Saturday, December 31, 2011

23-9-4: Success In Sunrise

The Blueshirts closed out their 2011 schedule with a solid 4-1 win over the patchwork Panthers on Friday night. The Florida Island of Misfit Toys has been quite surprising this season in seizing the top spot in the Southleast Division. That being said, they were not particularly good in this game. And that is more than ok for us, as we were able to watch the Rangers do what they had to do to win. The Rangers worked hard enough to get the good bounces, they avoided injuries and thus can skate into Philadelphia on a good note.

And that is all that matters, given all of the hype around the upcoming game. The Winter Classic spectacle has been a major distraction this team doesn't need and the sooner it is over, the better. But before then, some Late Hits on this one:

*You have to wonder if John Tortorella wanted the game to end the way it did - with fists flying. What other reason could there be for him to put his neanderthals on the ice in the final minute, against Florida's top line, up 4-1, with an empty net at the other end? Brian Boyle hasn't scored in forever, why wouldn't Torts give him a shot at scoring? I think it was that Torts wanted to send some kind of message, one that was sent - our guys can cheap shot yours because our tough guys will beat the snot out of you if you retaliate ... at least that was the message I got. Del Zaster inexplicably hit Kopecky with two high crosschecks, got his comeuppance and went down like a ton of bricks. (Who knew he had a glass jaw?) But as he saw stars Rupp and Prust came over to justify their paycheques and Rupp ended up pummeling a Slovakian with two career fights. Bet Rupp felt real tough afterwards. Had DZ fought back it would have been fine - hell, I would have given the kid credit for standing up for himself - but Rupp destroying Kopecky was just ridiculous, the exact nonsense that justifies the NHL's idiotic instigator rule.

Just a quick break for an explanation: personally I love stuff like this: you hit our guy, we don't just hit you - we end you. If I am Kevin Dineen, next Thursday I send Krys Barch to injure Gaborik, Richards or Lundqvist - probably Lundqvist because Barch can't skate well enough to get a mobile target. But eye-for-an-eye isn't reality anymore. As I am reminded constantly, this is the New NHL, the softer NHL where proper justice (and good hard, highlight-reel checking) is outlawed. And thus I feel forced to take this position as these actions don't help the team. If you think they do in the form of camaraderie, then how come Hank was bumped without retribution a few times?

*That being said, the Rangers may have dodged a bullet as Rupp was given a fighting major and a game misconduct but not the instigator he deserved. Had he been tagged with the instigator - one inside the final five minutes of the game - he would receive an automatic suspension. (Only Geno Malkin has been able to get off the hook on a call like that, because he was helping Crosby get a Cup.) Rupp would have had to miss the Winter Classic. Instead he can keep being the kettle calling the pot black by saying Jody Shelley is "fucking irrelevant."

*MSG cleverly cut into the best tight replay just in time for the sucker punch (1:18 of this) - even on the next view, you don't get a clear shot of the point of contact on DZ's hit, making Kopecky's punch look that much more egregious.

*I mentioned Prust having to justify his paycheque by fighting and am very, very sad to have to say it - he is a shadow of the player he was last season. He is getting almost two minutes less ice time per game and his skills have clearly deteriorated - he had a nice little break and missed the net from five feet away. Perhaps the offseason shoulder surgery did not work, perhaps he just re-injured it in his fight against Barch earlier this season. He is not the same threat he was.

*Happier thoughts: bork! bork! bork! Carl Hagelin had a magnificent re-direction of Ryan Callahan's no-look feed for the first goal of the game. It was amazing. And the Swede showed off his speed time and time again throughout the evening. Absolutely love this kid.

*Richards' and Del Zaster's goals were both from lucky bounces. Jeff Woywitka made an absolutely terrible pass right up the middle but Tim Kennedy botched the steal, allowing it to get over to Richards. DZ's shot went off of Matt Bradley's leg. Both goals were still savable but it was not Scott Clemmensen's night. There won't be too many soft goals against the Panthers once Jacob Markstrom is given the starting job.

*But even Markstrom would have had a tough time stopping Dubi. Dubinsky's goal was outstanding; has he gotten his game together or what? Dubi held off Kris Versteeg, skated into the slot and sank a backhand into the back of the Florida net while falling. What a wonderful goal.

*Interesting stat - Gabby saw just 13:45 in icetime, his second lowest this season. The lowest was 13:34, which came against the very same Florida Panthers team. Wonder what Torts sees in the Cats that he feels he needs to hide his Slovakian sniper.

*Jason Garrison's shot is scary good. This guy really came out of nowhere and is a Sheldon Souray in his prime-type threat.

*The decision to waive Sean Avery has nothing to do with on-ice ability. You can't convince me that Ruslan Fedotenko - at this point in his career - is more capable than Avery in anything. Fedotenko is adding close to nothing out there night after night. And I like Feds, he has been a good soldier, but he doesn't add the intangibles that Avery does. Feds rarely helps this team win, he just helps it not lose.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Bradley - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Brad Richards - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Ho hum, another solid effort by the King.
2-Hagelin - Red Berenson really did a terrific job molding this kid into a player, taking the natural ability and teaching him how to use his talents to create offense while being defensively responsible.
1-Richards - You'd think he was comfortable playing in south Florida or something ... that was a helluva pass to Del Zaster.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

22-9-4: Power-less Play

As disappointing a team as there is in the NHL this season, the Washington Capitals were led by as disappointing a talent as there is in the NHL this season on Wednesday night. Alex Semin struck for two goals to help the Caps beat the Rangers 4-1. But it was another massive disappointment that doomed the Rangers - their power play.

The man advantage proved to be no advantage at all, as the Ranger power play blew five opportunities. It is mired in a 1-21 slump that it shows no signs of stopping. The guys are being too cute, they are taking too much time with the puck, they are looking for the perfect play. You'd think Perry Pearn was still behind the bench. It is true that they did score once, but it was clearly kicked in by Captain Callahan and thus waved off - it was their best chance too. By comparison, they were shorthanded twice in this game and got two golden opportunities to score shorthanded. Shorthanded the team is forced to make quick decisions, to play the puck off the rush and go to the net before bugging out of the zone. The lesson we all were taught when younger would serve the Ranger power play well - KISS, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Late Hits:

*Tomas Vokoun hadn't started in six games and the Blueshirts let him off the hook. There were few guys crashing the net, few guys getting in his face, few guys getting to rebounds ... all things the Caps did to Biron.

*Hard to play against Alex Ovechkin and not miss Marc Staal but the Blueshirts were largely able to contain Alex the Great - partially because of their hard work, partially because Ovie is not the same superstar he once was. The tireless relentlessness that made him the best player in the NHL is now sporadic at best. It got his last coach fired and is clearly frustrating his current one.

*The Rangers top offensive talent were just as frustrating. Marian Gaborik allowed himself to be shoved out to the perimeter while Brad Richard$ had one of his worst games to date. Not only did he have the utterly egregious turnover that led to the first Semin goal but Richard$ saw 8:21 of power play time and was utterly ineffective.

*As I tweeted, Ryan Callahan is everything we hoped Chris Drury would be. A true warrior who goes not only to the wall but through it to get the job done. From blocking shot after shot (after shot after shot) to taking on DC's John Erskine, Captain Cally did it all. It was his selflessness that set up the Rangers' lone goal - a good block sent the puck up the ice and Dubi finished with a superb snipe. With four points in his last four games, things are finally getting better for Dubi.

*Neither Brandon Prust nor Mike Rupp made John Erskine pay for roughing up Callahan. However, they did both draw power plays only to watch the so-called skill guys piss them away.

*Always maintained that Arty Anisimov could be a great player if he could ever get his head together and gain some confidence. Much to my surprise, this season he definitely has started doing both. The best part is not his offense but his improvement away from the puck, which he showed several times tonight.

*On the other side of it is Del Zaster. On the first goal against he turned the puck over to Johansson, stepped away from Jeff Halpern to - in theory - stay with his man (Johansson) and then proceeded to stop and watch the puck, which allowed Johansson to skate deep and score on the rebound of Halpern's shot. It is fundamental mistakes like that I find unforgivable. Sure he is only 21 but this was the 162nd game of his NHL career. Almost two full seasons of experience and still he gives up on his coverage to watch the play, and that is why he is a pariah in these pages. He settled down after the goal but still missed several chances to clear the zone when the Rangers were in trouble and lost battles along the boards. DZ has it in him to be a Sergei Zubov but what made Zubi so valuable was as much his passing as his ability in his own end. Still wish we drafted John Carlson instead.

