Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Care

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cane-Do, Cane-Do -- Rangers Run Win Streak to 6 | NYR 5 CAR 1

The cheers rained down on the Blueshirts on Friday evening as a 4 goal outburst in the 3rd period put away one of the squad's nemeses, the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.

For once, I can write a happy recap about a visit by Carolina to the Garden as opposed to the past 3 seasons.

Since blowing a 3 goal lead 2 Saturdays ago against Ottawa, the Rangers have reeled off 6 straight wins and are now a dazzling 5-1-1 at home for one of their best home starts in years.  The official recap is here.

Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love... 5 Ranger heart
throbs scored on Friday -- Avery, Girardi, Dubi, Cally
and Richards. Female fans had plenty of reason to swoon.
5 different Rangers scored -- all of the heart throbs of the fan base -- on Friday night and the way the end of the game could not come fast enough for bewildered Carolian Hurricane goalie Cam Ward as he was peppered with 40 shots for the game including 15 in the 2nd period and 17 in the third.

Throughout the game, the Rangers found all sorts of ways to score:
  • in the first period, a partial breakaway by Sean Avery in the first period after the Canes showed incredible slowness in exploiting a 4-on-2 into the Rangers zone.  The Canes misplayed a pass, took a terrible shot at Henrik Lunqdqvist and then got vicitmized when Jeff Woywitka snapped the puck out of the zone off the boards to center ice.  Chasing after it was Sean Avery on the right side, who broke in and deked, charged Cam Ward and lifted a shot over a sprawling Cam Ward that hit the inside of the crossbar.  It was Sean's first goal of the season.  Right from the start of the game, you could see him skating confidently -- he apparently has gotten his skating legs back.  He also brought his pesty self to the game as he drew 2 penalties;

    Happy Place -- Avery celebrates his first goal of the season.
  • a powerplay goal by a defenseman -- Dan Girardi, who together with Henrik, is the team's MVP. Here is one player who has earned every penny of his raise from last year.  He took a high-sticking penalty from Cane's captain Eric Staal in the third period to negate a potentially dangerous powerplay with the score tied 1-1.  During the Rangers' powerplay after the 4-on-4 finished, he teamed up with Brad Richards to score the game-winning goal.  Throughout the game the Blueshirts showed a better appreciation of puck management during the powerplay by holding the puck in, making excellent passes to move around and actually shooting the puck.  During the second period, they kept the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the entire powerplay.  Unfortunately, they failed to score and then yielded the tying goal when they could not complete a line change.  That was perhaps the only miscue of the defense all night long;

    Pretty Power Play -- Dan Girardi scores on the power play
    with 9:15 to go. Credit Mark Richards with a great no-look pass
    and patience to set up Girardi.  The Rangers engineered a power play
    that was beautiful all game and a pleasure to watch.
  • opportunistic and aggressive rushes -- on the ensuing faceoff after Girardi's goal, the Rangers went for the kill as Ryan Callahan led a rush in on the right side, his terrfic shot was kicked out by Cam Ward to an opportunistic Brandon Dubinsky who scored his first goal of the season and looked skyward as if the largest albatros of his career had departed his shoulders -- within 9 seconds, the game had gone from a tight 1-1 contest to a 3-1 Ranger lead with 9:06 to go in the game;
    Net Party.  Callahan again finds himself in
    the goal crease with the puck.  This time the goal counted.
  •  a full squad rush led by Dubinsky into the Carolina end led to him being swiped and knocked down by Cam Ward (no penalty called because no ref saw it), but Dubi did not let up as he fought for 11 seconds in the corner to keep the puck ini play and in the Canes' zone, he won the puck got it behind the net and on his return trip to the front of the net, drew a penalty, but helped to keep the play going.  In a pile-up in the crease, Callahan made his way into the crease where he shot the puck into the net as he was getting crushed from behind.  On a play where the Rangers drew 3 penalties, they got a back-breaking goal to make the score 4-1; and
  • Happy Place #2 -- Dubinsky celebrates his first goal
    of the season at the same place where Avery celebrated.
  • finally, Brad Richards got a well-deserved goal with 1:35 left on a wrap-around to cap the scoring as a reward for all his work all night long.
Although he was scoreless, Marian Gaborik was again magnificent.  Whatever cobwebs he and his teammates were having at the beginning of the season have been long shaken.  He is skating effortlessly, making tremendous passes, took 7 shots on goal and missed one or two one-timers that on any other night should have connected.  He is beautiful to watch again especially during this recent stretch.  Derek Stepan with 6 shots has shown the form he was developing last year.
Henrik Solid Again -- 34 saves for Henrik on Friday night including 15 in
the first period.  The offense came through to make the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period
comfortable.  The Blueshirts kept usual thorns, Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner off the scoreboard.
What can you say about the team's defense?  Defensemen take time to develop as can be seen now with Michael Del Zotto, who is showing a lot more steadiness on both sides of the ice.  Michael Sauer and Girardi are "known" quantities but their continued improvement has been outstanding.  RyanMcDonagh is becoming a stud and GM Glen Sather continues to get a pass for converting Scott Gomez (who?) into something that helps NY while hurting the Canadiens.  The Rangers defense contributed a goal and 3 assists against Carolina.

