Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Witness for the Execution | Was 2 NYR 1 (Caps Win Series)

I watched Game 7 at the Ziegfeld tonight with a few hundred die-hard fans and 3 of my favorite Ranger fans. I was exchanging e-mails or on the phone with several others during intermissions.

Something special was developing on the big HD screen. A happy ending was ever so tantalizing close.

I allowed myself to think about matchups with the Bruins. I was yelling more at the screen that I do at the Garden. But any fantasy of a second round series was snatched away with quickness of a Sergei Fedorov rocket with 4:59 to go from the right hashmark over Henrik Lundqvist's left hand. A few minutes later, the series and the season were over. Official recap here.

The last goal of the Rangers' season was scored by Nik Antropov.
It also gave them their last lead of the season at 1-0 in the first period.

I saw a team of warriors - too many to mention right now but Sean Avery, Henrik Lundqvist and Michal Rosival get special praise for leaving their hearts on the ice.

Not in your house. One of several stunning saves made by #30 to keep the Blueshirts in the game.

Too bad the refs ignore the beating Sean Avery took once again.
If they had paid attention, they would have seen the tremendous game he played.

I saw an entire team play with passion, heart, courage and guts. Even Aaron Voros.

I saw a team whose flaws manifested themselves at the worst possible time.

I saw a team that cannot finish, cannot convert opportunities, cannot set up one timers, cannot hit open nets.

I saw an outmanned team on hostile ice with indifferent refs outplay the number 2 seed, control the ice, forecheck and defend as well as any other remaining team in the playoffs.

I saw a team show how well they can play by putting together perhaps the best 40 minutes of hockey they played all season during the first two periods of a 1-1 game.

I saw a defensive unit that never allowed the ballyhooed Ovechklin to score a meaningful goal over 7 games.

I saw a team that exasperates me, tries my patience, infuriates me and makes me hoarse from screaming.

I saw a team that did not panic.

I saw a team that succumbed to the relentless pressure of its opponent including being outshot 13-1 in the decisive final period.

In the 89th game, the season ended with 4:59 to go.

I saw a team that did justice to the Rangers logo as opposed to the prior 2 games and acquit themselves with class as opposed to its opponents in red, their classless fans and the imbeciles that run the NHL.

I saw MY team make me damn proud even though I saw its season end.

Next season seems so far away.

The time for reminiscing, recriminations and speculation is for the proverbial morning after.

Right now, I need some time to mourn the end of another Rangers season but I am thankful for the joy, drama, and heartache I felt over the course of a season of 89 games.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Looking Forward and Watching Back! (UPDATED)

We are still digesting all of this.

Just as it is always responsible to attend to proper estate planning and a 'last testament and will' before you die, we at The Dark Ranger thought it was probably a good idea to look back and celebrate the 'life and times' of our dear Blueshirts - how we got here, how hard we worked to get here, what 'should be' for game 7 of the first playoff series. On the eleventh hour of our 2008-2009 fate or future, this site's contributors, The Graying Mantis, J_Undisputed and TDR are giving their benefit of the doubt while the New York Rangers enter the final match against the Washington Capitals.

Any thoughts about tonight?

THE DARK RANGER: Washingtons' Ovechkin, Semin and Green are out for blood tonight. Oh, and that goalie no one can pronounce. Call him Anti-Theodore. The Rangers had no comment regarding the 'series-decider', except that they are very scared. Coach John Tortorella vowed never to question Sean Avery's behavior again from this point forward and the gray-haired Caps Tortorella harasser promises not to spew more curse words than the coach already does to his own team.

THE GRAYING MANTIS: Sports is all about redemption. For Game 7, Henrik has the chance to show a national television audience why the Rangers are still playing while teams like Calgary, Montreal, San Jose and others have failed. He has the chance to bring the team into rarified air of the final 8. Others (namely the veterans) have the chance to show the rest of the NHL that they are not just ordinary -- Drury, Gomez and Naslund -- I am looking at you. Others, who are playing for new contracts -- Zherdev, Antropov, Morris -- it's time to show whether you are clutch. Youngsters -- we know your mettle. Just don't panic and continue to do what you do. Sean -- keep your stick down and put the damn puck in the net.

J_UNDISPUTED: The thought that we are lucky to be playing a game 7 is absolute hogwash. I have had to listen all series about how after our drop-off since the mid season, that we were lucky to be here. That after being up 3-1 and having a chance to still advance is more luck. If it were true, it would indicate to me our luck has run out and we're gonna have to win this one on heart, desire and discipline. Closing the show is a trademark of a true Stanley Cup contender. Tonight we find out if we want to be a contender or if Renney was right in coaching this team to be satisfied with a whiff of the postseason as pretenders.

How did you get here, and any thoughts?

THE DARK RANGER: It was fun digesting this season without a visible Captain Chris Drury rallying the troops. If I hear him say that he's going 'to put this one behind him and start fresh for the next one' ever again, I may need to wait out his contract. We knowwwwwwww........he really wants it BADDDDDDD.......and he is thinking too HARDDDDDDD......for f*ck sake, enough. With half of our hardest working rookies (Prucha, Dawes) gone and traded away, the current team has shown there is greatness in leading the team (thank you Ryan Callahan, "Dubie", Girardi & Staal). Our veterans should be only called 'the paid' - because leading the team to greatness isn't apparently spelled out in their contracts (you know who you are, ya swindling pretend hockey players). So if our dear Blueshirts have a massive stroke during the first period tonight or even if they pull out another miracle and win the series (which brings us to an even more agonizing series against Boston), none of this would have been made possible if it weren't for.....
Hank. Despite his poor play over the past two games (or even dreadful performance), Blueshirt goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist is the sole reason why the Rangers are in the first round. If we win tonight, he stole another game. Without him in goal, we are an average team -- not a terrible one -- just one without fire power, without a power play unit, without a STUD. That's it. Lundqvist in goal and our surprisingly terrific PP kill unit is what has made our team a winning one all season long. Until now....or maybe not. Who the hell knows?

