Wednesday, February 27, 2013

8-8-2: 24 Is The Loneliest Number

When the Rangers decided to pick a new captain after Chris Drury's dismissal the only real choice was Ryan Callahan. Everything about his game and his dedication to the team made him the perfect candidate. But, back then, there was some cause for concern: the Rangers didn't appear to respond to him.

They still don't.

On Tuesday night the Blueshirts, who had two days to brood after the mockery in Montreal, were outplayed and outhustled by a Winnipeg team playing the fifth game of a road trip. The Jets came out on top 4-3 in a game that belied its scoreline.

Cally put together a stellar defensive shift in the second period, a stickless, selfless shot blocking extravaganza that drew a standing ovation. It was one of the best moments at MSG in recent memory. And then his teammates followed it up by allowing two inexcusable goals.

The captain came right back and countered with a goal to get the boys back into it ... and they then allowed another to nullify it. It is hard to comprehend that Callahan goes out there willing to risk life and limb to make plays and his teammates simply don't.

Late Hits:

*Amazes me how John Tortorella is willing to risk two points to send a message to his team, but he won't risk two points to send a message to the opposition. Bet Kreider learned a lot from the bench during this one.

*Darrell Powe played nearly three times as much as Kreider did. Boring, uncreative, lowest denominator coaching. As usual.

*The bench boss puts together awful, unbalanced lines with players who's styles don't match and have not played together before and then gets upset when they end up scrambling around their own end. There is something called chemistry, he should learn what it is. Miller, Mashinter and Halpern? What the hell?

*And everything looks that much worse when King Henrik is playing like a peasant. A friend who has three young children of his own called it 'crying baby syndrome.' Hard to be your best when there's an infant demanding attention at all hours.

*This team is getting to frustrating to watch that Ranger fans are fighting amongst themselves. From the top of 210 I saw four scuffles, none featuring fans of our foes. Did notice one jerk wearing a Devils jersey getting tossed out to a typical Garden serenade, but did not see if he provoked violence as well.

*At least a dozen Potvin Sucks whistles throughout the game. None when Ulf Nilsson was introduced to the crowd. Utter and complete New York Ranger fan fail.

*Olli Jokinen's face is still terrifying.

*Just three minutes after Stralman scored to bring the Blueshirts back within one Winnipeg took a penalty. For some teams that would be a golden opportunity to tie the game. Not for the Rangers ... no one kills Ranger power plays like the Rangers. Perry Pearn was on the Winnipeg bench as an assistant coach, wonder if Mike Sullivan leaned over to ask some advice ...

*Carl Hagelin got chances to score last season. Carl Hagelin is getting chances this season. But it is only when Rick Nash was around that he was finishing his chances. Have to wonder if it is an Anisimov-esque confidence issue.

*Rave about Cally but credit due to Dan Girardi as well. Dude a warrior. Not a No. 1 defenseman, but a warrior. After needing to be helped off the Bell Centre ice Dan-O was back and skated for nearly half the game (27:58). And, despite all that time, he was only on for one of the four goals against - the softie Hank let up to Kane.

*Aside from Cally, Hagelin and Dan-O there was little physicality left in the Ranger lineup last night. Brian Boyle is six-foot-seven. Just sayin'.

*Steve Eminger was surprisingly solid. If he keeps playing like he did, he will deserve to stay in the lineup once McD or Del Zaster return. Hopefully, whenever that is, it will signal the end of Matt Gilroy's New York Ranger career. Hobey Redux has been even more disappointing than the original.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Olli Jokinen - two goals.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Evander Kane - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Jokinen - Actually agreeing with all three of the PHW for once. Olli's one-timer to make the score 3-1 was pure lightning. Exactly the kind of goal Marian Gaborik should be scoring.
2-Callahan - Simply outstanding. Just wish his leadership-by-example worked.
1-Kane - During the lockout Evander was ran out of Minsk for being out of shape and because he "could not adapt" to KHL hockey. Well, he has this NHL thing down pretty pat. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

8-7-2: Blueshirts Go Yellow

That the Rangers entered the Bell Centre Saturday night and had their bells rung by the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge was of no surprise. For years the New York team that basks in the footlights of Broadway has wilted in the spotlight of Montreal.

But not since Dan Girardi watched Marian Gaborik get his face beaten in by Dan Carcillo have the Rangers stood by and allowed their opponent free physical reign. Max Pacioretty aimed for Ryan McDonagh's numbers and took to the air to hit them. And, after typically wasting the ensuing power play, did anyone seek vengeance? Nope.

Too bad Hank wasn't on the ice, at least you know he woulda been willing to hit Pacioretty.

Backup Marty Biron was hit not once but twice and did anyone run Carey Price? Nope. The second time it was Travis Moen who crashed the crease and Brian Boyle took exception. The six-foot-seven Ranger shoved the smaller Hab and shared some angry words with him, but his gloves remained firmly on his hands.

The grit that helped define this franchise last season is mostly gone. The heart and soul guys who stepped up, sans Callahan, were sent away or allowed to walk and the returns aren't making the cut. Arron Asham was useless before he began bailing out of the lineup with 'back spasms.' Taylor Pyatt is a big boy but has just 12 bouts on his resume of 772 games. Jeff Halpern is simply not a physical fellow. And the various call-ups and kids live in perpetual fear of failure, because Tortorella will unleash his fury upon them.

Toughness took this team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and the lack thereof is a prime reason for the failures of the present. Sure the skill is struggling something fierce but this side was able to survive similar slumps last season by grinding though games. Either Torts has to start encouraging these kids to just lay it all out there, play their game and grow into a team or Sather needs to make some moves. And soon.

