Saturday, October 29, 2011

3-3-3: The Dreaded Three Goal Lead

A good friend brought his eight month old son to the game this afternoon. After two periods of the baby boy taking everything in with wide eyed wonder and the Rangers up 2-1, my buddy decided to quit while he was ahead and go home.

When the Rangers fell apart and lost 5-4 in a shootout, I'd imagine many Ranger fans felt fussy and started throwing tantrums. I know I wanted to. Two things kept me from stamping my feet and wailing: the fact that the team still earned a point and the acknowledgement that they are utterly mismanaged.

The Rangers have lost six of their nine games and have been utterly atrocious ... yet they are just two points out of sixth place. While Tortorella has run out of excuses and seems utterly incapable of getting this team to fire on all cylinders, it is just October. Should the team go winless on this six-game homestand (a certain possibility), then it will be time to panic but until that occurs, to steal the cliche, we have to take it game by game.

Late Hits:

*Good effort from Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. While they are still a bit too fancy, they picked their spots better and managed to bury their opportunities. Good thing Torts broke them up because when they were reunited through staggered line changes Gaborik set up Richards for two goals.

*In his postgame presser Tortorella said that the team needs to learn how to take momentum. Given that the roster that he insisted upon icing had just one rookie in it - one who has now been banished to the bus league - does he really think that these experienced professionals need to learn to how to take momentum?

*That aforementioned rookie was Tim Erixon, who was sent to Connecticut alongside Kris Newbury after the game. Jan's kid clearly needs some time with JJ Daigneault and Newbury simply hasn't had the same spark that he had immediately after his call-up. Expect Woywitka and Rupp to return to the lineup.

*The officiating was inconsistent and awful on both sides. Boyle hits Karlsson on the side and gets called for boarding. Konopka bumps Arty from the side and gets thrown out of the game. Alfredsson skates into Wolski and Wolski gets called for illegal check to the head. Richards was hit from behind in the open ice and nothing was called. Ridiculous.

*Wolski has just been an awful excuse for a hockey player but even with his utter lack of ability he didn't deserved to get called for that penalty. Wolski was looking up ice, Alfredsson was looking at Stepan and didn't see Wolski before colliding with him. And it wasn't even an elbow as Alfredsson's head hit into Wolski's shoulder first. Did Wolski push out his arm after the initial contact? Yes, but if something suddenly shoves you, you shove back.

*As for Anisimov, he started to turn to corral the puck when he was hit by Konopka. Arty lurched forward, hit his head on the glass and collapsed like a cheap suit. Konopka didn't hit him on the numbers, he didn't leave his skates, the point of contact was Anisimov's armpit. It wasn't a dangerous hit, it wasn't a violent hit, it was a hit. And Konopka got a game and the Rangers scored twice on the ensuing power play. A power play that Arty took part in, by the way.

*If Wolski and Christensen aren't going to score in the shootouts, what good are they? And it wasn't even like Anderson had to make amazing saves to stop them either.

*Made my way up to the West Balcony pregame and have to say that it is really nice up there. Nice, clean open view of the arena, concessions that are actually open and well staffed. Really impressive.

*Brandon Dubinsky was given a four year deal this summer so is it any wonder that he has stopped working as hard as he used to? Callahan has kept his fire but he constantly seems to be skating alone.

*All of these minutes played appear to be catching up to Dan Girardi.

*A three goal lead. They gave up a third period three goal lead. And you could feel that it was going to happen too. Especially when that clown Larry started dancing. What a mush.

*The game-tying goal was just pathetic. The Rangers had Boyle, Prust and Richards out there and they decided to sit back and kill a penalty. At even strength. Boyle and Prust are supposed to be the energy line guys and they had no energy. Watching them stand there as the Sens moved the puck around was painful.

*Michael Del Zaster keeps on racking up the points, thanks to a very kind scorekeeper. Del Zaster passed to Richards, Richards passed to Callahan, Callahan returned to Richards. Richards shot the puck, Callahan scored on the rebound. And MDZ was given an assist. Ridiculous. His all-around play is still atrocious but credit should be given because he managed to keep the puck in the offensive zone twice that I noticed - something he couldn't do against the Leafs.

*Erik Karlsson is everything that Del Zaster was supposed to be. David Rundblad, however, was invisible.

*Nick Foligno is just as annoying an opponent as his father was.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one goal and two assists.
2-Brad Richards - two goals and one assist.
1-Jason Spezza - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Richards - Welcome to Broadway Brad.
2-Filip Kuba - Kuba has battled injuries his entire career but when he gets things going, he is a capable puck moving defender. Three assists this afternoon.
1-Spezza - That dork. Spezza's character was attacked in recent years but he really has gotten things together. With the Sens down by three he led the rally and got them back into the game.

Friday, October 28, 2011

3-3-2: Home, Horrible, Home

The top highlight of Thursday night's home opener was that it wasn't in Europe. I didn't fly thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to watch an utter disgrace. To watch that pathetic display of puck at all was excruciating, but to see it in the home opener was heartbreaking. If the team can't get it together to give it all in their first game in front of their fans, when can they? After one well-played period the Rangers completely fell apart and were embarrassed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, eventually losing 4-2.

Time to start ranting in my Late Hits:

*How do you bury the obit for Boogaard, the lives lost in the Lokomotiv crash and other summer casualties in a bad montage during a tv timeout? People are talking, getting up, walking around ... And then, on the big screen, to wipe away from the cheesy 'we will never forget' frame to a bunch of people waiting to cheer for their Chase-sponsored free tee shirt? Disgusts me. The team smartly skipped the pregame talent - no Blue Man Group, no Ace Frehley - and wonderfully had FDNY and NYPD hockey players as an honour guard during the player introductions but all of the goodwill earned from that was wasted away by the obit. They could have included #94 when individually naming the players and have a moment of silence then. But instead it was shoehorned in while MSG ran some commercials for crap you won't buy. Original Six teams are supposed to be classy.

*Didn't get up to the party decks (which I heard were wonderful) but what I saw of the renovated Garden was not welcoming. Many portions of the concourses closed, lines out of control, no more straight staircases from the ice to the 300s, a lower drop ceiling over the corner seats in the 300s, spray painted construction numbers on exposed concrete floors, an extension chord literally sticking out of a concrete block on my wall. The Rangers aren't playing in a renovated building, they are playing in a building being renovated. It is very far from finished and to have to pay top dollar to watch games in a construction area is ridiculous.

*And the people who paid largely weren't the usual Garden Faithful. It was perhaps the quietest season opener since before the lockout, and that was even before the team fell apart.

*When Jonas Gustavsson made it to the NHL, he listed Henrik Lundqvist as someone he wanted to be like. Well, after Gustavsson allowed an utterly atrocious goal on a wide open shot to open the scoring, it was Lundqvist who emulated the Monster, allowing two. You knew Hank was in trouble when he kept on sliding out of the crease but for him to give up shots from the circles is entirely uncharacteristic. And short side? Geez.

*When Hank plays this poorly he needs his teammates to bail him out and they simply didn't. Still too afraid to make mistakes, they reverted back to the same old dump, chase and change Rangers and were outworked and outhustled by the better-coached Leafs.

*Welcome back Mike Sauer! Sauer saved Hank's bacon by making a diving stop on an empty net after the King vacated his throne.

*Too bad there is only one of him, because Eminger and Del Zaster have to go and Erixon could use some time with JJ Daigneault in Connecticut.

*Speaking of Connecticut, the "We Want Avery!" and "Ave-ry!" clap-clap chants were spectacular. The Ranger forecheck was pathetic, after the Callahan goals were waved off no one went to the crease and the team folded like a cheap suit - all things the Grate One could have helped. Used properly by a competent coach Sean can be a big help. Unfortunately the Ranger bench boss is not willing or capable of doing so, lest he lose his alpha male image.

*How do you have goals disallowed on goaltender interference twice without having a single goaltending interference penalty?

*Michael Del Zaster makes me miss Michal Rozsival.

*How pathetic is it that the kid actually pots a goal to bring the Blueshirts within two with over four minutes left and everyone knew that there was no chance of a complete comeback? And when Torts finally pulls Hank he puts Erik Christensen out there. C'mon man, at least try to win the game.

*They handed out tee shirts as you walked in, which was a nice surprise. Walking out I was told "you got a free shirt, you wanted a win too?"

*Also overheard, "this team makes 1994 feel like 1940."

