, Drury was completely and utterly outplayed by Boyd Gordon. Let that sink in; Boyd Gordon. Said it many times before, Chris Drury is the worst captain in the NHL and the worst in Rangers franchise history.

*No Ranger will make it into the three stars below but several deserve recognition. Mike Sauer was stellar, Dan Girardi did all that he could do, Hank was Hank and Sean Avery was the best Ranger on the ice. Say what you like about Avery's penchant for going offsides, the occasional bad penalty or the lack of goals but Avery has been at his best in the biggest games. If he had any kind of chemistry with any of his teammates perhaps the production would be there too.

*Unless NBC/Versus mixed their audio differently than they did in MSG, no Caps fans, you weren't louder. Sorry. But that was fun.

*Marcus Johansson > Artem Anisimov. That being said, Arty had a rush in the third period that was his best play in the last month. It was a flash of the ability he showed earlier this season; it is shame that Cally's injury cost us Callahan, Anisimov and Dubinsky.

*Dubi was a complete nonfactor.

*Semin's goal was the kind of thing Marian Gaborik was supposed to be able to do. And nice of Mr. Softie to get caught flatfooted at the Caps blueline, allowing Semin to take off like a bat out of hell down the ice alone.

*Hobey saved his hardest slap shot for Mike Green's face, which worked out as it knocked Green out of the game. It was too bad the Blueshirts couldn't take advantage of his absence.

*Marc Staal has done yeoman's work this year as the top defenseman but what the hell was he doing with Ovechkin on the second goal? He laid a weak stick check and stopped moving his feet, allowing Ovie to blast by and score. There are good penalties and there are bad penalties and that was a time for a good penalty.

*Bryan McCabe ended up with 14 PIM thanks to the scrum with 32 seconds left. It was the most life that he showed since his goal against Philly.

*It's not how you start but how you finish: Brian Boyle closed with just one goal in his last 24 games on 74 shots, five of them in this game. And he had all of three assists during that span.

*How does the Professional Hockey Writers make Michal Neuvirth the top star of the game when he didn't even have to break a sweat? The Rangers stopped crashing his crease and allowed him to see every shot.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brooks Laich - two assists.
2-Alex Ovechkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Michal Neuvirth - 26 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-John Carlson - The rookie swatted the Rangers away like they were flies. Screw you Del Zotto.
2-Brooksie - It will be very interesting to see what kind of contract Laich lands this summer. He has been solid secondary scoring and a stable footsoldier when needed.
1-Ovie - He's good.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R1, Game 4: Manhattan Meltdown

If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in the next three years we should be able to trace that victory back tonight's 4-3 double overtime loss. You have to learn to lose before you learn to win and tonight provided a great, great lesson. It also cast a fantastic spotlight on the two biggest problems that have plagued this team throughout this season: they don't play 60 minutes and they suck on the power play.

Giving up four straight goals to blow a 3-0 lead is just disastrous, and hadn't happened to a NHL team ... well, in 20 hours or so. Seeing L.A. blow 4-0 is heartening when you consider that they are virtually the same team as the Rangers. So at least we have that going for us.

Wish I had more time but I don't so just a few notes:

*Kudos of course to Bruce Boudreau, who got exactly what he wanted. He whined about the Rangers going to the net and he was given two power plays for it in the first period. He incited the Garden crowd and the thunderous "Can You Hear Us" gave him the ammunition he was looking for to light a fire under his players. The light Boudreau Sucks and Boooo-Dreau chants were nothing compared to the two "Can You Hear Us."

*But I don't think that even Brucey could have imagined that the chants would also stop the Rangers from forechecking.

*This was the first time this season Marian Gaborik scored two goals in a game when the Rangers faced a formidable opponent. Of course, one was for the Rangers and one was against them, but small steps. He did have three other prime chances to score and blew them all but two goals in one game against a team that made the playoffs, that is pretty good. Of course, his inability to cover Alex Semin set up the first Washington goal but he can't get credit for Hank not being able to hold onto the puck.

*You know there is something wrong when Vinny Prospal and Bryan McCabe - two big parts of the power play and two guys regularly thrown over the boards - end up with zero shots on goal. Combined they had nearly 15 minutes of man advantage ice time.

*Mike Sauer was beyond outstanding. Such a wonderful performance by a kid in his fourth NHL playoff game. Unbelievable and delightful. McDonagh seemed to fight the puck a bit but Sauer was strong, poised and in position. Don't really have the words at this moment to express the adoration for his effort.

*A friend asked, "why does it always look like we are changing lines?" A very good question and one hard to answer. And it is one that has to be asked when two players go lunging towards the bench the instant the puck crosses the blue line - no matter that Washington has it in the neutral zone. The poor line change gave DC their second goal of the game and was utterly inexcusable.

*Marcus Johansson actually scored that and he was given credit for the game-tying goal as well. But that one was on a tip off of a great shot by John Carlson. Carlson, you may remember, is the player I advocated the Rangers take in the '08 draft. Instead the Rangers took MDZ and Carlson slipped to the Caps at 27. Yep.

*Another comment from a friend: "I love that line, Boyle, Prust and Avery. But who is going to score?" Another great question, one that was answered ... none of them. Prust had opportunities but couldn't finish. Boyle was guilty of trying to do far too much. And it was odd that Avery was a game-worst -2 when he really did not play poorly at all. Without the benefit of replay I can't say if his slashing penalty was warranted but the officials gave the Rangers a make-good moments after the Blueshirts killed it off.

*Why do the Rangers give up the blueline without a fight?

*Anyone have any idea of what the MSG staff was doing tonight? No Boudreau quote on the big board. And a guy dressed in a Caps jersey dancing to "A Night At The Roxbury" matted over the Capitals bench. What was the point exactly of that? To show someone who is mockingly over-exaggerating dancing and yet still does better than Dancing Larry? And some stereotypical disaster dude from Jersey Shore? They couldn't just show Matthew Modine again?

*Do you think that Mayor Bloomberg thought that the ovation was for him when they showed Mike Richter on the big board?

*Derek Stepan looked tired before the game started and clearly ran out of gas as it went on. But he was still better than Arty Anisimov, who continued to do everything he can to avoid paying any price to score or create scoring chances. Credit must be given though, he did net a goal thanks to a lucky bank shot off of Neuvirth.

