Wednesday, February 29, 2012

40-15-6: Gut Check

It is a rare thing when you can reflect upon a game that featured all of 27 shots and realize that it was actually exciting. That was the case on Monday night as the Rangers edged the Devils 2-0.

The Blueshirts avenged their 1-0 defeat 20 days prior by playing more physical and having the crutch of the best goaltender in the NHL in their goal. The Rangers stood up their rivals and gave back as good as they got. And there was none of the scrambling that was seen when Biron was in the paint. Hank continued to provide evidence for his MVP candidacy with a fantastic performance under odd circumstances - he made just 13 saves but at least six of them were on stellar scoring chances for the Devils.

So, as usual, the King came through to protect the castle, defeating the Stay Puft Marshmallow goaltender and his evil henchmen from across the river. It was a good gut check to end February and send the team into a packed March where they will play 17 games in 30 days.

Late Hits:

*It is good but saddening to read Carl Hagelin's postgame quote: "Richie has been on me a lot about things I need to work on and things I need to do. It's important for me to have a veteran like him telling me and leading the way." On one hand it is a great thing that B-Rich is sharing his experience - it can only help kids like Hagelin (and Step and Arty, etc.) in the long run. On the other, Richard$ really should be worrying about his own game right about now. The big-money game-breaker has been a nonfactor far too often this season - even with his seven game winners - and that largely helped Sather justify that ridiculous big push for Nash.

*Loved that Hagelin/Callahan pairing though. The two epitomize the current Ranger: fast, relentless, unselfish and capable.

*The Ranger power play went a typical oh-fer, blowing two opportunities. The three usual suspects were at fault, John Tortorella, Richard$ and Del Zaster. Torts allows the guys to change their entire outlook when there is a man advantage and B-Rich was on for 3:12 and DZ 3:23 of the four minutes. Love that the guy has seven game winners this season but getting this much power play time should translate into more than one goal in his last nine games and no ppgs in his last 34.

*Mmmmaaarrrttyyy pulled one of his classic flops in the third period, which the ref luckily ignored. Brodeur just needs to disappear into fat air already.

*Kovalchuk fired off 10 shots - four were blocked, four were wide and just two made it on net. An impressive showing by Girardi, McDonagh, Callahan and the rest of the boys to shut down the Devil. And did Parise even play?

*Nice of Pruster to answer the bell, again. Luckily he escaped injury against the bigger Boulton and inflicted some damage of his own.

*On one hand you shouldn't want a $4.2m forward fighting. On the other hand Brandon Dubinsky has had serious struggles this season so at least he is trying to contribute something. But, as we saw with Chris Higgins, effort only goes so far ... Dubi needs to get his act together before the end of the season or one of those many trade rumours will come to pass at the draft.

*Even before the acquisition of John Scott Mike Rupp was useless. Now his existence is utterly unnecessary. Whether the Devils dodged him or not, he is not intimidating in the least and he has few hockey skills. Two goals in one ridiculous should-be-exhibition game do not make up for 30-plus games of ineffectual play. Hopefully the next tilt against New Jersey will feature Scott ending David Clarkson's career.

*Sorry, but I really missed Sean Avery in this one. Well, for every one - but especially those against Mmmmaaarrrttyyy, Avery's fat foil.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 13 saves.
2-Ryan McDonagh - no points.
1-Carl Hagelin - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hagelin - Bork bork bork!
2-Cally - The captain set the tone and set up the Swede's goal with hard work behind the net despite a double team. And the kid returned the favour by feeding Cally for the empty netter. Beautiful.
1-Hank - Where Mmmmaaarrrttyyy used to rack up win after win with low shot totals like this, rarely did the Devils' system give up as many scoring chances. Hank hung in there and came through when called upon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Deadline Day 2012

That clip, if you didn't know, is from Star Wars. The Rebels needed to accomplish their mission of destroying the Death Star. To do that, someone had to fire a shot down an exhaust port to destroy the Death Star - an extremely difficult task, even without Darth Vader and his wingmen firing from behind.

Atop the Eastern Conference, the Rangers under fire from the teams behind them and they need to stay on target no matter the temptation to panic and pull out. Getting a shot to win the Stanley Cup is a monumental task and one that the franchise has been working towards the last few seasons. Glen Sather and company have done it by using Jedi mind tricks and making brilliant trades, as well as taking Yoda's Gordie Clark's wise advice in drafting youngsters.

This team is in a better position than it has been in nearly 20 years. To ignore the blueprint brought by the Bothan spies would be folly. Giving up a sizable portion of the future for another version of Marian Gaborik is not the answer. There is no need to bring in more big name bounty hunters players when a few more solid soldiers would be enough to help the cause.

For all of the talk about the inept offense, the Rangers simply need their skill players to be their skill players. By adding more complimentary players, they can do that.

By adding a guy like Sammy Pahlsson, Brian Boyle can return to his fourth line center role. The oversized softie succeeded when playing fewer minutes and when facing the other teams' lower lines. And the benefits of Pahlsson are many, as I've mentioned. Another option would be Paul Gaustad but the Sabre didn't fight when Milan Lucic ran Ryan Miller and when he did fight, well, we saw Brandon Prust knock him down. Gaustad's teammate Derek Roy would take some of the pressure off of Derek Stepan but Buffalo would surely want too much.

Should Sather decide to improve the wing, Pahlsson's old Anaheim teammate Travis Moen would bring grit and experience while Colorado kid David Jones is capable of adding some tertiary scoring. Former Ranger Mike Knuble could be welcomed back to Broadway but at 39 years old and with 12 points in 57 games so far this season, you have to wonder what he has left. Anyone added up front will need to be a rental as kids like Chris Kreider, Andrew Yogan, Ryan Bourque and perhaps even Jesper Fasth (if he heals) should be given a fall audition at the big boy camp. My guess is that Michael St. Croix, JT Miller, Christian Thomas and Shane McColgan will all need time on the farm or more time in junior but you never know, maybe one can challenge as well.

There is also serious need back on the blueline. Everyone loves the offense added by Del Zaster but someone has to stay back and that someone is certainly not Anton Stralman, nor the slowly-recovering Marc Staal.

Restricted free agents like Theo Peckham and Alexei Emelin both tantalize but both of their teams are more likely to re-sign them rather than send them elsewhere. So that leaves the unrestricted guys. Mark Eaton might be worthwhile if Sather could find it inside himself to deal with the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Islanders. But seeing as that stench would never come off of Eaton, guys like Greg Zanon of Minnesota and our old friend from the Devils Johnny Oduya are options. Zanon is one of the best shot blockers in the business and Oduya has been a solid citizen for the Jets this season. Should Colorado decide to deal Shane O'Brien, the Rangers would be wise to put in a bid. SOB might enjoy the New York nightlife a little too much but if he can be kept in line he could be a good asset to add.

And even though he is not a free agent this summer, Washington is supposedly shopping Roman Hamrlik. However, as the folks in DC found out, Hamrlik is not the answer. To anything.

But the question of what are the Rangers going do will be answered by this afternoon. Let's just hope they stay on target.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

39-15-6: Edging Out The Sabres

The Rangers are clearly immersed in the winter doldrums. Thankfully, much like the weather outside, this winter has been mild. Despite putting forth yet another poor performance on Saturday night the Blueshirts beat Buffalo 3-2 in overtime to improve to 2-2-1 in their last five games.