Just a few Late Hits:

*Said it in the offseason - offense wasn't the Rangers' problem during the playoffs. The lack of trustworthy defensemen cost them the Cup and it is killing them now. You simply can't have three reliable blueliners and expect to succeed. And now that McDonagh and Girardi might be out? We're screwed.

*PleaseOhPleaseOhPleaseOhPleaseOhPlease let McD and G be ok. PleaseOhPleaseOhPlease.

*In what world is Matt Gilroy a better NHL option than Steve Eminger? Granted, an ideal world would see neither one of them anywhere near the NHL but Hobey is simply horrible. He had a chance to clear the puck on the first goal and was outmuscled, and then he passed the puck right to Erik Cole. Hobey was well behind the play when Gally got the second goal and he was stumbling around senselessly on the third.

*I wonder if I would get kicked out of the Garden for carrying a sign that read "No One Kills Power Plays Like The Rangers" ... We stared in wonder at Stepan's power play goal last week and at Eller's on this evening. Both goals had plenty in common: players moving and quick passing. There was no standing around, trying to figure out fissures in the defensive wall. The guys were skating around the zone with the knowledge of who to pass to even before they had the puck. The regular Ranger unit has become lazy, uncreative and predictable, and we are paying for it night after night.

*Welcome to the NHL Christian Thomas, barely noticed you. But the same can be said for Miller, Mashinter, Kreider and even Hagelin. The kids are gripping their sticks too tight and, too often, are not in position to make things happen. Not even Gretzky could succeed if he was stuck on the ice with Boyle or an uninterested Brad Richard$.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Erik Cole - one goal and one assist.
2-Lars Eller - one goal and one assist.
1-Alex Galchenyuk - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Pacioretty - Traded two minutes in the box for the best Ranger blueliner. Great deal. Could have made a case for Prust to get this, as he played in all situations and had a big hand in Cole's goal.
2-Gally - Unlike his U.S. teammate Miller, Galchenyuk skated unfettered out there and made things happen with his hard work and skill. His goal was a bit of a fluke but it came as the result of hard work.
1-Eller - The Dane did quite well; he's finally making the Halak deal appear closer to even.

Friday, February 22, 2013

8-6-2: Losing Leads

The Rangers continued their latest trend of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday night by blowing a lead on their way to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The Blueshirts scored two goals in less than a minute of the third period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, but then they endeavoured to erase their own advantage. Over the next two minutes they iced the puck, gave up one-timers from the slot by Erik Condra and Stephane Da Costa, threw the puck into their own bench, let Chad Greening get an open shot, let Mika Zibanejad get a chance at the rebound, took a dumb penalty and then left Zibanejad alone for the one-timer that tied the game.

It was like a bad horror flick: we got to enjoy the cute coed taking her top off, but then had to watch as she proceeded through a comedy of errors that resulted in her inevitable, bloody doom. And, like the horror genre, it happens again and again and again. The Rangers inexplicably become complacent as soon as the score tilts in their favour, and it can't go on for much longer if they are to have a chance this season.

Changing metaphors, John Tortorella has a thing for dogs - quite fitting considering he is all bark but no bite - and it is on him to to turn this team of mercenary mutts into a pack of pit bulls that will bite down and not let go until June.

Late Hits:

*Speaking of mercenary mutts, Rick Nash and Arron Asham didn't bother to play. Given that neither one has visibly been injured this season and the team won't release any info, they leave a lot of cause to wonder what is keeping them off the ice. Could it be Tin Man syndrome?

*Was Brad Richard$ out too? Didn't see him.

*Looks like Marian Gaborik is going through the Jaromir Jagr lack of confidence in the shootout. It is tough watching someone so skilled give such half-hearted, uncreative efforts in the skill competition. Jagr started begging out of his opportunities to go, will Gabby soon do the same?

*Del Zastrous, simply Del Zastrous. Amid his nearly five minutes of power play time he turned the puck over for Silfverberg's goal and blew a wide open backhand. He missed the overtime with that alleged injury, and without him the team played their best hockey of the night. Coincidence? Hmmm.

*Chris Kreider is a young, skilled forward. His hard work earned two power plays and took out Ottawa's starting goaltender. So why did he only see 12 seconds of power play time and no shifts in overtime?

*Even though I attempt to avoid all blogs until this one is written, I saw some folks are blaming the stripes for  the loss because of two blown Blueshirt goals. The NHL officiating is a joke and has been butchering calls all season across the league, but they are equally inept and their errors aren't what are keeping the Rangers down.

*If it wasn't against us, it would have been great to celebrate Kaspars Daugavins game-winning goal. Latvians love their hockey so very much that it is wonderful to see one of their own succeeding. (Even if he may have simply mishandled the puck, rather than intentionally slipping it through Hank's legs.)

*What a shot by McDonagh to thread that puck into the Ottawa net for the go-ahead goal. Defensemen who can get pucks on goal from the point ... craziness.

*Marc Staal had a good night, but to see him trading punches postconcussion is nerve-racking.

*One of Super Jew Jeff Halpern's best performances this season. As mentioned before, he looked like he was one of the vets who was hurt by the lockout - now he is getting his legs back and getting going.