*Chris Drury is supposedly clutch, right? So how come he didn't score in overtime. Or double overtime. Or even get a sniff at the Washington net? And when he is not winning the majority of his faceoffs, really, what point is there of having him on the roster? His so-called leadership couldn't help the Rangers shake off the first Caps goal. Or the second. Or the third.

*Eric Fehr ended up +3 but I do believe that DC missed Mike Knuble. Not sure that they would have gone down 0-3 with him in the lineup.

*Wojtek Wolski, thanks for nothing.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jason Chimera - one goal.
2-Ruslan Fedotenko - two assists.
1-Marcus Johansson - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - Really wanted to put Sauer here but Girardi played nearly two full periods and much of that time was spent shutting down Ovechkin. But Sauer was great too.
2-Fedotenko - The first two Ranger goals were all him, Dubi and Gabby just had to show up. Another lunchpail effort from the veteran.
1-Johansson - The kid did everything, it was impressive - power play time, penalty kill time, stickhandled well, shot well, went to the net well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scripting Drama



Fans mill about, slowly filtering to their seats. Air of expectancy with some hostility for those unfortunate few clad in red.

Zambonis finish circling and go off the ice. Lights fade. Fans applaud. Scoreboard clock ticks down to 1:39 and stops.


Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to Madison Square Garden, the World's Most Famous Arena!
Tonight, Game 4 featuring the Washington Capitals (PAUSE FOR BOOS)
And your New York Rangers!

I Am A Ranger video plays:

Fans start LET'S GO RANGERS chant. Ranger logos are projected onto the ice and swirl around the arena.

NHL Playoffs History Will Be Made commercial plays:

Final frame is removed, replaced with: History will be made again. Tonight.

TOLLESON speaks again:

Ladies and gentlemen, here they are ... the New York Rangers!

Both teams take the ice. Spotlight on the RANGERS gate as they step onto the Garden floor. Lights remain out.

Spotlight pans across the ice to JOHN AMIRANTE on a small carpet. House lights remain off while AMIRANTE sings the NATIONAL ANTHEM.

Crowd roars. Spotlights swirl before going out completely. Single spot comes up again, only not on AMIRANTE. Instead it lands on the Washington Capitals bench. In-house camera shows CAPITALS COACH BRUCE BOUDREAU. A voice thunders over the PA system only it is not TOLLESON or AMIRANTE. It is BOUDREAU. (Starting at 0:31)

Well, the one thing, its reputation is far better than the actual building. I mean, it's nothing.
The locker rooms are horrible. The benches are horrible. There's no room for anything.
But the reputation of being in Madison Square Garden is what makes it famous.
Also, our building's a lot louder, too.
So I mean, they can say what they want, but it's not that loud in there.

Lights up. Game on.


Monday, April 18, 2011

R1, Game 3: No Sweep

As per always, this is not the place for sunshine, glitter and unicorns. The Rangers pulling out a 3-2 victory over Washington on Sunday in Game 3 is worth a quick smile but little else. They did not play particularly well and their opponents played far worse than they had in the previous two games.

Are you mad yet? You should be, but it shouldn't be at me for not tasting the rainbow. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to build cohesive lines. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to build a capable power play. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to motivate his team for 60 minutes.

Washington loosened up the fortress of shot-blocking and the tough checking that battered the Blueshirts over the first two games and yet this was the best the Rangers could do. It was enough on this afternoon to get the win and we should be pleased about that. Pleased? Yes. Happy? Eh. Satisfied? Absolutely not. It was incredibly saddening considering the glimpses of greatness we've seen earlier this season and it doesn't give any indication that they can pull out this series, much less go beyond it.


*10:33 of power play time - including a long five-on-three - and just one goal. One soft, soft goal. Utterly unacceptable. Bryan McCabe, the so-called power play savior when he was acquired, was atrocious. His thought process is as slow as his skating and he has proven that he is not the man-advantage answer. I understand that they haven't been prolific scorers this season but how has Torts completely ignored Prust and Avery when up a man? Both cause chaos when on the ice - something much needed when the power play is anything but. It is uncreative and lifeless, either setting up McCabe for his big shot (which has worked all of once) or Gaborik for ... well, I have no idea for what at this point.

*On the matter of power plays, the officiating crew for this game were utter failures. The level of "discipline" harkened back to the first season out of the lockout when most physical contact was discouraged. Not to mention their tendency to be in the way, the long review on a simple call and the waste of time that was finding a replacement official when one went down. Apparently 80 years of a single referee wasn't enough proof that they could go on minus the extra stripes.

*Of course, one of the highlights of the game was when a linesman decided to posture and toss Brian Boyle from the dot. Sean Avery stepped in, won the draw and drew a huge ovation.

*Did Boyle really have nine shots on goal? Really?

*Nice of Chris Drury to go for a line change while Washington was on the offensive with a minute left in the second period. His ill-timed abandonment of the Ranger end cost the team a goal - for the second game in a row. And he is the captain.

*Anyone else think that Derek Stepan may have hit the wall? The kid has been stellar at times this season but he just doesn't seem to have that extra gear left.

*Any idea of why Unkie Bruce limited the ice time of Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera? Their most effective unit - especially in a cluttered mess like this match - saw less than 10 minutes.

*Watching Brandon Dubinsky's goal again and again makes it less and less impressive. First Nicklas Backstrom simply gives up the battle on the boards. Gives up and skates away. Then no Capital bothers to play the body, giving him a free lane to the net. And finally, he never really shot the puck. His momentum, combined with Alzner's stick check, popped the puck in the air and luck bounced it off of Alzner's shoulder and in. Dubi's ability went on the IR when Cally did so let's hope that this bit of good fortune can bring it back to good health.

*Ovechkin nearly managed to sweep the puck out on the play but his most impressive shift came after he came out of the penalty box in the second period. The Caps were still shorthanded and Ovie picked off a pass from a blind Mr. Softie. He then headed up ice to get the Rangers to chase, curled back into the Caps end and fired the puck down towards Hank. A perfect penalty killing play, by one of the best offensive players in the world.

*We (rightfully) have railed on Gaborik for not scoring but credit must be given when due. Gabby was planted in front of Neuvirth, drawing Alzner to him. Seeing as Carlson chased Dubi out of position, Gabby's move allowed Prospal to sit in the corner wide open to bang home Staal's rebound.

