Thursday, February 28, 2008

33-24-8: Oh Carolina!

Awww yeah, Scotty Hockey bringing a lil Shaggy to everyone ... "Oh Carolina" one of the biggest reggae hits to crossover to mainstream radio. Does it cross over to hockey? No, not in the least, but the title does. The Rangers outskated the quick Canes to take a big 4-2 win back to New York. The Blueshirts are 6-0-2 heading into Sunday's matinee vs. the Flyers so things are going well. Can they continue to roll? Will it take us all of the way to the playoffs? Why am I talking about the future in a game recap? I don't know. So I guess I should talk about the game:

*Glad to see that Marek Malik responded to not being traded by playing his typical game. Less than a minute into the game he watched a Cane skate across in front of him and use him as a screen to hit the post. Not like he should have stepped out and checked the guy or anything ... he might break a nail. Of course he takes a lazy penalty later in the period and had the nerve to complain about it. Can he be any more disappointing? Wait, I shouldn't ask that ...

*As for the Scandic version of Mr. Malik, Cristian Backman was caught chasing after puck handlers several times and took bad penalty after bad penalty (even though the stellar forces of the four blind mice called Marc Staal for one of them). Not a good sign, I hate him already. Wally has until Sunday to learn how to play because that kind of nonsense won't fly in the Garden.

*Sjostrom's first shift was a good one, he set up Dan Girardi with smart pass. The shot was stopped but Freddie's first shift was a good one. He may turn into a good addition but where will he fit when the Rangers re-insert Colton Orr? Do the Rangers move him to the left wing and sit Hollweg? And what is this with him taking Jan Erixon's number 20 jersey? He has a lot to work on if he is to live up to the standard set by the stellar defensive Swede. But, as you could see during the second intermission interview, he has a good attitude so who knows, maybe he can do it ...

*Dubi = Calder. What an impressive goal to open the game and solid work throughout. If he keeps this up, and the Blackhawks continue to suck (sorry Kane and Toews), then the rookie of the year trophy will have to come to New York. Nigel Dawes won't have a chance at it, as the Rangers had him in Hartford for 20 games, but the demotion did wonders and the confidence has carried to New York.

*I reiterate my belief that Ranger fans should make an organized demonstration and boycott should the Blueshirts not re-sign Sean Avery. The swagger that he brings to the team is unmistakable and very necessary considering the lack of personality of the team captain. Maybe that's it, maybe Avery should get the C once Jagr goes back to Siberia next year ... wouldn't the NHL love that?

*Carolina was really, really bad in this one. They used all of their impressive team speed to run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

*Yes Cally! I love that Callahan stood up for himself when he was boarded by Tim Conboy (who??) but at the same time, where was his teammates? Why did he have to chase Conboy across the ice? His fighting skills more closely resembled those of a greco-roman wrestler, but at least he got retribution.

*I was about to laud Hank for solid goaltending, but then he gave up that horrible Erik Cole goal between his legs. They let goaltenders use a stick, and when you are down on your knees, the stick is supposed to be used to cover the five hole. It isn't rocket science. How embarrassing, even by a pauper.

*The best part about watching the game at work tonight is that it is a busy evening so I am forced to watch most of it without sound, and thus, without Joe Micheletti. Every game should be as nice. But what was the deal with no trivia? A technical problem? What kind of nonsense is that?????

*Shanahan's goal to make it 4-2 was utterly gorgeous. He hasn't been the recipient of a play like that since he left Pavel Datsyuk's side in Detroit. Great work by Rozy and by Nigel Dawes to set up the play.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Cole - two goals.
2-Hank - 26 saves.
1-Dawes - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Fred Sjostrom - solid first game by the Swede on both sides of the ice.
2-Dubi/Dawesie - So young, so strong, so good, so smart. Lucky bastards ...
1-Avery - he scored and he kept the Canes off their game every shift by being himself: a pain in the ...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Man With Heart

Just a quick post to point you to a link: Jiri Fischer will be back on the ice for the first time since collapsing during a Wings game three years ago. Its just a charity game, but then again, I don't really think there is such a thing as "just a charity game." It's really nice to know that the big Czech is well enough to skate again and hopefully the event will earn some money for Fischer's Healthy Hope Foundation.

Trade Deadline Day: A Retrospective

Now that the deals are all done and the emotions have waned, I thought I would look over what the Rangers did again with an open mind.

The Rangers traded LW Marcel Hossa and G Al Montoya to Phoenix for LW Josh Gratton, G David Leneveu and RW Fredrik Sjostrom

As I wrote for the New York Times blog last night:
Some people leave jobs and steal staplers. Don Maloney left New York and stole players. He took a roster regular and a former top pick for a lousy fourth-liner, a minor-league goon and a bust goaltender. Police!

I have to stand by my comments on this one. It was a steal for Maloney. People are saying how Monty was a bust, but even though he had been outplayed by Miika Wiikman, he still put together a 16-8-3 record with a 2.54 gaa and .908 save percentage. Is that great? No. Is that bad? No. Yes he will be a restricted free agent, but goaltenders take longer to mature and Monty never got a shot at NHL action. He likely would not get it with us, but he was drafted sixth overall in 2004 and you would hope to get a better return. You figure Hossa for Sjostrom is essentially a wash - fourth liner for fourth liner - so that means the Rangers dealt a first round draft pick for a minor league goon in Gratton and a different bust of a goaltender. Goons are a dime a dozen and, unlike Monty, Leneveu got his shot at the NHL and failed.

