Sunday, March 31, 2013

16-15-3: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

Being the pessimist that I am, I have been told a number of a times by happier people to lighten my outlook on life. They've said, 'if you expect bad things to happen, then bad things will happen. If you start expecting good things to happen, good things will happen."

While I try to relate that I just prepare for the worst, I do believe that there are such things as self-fulfilling prophecies. The lack of confidence by the Blueshirts after their constant struggles has been obvious. And when you combine that with the recent history the franchise has had in Montreal which was spoken of ad nauseam, well, they lost this game before the puck dropped.

Sure, it was a fluke bounce that set up that Canadiens goal in the first minute and sure, the Rangers had several chances to tie the game but the Blueshirts' hearts were never in it. All of their various deficiencies that have hurt them over the past few weeks were evident and their fate was sealed long before the final buzzer sounded to end the 3-0 blanking by the bleu, blanc et rouge.

As written here after the loss in Ottawa, what has been going on is insane - a nightly retread of the wrong ideas and actions. Something has to change. It can be something as big as a coaching change (please, oh please), it can be a trade to shake up the lineup, it can be a big fight or big goal on Monday. Hell, it can be simply an outdoor practice or a visit to a kids' hospital to renew the players faith in their abilities, their confidence and their love for the game. Whatever it is, it has to happen soon or they can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Late Hits:

*If Gabby didn't blow that power play breakaway moments before Plekanec's goal, would that have rendered all of the above moot? I don't think so, but it woulda been nice to have the Rangers finally score inside the Bell Centre.

*Welcome back Zuke. Mats Zuccarello was the best of the Blueshirts last night, likely because he hasn't had time to be brought down just yet. In addition to a hockey stick that is as tall as he is, the Norwegian brought a decisiveness that has been rare around the Rangers this season. We've seen it on rare occasion with the tic-tac-toe goals but every time the puck came to Zuke he knew what he was going to do with it. It was refreshing to see. If he has added a willingness to shoot to his sublime passing ability, he will be quite the asset.

*Another addition has to be made, someone has to come in to shore up the blue line. McD and Girardi are showing their mileage, DZ is still Del Zastrous in his own end and the other three 'defensemen' aren't playing at a NHL level. Last season worked out in that Sauer was in while Staal was out, Staal returned to cover when Sauer went out. Staal is gone, and there isn't anyone around who can fill his skates.

*Really don't understand why Sean Avery tweeted what he did when he did. I think he's right about Torts, but the timing of it was odd ... maybe he was just drunk and frustrated at some bar in SOHO that had the game on.

*Kris Newbury remembered he was Kris Newbury and took one of his typical poor penalties. Woulda been nice to have Powe out there to kill it, after all he was acquired for his penalty killing ability.

*Powe, like Asham were on the bench. Sure my Twitter buddy surely wouldn't have played that hard, seeing the game was against one of his former franchises, but there was zero toughness in that lineup. A good fight might have injected a little injury but there was no one willing to go to the wall.

*Ah, Pruster. I fully admit to writing that he was past his expiration date, that he never fully recovered from the Barch fight and the hard minutes had made him less of a player - one that wasn't worth the huge payday he was seeking. While Brad Richard$ was clearly hurt by the inactivity of the lockout, the extra time certainly helped Prust get back to being himself. What a warrior.

*Are we sure that it is Brian Boyle out there, not Peter Boyle from Young Frankenstein?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Brendan Gallagher - one goal.
2-P.K. Subban - three assists.
1-Carey Price - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Halpern - Considered giving Pruster the star just 'cause but Super Jew played a motivated game and won 11 of 17 faceoffs. Did he ever even take that many in one game over his short tenure as a Ranger?
2-Gallagher - Unlike J.T. Miller, Gally was able to finish his chance in close.
1-Subban - The much maligned defenseman has added some maturity to his game and should be considered among the best blueliners in the NHL.

Friday, March 29, 2013

16-14-3: Insanity

As the idiom goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Examples: the Ranger power play, constant line juggling, Roman Hamrlik receiving ice time, John Tortorella's coaching.

In addition to being an obvious egomaniac, the Rangers' bench boss has made a case for being called crazy as well.

Tortorella has yet to realize that he has a different team in front of him from last season and hasn't adjusted his outlook or his gameplan. As I said last week, he just keeps laying the whip hoping for a response. He's not getting one, but that isn't stopping him.

On the other bench on Thursday night was Paul MacLean. MacLean lost his best forward, defenseman and goaltender and yet has been able to adjust, turning his squad of foot soldiers into a cohesive unit that gets the job done with alarming regularity. And that is what they did last night, handily defeating the Rangers 3-0.

The Senators played a smart, tough team game and the Blueshirts couldn't match up. Ottawa clogged the middle, filled passing lanes and were stronger physically. Torts' response was to juggle his lines - his usual crutch - and, not-so-surprisingly, the decision didn't do a thing except seal the Rangers' fate.


Just a few Late Hits as this stuff getting old quick:

*Time for Marty Biron (or, preferably, Cam Talbot) to get some starts. Not only is Hank getting headaches, but he is not playing like himself. He is getting frustrated and taking stupid, senseless chances. He needs a break.

*Hank definitely needs some physical assistance from his teammates - as I've railed upon in the past, the King has been ran a number of times this year and no one has done anything about it. Dylan McIlrath can't grow up fast enough.

*If the bottom six aren't going to contribute offensively, they should contribute physically. They didn't. They can't be petrified of taking hard-hit penalties, especially when the rest of the roster takes dumber, lazier ones with infuriating regularity.

*What are the odds Zuke will be able to jump start Gabby? Thinking slim and none, as Gabby has been getting chances but he just can't bury them. As I tweeted, he's played 98:14 of power play ice time this season with just one goal.

*MacLean had his guys keep close check of Step and Nash and neither one was a factor whatsoever. Nash is a big power forward, he should be able to battle through tight checking like last night. He didn't, he attempted just one shot the entire night.

*Had Hagelin finished his opportunities, last night woulda been a bit different - the result may have been the same, but at least the Rangers wouldn't have given Bishop his second NHL nono.

*Cally's broken stick was only part of the problem on the Ottawa power play goal - Derek Stepan also erred. Step never closed with any of the Sens to try to force a mistake and was practically standing still by the time Benoit shot. That was after almost a full minute of the Rangers being trapped in their own end, after Step's shorthanded rush down the left wing resulted in soft., bad angle shot. He either should have changed or, after being trapped for so long, lunged at someone to either force a turnover or a bad shot.

*Is it any wonder Iggy didn't want anything to do with this franchise?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Erik Contra - no points.
2-Mika Zibanejad - two assists.
1-Ben Bishop - 24 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Methot/Phillips - Ottawa's top pair had far more success than the Blueshirts' blueliners.
2-Zibanejad - Clearly the extra time in the minors paid off for the smart, good skating Swede.
1-Chris Neil - Neil was his usual acerbic self and it paid off. Not to mention his quick recovery from injury ...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

16-13-3: Orange Crushed

With just one blemish in the rivalry's recent history, it is clear that the Rangers still have the Flyers' number. And that is why it is almost impossible to get too excited over Tuesday night's entertaining 5-2 win over the orange and black.

