Friday, February 27, 2009
Mercifully, February is coming to an end. Even more mercifully, this is not a leap year so the Rangers schedule will not be extended by another day after Saturday night's contest v. Colorado.
Mirroring the Dow Jones (down 11.7% for the month), the Rangers record has headed south with a 2-6-4 record in February.
You ask, how bad has it been? Let's review. During this dreary month, the Rangers were outscored 40-21 in 12 games and could not average 2 goals per game. They were spanked by conference foes Buffalo and Philly, shutout by Clemenson of the Devils, swept by the Leafs and Florida, and of course humiliated by the Stars. Meanwhile, they lost their head coach. Not exactly a recipe for solidifying a playoff spot.
Want some more? Take a look at the +/- of the Rangers and you'd swear you were looking at scores of Tiger Woods at the local golf course -- seven Rangers having scores of -10 or more. Only Zherdev at +2 and Callahan at 0 are "below par". Meanwhile, the Panthers (Thursday night's competition) have only 8 players with minus scores and have 3 with scores above +13.
This week, the Rangers had immense difficulty solving Vesa "Veszina" Toskala -- in two games against the lowly Leafs, the Rangers had 75 shots and scored 3 goals. A scintillating 4% shooting percentage and lost the games 3-2 and 2-1. Drury has not scored a goal since the Bush administration. It does not matter which one if you are really counting.
Still, coming into Thursday's game, after the energy they expended the night before against Toronto, you would have forgiven them for coming out flat. They fooled us as they came out and dominated the Panthers and brought energy that immediately led to an early goal (at :17) that was called off and then a goal by Markus Naslund on a 3 Ranger party crashing into the net.
With backup Craig Anderson in net, you were hopeful that they might break out. The Panthers were passive and not taking advantage of a team that had played its heart out the night before. Instead of hitting the Rangers early and often, the Panthers laid back. Perhaps, they were waiting for the Rangers to get tired.
If true, that was a risky strategy. Only more than halfway through the game did they start to hit. And then they started to assert themselves. Everyone recognized that one goal would not be enough even though Henrik was stonewalling the Panthers. At the beginning of the 3rd period, the Rangers had the chance to win outright but totally frittered away a critical man and two man advantage that could have extended the lead to 2-0.
The Rangers threw 41 shots (just like Sunday) at Anderson and the result was depressingly familiar -- one Naslund goal and so many close calls that defied belief. (If you're counting, in the past 3 games, the Rangers scored 4 goals on 116 shots, or 3.4% -- the league average is usually around 9-10% so the Rangers should have scored about 6-8 more goals this week.)
Another depressing 3rd period loss.
The list of players missing the net or failing to convert an opportunity is lengthy -- Naslund, Gomez, Dubinsky (several times), Prucha, Mara, Staal - and those names come up without a second's thought. A conversion here or there and the Rangers would have beaten Florida in a romp.
As has been their trait the entire season, the Rangers penalty kill was their strength - what was new was their aggressiveness -- not simply clearing the zone but making numerous rushes into the offensive zone that led to some quality shots while shorthanded. Ultimately, to no avail, but it was fun to watch.
At this time of year, a team's flaws, if not corrected, start to show up at the worst times. The Rangers' primary flaws are these:
(1) The Rangers pitiful power play -- especially glaring during a 5-on-3 advantage at the beginning of the 3rd period. When that ended, a palpable sigh could be heard from the crowd.
(2) Inability to score -- the Rangers simply could not pot numerous shots behind a cover-your-eyes-awful goalie, Craig Anderson. He is the paradigm of it's better to be lucky than good. If anyone can be singled out offensively recently other than the captain, it has to be Dubinsky -- the kid skates hard and never gives up. He had some effective time on the penalty kill unit. Unfortunately, he is totally inept in the offensive zone. How many shots did he miss with open nets the past 2 games? His 2-on-1 breakout was awful as he had no idea when to pass and simply ended up skating behind the net.
(3) Soft goals -- Henrik's predilection to let in a soft goal appeared again as he was beaten cleanly and embarrassingly so by a backhand from David Booth with 8:10 left. At that point, the Rangers were simply trying to hang on before yielding the back-breaking goal to Nathan Horton received a nifty pass from Richard Zednik a minute later for the game-winner.
I don't want to leave on a negative note so how about this -- Tortorella has the right idea and watching the team work so hard is appreciated. Their effort is certainly leading to opportunities and numerous shots. Yet, as noted in prior posts and admitted by Tom Renney after his firing, losing Jagr, Shanahan, Straka and Avery all in one offseason has crippled the offense.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
It's reportedly the motto of our new head coach. After a 2-1 shootout loss, the proof was on the ice. Mike Pelino, roll the video tape...
This was actually the first game I and I'm guessing many of you were excited to watch in a long time. The eyes of the hockey world was upon our team, kiddies... and if you look at the score. It would appear nothings changed. It would appear... Anyone watching the last 12 games, knew the difference right away. All of us closet skeptics told ourselves secretly, to keep our expectations low. It kind of goes hand in hand with being a Ranger fan for more than a season or two.
Ranger fans, your first period is sponsored by Red Bull.
