Wednesday, January 30, 2013

3-3-0: Starting A New Streak

The Rangers' run of success against the filth from Philadelphia restarted on Tuesday night as the Blueshirts beat the Flyers 2-1.

Philly appeared as disinterested as the Rangers did at Wachovia last week, and as disheartened as the Maple Leafs after the Blueshirts tied things at two on Saturday. It is remarkable how much of an impact Chris Pronger's injury has had on that franchise, as they clearly have not replaced the sheer will to win that that lumbering, wise cracking puck stealer brought. They didn't even bother to goon things up, apparently thinking the Rangers would screw things up enough for them.

And that, the Rangers nearly did.

They were sloppy, they were stupid and they tried to sit back on a lead. But still, the Flyers couldn't come out on top. They can't beat us, when we put in half an effort. So let's take the points and let this be the beginning of an even longer win streak against the City of Brotherly Thuggery.

Late Hits:

*When I was a kid I was enamoured with the story of the Alamo - just something about holding down the fort against incredible odds (even with a certain, unfortunate outcome). That has translated into my passion for the penalty kill, and the Rangers were outstanding shorthanded on this evening. Loved it! Miserable about how dumb they were to take the poor penalties in the first place, but delighted at their ability during the disadvantage.

*Explain this to me: On a night when Rupp, Asham and Bickel manage not to do anything stupid, their captain take a page from their book. With his team up 2-0, Captain Cally picked a senseless fight in a post-whistle scum, and ended up busting his shoulder. It is one thing when he is cracking bones blocking shots, it is another when he goes out of his way to be stupid. Shocked and dismayed at his action decision to tussle to Talbot. Hope he spends his two weeks off recuperating realizing how dumb he was.

*Lucky shot by DZ on his goal but good work by him down low to bank the puck of Bryz to Cally ... yeah, that was what he was trying to do ... Said for a while that the kid might be a more capable winger than he is a defender (not saying much, I know), and with Cally out for a short span perhaps he could give it a shot. He'd be better than Bickel, I'm sure.

*Staying on the blueline, Marc Staal had perhaps his best all-around game of the season. Perhaps the points against the Leafs ignited something in him or perhaps he is just rounding into form, but Staal is getting back to being a top flight defender. Tomorrow will be quite a test ...

*Six games, three Too Many Men On The Ice penalties. Great work Torts.

*Another stumble by John Tortorella? Girardi skated for 28 minutes and McDonagh 30. In the sixth game of the season. Because the bench boss didn't learn from last season that he shouldn't wear those guys down before the real games get going ...

*The Flyers have Hartnell Down, where the player donates cash to charity for every time he falls to the ice. Perhaps it is time for Hagelin Down. Young Carl can't stay on his skates, which proved problematic when he was actually taken down late in the game. If the ref sees him falling on every shift, he is going to give the other guy the benefit of the doubt when there's a close call.

*Sure he was on the wrong team but it was nice to see Mike Knuble still out there. I'll never forget going to a Ranger/Ducks game in 1999 and sitting next to an grandmother-type who told me how she adored Knuble because he was a hard skater and he wore Mike Gartner's No.22, and Gartner was such a handsome man. She and I shared grapes in between periods. It was wonderful.

*Heard that Wayne Simmonds lost his mind after the final buzzer and started slamming sticks in the walkway to the locker room. Love the fire, hate that he is a Flyer.

*If Rick Nash stops showboating, he might actually end up being a good player for this team. He needs to learn that this isn't Columbus, we don't need to be impressed by fancy moves to buy tickets. We buy tickets no matter what, we need wins. Got one against a bad Philly team on Tuesday, need another against the Cup contenders Thursday.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Rick Nash - one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.
1-Michael Del Zotto - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - Best penalty killer is your keeper, and Hank was ... except for that Kimmo shot. Wide open shot from the high slot on a telegraphed play, no excuse not to snag that.
2-Bryzgalov - The cosmonaut had little help all night and still made 26 saves, keeping the Flyers in a game they had no right being in with their level of effort. DZ's lucky shot sailed through traffic and the netminder had no chance on the Cally tally.
1-Super Jew Jeff - Halpern was on the ice for six minutes shorthanded. Six minutes of battling. Six minutes of sacrificing. His timing is slowly coming back but his hustle is definitely apparent. Outstanding work. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2-3-0: It's Not How You Start ...

... but how you finish.