*Still unsure how Hank was named the top star of a game where he gave up two goals on 25 shots. Neither one was his fault but he hardly had to be as heroic of he often has been. Neuvirth made more saves but lost his consideration by allowing Softie's softie.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Vinny Prospal - one goal.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - Hey, a little luck goes a long way.
2-Marc Staal - Solid play on both sides of the ice, with his big shot to set up Prospal's goal and his regular hard work in front of Hank.
1-Ovechkin - We can boo Ovie all we like, shift after shift, but that doesn't stop him from being one incredible hockey player.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

R1, Game 2: Washout In Washington

According to Wiki a washout is the sudden erosion of soft soil or other support surfaces by a gush of water, usually occurring during a heavy downpour of rain. The downpour came in a two minute span of the second period, and the Rangers hopes of victory were quickly eroded away.

We saw this happen in the final five games of March - the Rangers scored five goals in that span and somehow came out of it 2-2-1. Well the Washington Capitals aren't about to let the Rangers break even when they can't break onto the scoresheet. This is playoff hockey and the Blueshirts need to realize that. Sure goals come at an even higher premium than the regular season but they are still there for the taking. The problem is that you have to work harder to take them and certain players aren't putting forth the effort.

Now before you go off please keep in mind that effort is the physical manifestation of a determination to do something. And, watching several of the Rangers, it is clear to see that that determination is lacking. That has to change. Whether it is due to pride or panic, the Rangers need to find that drive and take it right to the net on Sunday or this season is over.


*The team was delightfully deliberate in their attempts to batter the Caps early physically along the boards but they needed to take it a further. Those hits needed to remove opponents from the puck, those hits needed to give the guys room to make plays, those hits needed to create chances and the follow ups to those chances. All credit to Washington for not allowing those hits to do any of the above in the opening period. The Rangers pushed hard, the Caps pushed back and the Rangers relented in the second. Sure they found the strength for a few more shoves but by then it was too late to do anything about the final result.

*Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brian Boyle are back to trying to do too much out there. It is only natural when you see their counterparts on the Caps collecting goals but the blue collar Blueshirts just need to keep things simple. Skate, hit, shoot. Hell, that stands for all of the Rangers, not just the unsung heroes we have come to expect too much from.

*Marian Gaborik has done his best to lower expectations with his atrocious play this season. That is the only explanation as to why MSG Network anointed him their Ranger star of the game. He had four shots - none that really tested Neuvirth - and four hits - none that tangibly achieved anything. MSG must have figured that Joe Micheletti shrieked Gabby's name enough times that he must have done something.

*Micheletti, of course, was atrocious. It took less than two minutes before he asininely asserted himself with his obnoxious "pardon me Sam but ..." and it just went downhill from there. He, like Sean Avery, has no chemistry with anyone else and it shows.

*Avery, at least, has some redeeming qualities. The Rangers needed to forecheck and Avery brought the forecheck. Sean was the best Blueshirt on the ice not named Lundqvist yet again, it is just a shame that he can not get comfortable with any linemate because Torts juggles him so much. And that results in the many offsides and the many feeds off the endboards that harmlessly slide away. It is inexplicable that Tortorella held him to just two shifts in the second period when the team desperately needed a spark after giving away the two goals.

*The defense of the team's overpaid captain is that he wins faceoffs and kills penalties. On this night Chris Drury failed at both. Drury lost the defensive zone faceoff to Jason Arnott and went chasing after the puck. When two of his teammates went after Mike Green, Drury was caught up in the high slot watching Arnott score a power play goal from the bottom of the circle. Frankly it was just an unlucky deflection but if Dru wins that draw back then that play doesn't happen. For those that still think he is the team's leader, what message does it send when the leader plays just two shifts in the third period because the coach feels he is incapable of contributing?

*Speaking of being incapable of contributing, Artem Anisimov and Wojtek Wolski. The two players do possess a high level of skill but they somehow have to find the spines to make it work. Washington's physicality has marginalized them and that is unacceptable. I mean, c'mon, even Mr. Softie Erik Christensen ventured into the danger zone a few times.

*Henrik Ludqvist deserves zero blame for either of these losses. It is simply sad to see the Swede's stellar work night after night wasted.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jason Arnott - one goal.
2-Jason Chimera - one goal.
1-Michal Neuvirth - 22 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Neuvirth - Smart, simple goaltending. See the puck, stop the puck, don't give up bad rebounds.
2-Brooks Laich - His one-handed feed on the first goal was the definition of determination. Never give up, never surrender.
1-Arnott - The Rangers rolled right over Washington when Arnott wasn't there and you had better believe that the former Devil simply would not have allowed results of 7-0 and 6-0. Ovechkin may wear the C but this man is skippering the Caps ship at this point and he has them pointed towards a long run in the playoffs. A veteran leader with Cups on his resume showing his younger teammates the will and the ways to win. Wouldn't it be nice if the Rangers had someone like that?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Has To Happen: Game 2

The Rangers return to the Phone Booth (Verizon Center) on Friday night for Game 2 of their series against the Capitals and one of two things will happen: they will go in and come out wearing their Supermen costumes having seized victory on away ice or they will go in and stumble out sad after finding no change in the coin return. All will not be lost in the series by falling on Friday as the Caps will have simply held serve but the Blueshirts, for their own psyche, at least need to shove back.

So do they have to do?

1- Get off to a better start. The Rangers came out of the gate on Wednesday on fire ... for about two minutes. Washington took control at that point and held it for pretty much the rest of the game. Good, strong, physical play early would send a message and set a tone that the Blueshirts aren't about to back down and be the targets in Ovie's shooting gallery. While a Prustian tussle would ignite the flame, it might be best to save that for Sunday and the home crowd. Follow the first few shots in and cause havok in the Caps crease.

2- Forechecking. And that isn't just sending Fedotenko or Prust in alone to chase a dump. A proper forecheck is done by five guys on the ice, with players supporting other players as they push the action where they want. Washington's defenders aren't particularly impressive. As any Avalanche fan can tell you, Scott Hannan makes mistakes. John Erskine is a neanderthal. Karl Alzner and John Carlson are just kids. Very, very good kids, but just kids. And Mike Green can stickhandle, skate and shoot like the dickens but he is a disaster in his own end much of the time. Pressure these guys and mistakes will be made. And, Mr. Gaborik, you have to take advantage of those mistakes.