Stop the Presses.  The Rangers' improved overall play can
be seen as Erik Christensen introduces Hurricane forward,
Zach Boychuk, to the base of the boards.
Steve Eminger and Woywitka won't lead any all-star balloting but they have been serviceable.  Anton Stralman, who is getting raves about his skating ability, will be joining the team shortly.  All in all, the Rangers' defense has kept other teams off the scoreboard (the team is currently tied with Edmonton for the fewest goals yielded with 32), bought the offense time to gel, has started to protect Henrik in the crease and surprisingly has scored rather often in fact, and most importantly are a squad that have banded together to cover up for the loss of Marc Staal.  

Girardi, McDonagh, and Del Zotto have gained some comfort at the point and making usually controlled rushes into the offensive zone and are becoming an offensive threat is something that has not been seen for some time. Girardi has 8 points (3G, 5A), McDonagh has 7 points (3G, 4A), and Del Zotto has 6 points (2G, 4A) -- they are among the Rangers' top 10 scorers.  They also have gaudy +/- numbers.  Truth be told, their aggressiveness and ability to not mistakes have taken pressure off the forwards.

We are heading to the conclusion of the first 20% of the season.  Certain teams, the Rangers included, that started off slowly -- Bruins, Canuck and Red Wings -- are starting to show up for games and put together serious win streaks.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Rangers have shown glimpses of how talented they are.  They have played well overall but improvement is always possible.  There are times when their offense disappears but during these past few games, their overall level of play has been raised.

During the next 2 weeks, they only have 4 games, 3 of them on the road.  The benefit is that some aches and pains suffered by players (Brandon Prust and Dan Girardi especially) will get a chance to heal.  Lundqvist will get some rest.  The disadvantage may be a loss of momentum.  They also have away games against three of their favorite foes -- the Islanders and Canadiens and Capitals -- on opposing ice before returning to take on the Flyers on November 26.

The Rangers are challenging for the top of the conference and have a couple of games in hand.  Let's hope this is not the highwater mark of their season.

Next game is on Tuesday against the Islanders.  It seems a while back when they dominated the Rangers in game #3 of the season.  The Isles have not had much success since.  The Rangers want to keep it that way.

--- The Graying Mantis

Thursday, November 10, 2011

GAS Line exercising the Gift of Gab


It wasn’t long ago that many of our players were standing around getting dizzy from the constant like switching and shifting. The mission find a way to activate the teams big offensive gun, Marion Gaborik. Things may have finally clicked for the Gabby with his latest pair of line mates.

Read the official recap here.

It would make sense that the guys to mesh with Gabby would be the guys that are closest to playing the same style.  Salary aside, big set up guys like Richards are not always a natural match. A lesson we should know all too well considering the one ice match game we had with Jagr a few years back.  With guys like Stepan and Anisimov still discovering their own game, it does indeed help that they can be brought along by someone with more experience in Gaborik. It also helps in that they haven’t been to the ball yet and been convinced that other players need to learn how to play around them. Could this be a definitive scoring combination for the Rangers? Yes definitely, but as we have seen before nothing in this team is set in stone and difficulty could be just around the corner. In the meantime, the team can take confidence in a few things.

Scoring—yes, the guys that are supposed to score and starting to net some goals and make it a routine.  Gaborik’s is starting to have the kind of season Ranger fans expected.  Getting a few other guys to convert will definitely help. As guys like Dubinsky wait for their first goal, there are other things that can contribute.

Energy and the Snarl—It would appear that there is a bit of arrogance back in the team and that’s a good thing.  Passion greatly contributes to a teams ability to deal with the ups and downs. Its make a winners fire burn hotter and shortens slumps through determination. Is this an Avery affect? Possibly. It could also be the winning affect.  Or both. Be it in a lockeroom or on the ice. The team seems tighter to be more intent in imposing its will. (except for Christensen who always looks disinterested.)

Defense—Marc Staal is still out. In his absence the d corps have collectively tried to fill the void. I think everyone forgets that Marc Staal was not Brian Leetch or Nick Lidstrom. He was still learning also. The Dmen make mistakes that young defensemen make. If they are looking for help, it will come from the forwards.  Minutes for the 3rd line is a good start but they can’t be depended on to spend the day forechecking and abusing opposing forwards if Torts expects to get his share of offense out of them. He needs to stop being so stubborn roll for 4 lines for more minutes and take the burden off the 3rd line with the 4th.

Right now the 4th seeing any ice is a concession Torts feels he has to make to appease people. The fan favorite, the shootout guy and the big body get on the ice long enough to chase pick a fight and go to the box. Hardly the best use of a guy with speed who plays well behind the net in Avery, a guy with a handle and can tap in goals like Christensen and a guy like Devaux who could be put to better use smashing guys along the boards or screening  goalies.

For now though, We’ll take the wins anyway we can get them and prepare for our closeup at the Winter Classic.  Let’s go Rangers.

