Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hello Blueshirts, or whatever fancy name you Ranger fans call yourselves. F Da Rangers here sitting in for Dark, who must have had a premonition that his team would crap the bed against my Flyers tonight. Could be due to all the nasty things he wrote about the orange and black (scroll down) a few posts ago, and his unhealthy obsession with what's going on with the Flyers. Ever notice that? Well Karma is a bitch as he points out, and an unprovoked attack on a struggling team sometimes has a way of coming back to haunt. It's all Dark's fault. Plus the Rangers can now only earn 1 point next game with the new Destroy Rule (NHL 2010: a team that gets shutout by 6+ goals in one game will only be awarded one point for their next win).
What an enjoyable game! I mentioned to my wife beforehand that the Flyers needed a good 6-0 thumping to help them continue their momentum (now a 4 game win streak), and continue in righting the ship before the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year's Day. I mean we all know they are one of the most talented teams in the league and that it's just a matter of time for them to pull it all together, every smart hockey fan knows that. They showed tonight when they play their game, a team like the Rangers clearly doesn't stand a chance. Having called the score before the game, my wife is now slightly freaked out.
So what can I say about the game? Flyers score in the first minute, they were faster and hungrier from the opening faceoff, and a former Ranger - Blaire Betts - appropriately and immediately spoiled Henrik's 300th game. A few minutes later, I enjoyed seeing Brashear with his head down, trying to play soccer with the puck like a double-blader on a pond in 8th grade, which ultimately led to Briere securing the 2-0 lead. Our old friend Donnie B helping out. Girioux put the good guys up 3-0 with a hard earned goal. Then Simon Gagne took over by welcoming Chad Johnson to the NHL! Ocho Cinco never saw his first ever NHL shot against until he turned around and looked in the net. I wonder if that's a first for a pro goalie? Gagne makes it a natural hatchtrick to round out the scoring, very nice to see him back from hernia surgery and showing the explosiveness of yesteryear. You can look at the shots, scoring chances, faceoffs, and it all points to the Flyers. They completely outplayed the Rangers, and I'm struggling to come up with any positive things to say about your team. I must say it feels deeply satisfying.
A few observations:
1) Hartnell/Avery Fight - I was hoping for Round 2 after their brief tango in the 1st. Disappointing that it didn't resurface, but perhaps the Flyers are being smarter about taking unnecessary penalties. Good to see Hartnell come to the defense of Gagne, the recipient of an Avery hackjob.
2) Chad Johnson debut - while he'll always be Gagne's bitch, he showed some poise and managed to make a few saves.
3) MSG Announcers - I don't know these knuckleheads, but one of the guys referred to Tortorella yelling at the team during the timeout, saying "that's not a sunburn he has." Funny.
4) Fans - lots of "bronx" cheers for your team. Plus one for the ref when he fell over in the 3rd, as though the ref caused the problems tonight. Classic. People always like to point this out in Philly as though it never happens in their arena for their own team. It's okay blueshirts, own up to it, wear it proudly like we do. It feels good to let it out and it's healthy too.
5) Flyers goalie Michael Leighton doesn't even get one of the stars on a 6-0 shutout. A testament to how thorough a beating it was.
Well kids, not much else to say. This was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for Flyers fans, so I'm enjoying it. I believe the Flyers will finish strong in second half. Not sure I can say the same for your "Blueshirts." Good luck, and see you on January 21, 2010. Hopefully you're still not trying for that 1 point win still!!!
Now, the Federal Hockey League (a nice homage to Slap Shot) is being born in NY/CT for next fall with 4 teams including possibly the league's premier franchsie the Danbury Whalers, an homage to the team that became the Carolina Hurricanes. Nice article here. More details about the league is here (including their OT rules and likely locations of other teams). Puck Daddy also posted some news.
I met Herm Sorcher, the Whalers managing partner, in Brooklyn during the 2008 summer when he was trying to get the Brooklyn Aviator team (in the EPHL) on the ice -- he is a very nice gentleman who even called me a few times to facilitate my purchase of tickets. Reading the Wikipedia history of the EPHL tells you how hard it has been to create a minor league hockey league in the metropolitan area.
At the helm of the Danbury team, Sorcher has brought along the former coach of his Brooklyn team, Chris Fiorriolo, who will have the dual responsibilities of coaching the Whalers and serve as the league's executive vice president for league development.
I like the fact that Sorcher is a huge hockey fan as well as a devoted Whaler fan and during his press conference he said all the right (and nice things) about the EPHL and the Hartford/Danbury fan base.
Here's a quote from Sorcher you won't be seeing from anyone in the NHL or Rangers management: "No bones about it, I am a bleeding blue-and-green Hartford Whaler fan. My heart was cut out of me on April 13, 1997, like so many people. Hockey has never been the same for me. Professional sports haven't been the same for me."
I got whiplash from nodding my head in agreement especially when I compare someone like Sorcher to the pulseless/clueless Dolans and Gary Bettman, the refugee from the NBA who has no brains, no heart and no class.
It is heartwarming to see people who love the sport, appreciate their local communities and fan bases trying to make the sport fun to watch and accessible.
