Wednesday, November 30, 2011

13-5-3: *Whew*

The Rangers simply can not do anything easy. They just can't. Perhaps there is some deal between the Pepto people and Dolan - I don't know - but year after year the Rangers make things so very difficult on themselves and us.

Down 1-0 the Rangers suddenly had an adrenaline boost and scored four straight goals, then they did the worst possible thing by allowing a late goal and then another early the next period. Then the stomach acids churned all the way until the buzzer - the star sniper couldn't even end our misery by scoring into an empty net. But the Blueshirts were able to hold on until the clock ran out to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.

It was awful. It was wonderful. It was the Rangers.

Mr. X from the Blue Seats - no stranger to my cynicism - helped put things in perspective after the game. He said, 'no matter their problems Scotty, the fact is that they have now beaten the Canucks, the Sharks, the Caps, the Flyers and the Penguins - that's pretty good.'

Late Hits:

*Does Carl Hagelin remind anyone else of a young Callahan? Well, Cally is just 25 so young-er? Hustle, hands and a helping of grit. The Swede is a touch faster too. To think that his roster spot was previously held by that neanderthal Rupp and Slow Deveaux. Remarkable. But with former Leaf John Mitchell the two have provided the boost that Brian Boyle needed to get his game back and have given the Rangers a solid third line.

*Of course, that leaves Prust, Avery and Dubi on the fourth line - Dubi, who was the first line left wing at one point, is now the fourth line center. Let that sink in for a second. But despite playing less than 11 minutes he still took 16 faceoffs - as many as first liner Brad Richard$ - and won 11 of them. Not too shabby.

*Richard$' goal was sweet. Feds beats two Pens to the puck, spins and finds Richard$ breaking into the zone. Richard$ then used the defenseman as a screen to power the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury. Sexy snipe. It wasn't as pretty of a play as the tic-tac-toe of Richard$ to Cally to Gabby back to Cally power play goal to open the Rangers scoring but it was still a heckuva shot.

*To steal a term from the Pensblog guys, the Rangers were completely jobbed by the refs in the first period. Eventually, surprisingly, karma came back around and the Pens took four straight penalties in the last eight minutes. Unfortunately, of course, the Blueshirts completely and utterly blew the power plays.

*Considering that the team scored a pair of goals with the man advantage earlier in the evening you would think it would be hard to rail on the power play unit but no - blowing nearly two full minutes of 5-on-3 time is inexcusable. Really not sure what the problem is when the solution is so obvious: the players have to drive towards the net. The first ppg came on a rush down the ice after an idiotic icing (icing, during a power play, ugh!) and the second came as four of the five Rangers were pushing towards the Penguins goal.

*I asked Benoit Allaire what he thought about the Vitale vs. Lundqvist incident and the ensuing roughing penalty. The goaltending coach said that it was something Hank had to do so he was fine with it. I mentioned that it seemed like it took Eminger too long to jump in and he disagreed, pointing out that there was still a play going on and that Hank can take care of himself. Eminger finally stepping up was the most useful has has been all season long so better late than never I guess.

*Pittsburgh's defense - aside from Deryk Engelland (of all people) - looked absolutely terrible without Kris Letang, who was out with a broken nose thanks to Max Pacioretty. Seeing that should make us that much more thankful for everything that McDonagh, Girardi and Sauer have done without Staal. And I know some of you are going to mention another guy, which leads me to ...

*Del Zastrous performance. And yet Torts rewarded him with more and more minutes ... stupefying. He was beaten wide twice, he had two outright turnovers and made several poor passes which ended up on Penguins' sticks. Just Del Zastrous. It is worth pointing out that I called his power play assist literally seconds before he set up Gabby for the fourth Ranger goal. As the folks in 330 and 329 can attest (I am a bit loud), hand on heart truth. I knew he would do something to give his advocates ammunition. He was awful the rest of the evening.

*The other whipping boy of this blog, Arty Anisimov, has not been as big of a liability. In fact, he is doing a lot right and getting into good spots - his play just seems to be missing something. Perhaps he is overthinking things at those crucial last seconds? Hard to say but once he gets it together the GAS line will get back to it's GAG ways.

*Sidney Crosby took seven shots and just one made it on net. That is good work by Girardi and McD right there. Of course, it is hard to keep the Kid down so he still came away with two assists but it could have been worse. Not Islanders worse but still worse.

*Jody Shelley can call Dubi a weasel all he likes but he just needs to watch Tyler Kennedy to see what a real weasel looks like. Nice to see Sean put him down after getting jumped off of the opening faceoff. Now if only someone would nail Arron Asham ...

*As I was wrapping this up I turned on MSG to watch the replay of the game and heard Sam Rosen open with 7-0 Prust stat. Without giving credit! Bastard!

*PHW Three Stars
3-Evgeni Malkin - one goal.
2-Brad Richards - one goal and two assists.
1-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Crosby - Whining diving crying little #$%^&. Helluva hockey player though.
2-Cally - Callahan has gotten his game together and the Rangers have followed. Leader.
1-Gabby - See what happens when the Slovakian Slacker starts working? He has found some chemistry and confidence to vault back to the level of elite scorer in the NHL.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

12-5-3: Afternoon Delight

Just one day after playing a sloppy game against the Caps, the Rangers played a tight game against the Flyers and ultimately prevailed 2-0 over the evil orange.

Was it exciting? Hell yes. Was it awesome to attend? You'd better believe it. Was it perfect? No.

This team needs to play 60 full minutes, it needs to be more consistent and it needs to be smarter. After playing to the HBO cameras with physical play the first half of the first period, they must have figured that they gave the cable network enough material because they weren't as tough from then on out. And Ryan McDonagh can not take two bad penalties. But things are going in the right direction and we have to hope that Torts can keep it that way with the huge amount of distractions of the next month.

Late Hits:

*For fans of traditional statistics, the AP pointed out that the Rangers improved to 11-1 in games where they scored first. So Brad Richard$ striking the opening blow in this match was a good omen to be sure. However, I will stick with my favourite statistic: the Blueshirts are 7-0 when Prust squares off inside the first two minutes of a game, 3-0 this season.

*That fight was a far better trailer for 24/7 than the actual preview that was on HBO Friday night, where the most vicious thing was Jody Shelley saying Dubi was a weasel and Dubi naming Scott Hartnell as his least favourite Flyer. Oooh, there is palpable hatred there ...

*Brandon Dubinsky was on the ice less than John Mitchell. While Mitchell definitely has been skating well and is far, far, far better than Erik Christensen, Houston, we clearly have a problem.

*Another Steven McDonald game from Captain Callahan. When the man with the C puts in the extra effort, the rest of the guys are forced to follow. As for his 'goal,' if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.

*The Rangers keep playing this way then other teams may have to actually use their starting goaltenders.

*That being said, Bob wasn't bad. He was fantastically screened by Cally on Richard$ goal and Boyle ran into him on the Hagelin goal. Utterly delighted that young Carl scored but I'm not sure his goal should've counted - Boyle skated right into the crease behind Bob and made contact with the goaltender as Hagelin was batting home his own rebound.

*But like I said, it was delightful to see the Swedish kid score. It was a fantastic play and for him to get a standing ovation? Amazing!!

*Amazing how ineffective Claude Giroux was without Jaromir Jagr. Some credit should go to the Ranger defenders but Giroux simply was not the same speedy player that he was when Jagr was with him earlier this year. We dodged a bullet to be sure.