-Our Beloved Blueshirts came out flying in the first. Energy, Purpose and Conviction. From hits to 2 man fore checks, this was a team that believed it could win the game and would win the game for its new coach...for themselves... and what the hay, maybe for all of us, too. How high was the fire stoked under the collective ass of this team? Naslund dropped his gloves for the first time since 93 and hugged the daylights out of a leaf.(I was hoping it was some kind of UFC choke, but it turned out Naslund isn't skilled in the fisticuffs dept. and isn't as dumb as Aaron "Punch me again, I think I saw Jesus last time..." Voros. What matters is Nazzy, showed some attitude... and it drew a smirk from his new coach. Our early aggression looked like it might wind up costing us early though as 2 successive penalties gave the leafs a 5 on 3. Even though they didn't convert, I imagine there was a some calming words that preached a slightly more careful, measured yet energetic approach in between periods.
Ranger fans, your second period is sponsored by Starbucks
- After an energetic first period, the Rangers stayed the course for much of the second. They channeled most of their aggression at the net this time and had Toskala scrambling to keep the game scoreless. Then it happened. On a man advantage, our team actually set up and took shots from the point? WTF?!?!? just when you think you've seen everything, the players spread out...cycled, rotated and start moving their feet. A pass from Rozi and one Wade Redden Slapshot later, we were up 1-0 and our 7 Million Dollar dud got his first goal in 57 games. Just then, every one of us closet skeptics jumped out of our seat, screamed "TORTARELLA IS A F*CKIN GENIUS; MAY AS WELL GIVE US THE CUP RIGHT NOW!!!" Ok, maybe that was just me... The leafs started to pick up their game a little and gave us a few scares as the period ended.
Ranger Fans, your third period is about to be haunted by Tom Renney's ghost of Ranger past.
The third period saw us begin to rest on the laurels of two good periods and declare it officially nap time. One Quick Turn around shot later and the game was tied. Hank was overall pretty solid and saved our bacon a few more times and the leafs tried to build on their momentum. We continued to hang back and consolidate the remains of the tight game we played in the first. The majority of overtime was spent killing off a penalty. Torts looked less satisfied as we went into overtime and then headed into the shootout. The only goal scored in the shootout wasn't ours and with a consoling shoulder squeeze for his Goaltender, Torts led his team back to the dressing room.
My thoughts on this game are that while its not reflected in the score, there already is an obvious difference in this team under Tortarella. They crashed the net, they played with energy, they looked like they actually practiced the power play. The biggest difference for me was the quality of shots. So much was made by Renney of the shots on goal when he was coach. He was quite proud of that and didnt really take note that our stat for shots on goal was grossly inflated by Gomers weaving through an entire team only to put a fizzing wrister into the logo of goalies jersey as he was steered toward the boards. Between those, all the bad angle shots, and the shots for the sake of shooting... the vision of offense on this team was skewed. The shots taken tonight were actually high percentage shots and the results of communication between linemates. Unfortunately, that and a dollar will buy you 75 cents in today's economy. But rest easy ranger fans, for tomorrow is another game and the more good energy, good shots, effective aggression become part of the team's fundamentals, the easier it will be to tweak and bury those pucks. The aggressive defense will become an important part of our offense as we force turnovers and created rushes. (Hanging back and shuffling the puck around your own zone means giving the opposing team time to get fresh men on the ice and having to go through all of em just to get your shot on goal. Creating turnovers in the neutral zone by being aggressive cuts the distance you have to travel by half and can shorten the number of opposing players you have to go through as they get caught in transition.) For me this game was about blood (mostly freddy sjostroms. he got nicked up twice), sweat (the team actually sweated) and tears (of joy...i can finally watch this team again without getting violently ill.)
I'd also try to deal Dawes before the deadline; call it a gut feeling.
Some "Torta-risms" from the post game.(paraphrased)
On the team slacking off in the third: "They're adjusting to a new system. There's a few guys I plan to talk to though..."
One the first 2 periods wearing the team out: "its no excuse.."
On the team perhaps being tired this late in the season: "all the teams are tired...its not an excuse."
Notice a trend here? NO EXCUSES... wheres Renney now that he could finally be putting that notepad to use?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Hello Ranger fans,
If you have been reading the papers, blogs and all things Ranger like I have this morning, perhaps you're wearing the same silly grin I am right now. As we welcome a new coach (Welcome Torts!!!), the locker room and practices have already started their overhaul.
"Stay the F*ck off the Logo!!!" The policy now enforced in the locker room by Jim Ramsey. (As reported by Jane McManus over at The Rangers Report). Supposedly Tortorella is a stickler for this tradition that was loosely adhered to during Renney's tenure here. It appeared that Renney was a busy man. Far too busy to worry about such things as his ship was sinking. In my opinion, that was exactly the problem. The basics were never instilled, drilled and enforced... and their presence or better yet, their Omnipresence was taken for granted by a coach that jumped the gun in assuming he had collection of interchangable parts that could be arranged at his whim and that he would be the catalyst that caused them all to click one day and fire on all cylinders.
As a notorious recent Renney detractor, I will say nothing frustrated me more than that egotistical assumption and him turning a blind eye as the flaws became obvious in his plans; Instead making a practice of slapping a line change band-aid over a gaping wound. I will say that I don't wish the guy any ill will and would have actually felt bad for his removal if I genuinely felt he pushed a bunch of players hard and they all got together whined to the GM and had him canned. I can't say that thought and as it became apparent that his lack of a sense or urgency, but gentlemanly and politically correct demeanor bled down to the team and turned the post game locker room into a confused goalie and a bunch of talking heads.
