Monday, November 30, 2009

See this?!?!?! GOOD, now remember it!!!!

Dear New York Rangers,
Remember it every time you’re coasting through the neutral zone behind the play and think, “I’m tired…” or “I’m sore…” ; remember it every time you choose to use a half hearted poke check instead of ripping into an opposing player with a hard bodycheck; remember it every time your goalie is run and laying under a pile of opposing players. Remember it every time you look down at your chest and see the “C” or “A”. Remember it whenever you see a call up hustle his ass off, hoping to get a position you’re already in and taking for granted.
Most of all, remember it when you’re whining about your 6 figure paycheck; walking around the greatest city in the world or into an arena to see your name stitched across the shoulders of people that break their backs to make the smallest fraction of what you make yet still find a way to spend 250 bucks to pay homage to you; remember it when you’re making reservations at fine restaurants and you say "of the New York Rangers" after your name; remember it when you're cruising in your exotic sportcars down the street and people are pointing; or lying next to the supermodel flavor of the week in afterglow… because you’ve hardly proved that you deserve any of this and are playing like nobodies.
This above is the image that will haunt you in your sleep. The wuss many of you voted as the biggest whiner in the league, still managed to score 3 goals on you and along with the rest of his team (5 F*CKING GOALS), remain unscathed. The torrential downpour of cheap give away hats hurled by watered down, mainstream Bettman manufactured fans… celebrating him and his band of league protected cronies, making you look like fools. The worst part of it is, they weren’t even trying that hard. This is not about the inconsistencies of youth, nor the lacking abilities of a backup goaltender… Every team suffers a drubbing at one time or another. This is about whether the loss (along with your collective @$$) was gift wrapped and handed to you or if it had to be crammed down your collective throats. What I saw was a team that had something to say but didn’t want to cause a stir, so they (except for a few) took the abuse, hung their heads and walked away.
My congratulations go out to Avery, Brashear, Callahan, Voros and every other player, like Matt Gilroy (in tampa), who managed to dig down deep (into their cups and rediscover they had a pair.) It wasn’t pretty and sometimes downright ugly, but they knew their job… they knew the jersey were wearing and defended it… and win or lose… for the minutes spent sitting in the locker room or the penalty box, only thought “and I”D DO IT AGAIN!!!” This should come as nothing new to the rest of you, yet you seem to stand around bewildered as if you have forgotten what it means to play with an edge and so you don’t become someone’s B*tch ... even if that means going out on your shield sometimes
This Sh*bird team has your dignity in their back pockets! Whether they took it or you handed it over will be argued (for about 20 secs), and I say with the most heartfelt sincerity as a fan, GO GET IT BACK… and don’t leave the building tonight until you have… pansies.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lessons Of Failure

NYR 3, Penguins 8

Failure does not mean I'm a failure;
It does mean I have not yet succeeded.
(Chris Drury)

Failure does not mean I have accomplished nothing;
It does mean I have learned something.

(Aaron Voros)

Failure does not mean I have been a fool;
It does mean I had enough faith to experiment.

(John Tortorella)

Failure does not mean I have disgraced;
It does mean I have dared to try.

(Donald Brashear)

Failure does not mean I don't have it;
It does mean I have something to do in a different way.

(Christopher Higgins)

Failure does not mean I am inferior;
It does mean I am not perfect.

(Michal Rozsival)

Failure does not mean that I should give up;
It does mean that I should try harder.

(Wade Redden)

Failure does not mean that I will never make it;
It does mean that I need more practice.

(Bobby Sanguinetti)

Failure does not mean that you have abandoned me;
It does mean that you must have a better idea

(Tom Renney)

Official recap here.

The Blueshirts were a disgrace tonight for the second game in a row - a failure from top to bottom, from the coaching to the confidence.  May it stop.  Please stop the bleeding.  This could the beginning of something profoundly bad.    Try to enjoy the remaining bit of the holiday and get ready for the Pittsburgh rematch at MSG this Monday.  Expect retaliation from the Blueshirts and an extremely physical rematch -- their pride is slowly being taken away from them. 

Though, you never know.  This is hockey and every game is different from the next.  Stop giving me the blues, Blues...


Fail Call | Tampa Bay 5 NYR 1

Really, after putting forth 2 good efforts prior to the holiday, this is the hangover game we get? An absolutely dismal performance in Tampa Bay. I cannot even be bothered to look for pictures from the game or elsewhere. Official game recap here.

Even the Coach was speechless and could only say that everyone may have tried hard but the performance was not there. He sounded eerily like Tom Coughlin after the Giants' no-show performance in Denver on Thanksgiving night.

It was John Tortorella's and Vinnie Prospal's first return to Tampa since their departure. Bobby Sanguinetti made this 2009 debut by replacing the injured Wade Redden. The offense was anemic as the first line was shut down and the youthful defense corps did not play that well.

The Rangers were losing badly in the first period, but Henrik had kept them in the game with a series of great saves. But, the Rangers gave up a game-breaking goal with 35 seconds left in the first period to make the score 2-0. Ales Kotalik, looking rusty in his first game since Monday, was sitting in the penalty box when that score occurred.

The difference in all phases of the game between Wednesday's game against Florida and this one was stark. The Rangers may have played their best all-around game on Wednesday but Friday's certainly looked like their worst of the season.

The only good thing was Ryan Callahan finally scoring late in the game. It was a short-handed goal that made the score 5-1. Tampa scored 2 goals in the first and second periods. Their first 3 goals were unassisted.

You may question whether Lundqvist should have started against Tampa Bay, but the Rangers wanted to build on recent momentum so they went with their best. Henrik ended up getting pulled in the 2nd period after the Lightning scored their 4th goal.

The Rangers now have a home and home with the Pens, starting tonight and concluding on Monday evening at MSG. The Pens rested Marc Andre Fleury in their 3-2 loss against the Isles on Friday. He has a sparking 12-0-5 home record against the Rangers.

The Blueshirts are 10th in the conference (with many teams ahead of them holding games at hand) -- a win last night would have put them in 7th -- that's how close the Eastern Conference already is. And that's why it is important not to have regulation losses.

At 13-11-1, the Rangers are in danger of being a .500 team if they should get swept by the Penguins, with 1/3 of the season played after Monday's game. Right now, they are on a pace of not getting more than 90 points. Recall that Florida was left out of the playoffs last spring with 93 points.

The Rangers have wasted the benefits of their strong early start and are in the bottom of the pack for playoff purposes. Still, they are 2-1 in this latest stretch and strong showings/victories against Pittsburgh (which is definitely not invincible these days) would go a long way to turning around the Rangers' recent slide. Otherwise, the winter months for New York sports threaten to be irrelevant.

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ranger intensity tames Cats in Shootout...

After our confidence building romp over Columbus, Ranger fans needed good effort against recent conquerers Florida, to prove the 7 goals scored against columbus was more than the customary post mortem twitch we have grown used to after many a slide we've witnessed over the years.

The team heard our cries, at least for one night. Official Recap Here.

Henrik Lundqvist and Panther Goalie, Thomas Vokoun, reprised their roles from the last game between the teams, stopping most everything that came within feet of their respective goals. Its the rest of the team that provided the difference from the last game. Our skaters were aggressive play on both sides of the puck. For 60 minutes, the team hardly made a mistake and took the game to their opponents; battling along the boards, standing up for their goaltender and each other. Matt Gilroy dropped the gloves (well Sort of) and saw his first fight in the NHL after taking the action to larger Victor Oreskovich who had just flattened his unsuspecting alternate captain, Vinny prospal. While the fight was kind of one sided, and Gilroy earned 17 minutes in penalties (including a mystery 10 minute misconduct that still wasn't given any explanation)which saw him gone for most of the 3rd period, it was generally agreed that his actions were justified even if his team was already down a defenseman after losing Redden to injury in the first.

