Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ding Dong, Torts Is Gone

Glen Sather sent another coach packing today, as he issued a pink slip to John Tortorella. That's the fifth bench boss of the general manager's time atop the Ranger ladder, if you count Sather himself.

But as the Stealth GM - as the Pundit calls him - survives to smoke another cigar, Torts now has more time to spend with his dogs. Good riddance. It was a long time coming, and yet a surprise just the same. If any coach had excuses for a disappointing season, it was Torts. No training camp, new players to integrate, injuries to prime players, few top prospects ready to fill spots ... all solid justification for bringing him back in the fall.

Sather didn't see it that way, and the firing helps the tin hat folks who are searching for c-o-n-spiracies. The coach and the GM had a fight, the GM was offended by the coach's comments, the GM was scared at the reports that the King might not come back. My theory? It goes back to what I said when Brad Richard$ was brought in: Dolan needs a winning team to fill the fixed-up Garden. The reno is finishing this summer and the Blueshirt brass need to start paying it off. Doing that will require massive corporate money and massive corporate money comes with Cups.

The scary part of that is it makes it all but certain that Sather will sign a 'name' coach to step behind the bench, with Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff the biggest candidates. Neither one have won a Cup and, frankly, neither one is likely ever to. Both have failed in the Finals once, both lasted past their expiration dates at their former jobs and both were given all the talent in the world by their bosses and botched it. Other top options being floated are Dave Tippett, Dallas Eakins and Ken Gernander. Kenny G and Dallas are great AHL minds but have yet to be blooded at the elite level and the likelihood of Tippett leaving Phoenix now that his boss and buddy Don Maloney has re-upped is slight. He is a great, great coach, but why would he leave what he has built for Broadway? Money does move the world but the Yotes' ownership saga may be nearing its end.

The guy I would bring in for an interview would be Davis Payne. The assistant coach of the L.A. Kings spent two-plus seasons in St. Louis as the head coach and left with a solid 67-55-15 record despite having an unremarkable, rebuilding Blues squad. Working against him is that he isn't a "name" and the fact that he is still with a team active in the playoffs so the interview will be quite close to Sather's deadline of the draft.

Whoever it ends up being, at least he won't be the tumultuous Tortorella. His errors were egregious, his ego tremendous, his results mediocre. For all the talk about last season's success, Torts' mismanagement was the singular reason why they fell short of Stanley. And, as written here a few days ago, losing to Boston wouldn't be shameful if the team had played to the utmost of their ability. They didn't, so the bench boss had to pay.

Hopefully the next guy will find better results. 

Grading the Brass 2013

Seeing as the players saw the red pen earlier, here are the grades of the men in charge. Their explanations are a little more in depth. For comparison's sake, here are the grades for '09-10'10-11 and '11-12.

Jim Schoenfeld/Ken Gernander: The Whale finished two points out of a playoff spot after closing the season on an atrocious 0-5-1-0 run. The concussion that cost Marek Hrivik half the season couldn't be helped. Few players were graduated to the big club but it isn't like Torts woulda trusted them anyway. Kreider looked good in his return for the playoffs but can that be attested to his time in the bus league or to the big stage? How the development of Miller, Thomas and McIlrath over the season worked out will be better judged in the fall. B

John Tortorella: Another season of the egomaniacal, deluded dictator saw the Rangers regress from last year's surprising success. Torts had a distinctly different team this time around that he failed by attempting to force them to play his Safe Is Life system. Rather than attempt to adapt to the new staff, Torts kept hammering his boring brand of defensive hockey. His sense of accountability was flawed due to his favouritism as he forced out last season's 41 goal scorer while sticking with an atrocious Brad Richard$. His power play ... 'nuff said. As usual, his work with the media was an unfortunate, unprofessional sideshow.  F

Glen Sather: Yet again Glen's moves have been a mixed bag of the bad and the brilliant. The thought that Arron Asham could suitably replace Brandon Prust was farcical and not realizing the full impact of sending Dubi, Arty and Timmay to Columbus for Nash was a major failure on Sather's part. Adding Hamrlik on waivers and keeping J.T. Miller for too long were also both clear errors. But Rupp for Powe and Palmieri, hell, Rupp for anyone showed the GM's Jedi powers. Also his 'deadline' deals of bringing back Zuke and picking up Brassard, Moore and Dorsett for unhappy Gabby were both brilliant. Seems like he overpaid for Clowe but who knows how the big guy coulda helped in crunch time had he not been concussed. B-

James Dolan: First the lockout then the incredibly un-fan-friendly phase two of the renovation. It's harder to get into the arena, it's harder to get around the arena and the seats are more uncomfortable than ever. Other teams had give-aways, give-backs and thank yous for the fans who returned, we had higher prices and ultimatums. The corporatization of the Rangers is nearly complete and the writing is on the wall for the rest of us. Diehard fans are not appreciated or wanted - we already own jerseys, we have our neighborhood bars and routines. Businessmen and tourists come to the Garden and spend more on a nightly basis, and that is what it is all about for Jimmy D's regime. They built the "World's Most Famous Arena" reputation on our backs and are now doing their best to push us out. The focus on the bottom line - while understandable on a strictly logical level - has resulted in a lifeless, dull arena experience. But, on the plus side, at least it's been quiet enough for the ladies to ask questionsF

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rangers Report Card 2013

As I've done in the past, I graded each of the 2013 New York Rangers based on expectations, performance all season long and performance when it counted - NOT performance compared to other players. I am, admittedly, a tough grader. Guys with less than five games received incompletes.

If you feel so inclined, you can refer back to the report cards for the last few seasons: '07-08'08-09'09-10'10-11 and '11-12.

By my math this season's grades worked out to a 1.95 GPA, which is a C. Yes, I'm well aware that the team made it to the conference semifinal but they barely made the playoffs, barely beat a bad Washington squad and were blown out by a Boston team that wasn't playing to their ability. Mediocrity, thy name is New York.


#45 Arron Asham: Stupid penalties, senseless fights, zero intimidation, a spot in the press box right when his experience was supposed to help most. His four goals and the enjoyment I get from our banter on Twitter saved him from failure. D

#22 Brian Boyle: Same number of points in the playoffs as he had in the regular season - five. Reluctance to use his size physically or offensively outweighs occasional faceoff success. D

#16 Derick Brassard: What a difference a new zip code makes. After underwhelming in Columbus, came to New York and showed the skills that made him the sixth overall pick in '06. A-

#24 Ryan Callahan: Unquestioned work ethic and willingness to leave it all on the ice. Leadership by example not exactly working. A-

#29 Ryane Clowe: Nine points and two fights in 14 games wasn't bad, but rushing back from his concussion was a mistake. B

#15 Derek Dorsett: Jumped into the active roster in playoffs so it isn't exactly fair to judge him based solely on his stupid penalties or wrestling matches. Even though he played more than five games, going with an INC.