The successes come not from some meteorological magic but by a few players stepping up to carry the load. This one featured the captain, the King and the kid. Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin all had good efforts to help the Rangers slice past the Sabres by the narrowest of margins.

Cally has consistently raised his game against his 'hometown' team and was relentless on Saturday night. Hank has allowed two or less goals in his last 11 starts and has a record of 9-2 over that span. He made just 18 saves but several were solid scoring chances by the Sabres. And young Carl was all over the ice, tenacious and speedy. His play suckered that clown Kaleta into a bad penalty (that the power play of course squandered).

If Torts is ever able to get the team firing on all pistons they might actually be able to get out of this funk and deep into the playoffs. If.

Just a few Late Hits:

*As usual, the Rangers won when Brandon Prust fights in the first two minutes - love that MSG now uses my stat on their broadcast (still sad it went un-attributed). I was asked how I can hate fighting for fighting's sake and love the early Prust bouts. Prust fights to energize the team, that simple. The Rangers have stumbled out of the gate so often this season, and was coming off of that hideously embarrassing loss on Friday night so they needed a spark. And Pruster provided it.

*Ranger power play continued to be no advantage at all, going 0-2. The biggest culprit is the man they claimed would quarterback the unit upon his high priced signing: Brad Richard$. B-Rich has just four assists and zero, count 'em, zero power play goals in his last 33 games. And it can't be blamed on Olivia Munn breaking his heart as that streak started mid-relationship. Had he been able to convert or cause more chances, the current clamour for Columbus' Rick Nash certainly would not be as loud.

*As my buddy Eric observed, Brandon Dubinsky has turned into Chris Higgins - for all of his failings, at least he's trying. If this was his final game in a Blueshirt at least he went out working as hard as ever.

*Ring a ding ding. Buffalo hit the iron twice, and Marc Staal connected on what could have been the game winning power play goal a minute from the final buzzer. The posts are a goalie's best friends ...

*Marian Gaborik's game-tying goal was just sick. Del Zaster sent him the puck on a nice pass (credit given!) and the Slovakian Sniper roofed it over Miller. What a shot. It is goals like that one that make his slumps so frustrating because you know he is so extremely talented. After a five game goal drought he has scored in back-to-back games. With 29 so far this season, 40 is definitely in reach with over a month to go.

*Pat Kaleta. What a cheap, dirty, piece of garbage excuse for a hockey player. That guy needs to get his comeuppance something fierce. Like headhunting Andy Sutton, Kaleta is only out there to injure others and someday someone should send him into early retirement himself. It was wonderful to see him get embarrassed by Callahan on the game-winner.

*Odd to see good goaltenders like Hank and Miller give up bad goals through their five holes to get both teams on the scoreboard. Then again, Miller lost the Olympic gold medal for the U.S. by opening his legs to Sidney Crosby so perhaps it is not as strange.

*Oh Del Zaster. Rammer jabbing at the kid's "injured" hip was hilarious, made me think of this.

*Stu Bickel had a far better game than Anton Stralman. Not that that is saying much. If Sather secures another defender on Monday, it should be the big guy who keeps his job.

*Really would have liked to see more from Derek Stepan. The sophomore has not been slumping this season but he has been hit-or-miss.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal and one assist.
2-Drew Stafford - two goals.
1-Ryan Callahan - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hagelin - Bork bork bork!
2-Cally - Rochester's finest finished this game on a gorgeous goal.
1-Stafford - On a night where the Rangers top defenders shut down the city of Pominville and Austria's finest Thomas Vanek, Stafford finally stepped up his game and showed the skill that got him 31 goals last season.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

38-15-6: Meek In The Mausoleum

The way I see things, if you grew up in the 80s you despise the Islanders. 90s, Devils. Millennium Flyers. And if you found your fandom post-lockout, Pens. I grew up in the 80s. If the Rangers lost 76 games in a season but still won all six against the Islanders I would be fine. Well, maybe not fine but not as crazed as I could be.

In recent seasons it has been hit or miss, with the Isles often playing above their ability and the Rangers sinking below theirs. That happened again on Friday, as the Blueshirts fell 4-3 in a shootout - they were lucky to escape with a point.

As the anger and disgust are making it hard to maintain any kind of cohesive thought, I'll just jump into the Late Hits:

*John Tortorella put the team behind the eight ball to start by going with Marty Biron in net. As with his decision of starting Biron against the Hawks rather than the Jackets, this one backfired on the Rangers. As he did in the Chicago game, Biron was caught sleeping at the start and allowed early, easy goals. No matter how good a guy he is, if he can't stop the puck he shouldn't have a job. He is not Henrik Lundqvist - that is accepted - but he can't be spotting the opposition 3-0 and 2-0 leads in the first 10 minutes of games. Biron was bailed out by an equally poor performance by Nabokov, nothing more.

*Del Zastrous. Utterly Del Zastrous. At this point all I can do is shake my head because I've already said it all. Stupid, stupid mistakes night after night, year after year.

*Ryan McDonagh played 29 minutes and Dan Girardi played 30. Against the Islanders. If Torts was worried enough to work his top pairing into the ground, he should have been worried enough to start Henrik.

*John Mitchell, he of no goals and one assist in his last 11 games, was on the ice in overtime and he got a shot in the shootout. Sure he drew a penalty - the result of the stupidity of Milan Jurcina - but to have him out on the ice with Gaborik skating four on four is ridiculous. Mitchell and Hagelin worked great together and both could use the jumpstart of a reunion. You would think Hagelin's wheels would be an asset in the open ice of OT but Torts left him on the bench the entire time.

*Surprisingly Mitchell was the long Ranger not to record at least a single hit. Another statistical oddity? Stu Bickel was the lone Ranger to have a positive +/- with a +1.

*Very happy to see Marc Staal score. Infuriated to see Martin go after him at the end of the second period. Utterly disgusted not to see any Ranger seek revenge the rest of the way.

*Bickel fought Martin, but that was well before the minor leaguer nailed Staal. Boyle hid behind a linesman so he wouldn't have to fight. And neither Bickel nor Brandon Prust nor Mike Rupp were anywhere to be found. Given the lack of intensity in the third period - when the teams seemed more than happy to get their point and run - there was ample opportunity to seek vengeance. Despite the Blueshirts leading the NHL in fighting majors, there is no one is scared of the Rangers. No one has to think twice that there will be some kind of retribution for taking liberties. Unacceptable.

*Aside from taking a terrible penalty and drawing another, Brad Richard$ was invisible. Meanwhile, John Tavares was outstanding. It is amazing how that kid has turned Kings cast-off Matt Moulson and minor leaguer PA Parenteau into actual NHL players. Meanwhile Richard$ hasn't shown much chemistry with anyone and hasn't become the power play quarterback everyone had hoped.

*Anton Stralman - three straight games with stupid minor penalties. Three more days until the deadline when he will hopefully be replaced. Greg Zanon or Shane O'Brien would be nice ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-John Tavares - two assists.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.
1-P.A. Parenteau - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Parenteau - Hardly given a chance with the Rangers, PA has ridden Tavares' coattails to a NHL career.
2-Tavares - I'm loathe to give any Islander credit for anything ever but man is this kid good.
1-The Slovakian Sniper - One even strength goal, one power play assist and one goal in the shootout. Not too shabby Gabby.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

38-15-5: Power-less Play

It is safe to say that the Rangers are now entrenched in the inevitable winter doldrums. The Blueshirts put together their third straight poor performance when they took the ice in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and lost to the Penguins 2-0.