It wasn't just Gilroy, Marc Staal seemed to up the intensity of his game as well. In fact it seemed to be a trend among the team. The team played aggressively and with authority, even though they were battling a cat team that was looking to capitalize on mistakes and oddman rush opportunities. They got some extra help from our returning captain. Fresh off the injured list, Chris Drury would pick up the primary assist on the only regulation goal by the Rangers and test himself early by throwing some checks. One goal and the stellar goaltending would be enough to carry the Rangers into the shootout despite being down 2 (Redden, Gilroy) defensemen early into the 3rd. PA Parenteau was once again the hero for the Rangers in shootout. Coach Torts definitely seemed relieved for the team to carry their win streak to two as he could be seen beaming from the bench as the team headed into the lockeroon after the final buzzer.

I've got to say, this is the kind of effort we have been waiting for ever since we've been on the skids after the first 8 games. The defensemen took the body, the offensive guys played with heart. The players stuck up for one another. The team took another step toward firing on all cylinders. Our secondary scoring wasn't there as much as in the last game, the sean avery factor is still not at full volume yet and right now Voros seems to have more interest in playing the team tough guy than Brashear. While all those things may be true, after 2 wins, its clear that we once again have something to lose.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are The Rangers Better Than The Islanders?

What are the reasons that the Rangers are a better franchise than the Islanders? How about 9 million of them.

Looking forward at the 2010-11 NHL season there is much doubt of where the salary cap will be.  Rest assured, it isn't going up, maybe will drop 10%, but I feel will stay where it is.

The Islanders have committed a cap hit of $9,255,067 for two players next season. One is Yashin who they continue to pay to float on the ice in Russia. The second player continues to rehab and hasn't played much in over a year in DiPetro.

The Rangers have committed $9,087,500 for four players next season with Kotalik, Callahan, Avery and Dubinsky.

This leaves the Rangers with $167,567 which can be allocated to Avery and Torts couples’s therapy bill in an attempt to reverse the neutering job that has occurred this season.  Oops. I just noticed that Avery has scored 2 big goals tonight.

One has to ask who is getting more bang for their dollar? Trade Roz at the deadline and/or off season and let the kids play.

The future looks bright in the City that never sleeps.

Potvin sucks!

           -  BlueNationLeafs

Blueshirts Outdress Blue Jackets

And the game winning goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets was a timeout?  I'll later explain...

NYR 7,  Columbus 4

We are the goon squad and we're coming to town....beep, beep.   No I'm not talking about Sean Avery and his obsession with shoes and fashion, I am talking about how John Tortorella and his New York Rangers decided to raise the roof and give themselves and the fans a little taste of the ooh laaa laaa we got used to at the beginning of the season - a fashionable undressing from top to bottom. 

If you were in need of further suffering and decided to watch tonight's game against the surging Columbus Blue Jackets, led by former Philadelphia Flyers coach Kenny Hitchcock, you would have noticed two things in the opening nine minutes of the first period.  First, the evenly matched game left the Rangers down 0-2, spectators filled with that 'ole familiar feeling', the foreshadowing of another loss that was yet to come.  Secondly, admirable Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock appeared to be more overweight than usual.   I think the guy ate Nik Antropov this afternoon!!?

So things half way through the first period didn't look good for the Rangers, so Coach John Tortorella called a spontaneous and unexpected timeout - a moment that would last a lifetime (or realistically until I finished writing this blog entry).  With nine minutes left on the clock, Torts kept his cool (or so it looked from the 200's section) and reminded his boys that there was plenty of hockey left to be played, the game was early, they had played well up until that point and he wasn't about to point fingers.  When Chris Higgins accidentally called him Tom Renney, it might have gone a different direction, but Torts didn't mind it - keeping his cool and encouraging his boys to continue playing good hockey (I made up the Higgins story part of it).

Needless to say, the timely timeout was the game changer.   Official game recap.

And there began the onslaught of Rangers' offense of seven goals in a row - a phenomenon not seen since October when the Rangers were on top of the league, defying and proving chemistry on a squad can be coached by arrogance and accountability.  Each goal symbolic of the early seven game winning streak last October (ohhh, my nostalgia bubbles over).  Largely carried by Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaboriks' scoring throughout the season, tonight we saw a strong effort and results from Sean Avery (2 goals), Artem Anisimov (1 goal), Michael Del Zotto, (dare I say) Wade Redden, Marc Staal and Matt Gilroy - 1 goal -  (and let us not forget Vinny (1 assist) and Marian (2 goals, 2 assists) - who did their usual part).    Sean Avery was a standout tonight -- he fought, he agitated, he scored, and for all that, he was given more ice time to prove himself even further.  I hope this is a readjustment for Avery.

Tonight was Sean Avery and coach John Tortorella's victory (oh yeah, and that healthy dude we picked up from the Minnesota Wild last summer).

Our goaltending King Henrik Lundqvist played as Prince tonight, not his usual self as he let through a couple of clunkers at the wrong moments, pulling out the win having let four goals through.  Not great but no one should complain.    Aaron Voros won anonymously in a punching match against Jarod Boll's jersey, and because the jersey lost the bout, the Blue Jackets never changed the tenor of the game.   Later in the third period, Columbus surged ahead with two more goals, making the evening slightly reminiscent of a 'never to be mentioned again' Montreal game seasons ago, but it never went further than a fleeting awful thought.

The sweetest goal of the night, as there were many for the Rangers, was the third goal where Michael Del Zotto took back a puck, carried it over three lines weaving in and out of three Blue Jackets - at the time unassisted - carried it forward and scored.  It was sweet and I look forward to more of those.

So the New York Rangers are now 12-10-1, tied with 25 points in the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia and the Islanders.  We can all hope this will remind our boys that they have it in them to score goals and are built as an offensive machine with a system behind them that provides scoring opportunities.  Tonight's victory is the 'first of a five-game stretch, all in one week', next up a rematch against the Florida Panthers.

Tonight was fun, but Wednesday means more.  Let's show them Wednesday that hockey doesn't belong in Miami Sunrise, FL!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Rangers the Gracious Hosts Again in Latest Home Disappointment | FLA 3 NYR 2

Like the proverbial two ships passing in the night, on Saturday night, the surging Florida Panthers visited the Garden to face the struggling heroes in Blue. After a slow start., Florida came into the game on a 7-2-1 streak to face the Rangers, who after their 7-1-1 start were 4-8. Also, Florida was finishing a 3 game in 4 night road trip with successful stops in Buffalo and a Friday night OT victory in Detroit during which they lost 2 players to injuries. Meanwhile, the Rangers had been home all week and had not played since their loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.

Ryan Callahan and teammates practice for a
sport where scoring is even more rare if your name is not Prospal or Gaborik.

So, taking into account the negatives for Florida -- tired team, new injuries, back-to-back road games and the Ranger positives -- a rested team that had been practicing hard on power play and puck possession, you figured the Rangers would be at least competitive if not win this game outright. And you would be wrong as the Panthers came out flying and dominated the game and ice for the first 50 minutes before prevailing 3-2. The Panthers, a 93 point team last year, have now surged into playoff position after a 2-7-1 start.

A familiar sight at home -- guests
celebrating another back-breaking goal.