*The assist gave Halpern 20 points in 34 career games against the Rangers, a stat that I found quite surprising. Jeff Halpern? Really?

*Another blown coverage helped Washington score their second goal. Dan Girardi watched Troy Brouwer curl around the net, then McD turned and saw the Capital standing there. Neither one bothered to hit the guy, allowing him to screen Biron and tip John Carlson's shot in to break the 1-all tie. Guess the Rangers really missed Kurt Sauer - couldn't believe Eddie O made that mistake. But he was still far, far, far, far, far, far better than Joe Micheletti.

*While getting on the announcing, is it Step-an, Step-ahn, Step-in or what? Doc seemingly couldn't decide.

*There is no way that Jeff Woywitka could ever, ever beat Alex Semin in a race but it just wasn't happening when the guy is coming off of a bruised foot. His partner Stu Bickel (STUUUUU) had a bad turnover and no physical presence - he has to be better if he is going to keep his job in the big leagues. Anton Stralman looked pretty good though, blowing away all expectations.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Troy Brouwer - one goal and one assist.
2-Alex Ovechkin - two assists.
1-Alex Semin - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brooks Laich - Handily kept the Rangers to the outside on the kill.
2-Semin - Amazing how good he can be once in a blue moon.
1-Brouwer - Like a young Mike Knuble out there ...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

22-8-4: Two Points

Monday night's match between the Rangers and the Islanders was largely lifeless and dull. The Blueshirts were outworked most of the night, pinned in their endzone time and time again and terrible with the man advantage. It was not pretty. But it was two points.

The Rangers managed to get just two pucks past Evgeni Nabokov, a guy who left all of his ability in San Jose. They barely challenged him, putting shot after shot after shot into the round logo on his chest. They didn't just play down to the level of their opponents, they played below it. It was not pretty. But it was two points.

Late Hits:

*Henrik Lundqvist made his case for the Vezina and Hart trophies in this one. Hank was left utterly alone as the inept, exhausted players in front of him were steps slow covering the more-active Islanders. Torts inexplicably kept matching the Boyle line to the Tavares unit even though they couldn't keep up and were left standing around their own end. And yet the King came through with a shutout. All hail.

*Wouldn't be shocked to find out that Prust had re-injured his shoulder in that fight against Krys Barch a few weeks back. He has not been the same player he used to be, definitely not the guy who scored five shorties last season. It is hard to take his grit and determination out of the lineup but perhaps he needs a real break to fix his wing.

*No one kills Ranger power plays like the Rangers.

*Anton Stralman is +10 in his last six games, so clearly he is deserving of massive accolades. After all, everyone is heaping praise over that one-way Del Zaster of a defenseman who plays alongside him. DZ is just atrocious in his own end - I mean, at least he isn't passing directly to the opposition anymore but he continues to get beaten in footraces and board battles.

*That being said, as my buddy Eric pointed out, the Rangers were beaten in board battles all night long (all night).

*I do give Del Zaster credit where it is due and it is certainly due for his feed to Hagelin for the second Ranger goal. It was a fantastic give-and-go with Callahan that left the Swede open in the slot for the one-timer. A truly beautiful play. His schoolyard toe-drag earlier was ridiculous but the puck ended up in the net thanks to Cally, who crashed the net to get the rebound off of Nabby's chest.

*Disappointing crowd at the Garden. Multiple times over the night you could hear the players yelling from the upper reaches of the 300s. For a packed house, it was pretty dead in there ... at least until the fan fight down in 113. That Garden roared for that but, from my vantage point, it looked like a bout between Ranger fans - utterly unacceptable when there were so many idiots in orange around.

*The crowd did manage a pair of chants for Sean Avery though. After such a torpid display by the Blueshirts, we were begging for the sparkplug player - even up 2-0.

*Instead of Avery we had Mike Rupp lumbering around like Frankenstein's monster for eight minutes (more than Avery got in 10 of his 15 starts). Seeing Rupp too tired to move in the Ranger end during one Islander push was just pathetic. And he was a real deterrent out there, he really stopped Michael Haley from giving Bickel a black eye.

*Haley is one of the one-dimensional goons who has no place in the NHL. The neanderthal jumped Stu Bickel two minutes into the game, pounding the Ranger defenseman. The only possible cause I can imagine would be the Wallace incident where Bickel beat on him before he could get his visor off - but if that was the case, why didn't Wallace take care of business himself? It is not like he is some kind of skill player who is better served being on the ice than in the box. He is a coward, just like Haley. Guys like Haley just keep giving ammunition to the pacifists and we all will wake up one day with a fighting and checking-free NHL. Terrible. Four seconds of ice time, 17 minutes in penalties.

*I said 'checking-free' because these players are intentionally positioning themselves where if they get hit, there will be a penalty. Frans Neilsen did it several times, once with Ryan Callahan all over him. Neilsen faced the boards and kept his numbers straight back so the second there would be any contact, he could have drawn a boarding call. It is as much a disgrace to this game as Haley's animal antics.

*If that was the quality of the ice after one NBA game, we will be completely screwed for the rest of the season. The puck took several bad hops and there were guys tripping all over the place - although Nabby taking a tumble was chuckle-worthy.

*Hmm, rewatching the game right now and Sam just pointed out that McDonagh hasn't played a full season worth of games yet - a stat I pointed out the other day. That combined with his usage of my Prust stat leads me to believe that someone is ripping me off without giving credit ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Michael Del Zotto - two assists.
2-Carl Hagelin - two goals.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Bork Bork Bork - Hagelin was in the right place at the right time to collect two more goals. Definitely had high hopes when he got called up and he has even surpassed those expectations.
2-Cally - The captain saw just 13 minutes of ice time (interestingly none on the PK) but he made them count. Callahan came to Girardi's aid after the defenseman was jumped when Tavares took that dive, and he collected assists on both Hagelin goals.
1-Hank - The King protected the Kingdom yet again. With the injuries to Staal and Sauer, there truly isn't another player in the entire league who has been more valuable to his team.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Live For This

Santa Scotty 2012

So the NHL took tonight and tomorrow night off for Christmas (even though they didn't take off for Hannukah or Kwanzaa; tsk, tsk, how unpolitically correct). In the giving spirit, Santa Scotty is going to go around and bring presents to the Rangers ...


#42 Artem Anisimov: An official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle and a dvd of Enemy at the Gates.

#16 Sean Avery: A better ending to the story of his Ranger career then the one we are heading towards.

#22 Brian Boyle: Boxing lessons and pajamas.

#24 Ryan Callahan: More padding because every time he blocks a puck he risks yet another injury.

#40 Erik Christensen: A bus ticket out of town and a door to hit him on the ass on the way out.

#17 Brandon Dubinsky: A pet weasel named Shelley.

#26 Ruslan Fedotenko: Some ice for that face of his right now.

#10 Marian Gaborik: Rocket Richard Trophy.

#62 Carl Hagelin: A good nickname. With Ryan Bourque coming, the Swedish Chef's 'Bork bork bork' won't hold. Friend of the blog Andrea uses Shaggy Haggy but what if he cuts those blonde locks off?

#34 John Mitchell: I'd say Mitch has already received his gift because he is playing on Broadway.

#8 Brandon Prust: A healed shoulder, because it is clearly not 100%.

#19 Brad Richards: A big mattress to keep all of his money under.

#71 Mike Rupp: Whatever it was he had when he scored that hat trick against us way back when.

#21 Derek Stepan: His college degree. Really appreciate all he has done since leaving Wisconsin after his sophomore season but a degree is good to have.

#86 Wojtek Wolski: A nice cabin with a hot tub he can retire to. Immediately.

#36 Mats Zuccarello: A willingness to shoot the puck so he can get a NHL job again.


#41 Stu Bickel: More of whatever he is on now because whatever it is is working.

#4 Michael Del Zotto: A clue in the defensive end.

#44 Steve Eminger: A copy of the Mask to watch while recuperating. Get it? "It wasn't me! It was the one-armed man!"

#53 Tim Erixon: About 10, 15 more pounds of muscle and two more seasons of experience.

#5 Dan Girardi: A one-timer as good as his son's.

#27 Ryan McDonagh: A luckier sweater. Ok, that is sorta for me because I'm pissed that my Whale McD jersey mushed him the one time I wore it to the Garden.

#38 Michael Sauer: A chin strap on his helmet so it doesn't pop off next time.