3- Bringing back the edge. To steal Dean Evason's line from 24/7, the Rangers need to grab their sacks and do something about the DC pressure. Compete and get in someone's face. If Ovechkin gets three chops at Henrik, the Rangers need to get three chops right back - and then send someone right over Neuvirth.

4- Stop being so damned predictable. The Rangers have blocked a ton of shots this season because they have lived in the moment and went down when needed. The Capitals blocked a ton of shots on Wednesday because they were able to read the Ranger plays. This was especially true on the power play, but the rest of the game saw a lot of the same things. Dump, chase, work the puck to the man in the circle or the slow-triggered point men and fire away. Need a lot more of the two Cs - creativity and crashing. And by creativity I don't mean fancy-ass back passes and spins - try stickhandling, try stringing together several short passes, run the damned picket fence and let 'er fly.

5- Know the roles. Watching the Semin goal another 15 times today showed that his goal came because Brandon Dubinsky and Chris Drury each thought the other one was the center on the play. They abandoned the zone, leaving Staal to deal with an oncoming Brooks Laich. While turning back and putting the puck back around the end boards might have been the better play, sending the puck up the boards is a defenseman's crutch. He couldn' t know that both Dru and Dubi had abandoned the zone - he was trying to deal with Laich. And, by the way, Girardi was caught watching , giving Semin the space to get off the one-timer. Semin may be one of those enigmatic Russians but he is a damned talented enigmatic Russian; like the other Alex, they can't give him any time or space.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

R1, Game 1: Semin Ends The Evening

The Rangers shouldn't have made the playoffs with the finish that they had. The Rangers shouldn't have won tonight's game with the start that they had. The Blueshirts were completely and utterly dominated after the first two minutes and yet had a perfectly good chance to win the game. They didn't - losing 2-1 in overtime - but just having that chance is what matters. This series is all about getting the youngsters experience and this was a great opener for them.

Do you think Derek Stepan will stand by and allow Ovechkin to hack the hell out of Hank again? Can you imagine how high Matt Gilroy's confidence is right now, despite the loss? And Sauer and McDonagh? Feel free to insert the cliche here: you have to learn to lose before you learn to win. As long as the team doesn't roll over and die in Game 2 this loss will be a success in the long run, and that is the game we're playing at this point in time.


*What is more unlikely and amazing: two rookie defensemen stepping into the lineup this season and looking rock solid or two rookie defensemen stepping into the lineup this season and looking rock solid as a pairing? Sauer and McDonagh were fantastic.

*Staal and Girardi were even better but let's face it, that's to be expected when the Rangers go up against Washington. They were every bit as good as Ovechkin and Ovie looked like the best player on the planet.

*Ovie's goal, what can you say? First reaction was intent to blow but hey, the refs did their best not to blow their whistles in this one and that was what made it a pretty fairly fought game.

*Lundqvist was impressive but he let what, five pucks get past him? Two goals and three shots that hit the iron. It has been said before here with sadness and a sigh, Hank has to be perfect for this team to win.

*While I think Henrik could have stopped Semin's shot - he was on his knees - that goal was captain Chris Drury's fault. Dru was on the ice with Dubi so there were two centers for the defensive zone draw. Dubi, however, headed out to the wing. When the puck was chipped back Dubi followed his man out of the zone. Dru couldn't clear and the puck went back to Staal. Dru left to check on the pizza at his restaurant and Staal did what most defensemen under pressure should - he put it off the wall ... right to Arnott, who he couldn't see had been left completely alone. Semin stepped back to separate himself from Girardi and had the room to blast the one-timer in. Sad ending to a hard-fought game.

*The Rangers were able to get 25 shots through to DC's rookie goaltender in 78:24. That's just not enough. Washington blocked a ton of a shots (as the Rangers did) but the Rangers simply did not have the talent to overcome it. Nor the gameplan. Each time a guy went to the wall there should have been a Blueshirt somewhere remotely near the slot but there never was.

*On the talent topic ... Gaborik. Unacceptable. Again. Look at the chances that Washington's top players earned and then look at the ones that Gabby did. His defensive play was pretty good but dammit Braden, that isn't what you're paid for.

*He was a big reason of why the power plays were so atrocious. The unit is completely predictable at this point - either get the puck to McCabe for a shot or to Gabby. And the Slovak is somehow reluctant to shoot it when he gets it. When you have Boyle on the ice you plant his oversized body down low and just put the puck into play. Let Dubi hack away at it, don't swing it around the perimeter while waiting for a lane to open up.

*Zuccarello bad penalty in the first, three shifts in the second, two in the third. Have to be happy that he is getting some experience but how bad does this performance kill his confidence?

*Zuke played because Torts benched Sean Avery. Most think because he is scared of undisciplined penalties. And yet Torts took a too-many-men, heh.

*Brandon Prust won't make it into the three stars but he did put forth a very Prustian effort. Gilroy's goal was all because of his forecheck and he helped the Rangers match the Caps physicality.

*Arty needs to be stronger, that simple. He was marginalized by the tough Washington defense and that can't happen. Look at how Johansson was able to use his speed to get chances, you have to use what you have. Johansson is half a foot shorter so he has to use his quickness, Arty isn't that fast and he isn't going to be given the room he wants. He has to earn it.

*I'll be honest, I missed Tom Poti. Need someone to loathe on the Caps. Green is just an overrated clown, Erskine and Chimera are talentless grinders and Arnott is an opponent that I've always respected.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Gilroy - one goal.
2-Alex Ovechkin - one goal.
1-Alex Semin - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Semin - Nice goal. If only Gaborik had a shot like that ...
2-Staal - You could see Staal getting angrier and angrier and it just fed the beast. You play up to the level of your opponent and he matched up with the very best.
1-Ovechkin - Even with Staal's stellar effort Ovie was a force of nature. He could easily have had a hat trick and we still would have walked away impressed with the Ranger defense.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Peepin' Foes, PLAYOFF EDITION: Washington Capitals

There is quite a bit that can be covered with this upcoming series against the Capitals but here is a quick peep at our foes ...

When Do We Play:
Game 1: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Washington
Game 2: Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Washington
Game 3: Sunday, 3 p.m. at MSG
Game 4: April 20, 7 p.m. at MSG
*Game 5: April 23, 3 p.m. at Washington
*Game 6: April 25, TBD at MSG
* Game 7: April 27, TBD at Washington
* - if necessary

Where We Are: In the playoffs, can you believe it? The Rangers didn't exactly back in to the playoff spot but they didn't exactly show they wanted it until the very end.