The game had that numbingly familiar pattern we have seen all too often recently. Rangers score first despite being outplayed and outshot and outhit, Henrik keeps the team in the game for a while before letting in one or two fluky or soft goals, Prospal or Gaborik score the Ranger goals, the defense yields several odd-man rushes and then commits a fatal error that puts the Rangers behind for good, then the Rangers pick up the pace and press for the tie but ultimately lose in regulation.

Unlike last year, these types of games against the Panthers, Caps, Thrashers (the latest conquerors in the Rangers’ 3 game home losing streak would go into OT, thus providing the Rangers with at least a point. This year, the Rangers cannot get the games into extra time or pull out a late game victory. The game against Ottawa – the Rangers’ last win – in a shootout was the type of game the Rangers played often last year and stole points (think about the 2 shootout wins against Pittsburgh at the Garden). The Rangers are not getting to overtime in close games and have only gathered 8 out of the last 28 points.

Looking for positives -- The Good: (i) Avery rushed to the net several times more
forcefully than recently; (ii) an opposing goalie was sat on instead of Henrik, and
(iii) Avery did not get a penalty for goaltender interference.
The Bad : Avery had just finished failing to convert a chance to score on an empty net.

The official recap to the game is here. The killer sequence of the game occurred in the 2nd period when the Panthers scored twice within 2:13 to change a one goal deficit into a one goal lead. One goal, scored by Jonathan Leopold, was depressing to watch because the Rangers had 3 men in front of Henrik but incredibly let 2 Panthers behind them sunbathing in the crease. The shot went in thanks to a couple of weird bounces but Henrik also did not have his pads square as the puck meandered between them for the go-ahead goal. Unlike the Rangers, the Panthers were willing to toss any errant puck at the net.

The Panthers’ 3rd goal, created by a giveaway in the neutral zone, saw the Panthers fly into the zone on a 2-on-1 which Henrik successfully foiled only to see Nathan Horton, unchecked by either Staal or Girardi, trail the play on the right side to convert a rebound for a 3-1 lead with 17 minutes left in the game. Gaborik scored within 4 minutes later to make it a game (his 9th 3rd period goal out of his 16 goals this season).

With this latest loss, the Rangers are now in 9th place in the conference. If the Pens were not stumbling because of injuries and the Devils had not just lost 3 in a row, the Rangers conceivably would be 10 points out of first – before Thanksgiving.

It’s not worth rehashing the ins and outs of the game because the recap is accurate. In fact, after these 3 straight losses at home (interrupted by the shoootout win in Ottawa), the challenge is to find something positive about the Rangers. Let's give it the good old college try . . .

The question for the team was who would step up with the injuries to Drury and Dubinsky. The answer – Vinnie Prospal, who has played center, and has scored 22 points in 22 games. No one else has filled the void and noticeably the defense, which was scoring at a torrid pace earlier (nearly 2 points a game at one point) has nearly disappeared from recent scoresheets.

It’s not for lack of trying – those two plus the line of Avery, Parenteau and Anisimov – played quite hard with some nice energy but could not convert. Avery went strong to the net several times and could not convert a puck sitting on the doorstep to a net vacated by Tomas Vokoun. That one could have put the Rangers up 2-0 (another problem with the Rangers -- an inability to extend a lead) and taken some wind out of the Panthers. He played with more energy and more of an edge throughout the evening and later had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the final 3 minutes but was denied by Vokoun. Christopher Higgins again cannot buy a goal and he made several strong rushes to the net and had some nice shots at Vokoun. The fact that none of these guys can score played right into the hands of the Panthers who focussed their efforts at tying up Gaborik, who did not have a shot until he got his goal in the 3rd period.

The MSG announcers marvelled at the overall team speed of the Panthers. They reminded me of the Rangers way back in early October. They also referred to a team-wide slump. It’s also become a mental issue because I counted more than a handful of shots that Rangers did not not take immediately when the opportunities presented themselves. Callahan and Del Zotto (especially) took their time and even hesitated for a moment to shoot. In each instance, a Panther was able to get into position to block or deflect the shot. Both players looked to be guilty of trying to set up a perfect shot instead of just letting the puck fly to let rebounds create havoc in front of the net. The team is obviously pressing. During the final ten minutes of the game, the Rangers buzzed around like they did at the beginning of the season. Why they are unable to show that energy more consistently is a mystery.

Statistics do not lie. Henrik is 3-7-1 over his last 11 starts and is good for one or two bad goals per game as well as sticks broken in frustration. (Contrast Henrik with Tomas Vokoun who is now 5-0-1 and has steadily improved since his early bad play.) The Rangers power play, 22nd in the NHL, is in the midst of a 4 for 18 slump. Callahan has one point in his last 13 games; Lisin is scoreless for 9 games.

It is conceivable that when December 1 arrives, the Rangers could be solidly in last place in the Atlantic and looking up to 8th place in the Eastern Conference. If that happens, the time will be fast approaching for management to consider taking some steps to turn this into a true rebuilding year. There’s no doubt that the injection of youth has been helpful for the team. Players like Del Zotto, Gilroy, Anisimov, Lisin and even Parenteau are getting a meaningful education on being an NHL-caliber player. We can plainly see how other players have no future on this squad, their contracts notwithstanding.

Despite what I have seen, I get the feeling that the hard work of the forwards is about to pay off. I hope I am right because the timing could not be better as the Rangers are about to embark on a 5 game in 8 day stretch starting tonight with a home encounter with Columbus and then move on to Florida for games against Tampa Bay and the Panthers and a back-to-back with the Pens. Going 3-2 would be a good start for recovery at this point. It's too early to be a make or break period, but the next month will go a long way to determining what type of stretch run we will see.

---The Graying Mantis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just like old times

In his old comedy routines, Bill Cosby used to joke about how you can have a kid that will score 100 on a citywide test and then get D's in school. Now I'm not a parent (In fact I think I may have been barred from reproducing, but that’s a different post entirely...), but at times, I feel like I am with this team. Sometimes you wanna love them and other times you just wanna kick them in the ass and demand a DNA test to prove they are yours.

Another game, another D.... Official Recap, here.

Before the game, Coach Torts felt he should clear the air and let the press know that it wasn't the staff that was suppressing the edge from Sean Avery's game. In fact many of us have been wondering what happened to Avery. Was he taking this Zen thing too far? Still suffering from the injury? Spending too much time shaking hands and greeting people at Warren 77? or designing to many dresses and handbags? (Sorry, Aves) Whatever the reason, it appears Avery heard the call and was getting back to pestering ways last night. Jawing with players, extra shoves, a face wash here or there. Was it enough? Hardly. Is that Avery's fault? Hardly..(in my opinion anyway.) Now before I dive into that one with both feet.... Let’s examine more of the game.