#18 Marc Staal: Just a little patience - this talk about coming back for the Classic is ridiculous.

#32 Anton Stralman: A tape of Christian Backman's play so he knows what not to do.

#6 Jeff Woywitka: Another job as his will disappear once Eminger gets back. Especially as Stu is here to stay! (I hope.)


#43 Marty Biron: Continued dominance over the Islanders, because that was awesome.

#30 Henrik Lundqvist: Seriously, this guy has it all - he can get gifts for everyone else.

And to all of you: Kind wishes during this holiday season for health, happiness and good hockey!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

21-8-4: Happy Holidays

Wherever he is, Chris Drury can rest assured that the members of his former franchise will have a happy holiday completely unruined by the taint of on-ice disappointment. On Friday the Rangers headed into the Christmas break on a high note by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at the Garden.

The win pushed the team into first place of the Atlantic Division, a position unseen since the very start of the 2008-09 season I believe. These are merry times at MSG to be sure but the job is far, far, far away from being finished. It's time to have a happy holiday but that is it, there are still 49 games to go - more than half the season - and an awful lot can happen.

Late Hits:

*Jaromir Jagr. BOOOOOOOOOOOO. It was surprising to hear the entire building boo the former Blueshirt, at least at the outset. And not even a montage during a commercial break to commemorate the former captain's NY career?

*Carl Hagelin has been incredible. Bork bork bork. As we have seen for years the Ranger franchise has had trouble trusting young forwards and yet there Hagelin is, playing in every situation and playing well. He has been making mistakes but his hard work and superhuman skating has allowed him to limit the implications of those errors. A question was posed tonight "who was the last forward to be called up from the minors who had this kind of impact?" Dubi and Cally certainly weren't as valuable as quickly. Doug Weight maybe?

*Del Zaster did every thing he could to get the Flyers back into the game late in the third period but they couldn't uphold their end of the bargain. He lost the puck in his own feet, he turned it over a few times, he blew his coverage and his inability to clear the puck allowed the Flyers to break Hank's hard-fought shutout bid. DZ carries the puck well up ice, to be sure, but in the Ranger end he simply knifes it (as Doc Emeric would say) - jabbing his stick at it like it is a bee hive or something. But he had two more assists (both secondary by the way) and was a +2 so his many defenders will ignore his utter atrocious work in his own end and rave about him some more.

*But, seeing as DZ is in the same breath as Leetch and Orr, then Stu Bickel also must be etching his name into the Norris Trophy as well. Three games, four assists, +4. Lidstrom who? But seriously Bickel has had a heck of a run since getting the call from Hartford, doing everything asked of him - defensive responsibility, smart first passes and physical play. Jeff Woywitka's impending return should very well force Tim Erixon back down to the Whale, because sending down Bickel is unthinkable given his current run. Truly hope he can keep it up and keep his place with the big club.

*And what a deflection by Derek Stepan to score the first goal of the game. Stu's shot was going wide but Stepan went all Little League to get his bat on the ball stick on the puck. It was one heck of a hit.

*Seriously, what is running through the Rangers' heads when they get a two-man advantage? Given how they consistently screw the five-on-threes up, one would have to imagine that it is something like 'oh, yay, more time to be cute!' Cally's incredible goal aside, the power play has got to be better for this team to have sustained success.

*Early in the game the power play was struggling because there were two and at times three players below the goal line with no one in front of the crease. Captain Cally collected his PPG by doing what? Going right to the front of the crease.

*Television stations have assigned times to go to break and they need to fit the commercial inventory into the span of the hockey game but how could MSG hustle to break when Fedotenko's redirection was being reviewed? I saw the orange light go on and was shocked, feeling bad for the people at home. The folks in the Garden were of course kept from the replays until the judgement was made but the guys in the booth let the fans below them know it was indeed a good goal and the crowd began to roar.

*Funny moment in the first period: Rangers are down in shots 6-0 and then hit the crossbar. The puck comes out to center ice and they were given a shot on the scoreboard. The puck goes into their own end and they were awarded two more. So apparently hitting the iron once, which technically doesn't count as a shot on goal, counts as three regular shots. Ok then.

*Brandon Prust tangled with Marc-Andre Bourdon (who beat on Sean Avery earlier this year in the AHL). Prust clearly won the bout with a few late big rights but the highlight was him walking to the locker room high-fiving a kid. Seriously, he just destroyed his hands on Bourdon's helmet and visor but he still high-fived a kid. Awesomeness.

*Brian Boyle can't score, he can hardly pass, he is mediocre in the faceoff circle and he sure as hell can't fight. So what good is he? Aside from getting the ladies turned on by being naked on 24/7 ...

*Hey Mike Rupp, thanks for nothing!

*In the Isles wrap I pointed out that Fedotenko had no points in nine games. And then tonight he tipped in the Rangers' second goal on a good Stuuuuu shot. Hard work pays off kids.

*Nothing like taunting the opposing team with a "First Place!" chant only to have them score. Whoops.

*Have no problem admitting that I was wrong about John Mitchell. The former Leaf has really looked like a solid citizen so far this season.

*More Flyer fans than there were Islander fans the night before. Man are the Fishermen pathetic.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one assist.
2-Stu Bickel - two assists.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - The Captain came through with a big goal to give the Ranges some breathing room.
2-Stuuuuuu - A half dozen hits and two shots that ended up in the back of the Flyer net. Not bad work for a guy who was in the ECHL not too long ago.
1-McD - Sure he needs to learn when to just shoot the puck and not try for a fancy pass but McDonagh was all over the ice in the this one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

20-8-4: Beating The Isles Is Always Awesome

You know, defeating the Islanders never gets old. The latest edition of the rivalry saw the Blueshirts beat the Fishermen 4-2 at the Garden Thursday night.

It was not a convincing victory but it was a victory nonetheless. The Rangers beat a rival, they earned two points and they didn't lose anyone to injury. There wasn't the usual battle that the Islanders bring, leaving the team in good shape to play the bumper game of the back-to-back tonight against Philly.

If they are to win that one, they will have to be better. After going up 3-1 against a clearly inferior team Thursday the Blueshirts took their feet off the gas and allowed the Isles to dictate play and get back within a goal. Had Jack Capuano been a good coach and had his team possessed more than one line of offense, the result likely would have been different.

Late Hits:

*Seriously, what was Capuano doing pulling Nabby that early, with the puck not even close to the Blueshirts blueline?

*Ranger-killer Blake Comeau scored for Calgary against Detroit Thursday night. Haha.

*Always give credit where it is due and Del Zaster deserves some. He had a nice save behind Biron and several energetic shifts. DZ still has no idea to hit for puck possession but his positioning was better and he actually battled instead of floating around looking for hits. His goal was - like Dubinsky's - immensely savable by a capable goaltender but Nabby is just not capable anymore. Still, it is always nice to see the Rangers score.

*The Ranger power play went 0-3. They had six full minutes of man advantage time, Del Zaster was on for 5:24 of it and the unit managed three shots on goal. Three. The kid can jump into the attack all he wants during regular strength but he simply has no idea how to QB a power play.

*For all of the hype around the Brad Richard$ signing, could anyone have imagined that he would not be on the Rangers top line? He has been a nice addition to be sure but, man, has the Step-Arty-Gabby unit been good. It will be interesting to see if they can keep the chemistry going.

*Anton Stralman has been surprisingly solid, and the credit should go to Tortorella who has sheltered the Swede from tough assignments. For all of the mistakes Torts makes - and there are many - he has used Girardi's durability as a tool to help his patchwork defense survive so far.

*Stu Bickel appears to be standing at a crossroads. He could work on his skating and become a Beukeboom-type sturdy defenseman or continue to defy the Code and end up like Dale Purinton. His 'double-rough' against that minor league nobody Tim Wallace showed it quite clearly: Wallace came in from behind to jump Dubinsky, who was going at it with Hamonic in a scrum. Bickel pulled Wallace free from Dubi but then when Wallace went to fight honourably and take his visor and helmet off, Bickel just started throwing. I think he has the ability to take and hold Dylan McIlrath's spot until the kid gets here but it is up to him.

*His partner, Tim Erixon, did not look comfortable. There is definitely skill there but he is clearly not yet ready for prime time. I think another 10, 15 pounds of muscle would do him well.

