Friday, October 31, 2008

10-2-1: A Win Is A Win

The New York Rangers played the woeful Atlanta Thrashers tonight and like they always do, they played down to the level of their opponent. It was a miserably close game against a sub-par game but as I put in the title, a win is a win. The Rangers pulled out a 3-2 victory despite playing far below their capability and being outhustled and outworked by a glorified AHL team. I mean, look at the pic above, even Scott Gomez wasn't thrilled with the game.

*Things started off on a great note with the Blueshirts swarming the Atlanta net in the first few minutes but Colton Orr had to go mess it all up. As my friend Greg mentioned, Colton had been pretty good of late avoiding the goonery but tonight he let Eric Boulton goad him into a fight and it turned the game around - at least in the short term. The bout was pretty damn impressive but there was absolutely no reason for it and the bombs that landed on Colton's head ignited the Thrasher offense and they scored just a few minutes later. I have always been for fighting in hockey but I do not subscribe to goonery for goonery's sake. It is stupid, pointless and it justifies most of the negative comments that non-hockey fans have for our fair sport.

*And MSG, we get it, you guys can't sell tickets to the Calzaghe/Jones fight. I don't need to be inundated with promos all game long. It was funny when you played it right after the Orr/Boulton idiocy, but after a while enough was enough.

*MSG Network, you guys weren't much better. Whoever cut Rangers in 60 did a bad job; they repeated the first period segment where Kovy hit the post. Moron. Oh yeah, and Joe Micheletti still sucks.

*The Rangers did get a power play goal in the game thanks to the singular effort of Nik Zherdev, As a unit, the power play was a complete and utter joke - and one that is so not funny. They are playing like the special unit they were last year with Jagr; they stand still, try to make cute passes and lose the puck. Shot selection is poor, the personnel don't seem to have any chemistry and the defense has trouble keeping the puck in the zone. This must change and fast since next month they have a stretch of five games against Jersey, Boston, Vancouver and Ottawa - twice. It's all well and good when you blow chances against bottom dwellers but teams with talent will jump all over you.

*Nik Zherdev has talent and a freaking ton of it. We knew that when we traded for him but inconsistency plagued him in Columbus. To date he has been the only consistent offensive threat on the team over the last six. seven games. And he has made a few stellar plays defensively as well - including one tonight where he broke up a Todd White breakaway.

*That Henrik Lundqvist guy? He is good. Really, really good. It he doesn't fall into a midseason slump from dubious injuries or family issues, he should, should get himself that elusive Vezina Trophy and if the Rangers make it past the second round of the playoffs, the Hart Trophy as MVP (Don't bother telling me the Hart is for regular season MVP, that is utter and complete BS. When was the last time a nonplayoff team had a Hart winner?). On this night he saved the Rangers' bacon on several occasions and even managed to cover up for his own insane wanderings from the crease. Dude should never, ever leave the paint - every trip turns into an adventure.

*Yes Potvin sucks. We get it. Let's watch the Rangers play the Atlanta Thrashers now, ok? Thanks.

*Watching Hank leave the crease makes me cringe only a little less than watching any play with Dmitri Malik Kalinin in it but this game was by far his best in a Blueshirt. His positioning was pretty solid, his passing was smart and he wasn't beat physically. I don't even blame him for the power play goal by Little since it was the other defenseman he was covering for and Drury didn't come down to help out. All in all, I was seriously impressed and honestly hope that he can keep it up.

*Atlanta was just woeful. It looked like a bunch of guys playing pickup hockey. They worked really hard but couldn't get much of any flow, their passing was off, their stickhandling weak and overall play was just disjointed. Kari Lehtonen was surprisingly steady but everyone has always said he is capable of wonders when he is healthy, which is rare.

*We should expect it by now but Tom Renney's constant juggling of the lines is just getting annoying. No one seems to have any real chemistry with anyone at this point. Even the reunited Playstation line didn't seem to click tonight with either Voros or Zherdev being left out to dry.

*The more we are seeing Nigel Dawes play, the more aggravated I am getting. The Rangers sent Korpikoski to Hartford to find his game so when will they send out a search party to help Dawes to find his? He has been completely useless and I find it hard to believe he is a better asset than Brendan Shanahan - or even Petr Prucha. Dawes gets beat to loose pucks, loses his coverage, can't carry the puck for more than two strides and seems to have lost his shot. Shanny brings intangibles and defensive acumen and even Prucha battles in the trenches. Dawes ... I am not sure what he does now.

*Dubi took another bad penalty and needs to get his head back in the game because the tools are all there, he just has to use them. The same goes for Freddie Sjostrom who may just be the fastest guy on the team right now. I take back what I said in the last bit about no one having chemistry together: Sjostrom worked fantastically with Cally on the penalty kill tonight, they were all over the ice - I loved it. While they may not be able to block shots like Bettsy and Drury, they pressure the puck handlers well and are a shorthanded threat to break loose.

*Dan Fritshe? Meh. He showed a lot of effort but just doesn't work well on a scoring line. However, credit does go to him for staying out for his full shift despite losing his helmet in the early seconds. It didn't stop him from charging into the boards and getting in the mix, which takes moxie in today's game.

*Maybe Glen Sather was right and a change of scenery was all Markus Naslund needed to find his game. His goal tonight was classic Naslund: come in on the wing wide footed to hold off the defensemen and snap off a beautiful shot far side.

*Slightly on the same topic, the Rangers traded forward Huge Mistake Hugh Jessiman to the Nashville Predators for future considerations before the game. He was big, he was slow, he couldn't fight and drafting him was a big gaffe. At least they got something back for him after he contributed so little for so long.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Paul Mara - two assists.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Nik Zherdev - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - I almost gave this to Malik Kalinin but Girardi was more physical and did net himself a nice goal - even if it was just knocking a puck into an virtually empty net past a clueless keeper. Todd White also deserves honourable mention for pressing the action deep into the Ranger end and skating away with two assists.
2-Hank - They say that the team's best penalty killer is its goaltender but with the Rangers power play being what it is, Hank is the best on that unit as well. The King came through time and time again when bad passes and lazy turnovers got the Thrashers in deep.
1-Big Z - What can you say? Zherdev was a constant threat, he made a great defensive play and his power play goal was simply stunning. Walking in to the crease and flipping his wrists to top shelf the puck? Wow. And even the penalty he took after setting up the Girardi goal was fun ... well, funny at least.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So Long Shanny ...