Good luck to the Federal Hockey League and I am sure the citizens of Danbury can hardly wait. The NHL did a huge disservice by letting the Whalers leave.
--- The Graying Mantis
Sunday, December 27, 2009
So where were we? Four wins in a row followed by what? So we dropped another one to the NY Islanders, the team that was supposed to be the worst in the league this season. At least we made overtime. Our average team was lucky to have gained the extra point due to a 'stepping up' Brandon Dubinsky party last night in the Garden - 2 goals credited to our youngster and a strange 2 points for Michal Rozsival as well. The opening of the game was furious, remeniscent of what one used to expect in a Rangers-Islanders division rivalry game during the holidays - well, we got that hard-hitting game for at least 9 minutes, that is. Everything simmered down after that point while the Islanders outplayed, outchecked and controlled the tempo during the second period, until the final five minutes of the third where the Rangers decided to get back into the game, tie things up at 2 each -- and drop the game in the last minute of overtime. Poo.
Official recap here.
The Blueshirts dropped to 9th place in the Eastern Conference with a 18-16-4 record - on the borderline, but will give it four days break until they meet, yet again, another rival in Philadelphia for their second meeting of the season. Much to prove, lots to lose.
Short & sweet today. Off to the sick kids and holidays and enjoy the rest of 2009 while you can.
Friday, December 25, 2009
What better a way to bring in the holidays? Four wins in a row and a renewed sense of belonging for the fans, the team and, most importantly, General Manager Glen Sather. Aside from all the kidding, The Dark Ranger and our team want to express our best to all of you, the readers of Dark, and thank you for your continued support and for putting up with our musings.
Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to All Hockey Fans Across the Globe (especially those willing to follow the Rangers year after year!)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
They brought in Chris Pronger, expecting his vast experience, talent and leadership would pull the various factions together in the dressing room. They brought in Ian Laperriere, expecting his grit on the ice and zero tolerance for losing would impact on younger players whose focus tended to wander. They brought in Ray Emery, expecting his fiery demeanor would add some intimidation in goal the club has lacked since the Ron Hextall era. They fired John Stevens as coach and replaced him with Peter Laviolette, who brought in a new, more aggressive attack system, but found his players weren’t physically fit to play the game the way he wants.
Given their near $54 million payroll, this group is the most underachieving team in the NHL, as well as, the most expensive sub.-500 Flyers club in franchise history. Allowing for injuries, the roster general manager Paul Holmgren has assembled hasn’t gelled like it should have and no one knows why.
If the past several home games are any indication, the Flyers could be in for a rude financial awakening given the increasing number of empty seats and worse, those attending, are downright hostile from the first period to the end these days.
This is Philadelphia. Fans expect more from their Flyers and right now, they haven’t gotten anywhere near the bang for their expensive buck at the Wachovia Center.
“This is a sports town where people are demanding,” said goalie Brian Boucher. “They have a right to be. They’re not liking what they’re seeing right now. We, as players, are not happy with what’s going on right now. You got to take it. Be a man and take it and try to be better every day. “In Phoenix, we weren’t piling up wins there. The only difference is there weren’t any expectations. There are expectations here. This is a sports town where people are passionate about their sports and passionate about the Flyers and they expect us to win. When you are not winning, it makes it hard.”
The NHL Christmas trade freeze won’t be lifted until midnight on Dec. 27. Holmgren and club president Peter Luukko have stated several times recently that they want to give Laviolette more time to implement his system, rather than make a major trade. Yet given the widespread lack of scoring and absence of overall offensive chemistry, plus the fact the Flyers are 7 points out of a playoff berth approaching mid-season, you wonder whether the club can afford to wait past this weekend to make a major move.
If firing the coach can’t turn things around, then the only other realistic option is a trade.
We’re pressed to find other examples that ended up that way. A trade appears the only option.
Unfortunately, a number of key Flyers have no-trade or no-movement clauses, including Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Richards (later years), Kimmo Timonen, and Pronger. The only Top 6 forward the Flyers have to deal, whose value is high and who has not proven to be a liability to injury, is Jeff Carter, who has a year remaining on his contract at a reasonable $5 million.
Kovalchuk has the shot that would generate goals, but such a deal would require a lot coming from the Flyers – perhaps Braydon Coburn or Hartnell going back to Atlanta and another player or draft pick. And while Mike Richards has a cap number that every team moving forward would want on a long-term deal – $5.75 million – the Flyers don’t seem inclined to trade him. After all, they consider him the franchise model.
It’s not easy to trade players with a no-trade clause. It requires convincing. The truth is, the Flyers don’t have many options here because of the contracts Holmgren has given out, plus the few he’s inherited.
“This is as bad as it gets,” Holmgren said late Tuesday afternoon. “Who would have ever envisioned the slide we are in? This is a poor time for the Flyers to look at making a trade that would help us. The last thing I need to do is make a bad trade. If something comes along that makes sense, I’d look at it.”
There’s been a lot of chatter lately as to whether this team is “good” enough to play Laviolette’s pursue-the-puck system. But as one player correctly pointed out this week, if you’re deemed a “Cup contender,” you should be able to play any system, right?