Yet again the power play pissed passed away chance after chance. The Rangers aren't desperate to add scorers, they are desperate to have their own scorers start scoring. Gabby has one power play goal in his last 12 games and two in his last 28. Brad Richards doesn't have any in his last 31 games, with just four assists during that span. Arty Anisimov, 30 games no ppgs. Derek Stepan, none in 45. This is simply unacceptable.

As this was as painful to watch as that picture of Cally at the top looks, let's just going to get right to the Late Hits:

*Reason why the Nash rumours are nothing more than rumours? If Dubi was to be included then he would be showcased. Instead he was saddled with John Mitchell and Mike Rupp. The kid is not being used is a position where he can succeed, so it is of little wonder that he is left wandering out there. He is definitely trying his hardest - can't take anything away from his effort - but all the forechecking in the world is useless if there is no one out there to take advantage of it.

*Why was Rupp playing? He contributes absolutely nothing whatsoever to the roster. The Rangers were desperate for a spark and not only did he not fight anyone, he didn't even hit anyone. Not one recorded hit in six minutes of ice time.

*Stu Bickel at least tried to mix things up but he looked very much like a dog who realizes he is on a short leash. Amazing that he actually went to the Pittsburgh crease and planted himself there - something no other Ranger was willing to do - and it was on a shift where he was supposed to be a defenseman, so he got reamed out for it. Funny to see Boyle, who had to cover for him at the point, go up and say something when he doesn't have the nerve to take the abuse and use his size to help the team.

*Dan Girardi was the All Star but Ryan McDonagh has been equally as good, and on this night he was better. McD was great defensively and a post away from getting the Rangers into the game.

*Penguin fans are going to point to Malkin's goal and assist as reasons for his candidacy for Hart Trophy. But the other three Pens lines still controlled action. Without Henrik Lundqvist, Pittsburgh wins this one by six or seven - easily. Malkin was stellar, to be sure, but his team could very well have won without him.

*I'm proud to say I learned a lot about hockey from watch MSG broadcasts with John Davidson ... which makes me sad to think kids are learning from Joe Micheletti.

*Last wrap I pointed out that Eminger and Stralman don't belong starting in the NHL, and they both proved it on this night. Please Mike Sauer, get well soon! Either that or Sather should try to get Greg Zanon or Shane O'Brien for low level picks.

*Still think Sammy Pahlsson would be a huge upgrade over Boyle and Mitchell.

*Is it a French-Canadian goaltender thing to try to win an Academy Award while playing hockey? Marc-Andre Fleury gave Patrick Roy a run for making easy saves look difficult, and he pulled a very Mmmmaaarrrttyyy-esque dive to draw a penalty.

*Yet another game where the Rangers clearly could have used Sean Avery. Long stretches where they were lifeless and pinned in their own zone. Antics aside, Avery's speed and forechecking ability could have been a big help.

*Del Zastrous. Shocked he wasn't given a second assist on the Malkin goal.

*Steve Sullivan's story should be bought by a Hollywood agent. It really is amazing and it really is unfortunate that this good chapter is being played in Pittsburgh.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Steve Sullivan - one goal.
2-Evgeni Malkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King made some big stops. He could hardly be faulted for the Sullivan goal and the Malkin tally was All-World.
2-Fleury - Antics aside, he made all the saves he had to.
1-Malkin - The Penguins best player completely outclassed the Rangers best players.

Monday, February 20, 2012

38-14-5: Awful But Enough

The best way to think about Sunday is that Rangers played a game, and they earned two points from it. Look any deeper and you should be utterly disgusted.

Columbus is by far the worst team in the league. They were playing the second half of a back-to-back, they were without their top defenseman and they are surrounded by rumours that their lone "star" is going to be traded any day now. They entered the game with 20 less wins than the Rangers.

And the Rangers needed overtime to beat them.

It is taking all of my restraint not to unleash a diatribe of four letter words. After getting embarrassed by the Blackhawks the Blueshirts somehow came in overconfident or something and nearly were beaten by the worst team in the NHL.

It should have been a statement game. It should have been a blowout. And instead the Rangers disgraced themselves with that so-called effort and were lucky to escape with the win. The most ridiculous part is that they played half-heartedly, dominated most of the action and still needed overtime. Overtime! Against Columbus! These guys should be forced to celebrate Presidents Day by doing Herbies for hours on end.

Just atrocious.

Late Hits:

*"We don't need you!" Fewer chants were more true. Nash lollygagged around half the night and was easily kept away from scoring areas. His game-tying goal came because Boyle blew the faceoff and Dubi didn't bother to come out to cover him. Yeah, why would you want to cover the only guy on the opposing team who can shoot the puck?

*Steve Mason allowed four or more goals in 16 of his 31 prior starts and had a save percentage of under .900 in 20 of them. And yet the Rangers shot the puck into his logo time after time and refused to fight for the many rebounds he gave up. They managed to ring his bell with a great high shot to the mask but didn't bother to follow it up with physical play around the crease the rest of the night.

*Love getting all of the hate mail and tweets when Del Zaster does anything. He still can't play his position well, which has been my problem with him to begin with. His offense is not my issue. Although, had DZ actually beaten the clock or had he not blown a wide open net on another occasion, then the Rangers wouldn't have needed overtime to beat the worst team in the NHL. But sorry guys, his OT assist does not make him Ray Bourque. It came thanks to former Islander Aaron Johnson getting caught out of position and our old friend Tyutin diving like an idiot to cover him, exactly the kind of mistakes DZ himself has been guilty of many times. And I have no idea how DZ got an assist on the Richards goal as Richards passed to Hagelin, then Hagelin passed back to Richards. But I can see the comments already, 'Del Zotto is a superstar, Joe Micheletti told me so! Greatest defenseman evar!'

*MSG's clock is not the official clock, so no goal. Cope with it. This game should have been 6-0 long before the controversial call at the end of the second period.

*And that is partly because of DZ's and the rest of the power play's utter incompetence. There is nothing special about it, it is an utter failure and it may very well result in the eventual failure of this franchise this season. There is no excuse for not getting a single good scoring chance in 1:32 of five-on-three time AGAINST COLUMBUS!

*Stu Bickel and Mike Rupp played three and four minutes respectively. Why bother? Put Wolski in the lineup or bring up Zuke - let them try to help the power play. At the very least, it would showcase them to scouts around the league and increase their trade value.

*Eminger and Stralman both took unacceptable penalties but that should be expected as neither should be playing regularly in the NHL. Eminger is a solid No. 7 guy and Stralman has had more off nights than on. They were supposed to be band-aids but appear to be permanent patchwork. Or at least until the trade deadline when Sather can bring in some players who can actually contribute. (I miss you Mike Sauer!)

*Sammy Pahlsson, who Sather should certainly acquire, had a solid but quiet game. Statistically he won five of eight faceoffs, killed two minutes worth of penalties, had a pair of shots blocked and collected a takeaway. He also forechecked voraciously and played up and down the BJs' lineup.