#36 Benn Ferriero: Was stuck with some sad-sack linemates most of the time but four shots in four games while averaging over nine minutes per were not enough. INC

#10 Marian Gaborik: Coming off of shoulder surgery the Slovak sniper potted just nine goals in 35 games and was publicly humiliated by his coach. No matter what Torts said to the media, it was clear he didn't trust Gabby and Gabby didn't want to play for him anymore. D

#62 Carl Hagelin: Bork! For all of his speed, Hags had a hard time scoring. Points per game average went down and had goal droughts lasting six or more games four times this season. C+

#32 Micheal Haley: Former Islander toughie hit plenty but had just two fights in 12 games. D

#15 Jeff Halpern: The one assist in 30 games wouldn't be a big deal if he won all faceoffs and killed all penalties. Sadly Super Jew got a poor start after the lockout and was an easy waive. D

#20 Chris Kreider: Started the season like he was entitled to a spot and was understandably banished to the bus league but another playoff performance raised his grade. C

#40 Brandon Mashinter: Hoped he'd be a physical power during his callup, instead he was slow and sloppy. INC

#47 J.T. Miller: Not yet ready for primetime player showed some potential. C

#61 Rick Nash: Nearly a point per game through the regular season but his lack of heart in crunch time cost the Rangers a real playoff run. B

#45 Kris Newbury: A typical AAAA player, great for the AHL but unable to play with the big boys. Add to that his penchant for stupid penalties and... F

#8 Darroll Powe: Blair Betts Mark II defensively accountable, offensively absent until he was injured. C+

#14 Taylor Pyatt: Great start, solid end to the season. It was the 35+ games in the middle that underwhelmed. C-

#19 Brad Richard$: Had 11 of his 34 points in the six games against sad sack teams at the end of the regular season but had no legs all year long. Helping people after Sandy saved him from outright failure. D

#71 Mike Rupp: Eight games, two fights, two losses, no hockey ability at all. F

#42 Brandon Segal: One game, one bad penalty. INC

#21 Derek Stepan: Had a tough time shaking the bad habits he gained from playing in Finland but afterwards took the next step in his development into a top line talent. A

#58 Christian Thomas: One game wasn't enough to see if he is more Corey Locke or post-Rangers P.A. Parenteau. INC

#36 Mats Zuccarello: A season under Paul Maurice in Magnitogorsk added defense and a willingness to shoot to his tenacity. B+


#41 Stu Bickel: Stuuuu-pid mistakes and Stuuuuuu-pid penalties cost him any trust of the head coach and he was banished to the bus league. D

#4 Michael Del Zotto: Another season of no development and Del Zastrous defense. F

#44 Steve Eminger: Solid work for a seventh defenseman, poor work as a fourth defenseman. C-

#97 Matt Gilroy: No hope for Hobey. Slow, poor decision making and no physical presence. F

#5 Dan Girardi: The milage hurt and there were occasional gaffes along the way but another solid season by the cornerstone of the defense. A-

#40 Roman Hamrlik: Old, slow and awful, singularly responsible for several Ranger losses. F

#27 Ryan McDonagh: Like Girardi, McD showed the milage at times but was the best Blueshirt blueliner and he is only getting better. A

#17 John Moore: Part of the Gabby deal, Moore was more than just a throw-in. The youngster showed all-around ability and rarely made costly mistakes. B+

#18 Marc Staal: A puck to the eye derailed another solid season from the stalwart. Hopefully it won't cost him the rest of his career too. B+

#32 Anton Stralman: Inconsistent, mediocre play. C-


#43 Marty Biron: His GAA and save percentage actually improved from last season and yet he was still so horrendous that Hank had to play every night for the team to have a chance to win. But he's good in the room ... D

#30 Henrik Lundqvist: Yep, still the King. Sadly had a few nights when he was human but the Blueshirts woulda given Columbus the first overall pick of this summer's draft without him. A-

Monday, May 27, 2013

Some Monday Musings

Some random stuff while I struggle with the fact that the Rangers aren't playing tonight:

*Just making it to the playoffs is simply not good enough, and should not be the bar for the Rangers. We are not the Islanders. John Tortorella's heavy-on-the-whip, short-on-the-temper, playing favourites coaching style and his safe-is-life philosophy have done just enough to take this team to mediocrity. Maybe a bit above mediocrity, but not to the upper echelon, not to Cup Contender. And that's not good enough.

*But that's fine for our ownership, as they keep raking in the money as the Pundit pointed out in his spot-on postmortem.

*The worst part about the Richard$ escapade is that Torts killed all of his trade value, along with his confidence. But Brad will be better next season - he can't be much worse - so buying him out may not be the best of ideas. Yes, his cap hit hurts but having him in the lineup, with something to prove is better than carrying completely dead space ...

*Nice of Brian Boyle to admit that he "sucked this year." Didn't mention that he also was atrocious the previous year and a half too ...

*Del Zaster has got to go, but who will take him? And who will we get back? The organization has no depth at the blueline, and no prospects ready to jump right in. Dylan McIlrath is still a season away, 2011 picks Sam Noreau and Peter Ceresnak are not NHL prospects (yet, if at all) and 2012 picks Brady Skjei and Calle Andersson have at least two, if not three more seasons before even thinking of stepping on Broadway. The pending UFAs aren't a particularly impressive bunch with the steadiest being likely to re-sign with their 2013 teams - Mark Streit, Rob Scuderi, Andrew Ference, and Douglas Murray. There are some top tier RFAs but they will be quite costly (i.e. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nick Leddy and Roman Josi) and the Rangers shouldn't cast away their draft picks so casually.

*It will be interesting to see if Sather pulls something at the draft. Remember: this summer's first round pick went to Columbus for Nash and the second to San Jose for Clowe but there are four third round selections - Florida's (Wolski), Nashville's (last year's third rounder), Columbus' (part of the Nash deal) and our own. Then the Rangers have a fourth rounder, no fifth (another pick swap with Nashville last year), a sixth and no seventh (to Minnesota, the cost of ridding ourselves of Erik Christensen).

*A full season without any Michael Sauer news. No news is bad news, as his brother Kurt faded away in the same manner. So sad.

*The Blueshirts will be back in the beginning of September, as the Red Wings revived the Traverse City prospects tournament. The preseason slate for the full squad is set to include Vegas, which will be nice. And the '13-14 regular season will start on the road with rumours floating around of L.A. or Edmonton as the opener.

*Programming note: my Ranger report card will be out in the next few days (tomorrow, maybe), but it's unlikely I will revive the Facts of Life series.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

R2, G5: Shameful Finish

There is no shame in losing.

When maximum effort is given and the opponent is superior, failure - while not acceptable - is not shameful. The losers can go out with their heads held high, knowing they went to the wall.

As the final seconds of the Rangers' 3-1 loss ticked down, Henrik Lundqvist buried his head in his hands at the bench. It was a poignant, heart-wrenching sight to behold. Of all the players in the New York organization, Hank should have been the one Blueshirt to leave this loss proudly. But he didn't. The King took responsibility, and later acknowledged that his team "didn't reach our top level and, when you play a team like Boston it's going to be tough to beat them."

