Monday, December 31, 2007

Let's All Go To Buffa-lo

Well, this first writing comes while I am on the Amtrak train up to Buffalo for the Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Sabres. Its kinda funny if you think of it, I am traveling almost 10 hours by rail to see a game between two teams I don't particularly care for out in the freezing cold. What is wrong with me?!?!?

As the league has decided to ban cameras with actual lenses, any/all photos will be from my little point-and-shoot. Some will make it up here, some will end up on my Flickr page.

The game should be a quick one, as there will likely be little contact - too damn cold to board someone. My guess is that the teams will be giving each other a lot of room and we should see Cindy finally making a name for himself outside of the realm of hockey geeks. However, he will go up against a goaltender already versed in playing outdoors, in fact both goaltenders expected to start - Ryan Miller and Ty Conklin have played actual open-air games, Miller with Michigan State and Conklin with Edmonton in the Heritage Classic.

Regardless of the game itself, the Winter Classic should be something to watch, if only for the spectacle of 72,000 hockey freaks succumbing to frostbite as Gary Bettman burns dollar bills to light his cigar.

So stay tuned!

20-15-4: Take That Frenchies!

To start off, I want to give credit to the immense legion of Montreal fans that traveled down to the Garden to watch the Canadiens play the Rangers. The passion and dedication is admirable, but I gotta say that I am positively giddy that the loud bleu, blanc e rouge Habitants got sent back to Canada as losers. And that came courtesy of a fantastic effort by the Rangers, winning 4-3 in overtime on a Brendan Shanahan goal. I don't speak french but au revoir Frenchies! Before bidding them a fond farewell on their trip back over the border, I will pass along a few of my observations from the game:

*For everyone who was ready to jump on Jagr's jock after his recent streak of solid efforts, he really wasn't that great. He scored a nice goal, but was marginalized by the power and reach of Long Island's own Mike Komisarek - a better version of Hal Gill, who Jagr abused on Saturday night. Komisarek is young, good and only getting better, but unless Jagr can rediscover that other gear, he will be in trouble against real shutdown defensemen. It will be interesting to watch him and Dion Phaneuf go at it next week in Calgary.

*Jagr's buddy, Marty Straka, needs to get some confidence back. I don't know where it went; he hasn't played poorly. In fact, Straka continues to set a shining example for how to play a utilitarian game of checking, digging and passing ... its just that he seems to have no confidence in his shot. Twice he hesitated and tried to settle down a pass before shooting the puck - both times would likely have been goals had he one-timed them.

*Even though they were on for a goal against, I think that the HBO line was impressive yet again. Bettsy, Hollweg and Orr have been getting more ice time in recent games and it has paid off in hard, checking shifts. They played about 13 minutes and more often than not you could tell when they were on the ice.

*For all of the booing of Marek Malik, and there still is plenty, I feel obligated to point out that Paul Mara has been pretty bad. Granted, Mara didn't pass the puck right to a Canadien or take a stupid penalty (as Malik did), but he did chase a player literally all the way around the Rangers zone twice in the game without getting the puck or a big hit.

*It was sad to hear that Prucha could not play with a sore wrist. It was sadder to hear that he was replaced by Marcel Hossa, who showed the rust of having been on the bench for so many games.

*Referees need to do a better job defending goaltenders. Both teams ventured deep into the opposing creases and made contact with the goaltenders. Cristobal Huet kept going after people - Hollweg, Avery, etc. - pushing, shoving, punching to try to defend his goalmouth. Goaltenders shouldn't have to take a page from Billy Smith to be able to play their game unmolested.

*Montreal collapsed five guys tight to puck carriers on several occasions and the Rangers couldn't take advantage. The Blueshirts will need to spread and extend the ice if they are to succeed in the long run.

*It was nice to get a visit from Captain Clutch. If only he would stop by more often ...

*Callahan and Dubi played very well but they are going to have to start producing sooner or later if they are to keep their spot in the lineup. C'mon guys, no one wants to see Hossa play every game ...

*The Rangers had one shot in the second period. One. Granted they had six or seven blocked or deflected attempts in the frame, one shot is not enough.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Kovalev - two assists
2-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
1-Shanahan - game-winning goal

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - I really admire everything he has done and he is only getting better. He was solid in his own zone and is starting to get confidence carrying the puck. He very well may pan out to be a future Norris winner ...
2-Tom Renney - he had the team playing good hockey on the second leg of a back-to-back and he kept them calm despite seeing a lead turn into a deficit with two straight second period goals.
1-Kovalev - may have been the best all-around player in the game, but it was certainly nice to see him play like his classic self a few times - stickhandling through and around four players before choking up the puck.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

19-15-4: Rangers Burn Leafs

I will admit, right off the bat that I was unable to pay as much attention to the game as normal so if there is some minutia that I missed, I apologize. I'm all sorts of busy at work (damn Patriots) and also trying to book my trip to Buffalo for the Winter Classic. Blah blah, excuses, I know. So for what I did catch:

*Can't write anything without mentioning Sean. Avery wasn't baited into any bs, played edgy but clean hockey and made a pretty pass on Prucha's power play goal. Too bad he didn't get a another round with Tucker.

*So where did this power play come from, and how do we keep it now that it's here? I mean, Toronto's kill was absolutely, positively horrible, but the Rangers actually shot the puck and made some smart passes on its way to going an insane 5-10.

*Cele-brate good times, c'mon! Yeah Bettsy! The lunchpail and hard hat fourth line finally gets a real goal on his wrap around. Man the Leafs stink ...

*Speaking of which, watching the Leafs scramble in their defensive zone was frankly embarassing. To not be PC, its like watching a Chinese fire drill.

*Prucha was out there a lot, and out in big situations. And he made the most of it, scoring two nice goals. Now is that hard work paying off or is it showing off for the scouts?

