Thursday, January 31, 2008

25-22-6: Rangers Rebound on the Road

I've noticed that for many away games, I sit and pretty much live blog the game, which leads to long, rambling posts that cater only to the insane, I mean, the bored, I mean ... a small minority of readers. So with rare exception, I will attempt to keep these game wraps more concise, and live blog only on major occasions. I will also attempt to put pictures with each, but sometimes I don't have a ton of time or, like tonight, the news services don't shoot much.

So onto this game, which was quite puzzling. All of the intensity that the Flyers had during the 6-2 game last month was gone and the Rangers played a smart, disciplined game to win 4-0. What will be key is what happens next. The Rangers had good showings against the Devils, Penguins, and Sabres and then went on to lose to the Capitals, the Wild and the Bruins. Tomorrow brings the Devils so it will be quite the test.

Some random stuff from tonight's game:

*Either the Philly fans were still in shock that the Giants are in the Super Bowl and the Eagles aren't, or MSG's house mics were down because it sounded like a very quiet game (after the Rangers went up 4-0 it was but what about early on?). The natural arena sounds are so much more appealing than Micheletti's voice and do better to appeal to new fans. So what if you catch the occasional vulgar statement? its cable tv anyway. But then again, the audio was bad all night long - especially during the intermission interviews.

*I missed much of the first 10 minutes, as they ran opposite Jeopardy (I'm a geek). At least I feel smart while the Rangers act stupid. Penalties have been a problem for the Rangers and Tom Renney matched Colton Orr on the ice opposite Riley Cote in the opening minutes. Not the brightest move but luckily it didn't cost them. Credit given to Orr, Avery and Strudwick because all three were pestered throughout the game and none of them did something stupid to let Philly get back in the game.

*It was so nice to see Nigel Dawes score, especially a day after I say the Rangers have to forecheck harder. Chris Drury forced a turnover and got the puck up to Dawes, who got Niity to go swimming and shot it into an empty net. Lazy play by Philly, but we'll take it. I also said that the Rangers need to go hard to the net more and when the Rangers did that, Prucha scored to make it 2-0. This isn't rocket science folks, if you play hard, with heart and intensity, good things will happen.

*As several people mentioned, if the Rangers could match their fire on the power play in the final minutes of the Carolina game, they would be one of the best teams in the league. They regressed back into their pathetic, boring, predictable power play in the first period but Drury's ppg to start the second perhaps signaled a new start for the special team.

*I am a big hat person and rarely go anywhere/do anything without a ballcap on. I haven't seen mention of this elsewhere so I just want to point out that Scotty Gomez seems to rock a NYPD PAL Hockey hat during intermissions. It's a nice touch by the former Devil to show he cares for his new city.

*While I would normally cheer for the opposing player when he hits Marek Malik, I have to say that I was concerned when Lurch went down in the second period after being hit by Mike Richards (which shouldn't have been a penalty). If Malik is hurt, no one will trade for him. He didn't screw anything up and improved his stature as trade bait but they didn't mention him after he went down so maybe he was hurt. Fingers crossed - who'da thunk I'd say that ...

*The commercial for Karakos Suits was utterly spectacular. For those who didn't see it, it was just a full screen with no audio that said "These 30 seconds of peace and quiet are brought to you by Karakos Suits." Sheer genius in this age of louder, brighter, faster commercials.

*Just some speculation, brought up by tidbits mentioned during the game: Miika Wiikman has taken the starter gig in Hartford, making Al Montoya trade bait. Do you trade him to Tampa Bay for Dan Boyle or to Florida as part of a package for Olli Jokinen? The Panthers have said time and time again that they don't want to deal their captain but the rumours still persist and a Cuban goaltender might go over well in South Florida.

*You are down 4-0 with three minutes left and get a power play, why do you keep the goaltender in? I don't get that. If the Flyers scored, they would have had three minutes to try to get three goals. Not good odds, but still ... what's the difference if you lose 4-0 or 5-0?

*Vally played well, and got the shutout. He made 20 saves, gave up a few long rebounds, but the team played well in front of him and the Flyers didn't really press the action. All in all, it was a good effort by the backup and a good win.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Toots - two assists.
2-Shanny - goal.
1-Drury - goal and an assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Vally - as my dad said, he put up his first NHL shutout; a fantastic achievement.
2-Drury - one of his better games as a Ranger, he made his ex-boyfriend Briere jealous with solid play and fearlessness.
1-Dawes - he forced play, was responsible in all three zones and showed poise. The future is bright with play like his and Dubi's.

Where Do We Go Now?

Where do we go?

What can we do?

As fans, we can just sit here and hope that Sather or Renney have some kind of miracle cure for what ails the team. But what does ail the team? Let's take a look, with possible solutions for each issue:

We have a captain who has spent 99% of the season being a moody child who has led by bad example.
SOLUTION 1: Hope that he snaps out of it in time, becomes a man and regains his scoring touch.
SOLUTION 2: Strip the C and let him roam with no pressure.
SOLUTION 3: Deal a high draft pick for Colorado's Jaroslav Hlinka or Columbus' David Vyborny. Another Czech; I know, it doesn't thrill me but remember how well Jagr played with Marty Rucinsky.
SOLUTION 4: Deal him and get some draft picks. No one will part with a young, mobile defenseman and the last thing this team needs are more veterans with more time behind them than years ahead, so picks would be it and the top few picks of '08 and '09 look really solid.

The power play has been blacked out.
SOLUTION 1: Change the personnel/placement on the power play. If Jagr wants the puck so much, put him on the point - he will have more room to operate and may even unleash his little used slap shot (just get him a wood stick first). Put Hollweg, Orr or Dubi in the crease and don't let them move. Show highlight films of Adam Graves working the paint Clockwork Orange-style.
SOLUTION 2: Pick up a puck mover like Dan Boyle and pray that the price isn't too steep. A new player might not feel as obligated to put every play though Jagr, which has lead to predictability and ineptness.
SOLUTION 3: Fire Perry Pern and get a new coach in asap to implement a new system.

We shoot ... a lot ... but we don't score.
SOLUTION 1: As I said with the power play, move someone, anyone into the crease. There has to be someone down low fight for garbage goals.
SOLUTION 2: Implement a harsher, tighter forechecking scheme to try to force turnovers in better spots. Remember Nigel Dawes' goal against Minnesota? Plays like that happen when you don't concede the zone.
SOLUTION 3: The Garden faithful will hate this one, but pass more. Not on the power play, but already into the zone. Too often the guys are forcing shots, leading to odd-man rushes. This doesn't mean that I want more passing on the power play, or on the breakaway (damn you Marty Straka), it just means that Shanny shooting from the top of the circle into a winger adn a defender is pointless.

Marek Malik is on the team.
SOLUTION 1: Set him free back in the wilderness so he can roam with others of his kind.
SOLUTION 2: Deal him for a mid-level pick. He won't garner much more alone as other teams are well aware that he has worn out his welcome in New York.
SOLUTION 3: Deal him with someone else (sorry Pete but I would say Pru) to Dallas for Mattias Norstrom. Hell, maybe get Joel Lundqvist out of it and move him to wing.
SOLUTION 4: Let him play alongside Rozy as the third, THE THIRD, pairing and then let them both walk at the end of the year. With them, Mara and Kaspar off of the books heading into next season, the team can buy a few new defensemen.

Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been King Hank.
SOLUTION 1: Relax.
SOLUTION 2: Relax.
SOLUTION 3: Relax. How good would you be when you go into every game knowing that your slightest mistake means automatic loss because the team can't score?

Of course, all of these will be pointless if the Rangers go pointless in the next three games, all of which are on the road - which leads me to the final issue:

The Rangers suck on the road.
SOLUTION 1: Hit the charter plane with a sledgehammer, make it look mean.
SOLUTION 2: Make 'em stay in Motel 8s, see how the lesser folks live and let them know how great they have it.
SOLUTION 3: Bring more Ranger fans on the road so the team will always play in front of a harsh crowd.
SOLUTION 4: Watch Miracle on the charter, since that is pretty much what it will take to get in the playoffs if they don't start winning soon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

24-22-6: Rangers Licked By Canes

Well, get your mind out of the gutter; this is a hockey blog. So, the second half started with the Rangers losing to the Hurricanes. I was at work so I was able to watch bits and pieces live (damn Florida Primary) and the rest on Rangers in 60.

First Period
*Well, I have to open with Marek Malik ... if he is trade bait, the Rangers need him to play, so why didn't he play? And where better than on the road, away from us haters??