The lack of passion on the Flyers is something that began at the tail end of the Ken Hitchcock era and has raised its ugly head every season since, no matter who has been standing behind the bench.
All hockey clubs go through the kind of slumps and mental anguish the Flyers are experiencing. The Penguins were in similar straits a year ago and ended up winning the Cup anyway.
Good teams overcome adversity. Fragile ones succumb.
“It’s easy to point blame and make excuses. But when you start working harder, you do things in practice harder. Just bearing down and not thinking about it, that’s when you come out [of a slump]. I was always told that when you are in a slump like this, working hard is going to take you out of it. We have to start working harder in practice, doing a little extra and put it together.”
It’s interesting that the two things that players, coaches and management all agree that is missing across the board is “confidence” and “swagger.”
Think of the irony there.
Can you possibly envision a Flyers’ brand of hockey without confidence and swagger? No. That’s because those words were synonymous with the logo on the front of those orange ’n black sweaters from the very beginning.
Laviolette, echoing his players, said his team needs to “relax” and just play the game. How do you relax when you’ve lost the very essence of who you are – the confidence that always came with putting on a Flyers jersey?
“That’s a good question,” Holmgren said. “That is something we need to talk about as a group right now, the coaches need to talk about it with the team. We just got to go to work. That’s the only way out of it. Hard work.” Maybe so, but the feeling among the inhabitants of Flyerdom is that, work ethic aside, a major trade may be the only way to save the season.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
“I think sometimes it’s a misconception on the team concept,” Tortorella said. “We want to forecheck. But when we talk about it as far as getting up the ice and forechecking and pressuring, people say they just want to go. That certainly hasn’t been our philosophy from Day 1 because you have to play defense in this league. We have changed a little bit in the neutral zone where it’s kind of a hybrid right now. When we have chances to go, we’re going. When we’re not, we’re going to be a little bit smarter as far as filling the middle. That was probably a couple of weeks ago we changed into that. But I think we’ve gotten better defensively, too. When you’re having problems scoring goals, you fall into that trap of just scoring goals and you forget about the details of playing defense. We have always talked about playing defense first and when we say defense first, it doesn’t mean we’re falling back and playing in our end zone. Defense is when you don’t have the puck, just being on the right side of the puck. We’ve gotten better and better on the odd man rushes and that’s just being cognizant of being on the right side of the puck.”
Three strikes and you're out!!!.....or is that in? With three wins in a row Blueshirts fans are left scratching their heads wondering whether or not we can now once again celebrate our team. Soon-to-be-traded-or-benched Wade Redden (a.k.a. Wadek Relik) returned to the ice last night after too many strikes (which led to his benching) and performed well for this particular game - so this doesn't provide a lot of comfort with him back in the lineup. Snippy sniper Ales Kotalik was back on the ice after a similar benching and now audience favorite Matt Gilroy - who was sent down to the minors for some conditioning weeks ago - is now back as well.
So the team is now back to what it was. Is it possible that Tortorella's temper is making an impact on our once limp Broadway hockey team? Or is it just that we are playing ailing teams that we should be beating in the first place? You be the judge. (duh...the latter).
Here are the stats from last night's win:
December 21, 2009 – New York Rangers 3, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (Game #36, Road #19)
• The Blueshirts defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1, tonight at the RBC Center to improve to 17-16-3 (37 pts.) overall and 10-7-2 (22 pts.) on the road.
• Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves, including 13 in the third period, to close out the victory; Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in eight of his last nine games.
• Marian Gaborik notched a goal and two assists; Gaborik has now had 15 multiple points games and has scored six goals and seven assists in his last 10 games.
• Brandon Dubisnky scored the game-winning goal and notched an assist; Dubinsky tied for the lead among all skaters with a plus-3 rating.
• Marc Staal tallied a goal and logged a team-high 24:47 of icetime; Staal tied for the lead among all skaters with a plus-3 rating.
• Michal Rozsival recorded an assist and had a plus-two rating for the game; Rozsival logged 24:31 of ice time and led all skaters with 4 blocked shots.
For one game only, all hail Michal Rozsival who played the best game of the season -- there were moments of the Jaromir Jagr power play, when Rozzy had confidence and marksmanship. Aside from the brilliance of healthy Marian Gaborik and The Great Wall of Henrik, Rozsival was a difference maker on the ice last night, along with Marc Staal who is absolutely improving under the Torts-hand-devil-pitchfork -- he remains our best and most affordable player on the ice (with the exception of Michael Del Zotto or the 'now back from a brief stint in the H. Pack' Matt Gilroy).
Tomorrow night we play the Florida Panthers, a team without a fanbase but plenty of passion. They always seem to beat us. Tomorrow will be the deciding factor for me on "the effectiveness of John Tortorella and his hammering" --- a win and four-in-a-row would be peachy.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Rangers assigned Ilkka Heikkinen and Bobby Sanguinetti to the AHL Wolf Pack immediately after the youngsters combined to form the third pair on defense in this afternoon’s 2-1 victory in Philadelphia.