The second (now intentional tenure for Coach Torts) begins and the multi-year deal is set to last more than 4 games this time... Things have come full circle for a guy whos always showed interest in coaching here, a bit of flair in dealing with the NY media (ask Larry Brooks) and some intent on accomplishing something here. In case you've missed any of the reports...Mike Pelino, one of two remaining pieces from the last coaching staff, has been removed from his on ice assignments in practice and made the film and scout assistant -- Renneys stats and standings charts were also removed according to McManus.(Torts don't belive in Half @ssing a coaching change -- I say hoo-F*ckin-Rah! Screw Stats and standings...you have to start playing hockey before you can actually check the progress you've made playing hockey.)
Benoit Allaire also remains and only time will tell if it was he or Renneys passive game that had Henrik backed so far into the net all this time that he's given colonoscopy nightmares to the guys that work the net cam.
Steve Zipay reports that Torts will handle the powerplay himself and the line changes (and even..dare I dream, perhaps lack there of... Hello Chemistry!), while Schoeny (Interim Asst. Coach) will handle the defense and PK. Some fans have expressed a want for Torts to strip our quiet captain of his stripes. I would hold off on something like that if this team wants to hit the ground running tomorrow. No sense in further alienating an audience that has barely gotten to know you. (in the long run though... perhaps the off, season it might not be a bad idea to take some of the pressure off of Drury like the Slugs did with briere being a co-captain. Maybe three A's next season would be the best for all concerned.)
Over the past couple of seasons, at the games I attended vs. the Bolts... It almost became a tradition to wait for the announcement: "John Tortarella has been ejected from the game..." and join in on the laughter and clapping. Even back then, as we reveled in his frustration, you had to respect the guy for his passion and his defiance toward take things lying down. As a Ranger fan, I'd take an ejection for tearing a ref a new one, over a quiet scribble in a note pad and a frown. I WANNA SEE A WAR FACE!!!
Did you know we have a game tomorrow? I found out after the coaching change and have been excited ever since....LETS GO RANGERS!
Monday, February 23, 2009
(UPDATED) BUH BYE!!!! COACH RENNEY AXED! (and Perry 'Power Play' Pearn): John Tortorella Will Be The New Coach!
For updated beat writer information go to:
Blue Notes here
The Blueshirt Bulletin here
Rangers Report here
It has happened. There is no going back!
UPDATE: John Tortorella will be the new replacement coach! Go here for more information.
It was a totally embarrassing evening by everyone involved with the Rangers. Let's start with management -- I'd like to understand the scheduling of a retirement ceremony (long overdue) for 2 historical players on a Sunday evening up against the Oscars. At 6:35 pm, I was personally embarrassed for the honorees, Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate, as the arena was perhaps 1/3 full when Sam Rosen started the ceremonies. It reminded me of attending a funeral for a WWII veteran as the class of survivors dwindles to fewer and fewer. The Rangers let Bathgate and Howell down by scheduling it at such a dead time. The fans let the organization down by not showing. On the street, scalpers were not buying tickets that were available, the discounted price to attend the game was falling like the housing market. By 7 pm, the arena did starting filling up and was reasonably filled when the game started at the unmerciful time of 8:15.
The ceremony was entertaining -- seeing all the retired Rangers, seeing some of the stalwarts of the 1950/1960 era. Eddie Shack came out on the red carpet jitterbugging all the way around. Wade Redden should have been taking notes. The embarrassing part was when poor Michal Roszival was roundly booed as he gave up his #3 jersey and donned a #33 -- at least the jersey made him look bigger.
As for the game, Vesa Toskala with a GAA nearly one goal higher than Henrik's defended for Toronto. The Rangers, to their credit, did not suffer a letdown from playing the night before as they came out skating hard. The game was even for a while but the Rangers' pop-gun attack had no finishers, as usual. Toronto had numerous chances against Henrik as they sneaked in behind defensemen and had several opportunities with 2 Leafs sitting on the doorstep. During one sequence in the 2nd period, the Leafs had 4 unimpeded swipes/shots literally at the goal mouth with no Rangers there to clear them out before Henrik finally grabbed the puck. At that point, the Leafs were outshooting the Rangers by a margin of 19-12.
Although the game was scoreless after 2 periods, the play had started to turn in favor of the Rangers. Over the rest of the game including overtime, the Blueshirts held the puck, passed and shot. During the last 30 minutes of the game, they outshot the Leafs by a margin of 29-7. Yet, only 2 lit the lamp, with the final one by Roszival coming with 39 seconds left to tie the score at 2. The Leafs had 7 shots and 3 went in. The Leafs had perhaps 3 sustained rushes into the Rangers defensive zone in the 3rd period as they were showing the effects of playing the night before. Unfortunately, 2 times they scored. Both scores came on abysmal defensive play.
After Toronto's John Mitchell scored with 16 minutes left, 2 minutes later Gomez broke up ice on one of his patented charges to the blue line. For once, he did not have 5 men to play through as he split 2 defenders moved to his right and slid the puck past Toskala's right to tie the score at 1. That was a Jagresque move. Joy in the stands lasted for 25 seconds as Ian White walked in on Henrik's right from the circle and shot a wrister past Lundqvist. His was unimpeded as he approached Lundqvist almost in slow motion like a scene from a sports movie. No one closed in on him and then Bam! it was 2-1 and the energy was drained from the Garden with 13 minutes left.