*Del Zaster had one of his better games. Yep, I said it. But don't go too crazy, he is still far from good. His positioning is poor, his hitting is flawed, his passing is often atrocious ... but he didn't have many of his usual turnovers so that is a small improvement. He recorded his fourth power play point of the year, and of course it was a secondary assist. Really justifies that 4:11 average power play time, right? But if Joe Micheletti raves about his play, then he must be doing great!

*Sean Avery needs to stop trying to play the refs and start playing his game again or else he can easily find himself out of the lineup. Hagelin keeps playing the way he has these two games then Torts will have to find guys to sub when Deveaux and Wolski come back - and you and I both know who he will look at first.

*The water coming out of the bathroom faucets that I used was scalding hot. Dolan really shouldn't try to physically burn the customers, just metaphorically.

*The Garden fan chanted "Flyers Suck" during a 1-0 game. Really? 1-0. While it is certainly true, we really shouldn't tempt fate much?

*I'm sure there was more worth mentioning but after attending Red Hot Hockey immediately after the Ranger game, some of the meandering minutia that rattles around my head was lost. Apologies.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - two fights.
2-Brad Richards - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Andrej Meszaros - Without Chris Pronger it seemed like Meszaros was the defender who was always there to break up the big Ranger chances and jump-start the Philly attack.
2-Hank - Another shutout, ho hum.
1-Prust - 7-0.

Friday, November 25, 2011

11-5-3: Wild One In Washington

The Rangers returned to their winning ways on Friday, following up their two woeful losses with a fast and loose 6-3 win over Washington. There were mistakes galore by both sides but the Blueshirts ended up on top, which is all that matters at the end of the day.

With less than 24 hours until the next match, I will make this quick. Late Hits:

*Ranted after last game that "as the captain and one of the team's top penalty killers, (Callahan) has to be smarter and he has to be a leader." Well, he certainly did that this evening. Cally stayed out of the box, forced two turnovers that handed Ruslan Fedotenko a pair of goals and he had a sneaky-smart feed to Brad Richard$ for a goal. Outstanding effort for the young man man with the C.

*Another nice turnaround from Brian Boyle, who had perhaps his best performance of the season (not that that is saying much). The big man won faceoffs and actually got the nerve to skate towards the front of the net, which paid off in a goal.

*Cally's assist would have been more impressive had it not come in the same game as Stepan's set-up for Marian Gaborik. The two of them are showing better chemistry than Dubi and Jagr did a few years back.

*Considering Dubi played less than three minutes, perhaps it is time to try something wild and reckless to get him going again. Who has a reputation of being wild and reckless (mistaken as it may be)?? Throw Dubi alongside Avery and put young Carl Hagelin in there. Three players with speed, grit and some skill.

*Hagelin had a nice little debut. As with any Red Berenson product, the Swede showed good hockey smarts and a great work ethic. Let's hope it was just the start for him.

*Washington certainly is not the party city that Montreal and Miami are, right?

*The Rangers can't make it easy, can they? Up 3-nil they had to open the door and let Washington start walking through. Unreal.

*Ranger power play? Still terrible, going 1-5. Great shot by Arty for that one though, using a defenseman as a screen before firing the puck in off the post.

*Watching their utterly inept defense, I can imagine Caps fans were thinking: 'if only Tom Poti was healthy!' I'll be honest, I missed Peanut Butta Poti Time.

*Ok, so seriously they were whining about the lack of Mike Green but even the Vespa rider couldn't have made Dennis Wideman and/or Roman Hamrlik not have horrible performances.

*Speaking of horrible defensemen: Del Zaster. Six goals by the team, zero points for the offensive d-man. No shots, over three minutes of power play time. But he was +2! John Carlson, one goal and one assist. Just sayin' ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-John Carlson - one goal and two assists.
2-Dan Girardi - two assists.
1-Ryan Callahan - three assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Girardi - Dan-O was on the ice for seven of the nine goals, playing just over 29 minutes. Both of his assists were secondary but he was still there on both ends of the ice. Too bad he and Ryan McDonagh are still human and couldn't take up all of Eminger and Woywitka's minutes.
2-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in this one with several utterly outrageous saves.
1-Cally - Don't remember any Chris Drury performances like this, do you?

A Quick Look At The Alumni Roster

The rosters for the Winter Classic Alumni Game were announced this afternoon. The bad guys are listed at this link but here is the Ranger roster:
Glenn Anderson
Dan Blackburn
Paul Broten
Ron Duguay
Nick Fotiu
Mike Gartner
Adam Graves
Ron Greschner
Pat Hickey
Darius Kasparaitis
Kris King
Nick Kypreos
Tom Laidlaw
Darren Langdon
Brian Leetch
Dave Maloney
Stephane Matteau
Brian Mullen
Dale Purinton
Mathieu Schneider
Darren Turcotte
John Vanbiesbrouck
Some observations of the old guys:

*Beezer is my all-time favourite Ranger, even if he sullied his legacy by playing for the Flyers, Isles and Devils at the end of his career. It will be nice to see him take the ice in a Blueshirt again.

*Someone should have told whoever picked the teams that the Broad Street Bullies are now filing social security, they didn't need to select so many goons. Nicky, Dale, Maloney, King, Kypreos, Langdon ... were Joey Kocur, Chris Nilan and Rudy Poeschek busy?

*In all seriousness, it would have been great if Sergei Zubov could have made it. That is one great Ranger that the franchise unceremoniously dumped and never replaced.

*How did neither team bring in Sandy McCarthy?

*I would love to see Mike Gartner skate over, take out teammate Glenn Anderson, take his rightful Stanley Cup ring and skate away.

*Will Blackburn be playing with his two blocker set up?

*Saw Brian Leetch play outside last winter in Hartford with the Bruins alumni. Look for him to be every bit as good as recent-retiree Mark Recchi will be for Philly.

*If Paul Broten can make it, why not Jan Erixon?

*HBO has to put a microphone on Philly's goaltender Mark LaForest. I interviewed Trees when he was with the Binghamton Rangers and that guy can talk - lotta swearing but that is the whole point of 24/7, right?

*Terry Carkner and Kjell Samuelsson are both playing for Philly. Not sure why the Flyers didn't put in Ian Laperriere too so us Ranger fans can weep for three draft picks who got away and ended up with the enemy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

10-5-3: From Montreal To Miami

For everyone who started carving the Cup during the seven game streak, are you carving up your wrists now that the Rangers have come back to Earth? After blowing through seven easy opponents the Blueshirts faced a pair of tough tests and failed both. (It also just happens that each coincided with trips to party towns but I have no hard evidence so I will just leave that accusation hanging in the air. Just want to say that it is a good thing the next game isn't in Vegas ...)

This visit to South Beach saw the Rangers wither in the sun, losing 2-1 to the Panthers. Dale Tallon has done magic remaking the kitty cats into a hard team to play against with some offensive bite. Sadly the most offensive thing on this night was the Rangers' play. You know the team was in trouble when their captain (yet again) took a bad, undisciplined penalty early. Not sure what Callahan's problem is but he has taken penalties each of the last four games. As the captain and one of the team's top penalty killers, he has to be smarter and he has to be a leader.

Late Hits:

*When Callahan was in the box Kris Versteeg was going back and forth in front of the crease, distracting Hank. And Jason Garrison took advantage by blasting a slap shot through the traffic to open the scoring. It is not rocket science.

*The Ranger power play was actually cycling early on but they kept on cycling players out and around the net. No one bothers to set up in front and the goaltender sees every shot. Having a man advantage means there is an extra man to counter the opposing goalie, make his life more difficult. Versteeg did that. The Rangers did not. Instead they used their extra attacker as just another person to pass to - perhaps hoping that having that extra option will eventually get someone an open shot. Except open shots are easily stopped when the goaltender can see them in this day and age. Not rocket science.