*The Rangers actually have more games remaining than Carolina!! Wow. Too bad it means virtually nothing as the Southeast Division winner gets in no matter how bad they are.

*1-0: Yay, a power play goal!! Who'da thunk it? You put a man in front of the goaltender, and actually shoot off of a pass and you score?!? Groovy!

*Colton Orr vs. Wade Brookbank: Orr actually won one. How about that? Granted it was against a young guy who can barely skate, let along fight, but its always nice. Now the rematch was a joke as Brookbank jumped Orr and no instigator was called. Great work by the refs.

*And, moments after Orr/Brookbank I: FINALLY! The Rangers act like a team: Gomez gets boarded and Staal and Avery stand up for their boy. Even heartless Jagr jumped in ... I am shocked and delighted. Maybe he will just earn that C ... (too little, too late, methinks). Sean gets a misconduct for instigating, which was deserved but the four blind mice neglected to call a boarding on Walker; expect a one game suspension if the league doesn't have their heads up their rear ends. And the Rangers go on to kill the 5-on-3, wooooo! This penalty kill - yeah Bettsy - has bailed out the team time and time again this season, its dangerous to play with fire but good to know they are capable.

*Jason Strudwick is rocking the goatee. I approve.

*I have to say, I am loving this game through the first period - old time hockey! Too bad the refs are doing their best to mess it all up and grab some of the spotlight. Its games like these that make hockey itneresting and appealing to fans, but the league doesn't care about that.

*Hahaha!! Did you see the lower third promos for the Knicks?? It had a pop-up of the players passing a ball from hand to hand. I don't know if I am more surprised that MSG has the new technology or that the Knicks didn't fumble the ball away.

Second Period
*Hillary Clinton and John McCain are going to win in Florida. You don't care, I don't care, but I am getting paid to pay attention to this crap.

*1-1: Ray Whitney may be the most underrated player in the NHL. He should be hailed as a hero to make Sergei Samsonov relevant again.

*2-1 Carolina: Why do the Rangers suck so bad in the second period?? What is it? Watching Brind'Amour undress Hank was vile.

*Damn election coverage kept me from any details in the period, did I miss anything big?

Third Period
*The former NY mayor is done but Huckabee isn't. Yippee!

*Rangers going down like flies - Drury, Rozy ... hope there is a lotta ice down there, then again, a win would make everything feel better. For me at least. If not, there is always beer.

*Why are the Blueshirts not challenging Ward? He is looking like the Conn Smythe winner, rathter than the mediocre whelp he was last year. I think that is moer a result of the Rangers than his play.

*3-1 Carolina: Rangers started running around like chickens with their heads cut off and Hank couldn't bail them out with Bettsy running back to get Trevor Letowski. Trevor Letowski! Geez!

*Coverage is breaking down all over the ice. This looks eerily familiar.

*They are saying McCain took Florida. I don't care, but it hurts less than watching the Rangers scrambling around the ice. And now Rudy pulled out, looks like all New York is losing tonight (even the Isles, yay!!).

*I don't think I will rip Renney for this one, the boys are playing with some fire. Unfortunately its burning down their own house, rather than the rednecks'.

*Chris Drury needs to be able to score on an empty net. No shanks, no posts, nothing but net. Then the 5-on-3 would have been an attempt at the gmae-winner.

*We said it at the Garden a few weeks back, John Dellapina said it in the Daily news, but the Rangers are going for quantity, not quality of shots. Something has to go in, right??

*Wrong, we lose. Dammit; outplayed by the Canes after a great first period. What can you do?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Walker - for being a dirty player who is going to get suspended. The PHWs are idiots.
2-Brind'Amour - one goal.
1-Ward - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jagr - I wanted to put Dubi here but I have to salute the most intense performance of the year by the Rangers captain. He couldn't put the team on his back but he played one of his strongest games in a Blueshirt to date.
2-Ward - As I said, he looked great, granted that was a result of the Rangers, but whatever, credit is given.
1-Brind'Amour - A true leader, he was a force. He won faceoffs, scored a nice goal and played strong on both ends of the ice. Dammit.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

NHL All-Star Game

I am going to try this again, a live-ish blog of the festivities in Atlanta. Yesterday's was horrid, and I am not expecting much out of today but I gotta give it a try, right? So here we go with random thoughts on the game itself and the state of hockey right now ... Yet again, I didn't make it very far, after the first period ended 5-1, I decided I don't care anymore. Sorry folks. At least the Rangers play again on Tuesday vs. Carolina ...

*First off, after I stopped yesterday out of disgust, Dubi and Marc Staal went on to be the best players in the YoungStars game. Chicago's Pat Kane looked good too, but our budding Blueshirts were fantastic. How great is that?

*I read two articles today worthy of linking for y'all to read, both came courtesy of Kukla: Red Fisher, probably the most respected hockey scribe on the planet, blasted the ASG while honouring its past while Larry Brooks - he of the outrageous comments - tore apart the state of play in the NHL and I just can't disagree with him this time. Its a good read, and he adds on that the Rangers are going to do something with Malik ... which is just nice to hear; let's hope it happens.

*The Hives open the show? Are you kidding me? Granted its the same crappy song every arena blasts at top volume ad nauseum, but they stink and have no real ties to hockey or to Atlanta.

*Already the camera work is making me sick to my stomach. It is a pathetic attempt by Versus to ape Mtv style and they are doing it so poorly with these incessant zooming in and out that I am getting ill.

*This is hilarious watching the announcing of the All Stars - most of them didn't smile or even acknowledge the crowd. *sarcasm* This is truly a event for the fans. *sarcasm* Hell, most of the people in the crowd aren't even clapping, this is just pathetic.

*These jerseys are really bland and lame. Did Bettman just have some tailors modify the old NBA ones? Why does he feel the need to mimic his old employer? It isn't like they

*National anthems ... I love that they have someone sing the Canadian anthem, but she had to weak of a voice to give it any impact, blah.

*If nothing else to come out of this All-Star joke, D.P. is hurt and gave up the first goal of the game. Muah hahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!

*Not even a minute in and this game is already a mockery. I don't know how much I longer I can keep going on this. To save a lot of time, just click here and here for some choice words I would use.

*So without the announcers actually talking about the game-action, and no accurate list of the lines, I have no idea who is out on the ice and I have money riding on Jason Spezza being the game's high scorer so this is annoying.

*Back to the jerseys ... did someone actually think they looked good? I am getting a headache looking at them. How do you make white as a colour clash?!?

*Ovie scores the fourth goal of the game and Versus cuts into and out of four different angles of replays so you don't actually see the goal once. Ho/why does Comcast keep this network going? I mean seriously, aside from the weak production value, they are advertising Extreme Cagefighting during play. Ugh!

One last thing, to add to the unfunny joke that is the game, naming Eric Staal as the MVP of the game was ridiculous. He wasn't the best player by any means .. Rick Nash gets a hat trick, Evgeni Nabokov has a shutout period with two outstanding saves and Marc Savard scores the game winner but they give it to the coverboy of EA NHL 08 instead. What a waste of time.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All Star Superskills

So I am being forced to watch this for work, so I will throw out some random observations:

*Its a good thing that I am being paid for this, because watching this is painful. Versus is trying anything and everything to bring you closer to the action but the on-ice cameras are jittery and miss the action, which is made worse by a switch-happy director. The framing of the rest of the shots don't account for that atrocious upper-third score bug so the players' heads are getting cut off.

*The obstacle course start was mildly interesting, if only to show off Pavel Datsyuk's perfect passing skills and see Evgeni Malkin's ego get the best of his stickhandling to see him nearly lose the puck.

*Instead of the skating around the rink, like years past, now its a goal line-to-blue line speed thing. Versus had a guy skating along with a camera, which was jarring, and let's face it, the players didn't want to strain a groin so they didn't go all-out.

*Dammit, they are using the same 'skating camera' for the shootout competition as well. I think I'm getting motion sickness.

*The Rangers' Scott Gomez finally participated, and actually scored with a quick wrister to Osgood's glove-side.

*Wow, Versus mic'd D.P., yet another reason to hate them.

*Now there is a drop down from the huge upper-third for Las Vegas tourism, so every player's head is cut off.

That's it. I'm not blogging this piece of garbage anymore. There is little wonder why hardcore hockey fans hate Versus and the game can not attract new fans. I will try again tomorrow for the All Star Game itself but my hopes are not high.

Dobrý Den Český Republiky

As rumoured here back in September, the NHL is starting enxt season in Europe. And even more interestingly, the Rangers are going.