J_UNDISPUTED: We got here (game 7 of the first round) like I got home once from a bachelor party. Stumbling through the back door on rubber legs, reaking of ill repute, with a casual smirk of irresponsibility. We led a charmed life the first few weeks of the season and while most of the league was in awe, Ranger fans watched cautiously, waiting for the bottom to fall out. Such is our legacy, and often our fate. After stewing in the rot of our own self-pity with our captains reassurance he wasn't about to lose any sleep or let a losing streak ruin his holiday, the team was overhauled and a new coach and a familiar face breathed new life into this team. A few more additions and a few more subtractions, the team faced the challenge ahead of them with nothing to lose. Scraping into the playoffs, the past was behind us till we inevitably regurgitated those midseason blunders while waiting for someone to hand us a clue. Accountably(?), we are at an impasse. The players were conditioned poorly by Renney to believe their fate was in his hands, their success at the mercy of his line combinations and ultra shifting of the 4th line for most of the season. They are in poor physical condition and too psychologically scarred to give a consistent effort that Torts demands from his team. All that explains the "just happy being nominated" attitude that causes us to waver from our new found diligence and settle for second place and a point for the regulation tie, when there isn't one anymore. Suck it up you bunch of pansies! Noone just hands you the Stanley Cup because they feel sorry for you (unless your name is is Crosby or Ovechkin and even they have to make it look believable).

What does your gut tell you?

THE DARK RANGER: As a huge Rangers fan, there is no mid-range of emotions with this current team. They play a game of brilliance. They play a game of amateur-hour. We never know which team we're going to get night-from-night. It doesn't matter the team we play or where we are in the standings and/or how important the game really is. I would never wager money on this team, because ultimately you will be disappointed every time. I promise. So if you are looking at the stats and the fact that when the Caps should have disintegrated the moral and momentum of our Rangers over the last couple of games, look again because they might just surprise you in the end.

With that, a hearty "Let's Go Rangers!"

THE GRAYING MANTIS: It may be a long night. I expect a tight game because the refs are going to keep it close. The Rangers cannot afford to take any stupid penalties. The key to the game (as the series) is to score first. When the Rangers tied it up so quickly in Game 6, there was the possibility of that pattern being broken, but that hope was immediately dashed by Betts' being assaulted. The Rangers need to remember they are evenly matched against these guys. This is the matchup the Caps did not want. The Bruins thank their lucky stars they were not playing the Blueshirts.

I honestly believe one of the vets will come through in the scoring column but victory will be won by the youngsters.

J_UNDISPUTED: My gut says we can still do this. If we come out and forget about all the crap that happened last game and play a hard game all night with lots of skating, we can draw penalties and spook the caps into sitting back and playing cautiously. For all the scoring and the leg humping Ovechkin and co. do after a goal, its easy to see they don't have the maturity to go all the lets exploit some of those greenhorn mistakes and send em packing. If we don't, most assuredly, Boston will. It's to easy to see how we frustrated Washington and our game plan is too easy to replicate... making it an easy series for the B's. So i say why not do it first. Some will say it all rests with Hank. Hank feeds off the team and if he feels like he has to do it all by himself, he usually comes undone sooner or later. With our best penalty killing forward out from a goon delivered cheap shot. Its imperative that stay out of the box tonight. I think we can pull it all together for one night and give the Capitals immature team, enough rope to hang itself with. Lets Go Rangers!

The final charge?

Well it all comes down to this. After being up 3-1, we allowed the russian cheerleader and his band of cheapshotting, biting, eurohawk wearing coattail riders to creep back into this series by not taking care of business and playing the shutdown hockey that got us the 3-1 series lead to begin with and by leaving our goalie unprotected.
There are fingers pointed far and wide at the coach, at the agitator, at the defense, at the refs... even at the former coach for his poor conditioning of this team. None of which means anything now. Its time to make the final charge. In the press? In the stands duking out with the fans? No,this stand must be taken on the ice. Where the pucks are passed moved, crushing hits are delivered and blood is spilled. This game will not only define where the Rangers are as a team, but also whether or not some these softies were meant to play the game of hockey and whether they were meant to do it in the greatest city in the world, for the most passionate of fans. This is our defining moment... for now. Sound off Ranger fans... We can still win this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ovechkin, Brashear and Poti, Oh My! Rangers Humiliated | Was 5 NYR 3 (Series Tied at 3 Games Each)

It's one thing for the Rangers management to market their players in "I am part of a tradition" campaign or for the coaches to treat the logo on the locker room floor like a Vestal Virgin. It's another thing for the players to disgrace their logo on the sweater and at center ice in front of a national television audience and their faithful fans in attendance at the Garden. This is precisely what the Rangers did in Game 6. You want to read about it, kindly go here. I've got little to say, so I'm letting some pictures tell the tale.

All I will remember is that the barbarians from the nation's capital, the league's and NBC's other must watch/survive team, stormed the Garden to thrash, bite, and mug the Blueshirts in front of a horrified MSG crowd.

