Friday, February 29, 2008

Anonymous Canes Fan Is Forced To Wear Rangers Jersey, NYR 4, Hurricanes 2

The New York Rangers squashed the Carolina Hurricanes last night for the second time in four meetings this season, six wins for the Blueshirts in the last eight games.

Even better, a friend of mine from Raleigh, NC (see picture above) who happened to be in New York City stopped by the office wearing a Blueshirts logo proud & center. I have substituted his real face with 'how he felt, as to protect him from Canes fans on his return. "Oh Rod, where art thou Rod!"

Christian Backman - in his first game on defense for the Blueshirts was mediocre at best. You can take him 'back, Man!' Fredrik Sjostrom was terrific and I believe he will provide great speed to the team. One for two 'aint bad on the trading front.

NYR Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery both scored in the first period, launching the Rangers into safeville (though a three point lead with this team doesn't mean much these days), followed by another insurance goal by Chris Drury in the second. The fourth goal in the third period was a 'Brendan Shanny special' - a beautiful cross pass by Nigel Dawes and shot over Cam Ward's left shoulder for the goal. New York kept the Hurricanes off balance by controlling the puck throughout the entire game. It was a solid showing by New York and the tides may have turned -- every game means everything these days as a couple of losses could easily take us out of playoff consideration.

Official recap

We take on Philadelphia this Sunday on network tv!!!!!! Woo hoo. With Michael Richards, Simon Gagne, Lupol slightly injured and Nittymaki and Biron playing 'okay' goaltender, we should have a pretty good shot at two more points. As any DARK RANGER fan knows, the Flyers games mean the most to me. Watch for it....


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That's It? Nothing Has Changed (UPDATED)

The St. Louis Blues have traded defenseman Christian Backman to the New York Rangers in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. This was the most we saw in trades today -- a Paul Mara replacement at best. But there's more than meets the eye...

Not only does this mean we get to keep NYR Marek Malik on our blueline, but we've just added another one just like him. Apparently, Backman's level of play and fan sentiment is not dissimilar to our very own Marek 'Lurch' Malik, so it is entirely possible that us bloggers will continue to have plenty 'junk' to write about in our run to the playoffs.

Drafted 24th overall by the Blues in 1998, Backman has 10 points in 45 games this season. Backman, who helped Sweden win the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Torino in 2006, has collected 19 goals, 45 assists and 130 penalty minutes in 228 career games with the Blues. Whatever. I don't know much about him, but HE IS RANKED #987th IN MY FANTASY HOCKEY LEAGUE (which is not a good sign). So much for securing our blueline.

Also, Slats and Gang finally deported Marcel Hossa to the Phoenix Coyotes and our 'trade-bait first round minor leaguer' AHL Wolfpack goalkeeper Al Montoya for Fredrik Sjostrom, "Avery wannabe" Josh Gratton, and AHL goalie David Leneveu. In other words, 'garbage for garbage.'

So the team is the same, which could be a good thing. The team is playing good hockey, more Eastern Conference teams lost marquee players today to the Western Conference, with the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins (see below).

UPDATE: Uh-oh. Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers is now a Pittsburgh Penguin. Crap. These guys are scary good.

Zero Trades As Of Yet With One Hour to Go

The New York Rangers might be saving it for movement for the Blueshirts as we near the trade deadline today.

What we do know is Brian Campbell is now in San Jose'.
Petr Forsberg and Adam Foote are now in Colorado.
Martin LaPointe is now in Ottawa.
Tuomo Ruutu is now in Carolina.
Christobal Huet is now in Washington.
Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist are now in Dallas.
Mike Smith is now in Tampa.
Wade Belak is now in Florida.
Sergei Fedorov is in Washington (wow)

More coming......

(hint, hint, hint......NY Rangers NEED defense support)

A Public Thank You To A Leafs Fan

Last month I had a party at my chalet, and invited Jagr and Shanny over. Who knew the entire team would show up.....well, not really.

So the real story begins with my brother-in-law, Adam, waiting in line at The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where our Blueshirts were signing autographs for local fans - a limited 200 people were in line prior to the Hall of Fame ceremonies that took place in November. Not only did Adam get in line (one of the last slots), but as a 'die-hard' Leafs fan (now along with Sundin and his 'no trade clause') he waited in line for 6 hours and was treated to traitor-Canadian and New York Rangers fans.

Not only did he get an autograph or two, he asked every member of the team to sign this print, working over the entire table of jersey adorned Rangers. How often does one get to meet two 600 goal scorers or a Vezina nominated goalkeeper, or even, the most hated Ranger of them all, our instigator himself?

He even had the guts to ask Brendan Shanahan to make his signature out "To The Dark Ranger" (see top portion of the poster). It was at that point that Sean Avery screamed out "The Dark Ranger? Ooh, that sounds mysterious!" and continued to ramble on to other victims in line. Every Ranger signed it. He then presented me with this gift last month.