Benoit Allaire thinks he can revive Leneveu's career, but who cares? He will still run into the same issue as Montoya as Wiikman, Valley and Hank will still be ahead of him. Besides, if he was so sure of his skill, why did he give up on one of his students? And as I said, goons are a dime a dozen, Gratton is nothing special - another punk welterweight. He will be a help in Hartford, protecting the kids with Franky Lessard out and Mitch on the Fritz but again, goons are a dime a dozen. There is an entire league of them, so I think tendering a minor league contract to one of them would be a better deal than giving away a former first rounder. Sjostrom could prove to be a decent addition, but we already have a European skill player who can't score in Petr Prucha and, unlike Hossa, Sjostrom has no shot of playing across from Jagr. Better scouting, both in terms of the 2004 draft and in the minor leagues, could have made this trade unnecessary and even a day later it still looks like a severe downgrade.

The Rangers acquired D Christian Backman from St. Louis in return for a fourth-round draft pick.

I told the Times that:
Instead of trading Marek Malik, we acquired the Blues’ version of him: a disappointing, big, soft, overpaid defenseman who is sure to be the bane of my existence soon.

That is almost certain to be an accurate prophecy. However, Sather and Renney don't seem to trust any of the kids in Hartford and are afraid to risk Hutch and Pock to waivers, so they picked up an insurance policy. Backstrom ain't Allstate, but he does have NHL experience should injuries hit. And who knows? Maybe playing in front of his old friend Hank will put the spark into his play that made him a first round pick ... But, given how happy the Blues fans are to be rid of him (that's him on the far right in the photo, out of position behind the Ducks forwards), I don't see it happening.

So all told, I won't jump on the FIRE SATHER bandwagon, but I am disappointed he didn't work harder. He traded with his friends, rather than going out on a limb or actually doing some scouting. The Rangers are somehow on a 5-0-2 run with their roster as is, so maybe they can keep it going as is and take the team to the playoffs and do some damage once there ... I don't think they will, but would love to be proven wrong!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trade Deadline Day: Its All Done For The Day

I don't have the NHL Network so I hopped online and tried to watch TSN's trade deal coverage and just got a damn truck commercial on loop so I was forced to watch Rogers Sportsnet. Let's face it folks, Rogers is like FSN compared to ESPN, they just don't work. Of course, if I had gotten TSN, I would have missed this priceless quote:
"My bedsheets were wet last night in anticipation of today." --Doug MacLean (former GM/head coach of Columbus and former coach of Florida

Um, yeah.

Ok, before we get to anyone else, all things considered, the Rangers did ... ugh. In a late deal that crossed, the Blueshirts dealt Marcel Hossa and Al Montoya to Phoenix for Fred Sjostrom, David Leneveu and Josh Gratton. Absolutely terrible deal. Sjostrom is soft, Leneveu has been an utter disappointment and will be nothing better than a backup AHL goaltender, and Josh Gratton has no place on the Rangers. Gratton is a goon/grinder, but is slower than Ryan Hollweg and should end up in Hartford. And for that we give up Jagr's buddy Hossa and Montoya - the sixth overall draft pick in 2004. Congrats Glen, you got raped by your former understudy.

We also picked up Christian Backman, a former first round pick who has turned into a mediocre defenseman. Maybe he will surprise some people, I don't know. We certainly needed another blueliner so I guess he will help but he isn't anything close to the other defensemen who were dealt - Brad Stuart, Adam Foote, Brian Campbell, Ruslan Salei or Gill.

However, Pittsburgh just got a ridiculous amount better. They got Marian Hossa, they got Hal Gill - who makes Jagr's life a living hell; they will be real tough and we play them THREE TIMES down the stretch. This will be a rough road to the playoffs ... But, but, at least the Isles won't be biting at our heels. They traded their best defender Marc-Andre Bergeron for a pick and dealt Simon the Barbarian to Minnesota. Seeing that maniac go will be good, but now takes out any intimidation factor they might have brought to the remaining four games against us. And what is it with the Wild taking the Islanders problems? First they sign the cheating roid-popper Sean Hill and now Simon?

As for everyone else:

Atlanta and Pittsburgh - The Hossa deal works for both teams. The Pens payed a big price but got a superstar and the Thrashers got a lot of good, young parts. My only thing is that Army was good friends of Cindy's so that may upset him a bit.

Washington - Ovie has to be happy. Sergei Fedorov, Matt Cooke and Cristobal Huet make the Caps a much better team. Fedorov replaces the injured Nylander, Cooke is gritty and can score and Huet solidifies the crease as Ollie was looking his age and Brent Johnson isn't a starter.

Colorado - Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei solidify the blueline. Both are rock solid defenders and the Aves needed that. With Stastny, Sakic and Smyth back from injury, and the return of Forsberg, they became instant Cup contenders.