*Belak vs Orr ... really, who cares? Belak is a shaved albino ape who lost to the smaller, more aggressive Orr. Good for Orr, but it isn't like Belak is a capable enforcer.

*Gotta say that Vally's poise is admirable. Yet again, he started in his hometown, with his parents watching, in an almost-must-win game and really was solid. The goal that broke his shutout really wasn't his fault. The defense was out of position ...

*I mentioned work; I am watching the Caps Sens game and Comcast has a silly feature on called Caps Cribs - you know, like Mtv's Cribs. I think that would be interesting to see MSG do a Cribs/lifestyles thing on the Rangers. Granted Sean's would be very annoyingly metrosexual, but the models lounging around would make it worthwhile ...

*Kinda fitting that the two worse players on the Rangers roster took their two minor penalties in the game. Malik and Mara both were very unremarkable and neither should have a Ranger jersey by the end of the season.

*I know some of you guys are gonna harp on it, but I will say that Jagr played pretty well. But with the Rangers on the power play so much, Toronto having such a terrible aniemic attack, and Hal Gill of all morons to cover him, he really didn't have to do much to get his points so I am not all that impressed.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Prucha - two goals
2-Martin Straka - goal and an assist
1-Jagr - goal and three assists

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Vally - anytime a backup comes in and makes some big saves to get a win it is appreciated.
2-Avery - played well and didn't let himself become a sideshow/distraction.
1-Prucha - he hit, got hit, got his hand slashed pretty damn badly and scored two goals. PRUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

You Could Get With This, Or You Could Get With That

Well, I don't want to be compared to Eklund, the embattled Hockey Buzz blogger who throws out insane rumours, so I will start with a disclaimer: there has been no talk, and virtually no chance of what I am about to write will end up as fact. I have written pieces on how the Rangers could actually acquire Alex Ovechkin and Matt Schneider but this has no basis in reality. If anything it serves to compare two good players. So close your eyes, take a deep breath and then imagine the next line coming across the Garden P.A.

"And starting at center for your New York Rangers, number nine ... JASON SPEZZA!!!!!"

Spezza spoke with David Amber in an interview for's Facing Off:
Q: If you didn't play in Ottawa, where do you think you would have the best time being Jason Spezza, NHL star?
A: Well, Jason Spezza, "the NHL star," would have to be somewhere else in Canada -- Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver -- just because you get recognized. But I think I would like to play in New York. It's a city I really like, there is so much going on, there are so many places to hide and do your own thing. Sometimes, the celebrity aspect is nice, but a lot of times it's nice to hide, too. So I think New York is a place where I'd love to play, and we play there a lot every year, so I go there quite a bit.

Q: So I guess Rangers fans have to wait seven years for you?
A: [Laughs] That's right.

That seven years is when Spetz will become a free agent after signing a $49 million contract extension. The funny thing is that those silly Canadians have questioned whether he is worth a deal of that scope. Well, I think that anyone who has watched Ottawa play since the lockout will say yes. Now here comes that player comparison part I mentioned. Scott Gomez signed a deal for the same length but for just two mill more. No one questioned the size of his deal. Why not? Now, say Gomez doesn't settle down his *alleged* partying ways. Say Jagr leaves town after the year. So ... I think a swap could be in order!

Gomez is better in his own zone (thank you Devils) but doesn't have as good a shot as Spezza (thank you wood stick manufacturers). So let's give Spetz a chance to do his own thing. The Rangers would get a younger player (three and a half years) while the Sens would get a two-time Stanley Cup champion - something that really could have helped them not get spanked by Anaheim last year. Losing the Cup experience could hurt New York, but we would still have Captain Clutch Chris Drury. And Spetz averages almost 1.1 points per game, while Gomez is at 0.8.

Gomez looked terrible trying to mesh with Pat Elias and Brian Gionta last year but is finally finding his form with Jagr and Marty Straka. As I said, say Jagr is gone after the year, then what? When given a chance to skate with Ranger youngsters Ryan Callahan, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes, Gomer looked like he was on an entirely different page. Spezza, on the other hand, was just as good skating with Brandon Bochenski as he still is with Ferrari stuntdriver Dany Heatley.

When it comes down to it, the two teams aren't about to make this deal, but I think it makes sense. And I know I would ... if only to throw it in the Islanders faces since they dealt Spezza away ... for Alexei Yashin!!! Ah, hahahahaha!!!!!!

But the real question is, would you pull the trigger? The choice is yours ...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just A Quick Note

I am hoping that some of you reading this are new to the blog. See, yesterday Deadspin put an article up on MSG settling the lawsuit with the City Skater girl. As Will titled another piece, "It's Easy To Steal From Blogs. And Fun!" The great Leitch used the picture to the above right, which is linked to my site because I upped it for a September post. I'm not complaining, I'm not asking for any kind of credit, I am just expressing my thanks as my traffic for Thursday jumped by nearly 600 visitors.

Cool, right?

As I said, hopefully some of them -- some of you -- took a look at the site proper and decided to come back so as the great Lili Von Shtupp said, "Willkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome. C'mon in!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

18-15-4: What Did He Say To Them?

I know, I said I wouldn't get a post up tonight but that game was too good. I gotta get some of these thoughts out before trying to sleep. As you all can tell, I am a big fan of Slap Shot and to borrow a line from the locker room scene after the Hanrahan fight, "Hey Reg! What did you say to him?!?" In this case, Reg is Renney because I gotta know what Tom said to the Rangers after the second period.

The team on the ice for the first period was alright, keeping pace with the quicker Hurricanes. The team on the ice for the second period embodied much of the Rangers issues thus far this season, prompting me to look up in shock after the period to find that we were down just 2-1, rather than 5-1 because they played that poorly. Now the team that was on ice for the third period, that team can win the Stanley Cup. The intensity, passion, passing, shooting and goaltending were all elite. It was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It was ... the Rangers?!?! I sure as hell hope so, because this team will need to play like that a lot more often if it is to rise above the tough Eastern Conference and get a shot at that treasured silver chalice.