The capitals doubled our shot output and that’s with their cheerleading, board running, cheapshotting superstar only taking a single shot. Unfortunately for us, it was a potshot from the blue line that found its way through. That was close to embarrassing. It was our lowest shot totals to date this season. And even over the sounds of slurping and humming coming from the Versus broadcast team trying to fill a quota for saying "Ovechkin", you could still manage to hear boos and yawns coming from the garden crowd. Our game was clearly lacking and despite the excitement of Gaborik scoring a minute into the game, the rest of the team aside from Gaborik, Avery and Aaron "the butcher" Voros and Prospal... seemed content to let things play out and accept what fate had in store. The second goal for Washington was telling and a clear example of how this team is failing miserably at showing they give a damn. A shot on goal, stopped by Henrik and while our defense stands around waiting for a whistle to be blown instead of attending to business. Yeah we were shorthanded. To that I say SO F*CKING WHAT?!? To watch Girardi stand there idly while Laich walks crept in and started jabbing between the pads was pretty embarrassing. His consolation shove after the fact did nothing for me. As for the Third goal, (I won’t take a side on the Redden issue) the Redden turnover wasn’t a shock to me, though it was painful to watch as he has been doing a lot better this season and I see no point in arguing on whether or not he is worth his contract as few Rangers are ever worth the money we give them and raise only seem to make that more impossible. (just the same, you or I would take double the money to work at half capacity, if offered.) Just the same, I liked that Gilroy tried to get back and cover. My problems in particular with that play was:

  1. Letting a guy like Bradley go top shelf on you while he has two players on his back.

  2. Gilroy is still lacking the meat on him to really crush a guy, but next time, drill that guy or dive in front of him…screw the poke check, it never works for us.

  3. Henrik butterflied but failed to keep his head and shoulders high. Butterfly and keep your head up. The bottom of the net is going to be covered no matter where you’re looking as long and your stick is down and your pads are together

Speaking of those few players worth their money; Gaborik seems to be shaping up to be the value for us. He does what he’s expected to do and then some. Unlike some of the other high profile playmakers we had in the past, he doesn’t have to be romanced into back checking. He stands up for himself and doesn’t whine or cry to the officials. That’s why it seems like such a shame for the guy to come back from an injury, play up to his potential and try to carry a team on his shoulders only for them to drag their feet on backing him up and watching with wide eyes and he gains the zones, shoots and tries to get his own scraps in front of the net. That’s coming from a fan who thought he’d be another soft, heartless primadonna. How many of us weren’t drooling at the thought of him getting a hat trick and putting Ovie to shame, last night after he scored the first and second goals. There was a time when this team would be drooling too and do everything possible to try and make it happen. That time wasn’t last night. In fact, it hasn’t been for quite a while.

The team can hang out more off the ice now than before (As revealed at the fan forum) but that means nothing unless it translates to the ice. Does anyone else wonder if Gaborik could be good for 2 points a night instead of just one, if he had the right kind of support; Or why a like Sean Avery would stick his neck out night after night and ruffle feathers without feeling it would spark his team. Especially if he gets cheapshotted and lands flat on his back last night courtesy of an Erskine face wash while the rest of the team was content to see him laying alone in a circle of towering caps players? What about a guy like Brashear who injured his wrist punching Orr in the face for this team only to hear boos? How about a guy like Staal, who’s being told to play offense more, but knows there’s no one backing him up if he turns it over. Theo Fleury, just published a book on his career and problems he had. He describes the Ranger years as a nightmare. Aside from the temptations of this city, he detailed this feeling that the team was all about the money, and the players played like mercenaries for hire. Yep just like old times.

P.S. – Personal congrats on an amazing career for Brendan Shanahan, who officially retired. Let’s hope Detroit is planning a banner hanging Ceremony for him. Another team player into retirement, another chunk of heart and soul gone from the game, as we bleed to death in the Bettman/Crosby era of whining, dives and rule protected cheapshot artists.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

'The King' Vetoes The Senators

NYR 2, Senators 1 (SO)

With the New York Rangers coming off a two-game losing slump, NYR Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist pulled out a win against the Ottawa Senators in the shootout, the game winning goal by 'called up Hartford Wolfpack P.A. Parenteau.'  The Blueshirts are now 2-0 against the scrappy Senators and now look a healthy 11-8-1 this season.  Though not perfect, this afternoon treat provided a crack of optimism after the two day slump I've suffered having witnessed the Rangers loss to Atanta on Thursday night.  But allow me to throw a little DARK into the 'win'.

Official recap here.

With Brandon Dubinsky and Chris Drury out on injured reserve, coach John Tortorella chose to move hardly-scoring Chris Higgins (2 goals, 3 assists) up front to play center with Paranteau (AHL 10 goals, 10 assists) playing to his left on the second line.  I heard today that just under 20% of the NHL is either out on injured reserve or day-to-day.   The league should require the IR-flu vaccine to all eligible players.

It was a blue-collar game full of cheap hits, half-hearted forechecking, scrappy playmaking, evenly matched and questionable defense on both ends.  After some redeeming games, former Senator and now pricey-Ranger-defending Wade Redden was up to his old tricks again.  You 'old dog you!  Thirteen minutes into the first period, the most exciting moment (if you live in Ottawa) was seeing Wade expose the neutral zone allowing an easy Kovalov feed to Jonathan Cheechoo breakaway straight at Henrik Lundqvist.   Blocked!  Thanks to Henrik's demi-God instincts, a goal was denied.  After 240 career games as a Senator, I wonder how Wade Redden felt being invisible on the ice?  That's rhetorical.

"No worries Wade, two baby NHL rookies were there covering our 'Alfredsson and Spezza'-plagued blueline when you and Rozsival realized you were actually wearing ice skates with your pants down."   - TDR

Although I think the neutered Sean Avery is trying to find his new role as part of this bionic Blueshirts squad, he did agitate and play a strong puck-moving game.  More essential, our boys-in-blue defended Avery, multiple Otta-weenie melees against Sean followed by 'Blueshirt Retaliation'.  This is refreshing, especially in light of how Avery has allegedly not been getting along with his locker-room. 

The second period Senators broke through on the scoreboard, Jarkko Ruutu feeding Brian Lee in the slot giving Ottawa the lead and deflating anyone watching the game.   Our fourth line response went sour as Boyle passed to Brashear pass to Voros...nothing.  Crap.    On a side, just watching Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson today makes you appreciate good hockey and how chemistry works.    Though not connecting with the net, they created so many opportunities but were simply denied by our goalkeeper -- simply stunning to watch (thanks again Henrik!).

Despite four second period penalites (too-many for any game), we tied it up with a beautiful Marian Gaborik feed to Vinny Prospal for a shortie!  Ironically, it was Prospal's first short-handed goal.  Who knew?  The game was 1-1.

The third period was gritty and fun to watch.  It was anyone's game to win.  Both teams never resembled anything compared with the first and second period -- another nail biter.  This level of nervous energy led to overtime, which led to the dreaded shootout skills competition.

With more than five failed shootout attempts by both Rangers and Senators, 'commuter' Parenteau was asked by coach John Tortorella whether or not he was any good at the shootout.  What else is the guy going to say?  So with that, P.A. flipped a nice goal in the top right corner and took the deciding goal.  P-A-R-E-N-T-E-A-U!!!!  A good performance by a call-up, despite the game winning goal, no one watching will forgive him for missing the wide open feed with 3 minutes left in the third period, but overall, a solid performance.

So Rangers fans, sleep well knowing that we have three days off before our playoff nemesis steps into the Garden on Tuesday night.  The Big 'O' hopefully will wake up Tuesday morning not feeling up to the challenge which will be fine with all of us.  Sleep well knowing that the team looks the same with Drury and Dubinsky out on injured reserve, so remember that we are a highly coached team with a system that should work - plus an elite goalkeeper who always keeps us in the rankings.

Let's go Rangers fans!  Enjoy the weekend.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Bitter Post

NYR 3,  Atlanta Suckies 5

I am pissed off. Who cares? I do.

In more ways than one, The Dark Ranger is inebriated by a number of beers tonight and feeling passionate and ready to speak truth-isms that no other bloggers are willing to print tonight post-game. They are all afraid of MSG revoking their free-ticket-press/blogger passes to every game in the name of good press. Forget about the game until the morning, let's talk about the fans and the attendance. Here goes...