*After helping Garrison get his goal, Versteeg scored Florida's second himself. Del Zaster decided to just stand in the slot and watch the play while Tomas Fleischmann embarrassed Arty and fed the open Versteeg. It is getting tiring taking apart Del Zaster night after night as he just seems to find new ways to make mistakes. Said it before, will say it again, the Rangers screwed up his development by taking him away from Dale Hunter one season too early. Instead they allowed him to take advantage of all New York has to offer while everyone inflated his ego. Maybe someday he will have a moment of clarity and come to his senses but that day doesn't seem to be coming anytime soon.

*How is it possible that Anton Stralman is a slower skater than Jeff Woywitka? Stralman's decision making was almost as slow as his feet so he certainly is not the solution to the Rangers' lack of defensive depth. But his presence allowed the Rangers to limit Girardi's ice time so Dan-O only got 27 minutes of ice time instead of 28 or 29 ...

*Also embarrassing was everything surrounding Andre Deveaux's elbow to Fleischmann's head. I was standing at a bar wondering what the hell happened and MSG made the disappointing decision to dump to commercial. Once they came back and showed the replays it did not seem as egregious to me at all - a big guy hitting a little guy who was bent over. Deveaux definitely had his elbow out but it definitely did not appear to be an attempt to injure. If Deveaux really wanted to injure Flash, he would have just ran over the Panther when the guy had his head down with the puck - instead he just stupidly tried to make some contact. Worthy of an elbowing penalty for sure, but not a match. But with Flash playing up how hurt he was, it was inevitable that the big fourth line former AHLer would get the gate. Reputation goes so far with refereeing.

*With Deveaux out for a while, perhaps we will finally get to see Carl Hagelin get a shot. The addition of the speedy Swede will be a boon for Sean Avery as Avery was way too fast to be stuck with the cement skates of Boyle and Deveaux. Boyle has just been bad this season, his much publicized skating lessons haven't seemed to stick and he refuses to use his big build to his advantage. By the way, Sean went shot-less in this one, which shouldn't happen.

*Happy for Step to score in his 100th game, too bad it was the lone highlight of the night.

*When will MSG give up on the horrid 150 seconds of bad, loud drum and bass music? Poor Bill Pidto was drowned out by the terrible tune as he struggled through the highlights - it just is not a good gimmick. Most painful 150 seconds in hockey.

*It is ok for Fedotenko and Prust to be invisible offensively. It is not ok for Richard$ to be MIA. Dubi and Cally as wingers haven't been helping B-Rich of late but trying him with Feds and Prust? Torts grasping at straws.

*Dubinsky played nearly five minutes of power play time and 21 and a half minutes overall. He had one shot and 10 hits; neither statistic helped the Rangers. Hopefully Dubi can get his game back together before his old foe Sidney Crosby comes to town next week.

*The official scorer somehow gave the Rangers 50 hits. Fifty! Wonder what game he was watching.

*Maybe if the Rangers were able to tie things up and force a shootout Erik Christensen could have justified being on the roster. They weren't and he didn't. What a waste of a Ranger jersey.

*While the Blueshirts were definitely embarrassed yet again, at least they didn't do it wearing terrible jerseys. Seriously Islanders, you make it too easy.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jason Garrison - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 36 saves.
1-Tomas Fleischmann - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King came through with his his usual solid effort, too bad he can't score too.
2-Garrison - Solid defense and a great shot.
1-Versteeg - The former Blackhawk got his nose dirty down low and was rewarded for it, twice.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

10-4-3: The Hung Over Hollow Men

This is the way the streak ends
This is the way the streak ends
This is the way the streak ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
The Rangers' seven game run came to an end on Saturday night as they fell down before the mighty mites of Montreal. Le Bleu Blanc et Rouge beat the Blueshirts 4-0 in a game that wasn't nearly that close. Had the Habs had more skill and a coach who was more offensively inclined than Jacques Martin than this one could have been seven, eight, nine to zip.

There was no zip in the Ranger play. Hell, there wasn't much play in the Rangers play. While I have no first- or second-hand accounts of the team enjoying Montreal on Friday night, the squad that took the Bell Centre ice certainly looked like they were battling hangovers - how else can you account for the lack of life? What is it about playing in Quebec that turns a hard-working team into a stumbling, inept mess? Granted, the team that won their previous seven games was flawed (as I have continually pointed out) but it was nowhere near as bad as the one that fell flat on their faces tonight.

Whatever. There is just one more opportunity to be massacred in Montreal, which will be in mid-January - at least it isn't an obstacle in the annual last-ditch run to the playoffs. For now the Blueshirts have three days off before going on a scary three-games-in-four-nights run against tough teams. Let's hope they find better ways to spend the time than whatever they did before taking the ice tonight.

Late Hits:

*It is easier to point out the players who did show up rather than rant about the ones that didn't - and they were all the usual suspects: Callahan, Prust, Avery and Sauer. And even they didn't come out of it clean as Cally had two good scoring chances and two terrible penalties. Prust provided no pressure on Price and got called for a joke of a penalty. Avery had a horrific turnover to the MexiCan't. And Sauer, well, I guess he was the best of the bunch.

*Unless Hank was injured - as his 'maintenance day' Friday may indicate - the decision to start Marty Biron was a mistake. Hank was hot, there would have been time for him to recover before the next game and Biron would have gotten a start anyway during next week's three-in-four run. Unless Torts plans on playing Hank in all three, which would be folly. But tonight Biron was a sieve, three of the four goals were stoppable and that one from the wing by Gionta was atrocious.

*He was not helped by having Michael Del Zaster in front of him, that is for sure. The kid was a colossal failure on this night. He was beaten on the Cole goal, he was out of position on the first Gionta goal and he turned over the puck on the second. Also he had four completely ineffective minutes of power play time - Anton Stralman needs to figure things out soon so he can get on the ice and take some all of that time.

*The Bell Centre, Hockey Night In Canada officiating in the third period was utterly woeful, to put it nicely. Andre Deveaux's boarding and roughing calls were both a joke and the Prust penalty was pulled from thin air. But there is no way Stephane Auger is going to piss off his home province or risk being embarrassed on national tv by allowing the Rangers to get physical. However, to pin the loss on the stripes is folly. The game was all-but-over before the third even started because of how the Rangers were skating.

*Multiple Rangers - including Avery and Stepan and Dubinsky - need to realize that they don't have to score on their open shots. While it would be nice to pick a corner and collect the glory, it is often better to just get the damned puck on net. Too many rushes ended up in the players peeling off and heading back as the shot missed the net, went around the boards and out of the Montreal end.

*It is hard to create anything offensively when the head coach insists you play dump and chase against a team that keeps three and four guys back all the time. The Rangers needed to show off their talent but instead they fell into the trap time and time again. When they got possession deep Montreal quickly double-teamed the puck carrier and forced a turnover. Not to mention that it seemed like the Blueshirts were hacking at the puck like it was a rat in the Florida Panthers locker room.

*The Habs have a defense that is even more inexperienced than the Rangers and yet Martin didn't feel the need to run P.K. Subban or Josh Gorges into the ground. Diaz (19), Emelin (11), St. Denis (2) and Weber (68) had a combined 100 NHL games under their belt starting the night but, still, no Canadien defender played more than 22:26. Dan Girardi played 28:31, Ryan McDonagh played 24:42.

*Why Tortorella refuses to let Deveaux get into any flow is beyond me. The Rangers were completely flat after the deflating Gionta goal slid under Biron in the second, so why not let the guy go out there and inject some energy? A fear of penalties? To point out the boarding call as a reason is ridiculous as it was a clean hit. The big man could have been a big help had he been allowed to play his game but instead he had to rein things in. You can't expect him to be any kind of factor when he has to skate for his job in the two shifts he gets per period.