*Remember when the Rangers had someone to offset Chris Neil? What was that guy's name again? But seriously, Ottawa had a distinct edge in the physical game last night and that can't be allowed to happen to often.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 35 saves.
2-Jakob Silferberg - one regulation goal, one shootout goal.
1-Craig Anderson - 21 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - The Sens kept him busy but he kept the Rangers in the game until they could take the lead, and then he helped them at least leave with the one point.
2-Ryan Callahan - So if you work the slot, good things happen? The team needs to learn from their captain's lead and battle down low. Plus he knew in the shootout to go around a thick-padded 6-foot-7 goaltender, rather than through him.
1-Silferberg - Any surprise that this young Swede knew how to solve Hank? Went gloveside twice, scored twice. Silferberg has a big future ahead of him and is in a prime position right now, learning alongside Daniel Alfredsson. Stud.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

8-6-1: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Two teams stepped onto the MSG ice last night. One was playing on their home ice, carrying a 4-0-1 streak after a day off. The other had a 4-0 streak, playing less than 24 hours after a physical win in Carolina. Neither team played particularly well, but one appeared utterly exhausted and lifeless. Yep that one was the Rangers.

The Blueshirts sleepskated through one of the dullest affairs in recent history, a boring game largely devoid of displays of skill or physicality. For two Original Six teams, there was no sign of any rivalry in this one but - like the vast majority of their matches over the last 86 seasons - Montreal ended up on top. The Habs came from behind to beat the Hab-nots 3-1, helped by the one guy who played like he wanted to be there: Brandon Prust.

Pruster threw his body around, checking his former teammates and blocking their shots. He played at even strength, on the power play and (of course) shorthanded. And he had a big hand in the game-winning goal, making a brilliant backhanded pass across the slot to untouched rookie Alex Galchenyuk. It was a triumphant return for the former Ranger, as he showed his old team exactly what they were missing.

It is long past time to lament the loss of Sean Avery, who became persona non grata the second John Tortorella was mistakenly hired. The team went on without him and still had sparkplugs in Cally, Dubi, Fedotenko and Prust. Three of those four are now gone and their replacements on the roster could not get anything going last night. Pyatt was tightly checked, Miller was invisible and Asham was utterly ineffective (as per usual).

The Blueshirts have won most of their games this season because of their skill, not their grit - a reversal from last year. But when the Richard$ plays piss poorly, Gabby allows himself to be marginalized and Rick Nash doesn't even bother to show up, the grit guys have to pick up the slack and that did not happen. More of the current crew need to learn that "it's just pain" and play their hardest.

A few Late Hits:

*Maybe they should re-paint the red line green, because the Rangers concede passage into their own end every rush. Where is the forecheck?

*After being utterly delighted by a perfect power play goal on Sunday the man advantage regressed back to its utterly awful self. Normally a team down 2-1 in the third period that gets a power play would get a chance to tie things up. For the Rangers it only brought them two minutes closer to the final buzzer.

*Mentioned Pruster's pretty feed before but credit is due to Step's stellar set-up - he threaded the puck under the defenseman's stick right to Stralman for the slam dunk.

*The game-tying goal was thanks to Del Zaster. He allowed his man to get behind him and turned to watch the play. McD had to skate over to try to clear the Canadien from the crease and, timing being every thing, he screened Hank. DZ's utter lack of defensive ability strikes again.

*Boyle has come out of the gates strong the last two games but is still not a good hockey player. The majority of his hits don't achieve anything and he still avoids screening the goaltender.

*Had hoped to see more from Mashinter but he was shackled with Asham on his line so it is of little surprise he saw little ice time and was unable to do anything with it.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Carl Hagelin - one assist.
2-Carey Price - 24 saves.
1-Alex Galchenyuk - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Step - The kid is picking up some of the slack as Richard$ skates around collecting his paycheque.
2-Galchenyuk - Young American clearly has a bright future ahead of him.
1-Prust - He had a point to prove and he did just that. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

8-5-1: Selective Memory

The Rangers skated away from Sunday's 'matinee' match against the Capitals with two points. In the end, that is all that is important. Aside from the two outstanding tallies by the Blueshirts, most of the details of the one-goal win are not worth remembering.

The fact that they were taken to the wire by the worst team in the Eastern Conference, well, we need to forget about that. An inexcusable goal against on a wide open shot just over a minute in, Hank's good looks erase that. Sitting on a one-goal lead rather than trying to make it a two-goal lead? Slip it from your mind. Four poor penalties? Let 'em go. Darroll Powe getting knocked out by Matt Hendricks? Already ignored, no one bothered to avenge him anyway. Yet another occurrence of Braden Holtby-ism, a syndrome where the Rangers make the mediocre netminder look good by inflating his stats with easy saves? Definitely worth deleting from the memory bank.

Once all that is consigned to oblivion we can bask in the brilliance of the two goals scored by the Blueshirts and the two points they took for defeating the Caps. Beating Washington is always wonderful and, at the end of the day, that is what the boys in blue did. They triumphed over Ovie and improved to 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Selective memory is a wonderful thing.

Late Hits:

*A power play goal. By the Rangers. Really. And it was glorious. I felt like James Bond. Richard$ actually won a faceoff, Nash's fancy-pants move actually worked to pass it back, then tic-tac-toe Richard$ to Del Zaster to Stepan and we're winning.

*Step finished that play, and he started the game-tying tally. He hustled to the boards, pressuring Troy Brouwer into making a poor pass that McDonagh intercepted and fired deep. Hagelin then tipped Tom Poti's clearing attempt, allowing Rick Nash to get it and feed McDonagh for the shot that Hagelin redirected in. Bork, Bork, Bork!

*And Poti - of all the blueliners in all the world - Poti being the player to lose his cover ... simply spectacular. POOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIII, POOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIII, POOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIII. Peanut Butta Poti Time, Peanut Butta Poti Time! It is soooo much fun to revel in his mistakes, now that they aren't made while he's wearing a Ranger sweater.

*The current Blueshirt blueliner to draw my ire, Del Zaster, didn't suck. He saw way too much ice time, made a few blatant mistakes and took a terrible penalty, but he didn't suck. Maybe he just looked passable thanks to Poti being on the same ice ... yeah, that probably was it.