Till Next Time Ranger Fans,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sharks Landed and Avery Recalled | NYR 5 SJ 2

The San Jose Sharks, away from the confines of the Shark Tank, finished their long (and so far unbeaten) road trip with a visit to MSG to take on the winless Rangers (at home) in a Halloween matchup.

Despite the horror shows that the Rangers had inflicted on their fans for the first 2 home games, this night the Rangers were more interested in doling out treats to their faithful.

This time, there was no repeat of Saturday's debacle as the Blueshirts skated away with their first home win of the season, 5-2, behind the steady goalkeeping of Marty Biron.  The official recap is here

Reports that the Rangers were looking to recall Sean Avery to the main club by putting him on re-entry waivers had been news all day.
Sean of the Undead.  Sean Avery is set to return to the
Rangers in time for Thursday's game v. Anaheim.

Speculation and wonderment have been raging among fans as to how Avery's potential return to the lineup would impact the team.

One could surmise that certain players on the roster answered an important wake-up call as Artem Anisimov and Erik Christensen put up points and Captain Ryan Callahan had a 3 point night as the first line essentially got a night off from having to be the primary source of scoring.

Ryan McDonagh had yet another goal (3rd of the season) to open the scoring in the first period and is showing signs of being a stud on the defense.  He has been great as a defender and picks his spots to join the offense.

Wake-Up Call-Up.  With Sean Avery set to rejoin the
team, 2 Ranger zombies stirred into action as Erik Christensen
assisted on Artem Anisimov's nifty backhander to make
the score 4-2 in the 2nd period.

His offensive talent is so much smoother at this stage in his career than Marc Staal's ability (which started to bloom last season).

Dan Girardi had 2 assists as the backliners continued to contribute to the scoring column.

Best of all, for the second game in a row the Rangers scored more than 3 goals and again had a 3 goal lead in the 3rd period.  So perhaps they are starting to get used to playing at their new home.

Right from the start of the game, (at the 7 second mark), Brandon Prust tangled with Ryane Clowe that ended up with Prust hurting his hand a little, but he seemed to recover from it without too many problems.  But the fight served to energize the Rangers as they moved the puck well, with only a few mistakes (Girardi in the neutral zone that almost opened a breakaway).

Stepan's driving to the net during
the first period led to the Ranger's
2nd goal during a power play.
On a power play (which has been quite successful recently) Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan teamed up to score thanks to a great cross crease one timer from Dubinsky from Niemi's right that he just didn’t see as Stepan swooped in from his left.

The Sharks quickly answered back with a shot by Pavelski that actually beat Biron twice.

The first time the shot beat Biron to his right side cleanly, but hit both posts and and came careening out right to Pavelski who beat Biron to the right side.  This time the puck stayed in the net and diminshed the buzz of the Stepan goal.

The Rangers ran into a few problems into the second. At one point, the Sharks had the puck in our zone and without an opportunity to make a line change, fatigue wore in and another goal was scored by the Sharks to tie the game.

The second time around counts.  Pavelski beats
Biron to make score 2-1 Rangers in the second period.
The Rangers just couldn’t get rid of the puck there and it cost them dearly.

Right after that, the Rangers quickly regained momentum and took San Jose out of the game.  After the game was tied, the Rangers went on to score 3 straight goals in the final 6 minutes of the period as they simply wore down the Sharks.

That edge was seen in the Rangers 16 shots on goal during the period.  It also led to witnessing two great goals.

The Captain enjoys the view after scoring
to make it 5-2 in the second period.
First, Anisimov had a fantastic up and over shot close to the net off of a beautiful lead toward the net from Christensen.

Second, it was Callahan’s second goal (and the last goal scored in the entire game) that was the topping to the period.  It came with less than a minute to go in the period.

Coming in hard into the offensive zone from the right side, he dished the puck behind him along the boards as he moved behind the net.

By the time he actually cleared the net, Richards fed the Captain a pass that he was able to get in on a mostly empty net.

This was done even as he was knocked down to the ice, and the look on his face was priceless.  Cocky, even.

There was no scoring in the third period, but the Rangers killed off 2 penalties in the 3rd to ensure that the Sharks would not have a 3rd period comeback like Ottawa did the other day.

Andre Deveaux in his first game did okay as a center.  He didn’t score, but he appears to be promising thanks to his gritty style.  It will be interesting to see how he fits in and how long he stays once Avery is back on the roster.  The Michael Rupp injury may prove to be a blessing for the Rangers by giving Avery and Deveaux a chance.  We'll see how long that window is open.

Overall, this game might prove to be the start of an upswing.  The team is scoring, the power play has become more successful and against the Sharks, the Rangers only took 3 minors (in addition to Prust's fighting major).  Also, the defense has settled down -- Michael Sauer is logging in nearly 20 minutes per game.  Michael Del Zotto has beed adequate and not guilty of cover-your-eye mistakes.

Granted, nothing ever changes overnight.  There’s a scary notion whether Torts will change the lines up drastically with Avery in the equation, but right now, you can see the team's potential.