Was it fun seeing the Ranger skill players actually making skill plays? Hell yes. But does it mean anything beyond the two points? Not really, especially with Ottawa looming.

The Sens are on a 6-1-2 run that was kicked off by that Friday night win at MSG earlier this month. last night's loss dropped the Flyers to 2-6-1, leaving them one spot out of the cellar. Seeing as the Blueshirts were coming off a loss to the actual basement dwellers, a win over the second-worse team in the LEast is a step up. The key will be carrying that momentum over the border and into Scotiabank ....

Late Hits:

*Someone needs to express to the Rangers that this season is like the movie "Speed" - there is no option, they have to keep their damned foot on the gas at all times. Because it doesn't take much for it to explode in your face, as it almost did tonight.

*Step struggled to get his game re-adjusted after his Finnish foray during the lockout but it's pretty safe to say things are going quite nicely lately. Yeah, pretty safe.

*For all of the ups and downs of this season, we've seen a few outstanding goals and Kreider's was definitely one of them. It was a perfect combination of great ice-sight, precision passing and incompetent defending by the opponent. Credit given and due to DZ for the final feed - too often he hesitates but when he makes the decisive move it makes things happen.

*Philly really missed Nick Grossmann. And Chris Pronger, for that matter.

*Five goals in one game, an offensive explosion by the Blueshirts. And zip, nothing, nada, nula from Marian Gaborik, not even a single shot attempted.

*Arron Asham, against his former team, no hits in nine minutes of ice time.

*Was that the least physical Ranger/Flyer game in history? It was surely up there.

*Roman Hamrlik, appreciate you coming in and giving it a shot but this is just not working out. Hope you can conclude your playing career with some kind of grace with HC Zlin next season alongside your brother.

*Wayne Simmonds is a warrior. Definitely hate the fact that he's a Flyer.

*Still doesn't seem real - the Rangers scored a power play goal. And it was Brad Richard$?

*Not that he had much help, but Bryz was horrible. After making a terrific save on Hagelin's early breakaway, Mr. Universe made a number of mistakes and the Rangers were able to take advantage. Nash scored on a wrap-around. A wrap-around!

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Carl Hagelin - one assist.
2-Rick Nash - two goals and one assist.
1-Derek Stepan - one goal and three assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - Amazing how many big saves he's been making over the last few games while battling a concussion.
2-Nash - He has his moments, doesn't he?
1-Step - Still plenty of games to go but if he keeps this level of play up ... wow. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

15-13-3: Familiar Failure

As the puck drops on yet another game in moments, a quickquickquick recap of the Rangers' 3-2 shootout loss to the Caps on Sunday. Sorry about the delay, life gets in the way... 

Slow start? Check.

Bad penalty? Check.

Give up the first goal? Check.

Make a bad goalie look good? Check. 

Rally to give us false hope? Check.

Disappointing loss to a poor opponent? Check.

To quote Battlestar Galactica: "All this has happened before, and will happen again. Again. Again. Again. Again ..."

Late Hits:

*My Twitter buddy Arron Asham returned from injury and scored a goal in his first game back. It was a easy wrister far side past Holtby's glove, just like Asham's first goal this year on the other awful Southeastern goalie Lindback. It also should have been a shot the Rangers scorers should have been throwing past LOLtby all night long. Good on Asham to finally decide to show up, let's see him do it again against a team he used to play for.

*Quite possibly the best defensive game Del Zaster has played in a Ranger uniform. He still made mistakes, but his positioning was better and he was relentless.

*I've been unable to re-watch the game a third time to check the numbers, but I can't imagine the official scorekeepers were accurate. Nine shots for Cally? Six hits for Boyle?

*It is so ludicrous that they call dives alongside the initial infractions.

*Amazing that Newbury was not one of those who took stupid penalties. But it is interesting that his presence created a comfort level for Kreider, in the same way John Mitchell helped Carl Hagelin last season.

*Keep thinking Matt Hendricks won't look that bad in a Blueshirt.

*Those Caps sweaters are beautiful, too bad they are constant reminders of John Druce.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Nicklas Backstrom - one goal and one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 22 saves.
1-Braden Holtby - 30 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - Solid game by the King, hard to blame him for a goal deflected off Backstrom's chest and another was tipped by Ovie.
2-Ovechkin - Everything Gabby was not.
1-Backstrom - Everything Richard$ was not.

Friday, March 22, 2013

15-13-2: The Rollercoaster Continues

The up-and-down, back-and-forth Ranger season continued on Thursday night with another low, a 3-1 loss to the injury-ravaged, NHL-worst Florida Panthers.

A normal reaction would be outrage, outrage for the lack of effort and emotion. But, frankly, I don't feel that. I'm numb. There have been far too many occasions over the last few seasons where the team followed solid victories with inexcusable failures. Consistency is simply not a characteristic of the John Tortorella Rangers.

And that is to be expected. Torts is the jockey to this horse of a team - a jockey who relies on the whip to get a response. He starts raining down blows at the start of the race and rarely relents. A few good wins changes his spirits and he lowers his crop, only to see the stallion slow. So he begins the abuse all over again.

The Rangers didn't reach the finish of last season's race because Torts' continual castigation wore them down a few furlongs from the line. This current race is more of a sprint due to the lockout but the beast beneath Torts is simply not as strong, and it isn't responding to the lash nearly as well as the last.

Late Hits:

*Brandon Prust was around last season, and when he fought early his teammates followed with an effort. Well, he's long gone now and the Rangers don't bother showing up for the first 10, 15, 20 minutes on most nights.

*Happy birthday Cally. Sorry your teammates gave you such a terrible present.

*Rick Nash has to be suspended. Has to. There is no place for gutless, blindside, leaping elbows in this sport anymore. I love a bit of the old ultra violence, but at least look the guy in the eye as you attack him.

*But, alas, the stellar NHL officiating didn't even bother to penalize Nash, and he set up Gabby's goal just a few minutes later. Amazing how that worked out.

*Nice of Gabby to score, reminding us of what he is capable of. Just hope that it isn't another eight games before he strikes again.

*That was the Slovakian Sniper's ninth goal of the year. Just one of them came on the power play. Martin Brodeur has one power play goal too. He's a goalie.

*Brodeur's touch tonight allowed him to match Brian Boyle's goal total for this season. He is awful, and should have been the one sent to Hartford instead of Micheal Haley. Yep, he is so bad that I'm advocating the Rangers keep an ex-Islander on the roster. Haley, at least, makes the most of his size and he's willing to risk his body to make a play.

*Speaking of ex-Islanders, Marty Biron should have started this game. Hank was concussed on that elbow from Girardi on Tuesday and yet Torts put him right back in net, against an opponent that (on paper) deserved a backup. One thing I learned from the incessant head shot talk is that any bruise to the brain counts as a concussion and Hank having a headache for an hour after the hit proved he was black and blue.

*Despite being at risk for another, worse head injury Hank had himself a good game. He was a big more jumpy than usual but he still made a half dozen stellar saves - six more than Markstrom had to.