*Kris Newbury. Seriously. What the hell? Haven't seen an ass kicking like that on the Garden ice in a long time. That had to be up there with Dave Schultz beating up Dale Rolfe back in the 70s, just without all of the blood.

*Wojtek Wolski will score a lot of goals in the Swiss league sometime soon. Putting him with Prust and Boyle just drags them down.

*Marian Gaborik and Brad Richard$ need to realize that they aren't playing in a video game. Fancy-pants moves don't work in real life if your name isn't Datsyuk. They are too easily smothered by the opposing checkers and too prone to bad turnovers.

*Is it time to start wondering what Brandon Dubinsky's trade value is? Steven Ovadia might be right, we certainly may have already seen his best. That being said, the unsportsmanlike penalty he got whistled for was ridiculous.

*What did Felix Potvin ever to do the Rangers? (/sarcasm)

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - one goal.
2-Carl Gunnarsson - one assist.
1-Joffrey Lupul - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Girardi - Dan wasn't on for any of the goals against and he did the one thing that the forwards wouldn't - he just shot the puck.
2-Dion Phaneuf - Sloppy Seconds stood tall on both sides of the ice playing a ton of minutes.
1-Mike Brown - Brown would have made this purely for the beating he laid on Newbury but he also snuck a puck past Hank.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Toronto Maple Leafs

For the second straight season the Rangers are opening up their home slate of the schedule with an Original Six matchup. They will tak on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Garden on Thursday night at 7 p.m. but doors open early (5:30) for the festivities. Last season's game was an overtime loss that left me twitching mad, so let's pray that this one will be better.

Where We Are: The Rangers won three of their seven games to day, which is remarkable given their level of play. This will be the first one at the partially-renovated Garden, which is pretty much meaningless as the last two seasons the Blueshirts have been sub-.500 on home ice. Amazing how that coincides with the hiring of John Tortorella.

Where They Are: In first place of the Northeast Division. No, seriously. The Leafs are 5-2-1, but both regulation losses came on the road. They let Sideshow Bob Scott Hartnell score a pair of goals to propel the Flyers to a 4-2 victory on Monday night (that Jagr guy scored two too).

Who To Watch For: In typical fashion the Rangers opponent will bring back injured stars - dizzy Tim Connolly, Tyler Bozak and James "Optimus" Reimer. While Connolly scored the lone goal in Buffalo's 1-0 win over the Blueshirts back in March, the guy to watch for on the offensive side of the puck is Phil Kessel. Kessel has been nothing short of outstanding with nine goals and six assists in the Leafs' eight games played - and just one of the nine was on a power play. The Rangers have done well to shut him down in the past - three goals and three assists in 17 career meetings - but the guy is utterly on fire. Joffrey Lupul has ridden Kessel's coattails to the tune of four goals and five assists. Back on the Buds blueline our old friend Sloppy Seconds Dion Phaneuf is back to his pre-Elisha production while the offensively-inclined John-Michael Liles is goalless but is pacing the team in blocked pucks with 24.

What To Watch For: Torts using Girardi to shut down Kessel and whether or not the bench boss keeps McD on that top pairing or re-inserts Sauer. Del Zaster attempting his long break-out passes to try to catch the Leaf defense as Philly did twice to spring Jagr for breakaway goals. The Rangers actually going to the net - Toronto has allowed teams to walk right in on both Reimer and Gustavsson and both have absorbed big hits. If he plays, Colton Orr trying to prove something against his old team; Colt has one goal and one fight in just two games played so far this season. David Steckel's ability to win faceoffs.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: A pregame ceremony that doesn't suck. Ushers allowing real fans to watch warmups from the new yuppy seats. Ryan Callahan using his fluke of a goal against Winnipeg to kickstart his production. Brandon Dubinsky to be relevant. Brad Richards to be dominant. West Islip's Mike Komisarek doing something stupid. A Ranger faring better than Dale Weise did in his fight against Luke Schenn last year.

Also Check Out: Toronto Mike and the Bitter Leaf Fan are solid reads but the be all end all is that wacky bunch of masochists at Pension Plan Puppets.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Re-Opening

Since opening night is a day away, I look forward to getting a few questions of mine answered about the renovated Garden. Some are serious, some are sarcastic, but all are burning (like gonorrhea):

*Will Dolan dislocate his shoulder patting himself on the back?

*Just how many homeless people can you see from the new 'city views'??

*How many 'great new features' will be covered up by poorly painted sheetrock?

*Will ushers allow the real fans to lurk in the new seats to watch warmups? Or will our poorness stain the new fabric?

*Which will be sadder, the pre-game ceremony for Derek Boogaard or the power play?

*Will all Sean Avery shirts and jerseys be on sale? Will Torts be selling them himself, out on Seventh Ave?

*After fighting Orr, will Rupp go back to his usual job at the Museum of Natural History as part of the neanderthal exhibit?

*Given the prices, will they install a automated teller machine where you can take out a second mortgage on your house?

*Which will be higher? The attendance or the number of line combinations Tortorella tries?

*How will they ever top Ace Frehley??

Another Letter ...

The Rangers called season subscribers this afternoon to alert them that the below e-mail was coming. Essentially it says that things will be great for the people who will spend a lot of money and sit downstairs but for those folks upstairs, life will be very inconvenient.
Welcome back!

Now that the Rangers season is underway and we are close to the home opener at The Garden, we are thrilled to share with you some of the exciting new amenities you will find when you visit this season that are part of the first phase of the Arena's top-to-bottom three year historic Transformation. Before the puck drops on October 27th, I want to make sure that you have all the inside information regarding easy access to your seats and some of the newly transformed parts of the building. We are confident you are going to love what you see!

Throughout the 2011-12 Season you will experience some amazing enhancements to the building including:

*New Lower Bowl seating area with more comfortable seats and great sightlines
*Expanded Madison Concourse (6th floor) with city views
*Enhanced concession stands, more restrooms and additional retail locations (Note: additional features will continue to debut throughout the 2011-12 season)
*New 1879 and Delta Sky360° Club areas offering exclusive dining options and private entry to seat locations
*New food offerings on the 8th and 10th floor concourses (Note: additional features will continue to debut throughout the 2011-12 season)
*New West Balcony seating located above the West End of the Upper Bowl
*Additional details about what’s new and more importantly, how to get to your seats, is listed below. So you have more time to familiarize yourself with the transformed areas of The Garden, doors will open at 5:30pm prior to the home opener on October 27th when your New York Rangers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. This provides an additional 30 minutes of access to the arena for all of our guests.

What's New?

The Seating Configuration
Even if your seat is located in an area of the building that has not been transformed, it is likely that there is a new way to get there. There will be pockets of the arena that are transformed to the point where on initial glance, you may need assistance or guidance to find your way. Rest assured that there will be plenty of staff on hand to assist you as you explore the new building. Here are some important changes worth noting prior to your arrival:

The Madison Concourse (6th floor) will provide an enhanced experience including city views and new and improved menu offerings but it will also be a space that is quite different as compared to the 6th floor concourse last season.

For this season, the 7th floor will not wrap completely around The Garden meaning that access from the North side of the 7th floor to South side of the 7th floor and vice versa is only available by using the Madison Concourse (6th floor). The 7th floor provides access to 200 Level locations and 300 Level locations that are on the North and South sides of the building.

For this season, the 8th floor will wrap completely around The Garden but will only provide access to the East and West sections of the 300 Level. Access to the 8th floor is available through both Towers A and D.

Listed below is our recommendation on how to access your seats based on your location. In addition to the directions to your seats, we have listed the locations and launch dates for specific food offerings and merchandise locations.

Based on your seats in Section 329, we recommend that you take the following path:

300 Level North and South Seats

All 300 Level seat locations on the North and South ends of the building are accessible from the 7th floor concourse. For this season, the 7th floor will not wrap completely around The Garden meaning that access from the North side of the 7th floor to the South side of the 7th floor (and vice versa) is only available by using the Madison Concourse (6th floor). As a result, for those locations on the North side of the building (Sections 328 - 341), Tower D is the only access point. Should you attempt entry at Tower A, your ticket will not scan and you will be redirected to Tower D. For those locations on the south side of the building (Sections 303 - 316), Tower A is the only access point. Should you attempt entry at Tower D, your ticket will not scan and you will be redirected to Tower A.