Some really quick notes:
*Best wishes go out to Matt Cullen. For those that didn't see it, here is the YouTube. The hit looked like it was Eric Lindros-like in terms of concussion, especially with how hard Cull hit the ice. They say he is ok with just a broken nose and slight concussion but fingers crossed that it is not one of those concussions that will come back to haunt him the next time he is hurt.

*However, I do not understand the officiating. First off, in all my years watching hockey, I have never seen, nor heard of a five minute major for interference. The idiot colour guy for the Rangers said it was a new rule this year, but regardless - reviewing the play there should have been no penalty at all on Orr. He didn't elbow Cullen and Cullen had the puck = incidental contact. Sorry. To quote a fellow Ranger fan, "it should be zebra season!"

*Also on the same play, Mike Commodore - he of the bad perm - jumped Colton Orr to defend his teammate. I understand that. I appreciate that. I also think that it perfectly defines the instigator penalty. Orr wasn't out to pick a fight, he hit a guy and was jumped by Commodore. Yes he fought back, yes he is a goon, but he didn't mutually agree to the fight, Commodore slammed him into the boards and started wailing (at least from my seat). INSTIGATOR.

*Sean Avery ... buddy ... I love ya. I love what you do for the Rangers. I love watching you play. I do think you should be suspended for going after Andrew Ladd (of all people) while the linesmen clearly were not allowing you to fight. Continuing to punch was a idiotic, selfish, stupid move and you deserve to be punished. Sadly, with the Rangers the way they are, you getting punished hurts us all so thanks. Moron.

*I said that I will give Scott Gomez credit when he starts being consistent. A 10 game point streak and back-to-back all-around impressive efforts earned some of that credit. Not $7 mill worth, but a nice start. Just remember, there already is a Scotty Hockey in this town, pal ...

*The back-to-back huge saves that Hank made late in the third period would be the saves of some goaltender's career. They weren't even his best save of the year (Marc Savard in Boston). That's why we coroneted him the King.

*Everyone is so quick to boo Malik - myself included - but Mara and Rozy have been just as atrocious in the Rangers end (as Ak pointed out the other day. These guys will have to tighten up of else the rumours of the Rangers trading for Adam Foote will come true and we will overpay for the aging defensive defenseman.

*Going back to the point I made up at the top, Jagr was one of the players to turn things around and show his better side in the third period. I still question his heart and dedication, laugh at his lack of defensive effort and feel that he doesn't deserve the C, but when he actually puts it in gear, he truly is one of the greatest to play the game. Too bad that is so, so, so very rare.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
2-Gomez - two assists
1-Jagr - two goals

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - solid with the puck, tough on the boards and in the corners and netted a great goal - the eventual game-winner - as well as an assist. Have I mentioned that he is my favourite Ranger lately? (Along with Ryan Callahan, who is beginning to find his form again.)
2-Gomez - again, give credit where it is due. He finally is beginning to assert himself.
1-Rangers Penalty Killers - that goes for all of them, especially Bettsy and even Malik (ugh, that hurt to say). Even with allowing a ppg against, the effort throughout was astounding, amazing and won the game for the Rangers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No Rest For The Wicked

Just a heads up folks, due to a quick turnaround for work last night, I forgot my laptop today and thus will be late with the Rangers v. Carolina wrap tonight/tomorrow (especially since I have another quick turnaround tonight). To those that wait with baited breath, I should have it by tomorrow afternoon. My sincerest apologies.

To try to make it up to you, I present probably my favourite YouTube hockey clip of the last year. It comes courtesy of the surprisingly good New York Times Slap Shot hockey blog and they call it the Most Joyous Seven Minutes of Hockey Ever. Outside of the Rangers winning the Cup in '94, I would have to agree ... its an underdog Slovakian hockey team beating a rival to move into second place. They celebrate the achievement in spectacular fashion:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reviewing The Rocket

So you opened all of your presents and not everything was what you hoped, it happens. That damn aunt of yours has no taste. Once you bring back some of the stuff and have a few extra bucks, why not pick up The Rocket, the Maurice Richard movie?

The nice folks at Palm Pictures sent me a copy of the flick, which was released in Canada last year to amazing reviews. Now its my turn to take a look and spew my opinion, muah hahahaha!!

So, since I already said you should buy it, I obviously liked it ... although it does have its issues. I think the biggest is context; if you aren't Canadian you really don't get that he was a national hero. The special feature documentary included on the dvd, "A Tribute To Maurice Richard, The Rocket", is almost a must-watch first so non-Great White North viewers can truly understand how incredible a player/person/personality Richard was. Unfortunately the documentary is devoid of classic Richard material so you can't actually see his prowess on the rink, but it does help give some context for those not familiar with his impact; people in Montreal rioted when he was suspended at one point and worshipped him as a hero for his entire life.

The movie tries to show how much he meant to Montreal that with a few short moments recreating the sheer adoration Richard drew but I don't really think they work, likely because of a lack of grandeur due to likely budget and time constraints. Macleans Magazine called the movie "The Gladiator of hockey movies" but I would not make that comparison. Gladiator was able to use amazing computer effects to recreate ancient Rome; this movie relies on small sets and a lot of tight shots. Another prime difference stems from the personality of Russell Crowe's character, which allowed you to relate with the brave soldier with a heart of gold, and his fall and rise back to glory as a dynamic hero. Maurice Richard never thought of himself as such and never acted like that.

Judging by all of the accounts that I have read about Richard, Roy Dupuis did an utterly spectacular job filling Richard's all-too-humble skates. Richard was a determined, force of nature and a tortured soul who had the hopes, dreams and problems of French Canada placed upon his shoulders. But he was not one to turn and yell "Are you not entertained?" to a crowd of hundreds of thousands; he silently sulked and then eventually spoke through a newspaper column, as shown in the movie. I think that is something that makes it a bit harder to empathize with Richard, although it is of no fault of Dupuis or the director, Charles Biname.