Wednesday afternoon Larry Brooks reported that Brendan Shanahan has decided to open his options to teams other than the Rangers, since Glen Sather hasn't tendered an offer. Shanahan was proud to wear the Blueshirt and wanted to keep it on so he showed incredible patience and it simply didn't pay off. Hopefully it will pay off for him as he has one less month of wear and tear to start the season. I've looked at the pros and cons of re-signing him, I've sent him to court, I suggested he be player/coach ... I guess there is nothing left to do but wish him the best wherever he ends up.

With New York out of the picture, Puck Daddy and I share the same hope that Shanny returns to Detroit. I can't speak to Wysh's wishes but I want him to head to the Wings for several reasons:

1 - The Detroit fans appreciate Shanny as much as we did in New York and a classy veteran such as himself should be properly revered.

2 - The Red Wings are almost assured a playoff spot and are a likely contender for the Cup. It would be great to see Shanny get a chance to go out on top.

3 - Another Stanley Cup with the Wings may just be enough to get his #14 raised to the rafters of the Joe. The Hall of Fame is waiting for him but he has bounced around too much to cement a legacy with any one franchise. A fourth Cup in Motown could certainly help that cause. Few players in the history of hockey have had as much of an impact as Shanahan (he did help rewrite the rules to revive the game after the lockout) and most every one of them has had their numbers go up - Plante, Orr, Mikita, Howe, Gretzky, et. al.

4 - What could make the Winter Classic more special than having two of the game's elder statesmen in Shanny and Chelios out on the Wrigley Field ice having fun like they're kids again?

5 - And could you imagine Shanny skating on the Garden ice one last time ... in the Stanley Cup Finals?

Hey, a man can dream.

Hopefully Shanny's dream of playing in the NHL keeps coming true and he ends up on his feet, even if it isn't in New York or the Motor City. Best wishes Brendan and good luck ...

A Word From Our Sponsors

Not my sponsors, I don't have any. I am referring to the Penguins commercial where they use Bob Johnson's famous "It's a great day for hockey" as the theme. It is a brilliant idea and it makes for a wonderful ad that celebrates Pens hockey. I may be behind the curve a little on it but I saw it tonight on the NHL Network and felt I had to share:

It almost made me hate them less, ... no, not really. But seriously, I got chills - especially thinking back to that my experience in that Fresh Air. The one ranks up there with the incredible Stanley Cup commercial and the underrated Braydon Coburn spot for Versus. Great work guys!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And I'm Back ...

... back in the New York Times.

More specifically, the kind folks over at Slap Shot have decided to renew Hockey Night in Blogdom and were kind enough to invite me back as the Ranger blogger. The first installment of this season is here.

I love that the Flyers and Isles bloggers decided to use some of the few words we were allotted to attack the Rangers. But seriously, who is Jim Butler to say that Colton Orr belongs in the minors when his team carries Riley Cote? Cote has less hockey skill than the pee wees who skate in between periods and has managed to have his hat handed to him by Orr several times before. Not to mention that Cote averages three minutes of ice time per game when Orr sees several minutes more. Whatever, no one said they grew them particularly smart down in Philly. And the Islanders ... they are just sad right now and at least Jim McGlynn realizes that, even if it has driven him to the bottle.

Whatever; before I end this I just want to send a big thank you out to Jeff Z. Klein and Slap Shot for having me back! I look forward to contributing more ...

He'll Be Back

New York, October 29, 2008

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that forward Lauri Korpikoski has been assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). Korpikoski, 22, has skated in seven games with the Rangers this season. The 6-1, 195-pounder returns to Hartford, where he registered 23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points, along with 71 penalty minutes in 79 games last season. His 23 goals tied for third on the Wolf Pack, while he finished fourth on the club with 50 points. He made his NHL regular season debut on October 4 vs. Tampa Bay at Prague, Czech Republic.

This comes as no surprise considering Korpikoski has been out of the lineup lately. We've seen flashes of NHL-calibur skill but they have been just that - flashes. Once he finds some consistency, or the injury bug makes it to Broadway (knock on wood), the Korpedo will return to the big club. No worries ...

Can Tavares Save The Thrashers?

If you didn't see tonight's 7-0 Thrasher loss to the Flyers, the bounces certainly didn't go Atlanta's way but the score still didn't reflect their utter incompetence. Philly scored seven, SEVEN, goals and Mike Richards missed a penalty shot to boot! The listed attendance was just 13,207, and we all know how inflated attendance numbers are - especially when teams that average less than 14,000 lose their share of the league's revenue.

They are a terrible team in a weak market and will certainly challenge for the top overall pick in the 2009 draft. So what would happen if they actually got it?

The top candidates for that pick are center John Tavares and defenseman Victor Hedman, and I would have to say that it is almost assured that the Thrashers would pick Tavares. They picked a blueliner last year (Zach Bogosian) and, more importantly, Atlanta hasn't had a center to compliment Kovalchuk since Marc Savard left. With Kovy due to become a unrestricted free agent after next season, Tavares might just be the deciding factor to keep him in the Dirty Sow.

So many questions arise out of the possibilities. Could history repeat itself and we see another Lindros-esque deal where one team gets the pieces to a championship and the other gets the name they crave? Tavares, for his part, just wants to get the hell out of the OHL so it doesn't appear that he will turn down a deal from whichever NHL team picks him. On the other side of the coin, could Atlanta get the pieces to a championship for young Mister Tavares? Toronto will certainly have the assets and the interest. Would Atlanta rather go for the game-breaking talent and hope that it is enough to entice Kovy to give up his freedom and sign a long term deal?