Food & Beverage Offerings
In addition to an expanded Madison Concourse, increased restrooms and viewing areas on the 8th and 10th floors, some of the biggest names in New York food will be creating exclusive, world-class culinary options for The World's Most Famous Arena. As part of The MSG Signature Collection, you will see a number of new menu offerings that will become available throughout the season.

In late November, two sensational offerings will be available on the Madison Concourse (6th floor).

*The Sausage Boss, by Chef Andrew Carmellini (available in three locations).
*Daily Burger, by restaurateur Drew Nieporent (available in two locations).
*In mid-December, you will find additional offerings available throughout the arena.
*Simply Chicken, by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the 6th and 8th floors.
*Lobster Shrimp Roll by Aquagrill (chef Jeremy Marshall) on the 6th, 8th and 10th floors.

Other notable offerings that will become available during the early parts of the season are:

*Carnegie Deli
*Hill Country Barbecue
*16 Handles Frozen Yogurt
*Kosher offerings from Carlos & Gabby's
*Additional Garden Markets
*Stand Healthy (allergy free and gluten free offerings)
*Merchandise Locations

In October, you will be able to purchase Rangers gear in the Mall prior to entering the Box Office and in the arena where you will find four locations on the Madison Concourse (6th floor). Additional locations will open throughout the season.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

3-2-2: All's Well That Ends Ok?

Despite playing utterly atrocious hockey the Rangers have earned eight points in seven road games to start this season.

That's it, the simple fact of the matter. The Blueshirts ended their trip on Monday night with a narrow 2-1 win over Winnipeg. The Rangers were a step slow, utterly out of sorts and completely dominated for long stretches of the game. By the Thrashers. That being said, they still managed to win. Imagine what it will be like once Tortorella learns how to coach (or gets replaces by someone who can). We can keep dreaming the impossible dream later but for the moment, let's take a quick look at this one.

Late Hits:

*Even though Brandon Prust's poor attempt to tap dance with the puck in his skates resulted in Borat's goal, he was still the Rangers most effective forward besides Fedotenko. As I tweeted, Prust has fought five times in the first two minutes of games while he as been with the Rangers and the team has won all five. Something to be said with seeing their hardest working guy going to the mat for them that inspires victory I guess.

*Second assists are ridiculous. Del Zaster collects a point by passing two feet over to Dan Girardi, who waited and made a perfect feed to Fedotenko for the Rangers first goal. MDZ had a team-high 6:51 and achieved exactly nothing. Perhaps if they go through with the signing of Anton Stralman and Sauer comes back we can be rid of him. (Not that Stralman is good, but he is a step above MDZ).

*He played 17 minutes but I can't say that Tim Erixon was noticeable at all. That is a good thing.

*Seeing as Mike Rupp is using injury as an excuse, how soon until we hear the same about Boyle? The big Boston boy looked exhausted. He was a step slow all night long and was completely outplayed. Credit should be given for his positioning near the crease on the Fedotenko power play goal but it wasn't like he was pulling a Holmstrom, battling for position - the Thrashers let him float around the high slot.

*Anisimov on the fourth line? Eesh. Rupp and Newbury are no Prust and Shelley, they can't make the room that he needs and clearly couldn't help his confidence.

*When will Gaborik and Richards realize that fancy moves like spin o' rama passes are ridiculous? This is the NHL, not some beer league.

*And Wolski is clearly not the solution. Sure it is hard to judge seeing as he 'just got out of the tub' but I said before that he wasn't the answer and he did nothing in 15 minutes of game. Not even a single shot attempt.

*Stepan actually earned himself a few scoring chances but he didn't have any zip on his shots.

*Dubi is going to break through one of these games. He has to. Right? Since Captain Cally decided to show up, Dubi has to follow at some point soon ...

*Torts just wasted that time out. It is hard to fault the usage on an icing but when the draw is in your own end in the first period - with the short changes - it just shows that you have no faith in your players' ability to win a faceoff and get off the ice.

*Erik Christensen had the same impact in the game that he would have had if he actually dressed - no impact at all.

*That the Rangers took just one minor penalty was a nice change but so often it just looked like they weren't physically involved enough to bother to take penalties and the Thrashers weren't quick enough or working hard enough to draw them.

*Couldn't help but laugh at the Jets fans chanting Mmmmaaaaarrrrttttyyy at Biron in the third period. Sorry guys, you can't compete with us.

*Ok, the MTS staff played Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" ... why is it that the Garden rarely plays awesome music? They play garbage, and at nauseating decibels. Sadly can't see that getting a renovation with the rest of the building.

*The Jets sweaters look like those third jerseys the Blue Jackets wore last season. Yawn.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Nik Antropov - one goal.
2-Ruslan Fedotenko - one goal and one assist.
1-Marty Biron - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Chris Mason - just two power play goals against, one was on a redirect that he couldn't see and the other a bad bounce off of Bogosian's skate.
2-Biron - Simple solid play. He was far more composed then he was when he imploded before my eyes in Switzerland.
1-Feds - It wasn't like the Ukrainian gave an more or any less than he usually does, his work just happened to pay off tonight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winter Classic Info For Ranger Season Subs

Just got this e-mail, looks like we may get screwed (I underlined the part I'm nervous about):
October 24, 2011

As you know, your New York Rangers will be participating in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® versus the Philadelphia Flyers which will take place on Monday, January 2nd, 2012 at 1:00pm in Philadelphia, PA. We couldn't be more excited to share this historic experience with you!

As the visiting team and with limited inventory, we have the opportunity for a limited number of Season Subscribers to purchase tickets through the Rangers organization. In addition, there will be a limited number of tickets available to purchase for the Legends game taking place on December 31st, 2011 at 1pm. This game with feature some of the top alumni from Rangers and Flyers teams of the past.

Based on the number of tickets we have available to offer our Season Subscriber family, we will be reaching out to you via email the week of October 24th, 2011. At that time, you will receive detailed information on the seating configuration and a questionnaire that asks you to rank all available price points in order of preference. Please note that as the visiting team, we will be unable to accommodate all Rangers Season Subscribers with an offer to purchase Tickets. As such, we will be contacting you in order of your Subscription tenure with an offer. Those Subscribers that wish to purchase tickets and receive an offer will be assigned a maximum of 2 seats based upon availability. Should you not receive an offer to purchase tickets through the Rangers organization, you will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to the Legends game on Saturday, December 31st at 1:00pm. In addition, Subscribers will receive an opportunity to purchase fan trip experience packages.

We will begin the process of assigning seats and contacting Subscriber accounts on or around the week of October 31st. During that process, you will speak with me, your Dedicated Experience Manager. Please note that all purchases will be based upon available inventory. For more detailed information, visit

Should you have any questions prior to that communication ... (call your rep)

We are extremely excited to share in this historic experience with you! Thank you for your continued support of the New York Rangers! We look forward to seeing you at The Garden in the coming weeks.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2-2-2: Coming Up Dry

The Rangers went to Edmonton for the penultimate game of their massive season-starting road trip and showed that they had absolutely nothing left in the tanks to take them to victory. Or even to make them competitive. But the travelling is not to blame, the players and their leadership are.

The players made bad decision after bad decision. Their shot selection was atrocious, when they deigned to shoot at all. They were outworked so they took penalties. They looked lifeless while going through the motions, like a horse that has been whipped just a few too many times. And that is likely the root of their failure - their head coach all fire and brimstone so where else is there to go? The guys are burned out on the same old message that wasn't working to begin with. We can hope and pray that they will get a boost out of playing in front of us for the first time this week but how long will that last?

One thing is for certain: all of Tortorella's jackass-ery isn't helping. He was an umprofessional dick to the media after the game so he didn't have to be held accountable for his many mistakes. He grimaces, groans and yells on the bench but all of his petulant pouting isn't getting the team anywhere.

Tom Renney didn't work in this town because he was too nice to a lackadaisical superstar and his cronies. But at the same time helped shape the young players that have become the cornerstones of this franchise. They listened to him and they respected him. How can anyone respect John Tortorella? The awe of his one ring only goes so far, especially when the accepted story is that the Tampa team won to spite him. This group of Rangers is simply not talented enough to do that. If things fall into place they can certainly win some games but they can not compete with the top tier of the NHL. Those teams are better built, with bench bosses who know that a season is a drawn-out war, not a nightly nuclear attack.