Ottawa - Small deal, but getting a veteran like Martin Lapointe for a sixth round pick is a terrific deal and could only help come playoff time.

Montreal - If they actually think that Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak will take them to the Cup then they are sorely mistaken.

Dallas - The Stars gave up Mike Smith (one of the best young goaltenders in the game), Jussi Jokinen (one of the top three shootout scorers since the lockout) and Jeff Halpern (a gritty vet) for the overpriced and overhyped Brad Richards (who doesn't play in their style) and Johan Holmqvist (a mediocre goaltender).

Vancouver - Seeing Matt Cooke leave will hurt, Matt Pettinger really isn't anything special. These guys needed some help to get through the west and that's all they did? Ugh.

San Jose - Brian Campbell is an upgrade. Steve Bernier is a gritty young guy who can chip in some goals, but their defense needed a stud and they got it. Vlasic and Carle haven't stepped to the next level and Ozolinsh is mediocre now that he is off the bottle. But seriously, is Soupy that good? I don't know ...

Philadelphia - Vinny Prospal is a suitable replacement for Simon Gagne, but that's it?

Detroit - Brad Stuart is a good, solid defenseman and he will be big come playoff time, but that's it? Do they really think that Darren McCarty will be able to put himself back into NHL shape and give them all of the grit they need?

So, all in all, it was a fun day of watching GM's trade players like hockey cards, but Glen Sather cast a damper on it by not making the Rangers any better and dealing away their blue chip goaltending prospect for nothing.

Trade Deadline Day: Lunchtime Edition

Trade Deadline Day: Early Morning Edition

To be edited as the day goes on (i.e. sometime after I wake up in the early afternoon and however many times after that that is necessary. Do also expect a nightcap analysis of how the day went in regards to the Blueshirts ...

For the guys we missed:

And for the guys we get:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Shameless Plug: NY Times Edition

As I mentioned on Saturday, I've been selected to take part in a new feature on the New York Times Slap Shot blog.

The first post is up, check it out: Hockey Night in Blogdom.

So go there, say how wonderful I am, and then come back here and tell me what you think!

Thanks guys!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

32-24-8: Pouncing On The Panthers

You know, it really didn't seem fair. Taking five goals from the clawless Panther kittens like that? I felt bad for them, really. Maybe, maybe two or three of the Florida players would be able to play for another NHL franchise but I am not so sure. Those kids were running all over the ice and the Rangers took their lunch money. The Blueshirts played with poise and stayed within their system to take two very necessary points. A fellow season ticket holder said after Straka's goal, "Oh no, the dreaded five goal lead!" But, luckily we were able to hold on, and Hank secured the win and the shutout and everyone left happy. Onto more of my happy reflections:

*Hank was barely challenged all night, and stopped 23 shots. He was a bit jumpy, but he got the W and the "Hen-rik" chants returned. It was nice to see but I still won't upgrade him back above pauper until he beats a real team and limits them to less than two goals.

*The young players on the Panthers were nothing compared to the Ranger youth. Brandon Dubinsky was a force, and all credit in the world to him for pulling off Sean Avery to take on Greg Campbell. It was a sloppy fight with a whole lotta dancing but kudos to the kid for stepping up and answering the bell. Both guys got 10 minute majors because the idiot linesmen jumped into the fray and decided the fight should end for no apparent reason, despite the guys still able to go. On a side note, Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan also threw their bodies around all over the ice and skated hard every second of every shift. The future looks good, let's hope Sather doesn't screw it up with some high-priced rental on Tuesday.

*But on the same note - just an observation here - the power play went 0-4.

*At one point I yelled, "Watch out! Olli (Jokinen)'s skates are sharp" and got a whole bunch of shameful looks. What, too soon?

*Girardi and Tyutin both played their best game in weeks. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come, rather than a fluke. Marc Staal had a solid, if unspectacular, game next to the mustache of Jason Strudwick. He plays more comfortably with the veteran than with Rozy, but takes less risks - which runs counter to how he should play as Rozy has been suspect in the Rangers end this year (and takes lazy penalties a la Jagr).

*Ok, I guess I kinda have to talk about it. The big fluke. The six-foot-six fluke. The lumbering, defensively inept fluke. Marek Malik, who played a remarkable game that included a goal AND a hit. To see one of those in a game is astounding, but both? I'm at a loss for words. Several people said that hell froze over, but I think he just saw the trade deadline coming so he saw it as his door out of town and stepped up his play. Then again, he victimized Florida for three assists in the home opener, so maybe they just suck.

*As for fellow Czech Jagr, he won't be traded. I think that the news has helped him find his comfort zone as he has stepped up his play this weekend. Granted, he didn't have to face any big shutdown defensemen in either game, but his second period goal tonight was very pretty and classic Jagr. By the way, if you go to that link and read the article, can you believe how Sather has actually fooled himself to believe that dealing Brian Leetch was a good thing?? Oh my ...

*HO-ssa! returned, and I really didn't have much of a problem with him. He certainly didn't fit on the right wing of the fourth line, but he didn't screw anything up so that is a plus. He will only work for the Rangers in the same capacity as Brad Isbister last year - either as a first line winger across from Jagr, or on the bench. I prefer the latter.