*Really, why the hell were Micheletti and Rosen rambling throughout the pre-game tribute to the Montreal trainer? And Micheletti insisting that Biron stepped on 'a strap or something' when he simply missed the Gionta shot was just ridiculous.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Carey Price - 17 saves.
2-Erik Cole - one goal and one assist.
1-Brian Gionta - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cole - You could see why Eric Staal misses him so much in Carolina - the New York native never stops skating and is willing to get his nose dirty to make a play.
2-Scott Gomez - Do you know how painful it is to put him here? And yet he made two nice feeds that resulted in Gionta's goals.
1-Gionta - Amazing what happens when your hard-working captain has a little help.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More On The MSG Renovations

The ubiquitous Patrick Hoffman seems to post everywhere around the internet and posted a piece on the MSG renovations over at the Score. Hoffman is a friend of the blog and very graciously asked for my input - I guess he wanted a dissenting opinion, haha. You can click the above link for the well written final product but I thought I would provide the full Q & A here for anyone who is interested:

1) So, the Rangers have now played a handful games at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden. What are some of your general thoughts?

It is only a matter of time before the place is as sterile and lifeless as the Air Canada Center in Toronto.

2) What do you think are some of the positives of the newly renovated MSG so far? Why?

The new West Balcony is a lovely place to watch some hockey. It gives a majestic view over the ice. Of course, according to one rep I spoke to, they are not letting subscribers move up there and will not in the near future - instead they are reserving the seats for group tickets. Supposedly the ice level luxury areas are quite nice. Arena staff are nicer than ever, likely a mandate from above but still nice.

3) What do you think are some of the negatives of the newly renovated MSG so far? Why?

The building is far from finished. There are many signs scattered around the various concourses advising that features are coming in December or coming in 2012 or whatever. There are more obstructed view seats than ever - at least one handicapped section that I know of and the 400s under the West Balcony. There has been an extension chord sticking out of one of the walls into the arena itself near my seat, something they couldn't be bothered to at least cover up or get rid of. They put in a shoddy drop ceiling over the corner sections of the 300s to cover up some wiring - like the arena is someone's sleezy 70s basement. Without climbing over seats, there is no straight way to go from the 300s down to the glass inside the arena. As most of the eateries are not finished left, there are just basic concessions available and the quality of even those has been mediocre.

4) As a fan, how has your viewing experienced been enhanced, if at all, by the renovations?

It has not; my area of the 300s will not be renovated until next summer.

5) As a fan, how has your viewing experience been impacted negatively, if at all, by the renovations?

The building is quieter than it has been in years - either because of the way they have physically changed the place or because they raised prices and lost True Blue subscribers. It is harder to get around and lines are as bad as ever.

6) What do you think can further be done to make MSG better? Why?

Finish the renovation. Lower ticket prices to get more of the real fans back.

7) Any other general thoughts you'd like to share about the newly renovated MSG?

I was vehemently against the renovation when it was announced but now am willing to wait until it is completed before passing final judgement. But I don't like what I see so far, that is for sure.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Montreal Canadiens

The Rangers will put their seven game streak on the line Saturday night when they head into the Bell Centre for a match against Montreal. The game is at 7 pm and is on HNIC for those lucky enough to get CBC, NHL Net for those in the US outside of NY and MSG for the poor bastards in NY.

Where We Are: Finding ways to win games. As per Brooksie, the Rangers are 9-1-2 against bottom 13 clubs - including a 5-3 win over these very same Canadiens.

Where They Are: The Habs have just 19 points in 19 games so far. They are last in their division and 12th in the East but have just one regulation loss in their five games - 3-1-1. That loss came against the Islanders of all teams though so things are certainly not going too well for the Habs.

Who To Watch For: Tomas Plekanec leads Montreal with 18 points in their 19 games. Hank's old buddy Max Pacioretty is the team leader with nine goals. Carey Price, who is coming off of a shutout against Carolina, has allowed two or less goals in eight of his last nine games (the exception being the four he gave up to the Rangers). No U.S.S. Hal Gill as the lumbering oaf was suffering from "a virus" and just got out of the hospital. Andrei Kostitsyn and Andrei Markov are both out. Scott Gomez has missed time due to injury this season but has gotten in 10 games. The Mexican't is goalless with just two assists. Hahahahahaha. I laugh and yet that likely means he will score against us unless our incredible luck of late holds.

What To Watch For: Not sure if the Rangers went up today or not but if so, see how they start after having Friday night fun in old Montreal. The Ranger forecheck on the many injury fill-ins on the Canadiens' blue line. Old foes Michael Cammalleri, Erik Cole and Brian Gionta to pop up and play hard. Gomez and Plekanec to win faceoff after faceoff. How many minutes Girardi and McDonagh play against Pacioretty.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The GAS line to snap their two game drought and finally convert on some of their chances. Had Prust not had to step in for Eminger, I would say a fight in the first two minutes but it might not be for the best for him to test his shoulder two games in a row. So perhaps Andre Deveaux getting more than three minutes, considering he is twice the size of Gionta and Desharnais. Cally and Dubi not getting suckered into doing anything stupid by P.K. Subban. Actually, Avery vs. Subban would be quite entertaining. Avery to keep his goal scoring streak going.

Also Check Out: Sadly the fun Four Habs Fans called it quits but there are still a few good blogs out there - All Habs, SBN's Eyes on the Prize and a thorough MSM blog from the Gazette called Habs Inside/Out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

10-3-3: Surviving The Cesspool

Maybe it is seeing Brad Richards' new girlfriend Olivia Munn as Princess Leia but the best analogy I can make for the Rangers right now is the Millennium Falcon: "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts."

The Rangers definitely do not look like much - that is for sure - but where it counts is on the scoreboard and the Blueshirts have won seven straight. On Tuesday they just barely beat the Islanders 4-2 in a game that was far too close. The Isles had lost nine of 10 and played quite poorly. The Rangers weren't much better but they still found a way to win, something they have done game after game on this run. It is frankly stupefying but hell, it has been fun. Now, after surviving the decrepit dump the Isles call a hockey arena, the Rangers will really put their luck to test in the House of Horrors that is the Bell Centre on Saturday.

But first things first, Late Hits for this one:

*Hey Richard$, nice looking girlfriend and nice looking goal. Fate certainly is smiling on him right about now, eh?

*For all of the hand wringing over the lines Torts set before the game, they didn't even make it through the first period. So many words typed on so many blogs and message boards for no good reason.

*No matter who he is with, it seems like Ryan Callahan is skating alone out there. It is quite sad to see him go in one on three or four so often.

*Maybe the Rangers should rename the power play unit to the waste two minutes unit or the antagonize our fans unit or something. How do they not score five-on-three? Or even come close? Especially against a kill that is ranked 20th in the NHL ... If the Ranger power play came through on two man advantage - or the ensuing power play just seconds after that ended - then the Blueshirts wouldn't have been a post away from going to overtime against the last place team in the Eastern Conference.

*A part of the power play problem is Del Zaster. The kid is not capable of quarterbacking a NHL power play and yet he eats minutes away. He takes too long to make decisions, he doesn't shoot enough, he can't hold the blue line, his passes do not put his teammates in good positions ... he just has that one back-door move that other teams are clearly aware of now. MDZ completely losing track of a puck that was right behind him was just infuriating. Making things even more maddening is that the kid did have at least two good defensive plays in the game, but they are just outweighed by his many shortcomings.

*Oh Arty, following a two-on-one breakaway with an offensive zone penalty. This kid is just so frustrating.

