Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bewitched Bothered & BeWILDered | MIN 3 NYR 2

The Rangers' Get Well Tour continues. While their injury list grew as Avery and Higgins joined Gaborik in the infirmary, after Wednesday's charitable event in Uniondale where the Isles obtained their first regulation victory, the Rangers traveled to Hockey Country in Minnesota where they gave their hosts and fans their initial regulation victory of the season, losing by 3-2, a slight improvement from the 3-1 debacle at the Mausoleum.

14 games into the season and the Rangers are now in the midst of 1-4-1 stretch after starting off at 7-1. Egads. Now one would think that with the Rangers missing 3 starters that the vets would step up to fill the gap. But other than Prospal, is there any vet capable of raising the level of his game? Dubious proposition as we shall see. Thank goodness for the rookie emergency call-ups from Hartford or the Rangers might have been shut out twice by two of the worst teams in the NHL. 4 points available and ZERO taken.

There's not a lot to say so feel free to wander over to the official recap here. These stats are helpful:

Shots on goal:
Rangers -- 5 - 8 - 7 = 20
Wild -- 12 - 13 - 7 = 32

Petr Sykora celebrates the game's first goal. Remember
when he was a Ranger? Why did they let him go?
The 2nd period, as typical recently, was the turning point. The Rangers trailed 1-0 thanks to a goal by former Ranger & Penguin, Petr Sykora, but Dane Byers (who arrived to the ice about 8 minutes before game time from Hartford), tied the score with his first NHL goal at 1 early in the 2nd period.

Look behind thee, Henrik. Belanger converts for a 2-1 lead.

Unfortunately, thanks to a couple of letdowns, the Wild scored 2 goals, the first on a nifty pass by Martin Havlat (a huge disappointment so far) to Eric Belanger who cruised through the goal crease to deflect the puck in with a little more than 6 minutes remaining in the 2nd. The backbreaker came with 58 seconds left -- another last minute 2nd period goal just like in Montreal last week -- as Staal lost the puck in center ice, the Rangers were slow to react, Dan Girardi was deked out of position by Mikko Koivu. He sent a pass between the circles where Antti Miettinen lined up a shot that beat Henrik between the pads cleanly. With that, Lundqvist slammed his stick down in anger and I glumly said aloud, "Game Over."

In the 3rd, with 5 minutes gone, Artem Anisimov and Prospal did some nice work along the right boards in the Minnesota end. Anisimov left the puck for Prospal who was trailing him and dished a pass to Staal who was coming down the left side. Marc shot and beat Backstrom to the right corner to bring the Rangers within one. Besides the head's up chemistry between Prospal and Anisimov and the nice aggressive shot by Staal, as soon as Anisimov gave up the puck, he went directly to the net and was in front of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom as Staal shot, disabling him from having a clear view. Nice thinking by Anisimov.

If the Rangers had a valid opportunity to tie the game during the remaining 15 minutes, I missed it as I was distracted by my female houseguests working on their Halloween party vampire outfits. However, a few minutes later Byers again put some serious pressure on Backstrom by walking in on him and taking 3 shots. No Ranger was in the vicinity to lend support and the Rangers quietly went down to another defeat.

Lundqvist played a decent game and flashed some nice leather grabbing a rising slapshot from Miettinen. That was a highlight reel type shot. He also toppled to the right and had his stick fly out of his hand after stopping a blistering shot from Brent Burns. The Rangers scrambled to successfully cover while Henrik was stickless.

The Wild, 29th in scoring, easily outshot the Rangers. They outplayed them all over the ice. The Rangers had little in sustained pressure, forechecking, rushes, you name it. Didn't Jacques Lamaire move back to the Devils.

The Coach would not let talk about missing players be an excuse -- "You can't whine about that. There are some people in our lineup that are supposed to be offensive players that haven't contributed enough." -- the ever quotable coach. He did not name anyone, but I can help out there by introducing you to the 30 point club:

Capt. Drury, Ryan Callahan, Sean Avery, Chris Higgins -- at their current point pace, they each will get to maybe 30 points. Scream about defensive inadequacies, scream about the goalies' propensity to give up some questionable goals, but look at these guys and realize that they are killing the team. Drury, Higgins & Avery -- apparently they were neutered during the offseason. All those fans who were crying about Dubinsky not being signed -- are you happy that your prayers were answered -- the guy has 9 points but he is invisible and looks like he learned his puck handling skills by watching the wrong tapes of Gomez's ventures as a Ranger? Callahan has lost a step or two since his flu. Meanwhile, Michael Del Zotto has 12 points. I need not say anymore.

Kid, those ain't ghosts, that's the Ranger's offense.
Is the early season success simply a mirage? It's beginning to look that way. Lots of scoring has come from the first line (Gaborik & Prospal), supplemented by the 3rd/4th line and the defense -- the latter being an unexpected benefit. The scoring for the past 2 games -- a defenseman (again) and two youngsters scoring in their first games as Rangers. You've got to be kidding me.

I hear the fans crying out in horror on this Halloween morning. Unlike little Cole Sear I am seeing zombies, not ghosts. We knew the team could not maintain a 7-1 pace. That's ok. But they have not maintained the level of play that got them to the early success.

The Bruins, Sunday's matinee opponent, are playing Edmonton today in a Saturday matinee. Capt Chiara, he of the 19 goals last season, has not scored yet this season, and Tim Thomas has looked ordinary at times by failing to make pivotal stops (the Devils beat him the other night with a goal in the final moments). The Bruins are not the team they were last season. Either the Rangers right themselves tomorrow or they will continue to administer more get well tonic to struggling teams.

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rangers arrive DOA at the Nassau mausoleum

Did we really get beat by the 25th place team and become only their second win since the season started? It was kinda of hard for Ranger fans to not ride the wave of a good 7-1start to a conclusion that this team has changed. Injected youth, point men with hard shots on the power play, developing defensive studs, and lastly the pure goal scoring of Marion Gaborik. The slick styling of the silky Slovak (say that 5 times fast) wouldn't be present for this game due to a lower body, non groin related injury and while Del Zotto had been outscoring his former teammate, the highly touted John Tavares....In the context of a rivalry, pedigree means nothing.

Read the official recap, here.

In the first period, the blueshirts were caught off guard early as their defensive mistakes came back to bite them only a minute into the game as a quick pass lead to a breakaway goal for the islanders. Enough to make every Ranger fan wince, it would only be a taste of the abuse the team would endure for the first period. While the scoring was kept to one for the Islanders, their forwards battered their Ranger counterparts like .. well, like a fish sticks. While individuals like the feisty, but vertically challenged Ryan Callahan tried to hold their own, this was a rivalry game and team effort would be required to match the once we were facing by a team driven with the idea of nothing left to lose. A standout for the Rangers was the visiting PA Parentau, who showed he wasn't thinking about just visiting when he scored the lone goal for the rangers and kept up a high energy level throughout the game. As a call up, Parentau also had nothing to lose, showed a sense of urgency the rest of the team sorely lacked because he felt he had everything to gain by keeping things simple but working hard every shift.