So I'll lay it out for all to see, The Dark Ranger thanks you publicly, Adam, for one of the most generous and thoughtful gifts I have ever received. Perhaps the only way I can give something back is to have you down for a playoff game this upcoming April and show you how a real hockey team performs!!! ;)


Monday, February 25, 2008

A Symbolic Knuckle Sandwich, Blueshirts 5, Panthers 0

What a treat!

New York
Ranger goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 shots in his eighth shutout for the Rangers against the Florida Panthers 5-0. The Panthers seemed to have little left after pulling out a 2-1 overtime win at Philadelphia on Saturday night as The Blueshirts mauled them from start to finish. The Rangers are now (32-24-8) sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 19 games left in the season. Anything can happen, but these two important wins are proof that this team's offense is coming together. Official recap here.

I am surprised to say this, but the game belonged to our Captain Mr. Jags! Not only did Jaromir Jagr score his second goal in two nights, he reminded us again why he is the All-Star we know -- a sweet 'give and go' to Sean Avery, duping Panthers goalie Vokoun and sliding an impressive goal in net (right! I remember this guy!). Post game he even sounded like our Captain.

"Once you're winning, you feel confidence about your system, about your game," Jagr said. "We had the same thing last year. We needed to win a lot of games at the end of the season to make the playoffs and I think this year we realize it, too."

Trade bait Marek Malik scored his first goal of the season, plus an assist -- hailed by the press as some hero of the game (hardly!) -- truth be told, if he had missed the perfect setup he would have been sent to Hartford -- but he did play a good game of hockey worthy of increasing his trade value by the deadline.....tomorrow.

Speaking of which, there seems to be very little movement this season in trades -- the Rangers are mentioned in every trade possibility - which is humorous - but the most believable trade rumors could be future New York Ranger Dan Boyle from Tampa Bay and/or Bryan McCabe of the Maple Leafs. Tomorrow's deadline strikes and hopefully it's Lightning. ;) Superhero defenseman Marek Malik still must go!

We see a rematch of the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, 7pm EST in Raleigh -- stay tuned and 'Let's Go Rangers!' (feels nice to say that again).


Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Wolf In Wolf's Clothing, NYR 4, Sabres 3

The New York Rangers (31-28-4) last night pulled out an important meeting against the Buffalo Sabres (30-28-4), largely in part to Sean Avery's gritty and relentless performance - his game winning goal in the final five minutes in the third period, ending the contest between two hotly contested Eastern Conference rivals. A goal and an assist reaffirms our knighting Avery a true New York Ranger. Folks, we have ourselves a true Blueshirt -- finally. Re-sign Slats...quickly. Official recap here.

What more could we ask for after
Black Tuesday, as a 'win' against Buffalo answers the devastating loss to Montreal (we can try and forget that one) and puts a winning face back on the Blueshirts. Though still uneasy, the Blueshirts are on a bit of a roll lately at 9-3-2 in their past 14 games - maintaining their place in the playoffs, but as we all know anything can happen as they are eight points away from first place in the Eastern Conference and three points away from missing the playoffs. 'Cautiously optimistic' is The Dark Ranger's approach to the remainder of the season, while 'Anything Goes' is the operative slogan of this team. Currently the Rangers are tied with Boston in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo dropped to eighth, a point ahead of the New York Islanders and Philadelphia.

New York's goalkeeper money extraordinaire, 'Pauper' Henrik Lundqvist made some terrific saves and gave up some pedestrian goals. It was a mediocre performance at best and hopefully this evening we will see Stephen Valiquette
take the net. Hank's nerves looked to carry over from this week's loss to the Habs. Time will show, but the money will be the same.

Jagr finally scored and after the game commented how well the Sabres offensively found the holes in the Rangers defense said, "I would love to
play for Buffalo." Hopeful foreshadowing with two days left to the draft deadline, Mr. Jaromir will almost definitely remain a Ranger for now. The off-season is another story as Jags will most likely find a new home for his future hockey days. The Dark Ranger will happily thank Jags for revitalizing the Rangers organization post-lockout for a couple of years, shed one tear and look forward to the naming of a new Captain. You guessed it....Chris Drury.

Speaking of Drury and as would be expected, this was the first game against Buffalo in Buffalo for Chris Drury after becoming a NY Ranger -- so a large 'boo' rang through his former home crowd announcing the starting lineup, Renney choosing to start his line for this very reason. Every time he touched the puck, the crowd booed him....only making Sean Avery jealous of all that attention!

Tonight against the Florida Panthers at 7PM EST -- should be a 'win', but remember that we all know nothing.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Unanimous! Lundqvist Demoted to "Pauper"

The jury has reached a verdict.