There are issues with the movie that are Biname's fault. The musical score could have helped convey Richard's emotions and trials but Biname chose too often to go with natural sound or long pauses. He also used random camera angles (including a high, in-the-crowd view) during the hockey scenes that made it a little difficult to follow the action. I have to admit though that Miracle set an exceptionally high bar with me when it comes to that.

But like I said, its a great story that is being told, the original sweaters are gorgeous and the acting is quite good, even if you have to read subtitles to follow the French. The English-only version on the DVD sucks with overdubbed lines making it look like the old Saturday afternoon Fox kung fu movies.

As this is a primarily Rangers blog, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Sean Avery's appearance as one of those aforementioned actors. Sean plays Bob Dill, who is solely out there to take out Richard and gets his ass kicked. Seeing him throw racial slurs at the French Canadian superstar is pretty funny/interesting considering Avery has been accused of doing such several times in his own career. Dill, interestingly enough, put together numbers resembling Avery's own. I thought Sean did well but The Pensblog thought his appearance ruined the movie (read their review; I found it ... odd, to say the least).

Now for more good stuff; if you made it this far, you could have a chance to win a copy of the movie. First off, Palm Pictures has this flash game where high scores could earn dvds or even a Avery jersey. And secondly, I have a copy to give away!

To get your hands on that copy, I have a two-part trivia question. Richard was a humble fellow and believed that another right winger, who played at the same time and also wore #9, was a better player. Who was he, and which NHL team was the first to discover him and invite him to camp? Just post your answer in the comments and the first one to get both right, gets the dvd.

Rereading this, I realize I wrote a review of the movie without telling much of its contents (how I think reviews should be), but if you are one who doesn't like to watch a flick without knowing what is going to happen, here is a well-written piece that gives the details and has an interview with Dupuis. While I don't think you need to read that to enjoy the movie, I do believe that you at least need to understand who Richard was to get the whole picture.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Scotty

So the NHL is taking 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 ...

Sean Avery: I could be glib and say another gorgeous blonde who doesn't mind his passion for fashion but as many of us are secretly selfish on the holidays and give presents that are good for us, I will say good health. The Rangers are a different team without you Sean, have a Happy and HEALTHY New Year ...

Blair Betts: A scoring touch. Bettsy already has everything else (speed, faceoff prowess, fearlessness to block shots, defensive acumen) that he just needs to add a dangerous wrister and he will be a second line center.

Ryan Callahan: Consistency. The kid has so much energy that when he gets his wheels going, he forces play and pressures the other team to react; too bad it has only come in flashes so far ...

Nigel Dawes: A center whom he is comfortable playing with. Dubi hasn't worked yet and Drury sure as hell didn't work. As proven by his stop back in Hartford, he gets to the right places on the ice to score - he just has to have someone to create room and get him the puck.

Chris Drury: A return to form. The last two seasons he was a game-breaker in Buffalo with Briere - if he didn't score, he assisted or created the play that set up the big goal. Since coming here, he has been an enigma ...

Brandon Dubinsky: I would say consistency but I am giving that to Cally so instead I think he could use some boxing lessons. Remember that fight against Luke Richardson?? Ugh!

Scott Gomez: A scrapbook of photos reminding him that he could be a dynamic, game-breaking center that won the Stanley Cup.

Ryan Hollweg: More games like the one he played against Ottawa. He was huge on both ends of the ice, and made an impact every shift.

Marcel Hossa: A bus ticket to Hartford. Maybe there he can rediscover that magic he had for six games late last season.

Jaromir Jagr: Since Santa gives and doesn't take, I guess he will keep the C, but the Tin Man needs a heart to put some passion back in his game. He has had a few moments this year but as captain he needs to have it all of the time.

Greg Moore: Some Greyhound Road Rewards because he is sure to be riding the bus back and forth from Hartford a few more times this season.

Colton Orr: Some better wheels because he all too often lags between his two linemates. He will always be a middleweight fighter so he has to improve the rest of his game to justify his ice time. If he can't keep up, then the team can just use a heavyweight goon to come in and skate a few minutes a game.

Petr Prucha: A cape because he is Indestructible Man! I truly have no idea how he takes so much abuse.

Brendan Shanahan: More water from the Fountain of Youth. He still has one of the best one-timers in the league but hasn't been able to get many of them, either because he has slowed down a step or because his centers haven't clicked so far.

Martin Straka: A hardhat and lunchpail. He doesn't get much credit and hasn't put up a lot of points this season but the hard work and selflessness he brings to the rink every game is so admirable.

Dan Girardi: An extra jersey, because I want his. He has been so solid that it is hard to believe that this is his first full season in the NHL.

Marek Malik: A trade. Let's face it, the fans won't give him a break because he is so soft. He has his moments of skill but they have been outweighed by the colossal mistakes that he has made.

Paul Mara: More power play time. He is supposed to be an offensive defenseman who is good moving the puck but he has rarely shown it as a Ranger. Replacing Straka at the point could go far to get him the chances he needs to prove his $3 mill-plus worth.

Michal Rozsival: A pack of Post-Its to remind him to play defense. Rozy has been amazing offensively but his defensive gaffes have been quite costly.

Marc Staal: A poster of this, his brother with the Stanley Cup to add a little more motivation to be all that he can be.

Jason Strudwick: A clipboard and a whistle because he will be a helluva coach in the near future; if I had my way now, they would revive the player/coach title for him.

Fedor Tyutin: Its tough to pick something for him because he has it all as a well-rounded defenseman. Maybe improve his slap shot or his willingness to take it ...

Henrik Lundqvist: A crown for the King, if only to remind him of his divine powers.

Stephen Valiquette: More cushions for the bench because his rear end should stay planted there for much of the second half.