The time went down and after the Rangers were nailed for another too many men on the ice penalty (presumably a direct result from constant in-game line changes) with 4 minutes left, it looked like the Rangers were dead. But Dominic Moore foolishly negated that advantage by holding a Rangers' stick. And for the 3rd time this season at home, the Rangers tied the game with less than a minute to go, just like Graves' night against Atlanta earlier this month, as they took advantage of a 6 on 4 advantage during the final minute when Roszy jumped on a loose puck between the circles and wristed it into the net.
In the OT, the Niklas Hagman tip-in looked stoppable by Henrik, it was reminiscent of goals he lets in during shootouts as it trickled slowly over the goal line. However, a 4 on 3 advantage in overtime is a decided advantage because the ice is empty and it's much harder to get the puck and a change. It seemed to be only a matter of time as the Leafs had the puck in the zone for nearly a minute before scoring.
The defense was horrible all night long in the defensive zone. It is becoming obvious that their game has regressed. No doubt they feel the pressure not to make any mistakes because they know they do not have a high-scoring offense. No doubt they miss Mara's presence. No doubt there is no one in Hartford to step in to lend assistance. Staal particularly has been playing badly. He has been skating as if the puck has leprosy. On the offensive front, there has been progress. Notably, in recent games, the Rangers have started shooting more from the points. Girardi and Redden have been driving to the net and even leading surges into the offensive zone. Such aggressiveness can come with a price as Redden's poor play on Buffalo's final goal on Saturday night proved but at this point, they need to gamble a bit more to try to get some scores.
The fans focused their wrath on 2 individuals tonight -- (1) Redden with his #6 reminding us of his 6 year/$6 million contract. Harry Howell must be cringing watching him play out there. (2) Sather, who was the subject of some growing Fire Sather chants (Hire Avery a distant second). There may have been a smattering of Fire Renney chants, and Roszival got his fair share of boos but he persisted until he score the tieing goal.
It's been apparent for some time that jettisoning all the clutch scorers off the team (Jagr, Straka, Shanahan, even Avery) was wrong. Fans who hated those players last season are suddenly nostalgic when their team is not a threat to score 200 goals for the season -- 149 with 22 to go - and no one has scored 20 goals. Meanwhile, Dan Fritsche scored 2 goals last week including a SHG for the Blue Jackets (who are in the playoff hunt) and Matt Cullen scored a hat trick for the surging Hurricanes. Aaron Voros -- numerous lost fights and no goals since before the autumn holidays.
The metaphor of the team's futility is best captured by the sight of a woman wandering in front of my section between Gates 79 and 75 as she spent a substantial part of the period looking for her seat. Forlornly, she wandered back and forth, carrying her beer, sometimes assisted by one guard and then by another, scanning the upper rows of the sections. Back and forth she went. A group of 12 guys up in the high rows of section 341 invited her to join them. Back and forth she went. She was lost. Finally, on a pass in front of us, she had a ticket stub and then she had a cell phone in her hand (after like the 8th or 9th trip in front of my section). Did she finally remember that she had them? And then she was gone. The Rangers are lost. Unfortunately, they may not be able to pull out a magic ticket stub or phone to get them to home.
Both Mickey Rourke and the New York Rangers couldn't wrestle a win last evening. The once popular actor and the once playmaking and scoring hockey team sought a turnaround comeback, but failed to work hard enough to receive the prize; it was a shutdown of momentum and hopefully they will recover from such embarrassment.
"I Want My Money Back" has more to do with my taking the trip to Toronto this Wednesday evening at the Air Canada Centre for the Blueshirts rematch against the 26th in the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs. If we all crawl through two or three more losses from this point forward, I think Rangers fans in general will be symbolically looking for their money back - unwilling to re-up for season tickets as this slumping, scoreless All-Star team will be around for seasons to come.
Without the energy to ramble through another 'game of nothingness' - let us point out the Tom Renney's positive positioning points - enlarged below for your viewing pleasure.
Excerpts from CBSsports.com:
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach Tom Renney showed a rare terse side after his slumping club rescued one key point in the standings, but failed to secure the second one in overtime.
While New York needs wins down the stretch to ensure a fourth straight playoff appearance, Renney was at least willing to settle for something. After all, with under a minute to go, the Rangers were primed for yet another empty defeat.
Michal Rozsival forced overtime by scoring with 39.1 seconds left in regulation, but Niklas Hagman's power-play goal three minutes into the extra session snapped the Maple Leafs' losing streak, delivered the latest blow to the Rangers' sinking playoff chances, and gave Toronto a 3-2 victory Sunday night.
"It was an important goal and obviously an important point," said Renney, who again heard fans call for him and general manager Glen Sather to be fired. "The fact that we got ourselves into that bind and got ourselves out of it is something to look at and build upon. It's pretty clear the team is not quitting. I think that's pretty important." ..........................
Comments Dear Readers of Dark-ness?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Blueshirts lost again. Blah, blah, blah. Tom Renney. Blah, Blah, Blah. Glen Sather. Blah Blah, Blah.
Official recap here.
Buffalo goalkeeper Ryan Miller stopped every Ranger shot, until he was taken out by our 'now looking to fight' Scott Gomez. Shortly after during the third period, our Blueshirts rallied back to a (w)hole 2 goals, scored by frustrated Marcus Naslund and rookie Nigel Dawes.