The Rangers overcame an atrocious opening on Saturday night with a pair of good periods to rally to a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As we've seen many a time over recent seasons, the Rangers rarely come to play at the opening buzzer and this game was no different. The first period was an utter failure, complete with poor penalties, frivolous fights and disastrous and Del Zastrous defending.

And then the Rangers' top unit started playing like they should and Toronto couldn't counter. After the first period saw Rick Nash trying to showboat, he played smarter and simpler starting in the second and he helped his linemates bring the Blueshirts back. They took the wind out of the Leafs and led the home side to two important points.

Late Hits:

*Enough with the nonsense. Asham fighting Brown and Rupp battling Orr back-to-back was senseless and stupid. Not to mention that both lost their bouts. They skated two minutes a piece ... while Torts and Sather both raved when adding these clowns that their abilities extended further than their fists. Well, the duo has proved that they don't even have that. There was a time not too long ago that we could be proud of our fourth line - hard-working folk heroes - but the current bunch brings nothing but shame.

*Hilarious how I pointed out that Wade Redden's goal gave him more than all seven of the Blueshirt blueliners and Staal came through with a goal an hour later. Guess they couldn't let Wade get bragging rights.

*And that was a gorgeous goal by our Staal. Perfect feed by Richards cross-ice to Gabby, then Gabby's soft send down to DZ, then a smooth pass back through the slot to Staal. Really pretty stuff.

*After Del Zaster lost his man JvR on the second Toronto tally, the kid came back and was strong offensively. His ability in the front end has rarely been questioned (at even strength), it is his struggles in his own side (and power play incompetence) that drive me crazy.

*Do you think that playing with Pyatt has shamed Boyle into using his body better? His deflection of DZ's shot came because he was actually standing in front for a change. He couldn't do his usual drive-by of the goalmouth with Pyatt on the other side, so he stood there and DZ's shot hit off him and went in. Boyle has to use his size to be successful, has to.

*Love Carl Hagelin - Bork! - but the kid needs to be better. He skated in Sodertalje during the lockout with Philly's Matt Read. Read had a hat trick last night for the Flyers, Hagelin does not have three goals total over his last 40 NHL games (he's currently on a 34 game drought). That is simply unacceptable.

*Suggested Stralman should play on the power play last post and Torts actually tried it on this evening. And the Swede didn't look that bad there. If he gets half the time Del Zaster does, he could get comfortable and make some good things happen.

*Benn Ferriero skating on the second line was ridiculous. Hell, him skating for the Rangers at all is ridiculous. Another undersized, mediocre 'scorer' who accomplished nothing - even against an atrocious  opponent.

*Had no idea that Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri played last night. Despite their gaffe on the Grabovski goal, serious credit due to Girardi and McDonagh for shutting down the two Toronto scorers (even if Kessel hasn't been himself so far this season).

*Really hoping the Jason Arnott rumours are true (official announcement has not been made). Wanted him in 2010, want him now. Sure he is older and slower, but there is no back-down in his game. He is big, he is smart and he know what it takes to win - three qualities this team could use.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Brad Richards - one goal and one assist.
2-Marc Staal - one goal and one assist.
1-Marian Gaborik - two goals and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Staal - Ya know, DZ had a good case for his first-ever inclusion in these stars but he wasted 5:21 of power play ice time. More than five minutes of man advantage time and nothing. Staal still has a long way to go to be the player he was before his brother hit him but he is making strides.
2-Richards - His nifty little passes have been spot-on of late and have keyed the Ranger offense.
1-Gabby - All of his seven points have come in two games; if he can find some success on a steady basis, the Blueshirts just might be in for a good season.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

1-3-0: So That's Over ...

All good things come to an end, but this one shouldn't have. This one is hard to let go. The Rangers' eight game undefeated streak against the Flyers was snapped on Thursday night in a 2-1 tilt that didn't remotely match the scoreline. And there is no excuse for it.

Well, there is an excuse, but it is hard for most to accept: despite claims to the contrary, the slavedriver head coach didn't aptly prepare his team for the season and the early grind has already worn them down. The supposedly torturous Camp Torts supposedly insured that everyone would not just be in shape, but be in peak physical form. Because it was shortened, the players claimed they came prepared. Thursday's loss showed that that was certainly not the case.

The Blueshirts looked slow, incapable, inept and just plain awful for the majority of the evening. They were outplayed by a poor, injury-riddled opponent. Simply said, the inferior Flyers should not have been able to skate away with their first victory of the season.