Tom Renney: A whip. Its time for Tom to get tough and force the team to buy into his game plan; no more waiting and hoping they listen.

Benoit Allaire: More recognition for being one of the best goalie coaches in the NHL.

Perry Pearn: A new plan for the power play, since this one certainly doesn't work ...

Mike Pelino: Someone to not pick on him for his fashion choices during interviews as Al is so quick to do.

Glen Sather: A new deal to give Henrik Lundqvist and a sure-handed plan for the post-Jagr era that is sure to be starting sooner rather than later.

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

17-15-4: Well, That Wasn't That Bad ...

So the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators this evening 3-1. So what? I can honestly be ambivalent to the loss because the Rangers actually showed their potential in the first period. I didn't expect a win, but after being smacked around so much lately, the boys actually showed up and played an incredible period. And, despite regressing the next two periods, two posts were all that kept the game from being tied, one in the second and one late in the third. Ottawa is the best team in the East and the Rangers essentially outplayed them for a period and skated with them for the other two. After watching such embarrassments as the Carolina, Toronto and Minnesota games, I lowered the bar and the Rangers jumped over it. Can't be upset with that ... onto some other thoughts:

*Ok, I will say it, I still hate Jaromir Jagr. And you know why? Because he played like the Jaromir Jagr of two years ago for the majority of the game. If he can turn it on and off like that, why has the switch been down so long? He stayed out on the ice during warm ups for close to 10 minutes, or seven more than usual. Maybe practice pays off??? What a concept!

*I'm not even going to address the power play, I don't want to have to clean vomit from in between the keys of my laptop.

*Fan favourite Marek Malik made his triumphant return to the lineup. I say triumphant because he wasn't as terrible as usual. He wasn't particularly good, but he played as well as Paul Mara would have so it ended up par for the course.

*Sean Avery returned and did pretty well shaking off the rust. He annoyed the hell out of the Sens and played on the edge but did not look in synch with his linemates. Speaking of which ...

*Nothing tonight dissuaded me from my opinion that Chris Drury has been horribly underachieving. His line was by far the worst of the four and their inability to clear the puck set up the third Ottawa goal and sealed the game for the Sens.

*Ottawa got up 3-1 and started trapping hardcore in the third. It was beautiful to watch from a strategic point of view but terrible for the excitement factor. After running right into said trap multiple times, the Rangers started dumping the puck and actually chasing, which lead to a few chances. High energy, physical hockey can make this team a winner, if only the players would buy into it for 60 minutes, rather than 25.

*The kid line of Cally, Dawsie and Dubi played pretty well but all of that effort will have to start translating into some goals sooner or later.

*I don't mind the lack of goals coming from the fourth line. I do think that Colton Orr would be better replaced by Hartford's Franky Lessard or Mitch Fritz, whenever they return from injury. Orr has shown signs of being an actual player - which is good because he isn't a great fighter - but when he is not going at full speed he is useless and he dragged ass tonight. Bettsy wasn't at his best but still did his job as a shutdown center/penalty killer/faceoff specialist well. As for Ryan Hollweg, I will address him in a moment.

*Both goaltenders played solid, if unspectacular games. Hank made a big save or tow, but maybe could have stopped two of the goals against. Martin Gerber got saved by the iron several times and wasn't forced to make huge saves thanks to his defense.

*On onto the PHW Three Stars:
3-Scott Gomez - one goal
2-Jason Spezza - one goal
1-Martin Gerber - 34 saves

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Tom Renney - for keeping Marcel Hossa out of the lineup. No, seriously, he finally got his team up to play a good opponent and encouraged them to play their game, which they did for 25 minutes (well I was being partially serious on the Hossa thing but moreso here). It was a nice game but he needs to start getting them to win, and soon.
2-Ryan Hollweg - the best Ranger on the ice all night, bar none. He hit, he forced turnovers, drew a penalty, got a few shots off and was responsible defensively. With Jed gone, Ryan is the one heart-and-soul player left on the squad and has done well to bring his passion to his play. Jed, by the way, scored tonight. It was an empty netter but it still counts!
1-Spezza - he is one of the few NHL players still using a wood stick and he does it well. A force to be reckoned with every time he steps on the ice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

17-14-4: Rangers Survive Avalanche (Barely)

So, as I spent this fine Friday evening at home watching the game, my points are essentially train of thought watching the game. Hopefully they make some sense. Because the Rangers certainly aren't: how they could be so undisciplined in Minnesota and so solid the next night is astounding. Losing in overtime sucks, but a) at least it went to overtime so we still earned a point and b) no one scored five goals against us. So I'll call the evening a success. Here's what I saw:

*Hahaha, one night after being embarrassed by the best player on Minnesota, the Rangers try to take out the top player on Colorado in the first shift (with a high stick on Stastny). Who said old time hockey is dead?

*Say I am harping on him and I am, but I find it funny to see the trainers working on Jagr. I think they are trying to find the Tin Man's heart. I think it was replaced by that C they mistakenly sewed onto his jersey. He played a few decent minutes and then allowed himself to be marginalized yet again; definitely not the way to be the leader of the team.

*Has anyone thought that maybe the movie "Invincible" is based on a true story and Petr Prucha secretly is the superhero played by Bruce WIllis? The guy gets thrown around like a rag doll and is still playing, its amazing and unnatural.

*Wow, Rangers cycle and take a shot on the power play and they score. Amazing how that works. Too bad they forget how to do it once they are on the ice in the Garden. 1-0 thanks to Shanny's one-timer from Gomez.

*The 5-on-3 penalty kill at the end of the first period was hugely impressive, with Toots going down to cut off passing lanes, Betts wearing himself out and Girardi plugging the middle. However, look at it from the point of view of a Colorado fan and you just watched the Rangers power play waste time, pass, pass, pass and take a poor shot before seeing the puck get cleared. Kinda sad ...