The NHL’s eight-day holiday roster freeze goes into effect at midnight tonight and lasts through midnight, Dec. 27, with anyone on the roster at 12 PM ineligible for demotion to the AHL. Thus, absent an injury serious enough to merit time on IR, the Rangers, who were at the 23-player maximum, could not have made a personnel move for the duration of the freeze without these moves to clear roster space.
The team can recall Heikkinen and Sanguinetti tomorrow for Monday’s match in Carolina. Or, they might well recall one or the other plus Matt Gilroy, who is scheduled to play his fifth game for the Wolf Pack tonight since being sent to the AHL on Dec. 10. Players recalled during the freeze can move between the NHL and AHL without restriction.
The Blueshirts, who have won two straight behind the brilliant work of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, do have the option of recalling only one defenseman from Hartford while reinserting Wade Redden into the lineup following two consecutive healthy scratches.
They also have the option of signing Harry Howell to a contract and playing him against the Hurricanes.
Decked in Ranger jersey Blue, it was safe showing our colors this afternoon in Kill-adelphia as the beer drinking lunatic Flyers fans were at a minimum, half of the WC was empty at best due to the weather. The attendance reminded me of any recent game at MSG. Needless to say, any serious hecklers kept a distance due to my kid in hand, but I digress.
Move over Big Apple Circus! Eat your heart out Barnum & Bailey! Goalkeeper "King" Henrik Lundqvist stole this game from the Flyers with 36 saves total, 12 of them in the last period. He flipped, juggled, dove, made-out with 3 ice-girls and sanitized a creepy 'Orange and Black wave onslaught' leaving the Flyers with another loss and now the 3rd worst team in the Eastern Conference for today. Lundqvist played like The King as we know him. The one we expect. He showed up and left Philly fans depressed and in awe.
If you want the stats, go here for the boring stuff.
Is it too early to credit coach Torts for a turn around? How many wins does he need to prove that his "Speak Loudly And Carry a Really Big Stick" philosophy actually works? As for me, two more wins and he'll have me back. You?
Aside from one of the better Lundqvist performances of the season, there were absolutely too many Ranger penalties but they were generally fought off hard with active forechecking and a desperation in their eyes. The special Torts-reserve hot coals and Blue pitchfork were waiting at the bench otherwise. A good job on the p-kill! (Or be killed)
The second award today goes to resident agitator Sean Avery - where even in Philadelphia he is hated by all, kids of all ages screaming their version of "Avery Sucks" homage to our Dennis Potvin chant at MSG. Nice one, Philly - a true original. Avery's effect was evident throughout the first period, throwing even the likes of Chris Pronger into a bad mood. Boy, they hate our guy. When Flyers fight-boy Daniel Carcillo attempted to play fisticuffs with our Marian Gaborik - seconds later Avery shot back a message with a subtle slash to Carcillo's shins. Good to see Torts letting him do his thing.
Congrats Chris Drury on the first goal during the first period. Nice shot. Who knew?
So there is always more to say and I'll leave it with that. We are just passing Trenton on the Penn line and, wow, it's only taken us 2 hours. Maybe Rudolph the Red Nosed Ranger will guide us home safely!
Friday, December 18, 2009
In addressing the media after a win Thursday (yeah, we got one… yes, US!) in the second of consecutive back to back games against the isles , Torts was quoted as saying that we need to be a team, rather than a collection of individuals trying to win hockey games. I’m sure it was welcome change from what he gave the media the night before when the most the frustrated coach could offer was close to a “I don’t f*ckin know what the hell their problem is …” and calling their effort unacceptable, before heading back to the lockeroom with a gleam in his eye that screamed “out of my way!” I can only imagine, he went back and went on a tirade that would have made Les Grossman (Tropic Thunder) proud. Who could blame him, right?
Before we get to that, let’s take a minute grab a deep breath, pretend our fierce defense, murderous intent on checks, slick offensive passing and cannon-esque shooting had more to do with a 5-2 win that than anything the islanders didn’t do or resume after Wednesday night’s game. Yes 5 goals is something, especially if you consider it took us this long to score more than 2 again. Those of you out there saying “J, you sound as if you have no faith in this team..” ; I will respond to by saying, you sound as if you have forgotten.
You can check out the official recap here.
Well there definitely seems to be a few Ranger fans out there who turned on Torts already. Opinions that he lost the team are already beginning to circulate. Let’s not forget though, this team is the same flavor of vanilla that didn’t want to listen to Tom Renney’s pleading, begging and softsoaping either. So who will they listen to? Who will they play consistently for?