Late Hits:

*I'll just get this out of the way right away, to satisfy the haters who know that is coming - Sean Avery would have been a big help in this game. The Rangers were lifeless, the Rangers appeared afraid to go to the net and they couldn't keep up with the quick young Oilers. Avery could have helped all three calamities.

*Did Brandon Dubinsky even play? How about Artem Anisimov?

*Ryan McDonagh's success may have gone to his head - he is trying to do too much. Hopefully Sauer's impending return will help him simplify things again.

*A neanderthal like Mike F-ing Rupp shouldn't be skating against a team without a goon. He couldn't keep up and took a bad penalty that resulted in the nail-in-the-coffin power play goal by Corey Potter. If Prust feels that he has to defend himself against that headhunting idiot Andy Sutton, then there really is no reason for Rupp to play.

*Sutton is an expert of the high elbow to the head and shouldn't be allowed to play in the NHL. It is a matter of time until he faces Shanahan's wrath.

*I'll be honest, I was happy for Potter. The kid never was given a good chance by the Rangers despite all of his efforts and he came back to shove it in their faces. Good for him.

*Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are scary good. When they get more experience under their belt, the Oilers will be one wonderful team to watch. Eberle, by the way, was drafted two spots after Del Zaster in '08.

*Hard to tell who was worse, Del Zaster or Bell. Both should be in the AHL. Del Zaster got more than six minutes of man advantage time and the best scoring chance during that span was for the Oilers. Bell's bad pinch handed Edmonton their opening goal.

*No use ranting more with a game in Winnipeg a day away. Let's all just pray that Torts comes to his senses and starts Biron this time so we won't see Hank limping off again any time soon.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Taylor Hall - one assist.
2-Nikolai Khabibulin - 19 saves.
1-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Eberle - No wonder there is no panic over the fact that he hasn't scored yet, he does everything else so well.
2-Potter - Calm, capable defense and a power play goal. The Rangers could have used all of that on this night.
1-RNH - Amazing skill well worthy of his draft position. But Edmonton does face a real question: can the slight kid keep it up for a full season or will he be better off dominating the WHL while adding muscle?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Edmonton Oilers

The Rangers walk through the west continues Saturday night in Edmonton as they take on Tom Renney's Oilers at 10 pm (MSG).

Where We Are: Shocking shape considering how the team is missing two of their top three defenders and the second line can't score. Wins over Vancouver and Calgary almost wipe away the disgrace that was the loss on the Island. Almost.

Where They Are: Edmonton is 2-2-2 but has just one win in their last five games. They ended up losing on Thursday in a shootout to Minnesota despite leading 1-0 with two seconds left in the third period. Dany Heatley tied it with two seconds left. That's good but that's not 0.5 good (or 0.1 like the Corey Perry on the Ducks).

Who To Watch For: Ole Twitchy Nikolai Khabibulin has a 0.95 GAA in three starts this season. When he gets hot, he gets hot and he was on fire a few years back when he was Tortorella's goalie in Tampa. Nowadays he backstops a young team that is paced by the last two first overall draft picks - Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who might not play). Another youngster, Jordan Eberle, leads the team in shots with 19 in six games but is goalless, as is the overhyped Magnus Paajarvi. The kids are being tutored by the big crybaby Ryan Smyth, Capitals cast off Eric Belanger and the injury-prone pair of Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky (but, of course, Hemsky is out until November). Speaking of injuries, Ryan Whitney is still trying to get his timing back after last year's ankle surgery. Former Ranger Corey Potter is finally getting a real chance in the NHL at the expense of tough defenseman Theo Peckham, who is in Renney's doghouse.

What To Watch For: Who starts in net for the Rangers - perhaps Torts will finally come to his senses and put Marty Biron in - no use burning out Hank against Western Conference bottom feeders. Seeing as Sean Avery isn't around, the likelihood of the Oilers looking for revenge for the Ladislav Smid incident last season is slim. The Rangers' discipline level. How the Rangers fare with faceoffs - Edmonton is oddly even at 179-179 on the season.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Ben Eager get beaten to a pulp for what happened last year when he was on the Sharks. How about someone getting the expert Andy Sutton for his pair of head-hunting hits (1, 2) on Ryan Callahan? Cally getting his own revenge with a goal or three. Dubi to break through for a few. Del Zaster not to do anything too stupid, like overhandle the puck around Hall or RNH. A game that won't go to a shootout because Linus Omark is just sick.

Also Check Out: Oilers Nation, Lowetide, SBN's Copper & Blue and Oil on Whyte.

Friday, October 21, 2011

2-1-2: Zero-Point-Five

And we thought that Chris Drury's goal against the Rangers with 7.7 seconds left back in '07 was clutch timing. Imagine scoring a game-winning goal with 0.5 left on the clock - well, we don't have to imagine it because Ryan McDonagh did it in Calgary. While tonight's 3-2 win over the Flames certainly lacked the import and emotion of a playoff game, it was a remarkable ending just the same.

The hour is quite advanced so I will leap right into the Late Hits:

*Brandon Prust scored against his old team. And he did it shorthanded. How awesome was that? While we sit back and keep celebrating the acquisition of McD, we need to sit up and rejoice that Calgary tossed Prust in the Jokinen deal. Everything comes back to Bob Gainey - if he didn't send Higgins (and McD and Valentenko) to the Rangers for Gomez then they couldn't have sent Higgins to Calgary for Jokinen (and Prust).

*Tim Erixon deserves some serious credit. The kid, who is already playing above his station, had himself a great game. He didn't make it onto the scoresheet but he played 18 minutes while hearing booing from the Saddledome crowd every time he touched the puck. I truly hope that he can keep it up and the Rangers keep him up on Broadway whenever Sauer and Staal return.

*Ship Michael Del Zaster straight down to Greenville. Skip right over the AHL and send him straight to the E. As Craig Rivet recently explained about ECHLers, "They're missing something, something small. They can skate, they can shoot and they can pass. They're just missing a little bit of the game [mentally] and body positioning." Sounds like MDZ to me.

*Don't look now but the Rangers are sorely missing secondary scoring. We were so used to having secondary and missing primary the last few years that there has yet to be any grumbles about the fact that Richards and Gaborik are the only ones racking up points. Arty, Dubi, Cally, Boyle and Step combined have two goals in 25 games. It not for lack of effort - to be sure - but 64 minutes and 59.5 seconds without a regular strength goal against a inexperienced backup goaltender is slightly disconcerting. It is still early though ...

*Why does it always seem like Cally is skating into the opponent's zone one-on-three?

*Do you think that Erik Christensen was upset that McD scored? The goal robbed Mr. Softie of his lone time to shine.

*Two fights in this one, Kris Newbury standing up for a teammate by taking on Cory Sarich and Mike Rupp trying to justify his paycheque by battling Tim Jackman. One is the kind of fighting that needs to stay in the game and the other is the kind that needs to be weened out. And the fact that Rupp lost makes it even worse. The lone positive is that with Rupp taking the senseless slug outs Prust is freed to be an actual hockey player.

*Steve Eminger quietly had his best game of the season as there were no cringe-worthy moments. I had thought about saying the same about Jeff Woywitka but good ole Redden took a stupid penalty late in the third period.

*Stay in the crease Hank, just stay in the crease.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Mark Giordano - one goal.
2-Brian Boyle - one assist.
1-Jarome Iginla - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - He did everything but actually score. At some point the pucks will start going in, they have to.
2-Giordano - Strong at both ends of the ice, he showed why he is one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL.
1-McD - Not only did he score with 0.5 seconds left but he did it after skating 26:24 - the third highest total in the game behind Dan Girardi and Jay Bouwmeester.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Calgary Flames

The Blueshirts will battle the Flames tonight in Calgary at 9:30 pm (MSG).

Where We Are: The Rangers have earned four points in four games and are coming off of one of the oddest occurrences in recent history - reanimation. After being fitted for a toe tag through two periods against Vancouver they rose like a George Romero zombie to tear apart the unsuspecting Canucks.

Where They Are: A disappointing 2-3 but coming off of a 2-1 win on Tuesday over their Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers.

Who To Watch For: Try not to laugh at this but Olli Jokinen. Jokinen - and don't snort milk through your nose - is ... get this, Jokinen is averaging a point per game with one goal and four assists. Yeah. Seriously! Perhaps it is because he got rid of that awful mustache and is now seeing a shrink regularly. Alex Tanguay has matching numbers, which is good as Jarome Iginla has just one point so far. Curtis Glencross will be lurking about, looking to injure another Ranger. Actually, Glencross has found a scoring touch and is even with Rene Bourque for the team lead with three goals. Roman Horak, the player that the Blueshirts gave up for Tim Erixon, played in the first four matches but was benched against Edmonton and is unlikely to play tonight.