*Florida's Steve Montador tossing pucks to the few Panther fans in the crowd before the game. It is a rarity that visiting teams do that, but it is always appreciated. On the other side of the ice Avery also tossed a puck up and made sure it got to a little girl with a sign. She started jumping up and down and was so, so happy ... that's what its all about folks. I love hockey.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Scott Gomez - goal and two assists.
2-Malik - goal and an assist.
1-Hank - 23 saves for a shutout.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
(I'm warning you, I won't do it. I won't put him in here. Not a chance. No way. If he can play like that against the Panthers, why not against anyone else, where was he the rest of the year?)
3-Straka - had a goal and an assist while playing his usual responsible hockey, always appreciated.
2-Dubi - he likely won't get Calder consideration, but he deserves it.
1-Gomez - played a really quick game. He didn't make any huge highlight lays with blazing speed or stickhandling acumen but his quickness and hockey smarts got him into some good positions that he was able to take advantage of.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

31-24-8: Beeee-yoing!!!!!

Nothing like a Saturday night nailbiter, huh? It wasn't quite the dominating performance the last time they faced the Sabres but it will do. It was a big, big game in terms of importance after the Quebec collapse and the Blueshirts rebounded with a good effort and won (get it: rebound = Beeee-yoing). As has been the case all season long, now they need to string a few of these wins together; we will see what happens tomorrow against the Panthers. As for tonight's ramblings, I'm warning you now, there is some really random stuff here - a lot of work and a lack of sleep will do that:

*If the Rangers don't resign Sean Avery, the fans should hold a rally and boycott the team. He is just awesome. He will do anything for the team - fight, score, taunt the opposing fans. As much as everyone says Adam Graves was the consummate Ranger, Avery is as well (just without the extreme dedication to charity work). Loved him on L.A., worship him in N.Y.

*Hmm, you know, one-goal game, in Buffalo, faceoff in the Rangers end with 7.8 (not 7.7, but real close), you know who the Sabres coulda used?? Hahahahaha!!

*On an unrelated note, I got request to change the name of the Chris Simon Murder Watch, as "MurderWatch" is trademarked by some Floridian theater group. While I don't see how people could possibly mistake one for the other, I will be nice and change the name. I haven't decided on a new one yet, maybe Chris Simon Has Anger Issues So I'm Waiting For Him To Snap And Kill Someone or FACS: Fans Against Chris Simon or Chris Simon's Criminal Insanity or something like that ... post any suggestions in the comments!

*Onto someone else I hate, Marek Malik. Wow. His play really is appalling.

*There are good penalties and there are bad penalties. Marc Staal's first period roughing in defense of Paul Mara was a good one. It set a mood and sent a message. On the other hand, Mara bailed on the game. Unless he is concussed, then that was a weak move and he should be given the gate. Without him the defense was all jumbled up and I was forced to watch Malik get outhustled, outworked and outmuscled even more. Bastard!

*Jaromir Jagr finally scored. Yay. His lazy attempt at clearing the puck two minutes later gave Buffalo their goal so that's a wash. He did his part drawing defenders all game to allow Dubi to have a great game so I won't be too hard on the captain in this one.

*Joe Micheletti. Dude. Shut up. Just shut up. I got so annoyed so early I turned off the audio and listened to a live feed from a concert by one of my favourite bands - Lo Pro. Hey, if Dancin' Larry can pimp Facelift all the time on MySpace, I can give props to Lo Pro here.

*On Kotalik's goal to make it 3-2, I want to know why it wasn't boarding as Tyutin got hit from behind into the boards. Anyone, anyone?

*Pominville, population: Idiots. I think I dislike Rick Jeanneret almost as much as I do Micheletti.

*For those who also so the broadcast - how cool was it to not only see old school Hartford Whalers tape, but tape of Whalers wearing Cooperalls?!? What a treat; I am such a geek.

*Should Blair Betts be able to get himself into positive territory (he is -6), I think he should get a look when its time to pick Selke Trophy finalists. Of course, seeing as neither he nor Ryan nor Colt can actually score, that will be quite the task ...

*If you didn't see it over at TDR's blog, I nominated Hank for demotion to title of pauper and it was ratified. Unfortunately his performance tonight did little to help him regain his kingdom. He did make a great save on a Vanek breakaway, but the rest of the game he had trouble holding the puck, he gave up bad rebounds and just looked jumpy. I would hope that we will see Vally tomorrow night against Florida.

*Has anyone actually watched that MSG, NY show? Its pretty ridiculous - they go from highlights to bad music performances and concert listings. I understand what they are trying to do but a real postgame show would be better. Not to mention that that Scott Lasky guy is annoying, I can't stand him on the pedestrian Inside the Rangers, I certainly don't want to see him after a Ranger game ...