*I'm so demanding. I begged the Blueshirts to 'Hit. The Net.' Now I want them to Stop. Shooting. At. The. Logo. Far too many shots were right at the leaping cat on Markstrom's sweater.

*0-3 on the power play. What a surprise.

*The fourth line played three minutes and Halpern nearly scored. But keep on putting Brad Richard$ out there, maybe he will work himself into shape one of these days. Said it before, as an older guy Richie shoulda played somewhere, anywhere during the lockout. He still has not regained that step.

*Only time I noticed Chris Kreider was when he was being punched in the back of the head.

*Happy trails to Alex Kovalev, one of the first high-profile enigmatic Europeans in the NHL. Kovy was incredible at times when he wore a Blueshirt, and was infuriating at others. But Mark Messier wouldn't let him give anything less than his best and he helped bring us the Cup in '94.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Scottie Upshall - one goal.
2-Brian Campbell - one goal.
1-Jacob Markstrom - 44 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - This easily could have been a 5-0 loss if not for the King.
2-Markstrom - The Swede certainly knows how to get square to the shots and swallows rebounds off his chest quite well.
1-Cally - It was his birthday, he deserves the top star!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

15-12-2: Back-To-Back

The Rangers followed up Monday's dull, ugly victory over the Carolina Hurricanes with a dull, ugly victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. As in the front half of the back-to-back, the homegrown Blueshirts powered the team to victory, but this time no shootout was needed as they defeated their Hudson River rivals 3-2 in regulation.

The main factor in this one was the goaltending: in the Ranger net was the Swedish King, the Devils an old Swedish sieve. Rick Nash broke a two-all tie with a softball past Hedberg, and Hank survived the siege over the remaining 32 minutes to turn the lead into two points. The King's kinda good, and he will have to keep it up until Richard$, Nash and Gaborik regain their skills and start scoring with some regularity (if they ever do).

I'm low on time so right into the Late Hits:

*The first few minutes were shaky but there were no penalties taken and no goals against. Definitely an improvement.

*As with Monday's game, the best Blueshirts were homegrown; the Stepan-Hagelin-Callahan line was outstanding. We need to come up with a good name for the tenacious trio, should Torts keep them together for any real length of time ...

*Few things are better to me than shorthanded goals and Del Zaster's was delightful. Derek Stepan, by far the best Ranger not named Lundqvist, created and DZ completed a work of art. Devil fans wailed and whined it was a high stick but some nicely inconclusive replays let it stand to open the night's scoring.

*But, easy come, easy go. DZ had his first assist of the night when he kindly kicked the puck right to Travis Zajac to score the equalizer. The kid is decent on one side of the ice, subpar on the other. He has to be better on both.

*DZ's second assist was a feed through the neutral zone moments after Hank saved his bacon back in the Blueshirts' end. Nash adjusted to the wild pass to pick it up in stride and snapped it past Hedberg, who didn't even bother to move. He was quite like a soccer goalkeeper who stands still while someone blasts a kick past him from the penalty spot.

*I think Hedberg and Anton Volchenkov were the only ones on the ice not screening Hank on Volchenkov's equalizer.

*No fights, few hits, little physicality. There was some intensity as the Rangers went into their usual cling-to-the-lead shell but it didn't really feel like a rivalry game.

*A large factor for that was the smaller portion of Ranger fans inside the Rock. The Cup run last season clearly brought in a bandwagon full of fans. They're not the brightest - I'm unsure how many words they know aside from "sucks" - but they are far louder than the formerly usual fare in Newark. They loved to bellow "Mooooose" for Hedberg but not one knew why he was called that (he had a Manitoba Moose mask when he was called up by Pittsburgh years ago and the yinzers started calling him that).

*Those same fans ripped Hank for diving early in the second period. After I said, "oh, because you've never seen Brodeur dive," I realized that most have not - Fatso has hardly played this season.

*Hit. The. Net.

*The Rangers have to stop with Roman Hamrlik already. The team needed a defenseman, he was out there, the move made sense. But he is too old, too slow of skate and mind, his time is past. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and surely someone better is out there.

*So glad David Clarkson and Adam Henrique were nonfactors.

*Dan Girardi had a big hand in negating that hated duo while playing half the damned game. If Sather can shore up the blueline with better defenders, Torts can cut Girardi's ice time so he won't be exhausted come playoff time - like he was last year.

*Brian Boyle has been atrocious. He is dragging Pyatt and Miller down, and that is a shame. At some point that oversized reclamation project needs to be scrapped - it had some moments of success but they have been few and far between for too long.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Travis Zajac - one goal.
2-Rick Nash - one goal.
1-Michael Del Zotto - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Zajac - For years he toiled in Parise's shadow but now that Zach chased the money to Minnesota, Zajac's all-around ability is more apparent.
2-Stepan - Another outstanding game by the Badger.
1-Lundqvist - The Devils had their opportunities but Hank shut them down. The two goals against were hardly his fault and he was a wall the rest of the night. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

14-12-2: Ugly Is OK

During the Ranger game, I had this exchange on twitter:
While I'm not willing to make a final condemnation of the signing at this point - I gave it three years, I'm sticking with three years - but Eric's point about win-now seems correct.

It is not a coincidence that the top players in the Rangers 2-1 win over Carolina on Monday night (and on most nights this season) are home grown. The shootout victory was keyed not by big money mercenaries like Richard$, Nash and Gaborik but by Ranger draft picks Lundqvist, Callahan, Stepan, Del Zaster and Miller. Mercenaries should supplement draft picks, not vice versa.

Monday's win was an ugly win, but it was a win. And this team needs wins. These are the Rangers, we are Ranger fans. We don't need flash, we need substance. We need another Cup.

Late Hits:

*More than willing to take the hit for my comments when Miller was drafted. I was concerned he was just another grinder in an organization full of them but Gordie saw upside and JT is proving Gordie is the best birddog in the biz with his ability and tenacity. Skilled grinders took this team to the ECF last year and they are what we need more of now.

*Good to see Marc Staal was at the game. Wish Mike Sauer was there too.

*Something has to happen with this defense, Hamrlik is not capable and cracks are showing in the wall that has been Girardi and McDonagh. McD giving Staal so much room to shoot on the first goal was uncharacteristic.

*Yes, credit was given to Del Zaster above. Sure he telegraphed several passes and had them picked off and sure he isn't competent in his own end but he didn't relent.

*Hit. The. Net.

*Also, hit anyone who hits Hank.

*Is it really so hard to drop a puck and get out the way? Did the linesmen think this game was about them?

*The top line had no confidence and no chemistry. That being said, if Torts breaks up Step-Cally-Hagelin to get those overpaid underperformers going it will be a mistake.

*Blow a power play, give up a goal. It happened on the first one and woulda happened on the second had Jamie McBain not blown a gimmie of a goal.

*Richard$ power play ice time total this season: 92:24. Richard$ power play point total this season: 2.

*Much like the St. Louis Blues, Taylor Pyatt was so very much better at the beginning of the season than now.