*Tim's dad Jan was in attendance and it was incredibly disappointing how little of a reception he got when shown on the big board. He was such a favourite and such a hard worker for so long that the lukewarm reception only served to highlight how few diehards there were in the building. I know some folks that sold their tickets for this time of year to help pay for the rest of the campaign but Dolan has certainly priced many of the True Blue out of the building.

*There were surprisingly few Islander fans at MSG. I mean, there are few Islander fans in general but those bottom-feeders usually come out in better numbers. I heard that there was one fan fight over near 103 but that is it.

*Ruslan Fedotenko's hard work is appreciated but in the last few weeks, has he really added much? No points in his last nine games and he got just nine shifts for 5:32. Perhaps it would be best to give the soldier a few nights off to rest and recuperate.

*Feds' linemates Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust also saw Sean Avery-level ice time but let's hope that was just to keep them fresh for tonight.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Artem Anisimov - one assist.
2-Marty Biron - 24 saves.
1-Michael Del Zotto - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - The Slovak was an offensive threat throughout the game and his willingness to go to the net paid off in a goal. By the way - Arty took just four faceoffs in the game and lost two of them, but one of the wins was in the offensive zone. He pushed it forward, allowing him to get the puck across to Gabby in the slot.
2-Dubi - Thought Brandon played his best game of the season against the Devils and he followed it up with another strong effort all over. Always held the belief that he could be an Arnott-esque force but to do that he has to be physically involved, which he did these last two games.
1-Biron - Marty made several big stops while continuing his domination of the Islanders. Love it. have to admit he has been far better than expected - especially after Zug.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

19-8-4: Beating Brodeur

As a Ranger fan, there have been few things as delightful in recent seasons as the sheer domination of Henrik Lundqvist over Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy. Hank has been largely lights-out while Fatso has been finding life against the Rangers difficult without the stellar defenders who made his career at the turn of the century.

On Tuesday, after watching his team dominate for 37 minutes, Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy melted like the marshmallow man he resembles. The Rangers rallied from down 1-0 to defeat the Devils 4-1 in the opening game of the season series between the Hudson rivals. Henrik was outstanding, stopping 30 of 31 shots and standing tall as his team was outworked for two periods. And he did it behind a piecemeal defensive corps, making it that much more remarkable. But we call him the King for a reason and he showed it on this night.

Late Hits:

*There aren't many more ardent supporters of fighting in hockey then me. That being said, Mike Rupp vs. Cam Janssen three seconds into the game was horrifying and unnecessary. There was no reason for it other than to justify the salaries of those cement-headed neanderthals. This was the first meeting of the teams this season, there was no carry over bad blood between the two teams or the two fighters. It was pointless. And it is exactly the kind of ammunition that the doves crave to push their pacifistic agenda. Dubi fighting Clarkson wasn't part of the game either but at least those guys have been immersed in this rivalry for years and have genuine on-ice dislike for each other.

*Given all of the ice time he eats up and the top assignments he has so often taken on, it has been easy to forget that Ryan McDonagh is just a kid. McD has been helped by stalwart work by Dan Girardi, who seemingly wants to play all 60 minutes alongside Hank. So far the pair haven't shown many signs of grinding down but the team has to be wary - this is a loooooong season. But back to McD for a second - this was just his 72nd game in the NHL. Can you believe that? I can't. It is unfathomable to me considering his level of play 95% of the time. But that five percent does remind you on rare occasion like the performance against Tampa and his catch and throw of the puck in the third period tonight. That was comical.

*Also funny? The majority of the Devil fans. All 4,000 of them. They seemingly have embraced their role as second-class citizens, aping other team's chants and celebrations while knowing virtually nothing about the game. There are a few knowledgable, intelligent members of the so-called Devil's Army but most are ignorant cannon fodder.

*Despite being on the bad side of the battle for two periods, the Rangers could easily have had the lead if their three shots off the iron found the back of the net. They were good shots each, but with Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy's girth there wasn't much to shoot at.

*Del Zastrous performance. Counted four times that he couldn't hold the offensive blue line, two defensive zone turnovers and a few blown coverages.

*The pairing of Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel wasn't bad but it was clear that Torts was trying to shelter them. Bickel looked better than he did in preseason but is still not quick enough for regular NHL action. Erixon didn't look particularly comfortable but his decision making with the puck was good.

*Bork, bork, bork! Young Carl was the only Ranger aside from Hank to play great buzzer to buzzer. And it paid off in his shorthanded goal. As I said to a friend the other day, shorthanded goals are some of my favourite things in hockey and to see Hagelin score one was wonderful. It was also nice to see the guys try to reward his effort by setting him up for an attempt at the empty net time and time again but it didn't work out. Still, a steller effort from the Swedish Chef.

*Brian Boyle really has been bad of late and has not shown any signs of getting better. The third line center has one goal in his last 27 games and just two this season.

*Dubi has been snakebitten as well but he has been improving the last two games. This game against the Devils may have been his best so far this season, even if he didn't get a single shot on goal.

*Do you think Sean Avery would have been able to wake up the Rangers earlier in the evening? I'd like to think so. He certainly would have been better than Rupp was all night long (all night). That being said, there is no way he would have taken the opening faceoff bullet for Prust the way Rupp did ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal.
2-Artem Anisimov - one goal and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - What a set up to Arty, wow. His second assist on Gabby's go-ahead goal was ridiculous as the Slovak did a give-and-go with Arty but hey, if Del Zaster can inflate his numbers with them so can Step.
2-Gabby - The Slovak absorbed one helluva hit on the play that led to Arty's game-tying goal and went on to pot a pair of his own. Usually little credit would be given for an empty netter but after the Keystone Kops routine that led up to it, we'll take it.
1-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game despite some serious scrambling in front of him.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18-8-4: Zero-Point-One

First thought when the puck hit the back of the net? That beat the clock! WE WON!!!!!!!!!

Second thought when the puck hit the back of the net? Screw you Chris Drury and your 7.7 seconds.

Third thought? Amazing how a great ending can wipe away an all-too-forgettable game. Brad Richard$ beat the clock and sent everyone home happy. The buzzer beater ranks up there with Malik's shootout goal and Marc Staal's overtime-forcing shorthanded goal against Pittsburgh last year as the most memorable tallies since the lockout (at least for me). It truly was an absolutely wonderful moment and one to take forward into the winter.

But would I be me if I got all giddy because of a tenth of a second of success? Hell no.

Entering the game Phoenix had lost five of eight games, there was a small library crowd of fans (most of whom were rooting for the Blueshirts) and Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had a career 4-6-1 record and .899 save percentage against the Rangers. And with all of that the Rangers still blew a 1-0 lead, wasted power play after power play, gave up two terrible goals and were largely outworked by Don Maloney's desert dogs.

Vince Lombardi said “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Excellence is the Stanley Cup - not some singular, inconsistent wins before Christmas. The guys have to enjoy tonight's ending for the moment but realize that they have to be far better going forward - next week the Devils, Isles and Flyers, in April the playoffs.

Late Hits:

*Marty Biron doing his best Mmmmaaaaarrrtttyyyyy Brodeur impression essentially gave Richard$ the goal. Phoenix cleared their zone but Biron charged out of the crease to get to the puck and fire it back down the ice. The move kept the Ranger attack going as the seconds ticked down and, clearly, every second counted.

*Loved Micheletti raving about Biron's play in the second period just seconds before the goaltender couldn't cover the puck, allowing the Coyotes to score the go-ahead goal. Micheletti is a moron. Dubinsky on the backhand! Ugh. No, it was clearly Brad Richards you clown. 'Pardon me Sam but I have to interrupt you all night with my shrill voice and incorrect analysis.'

*Had the game gone to overtime and a shootout then maybe Christensen could have proved his worth but otherwise, he showed that he is not just a waste of a jersey but a detriment to his team. His defensive zone faceoff loss handed the Korpedo a game-tying shorthanded goal. Utterly unacceptable.

*Thought Brandon Dubinsky had one of his better games. Still not saying much but at least he is trying.

*Mike F-ing Rupp is a lumbering neanderthal who doesn't belong in the NHL anymore. Cement skates, cement hands, cement head. His presence was pointless in this one but necessary if he is going to be any factor during next week's divisional games. And he had better be a factor.

*I will admit that Del Zaster wasn't entirely Del Zastrous - he had some awful shifts and some admittedly decent ones. His volleyball save came seconds after he tried to stick check a Coyote, only to see the puck get right past him. The assist that the MSG guys raved about was a clean 30-or-so foot tape-to-tape feed to Marian Gaborik. Was it nice that the kid finally, finally caught a teammate in stride? Yes. Was it worth all of their drooling? No. Plus that lone moment doesn't make up for the other eight minutes of power play time that he utterly wasted.