In the Second, the Rangers would come out of the lockeroom fired up and seemed ready to meet the physical requirements the game demanded. That would put the teams back on an even keel momentarily as the Rangers would give as good as they got for a few shifts. That soon faded as the Rangers watched indifferently as the Islanders resident Frankenstein (Sutton) skated cross ice at will, elbowing and falling into other Ranger players with vigor. The fierceness with which our boys in blue had played for a few shifts, completely evaporated and was only hinted at with verbal jabs after being boarded and players like Girardi, tossing an Islanders player aside like yesterdays garbage only after he grew frustrated with harassment in getting to the puck. These could be called signs of life, but as we learned during the Renney administration... In its purest form, hockey is a game of aggression. That's the what the pads are for and purely offensive systems or playing out of defensive shells won't work without the basic understanding that things can't always be pretty and sometimes you'll have to get your hands dirty if you want the win. Tortorella would later echo these thoughts after the game. "I thought they wanted to play harder than us tonight," he said. "I think we're too easy a team to play against in these types of games. They played hard. They played through the body, and we didn't answer as far as hitting back, other than for a few shifts in the second period.

"We simply have to be a harder team to play against."

The frustration seemed to be mounting on the Rangers side and boiled over in net when Lundqvist snapped and lashed out after making an excellent stop only to have Girardi over skate the rebound and swipe underneath the bouncing puck, leaving it wide open for the islanders to chip in the go ahead goal. Things only got worse from there as the Ranger forwards spent the night trying to speed through the neutral zone and attempting to corral pucks from behind as an afterthought while trying to avoid the physicality and pressure. It was akin to watching a 7 foot man running through the rain with a chihuahua in tow that cant keep up. It's a horrible habit our team has formed in the linear thinking they have receded to after the first few wins. Offensive mindset + possession of the puck = win, purely on # of goals. This would be a winning formula in many sports. First and foremost, this is hockey, where one check can separate you from the rest of your career if you're caught with your head down or looking the wrong way. Our players spend way too much time looking backwards on the rush using the skate and scoop from behind method and taking shortcuts to puck possession by chipping it along while hoping for slight of hand to help confuse the defense. It results in goals some times but painful turnovers the others. Our D-men do the same and over skate the puck, thinking of threading the neutral zone with perfect outlet passes for cherry picking forwards before they even secure possession of the puck. I think think they team needs to be taken back to the woodshed and give a reminder of what hard work, crisp passes and stiff shoulders are all about. Playing a complete game at a slower speed is the only way this team will learn to do it under pressure at a higher speed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rangers Shoot Stray Prairie Wolfs

NYR 5, Phoenix 2

Yes.  The Rangers were up 4-0 against the Phoenix Coyotes midway through the second period.

Yes.  The Rangers yet again lost sight of the win allowing 2 Phoenix goals in the latter half of the second period, every Blueshirt fan rubbing our heads with that 'ole familiar feeling.

Yes.  Whew! We won the game 5-2, but....

With 7:25 minutes left in the final period, Marian Gaborik left the Rangers bench limping, leaving the game early.


Maybe by the time you are reading this, Marian Gaborik is taking a spontaneous midnight skate, proving to Coach Torts that he has nothing to worry about.  Amen for that.   Assuming everything is okay and the Blueshirts are not another league-wide groin joke, onward to discussing tonight's game that broke the Rangers three-game losing streak, positioning them fourth in the Eastern Conference with an 8-3-1 record (at the time of this writing 10:12 EST).   Official recap here.

The "we'll give you free tickets if we lose" Phoenix Coyotes (6-3-0) came into The Garden tonight with expectations of a win, eager to prove to all in Phoenix that there are more fans than investors willing to buy the team. 

Opening the first period, NY Rangers Anisimov scored a 'sick' goal reaching back to corral a pass from Brian Boyle, spun around in the circle with his back to the net, and twisted to put in a shot as Coyote Zbynek Michalek tried to cover him. No luck 'Zip-neck' or however you pronounce your name....nice try.  That nine-year-old YOUTUBE sensation would have been proud of the goal and would have tipped the glass for Artem if he were legal.    Gaborik doubled the lead 7:39 later with a power-play goal, perfectly assisted by Dubinsky who streaked down the left wing into the Phoenix zone, carried the puck behind the net and found Gaborik in the slot for a quick one-timer.

The onslaught continued in the second period.  Marion Gaborik and Vinny Prospal ran a give-and-go with Prospal cutting to the net, shifting to his backhand and beating Bryzgalov for the Rangers third goal, while then-healthy Marion Gaborik struck again on the power play; young'en Michael Del Zotto moved the puck to Prospal, who drew attention from Coyote D-dogs in the slot and found Gaborik in the middle of the circle for another one-timed goal.

Then while resting, the Coyotes caught the Rangers sleeping the latter half of the second half scoring two against NYR Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist, goals by Jovanovski and a Fiddler (On the Roof).  I couldn't help myself..

While the second period ended, as Rangers fans I found myself in a similar psychology, elated by a 4-0 lead and a pure dominance by the team I love, but an 'all too familiar Rangers team that frequently loses four goal leads every season for three seasons' -- It happens.  We hate it.  So while I was preparing myself for yet another disappointment in hockey -- the Rangers of old, the Tom Renney Rangers...

 ...the Blueshirts pull out of the intermission and kick some Phoenix tail.

The third period opened with the John Tortorella New York Rangers squad out-shooting, out-playing, out-checking the Phoenix Coyotes, and Enver Lisin pushing New York's lead to 5-2 at 11:47 of the third - it was obvious we'd take the two points and end the losing streak.


Other than the goal-scorers, I see strength and confidence in most of the D-men -- but honorable mention tonight goes to Marc Staal who singlehandedly prevented many goals in the third period and played like a veteran-who-deserves-to-make-six-mill-a-year.  The newbies again outplayed the vets on 'D', but what else is new?

Until we hear otherwise, the roster is healthy and we see the NY Islanders and John Tavares for the first time this season.  See you then 7pm EST and hang in there Rangers fans -- Coach Good For Us is improving our team and I hear he finds groin injuries unacceptable behavior.  Let's see what Marian thinks of that.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Truth or Consequences | MTL 5 NYR 4 (OT)

“There has to be some consequences; we have to go with the guys that are doing the things to help us win the hockey game.”

So said the Coach after last night's back and forth affair in Montreal last night. He was discussing his decision to bench Brandon Dubinsky & Christopher Higgins after the 2nd period as the Rangers squandered a 2 goal lead twice.