And the most interesting question that came to my mind is will Gary Bettman bully influence the Thrashers' decision and force them to keep Tavares? He is on the record with his dedication to keeping these 30 cities, no matter how little they support hockey and Crosby got the Pens to stay in Pittsburgh.

But think of it, Tavares/Kovalchuk could make for a helluva marquee in Vegas. Bettman's ego would take a large hit since he swore up and down that the cap would bring stability to his 30 teams but perhaps the obvious revenue gain would be enough for him to suck it up? I doubt it.

We will just have to wait and see but in the meantime I have one more question: if the Rangers defeat the Thrashers by anything less than seven goals on Thursday, will it be a disappointment??

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

9-2-1: You Can't Beat Us!

First off, directly from the Rangers:
With tonight's win, the Rangers tied the franchise record for best start through 12 games, improving to 9-2-1 on the season for 19 points ... The Blueshirts also registered 19 points through 12 games in 1978-79 (8-1-3) and 1989-90 (8-1-3) ... New York's nine wins through 12 games also tied a team record set in 1983-84, when the team began the season with a 9-3-0 record.

As remarkable as that is, it has become apparent that the Rangers are the lone team in the NHL with three home rinks. The passionate Ranger fanbase follows them to Jersey and it follows them out to the Mausoleum. Tonight the Islander fans were clearly outnumbered in their own building and there were dozens of "Let's Go Rangers" chants and 'Potvin Sucks' whistles as the Rangers skated away with a 4-2 win. The kicker was that once the few Isles fans left after the fourth Ranger goal, we started a loud "You Can't Beat Us" chant that reverberated throughout the place. If I didn't loathe the blue and orange so much, I would almost feel bad for them - it really was pathetic.

*Craigslist is awesome. After my initial and secondary plans to go to the game fell through, I went on the classifieds site and found a ticket at half price because it was late afternoon. The best part? It was two rows from the ice in Henrik's corner. The lousy pic of the celebration up top was from my crappy cell. How cool is that??

*After missing a wide open net in the second period, Scott Gomez made up for it with a pretty goal from the doorstep in the third to make it a 3-1 game. Everyone has jumped all over Dru for his scoring woes but Gomez hadn't been much better. Let's hope that this game proves to be just the thing they needed to get in gear because can you imagine just how good the Rangers will be once the big guns start firing?

*The Blueshirts power play remained punchless. Yes, Drury scored one, but they still went 1-8 - which is not particularly good. And after Dru made it a 4-1 game on the third period 5-on-3, there was 3:27 left in that power play and the Rangers not only couldn't score again, but they gave up a shortie which was atrocious. Perry Pearn needs to learn some new tricks or something because he isn't cutting it.

*Wade Redden had a poor game. He was completely culpable in the Islanders first period goal and he was a big part of the incompetence of the power play. He did get a point, but it was a secondary assist that wouldn't/shouldn't have counted on Dru's second goal.

*As for the other defensemen, I won't even speak about Malik Kalinin but words should be voiced for Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival. Staal was a physical beast and Rozy actually shot the puck from the point. Renney likes to re-jigger the lines pretty often so here is to hoping that they get reunited sometime soon.

*Aaron Voros was reunited with his Playstation linemates Zherdev and Dubinsky for several shifts but he couldn't find his early season success. He seemed to constantly be on the wrong side of the crease or in the corner when he needed to be in the paint. And he got his ass kicked by Nate Thompson to boot. Sad!

*I just turned on MSG and MSG, NY came on ... which they led off with New Kids on the Block. Not the Ranger/Islander highlight, NKOTB. And then they tried to make a transition from the New Kids to the Isles kids. LAME!!

*Speaking of the Isles youngsters, if Josh Bailey develops and they draft another sniper, then watch out for Kyle Okposo because he is a monster. Not only did he net a goal, but he played a strong game that forced the play on the Rangers. Okposo had one great shift where he worked the puck deep and drew coverage but his pass to the slot went all the way back out of the zone because there was no one there ...

*Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes both were in the lineup and had a chance or two but were outshone and outworked by their young counterparts on the Isles. Ryan Callahan's hard work finally paid off with the go-ahead goal after he lurked around the slot. When he is physical he is at his best, we need to find how Prucha and Dawes need to play to find the back of the net because we haven't seen either at their best yet.

*Then again, I don't think we have seen the best of Freddie Sjostrom yet either, but in a good way. Sjostrom can play on any line with his speed, smarts and willingness to press the action. If he adds a torrential body check or a scoring touch, then watch out NHL ...

*And the Isles unveiled their third jersey before the game. They didn't wear it, they just unveiled it. It's nice, I guess. They still suck, and no matter that jersey they wear, they always will. You can put lipstick on a pig ... But seriously, this is a shameless money grab to milk what few fans they have left; I feel bad for them. No, not really.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
2-Michal Rozsival - two assists.
1-Chris Drury - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mark Streit - With Brendan Witt out, the Isles lacked a physical force but on this night Streit stepped up. While the Swiss puck mover was still the trigger for their offense but he also was solid on the back end ... probably the only Islander who was.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - Hank made 28 saves and several were of the spectacular sort. There wasn't anything he could have done on the two goals against and without him, the Rangers end up down two or three heading into the second.
1-Scott Gomez - The numbers show he skated a team-high 25:52, won 19 of 27 faceoffs and had a goal and an assist. The numbers don't show how he kept his head up, skated like the wind and kept the Isles on the heels.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

8-2-1: Nik Zherdev = Clutch

When Nik Zherdev released yet another seemingly harmless shot with less than 10 seconds left Saturday night, I thought nothing of it. The Rangers had at least four shots just like it earlier in the period on the opposite wing. Come across the blue line, throw it towards the net the second a defender came near and try to recover the rebound. So when Zherdev did it, I didn't blink. And when it amazingly found it's way to the back of the net, I still didn't blink but this time it was out of shock. The Garden went ballistic and I stood frozen; I couldn't believe my friggin' eyes.