*Weird stat of the night: Columbus blocked twice as many shots as the Rangers (20-10). Sure that is a result of the Rangers controlling play and constantly shooting it at the player two feet in front of them but, still, it doesn't happen very often.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - one goal.
2-Artem Anisimov - one goal.
1-Ryan Callahan - being a friendly guy to the media in the locker room.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brad Richard$ - In the battle of over-paid, under-performing centers Richard$ edged out Carter with a goal to the Blue Jackets assist.
2-Del Zaster - The kid is not unlike current flash-in-the-pan Jeremy Lin, playing a high risk/high reward game. DZ has skills but is too sloppy to be reliable. But I do give credit where due.
1-Ryan McDonagh - If the PHW can arbitrarily name one of their favourite Rangers as the first star of a terrible game, then I can too.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pick Up Pahlsson

Much has been made about the possibility of the Rangers acquiring Rick Nash. While a move for that overrated Blue Jacket would be folly, one of his teammates should be targeted: Sammy Pahlsson.

The 34-year-old Pahlsson is a former Selke candidate and a Stanley Cup winner. He has a history with Henrik, having won an Olympic gold medal and an Elitserien title alongside the King. He has played in 81 career playoff games, collecting 28 points - more than he has in any single regular season campaign - showing he steps up in the clutch. As he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and Columbus is going nowhere (ever), Pahlsson should be able to be picked up for a low level draft pick and little more.

On Saturday the last-place Blue Jacketss lost to the Blackhawks 6-1 and Pahlsson was on for just one of the goals against - the last one, when the game was looong over. A poor pass from his teammate left the puck in his skates, where Dave Bolland was able to grab it and send it across to Sami Lepisto for a shot. Not a big deal and hardly his fault. It is impossible to lay any of the blame for the disasterpiece that is the BJs on the Swedish center, who is remarkably just -7 in that mess this season.

Friend of the blog Joakim Norberg has watched Pahlsson since he was a youngster and offered up this scouting report:
"A former MoDo player (and one of my personal all-time favourites) he will be able to play bottom six and can contribute in a top 6 role if necessary when playoff time starts. He's one of the most underrated guys in the game. I still some time now and then think back to his debut in the MoDo jersey back in the mid 90's when he came up through the under 20 system and played with Anders Nilsson and Ragnar Karlsson. They were furious checkers with full face-cage on and mad competitors and were rightly hated by all the other teams. A true hard nosed blue collar player.

Pahlsson should be perfect as the center between Fedotenko and Prust. That's the closest thing we'll get to the Moen-Pahlsson-Niedermayer line the Ducks played when they won the cup."
And winning the Cup is what this is all about. Pahlsson would be a far more experienced improvement on Mitchell (and very likely Boyle as well). He has been to the top of the mountain and surely would do anything at this point of his career to get back. The Rangers should give him that shot.

Friday, February 17, 2012

37-14-5: Perspective Is Everything

Perspective is an interesting thing. One of the definitions of perspective is "subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view." That's what we do here, this is a blog - my subjective evaluation of the New York Rangers. Thursday night's 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks can be seen in a positive light, 'took one on the chin, but it was bound to happen. Can't win them all.'

As you know, I don't do positive well.

Thursday's loss was a disgraceful performance by the Rangers. It was not just five or 10 bad minutes, it was a demonstration of several of the major failures of this franchise. This team regularly stumbles out of the gates and - on this night, facing a top team without the King to save them - that early awfulness cost them. Hope the hangovers were worth it.

Hey, here is something positive from me: this game proved Henrik Lundqvist deserves to be in the Hart Trophy conversation. Hank is Hart-worthy because his team is not even close to capable without him. His backup had yet another pathetic performance (what's that, five in a row by the former Islander?) and the rest of the Rangers were given opportunity after opportunity to get back into the game and showed that they were grossly incapable of talking advantage of them.

To try to spin it as 'at least the Rangers showed up later rather than never' is ridiculous as the Blackhawks clearly sat back on their lead and stopped pressing their advantage. They took stupid penalties and they opened the door for the Rangers but the Blueshirts couldn't mount a coherent counterattack, even against a goalie as bad as Corey Crawford.

More rants, Late Hits:

*The Rangers put the two points at risk when they decided to start Biron against the Hawks. If the Rangers win, great. If they lose, well, it is a top opponent from the other conference. Better to start Hank on Sunday against the league-worst Blue Jackets to guarantee the two points from the cellar dwellers. The decision is one many teams use, but not a good one in this case. Given how horribly Biron has been his last few starts, success against Columbus would renew his confidence. Instead he looks the fool for getting beaten not once, not twice but three times one-on-one in a 10 minute span.

*On Tuesday I tweeted "If the Rangers get a power play goal against Boston, I promise not to mock the unit on Thursday ..." And I managed not to, I simply repeated again and again that I promised so I wasn't going to say anything. Well, it is technically Friday morning now so gloves are off. The power play looked every bit as bad as it was before the previous three games. It was putrid, predictable and pathetic. The personnel showed no chemistry with each other and no one bothered to bother Crawford in the least.

*Blackhawk fans are quick to call John Scott the worst player in the NHL but Mike Rupp certainly gave him a run for his money. Sure he had his Winter Classic heroics, but aside from that one moment in Philadelphia he has contributed nothing to the team. Stu Bickel has been more valuable as a fourth line winger and the guy never played forward before the other day. Rupp doesn't fight to defend his teammates, he not intimidating in the least, he can hardly skate, he blows easy opportunities - he had me wishing Wojtek Wolski was playing. Seriously, how low can he go?

*Rupp did come away with a secondary assist on Marc Staal's first goal of the season. A good deflection got Staal the goal, and hopefully it is a sign of things to come for the defenseman. Utterly meaningless for Rupp though.

*Del Zaster swimming along the ice after turning the puck over in the third period provided some well needed comic relief during this disgrace of a game.

*When skating four on four the Blackhawks put Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane out as their forwards. The Rangers countered with Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Yeah.

*When you are facing a former Stanley Cup winner like Chicago, you need your best players to be at their best and Marian Gaborik was a complete non-factor while Brad Richard$ was impotent and poor Derek Stepan actually looked utterly outmatched.

*John Mitchell's hard work is appreciated. Mitch won a battle, stickhanded past a defender and got open alone just five feet of the net ... only to try to pass the puck back to the point. Sorry bud, but that's just not the right play to make. With Columbus in town on Sunday, perhaps Sammy Pahlsson can be persuaded to switch locker rooms. (More on him in this space Saturday.)

*Brian Boyle was bounced off the puck all night long, losing battles to guys a foot shorter than him. All would have been forgiven if he had scored on that one sexy play - when he cut around a defender while spreading his legs to shield the puck - but after making the great move he just jammed the puck into Crawford's waiting pads. The goaltender didn't even have to move.

*That happened many times- the Blackhawk logo is a beautiful thing but someone should have told the Rangers not to aim for the damned thing. Crawford allowed five goals each of his previous two starts and he didn't even face five decent shots all game tonight.