For 'shits & giggles' let's look at some facts:
The Rangers dropped to 2-7-2 in their past 11 games, and are winless in their past eight on the road (0-7-1) since a 3-2 overtime win at Chicago on Jan. 16. New York has been outscored 31-8 during its road slump.
The Rangers' road winless streak is the longest since 2000-01, when they went 0-10-2
Aside from a couple of games in hand for the following teams, the Rangers have the same number of points as the Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers -- occupying the final three slots of playoff consideration in the Eastern Conference.
Woh! A far cry from October!
P.S. To not entirely piss off the New York Rangers fan base, rumor on the street is that Glen Sather is considering raising Darius Kasparitus number next season. At least THAT FICTION would give us something to look forward to.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Fans who have given up on the Rangers and the season were reminded of one thing last night if they watched the game. The team may not score, it may not have top-flight talent, it may not have the best skaters, and its power play is awful, but no one can question the heart of the youngsters on the team.
To wit, Callahan threw his body around like he has a spare in the closet. This guy has been bringing it every night all season. He was effective on the PK unit as well.
Dubinsky's skating energy has returned and with it some feistiness. Now he has to get on the scoreboard.
Girardi and Staal are starting to reassert themselves. Dan had several shot attempts on goal last night and nearly each made it to the goalie resulting in some juicy rebounds.
Sjostrom, Orr and Betts continue to comprise the most engaging line on the ice. They bottled up the Isles for shifts at a time. They killed penalties. Betts pickpocketed an Isle at the blue line to totally ruin the rhythm of an Isles powerplay. They nearly scored thanks to aggressive forechecking.
Dawes was aggressive on the ice and scored on a beautifully placed bullet over the left shoulder of goalie Yann Danis in the first period.
I think that covers everyone. I keep thinking I am leaving out something or someone . . . Oh, yeah, that guy in the #25 uniform. What can you say about Petr Prucha? During the last 2 games he did not appear to have his legs, but against the Isles, during a great shift with Drury and Dawes, Prucha assisted Nigel's first period goal. That line almost scored again shortly afterward and made their presence felt throughout the first 2 periods.
It was during the 2nd period, the diminutive one showed why everyone on the team loves him so much (except perhaps for the head coach). A scrum developed when Eric Reitz kneed Sean Bergenheim by the sideboards. Bergenheim, enraged by what he thought was a dirty hit, then delivered a cheap shot to the back of Pru's head. Petr turned around and engaged him in a David v. Goliath battle. Pru held his own despite giving up 35 pounds or so.
Even though the Rangers gave up the early lead, you sensed that they were skating with more purpose than recent games. After Gomez scored a fluky goal during a 2nd period power play (you'll take whatever you can get), you also sensed the Rangers would hold on. The Isles did have several unfettered rushes to the net, but Henrik was a stone wall and he simply denied them. (It should be noted that early in the first period, Henrik was out of position on a shot that fortunately whistled by the far post. The game and the Garden atmosphere might have been different if that had gone in.)
The Rangers played a strong passing and puck possession game. Rare were the blind passes that become scoring opportunities for the opponent. The Rangers skated well and especially in the 3rd period, their forechecking was excellent. It was as if they had been watching old Devils' highlight reels as to how to preserve a one goal lead.
The Isles could not get out of their zone all that often in the final 20 minutes. The 4th line kept the Isles on their heels in the defensive zone for more than a minute in the middle of the period. Later, during a rare opportunity in the Rangers defensive zone, 3 Isles touched the puck and each one ended up on their butt as three different Rangers including Roszival and Callahan punished them. Each hit was nastier than the prior with Callahan's being the most devastating. After that, you sensed the Isles lost their offensive resolve for the remainder of the game.
The crowd was much more vocal and engaged than in recent contests. The fisticuffs and hitting certainly energized the team and the fans. This win is a baby step. Granted it was the lowly Isles as competition, but it is important that the Rangers have won 4 out of 5 against them this season. Stiffer competition is coming and we'll see whether the Rangers are turning it around for the stretch run.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Another loss. Official recap here.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
As TDR and I were discussing pregame, I couldn’t help but notice the pessimism and complete lack of confidence in his voice, considering that both teams were within a couple points of each other before the puck dropped. This is Dark’s usual approach to our Ranger/Flyer rivalry, he plays up the Flyers, downplays his Rangers, so that way he is either right, or pleasantly surprised when the Rangers win (Dark, I’m on to you). So I shrugged off this normal tactic and entered the Garden feeling upbeat about my team’s chances, soaking in the pregame rituals and video montages and even feeling a bit of respect and possibly envy as I watched Messier hoist (and memorably shake) The Cup in ’94. Hey, it’s been 34 years since that’s been done in Philly, long overdue (I digress into a state of deep depression….)
The puck dropped, the teams looked even early, and two observations quickly became apparent. First, the place was quiet. I mean dead quiet, no cheering, no standing up, no Flyers Suck chats, but even stranger was the lack of discussion amongst the Ranger fans surrounding us. No spirited talk of this losing slump, no angry dudes cursing the Flyers in anticipation of a good bloodbath – maybe we were in a dead section, but you know something is wrong when you can hear the players shouting clearly from 30 rows up. I’ll remind you this was when it was still 0-0 and looking even. So I found myself looking down at the Blueshirts on the ice, and my second observation became crystal clear – this is a team without a star or chemistry worth getting hyped up about.