The Swede has a penchant for understatement. Lundqvist was perhaps the lone Ranger playing to his potential in Game 5, but his errors in the earlier games of the series helped seal the team's fate. No one in blue can say that they left it all on the ice, and that is the atrocious aspect of this loss.

Last year's team had its issues but, by and large, lack of effort was not the cause of its downfall. Mismanagement of personnel, lack of depth on the blueline and the underperformance of the well-paid concluded that campaign ahead of its time. When you take those factors and add in a seeming unwillingness to pay the price to win and you have the grounds for the end of the 2013 Rangers.

Many questions remain, not the least of which being why John Tortorella has a job? But that and the rest are questions that should be asked another time. Game 5 brought the sun down on season yesterday afternoon, so just a few Late Hits:

*Don't get me wrong, Boston was a superior opponent. The Bruins have skill, depth and great coaching. But they opened the door a number of times over the series and the Blueshirts wouldn't/couldn't walk through.

*Marian Gaborik had the excuse of a shoulder tear for his ineptness in crunch time last spring. Wonder what Rick Nash's explanation will be. Nash looked perfectly healthy, and completely out of his league.

*The Rangers essentially ice two fourth lines and neither one could match up to Boston's bottom bunch. Thornton, Colin's kid and the other NHL Dan from Welland are a stable, well-made unit that has found chemistry and a championship. (I refuse to call them the Merlot line, real men don't drink any f-ing merlot.) Neither Newbury, Haley and Dorsett nor Boyle, Pyatt and Zuccarello have any cohesion and they won't win a championship. At least not in this league.

*No idea why Dorsett decided to go with Thornton, it didn't particularly spark his team and he nearly got his ass kicked. But, I guess, at least he was willing to go with one of the toughest guys in the league. He just has to cut out the dumb penalties, he's lucky Torts likes him better than Sean Avery. Otherwise he'd already be looooooong gone.

*Roman Hamrlik, who came off the waiver wire out of shape and older than dirt back in March, had previously proven grossly incompetent. So, of course, he was included in the lineup and, of course, he was grossly incompetent.

*Speaking of, Del Zastrous.

*Thought Moore held up well against the physical pounding of the Boston forecheck. Kid has a good future ahead.

*Great to see Stepan stay in the game despite being blooded early and often. Sad not to see much of him offensively.

*Two games in a row Boyle stepped into the slot on the power play and the Rangers scored. It's about time he listened to most everyone and put his gargantuan body in front.

*Defended Cally just the other day, explaining how he is a very good third line winger and not someone who should be counted on to score. But when he has chances, he needs to bury them. And he didn't.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Tuukka Rask - 28 saves.
2-Milan Lucic - no points.
1-Gregory Campbell - two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Campbell - Toughness and two tallies.
2-Rask - That third period blocker save on Cally's breakaway won the game.
1-Hank - Without the King this game was 4-0 Boston in the first period. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

R2, G4: The Gift Of Life

On Thursday night Tuukka Rask gave the (allegedly) greatest gift one can give: the gift of life. The Bruins goaltender fell on his ass and revived a dead Ranger squad, starting them off on a comeback that was completed as an 4-3 overtime win.

The series is not over, rigor mortis is not yet setting in. Rask's stumble set up a Game 5 on Saturday afternoon, the Rangers' season extended at least another two days.

Seeing as those two days are almost up, onto the Late Hits:

*Spectacular feed from Nash to Kreider. Best thing the former Blue Jacket has done in weeks, too bad it likely came a few games too late.

*Quite a contrast between the Stepan who started this season and the Stepan who has been the anchor of the offense. Once he shook off the bad habits that crept in while playing in Finland, Step has really seized a top line spot. Any surprise he, Cally and McDonagh have been the best Blueshirts this year (not named Henrik)?? USA! USA! USA!

*Of course, that theory is shattered by Brian Boyle. Boyle broke a drought of 181 regular season and playoff games without a power play goal, a lone highlight in another horrid performance by the oversized Blueshirt. He did his usual cruise through the slot - because he'll never stop and take the abuse the way Cally does - and Step successfully fed him the puck. It was the same play that had failed on the previous rush, but Rask was somehow caught unawares. Hopefully someone this summer is caught unawares and Sather can unload this waste of space.

*It's nice when things are put into perspective: compared to Roman Hamrlik, Del Zaster is Doug Harvey. DZ is atrocious and clueless but at least he isn't slow and weak. But both are sloppy, and both hurt the Blueshirts.

*Brad Richard$ was scratched in favour of Kris Newbury, who took a typical Kris Newbury penalty that, of course, Boston scored on. Richard$ wasn't missed but the fact that the organization is so thin that Kris Newbury got the call in the Eastern Conference semifinals shows a major issue that has to be addressed.

*It was amusing and sad to see the Ranger 'tough guys' chasing after Boston's bruisers, trying (unsuccessfully) to provoke them into fighting with their team up 1-0. There is a reason why those same Bruins have Cup rings and those same Rangers are AHLers.

*If Brassard could improve his defensive game, he could turn into Patrice Bergeron.

*Surprising how old and tired Jagr looked by the third period.

*Miss you John Amirante, this just hasn't been the same ...

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Chris Kreider - one goal.
2-Derick Brassard - two assists.
1-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Tyler Seguin - Hate you Kessel, clap-clap-clapclapclap, hate you Kessel ...
2-Hank - Hard to fault him for the goals against, easy to credit him for keeping the Rangers in it until Rask fell apart.
1-Step - He stole the puck from the best defenseman in the NHL and scored. Just think about that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

R2, G3: It's All Over But The Shouting

You knew that Tuesday night's tilt against Boston was going to be a painful game when the Bruins spend the first minute and a half in the Ranger end. The Blueshirts had no energy or interest at the start, they had no energy or interest in the middle and they had no energy or interest at the end of what was a 2-1 failure. They had few scoring chances, they scrambled around their own end, they had almost no physical edge and - if I didn't see them with my own eyes - I'd think they had no fans.

It was a lifeless, gutless, pathetic performance that belied the fact that it was Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs. It was as if the Rangers felt that just stepping onto home ice would have been enough to win. That may have worked against Washington but Boston is a far different side - one that has depth, intelligence, confidence, resolve, leadership and ability.

The Blueshirts are clearly lacking many of those qualities as well as they have fallen behind the B's 0-3 in the best-of-seven series. The lone time this year the Rangers won four in a row was end of February, early March when they defeated Tampa, Buffalo, Philly and the Islanders - three non-playoff teams and a team that shouldn't have made the playoffs.

There will be plenty of time to analyze the inherent flaws in the Rangers and speculate over the future in a few days time. For now, a few Late Hits on tonight's awfulness:

*For long stretches it seemed like it was Hank against the Bruins and he was back to his old outstanding self. If only he could quarterback the power play too.