What a fantastic way to steal a point from a team that clearly outplayed them for the majority of the night? And when Freddie Sjostrom repeated his shootout move from the Toronto game? We had it in the bag! Cindy Crosby can go cry to the refs every time he gets hit, but all of his complaining amounted to nothing on this evening as the Rangers skated away with a 3-2 shootout victory. Simply amazing!

*What was also amazing was Chris Drury's complete inability to put the puck in the net. Drury had chance after chance and blew each and every one. The assist he recorded was a simple short pass to Scott Gomez, who found Markus Naslund for the Rangers first goal of the game. You have to admire Renney's loyalty to his captain but seeing him out there for overtime and the 5-on-3 power play late in the second period was just aggravating. Maybe he is gripping the stick too much, maybe that C is weighing him down, I don't know, but he has to net a few soon before the jinx becomes too big of a monkey on his back.

*Where was Aaron Voros? His big body certainly could have helped that two man advantage, which was anemic to say the least. Voros somehow walked out with a -2 after less than 13 minutes of ice time and I honestly didn't notice him out there even that much.

*Colton Orr was the opposite. Orr played the least of all of the Rangers - 6:26 - and didn't record an official shot. The stat line belied the fact that the bruiser had the best scoring chance of all of the Blueshirts over the first half of the night. Orr also challenged Eric Godard when the Rangers needed a pick-up but Godard turned him down. To his credit, he didn't keep with it and take a dumb penalty. He really has become a real hockey player and has earned more ice time. Renney would be wise to give it to him ...

*He also would be wise to have Sather call up Corey Potter to replace Dmitri Malik Kalinin. I know that I am hard on him but he really has been all sorts of terrible. Maybe his timing is off, maybe his legs aren't there, who knows. What we do know is that he has been ineffective to date. He had one nice poke check tonight, but was also partially culpable in each of Pittsburgh's goals.

*I just watched Rangers in 60 and apparently MSG had Dave Maloney on to add colour ice-side. I think Joe Micheletti would do well to watch his back. Maloney provided unobtrusive, solid commentary that complimented Sam well and was much, much less shrill.

*Markus Naslund showed flashes of his pre-lockout Vancouver form tonight. Naslund scored the first Ranger goal and was a pretty constant offensive threat.

*Pundits around the NHL can talk about the Rangers defensive mentality but Pittsburgh outright played the trap tonight after getting the first goal of the game. For all of their offensive talent, they played some boring hockey and, despite the astounding 42 saves Marc-Andre Fleury made, they allowed maybe three or four legitimate scoring chances.

*That being said, the Ranger system finally managed to restrict Gina Malkin. Malkin usually stars in the Garden and he barely had an impact on this evening.

*Interesting number for you: New York went 23-24 on faceoffs but Blair Betts went 5-0. The struggling Drury went 4-9.

*Another interesting digit was 9 - the number of shots Scott Gomez had that were registered. Everyone is noticing how Drury is struggling (and he is) but Gomez hasn't scored in five games despite throwing the puck at the net 25 times ...

*Ryan Callahan seems to be falling into the Little Ball of Hate role on the Rangers, looking like Pat Verbeek by forechecking, backchecking and causing chaos. It is so fun to watch!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marc-Andre Fleury - 42 saves.
2-Freddy Sjostrom - game-winning shootout goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ruslan Fedotenko - The former Islander has always found success against the Rangers and he was a solid player in this one. Every time I looked, No. 26 was pressing the action and disrupting the Rangers' flow.
2-Zherdev - Chris Drury may have to hand over his clutch title to his Ukrainian teammate. One night after scoring one of the goals of the year to give the Rangers a win, he forced overtime with a goal in the last 10 seconds to earn his team at least a point in what looked like a sure loss.
1-Hank - I was impressed by his play in the Garden, but upon further review on MSG, I am blown away. Lundqvist truly is the most pivotal player on the team and without him, the Rangers would have lost 5-1.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

7-2-1: Ref Interference Swats Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets were robbed on Friday night. Somehow both officials and the video judges in Columbus and Toronto all mistakenly agreed that Brandon Dubinsky's eventual game-winner was a fair goal even though he clearly redirected it in with his skate. It put the Blue Jackets back on their heels and allowed the Rangers to play from a place of strength. But what is done is done and the Blueshirts skated away with a 3-1 win. Considering how badly the team has played in recent games, we'll take it.

*First off, get well soon Tom Renney. After getting clocked in the head, he went down like a ton of bricks and had to be helped off of the bench. On NHL on the Fly they said he was doing fine so let's hope so; I never want to see the team in Perry Pearn's hands again. Yes, the team picked up their play, but it was for Renney - not the incompetent Pearn. His power play, by the way, went 1-for-7 and looked awful during a 5-on-3.

*I watched the game without any audio and have to say it was great not having to listen to Joe Micheletti. But I do have to say that the MSG production staff doing this game must have had no control over the cameramen. The Columbus crew had trouble following the puck and nearly gave me motion sickness as they swung back and forth. The MSG folks weren't perfect themselves, missing several faceoffs because of replays as well as the first Ranger goal.

*Speaking of faceoffs, the Rangers couldn't win one while in the offensive zone on the power play if their lives depended on it. It was horrifying to watch the seconds tick off as they were forced to retrieve the puck time after time after time.

*And they are lucky to have Henrik Lundqvist in the crease because yet again the special team allowed the disadvantaged team to get scoring chances. Hank made 25 saves in all and stood tall despite unrelenting pressure from Rick Nash, who could be great if he didn't play in Columbus.

*My boy Malik Kalinin really, really needs to be released or replaced. His display on Columbus' lone goal was atrocious. While he should have been able to get the handle on the bouncing puck, the least he could have done was take a smart penalty and hold up Jakob Voracek. Instead, he missed the puck and the man and Jake got two shots off, scoring on the second one. There are good penalties and bad penalties and he wasn't smart enough to take either. But he did take a stick to the face later on to draw a call so that's something ... right?