*I completed a questionnaire tonight that will be used in a feature on the New York Times Slap Shot blog. I was told that it will be up on Monday and could become a regular feature so make sure you check it out!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Rozy - two assists.
2-Derek Roy - two assists.
1-Avery - goal and an assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Vanek - I think that the Austrian is incredibly overrated but he was a threat all night and forced the Rangers to cover him, opening room for Kotalik to score twice.
2-Dubi - another strong performance by the kid. If he can keep this up down the line ... wow.
1-Avery - he sparked last season's incredible run to the playoffs, is he doing it again?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chris Simon Murder Watch Game 1

The man, the myth, the maniac that is Chris Simon returned to the NHL last night as the Isles faced the Lightning.

No, he didn't kill anyone, he didn't take off his skate and try to cut them, he didn't use his stick as a pike.

He played 6:17, didn't get a shot off or take a penalty and was booed by his own fans. It was an act that leads me to believe that there is some hope for the Isles followers after all ... ehhhhh, I don't know ... some, maybe, just a little, perhaps ...

Just for those curious, there are four games remaining between the Rangers and the Isles, with the first being on March 4th at the Garden. Worry not faithful readers, the Chris Simon Murder Watch remains ever so diligent and will continue, as he is bound to do it sooner or later ...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Swap Or Not?

I don't think the Rangers will make a huge splash at the deadline, and from the way they are talking may even stand pat, but you never know. Personally, I think the team needs some chance, at least in the form of some grit on the blueline. Here are some guys that could help all over the ice and shouldn't cost too much:

Mattias Norstrom, Dallas - the former Ranger is a rock on defense, will be unrestricted and may even forgo the NHL next year for a return to Sweden. Who cares, we need a big, solid defenseman like him right now, watching Marek Malik get pushed around by players six inches smaller is just horrifying. If we can't land Norstrom, then J.D. might be willing to part with Barret Jackman - which would be fantastic - or Brian Burke has considered moving the Sean O'Donnell. O'Donnell has experience (he is on his sixth NHL team), a Stanley Cup and a 6'3 230 frame. I don't see Minnesota dealing Nick Schultz but he would be a great acquisition as well. Schultz plays with strength and poise and stepped right into Willie Mitchell's skates when he went to Vancouver. I'm a fan.

Bobby Holik, Atlanta - another former Ranger, he was horribly misused during his first Broadway tour. He can play at the same pace as Jagr, will clear some space for him, bring some Czech love for the captain, and will free Dubi to play a faster, pressure-based game with the other kids - Cally and Dawes. Barring Bobby, there is Calgary's Daymond Langkow (who will be much more expensive). I would say maybe, maybe Mats Sundin, but I really don't see the Leafs dealing him, and really, really don't see them dealing him to another team in the East.

Vaclav Prospal, Tampa Bay - he hates his coach and can actually put the puck in the net, unlike most of the Ranger forwards. As I've said before, he may come at a low cost and would definitely help immediately. You also can't discount the impact that he would have on Jagr, as the two Czechs have history playing together. The other scoring wingers out there really aren't worth dealing for Alex Tanguay has been terrible since he left Colorado, Ladislav Nagy has no idea what defense is and is prone to slumps and Martin Rucinsky ... we've read that story three times already, I don't think the fourth will be the charm.

Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay - ah, one of the true prizes of the deadline, a puck moving defenseman who can play 30 minutes ... but at what cost? He really could prove to be too expensive, would you give up Dubi or Toots for him? I am not sure I would. There aren't a lot of guys like Boyle out there, but barring him, maybe the Blueshirts could try San Jose's Christian Erhoff, who supposedly fell out of favour with Ron Wilson, or Edmonton's Steve Staios.

Other than those guys, I don't think there are any named that have been dangled out there that is worth dealing for. We depth players, we have 'stud' centers and - in theory - we have a goaltender; the King he was, the pauper he has become. A save, a save, his kingdom for a glove save! If he could regain the form he had late last year, or early this year, then I don't think we would be talking deal at all, but the Swedish sieve hasn't been bailing the team out so Tuesday will be a very interesting day ...

Islander Psycho

Tonight's the night ...

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's SIMON!!!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

30-24-8: Disgraceful

Just when you think a five goal lead is safe ... laziness strikes and a team not only rests on their heels, they fall flat on their back. That is where leadership - the lack thereof - comes in. The Rangers were more than willing to sit back and cruise to a 5-0 win while allowing the Canadiens to get tons of open looks at the net. You just can't allow one of the best teams in the east to do that, and it cost us dearly. Yes we got a point out of it, but this was as good as a loss. Renney wasted his lone time out early, and apparently didn't have the inspirational speech in his arsenal to spur the team to victory. Jagr ... well, at least he stood up and took the final shot, but his attempt was not that of a superstar. Quiet leadership just does not work in New York - just look at the Brian Leetch years.

We have spoken about turning points over the course of the season, and this may just prove to be the one. How the Rangers respond to this will determine if they make the playoffs or not - that simple. But after watching that, I would say not but I have been told that I'm very pessimistic when it comes to this team of late. So onto some of the ranting I was doing during the game:

*Another away game, another night spent stuck listening to Joe Micheletti. So annoying, so useless. I've said it before, I'll say it again - it horrifies me that people who don't know any better are listening to him and taking his word as law. Also, what is up with bull riding and hockey? Tonight's game is on FSN NY rather than MSG and FSN had bull riding on leading in. When are broadcasters going to learn that one audience does not overlap with the other (aside from my dad)?