*Hope Steve Eminger heals well and quickly, if only so we aren't subjected to more 20 minute Anton Stralman performances. But how bad do you feel for Jeff Woywitka? Even with Eminger out, he saw just six minutes of ice time ... like his name was Sean Avery or something!

*I'm pretty sure that in some other language Girardi translates into granite. The dude is a rock. And Ryan McDonagh has clearly demonstrated that his terrible performance against Tampa was just a fluke.

*Hard to tell who was the better skater, Young Carl Hagelin or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. They were both simply outstanding to watch. Something in that frozen Swedish water I guess.

*PHW Three Stars
3-David Schlemko - Hahahaha!!! No, seriously, the guys selecting the stars picked this guy.
2-Marian Gaborik - two goals.
1-Lauri Korpikoski - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Korpedo - Nice to see the kid has some of the skill that we were sold on when we drafted him at 19 in 2004 - one spot ahead of Travis Zajac (Captain Cally went 127th).
2-Gabby - The Slovak Sniper struck twice on three shots, that's a pretty good percentage I would say.
1-Richard$ - Dude, zero-point-one seconds - no need to say anything else.

Friday, December 16, 2011

17-8-4: Listless in St. Louis

This season we have seen the Rangers grow an identity of a hard working, forechecking, tough young team. On Thursday night they played a hard working, forechecking, tough young team that worked harder, forchecked more and were grittier then they were. The Blueshirts were found lacking against the Blues to the tune of a 4-1 failure.

St. Louis worked the boards, battled their way into the trenches and made tough for the Rangers. The Rangers ... well, they didn't do any of that. They certainly didn't look like a team motivated to bounce back from another woeful lack of effort against another hard working, forechecking, tough young team in Dallas. Perhaps John Tortorella didn't curse at them enough in the locker room - guess we'll see during the next episode of 24/7.

Late Hits:

*While a power play probably wouldn't have solved their woes, the Rangers simply did not earn a single one. When you swarm, when you press the action and you keep your feet moving you force the other team to play catch up and often that draws penalties. There was just one infraction in the game and it came to a Ranger defenseman who was scrambling around his own zone trying to keep up with the relentless Blues attack.

*Can't hang Hank for the goals against, the King was under siege and he got screwed by that bad hop off Girardi's goal. The King and his fellow Swede Carl Hagelin were the only ones to show up all night. Even Captain Cally looked off at times.

*No timely time out, no motivational fight by Prust, nothing.

*The Blueshirt blueliners were awful from one to six. Girardi was utterly victimized and McDonagh was bounced by Backes while Del Zaster, Stralman, Eminger and Woywitka were all caught waving their sticks at attackers rather than playing the body.

*Credit due to Del Zaster for his goal, it was purty. The kid simply had no desire to actually play defense in this game (why should this be any different then any other game) but his insistence on joining the attack paid off in a goal.

*Given the gritty role that Ruslan Fedotenko plays night in and night out it is hard to harass him but he has had several bad games in a row and this one was his worst of the year. Instead of everyone roaring against Erik Christensen, perhaps Feds should take a seat for a night to recharge and heal up what are surely some bad bruises. Sean Avery has the speed and willingness to grind to fill the Ukrainian's role and you can be assured that he won't give a halfhearted effort.

*Christensen was useless, as expected. No point in adding a shootout specialist if your team can't get to a shootout. Funny seeing him trying to pick a post-whistle fight and hide behind a ref in the third period. I believe that is called 'Pulling a Crosby.' Given the winter doldrums this team is heading into, taking this clown out and inserting Mike Rupp, while making the Feds/Avery swap could inject some life back into the boys. The Rangers have to do something soon, they won't want to ruin their Christmas ...

*Did you notice that the Scottrade Center had a proper organ? There was still some of the eardrum-piercing pop garbage but regularly they just let the organ release its simple, classic tunes. That's hockey.

*While that was pleasant to hear, nothing matched the sheer delight that was John Davidson back on a Ranger broadcast - music to my ears. What an utter delight - what a stark contrast to the caustic, incorrect imbecile who replaced him.

*Nice stat for the night - Derek Stepan won 10 of 14 faceoffs. That has been a major problem area for him so it was nice to see him win some draws.

*The laugh of the night was the empty net sequence with three minutes left in the third - it was just pure comedy and I, for one, was incredibly glad that former Devil Jamie Langenbrunner wasn't the one to finally capitalize.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brian Elliott - 25 saves.
2-Alex Steen - one goal and one assist.
1-David Backes - no points.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Backes - A hard-working, hard-hitting, responsible captain with a scoring touch who was born in America? That sounds familiar ...
2-T.J. Oshie - No wonder the St. Louis fans love him so, he never stops and he hits everything that moves.
1-Steen - I remember rooting for his dad. I feel old.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

17-7-4: Wake Me Up When It's Over

When the most emotional moment of the night is a bad call by the referee that didn't result in a fight or a goal, you know that it was a boring affair. The Rangers lost 1-0 to the Dallas Stars in a snoozer at the Garden on Tuesday night, a game that had about as much emotion as a cardboard box.

After exploding for six against the Panthers the Blueshirts couldn't even manage a decent shot - much less a goal - against an AHL goaltender. Somehow the official scorer credited Bachman with 34 saves but it is unclear which game he was watching. Having watched the game in person and again on television I still can't recall a single stop that the kid collected. What a dreadfully dull display.

Just a few Late Hits:

*That bad call by Ian Walsh was stupefying. Bachman did his best impression of a NFL kicker to jump into contact to draw a penalty. Walsh's partner was Don Van Massenhoven - you'd expect him to make an inexplicable call of two but this one was all Walsh, who was just feet away when Bachman raced out of his crease to play the puck and initiate contact with one of his own teammates and Young Carl. Thankfully Hank and Prust had little problem killing off the ensuing Dallas power play.

*Del Zaster quarterbacked a Ranger power play that went 0-4 and had nary an actual opportunity to score. Step, Richard$, Cally and Arty are definitely also culpable but it was Del Zaster who led the team with 6:44 of ice time with the man advantage. They collectively had seven shots in eight minutes of power play time. Atrocious.

*Erik Christensens skated for 9:11, went 1-7 in the faceoff circle, had one shot and no pulse. Sean Avery certainly would have added more excitement to the night, that is for sure.

*Can Brian Boyle play a softer game? He plays like someone half his size.

*May be mistaken but Brandon Prust appeared to fight Jake Dowell just to stay awake. It was a staged bout that featured few good punches and was blissfully over quick. Fights like that, for the lack of justification just fuel the pathetic pacifists like THN's Adam Proteau and the various guys at the New York Times who suddenly have it out for hockey.

*Soft goal given up by Hank with five minutes to go but what can you do? As per always the Rangers gifted the opposition the blueline and collapsed all the way down to the goalmouth, allowing Daley to come in and slide the puck through Lundqvist's five hole. Jeff Woywitka was worthless on the play, but that is no surprise.

*Every time I see Trevor Daley I am reminded of John Vanbiesbrouck's stupidity. What the hell was he thinking?

*Walked out of the arena past Bobby Nystrom and managed not to say anything. The former Islander still looked spry enough to kick my ass anyway.

*For as much of a flatline as this game was, Sheldon Souray's shot nearly induced coronaries around the Garden when it hit Hank. Thought for sure that it broke his collarbone or something but luckily the King shook it off and remained in the game.

*Remember when Brandon Dubinsky was relevant? Seems so long ago ...

*What a lifeless Garden crowd. A friend of the blog warned me tonight to expect more of these with the NHL's realignment next season. The only solution we could come up with was variable pricing but could you imagine Dolan doing that? I can't.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Trevor Daley - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Richard Bachman - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Bachman - Showed no intimidation playing in MSG. But, as mentioned above, the building was largely asleep and not intimidating in the least. Still, no softies.
2-Hank - Anyone who can stand in front of a Souray slap shot and survive should be recognized.
1-Daley - He scored a goal! No one else did ...

Monday, December 12, 2011

17-6-4: Puttin' Down The Putty Tats

One year ago the Rangers played a three games in four days and they won two out of three. The third game was a 7-0 demolition of the Washington Capitals that was so memorably included in HBO's 24/7. The cable network let us peek in at an emotional Washington squad that was bottoming out with assistant coach Dean Evason pleading with his charges to "grab your f--king sack and do something about it. Compete!"