*Too many Blackhawk sweaters in the building and, if reports are true, their bandwagon fans sang Chelsea Dagger outside of the building with no retribution. There officially is nothing intimidating about playing in New York anymore.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Patrick Sharp - one goal.
2-Marian Hossa - one goal and one assist.
1-Jonathan Toews - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Toews - Captain Serious is seriously one of the top players in the NHL on both sides of the ice. A delight to watch.
2-Marty Biron - Another goaltender might have made it hard for Chicago to score three breakaway goals.
1-Joel Quenneville - The Chicago coach had his team - losers of nine in a row - ready to play at puck drop, something his counterpart has proven incapable of doing night after night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

37-13-5: Not So Big, Not So Bad

The Rangers visited Boston for the second time this season and they skated away with two points for the second time this season. Three weeks after Marian Gaborik scored to give the Blueshirts a 3-2 overtime win, the team needed no such heroics on Tuesday. Well, no one moment of heroics - Hank put forth his usual herculean effort to give the Rangers a 3-0 shutout victory over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins.

If the Bs are indeed the gritty Americans who rebelled against England, well then the Rangers are a tough band of vikings led by a Swedish King who have conquered the Causeway. Hank has played the Bruins 25 times in his career and is 18-5-2 with six shutouts, a gaa that is roughly 1.50 and a save % of roughly .950. While nothing will ever unseat this as my favourite Lundqvist save vs. Boston, he made several sharp stops among his 42 saves on this night. And his serfs served up three goals against Timmy Thomas and the team was able to skate away with a heckuva win.

Late Hits:

*Yet again the Rangers did not play 60 minutes. A bad start allowed the Bruins to press the action for the first 15 minutes before the Blueshirts showed up to play. And yet, when those 15 minutes were over it was the Rangers who were ahead thanks to a power play goal (of all things). Boston pressed the action all night, dominating play and attempting an astounding 79 shots but the Rangers won. Remarkable.

*The Blueshirts blocked 22 shots and just two were not credited with at least one: Staal and Stepan. Weird how the puck bounces sometimes.

*The other key to victory aside from the King was how the Rangers handled Zdeno Chara. The biggest of the Bruins was not given any time or space anywhere on the ice and Boston couldn't adapt without their cap. The Rangers were constantly all over the Slovak with Arty battling him behind the Boston net, Derek Stepan checking him hard at the Ranger blueline, Hank stopping six of his shots and McD banking the puck off of one of his beanstalks for the second Ranger goal.

*If you aren't contributing on the scoreboard you have to contribute elsewhere. And that is exactly what Brad Richard$ did in this one. Richard$ showed off his ice sight with solid defensive positioning and smart passing to move the puck to good spots.

*Torts had to limit the minutes Del Zaster and Stralman saw because they just can't keep up with talent like Boston. If Sauer is indeed done for the season, Sather would be best served bringing in a big body to help out. Hal Gill as a Ranger? Feels dirty to say but might be necessary.

*What is Mike Rupp's purpose again? He was even on the ice when Bruins crashed the Ranger net and nothing.

*So thankful Pruster didn't throw down with Lucic. He would give Lootch a run for his money but his shoulder probably would not survive.

*Dubi just missed making my stars but with an assist and 10 stitches, he certainly made a good case.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan McDonagh - one goal.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 42 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Arty - Shocked as you are that he is here and yet the big Russian kid had one of his best games to date. He did not back down physically to anyone, won a battle against Chara and scored with a sexy snipe.
2-Cally - Grind on captain, grind on.
1-Hank - All hail.

Monday, February 13, 2012

36-13-5: Afternoon Delight

The Rangers were pressed into early action for the second straight day when they took on the Capitals in a matinee at MSG on Sunday. Less than 24 hours after beating the Flyers the Blueshirts were able to hold on and defeat DC 3-2.

Would like to wax poetic about the joy of beating Washington - screw you John Druce, where ever you are! How'dya like us now?!?! - but it is quite late so I will just cut to the chase, Late Hits:

*Amazing how fast emotions can turn: 'What an outstanding goal by Ryan McDonagh! OHNONONONONONONO, OUR SEASON IS OVER PLEASEGETUP PLEASEBEOK PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!!!!!!!'

*There used to be a guy who played for Washington ... what was his name? Something Soviet. Oveski? Ovechov? Ovechlin? Ov ... Ov-something-or-another. That guy, he used to be good.

*But seriously, it was nice to see Staal and Girardi reunited late to counter the Cap captain. Even if it was just for a rare shift. As ranted here before, with Staal recovering, the defense needs to be balanced.

*Troy Brouwer scores that goal, I truly believe that the Rangers lose the game.

*Torts has the team running on three lines - which is working for now - but dangerous in the long run. All of the top teams in the NHL roll four competent lines.

*Del Zaster was +1. Cally was -1. Plus/minus is a stat of circumstance, not skill.

*I miss Tom Poti, I do.

*Wonder what flipped the switch for Dubi because he is all-in and his game is coming around. Neither were true at the start of the season.

*Anton Stralman fires the puck as hard as he could at the wrong spot and yet still Callahan was able to convert it for a goal. Beginning to run out of adjectives for the captain. And Cally very well could have had a hatty for the second straight day had the puck bounced his way on some of his other chances.

*Minutes before he opened the scoring with that goal, Brian Boyle went across the ice and appeared to nail a Capital with a high elbow behind the play but NBC never showed the replay. I think we are better off not seeing that again. Boyle, I simply don't get. He still doesn't seem to know how and when to use his size but not for a lack of trying. He is working as hard as anyone on this team and it is paying off in chances. If only he could bury more of them. But that doesn't seem to matter as Torts trusts him. To use Boyle and not Richard$ for back-to-back defensive zone faceoffs in the final seconds says a lot. (Of course, he won the first and lost the second, but I'm not dumping on him today.)

*Ranger power play returns to normal, goes 0-2.

*And finally, Brandon Prust scoring is great. Brandon Prust scoring shorthanded is even greater. Brandon Prust scoring shorthanded off of that money feed from Dubi is one of the top goals of the Ranger season.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - two assists.
2-Brandon Prust - one goal.
1-Ryan McDonagh - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King hardly had to work against the Flyers but he came through with a few stellar stops in this one. And maybe Brouwer was just distracted by Hank's good looks and general awesomeness, making him miss that empty net.
2-Cally - The captain was all over the ice, doing everything and anything. Just another outstanding performance.
1-McD - Seriously, Ryan, don't fall down like that again. Ever. Please?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

35-13-5: Five Down, One To Go

The Rangers moved one win away from a season sweep of the Flyers by beating the Broad Street bungles 5-2 on Saturday afternoon. The Ranger power play hit for not one, not two, but three (!!!) goals and captain Callahan contributed not one, not two, but three (!!!) goals during the delectable decimation. While it would be nice to delight in the disgrace of our once-powerful foes from Philly, there is no rest for the wicked as Washington comes to the Garden in a Sunday matinee.

So just a few Late Hits:

*The power play worked. It actually worked. And it didn't just work because Sergei Bobrovsky is terrible. It worked because the players kept it simple. The first two came in the flow of play, off the rush and the third was just smooth. There was no messing around, trying to be fancy, making poor passes, waiting for the right shot or trying to force through the wrong one.

*Good things happen when you go to the net and Arty has been going to the net. The kid is slowly gaining some confidence and a willingness to pay to play.

*How is someone as big as Brian Boyle, who grew up with as many siblings as Brian Boyle and is as willing to throw off his gloves as Brian Boyle is as bad a fighter as Brian Boyle is?

*Jaromir Jagr had virtually no effect. Wow.

*Love it when Dubi gets emotionally involved.