*AVERY *clap, clap*, AVERY *clap, clap*, AVERY *clap, clap* ... on Long Island. That was awesome. The Hockey News had a poll a few weeks back where 85% of hockey fans said they wouldn't want Avery on their team. The other 15% must have been Ranger fans. Said it before, will say it again: all Avery does is play his ass off for the Blueshirts. And we love him for it. It is pathetic that that he is still getting reputation penalties called against him - the unsportsmanlike at the end of the first was a farce. But that didn't dissuade him from playing his game and earning more than 12 minutes of ice time. For him to come away with his second goal in as many games ... just wow. AVERY *clap, clap*, AVERY!!

*The Mausoleum staff played "Shipping Up To Boston" during the Avery/Mottau fight because, I guess, because Mottau is a Masshole from Quincy. So the Isles have theme songs like pro wrestlers now? How white trash of them. And then they later played the Dancing Larry song ... awful.

*Love that the Isles honoured a serviceman - the one time the entire building cheered together. (The nat'l anthem was fractured as several people *cough, cough, not just me, cough* yelled "Let's Go Rangers!" mid-song.)

*Also deserving of appreciation was the Islanders WAGs as they were selling Love For Lokomotiv bracelets. I already had one but bought another for a friend.

*Brandon Prust should smack Steve Eminger in the back of the head for having to fight his battle for him. Eminger took exception to getting hit, picked a fight and then let Prust step in for him. There was no need for Prust to lower himself to Martin's level and get suckered into a wrestling match with that minor leaguer. Of course, Eminger made up for his act of cowardice by scoring the goal to make it a 2-1 game but still, Prust needs to save his fights for the first two minutes of big games.

*There were at least three fights among the fans, with one being particularly gnarly. A guy got thrown down the stairs of the 300 section only to take a few more punches from security once he reached the bottom. Poor bastard.

*Oh Henry! It really is amazing watching Lundqvist play hockey. He had an utterly incredible sprawling save midway through the second period and made several other top notch stops over the course of the night. But then again, his various wanderings away from the crease were heart attack-inducing and that Frans Nielsen goal against was atrocious. We can't do anything easy, can we?

*Anton Stralman had better finish learning the Ranger system soon because Dan Girardi isn't going to last much longer. By the middle of the third period Dan-O could hardly move. He ended up with almost 28 minutes of ice time while Woywitka and Eminger both played less than 10. If Stralman doesn't figure the system out, get into game shape and earn Tortorella's trust, then Girardi might not even make it to the All Star Game that we are trying to write him into.

*How great is it that the Islanders suck? Seriously. Too bad the NHL will reward them with another top pick. But then again, maybe whoever they draft will end up like Kyle Okposo, who was a healthy scratch. Haha.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Evgeni Nabokov - 26 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.
1-Brad Richards - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Frans Nielsen - As bad as his goal was for Hank to give up, the Dane was a constant threat for the Isles.
2-Cally - The Captain put forth a complete effort yet again.
1-Hank - Had the King not come through during the second period siege the Rangers would have had their streak snapped by the last place Islanders. Last place Islanders - what a delight to write. Last place Islanders.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peepin' Foes: New York Islanders

The Rangers head to MSG East for the second time this young season for a bout against the Isles on Tuesday (7pm, MSG for the many mistakes of Micheletti, MSG-Plus for the far-too-concussed-to-know-where-he-even-is Butch Goring).

Where We Are: I didn't see the first meeting with the Isles but have to imagine that the Rangers are in far better shape than they were during that loss. The Rangers have remarkably won six in a row despite many, many flaws in their game and their roster.

Where They Are: The Isles have just one win in their last 10 games (1-6-3) so they are, of course, more dangerous than ever. Despite an alleged three-headed goaltending monster, they have given up 14 goals over their last three games.

Who To Watch For: The Isles are hoping for another Swiss savior in rookie Nino Niederreiter, who they just called up in time for the game. The other native of the neutral country on their roster, Mark Streit, is the cornerstone of their defense (while Wade Redden, the guy we got instead, is in the AHL). That John Tavares nerd doesn't suck while P.A. Parenteau is still proving the Rangers wrong by showing that he can indeed play in the NHL - he has 12 points in 15 games. Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson have been mediocre at best while Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau have been positively terrible. The Isles don't have a single player on the positive side of their plus/minus.

What To Watch For: A loud, pro-Ranger crowd. The Rangers' intensity and discipline levels. Comeau - if he plays - to break out; he could be scratched since he is pointless in 12 games this year but he does have 18 in 19 career games against the Rangers. Rickie D to try to step up his play - seeing as Nabby gave up this hilarious atrocity in the Isles' last game, DP is sure to get the call. Or maybe it will be Monty. Whichever one of them ends up starting, the guy has cause to hate the Rangers.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers make Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston miss their years on the Devils. Dan Girardi playing less than 26 minutes, Sean Avery playing more than 10. Andre Deveaux beating up meathead Matt Martin. The Rangers not giving up any shorthanded goals to Frans Nielsen. The GAS line getting back to their scoring ways. Brian Boyle following his new linemates' (Cally and Dubi) lead by starting to play as hard as he can. Dubi starting a goal-scoring streak now that he broke his donut.

Also Check Out: Schultzy took over Point Blank so head over there to make fun of him.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

9-3-3: Friday Fun

The Rangers kept on rolling on Friday night with their sixth win in a row, a 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though this was the fifth straight win on Garden ice, it probably was the most feel-good of them all. Fan favourite Sean Avery scored, Brandon Dubinsky got off the snide and military members were honoured around the arena.

Was it perfect? Absolutely not. The Rangers were good the first 20 minutes, poor the next 30 and terrific the last 10. Tortorella simply can not get his guys to play a full 60 for the life of him. And that back-and-forth effort came against a Carolina squad that was far less fearsome than the hurricane-that-wasn't this summer Irene. The Canes were not a good team. But, that being said, we should be heartened that the Blueshirts didn't play down to their opponents ... in the end.

Late Hits:

*Sean Avery should not take faceoffs. But he should keep doing everything else he did. Having family members in the audience paid off as Avery put together a heck of a game: he scored a goal, drew a pair of penalties and forced Tortorella to play him more than five minutes alongside players with actual skill and ability. Avery's goal was terrific - he read the clearing pass off the boards perfectly before showing his incredible breakaway speed to beat the defender. Once he had the puck there was no pulling up, no dumping and changing - he just went right at Cam Ward and snapped the puck under the crossbar. It was beautiful. And man, did the Garden go wild. It was delightful.

*Brandon Dubinsky delighted in his goal, with a very Vinny Prospal-esque celebration. The goal was just good fortune as Ward kicked the rebound from Ryan Callahan's shot right into the slot. But hey, a gimmie goal is still a goal and hopefully it will be enough to get Dubi going again.

*I've seen Carolina a good number of times in the last few years and I've never seen Cam Ward implode like he did in the third, allowing three goals in three minutes before gifting Richard$ one of the easiest goals of his entire career.

*Probably the best Garden crowd to date this season, not that that is saying much.

*Joe Frazier got a better, longer commercial break obituary than Derek Boogaard did during the home opener. Boogaard only played for the Rangers.

*Really getting tired of watching Del Zaster. The kid is atrocious on the power play and is virtually incapable in his own zone. Late in the second period the Rangers had a power play that actually looked pretty good. And MDZ blew it - not only did he miss his trademark back-door attempt but his passing was poor to everyone except Tim Gleason.

*The GAS Line looked good again, even if the Canes were able to hold them off of the scoreboard. Arty needs to be more physical and use his size better.