I give you Exhibit A: The old familiar detachment from our awe –inspiring, motivator and outspoken capt. "The only thing that resonates with me is going home with the two points, said Drury. "That's it." Patton? Churchill? William Wallace?... SHEEP!!!! C’mon, does anyone believe this stoic, eyes on the prize dedication act anymore when Drury, Dubi, or anyone else on the team wants us to believe all the losing has forced them to have some kind of epiphany, where the word “lose” has been erased from their vocabulary and they are all about business and kickin @ss, now? Yes Drury scored last night, and that makes him even with Boyle (Susan? No Brian… again, I could be wrong.) But hey, who needs goals when you got all those “intangibles…”
For now, we have a win and I suppose, I should be happy about it. No word on whether or not the win saved Sather from having to pack his bags and comb the classifieds of the Edmonton newspapers. Till next time, a word of caution to our fire breathing coach and the incurable optimists. Keep yelling till you have nothing left… kick, scream, throw things, hurl yourself to the floor and have a tantrum. After you’re convinced you’ve done it for the last time…smile, we saved a seat for you...
Till next year, Happy Holidays… and may Santa bring you a 1st round pick that doesn’t turn out to be Hugh Jessiman, a superstar before he gets old, an enforcer that can fight and play hockey, a stay-at-home/shut down D-man…. and declare all our present No Trade Clauses, null and void.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Now before anyone starts licking their chops, let's reiterate that these could just be rumors. However, the word seems to be in circulation that Sathers job could be in jeopardy and the deciding factor could be a loss to the fishsticks tonight. After being ripped to shreds by The Hockey News last week, it appears things may be actually sinking in. As has been uncovered before on this site by the Dark Ranger himself....Despite the cover, it seems falling ticket sales have MSG sales reps begging season subscribers to take more tickets and scratching at the door of everyone whos ever been on the list. Perhaps as a fan base we are wising up and with a little help of a tight economy, are demanding more bang for our buck. After years of wishing, pleading, writing letters, it appears the old saying still holds true.. MONEY TALKS and BULL$HIT WALKS. Is this too good to be true though.
Only time and perhaps a loss will tell. Aside from the numerous fan sites and Ranger community boards, the rumor has also been on the lips of MSG employees like Boomer Esiason. It's still a rumor at this point, so....Take it with a grain of salt, if he's still here after tonight, add the lime and Tequila.
Now Santa, can we talk about the other things on my list?
You can find the official recap here. With this latest loss, the Leafs have caught the Rangers (14-16-3) in points at 31. ONLY CAROLINA HAS FEWER POINTS in the entire NHL. Just wanted to get your attention. Still, for the glass is 1/2 full readers, the Rangers are tied for 10th in the conference. Realists would point out that the Blueshirts would be dead last in the West.
After last night's disappointing 2-1 loss, Henrik Lundqvist said, "We all need to look in the mirror to see what we can do to help the team." Good advice but if I am Henrik Lundqvist, I resolve to fix the team by myself.
How? Before tonight's rematch with the Islanders in Uniondale, if I were the goalie, I walk into the locker room, step up on a stool and look at my teammates and simply say, "I am sorry. For whatever I said or did that make all of you hate me, I am sorry." Maybe bring some Swedish meatballs (an appropriate image for the team), and have a party or start a food fight.
At this point, the way the Rangers play, they must hate Henrik and are doing everything they can to break his spirit -- they don't score leaving him no margin of error and they don't protect him physically or metaphysically. How else do you account for their recent behavior on the ice?
Cirque-jerk. I went to a hockey game
and saw an audition for Wintuk. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
Sean Avery has mastered the pass to opposing defensemen in his own zone on breakout plays. It cost the Rangers in Florida and almost cost them a goal last night. He even did himself better in the defensive end on goal to make the score 2-0 with 3:10 to go, by escorting Blake Comeau down the ice and refusing to take any action to clear the rebound of a Matt Moulson laser (what a sound it made off Lundqvist's pad) or take Comeau out of the play before the shot sizzled high into the net. The view must have been nice. Another late-period back-breaking goal for this allegedly well-conditioned team.
Flop, flop, fizz, fizz, what a bore watching the
Rangers play is. The Captain goes down with his crew.
Moving to the offensive end, Christopher Higgins & Ryan Callahan -- how many open nets can these guys miss night after night. Apparently, we may never know. A gaping net appeared in front of Callahan after some nifty passing in the 2nd period, but Ryan shot the puck into the glass behind the goal. How many novenas to the goalie gods did Roloson light for that reprieve.
Enver Lisin did score with 59 seconds remaining (his first goal in a dozen games) to avoid the ignominy of the first Islander shutout at MSG since 1975. But that goal came after the Rangers pulled Henrik, so their futility of not scoring on even strength now exceeds 6 periods of play.
We don't need to say anything about the trio of underperforming vets -- Drury, Roszy & Redden. Even Gaborik and Prospal have contributed to the Rangers' tailspin thanks to their recent offensive slumps.
There were a couple of good things for viewing like Avery's fight with Islander goalie Dwayne Roloson (who played well and displayed a sharp glove hand). Avery entered Roloson's domain, Roloson objected by slashing Sean and Sean flipped Roloson over. Marty Brodeur should consider himself lucky since he is a bit more, girthful, and not as easily lifted. Avery was penalized but Roloson got hit with 4 minutes. Unfortunately, the ensuing Ranger PP was PPathetic.