*Supposedly Stu Bickel spent some time as a forward but it sure looked like Del Zaster had that position all game. The kid utterly abandoned his defensive duties throughout the afternoon. He left Anton Stralman utterly alone to deal with two Philly forwards on several occasions with the puck in the Ranger end. The kid does not know how to do his job and has shown zero improvement in that aspect of his game from the first second he stepped on Broadway.

*Bickel fighting Sestito over the two linesmen was just ridiculous, two guys who do not belong in the NHL. I had such hope for Stu too. Sad.

*Scott Hartnell is a clown.

*Question for the night: is it Dan Girardi who is making Ryan McDonagh look so good or is it McDonagh who is making Girardi look so good? Because both have been great.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Wayne Simmonds - one goal, one assist, one fight.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal and three assists.
1-Ryan Callahan - three goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Simmonds - A Gordie Howe hat trick is always an achievement and he truly seems to dislike the Rangers. Can appreciate that.
2-Gabby - This Marian Gaborik is far better than the one who cruised through the last few campaigns.
1-Cally - Has there been anything he hasn't done this season?

Friday, February 10, 2012

34-13-5: Beating The Bolts

Given the atrocity that was the Devils game on Tuesday, we should be pleased that the Rangers survived a scare against the 13th place team Thursday. The Blueshirts needed overtime to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning but beat them they did, edging out the Bolts 4-3 on a game-winner by Brad Richards.

It was a sloppy, uneven affair against one of the dregs of the SouthLeast Division but the Rangers managed to come out with two points so it is cause for celebration. And they scored a power play goal while doing it. Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon.

Late Hits:

*Ryan Callahan is just amazing. After watching this team select captain after captain based on salary and popularity they have finally picked one for all the right reasons. And he is living up to every stitch around that letter.

*Cally's power play goal came from his willingness to work the slot. After Arty cycled out, Cally slid in and a lucky deflection of Del Zaster's poor shot put the puck in a good spot for Callahan to tip past Garon.

*Credit is given to Del Zaster for shooting it almost on net. Most every rush he is the second or third Ranger into the zone and he is trying to put pucks on net, granted he often misses by miles and sets up the opposition counterattack. He has to contribute on the attack because he is utterly, grossly, pathetically incompetent playing defense. The kid was directly responsible for two Tampa goals against, so - with his two assists - he gets to skate away with an even ledger for this one. DZ's level of defensive play has not improved one iota from when he debuted as a Ranger. He doesn't hit for possession, he stick checks too much, he goes to ground too often, he is beaten wide in footraces, he loses every battle along the wall, he is outmuscled and outmatched.

*Biron was beaten six times last night but luckily was bailed out by the bars behind him on three of those occasions. Perhaps we have just been spoiled with Hank's steady hands but Biron looked jumpy and unsettled most of the night. His defense blocked more shots than he did (16 to 14) and he still ended up a save percentage less than 90% - the fourth time he did so this season and the first of those that he escaped with a win.

*No sure if you follow on Twitter but I ripped the power play and seconds later the unit scored. I ripped Richard$ and seconds later Richard$ scored. This kind of thing has happened with startling regularity, both with Twitter and ranting at the Garden.

*Had many a rant about Brian Boyle just shooting the damned puck and on this night he did so. And it went in. Neato.

*Steve Eminger made his return and didn't have an appreciable impact either good or bad. He did see more ice time than Stu Bickel did in his previous 10 games so Torts was clearly happy to have him back. Once Steve gets his legs back, he should be able to spell Stralman as Del Zaster's partner and give some balance back to the blueline.

*Hope Feds is alright, didn't think Dominic Moore's hit was that egregious but the Ukrainian went down hard. Since his efforts will be very necessary in the playoffs, we have to hope he will be back by then.

*It is really awe inspiring when we see those rare, few moments of sheer ability from Arty Anisimov. His set up to Richard$ was fantastic. If only he could play with that kind of confidence all the time.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
2-Brad Richards - one goal.
1-Brian Boyle - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-McD - Yet another stalwart defensive performance from McD.
2-Step - Did you see that goal? I mean, seriously, wow. Too bad he couldn't win a faceoff.
1-Cally - There is no price that he won't pay for this team to help it win.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

33-13-5: Terrible On Tuesday

Tuesday night's terrible display by the Rangers showed, in a nutshell, why we have every reason to worry about the team as it heads towards the playoffs. They came out utterly flat against a major rival. They struggled to adapt their game to their opponent. They lost puck battles all over the ice. They made a mockery of the power play.

After the initial ridiculousness that was the opening faceoff fisticuffs, the Rangers ghost-skated through the remainder of the frame. Dump and chase doesn't work against a goaltender who comes out of the net, so of course the Rangers relied upon that for more than two periods of play. The Devils supported their puck carriers so even then the puck was knocked away, the team was able to retain possession. And the Blueshirt power play, well, it keeps finding new ways to fail. They finally realized that shooting the puck was a good thing but somehow missed a target that is four feet high and six feet wide time after time after time.

There are 31 games left, plenty of time to fix these problems. Seeing as the team has a nice cushion of points at this point, they can experiment with various solutions. They have to, or else all of this season's success will be washed away all-too-quickly in the playoffs.

Late Hits:

*This game was a clear example of why the hype around Mmmaaarrtttyyy's numbers is just that. Fatso made one good save all night. One. And it was on a clean shot from Gabby that he saw the entire way. The rest of the inflated shot total for the Rangers were right into his inflated torso. The one rebound the Rangers got to ended up in the net, but had to be waved off.

*Yes, I believe that the call was necessary. While Gabby was indeed slowing, he made no attempt to dodge around Uncle Daddy. The NHL as it is now protects goaltenders the way the NFL does quarterbacks so you had to know they were going to make the call. A recent play to hold up for comparison happened in Toronto on Monday. Ryan Smyth was on the edge of the crease and was shoved into Devan Dubnyk by a pair of Leafs as he scored what would have been Edmonton's go-ahead goal. The referee didn't see it that way and called him for goaltender interference. It was a bad call; the contact had little relevance to the puck going in, while Gaby's contact with Tubby allowed the puck to get in the goal.

*Stick with an undisciplined player and you get burned. Stu Bickel took a series of bad penalties against the Flyers and he took one tonight. And, of course, the Devils scored on the ensuing power play.

*David Clarkson's goal came because both Ranger defensemen (Dan-O and McD) abandoned the front of the crease, leaving Step to chase the 'minor leaguer.' Love Step but the kid is outmatched there and Elias made a great feed to get the puck in the right spot for Clarkson to score.

*Saw Arty set up in the slot a few times, which was nice. Too bad he had no idea what to do once he got there. He did get the Gabby rebound late but there were several opportunities sitting around for him far earlier than that.

*So Eric Boulton slashed Mike Rupp, right? So why did Prust fight him while Rupp battled Cam Janssen? The swap created a pair of mismatches that did not benefit the Blueshirts. It would have been nice if it jumpstarted the Ranger attack, but as mentioned up top, that was DOA for the first two frames.

*Brad Richard$ is looking more and more like MexiCan't Scott Gomez, floating around the ice not getting his nose dirty - all he needs to do is start smirking through interviews and the resemblance will be uncanny. Remember when us Ranger fans were salivating at the thought of Richard$ setting up Gaborik for 60+ goals? Seems so long ago. Last night he was skating alongside Mike Rupp for a while. Ugh.

*Did Kovalchuk even play? Great work by Girardi and McD.