*Voracek, by the way, really showed why he is a top prospect. He has great hands, good size and - as he showed on the goal - breakaway speed. If RJ Umberger and the rest of the Columbus offense ever get in gear, Voracek could end up a Calder finalist. Especially since his teammate, Nik Filatov won't challenge him when he gets less than three minutes of ice time a game.

*The Ranger kids, meanwhile, were involved all over the ice. Ryan Callahan hit everything that moved, Marc Staal was the most physical he has ever been (not facing his own brother), Brandon Dubinsky had little trouble powering into the Columbus zone and Dan Girardi excelled in all three zones. The only disappointment was Nigel Dawes, who was ineffective yet again.

*Did Fedor Tyutin or Cristian Backman actually play? I saw they got ice time on the box score but can honestly say I didn't notice either of them all night. Actually, check that, I saw Backman standing nearby Rick Nash as he was giving Freddy Sjostrom the business after the final buzzer.

*It was great to see another former Ranger again. Manny Malhotra has certainly made a nice little career for himself after the Rangers ruined his early development. Where Danny Blackburn was overused, got hurt and is out of hockey, Manny was underused, overburdened with expectations and yet has carved himself a nice niche as an energy line center.

*Markus Naslund somehow got a pair of assists in this one. Can you imagine how good the Rangers will be if he, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and/or Wade Redden actually remember how to score? I dream of that.

*Let's hope that tomorrow they take a few more pictures of Cindy Crosby that she never wants to be in again ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Markus Naslund - two assists.
2-Dan Girardi - one goal and one assist.
1-Nik Zherdev - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - Cally had seven recorded hits. He is at his best when he is physically involved because it makes things happen. Too many Rangers are reactive rather than proactive and it was nice to see.
2-Pascal Leclaire - Leclaire made 29 saves on 32 shots and had absolutely no chance to get the other three. Girardi's goal came through a screen, Dubi kicked his in and Zherdev ... well there was no stopping that.
1-Zherdev - Circumstances got him his two assists, skill got him that goal. A soft touch to receive the puck and lightning fast hands to turn it over and put in the upper corner on the far side. Wow. If only he could do that on a regular basis ...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shameless Promotion

I was just going to let it slide but my competitive nature is forcing me to mention it. The fine folks at the NHL Arena have been holding a tournament for the best hockey blogs. My first round opponent is the Canucks blog Waiting For Stanley. It's a good blog, with an absolute ton of content on the Nuckleheads. Now I don't blind you with bs, I just give you the facts and my take on them. If that is your thing, vote for me. If you like flash over substance and quantity over quality, vote for him. Actually don't. Just don't vote. Yeah, that's better ...

We beat those Western Canadian bastards in '94, let's do it again.

Scotty Hockey '08!

Causin' Chaos: Sean Avery On The Island

The New York Islanders gave me a photo pass for this evening's game against the Dallas Stars. My assignment for them? Get a good shot of Doug Weight. I did that. In fact, I used my dumb luck mad skills and came away with a good number of decent shots not only of my primary target, but of several other players. But since the spotlight heading into this game was on one player in particular, I made sure to get him.

So here is Sean Avery's night at the Coliseum, in pictures:

The only one I want to put a caption on is this last one. Avery wasn't talking trash and starting trouble with Islander fans, he had thrown his glove up into the crowd towards a kid wearing a Ranger jersey. Of no surprise, an older female Islander fan made the grab and refused to hand it over. Avery tried to get her to pass it along but, unsurprisingly, had no luck. Either way, it was a nice gesture by him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Official ...

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Marek Malik to a one-year contract today, executive vice president and general manager Brian Lawton announced.

"We are thrilled to have signed Marek to a contract,” Lawton said. “He is a big body, at 6-foot-5 220 pounds, that will add to our overall defensive play and give us veteran leadership on the blue line."

Hahahahaha. My feelings towards Mr. Malik are well known and I just have to wonder what Lawton is thinking or how he has fooled himself into believing that Malik may suddenly use that "big body" since he never has in his career to date. I thought things were taking a turn for the better in Tampa and this move just makes me scratch my head. If they were still winless and listless, then ok, they should try anything to get the ship righted, but they just won a game and maybe saved their coach's career. I don't get it ...

But either way, best of luck to the Bolts - y'all will need it. Do you think Malik will send his former coach Tom Renney a letter? Ha!

Stay Classy San Diego Voros

According to the Pioneer Press, Aaron Voros sent his former coach a thank you note. Voros has been the biggest contributor to the Rangers success so far who isn't named Lundqvist and he apparently wrote a letter to Jacques Lemaire to voice his appreciation for the Wild coach making him into a NHL player.

It is all too rare that nice stories like this come out and we should appreciate the athletes who do them. Sadly, in today's day and age, the athletes are hired guns who go out, earn their paychecks and go home but for one to acknowledge how he got there is really nice to read.

No Fun and No Fans in NJ

I decided to follow the Sean Avery Circus around the New York area after Sean's triumphant return to MSG on Monday. That meant that I had to head to Newark on Wednesday for a rematch between Avery and Mmmmaaaarrrrttttyyyy. After last seasons' battles forced the NHL to implement a new rule, I figured that it would be a fun match to attend between two rivals.

How wrong could I be?

What resulted was a clinical dissection of Dallas by Jersey's regimented offense in front of maybe, maybe 7,000 fans. The Dallas Stars that beat the Rangers on Monday were nowhere to be found, as were the Devil fans, who stayed away in droves. On the ice, the Marty Turco that was there to stop every Blueshirt break through the Star defense didn't show up. The Turco who made it to Newark pulled himself grossly out of position twice to allow a pair of amateurish goals on his way to being yanked for a Swedish kid who had 110 minutes of NHL time before taking the Rock ice.

As someone who showed up in a Brendan Morrow Dallas shirt, I was embarrassed for the effort. Morrow was completely ineffective, as was Brad Richards and the rest of the Stars offence. As for Avery, Sean had one first period shift where he was able to open up shop near Mmmmmaaaaarrrrtttyyy and that was it. The rest of the time, he was kept to the fringe by the Devils system and had no chance to create an attack. In fact, his best moment came during warmups. He acknowledged a few Ranger fans before attempting to get two provocatively dressed Jersey girls to lose their shirts. Mike Ribeiro, adorned with his ridiculous cock-of-the-walk mohawk got a kick out of it but also tripped over his own feet while skating around the ice.