Once upon a time, in fact, it was just this past Wednesday, the Rangers had a 3-1 lead. But that was when their goalie was not playing like Jose Theodore or Carey Price. His recent ordinariness has exposed the team's shortcomings that we already are painfully aware of. Now Henrik is in a slump, his teammates (especially the veterans) have collapsed and that 2 game advantage is gone and soon perhaps so will the Rangers. How ordinary? In 80 minutes, Lundqvist has yielded 9 goals on 34 shots. We all knew the Caps could not be held down forever, but the pendulum has truly swung from one extreme to the other in this series. The game reminded me of that terrible Game 6 he had against Buffalo two seasons ago. Aim high and score.

Now here's a lineup worthy of the Rangers sweater.

Not since Dave Schultz pounded Dale Rolfe in a playoff game has one physical act - Brashear's assault on Blair Betts - turned a game around and exposed the Rangers (especially their veterans) as gutless cowardly mercenaries. Until that happened, the game looked to be a great match -- the Caps scored early but the Rangers came back to tie it with a power play goal. The Garden was rocking and then at center ice, the game turned on a cowardly act. The fact that the refs told Chris Drury that the play was clean may be one of the most ridiculous things ever heard. Undoubtedly, Brashear, perhaps the biggest coward to don an NHL jersey, decided to take out the Rangers' biggest defensive threat with one of the cheapest shots ever right next to the Rangers center ice logo.

Brashear let out a pre-game roar when he looked at the Rangers during the pre-skate.

Anything more ignominious than
Tom Poti to score 4 points in one game?
How about if it's in a crucial playoff game?

Worst of all, nary a Ranger, including the neutered Sean Avery, took offense to the shellacking the Caps inflicted. Sure some players threw some bodies around, but it was long after the game's outcome was no longer in doubt (about halfway through the 2nd period).

When it came time to defend a player (Blair Betts) whose efforts this season have created a clamoring that he should wear an "A" or even a "C", no one showed up. No veteran, except for Paul Mara, showed any interest in defending their turf. The thought that our last memory of Blair Betts in Rangers blue will be his motionless body on the ice after that disgusting cheap shot makes me very very sad.

Where was Colton Orr? That's a valid question. Well, Torts has ruined him so much that he has regressed to the point that the brain trust decided to replace him with the totally useless, invisible Aaron Voros. That's a terrible answer even if it is the truth.

The gift that keeps on giving. Renney's decision to turn down Shanahan continues to impact the team on the ice and in the lockeroom.

Special Relationship. Caps fans may insinuate that Girardi and Staal have a "special relationship" but check out the Russian male mating ritual when Ovechkin "celebrated" some scoring with comrade Koslov. I'm ready for a monastery.

Alone again, naturally. The Caps moved onto Henrik's doorstep for most of the first 40 minutes and were kind enough to take care of shovelling the snow.

Insult to Injury. Shaone Morrison biting Dubinsky during a scrum. NBC signaled the refs to give Dubi a misconduct for having the effrontery to show the refs what this mutant did.

Make your travel plans now. The refs deliver the NHL's message to replacement Coach Schoenfeld to make Acela reservations now for Game 7.

The scoreboard is not our friend. 4-1 on 14 shots, midway through the game.

As for Coach Tortorella and his hissy fit and suspension (i have considered this carefully after my Saturday night post) -- let's put it nicely -- he is dead to me. He is a hypocrite and a fool. He has become a sideshow worse than Avery. Dead, dead, dead.

So it is on to D.C. and those friendly fans for a Game 7. The Rangers, who are obviously not as talented as the Capitals, will try to muster up whatever courage and heart they have to try to extend the season. If they did not have Henrik in net, they would have been eliminated in 5 games, at best. Now Ranger fans know what Montreal fans felt like in their recent disaster. My only consolation is that if the Rangers lose Game 7, many of them will not be back for next season and for nearly all of them, I say good riddance.

But we'll leave my true feelings for the season's post-mortem. Let's hope it won't be needed for a while longer.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tortorella Scratched for Game 6

The National Hockey League announced Saturday that New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended for one game for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Washington Capitals on April 24 in Washington.

Read all about it here.

Here's the killer comment from the NHL report: "That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage."

The NHL sends around a memo regarding discipline to teams at the beginning of every season. The pertinent part reads as follows:

please be on notice that all Club personnel (management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water, will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.

It's going to be interesting to see how the team responds -- are they embarrassed about their Game 5 performance? Do they want to show show their loyalty to the coach? Or are visions of golf links dancing in their heads?

My thought -- there's no sense in scratching a player (Sean Avery) if you are going to get yourself suspended the next game in a pivotal series. Recall that after Game 4, Torts (in apparent reference to Avery) said that the lack of discipline could cost the Rangers not only a game but the series.

Is there an empty chair on TSN or ESPN where Torts can sit out the remainder of the playoffs?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Statement from Ovechkin

Я знаю, что мы потеряли другую игру. Возможно мои выходки были в дурном тоне после того, как мы бьем Вас на днях, но я знаю меня pissed от Тренера. Я удивлен поклонниками. Разве любой не говорил им, что я - самый великий хоккеист в мире? Я лучше.

Мои поддерживающие хоккеисты должны передать шайбу мне каждый раз, когда шайба рядом, тот способ, которым мы забьем голы. О, они только любят меня. Как безответственная обезьяна на льду, я люблю "Дона Cherry", говорящего плохие вещи обо мне. Он столь относится неодобрительно к моим действиям. Он - только шероховатый человек.

О, и Смотрители - ничто, чтобы играть. Граф на мне, чтобы забить много голов и выиграть следующие три игры в ряд. Глупые американцы и канадцы, российское движение только начинается в Вашингтоне, округ Колумбия. Водка для всех.

Трахните Вас Нью-Йорк.