*So the Aves tied the game at one on a tic-tac-toe play. It was a nice goal but came with the Rangers having slid out of position, with Rozy low and Staal cheating high on the same side. With him cheating, the middle was open and the pass went into the slot to the sniper Milan Hejduk and that was that.

*And Hejduk made it 2-1 on the same kind of chip shot from the slot after another great passing play. Paul Stastny is really, really good. So was his dad. I really liked Peter Stastny, he is one of the reasons why I wear No. 26 on my jersey; the guys who usually don 26 are the ones who embody the qualities I love in the game - hard work, dedication and fearlessness.

*Wow, I type that and Rozy scores. There is no denying that he has a great shot. I just wish he could play defense too.

*Oh baby, Gomez put the Rangers ahead! I just got a message from a friend that I have to start being nice to him now but I'm not ready to. He needs to be consistent before I do that.

*Ryan Hollweg vs. Ian Laperriere = solid scrap. It would be spectacular to think that Ryan is a younger version of Ian, who has put together a really respected, yeoman-like career as a tough, solid checking forward who stands up for his teammates.

*I didn't mention it before, but if you didn't see the game. Dubi got into a fight too. He was standing up for Pru and ended up battling Cody McLeod to a draw. Definitely better than his pathetic attempt against Luke Richardson earlier in the year.

*You know, for all of the talk about the Rangers going after Jon Mike Liles, the guy seemed to enjoy doing the second period intermission interview with Sam and Joe. He was articulate and interesting. Might be nice to have an American guy like that on the blue line. Bye bye Malik ...

*Man, that's rough seeing Colorado equalize at three. The Rangers started scrambling in their own zone, the forwards didn't keep the Aves in check enough and Girardi tried to step up to the shooter, leaving Marek Svatos open to score on Hank who had bit on the initial shot.

*There are going to be some people out there, you know who you are who are going to go off on Hank. No, he is not the impenetrable wall he was at the start of the season, but he has - for the most part - been giving the Rangers a chance to win and that is all that you want. The Rangers success shouldn't have to hinge so closely on his ability to limit the other team to just one or two goals a game.

*And you can't blame Hank for the game winner, the Rangers blew their defensive assignments, scrambling for a bouncing puck. Whatever, as Sam said, the Rangers got a point out of the game and that's all you can ask for at this point.

*I said it before, I will say it again and defend it if needed: Chris Drury has been underachieving and was disappointing yet again. He had one good chance but often he was scrambling to find his place on the ice.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Petr Budaj - 20 saves
2-Hejduk - two goals
1-Wojtek Wolski - game-winning goal

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Jeff Finger/Scott Hannan/Liles - all three were rock solid on D for the Aves.
2-Gomez - Ok, I will give credit where due, he made some really nice plays and showed signs of being a good player. Don't get ahead of yourselves!
1-Wolski - he played 25 minutes and still was fresh in the OT, I'm impressed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

17-14-3: Marian Gaborik Goes Wild

So I am really not sure how I can sum up the Rangers 6-3 loss. I will try, in one word ... undisciplined? nah ... Oscar-worthy? nah, just Josh Harding is deserving there ... exciting? mmmm, not if you were a New York fan, since it was obvious the outcome early ... ok, I have it ... Gaborik!

*Dude, Marian Gaborik had a six point game with five goals. Wow. He played a helluva game, and I don't want to take anything away from that, but at the same time, it was Ranger breakdowns that put him in the position to rack up that many points. He just took advantage of the situation ... again and again and again and again and again.

*Jagrsupporter, MinnesotaMatt, all of you blind supporters of the Rangers fair captain: OPEN YOUR EYES. Jagr's laziness and lack of passion for play embodied itself yet again, as he gave the puck over to the Wild and then stood there as they scored their first goal of the game. I can overlook a captain who doesn't speak much if they lead by example - Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, Joe Sakic, Brendan Morrow, Guy Carbonneau, etc. But I can't find anything of worth in Jagr's game and thus his leadership. Wearing the C brings with it responsibility and yelling at Rozy once and sulking the rest of the time doesn't quite do the trick.

*Ok kids, for those youngsters out there, take a look at the performance by Gaborik. Jagr used to be able to do that. A long, long time ago. Nowadays Gaborik is a dynamic scorer while Jagr has to rely on lucky bounces to put up points. No, I am not giving him any credit for his assist on the Rangers second goal, I don't think he was trying to get it to Straka, just to the crease. Straka did the work on that one.

*I said it many times at the end of last season and the beginning of this one, I am definitely in the Dan Girardi fan club. I will be getting a jersey of his in the near future (once I get some overtime pay for these holidays). I still have love, even if he blew it in front on Gabby's fourth goal. But that was as much Drury's fault as Girardi's.

*I have had this battle a number of times, but I really do think that Minnesota's Christmas coloured jerseys are rather awesome. They look like old school sweaters and go well with the wilderness-themed squad ...

*You know, I already can't stand Joe Micheletti but for MSG to waste trivia with such a stupid question as who scored more as a Gopher - him or his two brothers - really, really pisses me off. Trivia has become a tradition with my dad and I but we didn't even waste our time on this one. Who cares? Its a Rangers game, not the Joe Micheletti show.

*Poor Petr Prucha. The guy can't find his scoring touch yet continues to excel in his role as the NHLs punching bag. Even though Renney actually yelled at the refs for once, he was wrong, there was no intentional elbow on the play. Its nice that Renney did it, but it cost the Rangers a stupid penalty and a second stupid power play goal.

*Brent Burns, who hammered Pru, showed the entire NHL how to beat the Rangers. He used his big size to his advantage, knocking the puck off Rangers sticks with ease while hitting everything that moves. As the Isles showed earlier this year, if you are more physical than the Rangers it takes them out of the game. Burns did it by himself, standing out on every shift.