What To Watch For: Team discipline. Despite racking up just 13 hits against Edmonton, Calgary has checkers like Glencross, Tim Jackman, Scott Hannan and Pierre-Luc Leblond (or Tom Kostopoulos) - I would imagine one of them quickly making themselves acquainted with Erixon to help spark the Saddledome crowd. The Blueshirts have to be careful that their kneejerk reaction doesn't lead them back to the penalty box.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Brad Richards to repeat his Stanley Cup success against Calgary - he had nine points in seven games in the '04 Finals. Brandon Prust bouncing back from his benching to help beat his old team. Marty Biron facing less than 40 shots and coming up with a win like he did last year against them. Jay Bouwmeester, the Flames' Wade Redden, getting forechecked into oblivion by Dubi and Cally.

Also Check Out: Hit The Post, SBN's Matchsticks & Gasoline and the Red Mile Blog (which is sadly missing topless luscious young ladies).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1-1-2: All Hail The King

If you didn't stay up to watch the Rangers play the Canucks tonight, then you missed one of the top-five performances in Henrik Lundqvist's stellar career. Given the number of times he has been outstanding, that is saying something. The King - relying on his superhuman reflexes, his ability to read plays, his great flexibility, his positioning, his rebound control and (honestly) a little bit of luck - was utterly stellar in what was a 40 save effort. He made stop after stop after stop and finally, blissfully his teammates responded and turned around a disastrous showing into a 4-0 victory over Vancouver.

The A that was added to Hank's sweater in Frolunda should be permanently affixed going forward. Not since Mark Messier in the early-90s have the Rangers responded to one of their teammates the way they did tonight. It takes a certain kind of greatness to motivate the troops the way Lundqvist did. His awesomeness shamed them into picking themselves up and proving that they are not just passengers. This is not just hyperbole, Hank was just that good.

It was the 11th time in his Ranger career that Hank stopped 40 or more shots. He did it three times last season and the Rangers won two (the third was the double OT loss to DC in the playoffs). But few of those games saw him under siege the way he was in this one - just one of them immediately comes to mind: the Philly game that ended the Ranger season two years back that the team eventually lost in the shootout. The ending was far, far better on this night.

Late Hits:

*After last year's 1-0 win over the Canucks the Rangers went on a 3-8-1 run. They need do better than that after this win.

*Hank deserves every one of the accolades I laid upon him above but Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi deserve a bit of credit for stalwart performances. McD racked up a pretty goal and a suh-weet assist but he also collected three hits and three blocked shots. As a friend pointed out to me last season, we should be thankful Scott Gomez agreed to be traded to Montreal and we should be thankful the Habs were dumb enough to take him. Girardi played almost 29 minutes in front of Hank and his play allowed his partners to jump up into the play.

*John Tortorella is often (rightfully) raked along the coals in this space but he gets a small pat on the back for the way he sheltered Tim Erixon tonight. It would have been easy to leave the kid out there to fend for himself but the coach kept him away from the Sedins as much as he could. No reason to expose him to that at his age.

*Really Torts, what is the point of dressing Christensen? He shies away from any and all contact and is thus virtually useless. Is he playing just in case games go to a shootout?

*As I tweeted, "Chances of me yelling at Woywitka 'hey Redden, you SUCK!' multiple times this season? 100%" ... Woywitka's No. 6 sweater doesn't help his cause but his huge number of terrible plays sealed the deal. MSG's cameras caught Hank setting him straight so let's hope that he learned his lesson and the Redden slur won't be heard much in the future.

*Mike F-ing Rupp had been absolutely atrocious coming into this game but his shot to open the scoring was outstanding.

*Brandon Prust - two assists and two bad penalties. He is a great grinder but he has to be smarter.

*Dubinsky should also use his brain a bit more - fighting Kevin Bieksa was not wise. It is one thing to stand up for yourself, it is another to throw your life away when your team is up 3-0 with three minutes to go. And was that really a WWE 'suck it' motion to Bieksa as he skated off? Poor form.

*Michael Del Zaster needs to be sent to Hartford the second Staal and Sauer come back. He clearly has not learned a thing about playing defense. Given that he does have decent wheels, good ice sight on the offensive end and a penchant for hitting, perhaps he should get a shot at the LW slot alongside Richards and Gaborik ...

*Very touching pre-game tribute to Rick Rypien by Vancouver. Damn shame MSG didn't show the whole thing (I watched it streaming on the Canucks website). Hard to say if that was the worst thing on their broadcast tonight as Micheletti was his usual mistaken self and Bill Pidto's intermission highlight breaks were just woeful. BZZZZ!

*Love the Defending The Blue Line commercials but they come with a twinge of sadness as Boogaard was not around to take part in the taping. I hope that they are acknowledged when Boogey is honoured at the Garden next week.

*Kris Newbury did add a bit of the promised "jam" but he also lost a big defensive zone faceoff in the first period that nearly led to a Canuck goal. While there is still some sadness to see Zuke stuck in the bus league, there is simply no way in hell that Torts would have given him good minutes in a game like this (or in any other game, but that is something else).

*Fantasy hockey guru Dobber pointed out that Boyle's goal was his first in 27 games. What are the odds that the tally jump-starts a run like Boyler had at the start of last season?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Brandon Prust - two assists.
2-Ryan McDonagh - one goal and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 40 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - The captain was ferocious on the forecheck and a big part of the penalty kill.
2-McD - A dynamic performance by the defenseman.
1-Hank - All Hail!

Monday, October 17, 2011

0-1-2: Rangers' JT < Islanders' JT

I did not see the game and won't even pretend to. The box score, the lowlights, the post-game quotes and actions taken by the Rangers paint a grim picture, one that is only amplified by the utter shame that is a loss to the Islanders.

Hatred of our rivals aside, it is time to admit that the Isles are a young, hard working team that has lost enough to accumulate some decent talent. John Tavares is coming into his own and Mark Streit has always been a solid offensive defenseman (one the Rangers should have signed instead of Wade Redden). Once the incapable, glass-jawed Rick DiPietro removed himself from their crowded crease, they were bound to improve.

Meanwhile, the Rangers are a cobbled together collection of semi-capable players led by what has been an incapable coach. The failings of this franchise this season (and the last two) have little to do with the guys wearing the sweaters. Rant about the shortcomings of guys like MDZ, Arty and Gaborik (as I often do), the sum of the parts should be far better than the results they've gotten.

We were sold on a rebuilding team last year and that was fine ... hell, it was wonderful. We finally had the chance to see youth blossom on Broadway. Well, so much for that. I agree with Larry Brooks, Torts had his team picked long before camp opened. Several guys played well enough to make their way onto the club but saw their jobs go to other guys because, as Torts told Brooksie, "there's a bank account." Dale Weise, Sean Avery and Mats Zuccarello have all been banished because they didn't have enough 'banked' with the head coach.

At what point should the bank fire its branch manager for poor decisions that don't pay off?

Since singlehandedly driving the Tom Renney-built team out of the playoffs in 2009, John Tortorella's failing to find chemistry and a capable power play has doomed the Rangers time and time again. He reshaped the team through favoritism and it flopped in the first round in April before stumbling out of the gates this season. Has it been just three games? Yes. Is it time to panic? No. But something should be done sooner rather than later because his account has just about run dry.

Torts didn't want to use Europe as an excuse for this loss to the Isles. He didn't use the injuries to his top defensemen as an excuse either. Instead he claimed it was discipline that did his team in. Well, who is responsible for keeping the team disciplined? Tortorella is placing the blame where it belongs - on himself. While it is nice to see him finally admitting his own mistakes (albeit not in so many words), he needs to do something about them quickly.

Apparently he felt that swapping Zuke for Kris Newbury was the lone personnel step needed to put the team headed in the right direction. When the puck drops in Vancouver we will see if a fourth liner will be able to power the Rangers to victory. Somehow I don't think so but it is early enough to suspend some disbelief.