Formerly known as "King" Henrik Lundqvist and subsequently hailed as "Prince" Henrik Lundqvist, this starting New York Ranger goalkeeper is now being made fun of by his former Swedish teenage hockey comrades. This comes as a huge disappointment overall to the Gästriklands Ishockeydomareklubb club, so famous for developing future hockey players and great huggers.

Fellow New York Ranger Sean Avery, unfamiliar with the custom of Swedes and their habitual hugging, rejected Lundqvist's need for a hug post the Blueshirts devastating loss to Montreal yesterday. Most of the team felt the same, with the exception of Colton Orr, Marcel Hossa and Petr Prucha who happily copped a feel from one of People Magazine's Sexiest.

The Olympic gold-winning goaltender for the Swedes, once celebrated for greatness and Swedish heirarchy has been dubbed 'rich and overrated' for the time being - and more importantly, unanimously demoted to the undesirable title of 'Pauper' throughout the blogosphere, first nominated by Scotty Hockey and supported by The Ranger Pundit. Others in support of this disgrace are here.


How and Why?

With winning momentum behind The New York Rangers coming off two important wins this past weekend against Buffalo and San Jose, the Blueshirts appeared to have found the confidence needed for the playoff run. Official recap here.

Who are we kidding? Habs 6, NYR 5 SO

Last night in Montreal, the New York Rangers dominated the Habs - embarrassing their home crowd with a likely
fourth loss against the Rangers this season alone - the Blueshirts leading 5-0. It was a beautiful moment. Thoughts of grandeur, the pre-season expectations were going to be met, goals by Dubinsky, then Avery, then Shanny, then Drury, then.......what? They scored on us. Okay. It's just one.

Leading 5-0 and so they scored one? Fluke...we got a little sloppy. Four goals to defend now. No problem. The third period Tom Renney will employ his famous defensive zone system -- maybe they'll let one more go at the end, but good for us. I am a proud Rangers fan. Oh. They just scored again. Then another. Huh? What the f**k? Thirty seconds later another? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? HOW IN GOD'S NAME HAVE WE GIVEN THEM FOUR GOALS AND WE ARE ONLY LEADING BY ONE GOAL? With six minutes left in the third, we have to hold our one goal lead! Reluctant optimism on my part, I actually believed we'd hold it. Plagued by uninspiring coaching and leadership, our dear, dear Rangers let the fifth Habs goal in ending regulation at 5-5.

Thoughts of "Lundqvist is just average" and "our defense is the worst in the league" were again entering my head. This is the team I know this season. Crap.

Montreal scored five even goals the last half of the game and were taking the Rangers into overtime land. Mind you, the overtime was some of the greatest hockey seen all season and I wanted this one more than any game all season, but unfortunately, it appeared I wanted it more than anyone in the New York Rangers franchise that evening. Secretly I knew the Habs deserved to take the cereal surprise away from my Blueshirts. They earned it. The crowd earned it. The Rangers were destined to lose.

The Rangers delivered that dreaded loss - they earned it - in shootout, as All-Stars Brendan Shanahan, Chris Drury and finally Jaromir Jagr were all unable to deliver anything worthy of the win. Three misses. Three very sad attempts.

Our confidence was taken away in one game. The belief is gone. Where to go from here....


Monday, February 18, 2008

Bloggers On Radio Unite!

I want to thank Rob Kowal for the invitation to be a guest on his radio program, NY Hockey Talk on WGBB 1240AM this past Sunday night.

A special 'shout-out' to
Inside Hockey's Brad Kurtzberg who sat in and hosted the show for Rob this week. Not only was he a terrific interviewer, but he covered my ass because the cell phone I was using lost coverage 30 seconds into the interview. Classic botch on my part, but Brad was more than a pro as his staff immediately re-directed me to the proper number and how to reach them without a pause in the program. It was a Dark-moment in time. Here is the re-broadcast if interested (Right click, then 'Save Target As' for the mp3).

I would highly recommend any Dark Ranger readers to check out the
site, the podcast and the quality of guests Rob has assembled on the program (myself excluded, of course).

Montreal tomorrow night Rangers' fans.....7pm EST, let's make it four wins for the season shutout.


Rangers Sucker Punch Sharks, NYR 3, San Jose 1

Prior to the game, I wanted to sucker-punch this guy for supporting the San Jose' Sharks and for looking like an ass, but I was pleasantly surprised that the New York Rangers sucker-punched him for me instead. Official recap here.

First and foremost, the Rangers are surprisingly 8-3-1 in the last 12 games and have captured 7 of a possible 8 points in the last four games. Currently they sit third place in the Atlantic Division - the NJ Devils of Newark are tied in first with the Pittsburgh Penguins - both with 71 points overall. The Rangers are only four points away from first place in the division. For now they are seeded in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, only seven points from leading the Eastern Conference with just over 20 games left in the season. If we can expect any consistency similar to the past four games, we can only climb from here. Playoff hockey two-thirds into the season and a majority of wins against our division rivals 'aint a bad place to be. F*** me!