After the Sharks' loss, Joe Thornton said that the Blueshirts "were probably the softest team we played on the [road] trip. We should have had these two points."  It’s kind of odd that we’re getting this type of reputation, considering that the team leads the NHL in fighting majors.

Coach John Tortorella did not take kindly to Thornton's comments, "He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up."  Too bad these teams can only meet again this year in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Overall, considering that the Rangers came away with the win, that has to say something about the progress we’re making. Tonight was easily Ryan Callahan’s night, with a little help from Marty Biron in net.

Next game is Thursday night -- the 4th game of the 6 game homestand and likely includes Sean Avery's triumphant return to the MSG faithful in a contest against the Anaheim Ducks.  The Garden should be rocking that night.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Making Sens of it all....


Halloween has always been my favorite holiday....but not even I can appreciate the trick the Rangers played last night on their fans showing up for a the first win in a renovated MSG. Yes last night was frightening to say the least. There was a time when this would be no surprise as the Sens seemed to have our number. Well at least the number of the old Rangers.  But now we're a new team...a young team, with a young captain. a star center, and super skilled winger, an all star goalie and chock full of homegrown young players coming up in the system. Treat or Trick? I'll let you judge for yourself...I know what I saw on the ice last night.

Read the official Replay here.

Lonely at the Top: We got this, relax people!
On with this early Halloween edition. Hmm.... It started a night like any other. Looking for a win at home, our club came out motivated and looked for their first win at home. oh.. if it was only that easy. Finding themselves outplayed they got behind. So they coasted with a "don't panic" mentality and patiently waited for a break; passing the time, shuffling pucks around the endboards... chipping them up the sideboards, turning them over at the blue line and getting pinned in there own zone for  minutes at a time like a bunch of trick or treaters that were instructed not to leave their block in search of a sugar jackpot. That appears to be the status quo as far as offense goes now with this coaching staff.

The belief that things will suddenly click and result in an explosion of goals if the lines are mixed the right way by Torts, the mad scientist is a pipe dream. We did manage to catch a break when Anisimov was caught from the side while turning to circle up the boards again and managed to go into the boards head first, resulting in Ottawa getting hosed on a 5 minute boarding call (I'm a Ranger fan but that hit was legal).  I was glad that we managed to take advantage of our unexpected windfall with 2 power play goals (including Richard's first in the Garden as a Blueshirt) and went were up by 1, but I still wondered if we could managed to eek by without that lucky call. My questions seemed to be answered when we managed to keep the flow going, capitalize on some mistakes made by Ottawa and found ourselves with a commanding 4-1 lead.

Then, as quickly as it came, it left... The Sens turned up the pace just as we clicked the autopilot button and clawed their way back from the brink. Surely the Ranger fans in attendance thought, this can't happen. Perhaps many were reluctant to panic because we still had a lead, whether it was a 3 goal lead, then a 2 goal lead...then a 1 goal lead.... Ok, so they tied it up...but we have one of the best goalies in shootouts in our net. Why worry, right? ummm.. lets see.. O for 3 in  the shootout.  It's like going to biggest house on the block with the best costume and goodie bag and find their giving out fruit.. Sonova... At the end of the night, what started as a breakout game, became a break even game, and eventually a heartbreaker of a game.  How can this continue? 

Over the last couple of games, I've heard the coach say, No excuses... We can't blame it on travel, on injured players or anything else.  Of course, he meant "we" in the "it's you f*ckers that are making me look bad" sense of the word.   A game like last night's will tell you alot about the leadership of the team. When the panic starts, is usually the best time for a captain to step up and lead by example. I think Cally does a good job night in and night out leading by example. He went out and righted a wrong by scoring a goal after inadvertently tipping one past Henrik.

Beyond that, where were the calming voices at the bench, in the middle of this downward spiral and resulting clusterfu.....? It stands to reason that the coaches opinions are the only ones not being disputed or disregarded, yet the blame is not laid at his feet.... its the players... its the ref that didn't call a trip when Gabby went down, its the reporters for asking the question on every ranger fan's mind.."WTF?!?!" The team itself is floundering and uninspired while waiting for a prophecy made by their coach to be fulfilled.  Where is the team that makes its own luck?  I've seen everyone from abandoned goalie to the young captain take part of the blame on their shoulders... so we know at least they have some idea of  what accountability is...

Will Sending Avery to the Minors Haunt Torts all the way to 
his Termination?
It's also telling when players make reference to a guy you sent down to the minors, as a difference maker.  The fans have been saying it for a while, but to hear it from guys like Henrik and Boyle, it only makes the team concept look more diluted. I'm sure they have been pulled aside for that, but who gives a crap.  

The team is telling their coach what they need to win. You'd figure the coach of  a team that couldn't even coast to a regulation win with a 3 goal lead, would be open to suggestions. The decision to keep Christensen is looking worse with every shootout loss. Defending the decision, by touting Christensen as a more skilled versatile player  only makes Tortorella look like more of a putz. Avery can turn the puck over along the boards and take penalties just as good as anyone else on the team.