The Blueshirts will face off with the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 4th and 5th at the Sazka Arena, the home of Slavia Praha in Prague.

Unfortunately, the Ottawa Senators will face Cindy Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sweden on the very same days. I think that the league is making a huge mistake in that the Rangers should be in Sweden instead of Pittsburgh, considering that the starting goaltender of their national team wears a Blueshirt but the feelings of the Swedes are less important than the appeal of Cindy in Canada so we got what we got, ya know?

Of course, killjoy Sather came right out and told the AP that "There's no guarantee that anyone on our team right now will be on our team in the fall." Its a safe comment for him right now as he has yet to sign Hank or Avery to extensions, Jagr's contract is quite uncertain, and everyone else are pawns to the general manager. But I have to say that it will be even more interesting if Jagr, Rozy, Malik and Marty Straka are gone because all of the goodwill from the Czechs will be gone and it will be a hostile environment far, far from home.

But I am still going to ask, kde si mohu koupit vstupenku? (Where can I buy a ticket?) I am hoping the Rangers will put together a package but as of Leetch night, my season ticket rep had no idea it was happening and, as of this writing, there is nothing on this at the Rangers homepage. I will, of course, keep everyone posted here once I hear what's going on -- if anything.

So whoever ends up on the Rangers come the fall will also be playing in the 2008 IIHF Victoria Cup against the winner of the European Champions Cup, the Russian team Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Bern, Switzerland. It will be in the PostFinance Arena, the home of SC Bern. Luckily, Metallurg does not still have Evgeni Malkin so they won't be as difficult but they will still be a worthy opponent - especially for a team coming out of the offseason.

I just hope that it proves to be a short summer ...

Friday, January 25, 2008

24-21-6: Yawn

So after the festivities honouring Adam Graves, I mean Brian Leetch, there was an actual hockey game that was played, although it was hard to tell for most of it. While the Rangers would eventually win 2-1 in a shootout, it was as dreadful and as dreadfully boring as the loss to the Bruins on Sunday. Admittedly I don't have much, but there were some moments/items of notice (pics forthcoming, maybe):

*To avoid the crowds, I ran into the Team Store at a first period commercial break to waste some money on hugely overpriced mementos. They had a tv in there so I was forced to watch the debacle that was the Rangers 5-on-3 so-called power play. They were atrocious. Something will have to happen with these guys soon because they won't go anywhere with a power play like this. Whether that means trading for a power play specialist or firing Perry Pern (the assistant coach who is in charge of special teams), something has to happen, and soon.

*Colton Orr has to go. He tried to pick a fight at the end of the first period and just couldn't do it. What a joke of an enforcer. He did have one good check late in the game but otherwise was pretty useless.

*Speaking of useless, JAROMIR JAGR was garbage. I know some of you will leap to his defense, as you always do, but you clearly do not actually watch the games. Jagr was horrendous. He put himself out of position plenty, put himself offsides twice and seemed to work away from scoring zones. And what was with that half-hearted attempt in the shootout? Gross.

*J.D. was in the building and guested on MSG (thank goodness for Rangers in 60 so I got to see it). It would have been fantastic to have had him MC the night, but I guess the president of another franchise isn't allowed to. But listening to him back in the booth, you clearly hear how he is in a different league from Joe Micheletti. Micheletti is just atrocious, like the Blueshirts power play.

*It truly is amazing how the team plays how Sean Avery plays. Avery came out hard, they played hard. Avery got checked, came up shaking his wrist and was timid until late in the third period.

*I do think that Avery works better on the first line than the second, but that left Tom Renney with a line of Dawes, Dubinsky and Shanahan. Shanny slowed the line down and looked out of place. He did manage to get himself a few scoring chances and did score the game-winner in the shootout, but he needs to get back into a comfort zone. Maybe the All Star break will allow him to rest and get his knee back into shape so he can skate again.

*Now that I questioned Renney's line selection, I have to call him on his insane choices for the overtime. There is absolutely no reason for him to put his third defensive pair on the ice during a four-on-four sudden death period. And why in the world did he have Blair Betts on in the last minute of the OT? I love Bettsy but let's face it, he sucks offensively. It was the last game before the All Star break in a must-win game, so short-shift and roll your first two lines, that's it. Or was Jagr too tired from skating away from Bobby Holik all night?? Very curious.

*So for as much as I have thrown accolades at Tyutin and Girardi, they had a lousy game. At one point Toots was so far out of position that he weakly waved his stick back-and-forth at the Thrasher puck handler. He usually has body position and takes away space. Girardi couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone and misplayed it a few times. So sad; my desire for his jersey is waning while Dubi's stock is rising.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Rozy - one goal.
2-Hank - 17 saves.
1-Shanny - shootout goal that proved the game-winner.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - best Ranger all night. His teammates played for 50 or so minutes but the kid played for all 60. He was great.
2-Marian Hossa - if he actually had some decent linemates, he would have had a hat trick instead of just one goal. Even though he couldn't beat Hank to extend the shootout, he was the top skater in the game.
1-Brian Leetch - this night was his, No. 2 will have a place in the MSG rafters forever in honour of a great Ranger legend.

Brian Leetch Night, Postgame Edition

Wow, that was a good time. As its late, I will just go right into my thoughts/observations:

*First off, the biggest thing that pissed me off was the title of the night - Forever a Ranger, Brian Leetch, presented by American Express. Who thought of that?? Brian Leetch, forever a Ranger until we decide we would rather have some low-level prospects - none of whom are on the team now. The 'Welcome Home' stuff was much more appropriate.

*Leetch was always so unassuming and reticent of the spotlight, so the ceremony was perfect for him. It really seemed to be less about him and more about everyone else. Messier, Richter, Graves ... especially Graves, who got an ovation equaling (if not besting) that of Leetch when Leetch interrupted his own speech to announce that No. 9 will go to the rafters. Quick note about that - I bet you it will come during another midweek game against some crappy team next season, let's say, the Columbus Blue Jackets or someone else as ignominious. But nonetheless, that night I am sure will be far more emotional than this one was - if only for the hundreds of stories about the ways Graves has given back to the community.

*I got chills when they opened the ceremony with a montage that had the Terminator theme song. I've wanted to do that for years, such a great song. MSG did a decent job, before crossing over to some sentimental tune.

*I guess because of time, the reair of the ceremony was cut apart with a butcher's knife. Gone were all of the player introductions, which was huge to me. Seeing Jan Erixon in person was great, he is one of my all-time favourite Rangers, and the ovation for Gravey proved to be awesome foreshadowing.

*There was something hugely wrong in seeing Harry Howell out there as one of the former Rangers in white jerseys, rather than one of the blue jerseys like the players with retired numbers. Howell is one of many former stars of the Rangers who has gotten the shaft by the team after a remarkable career. He was Brian Leetch before there was a Brian Leetch, a stellar Ranger defenseman. Are we just going to go through the '94 lineup and honour those guys?

*Unlike the Messier ceremony, brought to you by Kleenex, there was just one tearful moment for me - when they brought out his friend's 9/11 widow and kid and Richter gave them a gift of a donation to the lost friend's foundation. That was touching.

*As for Mess, he cried. Of course. However, he said something to the effect of that when people look back, Leetch epitomized what it was to be a Ranger. To be honest, I don't think he did, at least not nearly as much as Gravey did.

*Also, it was awkward that Mess introduced Leetch, then Sam Rosen felt the need to introduce him as well. Weird.

*Aside from the jeering when Leetch opened his speech thanking Dolan, the fans were good, chanting and cheering.

*Sam from Rangers Report did a quick live blog of the ceremony, its pretty amusing.

*They had the trophies out on the ice, but as someone in my section pointed out, it would have been awesome to see him raise the Cup one more time ...

All in all, it was a nice tribute to a great Ranger. As I said, it wasn't as tearful as Messier's ceremony, nor as momentous, but it was certainly fitting for Brian Leetch the person, the player and the Rangers' legend.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brian Leetch Night, Lunchtime Edition

Some random stuff before I head to the Garden:

Larry Brooks spoke to Jaromir Jagr and he said, "We can be a very good team if we play the way we're supposed to, and that includes me. Our record so far is kind of my fault, too. I take responsibility." So he is finally speaking like a captain, this is a nice change. Now it will come down to his execution in turning things around, and that starts tonight.

Sam at Rangers Report said that Marek Malik's status is unclear and he may have been traded. One can only hope, one can only hope. For all of my loathing for him, I do hope that nothing is wrong with his family because that is the kind of thing that could keep the guy away and keep Renney's mouth shut.