*Speaking of a reluctance to be truculent, Brian Boyle is almost back to being the utterly ineffective player who the L.A. Kings gave up on. He picked up a second assist on the Dubi goal but that had little to do with his work on the play. What he learned from his power skating lessons, the seeing eye shots from the circles, the faceoff ability are all gone. But most of all, I miss Brandon Prust.

*How did Hank miss Alexei Ponikarovsky's shot? The King was so good the rest of the night that allowing the former Leaf to slide a low shot past him was really surprising.

*If the fans didn't boo every time he touched the puck, you wouldn't have known that Eric Staal was playing.

*Anyone else have a bad feeling that the Islanders are going to end this nice ride on Tuesday?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and one assist.
2-Sean Avery - one goal.
1-Dan Girardi - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - Sean edges out Dubi for the final spot because he played for just 10 minutes. He didn't get a single second on special teems
2-Hank - Soft goal by the former Leaf Poni aside, Lundqvist's play kept the Rangers in the game.
1-Girardi - That is future All Star Dan Girardi to you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Peepin' Foes: Carolina Hurricanes

The Rangers will bring their five game win streak back to the Garden Friday for a game against the Hartford Whalers Carolina Hurricanes. It is a 7pm start and, for those stuck at home, you will be subjected to Micheletti on MSG.

Where We Are: On a roll. The Rangers are finding ways to win despite the many flaws in their game and crippling inconsistencies.

Where They Are: Losers of three straight and seven of their last nine. To brighten their spirits they spent Thursday at Ground Zero.

Who To Watch For: In typical fashion the Rangers will face a scorer coming back from injury - Jussi Jokinen. The shootout specialist missed three games after a bad fall against Tampa and is still in second on his team with nine points in 12 games. First is Jeff Skinner, who is showing no signs of a sophomore slump this season (14 points in 15 games) while Jamie McBain has been slumping his way to the press box. Our pal Tuomo Ruutu hasn't been particularly good this season, which means he should get hot against the Rangers. Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky have been busts.

What To Watch For: Eric Staal. The elder brother has been atrocious this season with just five points and is an awful -16. It would appear that he is suffering mentally for the physical pain he gave unto his brother. While it would just be ceremonial, watch to see if anyone will go after him. Olympic teammates Ryan Callahan and Tim Gleason going hit for hit. Chad LaRose walking around Del Zaster as he powers to the net.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Ranger forecheck making life tough for the Canes quarterback Joni Pitkanen. Hell, hopefully we will just see the Rangers forecheck. It would be too much to ask Boyle to find his scoring touch but his checking line needs to pick up the checking part of their job. Dubi to get off the shnide. The GAS line to keep up their GAG ways. Andre Deveaux to beat up Jay Harrison.

Also Check Out: Red and Black Hockey just called it quits but there is still Canes Country, the Cardiac Cane and Canes Now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

8-3-3: Step & The Slovak

Last season we saw Derek Stepan find a nice chemistry with Mats Zuccarello. The two complimented each other and clearly made each other comfortable as they worked through their first season on Broadway. The only problem with that pairing was that it became predictable - for all of the hard work and pretty passing, there was no finishing. Teams quickly learned that Zuke would not shoot the puck and adjusted accordingly.

Well, now Zuke is shooting a bit more but he is doing it in the bus league alongside fellow Lilliputian Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. Stepan, meanwhile, is making the most of his time with Marian Gaborik. Tortorella's use of the Tom Renney line generator finally worked out as Step has started clicking with the Slovakian sniper. The two have found the most elusive of Ranger qualities - chemistry. Let's hope it is more the forging of steel rather than the quick explosion of a baking soda volcano.

Late Hits:

*You can dislike Sean Avery all you like but you really should respect the lengths he is going to prove he belongs in the NHL. Avery took on Zenon Konopka in the first period, answering the bell for the Wolski/Alfredsson collision (I still think it wasn't an elbow). Was it a good fight? No. Did Avery win? No. But he stepped up for his teammates against the most prolific fighter in the NHL. Because Torts is Torts Avery ended up with nearly as many minutes in the penalty box as he did on the ice but it doesn't matter. Avery answered the bell. Hope he doesn't get gaffe from the boss for being on the ice when the Sens scored their second goal of the night - if not for the evil cloud of Shanabans looming over the NHL right now, Avery would have hammered Bobby Butler before Butler pitchforked the puck into the Ranger end, setting up the Nick Foligno goal.

*There was one other fight in this one, Andre Deveaux against Jared Cowen. Cowen, the coward, picked the fight off the faceoff and kept his helmet and visor on. An utterly despicable move. Major points to Deveaux for picking his punches instead of firing away at the pathetic joke of a hockey player Cowen. While he is still a bit too slow of foot for my tastes, Deveaux has been a solid addition to the team - one far better than Brashear/Boogey/Rupp ...

*Love the poppies for Remembrance Day.

*Love Paul MacLean's mustache.

*Hate that the Sens are called 'Ottawa" when they play in Kanata, a suburb a half hour away. That is almost as egregious as calling the NFL teams the New York Jets and the New York Giants when they both play in New Jersey.

*Arty: the post? Really? Anderson gave him so much space to shoot at during his first period breakaway but the kid blew it. Admittedly it is just one of the few complaints about his play of late: he has just one goal this season despite a slew of chances.

*And on that note, Brandon Dubinsky. Anyone else think Dubi spent too much time this summer celebrating his new contract?

*Really not sure what caused the correction that brought Brian Boyle back to being a big nothing of a player but it stinks. His hot hand died down in the middle of last season but he was still effective. Now he is dragging Prust and Feds down with him.

*Girardi and McDonagh played around 28 minutes a piece. Against Ottawa. The Ottawa Senators. Not a division rival. Not even one of the top teams in the conference. They admittedly were rock solid against the Sens but Torts is burning these guys out and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet.

*Milan Michalek had one goal in seven games against the Rangers before the start of this campaign. He has three in two this season. Somebody hit that guy.

*Not long after starting this blog I floated the idea of dealing Gomez for Spezza. While Bob Gainey's goof of a trade has certainly paid dividends for the Rangers, seeing Spezza shine always annoyed me an extra bit. Perhaps Brad Richard$ will keep improving into the skillful center the Rangers need but tonight Spezza was better.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Milan Michalek - one goal.
2-Derek Stepan - one goal and two assists.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - 29 saves and no softies allowed in yet another solid start.
2-Erik Karlsson - While Del Zaster has been improving of late, seeing just how smooth and skilled this Swede is is infuriating. Karlsson eats up minutes and deftly moves the puck.
1-Stepan/Gabby/Arty - The whole line deserves to be honoured after another great game.

Monday, November 7, 2011

7-3-3: Slowly Step-an Up

MSG Network does a lot of things wrong. Since the heydays of SportsDesk and JD and WWF, the network has slowly become something you only tune in to to catch the game. Programming has been filled with bad music shows promoting MSG's other properties, poorly-put-together clip shows and perhaps the most obnoxious telecast of a radio show ever. There is the rare gem of a new Vault but other than that, it has been Ranger game or nothing. Well, MSG has another hit on their hands with Beginnings and they stuck gold on Sunday by programming the Derek Stepan episode ahead of the Ranger game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Beginnings gives a personal look at the personalities that make up the Rangers and Stepan's show showed a young man with class and character. A humble kid with personality and class beyond his years, the first thought that came to my mind was that he may be a perfect heir to Adam Graves - an example of what a Ranger should be. Step has a long ways to go and a lot of years ahead of him but he is certainly headed in the right direction. After a slow start to his sophomore season, the last few games have seen his play improve exponentially and the 3-0 win over Winnipeg was one of his best performances yet.