A. Ovechkin here

Truly Divine -- #30 Leads the Rangers to a Stirring Victory | NYR 2 Wash 1 [Rangers Lead 3 games to 1]

One does not trifle with the Sports Gods. They are a vengeful bunch. And nothing risks incurring their wrath more than an athlete mocking another team's fans or disrespecting an opponents' logo. Ask Terrell Owens. Hockey Gods perhaps hold the biggest grudges. Ask any Flyer, Bruin and Leaf fan if you doubt me. Lord Stanley has been in exile from those locations since before the Carter administration.

The Hockey Gods were in attendance on Wednesday night at the Garden for Game 3. Originally, they planned to be in Montreal to watch the Bruins complete the 4 game sweep of the traveling carnival of all-star phoneys wearing the Canadiens sweater and their riot-prone obnoxious fans. They apparently changed their travel plans after hearing about the Ovechkin/Backstrom postgame love bump at center ice on the Rangers logo after Game 3 on Monday. Bad enough to disrespect fans and the logo but to do so when your team had been swept at home and your team still trailed in the series -- that's an invitation for some divine scrutiny and intervention.

So the Hockey Gods arrived to wreak vengeance on the Caps and Ovechkin. They could have simply smote them by keeping Ovechkin scoreless for a 4th game in a row. But these are no run-of-the mill deities. No, they are much crueler.

If you only learn one thing from me, let it be this - the Sports Gods do not like this nonsense.

They anointed Henrik Lundqvist as their avenger and he stopped the Caps cold with a continuing playoff performance that may end up in the Rangers' firmament under the names of Richter and Davidson. In a game where the Caps outshot the Rangers 30-10 over the final 2 periods (I'm shocked the Rangers had that many shots), the Rangers' goalie was standing tall in the net and thanks to his bravura performance in front of a loud, appreciative throng of 18,200 believers, the Rangers now have a commanding 3 games to 1 lead.

Sure, the gods let Ovechkin have his 1st goal of the series to make the score 2-1 with more than 17 minutes to go in the game, but then they toyed with him mercilessly. Time after time critical power play efforts were thwarted, rushes were stopped, players named Redden, Morris and Roszival became the second coming of Brian Leetch, Larry Robinson and Paul Coffey; Rangers bodies extended everywhere to clear pucks and dump pucks into center or down the ice; shots miraculously were blocked, snagged, gloved, deflected, covered up or shot out of the zone. You may never see such a series of inspired defensive performances again as were seen in Game 2 and 4.

You can read the official recap here but trust me, I was a Classics student and I know divine intervention (and retribution) when I see it.

The game started out with the Rangers continuing to try to solve the Capitals goalkeeper, Simeon Varmalov, who extended his scoreless streak against the Blueshirts to nearly 130 minutes. But "luck" intervened midway in the first period when the Rangers struck. Dubinsky won a faceoff on the left side to Mara who blasted a slapshot that deflected off defenseman John Erskine's stick to bypass Varmalov for the Rangers' first goal with 8 minutes to go.

Two minutes into the second period, Drury rushed up ice and shot a puck on goal that Varmalov gloved but failed to hold as it landed in front of him. Drury followed up strongly and pounced on the puck and from a nearly impossible angle threaded the proverbial needle by beating Varmalov inside the post to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead with more than 17 minutes left in the 2nd.

The injured Captain puts home the game winner. From either angle, it was an amazing shot and reminded fans why he wears the "C".

With a 2 goal lead, the Rangers thought defense first and tried to capitalize on the few opportunities that presented themselves. This was a bit exasperating as the Caps began to dominate the puck and the ice. Time and again, the Rangers would clear the puck but it would only get over the blue line and the Caps brought the puck right back in for another effort. The second period ended with the fans and Rangers thankful that the 2-0 lead was intact but the tension had become palpable. Whereas the Rangers had played the Caps evenly in the first period and outshot them 11-9, during the second period, the Caps had 19 shots to the Rangers' meager 5. But, most importantly, of those 5 shots, 2 had found the back of the net.

As the final period opened, fans were hoping for a third Rangers goal to provide a cushion. But it was not to be -- the gods were not interested in anyone relaxing this night. Instead, after a faceoff due to a Capitals icing, Ovechkin picked up the puck at the 17:54 mark in the defensive end and within 7 seconds had blasted the puck cleanly past Lundqvist's glove hand to make the score 2-1. Expletives were heard from my neighboring fans as a sense of dread came over the arena. The possibility of the Rangers defense simply collapsing from the onslaught seemed real.

But Game 4 would not see the Rangers yield. They persevered and did not wilt under the Caps' pressure and utter territorial domination. The Blueshirts made few give-ups in open ice, few bad outlet or cross-ice passes. Numerous battles were won in the corners thanks to Dubinski, Callahan and Korpikoski. Panic was not seen in the Rangers defensemen although Staal sometimes played a bit tentatively because he seemed to always be worrying where Ovechkin was.

Most of all, Henrik was in the net and flashed some fabulous leather to snag a screaming shot from Alexander Semin, before he made a split leg save on a scramble to deny Tomas Fleischman that had fans in my section simply staring in disbelief as the whistle sounded to stop play. After a second's delay, fans realized that it was o.k. to stand up to pay tribute. Ovechkin whistled a shot that nailed the post and ricocheted faster around the boards than an Acela train. It was hard to catch your breath as you hoped the clock would tick down faster.
Paul Mara led the Rangers defense
in keeping the slot clear of all attackers.