*Hank definitely deserves his share of blame for his idiotic backhanded pass to the Bruins to set up the equalizer but my Tw-enemy Asham had a chance to break up the play and he went for a half-hearted, one-handed jab at the puck that, of course, failed.

*Speaking of failures ... Brian Boyle. Brad Richard$. Del Zaster. Nash. Dorsett. Zuke. The power play. Torts. Take your pick ...

*Anyone else like totally shocked that it was Del Zaster's man who scored the eventual game-winning goal?

*Boyle getting nearly 20 minutes of ice time shows just how delusional Torts is. Hagelin "stinks" but Boyle's soft, clueless, skill-less play is rewarded with more minutes.

*Hags did get some power play time but he is hardly the solution. When you have utterly inept men quarterbacking, you have no chance. DZ gets just over two minutes while Moore and Stralman ride the bench during the man advantage.

*Thought Dan Girardi had a nice bounce-back game. Amazing what getting away from DZ will do for someone.

*Pyatt was credited with the lone Ranger tally after McD's shot ricocheted off of him and into the Boston net. Hmm, a big player can use his size to screen the goaltender? The hell you say.

*Now, the guys on the ice didn't give us much to cheer for but even when they did the building was incredibly quiet. Insanely high ticket prices have forced many of the real fans out and replaced them with pastel-shirt-wearing stiffs.

*Another playoff game without John Amirante doing the anthem; truly hope he is alright.

*Moment of silence for the people in Oklahoma, the state that refused to help post-Hurricane Sandy. And it was a few seconds more respect than the Rangers showed Derek Boogaard, one of their own.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
2-Tuukka Rask - 23 saves.
1-Daniel Paille - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Patrice Bergeron - No points and yet seemed dynamic, controlling play.
2-Shawn Thornton - A pair of assists thanks to solid grinding and great positioning. A veteran tough guy who is utterly invaluable to his team. Basically, everything Asham is not.
1-Paille - Never stopped skating and his hustle paid off.

Monday, May 20, 2013

R2, G2: Down In A Hole, Again

It is always a sad, sad thing when we see that our superheroes are really human after all. And that's what has been happening with Henrik Lundqvist over the first two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The King has sank from royalty to the real world, allowing uncharacteristic goals go by him left and right.

While his brother Joel was busy winning a gold medal in Stockholm with Sweden, Hank struggled with the black and gold of the Boston Bruins. Repeatedly exposed by the porous Blueshirts' blueline, Lundqvist let puck after puck get past him in Boston as the Bruins took a 2-0 lead in the series with a 5-2 win.

Shots that he sees, shots that he gets a piece of, shots from bad angles ... we've taken his Vezina form for granted for a long, long time and seeing him struggle with those shots is a shock. Even when he wasn't himself at the start of this asterisked season, Lundqvist was still better than the guy who backstopped the Rangers in Games 1 and 2.

But it's not over yet, there's time for him to reclaim his crown. The boys rebounded after failing at the Phone Booth to start the last series so perhaps a return to the real Garden will hopefully help. The only problem is that Rask and the Bruins aren't half as horrid as Holtby and the Caps...

Late Hits:

*At the start of the year Hank was helped out by the boys in front of them, and that hasn't been happening. The cornerstone of the defense, Dan Girardi, has been making mistakes over the last few weeks as all of the mileage has piled up. G was on for all five goals against, and was directly culpable for at least two of them.

*It certainly didn't help that G was constantly pulled out of position to cover for his inept partner Del Zaster. The two didn't play together too much over the regular season, so of course Torts felt it best to pair them in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Of course.

*Torey Krug, two goals and one assist in the first two games. The entire Ranger blueline, one goal and one assist in the first two games (goal by McD, assist by G).

*Nine minutes and 12 seconds of power play time. Forrest.

*Nice to see people overreacting because Nash finally scored a goal. Remember when those folks celebrated the long-awaited goals by Boyle and Gaborik? What became of them? Just because he found daylight as Rask sagged off his angle doesn't mean Nash still isn't a factor.

*So now Brad Richard$ isn't even taking faceoffs on the fourth line. Too bad there aren't any other real options for the fourth line (Newbury? No.), then Richie could be a healthy scratch.

*Speaking of someone who should be scratched, Boyle. Slow, physically outmatched with hands of cement - but he was given over six minutes of power play time. The same Boyle who has no power play goals in his last 180 games (incl. playoffs). Zero. But he doesn't stink with the man advantage, Carl Hagelin does. Right Torts?

*Nice of Dorsett to show some pride and start a fight, too bad it came two goals too late.

*With him around, what's the point of having Asham? Not that having another man advantage woulda helped anything, but my tw-enemy negated a power play that woulda happened seconds before Boston scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.

*Cally had a nice bounce-back game.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Torey Krug - one goal and one assist.
2-Patrice Bergeron - two assists.
1-Tuukka Rask - 35 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Johnny Boychuk - A goal and some good, physical defense.
2-Krug - Remember when everyone thought DZ or Hobey were going to be big point-getters from the blueline?
1-Bergeron - Must be nice to have a first line center on your team.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

R2, G1: Blown Out In Boston

The Rangers found out that it is difficult to win playoff games when their offense appears for less than 20 seconds on Thursday night as they fell to the Bruins 3-2.

Despite the dearth of scoring chances, the disorganization of the defense, the goaltender's gaffes and the utter incompetence of the special teams, the Blueshirts made it to overtime against Boston. So that's something to build on.

Not really going to expound too much on this atrocity, as Game 2 is just a day away.

Late Hits:

*Rene Rancourt can't sing. Oh, and clowns wear gold bowties.

*You have to be utterly brainless to take a penalty in overtime of a playoff game ... and just when we were starting to like Dorsett. That being said, that was the third penalty drawn by Rich Peverley in the game. The former Thrasher is one of those hard hat guys you can count on come tough times, like Feds was for us last year.

*Zdeno Chara was huge (har har). The Boston captain literally played half the game, wasn't on for either Ranger goal, opened the night's scoring and set up the game winner. Ranger captain Ryan Callahan? Had a secondary assist and wasn't much of a factor.

*Del Zaster and Nash led the team in power play time with over three minutes each out of the 5:35 of man advantage time. The Rangers had just three shots make it on goal over that span, one each from Nash, John Moore and Brad Richard$. Yep.

*Odd fact, there was just one Ranger who did not even attempt a shot: my tw-enemy Asham.

*Bonus with this series being against Boston? A motivated Brian Boyle. Some of his best hockey of the season, but that isn't saying much.

*Difference between Brad Marchand and former Ranger Sean Avery? Both are/were incredibly annoying, both have/had terrific speed and a decent touch around the net but Marchand has terrific chemistry with Patrice Bergeron, one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Avery didn't spend enough time on any single line to get any chemistry with anyone.

*The Rangers had just two days off between series but they looked a bit rusty; that first period was brutal. They'd better have more jump early on Sunday...