The Rangers were the American stars of for the 3rd time this season on Hockey Night In Canada.

It also was reunion night as the Rangers got to see Scotty Gomez and Paul Mara dressed in the red of Montreal. Montreal got to see Christopher "No Goals" Higgins for the first time since his departure.

Michael Cammalleri was unmarked for large portions of
the game making it easier to score three times.

The game was entertaining, riveting and ultimately frustrating as the Rangers fell in overtime after yielding a pair of 2 goal leads. Thankfully, there was no viewing distraction because the Yankees were rained out. Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for the Blueshirts and unfortunately, Casey Price was replaced (perhaps permanently) by Jaroslav Halak.
The official recap is here.

The Rangers withstood an initial onslaught by the Habs that resulted in an early 1-0 lead on a nice rush up ice by the Canadiens' imports -- Michael Cammelleri, Scotty Gomez and Biran Gionta who shredded the defense to lead Cammalleri's wrist shot that beat Lundqvist at 4:16. That capped off a 5-1 shot advantage to the delight of the Montreal faithful. It seemed like a long night was imminent.

But the Rangers settled down and found a solution to the confusion that threatened to make the game a blowout -- send out the 4th line. Atrem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros had an incredibly strong shift that bottled up the Canadiens until the puck found its way to Michal Rosival at the right point. His shot found its way to Havlak, the puck rebounded off Voros in the crease to Anisimov who chipped it from a oblique angle into the high corner to tie the game. That goal energized the Rangers who immediately played like they did in the opening weeks of the season. By the time the dust settled as the period ended, the Rangers were leading 3-1, outshooting the Habs by 11-1 and silencing the crowd.

Still smiling. Gomez proved that he works well with
Gionta and Cammalleri and got himself 2 assists.

Fine minutes after the tying goal, Ales Kotalik scored on a great set-up pass from behind the net by Sean Avery after the Rangers kept the Habs bottled up in their defensive zone for several minutes, it seemed. Dan Girardi made a great stop of a clearing pass to keep the puck in and set up the tie-breaking goal at 14:42. I had to admire how the Rangers had rebounded and the energy in their forecheck that kept the puck in. Another 5 minutes later, the Rangers scored again as Matt Gilroy blasted a shot that wound its way into the back of the net. What was significant about the shot was that Gilroy patiently moved the puck to the center from the right point, which allowed his teammates to get in position near the net, before he shot. It continues to be a strong point of the Rangers' play that the defensemen are scoring and their shots (like Roszival's earlier one) are hitting the net and leading to goals. A positive change form last year.

I don't recall Paul Mara ever close to the net
on offense or defense.

It would have been nice to stop the game there but there were 2 more periods to play. The middle period was the reverse of the first as Montreal outscored the Rangers 3-1. The Canadiens started to dominate the pace (14-9 advantage in shots) and it paid off when Matt D'Agostini converted to make it 3-2. That play was started when Dubinsky was stripped of the puck in the neutral zone and in his desire to chase down LaPierre and D'Agostini ended up flying into the Rangers goal as D'Agostini was hoisting the puck over Henirk. Henrik was down for a bit as the back of his leg had been pounded into the goalpost and Ranger fans like me had to have their hearts in their throats (once again). But Henrik did get up, skated around and returned. Surprisingly, perhaps, Dubinsky did not as he had a place in the coach's doghouse.

Within 3 minutes, the 2 goal lead was restored as Marian Gaborik pulled out another breathtaking shot fromhis arsenal by taking a pass from Enver Lissin and walking in on the hapless Havlak, who had no idea what Gaborik would do -- and in fact, no one knew -- as he moved to his left and chipped the shot between Havlak's legs to restore a 2 goal lead a little more than halfway through the game. And this is where the game turned.

Bad penalties cost the Rangers as the teams battled at the boards and Prospal's cheap shot elbow found D'Agostini. Immediately, after that, the invisible Christopher Higgins highstick gave the Canadiens a 2-man advantage. Marc-Andre Bergeron converted that with a slap shot beating Lundqvist on his right side while Drury tried to dive in front of the shot. Gomez had his 2nd assist of the night. Higgins, not having the return to Montreal he hoped for, ended up being a bunkmate with Dubinsky for the rest of the game.

With about 90 seconds to go, I thought aloud that if the Rangers got out of this period with a 4-3 lead, I liked their chances in the 3rd. Silly, silly me. Within seconds, Cammalleri had burst in and buried a wrist shot behind a stunned Lundqvist.

The third period went by quickly as neither team converted power play chances. The ebb and flow was fun to watch and both goalies made the necessary stops to keep the game tied. Then in overtime, Cammalleri, who often had swaths of open ice to cruise through, picked up the puck in his own zone, worked his way up the right side, ignored the half-hearted back checking of Gaborik and outmaneuvered Matt Gilroy to set up a wrist shot that beat Lundqvist past his glove to win the game. It was a brilliant effort by the former Flame/King who ended the game with the completion of a hat trick.

The Rangers' loss (3rd in a row) epitomized what we have seen from the team through the first 11 games:
  • Goal Scoring -- another 4 regulation goals including 3 in the first period with another goal coming from a defenseman.
  • Eye-opening scoring plays -- Anisimov's was a tremendous shot from a bad angle and showed great patience and skill; Kotalik's came from the beautiful set-up from Avery and blue line save by Girardi. Both came from hard work in the offensive zone.
  • Daily eye-opening goal by Marian Gaborik -- anyone have that shot between the legs of Marian Havak in the pool?
  • Defensive breakdowns -- the Canadiens swarmed all over the Rangers at times and it was not pretty.
  • Henrik Lundqvist being bowled over -- by an opponent or a teammate. Last night's collision with Brandon Dubinsky was downright scary.
Despite being entertained, I was not happy with the outcome. 3 in a row is now a losing streak. The Devils beat Pittsburgh, the Flyers won, the Canadiens showed that with a little more time, they may have a team that will be a force. The Rangers took 1 point out of 4 from conference rivals this week when they should have had 3.

Girardi, apparently listening to the dressing down he got from the Coach, responded well with a strong game all over the ice. Staal, also the target of the Coach's wrath, played better. Callahan seems to still be suffering from the flu as he was not his usual speedy, energetic self. That spark has been missing this week. We'll see how Dubinsky and Higgins react to their benching when the Rangers return to the Garden on Monday against the Coyotes.

--- The Graying Mantis

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farty Marty Wins First At The Garden

NYR 2, NJ Devils 4

It's safe to say I personally had a sh*tty day.  Watching the game tonight made it even sh*ttier.  Go here for the official recap.