*Side note: The Flyers traded a third round pick for Jaroslav Modry today. All in all that should be a decent deal as Modry needed a change of scenery and used to be able to move the puck well. However, Modry's presence alone isn't enough for the Flyers to beat the Rangers, so I'm not worried. I am concerned about the cost - a third round pick for a underachieving has-been is a pretty high cost so what will good playoff rentals cost??

*When Montreal played Philly, Steve Begin levelled Denis Tolpeko with a huge check and Jason Smith jumped in and fought him. Begin took several liberties and levelled several Rangers and no one did anything. I reeeeeeeally want St. Louis' Barret Jackman ...

*Mitch Fritz, where art thou?? With Colton Orr out, there really was no deterrent to players going hard at Jaromir Jagr. Granted, the Habs showed that they don't have to stay physical with Jagr as he was all too willing to dump off the puck at every given chance. He has to do something, anything, to get back the confidence that he used to have. He lost the puck several times by soft poke checks from Markov and that just shouldn't happen. Granted, when Markov let up, Jagr was able to set up the first three Ranger goals, but I am looking long-term here. We won't play every game against lazy defensemen. And if he had any confidence, he would have taken that wide open shot in overtime, rather than try a foolhearty cross to Gomez that was easily deflected away.

*But then again, who needs a bruiser when you have Brandon Dubinsky (hahahaha). I am still in shock that he battled Mike Komisarek and didn't get hammered. I want to point out again that he very well could turn into a shorter Jason Arnott-type as he is doing everything the big center used to do for the Devils back in the day.

*On the first two goals - Malik did nothing and got pluses on both - that is how he has gotten the top numbers in recent years, pure circumstance. Lurch was outmuscled multiple times by smaller players, screened his own goaltender and looked afraid when the puck was on his stick. What a disgrace, but, as I said when he got an assist the other day, those kind of things don't show up on box scores so he is still trade bait. Well, maybe not, the lazy can-opener penalty he took did result in the game-tieing goal ... hmm. Someone has to be that dumb/desperate, right? I mean, if our coach is dumb enough to put the slow-of-foot ape on the ice in the final seconds and in the 4-on-4 overtime, there must be something worth trading for ... right?!?!?

*Another random side note: after the NHL drew rave reviews for the Winter Classic (which I went to), the NBA is mimicking them with an outdoor game next year. I guarantee it won't be nearly as special, inclement weather won't be appreciated.

*Shanny scored the Rangers third goal on a power play one timer from the slot - something he practices every single pregame warm up. Remember kids, practice makes perfect. His second came on a deflection in the slot; if his old body can put up with the abuse, then he needs to start setting up there more often. His wheels are slowing down so if he can be a physical force in front and a one-timer-terror from the hash marks, we will be in good shape. But he has to, has to work on his breakaways. He did the Nylander crawl to the net during the shootout and got off a terrible shot right into Huet. Not acceptable for a future Hall of Famer.

*I know someone is going to say it, but I will pipe in and say that Ryan Hollweg was in the neighborhood for both goals against by Ryder. I don't think they were his fault, but that fourth line is supposed to be a defensive shutdown line and they let themselves get trapped deep and left shooters open. Not good. At the same time, the rest of the team didn't do much better on the other two goals against so you can't point the finger at any one line.

*What also isn't good is the utter lack of class of the Canadien fans. I don't care how pissed you are at a call, you don't throw stuff on the ice. That simple. If the players are mad at the fans, can they throw their sticks or shoot pucks into the stands? I think not (but it would be that much more exciting).

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jagr - four assists.
2-Kovalev - two goals.
1-Ryder - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-The Kostitsyns - the two brothers made room for their teammates and played some pretty hockey to get the Rangers to scramble.
2-Dubi - Gordie Howe Hat Trick ... magnificent. And the interesting thing is that I just saw something the other day that said the all time leader in GHHTs is Shanny, who had two goals (and one atrocious shootout attempt) ...
1-Cristobal Huet - gave up two goals, but one wasn't his fault, and keyed the victory for the Habs. His poise elevated his team.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Putting Pucks In Perspective

I regularly look at Kukla's Korner for the latest hockey news/stories that have made their way onto the net. This evening, upon waking from a Nyquil-induced coma, I saw a pair of stories that really showed the meaning of hockey. The two stories were posted back to back on the Korner and, even if it was just happenstance, them being next to each other really had an impact upon me.

The first story was of how Mickey Renaud, the captain of the Windsor Spifires (an OHL junior team), suddenly dropped dead today. There are more details here. That a six-foot-three, 220-pound 19 year old in prime shape could just stop living is astounding and it makes the game he played, the game we all love, look that much smaller and irrelevant.

The second story was about a bunch of guys in Edmonton who set the new record for longest hockey game. These guys played for 10 days, Team Hope vs. Team Cure, and earned more than $300,000 for cancer research in the process. A simple game, played on ice by a bunch of dudes in the freezing cold of the Canadian prairie, can get people to donate their time and their money to help find a cure for cancer.