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Derick Brassard - one assist.
2-Zdeno Chara - one goal and one assist.
1-Brad Marchand - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Hank - Does he want all three goals against back? Surely. Was he under siege all night keeping the Rangers in a game they had no right to be? Absolutely.
2-Chara - The man-mountain played 38 minutes and contributed on both sides of the ice. I'm sure he also managed to complete a triathlon, help an old lady across the street, save children from a burning orphanage and force Superman to kneel before Zod.
1-The Posts - Half dozen or so saves by the iron. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Peepin' Foes Playoff Edition: Boston Bruins

The Rangers have an Original 6 matchup in the conference semifinals, a best-of-seven date with the Boston Bruins. As the series starts tonight, this will be quick.

When Do We Play:
Game 1: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at Boston
Game 2: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. at Boston
Game 3: May 21st, 7:30 p.m. at MSG
Game 4: May 23rd, 7:00 p.m. at MSG
*Game 5: May 25th, TBD at Boston
*Game 6: May 27th, TBD at MSG
* Game 7: May 29th, TBD at Boston
* - if necessary

Where We Are: In the second round!! The Rangers rallied from a 2-0 hole to defeat the Capitals in seven games. The team had two days off to hopefully learn a power play and heal some wounds before facing the Big, Bad Bruins.

Where They Are: Boston nearly blew a 3-1 lead in their series against Toronto and were down 4-1 going into the third period of Game 7. But they won 5-4 in overtime. If you didn't see it, it was one of the more remarkable finishes in a looooong time. The Bruins finished the regular season with the fourth seed - one point behind second-seeded Montreal, five more than Washington.

What Happened This Season: The Rangers took on the Bruins three times, all within the first dozen games. They lost the season opener in Boston 3-1 (my recap), won 4-3 in overtime four days later (my recap) and took a 4-3 shootout victory in the third game three weeks later (my recap).

What Happened Past Seasons: The Rangers have faced Boston in the playoffs nine times, winning just three of those series. Two of the seven losses were in the Stanley Cup Finals (1929, 1972), but two of the three victories, however, were on the way to Stanley Cups (1928, 1940).

Who Played On Both Teams: There are some great names to wear both the spoked-B and the Blueshirt: Andy Hebenton, Dean Prentice, Allen Stanley, Red Sullivan, Orland Kurtenbach, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Rick Middleton, Carol Vadnais, Phil Esposito, Chris Nilan, Marc Savard, PJ Stock, Mike Knuble, Brian Leetch, Colton Orr and Wade Redden!

Who To Watch For: Milan Lucic was a beast in Game 7 against the Leafs during crunch time, absolutely dominant. Patrice Bergeron rarely wows but is one of the most complete players in the NHL. Brad Marchand is a smaller version of Sean Avery, just with better hands, and Tyler Seguin has been slumping but when he is on, he is on. Their defense is thinned by injury (no Seidenberg, Ference or Redden) but they still have the man-mountain that is Zdeno Chara, who admitted to me in Prague before this season that he hated the Rangers.

What To Watch For: That Jagr guy to score, especially since he enters with just one goal in his last 17 games. Bergeron winning all the faceoffs. Nathan Horton making himself comfortable in the slot. Shawn Thornton sending a message. Tuukka Rask either completely shutting the Rangers down or completely falling apart. Hank to make some wonderful, wonderful, wonderful saves. During the regular season Boston's power play was actually worse than the Rangers' but their penalty kill was better.

Also Check Out: Big fan of two of the Boston blogs, Stanley Cup of Chowder and Days of Y'Orr.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

R1, G7: Guts Beget Glory

Perhaps my favourite photo of the year... hilarious.
On Monday night the Washington Capitals spent the first period of Game 7 hitting everything that moved. They forechecked, they backchecked, they tried to inflict as much pain as possible - Ovie even attempted a Claude-Lemieux-on-Kris-Draper-like head drive on Ryan McDonagh. But McD missed all of one shift, and the Blueshirts came out of the opening frame up 1-0.

The Rangers killed off the penalty incurred by their initial goal scorer, then potted a pair of goals over the next five minutes to kill any life left in the Capitals. And that was pretty much that. Two more goals were scored over the remaining 34 minutes and the series was settled: the real red, white and blue won 5-0 and advanced to a second round meeting with Boston.

The Blueshirts took the best that the Caps could throw at them and came away with a win, a familiar theme this year - the rope-a-dope the Ranger Pundit has often observed. It is an ugly way to play, it is an unsettling way to play, but it has allowed this team to find some wins.

And now they need just 12 more.

Late Hits (recycling the first two from last year):

*John Druce, wherever you are, I have one thing to say to you: this.

*You know what would have made the victory sweeter? Tom Poti on the ice. Pooooooooooooooottttttttttttiiiiiiiiiiii.

*Brassard, Moore, Dorsett, Zuccarello - all late-season acquisitions, all massive parts of the Ranger offense now that the main mercenaries have faded. Something they all share? Decisiveness. There is no hesitation, no clenching the stick too tight ... they keep moving, they make plays, they come up with results. Simply, they don't play John Tortorella's brand of lifeless, shot blocking, dump-n-chase, north-south hockey. We'll see how that fleshes out in the end, but they have been fun to watch for now.

*As with Boyle in Game 4, my tw-enemy Asham giveth and he (almost) taketh away. If not for Hank's heroics, Asham's goal would have been wiped out by the power play brought about by his unnecessary penalty.

*Interesting that the Caps cried about the penalty situation in Game 6 - none called on the Rangers - and Ovie wasn't busted for his boarding. In fact, nothing was called on Washington until it was a 4-0 game in the third period. The refs didn't want things to get out of hand so they brought out their whistles. But they had managed to call a penalty early on to give the Caps quite a chance to tie it. I'm one rarely given to accusing the refs for anything (aside from in the heat of the moment, at the game), but it was curious how things worked out.

*The injury theories on Nash were made to look foolish yet again as he skated hard enough to get a few great chances, which he blew. Thankfully he, like Richard$, found other ways to contribute. Seeing as the players aren't getting paid for the playoffs, technically they aren't wasting our money. So any contribution is a bonus, right?

*LOLtby. A mediocre netminder, nothing more. And exposed as such when the team in front of him utterly gave up. No heart.

*Best game of Steve Eminger's Ranger career, wouldn't you say? Nice timing.

*Brassard, Step and Richard$ - three of the four centers. Not a single shot on goal between them, not a complaint about their play to be had.

*Well, one ... all played on the power play and, yet again, there were no power play goals.

*Can you hear us? Loved the Ranger fan presence. Glad to see the True Blue travel so well and add insult to injury, especially as the bandwagon pulled out of the Phone Booth in the third period.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Arron Asham - one goal.
2-Derick Brassard - two assists.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 35 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Brassard - Creative and confident. And just edging out Cally.
2-Hank - Your Conn Smythe-leading candidate.
1-McDonagh - Never give in.