*You know, you have to admire Jason Strudwick's heart and dedication. I really think he should be made a player/coach. But I do think that its sad that he is the one who has to stand up for his teammates, especially as he isn't much of a brawler. His battle with Voros was painful as Voros clearly didn't want to fight.

*I'm happy for Nigel Dawes, he scored with his dad in the crowd. That must have felt nice for them.

*Keep an eye out on The Dark Ranger's "Tom Renney Danger Meter" because it is going to go up. The Rangers took a ton of terrible penalties and undisciplined play like that is the fault of the coaching staff. You have to keep your team composed and he could not do that. He did have them playing solid hockey at even strength but at the end of the day the Rangers are the team that gave up five goals in one game to one guy.

*If Gabby can put up six points, I am scared to think about what Paul Stastny will do tomorrow ... oy ...

*And for once, these stars lists are nearly the same:
PHW Three Stars
3-Burns - one assist, one helluva hit on Pru
2-Demitra - two assists
1-Gabby - five goals, one assist

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Demitra - picture perfect passes, all night long.
2-Burns - singlehandedly got the Rangers off their game and sparked his team.
1-Gabby - he got six points in one game. SIX!!!!!

More Outrage ...

On the Islanders Beat - a Newsday blog had the nerve to post this:
[NHL vice-president Colin] Campbell was recorded saying he hoped it would help Simon to meet with “the drug and alcohol, uh, uh, those doctors.” NHL spokesman Frank Brown quickly clarified that the doctors who deal with substance abuse under the NHL/NHLPA agreement also handle behavioral issues.

But the “stereotyping” horse was out of the barn. The gut reaction of Islanders coach Ted Nolan, who described Campbell’s assumption as “sickening” was understandable. Like Simon, Nolan is a member of Canada’s First Nation, and while they have seen first-hand the problems of drug and alcohol abuse within their ethnic community, the broad labeling of everyone who shares that heritage with the “drunken Indian” stereotype is stomach-turning.

That is utterly insane and should be taken as slander by Campbell. The author, Greg Logan, is calling the NHL's disciplinarian a racist. That is utterly and completely ridiculous. Why does Logan, and Nolan for that matter, automatically think that Campbell thinks Simon is a "drunken Indian" rather than a lunatic who may have been under the influence because the attack was incredibly out of sorts for a professional athlete?

I can almost understand Nolan as he has faced a ton of inexcusable abuse for his heritage, but not Logan. The post is not respectable journalism, it is slander.

slan·der (slndr)
1. Law Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation.
2. A false and malicious statement or report about someone.

One can not automatically assume that Campbell is a racist based on his suggestion that substance abuse may be a problem for Simon. Everyone raves about Simon's character so how can one not consider an illegal influence to be the source of his "snapping?"

As I have pointed out before, Newsday and the Islanders have an incestuous relationship - the Isles buy a ton of ads in the newspaper and the paper plasters its logo around the Mausoleum. Its against any form of journalistic ethics and enough is enough. For them to defame someone as a racist is unethical and inexcusable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Throwing Out The Garbage

What a day to be a fan of the New York Rangers. Not just one, but two annoying thorns in our side are gone.

First off Simon the Barbarian got a 30 game suspension. It clearly isn't enough, but at least its a start. So maybe the next time he does something stupid, circa March when the Rangers play the Isles. That way he will do something else stupid and be gone by the April games, which will likely be meaningful - if only to eliminate the Isles from the playoffs. Let's just hope his stupid act - whatever it will be - won't actually kill one of the Rangers.

And from one maniac to another, Ben Eager was dealt by the Flyers. That little psycho went to Chicago so the Rangers won't have to deal with his particularly loathsome pestering anymore. Granted, the Flyers got big, tough defenseman Jim Vandermeer back, and probably will bring up Steve Downie, who will be a huge pest for a long time to come. But better to have to deal with just him rather than him and Eager.

Hasta la bye bye, happy trails, don't let the Zamboni door hit you on your way out ...

17-13-3: We Needed That

The New York Rangers defeated a Pittsburgh Penguins squad that had two days off and played like they were still on holiday. Hank came back from injury and played well, the stars did their jobs and scored and the Blueshirts won 4-0. With three huge, tough games ahead (Minnesota, Colorado and Ottawa), the boys needed a good effort and got one. So after a night of celebrating and with a full day of work ahead in a few hours, I will get right to the observations:

*First off, and most importantly, I have to vent about the lowlight of the evening. Hank blocks a puck that goes high into the air, steps about a foot out of the crease to make the catch, does so, and gets popped by Gary Roberts. The Rangers converge on Roberts and push and shove. Roberts gets two for goaltender interference. Of course, the Rangers didn't score a power play goal but for once, they also didn't give up a single shorthanded chance so I'll call that a wash. Whatever; my point is that when Roberts came out and was back on the ice. Colton Orr harassed him and tried to pick a fight. It didn't work. I won't re-ignite the instigator conversation, but in this case - penalty or not - it shouldn't have mattered. A Ranger, preferably Orr since Mitch Fritz is still on the fritz in Hartford, should have skated over and beaten the hell out of Roberts. The game was in hand and this surly old geezer has the nerve to hit your goaltender, the cornerstone of the franchise, the biggest reason that you have won any games this season, and you don't go over and pummel the bastard? What? There is no excuse; the AARP member should have been sent back to the home with at least, *at least* a black eye. I am not saying he should go Simon the Barbarian on the guy, but getting in his face and knocking his jaw askew should have been the goal. And no one did that ... for shame.

*Ok, onto a happier note: the pregame announcement that Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa were scratched were a sure sign of a good night and it proved to be so. Malik's slow, defensive incompetence could not disrupt the defensive chemistry and Hossa's uselessness could not force the more capable Nigel Dawes out of the lineup. Fantastic.

*So those were moves 1 and 1a by Tom Renney to regain some form of job security. Move 2 was the placement of Gomez, rather than Chris Drury with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. While I still won't decry Brandon Dubinsky and his solid work on that top line, picking Gomez for the center slot worked out as the line played a smoother game.