Till Next time Ranger Fans, 

P.S. - Happy Halloween. Remember to make your little Rangers visible when the go trick or treating and to check their candy. The world is not as safe as it once was. The existence of Gary Bettman is proof of that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Overpowered - Punchless Rangers Lose Home Opener | TOR 4 NYR 2

Late yesterday afternoon, I headed to Penn Station from Long Island under gray clouds.  I was surrounded on the LIRR by numerous Rangers fans in various sweaters.

When the season began, I was feeling a sense of withdrawal watching the Rangers playing overseas and starting on the road for the first couple of weeks. 

Finally, the Rangers came home.  I kept thinking of my old section, the rut in the concrete floor in front of my seat.  It was comforting the same way the den in my childhood home was.  I was missing that seat.

Uninspiring Beginning. From what I could
see, the music was awful, and the player
intros were listless -- just like the team.
I arrived at Penn Station, but I was not going to the Garden.  I had an appointment elsewhere.  Like many of my friends, I had not renewed my seats this year.  It was a difficult decision, but not necessarily permanent.

A cold driving rain greeted me on 7th Avenue and that's when I really started to miss being inside the Garden sitting at my comfortable seat, rut and all.

Despite the nostalgia, I have been ambivalent about the Rangers since training camp opened.  After last night's effort, a depressing 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I can see my ambivalence so far has been validated.  The official recap is here.

Last night the so far surprising and youthful Maple Leafs came to christen the new Garden. Michael Sauer and Wotjek Wolski joined the Rangers squad after missing most of the season due to injuries.

Within the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game, Dan Girardi got the Rangers off to an early lead with a shot from the right point that simply eluded Jonas Gustavsson, who was replacing usual starter James Reimer, out with an injury.  It was a typical bad goal given up by the mediocre goalie.

Rangers celebrate their first goal and first lead of their home season.

Immediately, visions of the sieve that Gustavsson was last year during last year's Gaborik led 7-0 rampage were obviously dancing in fans' heads. And the Rangers looked like they were going to pounce.

The Rangers pressured throughout the first period and even scored twice but each time the goal was waved off due to incidental contact in the crease between Ryan Callahan and Gustavvson. So two terrific shots by Dubinsky and Del Zotto were nullified.

Meanwhile, Marian Gaborik was buzzing around the ice taking advantage of his speed to get good chances.  On one rush, he split the defenders and took aim at Gustavsson before being stopped.  His speed has been one of the bright spots so far. 

The Rangers had 16 shots in the first period, nearly matching their game average of 22 so far this season.  But at the end of the period, the Rangers only had a 1-0 lead.

First Period Blanks.  Callahan failed to convert twice on the doorstep.  And
he was called for being in the crease twice to nullify goals during the first period.


In the first 80 seconds of the second period, Matt Lombardi found an opening between the goal post, Henrik Lundqvist's arm and his side to slip a puck into the net to tie the game at 1.

Phil Kessel roamed the ice at will wreaking havoc. 
Lundqvist stopped the league leading scorer
twice on breakaways during the second period.
The Ranger defense scrambled to keep the puck out of the net as Henrik was forced to track Leaf players all around the net.

In fact, for the next 30+ minutes of the game, the Rangers would muster a pitiful 7 shots on goal and were behind 4-1 with 4 minutes to go.  During that span, the Rangers were out shot 23-7.  

Gustavsson, shaky in the first period, was given a reprieve as the Leafs provided what Tortorella wants -- the best defense is keeping your team pressuring in the other end.  Then in a final burst,the Rangers would score after shooting 7 pucks at Gustavsson in the waning minutes.

One of those nights.  Lundqvist had a shaky 3rd period. 
But he also had no support after the first period.
Although there was no further scoring in the second period, the Rangers were obviously being dominated as they could not set up any attack in the Leafs zone.

In the third period, Henke was beaten 3 times.  While he was not as sharp as he had been in previous games, he had kept the team in the game during the 2nd period when he made 15 saves. 

Unfortunately, the 3rd period was the worst period he has had the entire season so far and he was not picked up by his team. 

The first Leaf goal came from a scramble in front of the net when Joffrey Lupul was able to poke the puck past Henrik's left side at the 2:11 mark.  For 2 straight periods, the Rangers yielded a goal within the first couple of minutes. 

The back breaking goal came 4 minutes later.  As an onrushing Artem Anisimov headed into the Leafs' Zone, Mike Komisarek poked the puck away and slipped it between his legs to Clarke MacArthur who spun on a dime, headed up the left side over the blue line and blasted a shot from the dot of the left faceoff circle that beat Lundqvist to the far side. 

The final Toronto goal was scored by Mike Brown who launched a shot from nearly the same spot to beat the Ranger goaltender.  That time, again the Leafs were quick on the transition and Tim Erixson was victimized by Brown at the Ranger blue line with 6:06 remaining.  Michael Del Zotto closed out the scoring late in the game.  His play has improved the past week.  Unfortunately, the Ranger goals only came from their defensemen.  
Overhaul in the Garden and Locker Room.  In September 2008, MSG introduced
a model of the renovated arena.  Little did Naslund, Redden, Drury and Gomez
know they would not be around to open the renovated arena.
Through these first 8 games (roughly 10% of the season), there has been no spark on the team.  There is no personality that charges up the fans and the team -- Vinny Prospal and Sean Avery come to mind as the ones missing.