Where They Are: Washington finished first in the East, topping Philly by one point despite losing their last game. Of course, that was a lonely loss; the Capitals went 7-2-1 over their last 10 games and 16-3-1 in their last 20.

What Happened This Season: The Rangers won three of four, absolutely destroying DC in two of them. The season series opened with a 5-3 Caps win on November 9th at the Garden that included Derek Boogaard's goal. Then the Blueshirts demolished Ovie and company 7-0 on December 12th at the Garden in front of HBO's 24/7 cameras. The series moved to DC on January 24th and the Rangers prevailed 2-1 in a shootout at the Phone Booth with Arty netting the decider in the battle of backup goalies (Biron vs. Holtby). The fourth and final game was on February 25th and the Rangers scored a touchdown, winning 6-0 thanks to Mr. Softie Christensen (two goals and two assists). That was also notable because Derek Stepan took out Mike Green who has yet to return to the Caps lineup.

What Happened Past Seasons: Frankly, let's not discuss John F-ing Druce again. Instead let's rehash the disappointment that was the spring of 2009. Up 3-1 in the series John Tortorella singlehandedly lost it for the Rangers. At the end of Game 4 the coach put Sean Avery - back then a rabid dog of a player - on the ice in the final minutes of the one-goal game and was pinched for a high stick. The penalty was killed and the was won but the coach knee jerked and ripped Avery from the lineup, citing discipline. Without their sparkplug the Rangers fell flat in Game 5 and lost 4-0. The coach lost his discipline and acted like an ass to some fans ... and was suspended for Game 6 because of it. Game 6 was one of the most painful games I have ever been to as Tom Poti had a goal and three assists as the No. 1 star. The Rangers season came to an unfortunate end despite perhaps Avery's best-ever performance as a Ranger in Game 7. Wade Redden deftly deflected Sergei Fedorov's shot past Hank for the lone goal of the game and that was it. (For my original recaps, just check out April 2009.

Who To Watch For: Well, that Ovechkin guy is pretty famous. Ovie averaged better than a point per game and yet he had his worst campaign to date with just 85 points (31 more than Rangers leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky). Nick Backstrom was similarly "disappointing" with just 65 points. Jason Arnott put up seven points in 11 games since being dealt off of the Devils' sinking ship and his veteran presence - like that of Mike Knuble - is sure to be extra big in the postseason. The Rangers being the Rangers and the playoffs being the playoffs, also keep an eye on Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera because those grit guys always end up being big in battles. My boy Poti is out with injury and unlikely to play to the best of my knowledge. Green was supposed to come back for the last game against the Panthers but didn't so we will have to watch his status. Even without the two of them DC's blueline has been capable thanks to John Carlson and John Erskine and they added reinforcements in former Bruin Dennis Wideman and past-his-prime Scott Hannan. The Rangers are apparently getting lucky because Washington's best goaltender is actually in the minors. Holtby is in Hershey while Neuvirth has earned the starting job over Varlamov.

What To Watch For: Washington to come out angry, seeking revenge for the beatings laid on them by the Blueshirts this season. The Rangers inconsistencies rearing their ugly heads. Staal vs. Ovechkin. Sauer and Dubi have both fought twice against the Caps this campaign but the likelihood of fisticuffs is quite lower in the playoffs; should it happen, it would more likely be Prust taking on Matt Hendricks or DJ King (if King even dresses). The Rangers attempt to push the puck past Alex Semin. Semin may be a good scorer but his discipline is lacking - he had 71 PIM this year in 65 games and 18 of them were on hooking calls.

Also Check Out: The Caps have a really strong blogosphere but, frankly, I just head to Japer's Rink for all my info. Eric McErlain hasn't posted in a while at Offwing but On Frozen Blog is still going strong. The WaPo has a blog for those that still support MSM.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

44-33-5: All's Well That Ends Well?

Walking out of the Garden this afternoon all one could do is smile, shrug and wonder what if? What if the Rangers brought the same kind of effort that they did today to the games against Ottawa, Atlanta, the Isles or Atlanta? What if they brought that effort in mid January or early February? If they had perhaps we would be preparing to host Tampa instead of rooting for them tonight.

The Rangers did all they could - today - to make a pitch for the playoffs. They skated hard, were physical, were disciplined and weren't fancy. Their one span of mediocre play was in the third period and they actually scored on it thanks to a New Jersey defensive breakdown. Sure they headed into the locker room after the first period trailing 2-1 but that wasn't representative of their level of play. Then, instead of wilting after the late Devils goal, they picked themselves up and scored two minutes into the second to get it back. Outstanding. And saddening. How many times have they rolled over this year? Too many.

But there is plenty of time to be mournful over a lost season. For now let's celebrate this and tune in to tonight's Tampa game to see if the campaign can be saved. Perhaps the Bolts will put up a fight and tame the Canes. Perhaps.


*My mom came to the game and said, "Well isn't that nice for him? He scored his first goal!" And it was nice. In game No. 40 Ryan McDonagh scored goal No. 1 and it stood up as the game-winner. That has to be so exciting for him and it was delightful for everyone (outside of the Devils).

*Chris Drury scored. Unbelievable. Every time people ignore him he comes in and scores, and thus was given that Captain Clutch nickname. It was nice for him to finally be clutch for us.

*Guess that marks the end of Sean Avery's tenure as a Ranger. But maybe not. Despite a loud contingent of Norwegian fans chanting his name, Mats Zuccarello barely saw the ice. Zuke still had a few hits and collected an assist but should there be a postseason the kid might be best watching from the press box.

*Nice of Wolski to finally snap his goal drought. It had been 17 games since he had scored and he lobbed a wrister past Brodeur. Had it been a Ring-Ding you know Mmmmmaaaaarrrttttyyy woulda had it but instead it sailed right past him. A horrible goal that the future Hall Of Famer would never have allowed a few years back.

*Funny to see Mmmmmaaaaarrrttttyyy get a little hurt making a save in the second period. But I bet it hurt less than his alimony payments. Oh! Zing!