And John Dellapina of the Daily News put together a panel who decided Leetch was the best Ranger ever. Of course, while he claimed that they came to the decision this way: "Define the term as the player who produced the greatest body of work in a Rangers uniform and then pass the puck to a Broadway Blue-chip panel of Rangers players, GMs and historians to get their takes." And then he asked Neil Smith, Rod Gilbert, Mess, Richter, Gresch, Dave Maloney, Sal Messina and JD. So that means he asked Leetch's old GM, two teammates, two former Rangers who repeat the company line as ambassadors, Sal Messina and JD - a friend of Leetch's. Messina is the one guy in the panel who could come close to being called a historian, but where is Stan Fischler? If there is anyone who could fairly judge, it would be the curmudgeonly bearded geezer. Not one of the people he asked could make any thing close to a fair judgment call on this. That isn't to say that Leetch sucks, he was one of the best but there simply is no fair way to call this one.

And finally (for now), TSN is reporting that it is now written in stone that the Rangers will play Tampa Bay in Prague to start next season. They also will warm up in Bern, Switzerland. Looks like I am going to have to bust out my passport (and empty my bank account)!!!

Brian Leetch Night, Morning Edition

Tonight Brian Leetch gets his number raised to the rafters so I figured I would throw some random thoughts up on Leetch, what he meant, and what I think we will see ...:

*They will have the second real giveaway of the season, a minibanner. The first giveaway was the Hummer calender poster; you can expect the minibanner to also be sponsored. Hopefully the logo for Modells, Hummer, XM, whoever will be smaller than the No. 2.

*Rick Carpiniello said that the Leetch presser Wednesday night was a who's-who of recent Rangers alumni and that Leetch (rightly) still holds plenty of resentment towards Sather. Do we hear our first 'Fire Sather' chants of the season tonight?

*Leetch handled everything with a level of class that does the jersey proud. He was, and always will be a New York Ranger - no matter where he spent the final hours of his career.

*I have two memories of Leetch that stand out. 1 - I remember a rush he made in his rookie year that Sam and J.D. called Orr-esque. Leetch went end-to-end and scored. Back then I didn't really realize just what that praise meant, but I knew that the play was amazing. Who knew it would be the first of many?? As for memory No. 2 - Leetch broke his ankle slipping on some ice. How is that for irony?? A hockey player slips on ice and gets hurt. Granted, rumours had it he was plastered, but that was just rumours so I shall leave it at that. Pretty funny though ...

*I mentioned Orr - on the Rangers/Bruins broadcast - the shootout loss in Boston on Saturday - Sam mentioned that Sather had asked the B's legend to speak but he had to decline. That is a damn shame but does mean that Sather at least put real effort in to the ceremony, perhaps as a small step to get Leetch back in the fold. I don't think it will work, but I think that the ceremony will be special. Lots of speeches, gifts and grown men crying ... and at the center of it all, a guy who hates attention.

*Brian Leetch should never have been the captain of the Rangers. He had the untenable task of taking the C that Messier left for Vancouver and just was not the man for the job. His quiet, calm demeanor and loathing for the limelight just could not replace the cult of personality that was Mess. If anyone, that C should have gone to Graves, as his rough-and-tumble playing style and utmost devotion to his team would have better served the role. That is not to say that Leetch was not devoted, but he worked best in a supporting role, not a starring.

But, that being said, he was a true Ranger great and, as the first defensemen to get his number retired, he represents all of the great Blueshirt blueliners through the history of the franchise. I think it is safe to say that he does them and all of the Rangers players and fans very, very proud.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

23-21-6: Feasting On Roadkill

To steal a line, the Rangers destroyed the Thrashers the way Sherman marched to the sea. Now that they had a successful campaign against Atlanta, what will they do? Will the Rangers go drown themselves in the water or will they win the war? Maybe it is from having guested at The Dark Ranger, but I am not so optimistic. After all, these are the same Thrashers who lost 10-1 on Friday to Buffalo -- 10-1!!! And the Rangers lost 3-1 to Boston Sunday; the Bruins also played Tuesday, losing 8-2 to Montreal. So while its nice to actually win, what the Rangers do and where they go after this will be the true test. We'll just have to see ... and onto what I saw at the game (pics to be added later):

*Everyone is going to rave about Jaromir Jagr's performance, a goal and two assists will do that, but he really wasn't all that great without the puck - doing his usual lazy hooking and holding behind the play. This time, luckily, Kerry Fraser's hair was in his eyes and he didn't call anything. Don't give me any nonsense, because the same officiating crew missed the puck hitting the netting in the first period. Four zebras on the ice at once, not one paying attention.

*You can't mention the refs without mentioning the boarding major and game misconduct issued on Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovy elbowed Rozy early in the play but no call was made. He then came around, leapt and slammed Rozy, who didn't see him coming and went hard into the boards. I don't know what is more amazing, that Atlanta's best player did something so dirty/stupid (I would have thought Exelby would be the culprit) or that Jagr came off the bench to speak to the refs. Jagr usually leaves the captain's duties to Shanahan, but I guess because it was one of his Czech buddies he felt compelled to make sure justice was served.

*On that play Colton Orr went after Kovalchuk, only to miss as Kovy ducked him. Orr got two minutes for roughing, but didn't do much of anything. Did the officials not want to give an instigator when there was no fight? Several other Rangers paired up with Thrashers and hugged, but no other calls were made. Strange. Orr, btw, also 'fought' Eric Boulton early in the game ... two unskilled goons trying to justify their existence and failing miserably in a short, unremarkable tussle.

*A question I walked out of the Garden with was where did Boulton go? For that matter, where was Exelby? You are embarrassed yet again, and will play the same team again in two days and don't try to send a message? A little bit of fisticuffs would have made for a more exciting third period and much more anticipation for Thursday's game, which will likely be a ghost town after everyone leaves once the Leetch ceremony is over.

*Slava Kozlov wears an 'A' for Atlanta, and should be stripped of it. He ignored the power play in front of him to go for a change, allowing for Chris Drury's clearing pass to go all the way out to Marty Straka for a breakaway that he finished with just the third shorty of the year for the Blueshirts. Straka made a smooth move and put it past Lehtonen for the goal. The sad thing is that Straka should have had a hat trick, having blown an empty net from the doorstep and having given up on another breakaway to make a bad pass to a nonexistent teammate on the far side. It was like Michael Nylander was still on the Rangers ... unbelievable.

*Ok, enough darkness, onto the good: Malik still was soft, still made pathetic clearing attempts, but didn't do anything that ended up in a goal against or even a very good attempt against so that is a nice start for him. Girardi was reunited with Tyutin and they played a fantastic game together. Avery looked great alongside Gomez and Jagr, maybe the trio will continue to click and the team will finally have a dangerous front line. It makes sense from a chemistry point of view - scoring winger + playmaker + grinder = magic. Let's hope that Avery can stay healthy and they stay together for more than a game. And, of course, Hank played a good game. He had one shot against through the first 17 minutes of the game but stayed focused and made a few good saves on his way to the shutout. Two out of three good games ... its a pleasant change but at this point in the year he needs to be good every single game if we are to even make the playoffs.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Straka - one goal.
2-Tyutin - three assists.
1-Jagr - goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubinsky - the kid got a goal, looked comfy carrying the puck ... if he fills out his frame, there is little doubt he could be a shorter version of Jason Arnott.
2-Tyutin - he was involved on both sides of the ice, made a huge hit on the midboards and looked happy to be back with Girardi.
1-Sean Avery - he wasn't baited into doing anything dumb, he sparked Jagr, made room for his linemates and had a sweet goal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time To Honour N.Y.'s Hockey Heroes

During the Saturday game/debacle against the Bruins, MSG played a clip of Harry Howell talking about Brian Leetch and something struck me - the Rangers really haven't respected and remembered many of the legends who have worn the iconic jersey.

Yes, we know Rod Gilbert was good, and he is everywhere for the Rangers as an ambassador. Eddie Giacomin isn't around much but still is remembered for being the one player that made the Garden outright root for another team (great feature on him here). Mark Messier and Mike Richter, well, everyone remembers them and loves them. But let's face it folks, the team has been around for more than 80 years and just four players were any good? Just four players - five as of Thursday - are worth a piece of New York immortality? And three of the five played in the last 15 years ... there is just something wrong with that.