*DZ was one of several Rangers guilty of going down to try to block passes. Sure the play looks pretty, but it just shows how far out of position the player was.

*Bravo to NBC Sports for including the national anthem, which featured John Amirante. Sad they missed his trademark fist-pump, but still more than we get during MSG broadcasts. And no Micheletti, can't beat that.

*Sounded like a loud crowd on tv. It was helped that the 6pm start was the earliest of the season (pending the last two NBC games) and that it came on the eve of a holiday. Nice to see the Rangers recognized it with a give-away ... oh, wait, they didn't.

*Kinda sad to see that Ovechkin shaved his dastardly Van Dyke. Ah well, at least we know he's still evil.

*Cally tangling with Ovie? What a moment. And his honest, selfless work at the end of the game? It is getting hard to love our captain more.

*Not only does it appear that Adam Oates has no idea how to coach, but it looks like he had some bad plastic surgery too. Bet he scares all the children on Halloween. Loved that it was him, rather than our dynamic duo behind the bench, that got called for a too many men on the ice.

*Don't tell me Hendricks didn't nail Powe intentionally, I watched the replay a number of times and you can see him lower his right shoulder right before impact. He saw Powe coming and used it to his advantage. The only surprise is that it wasn't John Erskine who did it.

*Asham helped Powe off the ice, the first instance of him actually doing something positive for his Ranger teammates.

*PHW Three Stars:
3- Braden Holtby - 38 saves.
2- Rick Nash - one assist.
1- Carl Hagelin - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3- Hagelin - While he gives credit to Nash for making room for him, last season Hags had chance after chance last season that he couldn't capitalize upon. Now he's finishing.
2- Stepan - Some games Step looks amazing, others he disappears. Once he gains some consistency we will have ourselves one terrific second line center.
1- Callahan - The wind beneath our wings.

Friday, February 15, 2013

7-5-1: Taken Down By Torts

You had a team that stumbled out of the gate finally getting their game together. They'd won three games in a row and had a softball of a foe ahead of them, a glorified AHL team. So do they keep things rolling?


The head coach tinkered with lineup and put in his backup goaltender, decisions that doomed the team to an unacceptable failure. It is one thing to blow a 3-0 lead to the best team in the Eastern Conference, it is another to blow a 2-0 lead to the bunch of pathetic losers from Long Island. What a disgrace.

Why would you want Chris Kreider out on the ice to create offense and combine with Cally and Miller to form an energy line when you can dress Brian Boyle?! Boyle, who's demotion to the press box spurred the win streak. Boyle, who can't skate, can't shoot, can't pass and can't fight. Boyle, who was given 17 minutes in ice time, including shifts on the power play and in overtime.

Why would you want to start Henrik Lundqvist when he is finally getting his game in motion after a inactive offseason when you can start that shaky sieve of a backup Marty Biron. Biron, a former Islander. Biron, who stood still while the Islanders won the shootout.

Torts is the boss, and he will do what he wants. And what he did caused his team to not just sink to the level of their inferior foes, but drown below them. This simply can not happen. Just past the quarter mark of this asterisked season, the Rangers lie four points from first place and four points from last place in the Eastern Conference. Anything can happen and giving away points to piss-poor opponents is very, very dangerous. Luckily Sunday will bring a woeful Washington team to town, giving the Blueshirts have two days to learn how to hold a lead. Not nearly enough time.

Late Hits:

*One of the highlights of the evening was at the outset, when John Amirante did the anthem. Rumour had it that he had pneumonia when the season started, keeping him from his duties. Glad he is better and back to form, he's truly a Garden institution.

*It was an honour to have a Medal of Honor winner in attendance, Sergent Clinton Romesha. Great ovation from the Garden faithful.

*My new twitter friend Arron Asham had himself a banner night, with less than three minutes of ice time and a fight (that he lost). What a great tough guy for this team to have, really inspires the troops.

*The cheap-ass Rangers gave out an advertising booklet, I mean calendar, to all fans in attendance. It ranks up with the horrible Hummer calendar from years past. No pictures of players but plenty of ads for Foxwoods. Weak. Oh, and it is the middle of February - what a good time to give out a calendar.

*Saw a few fights in the stands, always love the passion that this rivalry brings. Really wish the players had one iota of it.

*Hagelin's goal (off the rush) aside, the power play continued to be a disaster of Hindenburg proportions. So glad to see Del Zaster back out there, killing time and momentum.

*Loved Jeff Halpern's play. Super Jew won a whole slew of faceoffs and skated hard all evening. Too bad he has zero offensive ability at this point in his career. Shocking to think he had 18 points in 19 games for Tampa after being part of the Brad Richard$ deal way back when.

*Maybe Richard$ picked up some kind of fungus while he was helping folks clean up from Sandy. Gotta be some excuse for his horrible play and that is as good as any.

*Hoped for more from Taylor Pyatt against the team that drafted him, but he seemed to be one of those who fell victim to Tortorella's chemistry-killing line juggling.

*Happy birthday Gabby, thanks for giving us a present. Very Jagr-esque play by the Slovak, displaying serious skills in regulation before stumbling in the shootout.

*Michael "Rico Fata" Grabner struck again, blowing another breakaway for the blue and orange. It is truly amazing how he earns so many good opportunities and utterly wastes them.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal and one assist.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.
1-John Tavares - one regulation goal, one shootout goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Lubo Visnovsky - Mark Streit play more minutes but Lubo was clearly in control whenever he was out on the ice, making things happen like a proper quarterback should.
2-Hagelin - BORK!
1-Tavares - Someone should Dale Hunter that kid. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

7-5-0: Bailed Out In Boston

Captain Cally came through again, leading his lackluster teammates to a big win in Boston after they blew a 3-0 lead. Callahan's shootout winner saved the Rangers from awful embarrassment and, instead, secured them a 4-3 win over the beast of the East.