*Quiet crowd.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Derek Stepan - one goal.
2-Michael Del Zotto - no points.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Alex Semin - Sure Ovie's old running buddy is the stereotypical enigmatic European but on this night he was a consistent threat.
2-Cally - Good things happen when you go to the net.
1-Hank - I'm willing to bet Charlise has started sleeping better. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

13-12-2: Pitiful In Pittsburgh

The city of Pittsburgh was celebrating St. Patty's on Saturday and, man, did I wish I was drunk.

The lack of lager in my system made the Rangers lifeless, gutless, embarrassing 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh quite the painful endeavor. I showed up to the Consol Energy Center, they did not.

As has often been the case this season, they spotted their opponent a lead and had to battle to get it back. Unlike in Winnipeg on Tuesday, they proved unable to do it this time around. Sure they put in a better effort in the second period but anything would have been better than the first. Fleury's biggest concern was covering the one shot that ricocheted off his own teammate's head; the majority of the night he barely had to break a sweat.

There is virtually no physicality on the roster of this year's Ranger roster and their skills are not paying the bills. In fact, a lot of their abilities appear to have been repossessed. Mediocrity would be a step up for Gabby and Richard$ and many of their teammates at this point. The many flaws of this franchise need to be addressed and this current streak of ineptitude will hopefully force Glen Sather to do something about them. 

Just ranting my way through the Late Hits without watching a replay of the game. Can't bear to relive it:

*Remember when everyone said that scoring was the problem last season and not the defense, so adding Rick Nash would solve everything? Yeah, no.

*Over two minutes on the power play gave Richard$ a team-high total of 89 minutes and 21 seconds of man advantage time this season. He has no power play goals and just two power play assists.

*Things are so bad for the offense that they are trying Alex Frolov wrap-arounds with some regularity. Because that move worked so well for him. 

*The DoubleTrees line of Pyatt, Boyle and Miller couldn't be more disappointing. Two big guys too scared to use their size and a rookie making plays (and occasional mistakes) in a vacuum. 

*I remember last week when everyone said Boyle - like Gaborik - was back when he scored that one goal on that one lucky shot. So foolish. One goal in 37 games for Boyle (stretching back to last season's playoffs), one in 14 for Gaborik.

*The Rangers simply can not go forward starting three No. 7 defensemen. Roman Hamrlik has no place in the NHL, and he is a huge reason for this loss. Hamrlik's incompetence allowed the puck to get to Bennett for the first goal and forced Stralman to take the bad penalty that set up the second and his indecisiveness allowed the easy two-on-one tally that capped off the scoring (either cover the man or the pass, dammit). He is long past his expiration date.

*Of course, the Pens' power play goal came after Del Zaster had a perfectly good chance to clear the puck and didn't. Really, really miss Marc Staal. 

*Speaking of the PK, Ryan Callahan without a stick is better than everyone else is with one. Jeff Halpern without a stick? Scary.

*To their credit, the majority of the folks inside Consol Center weren't hammered and weren't overly obnoxious - the benefit of an early afternoon start. They did whine quite a bit, and were yelling for Girardi to be ejected for the game for touching their precious Crosby in the first period. 

*That was awesome Dan-O, shoulda hit him again. 

*The arena, by the way, is quite nice - it shares a lot of the same characteristics as the Rock.

*Two clear dives to draw penalties in this one: Crosby and Del Zaster. What a pair of players ...

*Beau Bennett? Really? Hank was outstanding aside from letting Bennett's shot sail past him far side for the first goal. That was ... ugh. The rest of the afternoon the King was outstanding, even Pens fans gave him accolades.

*Consol is a beautiful new building, quite reminiscent of the Prudential Center in Jersey. Kudos also to their game night staff, who really put together a nice presentation. They have a terrific scoreboard and know how to use it. Great stuff.

*In case you were wondering, I don't drink at most away games (outside of the Rock). No problem being the obnoxious Ranger fan, don't want to be the drunk and obnoxious Ranger fan. Also, I am not spending an extra penny inside NHL arenas (aside from tickets) this season as a protest of the lockout.

*And, finally, a huge thank you to Gretchen, my season subscriber rep for setting up the tix in Pittsburgh. Beautiful view for face price was nice. Too bad the team didn't come through. 

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Dustin Jeffrey - two assists.
2-Tyler Kennedy - one goal and one assist.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - With any other goaltender in the New York net this one was 7, 8-0 ...
2-Jeffrey - Took full advantage of Hamrlik's awfulness to set up two goals.
1-Hamrlik - Had the Rangers had a capable blueliner in his roster spot, the Pens might have had a tougher time winning.

Friday, March 15, 2013

13-11-2: Winless Vs. Winnipeg

It is getting quite difficult to do these game wraps as the team keeps repeating their former failures. On Thursday night the Blueshirts soiled the bed yet again, falling to Winnipeg 3-1 - their second loss to the Southeast squad since the lockout. It's a good thing they don't meet again in this asterisked season.

In an all-too-familiar script, our side fell behind at the start. Of no surprise, Ryan Callahan's hard work got them back in the game but his teammates refused to follow his example and they ended up losing to a far inferior team for the third time in their last four games.

Really not going much deeper into this one as it was a sad, inexcusable story we've seen before, and only a few Late Hits:

*Del Zaster's usual ineptness in his own end gave Winnipeg two goals - bad penalty at the start, utter awfulness on the Miettinen tally. So unsurprising. And he still saw 27:41 in ice time. Love that accountability by the Blueshirts' bench boss.

*Step took a big, shorthanded defensive zone faceoff against Antropov and lost it. And Borat went on to score the power play goal, just two minutes into the match.

*Step took two huge, offensive zone faceoffs against creepy Olli Jokinen at the end of the game. And Step lost both. And Andrew Ladd sealed the game with an empty netter.

*Remember when Borat was too soft for a player with his big body. Sure glad Brian Boyle is still around.

*No blame to the King on this one, little he could do on either of the goals that got past him and he made that terrific save on what appeared to be one hard shot by Evander Kane to keep his team within one.

*Sure glad Marian Gaborik was 'back' when he scored that goal against the Islanders. That one goal in his last 13 games really showed us haters out there that he is stil l33t. What an awful excuse for a penalty shot in this one. Sure glad to see him blame the stick afterwards. Because it was the stick's fault. Stupid unskilled stick, why you deke in slow motion?

*Nashty miss on a breakaway.

*Haley's little bout was nice, senseless but nice.

*Powe, who Torts was raving about just days ago, barely left the bench. Apparently he tries too hard every shift to warrant ice time. And Roman Hamrlik has been out of shape so he was, of course put back in the lineup.

*Bet going to a game in Winnipeg is a nice experience, when it doesn't include the Rangers.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.
2-Dustin Byfuglien - two assists.
1-Ondrej Pavelec - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Ladd - A hard working captain that battles every shift and scores a much needed goal. Sounds familiar...
2-Hank - Hard to hang Lundqvist for this recent slump.
1-Byfuglien - Sure he gave Gaborik a penalty shot but better Gabby than someone the least bit competent going one-on-one with a goalie. And he did set up the two Jets' goals too. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

13-10-2: Beaten In Buffalo

One of the most remarkable things about the Blackhawk's now broken undefeated streak was their consistency. Sounds silly and obvious, but no matter if they were winning or of they were losing, they were battling. The Rangers ... well, they haven't been.