The Rangers are quick to remind people of the honour, respect and tradition that goes with the jersey, and yet do virtually nothing for the players who made the Blueshirt something so special.

What needs to be done is something like the Toronto Maple Leafs did with Honoured Numbers (more here) or even what Binghamton did when I was there: create a Hockey Hall of Fame for the franchise. The upstate New York town inducts a few players each year (list here). For them, its kinds sad as they are running out of worthwhile players because their history extends back to just 1973 ... the Rangers, 1926 - and the team has won four championships to boot.

Maybe New York will eventually do something as part of the centennial in 2026 but it should come long before then, that way the Blueshirts can get some of these guys up in the rafters before they pass away. And, should the season continue as it has, it would be good PR next fall to get fans back in the stands after the team misses the playoffs - but that is a rant for another time.

So here are my recommendations for the first three classes, limited to four players per year. Every one of the legends are worth remembering in the pantheon of New York sports (and well-worth clicking on to read about, if you don't know who they are):

1st year: Bill Cook, Andy Bathgate, Harry Howell and Adam Graves.

2nd year: Frank Boucher, Camille Henry, Nick Fotiu and Vic Hadfield

3rd year: Ching Johnson, Phil Esposito, John Davidson and John Vanbiesbrouck

While I don't think the Rangers will actually do anything like this - no money in it for them - that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing. And on Thursday, as Leetch's #2 gets raised and grown men cry, just remember that he was just another hero in the history of one of the greatest franchises in professional sports.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

22-21-6: National Embarrassment

I bet Gary Bettman and NBC sure were glad that they made the Rangers/Bruins their national game to kick off their regular season coverage - after all, it matched up the biggest underachievers in the league with the team that plays the most boring hockey. Wow, I can't wait for the ratings! I didn't watch the game on NBC, I was in my usual seat in the Garden and from there witnessed yet another embarrassing lack of effort from the home side. Time to rant:

*After praising Hank for a masterful performance on Saturday, the first goal he allowed was one of the softest this season - a slap shot from Chuck Kobasew that just slowly sailed past the stunned goaltender. It must have surprised him, as it was just the fourth shot on him in the game. The other two goals weren't his fault. A breakdown by all five of the players in front of him allowed Glen Metropolit to show off stickhandling skills he hasn't used since he played for the Long Island Jawz of the RHI.

*And the third goal ... well that was the backbreaker. Moments earlier Scott Gomez missed a wide open net and then the puck was cleared by the B's. Paul Mara got it, and clearly thought he was still on the Boston squad because he passed it to Marc Savard, who sent it to Phil Kessel to send the game out of reach.

*The long Rangers goal came from Dubi in the last minute, which was nice. First off it broke Tim Thomas' shutout, and secondly it was a just reward for the one Ranger line that actually pressed the action every shift.

*The other lines were horrendous. Aside from a few big checks at the start of the game, the Shanny, Avery and Drury trio played disjointed hockey. They couldn't pass, they couldn't shoot, and they were bad defensively - on the ice for two of the goals against. At one point Renney put Jagr in Shanny's spot to no effect.

*Jagr, one day removed from his sweetest goal in 15 years, was pretty useless. He spent most of the game lurking on the boards, passing up scoring chances. He had just two shots, matching his two penalty minutes for another lazy hook. Straka and Gomez try to push every play to the reclusive Czech and missed several chances each.

*I have stood up for the HBO line time and time again but even I am starting to have enough. Hollweg's bad reputation with officials has taken his edge away, Bettsy has absolutely zero offensive skill and Colton Orr ... well he contributes very little. His positioning has improved, but as an enforcer he doesn't dissuade opposing teams from hitting the Rangers talent. He has just one fight in the last six games, even though the Blueshirts could have used the spark on several occasions, today being one of them. When Mitch Fritz comes back from his injury next month, the Rangers should consider him for Orr's slot. I would prefer Frankie Lessard but I've heard that his injuries will keep him out for the season. The Rangers are in desperate need of a big man who will work the crease, check when needed and fight when needed.

*As for the defense, well, at least Malik was scratched. Unfortunately, the rest of the corps played down to the missing link's level. They couldn't carry the puck, they chased Bruins to get useless hits, and they missed coverage assignments. Rozy has lost any ability that he once had in the Rangers end, Mara can't remember which team he plays for and Strudwick is just too slow. Its time to call up Andrew Hutchinson, who had a goal and two assists Saturday for Hartford, and look at trade options.

*And the Bruins, well, like they have done all season long, they played classic Devils hockey to perfection. Claude Julien is a helluva coach and, just like Ted Nolan, has taken a terrible team into contention. It helps that he has Thomas in net, who really does his acrobatic best to keep pucks out.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Metropolit - goal.
2-Thomas - 30 saves.
1-Kobasew - goal and an assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thomas - the Rangers believe in quantity rather than quality when it comes to shots nowadays but he was sharp and made all but one of the save.
2-Marc Savard - had two assists and was a consistent threat throughout the game.
1-Julien - I thought I was watching the 2000 Devils out there.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Two Quickies

I should be flattered but was given no credit so I will just point out that New York Times writer Lew Serviss blogged today over at Slap Shots that the All Star Game should be the annual outdoor game.

Sound familiar? It should for you 150-or-so regular readers as I've mentioned it four times since the Winter Classic (not including this instance). Glad to see that the Gray Lady is in touch with the times ...

And the other item I wanted to show you guys is that our boy Jagr apparently is mad at NBC after analyst Mike Milbury said in an interview that it is Jagr's fault that the Rangers have played so far below potential. After hearing those comments, Jagr refused to participate in a canned interview that the network would have used as part of their coverage of the 12:30p game tomorrow against the Bruins. It was truly a professional move by Jagr (sarcasm), that showed that he can still be a moody, petulant child when he wants to. He couldn't rise up and be the bigger man there, just like he is having so many troubles being the big man on the ice. For shame.

Guess I won't be getting that one-on-one with Jags either. Gosh-diddly-darn-it!!

22-20-6: Defense? We Don't Have No Stinking Defense!

So a lack of planning leaves me watching the game at home and going in to work much later than I was supposed to (so much for my overtime hours) but its ok because I am still getting to watch the game and am pretty much live blogging it. Let's go Rangers. This is going to end up being a long post and I am going to end up being waaay late to work.

*First off, let me get this right, last week we were complaining that Hank was playing distracted because his dad had brain surgery, so the Rangers turn around and hold a fathers' weekend where the players' dads joined the team ... except for Hanks as his is in the hospital. That doesn't seem like a smart thing for our goaltender's psyche.

First Period
*Hahaha, Marek Malik gets a penalty in the first minute!!!!!! That is so awesome; The coaches identify bad penalties as one of the biggest issues the team has and Lurch goes right out and takes a stupid, lazy minor seconds in. I hate him so much. What a display of utter incompetence.

*Boston has Zdeno Chara covering Jagr - considering that other big defenders Hal Gill and Mike Komisarek were able to render Jagr useless, seeing Chara out there against the 'captain' does not bode well.

*1-0 Rangers!! What a fantastic play by Gomez, Malik made a bad pass, giving Boston several good chances that Hank stood tall and stopped. The puck went the other way, Rozy found Gomez and the Alaskan went down the wing, got Thomas to bite on a fake and slid the puck in five hole. Nice!

*Hahaha, they are running that "is This The Year" NHL commercial ad nauseum. The ad's shelf life has long since passed, especially with Cindy Crosby now out an indefinite period with a high ankle sprain.

*The kids are alright; yet again the Prucha, Dawes, Dubi line is out there forcing the action and getting good results. Why can't the first two lines be as proactive? Nice to see Prucha rewarded with time back on the power play, maybe he can regain some of his form from his rookie year.

*So I didn't mention it before but Willie O'Ree dropped the ceremonial faceoff. Breaking the colour barrier 50 years ago was a great achievement, but I don't think race was as big an issue in hockey - at least not as big as it was in baseball - at least from all accounts that I have read. I am not going to get into a race thing, lest I accidentally offend some people with a poor choice of words or a perfectly reasonable image considering the topic and get fired or something. For those that care about race in hockey, I recommend this book.

*1-1: I thought we were done with this bad angle nonsense. The Rangers get spread thin on a long play and Marco Sturm's centering attempt to Phil Kessel hits Paul Mara and deflects past Hank. What a deflating, depressing goal.