When the heck did this all happen? Have I been consumed with complaining about my Rangers?

The Blueshirts opened with a truly physical game yesterday - a gritty hitting level of game - declaring to the bloggersphere and it's fans that the 'new Rangers' have arrived and after only 100 player line combinations, Tom Renney has finally found two lines that 'work wonders.' The first line Avery-Dubinsky-Jagr was impressive, as Dubinsky ripped up the ice with his 'go-to-the-net' philosophy - Sean Avery by his side instigating and Jagr conveniently double-teamed and trying to score (on a side, Jags still has no goals in 11 games -- ouch! Do you smell off-season extension? Not here.). The second line Dawes-Gomez-Shanny line was effective, but 'Coach Tom Renney kudos' go to the unexpectedly awesome Straka-Drury-Callahan line. Hurray. Bravo.

Our 'tenacious brand of hockey' kid, Ryan Callahan speared two goals into the Sharks and was afraid of NO ONE! He took the hits, made the hits, kept himself in the play at all times and scored goals. What more could we ask for in a rookie playing in the big leagues? (okay...maybe someone named Ovechkin, but I digress...). The kid showed heart and deserves the stars. So far he has scored four goals in five games after going 25 games without one following a score on opening night this season. I can only imagine how a reconditioning demotion to the AHL Hartford Wolfpack could raise Ryan's game. Now back in the NHL, I am looking forward to more of Callahan's enthusiasm -- just wish it would rub off some of his comrades.

Our future captain, Chris Drury, scored another goal and assist yesterday - making him look more worth the money the Rangers paid for him to begin with. Now at 19 goals for the season and seven goals in nine games, Drury is much more to this team than the 'clutch' goal scorer -- he is a leader by example. Though 'Toots' and Girardi provided solid blueline coverage throughout, Chris Drury was present at the crease on both ends of the ice -- offensive and defensive. Not only did he score the game winning goal yesterday, but he was the first Ranger to score on the power-play at MSG since January 8 - a span of nine games and 39 opportunities. Ouch. May the dry spell be over.

As difficult as this may sound, I 'peace-out' my war against Coach Renney and embrace his latest move with the combinations. I will actually respect the guy when he figures out the power play special teams. Nice job Tommy Boy.

Tuesday we again challenge the most successful team in NHL history, The Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final time this season - the Rangers are 3-0 against the Habs so far. Tune in for more 'Rangers Dark-ness' as we continue to kick more ass and spread the great word of good hockey.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rangers Clips Buffalo's Wings, NYR 5, Sabres 1

I snagged the picture off the HockeyBuzz site only to demonstrate that this new "post-five-days-break" squad is finally working like a team - young, old and instigating. Also, it makes Callahan and Dubinsky both look 11 years old. (Eat your heart out Brian Campbell! Beat by a kid, eh?). The possibilities... For the official synopsis go here.

It was a fun game to watch, Sean Avery scoring within the first ten seconds of the game set the tone and the Buffalo Sabres never arrived from that point forward. After a five-day break, the Rangers came out strong and never let up -- our beloved coach Tom Renney did not take a defensive posture after two goals and the Ranger's offense continued to take advantage of a lackluster Sabres squad. This was the offensive prowess everyone talked about pre-season.Everyone in the media is declaring The Rangers are back for the comeback, but I am a little more hesitant to take this strong a position. They played a great game, few turnovers by our dear Marek Malik and our six-year goaltender Henrik Lundqvist looked to be in form once again (for now). The one Buffalo goal, by Thomas Vanek, was a soft goal on Lundqvist -- which is what scares me the most. He has an uncanny ability to make the brilliant saves and the disappointing habit of missing the 'soft ones.' All in all, he'll find his 'mojo' and step it up going into the playoffs. If....

Tearing Buffalo to bits yesterday was a great example what our Rangers need to do to turn the season around, and more importantly, our meeting against the San Jose Sharks this afternoon (1pm EST) will be a more important example of our newly found quest. This is the game that will mean everything as the Rangers have not won a game against the entire Western Conference this year. Sad, but true.

Perhaps today is a new day!!?


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Rangers Reclaim "The King"

It is official!

Blueshirts Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist has signed a six-year contract extension of $6.875 million per season. No more speculation on free agency after this season, our very own Olympic gold-medal winner can no longer be distracted with contract matters. The Rangers just bought you and we all can now reclaim your old moniker "The King." Or at least, here's hoping.