I should have taken that as an omen.

Ribeiro and the Dallas offense worked to get all of one true offensive chance the entire game. They were a shell of the team that defeated the Rangers, which - of course - disgusted me. Tomorrow will see them face the blue and orange of the Isles and I can only hope for a better result. I will likely be covering the game with my camera so hopefully I will be able to pantomime my opinions through photos so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Survivor: NYR Third Line Edition

As I am still coming to grips with the mighty Mirtle's selling out move to SB Nation, I figured I would turn my attention to the Rangers even though the boys in blue don't play again until Friday. If reports are to be believed, Patrick Rissmiller was placed on waivers Tuesday. The Rangers haven't put out a release and the young German is still on their roster but I will take it on face value and take a look at the third line logjam.

There are five guys attempting to get on that line and, being as Chris Drury is the captain and all, there are two roster spots for four players. I know, I know; the lines have been all jumbled up of late and I would move Cally alongside Gomez so 'third line' is an arbitrary designation but the key numbers remain: two roster spots, four players. Sounds like the makings of a reality show ... sooooooo come on down and let's meet the contestants on

Survivor: NYR Third Line Edition

Nigel Dawes
5'9" 193 lbs, 23 years old
Nigel is the only one of the four to have scored a point this season. Including playoffs, Dawes has played in 85 NHL games and put up just 35 points. He is also the smallest in stature on a team that made a conscious decision to get bigger. He is pretty hard to knock off of the puck but has yet to show much skill without it. Doesn't seem to have been able to create chemistry with anyone in particular and yet has still played in six of the eight games. Are the Rangers showing patience or showing him off as trade bait?

Dan Fritsche
6'1" 204 lbs, 23 years old
Dan has played in just two games, took four shots and has no points or PIM. Fritsche has good size and has shown some flashes of skill but it is still hard to judge him. His prior experience in Columbus frankly shouldn't count because they were just a terrible excuse for a hockey team and he is a complimentary player, not a star. After dealing away the ill-fated (incompetent) Christian Backman for him, you have to imagine the Rangers will give him more time and more opportunities.

Lauri Korpikoski
6'1" 195 lbs, 22 years old
The Ranger first round pick in 2003, Lauri made a splash in his first game by scoring a playoff goal against the Penguins. Korpikoski spent two full seasons in Hartford but seems to still be learning how to play with the big boys. In seven games so far this season, he has taken just one official shot on goal and has been caught out of position on several occasions, which is odd considering he has shown versatility in playing both wing and center. Maybe some stability could help? He is almost certain to keep one of the two spots unless the Rangers make a move to bring someone else in - they have invested too much in his development.

Petr Prucha
6'0" 175 lbs, 26 years old
Petr is the lightest Ranger but he doesn't let that stop him from throwing his weight around. Timex has considered sponsoring Prucha because he embodies their old catch phrase - takes a licking, keeps on ticking. But for all of the abuse he has absorbed, Pru has seen things go considerably downhill since his rookie season. He has trouble getting into good scoring positions and when he does, grips his stick too tight and blows it. He has added some defensive responsibility to his repertoire but there are many better on the Blueshirts than he in their own zone. At 26 years old, you have to wonder when he stops being a prospect.

I am sure you can tell who I am endorsing from my scoring reports but I wouldn't be unhappy if Sather and Renney go off this board to fill the slots - especially if their mediocre play continues. Artem Anisimov, PA Paranteau (if he can pass waivers), Dane Byers or Greg Moore are all down on the farm and capable of seeing some NHL shifts. And I honestly wouldn't mind seeing them give Petr Nedved a call in the Czech Republic. Yes he is much older than these four candidates, and is under contract back home, but he would add some credibility and accountability to the locker room.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

6-2-1: Energy People, Energy!

After the final buzzer sounded to close the Rangers 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night, I hopped on a cab and rushed down to Irving Plaza. I went to go see a death metal band named Amon Amarth from Sweden. Amon Amarth is a theme band that is based upon Vikings and Norse mythology. It isn't as dry or strange as you might think and, in fact, it actually leaves you energized, feeling powerful and ready to conquer. It is a damn shame the Rangers and their fans didn't get to see this band and it is even more of a shame that they didn't see them before Dallas came to town because they could have used it. The Blueshirts seemed listless, incapable of finishing chances (or even hitting the net) and willing to let the Stars dictate the action. The fans, well ... they were terrible. There were more 'Potvin Sucks' chants than there were 'Let's Go Rangers' and that is just disgraceful. Onto the game:

*As a continuation of that thought, the fans actually cheered Sean Avery when he came on for warm ups, but booed him persistently after Avery went after Henrik, then Brandon Dubinsky on his first shift of the game. C'mon people, you loved it when he did it in blue ... Plus I counted at least 50 Avery jerseys out there; I would have thought that the people who had loved him would have laughed at his antics, rather than booed ...

*And since the main story heading into this one was Mr. Avery, I would be remiss if I didn't address his performance. Avery was Avery. He cheap shotted, he finished his checks (missing one badly) and he avoided getting into a real fight. Colton Orr chased him down to give him what he deserved in the second period and Avery, of course, turned and jumped on the Dallas bench to avoid him. Avery didn't score and didn't contribute much to the Stars offense, but he did his job. I think that the big game for him after this trip won't be this one, but his return to the Rock on Wednesday when he says hi again to Mmmmaaaaarrrtttyyyy.

*Markus Naslund said 'hi' to everyone again tonight, proving he was still on the Rangers with an easy power play goal on the doorstep in the early moments of the game. He also created a good chance off the rush later in the game but, like most of the Rangers, shot it into the logo on Marty Turco's chest.