*That is not to say that Jagr played well. He got on the scoresheet with a second assist that was more coincidence than relevance - being the last Ranger to tough the puck before it went to Straka, who got it to Gomez for the first goal of the game. Jagr was more involved than in last game but its still so many billions of miles from where he was even two years ago that its pathetic.

*And I still call Jagr's captaincy into question. From what I saw, Ryan Hollweg got a misconduct in the third period for standing up for himself after being hit from behind into the boards by Tyler Kennedy. He didn't swing his stick at the guy, didn't slew foot him, didn't do anything but get back in the guy's face and shove him and for that he was handed a 10 minute penalty for his efforts. From my vantage point, Jagr looked unwilling to go talk to the refs, then when he finally went over to hear the explanation for the call, didn't stand up for his teammate and just accepted the wrong call but an officiating crew who had made several dubious calls (for both teams).

*Speaking of Hollweg, I think he played a solid game (no matter what some would say ... Eric). He hit, he drew penalties and was responsible defensively. He even got a shot on net - granted it was right into the penguin on Dany Sabourin's chest, but it was on net, something several other Rangers can't say.

*Fedor Tuytin rebounded from Phoenix with a solid effort. He and Danny G remain the Rangers top defensive pair.

*Rozy, who had been the team's top D the last two seasons, was utterly atrocious yet again. Unfortunately, as the alternative is the return of Malik, Rozy has to stay in the lineup rather than be a healthy scratch and feel shame. But the biggest shame is his apparent loss of confidence and defensive acumen. He has been passing up shots, fumbling the puck and losing his assignments. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think his need to find his game is more important than that of Jagr. This team can find other offensive weapons, it cannot have a weak link on the blueline if it is to succeed.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
2-Scott Gomez - two goals
1-Hank - 18 save shutout

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gomez - he went to the net and shot the puck. What a concept.
2-Rangers defense, other than Rozy - aside from one superhuman effort from Evgeni Malkin in the second period, they were able to keep rebounds away from the Pens and marginalized Cindy Crosby.
1-Hank - shaking off an injury, he didn't have to face a lot of action but his effort was huge and hugely important.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

16-13-3: Hey, Hey, What Can You Say?

I gotta admit, Wayne Gretzky is a classier individual than I am. With his team ahead 5-0 heading into the third period, he had them sit back and play a conservative game. If it were me, I would have tried to beat the Rangers 10-0, and probably could have, the way the Rangers were playing Sunday evening. Hmm, where to start, where to start ... :

*The most disheartening thing to me was not that the Rangers lost to one of the five worse teams in the NHL but that only one player on the team actually played like he was pissed off: Dan Girardi. Every single player should have been infuriated but they all played the same lackluster hockey in the second period that they did in the first.

*The Rangers scored their one goal on the power play in the third after Phoenix had already started sitting back on their heels. So do the Blueshirts then pounce and build off of the one goal? Nope, their "captain" takes a lazy holding penalty and kills what little momentum they had. Superstar!

*As I expect that little from Jagr, I expected a little more from Tom Renney. The Kind Commander lost the game for the Rangers before it started by not putting them in a position to win. He mishandled the injury/flu depleted roster and put a team out on the ice that couldn't do anything.

>First off, according to Sam, Renney benched Ryan Hollweg to send a message that "He needs to do more." That's fine, but don't do that when your team is decimated by injury. And don't replace him with super-slo-mo Jason Strudwick.

>That set up yet another mistake, reinserting Marek Malik back in the lineup. That changed two of the three defensive pairings and eliminated all of the chemistry ... and put Malik back in the lineup. He was his usual terrible self but certainly not the cause for the Rangers demise.

>Not helping the team either was the fact that Renney put his two call ups, Greg Moore and Nigel Dawes, on the same line. >Two kids, who are going to do their damndest to make a case to stay in the NHL and will take the risks associated with it, on the same line - and playing with the underachieving Chris Drury. Yeah, no.

>And if Hank has a bad wrist and a case of the flu, why was he even dressed for the game? Renney had no intention of letting him play, so why not let him rest at home and bring up Montoya. Give Monty a start and show Phoenix what they missed out on by not trading for him.

*The one roster move that Renney didn't make that I won't complain about is to take Dubi off of Jagr's line. Unless they move Straka to center and get another Czech to play wing, leave it alone. Drury is playing poorly, Gomez is playing poorly, don't add them to a line with a guy who clearly doesn't care about playing - poorly or otherwise. Dubi injects some energy to that line and is willing to check people, something the two Czechs are reluctant to do.

*Jagr apparently lost a tooth in the first period when he was elbowed in the mouth by Fredrik Sjostrom. Did he show outrage and stand up for himself? Nope, he skated to the bench. He deals with double teams, elbows, hooks, holds, slashes, etc. all game long and does nothing about it. This guy is the captain of the New York Rangers! If you have no respect for your teammates - which you clearly don't playing like you don't want to be there - at least have some respect for yourself!

*A quick word on the goaltenders: Valley really isn't to blame on the loss - at least three of the goals against weren't his fault. Ilya Bryzgalov, who regular readers know I am a fan of, was terrible at the start. Bryzgalov couldn't seem to get his angles right and was out of position several times but the Rangers didn't take advantage.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Bryzgalov - 34 saves
2-Radim Vrbata - goal and an assist
1-Joel Perrault - two goals

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Shane Doan - just because he is the last Winnipeg Jet on the team, and that means something, if only to me. He also had an assist and threw some pucks into the crowd to little kids before the game. A good guy, who is very underrated.
2-Bryzgalov - recovered from the aforementioned lousy start to give up just one goal, despite his team mailing it in for the third period.
1-Wayne Gretzky - he returned and conquered, showed class and skill by getting his young team to play composed in the World's Most Famous Arena.