Combine their inconsistent effort with their continuing tendency to take poor, lazy penalties and you have a 3-1 loss to one of the worst teams in the league.

After the embarrassment John Tortorella said he wouldn't give Buffalo any credit and he was disgusted and disappointed with how his top guys played. Despite being disgusted and disappointed with the Rangers on a regular basis, I do give the Sabres some credit. Interim head coach Ron Rolston had his largely unskilled lineup play smart, positional, counterattacking hockey. However (!) the Blueshirts, who should have been able to overcome that obstacle, couldn't break through.

They barely even tried.

Perhaps all of the confidence gained during their recent 5-1 run was just cockiness, a conceited self-assurance that made them overlook their awful opponents. Perhaps it is their innate inability to play 60 minutes of hockey. Perhaps they're beginning to get used to Tortorella's lash, giving a short knee-jerk of a reaction before the numbness sets in.

Whatever it may be, it can't go on and can't be allowed to happen again. There are tough games ahead and easy points like these shouldn't be pissed away.

Just a few Late Hits:

*As I wrote when the Rangers lost their last game before the 5-1 run, the Blueshirts inexplicably do not follow Ryan Callahan's example. The captain put forth his usual balls-to-the-wall, anything-for-the-team effort and yet no one followed suit. How is that even possible?

*McDonagh and Girardi were not the usual McDonagh and Girardi. Really not a good thing, when you consider that they are the only real Ranger defensemen.

*Given that Del Zaster's defense is ... lacking ... his offense is supposed to make up for it. Two golden chances. No goals.

*The best offense came from Micheal Haley. Just think about that. You'll end up weeping, like me.

*Remember how everyone declared Marian Gaborik 'back' after his goal against the Islanders? Two games since, zero contributions.

*Hank outplayed his Swedish subject Jhonas Enroth, making several big saves. But Enroth's awfulness was hidden by the five skaters standing in between him and the Blueshirts. Hank was left to hang.

*No Kaleta, no revenge for Richard$. Not much physical play at all actually, aside from some guys clattering into each other once the puck is gone. Not surprising but disappointing nonetheless.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Andrej Sekera - two assists.
2-Jhonas Enroth - 32 saves.
1-Marcus Foligno - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - Seriously, he made these saves.
2-Foligno - Mike's boy Marcus scored goals that Taylor Pyatt was scoring at the start of the season. The least he could have done was leap like his dad afterwards.
1-Ron Rolston - The Sabres bench boss knew how to get his team a chance to win. Torts knew how to piss off the media afterwards.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

13-9-2: Too Close In The Capital

After sweating out their hangover on Sunday morning the Rangers collected themselves enough to defeat one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Washington Capitals. The 4-1 win should have been by double digits but, as we have seen time and time again, Tortorella's team would rather rest on a lead than extend it.

The way Washington was playing, the Blueshirts should have burned out the goal lamp. The Caps team defense was terrible, they weren't particularly physical and their offense was anemic to say the least. It was perhaps the most uninterested performance I've seen Ovechkin put on. Ever. It's like he's given up ...

Well, that is their problem. The Rangers are ours.

They need to find a killer instinct because good teams mount comebacks. Even this game against a bad team wasn't put to bed until there was a minute left thanks to that Richard$ goal. The Blueshirts have the benefit of playing in the LEast so they have a good shot at a spot in the playoffs. But, as we saw last season, this group isn't big on pressing the advantage which will mean another early, unfortunate exit - something that can not be accepted.

Late Hits:

*The Nash effect is being lauded around the NHL at this moment but the fact is that racking up points over this asterisked excuse for a regular season isn't much of an achievement ... Alex Zhamnov was second in points in '94-95. Nash has four postseason games under his belt and he underwhelmed. But he is not with that expansion afterthought anymore. How he will fare in May - in a real city, with a real chance to make a run - will be the biggest question mark going forward and no one should be anointing him savior until the real season starts.

*Lest ye be thinking I'm just crusading against our savior from Columbus, Nash's release on the power play goal was amazing. DZ's setup was to his back foot, forcing Nash to adjust and he twisted, ending up on his knee. Despite watching the replay roughly 16 times, still not sure how Cally got credit. Did it hit his leg?

*Nash also deserves notice by drawing the awful Washington defense on the fourth and final goal. Two Caps came towards him, a third came back to watch Hagelin's spin-shot and no one picked up Richard$.

*Interesting how the same people who cried out that 'Gabby was back!' after scoring that Callahan-screened goal against the Isles are the same ones lauding Brian Boyle now. One lucky shot past a poor goaltender does not mean much. Gaborik was all but invisible in this one, and Boyle's go-ahead goal came because Ovechkin embarrassed himself with a shotblock attempt.

*The one time Gabby was noticeable was on the Stepan goal, not because he got an assist for dropping the puck to him the second a Cap came near, but because Step was trying to pass the puck back and got lucky it hit of Holtby's skate. The NBC staff rambling about Ovechkin's skipped hit on Step in center ice was ridiculous as it had ZERO to do with the play.

*More dumb penalties. And ones taken by guys who get paid to kill them. Unacceptable.

*Marty Biron may be a nice guy but he is not a particularly good goaltender, not anymore at least. It is amazing how the stink of the Islanders still lingers over him as he botches easy stops and allows soft goals. The goal against was a marshmallow from the point and Marty made several saves look like wild adventures.

*On that soft goal Dan Girardi skated with Jason Chimera all the way up the boards, without laying a single hit on him. Really uncharacteristic of him.

*Hmm, Tom Poti or Matt Gilroy ... hmm ...

*The Ribero/Del Zaster exchange was quite amusing. DZ got a roughing call for being punched in the face. Tee hee.

*Despite winning 14 of 14 faceoffs (at least that's what the box score says) Backstrom was largely invisible. He had one nice dangle in the third period and nearly shocked Biron with a shot to the goaltender's neck. But he is definitely better as a complimentary player and there was no one out there with skills he could compliment.

*Wonder if Matt Hendricks would be available as a rental this season ... he'd be helpful, especially if Asham's 'back spasms' keeps him out of the lineup much longer.

*It is just infuriating that the Rangers let Washington, and that awful embryo of a goaltender of theirs, take them to seven games last spring. It's not like Alex Semin had any impact.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Steve Oleksy - one goal.
2-Ryan McDonagh - two assists.
1-Marty Biron - 28 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hagelin - Bork! Swedish kid continues to contribute.
2-Nash - By far the most skilled player on the ice.
1-McDonagh - Best blueliner on Broadway, and he hasn't even played two full seasons in the NHL yet. Amazing. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

12-9-2: Scotiabank Place South

On Friday night the Ottawa Senators - sans their top forward, their top defenseman and their starting goaltender - defeated the New York Rangers for the second time this season. Less than 24 hours after their emotional overtime win over the Isles, the Blueshirts lost an end-to-end track meet to the Sens, 3-2.