Sometimes a game just a frivolous athletic activity. Sometimes a game is just a game. But if you love it, it's so, so much more. RIP Mickey.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

30-24-7: Back Home We Got A Taxidermy Man ...

... He gonna have a heart attack when he see what I brung him.

The Rangers went in the water. The Sharks were in the water. The Rangers came out with a 3-1 win. I'd say that makes for a nice weekend. Where yesterday the Rangers beat up on some chum, today the team defeated a great white. Before the game I was asked my prediction and I said 3-1, San Jose. Man am I glad I was proven wrong; not only did the Rangers beat a top team in the league, they won their first game against a Western Conference team and they even scored on the power play. What an unexpected pleasure!!

But while I do want to get wrapped up in the moment - back-to-back wins can do that - I do feel obligated to point out that the BlueShirts beat the Isles on November 29th, then the Senators on December 1st before losing five of their next six games. Just sayin', ya know? Onto the good from today:

*Just like with yesterday, the Rangers signed a defenseman and inked Toots. This time the Rangers did it before the game, rather than during the first period. Guess it allayed his fears as he played a solid game, while his partner was iffy, again.

*Also on the blueline - well, lumbering above it - was Marek Malik. He actually tried to get involved in the game and tried to shoot the puck once! Granted, he shot softer than those poor kids on the sleds in between periods, but he tried. Does that overcome his role in Cheechoo's goal? No, but he is trying so I gotta give him some credit - if only so he becomes more attractive to potential trade partners in two weeks.

*Brandon Dubinsky came out on fire but seemed to lose a step as the game went on. Much like with Girardi, maybe all of the games are catching up to him.

*On the same token, maybe the knee injury suffered by Ryan Callahan is a good thing as he is coming on right now and proving to be the perfect wingman for Chris Drury. I am admittedly still dubious as to Marty Straka on the opposite wing, but their line has done all of the right things and gotten themselves into good situations through their hard work.

*For all of their size, the Sharks didn't use it to their advantage. They looked a bit jet lagged and behind a step and the Rangers took advantage.

*As for Jaromir ... he did get off six shots, but few challenged Nabby and he took one of his trademark lazy penalties. He did take on some big defensemen, and drew a penalty, but he needs to take advantage of his size and get better looks and better, stronger shots off.

*Twice in the third period Hank got hammered in the crease. This has got to stop. The deadline is a week from Tuesday ... tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock ...

*PHR Three Stars
3-Hank - 29 saves.
2-Cally - two goals.
1-Drury - goal and an assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Colton Orr - he pressed the action, avoided rumbling with Jody Shelley and had a solid game. I am as surprised as you are.
2-Hank - he was ran several times, had his helmet knocked off and still didn't back down. Solid work by the Swede despite letting up a boarderline softie to open the game.
1-Cally/Drury - thankfully I am not limited to just one guy and these two were spectacular together. They made space for each other, did the dirty work and came through when it counted.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

29-24-7: Rangers Skin Buffalo

Well, I have to keep this short as I have an excessively busy night at work ahead so I will break it down real quick.

*It was nice to come off an extended break to defeat one of the teams we are battle with for a low playoff slot but let's face it, the Sabres didn't show up to play. As my Buffalo fan friend said, no one seemed to tell them that the game started at 1. The Rangers beat up the team that lost back-to-back games to the Leafs and the Coyotes, not the one on a 10 game undefeated streak. Tomorrow will be the real test, especially given the Blueshirts' recent history against Western Conference teams.

*Henrik, he of the newly inflated wallet, made 29 saves and gave up an incredibly soft goal late to blow his own shutout. Soft goals have killed this team time and time again but this time the offense ensured that it didn't matter. What will happen when he gives up marshmallows like that in tight games against teams that actually show up?

*On the same note, overshadowed by the five goals we did score, the power play went 0-5. That is just inexcusable.

*Apparently in the middle of the game (the press release is dated today at 1:40), Dan Girardi was handed a contract extension. He looked alright in the game and one has to hope that the break has done him well given how poorly he played heading into it.

*Marek Malik returned and made a pair of bad passes, lost the puck in his feet twice, missed a hit, but earned an assist. As the first three things don't show up on the scoresheet, I hope that he is improving his status as trade bait.

*Speaking of such, Jagr was ok. He skated in and around the pylons that were the Sabres defense, but could not get himself a goal on two substandard goaltenders. He did get a pair of assists, so that's good.

*Ryan Hollweg played well and didn't make any bad hits, perhaps earning himself more games on the roster, even when Hossa returns. The entire fourth line looked solid but they didn't have much they had to contend with. It was just a shame that Buffalo benched Andrew Peters so we couldn't see him scuffle against Colt.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jagr- two assists.
2-Avery- two goals.
1-Dubi- goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Nigel Dawes - he had an assist and swarmed the Buffalo net all day, forcing play.
2-Dubi - the kid looked comfortable playing with Jagr again. He got called for the bad boarding penalty that was more diving style that hit substance, but what can you do?
1-Avery - both goals were spectacular. The first came 10 seconds into the game thanks to him crashing the crease and the second was off of the rush with a great wrist shot. Impressive; most impressive.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Midwinter Break Day 5

Yay, the weekend is almost here, and thus the return of Rangers hockey. But before then, some random stuff to tide us over.