That being said, this week's trip out west had better see the best from the Blueshirts because if they limp into the Garden at the end of the month then there will be hell to pay. It will be time that the bank will finally foreclose on the coach.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

0-0-2: Take It And Run

If you told me that the Rangers travelled to southern California, faced the up-and-coming L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks with the top line in hockey and they came away with two points, I would be delighted. And so I am trying not to be disappointed to see them steal the same pair of points against those teams in Stockholm, Sweden. Would it have been delightful to see a win? Of course. Was it possible for the team to come away with not two points but three or four? Of course. But the Rangers are still the Rangers so, of course, we saw a mediocre squad play lackluster hockey. But they still escaped Stockholm without a regulation loss so we have that going for us.

This summer the franchise was given a new coat of paint and a new, expensive, shiny hood ornament but the car remains the same. Driven by a fool and ridden by too many passengers, the ride that is the New York Rangers has not changed - they pass up good shots, they miss the ones they get, they have little discipline, they are utterly incompetent with the man advantage, they wake up just in time to make a game of it after long periods of middling play ...

Nothing would have delighted me more than to travel to Europe to see a gritty, tough team battle hard against some of the NHL's elite and come away with some wins or even some good losses. But instead it was the usual, accepted mediocrity we've seen under John Tortorella's reign - the setting changed but the story remained the same.

Late Hits:

*Henrik Lundqvist for Vezina.

*That being said, serious credit should be given to Sauer, Girardi and McDonagh for their dutiful work on defense. Delightful to see them shut down the Ducks top guns. Sauer lost his helmet in a scrum, stayed on the ice and then went to ground to try to block a shot. That takes some brass ones boys and girls, brass ones.

*The Rangers attempted 45 shots, the Ducks 60. Fifteen went on net for the Blueshirts, 28 for Anaheim. I'm no math wizard but that is roughly 1/3rd vs. 1/2, right? New York needs to get more shots though.

*Really nice job by the in-arena production crew for both games at the Globen. They had montages from all the teams, the unique goal songs of all the franchises and more fun arena stuff (stars in the crowd, kiss cam, trivia, etc.). The highlight, for me, probably was pregame tonight during the Swedish national anthem as they dissolved in and out from the Swedish flag to tight shots of Hank and Tim Erixon. Little things like that enhance the experience (unlike the asinine sponsored tee-shirt shooters during the intermission).

*The game was decided in the skills competition where Hank was only fooled by a whiff by New Jersey-born Bobby Ryan. Christy, the Rangers shootout specialist who so fortunately was inserted into the lineup for a game that went to a shootout, missed the entire four foot by six foot net. Brad Richards nearly lost the puck at center ice before blowing his chance while Zuke's trademark move was easily stopped. Arty was the Ranger's final shooter and he was easily stopped by the Swiss keeper Hiller.

*Sadly it appears that Ryan Callahan is going to be injured sooner rather than later. This 110% stuff is fantastic but he is the only Ranger aside from Hank playing that hard and it will cost him.

*Not sure how Dubi and Perry got matching roughings when they both threw down their gloves and squared to fight. Did the refs feel bad that Perry dove to the ice to avoid getting his ass kicked?

*Speaking of such, as I tweeted, if we wanted a bum to get beat up we woulda kept Voros. Mike F-ing Rupp should go back to Pittsburgh. He could hardly skate, he fumbled the puck the one time it touched his stick and he got abused by the educated mustache of George Parros. He laid a hit on Devante Smith-Pelly (who has a big future ahead of him) and bounced off while, a second later, Mats Zuccarello knocked down the Duck. The big man has to be better.

*Zuke had his moments but, as I wrote last game, he needs an improved Stepan and a better winger across from him to achieve. My buddy Joakim, a big Modo fan, said MZA was a different player the season he dominated the Elitserien. Now he doesn't have the same energy and he doesn't have the same confidence. Torts needs to learn how to get the kid back into that kind of form.

*Erixon is slowly finding his feet, as they skate through the fire of NHL competition. He looks like he is wearing his dad's jersey that is three times too big and the opposition targeted him with contant hits but the kid did not look entirely out of place. The building blocks are there and hopefully his growth won't be stunted after being saddled with the experienced awfulness that is Steve Eminger. Eminger was so solid when filling in for the injured Rozsival midseason last year, what the hell happened?

*If not for his game-tying goal, I was going to rant that the Rangers got a nice faceoff specialist in Brad Richards, a lesser version of Manny Malhotra for three times the cost. Aside from the split second when he scored, Richards was woeful and he definitely is not working out on the power play point yet (neither is Michael Del Zotto but we were already well aware of his incompetence). The supposed chemistry with the Slovakian Slacker Marian Gaborik has yet to form.

*Pretty sure most folks want to see a hockey game and not a gong show with a zebra at center stage. Endless special teams are boring.

*MSG president Scott O'Neil was in attendance and gave me a smile and a 'let's go Rangers' during warmups. I still can't believe I was on my good behavior and didn't rip into him for the way he is raping us Ranger fans. I'm sorry folks, I don't know what came over me.

*Brian Boyle needs to decide if he is a fancy scorer or a big, grinding battler because right now he is somewhere in the middle and it is certainly not working out.

*Why didn't exIslander Jason Blake get called for not having his fight strap tied down when he ended up skating half a shift with his sweater over his arms?

*Sat next to a hockey fan from Germany who decided to root for Anaheim years ago because he saw the Mighty Ducks movie when he was a kid. That is Disney magic people.

*I'm sure there is more worth mentioning but it is after 5am and I head to England in a few hours for a week of work. A final Eurotrip post with some pictures will be up once I get back home mid-month. Hopefully a Islander recap will make it up next Saturday, as long as I can either find an open pub in London at that hour or a good internet feed to watch it.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundvist - 27 saves in regulation, three of four in the shootout.
2-Bobby Ryan - shootout goal.
1-Jonas Hiller - 14 saves, four of four in the shootout.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cam Fowler - The poise of this sophomore was admirable. And, to think, had the Rangers not wasted draft picks on Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto, they might have drafted him ...
2-Ryan McDonagh - No sophomore slump here either.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - No Hank, no points at all in either game. The King retained his crown in his home country despite little assistance from his serfs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

0-0-1: The Wrong Richards

Despite ridding himself of that accursed orange, Mike Richards continued to terrorize the Rangers, this time in Stockholm Friday night as he helped the Kings beat the Blueshirts 3-2 in overtime. Sadly, we would turn off Philadelphia games at least knowing that Brandon Dubinsky beat Richards up but this time Dubi was on his best behavior and he didn't take on the former Flyer captain. Damn. Richards had the game-tying goal and an assist on the game-winner while being his usually solid two-way self.

The other side of the coin was the Rangers' Richards, who was virtually useless outside of the faceoff circle. While he dominated at the dot, he didn't show any of the chemistry we hoped with Gaborik and received a charity point on Gabby's goal. He also botched a play to keep the puck deep in the L.A. zone with five minutes left in the third period and Richards scored seconds later on the other end.

It is way too early to call him a bust and too early get too angry at the loss but we watched the same Rangers play the same hockey that failed them last season. Richards was supposed to add a new dimension to the New York attack and he did not.

Late hits:

*I tweeted yesterday "that MDZ is on the roster is an utter franchise failure. Prospects, Sather, Torts, team docs." One game down and the statement holds true. He was a disaster in his own end and a nonfactor on the other side of the ice. Perhaps once Staal gets his head screwed back on right or Woywitka breaks in well or Bickel learns how to skate then MDZ will get sent back to the minors where he can learn how to play right.

*Tim Erixon, on the other hand, was pretty good - especially when you consider he had to cover up for Steve Eminger, who challenged MDZ as worst Ranger on the ice. The kid is smart, decisive and steady. His delay of game penalty was just bad luck for the puck going out of play.

*The other penalties were a mixed bag. Zuke's cross checking was a weak call (the guy was off balance and now the Norwegian is being fined for it?!? No contact hockey, here we come), Eminger and Boyle had theirs come because they were beaten on the plays and McDonagh's never happened. Mac actually had a helluva shift before the ghost call, which ultimately doomed the Rangers.

*If Mike Sauer was still battling a sore shoulder, I can't wait to see how he is at 100%. Rock solid. Between him, McDonagh, Girardi and Staal (when he gets back), the Blueshirts have a great top-4 on their blueline. Add in a maturing Erixon and a decent veteran No. 6 and the Rangers will have a great unit helping out Hank.