*If Greg Moore isn't playing, why isn't he back with Hartford? The Pack has a game today at home against Portland and one tomorrow in Providence. Get the kid some playing time if he is going to be scratched, it isn't like he would be far away if needed ...Sam corrected himself early in the second period and said that Moore was indeed sent down. Smart move for Moore's sake and for Hartford's as Portland has Mike McKenna, a young stud goaltender who has a real bright future.

Second Period
*Another period starts and the Rangers take another stupid penalty early, this time with Bettsy jumping over the boards too early on a line change. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Luckily it didn't cost them again, but Hank again was called upon to make a few big saves. He doesn't seem to be controlling the rebounds well today but hopefully that won't prove to be costly.

*Is Sean Avery playing in this game? Yahoo! had him with six minutes of ice time in the first but i haven't noticed him ...

*Gomez made an amazing play to get a breakaway and he makes a stupid attempt to pass that was easily broken up rather than just taking the shot. I would have thought that his goal from earlier would have given him the confidence to shoot ... and of course the play gets turned around so the Bruins get a rush the other way and the Rangers commit another dumb penalty. Ugh!

*Through a period and a half, Yahoo has yet to post any photos from the game; that is just annoying. You can see shooters in position in the corners, these guys have to get going!

*Aaron Ward has been playing like he played back in Carolina. Why couldn't he be this proactive as a Ranger? What is it about New York that just didn't work for him and Cullen?

*I love how Joe is raving about Milan Lucic. I was saying the same thing months ago.

*In that linked article I mentioned how Claude Julien has the B's playing like the Devils and he is still doing that. Boston is playing that tight defensive game that is making their injury-depleted team of nobodies competitive. Boooooor-ring ... although I would rather see them succeed than teams like Florida, Carolina, Tampa, etc.

*Those Bruins jerseys are just awesome. There is something to be said for Original Six sweaters and franchises. These games are always special and should be treated as such. Before Sam and Joe mentioned that Glen Sather asked Bobby Orr to take part in Leetch night. He can't make it, which is quite disappointing, but I think that that was a classy move by our GM.

*Chris Drury is playing a spirited game. Maybe its being near his alma mater (BU), maybe its just that he is rounding into form but if he can keep this up I will start giving him more credit, lol.

*It really is amazing how far Zdeno Chara has come since he came into the league with the Isles. He is a monster.

*2-1 Boston: Dubi takes a bad penalty and Chuck Kobasew gets a perfect pass from Chara to get a breakaway, which he converted on his knees. Geez, that was nice and they got another power play as Rozy had hooked Kobasew from behind. Pathetic work by the Rangers, good work by the B's.

*I don't think I would have as much of a problem with the Rangers getting penalty after penalty if they were actually earning them - playing rough-and-tumble, board-shaking hockey. They aren't; its lazy, unnecessary nickle and dime stuff, it's disgusting.

Third Period
*Hahaha, my dad picked Mess and Poti for the trivia answer just to spite me (due to my loathing for Poti) and that was the right answer. Typical.

*Less than 30 seconds into the third period and the Rangers - my buddy Malik - take a bad penalty. Who'da thunk it?

*2-2: Now that is the Jaromir Jagr who used to play in the NHL. After the puck bounced off of Chara on the boards Jagr skates it in, does some nifty stickwork to get Thomas to sprawl out and tapped the puck in. For the first time this season we got a peak at classic Jagr - why can't he do that all of the time?????

*Thank goodness Hank is back to playing like the King (buy that shirt!), because the Rangers have been terrible defensively and this game could easily be 5-2. Maybe not having his dad there strengthened his resolve ...

*3-2 Rangers: Avery showed up! He drew a good penalty and the Rangers finally got a 5-on-3 power play, rather than giving one. After Gomez had blown a chance by making a pass when he should have shot, he got the puck back in the corner and smartly fed it to Avery in the slot and he scored! Nice to see a Ranger in the paint, and nice to see a power play goal by the Blueshirts.

*3-3: Mara takes a dumb penalty and the Bruins rushed down the ice to hammer the puck at the net. Shockingly Malik doesn't cover anyone on the play and couldn't get the loose puck so Boston was able to get their fourth try over Hank to equalize. Its really not a good idea to have a slow, immobile defenseman on the ice against a quick power play but Tom Renney wants to stick with Malik so that's what we get.

*That was hilarious!! Gomez swept Rozy's skates out and took him down!! Moments later Marc Staal lost his balance and fell to the ice. This is comical how out of sorts the Rangers are playing. Renney may claim to have implemented a system but watching these guys it looks a lot like the Keystone Cops are dressing up as Rangers.

*So Mara has been awful, Malik atrocious and Rozy has been underachieving so what do we do from here? The Hartford kids - Mike Sauer, Ivan Baranka and Jake Taylor - aren't ready to play and the Hartford vets aren't good enough for the NHL - Hutchinson, Pock and Liffiton (although I think Pock would be serviceable). That just leaves two options - do nothing and just hope for a good crop of free agents after we miss the playoffs or make a deal before the deadline. I am thinking there is going to be a deal ...

*As I was ranting that, my mom was pointing out how great Hank was playing. Earlier I said it would be 5-2 without him, at the end of regulation we are lucky to be even at 3-3 rather than down 8-2.

*Regular readers know I love Bettsy - the guy would be a top NHL player if he had any kind of scoring touch to compliment his speed and defensive skills - but seriously, he has no scoring touch so why he is out on the ice during overtime?

*Now that is the Jagr I know - he barrels over Thomas to put the Rangers shorthanded. Say what you want about Hnidy making contact with him, but Jagr shouldn't be skating that fast into the crease. Renney in the post game puts the whole blame on Hnidy, of course. We need to keep coddling and making excuses for our superstar captain, its worked so far ... right??

*Watching Malik stand next to Chara in the crease made me laugh. Its the two sides of the coin of big man. One good, the other bad. Oh my, I type that and Malik passes the puck to a Bruin for one last chance before the overtime ends. There is really no reason he should ever, ever, ever be allowed to wear a Ranger jersey ever again.

*After one round its even - Hank makes a solid save and Shanny makes a bad shot that gets stopped.

*Hank gives up a bad goal to Kessel five hole, and then Prucha gets stopped going five hole on Thomas.

*Zdeno Chara blasted a slap shot past Hank to win. hardest shot in the league coming at him from the middle of the circles. I wouldn't want to be Hank. But thanks to the Swedish netminder the Rangers got a point in a game they deserved to lose. I guess its something ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marco Sturm - goal and an assist
2-Scott Gomez - goal and two assists
1-Chuck Kobasew - two goals

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Sturm - His play opened spaces for Kessel and Kobasew and helped force the Rangers D to scramble for coverage.
2-Chara - Dude was a beast.
1-Hank - Without him, the Rangers lose in regulation by six or seven. A great performance wasted behind a terrible team.

Friday, January 18, 2008


ESPN has clearly been increasing their coverage of the NHL in preparation of bringing the game back to the Worldwide Leader. They have actually started including most every NHL game highlight to SportsCenter and have included pullouts and spotlights - like what they did with their minute-and-a-half Winter Classic highlight. Last night, as it was a Barry Melrose night, they had the famous mulletted puppet on to talk pucks. They led the show with a remarkable Rick Nash goal and then had Steve Levy and Melrose gush about it. Here it is:

Now both of them called it the goal of the year, maybe of the last two years, before reigning in that comment by showing the Ovie-on-his-back goal. That may prove to be the goal of the century - whatever. The Nash goal was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't even the goal of the year - this was:

And now I'll tell you why: While Nash's goal came at a better time (last minute of a tied game with 4-on-4 action), Toews' was more impressive; the baby Hawk did it against better defenders, at full strength and at full speed!

But if you are that hung up on context, then look at it this way - Nash's goal won a regular season game for Columbus against Phoenix - two mediocre young teams that will likely miss the playoffs. Toews' goal may have proven to be the spark that will reignite one of the Original Six franchises. It showed Chicago fans that the kids that the Hawks accumulated were actually the real deal and helped get the ball rolling to make them relevant again. ESPN has always been given to a bit of over-dramatization, especially when it serves their best interests. In this case, you shouldn't don't believe the hype, just admire the skill of both players and feel heartened because the NHL will be back on a real station soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hey man .... got some money?

By now you will likely have seen all that the Rangers and the league have to offer in terms of merch for the regular season. Some is cool, some is not, but most everything is overpriced (thank you RBK).

Well, how about something different?

Now I don't have advertisers on here, but I do occasionally endorse things I like. And, as you can guess from the picture to the right, I like this shirt. Its different, its cool and its great for the legion of True Blue who are loyal subjects of King Henrik. If you want one for yourself, it can be had for just $15 if you e-mail Mike at I bought one (well, actually four), you should get one too.