1 - The Rangers resigned Hank to a big deal, six years at $6.5 mil a year. I believe that makes him the third highest-paid goaltender in the league behind Roberto Luongo and Nikolai Khabibulin. Let's hope he plays more like the former than the latter. But now that the deal is done, I would say Al Montoya's bus ticket is pretty much stamped out of town. Let's just hope we can get the most out of dealing him ... Vinny Prospal is looking pretty damn good nowadays, and he wants to shove things up his coach's butt. Sounds like a love connection to me - Rangers and Prospal, not Prospal and Torts, this isn't that kind of blog.

2 - Jed got into a fight!!! Amid a terrible 6-1 Nashville loss to Chicago, Jed Ortmeyer, a Scotty Hockey favourite, fought rookie defenseman Cam Barker. Unfortunately, he got his ass kicked, but whatever, we still show the love.

3 - Let the Chris Simon Murder Watch begin! Simon the Barbarian has returned to practice so its only a matter of time before he kills someone on the ice. He is due to return to action next week vs. Tampa. How much do you want to bet he ends up wearing a letter for the Isles too, perhaps the very game when he commits homicide! Wouldn't that be great press for the league? It would be just reward for the NHL's unwillingness to ban this animal from playing. Let me clarify, I don't want him to kill anyone, I just won't be surprised when he does. Fool me once, same on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me seven times shame on all of us. But at least the possibility of him going off will draw a few more people to the Mausoleum, Newsday is even dogging the Isles for their attendance woes.

4 - I just put Rod Brind'Amour on Team Canada and he blows out his knee and will be gone for the year. Nice. Kills my fantasy teams that count faceoffs ...

5 - It's Hockey Weekend Across America! Hope y'all celebrate in fun fashion; hope the Rangers celebrate with a pair of wins. Let's go Rangers!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Midwinter Break Day 4

Its only Thursday and I can't take this week off nonsense. I mean, its nice that there is still good hockey to watch - I enjoyed Dallas/Phoenix on Monday - but its not the same as the Rangers. And I apologize to all of my readers, I know there is nothing worse than going to a site and seeing the same content. But without the Blueshirts, I've had to focus on real work, which is good because real work pays money, and money pays for Rangers tickets and my European vacation this fall. And that will likely mean good coverage of games that you won't see anywhere else ... don't worry, this isn't the first time I pimped this blog and it won't be the last.

So as I go a little stir crazy, here is something to help tide things over until Saturday - something I promised back in December - the Scotty Hockey 2010 -2 Canadian Olympic Team:

Dany Heatley-Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla
Rick Nash-Joe Thornton-Ryan Getzlaf
Jon Toews-Vinny Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis
Brendan Morrow-Jason Arnott-Eric Staal
Chris Pronger-Dion Phaneuf
Wade Redden-Jay Buowmeester
Duncan Keith-Kris Letang
Roberto Luongo
JS Giguere
Carey Price

For some reference, here is the 2006 team that went to Torino. I had to do some jockeying - there are a lot of super-high quality centers but I think these end up being balanced, exciting lines.

Some names were left out - Jason Spezza (one of my favourite players) being one of them, Marty Brodeur another (man do I hope he will be retired by then) and even Sam Gagner being another (in two years he will be a STUD) - but Canada has an embarrassment of riches and, with the games being played in the smaller NHL-sized rinks, they are sure to go big with a checking line.

On that checking line I have Stars captain Morrow, who is gritty and good on both ends of the rink, Arnott, who is huge but will be a little old by 2010 and Staal, who is learning how to be a solid, well rounded players by one of the best (and one of the most underrated), Rod Brind'Amour. The three scoring lines pretty much speak for themselves: Cindy, Killer Heatley and Iggy are three of the top five players in the NHL. Nash and Thornton worked magic together in Davos and Getzlaf is probably going to turn into a better version of Cam Neely (one of my favourite players) only as a center. Vinny and Marty are the crutch that holds Tampa Bay up and Toews would be rookie of the year if he didn't get hurt. He is easily the best Blackhawk since Jeremy Roenick and two more years will turn him into a superstar.

On defense Pronger, Phaneuf and Redden are three of the best in the game today, Buowmeester would be great if he wasn't on Florida, Letang and Keith are the future. In two years they will have the NHL game down and should dominate; Letang very well may be the Paul Coffey to Cindy's Gretzky. Damn I hate her.

In net are Luongo, Jiggy and Price. I have Price there only because the third spot rarely sees action and is there more for the experience. Should the NHL return to the Olympics in Russia in 2014, then he would be very, very important to that squad. Luongo and Jiggy are simply two of the best goaltenders in the league. I gotta mention it again, but I do hope that Maaaaarrrrrty will have retired by 2010. Otherwise toss out Jiggy and hand the starting gig to Maaaaarrrrrty because he is one of the top three goaltenders of all time. Yes, that really, really, really hurt me to type that - and not because of my bum wrist. He is good. Ok? I admitted it. And he may very well lead Canada to victory in 2010, in front of a home crowd.

But I sure as hell hope not ...