Late Hits:

*Seriously, how the hell did the Rangers let them win?!? Philly was without both Babyface Briere and Sideshow Bob Hartnell ... and they still won!! Inexplicable. Inexcusable. Infuriating!

*Not only were the Rangers unable to take advantage of a lineup that had fewer familiar faces, but they were unable to take advantage of that lineup when they had less actual players on the ice. Mike Sullivan is doing his best to challenge Perry Pearn's resume of power play failure. What horrible coaching.

*Stop with Del Zaster already. Yes, he has offensive ability. But he is clearly incapable of quarterbacking a power play. Try other guys. Give Anton Stralman a chance, hell, give Matt Gilroy a chance. Give the peanut vendor a chance. Yes, it is so bad that even Hobey's horrible play is preferable to watching more of the same. Five-on-f-ing-three. Again. Are you kidding me?

*Have to thank Kris Newbury for coming up and proving yet again why he is a AAAA player (and why he would survive a zombie apocalypse): no brains. With his team already trailing 1-0 the Whale-r took a high stick and sought revenge after a whistle. He started a senseless fight with Tye McGinn - another AHL nobody, one wearing plexiglass to boot. Newbury was tabbed with the extra penalty and Voracek scored what would be the game-winner. Stupid and selfish minor leaguer.

*Happier thoughts: Taylor Pyatt came through again, goals three games in a row. Better than even I dreamed he'd be. Doubt he will be able to keep up the scoring touch but if he keeps the effort going that guy with the Pyatt sweater at the home opener will be joined by many others.

*As has often been the case over the last few years, the King kept the Rangers in the game. There is definitely something about the Flyers that brings out the best in Henrik, it is just a shame they completely wasted his best effort of this shortened season.

*Nice of Arron Asham to beg out of facing his friends. Gutless puke.

*Rupper played almost 10 minutes? Instead of being a Neanderthal he was the Missing Link, didn't notice him once. That isn't a bad thing.

*And thankfully there were no fights off the opening faceoff like some freakshow. Sure Stu Bickel's bout came early in the evening but he threw down the gloves to defend Jeff Halpern against Fantasy Camp Sestito. And he won. Good job Stuuuuuuuuu.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.
2-Ilya Bryzgalov - 18 saves.
1-Wayne Simmonds - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Sean Couturier - Knew he would be trouble for the Rangers the second Philly got him sixth in the '11 draft (thanks to Columbus). The legacy knows the game and, despite being just a sophomore, capably plays in all situations.
2-Hank - This game shoulda been 6-1. After his iffy start to the season, maybe a visit with the Swedish Chef was exactly what he needed ...
1-Simmonds - Loved this kid on L.A., hate him now. All because he plays the game the way it should be played. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

1-2-0: Slovak Success

For many of the True Blue faithful, the first real time they noticed Marian Gaborik was when he collected six points - five goals - against the Rangers in 2007. At the time this space grudgingly gave some credit to him, while largely blaming Blueshirt breakdowns for the five. Time heals and provides perspective, and now it is easy to admit that it was a masterful performance by Gabby.

Last night we saw another.

The Slovak showed a sublime scoring touch and potted a hat trick against a good Boston squad, giving the Rangers a 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins. Timing, speed, hands ... just amazing. Performances like last night certainly make things more infuriating when he isn't performing, when he is half-heartedly lazing around like he did for stretches of recent seasons past. This shortened campaign will hopefully keep him involved and bring about more performances like last night.

Late Hits:

*"That's what yer paid for Braden!" 1: The top line guys played like top line guys (at regular strength). Richards' touch pass to Nash on Gabby's first goal was simply amazing. While he needs to work on his faceoffs (not the only one on this team, another in a moment), Richie showed the instincts that earned his paycheque. Only troubling note for the top trio was Nash's showboating. Dipsy doodling may delight the crowd, but, unlike in Columbus, our team is expected to win and that takes priority over some half-assed hot doggery.

*Now if they could only do it on the power play. That third period five-on-three atrocity is inexcusable.  They could have put the game away, and instead allowed the seconds to slip by with nary a chance. Horrifying.

*That was one of the few offensive opportunities in the third period, as Torts kept his team from trying to add to their 3-2 advantage. They tightened up, and Boston took control. Yeah, "safe is death" my derriere. The bench boss puts the fear of death in his players and they lose all faith in themselves, which ends up costing them time and time again. The Bruins should not have gotten a point out of this game; that is all on Torts.