Before I even record a single word about the least-passionate game of the season, let's look at the following statistic that has already been re-printed in three NY Rangers blogs post-game already tonight, including a recurring thematic email I have received throughout the season as a NY Ranger Insider:

New York has sold out 165 consecutive regular season games, dating back to Nov. 5, 2005 against New Jersey; the last regular season non-sellout was Oct. 31, 2005 vs. Montreal (17,697); including the playoffs, the Rangers sellout streak is now at 179 games.

This is complete horseshit and contrived by The Garden, Jimmy Dolan and his lemmings. It is a false statement that includes the premium cost of corporate sponsorships and corporate tickets and averaging them to justify this 'sellout position' that The Garden is claiming. Despite the team, this is sad PR and symbolic of the product we get on the ice as we - the working man - have to pay for seats these hard-days. These sellout statistics are sad, as it is obviously transparent, while equally false to the fans when they pay attention and give a damn.

Who wants to call out the second most NHL powerful franchise on how they value their stock, team and worth? Me ( and our legion of Dark-followers)!

Well, let's get real about this Garden Faithful as I brought three clients of mine to The Garden this evening to find less than 50% of the 18,000 seats attending, lest I forget to mention that I have received offers every game with a special limited "new block of tickets available for season-ticket-holders only" direct from The Garden and my NY Rangers account rep has called me 10 times this season offering me additional seats 24 hours before the puck drops. That hardly feels like another sellout game!!?

Should I also mention that this is the only season in 10 years that The Dark Ranger has NOT BEEN ABLE TO SELL ANY SEATS FOR COST to friends & family, regardless of who they were playing? The scalpers are buying at 25% of cost in front of The Garden at game-time and I cannot unload season-tickets to the regulars because it's a buyer's market. As a single ticket consumer, you can pick the game, pay less than half the ticket cost (without premiums) and pretty much sit where you want. This is a first for me, as I have four seats and every game where no one buys them, I am out $432.00 per game for my 4 seats at $108 a piece if I have a life unable to attend every single home game. Holy crap! The Garden = Season Ticket Holder Sucka Born Every Minute.

I am in the season-ticket-holding doghouse. But I digress...

Oh, and the game tonight. We lost again tonight. No one on the ice cared. Official recap here.

Tomorrow I'll sleep this off, elaborate somewhat and actually analyze the game and get this slowly-developing chip off my shoulder.

Time out for me.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Liberties Continue to be Taken | A Time for Assessment

Due to cap issues and movie commitments,
these guys are not available to bolster the Rangers' lineup.
If I had a book of recent Ranger memories that tick me off, the first page would be a picture from last spring’s Game 6 against the Caps when Blair Betts lay on the ice, face down on Garden ice on a Sunday afternoon, his and his team's season and Ranger career over after being blindsided by Donald Brashear. His teammates demonstrated no resolve, no Braveheart style cheering or any kind of emotion, and most of all took no retribution for a fallen teammate whose contributions they and fans had sorely underrated.

The inside of the book would be the pictures of the numerous times opposing players have moved into Henrik’s crease like swarms of rampaging Huns and no one,
including the goalie himself, clearing out the riff-raff. These close encounters have led to some comical looking pileups, usually featuring Ranger players tangled with their goalie, but the only outcome fans can see is the potential for a season-ending injury to their best player.

The final page would be a picture from Saturday night of Chris Drury laying face down after a hit by Curtis Glencross of Calgary in front of apparently no one because no referee saw it, no Ranger players saw it and certainly the recipient never saw it. Again, although the Rangers played one of their better complete games, there was no fire and no retribution. Two concussions sandwiching liberties taken with one of the best goalies in the league. Not a collection of memories that the Garden will be marketing anytime soon but this behavior epitomizes what the Ranger franchise has been about for 40 years or so with little interruption.

A little tutorial may help the Rangers.
Since my youth (going back to the Nixon administration), the Rangers have always been characterized as overpaid and soft. Have things really not changed for so long? Yes, there have been years when Nick Fotiu, Jeff Beukeboom and Colton Orr and some others patrolled the ice effectively but why is it that one of my signature memories still is Dale Rolfe getting killed by Dave Schultz of the Flyers during the 1974 playoffs and no Ranger ever coming to his aid? The Red Sox have eliminated the image of Buckner misplay in 1986 but the lack of physicality of the Rangers endures. Is there something in the MSG water?

The players do not match their coach's fire.

I have no answers for the past and am not so sure I know about the present team. One would think that a team run by the feisty, tempestuous, opposing fan inciting head coach, would take on some of his personality. The return of Sean Avery and the addition of Brashear surely would give the Rangers that sandpaper edge that has been sorely lacking. And such "protection" is especially desirable this season thanks to the signing of elite scoring machine Marian Gaborik whose absence for a couple of games this season already has demonstrated he is the difference between a 200 goal team and a 240 goal team. So, what's going on here?

Could it be that Tortorella has the team on such a short leash that physicality is not on the menu, that perhaps he intimidates the players from meting out some justice on the ice? All the emphasis on pushing the puck into the opponents' end is all well and good but how about reminding other teams that there will be a price to pay if they get a little too close to the goal? Sean Avery, unless he is injured, has not been a presence – he has not annoyed opposing players and frankly, I rarely notice him anymore on whatever line he may be on. Has Torts effectively neutered him after benching him during Game 5 against the Caps last spring?

Sometimes, a message to opponents must be
delivered loud and clear.

The Rangers again are at the top of the league in PK efficiency, they have a great goalie, they are scoring much more than recent years so they can take the risk of being a little more aggressive to send the message that they will not be abused. But, the defensemen do little; Brashear has been exposed to be a coward only interested in orchestrating his bouts. Apparently the chance to cheap shot someone to the back of the head (i.e., Betts) has not come up again. Then again, if his wrists were not so exhausted from counting his undeserved earnings, perhaps he would actually be on the ice to contribute to the team instead of being a "healthy scratch". Perhaps the bottom line is that the Rangers are just a bunch of nice players.

Because nice does not get it done in the NHL.
The NHL has evolved the past couple of seasons as speed is being blended with heft – some Western teams are beefy and scary. Look at Anaheim, San Jose and Calgary who the Rangers played recently. (Edmonton is an exception and the Rangers match up well against the timid, checking-adverse Oilers.)

The Rangers do not hit, they do not finish their checks and most of all exert no physical presence in a game. The East’s elite -- the Penguins, Flyers, Caps – throw their bodies around with abandon. Finesse teams will not succeed in the playoffs because they will get worn down -- all you have to do is recall how the Pens dispatched the Flyers in 6, the Caps in 7, swept the finesse team from Carolina in the conference finals and had enough energy left to overtake Detroit after spotting them the first 2 games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

After Game 4 against the Caps, the Rangers had been worn down by the Caps’ relentless efforts and scored 3 goals over the final 3 games. Does any Ranger fan really think the Rangers can prevail in a best of 7 against Philly, Pittsburgh or Washington? Maybe they can steal one series like they nearly did last year but anymore than that would be a surprise.

Perhaps Torts is looking over his shoulder at Mike Keenan squirreled away in an MSG broadcast booth and Messier patrolling MSG like an underfed pit bull recently released from one of Michael Vick’s cages.
Maybe he figures that he is an interim caretaker at best and wins will delay an inevitable firing by the GM. My advice to Torts – get your players to grow a pair and defend the ice, the goal and their goalie and their teammates.