This is the story of Henrik Lundqvist, one of the top three performing goalies in the NHL at the beginning of the season, who by many was considered the top goalkeeper in the league with the best goals against average and save percentages for the first two months of the NHL. Sniffings of Vezina were in the air. The New York Rangers were kept alive by Lundqvist's efforts, even with a sub-par defense and a non-scoring All-Star offense, he virtually was the Rangers defense and confidence. He was reliable.

Then came December.

Though never referring to personal matters to the press or his team regarding his father's health, we were treated to some of the most devastating goalkeeping we've ever seen from our 'noble one' dubbed "The King." Without the support in goal, the New York Rangers became less than mediocre. The blueline crumbled. We lost badly. Henrik was demoted to 'Prince.'

In the midst of losing games, Henrik and his agents were attempting to negotiate a long-term contract with the Rangers - never forgetting that management dragged him through arbitration during the off-season and couldn't come to terms with a long-term contract due to the salary cap, fully aware that newcomer Scott Gomez was taking $8 million and Chris Drury taking $7 million per year. With some of the greatest goaltending seen in the league last fall, Henrik would have commanded more in salary than any player on the roster, but with his latest woes and stats - this accepted compromise of just under $7 million per season for six years represents the Rangers belief in him as a long-term interest, someone who will step it up after the distractions.

Until proven otherwise, I will continue to start Henrik Lunqvist on my fantasy hockey team and, most importantly, The Dark Ranger will now refer to Lundqvist, once again, as THE KING.

Prove me right, Henrik. I bought the jersey and you signed it.


Monday, February 11, 2008

It's Time To Find Out Jagr's Worth

I don't typically post other articles/blogs on this site, but I have to hand it to Larry Brooks of The New York Post who absolutely went on the line this week to post the following (he gets huge kudos from The Dark Ranger for his bravery and the potential backlash in 'Ranger-access' he has thus far - or once did before this article). Enjoy below. tdr

The New York Post
by Larry Brooks

February 10, 2008 -- PHILADELPHIA - Gomez is 28, he's in the first season of a sev en-year, $51.5 million contract, and he's been the New York Rangers ' best player in 2007-08.

Jaromir Jagr will be 36 on Friday, he's in what appears to be the final season of his contract, and he's on pace for his least productive season since he was a rookie in 1990-91.

When the Rangers look to next year, Glen Sather's obligation will be to find a first-line right wing who is compatible with Gomez, rather than to find a first-line center who is compatible with Jagr.

Which is why the Rangers GM is obligated now to find out what he can get in return for Jagr as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches.

It is difficult now to conceive of the scenario under which Jagr will return to the Rangers next season. Before his latest slump, Jagr had just begun to navigate a reasonable path to 84 points and the initial option trigger on his contract. Now, though, that road seems a dead end. Held pointless in yesterday's 2-0 victory over the Flyers, Jagr needs 37 points in the final 24 games to hit the first trigger, with the second a playoff round victory for his team. Sadly, there is little in his body of work this season in which he had recorded 47 points in his first 57 games that suggests he is capable of mounting such a scoring surge. As such, without triggering an automatic one-year extension of his cap-friendly deal, Jagr will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In that case, the Rangers owe it to themselves to see what bounty Jagr might bring back on the rental market. Surely he is a more proven and valuable commodity than Marian Hossa. Surely he is as equally attractive as Mats Sundin.

In the right spot, on a team where he would be surrounded by more complementary talent and wouldn't necessarily have to carry the offense - Detroit, anyone? - Jagr could very well be the difference between winning a round or two and winning the Stanley Cup.

This is not a call for Sather to give Jagr the bum's rush out of New York, my goodness it is not that. Jagr has been an immense Ranger throughout his Broadway tour; Sather's best acquisition and the best big-name acquisition since Mark Messier. Jagr is the individual most singularly responsible for the franchise's return to hockey credibility following the lockout. He has earned credit in New York. No one should ever forget that.

Jagr put the Rangers on his back and carried the franchise out of the Dark Ages into this Renaissance Era. When the world believed the New York Rangers would finish at the bottom of the league in 2005-06, Jagr guaranteed a playoff berth on the first day of training camp and then delivered on that uncharacteristic pledge with a Hart Trophy-worthy campaign in which he established franchise records for goals (54) and points (123) in a season.

The Rangers have changed since then. The Euro is no longer the currency in the room. Jagr has not changed. He can't or he won't after 17 years in the league in which he has carved a Top 25 all-time career. He wants and/or needs to play a slow-down puck-possession game with linemates who share his vision. Gomez needs to play a hurry-up, give-and-go game with linemates who share his speed.

Jagr is a very bright, very aware individual, sensitive to his environment. He understands the situation as well as anyone. The fact is, whether he would ever publicly acknowledge this or not, Jagr likely would be better served himself by continuing his career elsewhere. Indeed, he probably would be best served by playing in the West, against defensemen who aren't so familiar with his game.