*Inside the first two minutes Brandon Prust tried to start a fight with David Clarkson and the minor leaguer declined the dance. The Rangers are 4-0 when he fights that early. Clarkson skates away and seconds later New Jersey scored on Kovalchuk's deflected shot. Admittedly figured the game was over, delighted that it wasn't.

*Yay Prust scored! Too bad Fedotenko couldn't also convert because these two soldiers have battled all season long and deserve to be rewarded.

*Brian Boyle backed up his pregame big words with some of his most physical play in months. A player his size has to use his power more often.

*Gaborik may be a soft, one-way player but he is apparently still one that other teams somehow fear. The Slovakian Slacker didn't score in his previous eight games but drew two defenders to him, giving McDonagh room to get off his shot.

*Another year, no Blueshirts off our Backs for me. *sniffles*

*There is surely more worth discussing but let's face it, if Tampa loses it is all moot. So, as we cheered in the Garden, Let's Go Lightning! clap, clap, clapclapclap. Let's Go Lightning! clap, clap, clapclapclap. Let's Go Lightning! clap, clap, clapclapclap.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Vinny Prospal - one goal and one assist.
2-Chris Drury - one goal.
1-Ryan McDonagh - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - Dubi only ended up with one assist but he played like a man possessed. He had his best performance in a while, laying hit after hit, battling for pucks all over the ice.
2-Drury - C'mon, seriously, did anyone expect him to score? Anyone?
1-McDonagh - Alongside Mike Sauer McD was rock solid yet again and he scored his first NHL goal. How nice for him.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Such A Deal!

Do you want to bring a little bit of the Garden home to you?

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Not good enough? Well - for a limited time only ... YOU GET 10% OFF! WOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!

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Warning: MSG and Steiner Sports are not responsible if you destroy your television watching the Rangers and/or the Knicks. MSG and Steiner Sports are not responsible if you destroy your hearing listening to Joe Micheletti. MSG and Steiner Sports are not responsible if your friends and family start hitting you up for money because they realize you are a sucker.

43-33-5: Motivation & The Lack Thereof

There are few things more dangerous than a hockey team that feels that their backs are against the wall.

Unfortunately for Ranger fans on Thursday night, their team was not the one feeling that way. Not even the hugely inspiring one-two punch of Ryan Callahan on crutches and Officer Steven McDonald could overcome the desperation that was guys playing for their very livelihoods.

All three goal scorers (and five of the eight guys who earned points) for the Atlanta Thrashers are free agents this summer and they were making their final pitch for a gig next season. The Rangers, for all of their pregame rhetoric, were well aware of their lead over Carolina in the standings and the possibility of a postseason berth coming up. Sure the Rangers have plenty of guys nearing the end of their deals but, this being the Rangers, most know that they already have spots pencilled in for this fall. The Blueshirts had the hype from a few weeks back reinforced by the big win against Boston and they made the unforgivable mistake of looking ahead instead of dealing with the task ahead.

Playoff spot or not, this team has faced several big tests this season and come up lacking in many of them. Whether they will be able to learn from their failures in the future, well, that is the big question for the summer ahead. Let's just hope that that summer doesn't start Saturday afternoon.


*The Rangers certainly had a few great moments that left you wondering what if these guys could finish? The pressure for the first few minutes was astounding. Boyle rang a shot off the iron just minutes before Atlanta opened the scoring. The puck sailing past Dubinsky in the slot (I believe) early in the third as the kid had his stick in the air rather than on the ice. Marian Gaborik being ... well, Marian Gaborik.

*Was there anyone else who believed that they were giving Cally the McDonald award because of the way they introduced him? All credit to Brandon Prust for winning it, so deserving; he had me "it's only pain."

*So if it is only pain, why was Prust not sent out to pick a fight with Eric Boulton? Not at the start of the game (reminder: Rangers are 4-0 when he fights in the first two minutes) and not when the team was bitch-smacked by the back-to-back second period goals.

*The Rangers won more faceoffs than they lost and lost the game. After this season is over I will go through all 82 games and tally it up but at least over the last month or so the Rangers win draws and lose games.

*Wonder what Vinny Prospal thought when he was booed for boarding while the Rangers were on the power play.

*While I disagree that the fans aren't allowed to be negative, the crowd was not particularly impressive. In past years the roar for Steven McDonald or the chants for Cally would have been long and deafening. They were not. Sad.

*Over half of Sean Avery's ice time came in the third period. Tortorella gets desperate and suddenly he is willing to put his sparkplug on the ice. And Avery got the puck deep and set up some scoring chances. Imagine what it would be like if he saw a regular shift.

*Wolski played 20 minutes, had no shots on net and is goalless in his last 16 games. Sure he got a pair of helpers against Boston but he was atrocious in this one.

*While talking ice time, Gaborik played four of his just 14 minutes of ice time on the power play. Seriously why? Was Torts trying to send him a message, in game no. 81? Great work coach. Love that well-used time out ... oh wait, he didn't use his time out. Atlanta scored two goals in 15 seconds and the bench boss decided to just keep driving his mules forward blindly instead of figuring out a way to point them in the right direction.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Andrew Ladd - one goal.
2-Rob Schremp - one goal and one assist.
1-Ondrej Pavelec - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Johnny Oduya - The former Devil helped Pavelec hold off the Rangers, not that that was a tough task for most of the night. Astounding how Hank had to make so many good saves and so many awkward saves while Pavelec barely had to strain to stop a single puck.
2-Schremp - The former Islander potted a goal and an assist to screw his former rival.
1-Rick Dudley/Craig Ramsay - Nothing like management that is able to motivate their players, is there? Too bad they couldn't do it in February, when it was desperately needed (as they went 2-7-2).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

43-32-5: Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!

What the hell happened in the last few minutes of tonight's game? That jackass Dancing Larry did his tired, lousy, old routine and the Rangers followed it by completing one of the most unlikeliest of comebacks to beat Boston 5-3.

At this point Boston must be used to blowing 3-0 leads but we sure as hell are not used to the Rangers being the team doing it to them (or anyone else). The Blueshirts have made a few miracles happen this season but on multiple occasions the Rocky-esque rally has fallen short in the end.

Tonight it didn't. It didn't against a team atop their division. It didn't against a team with a Vezina Trophy candidate in net. It didn't just two games after one of the most painful losses of the post-lockout era. The Rangers flipped a switch and started playing hockey the way they should. They stopped the fancy-shmancy garbage that resulted in turnover after turnover. They stopped the stick checking. They started playing puck the way they should, the way that wins them games.