Maybe we just foolishly hoped for continued improvement from the 2009 season to last season to now this season on a scale beyond the players' capabilities. It is possible that Boyle and Prust and Anisimov had career years LAST year. 

Stepan may be having a sophomore slump but he showed signs of working well with Dubinsky & Callahan.  Both of those players have not shown any signs of offensive firepower.  Each has a single goal.  

Meanwhile, the Rangers have lost to 2 teams that have some serious scorers -- the Islanders and Maple Leafs.  The Caps and Pens are scoring prolifically.  You have to be concerned.

Still, we won't have answers until mid-to-late December. Patience is the watchword.
And that is in short supply among Ranger faithful. 

That last thought is worrisome.  Fans have been getting awfully anxious on the Internet for the past week or so.  Folks, this team is not built to win this year.  We want them to compete but most of all we want to be entertained. 

The hue and cry over the missing Sean Avery is no different than the hue and cry over Petr Prucha and other players who had some initial success, won the fans' hearts but ultimately proved not to have staying power. 

Right now, this season will be about further development of the youngsters (Sauer, Del Zotto and Stepan).  Some players are playing for their careers and cannot live on the success of last season (e.g., Boyle, Prust, Anisimov, Dubinsky).  They should be looking over their shoulders anyway because a new regime is being groomed in the AHL and minors.

Next up -- a Saturday 3 p.m. matinee with the Ottawa Senators.

--- The Graying Mantis

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rangers Roar Past Jets in 2-1 Scramble | NYR 2 WIN 1

In meeting the second NHL team within a week to leave Atlanta by visiting Winnipeg, Monday night’s victory was exactly what the Blueshirts needed.  It was messy and gritty in some places, with some serious domination issues in our zone at one point, but in the end, the Rangers came out with two points thanks to two power play goals including a late one from Ryan Callahan that ought to carry them to their Home Opener on Thursday night.

Considering everything, not bad for a week’s run in Canada (3-1 overall and 3-2-2 for this 7 game road trip).  Needless to say, there’s always room for improvement.  Here’s hoping they carry this momentum home to NYC.  The official recap can be found here.

With 28 saves, Marty Biron had a fantastic effort between the pipes, proving that even without Lundqvist (for a game or two), we still have some great goaltending talent on the ice.

Lundqvist was out after cramping up during the previous game and reports explain that the new skates he’s using tend to hurt his foot now and then. We can be pretty sure that he’ll be back for the home opener.

The first period was pretty back and forth, with good movement, but again, we seemed to have problems with penalties and being totally outshot by the opposition.  Throughout the first 7 games of the season, the Rangers on average are being outshot 31-22.  Against the Jets, the Rangers were outshot 28-17.  This is simply not good.  It is definitely a result of missing Marc Staal and Matt Sauer from the defense.

It is no help that the Rangers lead the NHL with average penalty minutes of more than 20 per game and there own power play, even helped by the 2 goals in this game is clicking at an anemic 10.7%.  Finally, being outshot also is an indictment of the offense generally.  Coach Tortorella noticed as serious bench time was liberally handed out to Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Artie Anisimov  during the 3rd period. 

An early fight between Brandon Prust and Tanner Glass ended up with them being in the box for a five minute major, but this, along with another Ranger penalty in the same period led to no damage as Biron and the Ranger defense were able to keep the game scoreless.

The second period had a great goal on a Ranger power play with Dan Girardi firing hard from the blue line. Ruslan Fedotenko (who overall had a tremendous game) was in the right place for a sweet deflection past Jet goalie Chris Mason. Unfortunately, the Jets came back near the end of the period thanks to a crisp quick-look shot by former Ranger Nik Andropov to tie the game going into the 3rd period.

About 5 minutes into the 3rd, the ice slanted in favor of the Jets.  The Rangers simply could not clear the puck out of their zone.  Every time they tried to clear the puck, a Jet was ready to capture it at the point and send it right back in.  The activity in the defensive end was intense and the partisan Jet crowd was roaring with the action.  This seemed like a make or break moment of the game as the Ranger defenders could not even get a change.  The shots for the 3rd period showed total domination with the Jets having a 12-1 edge.

Jets to the left of me, Jets to the right of me.  The Jets unleashed a barrage of
shots early in the 3rd period.  The Rangers withstood the attack and
turned a rush into a power play opportunity that Callahan converted.
While Biron was unable to freeze the puck after making several eye-opening saves to keep the game tied, the Rangers came to his defense with sliding blocks and stick sweeps. I had hoped that some of the passing wouldn’t be along the boards too much, but it seemed like our passes were getting picked off a little too easily. However, the Rangers did not panic and maintained their positions in pretty good order despite being exhausted from the onslaught.