All that bitching about Jagr and – poof – he’s gone, leaving a gaping void. No one playing the part of skin crawler Avery or Barnaby. No crazy legs skater dumping and chasing or a possessed madman storming the boards, looking for a skull to crack. They looked like the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now I haven’t been watching hockey this season like normal, but hey, I have about 25 years of serious hockey knowledge, and aside from a normally decent goalie in Lundqvist, a lukewarm at best Gomez, and an understated Captain in Drury, I’m sitting here having trouble remembering anyone else’s name I watched today!
So I think I owe Dark an apology, as his negative demeanor toward the team was apparently shared by 18,000 other people today, and clearly reflected in everyone’s lack of support for their team.
So no surprise what happened out there today. Flyers fed off that anti-energy, that ambivalence, and the hero, Captain Mike Richards, did what he does best and made it 2-0 while shorthanded TWO skaters. And then he almost did again. And then naturally they scored 3 more at even strength while the Rangers learned what it feels like to get hit in the back of the head with a lead pipe, Philly style. Knockout punch without even needing the goons. I had goosebumps, and fortunately there some Philly faithful in the Garden showing some emotion, because it wasn’t happening with those Ranger fans, and I can hardly blame them. Later in the 2nd, there were finally signs of life from Ranger Nation whenever #6 got the puck, allowing the audience to vent all frustrations on one guy who isn’t living up to his contract, and then I also enjoyed the “Fire Renney” chant because it sounded to me like they were all saying “Flyers Plenty” and asking for mercy, or I thought it might be “Flyers Handy” like they really came in handy today, but that didn’t make any sense – I just liked it because they were chanting for the Flyers, because clearly they were the only team worth chanting for today. Flyers packed it in during the 3rd and basically conceded 2 goals in exchange for some 4th line practice, some new pairings, and trying out opposite handed sticks for the fun of it, clearly content to take the 2 and the knowledge that it’s really just NJ and Boston to worry about in the conference.
I enjoyed this game immensely, but I do hope the Rangers can figure out what’s wrong, and add a little spice into the lineup, make things at least interesting next time? I’m making sure to watch the Flyers play the Caps, Penguins, and Devils before the Rangers these days, and that’s just sad, so let’s start talking. Who is gonna step it up and lead your team? Can a trade make all the difference?
Is anyone even talking about this team? Hello….Wake Up…..HELLO <<
I cannot find the words right now. Someone on this site will be willing to contribute words to one of the most atrocious games played all season. Hockey Gods are you listening? While the Blueshirts have lost talent, I have lost the ability to express myself any further. Help! Messier? Keenan? JD? Calgon?
The Blueshirts' Knight --
Ryan Callahan after his shootout winner.
Beautiful goals were scored by Callahan (assisted by Korpikoski) and Naslund (helped by Gomez) both on rushes toward (or in Naslund's case, into) the net. Korpedo scored thanks to a nice set up by Staal and Callahan. Mara scored on slap shot. So the scoring came from all over the ice. The 3 goal scoring outburst quieted the crowd that kept complaining or moaning audibly when the Rangers had a breakout and then would dump and change.
Also, I cannot begin to count how many times I saw 3 rangers converge or collide on the blue line during breakouts. Don't they practice this? This is not your Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps the Rangers need an air traffic controller as an assistant coach.
Henrik had at best a decent game. 2 of the Caps scored when it seemed like the entire team broke in behind the Rangers and took up residence at his doorstep. Henrik's newest friend has to be Mike Green, the prolific scoring defenseman (who set the record last night with a goal in his 8th straight game). I had a beautiful direct view from my section over Green's right shoulder for both slapshots he scored in the 2nd period near the top of the right faceoff circle. He might as well stuck a flag at that spot like Sir Hillary to claim that portion of the Garden ice as his. Henrik went down both times and the shot sailed over his shoulder both times, the second one coming with less than a minute in the period. That killed the buzz of the Rangers scoring 3 goals to take the lead. Terrible. And to think the Rangers drafted Al Montoya over Green.
With the scored tied at 4 going into the third period, the Rangers had a great chance to win in regulation when the refs led a parade of Caps into the penalty box. The Caps were a man down for 10 minutes out of 12 minutes in the middle of the 3rd. The Rangers did not score although they had some quality chances in the early penalties. The 4 minute power play – forget it. 9 shots on goals during that period? Hopeless or horrendous, you can choose. The only 2 positives from the power play futility – no short-handed goals, and because two culprits were Ovechkin and Mike Green, the Caps' offense suffered.
But, for this night, the game belonged to Ryan Callahan. From his first shift with Korpikoski through the shootout winner, he played a great game. Each had 2 points. They had a chemistry as evidenced by the beautiful feed from the Korpedo to Callahan. Unfortunately, Dubinsky picked a bad game to play like he was lost so that was a sore point on that line.
Meanwhile, during the entire game, two men were sitting directly behind me. One spoke to the other in English, while the other responded in what sounded like Quebecois French. The Canadian fell in love with Callahan pronouncing his name with a soft G – Gallahan. Throughout the game, I would not understand a word he would say until I'd hear "Gallahan!" As the game progressed, I heard that name a lot. They would be chatting quietly, and then when Ryan would lead a rush or deliver a hit, all I heard was an exultant "Gallahan" from his newest fan. Needless to say, the elation for Callahan his shootout attempt ricocheted off Theodore's back for the game winner was fun. So for this night, I will honor #24's efforts by calling him "Sir Gallahan." He got the 3rd star, but in my mind, he was the first. And I think my neighbor behind me would have agreed.