Lying in wait. . . . Perhaps Sather, Messier & Keenan are
biding their time to embark on some sort of master plan,
but the Coach and players have a job to do, regardless.

Finally, about the Captain – a team typically takes its personality from the coach or the captain. We already see the Rangers do not follow Torts’ personality. Ranger players love Chris Drury and always talk about how he leads by example. He is not a fiery leader like Crosby or Ovechkin. He’s a solid player, yes grossly overpaid, but he does what he can to lead the team and we can remember that Friday night game last year in Chicago when he led the team to a stirring victory.

Unfortunately, he does not produce the results like Derek Jeter (the most famous captain in New York sports this decade), but let’s face it, Jeter is a once in a lifetime player here in New York. No other New York team has had a captain like Jeter since Messier, who as you may recall, was an import complete with an established pedigree. The question now is who will fill the void -- likely it will be Vinne Prospal who fortuitously already earned his "A" before Drury's injury.

The fact that no Ranger took umbrage over Drury’s hit (Phaneuf would have been a nice target for a run) or flattened an opposing player here and there near or inside the crease to protect Lundqvist is simply shocking. Turning the other cheek works well to avoid penalties but at a certain point a message is being sent to fans and opposing teams. And the message is not a good one and I won’t suggest the words that come to every fan’s mind.

Henrik's sister is right --
it's time to get a little meaner.
During last night's subscriber forum, Lundqvist even admitted that his own sister told him to develop an edge and protect himself. One fan recommended that he watch old tapes of Billy Smith. Perhaps the Rangers will return to the ice on Thursday night with a different attitude.

Finally, I was aghast by the vitriol that fans on various message boards spewed at Chris Drury from questioning his manhood (Canadian fans) to celebrating his injury (Ranger fans).

I find it amusing that Barcalounger fans think they are qualified to judge the merits of concussions when the biggest injury they ever have had are getting either a hangnail from popping open a beer can or waist burn from trying to zip up size 40 pants around their 48 inch waists.

The "experts" from the U.S. and north of the border have
"weighed" in on all things Drury on various bulletin boards.
Really, consider the source.

The season is nearly ¼ complete and the hockey gods have bestowed the Rangers with a 4 day break. It is a timely gift because it buys some time for Drury and Dubinsky to start healing. The Rangers are not alone in the injury department – Detroit, Washington and Pittsburgh have been hit particularly hard. If I could stock a team with players on injured reserve, I think I would be leading my fantasy league if I participated.

Atlanta visits MSG tomorrow, presumably without Ilya Kovlachuk, and Henrik will have had a week off to retool. Then the team visits Ottawa for the annual Saturday afternoon match and then returns home to face Washington (likely without Ovechkin) next Tuesday.

--- The Graying Mantis

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


 Despite the horrible amateur photo-shopping by The Dark Ranger this picture cracked me up, I am willing to give away a FREE PAIR OF TICKETS to the December 16, RANGERS vs. ISLANDERS, Center section 227 to THE BEST CAPTION FOR THIS PICTURE.  The three judges will be myself, J_Undisputed and Graying Mantis.  Winner gets the tickets.....leave your best response in the comments section.  Good luck!@  EXPIRES THIS SUNDAY

Still five days to go....


Go here, here and here for the latest Rangers injury reports.  We are lacking Centers as Captain Chris Drury may not be playing against Thursday, Atlanta Thrashers and Brandon Dubinsky will be out 3-6 weeks with a broken hand.

Also in Rangers news, Brian Leetch was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Way to go buddy.  I still don't understand why they would give the same award and privilege to a NJ Devil's Coach, but Gary Bettman is still our Commissioner of the NHL so it goes to show you that this league is a circus to begin with.  Go here, here, here for the latest.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rangers Flamed Out and Flacid

 NYR 1,  Calgary 3

It was a late game for us Eastern Time folk, but with half eyes open, The Dark Ranger was able to witness the loss of another game, the potential loss of our Captain, the potential loss of Brandon Dubinsky's right hand and the potential loss of our prized goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist.  Let me qualify....

The Rangers are now 10-7-1 and third place in the Atlantic Division with 21 points. Official recap here.

First of all, it appears that the 'unscathed to boo-boos Blueshirts' will be joining the rest of the NHL with a list of injured reserve worthy of worry. As MSG policy, management was unwilling to publicly announce players injuries, Coach Tortorella sincerely reinforcing that Henrik Lundqvist just needs the rest while backup goalie Stephen Valiquette found himself in net again last night against the Calgary Flames after an impressive win against the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the week.   Though he allowed three goals in net, only the third goal was your typical 'this is why he is a backup' chip into our net.  Calgary's goalkeeper Mikka Kiprusoff (a.k.a. Kips) was dominant in net saving 32 Blueshirt shots on goal; the difference maker in the game would have been Henrik Lundqvist in net, but Valiquette was there to welcome the loss.

It has been suggested to DARK that Henrik's unreported groinal issues are the result of our very own Sean Avery's shenanigans during practice yesterday afternoon, and we are now seeing the beginnings of a troubled locker-room;  this could be the result of our instigator being delegated to the fourth line, limited minutes on the ice and instructed to keep a low profile when Torts says so.  Fellow Blueshirts allegedly berated Mr. Avery as he continually challenged Lundqvist with verbal jabbings while storming the net at practice.  SAVE IT FOR THE GAME, AVERY!  If there is truth to these alleged Avery-isms, then someone has to maintain Mr. Vogue and put a leash on him (or another pair of weighted designer loafers).   With only six of the 2008 Rangers wearing jerseys this season, most of the team has a deep-seeded dislike of Avery and unless he proves to be an asset scoring goals and making big plays, the squad is bound to turn on him.  Tread carefully Sean and carry a big stick, and leave our prize goaltender alone.

Brandon Dubinsky blocked a shot with his right hand, and it was apparent thereafter we will be without our hard-hitting, no scoring, contract-withholding center for a little while.

NYR Coach John Tortorella felt that it was "one of our best games of the year", but I beg to differ as our (supposed) Captain Chris Drury was taken out in the first half of the first period with a late hit and no one stepped up - not one Blueshirt sent a message back.  Game over.  Despite his inability to score goals, Chris Drury is our Captain.  Game over. was a tight game and the Rangers fought the superior Calgary Flames, strong physical battle between both teams, but the Flames blueline was strong and threw off our gameplay with a good hit every other drive to the net.  The Rangers blueline allowed (Pee-wee) former Ranger and now Calgary's Nigel Dawes three assists throughout the game -- you heard it here, the tiny little Dawes got past Wade Redden and Rozzy twice.  Surprised?

So the West Coast swing is over and we took 2 points out of 6 -- it is time for rest and revitalization, healing time for injuries and bad mood swings.  We next see the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday and hopefully until then, Coach Torts can put the Blueshirts back into focus.

Until then, Let's Go Rangers fans!


Friday, November 6, 2009

Rangers Stick It to Oilers | NYR 4 EDM 2

The Rangers won in Edmonton last night for the first time in 10 years in their 4-2 win. Game recap is here.

The Oilers came into the game with a laundry list of missing players due to injuries or the flu. With the home team undermanned, there was no reason for the Rangers to fail to exploit the opportunity to come away with 2 points on the road. Fortunately, they understood that and performed.

Due to the recent rash of injuries, Oiler management is looking into putting a plow on front so that ambulances can be used as a Zamboni.