This year we will get to see what it is like inside the happier locker room but no matter what was said, the play on the indicated a team that was competing. The Rangers outbattled the Panthers all over the ice and the final result was a 6-1 victory. For all of the seething hatred for the head coach that fills this space on a regular basis, there is a bit of admiration: Tortorella's insistence on conditioning resulted in the Rangers looking far better than the Panthers, who had Saturday off while the Blueshirts were battling Buffalo. Of course, it is extremely possible that Florida may have been out enjoying their Saturday night a bit more than they should but hung over or not, they were outplayed and outskated by the Rangers in all areas. Like the 7-0 smacking of the Capitals last year, it was wonderful to watch.

Of course, had the puck that snapped Hank's buckle on his left leg pad rolled into the net instead of the post early in the first period, the result may have been entirely different. I can already hear the dramatic music on 24/7 ...

Late Hits:

*Erik Christensen was inserted into the lineup for Sean Avery and was given 12:54 in ice time - more than Avery got in any of his 15 games this season. Christensen got to play on the power play, which Avery has not. Christy did collect an assist but it was because he blew an empty net three feet away from him and a lucky bounce got the puck to Arty, who didn't miss.

*Really wanted Arty to either pull a Terrell Owens or to not celebrate at all but he went back to his boring self. Derek Stepan did an archery motion after his first goal but escaped criticism because it was aimed at the sky and apparently imaginary arrows don't hurt as much as imaginary bullets.

*That goal from Step was utterly outstanding. He won the puck in the Ranger end, cruised down the right win, sidestepped past Erik Gudbranson and beat Three-Or-More with a sick shot inside the far post. Three-Or-More handed Step his second goal of the night by kicking the rebound of a Del Zaster shot right back into the slot.

*That may have been the first shot from the wing that Del Zaster was able to get on net this season; usually they jump start the opposing team's attack by missing and going around the boards. The kid was fine in this one - as was the rest of the Ranger defenders - if only because the Panthers were largely clawless. The Blueshirt blueliners had time and space throughout the night. There was little organized offense coming out of the Florida end and, despite all of the time shorthanded, the kitty cats hardly challenged Henrik.

*It was their ineptness that allowed Torts to finally rest Dan Girardi. Dan-O played just 22:40 - his lowest amount of ice time all season long. Granted, one third of it was tough time spent shorthanded as his teammates continued to take stupid penalties. Surely that lack of discipline was Sean Avery's fault.

*Speaking of stupidity, Brandon Prust fought Krys Barch. As the home team the Rangers had the last change and after going up 4-1 Torts decided to put Prust across from Barch, fully knowing what the Panther pugilist was going to do. For Prust to risk his surgically-repaired shoulder and lower himself to fight a guy who can't even spell Chris right is ridiculous. There was absolutely no reason for it and, if anything, it should have given Florida something to build off of because Barch beat the hell out of Prust. Luckily for us the Cats couldn't be bothered but the move easily could have backfired.

*I wasn't at the game but it certainly sounded like a pretty quiet crowd on tv. Of course, it is hard to hear anything other than the continuous babbling of that harpy Micheletti.

*Really quiet game from Ruslan Fedotenko but he gets the free pass that Sean Avery doesn't because he has a history with the head coach.

*Young Carl is really, really fast. But we knew that already. Still impressive though.

*As I tweeted, that was some really impressive sewing. Never thought I would write that about a hockey game but Acacio Marques worked magic getting Hank's strap sewn in just seconds.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Steve Eminger - one goal, +4.
2-Michael Del Zotto - one assist, +4.
1-Derek Stepan - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - Did you see where he scored his goal from? The goal mouth. He battled his way into the crease and was there to jam the loose puck in. The Slovakian Sniper is heading into the tough areas more than ever (and thus has lost the Slovakian Slacker title, for now).
2-Eminger - Clearly not as popular as Del Zaster to get relegated to third star despite playing a stronger all-around game and having his shot actually go in the net.
1-Step - Simply a stellar performance by the Badger. And when you hear him talk about it you have to marvel at his age and the fact that he doesn't have a letter on his sweater.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

16-6-4: Bork Bork Bork!

Young Carl came through for the Rangers on Saturday night with a pair of goals in what would be a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Swede's success helped the Blueshirts get to win number 2,500 in franchise history. It is a milestone that four other teams of the Original Six already reached (only Chicago hasn't now) but the Rangers like to celebrate big round random numbers - 85th anniversary anyone?

But back to the game, which was a nice road win after the two atrocious performances put on back on Broadway (well, Seventh Ave). The Rangers ripped apart an exhausted, poorly coached squad playing the second half of a back-to-back, which was exactly what they were supposed to do. Luckily they won't be able to rest on their laurels (or go out to celebrate the win), as they are back in action in just a few hours against a far better Florida squad.

That being said, this will be quick - Late Hits:

*How soon until Torts dresses Avery and doesn't give him any ice time at all? Didn't that happen to a Ranger a few seasons back, someone dressing but not getting a single second on the ice? Sean saw six shifts, with a total of 40 seconds in the second period and another 40 in the third. Really, what is the point? And what did he do to deserve it? Arty showboated last game and he still got 13 minutes (and would have had more if he didn't get shaken up).

*Dan Girardi was three seconds shy of a half hour. Can't believe Torts couldn't get him those seconds. Also can't believe that Glen Sather is ok with the way that Torts is grinding Dan-O down. Buffalo is also missing their top defenseman and yet none of their blueliners saw more than 24 minutes, not even the overpaid Ehrhoff.

*In looking at clips of Young Carl on Youtube, I saw that the Wolverines band played the Swedish national anthem for him before Senior Day back in February. That is just awesome.

*While we knew Hagelin had some ability, has his runningmate John Mitchell been a revelation or what? He has been playing like every shift could be his last in the NHL and he needs to keep it up.

*Perhaps the most heartening part of the victory was Ryan McDonagh's return to form. After his uncharacteristic failures against Tampa, McD was back to being his solid self against the Sabres. Nearly had a heart attack when he blocked that shot with his hand though ...

*Jhonas Enroth was atrocious and he certainly wasn't helped out by the rest of his team. The Rangers saw how disorganized they were and extended the ice to catch them bunched up and out of position. Even Del Zaster's home run pass worked the third or fourth time he tried it.

*DZ deserves credit for that one but to get a secondary assist for the first Hagelin goal was just ludicrous. He lost the puck in his feet deep in the Ranger end and Eminger fished it out before sending it down the ice to the Speedy Swede. The kid had several horrid shifts, was made to look a fool by Thomas Vanek and somehow ended up completely out of the play when Gabby turned the puck over and Vanek scored the game-tying goal.

*But, alas, Ryan Callahan came through to bail Del Zaster and the rest of the boys out with an outrageous shorthanded goal late in the second period. Sure Enroth opened his five-hole the width of the Lincoln Tunnel but the way Cally turned to use Christian Ehrhoff as a screen was outstanding. With his family at the game in force, that had to be pretty special for him. It was definitely special for us. What a goal - both in form and importance.

*Marty Biron barely had to make any good saves but he did enough to get the guys a win and that is all that matters.

*Dubi seems to slowly but surely be getting his game back together. He never stopped working but he just seems to have more drive of late. Great to see.

*Nice slapper by the Slovakian Slacker. Gabby really can be quite the scorer sometimes.

*PHR Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
2-Marty Biron - 32 saves.
1-Carl Hagelin - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thomas Vanek - The Austrian is so dangerous every time he is on the ice, imagine if he played in a real market...
2-Cally - As I tweeted: lead on captain, lead on.
1-Young Carl - The speedy Swede from Södertälje has been everything we could have hoped for so far.

Friday, December 9, 2011

15-6-4: Horror Show

There has been many a horror flick written where one of the good guys takes the murder down, turns to say something and then is gutted from behind. The stupid guy had a chance to put a final shot in the corpse but he just didn't finish the job. The Rangers are those good guys. All too often this season they have had opportunities to seal a victory only to allow the other team back in the game. Sometimes they still manage to cling to a win, sometimes they don't. Tonight's shootout loss to the Lightning was the latter.