The Goal Scoring Trio.  Fedetenko fed Callahan
who deflected a shot off Bogosian for the game winning
goal. Why isn't Bogosian celebrating?
The defensive effort was commendable, but also scary when you realize for that amount of time, the Jets had so much control of the situation.  Incredibly, when the Rangers did take control of the puck, they made a strong rush to the Jets end where Fedetenko drew a penalty on a strong move toward the net.

From there, the winning goal was scored during the first minute of ensuing power play on what looked like a simple lateral pass just in front of the crease by Cally that bounced off of a Jet’s skate right into the net.

I’m of the belief that you really should just pepper the net with shots. Not all of them will go in, but there has to be at least one of them that does.  It was an interesting chance taken, that really worked out for the Rangers. As for the Jets, I’m pretty sure that has to be an deflating way to lose a game.

The Rangers, energized by the lead, simply locked down on the Jets with a great forechecking effort for the final 8 minutes of the contest.  During the final 3 minutes, the Rangers grounded the Jets as the Jets could not get out of their own zone thanks to the swarming Rangers.

The next game will be finally on home ice at the Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs this Thursday. The pregame ceremonies should be interesting with a tribute to Derek Boogaard and the welcoming of Ryan Callahan as captain and the arrival of Brad Richards.

--- Cav

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oilers Mow Down Blueshirts | EDM 2 NYR 0

Did that blade move?  This guy had more excitement
than anyone willing to waste Saturday night
in front of the t.v. watching the Rangers.
On a night where 14 games were played in the NHL including some dominating performances, goal-scoring explosions and some nasty rivalries being renewed, the last game to be finished was by far the most boring match.

Unfortunately, that contest was the snorefest that the Rangers presented to a sold-out crowd at the Rexall Center in Edmonton. 

Youth and age combined as the Oilers defeated the Rangers 2-0 at the Rexall Center behind a goal and an assist by 18 year-old rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins  and 19 saves by oldtimer, 38-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin. Jordan Kaberle also assisted on both goals. The recap is here.

Beginner's Luck. 18 year-old first overall pick, Ryan Nugent
Hopkins continues to impress and make a case to say in the
NHL with 5 goals and 2 assists in his first 7 NHL games .
If the Rangers want to be part of a winter landscape that has been vacated by the NY baseball and basketball teams, they better get into gear because the higher echelon teams in the East (and division) are starting to say good-bye.
All the talk of traveling has its point but the Rangers were a very good road team the past few seasons.  So far, they rarely have had a lead in any game. 

What's worse is that right now they are a boring team that seems to be having an energy hangover from last season.  Perhaps what they need most of all is their initial visit to home ice and familiar surroundings.  That is on the horizon as the home opener is 3 days away.

The missing defensemen (Staal and Sauer) are a problem, but if the lack of an offensive spark is the absence of Wojtek Wolski then the Ranger problems are deeper than we imagined.

There's really not much to say about the game other than noting the continuation of 2 negative trends.

First, terrible penalties taken by the Rangers. The mishap of Rupp getting his stick tangled in an Oiler's player midsection in the 3rd led to the game-clinching goal by Corey Potter and provided a cushion that was obvious the Rangers would not overcome.

Second, an inability of the offense to do anything. The closest thing to a goal the Rangers had was when Ruslan Fedetenko stole an outlet pass by Kabibiluin and tried to shoot back at the vacated net. There was little on the shot as the goalie successfully scrambled back to the right side of the goal to block the shot.  Marian Gabork was once again stopped on a breakaway, this time in the 3rd period.  He also failed to put home a rebound of a Brendan Bell shot in the first.  Continuing how starved for offense the Rangers were during the game, missing opportunites like these were fatal to any chance the Rangers had.

Other than that, the Oilers bottled up the Rangers all night long as the offensive woes continue including being outshot 11-4 in the first period.

Then there was an injury scare when Henrik Lundqvist left the game with a bad foot and was replaced by Marty Biron for the final 9 minutes of the game.  Whenever Henke leaves the game, Ranger fans hold their breath because he is the key to any hopes for a successful season.

Despite the fact that there was no injury, Biron may get hist first start against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night to give him some work against an offense that averages fewer than 2 goals a game.

The Silent Treatment.  Tort's comment after the game as he
declined to take questions from reporters:  "We (stunk) from

head to toe.  I'm not going to dissect it with you guys."
Former Ranger coach Tom Renney, who was run out of town thanks to the player mutiny started by Ranger disaster Scott Gomez, must have savored this win after the embarrassing asskicking the Rangers inflicted on his squad at the Garden last year. 

The performance so far this season by Khabibulin has been remarkable.  During the summer, he spent time in an Arizona jail for a DUI and joined the Oilers.  
Little was expected of the 38 year-old netminder especially after last season's awful record of 10-32-4 for an equally awful Oiler team.

Potter's Field.  Former Ranger and career minor-leaguer
Corey Potter celebrates the backbreaking goal
at the 4 minute mark of the 3rd period.
Quietly, he now leads the NHL with a goals-against average of 0.72, and second with a .969 save percentage. Unfortunately for him, the Oiler offense has let him down as his record is only 2-0-2.