*Bork bork bork! Carl Hagelin came to play. And he looked even better when he was reunited with John Mitchell. As predicted. Red Berenson taught him well - Hags handed his stick off to Stralman to save a goal in the second period. Sure Stralman then got called for a penalty seconds later, but at least the PK had the chance to work their magic.

*Oh Dubi, so close and yet so far, far away.

*PHW Three Stars
3-David Clarkson - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 21 saves.
1-Martin Brodeur - 30 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mmmmaaarrrttyyy - Rangers dump it in, Fatso dumps it out. All too easy.
2-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game when they came out oh-so-flat. He had no chance to stop Clarkson's goal.
1-Clarkson - It would have been nice if a certain Ranger sparkplug had been around to distract this guy ...

Monday, February 6, 2012

33-12-5: Beating Up The Bullies (Again)

The Blueshirts continued their domination of the bad boys from Broad Street this season by beating the Bullies 5-2 on Sunday. It has been delightful to see the tables turn in this rivalry after so many years of Philadelphia superiority.

That being said, the Rangers sank down to the level of an tired team of thugs that was missing their top defenseman and any semblance of competent goaltending. It was not pretty and, in many ways, pathetic. The current beast of the East should have more discipline and play a far smarter game. Oh yeah, and they should have a power play that isn't an utter abortion. The display put forth on Broadway during the matinee match will not get the Blueshirts very far against a playoff opponent. The second season is approaching and the Rangers should be perfecting their form, not playing sloppy, undisciplined hockey.

Late Hits:

*Had this convo yesterday: Someone said 'if the Flyers had Henrik, they would be a great team.' To which I replied, 'if the Rangers didn't have Henrik they would be worse than the Flyers.' Despite the gaudy shot numbers in the first period, the Flyers had the better scoring chances. It was something like 17-5 and Hank had made three fantastic saves while Bryzgalov had time and space to make his stops and still ponder the wonders of the universe. The King has carried the team to date and hopefully can continue to do so for another few months.

*Why fight? The Flyers feed on fisticuffs and tough play so why would you play right into their hands and give them what they want? I adore hockey fights, I do. But I loathe hockey fights when they are A- to solely justify a goon's salary or B- to help spark the opposition. Philadelphia was desperate for a spark down 1-0 in the first period so the Rangers filled the Flyer dance card with a pair of bouts before the frame was over. It is no coincidence that Philly's first two shots came seconds after Stu fought Simmonds. And in the third the Blueshirts took a 3-2 lead on a goal from Del Zaster and then Prust agreed to spar with Tom Sestito on the ensuing faceoff. The Flyers started flying, amped up their attack and earned a power play less than a minute later - it is no coincidence. So why keep playing into their hands?

*Seriously, why allow a cement-headed minor leaguer like Tom Sestito goad you into fighting not just once but three times?? He has no other purpose playing than to throw down and three different Rangers justified his existence - Stu, Dubi and Pruster. And for one of the Rangers' better penalty killers to be cooling his heels for five minutes early in the third period when his teammates can't stop taking stupid penalties is really not a bright move.

*Stu Bickel has the ability and the tools to be the physical stopgap on the blueline until Dylan McIlrath is ready. He has shown it from time to time. But definitely not in this one. After weeks of being Tortorella's personal punching bag and with Steve Eminger ready to return, Bickel was willing to do anything to keep his job. Sadly Bickel tried to do too much and what he did wasn't the right things - he ended up with two fights for no reason and three bad penalties. He spent almost two times his ice time in the penalty box and should spend the rest of this season down in Hartford because of it.

*The excuse I heard for why Mike Rupp didn't do his job and fight was that he had a broken thumb. Ok. Fine. So why bother dressing him? He can't score one of his fluke goals with a broken digit and he wasn't about to throw down so what purpose did he have playing? Not that he played much, clocking 4:41 with just one shift in each of the second and third periods. Why keep the oafish fourth liner around if he was incapable of contributing anything?

*Rupp's spot would have been better filled with someone capable of helping the power play like Zuke, JAM or even the recently acquired Casey Wellman. The man advantage unit continued to be inept at giving the Rangers any kind of advantage. They wasted nearly nine minutes of ice time against Flyer foursomes that didn't include Chris Pronger.

*Still not a fan of the Winter Classic sweater but the team is 2-0 while wearing them so it is hard to hate on them too much. Can't argue with success.

*Sell high with Arty. A team that just looked at the scoresheet would see his goal and two helpers and think he was worthwhile. They wouldn't have noticed that Dan Girardi's shot just happened to deflect off of an overmatched Anisimov who was being manhandled in front. They might even miss that both of his other points were secondary assists. Of course, for once the PHWs weren't blinded by numbers and Anisimov's three point game didn't make the cut when it came to selecting the three stars. Dammit, that might have been enough to fool some other team. But still, a young guy like Arty - who does have some ability - should be enough to bring in someone who can actually contribute when times get tough.

*Feel the same about Boyle but credit must be given for his beautiful feed to Dubi on the 4-2 goal. It was a sexy set up, just like Gabby's gift to Del Zaster. It was one of the Slovak's best performances this season and it just happened to come against a team with Jaromir Jagr on it. Hmmm ...

*The other high priced Ranger, Brad Richard$, was barely there. Yet again. It is hard to keep blaming Olivia Munn for his failings because he is a professional, and a well paid one at that. He needs to get the razors away from his wrists and find a way out of this funk because the Blueshirts need him. If he can get his game together in time for another Conn Smythe performance this spring all will be forgiven.

*Dumb fight with Sestito aside, Dubi had one of his better games. He seems to play his best hockey when he is angry, like he's the Hulk or something.

*Was that a Ruslan Fedotenko sighting? Wow.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 21 saves.
1-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Simmonds - The Flyer kept pushing the Ranger buttons and had an impact every shift. He also added a power play goal. Imagine that, a power play goal in MSG. Weird.
2-Gabby - Marian took plenty of punishment and still made plays. He ventured into the tough areas of the ice and came out with two points, an impressive performance.
1-Hank - The King's serfs did all they could to keep the Flyers in the game and yet he held firm. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sayonara Softie

The Rangers rid themselves of Mr. Softie The Backstabber today, dealing Erik Christensen to the Minnesota Wild for Casey Wellman. Sure they had to sweeten the deal with a seventh round draft pick but, hey, even the sanitation workers need to get paid for taking the garbage.

This is another win by Obi-Wan Sather. Glen turned a waiver acquisition into a decent scoring prospect who, at the very least, will be a huge help for Hartford. And he got rid of Christensen. Woo ha. It is absolutely delightful to see yet another smug, self-serving, slothful, so-called scorer dealt away for a useful asset. While Wellman is no Ryan McDonagh (not many are), he is quite capable.

Wellman - who scored in his lone career game in Madison Square Garden - can put the puck in the net. He will come to Connecticut well aware of the organization, having been a teammate of our boy Jed Ortmeyer in both Houston and Minnesota. On the other side of the equation, the Rangers are well aware of him and his abilities. They saw him long ago, back in his UMass Amherst days while watching his teammate Danny Hobbs - who they drafted back in 2007. Like the man he was dealt for, Wellman is a top-six or nothing guy - there is no point burying his ability on the third or fourth lines. It will be quite interesting to see what the Whale power play looks like with him on the same unit as Zuke and JAM.