Now if I could just get someone to make the Dubinsky shirt I designed ... =op

22-20-5: Cutting Down The Sabres

The Rangers actually won a game, beating a battered Buffalo Sabres 2-1. It was a night that disproved the adage that a ton of goals have to be scored to have an exciting game. Yes there were only three goals but the action was end-to-end with chances for both teams. The game was physical but there were no actual fisticuffs. And everyone - aside from those wearing buffa-slugged gear - went home happy. Some observations from section 329 (and my couch, as I am watching Rangers in 60 as I type this):

*Sean Avery made a definite difference. He was a catalyst, even if his timing was terrible and his wrist clearly was not back up to full strength. Hopefully it will continue to improve so he can go back to being the biggest pain-in-the-ass in the NHL.

*As Brooksie said in the Post (see below post), Marcel Hossa needed to be scratched. Luckily, smartly, happily (for us), he was. And the best part? The Rangers didn't miss him. Hopefully that will be a harbinger of his demise in New York. Nigel Dawes did great on the third line and he deserves to be in the roster while Marcel doesn't. As I said during the game, it's like that terrible movie Twins: Atlanta got the Arnold Schwarzenegger and we got the Danny Devito.

*The Rangers wisely put Hossa on the shelf and kept the third line of Dawes, Prucha and Dubinsky together. Prucha got 8:51 of ice time, Dawes 7:08 and Dubi 6:25 and yet they combined for two goals, three assists and were all +2. Youth is (barely) being served and it is paying off.

*Game recaps will blame Scott Gomez for turning the puck over to cause the Buffalo goal but replays show Jagr half-heartedly back checking when he clearly could have gotten back and broken up the play. Yet again the 'captain' played below potential and even took another pair of lazy penalties. He has 32 PIM this year and no majors among them. That means he has taken 16 minors, each and every one senseless (to the best of my memory). Just utterly unacceptable for the guy who is supposedly leading the team.

*Luckily, Jagr's penalties didn't hurt the Rangers as Buffalo's power play was just as bad as the Rangers. Both teams went 0-5 with the man advantage. Gross. At least NY didn't screw up a long 5-on-3 like Buffalo did after Drury got called for a ghost penalty after Sasquatch, I mean Malik, was already in the box.

*Well, I mentioned the tree, I might as well berate him. Malik was yet again miserable. He made bad decisions, was beaten to pucks, was beaten on the outside, took a bad penalty, managed to put himself offside on a gimme of a breakaway and just stank in general. Time to go ... set him free, let him go back to roaming forests and guest starring in Ripley's Believe It Or Not and those supermarket tabloids.

*Rozy wasn't much better but he again led the Blueshirts in ice time. Renney trusts him, he has 11 goals ... whatever. I just wish Staal had a better game - he was practically invisible out there for most of the night.

*Anyone watch the full broadcast and catch the trivia stuff? What was the deal with Monday's question - how many other players wore #2 before Leetch ... I had said 33, does this mean that I am right? Someone tell me! Also, btw - I am really looking forward to the number-retirement ceremony next week, and I understand that they scheduled it for a night that they didn't think they would be able to sell out the building, but if they had made it for Sunday afternoon's game it would have made for a fantastic PR move for the team and the league as it will be a national broadcast and it will honour one of the best American players of all time, and a rare household hockey name.

*I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Chris Drury, as he was playing against his former team. He wasn't particularly good. Wasn't particularly bad either. But he did look more motivated when he played against his exboyfriend Briere than he did last night.

*As for Buffalo: I missed Andrew Peters and Teppo Numminen (Let's Go Jets), Clarke MacArthur has a really bright future ahead of him, Ryan Miller was pedestrian at best, Brian Campbell showed good flashes (which should be enough to get him an obscene contract this offseason) and Pominville ... Population: Morons.

*And before the Stars, I've always believed honesty was the best policy and because of that, continue my hero worship of Shanny. He sent MacArthur flying into the Rangers goal with 10 seconds left, clearly shaking up the rookie. Luckily MacArthur skated off and no penalty was called but Shanny showed his captainship, gamesmanship, class, true colours, whatever by admitting to the AP that, "It was harder than I would've wanted. It certainly warranted a penalty. I'm glad the guy didn't get hurt. I wanted to knock him down into the net, not into the post." At least he's honest.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Blair Betts - no points, just another great defensive game.
2-Dubi - goal and an assist.
1-Pruuuuuu - game-winning goal and an assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - 23 saves playing behind a defense prone to mistakes and a team prone to bad penalties.
2-Renney - he benched Hossa, showing a - that accountability he had claimed and b - wisdom in not breaking up the diaper dandies.
1-Dubi - as I mentioned, he was out there for just 6:25 but made his presence known most every second.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Took Him Long Enough ...

Larry Brooks has finally written what I and thousands of Ranger fans have been saying for the last month ...
Regardless of the injury situation, if Hossa dresses tonight, it will be a perversion of the concept of accountability.

Read the whole article and tell me that TDR, Pucks, myself and many others haven't been writing that, and rewriting it, and writing it again and again and again ...

We just have to hope that now that the mainstream media is finally getting it, Renney will as well.

Fingers crossed.

BTW - totally random and off the previous topic, but regular readers know I love this stuff: you just can't get enough articles like this. I love hockey.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Just a quick note: Dubi and Marc Staal were both named to the YoungStars shinny game. They changed the format this year to make it 3-on-3 and rescheduled it in the middle of the skills competition. It really means nothing, but it should be good for the kids to be surrounded by the best in the game - even if it is just to absorb some of their star power. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that neither gets hurt ...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Let Me Hear An Amen!!

And for my third and final post of the day, I will just direct you over to Cloud 9. Deadspin's hockey closer (not me, yet) linked this post and it is a must read. It is eight ways to fix the game and I have to agree with every single well-written one of them.

The closer also linked Can't Stop The Grier, who posted a scathing review of the play of Alexi Semenov, who had the game-tying goal in yesterday's 4-3 loss by the Sharks go in off of his skate. Read the post and replace Semenov with Malik and I feel their pain ...

21-20-5: Finding Comfort In The Familiar

The Rangers who showed up for Monday's game in Pittsburgh were more like the Rangers of late than the ones who played against Montreal. I was nervous that the team had actually decided to play some hockey. Clearly not; its amazing what you can get used to. Like watching the Rangers pitiful excuse for a power play (which could have easily won the game for them but instead went 0-6).

I ate a late dinner and watched Jeopardy, tuning in seven minutes in to see the Rangers down 2-0 already. I honestly considered turning it back off again but thought it to be a better alternative than Wheel of Fortune. How wrong I was. This is pretty much train of thought as the game goes on from where I started:

First Period
*So Evgeni Malkin (who scored the first two goals) runs Rozy eight minutes into the game and Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr are on the ice and do nothing? This team has no heart. For shame.

*The NHL can spin it all they want but Versus is bad for the game. The main game camera had troubles following the puck, the audio was horrendous (levels were everywhere!), supers/fonts were misspelled (two K's in Jarkko, morons) and the third man in the broadcast - Bob Harwood - was useless.

*Versus' low cameras showed JarKKo Ruutu clearly jabbing Rozy in the face when Jagr tapped his stick up but Doc and the idiot doing colour - whose name isn't worth knowing - instantly blamed Jagr. Let's face it folks, Jagr doesn't try particularly hard and rarely shows his strength. He didn't hit Ruutu's stick with the same force it hit Rozy in the face. But whatever, there is no way they will call an even game when media superstar Cindy Crosby is playing.

*Doc is spending an inordinate time talking about the referees and linesmen. I don't care if this no-name guy hit his 2,000th game. Officials should be invisible. I don't want to know about them, I don't want to hear from them, I just want an evenly called game. And we all know that we don't get that so why bother giving these idiots personality?

*I did not record this, and there will be no Rangers in 60, so I can't go back and take a second look. If you see something different, feel free to use the comments and let me know.

*Let me get this right - Kris Letang cross checks Rozy, he throws an elbow back and the kid goes down like he is shot. No diving call, just a roughing call (?) and a 5-on-3 that, of course, they converted to make it 3-0. I should be outraged, but I just reread the other stuff I already wrote and it makes sense - nationally-broadcast game with the league's centerpiece franchise with referees who have no qualms with calling things unevenly ...

*I really hope that the AP and Reuters have shooters there because this is going to be a long post and will need some pretty pictures to keep people reading ... aside from my wonderful commentary, of course.