Fortunately, the Rangers are about to end their opening season 7 game road trip with their first to Winnipeg since the Clinton administration. 

If they can defeat the Jets (2-4-1), who are near the bottom of offense and defense in the NHL, then the Canadian road trip will be a quite respectable 3-1.  

A victory there would be a nice segue to Thrusday night's home opener at the Garden against the very hot Toronto Maple Leafs.  

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, October 21, 2011

NY Henrik Prevails Over Calgary Henrik in Thriller | NYR 3 CAL 2 (OT)

After going winless in Sweden and the U.S., so far, the Rangers have had some great games in Canada.  Their game against Vancouver on Tuesday earned them their first win of the season, and last night’s game against the Flames saw them skate away with a fantastic 3-2 overtime win thanks to Sean McDonough’s goal that came with 1.5 seconds left before the buzzer.  The Rangers are now 2-1-2.

Despite having earlier screened Henrik Lundqvist to enable the Flames to tie the score at 2-2, he more than made up for it with that in this game.   So far, McDonagh has scored 2 goals and an assist in these 2 games in Canada and has provided a key backline lift to the Rangers offense.

The game featured a battle of the Henriks in goal – Lundqvist for the Rangers and Karlsson for the Flames as Mikka Kiprusoff was given the night off.  The official Recap can be found here.

Cubicle Crew.  The Rangers do not have Ice Girls.  Even with
the upcoming renovations. Just thought we would mention that.
The 4 regulation goals were all scored in the first period.  Marian Gaborik was able to get the scoring started in the first period with a power play goal at the 4:53 mark that came only a minute after Sam Rosen mentioned that we were the last team to not have one.  The goal broke a season long powerplay schneid of a pitiful 0-for-16.   

Drought Breaker!  Gaborik's goal in the first period
broke the Rangers' season long power play futility .
What was noteworthy about the goal was Gaborik’s hard work on the ice.  He covered for Michael Del Zotto as he pinched in and was engaged around the boards.  Gaborik’s presence there prevented the puck from leaving the offensive zone and enabled the Rangers to continue to exert pressure.  

Gaborik’s work paid off when he worked himself toward the top of the circle where he received a pass from Derek Stepan that he immediately shot past Karlsson on his glove side.  The first line’s chemistry (especially between Brad Richards and Gaborik) seems to be showing some promise.  

Jarome Iginla managed to get one by Henke about 2 minutes later to even it up.  Then, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust, demonstrating their long-standing chemistry teamed up to score a shorthanded goal while Gaborik was off the ice for a hooking penalty.  Boyle rushed into the Flames corner to steal the puck from a Flame and snapped a pass to Prust who bulleted it past Karlsson. 

Within 2 minutes, during yet another power play, the Flames tied it thanks to a goal by Mark Giordano.  Unfortunately, McDonagh was slow in getting out of Lundqvist’s line of vision and the puck whistled past him, leading to the goalie getting visibly angry.  It was one of only 2 goals allowed by Lundqvist.  The rest of the game, Henrik was again unbeatable as the Flames had a 20-13 edge in shots during the final 2 periods.

Love Fest.  McDonagh with another key goal.  He has made
it a habit since last year's finale against New Jersey.
One of the best highlights of the game was the second period PK, which had to be one of most focused sessions I’ve seen from the Rangers so far this season.  Calgary had very little time to set anything up before the play was picked up and the puck was dumped down the ice.  If they can make that part of the regular routine (and avoid screening Lundqvist or Biron), they should do well down the road, defensively.  The team overall seemed to have an easier time of keeping up with this team - it wasn’t so much of a chase this time around as with the other foes.  Whether this is a sign of the Rangers getting into a game routine will remain to be seen. 

Duh, Winning!  Callahan lets the 19,300
Flames fans know the game is over.
That is, if the Blueshirts can avoid the penalties, at least.  This remains a really big problem for the team, and we took a number of them that didn’t need to happen.  Not counting the fights Rupp and Newbury had, Gaborik’s mini stick lift after skating behind the net got him in trouble in the first period.  This changed slightly in the 2nd and 3rd periods, but we had two instances where the puck was dumped over the glass for delay of game calls rather than down the ice.  The look on Tortorella’s face was priceless and I’m sure that both Woywitka and McDonagh are going to get pulled aside for a discussion.  Well, Woywitka will, at least.  He is definitely a work in progress.  McDonagh’s game winning goal may get him out of trouble. 

I’m not sure how the officials didn’t catch that hooking call on Gaborik in the second period after his breakaway.  Everyone seemed to have noticed that, but the officials let that one go.  Same goes for a stick to the face that Dubinsky caught behind the net.  You’d think with all of those cameras, they’d possibly take notice.  Still, the missed calls luckily weren’t part of game changer moments and didn’t cost us anything.  This seems to be a continuation of the patter from last year but the Rangers do not have Avery on the ice who seemed to be the referees’ whipping boy. 

The next game will be against former Ranger Coach Tom Renney and the Oilers on Saturday night.  And then a trip to Winnipeg before the Rangers finally arrive at the new MSG for their first home game.

--- Cav 

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