As a Ranger, Jagr is matched against the same defensemen game after game after game. There's nothing he has that the Zdeno Charas, Hal Gills, Derian Hatchers and Mike Komisareks of the conference haven't seen dozens of times. He's begun to get pounded routinely again; punished as he holds on to the puck longer and longer, desperately trying to create something for himself, desperately trying to be the force he was two years ago, the force he was in Pittsburgh.
Again. This is not a cry for the Rangers to dump Jagr. There is no reason whatsoever to send him away on the cheap. He does have the ability to get hot. He does present a huge challenge for a potential playoff opponent.

This is, however, a reminder that that the Rangers have an obligation to investigate what they would be able to bring back for No. 68 on the rental market. Detroit should be interested. Phoenix and Wayne Gretzky should be interested. Dallas and Brett Hull should be interested. If even two teams are interested - and perhaps there would be five - Sather could raise the ante.
This season has never been about only this season for the Rangers. This trade deadline can't only be about this season either.

The future is about Gomez. The future may arrive as soon as Feb. 26.

A Good Loss, Rangers 2, Capitals 3 OT

Yesterday's loss in overtime to the Washington Capitals was a great game to lose. Official recap here.

Aside from the unforgivable Ryan Hollweg penalty with thirty seconds to go in the third period and his two missed open net opportunities, the rest of the squad played with fervor and confidence. There were a bundle of missed opportunities throughout the game, but they were going to the net and trying to make goals. They worked hard and it was the first game this season, though disappointing, I enjoyed watching their efforts. The Rangers have captured three of the last four points available to them this weekend and keeps them in the 7th qualifying spot in the Eastern Conference (28-24-7).

Stephen Valiquette, Henrik's "mini-me," played his first two-consecutive games this season, and despite the loss in OT, played a great game. I do appreciate that Coach Tom Renney kept him in goal after Saturday's amazing shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers. Today, "Valley" plays a more consistent game than our 'Prince' Lundqvist - while Henrik cannot be feeling the love as his agents are negotiating a long-term Blueshirt contract while simultaneously sitting on the bench and playing sub-par second half of the season. Renney should be playing Valley every other game, or at least until Henrik gets his 'mojo' back.

I am a little disturbed to hear rumors of Slats trading Sean Avery to the Calgary Flames for center (thanks OChaos) Alex Tanguay. There are a number of sites suggesting that this is going to happen, and for the life of me I do not understand why management would consider taking the 'spark plug' out of this Rangers engine -- yes, he disturbs hockey fans across the globe....yes, he instigates fights and throws dirty words around like a 'cougar in heat'....yes, he fights his own team members in practice (fighting the Coach's pet....thanks Pundit). All of this makes him a fan favorite - but let us not forget -- he's a damn good hockey player too. This would be a huge miscalculation for Rangers' management to go Sean-less the remainder of the season, or even worse, going into the off-season.

So I digress, I am generally pleased at the building of confidence our Blueshirts are showing -- this without Brendan Shanahan and our "anti-shooting the puck" Jaromir Jagr. Imagine what the team would feel like if we had a genuine, caring and hard-hitting hockey star like Ovechkin from the Caps on our team. Though losing to him hurts, he is a pleasure to watch because he naturally enjoys the game -- enjoys the hitting and makes good old time hockey.

So with five days off and our next game on Saturday against the ailing Buffalo Sabres -- this break gives four teams in the Eastern Conference the chance to come within 1 point or replace the Rangers' standings. Scary stuff. So enjoy the mini-off-season this week and pray that the Western teams take every game against Eastern rivals.

Here it goes, the official playoff push.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Philly Is All Fight But No Win, Rangers 2, Flyers 0

The New York Rangers have won 11 of its last 12 games at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, and is 6-0-1 there since a loss on April 15, 2006. The Flyers fans must really hate our Blueshirts (giggle giggle). Nigel Dawes and Scott Gomez scored power-play goals for the Rangers. Official recap here.

What a terrific game to be attending as the only highlights for the local crowd came with the fights - a time trip back to the Broad Street Bullies days of yore, as the Flyers attempted to raise their level of play by hitting as many rookie Rangers as possible. All was not lost for Philly as a major brawl ensued with three simultaneous fights filling the rink: Steve "Should Be In Jail" Downie exchanged blows with Ranger Fedor Tyutin, showing him the gates of heaven, but Flyer's Riley Cote was taught a huge lesson in 'talking fists' as Blueshirt primary enforcer Colton Orr pleasantly face-washed and pummeled his little head. Flyer's Jim Dowd and our Ryan Hollweg went at it balancing the fight scoring for both teams an even draw. With the Flyers down two at the end of the second period, we were treated to another embarrassing fighting effort by our amazing Ranger rookie/terrible brawler Brandon Dubinsky (who is 21 years old, and looks 10) versus experienced and top scoring Flyer Michael Richards - who absolutely 'showed him the money' - evident by even Ranger's Coach Tom Renney smiling with sorrow and pride at the bench. Poor little guy is trying.