Once again, the Rangers came out flat and apathetic. That feeling was contagious as the MSG crowd was not its usual raucous self for a rival game until Avery flapjacked Roloson. Again confronting so little physical and energy support, Henrik stood on his head as he stoned numerous Islander odd-man rushes throughout the game. But, again, if the team cannot score 3 goals (only once in the last 10 games), unless Henrik is pitching shutouts over and over, the team will not win.
With all the stories about the Rangers' play since their 7-1-1 start (now in the midst of a staggering 7-15-2 streak), everyone looks for answers -- lack of talent, flaws in the Tortorella system (whatever that might be), burdensome contracts for over-the-hill talent.
Reporters, fans and bloggers have started opining that the players are quitting on Tortorella. Give me a break. After Renney's departure only about a year ago (after the team quit on him), the idea that a bunch of players that have accomplished NOTHING as professional hockey players are "quitting" on anybody is the biggest joke in New York sports. Further, if they are rebelling against the coach or the system, then they should all be released, waived, sent to Hartford because they are dumping on the heart and soul of the team big-time -- their goalie and to me, that's unacceptable.
Let's face facts -- other than Gaborik and Prospal, there is no other forward who would be anything but a third line player on any elite team. Truth be told, these days, given the fact that the Rangers are heading for the cellar of the league, almost any other team can be considered elite except for the Hurricanes. Most Ranger players should be happy that they are employed anywhere.
Miscellany on my mind:
(1) With the holidays in full swing, preparation for the Winter Classic to be held in Boston on New Year's Day are proceeding. Here are a couple of pictures courtesy of Yahoo.com (the company that sells all your private information to the U.S. government).
Rumors are that next year's game may be at Yankee Stadium with
the Rangers playing the Capitals. If trure, I am hoping for a Nor'easter so my
t.v. will only show snow.
Advice to Slats -- trade #21 to Boston or Philly so I can watch
Christopher Higgins shoot and bang one off the Green Monster.
(3) No one asked me but I have some advice to any potential future Mrs. Tiger Woods. To curtail his prowling, short of castration, simply put him in a Rangers uniform as a forward. His scoring ability will disappear faster than TARP $$ into CEO pockets or cockroaches scattering when you turn on the kitchen light.
Let's see what happens tonight in the rematch in Uniondale.
---The Graying Mantis
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Wearing proud Blue, I believe the Blueshirts will kick things into gear and take us out of this slump. I, the fan, expect a scoring and forechecking Rangers to show up on Wednesday night. I've been thinking Blue, folks, that's what I've been drinking! (with a touch of scotch and soda)
Let's Go Rangers! (clap, clap, cl..cl...clap!)....
These were the words of Henrik Lundqvist last night after the Blueshirts lost in the skills competition (a.k.a. the shootout) to the Atlanta Thrashers last night. We've heard it time and time again from our dear once-kicked-ass coach John Tortorella, 'how the boys are playing good hockey and there were many chances and as long as they stick with the plan things will turn around and they'll begin winning games again.'
Don't be so sure of yourself Coach. Stick with the plan and we're going to continue to lose games. Let's look closer. Captain Chris Drury is invisible and non-scoring, Chris Higgins is forever trade-bait and non-performing, Ales Kotalik our sniper lost sight of the puck during the crucial shootout last night, Sean Avery has been neutered by your forceful words and benching methods, Matt Gilroy was sent north furthering your actual disbelief that the youth will prevail and learn on this team, Michal Rozsival & Wade Redden continue to horrify fans of hockey with plenty of ice-time, Vinny Prospal has lost his scoring touch, Henrik Lundqvist has no support and is slowly losing his confidence. Oh yeah...and we don't have a backup goalie.
A handful of Blueshirts are out-performing everyone else: Marian Gaborik is dynamite & healthy (knock on wood, folks), Ryan Callahan has the best work ethic on the ice, scrambling, bruising, and beating his way to the puck on every shift, Michael Del Zotto (though many missed opportunities) has a hawk's passing eye and finds the holes that make goals (and he's 19!!! -- watch the highlights from last night's game where he found Ryan Callahan on a beautiful feed), Marc Staal continues to impress but cannot control the blueline with limited shifts. Donald Brashear, strangely, is playing decent hockey and is deserving of the $1+ mill per year he is getting, minus the gooning.
Official recap here.
So the negatives right now outweigh the positives. Not a happy place as a Rangers fan. With Gilroy, Valiquette and Parentheau all being sent up north to the minors there has been much chatter about a big move that is yet to happen -- some alleged magical trade that will revamp the team and help it find it's confidence once again. Sorry to disappoint, but things look grim RANGERS HOCKEY FANS as we cannot clear enough in the salary cap to find that impact player we so desperately need. Can't we just start over? I am certain Sather is calling his old buddies in St. Louis or Phoenix soliciting many wise-tales and great opportunities, but even his persuaded-in-the-past dear friends now want something in return -- which means a Brandon Dubinsky or a Ryan Callahan. No dice Gee-Emmy. During the off-season, Sather was publicly cheered for his dumping of the Scott Gomez contract to Montreal, which to this day I still cannot believe he did it - a Jedi in action, but I think the magic of General Manager Glen Sather is coming to an end. With The Hockey News finally declaring Sather a sham, maybe his time is near. One can only hope.