NJ Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur won for the first time in 10 regulation matches at The Garden while playing goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist, as the New York Rangers (now 7-3-0) lost their second in a row at home.  Why you might ask?  Because Marty earned it.  Tough to say, but Fatty (or Farty) was the dominant goalie tonight.   As for Lundqvist, he made 21 saves and the Devil's game winning goal was Henrik's to stop -- a 'throw it toward the Blueshirts goal, block and piddle in between Henry's pads shot' by NJ's Dainius Zubrus ended Henrik's reign over Oily Brodeur at The Garden.  Mind you, our puck moving defenseman found themselves ineffectively losing the puck in the offensive zone while Devil snipers left them behind to carry multiple '3 on 2's' & '2 on 1's' against The King all night.

The end was a mess.

The opening of the game looked promising, as the Blueshirts aggressively opened the first period with a physical forechecking type of game, obviously looking to rebound from Monday night's embarrassing, horrific and exposing loss to the San Jose Sharks.  As pointed out this week in this blog, Monday's loss was a blueprint for how to play our New York Rangers, and The Devils certainly read those plans and jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Parise and Bergfors.

Rangers pest Sean Avery dropped the gloves for the first time this season in a fight with Mottau. After Avery pasted Mottau to the boards with a clean hit, the pair went at it for nearly two minutes before Avery capped the brawl with a takedown.   This was a chance to meet the challenge and motivate the Rangers into a new way, a new worked.

The 2nd period was owned by the Blueshirts, as Gaborik scored his seventh of the season at 1:47, just seven seconds into a power play,  to cut the lead to 2-1.  Vinny Prospal won the faceoff back to the point, where Kotalik drew the defense and slid the puck to Gaborik. His sniper's shot bounced off traffic in front and past Brodeur.  With 5:35 to go in the second period, the Rangers turned defense into offense.  This was the turning point.  The great coaching Torts equalizer philosophy was in the house!

The third period disproved the need to push everyone forward at all times, as our boys were caught with their pants down -- giving too many opportunities for the NJ breakaways....the third period Zubrus goal followed by Parise adding an empty-netter in the final minutes ended the rivalry for one-night this season.

Despite a high-goal scoring and puck possession level of play, the Rangers have exposed serious deficiencies in their blueline.  Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival have stepped up their game considerably in the last four games -- the newbies get a pass as they've put the Blueshirts in a winning ranking to start -- and all D-men have shown that they adapt to Torts system well (more Redden, less Rozzy), but we are still missing the stay-at-home-defenseman, the stud, who controls the neutral zone.  When the D-men fail to capitalize on scoring goals, the forwards (Prospal, Kotalik, Higgins, Anisimov) panic to get back to defend the blueline.  The men in back can play up front, but the goal scorers are not conditioned to play back and have been relying on the defense to cover all grounds.  This will soon be a bigger problem for our Blueshirts as every subsequent team will learn from the tapes. 

This Saturday we meet a taste of the old Rangers, a meeting with Scott Gomez and Paul Mara of the Montreal Canadiens -- who this evening won their first game at home against the Long-ga-Islanders.  There are rival battles throughout the season (like tonight) and there are games that we are expected to win.  In looking at both of the teams, where they stand and what they've earned, the Rangers are expected to beat the Habs.  

Leave it to Torts, Henrik and Marion Gaborik.  If they won't figure it out, no one will.  Shuck is off, Rangers brethren -- this one hurts but it's only one game against those Jersey 'what exit?' Schmucks!

Hey Marty, now go enjoy a victory steak and lots of creamed spinach with mushrooms.  You deserve it plumpy!


Sex Scandal Free Night -- Devils Visiting MSG

Thank goodness for the Rangers/Devils tonight. It will take my mind off all the recent stories about questionable October/April romances of public figures that have been cluttering up my television screen, the Internet, and newspaper front pages.

Proof that the lesson of Steve McNair's ill-fated choice in women has not been learned. . .

We've got some interesting battles tonight. It's a big game, so big that the network that doesn't follow hockey called it the Thursday Night Game of the Week.

Rangers/Devils -- Nothing like a division rival's first visit of the season.

Tortorella/Lemaire -- Battle of Stanley Cup winning coaches.

Rangers Youngsters v. Devils Youngsters. The Rangers have received publicity about their young defensemen but the Devils also have some quality youths as well.

New Look Rangers v. Defensive Minded Devils. Rangers are outscoring Devils by 1.5 goals per game.

and let's not forget, of course, the renewal of old acquaintances. . . .

Avery v. Brodeur -- both trying to recover from slow starts. Brodeur is one shutout away from tying Terry Sawchuk's career record of 103.

Most of all, I am looking forward to some simple straightforward in-your-face hockey without the taint of sex scandals. And on that I think we can all agree.

Right? Sean? Marty?

Did I say something wrong??

Ah, geez.

---The Mantis

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Adrian!!!! Henrik???? Oh Crap, A Bear....

How will the Blueshirts respond when they've been beat into chum?

With the New York Rangers recently getting baited, flipped and filleted by the San Jose Sharks 7 to 3 -- the real question is how the Blueshirts will respond to our rival Devils of Newark tomorrow night, 7pm EST.

The prophet coach John Tortorella said this before Monday's Jim Jones exhibit, obviously seeing vulnerabilities in the team:

"We're teetering on going the wrong way here."

How right he was.  It would have been interesting to know how he addressed the team privately -- and not through the NYR fan channels -- and the first period will tell everything as we all look forward to one of the greatest Rangers Rivals --- Marty the Fatty VS. Sean the Pest.  

I say Avery takes another goalie interference five minute penalty, as a response to how much he adores Mr. Famous Unctuous Goalie - with permission from Torts.  Coach Torts has taken the high-road by asking the league to look at how many teams have taken-out our King Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist through spontaneous slides, & runs at the net.

As the league prizes their prize goalkeepers and record holders, the Rangers are bound to test the physical and mental limits of M-A-A-R-R-T-T-T-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y straight out of the gate.  Expect a brawl with Mah-tee in the first period and a newly confident team working hard for every goal.

See you then and Let's Go Rangers, friends!


Monday, October 19, 2009

This Bites...

NYR 3,  San Jose Sharks 7

It looks painful. It was. This was a good fast paced 1st period by two fast paced teams. The San Jose Sharks pushed and pursued our Rangers, upping the stakes by upping the pace. They were on us like... well, like sharks. We responded. A Staal Shot from the point was tipped in Drury for his second of the season. Only seconds later, hard work in front of the net would tip another that was waved off after a quick whistle by the zebras who lost sight of the puck then received an earful from Coach Torts. Once the action was restarted, our boys went back to work. A minute later, that work would pay off for Del Zotto who buried a Kotalik rebound and proved it was a good idea for the Blueshirts to keep him rather than returning him to juniors. That two-goal lead wouldn't hold long though, as the Sharks were determined to get back in this game as San Jose's Staubitz charged down the left side and put a puck under a sliding Wade Redden and right through the static Valiquette.  Dany "Anywhere but Edmonton" Heatley would stack another goal on for the Sharks as he battled his way through three Rangers (Apparently all 3 forgot how to use their shoulders) on a Sharks powerplay and chip one through Vailquette to tie the game. (The penalty was taken by Redden- For what? Um, I'd tell you but Versus (in typical fashion) chose not to air the replay so there would be more time for another ENZYTE commercial).