This game was all-too-familiar in that the Blueshirts took control, then thought the job was done and sat back. For being such a pit bull of a coach, Torts has no killer instinct. He instead insists his team sit back and cling to whatever lead they build, thus allowing the other team more space to create and mount a comeback. It is a problem that has plagued this team in the last seven or so seasons and it needs to be fixed before they can reach the next level.

But for now, for those counting, this is three wins in a row for the Blueshirts. It is a nice little streak that hopefully continues on Thursday.

Late Hits:

*Three games without Brian Boyle, three wins. His absence has allowed Torts to balance the lines better; the poor-skating, oversized softie with bad hands was dragging a second unit down to fourth line status. They weren't creating any energy or any offense, they just staggered around hoping not to give up any goals. Good riddance.

*Kind of refreshing playing against a team that wastes a ton of talent while falling flat on their face while on the power play. Granted, Krejci's goal came seconds after a man advantage finished ... but still, the Bruin and Ranger power plays are remarkably underwhelming to say the least.

*Rick "The Riverboat Gambler" Nash showed off his hot dog hands with two stupefyingly skilled plays that words simply can not do justice. Nash undressed Boston and fed Carl Hagelin (BORK!) from his knees on one and scored a shootout goal for the ages on the other.

*But all was not wonderful with our silky superstar. He took exception to Milan Lucic's physical play and took an inexcusable hooking penalty early in the third period, spurring the home side's rally. As such a big guy, he should have given the shove right back to Lucic, not relied on his stick.

*Or he could have just sucked it up. Arron Asham made his best achievement as a Blueshirt by not getting suckered into a fight he surely would have lost.

*Did Brad Richard$ play? Has he been injured? Top line center has been invisible the last five, six games. His passes have been telegraphed, his shots easily blocked and, on this night, his shootout attempt was laughable.

*Too many men on the ice. AGAIN. This joke is not funny.

*Was really surprised to see a sluggish, soft Bruins team at the outset - they were far from the motivated bunch of bangers who took on Buffalo the other day.

*And, like both of the Bolts goalenders the other day, Tuukka suuckked. Step and Stralman's goals would have been grabbed by even a half-competent goaltender. But you miss 100% of the shots you don't take and all that, so keep chuckin' 'em from the cheap seats boys.

*Hank, for his part, did just fine. But he is not the player he was last season, he doesn't seem to have the same patience and confidence that he had while winning the Vezina. Even his outstanding save on Patrice Bergeron's breakaway looked uncertain, and it knocked him backwards. Plays like that were his bread and butter and this one didn't inspire the same confidence.

*Bergeron is one outstanding hockey player. He is just awesome all over the ice, truly a prototypical two-way player. Every time I watch him I come away impressed.

*Amazing how Boston has one of the iconic logos in all of sport and yet donned such an ugly uniform on this night. It looked like they were wearing black pajamas.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Dan Girardi - one assist.
2-David Krejci - one goal.
1-Rick Nash - one shootout goal and one regulation assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Lucic - Two assists and the physical play that initiated the comeback.
2-Girardi - Just defense to help out Hank. McD and Staal were also stellar but G made some really big blocks.
1-Nash - Skillz.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

6-5-0: Safe Is Death

For the second week in a row the Rangers defeated the Lightning, this time (Sunday) it was a 5-1 trouncing of a terrible Tampa team. The bone-weary Bolts, who had battled their way through the blizzard not to play in Boston, tried to lay it all on the line and their gamble didn't pay off.

For long stretches both teams appeared to use John Tortorella's old "Safe is Death" philosophy and it worked for the good guys. The key to that ideology is having a good enough defense and goaltending to cope with all of the flying forwards and on this night Tampa certainly didn't.

It was one of the more embarrassing performances by a NHL team in recent memory, as goal-by-goal Tampa displayed what not to do. Right off the bat they had three guys chasing Rick Nash and he was still able to get a shot off to put the Rangers ahead. Granted, it hit a defenseman's stick and Carl Hagelin, but given how Garon was playing it woulda probably beat him regardless.

Hell, the Rangers weren't much better as they still can't figure out how to do a line change. But at least they ended up on top. After the first win over the Bolts the Blueshirts followed it up with a loss in Newark so we have to hold out hope that tonight's tilt in Boston will be better.

Just a few, quick Late Hits as it is so far after the fact:

*Matt Carle, even worse at defense than Del Zaster.

*Tom Poti was allergic to peanut butter. Given how much time Del Zaster spends behind the opponent's net, maybe he is allergic to Lundqvist.

*Welcome back Dan Girardi, never leave us again.

*Bork, bork, bork. Deflection on Hagelin's first, exploited Garon's Ron Hextall five-hole for the other. Hextall tried to kill himself after those two 6-0 losses back in '94 but the train went through his legs.

*Anders Lindback wasn't any better: not only did he let Arron Asham score but both he was able to see both shots that beat them and they sailed in short side. Not NHL caliber, and killing my fantasy team.

*Hank was solid, and should have had a shutout. Two great saves (and two long rebounds) before Vinny04 scored the Bolts lone goal. Someone, anyone, shoulda helped the King out.

*Derek Stepan is slowly getting better. He may have actually been hurt by playing overseas  acclimating back to the smaller rink and quicker contact has been a task.

*Maybe Matt Gilroy should get a shot at the power play point? At least until someone capable can be brought in at the deadline (Mark Streit). Just a thought.