*Is it a bad thing that three of the Rangers six defensemen are utterly incapable of doing their job? Rozy had another horrible game with the puck, Redden was invisible and Malik Kalinin ... ugh. Dallas's D meanwhile was pretty solid in marginalizing the NY chances and moving the puck around. The Rangers broke free three times that I counted but couldn't finish.

*Nigel Dawes did that twice - getting handily stopped each time - and he also missed the net twice. He is in the lineup to score, and he will need to regain his scoring touch again soon or else he will be replaced.

*Patrick Rissmiller will certainly be replaced for the next game because he was completely useless out there. Renney had him playing on a line with Chris Drury and helped relegate the Ranger captain to anonymity out there. At one point we were questioning whether or not Drury was actually scratched ...

*Dallas scored two goals, and Henrik cannot be blamed for either one. The first came on the power play thanks to Brendan Morrow, who scored as he was falling in the slot. Dan Girardi gave Morrow body position which allowed the Dallas captain to turn freely into the slot. Girardi unwittingly provided the screen for the second Stars goal but I won't jump all over him on that one. The Rangers were all crossed up and were caught watching the puck. It came out to Mr. Willa Ford, Mike Modano, who took a beautiful shot into the upper reaches of the net.

*I'm sure there is more but I gotta run so here are the PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 25 saves.
2-Marty Turco - 28 saves.
1-Mike Modano - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Scott Gomez - Gomez skated well and put his wingers in good positions to score. Too bad they couldn't ...
2-Trevor Daley - Every time I tried to see which defenseman made a good play on the Stars, it was Daley. He played a game-high 24:39 and earned every second of that.
1-Brendan Morrow - Morrow's goal came from his refusal to give up position in the slot, he had a game-high seven hits and, frankly, he is one of my favourite players.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Great Expectations

Coming off of the semi-impressive result from Saturday, it's time to address the latest poll results. Using some classic movie quotes, I asked how far you guys thought we would go. Just 44 people chimed in, but the consensus was that the Rangers will at least make the playoffs and 15 actually think this team will do some serious damage. Here are the results:
*We goin' Sizzler, we goin' Sizzler ... 15 (34%)
*Five, four, three, two, one, let 'er fly ... in and out. 12 (27%)
*Juuuuuuuust a bit outside. 5 (11%)
*I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. 5 (11%)
*Eddie, you're a born loser. 7 (15%)

I hope that most of you are correct but - as you have seen - I am more the pessimist when it comes to these things. Before last season some pundits called for a Cup in Broadway and I begged for caution; the best part about being a pessimist is that you are either proven right or pleasantly surprised. However, I do believe that if you write yourself off before the season even starts, then there is no reason to watch the games. So let's hope that the majority does rule and their predictions prove correct!!

Let's Go Rangers!

BTW - Bonus points to anyone who can identify the five movies I used in this poll. And a new poll will be coming soon so I hope for more participation!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Question of the Night

It is October 19th, the NHL season is underway and there are 73 days left before January 1st. So why hasn't there been any word on tickets to the 2009 Winter Classic?

The Chicago Blackhawks have the same FAQ up that they did this summer, when Hawks prez John McDonough told the Daily Herald that "The NHL will make an announcement in the near future regarding ticket availability." The exact date of the article that quote appeared in was July 22nd, and I think we are pretty far past the "near future." I know that they want to cater to and satisfy the Chicago fanbase, but there are those of us who are willing to make the pilgrimage to watch the historic game at Wrigley.

So what's the deal?

6-1-1: They Aren't Thaaaaat Good

For the first time this season the Rangers faced the test of a team that will actually contend for the Stanley Cup and they came so very close to passing it with flying colours. They lost 5-4 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on a one-timer by Marian Hossa in the slot.

I have been yelling "Six million dollars for what?!?!" in the Garden every time Wade Redden would screw up defensively - which has unfortunately been at least twice a game. I apologize. According to NHLnumbers, Redden is making six-point-five million dollars. Sorry for shorting you Wade. My bad. For comparison, Redden makes a quarter of a mil less than Scott Niedermayer and a quarter more than Chris Pronger. It would really be nice if he started earning it. Redden was beaten twice on the last play alone as he poorly chased Pavel Datsyuk into the Ranger zone. It was embarrassing and infuriating. And don't get me started on Michal Rozsival, who I am pretty sure has no idea of how to play defense at all. Five million dollars.

But for all of the negativity, the Rangers did battle back after an embarrassing start to steal a point in a game against the reigning Stanley Cup champions which really is quite incredible. After looking waaaaaaaaay out of their league early, it was just a pleasure to watch the Blueshirts pick things up and run with the Red Wings.

*On a night where the other team featured Tomas Holmstrom - the best player in the NHL with his back to the net, who did score in this one - it was Aaron Voros who starred down low. Voros showed up for the first time in three games, getting a great second period chance off of a feed from Dubi. Voros got off a shot despite being clobbered from behind but Chris Osgood, being Chris Osgood, made the great save. He seemed to pick up his play from there and was involved throughout the third period. First he screened Ozzy on the equalizer and then he banked in the go-ahead tally off of the goaltender for his fourth goal of the season. Some blame does go to Voros for the too-many-men penalty, but most should go to Lauri Korpikoski for jumping on early.

*A finger needs to be pointed at captain Chris Drury for getting caught watching the puck in the first minute. His man, former Ranger Mikael Samuelsson, was left wide open to make a perfect deflection to score the opening goal. The five Rangers on the ice minutes later - Drury included - were following the puck and, after Henrik gave up a terrible rebound, none of them were near enough to stop Johan Franzen from banging in the puck.

*Much like with the first Detroit goal, the third Wings one came off of a shot that was redirected. This time Redden and Rozy couldn't clear the slot and the traffic made it virtually impossible for Hank to see. Three of the five goals against Lundqvist came from former Team Sweden teammates, which is pretty funny/sad/understandable. Lundqvist can hardly be blamed for this loss after making 40 saves. Two of the goals came on bad rebounds that he allowed but even then the defence could/should have bailed him out.