The momentum would carry through the break and into the second period as an old ghost came back to haunt the Rangers. Jed Ortmeyer (yes, ORTMEYER...the once brave Ranger who would dive in front of pucks like they were $100 bills, but couldn't hit the side of a barn with a shot) found the loose change he was looking front for the Ranger net, scoring a dirty one on Valiquette, who lost sight of the puck and was slow to get across the crease. Another weak penalty called on Marion Garborik for tapping the stick of a Sharks player, posted an immediate return as another scramble in the Ranger crease produced another dirty goal for San Jose. It only got uglier from there as another goal was scored on a 2 on 1 that Valiquette didn't seem quite ready for (turns out he was, but just sucked). FIVE UNANSWERED GOALS by the Sharks precluded Valiquette (and his rigamortis) being removed from net for the 3rd.

Henrik got his warm welcome from the Sharks as they scored their 6th, five minutes into the period as his team abandoned him after making the initial save and leaving opposing players on the doorstep. (After primary offender Dan Girardi cruised into the corner after a "good enough" back check, the Sharks decided to build a fire in our crease, sang a few songs and even had time to roast some marshmallows before tapping in the loose puck.) Later, an Avery drop pass for a Lisin slapper from the side boards would net us a consolation goal and was our last desperate attempt at mustering whatever dignity was left as we prayed the clock would be merciful in ushering in the final buzzer. SCREWED AGAIN!!! The Sharks would get it back instantly as a screened shot whizzed right by Lundqvist.

We were indeed got beat at our own game.

Two goals seemed to be enough as our entire team shifted their focus to what they were going to order at the post victory dinner, our second rate backup proved to be just a goalie hologram projected by a laser somewhere in MSG, and the guy with the night off was forced to suit up and take one for the team. Our lack of discipline found us taking more penalties as the team in front of us kept cranking up the pace and we simply couldn't keep up. Our youngsters found themselves in deep water, as the experience and persistence of an elite team proved to be the difference. They circled, laying in wait for our greenhorn mistakes and started to feast as soon as the first drop of blood hit the water on a turn over. Perhaps this was an inevitable and valuable learning experience for our newly exercised youth. But what about everyone else? Does this shalacking provide the humbling experience they need to see that our new found conditioning and a game breaker in Gaborik isn't enough. Sure we got off to a fast start in spite of their pressure in the first period. However where our game stopped, is where San Jose showed they were a more complete team than we were. A few things I noticed tonight:
  • Our D-men didn't punish any player that tucked his head down and headed straight for our net.
  • Our forwards were battered from pillar to post.
  • After the first, we were content to take safe shots from the outside and get rid of the puck as soon as possible, because we knew it wasn't a question of IF we got hit but WHEN and by HOW MANY...
  • While Avery's focus on the game is nice and he picked up his points, tonight is a game where his antics could have given us an edge or equalizer. Maybe the knees a little tender, still?
  • All the digs and cheapshots a big body like Brashear could throw, doesn't mean squat if its thrown after the play on some insignificant nobody or 'knuckle dragger' on the other team. Hit the guy with the puck.. when it counts!
  • There's still one pulsating vein in John Tortorella's head that hasn't exploded yet. But I can imagine he's not done yelling yet, so someone get a mop.
Every team has an off night, but our quick start shot that theory all to Hell. We felt the pressure and when we shook it off, they added more and we didn't want seconds. They've shown other teams how to play us... and showed us that we're not as good as our record suggests we are and there's plenty more to add to our game before we start patting each other on the back.

Still green around the Gills,


A Nasty Divorce

By Anonymous

Being a fan of a sports team is like being in a relationship. It’s exactly like being in a relationship.  It is a relationship.  In a healthy relationship, both individuals give and receive graciously, communicate often and with sincerity, and treat each other with the utmost respect.  Bad relationships are often due to the shortcomings of one of the two partners.

I’ve been in a bad relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I’m getting a divorce.  You might think it’s because of their winless start this year, but the ink on those divorce papers actually dried a couple of years ago (I don’t care if you don’t believe me).  The timing right now is perfect for everyone else in this lousy relationship to wake up and realize they should get out and find a better team to cheer for.  Like Chicago Cub fans, Leaf fans are like a pathetic spouse who keeps coming home to a partner who takes full advantage of them, and gives virtually nothing in return.  Leaf fans have, for over 40 years, been subsisting on stingy droplets of hope, and they’ve been too numb to realize that those droplets contain no nutrients in them.

Scan any of the lists relationship gurus put together and you’ll find that it’s really easy to road-test this relationship metaphor on the Leafs.  Here is a crude attempt at showing how being a fan of the Maple Leafs exhibits every one of ‘the top five signs of a bad relationship’:
  1. Negative, Divisive, Sarcastic Comments – Every time fans show their frustration and ask for some accountability, they’re told to “breathe, relax” – Maurice did it last year and Wilson did it this year.   Those two guys had decent reputations going into their tenure at that place.  That attitude is clearly a product of a smug, uncaring culture over there.
  2. Only one partner’s needs are being met – The Leafs have enjoyed sellouts in the seats, suites and rinkboard space, have steadily increased prices to the point of leading the NHL in that department.  They are literally printing money for their Ontario Teachers’ Pension ownership group.  In return, fans at this year’s home opener got told by the PA announcer that they get to be the star national anthem singers, as a patronizing gesture to convince them they matter.
  3. Not living up to promises – This team has been promising to turn it around every year, and over forty-plus years, have been uncompetitive most of the time.  Brian Burke promised to make a major deal last summer and failed to do so.  Paul Maurice guaranteed to make the playoffs a couple of years ago too and we know how that ended up.  The team itself makes no promises publicly.  They throw superficial taglines around like “Spirit is Everything”, but if you look on their website, they don’t say anything about the team and their mission in the hockey world.  Why should anyone follow them?
  4. The Thrill is Gone and You’re Sleeping in Separate Rooms – This is a tough one to put into a hockey context.  Ask any Leaf fan and they’ll tell you that the romance is long gone, but they will also admit to getting thoroughly fucked every time they buy a ticket these days.
  5. You Start Dreaming About Other Partners – You should see how many Ovechkin and Crosby jerseys people in Toronto are wearing these days.  Fantasy pools are another great way to escape the leveraged stranglehold the Leafs have on the Toronto market.  The Leafs may be able to keep Balsillie or any other suitor out of their market, but hockey fans in Toronto will find a way to love another.
You can just imagine a scene out of some chick flick, where a Leaf fan is sitting around a restaurant table with a Rangers fan, a Red Wings fan, and a Bruins fan, and they’re offering reassuring words like, “You’re too good for him,”  or “When are you going to leave him, he’s a bum.”  Then that dejected fan begins to reflect on how crappy his life is at Leaf games.