The kid looked like a great compliment to Gaborik, the way Dubi was to Jagr a few years back. The chemistry worked to the tune of three goals and another Ranger win. Now we have to see if it was the start to a strong bond or just a flash in the pan.

Late Hits:

*For all of the raving and all of the winning, things still aren't great in Ranger land. The team had trouble pressing the road-weary Jets back into their own zone, where is that damned forecheck?? The power play still had its troubles, wasting serious five-on-three time. Dan Girardi still had to play more than 26 minutes. Dubi's offense is still MIA. The guys are still good for a few stupid penalties. The Garden crowd - at least on tv - sounded quiet and tame.

*I had forgotten how difficult it is to watch games at MSG while not in the building. And not just because Micheletti is unlistenable - which he is, listening to him butcher games is a form of torture akin to waterboarding. But while MSG shows the game as well as any broadcaster out there, you don't really get the feeling that comes with being there. Sure you hear the ubiquitous Potvin Sucks whistles but it is far from the same. This is not to boast or brag about how I get to so many games blah blah, just a personal revelation as to how tied to the games I've become.

*Without being in the building it was hard to concentrate on Del Zaster's play but he didn't look as bad as usual. Of course, the Rangers weren't playing as good of an opponent as usual but hey, I'm trying to give him credit. His assist on the Stepan goal was a fluke as he simply made a bad pass to Gaborik that happened to hop past the Slovak to the streaking Stepan.

*The other Ranger who often gets dogged in this space - Arty Anisimov - had perhaps his best game this year. Between his goal line saves in that one goal-crease scrum and his work with Step and Gabby, Arty played with an energy and confidence that he usually lacks. Pointed it out from Day 1, he relies upon his linemates for strength and he could be a great player if he ever is able to find it in himself.

*Happy to see Biron get the shut out but let's face it, he barely had to earn it. No Tobias Enstrom, no cohesive attack by the Jets.

*Ruslan Fedotenko is the guy who carries cement bags around construction sites. He works his ass off in a thankless but very necessary position.

*Love how the haters are calling out Sean Avery for being ineffective. Avery was given just 5:21 of ice time, skating alongside Slow Deveaux and Mr. Softie Christensen. Talk about putting a player in a position to fail. Not that I am hating on Deveaux - he is actually a decent replacement for Rupp - but his lack of speed and skill set just doesn't compliment Avery's game at all.

*As I tweeted, Mark Messier was honoured during a tv timeout for running the NY marathon - something I guess it an accomplishment that's as important to the Rangers as Boogaard's death. I still can't believe the lack of class in handling the loss of that Blueshirt during the home opener.

*Another game-time tweet, do you think that Boyle is hurt or something? He looks like the pre-Barb Underhill player he was. Big, soft & virtually useless.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - two goals and one assist.
2-Marty Biron - 23 saves.
1-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Biron - When that first shot almost went in under his right pad, I thought for sure this was going to be like Zug. Where his luck went south in Switzerland, it was on his side on this night.
2-Gabby - As great as Step's feed was on his first goal, Gabby still had to finish. And, as empty net goals go, his was purty.
1-Step - Nice timing kid, making the MSG programmer look good.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

6-3-3: Back To .500

Was tonight's 5-3 game the result of the calamity that took place just four minutes into the first period? It is possible. The Rangers inexplicably took exception to a perfectly clean hit, picked a pair of fights and shockingly ended up with a two-man advantage - one they actually scored on. The Garden went wild and the Blueshirts got a burst of energy that they rode to two more goals in the period.

What Dean Morten and Tim Peel were thinking is beyond me. How they decided Sauer got the gate and not Cally, how they decided Mike Blunden's hit was interference when the puck was in Dubi's feet, how they suddenly decided to make tic-tac calls in the middle of the second period ... but hey, it worked out for the best, right?

Late Hits:

*With Sauer out the goalposts picked up their game and blocked several sure-fire goals. The first would have tied the game at one instead of leading to Dan Girardi's goal. Then there were the pair that would have either seen the Rangers completely blow their 3-0 lead but instead Brad Richard$ struck to thankfully put the game out of reach. Not quite the Massacre in Montreal but it would have been close.

*Del Zaster was his usual less than average defensive self but credit must be given to him, his goal was a thing of beauty. He loves to jump in the play and a smart feed from Step found him cutting through the slot. A quick deke and the Rangers were up 3-0. For the first time since the beginning of his rookie season MDZ did something worthy of the 'Leetch' hype. It was a sexy goal, no taking anything away from that. Too bad he still has no clue that hitting is supposed to be a tool to win the puck. And passing the puck into a guy's skates is not a good thing.

*Not sure what was more disgusting, the fans booing the Canadian national anthem or the fact that the singer sang the French version. And the idiot Ranger fans who chanted "USA!" later in the game ... really? The goaltender is Swedish, the star center is Canadian and star sniper is Slovak. Patriotism is a wonderful thing, stupidity is not.

*David Desharnais is short. Like, really short. Too bad Zuke wasn't up here so the two could go back-to-back to see who was taller.

*The Rangers are back in action Sunday night and it is hard to imagine Dan Girardi doing well. He and McDonagh looked completely out of gas by the end of the third period after going over the boards time and time again in this one. They were great but when the Habs upped the pressure in the final minutes it seemed like they could hardly move. And yet Jeff Woywitka saw less than seven minutes. That is not a vote of confidence coming off of his best game as a Ranger, on the day the team announced that they signed Christian Backman II, Anton Stralman.

*Speaking of ice time, I had set the over/under of Sean Avery's ice time at 7:30. Avery came in at 4:46. Really, what is the point of dressing the guy if the coach won't play him? Not that he showed that he deserved much more as he definitely showed some rust.

*Not sure why Torts kept Deveaux sitting so much either. Given how short the Habs were, you would think that a big wrecking ball might have been nice, especially when the Lilliputians started pinning the Rangers in their own end. Nice to see him collect his first NHL point since December 23rd, 2008 with the assist on the Richards goal. He kept battling along the boards to push the puck forward and Richard$ ended up taking a wicked wrister past Price.

*How great was it to see PK Subban - of all the Habs - falling into his own empty net, unable to stop Callahan's game-sealing score?

*Hard to decide which was my favourite taunt of the night, my "You got scored on by Christensen and Del Zotto! Hahahahahaha!" or another guy's "Hey, you guys really miss Scott Gomez." Either way, there were far, far too many Habs fans in the arena. But that is what is going to happen more and more often nowadays I guess.

*Wonder what, if anything, is wrong with Prust but he doesn't look like the player he was last season. Hopefully he isn't nursing another injury like the bum shoulder he dealt with back in the spring.

*I am pretty sure I heard the Garden staff play Lady of Spain on the organ early in the second period. I laugh every time I hear that.

*Dancing Larry was a mush yet again, doing his tired old dance just seconds before Gionta scored to bring Montreal back within one, 4-3.

*Dozen games into the season and the Rangers still are struggling to find consistency across the board. Shift to shift, period to period, game to game. But tonight's victory was their third straight so as long as they are getting points consistently, the rest will follow suit.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan McDonagh - one assist.
2-Dan Girardi - one goal.
1-Artem Anisimov - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3- Arty - Like Step, Arty is starting to find his stride. Just once it would be nice to see him (and Boyle for that matter) use his size.
2-Step - Heads up play got him helpers on Christensen and Del Zaster's goals. One would have to be doing pretty well to get those two guys on the scoresheet. Hey oh!
1-Dan-O - Over 30 minutes, several blocked shots and a heckuva howitzer goal.