Monday, May 13, 2013

R1, G6: One Was Enough

The Rangers succeeded in putting the puck past Braden Holtby once on Sunday afternoon and proceeded to cling to that lonely goal as the sun went down. The Blueshirts beat the Caps 1-0 to level the series at three games apiece, forcing Monday night's Game 7.

While the scrum broke out at the final buzzer, Henrik Lundqvist skated to the hash marks and proceeded to strike the iconic Ken Dryden pose. Hank perched his arms atop his stick as he watched the boys battle, resting after an hour of heroics. While Dryden rarely had to work even half as hard as Hank - playing behind the all-time greatest team - the two goaltenders are similar in that both were/are the best in the business. Sunday marked another simply stellar performance by our Swede and, if he can survive more onslaughts like this one, he'll be a shoo-in to join Dryden in the Hall of Fame.

Late Hits:

*What made Hank's performance even more impressive is how he made so many stops through screens, on shots he hardly saw and were redirected along the way to his paint. He definitely had some help at the end, as Cally, Boyle and Girardi were selfless throwing themselves in front of shots. Boyle clearly was exhausted and sore, struggling back to his skates, but that didn't stop him from trying. Kudos.

*It's a power play, morons, you're supposed to score on it. Sick of this nonsense, it's not funny anymore.

*That Caps fans are crying because they didn't get any man advantages is ridiculous. If you Washington whiners are out there, I'm not sure if you were watching but you spent most of regulation playing like you had a power play with free reign to skate into and around the Ranger end.

*How was Ovechkin not penalized for punching Anton Stralman - of all people - when he was being escorted off the ice after the final scrum? But, more importantly, it was clear that Ovie was frustrated and that can only be good for the Blueshirts.

*It is especially hard to label the lines (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) right now as Torts is changing them seemingly shift by shift. But, you figure Arron Asham is on the fourth line and that makes Brad Richard$ a $12 million fourth line center - $20 million if you include his bonus (credit to @mavanco for that stat). Nine and a half minutes of icetime, four of which came on the power play. What an incredible waste.

*Rick Nash spent 3:52 of his 17:46 on the power play. Nash attempted two shots in the game, just one made it on net ... and it was at even strength. He's paid to shoot, he's paid to score. At least he was able to contribute by evading the defense and sliding into the slot on what would be Brassard's goal but he is one expensive screen. The claims of injuries detracting from his play are ridiculous, as he's trying a lot of the same stuff as he did during the regular season (didja catch that dangle of his?) but they aren't working with all the pressure.

*Yelling "Shoot the Puck!" when the Rangers are not in the offensive zone is just stupid. Chanting it ... ugh.

*Four minutes and five seconds of ice time for Chris Kreider. Why bother?

*Also on ice time: John Moore 12 minutes, Del Zaster 21 and a half. No surprise at all that it was Moore who assisted on the lone goal and NOT DZ. Perhaps Moore should have gotten more than zero seconds of power play time. Zero. Torts didn't give him a single second of power play time. Not one. Not even by accident.

*Moore, Brassard, Dorsett ... Marian who?

*Really hope John Amirante is alright, three Ranger playoff games and no performances by the Ranger institution.

*On the other side of the coin is Dancing Larry. Enough already. It was 1-0 in a must-win game with just over three minutes remaining in the third period and we had to watch that clown spaz out to a terrible tune from 20 years ago? Are you kidding me?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Derek Dorsett - no goals or assists.
2-Derick Brassard - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

R1, G5: Failed Philosophy

The Blueshirts were sent to the brink on Friday night when they fell 2-1 in overtime to the Caps.

The first 60 minutes were full of mind-numbingly boring hockey, with the Rangers seemingly playing for a shootout that would never come. But once they hit the OT, things suddenly opened up and it was a edge-of-the-seat, heart attack-inducing, utterly terrifying sudden death stanza. And you know what? The Rangers were just fine. Hank made some big saves - he can do that, you know - and the boys were in it.

It was only when they went back to being Torts' team and followed his failed philosophies that they lost. They collapsed deep in their zone, clogged the middle, allowed the Washington point men time and space, and focused on blocking shots rather than pressing the action. They penalty killed at even strength and the NHL's top power play players took advantage.

Poor John Moore blocked a shot, found himself stranded and then out of position as Mike Ribeiro slid into the slot to slam home the game-winner. And now the Rangers return to MSG Sunday - at the odd time of 4:30 in the afternoon. I know I'm repeating the cliche: it's not over until the home team loses and if they lose Sunday, it's over.

Late Hits:

*Mentioned it after last game, how Clowe was taking a risk playing at less than 100%. Skating around with a bullseye on his head he was one hit away from trouble and he took that hit in the first period. The terms "upper body" and "lower body" were created to protect players because, in the playoffs, opponents would target weakness to knock them out. Everyone knew Clowe had a concussion so it is little surprise that one of Washington's warriors, Jason Chimera - would take advantage of that knowledge.

*Five games down, still no sign of Rick Nash. But I'm sure he'll show up again in October.

*Boyle giveth, Boyle taketh away. Another goal for, another mistake that led to a goal against. Credit due him for being more involved than he was during the regular season, I guess.

*Richard$ has been horrid but to put him with Asham and Pyatt? How can you spark a playmaker if you put him with guys who can't play?

*That being said, having Richie and DZ out on the power play is getting ridiculous. The team went 0-4, including virtually four straight minutes of man advantage time in the second period. The unit is slow, predictable and about as harmless as a puppy. All told, seven shots in eight power play minutes, none by Nash.

*Thought Dorsett skated well, he's slowly finding his fitness and should be terrific after a full training camp.

*Anton Stralman is too soft and incapable to be a useful second-pairing blueliner. That was him getting outmuscled by Troy Brouwer on the final play, allowing for the tip to Ribeiro. But at least he is better than Del Zaster, right?

*Guess I wasn't just being cruel when I pointed out DZ's various deficiencies? Or can he still play the age card? By the way, this was his 275th NHL game ...

*Why does it seem that Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin are often the only Rangers on the ice when they rush over the Washington blue line? Every attack appears to be one on three or one on four.

*Crazy numbers for Matt Hendricks: 9:12 of ice time - 3:29 of it was shorthanded - four hits and seven blocked shots. That's one helluva playoff performance.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 33 saves.
2-Joel Ward - one goal.
1-Mike Ribeiro - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Ovie - Fifteen shot attempts, nine of which went on net. Damn.
2-Hank - Where Holtby was hardly tested, the King found himself under siege and can not be collectable for the loss.
1-Ribeiro - Won a ton of faceoffs and helped make Hank's life hard. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

R1, G4: Holding Serve

The Rangers did what they were supposed to on Wednesday, defeating Washington on home ice. In yet another uncomfortably close affair, the Blueshirts beat the Caps 4-3 at MSG to level the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

As usual, the boys didn't make it easy - they blew a two-goal lead, grabbed another and let Washington to draw within one with plenty of time to go. Nerve-racking, fingernail-biting, orifice-tightening, ulcer-inducing time.