There are no fun rituals at Leaf games. People in suits shoot you dirty looks when you make noise.  Sometimes people sitting in the cheap $100 seats start a “Go Leafs Go” cheer, but as one of the more unoriginal, uninspiring chants in pro sports, this does little more than elicit a yawn.  The whole experience is a bore and is solely dependent on winning and losing.

So this is the tale of my nasty breakup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I’ve found someone else in the meantime.  Someone who makes me laugh.  Someone who’s sincere and genuine.  Someone who’s got a great track record, an authentic personality, and, win or lose, always shows me a good time at the game.  I wish I had the courage to do this sooner.  While I’m a bit frustrated with all the time I wasted, the future looks great!  Am I gushing?   

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blueshirts Brian Burkie Buffet

NYR 4, Maple Leafs 1

I could get used to this.  Seven wins in a row.  Official recap here.

The red-hot Rangers brought a complete game to the Air Canada Centre tonight against the ailing and sorry-ass Leafs, leaving the building with another dominating performance against the league-wide and Ontarian city-wide embarrassed Toronto franchise.  Leaf fans finishing their sushi platters only realized this with five minutes left in the third period, as the polite folks of Ontario proceeded to 'boo' their own team.  (and you cannot blame them having paid $250 dollars for a 300 section seat).  So for the Rangers - that makes seven wins in a row, a first place team in the league and, most importantly, another blow to Brian Burke's Bionic Magnum Opus.

The irony of it all.  Listen, I am not buying into the hype of our Blueshirts being unstoppable -- they played strong and as-they-were-told-to-by-Torts, but the irony of how during the off-season the Leafs were to become the team it was always destined to be, almost crowned a playoff-contender by blowhard'ing Brian Burke; on the flip side during the same off-season, the Rangers and GM Glen Sather were horribly criticized having done a terrible job paying for the injury prone Gaborik (knock on wood) and re-vamping the team, generally ranking the pre-season Blueshirts somewhere in the low 20's, missing the playoffs and many players (mostly Sean Avery) unable and unwilling to adapt to a coach Torts system.   It's a long season, but how wrong they were.

To some degree, I think even Burkie was buying into all his own verbal swill.  Remember the pre-season quotes?

The Star, June 24, 2009, before the season begins:
General Manager Brian Burke is about to begin remaking the Toronto Maple Leafs and will use every tool in his arsenal – draft picks, salary cap space and trades – to build a team that will hit and fight. "Our goal is to make the playoffs next year, we're going to have to make some changes to do it," Burke said yesterday. "We're going to be a different team.   I like a lot of hitting. I like a lot of fighting.  It will be a more hostile group in the fall."
It appears the only hostile group right now are the fans.  The above quotes cracked me up re-reading them, because the The Leafs that we beat twice now were completely non-physical, with the exception of a taunting (very sad in dark blue) Colton Orr getting refused by a largely well skating Donald Brashear.  Burke was right in that these Leafs are very different - they look worse than they ever have - far from playoff contender and, truthfully, a creation of the man that created them - a Burkie Frankenstein hockey team.  It could be said that various limbs have been sewn together through free-agency and trading to create a 'hitting and fighting team, just one without any support on the blueline and missing a goaltender resembling elite status.  This 'Burkie form of the Leafs' just doesn't have enough weapons, they don't get enough shots on net, they can't finish a play and they gave up too many opportunities.  With the exception of our Lundqvist in net, I very well could have been describing the New York Rangers of last season. ironic.

If you tuned in to Leafs Nation during the game, you could count on both hands how many times broadcasters mentioned how Phil Kessel in November will supposedly turn around this shabby franchise, one of the many reasons why they haven't performed and fully justifying why Burke-brain gave away all their draft picks for years to come.  One word comes to mind.   Jackass.

So back to the Rangers.

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT RANGERS FANS?  I couldn't be happier -- not only for the standings, SEVEN WINS, but mostly because of the possibilities of this team.  The defensive corp continues to impress, scoring goals and controlling the neutral zone.  

Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist.  Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Enver Lisin also had goals for the Rangers (7-1-0). Marian Gaborik added two assists to give him points in all eight games he's played since joining New York over the summer.  Henrik Lundqvist remains a rock in goal -- The KING made 34 saves and continues to demonstrate elite status in the league.

I enjoyed the game thoroughly -- and I felt that the Blueshirts mostly controlled the pace of the game throughout.   This was not the Blueshirts that opened the new season, and if not addressed by the Torts machine we could be headed in the wrong direction (i.e. losses) -- but I suspect Tortorella is aware that we allowed the Leafs to build some confidence in this game.   In the end, two points is two points.  The Rangers won and they earned it.

I will add that there have been too many opposing rushes at our prize goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and one of these games someone will damage The King -- there has been virtually no retaliation for hitting or running into Henrik over the last four games -- and maybe it's time for our newbie 'D'-men to grease up their knuckles and show more than their ability to score goals.  It's time for some PIM's.


Monday night will be a different level of game against the San Jose Sharks.  The West Meets The East, as we attempt to continue the winning streak against the projected Stanley Cup winners.

See you then...and a big jovial 'LET'S GO RANGERS' to get you to bed. 

(and having a better day than Burke today)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crowned! King Henrik Reigns Over Kings | NYR 4 L.A. 2

It's still early, but in the distance I can hear the motor of the Rangers bandwagon slowly starting to churn. Tops in the NHL in points and tops in goals. A 4-2 win over the L.A. Kings enabled the Rangers to sweep their 3 game homestand and extend their winning streak to 6 games, their longest since 2005-2006. The official recap is here.

The equation is simple -- the Rangers' King Henrik is better than any other goalie.

The team that pundits picked for the bottom half of the standings has caught the attention of the league. North of the border, TSN ranked the Blueshirts #1 in its weekly power ratings today. It's early but compare this season's start to last year's similar beginning and you get the sense that this team has more staying power.

Meanwhile, there was a game to be played against the #4 team in the TSN rankings -- the L.A. Kings, riding their own 4 game winning streak.

Tonight gave credence to my observation last week that it would be interesting to see how the team would look in its 3rd game in 4 nights (fortunately all at home). The answer: slower and ragged. The Rangers were a step behind nearly all night long. Passes were not crisp, the forecheck was often nonexistent, and timing was off.