The signature sequence of this game (and perhaps the series) was the Caps power play midway through the 3rd period after a questionable roughing call on Avery. For 2 solid minutes, the puck never left the Rangers zone. For 2 minutes the Caps' primary unit of Ovechkin and Semin were out there. For 2 minutes, Henrik stood his ground and the defensemen and forwards held their position without the luxury of a line change until Avery was finally released and came in to relieve the pressure. And the fans again stood to honor the Rangers' valiant efforts.

With 3 minutes to go, the Hockey Gods decided to test everyone's mettle one last time as the refs again whistled Avery off to give the Caps one more power play chance. The PK unit and Henrik donned their battle gear once again and again no ground was yielded as the Capitals' power play fizzled.

Finally, with a minute to go in the game, the Caps again had a man advantage (by pulling their goalie) but by that time the inspired Rangers kept them out of the zone for nearly the final minute before one last frantic scramble. The Caps would not receive any Marty Brodeur-last second gift like the Hurricanes received the night before. The goal mouth was closed; the Hockey Gods had picked their favorite. The PK unit -- primarily Sjostrom, Betts, Callahan, Dubinsky and all the defensemen -- had obtained redemption for the 2 PPG goals surrendered in the 4-0 blanking in Game 3.

Now Game 5 looms in D.C. The Rangers have won the 3 games in this series in which they have scored including the 2 games in D.C. They have scored the first goal in those 3 wins. Henrik has been the difference in each of those 3 victories. The formula seems simple. And the Rangers are following the pattern they set in last year's opening round victory over the Devils.

As we all know, the clinching game is often the hardest. Friday night, we'll be tuning in. I'll bet the Hockey Gods will be as well.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TSN: Maggie the Monkey picks THE RANGERS

2009 NHL Playoff Picks

Playoff time is here again and TSN's experts are weighing in with their predictions. Front and centre is Maggie the Macaque from the Bowmanville Zoo, who has become a postseason fixture at TSN. This, however, will be Maggie's last season making picks as she is retiring after the playoffs.

In 2003, Maggie quickly became a hero in the hockey world, picking the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to reach the Stanley Cup Final with the spin of a wheel. Having picked other big winners through three rounds of the playoffs, Maggie enjoyed new-found fame as the sport's wisest prognosticating primate.

Maggie finished 8-7 in last year's playoffs. Maggie picked The New York Rangers to take the first round over the

The Dark Ranger comments: Well, at least there is hope. Thanks for the support monkey-woman. Every broadcaster on TSN has picked the Washington Caps to take the first round of the playoffs, so at the very least we have a Canadian fanbase, albeit a primal one, to push us beyond the bigger gorilla a.k.a. Alex Ovechkin. Last night was a Russian Red Scare and with Korps and Staal groaning "Oh...." over and over this morning to their therapists we can soon begin the re-building process for tomorrow's crucial rematch.

To state we played 'horribly' would be an understatement. We looked like the 'ghost of Renney's past', so hopefully John 'kick-ass' Tortorella will have the much needed effect on the team and, mostly, on how the fans are feeling about the Rangers right about now.

Let's Go Rangers!!!! Let's Go Maggie!!!!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Blue Fizzle

For those of us stuck at home tonight, I've decided to post about this game on the fly as my hands are glued to the keyboard rather than illuminated plastic inflated tubes they are passing out at the garden.

After the First - WTF?!?!?! It seems as though its just no fun unless we shoot ourself in foot, does it? After a laid back in first period in which we paid as much attention to detail as Ovechkin pays to his dentist, We're down 2-0 and the Craps have a little lead to settle their nerves. The first 16 minutes were tainted with Renney-esque passive hockey by our boys in blue in a situation where they should anticipated a capital team that was pushing harder than ever. Defenders followed and stared as Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin played a nice game of catch instead of taking it to them and using physical pressure to take away skating and passing space and playing a stronger puck possession game like Torts was calling for. Make no mistake, Ranger fans, that period was more about us slacking off when we needed to be our most diligent. It's only 2 goals though and theres still 40 minutes of hockey left to play. On to the second...

After the second.... After starting the 2nd period shorthanded, Avery got a little over excited and took a bad penalty. .. Moments later after being shove face first toward the crossbar while working near the Washington crease, he would be called for another as he and Poti were racing for puck and Poti folded like a lawn chair after a nudge from Avery. But the Ranger drew penalties too.. well they did before taking more penalties. Indeed its difficult to fight come back from a 2 goal deficit while being shorthanded for most of the period. That's why we're now down 3-0. While some of these penalties remain mystery calls, what is clear.... is that this Rangers team hasn't played a tight enough game to this point to effectively neuter the caps like they have in the first two games... and make the cap's man advantage nor their sense or urgency at even strength, a non issue. The final 20 is coming up and despite what that 'pussifying commissioner' says, a message needs to be sent. We can still win this game, but even if we don't... this needed to be a hard hitting, pressure hockey.. shut down period that shows the craps and the rest of the league that we won't crumble for 3 games like the flyers did last season after being up 3-0 in their series against Washington. LETS GO RANGERS!!!

After the third, ugh... More of the same bullsh*t. Penalties abound and lazy play. This was the worst possible game the Rangers could have played. Weak on finishing their checks... overconfident lackadaisical passing. Half hearted shots. There were 2 or 3 finishing opportunities that should have been buried but the players didn't care enough to aim for the top of net. Avery for all the penalties he took, was the only Ranger that showed an ounce of resistance to what was going on. Up next game four.

- J_Undisputed

Death Match Ahead: Ovechkin vs. Tortorella

Text from (thanks to Martin for the tip)

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers had an interested observer sitting on the visitor's bench as they took the ice for their pregame skate Monday morning.