Said it before, will say it again: Trader Sather is a genius. Signer Sather not so much, but Trader Sather = brilliant!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

32-12-5: Points Are Points

The Rangers edged out the Sabres in the fifth round of a shootout on Wednesday night for a 1-0 win in Buffalo. It was the second straight shootout for the Blueshirts and their second straight disappointing effort.

The biggest difference between the game against the Devils and the one against the Sabres was the goaltending. Instead of having sieves on either side of the ice, there was one former and one future Vezina winner. Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist held their ground unlike the two Martys and both skated away with shutouts.

The first place team in the East faced the 14th and the first place side needed a breakaway contest to earn the W. It would really be sad if it was not foreseeable. This Ranger team has worked their way to the top of the conference with tough, lunch-pail hockey. But when the opposition has brought their hard hats to the job site, well all bets are off. In games like those the top end talent needs to shine and just one of the New York stars came through - Lundqvist. The rest of the high priced city socialites need to do some soulsearching soon because it is only getting tougher from here.

Late Hits:

*The Ranger specialty teams are so good they kill their own penalties and those of the other team too. They took care of seven in all on this night, five of their own and two of Buffalo's. The Blueshirts have to be more disciplined and they absolutely have to learn to score when up a man - this is getting ridiculous.

*Brad Richard$ saw as much ice time as Brian Boyle ... I don't think I need to point out what travesty that that is. Sure plenty of it had to do with all of the penalty killing time but still, the former Conn Smythe winner has to earn more minutes than the biggest waste of size since Willie Huber.

*Boyle did have one good moment: when he shoved Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta embodies the NHL's need to eliminate the instigator penalty. A weasel like that who tries to injure other players should be put in his place, instead of being allowed to keep his gloves on and jaw away. At least Avery would throw down on occasion ...

*Del Zastrous. A step behind in his own end. Pinched too much. Panicked and threw the puck over the glass. Somehow missed the net on a breakaway with a shot five feet from the cage. Simply Del Zastrous.

*And yet he won't taste the lash that continually bites poor Stu Bickel. Bickel is constantly been abused by the coach, a favoured whipping boy now that Avery has been banished. Sean at least deserved it at times, Bickel was playing in the ECHL not too long ago and hustles his ass off every one of his all-too-rare shifts. Torts has to either learn to live with the gaffes or bench him because status quo right now is a waste. Of course the kid will make mistakes, he jumps on the ice cold and knows his continued employment hinges on his every action.

*Had no idea that Arty even dressed for this game, much less played 16 minutes. Ever since the sniper incident he has been awful, perhaps a trip to Hartford could be enough to re-ignite his game.

*The Sabres Zack Kassian is going to be a beast in this league if Buffalo doesn't ruin him. Size, power and decent hands? Nice combo right there.

*Seven games without a point for Brandon Dubinsky, in case you were wondering.

*Had hoped that the All Star break would help Marc Staal further his recovery but two games back and he still looks like an entirely different player than the one that ended last season. No way they shut him back down but there is definitely something still wrong.

*There is more worth ranting about but it is late and, frankly, the Rangers still escaped the back-to-back with three out of four points. The guys need to get their acts together if they are to compete come April but for now, points are points - no matter how hideously they are earned.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - shootout winning goal.
2-Ryan Miller - 29 saves.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Of course the Captain is going to play well with his grandma around ...
2-Miller - After a performance such as this it is hard to imagine the many Buffalo fans who were calling for him to be traded not too long ago.
1-Hank - Your goaltender is your best penalty killer and the King stood tall while his teammates were forced to sit down time and time again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ice Hockey In Harlem

Interested? Click here to buy tickets.

31-12-5: Terrible Return To Action

The Rangers played their first game after the All Star break and it was an utter failure. Ok, not an utter failure - they did escape with a point - but it was a pathetic display against a rival that does not bode well for the near future.

It was back-and-forth, entertaining hockey - which would be great except when you consider it was the supposed first place team against a shell of a hockey club without their top two centers and with a has-been goaltender. The Blueshirts blew three leads on their way to a 4-3 shootout loss to the Devils. How a team could fail so spectacularly after taking a few days off is astonishing and utterly disappointing. That being said, the Rangers need to shake this one off because if this is a sign of things to come they will be the pathetic ones clinging to a playoff positing instead of rightfully challenging for home ice.

Have to keep this short so right on to the Late Hits:

*John Tortorella put the Rangers behind the eight ball at the outset by starting his former Flyer goaltender against a team that his starter has truly starred against in recent years. There is a reason why Hank played every game against the Devils since 2006 but Torts thought he knew best and he blew it. The Blueshirts backup might have put together a decent performance against the 14th place Sabres - another of his former teams - but against the Devils he was made to look the fool. All three goals in regulation were immensely savable, with Biron getting clear looks at the shooters. And yet he blew it again and again and again. The Kovalchuk shootout goal is the only that is hard to blame him on, if only because Kovy has been world class in the skill competition and Biron once played for the Islanders. But there are no excuses for giving up a goal short side and two open shots from the slot. Atrocious.

*On the other side of the ice it was blatantly apparent that Mmmmmaaarrrtttyyyyy is done. Not that he was particularly good in his prime - I attribute all of those inflated numbers to systems and star defensemen - but the sister-in-law lover can hardly play. And the Rangers beat him just three times. He didn't make a single good save all night and his pathetic whale-rolling-around-in-the-surf display on the Brian Boyle goal was positively comical. Not to mention the fact that he gave up an open shot to Del Zaster of all people. Blissfully terrible.

*But as bad as he was Brad Richard$ still couldn't score against him. My guess is that Richard$ spent the time off listening to old Cure records and crying about Olivia leaving him. Because he surely didn't move on and get his head right - he was all but invisible. He lost faceoffs, he was a step slow and he had no impact in the power play.

*Of course, no one else did either. Three power plays for the Rangers expertly killed by the Rangers. Typical.

*Two assists. Bork bork bork. And yet Hagelin didn't get a single second of power play time.

*Two assists for the Slovak Sniper too. Marian made two nice passes to set up Ranger goals, clearly showing he didn't lose his game in the casino in Gatineau.

*The Devils didn't dress Cam Janssen and used Eric Boulton sparingly. And yet Mike Rupp didn't use his size and physicality to help his team at all. So what is the point of playing him?

*In the Puck Central round table I floated the idea that the Rangers should deal Arty but his recent performances has led me to believe that there won't be many/any teams willing to take him. Since his infamous shooting celebration against Tampa Anisimov has been atrocious.

*Facing a team with just two offensive players with any kind of ability, Dan Girardi played 33 minutes and McDonagh played 29. Welcome back to the grind boys.

*David Clarkson scored to tie the game at three in the last minute and Chico said it was one of the biggest goals of his career. That pretty much says it all for just how embarrassing a night it was for the Rangers.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Michael Del Zotto - one goal.
2-Zach Parise - one goal.
1-David Clarkson - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Adam Larsson - The young Swede is exceptionally talented. It is a real shame he is a Devil.
2-Gabby - The Slovak's low, hard shot created the rebound that Stralman scored on and that beautiful cross to Del Zaster helped the kid snap a 11 game goal drought.
1-Kovalchuk - Loath him as we may, Kovy is so very skilled. Remember the days when Sean Avery used to throw him off his game? They seem so very long ago.