After going ahead 2-1 the Blueshirts blew three third period power plays and allowed the Bolts to tie things up (shorthanded!!) and send the game to overtime and eventually the talent competition. The worst part is that they had nary an actual scoring chance during any of the three man advantages. The so-called skill players were lifeless, exhausted from going over the boards time and time again. Simply said, Tortorella burned them out. He let the third and fourth lines rot while watching his other guys go limp. At even strength they got pinned in their own end several times and still, Tortorella kept the forechecking of Mitchell and Prust and the speed of Hagelin and Avery collecting splinters. When he used every one in recent weeks, the team won games. When he shortened the bench, the team lost games.

It is clear that John Tortorella has trust issues and if he does not trust these players, he needs to have Sather replace them. You just can't run your top guys into the ground like this. The time where a team could roll two lines and still succeed ended with the lockout - which was right about the last time when Tortorella was successful. Since then his teams have missed the playoffs twice and lost in the first round four times. The way he is burning out the boys now there is no indication that this team will have a better fate.

Late Hits:

*Ok, Arty. The kid scored a sexy goal and he celebrated. Big deal. If Alex Ovechkin can jump around like an idiot or pretend his stick is on fire then Arty can be exuberant for five seconds too. This isn't the No Fun League.

*But you know what? Vinny 04 was well within his right to take exception to the celebration. He is the Tampa captain and he decided he had to stand up for his team's honour. But for him not to get a single second of penalties is ridiculous, he clearly skated over to instigate a fight. And Dubi traded punches with Bergeron but according to the officiating crew that was not a fight but a double rough. And Arty got a double rough for being tossed around like a rag doll by a linesman after being jumped by Steve Downie, who jumped the bench and should have been ejected from the game. What is the point of having four officials when they still miss everything?

*HBO's cameras and microphones were everywhere, and they likely didn't miss anything. And that sound you hear is a producer orgasming, thanks to the kind of material he was given to work with from this game.

*Arty's goal came off of a great feed from Del Zaster. Had Arty not converted, we would have been swearing at DZ for having passed up a scoring opportunity two feet from the goal. But it worked out so credit due and credit given. On the other side of it, DZ tried to pick a fight with Dom Moore twice and was penalized for it both times. And he had nearly eight minutes of power play time (7:55 to be precise) - more than any other Ranger - and it amounted to absolutely nothing.

*Really wonder what it takes to turn the switch on for Gaborik. The Slovakian Slacker was handed chance after chance and he just couldn't finish against a goaltender who was lit up for five by the Islanders. THE ISLANDERS! (Thanks to Interface Eric for reminding me of that, bastard.)

*I apologize to everyone for getting my McDonagh Whale sweater signed prior to the game. I will no longer speak to the guys before the games, because I clearly mushed him. McD had his worst game of the season by far. He took a bad penalty, he had a bad turnover to Buggsy Malone for a goal against and he let Moore walk around him to score the equalizer. Without the rock that is Mike Sauer, McD has to be the same kind of pillar that Girardi is - no blatant mistakes. Girardi, btw, played 32 minutes - seeing as he saw 2:34 of it in the overtime, I think he should get the under on my over/under time of 31 minutes.

*Get well soon Sauer, get well soon Staal. Stralman and Woywitka clearly do not belong in the NHL. Both are too slow of skate and mind to keep up with the pace of the game.

*Moore got the headlines but another former Ranger deserves some recognition: Adam Hall. Hall won seven of nine faceoffs and had six minutes of solid penalty kill time. Hobey Gilroy still stinks, but he would be better than Stralman and/or Woywitka ... I blame Pavel Valentenko for not showing up in shape this season.

*Interesting stat - every Ranger aside from Hank attempted at least one shot. Cally paced the team with 12 but only five made it on net.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Malone - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
1-Dominic Moore - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Victor Hedman - No McDonagh-sized mistakes in his game.
2-Cally - While 28 minutes is far too much time for the Captain, he did not coast for a single second of it and even scored a goal.
1-Moore - Forget aboot it, he has Hank's number.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

15-6-3: Rope-A-Dopes

The Rangers are playing the Flyers in the Winter Classic so perhaps to get ready for Philadelphia they have steadily taken on the attributes of that city's favourite son - Rocky Balboa. They regularly start poorly, get knocked around a bit and eventually decide to show up. When they are fighting back you wonder where that extra oomph was the rest of the bout. The last few times the Rangers let the other team land the first few blows they survived the deluge and rallied to win. On Monday night they waited until they trailed 3-0 but by then it was just too late to come all of the way back and they ultimately lost to the Leafs 4-2.

This never-say-die attitude really is great to see but the fact that Tortorella can't prepare them to start at the puck drop and he can't get them to play a full, consistent 60 minutes is cause for concern. A loss is a loss, it happens. But when a loss happens like this it is infuriating. The Rangers were worse than terrible for much of the night, and then they were a force in the final minutes. Where was that the rest of the game? There is no shame when you lose when you try your hardest. How many of the Rangers can say that they did on this night?

After Zach Johnson lost to Tiger Woods Sunday he said "I don't think that I lost the tournament, I think he won it." Tonight the Rangers lost the game, the Leafs did not win it. They were capable but the Blueshirts simply did not show up for 50 or so minutes. That is what is so bothersome.

Late Hits:

*Beezer was back! Vanbiesbrouck got a warm ovation from the Garden Faithful when he was put up on the big board during a timeout. My all-time favourite Ranger. (I choose to ignore his tenure with the Isles, Devils and Flyers. Never happened. NEVER HAPPENED!) Loooooooooved Beezer when I was a kid, hell, I wanted to be him. Great to see him again.

*Why is it that the entire league nowadays fights after clean checks and yet the Rangers just skated away from Sloppy Seconds after he sent Sauer into the next time zone? It was a helluva hit - and it was clean - but what the hell? The team loses one of their best defensemen and no one did anything then or after Sauer was out, too worried about trying to come back after slacking off all night. You don't want to instigate a fight, fine - just take a run at one of their best players, eye for an eye. For all of the talk about the team having an identity this isn't a good characteristic to include.

*The three stars will be at the bottom - as per usual - but I had to address them here: how the hell was Arty named one of them? Aside from his goal, he was awful most of the game and he took utterly two inexcusable penalties. One of them resulted in Toronto's third goal and the other helped abort the late push for an equalizer. Times like this justify my decision to name my own top three.

*Anisimov's goal was the result of perhaps the best line change in Tortorella's tenure. He pulled Sean Avery off the ice once the Rangers gained the zone and his cover peeled off and turned back into the play, leaving the man who jumped on - Anisimov - wide open to skate in and score.

*Getting that goal was perhaps the only thing that could have justified Avery getting the hook. Btw Sean saw 7:32 of ice time and he was visible most every second of that. Fedotenko played 15 and he was only noticeable for getting beaten on the Connolly goal and for taking a bad penalty.

*My Brandon Prust stat has survived, as he dropped the gloves against (and got utterly destroyed by) Jay Rosehill at the 2:05 mark. That was not a good showing by our lone tough guy.

*Do you think linesmen Ryan Galloway and Derek Nansen thought we paid $60 a ticket to watch them work? There was what, five, six faceoffs where they tossed someone? And the dramatics when calling offsides, geez. Ridiculous. Stripes are best when invisible.

*No, Dave Steckel is not under my control and is not doing my bidding. First Crosby, then Del Zaster. Hey, I was as relieved as anyone to see the kid moving his leg afterwards, because it meant I could still rail on him. He hits to make the boards rattle, not to win the puck and 99% of the time the other team maintains possession. His passing is predictable and often off the mark. But it must be admitted that he was blameless in any of the three goals against on this night. And he did get yet another second assist ...

*Not often that I find fallacies in Captain Cally's play but how does he hit the top of the net above the glass when he was shooting five feet from the goal? Of anyone on this roster, he should realize he just needs to put the puck on net, especially in the final minutes when the team is trailing.

*Nice to see a kid dropping the ceremonial puck and shaking Cally's hand, instead of dissing him and heading home.

*Random but why the French version of Oh Canada? They don't speak French in Toronto, and the last time I was there they sang the English version before the games I saw.

*Liked seeing the white sweaters being used at the Garden again. The league should mandate that teams wear the coloured sweaters and the whites an equal amount at home - it would even help spur sales, which is all they care about anyway.

*When Derek Stepan scrambles, he skates right into quicksand making mistake after mistake. When he just puts his head down and battles, he is really is quite a revelation.