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin was watching the Rangers practice when a Rangers trainer complained to the Capitals.
Washington PR man Nate Ewell then asked Ovechkin to leave the area.

"Alex was just looking for a place to relax. He likes being by the ice," said Ewell. "As soon as he found out it made the Rangers uncomfortable, he left."When asked why the Rangers wanted him to leave, Ovechkin joked: "Because they're afraid of me." When asked why he did it, Ovechkin joked that he sat there to "tick off" Rangers coach John Tortorella.

His answer drew many laughs from reporters. Tortorella insisted after the skate he had no idea Ovechkin was there."Who? Oh, god, this is the first I've heard of it," said Tortorella. "Ask me a question about the game, not that [expletive].""I don't think he had a pen and paper and was writing down line combinations," joked Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. "I can understand [the Rangers asking him to leave. I've gotten into the same arguments with people when I've wanted privacy in my practice, so I can understand what John was going through."


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Huet, Where Art Thou Huet? NYR 1, Caps 0 SO

Any proclaimed hockey expert will tell you the goaltender is the most important position in ice hockey. The goalie is the last line of defense. If a goalie goes down, you're done, unless your backup is just as good, or better.

So when last season's Washington Capitals made a huge trade from Montreal mid-season for Christobal Huet and in the subsequent 13 games he registered 11 wins, 2 losses, 2 shutouts, a 1.63 goals against average and .936% save percentage - don't you automatically prioritize his re-signing in the off-season, paying him 2nd to Alexander Ovechkin? Or for that matter, paying him whatever he wants (within reason, of course)?

They didn't and he went to Chicago. Bye, bye Huet. Almost a year later, the Caps goalkeeping gave up game 1, forcing them to put their backup goalie in for game 2 and, mostly, providing forward momentum for the Broadway Ranger hopefuls.

So now that the defensive and relentless New York Rangers have beaten the insecure and inexperienced goalkeepers of the Washington Capitals 2 out of 2 games in the first round of the playoffs (recap here), one must point to what could be, perhaps, one of the greatest Washington Capitals management mistakes in the team's history. Maybe getting rid of Jaromir Jagr to the New York Rangers post-lockout for half price was a biggie, but given the current situation they find themselves in, did someone in management ignore the basics of the game? An elite goalie needs to carry your team through the pressures of the playoffs. ( Although Jose Theodore apparently lacks confidence this first-series round, the masked man continues to display net-fulls of charisma for all to see - the George Hamilton of hockey) Good for New York.

Theodore's performance in game 1 was atrocious and inconsistent, so Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau decided the 2nd game yesterday afternoon was better suited toward rookie backup goalie Simeon Varlamov. WTF??? Varlamov had prior played in 6 NHL games. What will Paris Hilton think of Theodore now?

Cap's goalkeeper Varlamov was quite good in what was only his sixth career NHL start, but it turned out he had to be perfect in place of No. 1 goalie Jose Theodore. Fortunately for us, Ryan Callahan spoiled Varlamov's surprising NHL post-season debut by scoring on New York's second shot Saturday, giving the Rangers a 1-0 victory over the Capitals. A first-round draft pick in 2006, the 20-year-old Varlamov began this season in the minors, but Washington coach Bruce Boudreau opted to give him a chance Saturday, after playing coy since Wednesday about who would be Washington's goalie.

The Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist in goal automatically gave us the edge for yesterday's match (35 saves for his third career playoff shutout). He stole us the game, folks! Whew.

The Blueshirts defense gave us one of their best Pink Floyd impressions as 'all in all, it's just another brick in The Wall'; Rozsival and Redden (hiccup) shutdown the offensive nothingness (at least for one game) of Alex Ovechkin and the rest of his Semin & Green posse'. We haven't seen blueline shutdown for many moons, so it is refreshing to see our overpaid veterans have a turn at teaching the young'ens Dan Girardi, Marc Staal a little or something about throwing yourself down into the puck (more than 15 shots blocked by the body yesterday alone).

Overall, it was an inspiring and impressive performance for the Rangers.

Monday night we have the surprising treat of opening our first home playoff game of the season with an impressive 2-0 games ahead of the Caps. At best, most of us were hoping to split the series with a 1-1 record, but this is a 'happy place' for Rangers' fans and it should light up The Garden brighter than we've seen most of the season.

As far as goalkeeping goes, Lundqvist, Where Art Though Lundqvist? Happily in net for the Blueshirts for this series, the hopeful next rounds and another four years to go...

Let's Go Rangers....


Friday, April 17, 2009

College Stud Defenseman, Matt Gilroy, a NY Ranger

Boston University free agent defenseman Matt Gilroy has signed a multi-year contract with the New York Rangers. Matt Gilroy was awarded the Hobey Baker as the nation's top collegiate player.

The contract is worth $3.5 million for two years. Gilroy's decision Friday to sign with the Rangers caps a full week for the 24-year-old native of North Bellmore, N.Y. One week ago, he was named the Hobey Baker Award winner as the best U.S. college hockey player. One day later, he helped the Terriers to a stunning come-from-behind overtime win over Miami University in the NCAA Division I national championship game. Gilroy assisted on the tying goal with just 17 seconds remaining in regulation to cap a furious two-goal rally in the final minute.

The BU captain isn't eligible to join the Rangers on their current playoff run. He will attend the club's late summer training camp with an eye on making their 2009-10 NHL roster.


We Rangers Fans 'Feel Great'

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Coughlin Effect | Rangers 4 Wash 3 [Rangers lead series 1-0]

The "Avery effect" is a much bandied about term to describe how the Rangers perform so much better when he is on the team. However, it appears John Tortorella decided to channel his inner Tom Coughlin, when he exhorted his team to play the season finale last Sunday evening against the Flyers all out as if it were a meaningful game.