Seeing as there is little rest for the wicked and Game 5 is Friday night, here are just a few Late Hits:

*Step's eventual game-winner has to rank among the top five goals this season. What beautiful play between Cally, Hags and him. No surprise that they are all True Blue Rangers - not mercenaries - and have a degree of chemistry.

*That being said, that play really showed the difference between winners and losers. By now you've seen the Ovie "controller" gif showing his lack of interest in covering Step. Last week in Los Angeles, with the Kings up 1-0 with around five minutes to go, the Blues' Jordan Leopold had an empty net to shoot on and Justin Williams made an amazing dive to knock the puck away (wish I could find the video). That's why Williams has a Cup ring and Ovechkin is and will always be a loser.

*Rick Nash hasn't done anything to dispel my notion that he can't hack the playoffs. The overrated, overpaid showboat has been a virtual nonfactor four games in, easily covered by the Caps' mediocre collection of defensemen. Fancypants moves are great for Youtube but they don't get you Stanley nowadays. Nash has to figure out how to persevere despite the pressure.

*Nice to see Richard$ can score into an empty net. The tricky part will be for him to put the puck in one when there is a goalie there - even one as woeful as Holtby.

*Del Zaster, Stralman and Eminger ... oh, to have Staal, Sauer and Tyutin ... then we'd have Stanley.

*Astounding how quickly Torts goes back to his old habits, leaning hard on a precious few players. Even with elite athletes, the fuel is not infinite and quickly the returns will start diminishing. Half hour of play for McDonagh and Girardi, over 20 minutes for Brian Boyle? Not healthy for them, not healthy for the team.

*Anyone remember Varsity Blues, when Billy Bob asked about a play, saying "is this the one where I trot downfield and act like I'm lost?" I think of that most every time Boyle skates into the offensive zone.

*It is always hard to score goals in hockey. In the NHL it is almost impossible, that's why these players are well-paid professionals. But, in theory, when there are five of your guys and there are just three of the bad guys the odds to score should, in theory, go up. If having one less bad guy out there is called having an "advantage," then having two less bad guys must really be something wonderful. And it is, for everyone except the New York Rangers. Of course.

*Nice to see Clowe back on the ice but he clearly was not 100%. It is scary to think of the risk he is taking, especially when there are capable alternatives available for the amount of ice time available.

*I mentioned the "Any Given Sunday" 'one inch' speech in my wrap of Game 3 and MSG had a dead puck pump-up video to it in Game 4. Could be coincidence but perhaps someone's watching me ...

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Dan Girardi - one goal.
2-Derick Brassard - two assists.
1-Carl Hagelin - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Brassard - That skilled guy from Columbus keeps collecting points; no, the other one ...
2-Mathieu Perrault - A goal and an assist for this fast, persistent little pest.
1-Hagelin - Bork. Borkborkbork. Bork. So glad the Swede's hard work paid off, really love the hustle.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

R1, G3: It Ain't Over Yet

Sadly a rough schedule demands this recap be quick - the Rangers defeated the Capitals 4-3 in Game 3 to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

There, gotta go.

More? Ok, a few Late Hits:

*This team can't do anything easy, can they?

*Funny how all of the Caps fans who responded to my trolling of Holtby earlier today were deathly silent after he gave up goals to Brian Boyle and Arron Asham. The truth hurts, their goaltender's success was due to the Rangers' ineptness - not by any showing of skill on his part.

*So the power play went 1-6. Brassard's goal aside, it was the same as it ever was - unimaginative, predictable and easy to stop. And, of course, after blowing the prime chance they were given with the man advantage in the opening minutes, the Rangers allowed Washington to score soonafter.

*Richard$ buyout seems all the more likely now that Derek Stepan, who is making more than $11 million less this season, has taken his top-line center spot. I believe that Richard$ is the lone player in this series with a Cup ring and he needs to show it. He has to play smarter and harder - even if his legs got washed out into the Atlantic with Sandy.

*Welcome back Staalsie. As a friend mentioned, the Ranger defense was actually used economically and, without overloading anyone's icetime, they were able to withstand the incredible pressure late in the third. Amazing how that works.

*Said it before but John Moore is terrific. He is playing like McD was last season, and is a massive help considering Del Zaster's inconsistency and Stralman's ... Stralman-ness.

*Also said that Rick Nash wasn't likely to perform in the playoffs and he has yet to prove me wrong. He looks disinterested half the time, often out of position and withering from the physical play the Caps are throwing his way. He deserves an attaboy for throwing the puck into the middle so Step could tip it home but it is hard to say if he did it intentionally or was just dumping the puck away as the defense closed on him.

*Boyle giveth, Boyle taketh away. He scored a goal that reminded everyone of why he was a first round draft pick way back when, then he blew a defensive zone faceoff cleanly, resulting in Jay Beagle's goal. (So glad they changed the credit to Beagle from Hillen, the ex-Islander ...)

*My Tw-enemy Asham potted a gimme thanks to Brassard's silky feed. Nice to see him do something aside from taking a bad penalty for once.

*There were plenty of bad penalties to be had, including the Richard$ slash on Ovie. Did Ovie sell it? Hell yeah. Was it a penalty? Absolutely.

*We may be in a bit of trouble if Ribeiro ever decides to start playing for Washington. He nearly keyed the game-tying goal in the final minutes, QBing the Caps power play.

*Loved the return of the 'Ovie Sucks' chant. Loved that he actually sucked even more.

*Hope Powe is ok but, if not, hope Miller can enter the lineup and do what Kreider did last spring.

*Hope John Amirante is ok. Important Ranger games just don't feel as important without him doing the anthem.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Ryan McDonagh - no points.
2-Brian Boyle - one goal and one assist.
1-Derick Brassard - one goal and two assists.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Nick Backstrom - The Swede's two-way play is incredibly underrated.
2-Girardi/Staal/McD - Can't pick just one when it was a group effort to completely render Ovie harmless.
1-Brassard - The change in scenery has certainly helped, that's for certain.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

R1, G2: Disappointment in DC

Oh, what a difference an inch makes. Anton Stralman's shot four minutes into Game 2 is an inch lower and Saturday may have been quite different. While I am not about to go all Al Pacino over that inch, it proved to be quite important as it was the Blueshirts' closest scoring attempt in what was to be a 1-0 overtime loss to the Capitals.

But as old Al details in that classic speech from "Any Given Sunday", you've got to fight for that inch and the Rangers have yet to put that effort in. For all of his blustering and hysterics, Torts has never been able to get his team ready to play at puck drop so perhaps, perhaps - two games in - they will finally wake up for Game 3.

Perhaps getting out of that cesspool city they were in for the first two games will help. But, given how quiet the Garden has been this year, home ice may not be so much of an advantage. Plus, I saw that there are over two thousand tickets available between Stubhub and TicketsNow for Monday's match. Thanks to the insane prices set by Dolan's minions, plenty of True Blue are selling and it is impossible to blame them for it.