*Too many Leafs fans in our building.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Phil Kessel - two assists.
2-Artem Anisimov - one goal.
1-Joffrey Lupul - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tyler Bozak - Kate Upton was impressed and she is impressive, so he gets some credit. Although, like Arty he took two awful penalties ... but man, Kate is hot ... what was I talking about?
2-Jonas Gustavsson - The Monster was hardly challenged early but he maintained his composure and stopped the Ranger rally late.
1-Lupul - He lurked around the Ranger net all night and he won a lot of faceoffs. And this guy was not good enough for the Anaheim Ducks, who have now lost 18 of 21.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

15-5-3: It's Electric

It is hard to figure out what is going on: are these Rangers so mentally or physically unprepared that they simply stumble out of the gates on a semi-regular basis? It is a dilemma to be sure but not one that is troubling when the results continue to be so good. The Rangers gave up an early goal yet again, but yet again they managed to rally and went on to beat the Lightning 4-2 on Saturday night.

That they are able to take the first strike and bounce back begs another question: are so confident that they know they will come back or are they too young/ignorant to know better? Either way they just keep on working and that is wonderful to see. For all of their faults - and there are several, don't let these wins fool you - lackadaisical play is not among of them. Finally.

Late Hits:

*Pfft, 1-3-1 trap. When the Ranger forecheck worked as relentlessly as it did the vaunted trap was easily broken. And when the guys are willing to pay the price in front of the net, the goals will come. Who was it leading the charge, yet again? Captain Callahan. Love it.

*It is always nice to see a player score against his former team. Well, not so much when that former team is the Rangers - as evidenced by Tommy Pyatt's tally - but when that former team is the Rangers' opposition, hell, that is great. Brad Richard$ to Ruslan Fedotenko, beautiful.

*Sean Avery had better have been hurt because that is the only acceptable excuse for him not touching the ice in the third period. There was just one power play and one penalty kill so the situations didn't keep him off the ice - the coach or the trainer did. Avery has done everything asked of him by the clueless coach so other than grinding an ax, what excuse could Torts have had to bench him?

*Del Zaster played his most motivated game to date. His hustle was impressive, even if it was only for his own desire to not look bad in front of his best buddy Stamkos. Of course, his effort didn't help him as his blown check led the the first goal and he didn't score on either of his wide open point blank scoring chances. But for a second game in a row he didn't pass the puck directly to the opposition so he is finally making some progress. It is about time.

*Anisimov was as good as he has ever been. We have seen Arty play quite well in the past and each time it coincided with him finding chemistry with linemates that make room for him. Shelley and Prust, Cally and Dubi, now Step and Gabby - all guys that demand attention, albeit in different ways. Said it once, said it a thousand times: if Arty can find the confidence in himself he can be a helluva player, until then he is nothing more than complimentary.

*Tis the season so do you think Santa will let the Rangers take Anton Stralman back so they can get someone who can actually play? Because someone has to come in and take some shifts on defense. Eminger and Woywitka are awful and Girardi played more than 28 minutes for the ninth time this season. He has played less than 25 just twice. Have to appreciate his efforts and the results so far but to grind him into dust before Christmas could end up being quite costly when it counts. Just for comparison, Nicklas Lidstrom has yet to top 28 minutes and has played less than 25 16 times; Shea Weber has topped 28 three times and less than 25 six. Mike Sauer was probably the best of the Ranger defensemen and he played less than 20.

*Seen Stamkos? I didn't. It is a tribute to Sauer, Girardi and McDonagh that he and St. Louis and Malone were all but invisible.

*Still no indication that Carl Hagelin will ever need to return to the AHL.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Victor Hedman - no points.
2-Tom Pyatt - one goal.
1-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Callahan is living up to the letter, that is for sure.
2-Step - The kid has clearly gotten over his early season struggles and is starting to hit his stride. Fun to watch, eh?
1-Arty - Anisimov went to the net not once but twice in the same game. Remarkable.

Friday, December 2, 2011

14-5-3: More Rolaids In Raleigh

The current group of cardiac kids that is the Rangers continued to make things as hard as possible on themselves on Thursday night and yet they still managed to escape with a win. They defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 despite committing two of the worse errors teams can make - they spotted the opposition a lead in the first few seconds and then they gave up goals in the waning minutes of not one but two periods. Utterly remarkable.

Yet again Ryan Callahan led the way. Just over a minute after Jiri Tlusty opened the scoring Cally planted himself in front on the power play. Not down by the goal line but right at the top of the crease. And being there allowed him to score a Phil Esposito-style garbage goal, after Brad Richard$ shot was stopped by Cam Ward. That goal signaled that the team wasn't about to back down and they didn't, later rallying with three straight goals in the second period. It was an accomplishment made even more impressive when you consider the jump Carolina had with new head coach Kirk Muller. But with Muller making them skate an up-tempo style that was unfamiliar to the Paul Maurice disciples, the Canes simply couldn't keep up with the Rangers.

Hey, there were still issues with the Blueshirts' play but the resolution not to relent was certainly heartening.

Late Hits:

*The talk on the broadcast and in the postgame was all about the shot blocking of Derek Stepan and John Mitchell. That is kind of curious considering that this team has been shot blocking like mad for two seasons. Just because someone other than Dan Girardi or Ryan Callahan gave up their body to block the puck shouldn't make news - especially when we've seen Step and Mitchell go all-in to make plays. The more impressive moment for me was in the final minute. It is a two-goal game, Carolina is pressing in the Ranger end just praying to get one back and Marian Gaborik of all people goes sliding across the ice to knock a loose puck over the blue line. That was remarkable to me.

*Sean Avery played a team-low 8:37 and yet still contributes with a goal and several strong shifts. The goal came during a rare moment when he ended up alongside Marian Gaborik, showing the chemistry that the two have with each other - chemistry that they have shown before. And yet I still have a sinking feeling that Wojtek Wolski will get a game in at Avery's expense, the second he is ready and the second that Sean takes a bad penalty.

*Avery's normal center nowadays, Brandon Dubinsky, still isn't scoring. While it is to the point where the guys are looking for him to get an empty netter, Dubi did make a great feed to Ryan McDonagh that the defender converted into the game-tying goal. The highlight of that play to me, however, was Brandon Prust smartly letting the puck go past him while heading to the net to try to get a deflection or rebound. No nonsense, by-the-book hockey.

*In the 'timing is everything' department MSG showed the age-old video of Jeff Skinner as a figure skater, giving Micheletti an opportunity to talk about what a good skater is and how great his balance is. Seconds later Skinner stumbled and was crushed into the boards by Brian Boyle. Can't make it up.

*Boyle had to immediately defend himself as Anthony Stewart jumped in to defend Skinner's honour. After watching that, you really wonder if his team-listed measurements of 6'7, 244 are correct. You would think that someone that big should be able to throw a punch. But no.

*At least Boyle is complimenting Mitchell and Hagelin well. The trio is playing smart, simple, hard working hockey and it has been paying off. Boyle won 10 of 13 faceoffs, Hagelin was simply wonderful yet again while Mitchell continued to battle for his NHL life every shift. Their efforts allowed Mike Sauer's soft shot to sail through traffic and Cam Ward for the game-sealing goal.

*Del Zaster had yet another secondary assist on the power play. Remarkable. Very tough to decide to pass it to the highest-paid player on the rink who was standing wide open five, 10 feet away. Ball breaking aside, Del Zaster managed not to feed the puck directly to any Hurricanes in the Ranger end so it has to be considered as a good game for him.

*When I saw the home-run pass to Arty Anisimov ahead of the Gaborik goal, I was sure it was MDZ. Instead, Jeff Woywitka. Kinda unexpected to say the least. Arty's feed to Gaborik is amusing because at first glace he looked like he was making a great fake when instead he nearly fell flat on his face when his skate caught a rut.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan McDonagh - one goal.
2-Jeff Skinner - one goal.
1-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-McDonagh - Marc Staal can take all the time in the world to fully recover. Sure it would be nice to have him back and thus limit the ice time Del Zaster gets and remove Eminger from the lineup, but McD has more than suitably filled in for our injured number one defender.
2-Cally - When you add the characteristics of former captain Vic Hadfield to those of Esposito you get something close to what we are seeing from Callahan. It is hard not to head out into hyperbole when describing him after Chris Drury's recent tenure seeing someone live up to the letter is wonderful.
1-Gaborik - The aforementioned play to knock the puck out of the zone was more as impressive than his feed to Avery or his own goal from Arty. Gabby scored five goals against us that one time, we know he has offensive ability. But when the Slovakian Slacker goes all-out to make an important play like that you know things are going well for us.