The Rangers heeded the Coach and in doing so, they won for the first time on the road in what seemed forever, they denied home ice to the Flyers, they scored on the power play, they scored a shorthanded goal, they scored 2 goals in the 3rd period for a come-from-behind win, they silenced a hostile partisan crowd, they protected Henrik (who, in turn, made some fabulous saves) and won a one goal game.

These gentlemen are the only resident coaches in NY who have held championship hardware.

Fast forward to Wednesday night at D.C.'s Verizon Center for their first game of the playoffs against the #2 seeded Washington Capitals. The Rangers took the first step to abiding by the Giants' championship blueprint -- their special teams came through with 2 power play goals, they won on the road, they failed to wilt in front of a boisterous crowd, they scored a[nother] critical game-winning 3rd period goal, and they wrested home ice advantage from the #2 seed.

The Rangers walked into Game 1 with much going against them. They were starting their 10th playoff series in a row on the road. They had only won the first game of a series 3 times in the prior 15 playoff series. Captain Chris Drury would be out with an unspecified injury which would impact the penalty kill and faceoff prowess.

Meanwhile, the Caps had a great regular season home record -- a sparkling 29-9-3 -- led by a prolific power play unit that scored more than 25% of the time. They have Alex Ovechkin, the #1 goal scorer in the NHL this season. And strangely enough, goalie Jose Theodore is 4-0 in first round series. Despite all these obstacles, the Rangers, yet again showing their trademark resiliency, not only competed, they jumped out to a 3-1 lead, and despite being tied early in the 3rd, came through with a 4-3 victory in Game 1. Official game recap here.

In the opening period, the Rangers did well to avoid a blow-out as the Caps had the early energy The Rangers were not helped when Dan Girardi was penalized in the opening seconds (which he unfortunately repeated to open the 3rd period that led to the Caps tying goal). In a definite foreboding of how this game would turn out -- Callahan blew past a Cap defenseman on a shorthanded effort. Then a little later he hit a post (one of 2 he nailed) as the Rangers finally made a sustained rush into the Capitals zone after more than 3 minutes of the game had elapsed.

The Caps continued to fly around the ice and Ovechkin totally deked Staal on an approach to the goal that was foiled by Lundqvist. It was thanks to his strong play and the ability of the Rangers to ensure that few pucks either made it to him or that he had unobstructed vision of shots that enabled the Rangers to keep the Caps off the scoreboard. During the scoreless first period, the Rangers were outshot at one point 12-2 with 4 minutes to go. And with that period done, the Rangers calmed down and started to play much better.

In the second period, the Caps opened the scoring on a nice deflection of an Ovechkin shot from the blue line by Tomas Fleischman at the 6:40 mark. Immediately, I thought to myself "Oh-oh" after recalling the game earlier this season when the Rangers lost 2-1. But, something strange happened -- it was the Caps defensemen who were plodding, slow and clumsy, reminiscent of certain Ranger defensemen at times. A minute after Fleischman's goal, Gomez picked up the puck, as one Cap defenseman collided with Antropov near Lundqvist giving Gomez some open ice, and while he was crossing the Caps' blue line, Mike Green collided with Avery leaving Gomez with an unobstructed view of Theodore who simply was outmatched by Gomez's shot.

The Rangers received a jolt from their penalty killing. Again, Blair Betts led the way with a strong check on Green and then blocking shots although he had lost his stick. Lundqvist came up with big saves with his glove, stick and skate. He put on a clinic of exploiting good angles on shooters. The energy led to 2 power plays late in the second (one drawn by Avery on John Erskine) and both times the Rangers converted.

The first goal was scored by Antropov on a neat wrist shot. Then 30 seconds later Sergei Fedorov shot the puck out of the arena for a delay of game penalty and the Rangers went back to work. Gomez, showing some great hockey sense, saw that the Caps were in the midst of a change and worked the puck up to the blue line, took possession of the offensive zone and left a nice drop pass for Naslund who beat Theodore. That was a signature goal by Gomez as a playmaker and reminiscent of the give-and-go with Avery that led to to the tying goal against Philly on Sunday. But the Rangers proceeded to give up the lead with a late goal to end the 2nd period and an early PPG to start the 3rd. Again, I thought to myself "Oh-oh".

Midway through the final period, the pivotal stretch of the game occurred. The Caps, thanks to Naslund's 2nd penalty, had their power play unit on the ice with a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately for them, they decided to play like the Rangers' power play -- no passing, players static while the Rangers scrambled around them to keep them from developing any rhythm. As they usually do, the Ovechkin PP unit stayed out for nearly the entire 2 minutes. But with a few seconds left, Ovechkin and others decided to abandon the PP and move for a change. At that moment, Antropov picked up the puck in front of Lundqvist, shot a pass up the center to Naslund emerging from the penalty box who then sent Brandon Dubinsky in on the left side. Dubi made a sick move that turned defenseman Jeff Schultz inside out. And as Schultz fell down (the Caps 3rd d-man to do that), he had a clear path to the net and converted a perfect shot beyond Theodore. As in the Flyers game, Dubi (on a recent scoring tear) and Antropov hooked up for a critical goal.

Dubi's game winner stuns Theo, the Caps and D.C. and perhaps even Ranger fans.

Of course, the Rangers did hold on even though they were under siege when Naslund took a brutally bad penalty (his 3rd of the game) with 5 minutes to go that could have been a killer. But the Rangers special teams and goalie combined to thwart the Caps. Ovechkin had 10 shots during the game; the Caps outshot the Rangers 35-21. To the Rangers credit, many of those shots came with unobstructed viewing lanes for Henrik and many of Ovechkin's shots were outside or from bad angles -- the types that Lundqvist, when he is in the groove, can stop.