After being so good in the bumper games of back-to-backs in recent seasons, this loss dropped the the Rangers to 0-3 in them with three more to go. They let Ottawa, who were off on Thursday, set the tempo of the game and they couldn't keep up. Last season the Blueshirts could have calmed things down and grinded out a victory. This year ... notsomuch.

Late Hits: 

*Interesting factoid: The 21-1-3 Chicago Blackhawks have three players that have played for them this season average less than 11 minutes of ice time. The 12-9-2 New York Rangers have had 12. On the flip side, the Hawks have just three players average more than 21 minutes. The Rangers? Seven.

*Another factoid: Ottawa is now 6-0 at MSG since practicing outside in Central Park. They had lost two of the previous three (one in a shootout). The Rangers would rather practice in their secluded Westchester country club of a facility, far away from the people who pay their salaries.

*Infuriating to watch the MSG 150 continually steal stories from Puck Daddy and other blogs with giving any credit. Just more coal for the inferno of hatred I have for them for forcing Joe Micheletti upon us.

*But the network does deserve some credit, they were right: MDZ was key. Del Zaster came inches away from converting a beautiful cross-ice feed from J.T. Miller in the second period, sending his shot into the iron rather than the net. But instead of putting his team ahead 3-2, he allowed Ottawa to seize the lead by losing his coverage on Silfverberg in the third. It is amazing how often he gets caught watching the play instead of doing his job defensively. (Thanks to @mom2zap for the screen grab.)

*Stop me if you've heard this before: the Rangers took poor, lazy penalties.

*One of the guilty was Marian Gaborik. Gabby took a poor tripping penalty and Pat Wiercioch threaded a shot through traffic on the ensuing power play to make it a 2-0 game. And it is amazing how the Slacking Slovak went right back to being an offensive nonfactor hours after being hailed a hero for his OT goal.

*Brad Richard$ actually looked alright in his return from that horrific hit by the clown Kaleta, showing no signs of injury from that slam into the boards. Nice to see him make the most of that beautiful setup by Carl Hagelin.

*Really hope Brian Boyle doesn't return to the Ranger lineup. Good riddance to overripe garbage.

*That being said, having Stu Bickel on the fourth line is just ridiculous. Sather has to do something, anything to get some depth in this organization.

*Love that a Ranger was willing to hit someone. Hate that he was being stupid doing it. Micheal Haley leapt to hit Jim O'Brien high and then threw off his gloves before he was even challenged by Chris Phillips.

*Of course, the Blueshirts wasted the power play they shockingly received for the incident, as they did with another Ottawa penalty in the third period. Boring, predictable not-so-special special team.

*What is it with the Rangers making mediocre Ottawa goaltenders look good? Remember when Mike Brodeur shut them out a few years back? That sucked. So did seeing Step shank a perfect opportunity off a feed from Gabby in the second period.

*Marc Staal really has to heal quickly; the Rangers simply won't be able to survive long term having a bottom four of Eminger, Del Zaster, Hamrlik and Stralman. The usually reliable McD and Girardi have had lapses this season and the other four are incapable of picking up meaningful minutes.

*Ottawa spent far too much time around Henrik all night long (all night) and no one got in Silfverberg's face for that third period snow shower. Really wish I knew why Tortorella encourages his team to let opponents harass his best, most important player without repercussions.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Sergei Gonchar - two assists.
2-Rick Nash - one goal.
1-Jacob Silfverberg - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - The King was under siege and still made 36 saves. The three goals against were tough to hang on him as one was deflected, one threaded through traffic and one was from someone at point-blank range who should have been covered.
2-Gonchar - A skilled puck-moving power play quarterback. Miss the days when the Rangers had one of those ...
1-Silfverberg/Hagelin - The Swedish national team will have two really good players in a few seasons. Both have serious speed, both are tenacious and both are quite skilled.

Friday, March 8, 2013

12-8-2: Edging The Isles

On Thursday night the Rangers faced the Islanders for the third of four times this season and barely edged the blue and orange, taking a 2-1 overtime win from the Mausoleum.

As has often been the case in matches between the two rivals, the Islanders played above their ability and the Rangers played below. The Blueshirts were largely outhustled and outskated, their team defense resembled Swiss cheese and their offense poor and predictable.

But, blissfully, they managed to edge the Isles in the end and extended their winning streak to four games. Rick Nash's return has powered the Rangers past lesser sides, collecting much needed points along the way. With this asterisk of a season, just making the playoffs gives the team a great chance at making the Cup Finals and the Rangers sit in eighth, two games away from the midway mark.

As mentioned last match, this is just the warm up to the real race. It is a shake-down cruise where we see the problems and work to fix them. As this game showed, there are a lot of issues to deal with but they can win despite them. The trick will be to keep doing that as the opponents get better and the games become more important ... just 26 games to go.

Late Hits:

*After putting together another completely forgettable performance, Marian Gaborik gained redemption by scoring the game-winner in overtime (courtesy of a Ryan Callahan screen). It was his eighth goal of this season, and it snapped an eight game goal drought. Interesting fact, Gabby has 37 points against the Isles in his career - the most against any single team other than Edmonton. He has 45 points in 47 games against the Oilers, 37 in 30 against the Isles. Can't hate on anyone who owns the Islanders ... except for Charles Wang.

*Astounding how many times the Rangers aimed for the logo on Nabokov's chest. They made the Kazakh look excellent until Rick Nash managed to deflect Step's shot down between the goaltender's legs. Great hands by Nash after he wasted a number of good chances earlier on. It appears that, like the Borg of Star Trek, NHL goaltenders are adapting to his one lethal move.

*Nash was one of those responsible for the Grabner goal - along with Eminger, Del Zaster and Hank. But Sather didn't trade for him for his defense so whatever. At least he didn't take any bad penalties for once.

*Stop with the blind passes already. All of you.

*Welcome to the Rangers Vlad Malakhov Karel Rachunek Sandis Ozolinsh Christian Backman Dmitri Kalinin Roman Hamrlik. The Capitals' castoff played his first game as a Ranger and brought exactly what was expected of him - bad decisions, poor positioning and zero offense. Putting him with Steve Eminger was a mistake, as Emmy can't skate particularly well and the Isles abused them both. It was only the fifth appearance of the season for the 38 year old, who was right when he said that time was his enemy during the lockout - the years have not been kind and he has his work cut out to get back into NHL form.

*If Staal can't regain his full eyesight and recover from whatever concussion issues he may have incidentally suffered, the Rangers are screwed. Can't go very far with just two competent defensemen on the roster.

*J.T. Miller looked pretty good with Cally on his wing. Has to be quite the boost for the rookie to look over and know he has the captain at his side.

*A sellout was announced but the Mausoleum looked pretty damned empty on tv. For those that were there, how bad was it? Heard plenty of "Let's go Rangers" chants, heard there was at least one fight in the audience. Anyone get touched inappropriately by that clown Goldie? Or was he being touched inappropriately himself in prison, where he belongs?

*Still sad that the linesman broke up the Bickel/Finley bout; few things are more wonderful to watch than an Islander getting his ass kicked. (Although Stu woulda had his work cut out for him, Finley rag-dolled Pruster earlier this season.)