*"That's what yer paid for Braden!" 2: Taylor Pyatt has been everything we wanted him to be: a big body that battles around the net. Delightful, utterly delightful to see him working down low. While he is unlikely to keep this scoring touch going at this rate, as long as he puts in the same effort night in and night out he will be just fine. Now Torts needs to put him with some decent linemates.

*Brian Boyle should not be one of them. If not for Mike Rupp, Boyle would be the worst player on the roster. He can't skate, he has hands of cement with the puck that turn into pillows when trying to punch. He's awkward and overpaid. Yes, he scored a buncha goals a few years back when goalies were fooled into thinking he didn't know how to shoot. They know better now, not that he has even been able to put himself in good spots to shoot ... just awful.

*Jeff Halpern has a pass, for the moment. He is exactly the kind of low-line guy hurt the most by the lockout. No matter how much he worked out, as a veteran grinder, it'll take a while to get his game together because rust did creep in. Faceoffs are an art form based upon instincts and timing, and that will come back with more action. Just, hopefully, not too much more.

*Wanted to give Kreider a pass for his poor play in Hartford because it surely was a disappointment to go to the AHL after doing so well last spring in the playoffs. That pass has been revoked. The kid came into the season uninterested and, now that things have gotten 'real', has shown himself woefully underprepared to play at the NHL level. A banishment back to the bus league is in order, where he needs to be treated like the rookie he is.

*Del Zaster giveth and Del Zaster taketh away. His long pass to Richie on the aforementioned first Gabby goal was perfect. He got the helper on the second Gabby goal after finally getting a shot off after two fumbles, a nice turn of luck. And then he showed he is still utterly inept in his own end on the Lucic goal, standing around lost as the Bruins swarmed the Ranger end. He still hasn't learned. Ugh.

*Bad luck for Bork! on the Horton goal, having the puck go off his stick right to the Bruin. The young Swede's effort is unquestioned but he is far from the Swagelin' that was called up alongside John Mitchell last season. He and Stepan need to find that confidence that they once had and turn all this effort into some success.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Brad Richards - one assist.
2-Rick Nash - one assist.
1-Marian Gaborik - three goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Lucic - Almost put Bergeron in this spot because of his puck skills but Lucic was a handful for the Rangers to handle all night long. Same could be said for Marchand too.
2-Richards - Finally showed the skills that helped Loui Eriksson turn from a middling, uncertain Swede into a stellar sniper.
1-Gabby - One problem with my relocation to the roof is that I couldn't reach the ice with my hat. But a hearty hat tip to him for the tremendous trick. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

0-2-0: No Home For You Here

The Rangers opened their home slate on Sunday and probably wish they hadn't. The building, the event, the game ... all were found lacking, to say the least. The joy of returning to our 'happy place' was completely dashed, wiped away by inconvenience, disappointment and one horrible hockey game.

The renovated upper bowl debuted to terrible reviews, the Blueshirts made no effort to apologize for the lockout and then were destroyed by the evil Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 in a game that wasn't even that close. All in all, it was an abominable evening.

Late Hits:

*Welcome back to MSG, here is your cheap, poorly-designed tee shirt brought to you by one of our corporate sponsors. Never mind that our labour issues - brought about by greed - didn't stop us from raising prices across the board for tickets and food.

*While they didn't paint 'Thank You Fans' on the blue lines, they did play a prerecorded piece with Captain Cally telling us that "this season is for you!" If it really was, it would have started on time.

*Spoke to more than 30 season subscribers with seats around the new upper bowl and not a single one of them was happy with their seat, location or the reno. The biggest complaints were that getting around was far more difficult, there were obstructions in the view and the supposedly expanded concourses were cramped and choked with people. There are no escalators to the top level and Garden employees were not letting anyone not in a wheelchair or without a cane into the elevator. So people with breathing problems or other non-visible disabilities had to climb all the way up the 200s stairs, a physically difficult endeavour - even with the railings, railings that are in some people's line of sight.

*And then there was the game, which kicked off with a selfish, stupid, senseless fight by the Blueshirts newest town idiot, Arron Asham. The former Islander, Devil, Flyer and Penguin decided to make his presence known by coming out of suspension and starting a fight with Tanner Glass off the opening faceoff. A fight, by the way, that he didn't even win. Watching it again, he didn't even land a single good punch. What's the point of having three goons on the roster if all three suck at fighting?