Friday, November 4, 2011

5-3-3: Done With The Ducks

The Rangers avenged their 2-1 shootout loss to the Ducks in Stockholm with a 2-1 shootout win in the Garden on Thursday.

The two games were quite similar - virtually devoid of intensity and action. Hank, who made 27 saves in each, was beat by Bobby Ryan in the first shootout and stopped him in the second. There were a few minutes of outstanding hockey in both but the rest was drek with the teams more than willing to play for the free point. In Stockholm the Swedish crowd was quietly polite and tame while in MSG the crowd was just plain quiet outside of the awfully incessant Potvin Sucks whistles.

It wasn't particularly entertaining but at least it is out of the way. And it could prove to be important as the Rangers came away with three of four points against their west coast foes. Seeing it will be hard to escape with a lot of points against the Atlantic rivals, these could be the ones that make the difference between eighth and ninth place. You have to look at the big picture when the small one was so hard to watch.

Just a few Late Hits as this is already a day late:

*Nice timing for Jeff Woywitka to have his best performance on a day when the Rangers supposedly signed Anton Stralman - his replacement. Not only did Redden Woywitka score but he played capable defense, something Eminger and Del Zaster seem utterly incapable of doing.

*Del Zaster's failings makes seeing Cam Fowler do so well hurt that much more. MDZ seems to get walked around at least once every game and most of his passes are off by just enough to not help his teammate.

*Woywitka scores and Andre Deveaux immediately gave the Ducks a perfect opportunity to get re-energized by battling George Parros (who definitely didn't look right without the 'stache, even if it is for a good cause). It was impressive to see the minor leaguer absorb a lot of damage and stay upright but there really was no reason for a staged fight seconds after his team landed a punch on the scoreboard. As upsetting as the dance was, Deveaux was actually decent yet again. He does what Boyle doesn't, he uses his size well. But we could hardly see it because Torts strapped him to the bench as he tried (unsuccessfully) to have his team cling to the lead. So much for that whole 'safe is death' nonsense the coach used to spout.

*Really unsure why he would be so reluctant to let his team off the leash given how great Hank can be. The King was outstanding in this one and the one goal against was A-scored through a screen and B-scored on a shot that maybe a dozen NHLers can make.

*Is Ryan exciting to watch or what? Damn New Jersey-ite.

*Is it fate? Avery gets called up and Tortorella loses his one excuse to keep him out of the lineup when Wolski came up lame? Good thing Wojtek has his undeserved $3.8 million to find something to do while his groin heals.

*Derek Stepan seems to be getting into a groove. Slowly but surely he is climbing out of the sophomore-season opening slump and, frankly, is making Brandon Dubinsky look bad. As mentioned before in this space, it seems like Callahan is skating by himself much of the time.

*Erik Christensen finally came through, improving to 1-3 in the shootout this season. I guess we go by baseball where a .333 average is a good thing. Really worthwhile member of the roster.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one assist.
2-Jonas Hiller - 24 saves.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Stepan - Gabby did score in the shootout and fired a slew of pucks on goal but Step really seemed like a bigger offensive threat throughout the night. And Gabby got an assist on Woywitka's goal but if Hiller wasn't preoccupied by Stepan skating through the crease the shot might not have gone in.
2-Hiller - Sure four shots got through him (two shootout goals, Woywitka's tally and another that went through his legs), but the Swiss stopper made that great glove save on I forget who.
1-Hank - The King comes through again. Long live the King, as long as he learns to stay in his damned crease.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

4-3-3: Chomp On This

When Brandon Prust took on Ryane Clowe just seven seconds into tonight's game, two things ran through my mind: 1- Prust is fighting out of his weight class and is gonna get beaten pretty badly and 2- my favourite Ranger-related stat was really going to be put to the test. Well, Prust did get yanked around like a rag doll but the Rangers reeled in the road weary Sharks with a 5-2 win, keeping the stat alive. That stat? The Blueshirts are now 6-0 when Prust squares off inside the first two minutes of a game, 2-0 this season.

Staged bouts are usually exhibitions in pointless pugilism to justify the paycheques of the neanderthals taking part but there is something more with Prust. The Rangers clearly get an extra jump when he 'defends the honour of Charlestown' (to steal a line from Slap Shot). It is a wonderful thing to watch but it is too much responsibility to put on the guy's surgically repaired shoulders.

The supposedly great motivator that is John Tortorella needs to do a better job getting the boys going because before long the wear and tear will take down Prust. The Rangers might still have won this one because San Jose was clearly a step slow but, given what happened Saturday, you never know.

Late Hits:

*Ryan Callahan. Wow. Nothing else needs to be said. Just wow. Captain. Captain Wow.

*Wish Brandon Dubinsky was able to get things going like Cally has - still goalless 10 games in.

*Trade Erik Christensen right now. His trade value has never been higher, surely we can get a seventh round pick for him. Both of his assists were sweet, even if they were more motivated by his fear of taking a hit than by a desire to set up a goal. Make the deal Glen!

*Andre Deveaux played the exact game Mike Rupp was supposed to play, just without a heavyweight fight. Strong on the boards, willing to go to the crease and stay there ... If the rumours are true and Rupp gets knee surgery then the Rangers would be well served keeping Deveaux around.

*No Avery banner this game. Hopefully the Garden is filled with them Thursday if he does indeed make it back to Broadway.

*How can people not be angry when Anisimov scores the way he did in the second period? To know that Arty is capable of collecting goals like that shortside backhand is infuriating considering all of his stretches of uselessness. It's like a Bronx Tale, the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.

*On that note it was hilarious seeing Brian Boyle skating backwards away from Colin White trying to throw punches in the first period. He is so soft, and his play is so ugly he might as well be Susan Boyle ... except she has a mind-blowing ability. Boyle's abilities are limited by his reluctance to use his size.

*Colin White was -3. Haha. Devils suck.

*Stop bringing up Del Zaster's team-leading +7. Marek Malik also had a gaudy +/- and he was just as atrocious in his own end. Credit should be given to MDZ for his efforts on the offensive side of the puck in this game for actually holding the blue line once and for a few decent passes but the missed coverages, soft hits and the slew foot wipe the positives off the board. He still stinks. Kinda remarkable how direct the lineage is for awful one-way defenders in this franchise: Lefebvre->Poti->Malik->Rozsival->Redden->Del Zaster.

*There is just no need to rip into Steve Eminger or Jeff Woywitka, If not for Staal's injury, Pavel Valentenko's regression and Mikhail Pashnin's decision to stay in Russia neither one of them would be playing. And what ever happened to Tomas Kundratek?

*Solid work by Biron. Mr. X from the Blue Seats made a case for Marty to start on Thursday but that just isn't likely. Surely he will get a chance to beat Winnipeg for a second time when the teams meet on Sunday.

*The Garden had large swathes of empty seats, which will get attributed to it being Halloween. But what happens when those same seats go empty other nights?

*What will it take to get rid of Dancing Larry and the 25 Potvin Sucks chants at random, inappropriate times against an inappropriate enemy?

*Maybe his goal will help Derek Stepan break his sophomore slump but it isn't likely. But that is ok, growing pains. Can't forget that the kid played an absolute ton of games last year between preseason, regular season, playoffs and the world championships.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - two assists.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - two assists.
1-Ryan Callahan - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - Sure he got hammered but he sent a message that Saturday's disaster wasn't going to happen again.
2-Dan-O - Girardi is playing above his pay grade and is doing fantastic work. But he has played less than 25 minutes just once out of the 10 games so the team has to be weary of wearing him out. It is only October November.
1-Cally - Yep. No brainer. Two fantastic goals and a perfect set-up pass to McD.