So if you're still watching the games (and God forbid reading these posts) I thought you'd get a kick out of the MSG spin on last night's game. Remember: MAKE THE NEGATIVE A POSITIVE.
New York Rangers Official Site:
STAT OF THE GAME
The Rangers outshot the Thrashers by a whopping 48-27 margin, which shows just how strong Johan Hedberg was in the net. Red-hot Hedberg truly stole both points on a night when the Rangers had a strong performance from start to finish.
Now here is the sad reality - New York recorded a season high in shots, but lost for the seventh time in eight games (1-5-2). The Rangers scored fewer than three goals for the 11th time in 13 games. We are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference (11 out of 15) with a record of 14-15-3. We are less than .500 and dropping.
No "P.R."-spin for those stats.
Maybe a back-to-back with our rival Islanders this week will fire off all cylinders and the puck will actually go in the net, as opposed to bragging about how many shots on goal we had after losing yet another friggin game.
Watch it with a grain of salt and maybe we'll all be surprised Wednesday night. Or maybe just crank out another Curb Your Enthusiasm episode to enjoy the negative. Your choice.
Once thing is for sure, it's getting awfully DARK in this room.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I haven't posted yet guys - sorry - it's coming. It's so hard to reach in sometimes when you want to let it all go, forget about it and move on to the next game. When something should be so good, when it's not working it feels awful.
So until then, I found this little diddy on youtube.com. It made me think of the Rangers. Enjoy.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
For any Ranger fan still reading, I feel your frustration and know your pain. I don’t normally watch the team’s postgame show. Watching the loss live is enough for me and the recap just seems to be icing I can do without. I did manage to catch Iron Mike’s commentary on how this team completely disappointed when it came to winning this game for a goaltender that stood on his head all night and blocked 30 shots through the first 2 periods. I probably just should have posted video of it instead of writing another long winded post from a disappointed parent’s “you’re not applying yourself” point of view… However for all their honesty, our beloved commentators still have to fill their daily quota of sugarcoating, soft soaping and homerism to keep the casual fans from working themselves into the frenzy us die-hards hit a while ago and have slowly worked into a numbing dementia that resides just beneath the surface.
Official Recap here.
Here, we can give it to you straight without fear of calls coming in from marketing teams and blowhards in suits kicking down our doors. It’s not surprising that we folded in the final moments after spending 63+ minutes doing windsprints while chasing a Hawk team that streaked up and down the ice like they had redbull exploding from every vein. Even still, though we killed ourselves to keep pace, we put a cap on their offense for most of the game. With stellar plays, rubber ligaments, and lightning reflexes... Henrik backstopped his team for the entire night and triggered a hockey version of Tourette’s syndrome for every hawk fan in the United center. Sadly it wouldn’t be enough as the rest of the team grew rather comfortable knowing he was there to erase their mistakes, and gave a soft effort in the 3rd. Why else would a trio of Rangers (including gentle giant, Boyle—Susan? , no Brian but I could be wrong) stand by and watch as the hawks top line jabbed Henrik relentlessly and buried a rebound, after he made a diving save in the crease?..... Why else would a defenseman like Marc Staal be caught too deep on a 4 on 4 against a team that feasts on open ice with their speedy offense? These are questions that may unfortunately go unanswered. We can only hope they don’t go unasked by the man behind the bench.
It’s become fairly obvious, that our team has become a mere sparring partner for teams that are stepping up. While you and I know it’s a contest... a competition. .. The team seems satisfied to provide their opposition with a training tool to test their persistence, hone their skills ... oh and practice their crushing body checks. Sadly, our one man offense that is often attributed to frivolous spending via cell phone from a fishing boat somewhere in Edmonton..should not be soley to blame. I’ll contend that even with a few more high scorers, our record might be temporarily improved but still eventually fall back to this state of impotence that has us playing our game according to whatever our opponents decide we should get away with. It’s obvious now that we have receded to being a team with no will and no resilience. We score when the opposition lets us and while we diligently await our cues from our adversaries and have success in 5 second spurts when someone on our teams flashes back to their pee wee heydays.. and it happen to coincide with momentary breakdowns in the other teams defense or line changes; we fail to force them to do anything consistently throughout the game. We have no balls with the puck. In fact, the only line that has aggressively worked the puck in the offensive zone instead of cycling it off the damn end boards is the 4th line. Hell, Brashear looked like a top line power forward on this team last night as he, Parentau and new guy, Christensen seemed like the only players with enough guts to enter what seems to be the no fly zone between the hash marks. So why is it, that the leaders on this team, branded or unbranded would rather break sticks back at the bench or approaching the tunnel after a loss, rather than acting when it counts for something during the game? Even the bright sparks of our kids, like Del Zotto hip check has dissolved as this bunch of pu$$ies hobble back to the dressing room and comfort each other after another tough loss. This mope and shake your head in confusion crap is contagious and if there’s one thing I can say about that phone wielding idiot on the fishing boat, it’s that it is time to stop being a buyer and start selling. Ok, no one wants the contracts we are saddled with…. Well then cut someone and get someone to set an example or we’ll ride this infectious funk all the way to the Olympics. In the past, it was as easy and going out and getting Sean Avery. What the hell do we do now that he’s already here and the team still found a way to lose its heart and its balls? The best option now starts with stripping Drury of the captaincy and put him on notice that its sink or swim time.