*Were there any fans there? Seriously, the Joe appeared to be half empty on tv and that is sad considering they honoured NHL great Ted Lindsay with a statue. From all that I have read, and all of the clips that I have seen, Lindsay was an incredible, incredible player and is definitely a Scotty Hockey Hero.

*Ryan Callahan finally got himself a real goal this season. Left alone in the circle, Scott Gomez finally made a good pass and Callahan snapped it past Chris Osgood to get the Rangers on the scoreboard late in the first period. The second Ranger goal was much like the first with a good pass setting up a good wrister from a good position. This time it was Nigel Dawes finishing it off with a goal he desperately needed.

*Apparently Markus Naslund is indeed still on the Rangers as he did a first intermission interview with Rob Simpson. Naslund, who is also desperately needs to score, had Simpson making excuses for Naslund's lack of production so far. Quite professional. The same goes for my buddy Joe Micheletti, who also stepped out and defended the past-his-prime Swede several times over the course of the game. There is still something left in the tank, but Naslund hasn't showed it since Prague.

*I have called for the firing of Perry Pearn since last season and feel the need to reiterate it yet again. His joke of a power play had no power (going 0-2) and nearly allowed their third shorthanded goal of this young season in the third period. There is simply no excuse for that.

*Redden and Rozy made Malik Kalinin look solid in this one but seriously, Paul Mara was a physical defensive force yet again. He has been the rock of the defence this season and I have to admit that I was wrong to send him away after last season. He was quite good in this one, but he wasn't three stars good ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Scott Gomez - two assists.
2-Pavel Datsyuk - one assist.
1-Marian Hossa - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Lundqvist - It is hard for me to give a star to a goaltender who gave up five goals but when you look at the defense in front of him (or lack thereof) and the battering that the super-talented Detroit offence gave him, you can see that he kept this one close.
2-Voros - How great is it to see a Ranger battling down low? Pretty f-in great, I have to tell you. I've dreamt of this day. Great work by the big man, let's hope he can/will keep doing it over the grind of the season.
1-HO-SSAAAAAAAAA - What a contrast between him and his brother, you know? Both Kostitsyns in Montreal are awesome, why was our Hossa so much worse than this one?? Marian has incredible timing, a great shot and a tendency to come through in the clutch - all of which he showed off tonight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

6-1-0: Two More Points

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have the facts of life. The facts of life! And the facts of life right now is that the Rangers have earned 12 of the first 14 possible points. But it must be said that they have done it without playing top-flight hockey. The offense still doesn't click, the defense is all over the place, the coach is juggling lines and personnel and yet the Blueshirts are now 6-1.

On Friday night they seemingly played hockey for about 5-10 minutes of their game against Toronto and escaped with a 1-0 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs. As it is late, let's get right to it:

*Perry Pearn is a terrible coach. Pearn is the Rangers assistant in charge of the Rangers power play and it was utterly ineffective, officially going 0-8. Granted two of those power plays were cut short by bad NY penalties, but 0-6 isn't much better and is just utterly unacceptable if this team is to go forward.

*On the other side of the coin, Ron Wilson is a helluva coach. He has implemented a great system that doesn't necessarily make for great hockey to watch, but it keeps the Leafs in the game. For large chunks of the game they had all five skaters below the hash marks and they did a great job interrupting the Ranger offense.

*But the key to that system was definitely Toskala, because when the Rangers started finding the net in the third period he was nothing short of brilliant. Luckily for New York, Stephen Valliquette was every bit as good and even made a few bigger saves, even if he had to get help from the iron work behind him twice.

*Before the game I told someone who didn't recognize any Leafs other than Blake and Dom Moore that he should watch Toskala because he can steal games, Nikolai Kulemin because he has a ton of talent and Jamal Mayers because he is a tough veteran who will do anything for his team. Toskala was fantastic, Kulemin scored in the shootout and Mayers rearranged Marc Staal's face in a one-sided fistfight that the young Ranger was not prepared for.

*I want to know what was different about Jonas Frogren's charging penalty in the second period and the run Patrick Kaleta made at Paul Mara on Wednesday. Frogren made more contact on Sjostrom but he also didn't leave his feet ...

*All of the talk about Nik Zherdev being quite mercurial is proving correct. Zherdev clearly has more skill than 95% of the league but he just can't seem to focus it. He seems to be a combination of former Rangers Alex Kovalev and Marty Straka. He stickhandles and turns the puck over like Kovalev and he doesn't like putting the puck on the net like Straka despite having a great shot.

*Luke Schenn has a great shot to become one helluva NHL defenseman. Schenn played nearly 26 minutes, doled out five hits and blocked five shots. And he is two weeks away from turning 19 years old.

*The Rangers youngsters were ineffective. Ryan Callahan played less than 13 minutes and never got as involved as he needs to be. Brandon Dubinsky never got into a good shooting position and had every attempt blocked. And Nigel Dawes returned to the lineup and contributed absolutely nothing, while blowing his shootout attempt. It isn't like he is a much better option than Petr Prucha but once Lauri Korpikoski gets healthy, Dawes should be done.

*Now, things worked out for the best, but you have to wonder what is up when the three shooters Tom Renney picks are Zherdev, Dawes and Freddie Sjostrom. For all of the insane money that Glen Sather gave out, Sather didn't feel good turning to Gomez, Drury, Naslund or Redden. I don't get it ...

*Interesting stat of the night: the Leafs dominated in the faceoff circle, going 33-24. That's just embarrassing for the Rangers.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Fredrik Sjostrom - Deciding shootout goal.
2-Vesa Toskala - 32 saves.
1-Stephen Valiquette - 21 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jamal Mayers - By going after Staal after Staal leveled Matt Stajan by the Ranger net, Mayers taught his young teammates (and everyone for that matter) that if you mess with one guy on the team, you mess with the entire team. I love hockey.
2-Toskala - When the Rangers realized that they were the Rangers and flooded the crease with pucks, Toskala was the boy with his thumb in the dyke.
1-Valiquette - The Ranger defense was terrible and Valley stood tall, as usual. Without him, the Leafs win this one 3-0.