*Another game against a former team of Arron Asham's. Another game Arron Asham didn't play. Would have liked to see Haley run wild for a while but, after Grabner's early goal, you knew Torts wasn't going to allow that. Too bad.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Evgeni Nabokov - 35 saves.
2-Michael Grabner - one goal.
1-Rick Nash - one goal and one assist.

Scott Hockey Three Stars:
3-Grabner - The Austrian scored the first goal and had several other great chances but his abominably penalty in overtime opened the door for the Rangers.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - Sure Nabby made more saves but Hank had to stop far better chances.
1-Stepan - Step not only fired the shot that Nash deflected for the regulation goal but he had a huge hand in the OT winner. He won the offensive zone faceoff (AMAZING!) and he controlled the rebound of Gabby's initial shot that was blocked.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Next In Line ...

European-born defensemen to skate at least one game for the New York Rangers since Sergei Zubov was dealt to Pittsburgh in the summer of 1995 (along with Petr Nedved, for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson):
  • Ulf Samuelsson
  • Alexander Karpotsev
  • Mattias Norstrom 
  • Maxim Galanov
  • Ronnie Sundin
  • Jan Mertzig
  • Peter Popovic
  • Stanislav Neckar
  • Alexei Vasiliev
  • Kim Johnsson
  • Peter Smrek
  • Vlad Malakhov
  • Alexei Gusarov
  • Tomas Kloucek
  • Bert Robertsson
  • Igor Ulanov
  • Richard Lintner
  • Ales Pisa
  • Boris Mironov
  • Darius Kasparaitis
  • Thomas Pock
  • Fedor Tyutin
  • Karel Rachunek
  • Michael Rozsival
  • Marek Malik
  • Sandis Ozolinsh
  • Maxim Kondratiev
  • Christian Backman
  • Ivan Baranka
  • Dmitri Kalinin
  • Ilkka Heikkinen
  • Anders Eriksson
  • Anton Stralman
  • and starting tonight ... Roman Hamrlik

What a soft, overwhelmingly disappointing bunch. The best of the blueliners - Norstrom, Johnsson and Tyutin - were all Ranger draft picks and were all traded well before their time ... like Zubov himself. Sad.

11-8-2: Conquering Space

The Rangers made it three wins in a row when they defeated the evil Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Had a whole rant about how the team played poor puck but were saved by Mr. Universe's ineptness but it is so long after the fact that it's gone. They won, so whatever. Just have to hope they can keep underwhelming and collecting points until they get their acts together.

The regular season is simply the team tuning up the engine so all pistons fire in time for the playoffs. There are knocks, stalls, backfires and misfires along the way but sometimes you have to suffer through them so you can get things revving the right way.

Late Hits:

*Get well soon Staalsie. That was brutal to watch, unimaginable to suffer through.

*The puck to the eye of course re-ignited the great visor debate. A coworker made the point that at this point, these kids played behind glass or steel their whole lives so instituting a mandatory rule would be the obvious thing to do. I believe in player's choice, and Trent McCleary was wearing a visor when his throat was crushed by a puck.

*Nice to see Voracek skate over to Staal as the Ranger was being taken off and give him a tap. Class move.

*It was incredibly nice of Ilya Bryzgalov to stand still and let Rick Nash score the go-ahead goal. Seriously, he must have thought the Blueshirt was a white husky or something and was day dreaming.

*Ryan Callahan pulled off goal line deke on Bryz to tie the game. What a beautiful thing. Looked vaguely familiar: a bit of Nash, a bit of old school EA NHL Hockey.

*Callahan's earlier power play goal came off the rush. When the boy set up in the zone, during the other three power plays, they were their usual putrid selves. Quick passing, quick moving, intelligent decisions ... nah.

*Speaking of power plays, the Rangers gave Philly three of them. Nash giveth, Nash taketh away. He has taken 11 minor penalties this season; he has four power play points.

*The other well paid goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, must be injured or something. There is no way that sniper shoots the puck that softly and right at the goaltender time after time. There has to be an excuse. And he is just dragging J.T. Miller down. The kid plays with energy, Gabby lolligags. He's a lolligagger.

*Dolan can be proud that his corporatization of the Garden is going well. As with the ACC, the atmosphere at MSG was lackluster at best. When it is quiet, part timers feel free to whistle Potvin Sucks. And it was quiet a lot. It is lifeless and dull, miles away from the edgy atmosphere that made it the World's Most Famous Arena.

*Someone make Dancing Idiot stop. Please. The guy is an embarrassment to this city and this franchise. And can you even call what he does dancing?

*Micheal Haley had one good hit. "Good" and "Haley" in the same sentence ... odd. Thought the only time I would put both together there would be "riddance" in between.

*Taylor Pyatt appears to be spending too much time with Brian Boyle - he isn't using his big frame the way he did when the season started. What's the point of having a Hulk lumbering around if he isn't going to act like one?

*Stats show Boyle won 11 of 13 faceoffs. What?!?

*A jab and a facewash? That is all Stuuu-pid gave Hartnell from the bench. Not enough, not nearly enough. Sideshow Bob deserves a beating.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Jakub Voracek - one goal and one assist.
2-Ryan Callahan - two goals and one assist.
1-Rick Nash - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Nash - Ok, his first goal was a joke. His second? Preeeetty. Turning a hook into a sweet deke? One heckuva piece of skill.
2-Wayne Simmonds - Dude is a beast, just an outstanding hockey player. Truly hate that he wears the orange and black.
1-Cally - We've witnessed his selfless shotblocking, we've witnessed his toughness, and now we're witnessing his outstanding skill. He's so good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

10-8-2: Squeaked Past The Sabres

The Rangers reached the .500 mark Sunday night thanks to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres. It was a very breathtaking moment, seeing Ryan Callahan break in and make Ryan Miller look the fool to seal two points.

On a day when the NHL had four of the top teams pitted against each other - Detroit/Chicago, Montreal/Boston - it was painfully clear that these Rangers are not in the upper class. Those games were breathtaking affairs, featuring dazzling displays of skill and physicality between teams that would do anything to win. This was not.

The Blueshirts had nine minutes of man advantage time, scored not one but two power play goals and still needed the silly skills competition to beat a bad Buffalo squad. A Buffalo squad that was on the second night of a back-to-back and was missing their top player.

The Rangers have to be better - much, much better - if they want to reach the upper echelon and compete for the Cup.

Late Hits: 

*Really don't understand the shock and dismay over the Patrick Kaleta hit. The guy has been every bit as dirty as Matt Cooke in his career, it is just his modus operandi to try to injure his opponents. Remember when he tried to take Paul Mara's head off a few years back? Kaleta is the NHL's poster boy for everything that is wrong with the instigator penalty. If someone had been allowed to beat him down years ago he wouldn't be able to keep hurting players. Hell, he probably wouldn't be in the NHL anymore.

*The incident goes straight to the heart of my continual argument: the Rangers need to send a message around the league that they are not to be screwed with. Night after night opponents are taking liberties with the best Blueshirts and that shouldn't be allowed to happen. Torts seems to preach a 'turn the other cheek, get them back on the power play' philosophy that rarely works. On this night they scored a pair of power play goals but this was the exception, not the rule.