Friday, February 13, 2009
So we beat the wrath of the red-hot Washington Caps the other night 5-4 in a shootout (a familiar story), but our trend of 'win one - lose five' cannot continue on any level. If one can find a disingenuous positive in all of this, The Dark Ranger ran into a study of what teams will make the playoffs as of today - based on the trends in the fall and how they are playing so far this second half.
University of Alberta School of Business instructor Chris Neuman and business student Ryan Jeffrey have released new statistics using a computer-based model to repeatedly simulate all remaining games on the NHL schedule.
I suspect the stats above will change if they lose (again) tonight against The Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, but this study took into account the history of the franchise as well. There isn't a computer that could accurately compute how well Wade Redden and Scott Gomez are going to produce over the next couple of months, but I guarantee that computer would be wrong.
I also find it difficult to believe that Pittsburgh will be lower in the standings than Buffalo, Florida or Carolina for that matter.
Scary to think otherwise, but my gut tells me our odds of NOT making the playoffs are greater than 40%. What do you think?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Wade Redden continues to play as he had over the last couple of seasons with the Ottawa Senators - everything expected of him for a mere $6.5 million dollars a year - for four more seasons even. How exciting. Run out and get one of those Redden jersies because they are limited. General Manager Glen Sather knows how to pick 'em. Wade is a Ranger! I am a Ranger!
You know what they say in business and in sports, the best defense is a good offense.....um....well, what I meant is that our system is working because Coach Tom Renney is all about the defense and when you're behind in goals and the opposing team is running over your face, it is good to keep playing defense. Momentum & punishment when you're down is just a state of mind -- just words. He's a players' coach -- let them play...and man, they sure know how to play defense. I mean...look at Eric Reitz who was just traded last week from the Minnesota Wild -- he played twenty times more shift last night alone than Petr Prucha, and he just got on the team! That is a superstar in the making. THAT...is coaching. Knowing when to strategically bench and play your roster. Last night, our D-Man-Reitz beat up that guy's jersey like I've never seen! We may not score many goals, but we sure have grit -- look at the way we protect our prize goalie...did you see those nudges Wade Redden delivered last night? F*CK ME....these guys ROCK.....Let's Go Rangers!!!!
Colton Orr socking Mike Rupp last night might have been out of order and could have cost the Rangers a 'game-changer', as it might have disrupted the system. Tom Renney is sure to 'bag-skate' Colton Orr in practice this afternoon. My son is still crying from that horror.
I am not sure if Chris Drury, Nikky Zherdev and Nigel Dawes were playing last night, because I didn't see them anywhere, but....they sure are terrific.
It was a delight to see former Brendan Shanahan as a Devil last night, and I think I can say with certainty, that us Rangers fans are glad he wasn't re-signed as a Blueshirt. Too old.
In other news, Glen Sather's master plan to pay Sean Avery less is coming true. The Grand Wizard of Broadway must have anticipated Sean Avery's misteps with Gary Bettman, ex-girlfriends and foreshadowed suspensions from the league. Claiming Sean off of waivers from the Dallas Stars and having to pay half of the 3.8 million per year for the next 3 1/2 years is ABSOLUTE GENIUS. This is why we continue coming back -- this man delivers, even without the Cup. Who needs it...
This is all what the Dolans and MSG and the Rangers organization need in a fan base. Unconditional love. Well, you got it.
(throwing a God d*** lamp at the wall)
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Valley had the Morton Salt look like he did in Toronto earlier this season -- when it rains, it pours -- as the Stars lit the goal lamps 6 times in the 3rd period. Dallas scored 10 goals playing the second of back-to-back games. It was the first time the Stars had scored 10 goals in a game since moving from Minnesota.
The drumbeat continues among fans to unload the overpaid underperformers -- Drury, Gomez, Redden, Roszival. The team is resembling old Rangers teams -- back in the day when the Rangers had the highest payroll and the roster was filled with "stars" of similar ilk (for example, Rod Seiling was one of the highest paid defenseman in the NHL). Of course, now there is a salary cap so unlike the Yankees, Sather cannot simply add more overpaid players to the roster.
No snarl for the Rangers -- for goodness sake, Zherdev was sandwiched and bleeding from his nostrils and even his mouth. Payback? I didn't see any. Even though it was a clean hit on Zherdev (the scorer of the 2 goals -- perhaps there's a reason the Stars smashed him?), in recent games Girardi and Dubi were recently drawn into fights by opponents taking exception to their spectacularly clean hits. No Ranger went out on patrol to restore some order or send messages. Meanwhile, Steve Ott did his best Avery impression and made life a living hell for the Rangers.
It's sad to think that Lisa Simpson has more snarl than the Rangers.
The worst label for any piece of entertainment -- BORING -- is being thrown around by everyone. How long before the Dolans wake up and clean out from the top? No playoff appearance, a big drop in season ticket sales? We may see.
Still, if the Rangers convert the 2-on-1 in the 2nd period -- the one where Drury drilled a shot between the 3 and 5 on Turco's jersey or convert later on the 5-on-3 advantage, I wonder if the Rangers had tied the game at 3 going into the 3rd, things would have turned out differently.