Led by a revived power play that produced 3 goals and with goals from Ryan Callahan (his first in 11 games) and another goal from the awakening Christopher Higgins, the offense looked a bit more potent than recently. Ales Kotalik had 3 points thanks to a goal and two assists. The Rangers scoring was spread out as 8 different players had points.

It is obvious that the recent emphasis on playing better defense is starting to pay off as the Rangers dominated territorial play for most of the game and did a much better job of clearing rebounds in front of the net.

The usual contributors scored points last night. . .

and were helped by goals from Callahan & Higgins,
strangers to the scoresheet.

Noticeably absent from scoring again was the
Captain, but his defensive work was again stellar.
The Rangers grabbed a lead they did not relinquish with 5 minutes left in the first period. They dominated the game for great stretches especially when Aaron Voros was not on the ice taking stupid penalties. The penalty kill was outstanding as the Oilers had difficulty generating much offense when they had 4 straight power play opportunities over the course of 20 minutes starting with the 5 minute mark of the first period. The Blueshirts were able to maintain their 1-0 lead and then build on it as they capitalized on the PP during the final 40 minutes.

Steve Valiquette bordered on stupendous at times as he made 26 saves. He stood tall most of the time and played the angles well. His glove hand, except for a wonderful snag of a slapshot, was a little weak as he kept dropping pucks. He also left a number of juicy rebounds but the Rangers defense swarmed to clear them away effectively.

His Oilers' counterpart, Nikolai Khabibulin, deserved a better fate. The Rangers launched more than 60 shots at the net. 4 found the net, 35 were saved, and the remainder either were blocked or missed the net completely. The Rangers' 39 shots on goal was their largest output of the season.

What I found interesting about the Rangers' approach to this game was their stick work. They made numerous stick checks on Oiler players in the neutral zone or during rushes into the offensive zone. This tactic frustrated the Oilers and broke their momentum especially during the power play. The Rangers defensemen, particularly, the youths (Del Zotto & Gilroy) and Girardi and Staal were particularly effective. Also effective (early on) was the 4th line combination of Boyle, Avery and Voros. At the beginning of the game, their forecheck was breaking the will of the Oilers.

Unfortunately, some sloppy stick work by Voros led to 2 consecutive penalties that broke the Rangers' momentum and gave Voros a seat in the coach's doghouse for an extra 20 minutes. This must have annoyed Tortorella to no end.

Still, the forechecking was there during the first period and led to Higgins scoring on a nice feed from Matt Gilroy (who played an excellent game all night long) with 4:32 remaining in the first period.

The effective stick work was not only on the defensive end. On offense, Ranger forwards had their sticks on the ice looking for passes and possible deflections. Early in the first period, Girardi took what looked to be a shot from the point, but in fact, it was a pass to Avery in front who nearly deflected the puck into the net. Reminiscent of Paul Mara's assists during power plays. In fact their overall aggressiveness on both ends of the ice was evident as the Rangers outshot the Oilers 14-8 in the first period (and 28-18 after 2 periods), even though the Oilers had 3 straight power play opportunities. It was a sign of good things to come this game.

Another positive is the Rangers' continued ability to make crisper passes during power plays. Last year, an inordinate number of cross ice passes were stolen, leading to more successful short handed opportunities than we want to remember.

This year, the passes are not being stolen and are keeping the defense off balance. During the Rangers' 2nd power play, Del Zotto made a nifty pass that Callahan deflected over Khabibulin's shoulder to put the Rangers ahead 2-0. That goal was Ryan's first in 11 games and broke an 0-for-12 power play drought for the team.

About 3 minutes after the Oilers scored cut the deficit to 2-1, on another power play, the Rangers passed the puck around the zone confidently and did not let the Oilers set up. Finally, Marian Gaborik found Ales Kotalik at the left point who fired a bullet that made its way past Khabibulin to restore a 2 goal lead heading into the 3rd period. That may have been the turning point of the game.

Based on recent history with Valiquette in goal on the road with the Rangers ahead, there was cause for concern. However, the Oilers quickly helped the Rangers' cause when Fernando Pisani high-sticked Del Zotto for a 4 minute double minor. The Rangers were able to extend their lead on a nice tip-in play by Gaborik after another Kotalik blast from the point with 12 1/2 minutes left to convert the Rangers 3rd power play goal of the evening. Even though the Oilers did score with 7 minutes to go, the Rangers defended their advantage well even when the Oilers pulled their goalie with about 2 minutes to go.

The Oilers overall played a ragged game. The Rangers certainly did not catch the Oilers playing their "A" game and took necessary advantage. Thanks to the t.v. angles, you could see how the Oilers left the center area between the circles in front of Khabibulin vulnerable throughout the game. There also were several times when 3 of their players were behind the net that helped the Rangers forechecking and preventing the Oilers from gaining any defensive presence.

I wonder how former coach Tom Renney felt as he saw the Rangers blend defense, forechecking, penalty killing and power play prowess so effectively in one game.

The Rangers conclude their western tour of Canada with a trip to Calgary to face the 9-4-1 Flames on Saturday night. This game will be a good indicator as to whether the offense is now returning to its early season form and whether the continued reliance on defense can be maintained.

---The Graying Mantis

Forsberg in our Future?!?!

Dear Glen Sather,

WTF?!?!? You cannot be serious with this Forsberg stuff!

"If he can remain healthy..."

Since when the hell has he been able to remain healthy in the last couple of seasons? If he could, don't you think someone who needed him far worse than we do would have already gambled on him? Do you think the rest of the league is living in a cave? I'll give you Gaborik.. Aside from a few small tweaks here and there, he's been solid and dependable for pretty much a point per game... and I think it's a pretty good deal so far. But don't push your luck!

Even in the most charitable of situations, Mother Theresa wouldn't have given Forsberg a shift against Kevin Weekes, if her team was up by 5. Please stop being an idiot and forget this nonsense...Or at least stop cruising the winger retirement homes or center halfway houses for big names and look for a punishing D-man to replace Rozi.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A wake up call from a rivalry past.

Ah, our annual Vancouver reality check. Though this was more along the lines of Horror Fantasy, than reality... The goalie stopping all the pucks was not Roberto Luongo, the man whose reputation precedes him. It was Raycroft. A guy whose first name it takes me a few moments to recall. Anyway, "whats his face" had plenty of help from us as we shot over, to the side, and around him and the goal for most of the night. Official Recap here.

While the Nuck defense can take some credit for our poor shooting and non shooting, it was a problem that lied merely on the perimeter of our stink last night. For a good part of the contest, we went defense for defense with a Vancouver team that specializes in it. That's pretty surprising considering the reputation for our defensive prowess, so far this season. James Bond seemed to have nothing on us as our license to kill saw Vancouver only 1 for 6 on the powerplay. I personally thought the Canuck powerplay was rather anemic and us forcing turnovers was helped out often by their miscommunication. It was only after our biggest gaffes that Keslar, Samuelsson, and the rest of the Vancouver team were able to tally. Even still... changes at the wrong time, a too many men penalty, lazy backchecks and missed switching on defensive coverage should remain cardinal sins on a team nursing 2 young defensemen and weening 2 others. It will take a team effort to keep the soft underbelly of this team from being exposed for the rest of the season.