*JT Miller's third NHL game was a solid, if unspectacular one. Given Tortorella's reliance on his top guys during tough times, really have to hope that Miller doesn't atrophy on the bench the way that Manny Malhotra once did.

*My shock has been replaced by awe, as this guy at the home opener was clearly ahead of the curve. If I was willing to give the NHL any more money - I'm not - I would get one too.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Rick Nash - one goal and one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 19 saves.
1-Carl Hagelin - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Girardi - Almost tabbed Cally for his 'Little Ball of Hate' edge but his goal was just on such a horrible play by Carle that Dan-O gets the edge. The Blueshirt blueliner stepped right back in and completely negated Stamkos, not an easy feat.
2-Hagelin - Love when his hard work pays off.
1-Nemo - The winter storm clearly took something out of the Lightning. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

5-5-0: Miller's Moment

The one singular test result that counts - the final score - shows that the Rangers fared better on Thursday then they did Tuesday: they defeated the Islanders 4-1. But it is incredibly hard to say if there was any improvement in their game against the Isles then they did against the Devils. The Isles are a far inferior team to the Devs in terms of quality of players and coaching, and they made more mistakes and weren't as tough defensively.

This was a good win, this was a necessary win and this was a tough win. But, while quality of opponent certainly muddied up the metric a bit, it was clear to see that the Rangers were outplayed physically (despite the ridiculous home hit count), they took bad penalties and gave up a bad goal. Defeating the Isles is always cause for celebration in my book - few folks loathe them as much as I do - but it is worrisome to think that, had the Rangers played a real side we'd be looking a yet another loss.

But they didn't, they defeated the opponent that was set in front of them. Now the trick will be to build upon the victory; the Rangers have gone win/loss/win/loss/win over their last five games. They need to carry the confidence, and the fearlessness of youth, into Sunday night's home leg against the Lightning to buck that back-and-forth trend.

Late Hits:

*Slam the Isles for their awfulness but take nothing away from JT Miller's effort. As I just mentioned, the fearlessness of this youth carried his team to victory. Miller hasn't been cowed by Tortorella's screaming and carrying on yet, the kid just went out there and played his game. He followed up his strong debut at the Rock with another at MSG - a far more intimidating venue. His two tallies were wonderful, and hopefully the first of many. I'm delighted, thus far, to be proven wrong. Miller will just have to keep the wheels going, even after Torts turns his temper in his direction.

*A mistake by the Blueshirt brass not to give him sweater No. 64. Imagine the sales ...

*Miller's second goal came on a power play, off a rush. For years and years - especially those with Perry Pearn in charge - my lament over the man advantage was how stagnant and predictable it was once it got set up in the zone. The smart pass by McD to find Miller was the catalyst, that first feed is just so important and no one has been able to do it well with any regularity since Sergei Zubov was shipped out of town.

*Sure he had nothing to do with the power play goal, but Stralman over Del Zaster on the point? A definite improvement. I was shocked - but delighted - to see DZ didn't have a single second of man advantage time. Let's keep it that way.

*Welcome back Cally, everyone missed you.

*Rick Nash was ineffective, held in check by Travis Hamonic of all people. That is the super power forward who was brought in to save this franchise and bring it the Stanley Cup. Completely rubbed out by a guy who couldn't make a real NHL team's roster. Nash has to be better than that; he should be able to score goals like Miller's on a nightly basis. Size, power, speed and hands.

*Yep, Potvin still sucks.

*Stupid, sloppy penalties. Somethings never change. While Del Zaster is expected to do something stupid, like jumping over the boards early, Darroll Powe can not. Like Bettsy long before him, shorthanded specialists simply can not afford to be stupid.

*Arron Asham needs to follow Rupp out of town, Sather needs to rectify yet another of his signing mistakes. Hagelin was hammered and Hank was slashed and no one bothered to do anything about it, least of all the one clown who's job it was. MSG's cameras even caught him giving Marty Reasoner a pat on the behind after one whistle. Are you kidding me?

*On the other side of the coin, the Taylor Pyatt acquisition is still a winner. Loving this guy, absolutely adoring him. He's big, he plays big, he plays tough, he's effective ... he's everything Brian Boyle has refused to be.

*May Boyle never rejoin the Ranger roster ever again.

*The Rangers lack of injury info is infuriating. What is really wrong with Dan Girardi? Just how bad is  Mike Sauer's situation? Has there been any progress, at all? This team can't take many more nights of Hobey and Eminger dressing and getting so few minutes. It is ridiculous, but absolutely plausible, to think that Torts already burned Girardi out, overplaying him immediately after a lockout where the defenseman was completely inactive.

*Still don't get the Martin holding penalty in the second period. Given Del Zaster's history, you'd think opposing teams would encourage him to play the puck in his end.

*Marian Gaborik's goal? Made me think of this. Haha.

*Can't forget: the Rangers could have signed Mark Streit but instead went with Wade Redden. Whoops.

*Always rail against how horrible Joe Micheletti makes MSG, but serious points to John Giannone for taking one for the team and never stopping. Ripped him a few weeks back for a softball question during an intermission interview but he more than made up for it by still commentating with blood pouring down his face. Beauty.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Ryan McDonagh - one goal and one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-JT Miller - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Cally - At no point did you think the captain just came off of a serious shoulder injury, and he clearly made the youngsters more comfortable when out on the ice.
2-Marc Staal - Concussion? What concussion? Staal looks like he's back to the elite level that put him in the Team Canada conversation.
1-Miller - Go kid, go. Now do it again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

4-5-0: Rock Bottom?

In the wee hours of the fall mornings, while waiting for the KHL games to kick off, I swore that I would not be as wrapped up in the NHL again if they ever did come back. I also swore I would stop blogging about the Blueshirts because, dammit, if they didn't care about me, I wouldn't care about them. Well, we all know how that worked out.