*Hank, as always, kept the Rangers in the game while the team in front of him made mistake after mistake. Henke is the king and the Swedish crowd deservedly worshipped him as such. They didn't match the lovefest that took place in Gothenburg last week but they did pull for their favourite son. No Hoppa Henke song though, which was saddening.

*Of course, they did cheer for him in their usual understated Swedish way. It was a pretty quiet audience mostly made up of Ranger fans and curious onlookers. There weren't many Kings supporters at all outside of The Royal Half and a half dozen female Kings season ticket holders that sat in my row. One had purple hair, another an Avery jersey. Yes, I got along with them well - diehard fans are diehard fans (except for Flyer fans, who are subhuman).

*The in-house camera caught several Swedish stars around the arena. Ulf Nilsson (Potvin Sucks!), Anders Hedberg, Mattias Norstrom, Markus Naslund and Kent Nilsson all made it onto the big screen at some point, with Kent getting the loudest ovation of them all.

*Zuke played alright; his linemates didn't do him any favours. Derek Stepan appeared a step slow all night and Wojtek Wolski was good for nothing aside from jabbing at the puck with his stick.

*Dubi needs to be moved back with Arty and Cally, so the other lines can work again. Step and Zuke need Fedotenko, Arty and Cally need Dubi. Considering that Gaborik and Richards are having their troubles, getting two solid lines for a mediocre one is a worthwhile deal.

*Mike F-ing Rupp skates almost as poorly as the late Derek Boogaard did.

*Ryan Callahan's goal was an awesome bad-angle snipe. The captain's persistance and battle level helped keep his team in the game.

*You know who could have helped with that, adding energy with a strong shift? Sean Avery.

*Aside from his staged fight, not sure where Prust was in this one. His partner Boyle looked big and slow.

*Seeing as the Rangers struggled to shut down Kopitar, Williams and Gagne tonight, just imagine what will happen tomorrow against Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan. *shudder* Ed. note: No Peepin' Foes for the Ducks, too tired tonight.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one goal on 11 shots.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Anze Kopitar - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - The only Ranger forward that came to play.
2-Kopitar - The Swedish-trained Slovenian is definitely one of the most underrated stars in the NHL.
1-Mike Richards - Such a dynamic player, it really isn't fair.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Los Angeles Kings

The 2011-12 Ranger season starts in Stockholm Friday against the L.A. Kings, 1pm Eastern on MSG or Versus.

Where We Are: Trying to cope with a battered blueline. Top defender Marc Staal is out and top defensive defender Mike Sauer has barely played this preseason thanks to a bum shoulder. The team added Jeff Woywitka on Thursday but it is doubtful he will play so we will be submitted to a defensive corps that includes Michael Del Zotto, rookie Tim Erixon and Steve Eminger. Hank has to be King-ly to survive.

Where They Are: Los Angeles is battling one of the most dangerous of calamities - sky high expectations. After putting together a decent season last year, the Kings stole Mike Richards from the Flyers and added his buddy Simon Gagne. They also re-upped Drew Doughty for eight years so they believe they currently have the pieces for success this season and going forward - now they have to show it.

Who To Watch For: Brad Richardson could come out of nowhere to chip in points as the Rangers fight to contain Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings' jewels. Dustin Brown is Ryan Callahan west. Dustin Penner isn't playing. Jonathan Quick is starting in goal and was utterly fantastic at times last season. Richards, Gagne and former Islander Trent Hunter all know how to beat the Rangers.

What To Watch For: Richards vs. Dubi V - love that these two dislike each other so. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik being checked very tightly as the Kings shut down the two free agents who spurned them so famously. A Ranger power play is always an experience worth taking in, like a train wreck. See if Zuke can carry his preseason success over, especially when saddled with Wojtek Wolski. How Arty will cope with Torts moving Dubi to the top line and leaving him with Feds instead. Mike Rupp trying to goad Kevin Westgarth into a fight to make an impression on his new teammates (or maybe he will wait for Saturday and take on George Parros' mustache).

What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean Avery making a grand WWE entrance in the middle of the first and throwing Tortorella against the turnbuckle. Speaking of farcical things, how about MDZ not screwing up anything in his own zone? Dubi destroying Richards yet again. A far, far different team then the one that was smacked by EV Zug earlier this week. Tim Erixon having a quite but capable first NHL game. Facing the team that drafted him, Brian Boyle finding the form that saw him turn into a goal scorer in the first half of last season. Cally not to get hurt. Hank to out-save Quick in front of a loving crowd.

Also Check Out: The Royal Half, Surly & Scribe, SBN's The Battle of California and Jewels From The Crown, and Rich Hammond's Kings Insider.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Avery Era Is Over (for good this time)

I'm not sure what there is to say that I haven't already ranted on Twitter. John Tortorella always hated Sean Avery and, with Sather's summer signings, finally had the opportunity to get rid of him and he used it.

That simple.

The nonsense about Erik Christensen getting the job because of his versatility is just that, nonsense. Yes, Christy can play center and wing, but he can also lose the puck at the lightest touch and not play defense. And show up for two, maybe three games a season. And be a supremely smug jerk in interviews and to fans. And not be Sean Avery.

The writing has been on the wall since Torts was hired but it still is sad that this day has come to pass. The head coach of a team should do everything he can to make the team better, to make it win games - not to placate his own ego and carry out a personal vendetta.

I, an avowed Avery supporter who has gone to bat for him before, fully admit that he didn't perform up to par last season - I gave him a C- in my report card - but he was still a valuable player for the team.

As I wrote in my Facts of Life:
The Rangers were 12-4-1 when he registered a point. ... Torts never gave him the chance to gain any chemistry with his teammates, bouncing him around the lineup. And the super pest was stupefyingly scratched for several games down the stretch and once during the playoffs (Torts clearly not learning his lesson from 2009).
I truly hope that Sean is able to find another NHL job, just not in the Atlantic division. Perhaps there is a GM out there willing to look beyond the bad reputation and see a voracious forechecker, a guy who actually stands up for his teammates and a lightning fast skater. Off the ice he is also great for public relations as he is great with the fans and a charitable person.

Hopefully Avery can find someone who believes in his ability and puts him in a position to achieve, not someone who refuses to give him a fair shot. Best wishes to a good and loyal Blueshirt.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Preseason: EVZ 8, Rangers 4

Ok, I have to take a deep breath here ...

Breath in.

Breath out.

Alright, let's get on with it.

Preseason is about getting ready for the season and learning. So, after Monday's merciless beating by the Swiss side from Zug, we have to assess how the Rangers prepared for the upcoming campaign and what they learned from getting spanked 8-4.

Well, they learned that they can't take any opponent lightly, that they get tired playing four games in five nights and that crowds can get pretty damned loud when they watch their team win big. Aside from that, it is hard to gain insight into how they will fare in the future when the game is so vastly different - virtually no physical play and a ton of extra ice to be exploited by their opponents.

Onto the Late Hits:

*Tortorella juggled the lines mercilessly looking to find chemistry and we are pretty much back to where we started - Dubi is best with Cally and Arty. He got a shot to run with Richards and Gabby and wasn't nearly the factor he is when he crashes while Cally bangs. Feds-Step-Zuke as a unit have a spark and will only get better as Step and Zuke keep maturing. Boyle-Rupp-Prust was completely ineffective as they really couldn't play their game.

*Sean Avery needs to get at least a look with Richards and Gabby. That is, if Torts keeps him around. He should.

*That being said, Christensen was one of the few Rangers who looked comfortable on the big ice. No surprise, Zuke and Bell were the others as they both recently came from Europe. But, for my money, Zuke - or Zuccarello-Aasen as he was announced in the arena - is the only one who played his way onto the team this preseason.

*An hour or so before puck drop Marty Biron was hanging out on the bench bs-ing with someone. Perhaps he should have been warming up or something. He was horrendous, a totally different goaltender than the one who won in Praha. Of course, he got even less help from his teammates on this night but still.

*As the Swiss pointed out, Brad Richards' salary is more than the entire EVZ club. He was atrocious on the power play. As was Gaborik. As was everyone.

*Josh Holden had two goals and an assist on his way to man of the match honours. He is currently suspended from league play for a bad hit and yet he got to star against us. Dammit.

*The Swiss fans were thunderous at the end of the game. The Bossard Arena isn't that big and the fans are almost on top of the ice. Having that many excited people singing for hours led to a foggy ice surface in the third (and to excitement in the air!).