*Can anyone explain to me why Malik and Rozy were reunited for this game? I won't even dispute Malik's place in the lineup - Tom Renney clearly can't see what everyone else can - but why reunite two players who have both been utterly incompetent in the Rangers zone all season long?

*I like how the sweat towel on Cindy's shoulder during the first intermission interview was perfectly placed so you could see the Versus logo. You know what? The network still sucks. When does bull riding come back on? Oh wait, after the game Caddyshack 2 will be on! Quite possibly the worse sequel to a movie ever. Kinda fitting that it airs on the primary network that covers hockey in America, right?

*Love the intermission show guys - at the end of the segment a promo for the All Star Game comes up and the guy just says "All Star Game is coming up; you can read it folks." Nice! Very professional.

*So, Orr vs. Laraque ... I wish we had a heavyweight too.

Second Period
*I like seeing the kid line on the power play - Dubi, Pru and Dawsie - but having Toots on the blueline for it is a mistake, the quiet Russian is too conservative (not a bad thing at regular strength but a negative when on the power play and down 3-0).

*Do you think that Marcel Hossa is sleeping with Renney's daughter? That's the only explanation I can think of why he has been on the team so long and getting second line ice time. Eight points in 34 games. Playing on the second line, or even the first at times. Adn the only reason he is +7 is because all of the goals that come when he is trying to kill penalties don't count towards +/-. As the kids are playing so well, why can't we see P.A. Paranteau up here rather than Hossa?

*Ooo, credit to Malik for a good defensive play - he lumbered back in time to break up a 2-on-1 with Cindy and Armstrong. Hooking is illegal but since he was using his stick on Army rather than Cindy, its ok. Besides, they already gave Pitt a 3-0 lead. How much more do they want to help?

*Doc just confused Jaromir Jagr with Ryan Hollweg, saying Hollweg missed a shot high and wide. Is it that he can't imagine Jagr missing? Or that he actually thinks the Rangers would put Hollweg on the power play?

*I love that the Penguin fans still boo Jagr every time he touches the puck. It isn't like he helped them to two Stanley Cups or anything ... now when he leaves the Rangers, I will feel comfortable booing him because he really hasn't led us anywhere. Getting a ton of garbage power play points in the regular season does not a champion make.

*Well, I'm not sure anyone can dog Hank for this one, he has made some big saves, none bigger than the shorthanded 2-on-1 at the end of the second.

*I honestly loathe the studio gang for Versus. As insightful as Eddie O's observations are, Keith Jones is droll and Brian Engblom is just incomprehensible. Get rid of that ridiculous hair already you idiot. And what makes it worse is that they keep going with their inside jokes on air. Like it is supposed to make sense to the viewers? The show is supposed to be about the game, not them or their oversized egos.

*Why is Versus interviewing Gonchar? Are the Rangers in a meeting, did they not allow someone to take the mic? Or are my conspiracy theories about the league only caring for Pittsburgh correct?

*Eddie O. thinks that Hank will get a huge, long-term contract - one bigger and longer than Phaneuf's ... somehow, I don't think so, and if it does come to pass, then that is a mistake as I would take Phaneuf over Hank. Oh yes, I went there. Its harder to get a defenseman of Phaneuf's quality than it is to get a good goaltender. Look at Ty Conklin, who is tearing stuff up.

Third Period
*Scott Gomez has gotten all of the best chances for the Rangers. Where is Jagr?

*Why doesn't Malkin get an interference penalty when he runs right at Hank and makes no effort to avoid the contact? Is it because Crosby was passing himthe puck and setting up a possible highlight-reel goal?

*I mentioned Paranteau as the next call-up for the Rangers but maybe they should try Andrew Hutchinson - the guy they got for Matt Cullen. He has 28 points in 35 games and can't be much worse than Malik defensively, so why not give him a try? It might break up the monotony of the Malik/Strudwick rotation.

*I ask where is Jagr and he then shanks a shot that finds its way in under Conklin for a power play goal to get the Rangers on the board. Its cheap but it

*Major props to Hank - he managed to stop a try by Army from below the goal line.

*Wooooo!!! Jagr makes it 3-1 and Hossa responds by taking a stupid, stupid penalty! Now this is getting so stupid/embarrassing/typical it's funny.

*The Rangers really have no chemistry, no flow and little urgency. It was really sad to watch them play so poorly as they 'tried' to come back.

*Good for Malkin, he played well and got the hat trick. How great of it come on a hat night. I wish the Rangers had nice giveaways. Haven't gotten a hat from them in years.

*I love the Rangers youth. At least they had the pride to play to the final buzzer as the 'stars' didn't. Great to see them standing up for themselves, and Marc Staal being smart by keeping Adam Hall close as they paired up because Hall could have hammered him.

*Seeing Renney stand there stone faced and watching Jagr go off with his head hung low says everything. Where is Pat Burns and how soon can we get rid of the moody Czech? And on that note, the three stars:

*PHW Three Stars
3-Cindy - two assists.
2-Conklin - 43 saves.
1-Malkin - hat trick.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Rock Out With Your Conk Out - dude was solid to get yet another win, he is 10-0-1 now. This is the guy who lost the Stanley Cup for Edmonton!! Who'da thunk it?
2-Malkin - he outplayed Cindy and was the best player on the ice.
1-Georges Laraque - he physically intimidated the Rangers right off the bat and they never recovered. That's all that it took.

Yankee Stadium? No Thanks ...

I like John Dellapina. I think he does a very good job as a Rangers beat writer for the Daily News. I read his blog regularly. But I have to say that I think his story yesterday was a little crazy. Granted, it was just good reporting, but it again broaches the idea of an outdoor game in New York - specifically at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and the Islanders.

Frankly, its a bad idea.

Simply said, Yankee Stadium would suck as a venue. The Daily News tried to give people an idea of what the rink would look like with what BMR called the Worst. Photoshop. Ever. BMR also gave some venues just as ridiculous as Yankee Stadium, you know, like the moon.

You may laugh but the House that Ruth built is really not suited for an outdoor hockey game between the Rangers and Islanders, no matter how badly Bettman would love to market it. Having been to the Stadium, and having gone to the Winter Classic in Buffalo, I feel safe saying that this is a really bad idea. It's one thing to have Buffalo and Pittsburgh, it's another to get the Rangers and Islanders. The Sabres and the Penguins have little bad blood between them; the Blueshirts and Fishermen certainly do as one of the biggest rivalries in the game. Could you imagine the PR fiasco that would result if another Chris Simon incident happened before a national audience on New Years? Or even another brawl? The league is clearly not in favour of fighting, just think of what Bettman would do if this happened again ...

That isn't to say that the fans wouldn't love it, but they -- we -- are another problem. I don't think I have ever been to a single game against the Islanders where a fight in the stands didn't break out. Now, in recent years they have been small in scale and not very damaging but in the mid 80's, the tussles were legendary. Now move them to the Bronx, where its almost impossible to move around. I went to a Yanks/Sawx game last season and watched as security struggled to run single file along the upper deck to get to a drunken fight near the top. That game (strangely) wasn't even sold out but a Rangers/Isles game would be a packed house of 57,545 hockey fans. Not necessarily a recipe for disaster, but certainly one that would need large amounts of crowd control.

Another factor would definitely be the weather. Everyone raved about the snow in Buffalo, but at the same time back in the city it was in the 40s and a week later, the mid-60s. That doesn't bode well for good ice conditions. Granted, the NHL's ice gurus would have more than a week to set up (likely three months since the Yankees won't make the postseason without some pitching), but for as much magic as they can whip up, if Mother Nature is not cooperative, it could make for an awful game.

And that's another thing - the Winter Classic was an amazing experience, but even I can admit that the quality of hockey was really quite poor. Do we want to waste what could be an important divisional battle on what should be an exhibition game?

You know I would be right there if the league did set this game up, but I truly think that the league should explore other options first: primarily the idea of moving the All Star Game outdoors. As I've said several times, it would bring the league's brightest stars out under the sky and into millions of homes on New Years Day. It also would not demean a regular season game that could eventually have playoff implications. What happens if Buffalo misses the playoffs by one point this season? Or what about the Rangers? If Buffalo makes it by one point over the Blueshirts, fans should be outraged because the two Winter Classic teams clearly did not put forth their best effort and still earned points in the standings.

I know I would be furious, and you should be too. And that is the main reason why the NHL should not place a regular season outdoors at all, and certainly not in Yankee Stadium.