This is not an overly talented hockey team. There are no Pavel Datsyuks to dangle through opposing defenses. There are no Pat Kanes to snipe. There are no Shea Webers to blast you into oblivion. There are a bunch of young, gutty grit guys who can defend their end and grind their way to goals. When they come to that realization - as they did tonight in the third period - well ... what a glorious hockey team they are.

This victory was Rocky-esque, just minus the physical punches. The Rangers sat back over the first period and half and let Boston dictate the action. They stood around, they circled, they dumped and didn't chase, they blew their own power plays and they literally passed directly to the Bruins four times. And then they woke up and started punching Zdeno Drago back.


*The Garden is getting to be a difficult place to go to. The powers that be are doing their best to make it uncomfortable by closing off valuable utilities - bathrooms, concessions - and making the already claustrophobic corridors even smaller. It is understandable that they want to get a jump on the renovations but, hey, there are still paying customers in the building and the Garden brass are doing them a disservice.

*How the hell can you not love Girardi and Cally? Both got knocks in the line of duty and did their damnedest to stay on the ice until it was safe to head to the bench.

*Cally's pass to Dubi on the game-tying goal and Marian Gaborik's feed to Mike Sauer were things of beauty but they were exactly the kind of pass that the Rangers had kept trying and failing at earlier in the evening (and against the Isles too). Behind-the-back blind passes are high risk, high reward and these just happened to work out. Very nicely, I must say.

*In keeping with my theory, the Rangers lost more faceoffs than they won and they won the game.

*Boston has every right to be furious with Tim Thomas because he should/could have stopped three of the four goals against (the fifth was an empty netter). Two were pucks that trickled through him (Prospal's first and Sauer's game winner) and the third was the flop job he gave on the play when Dubi scored.

*Saw Prospal's post-game quote on the crowd (Jesse has it over at his blogand understand where he is coming from - couldn't imagine 18,200 people booing me when I struggle through the early hours of work. But, that being said, no one is paying to see me work. And the booing was because the Blueshirts came out flat and lazy. Ranger fans respect effort and the team wasn't showing much. Being outshot 19-5 in your own building in a game that you have to get up for is unacceptable and, after witnessing this team suck so much on home ice this season we were well within our right to express our distaste.

*Astounding how Bryan McCabe could make a hugely impressive defensive play at one point and be an utter disaster the next. You would figure that a defenseman with as much experience as him would just be consistently good or bad by this point. He was certainly horrid on the power play, which went 0-4 but at this point that is to be expected. Beautiful rocket blasts like the one he scored in Philly appear to be the rare, rare exceptions.

*Amazing how reckless Patrice Bergeron plays considering his injury history.

*Speaking of reckless, only noticed Sean Avery once and it wasn't anything special. Didn't notice No. 2 pick Tyler Seguin at all.

*Ryan McDonagh was on the ice for all three Boston goals against. Ouch. Bad timing to look like a rookie.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.
2-Mike Sauer - one goal and one assist.
1-Vaclav Prospal - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3 -Sauer - Just the fact that the kid had the confidence to go deep in the zone to take the shot that trickled in as the game-winner speaks volumes. Sauer was pencilled in as a defense-only plugger this season and has been a pleasant surprise even for those of us who hoped for good things.
2-Marc Staal - In a 5-3 game with no power play goals, Staal played more than 25 minutes and ended up +4. That is quite impressive.
1-Wojtek Wolski - Wolski was like the rest of the Rangers, completely ineffective at the start and on the power play. But he did take the initial shot on the first Prospal goal and he made a great pass on the second one.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

42-32-5: Consistently Inconsistent

It is enough to send someone to rehab.

Well, almost.

How the Blueshirts can drive us to thoughts of suicide on Thursday and then come back and beat the Bullies 3-2 on Sunday is simply astounding. But that is what they do, that is what they have done all season long. It has been one thing to have a few pops to celebrate wins or drink away the pain but this Ranger season has been bad on the belly and it's been getting worse.

This campaign is coming down to the wire - as expected - and no one knows what Ranger team will show up any given night. As the title says, they are consistently inconsistent. When they are more physical and block more shots than their opponents they often win. When they win more faceoffs they often lose the game. And yet they did all three in this victory over Philly and they won. Discombobulated yet? We are drunkenly stumbling around right now with last call coming up real quick. Are we heading to the afterparty with all the hotties or just home to pray to the porcelain god?

On one hand Sunday's victory deserves praise - if only in comparison to the recent losses. On the other hand, it is saddening because the Rangers needed a skills competition to edge out an exhausted Flyers squad that was missing its two biggest weapons. Well, whichever hand you go with, use the other to grab us some beers. We need 'em.

Just a few notes as the boys play again in a few hours:

*In case you didn't catch it, Brandon Prust fought Sean O'Donnell just 45 seconds into the game. Thirteen of Prust's 18 fights this season have come in the first period. Four of those 13 came in the first two minutes and, guess what? The Rangers won all four games. Now the question is this: is Prust sending a message to the opponent that the Rangers are not to be taken lightly or is he sending a message to the Rangers not to take the opponent lightly?

*It was mighty nice of Brian Boyle to stand up for Ruslan Fedotenko but it was just sad. First off, it came after a perfectly clean hit by Braydon Coburn and secondly, Boyle can't fight. How someone his size has so little strength and little ability to fight is astonishing.

*Marian Gaborik has a lot of ability - not to fight, but to score. So why isn't he? Gabby was perhaps the best Ranger forward within his own zone but dammit Braden, that isn't what you are being paid for. A six game goal drought is unacceptable right now. Hell, it is never acceptable when the guy is making seven mill a year but the timing of this makes it even worse. Gabby had just once good chance - a breakaway two and a half minutes in - but that was it.

*Back to Boyle for a second - the Flyers tied the game at two because of him. The broadcasters can blame Ryan McDonagh all they want but it wasn't his fault. McD blocked a shot and stumbled off the ice as Philly was making their rush. Boyle shoved him on his way and curled back, lining up as the left defenseman but he never picked up his man and Giroux found him - Zherdev.

*Watched the replay a few times, I'm not so sure that Staal broke his nose. But it's possible, and it would be quite impressive given he played more than half the game. Girardi played 32 minutes to Staal's 34 ... Torts is grinding these guys into the ground and has been doing so for months. How much could they possibly have left in the tank for a possible playoff series?