*No big choreo pieces from the EVZ fan club. Disappointing. And several of their chants were exactly the same as those of other clubs, just with their own name inserted. Boring.

*As I tweeted, they clearly over-sold the standing room sections. I had a ticket in one but was talking with the wife of Zug assistant coach Waltteri Immonen and ended up hanging around her section (and getting chirped by her kids). When someone claimed the seat I had stolen, I tried to go down to the side of the Ranger end of the ice. I wanted to stand with the others at the back of the section but moments later stewards cleared everyone out. I went back around to near where I had been and slid in with the wheelchair fans. Eventually I saw the stewards let people fill in back where I was - they had too as the standing room areas were packed like sardines and plenty of paying customers couldn't see the ice.

*One puck, two tee shirts and a team flag? 130 USD. And you thought Dolan was bad. Plus the team shop did not accept credit cards - the merch stands I get, but the team store? That is insane! But apparently it wasn't a problem for the posh people of Zug as they sold out of commemorative scarves and pucks and the special orange (ewww) sweater was flying off the shelves. A replica sweater, with sublimated dye and no player name, for something like 175 USD. Ridiculous.

*There was a lot of totally random jerseys around the arena. I can understand the Habs and Islanders ones as the Swiss worship Mark Streit but some were really odd: Cam Neely throwback B's, Jonathan Toews Hawks home, Vinny Lecavalier Bolts third and a Mark Giordano Flames Winter Classic. I spoke to the Lecavalier kid and he wore it to the game because he is a big fan of John Tortorella from the coach's Tampa days.

And now the Rangers move on to Stockholm where things are gonna get real, yo. I have a few more days here in Switzerland before heading back to Sweden so I won't have anything in this space about the Blueshirts practices. Sorry.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peepin' Foreign Foes: EV Zug

The Rangers will finish off their slate of preseason games in Switzerland. They will take on the Swiss side EV Zug.

Arena: Bossard Arena was opened just over a year ago and holds just over seven thousand fans, around three thousand of which are in standing room sections.

Team History: Zug is the youngest franchise the Rangers are facing, having been founded in 1967. Since then they have won just one championship (1997–98). Last season they came in fourth in the Swiss National League-A before being swept in the semifinals to Davos, the eventual champion.

Where They Are: In first in the Swiss National League A. Zug is coming off of a 4-0 win Saturday over Bern (the team the Rangers beat 8-1 during their trip in 2008).

Familiar Foes: Jussi Markkanen! The former Ranger netminder has started all of Zug's games this season and has helped them to the top of the table. Veteran Paul DiPietro left during the summer but they have other offensive weapons to take the load off Juuuuuuussssssiiiiii. Former Cap, Bruin, Hab and Long Island Jawz Glen Metropolit has taken DP's roll as leader and star. Other former NHLers on the roster are Andy Wozniewski, Josh Holden and Esa Pirnes.

Who To Watch For: Swiss League product Damien Brunner was never drafted by the NHL but he leads the league with nine goals and five assists so far. Woz is the most penalized player in the Swiss league and Holden was suspended for a hit to the head of former Ranger Christian Dube mid-September. And Juuuuuuussssssiiiiii, of course. Always liked that guy.

What Can We Expect: Hopefully the Rangers to show up for three full periods. But, seeing as it is their fourth game in five nights (or third in five for many of them) and the fact that Sunday saw them go from Sweden to Slovakia to Switzerland, they may start slow yet again. Marty Biron will be back in net and should do just as well as he did against Sparta. Sean Avery may get his shot after Mr. Softie saw action against Slovan. It is his and a few other guys' last big chance to make an impression as the regular season starts Friday in Stockholm.

Preseason: Rangers 4, Slovan Bratislava 1

The Rangers' Eurotrip continued on Sunday with an afternoon match with Slovan Bratislava. The Slovaks, like the Czechs on Thursday, supposedly had a good first period before letting the Rangers be the big, strong NHL visitor they were supposed to be.

I wrote 'supposedly' because I missed the first two periods while at the derby between the two Zurich football teams so please feel free to add anything you saw in the comments. By the time I turned it on at the start of the third period, this one was ovaaaaaaa. Both teams were blowing power plays, few checks were finished and it was just a matter of waiting for the stick salute.

A few Late Hits (BTW, that is the name for my game notes from now on. Original, right?):

*Slovan's cheerleaders did their little dances in the aisles. In Prague, as in Jersey, the scantily clad 'entertainers' had a platform of their own that they bump and grind on. Guess Slovan is a team of and for the people.

*I wonder how many of the penalties that Stu Bickel has been called for so far this preseason would be called in regular season NHL hockey. He is bigger and stronger than his opponents and it shows.

*Didn't notice Erik Christensen once. Sean Avery, the door is open ...

*Loved seeing Ryan McDonagh get a goal. He has done the right thing by getting his defense in order, why not add a little offense? This is the point right where Marc Staal stalled. Staal lost Fedor Tyutin and was saddled with Rozsival so he had to remain the responsible one. When Mike Sauer gets back, he should give McD the freedom needed to keep adding offense.

*Mats Zuccarello looked great. He is finally giving up his reluctance to shoot which is huge but it is a slow process. In the third period Slovan knew he wasn't going to fire the puck and they forced turnovers because of it. But he is still willing to throw that undersized frame of his around. He hit Chara last season, so why not some no-name giant for Slovan? Go Zuke.

*Hank looked alright but it was obvious by the time I tuned in that Slovan didn't have much left in the tank.

*They showed a fan wearing a nice hoodie commemorating the game. Sparta also had game-night merch. I wonder why Frolunda dropped the ball, they would have made a ton on anything with Hank's face on it. I'll let you know what they do in Zug tomorrow!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Peepin' Foreign Foes: HC Slovan Bratislava

The Rangers had day off after watching the Swedes swoon for Hank and Sunday they will see the Slovaks welcome Marian Gaborik as he leads the Blueshirts into Bratislava for a game against HC Slovan. Sadly I won't be there as I am heading directly to Switzerland ahead of Monday's match with Zug. So no one will be there to yell "Let's Go Rangers" during the anthem, sorry.

Arena: Ondrej Nepela Arena was the main building for the 2011 World Championships. It holds just over 10,000 fans and already saw a NHL team come visiting when Tampa Bay played an exhibition before we beat them in Prague in 2008. The Bolts beat Bratislava 3-2 in overtime.

Team History: Slovan finished first in the Slovak Extraliga during the regular season in '10-11 but they lost in the playoff's quarterfinals to Dukla Trencin. They are expected to wear a special sweater for the game against the Rangers what will honour their 90th anniversary.

Where They Are Now: They are 5-1-1 so far this season and are coming off of a 4-2 win over HK 36 Skalica on Friday.

Familiar Foes: When Tampa was in town they caught up with former Lightning forward Zdeno Ciger, who was and still is Bratislava's head coach. Ciger, who also played for the Rangers (best if you don't remember that), basically explained to the media how John Tortorella drove him out of the league. That should make for a warm reunion. Old foe Miro Satan is on a monthly deal with the Slovaks while he prays some NHL team can find a place for him. Jozef Balej, the blue chip prospect we got for Alex Kovalev way back when, joined the team this summer. David Skokan, a 2007 Ranger draft pick, is on their roster and is excited to face the franchise he couldn't make. Former NHL journeyman Richard Jackman is listed on their website but he jumped ship over the summer and now plays in Korea with Anyang Halla. Hallaaaaaaa!

Who To Watch For: Satan leads a first line that is all averaging better than a point per game per player. Roman Kukumberg, a '04 Leafs pick, is the center while Michal Hudec is on the other wing. Huder played USHL for a season and was on the 1999 Slovakian World Junior side alongside Gabby. Balej is still a bust, with just two goals and no assists in Slovan's seven games.

What Can We Expect: A Gaborik love-fest, but one not at the same level as Hank's in Gothenburg - Gabby played for HC Dukla Trenčín, not Slovan. It shouldn't be all that physical - the Slovak's PIM leader has just 10 min in seven games. I would figure Satan will do all he can to score just so someone back in the States can see he is still a salvageable player. But the best part is that the fans are planning to put on an amazing display. The Rangers, for their part, will just try to keep working towards game form and finding chemistry. We will see if both Christy and Avery make the roster for the game or if one will play there, the other in Zug while they battle for the final forward spot. Also get to see how MDZ and Stu Bickel reward the coach's faith after he kept both after the penultimate round of cuts.