*While the first thing that should have happened was DZ or Cally (or Step or Nash) chasing down Kaleta and kicking his ass. Instead DZ turned to Regehr and was wrapped up, Cally was grabbed by Ott and Kaleta was calmly escorted off the ice by a lone linesman. Ok, fine, they didn't get a chance. So the very next shift someone needs to pull a Scott Gomez and knock Ryan Miller (or Gerbe, Ennis, Pominville or Hodgson) out of Buffalo's lineup for a long time. Bet other teams would think twice before hitting the Ranger stars if their own stars would be under the crosshairs.

*But, even then, the least they could have done was discourage further physicality. While the Rangers were 'taking the higher ground' Zdeno Chara beat the tar out of Alexei Emelin after Emelin cross checked Tyler Seguin. Think opponents will go after Bruins skill when they have Chara and/or Lucic lurking about to keep them accountable?

*But instead of throwing punches, the Blueshirts landed two blows on the scoreboard with not one but two power play goals. Stepan scored from the doorstep and Nash wristed a softball past Miller stickside. Power play problems done? Nope. Both goals came within the first 50 seconds of the five minute major, meaning the Rangers blew eight other minutes of man advantage time - and they allowed a shorthanded goal while at it. You can not be an elite team in this NHL by being so grossly incompetent on the power play.

*Richard$ quick recovering from what appeared to be a certain shoulder separation/collarbone break makes me believe that Magic Johnson's cure for AIDS is a heal-all.

*Prior to the fall, Richie was culpable on the Stafford goal. He took the defensive zone draw against Grigorenko and even won the puck back a foot but he was outmuscled by the tenacious rookie, who slid the puck back to Stafford for the shot from the slot. It was a terrific play by the young Russian, and sad for the Rangers top center.

*The double edged sword of Del Zaster. DZ gained the zone and made two quick (for him) passes on the Nash goal, then couldn't keep the puck in the zone - falling down in the process - on the shorthanded goal.

*Joe Micheletti is a moron. But you knew that. Wish the MSG brass knew it too.

*Wonder if the best Blueshirt soldiers will be able to survive much more of this. Cally, 26 minutes. Girardi and Staal, 27. Even in a shortened season like this, playing humongonous minutes is not good for the health of the players or for the team.

*Six minutes for Halpern, four for Bickel - thank goodness those two will be well rested for the playoffs.

*Think Buffalo would be willing to trade Andrej Sekera? Just the kind of solid guy the Blueshirt blueliners need.

*Ranted about the Ranger power play but it was also amazing how inept the Sabres special team was without Vanek. The Austrian does everything for them, battling in front of the net, moving the puck from the point, getting shots on goal from the circles ... and without him the Rangers were easily able to keep the population of Pominville down.

*Still, the Blueshirts have to be more disciplined. Way too many stupid penalties, but that is getting to be par for the course nowadays.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Nathan Gerbe - one goal.
2-J.T. Miller - Um, nine shots attempted, three that went on net? Two hits?
1-Rick Nash - one shootout goal and one goal and one assist during regulation.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Steve Ott - It was very sad to see Dallas deal Ott East, because he is one of those players you can admire from a distance. He's a skilled shift disturber who does anything to help his team win.
2-Cally - The captain comes through. Again.
1-Nash - The best of a bad bunch. Nash came out on the good side of the equation on this night as his two goals and his perfect feed to Step outweighed his inexcusably poor penalties.

Friday, March 1, 2013

9-8-2: Rick's Return

The Blueshirts' victory on Thursday night is truly hard to judge. Was it Rick Nash's presence that suddenly spurred togetherness? Was it the lack of a goaltender in the Lightning net? Was it the team simply rebounding from a bad loss by beating a bad Bolts side? It is probably all of the above, to some degree.

Nash was an offensive force all evening, shooting the puck and carrying it through some tough spots on the ice to lead the Rangers to two dominating periods on their way to a 4-1 win. Why they didn't dominate for three, well, that is probably the coach's fault. As per usual they took a lead and tried to sit on it; luckily the luckless Lightning couldn't break through Hank to make a game of it. But that's an old rant best saved for another time.

The Bolts - losers of three of their prior four and six of nine - stumbled around and looked amateurish at times. As in the previous Ranger win against them, Mathieu Garon gave up some atrocious goals and had little help from his hapless defenders. It is just a shame that this was the third and final time these teams will meet this season, because the Blueshirts could use more points in the ever-tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.

Late Hits:

*Love that Carl Hagelin scored - BORK! He has seven goals this season, three against Tampa. But, more interestingly, he seemed to prove my Anisimov theory from last game that he needs someone bigger/stronger/better to make him a better player. The kid has a confidence when playing with Nash that he hasn't had with anyone other than John Mitchell (when they were first called up last year).

*Even Brad Richard$ looked like he cared in this one. Or, at least, his blind passes worked out because Nash was in the right spots at the right times. Credit definitely due for his work inside the circles, he dominated at the dot all night. Final count? Seventeen of 20 faceoffs. Wow.

*How bad was Tampa? They gave up a power play goal to the Rangers. That bad.

*If Stuuuuu-pid is willing to fight for no reason when his team is up 2-0, why wasn't he willing to fight when they were down 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 to Montreal with the Canadiens taking out his teammates?

*Like Nash, Del Zaster returned and was back to his usual ways: four minutes of wasted power play time. The benefit of being at home was that Torts was able to match lines and keep DZ on the bench when Tampa put Stamkos, St. Louis and Conacher on the ice. The only time in the first two periods that DZ faced his old friend Stamkos? Seconds before Stamkos set up the Lightning's lone goal.

*Not that the Tampa tally was primarily DZ's fault. Nash couldn't keep the puck in the zone, then he lolligagged back down ice and let the elder statesman St. Louis blow right by him. But we're not paying Nash to play defense so whatever.

*Still saw some problems with Hank's game. He was not his steady self - he seemed to fight off the puck more often than not. But the Bolts couldn't take advantage, so hopefully it will be a confidence booster that will help the King regain his crown.

*Four minutes for Steve Eminger was too few. Yeah, I'm as surprised to be saying that as you are to read it, but it's true. He showed he can play solid puck, he should be given some more minutes to get in the flow. It would also help Staal and McDonagh, both of whom have had head injuries in the recent past and are being ground down by overuse already. Staal saw less than 24 minutes of ice time just once in his last 11 games and more than 26 eight times this year.

*Nice of Step to score on the night the Ryan O'Reilly saga comes to a close. O'Reilly's signing - with it's one year moratorium on a trade - means Step has at least one year to prove he can be a consistant No. 2 center. It was good for him to get a goal, but he was just lurking about and capitalized on captain Callahan's excellent work.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 24 saves.
1-Ryan Callahan - one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Staal - Not only did he score a goal thanks to his willingness to pinch and some serious persistance, but Staal also helped Girardi keep that Stamkos line quiet.
2-McDonagh - Mac's transition game was something the Rangers were sorely lacking. His neutral zone passes set up Hagelin and Nash's goals and he was his usual solid self in his own end.
1-Nash - Not sure what it is about him, but the Rangers certainly responded to his return.