*Sean Avery, five minutes? Really? We are back to limiting his ice time like he is some goon who can't skate? Given how Philly had no problems attacking the Ranger crease, you would think Torts would use his weapon to get back at the Flyers ...

*Steve Eminger saw the wrath of Tortorella too after being on the ice for the Flyers first goal. Eminger couldn't physically match up with JvR and McCabe didn't bother to help him out.

*McCabe did score a goal, finally. And it was on a beauty of a slap shot, which was nice. But it was just his sixth point in 16 games wearing a New York sweater. All six came on the power play but, given all of the ice time he gets with the man advantage, that is not enough.

*I'm sure there is more but the puck drops in six hours so we will have a few more things to rant or rave about soon.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ruslan Fedotenko - one goal.
2-Claude Giroux - two assists.
1-Erik Christensen - shootout goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - Sure he ended up on the ice for both goals against but they weren't his fault. As stated above, his fights mean something and he took a few for the team in this one.
2-Fedotenko - All of his hard work finally resulted in a goal, thank goodness.
1-Giroux - To think that Philly was willing to trade this guy not too long ago. Mad skillz.

Friday, April 1, 2011

41-32-5: Shame

The word embarrassment will be bandied about quite a bit in the next few days in reference to the Rangers' 6-2 loss to the Islanders. Embarrassment is the shame you feel when your inadequacy or guilt is made public. Shame is a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of unworthiness, or disgrace. This was not embarrassment, the Rangers inadequacy has been on display all season long but many were willing to ignore it for a few points in the standings. This was shame. What the Rangers did was disgrace their jersey and the passion and faith of their fans.

It is well acknowledged that the rivalry with the Islanders has cooled as the Isles have become one of the doormats of the NHL. But that doesn't mean that there isn't one. And the Rangers played the Isles they would play the Blue Jackets. Or the Sabres. In fact, the Rangers played much the same game in Buffalo that they did on the Island - they gave far less than 100% and played like garbage. The difference is where the Sabres sat back, the Isles pressed and pressed and pressed. They dominated the way a NHL team would dominate an AHL side, you know the way the Rangers should have dominated the Sound Tigers.

Having grown up on the Island, my loathing for the Islanders comes close to that of the Jews for the Nazis so you could say that I don't care for them. And bearing witness to this beating was unpleasant to say the least. Where I would normally re-watch the game to fill in blanks I would rather have my teeth pulled, sans anesthesia. So feel free to help out in the comments ...


*Good friend of the blog Eric - of NHL Live infamy - turned to me and said that the first five-on-three would be the turning point in the game. Personally I felt that the second one was. Even though the Rangers escaped the first period ahead 1-0 I turned back and asked 'why does it feel like we have already lost?' And then the second period proved it.

*Earlier in the day Pat Hoffman posted an interview with me where I lashed out at Tortorella and I hope that these back-to-back results have ended the illogical Jack Adams talk. He is a blowhard who has shown little ability to make his team successful. Seventy-eight games in and the power play is just as pathetic as it was at the start. Seventy-eight games in and the team is still as inconsistent as they were at the start. Seventy-eight games in and Torts still scrambles the lines at the first sign of struggle. As I wrote to Pat, that Torts is a character has little to do with the players having character.

*The only player to show any in this one was Sean Avery. Sean was the one Ranger to come out hard and battle every shift. Of course, he ruined it all by fighting Micheal Haley. Avery wouldn't throw down with David Clarkson a few years back because Clarkson was a 'minor leaguer.' And tonight he got his ass handed to him by Michael Haley. If that isn't a sign of how Torts has screwed with our sparkplug I don't know what is.

*That was the second of four fights in this disgrace. That the Rangers threw down well after the result was settled was shameful. That the Rangers lost three of those four fights was even worse. Dubi beat up Jack Hillen, Avery lost, Fedotenko was on the worse ended of his bout with Dylan Reese and Zenon Konopka landed more than a few on Brandon Prust.

*Trevor Gillies scored for chrissakes. Trevor Gillies.

*Second game in a row that the Rangers dominated at the faceoff dot and were dominated by the other team. Just sayin'.

*Nice hit by Marian Gaborik on Frans Nielsen. It was like Gabby waited for Nielsen to turn into the boards before hitting him. What an idiot. We can only hope that the Slovakian Slacker gets suspended because the team - as a whole - was far better when they were without their "sniper."

*Hank was horrid, again. Back-to-back games where he allowed goals on shots that he clearly saw come off the stick. Unacceptable.

*Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh played like rookies. Anisimov, Christensen, Girardi, Callahan, Gaborik and Prospal (goal aside) all played like garbage.

*Even though you really risk getting tetanus at that atrocious building they call an arena, the Garden brass has a cause to be worried. Ticket prices are coming down in that dump and are far cheaper than in the city - even when you figure in the outrageous $10 to park. How pathetic.

*Third period, Rangers down 4-1 and on the power play and Bryan McCabe was coasting around the ice. So happy we added this career loser to help out.

*Mats Zuccarello had no place being in the NHL right now. We may be big fans of the little guy but he couldn't handle the puck, he refused to shoot it and he was outmuscled all over the ice. Torts benching him took away whatever confidence he had and now his presence is pointless.

*New York City subway hero Joe Lozito was honoured early in the third period. The Islanders stood on their bench, banging their sticks. The Rangers sat slumped on their own bench, barely paying attention, completely and utterly out of it. Summed up the entire evening.

*PHW Three Stars
3-P.A. Parenteau - one goal and one assist.
2-Radek Martinek - one goal and one assist.
1-Al Montoya - 25 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dylan Reese - Who? Three assists, +4 and a fight edge out Blake Comeau's goal, +3, 5+ minutes of shorthanded time and team-high four takeaways. That shorthanded time would be more impressive if the Rangers power play didn't suck.
2-Parenteau - Nothing like sticking it to the team that unceremoniously dumped you and said you couldn't cut it in the NHL, is there?
1-Jack Capuano - Second straight game that the opposing coach made Torts look even more awful than he already is. JackCap had his team ready to play their most important game of the season and he didn't let them rest for one minute. Sure he couldn't keep their composure late but by then it didn't matter - if anything, the beat downs added an exclamation mark to the occasion.