On the scoring front, the Flyers didn't gain an inch and the New York Rangers completely dominated the game, mostly due to our backup goalkeeper Stephen "Valley" Valiquette - our more 'consistent than Lundqvist of recent' backup goalkeeper. Valley was exquisite in goal making 31 saves to record his second straight shutout this season - two consecutive shutouts against the Philadelpia Flyers - The Dark Ranger's wet dream (UPDATE - okay, that was pretty gross, but necessary).

The Rangers are 28-24-6 for the season sitting in 7th place in playoff contention. This afternoon we are looking for Capital gains as we take on Washington at 1pm this afternoon - followed by a subsequent five-day layoff, enough time for any Eastern Conference teams to make major gains on our Blueshirts. Today's two points could be a turning point for this unsolvable and inconsistent Rangers team.

Every game counts, folks. This is it. Ovechkin needs to be contained on a greater level than our defense our demonstrated all season. That Russian is a monster -- someone needs to stop him! The Dark Rangers lurks and will be sure to cast his promising 'concussion spell' to give our Blueshirts an advantage.

Here we go and hope for the best.


Friday, February 8, 2008

"But It's Not Our Fault", NY Rangers 1, Anaheim Ducks 4

"I don't think they outplayed us, but they took advantage and had more patience,"
- Jaromir Jagr, Captain of the NY Rangers

"We have a hard time beating the West Coast teams," - Henrik Lundqvist, goalkeeper of the NY Rangers

"It's just one of those crazy things that can happen every year. You can't really put your finger on why it happens." - Scott Gomez, center for the NY Rangers

“The first period they came out hard, kept it simple. We played hard and should have won.” - Michal Rozsival, Defense on the NY Rangers

“We’re not going to win games by just playing hard and having good emotion and all of those types of things. We have to win by having poise and composure whether you’re winning or losing. There are a lot of teams we’ve struggled against. At least we’re not discriminating.” - Tom Renney, coach of the New York Rangers

"We have Marek Malik fighting Sean Avery during practice yesterday and the team is constantly making excuses or justifying in their heads that they're doing nothing wrong. No one is in control of the Rangers locker room. No one is willing to take responsibility. Three wins in a row and they believe - 'it must be last year again', but this is a very different Blueshirts squad and we lose the next two. Wrap your heads around that!" - The Dark Ranger, Objective Witness


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Uh Oh! LA Kings 4, NY Rangers 2

I take back everything I said......just kidding. Business as usual? Anaheim and Philly next. I am exhausted.

Official recap here.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chris Drury & NY Giants Win SuperBowl XLII

It was a 'Super' Sunday for New York yesterday as The New York Rangers defeated the red-hot Montreal Canadiens 5-3 and the New York Giants delivered one of the greatest upsets in NFL history, humiliating the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14. Both games were terrifying and exciting. Official recap here.

Okay, so Chris Drury had nothing to do with the football game, but the kind of press Drury is getting of late suggests that we might finally be seeing a little of the six million bucks the Rangers are footing this season for the renowned 'Clutch-man'. The Dark Ranger has received numerous emails criticizing my position that Drury is an "asset about to come alive" -- and I steadfastly maintain that this guy is going to contribute to the Rangers rebound this spring. My position is not a 'love-fest' (as one email suggested), it is just taking a position on someone I think will help to turn the team around. Jagr hasn't done it. Shanny hasn't done it. The standouts this season are simply: Brandon Dubinsky, rookies Dan Girardi & Marc Staal, resident instigator Sean Avery (when playing), Henrik Lundqvist (until recently) and now rightfully his turn, Chris Drury.

Yesterday when the Rangers were down 0-3 halfway through the second period (and yes, I gave up too!), Drury, who was 1-1-2 for his third consecutive two-point game, capped the comeback by scoring the eventual game-winning goal at 10:09 of the third period. All in all, and down by three, the Blueshirts led five unanswered goals and stole the game from Montreal. This was the most exciting game of the season - and they earned it. Even our coach has nice things to say.

This guy’s been phenomenal lately. He’s been a great man all year long anyway, but it’s nice to see him get what he deserves and our team get the residuals of that.” — Rangers coach Tom Renney on the recent play of center Chris Drury.

Not that Tom Renney is the voice of reason, but he, along with the team, are looking for that someone who is going to step it up and lead by example. Drury is doing that for now. Other outstanding 'kudos' go to Brandon Dubinsky and his level of play. This kid is duping veteran All-Stars, outplaying his fellow players and, despite his inexperience as a rookie, plays with heart and tenacity. In fact, he is all heart and it shows. Sean Avery, once again, demonstrated grit and protecting your team. Fantastic show, folks -- a comeback game like this reminds us to never give up -- never say never.