Games like last night's 3-1 utter debacle against the Devils reinforced my reasoning. It has been a battle of mine for years and years to acknowledge that the players will never care about their on-ice fortunes as much as we fans care about them. But last night was a win for the bad guys, as the lackluster display proved that they just don't have that passion. Or any passion, as near as I could tell from the (literally) last row of the Rock.

The Rangers played a poor, predictable brand of puck at the Prudential Center that was easily countered by Lou's Losers. New York's caustic coach is left looking clueless as his yelling, screaming and atrocious sense of accountability has badgered his boys into being the Skating Dead. They are too afraid to take penalties that their offensive edge is gone and the defensive shell they fall back into fails when the best defenseman is missing and the goaltender is off his game. And let's just not mention the power play ...

Last night's gutless garbage begs the question, has this team hit rock bottom? Or are we going to see something worse on Thursday against the Isles? Is that even possible? I shudder to think of the reply ...

Late Hits:

*Ok, let's mention the power play. The one time when it should be alright for the players to be creative, for Richie to be fancypasser, Nash to showboat and Gabby to shoot the wheels off. Instead, the utter lack of a quarterback has led to the same predictable passes through the same predictable lanes to the same predictable players standing in the same predictable positions. And, last night, that led to New Jersey having more of an advantage shorthanded then they did anytime else.

*The Devils did their best impression of last year's Rangers - blocking shots, stepping up, being daring - to smack down the ineffective offense of this season's edition of the Blueshirts.

*It was nights like that that reinforce my belief that Brodeur is the most overrated player in NHL history. The PHW made him the top star of the game, a game where he wasn't tested for the majority of the night. He made one save of any importance, which he did by flopping his fat rear end down on the ice. The only sweating he probably did was in anticipation of his next alimony payment. And yet he was feted like he did something special. Ridiculous.

*That being said, he was still better than Hank. The King has not been himself, likely due to a combination of factors - he didn't play during the lockout despite Frolunda bending over backwards to be able to afford him, and he became a dad. Not that I am one, but supposedly that changes ones perspective on what is important in life.

*Wasn't big on JT Miller when he was drafted, wasn't big on him when I saw him in Hartford, wasn't big on him when I watched the WJCs. But he was the best Ranger on the ice against the Devs. Of course, sadly, that isn't saying a helluva lot but kudos to the kid for a strong debut. He made some smart little plays and never stopped skating. Impressive stuff.

*Kreider looked more comfortable as the game went on, and it was nice to see him score. At the outset, it was clear he was afraid to get checked but, by the third period, he was more involved and more willing to take a hit to make a play. At the time his goal seemed to be a fluke, but replays show it was one helluva shot.

*Del Zaster: 37 minutes and 51 seconds of power play this season. No goals, one assist. And I'm not even going to address his defensive delinquencies on this evening.

*Arron Asham is close to being the most despicable, senseless signing by the Rangers all-time, getting close to Donald Brashear territory. Asham, a long time villain in these parts, was supposed to add his aggressive edge to the Rangers and instead plays like a pu... poorly, he plays very poorly.

*Which, of course, leads so some of my usual rhetoric - rhetoric that will be heavily denied in some circles, utterly ignored in some more and agreed with in others: the Rangers chances were ruined by Tortorella chasing Sean Avery out of town, yet again. There were dozens of games last season, last playoffs and on several occasions so far this campaign that the Grate One would have helped.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Patrik Elias - three assists.
2-David Clarkson - two goals and one assist.
1-Martin Brodeur - 24 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Adam Henrique - Damn do I loathe this guy. Rapidly reaching the upper levels of most-hated Devils alongside Claude Lemieux, Scott Stevens and Mmmmmaaaarrrrtttyyyyy.
2-Elias - Ole Hepatitis himself is still kickin', still one of the more underrated players in the NHL.
1-Clarkson - The "bonehead minor leaguer" was allowed to run roughshod around the Ranger end and he made the most of his moment to shine. What a shame. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

4-4-0: Defrib Down South

Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the opponent, maybe it was luck. But whatever it was, the Rangers' trip to Tampa gave a jolt of electricity back into the team as they beat the Bolts 3-2 on Saturday night.

Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin finally came alive on the scoresheet and Rick Nash's showboating paid off to power the Blueshirts past the Bay despite two goals from Stevie Wonder.

Now, the key will be keeping the pulse going - and even ramping it up further - against a pair of teams that will be playing their hardest. For the Devils and the Isles, games against the Rangers are playoff games - for the Islanders, the closest thing they will ever get to postseason play. So they will step up and the Blueshirts had better match that intensity. The Rangers weren't anywhere close to their best against the Bolts but a win is a win and victories bring confidence. And they'll need that swagger if they are to succeed.

Late Hits:

*Nash's goal was gorgeous. But, that being said, Victor Hedman clearly gave up on the play and let the hot dog slide right by. Does Nash have skills? Obviously. Does he need to learn how to play for a real team? Absolutely. He has to stop making things complicated - he doesn't have to try to haul the puck out of the zone on the penalty kill by himself. If he made the smart play - dump and change - then McDonagh wouldn't have ended up chasing the wrong man up the boards, abandoning Stamkos in the slot.

*Taylor Pyatt has been the real big summer acquisition; the guy is a stud. He continues to make Brian Boyle look bad by actually using his size, battling like a man and paying the price to make plays.