Either way, the games are won on the ice and not in the crowd. The saying goes that a playoff series isn't over until a team loses at home. So, at least we have that. For now.

Enough about Game 3, some Late Hits about 2:

*Three power plays, nothing. Guys standing around, taking bad shots that were easily blocked ... Ranger typical. Were they hosed on Alzner's puck into the crowd? Absolutely. But do you really think another power play really would have mattered?

*Braden Holtby - a goaltender who wouldn't even start on 28 other teams (figure he'd be an upgrade in Edmonton, maybe) - has barely been challenged, barely been disturbed. It's one thing to give the goalie wide berth if you are playing against a l33t tender, but Holtby has been given an easy ride by the lackluster Ranger attack.

*Here's a wild thought for the Rangers: don't shoot the puck at Holtby's chest.

*Wouldn't it be nice for the team to forecheck, to hold their own blue line, to carry the puck across the opposition's instead of dumping ... what wonderful team that would be to watch.

*The scorekeeper counted an insane 58 hits for the Rangers. Fifty-eight hits that resulted in just five takeaways. That's a problem. Hit for possession, hit for intimidation, don't hit just to hit.

*That was a big issue for DZ over the last few years (and still is) but the kid is putting together some of the best defensive shifts of his career. It is a shame that they are largely wasted as his partners are horrible and the two guys above him are so exhausted that they're making amateur mistakes.

*Speaking of amateur, John Tortorella. What kind of coach is so clueless, so incapable of motivating his players, so lacking in ideas that he has to juggle his lines in the second game of the playoffs? (Yes, I know he has done it all season long, it was rhetorical.)

*As for his decision to put Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett in ... ridiculousness. Boyle, who's mere presence is a black hole in the lineup that makes the lines uneven, and a guy who is coming off an injury, has never played in the playoffs and never played for the organization before. And neither of them have any real hope of scoring goals, the prime problem of Game 1.

*It is a real shame that Torts has no faith in Chris Kreider. No idea why the bench boss has so much faith in Taylor Pyatt.

*That being said, no judgement on Dorsett's first game. He shouldn't have been inserted in the lineup cold turkey but he appeared to skate hard and was certainly willing to throw his recently-healed body around. We'll see what happens once Torts drains the life out of him.

*Previously made the comparison of Brian Boyle to Willie Huber before but now I want to issue an apology. Willie, wherever you are (he passed away in '10), I'm sorry. You were not nearly as useless.

*Zuccarello was all over the ice in the first period, then pretty much disappeared as Torts started his juggling act. Using him as the physical winger with a completely covered Nash and a legless Richard$ is pointless.

*John Carlson had seven shots on goal in 10 attempts for Washington. The entire Ranger defense had four shots on goal on 11 attempts. The Caps are capably clogging the middle, but the Blueshirts are taking far too long in their decision making.

*Best part of the series coming back to MSG? No stupid horn or morons incessantly banging on the glass. Man, are DC fans annoying or what?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Braden Holtby - 24 saves.
2-Mike Green - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 37 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Cally - The only Ranger skater who looked interested throughout the entire game, the only one who looked like he got angry. Woulda loved to hear what Hendricks said to him in that scrum.
2-Green - Saw his goal coming a mile away and it still beat Hank.
1-Hank - No King, no chance. This one woulda been five or six-zip, easily.

Friday, May 3, 2013

R1, G1: New Season, Same Rangers

The Blueshirts started the second season with a loss, falling in Game 1 against Washington 3-1 on Thursday night. They stumbled at the start, somehow came away with a 1-0 lead after one, then continued to underwhelm for another half hour or so before coming alive late. By then, it was too late and the Caps collected the victory.

Just going to jump right into the Late Hits: 

*It is just incredible to watch Step and Cally kill penalties, but it is just awful that they have to do it so often. The Rangers were the least penalized team in the NHL because of the lack of egregious infractions, not because they are any kind of disciplined. And it hurt them on this night. Frankly, we should consider ourselves lucky that Washington only had one man advantage goal, given the half dozen opportunities that were given to them. Or perhaps we are just lucky to have Lundqvist. Yeah, probably that.

*There's no blaming the refs for this one, as every call was justifiable. The Asham call was a clear infraction - he came in late, he came in high. It's a shame since he had an utterly fantastic, clean hit on Oleksy earlier the same shift. Guess you really can't fix stupid.

*Even though the King gave up one, if not two goals on the softer side, he kept his team in a game they had no right being in. Par for the course this season; no matter where you go, there you are. Call it the regular season or call it the playoffs, these guys are the same and they needed to be better.

*For all of the pushing and shoving, the Caps continually crowded Hank, Nash and Cally and yet Washington's top players had all the room in the world. Hitting Jay Beagle won't achieve much, running Ribeiro might.

*Brad Richard$ is abominable. He had luck on his side over the last week but the leprechaun went away and he was left with two tired legs and a crippling indecisiveness. That he is still on the power play is one of the many failings of the Ranger bench boss. Maybe if Richard$ waits longer with the puck his ridiculous contract will be over and we will be rid of him. I'm still holding out a tiny iota of hope a regular summer and training camp can revive him next season but this one has been written off.

*He was a huge reason why the power play failed time and time again with his slow decision making, soft shots and predictable passes. But he isn't the only reason, coaching is another factor. How they can think that standing in one spot is wise positioning is astounding - that five on three was just pathetic. Move, cycle, get the goalie going side to side, get the defensemen sliding back and forth ... make holes and drill the puck through. It's not rocket science, other teams do it to them all the time.

*Chris Kreider - zero seconds of power play time. At least he got more than five (8:23 to be precise) but there is still something very wrong there. Pyatt wasted two minutes of man advantage time.

*It was bad enough Anton Stralman waited too long with the puck and was taken down by Perreault with five minutes left in the second period. But then he got lost and confused with Zuke low helping him out. Stralman ended up watching the puck as Perreault rushed the crease and screened Hank, allowing Chimera's shot by. The Swede is a capable sixth defenseman, it is just sad he is running as the team's number four.

*Love John Moore. Put him with Staal, if Staal ever returns, and the Rangers finally have a solid second pairing. Moore scored that goal in the third period, sad that the NHL couldn't see it.

*And that was the best save Holtby made all game. The rest of the shots he had time and space to square and let hit him. It is simply astounding that only the two smallest guys on the roster - Zuke and Cally - are willing to spend any amount of time standing at the top of the blue paint.

*There's probably more but it's 6:30am and I need sleep so whatever. If you don't already, follow me on Twitter @scottyhockey for more ranting ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal.
2-Jason Chimera - one goal.
1-Braden Holtby - 35 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Holtby - No softies, an achievement.
2-Callahan - If only his teammates followed his example ...
1-Ovechkin - Maybe someone should cover him on a power play. Just a thought.