That brings me to my biggest problem with last night. As I sat there watching the third period through a set of heavy eyelids (I'll attribute it to age and not our effort), I suddenly heard one of usual commercials interrupted as a cut back to the game revealed a melee on the ice. "Really, a melee? good ole fashioned donnybrook involving my boys in blue?!?!" As I started to salivate like a Pavlovian dog at flashbacks of Cloutier pummeling Salo into oblivion, I snapped back to reality and watching a glorified shoving match for about 5 minutes. To my surprise, it was all started by Gaborik giving notice to the Vancouver team by way of a little shove that hes not about to take any of their crap(during the commerical and line change). That set off a ten man shoving contest and pair offs on the ice. The only Rangers that seemed to be serious about getting nasty in the whole thing was Byers, Gaborik, and Voros (who was trying to assist Byers). Girardi who was making his own stand, kept Byers (who kept his barking up even in the penalty box) company for the 10 min while serving matching misconducts. Vancouver also lost 2 players for 10.(including Bieksa, who was playing the role of Gaboriks attempted intimidator). The fun didn't stop there though, as the action convened at the benches. Avery and O'Brien 'shared some recipes'... and Avery's taunting drew a physical reaction O'Brien, which got the Nucks an extra two minutes and put the Rangers on a powerplay. Voros would pick up a slashing call after the powerplay ended (no doubt trying to pick another fight he couldn't win). Byers would emerge from serving his misconduct only to go after Vancouver tough guy Tanner Glass. Byers found Glass's name to be a misnomer, got all he could handle and then some, but hung in there just the same. Byers has lived up to my expectations since I had hoped he'd make the team 3 years ago. I'm also surprised to find that Gaboriks got a little bit of snarl. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for our new enforcer, our Zen agitator, and the rest of this club, at this point. This was a game we wanted to win on the scoreboard. Unfortunately when we couldn't do that, Vancouver sought to take our dignity too... and made it clear the team's fans and the city haven't forgotten that we took the cup from Canada while under their watch and it hasn't gone back since.

I'm a little disappointed that the only people that answered the call were our Scorer, the kid from the farm, and the village idiot(I know I give Voros a lot of crap- but I will take this opportunity to commend him for trying). This used to be the kind of game, much like our local rivalry games, where you knew going in... that it wasn't just another game. In fact, to revisit an annoyance I had earlier this season when we first played the Devils, I believe Dubi was quoted as saying "its just another 2 points", when asked about the rivalry factor. It may be just another 2 points to Dubi, now that he's got his pockets lined... but for some of the fans of the team, bragging rights is all we have. Now, I know you can't get onto the scoreboard or into the playoffs on dignity or bragging rights... but to wear our jersey, to be part of this team, to carry the tradition, the honor, the pride of all the fans that have ever cheered for this team and the people of this city... you have to show up and prove you belong. One only has to look at the latest "rivalry game" at the mausoleum for proof. After the team folded their tents and packed it in, Ranger fans went to war in the stands...because if you won't show what it means to wear that Jersey, WE WILL! It's nothing new, it happens year after year. It's part of the rivalry, and perhaps part of something that's been forgotten by kids holding out for more money, and punks beating up cab drivers over a dime.

A good bench clearer is what this team needs to get itself out of this funk and pull it together. We were presented with an opportunity last night and while only a few took the opportunity, lets hope many more got the message.

  • Congrats to Vinny Prospal on being named one of the teams Captains

  • "FINALLY..."Chris Higgins reaction to netting his first of the season and getting past the drought was kind of funny, as he looked toward the heavens like Andy Dufresne after escaping from Shawshank.

  • As funny as Higgins reaction was, it couldn't match the hilarity of Ray Ferraro's reaction to be stuck in his little box in between the benches during the O'brien/Avery summit.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Once "O" for Oprah & Obama, Coming Soon For Ovechkin

IMG (International Management Group) one of the most prestigious sports management agencies (think Jerry "Show Me The Money" Maquire), has signed Alexander Ovechkin to a management deal, certainly encompassing long-term product placement coming soon to everywhere.  This is big news for hockey because the Big 'O' of Washington is one of the best in the business; his talents will serve as a great commercial road model for the game and attracting new audiences of all ages to the game.  We all appreciate the grit, talent and humor this Russian brings every night and, most importantly, this will surely replace Sid Crosby's mug shot as the poster child of the NHL.


from MarketWire:
“We are very pleased to welcome Alex to the global team at IMG,” said David Abrutyn, IMG’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Global Consulting. “He is clearly one of the world’s greatest athletes and one of the NHL’s brightest stars. His electrifying play and charismatic personality will make him one of the most sought after athletes for companies and brands to grow their business. We are looking forward to working with Alex and his family, the Capitals and the NHL to build the Ovechkin brand and the game of hockey around the world.”
“As one of the most exciting players the game of hockey has seen, Alex has captured the imagination of fans around the globe and he is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the world’s great sports icons,” said Brad Pelletier, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of IMG Canada. “The excitement and personality he brings to the game is not only great for hockey, but also for his personal brand, which we look forward to working with him to grow around the world.”

Blueshirts Hold Down The Bruins

NYR 1,  Bruins 0

There is nothing like family day at the Garden between two Original Six teams and lucky for all with young children attending Sunday's 1pm game NY Ranger Donald Brashear was a scratch and Boston's Milan Lucic was luckily labeled injured reserve.  My four-year old kid was safe for now.  With Bruin's Marc Savard also out injured and our often-injured NYR sniper Marian Gaborik starting the game, things were looking up prior to the puck dropping.

Coming off a two-game slump against two of the worst teams in the NHL (The Minnesota Wild followed by The Islanders), the New York Rangers got back to normal against the Bruins taking a win by one lone goal of the afternoon.   It was a good effort by a team that wanted the win, holding a one-goal Marian Gaborik lead - a lovely 'we missed you Gabs' goal fed by Vinny Prospal in the second period - and NYR goalkeeper Henrik "King" Lundqvist back to form - shutting out a third period onslaught of B's storming the net, making 21 career shutouts in the NHL.   Oohhh, the love of a win.

Official recap here.

Games like yesterdays remind me of the barely-nostalgic Tom Renney coaching days - modeled off of the Lou Lammy winning NJ Devils -- DEFENSE is EVERYTHING pre-Tortorella campaign.  Looking back, defense is everything if you play it well, but somewhere in the cortex of my memories I recall we didn't play defense very well which led to Mr. Renney's tenure as assistant coach in some very-far-north Province of Canada.  Current coach John Tortorella demonstrated yesterday that his blueliners are not only able to score many, many goals, but also when properly focused, control the neutral zone and contain the game.  One could look at yesterday's game as average, but I watched the replay after being at the game and the blueline's control of the puck the latter half of the game was masterful.  Despite Henrik Lundqvist's continued brilliance in net, the D-men stepped up their game and looked confident again.  If I had a nickel for every time I said that this season, I'd have 10 cents.

It seems that every team this season has it out for Henrik Lundqvist and one of these games 'the injury' will be real -- note to fellow Blueshirts....THIS HAS GOT TO STOP.  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.   We Rangers fans are sick of seeing no retribution for these cheap' hit the goalie' parlour tricks.  The Animal Known As Brashear is not the only person assigned to paying back the team that attempts to break down your castle.  Hey, Chris Higgins...if you're not going to score any goals --- drop the gloves!  Do something.  Enough, enough, enough.

We can thank Gaborik, Lundqvist and coach John Tortorella for the win yesterday, where the third period Blueshirts fought back and played defensive hockey -- a responsibility shared by all - defenders and forwards and an elite goalkeeper.  Coach Torts lighted up his physical presence as a symbolic player on the ice, with his cranking Rangers keeping things tight on the blueline, controlling the neutral zone and a return of a low-scoring defensive game.

In a nutshell, 2 points to us.  Thanks Torts.

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