On the football side of things, if we were to look at our 'Super Sunday' yesterday, you have to consider the underdog approach in sports and how the NY Giants were just able to make it into the playoffs and stage the greatest and unexpected of championships. The Giants had the perfect answer for the suddenly imperfect Patriots: a big, bad defense and an improbable comeback. Such could be said of our New York Rangers against Montreal and even larger, our Rangers against the rest of the season. The last three improbable Blueshirts wins puts us six points ahead, only three points from the division leader. In the end, we only need to qualify to get our shot in the playoffs. The NY Rangers are sitting seventh in the conference. Surprised? Stranger things have happened, but it does give The Dark Ranger hope.

So hang in there Rangers fans -- this may be the beginning of something very Dark.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

City of Newark Doesn't Attract A Winner, NYR 3, Devils 1

It must feel like a broken record for anyone that bought season tickets to the Prudential Center in Newark, home of the Devils - as The New York Rangers have beaten the Devils five in a row this season. Poor little Devils. Official recap here.

Last night's game was a treasured one - the much needed second win in two games push the Blueshirts four points forward reminding every 'doubter' that they can actually play like a hockey team when they want it. Four stars to Brandon Dubinsky who continues to work harder and make better plays than anyone on the team (especially strange off-ice when he is not wearing his helmut and looks exactly like the kid who cuts your grass). His tireless effort is acknowledged by all of us looking for some God d**n passion. Perhaps he has brought out the best in our dear Captain Jagr, who has played some of the best hockey all season over the last three games -- this is the Jagr we love, respect and vindicates the 600+ goals, etc, etc...

To the "disbelievers of Chris Drury" club, I said it this week and I will go on the record AGAIN to state that Chris Drury is the future of the Rangers franchise. Aside from his scoring two goals last night against NJ, he again provided opportunities for everyone on the team. He is the ultimate playmaker and The Dark Ranger predicts he will be the silent threat that unexpectedly brings victory to our boys. Even though he has not stepped up thus far, he is respected by management, a great presence in the locker room and, most importantly, a great hockey player. He plays best when it's desperate, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this franchise is in trouble.

With the Rangers winning two division rivals in a row (26-22-6), they surprisingly find themselves only three points away from the first place Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers are two points away from the second place Pittsburgh Penguins, and one point away from the Devils of Newark. Our Atlantic Division is unquestionably the most competitive division in the league, as there is a strong possibility that all five teams could qualify in the Eastern Conference playoff run.

Breathe deeply....we can all start believing again.

The Dark days are looking somewhat brighter, and even if we continue to lose stupid games and miss the playoffs this year - as long as we keep beating the Flyers and Devils every time we play them, in my mind the season was a good one!


Friday, February 1, 2008

The City of Brotherly Hate

(The Dark Ranger) I kid you not. After the Philadelphia Flyers took a 'hockey shagging' last night against our New York Rangers, this article actually appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer -- one of the more respected newspapers in the entire Philly/NJ area:

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 1, 2008
Morning Report:
By Don McKee
There may be a debate about the city Philadelphians hate the most, but there is none about the locale Flyers fans fear, resent and loathe above all others.

The area where the Statue of Liberty is your landmark. The Flyers lost only three games in regulation last month: to the hated New Jersey Devils on Jan. 4 and 22, and to the despised New York Rangers last night.

The Flyers and Rangers are as chummy as Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama these days, and it's easy to see why. The upstart Rain-jiz came into the Wachovia Center last night with the lowest goals total in the NHL and promptly waffled the first-place Flyers, 4-0, chasing poor Antero Niittymaki. Just to rub it in, the Rangers used backup goalie Stephen Valiquette, who had lost, 3-0, in his last appearance and had never recorded an NHL shutout.

In their January losses to the Devils and Rangers, the Flyers scored three goals and their opponents scored 14. That will allow the arrogant (and you know who you are!) New York fans to puff out their chests and taunt the crestfallen Flyers fans. Again.

Which brings up my theory on why cities are hated by sports fans. It isn't really the city or the team. Manhattan is a perfectly marvelous place and the New England Patriots are perfection personified. It's the other fans. Mets fans, Giants fans, Red Sox fans, Cowboys fans and (truth be told) Eagles fans grate on outsiders because they're just so obnoxious about every little success. Know anybody who hates Memphis Grizzlies fans? Didn't think so.

Forsberg a Ranger?

He has turned down his hometown MODO League, suggesting he is on his way back to the NHL.

Many have discussed his close ties with the Flyers organization and his need to come back, but there are rumors that Henrik Lundqvist has been personally involved in recruiting Forsberg to the Dark side of hockey.

Forsberg a Ranger? That would make last night's shutout that much sweeter. Some references
here, here, here, here, here and here.
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