The Kings outshot the Rangers 36-21 and it seemed during the 2nd period that the Rangers were never at my end of the ice (i.e., the offensive zone) but were stuck playing defense for minutes at a time. The Kings dominated large portions of the game -- hitting, shots (they outshot the Rangers every period including 10-1 in the 3rd), and territory -- but in the most important area, the scoreboard, they failed and that was due to the goalies in net. The Rangers PK unit again did excellently by defending 6 out of 7 opportunities. Several times it appeared that the Rangers were aggressively trying to move the puck into the Kings' zone and in one of those instances, they failed to get back in time to prevent a score. But an 85% success rate is consistent with their efforts so far which is good for 6th in the NHL.

The Kings started their backup Erik Ersberg and the Rangers went with Henrik Lundqvist. And upon the choice of goalies the game turned. The Kings had decided on this rotation since day one. Coach Tortorella's idea of playing Valiquette on Sunday against Anaheim and let Henrik play the next two with a day of rest in between turned out to be a brilliant ploy.

The hero of the game for the Rangers was Henrik Lundqvist. He simply stoned the Kings time and time again. He was sharp, played angles well, saw the puck, was in the right place for numerous deflections and stood up to an onslaught of odd man rushes, players flitting across the goal mouth and numerous players joining him in the crease or the goal. The stop he made early on to thwart a 2-on-1 was jaw-dropping. He was confident and never was rattled even after the Kings took a page from the Leafs attack on Monday by making him a target of numerous runs. Finally, the Rangers came to his defense but there was a scary moment when Higgins collided with Henrik in the goal and Henrik did not rise all that quickly. The Rangers, despite their scoring, will only go as far as Henrik can carry them and they need to protect him. Fortunately, one of those collisions led to a goaltender interference call that the Rangers converted into a goal.

Not to be too critical, but the Rangers would help Henrik prolong his career
if they paid more attention to the goal crease while play was occurring.

Vinny Prospal opened the scoring early in the game with a PPG by deflecting a Del Zotto shot (2 assists) from the point that was directly on net (how different is THAT from last year?). Last year's team would have been content to sit on the lead the rest of the game (think losing to Dallas 2-1 and Florida 2-1 at home) but that was then. The goal was Prospal's 200th. He was not finished. Later, after Ryan Smyth tied the score, the Rangers had a 5-on-3 advantage and Prospal did some serious battling at the goal mouth and shoved the puck under Erksberg for a 2-1 lead with 7 minutes left in the 1st. Finally, in the 3rd period, Prospal assisted on Gaborik's goal that cemented the game with 15:38 left.

Prospal's 200th about to be deflected top-shelf, right side . . .

leading to a celebration in the corner.

Boyle's goal (his first as a Ranger) was pretty much the only bright spot for the Blueshirts in the 2nd period until very late when the Rangers became re-energized and started to take play to the Kings with the same intensity as in recent games. They continued their efforts in the 3rd period which led to Marian Gaborik scoring the Rangers 4th goal.

For Marian, it was another stealth missile that triggered the red light. Gaborik took a lengthy head man pass from Prospal, calmly skated over the blue line, went left, got some separation (as they say in the NFL), settled the puck down before firing it over Erksberg's left hand. The big scoreboard screen showed the replay several times from several angles and all I know is that my jaw remained in the dropped position as I again admired his seemingly effortless skill. (It also was the Rangers' only shot on goal in the 3rd period.) Gaborik has 10 points in 7 games including 6 goals. With 2 minutes left, L.A. pulled Ersberg and Marian tried to get Prospal a hat trick but his pass was deflected at the very last second and Prospal had to be satisfied with a 3 point night.

You don't appreciate how good some players are until they
are on your team. Exhibits A and B - Gaborik & Prospal.

Side Notes: The Rangers' play was not the only thing out of sync. The Kings scored only 2 goals but there had to be at least 4, if not 5, separate announcements during the last half of the game correcting, adding, substracting, reiterating, the assists on these goals. It was comical.

What was not funny was the dismal turnout by the fans. The fans in attendance were quiet and seemed to reflect the out of sync energy of the home team. That happens. What shocked me was the number of empty seats in the arena. 2 seats next to me have been empty for nearly the entire season. For all the complaining by fans about how boring the team was last year, one would think that they would flock to see an early season match-up of two leading NHL teams. Apparently not.

There was no excuse of competition like the Jets game on Monday night (note that the Rangers crowd that night was vocal and lively) or a baseball playoff game. Some people told me that it was because the Kings are a Western team -- that may be true but the Kings are one of the top teams in the Western Conference right now. Unless no one is paying attention, the Rangers are leading the league in goals and points. They have legitimate scorers, better skaters, new young players and are certainly more entertaining than any recent team except perhaps the 2005-06 squad.

O.k., I will concede that if you are playing X-Box with the L.A. Kings Ice Girls,
you have a valid excuse not to come to the game, but don't push your luck.

At one point this afternoon, there were more than 200 posts on Craigs List by people trying to sell tickets at ridiculous discounts. I didn't even bother to check out StubHub or MSG Scalper Central. I don't know what surprises (or disappoints) me more -- ticketholders deciding en masse not to go or other fans passing up the opportunity to go. Perhaps it is 3 games in 4 nights but that does not stop 45,000+ Yankee fans from trekking up to the Bronx for homestands.

Despite being called a sellout, the Garden was perhaps 85% full. I call it embarrassing. Missing a chance to see a game demonstrating why Henrik is a tremendous talent, why Gaborik and Prospal are great 2-way players and why youngsters like Del Zotto are worth watching is a shame. But if the Rangers keep playing like this, a night like this will be the exception.

---Graying Mantis

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


If we had it our way....

Pretend Press Release October 14, 2009,
Based on the worst start in The Toronto Maple Leafs Franchise history, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has sold the team to Jim Basillie for $425 million dollars. Mr. Basillie has agreed not to move the team out of Toronto and the Air Canada Center. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be re-branded immediately with a stronger name and attitude. Mr. Basillie "will do whatever is required to straighten out the sinking ship"
"I'm so excited to be a part of a winning franchise once again.  No more living in the past 1967 - it's about the future for this Torontonian.  I can sleep well this evening knowing that we are now officially the center of the hockey universe.

Here is the new logo for the NHL team in Toronto."

 What do you think?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beyond BeLEAF...

How many of us would have believed at this time last year that we'd see 7 goals in one game by our beloved, but all defense team? Even after Tortorella took over last year, it appeared the team was having trouble shaking off the ghosts of Tom Renney. With the full season and challenge to the players to come to camp in shape, Tortorella has hit the ground running on his first full season and it shows. It didn't take long for our boys in blue to jump on the struggling Toskala and a Toronto team that's been winning a few fights but hadn't won a game yet. Ryan Callahan's scrappy nature in the crease paid off (with a little help from a Toronto D-man's stick) as he gets credit for the first of many dirty goals triggered by offensive pressure.