Dallas' James Neal had some great moves last night scoring 2 goals. He totally undressed Roszival and you had to admire the moves and the score.
It's a shame that there was not one Ranger out there last night who looked like they knew what they were doing or had something positive to contribute perhaps other than not losing by 10. (The floodgates surely opened thanks to 5 PPGs yielded by the normally stellar PK unit but that was due to Valley being a little soft on some shots and Dallas speeding around the Rangers like they had wooden legs.)
In the Rangers' defense -- 2 players (Mara and Henrik) were stricken by the flu. Who knows who else is being impacted. Also, the Stars have been hot: 9-3-2 in their last 14 and their record since unloading the serial dater of fashion models and actresses is sterling as they have won 2/3 of their games since his departure and climbed back into good playoff position.
For the Rangers, the schedule gets unfriendlier -- starting on Monday with a trip to the Rock. Last night in Atlanta, the Devils kicked Atlanta's butts, chased Lehtonen early in the 2nd (after 2 SHGs and 1 PPG) and Parise scored his 30th during their 5-1 win. BTW, No Ranger has 20 goals. Even Weekes acquitted himself well. Shanahan took on a big bruiser. I'm so glad I was listening to this game on the radio in the background.
When the Rangers arrive in Newark, who knows if they will have a returning player (the unmentionable one), a new coach, or new resolve. Regardless, games with the Devils and then the Caps with Senor Ovechkin at the Garden on Wednesday loom in the immediate future.
The Rangers are only 6 points out of 9th place. Their playoff seeding is becoming tenuous right now especially since Pittsburgh may be righting its ship and Carolina is not going away.
October seems so far away. Dallas which started off poorly is now rising and the Rangers, well, let's say this picture gives a clue.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Inferno over at Rangers Review is due royalty payments for his insight and 'Tom Renney' plan from New York's The Post beat writer Larry Brooks. Inferno is not alone in his hypothesis as others perhaps feel the same way, just see our friends over at American Hockey Fan. Playfully, I laughed when I read this because it feels more common lately that The Dark Ranger's crew of prolific writers have beaten the 'beat'-writers to the punch on our criticisms all-Blueshirt.
Brooks is a little behind the eight-ball over the last couple of seasons, so tune in to my boys over at Blueshirt Bulletin and Rangers Report, who of late seem to have the inside ear to the Rangers and aren't afraid to be vocal about a team looking to find it's identity and a coach that is certain of his (un)winning ways. Then of course, everyone should be checking in daily with our NYR comrades the Ranger Pundit, Scotty Hockey, The Manic Ranger, Kotsy's Korner & (Mr. Hockey News Writer Himself) Pucks On Broadway.
Cash that "check that will never come" Inferno. More than Larry would ever send, I'll write you a check if we win tomorrow against Dallas and play double-or-nothing on the NJ game shortly after.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
While we were off doing the video chat, Renney was reportedly skating the Rangers into the ground (for all you who want him to be a little ticked off, we hear he was). And Anisimov was sent back to Hartford. If he’s not going to play in Dallas, that’s not a bad move, get him a bunch of minutes in a few AHL games … as long as he comes back.
Then take a look at Larry Brooks from The Post here.
"It was a good old-fashioned bag skate," Chris Drury said of the final half-hour that was conducted in silence, save for Renney's whistle and clipped instructions. "We weren't having the practice that was expected, plus I'm sure it was some response to our last few games.
Let's look back at what our coaches did to us when we didn't perform. Well this is all a little encouraging...
Something has to give though, and soon--whether it be Renney getting ousted or the Rangers actually collecting themselves and salvaging a season where they have been hanging on to their playoff berth by a hair made of luck for weeks now. The Rangers can't score and worst of all, its obvious to all of their opponents, who play a solid defensive trap against the Rangers. Even for teams that are beatable (Pens, Thrashers), we just can't put it past their goalies and it is becoming truly embarrassing. Scoreless in 125 minutes with players such as Markus Naslund, Nik Zherdev, Scotty Gomez and all the young talent we have is unacceptable and unparalleled in the NHL--no other team has such a plethora of scorers that have all seemed to forget how to shoot the puck past the goalie instead of into him.
We're on a mini losing streak now, which is at 3, and if nothing is done soon this team is in real jeopardy of collapse. We have the luxury of feeling like a safe bet to be in the playoffs for the past few years after years of exclusion, but the honest truth is that unless this team gets their shit together and begins to play with purpose and starts burying the puck, we will not make the playoffs. At this point of the season with approximately 30 games left, most teams in the league are getting better--Devs, Caps, Florida, Philly, etc. BUT WE ARE NOT! These teams in addition to others have the serious ability to knock us out of the playoffs, unless Captain Drury rallies this talented team and reminds them that to be a Ranger is a privilege, something that doesn't happen to many NHL players and that the fans in New York are the best in the world; Drury needs to blow a gasket yelling his head off stimulating these players. He needs to let them players like Redden and Kalinin know that this aint Buffalo or Ottawa-this is New York and we expect to win, at least when we have a team that on paper should be a top contender in the East.
Sure, we have high expectations, but this is the Big Blue--we're supposed to! We spent millions upon millions to put together a strong team built around All Star goalie King Henrik and added enough talent up front to score--so what's the problem? Who knows, but the PowerPlay must improve if the Rangers want to go past the first round of the playoffs, if they make it that far.
Let us pray..