Overall, the Ranger defense outplayed the Caps defense -- even Roszival and Redden. (BTW, little known fact -- Redden is a +5 since the trading deadline and +1 in this game.) Meanwhile, Mike Green was a -2.
The Caps defensemen won't be mistaken
for Mikhail Baryshnikov anytime soon.
Here are the troubling parts -- the Rangers took numerous penalties -- 7 of them (5 by Girardi and Naslund combined). That has to be curtailed. The Caps had 2 PPGs. Betts, Sjostrom and several others blocked numerous shots during the game especially on the penalty kill.

Also, the Rangers were lucky that they did not need stretchers to remove their players. Bradley leveled Mara behind the net. Girardi sent a pass to Korpikoski that left Lauri exposed for a brutal hit by Ovechkin. Sjostrom at one point was pounded into the ice and was slow to get up. These kinds of hits and the blocked shots have a cumulative effect over the course of a series and it is lucky for the Rangers that the schedule gives them a 2 day break before Game 2.


DARK-ness makes the NY Times

Hockey Night in Blogdom: Capitals-Rangers, a Partisan Preview

tj of Alex Ovetjkin

Who will win this series, and why?

Caps have better chances. Ovechkin is God. Boudreau is the best. Green is superb. Theodore is as good as Vernon who won the Cup for Detroit, but Lundqvist is no Roy.

Any history between these two teams?

N.Y.C. vs. D.C.? Madoff vs. Fedorov? But seriously, all the history between these two teams is an ancient history. Before Ovechkin. It is irrelevant now. What is relevant? Better off with Fedorov and Yes, we can!

Do your team’s fans have an opinion about the other team’s fans or the city they play in, and if so, what is it?

Caps fans hate Flyers, their city, their fans. Maybe more intensely they hate Penguins. There’s no hatred towards Rangers or New York. MSG? Caps fans think it really stinks there, especially after the dog shows. Let’s be honest, MSG is showing its age.

Do your team’s fans have any special chants, songs or mottoes that you’d like to share?

Don’t be fooled cuz he’s a Russian / it’s your body he’ll be crushin / it’s your tears that will be flowing
and your blood that will be gushin / he will leave you badly battered / with your hockey sweater tattered / you will see your team defeated /and your records really shattered

– “Ovechkin” by Pummeler

* * *


Stephen of The Dark Ranger

Who will win this series, and why?

Rangers win in 6. A poetic explanation: “How we got here, No one Knows. We only hope, Ovechkin blows!”

Any history between these two teams?

The Rangers had 48 PP goals to the Caps’ 85, while the Caps’ PK allowed 75 goals to the Rangers’ 40 goals. It’s a wash!

Do your team’s fans have an opinion about the other team’s fans or the city they play in, and if so, what is it?

Rangers fans feel sorry in general for Caps fans; even with one of the most overachieving offensive and defensive goal scorers in the N.H.L., they still just don’t know and appreciate hockey. Poor Caps fans. We Blueshirt fans obsess over our underachievers.

Do your team’s fans have any special chants, songs or mottoes that you’d like to share?

Most of the chants cannot appear in The Times, but in desperate times like these, there is simply one chant above others that resonates through the halls of the Garden, and that’s, “LET’S GO RANGERS!” A classic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Some early Gamesman-ship?

Alexander Ovechkin has a few choice words about the upcoming series with the our boys in blue. Most notably about the size of Henrik's pads and the smell of the Garden after the circus has come to town. His astute observations on Lundqvist:

"Well, he has big equipment. You have to make some traffic and go to the net. ... He's a great goalie, but you still can beat him."

When asked if they were "too big"?

"Oh, yeah," Ovechkin said with a laugh.

and on the garden....

"I like playing over there," he said after today's Capitals practice. "Sometimes the ice is no good over there because [of] lots of concerts, lots of dog shows, something like that coming over there. It kind of smells no good over there sometimes."

Now before we tear into AO, it can be said that the above comments were said all in good natured fun. The guy is definitely talented and the best in the league, in my opinion. But how do we know he was kidding? Well you have to figure the guy has a sense of humor. He'd have to set himself up for these.

Exhibit A- Ovechkin did a Car Dealership Commercial that was spoofed by the Thrashers who made their own public service announcement advising against hockey players in bad commercials. This was passed on by fellow poster/writer at The Dark Ranger, Tony:

Exhibit B - This was brought to my attention by a poster in the forum... There are no words to describe this other than perhaps.. "WTF?!?!"

Now I know what you're thinking. "I thought Ovechkin and Semin were mutually exclusive!" ..ok, ok I know the other thing you're thinking and no this isn't any of my photoshop handy work. While its out though, please anyone with access to a xerox machine and playoff tickets...wallpaper the visitors penalty box at garden with it.

Just adding fuel to the fire... Let's Go RANGERS!!!

- J_Undisputed

Susan Boyle = The New York Rangers

CLICK HERE and watch Susan Boyle.

As our Blueshirts are on the eve of playing the Washington Caps, one of the hottest teams in the NHL, an away game, the first game in the first round entering a hostile arena in our nation's capitol, there is disbelief that the RANGERS have a chance to succeed this year in the playoffs.

Everyone should watch this clip and let Susan Boyle of 'Britain Got Talent' be the metaphor for The New York Rangers tonight and through the series. Sometimes there are surprises that await.

WE SHOULD ALL BELIEVE!!! Rangers win in six.


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