Callahan's tally wouldn't be the only in the first period as Wade Redden (yes, Redden. That's not a typo) scored his first goal of the season as he dropped down from the blue line and received a pass from Prospal. See Ranger Fans, aren't you ashamed now for riding him the way you've been? Wasn't that worth $7 million to you?!?!?!? yeah me neither... All kidding aside, I think Redden has made some strides this season and a little time under Torts seemed to help him raise his own expectations. Perhaps the offensive style will help him rediscover his game as he'll be able to shed the expectations of scoring point man. The two point cushion perhaps set the stage for what happened next.

Lets get ready to RUMMMMMBLE! The bout we've all been waitin' for since Orr, our resident knockout artist went to Toronto - and Brashear, our arch nemesis, found his way onto our payroll. They get together a few minutes left in the first and it was a decent fight. As such as many of us would have hoped for an Orr knockout for old times sake, the Brash one held his own and edged out Orr. He even opened up a little from the usual huggy bear style. See the clip over at

The Leafs would come back to score with 35 left on the clock in the first period after a Toronto player crashed the net and took down Lundqvist. Taking advantage the Ponikarovsky shot over the rising Lundqvist, put Toronto on the board and made it a one-goal game.

The Blueshirts would extend the lead again on a Girardi shot off the face win in the first minute of the second period but were then perhaps caught off guard as the Leafs started to apply pressure 5 minutes in, taking the body hard and putting to use much of the muscle they acquired over the summer. Brilliant saves by Henrik Lundqvist help maintain the lead, but "The King" would eventually fall short once the physical pressure the Leafs had been exerting down low would pay off in 2 consecutive man advantages; the second saw Jason Blake squeeze a shot under the arm of Lundqvist at the right post. The Leafs would get one more man advantage before the period ended, but couldn't convert.

The third period was all Rangers and saw us go up 4-2 on a good second effort by Sean Avery with assists by Drury and Anisimov. It would just take seconds for the newest big gun on Broadway, Marion Gaborik, to net his fifth of the season as the Blueshirts battled down low to turn the tables on the Toronto team that was now on their heels. Another goal by Kotelik was quickly overturned after a replay showed a distinct kicking motion. However the opportunity for Kotelik who was recently bumped to the forth line (to accommodate the returning Avery)and Brian Boyle taking a huge hit, highlighted some extra work that the 4th line got in the third period. In fact, later in the period we'd see everyone from Brashear to Boyle see some power-play time, but not before Dan Girardi would get his second of the game after a puck popped loose from traffic down in the crease and the defenseman took the big wind up. After Jason Blake became the 3rd player to 'accidentally' dive and tackle Henrik Lundqvist, Avery had enough and started to physically remove Blake from his goaltender and would further make his point scoring the goal on the power-play.... while Blake looked on from the penalty box while serving for goaltender interference. This one would end 7-2 in the Rangers favor.

Now before we start clearing a place on the mantle for the Cup, let's keep in mind this is a Toronto team that hasn't won a game yet and bet practically all it's chips on muscle and knuckle-draggers this off-season in the off-season. Their recent acquisition of Kessel from Boston being a moot point since he's injured.

That being said, this is clearly a different Rangers team than it was a year ago. A season ago, we'd be lucky to get 7 goals in 4 games. Tortorella has clearly lit a fire under this team.
  • Though they probably hated the work, the team seems to be loving their better conditioning.
  • Even the coach's doghouse appears to have a quick turnaround, as Girardi (2G) and Redden (1G,2A) have started to show signs of life
  • I also have to add that its presently surprising to see Marion Gaborik with his rumored glass hip, not shying away from contact but trying to get into every play.
  • Vinny Prospal's intent to make Tampa Bay 'eat crow' may also become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • As much as I have rather not have been willing to admit before... Even Brashear is showing more dimension that his usual hug and pug style.
  • Kotelik, the guy many accused of us of getting just as a catalyst for our captain, is rifling pucks toward the net power play.

While the team isn't firing on all possible cylinders, it's already seemed to turn the corner from lemons to lemonade. Perhaps with Halloween just around the corner, we can find a mad scientist to stitch together a productive player out of Voros and Roszival spare parts. More than likely, we'd just have our own B-grade horror movie... "It came from the depths of the penalty box and takes dumb penalties with no remorse...It's VOROSIVAL? ROSIVOROS?" (Insert scream)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Blueshirts Make Duck Soup

New York Rangers 3,  Anaheim Ducks 0. 

Somewhere in Alberta, Canada, an associate coach of the Edmonton Oilers is watching the New York Rangers win four of their first five games, either comparing how this time last year he opened with a similar record or perhaps reevaluating how to approach his current locker room and the integrity of the jerseys they wear.   

Tonight and back to the Eastern Time zone, current NY Rangers Coach John Tortorella shutdown the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0 for his fourth win in a row, obviously with the help of the team behind the wins.  He took the guts of Anaheim, matched them, threw them in a pot and made a delicious embarrassment to Disney lovers across the globe.   Official recap here.

Two power play goals, one short handed, dozens of shots (more than three banging off the posts) and a shutdown defense of young'ens that never sat back and waited for the puck --- tonight was the single best example of "the best offense is a good defenseman offense."  The Rangers are buying into his philosophy and it is becoming more apparent every game.  You can see that he doesn't leave the decisions to the players -- he creates the motivation behind their decisions.   He scares them.  He inspires them.  He demands their respect as 'coach.'  If not, you're benched -- even if you make $6 mill a year.

Torts is the anti-Renney.

The Blueshirts took home another victory for the home crowd tonight controlling all puck movement and demonstrating a system far advanced this early into the season then we've seen in years. Ales Kotalik's power-play goal snapped a third-period tie, backup Steve Valiquette made 18 saves in the New York Rangers' fourth straight victory, forward Artem Anisimov scored his first NHL goal with 5:38 left during another power play to make it 2-0, with an assist from Avery.   The third goal arrived by the stick of Dan Girardi, short-handed, empty-netter.   Yeah.

Our new defense corp is stuff of pre-legend, but ultimately a product of the coaching system.  Rising D-men Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto (and never to forget Marc Staal and Dan Girardi) are the product of a coach that allows them to compete for ice-time --- if you prove you are better than the well-paid veterans, then you get the time and the opportunity.  Coach is allowing us to witness the emergence of new talent.

It is simply awesome.

Yeah, there were mistakes, but not important enough to put Anaheim on the boards.  So let's lick our win and look forward to keeping Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the doghouse tomorrow night.  See you at MSG, 7pm EST.


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