*So great to see Hagelin finally get himself a goal - he was beginning to look like poor Chris "At Least He's Trying" Higgins. Haveta say, Young Carl had himself a pretty good game. He fired the puck at the net on the Step goal and went to the net to tip in Pyatt's feed for his own. The kid wasn't perfect - he was on the ice for both Stamkos goals and was lost in no-man's land on the second - but he battled and finally, FINALLY scored. Bork!

*BJ Crombeen showed that your enforcer doesn't need to be a Neanderthal like Mike Rupp. The Tampa tough guy skated a few solid shifts (nine minutes worth) and scored a sweet goal, batting the puck out of midair - just inches above the crossbar. Meanwhile Rupp lumbered around for less than five minutes and contributed nothing, as per usual.

*Asham laid a few hits and saw double digits in minutes, but that is only because the opponent wasn't one of his former employers. Expect a few senseless fights and nothing else from him this coming week.


*Benn Ferriero got the Chad Kolarik/Corey Locke treatment: a skater with a scoring touch forced to sit on the bench for most the night because he couldn't perform with cement skated linemates.

*Maybe having Torts nearby messed with Guy Boucher, because the Bond villain gave Matt Carle over 27 minutes of ice time - just 24 hours after the blueliner played 20. Eric Brewer went from 17 to nearly 25. Keith Aulie, who played 18 against Winnipeg, saw that cut in half. Clearly the Ranger bench boss is not the only coach that doesn't trust his entire lineup.

*What the hell was the first unit doing on the ice with the team trying to hold onto a two-goal lead in the last minute?

*And what was that nonsense at the outset of the night? Was Torts trying to get a too many men penalty before the puck even dropped?

*Another quietly impressive game by Anton Stralman. There is absolutely no reason for Del Zaster to be playing 25 minutes. None.

*Man is Stevie Wonder's shot deadly; Stamkos has easily eclipsed Ovechkin to sit in the rarefied air with Crosby, just without the whining.

*Solid, if unspectacular, efforts from both backup goaltenders in this game - Garon and Biron.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Steve Stamkos - two goals.
2-Derek Stepan - one goal.
1-Rick Nash - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Bork! - Let's hope this jolt jump starts his season ...
2-Pyatt - He's been exactly what this team has needed for years.
1-Stamkos - So deadly. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

3-4-0: Time For Soul Searching

It is easy to blame the lack of heart shown by the Blueshirts last night during their 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on the absence of Ryan Callahan. But the Rangers have played just as disinterested, just as hapless, just as piss-poorly with the captain in the lineup this season as they did without.

They went through the motions, preferring to cry to the officials over paying the price to make plays. It was a pathetic display by a team seemingly resigned to play second fiddle to the Sidney Crosby show. And it was hardly an aberration. This team needs to wake up and start dictating the play, imposing their will and attacking.

The only will that appears to be imposed is the crazed coach terrifying his own team. Torts is keeping his troops tightly wound and afraid of making mistakes, which is not the way to play in today's NHL. He demands discipline and, of course, the bad penalty parade continues. He has absolutely no idea what to do when the team hits even minor adversity, thinking the solution is to juggle lines. He over-works his top players, wearing them down and making their play more predictable.

And that is what it has come to, last night's result was all too predictable. Facing a superior opponent the Blueshirts fell into the same old ruts and couldn't rock their way out of them.

This franchise needs to stop and do some soul searching, some deep thinking about their many mistakes and find a way to turn things around. Sadly, there simply isn't a whole lot of time to do that. The tight schedule dictates that they play again tomorrow, when we have to hope that the hot sun of Tampa sears some sense into the boys before they play the Bolts.

Late Hits:

*What is the point of keeping an energy line around when they don't provide any energy? Arron Asham seemingly refuses to fight any of his old friends, rending himself even more useless than he already was (as if that was possible). Mike Rupp is ... Mike Rupp. And Jeff Halpern isn't an energy guy, just a solid soldier. So where is the heart, where is the grit?

*The one player who has consistently played with that edge is Carl Hagelin, and yet Torts has continually called him out in the media. Public ridicule of the one player who is going to the wall for the team ... sheer idiocy. Has the kid been reckless? Absolutely. Is it the coach's job to mold him into a better player? Absolutely. Is chirping him to the press the way to do it? Absolutely not. Petty, pathetic antics by the egomaniac.

*Something that needs to be accepted: Crosby and Malkin can and do get away with doing whatever they want. They have for years, so stop crying about it. Everyone knows they play dirty. So why doesn't any coach try to play dirty back? Run them. Especially when down 3-0, you have nothing to lose. Go at them hard, make them hurt. Make them pay for playing like the weasels they are.

*Derek Stepan had one of his most involved games of the season. Sure, nothing came of it but at least he is getting into the action more. Perhaps he will turn a corner soon. Hopefully ...

*Del Zaster laid a terrific hit on Crosby, a truly beautiful bump of the crybaby. Major bonus points. Then he proceeded to take a stupid penalty with the team on a power play. Major bonus points revoked. Anton Stralman showed a willingness to shoot and wasn't atrocious on the power play point last night, hopefully he will steal some of DZ's ice time.

*Matt Gilroy allegedly played. Didn't really notice.

*Brian Boyle = the forward version of Willie Huber, without the slap shot.

*There is surely more but I can't be bothered. These guys have shown flashes of greatness over the last few years, which makes moments like these far more infuriating.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Simon Despres - one goal and one assist.
2-Evgeni Malkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Tomas Vokoun - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Malkin - Clearly drove Staal nuts and put the Rangers on their heals with the early goal.
2-Despres - Saw that Malkin was alone and fed him the puck, then made Hank look like a chump with his breakaway goal. Not an easy task at all.
1-Crosby - The kid cried, whined, bitched, moaned, cheap shotted and made that perfect shot for Neal to redirect. All in all, a typical Sidney performance.