*As with the opener in Boston, the Rangers showed they were physically unready to start the season. They were a step behind all night, they took bad penalties, they lost battles all over the ice and they couldn't complete most of their passes.

*Hank, again, made mistakes that he rarely did last season. And it got him yanked. The indignity. Perhaps he should have taken Frolunda up on their offer and played some real hockey. Or maybe they should move the games to AC and play them for a charity or something.

*Really not worth going into the analysis of the action, because the Ranger performance was terrible from top to bottom. It was a gutless, pathetic showing by a team that clearly did not care enough to keep themselves in shape while arguing over money for the last few months. We simply have to hope that the guys use their two days off to get their act together, because more games like this will be unacceptable.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Kris Letang - one goal and one assist.
2-Evgeni Malkin - three assists.
1-James Neal - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Pascal Dupuis - Solid play on both sides of the ice by the former Blueshirt.
2-Neal - Two goals alongside the real first star of the game ...
1-Malkin - Geno earned 65 points in 37 KHL games and clearly looked in midseason form. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

0-1-0: Stumbling Start

It is not like most of the Rangers were all that busy during the lockout, you would think they would have had time to work out. But they proved to be woefully underprepared for the start of the season on Saturday night when they fell to the Bruins in Beantown 3-1.

It was a sloppy, slow open to the asterisked year and it was largely inexcusable. Half the team simply did not show up ready to play. You could see on Thursday's broadcast of the Blueshirts practice, the boys didn't take it seriously. Well, it is serious. With a 48 game year every point counts and they wasted two last night.

Late Hits:

*Boston was lauded for having half their side in shape after playing overseas, and deservingly so. Andrew Ference and David Krejci, both of whom played in the Czech Extraliga, assisted on the first goal. Daniel Paille, who spent nine games in Finland, tipped home the second. Johnny Boychuk, who played in Austria, scored the third off a faceoff win by Patrice Bergeron - a star in Switzerland.

*That being said, the Rangers who saw time in Europe were ineffective. Step played in Finland and was invisible. Nash's play was almost as neutral as the country he played in. Hagelin's highlight was drawing a penalty (more on that in a moment). McDonagh was mediocre. DZ ... ha.

*If not for Hagelin's visor, his face would have been wrecked on the glass when he was hit from behind by Milan Lucic. It was a far more egregious hit than the elbow Hags laid on Alfredsson in the playoffs and Lootch has a reputation for dirty play. And yet it only drew a two minute penalty? Shanny had better take a look ...

*Speaking of neanderthals, a big thank you to Mike Rupp and Stu Bickel for killing any chance the Rangers had at coming back. Brad Richards gets a lucky goal and the two idiots have to go out and pick that moment to justify their pathetic existence. You fight to start your team's momentum. You fight to stop the other team's momentum. You don't fight the second your side shows a sign of life. Sheer stupidity by the lowbrows.

*Brian Boyle is a genius. He translated a few lucky weeks a few years back into a NHL career. Brilliant. Too bad he has no knowledge on the ice. He can't skate, he can't shoot and he has no ice sight.

*When Brandon Segal is more involved then you, there's a problem. Step, Kreider, Pyatt, Cally, Halpern (who seemed to lose every faceoff he took) ... all absent.

*That has to rank as one of the worst games of Marc Staal's career.

*Yes, I did admit that Del Zaster made a good play in the third period. No, it did not wipe out the fact that he was poor the rest of the night. He couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone, he got beaten in the neutral zone and he lost his coverage regularly in the defensive zone.

*Thought for sure that Girardi had kept the streak alive of Rangers blocking shots in Boston and breaking things. Haveta be thankful he survived unscathed.

*Hank's glove save on Krejci was gorgeous, and it reminded me of his stellar stop on Marc Savard (that I was in the building for and utterly lost my mind). Only difference? Hank's glove wasn't in the goal on the Savvy save.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Patrice Bergeron - one assist.
2-Tuukka Rask - 20 saves.
1-Zdeno Chara - tallest guy on the ice.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Shawn Thornton - The Bruins' resident tough guy taunted Rupp into the fight that sealed the Ranger fate. Smart. Credit also to Brad Marchand for being a pest all night long, completely distracting Cally and others.
2-Bergeron - Seguin may have been flashier at times but Bergeron commanded the ice when he was out there, dictating pace and placement.
1-Lucic - The missing link scored the all-important goal and played Bruins hockey until his ejection.