P.S. - if anyone's thinking of making a pull-string Henrik ornament, don't forget my cut.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
After our loss to the Detroit Red Wings Sunday night 1-3, sitting at The Garden as the guest of a corporate friend (who also happens to be one of the Red Wings owners) I found myself numb with nothing to write. Even a tour and shaking hands with Zetterberg didn't inspire me to follow through with a recap.
I won't apologize for it either.
As a lifelong Blueshirts follower, or masochist, some would say, why don't I have the ability to just pick a different team? A winning team? I am a free-thinking person who lives in a tri-choice of hockey teams, so the easier route would be to pick the winner, buy some new jersies and switch teams. Zetterberg is a nice guy. Would Gaborik shake my hand and say 'nice meeting you dude'? Maybe. As a Rangers fan -- do you have it in you to change the color or the team you love? How come? I thought hard and it came simply, "Hell No!". I have contemplated, but no matter what, I remain Blue regardless of what happens with this ailing team. They are my ailing team. I could be a Jets fan, a Cubs fan, a Mets fan - we are related in angst and loyalty.
So without breaking down the game, stats, who played well or not, I have to admit that the NY Rangers played extremely well against the Red Wings - yes, with the exception of Lundqvist and a softie at the end of the third. It was a good loss, and probably one of the more disciplined games they've played all season. It was a solid effort and I, loyal-proud-ashamed, remain a Dark Ranger! (MSG will love me for re-branding their message).
After this weekend - a close win against Buffalo on Saturday and a loss to Detroit on Sunday - it appears there is much work to do in order to make the Blueshirts an elite team by any professional hockey standards.
Here's the heart of it fellow Rangers fans (and this hurts):
We are average.
None of us ever strive to be average in our choice of teams or in life, but there comes a time when we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit what we are. We are exceptional fans believing in Blue, we are proof in a NYR belief that one day we will rise above bad management, rising ticket prices and exceed what we've come to expect from this team season after season.
This is the state of being a New York Rangers fan. You may not want to admit it. I know. That was me too. But take a deeper look and you will find great respect for yourself when you see what the team really is, and hopefully, you and I will all now enjoy the games for what they are. See, that wasn't too hard.
A win or a loss? Who cares!!! Get me another $9 Bud Light and another fist-fight and I'm a happy fan. Keep it DARK folks and let's enjoy it if it does happen to come this year, the next year or any f*cking year for that matter!!!! Keep it real and never stop with a random 'LET'S GO RANGERS!' whenever and wherever you see the color Blue!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The game demonstrated that low-scoring hockey can be exciting as both goalies put on a demonstration in repelling 66 out of 69 shots while the goal posts demonstrated that they are a goalie's best friends as several shots clanged off the posts throughout the game.
In the end, the Rangers channeled the ghost of head coaches past -- primarily, former Tom Renney -- to prevail 2-1 in a game that was reminiscent of the team's last victory, a 2-1 win on the road against Florida.
play by the defense in front of the crease.
Throughout the game, the Rangers with their strong defensive play all over the ice kept the Sabres in check. The Rangers won many pivotal faceoffs. The fans were quiet as the Sabres could not mount any sustained pressure in their offensive end. Ranger defensemen kept the crease clear and the puck moved off to the side boards and the forwards controlled neutral ice. It was an even better effort (because of the Sabres' potent offense) than the Rangers showed against the Panthers. Drury was a big presence on both penalty units -- he shot several from the point on the powerplay and took an aggressive shoot-first attitude on offense. It appeared he had shaken off any lingering cobwebs from his concussion. Anisimov centered Gaborik & Prospal and looked fairly decent. Higgins played very strong as well as he looked to shoot. During a sequence late in the game when he saw Henrik over to the far right of the goal, he hustled over to cover the left post just in case to block a centering pass or confront a forward. Smartly done.
It got to the point that the Sabres took turns head-manning the puck into the offensive zone to cross the blue line. With that effort, they started getting some choice opportunities which Henrik thwarted time and time again. Tim Connolly was especially successful in breaking in on net several rushes and was a big presence in the crease on several deflection attempts. The ultimate for the Rangers' success was the fact that Henrik left few rebounds after initial shots.
on his doorstep. Here, he denies Drew Stafford.
As you may recall, last week, the Rangers clung to a one-goal cushion in the Florida game which disappeared when the Panthers tied the game late at 1-1. The Rangers then won in a shootout.
You had to feel better about the Rangers chances with a 2-0 lead and Lundqvist in net playing superbly. Needless to say, the Sabres got one back with a minute to go on a seeing-eye shot from Jason Pominville. The last minute of the game was intense as the Sabres buzzed all over the ice after pulling the goalie. Brian Boyle clanged a shot off the left goal post of the empty net that could have sealed the game. Buffalo came down the ice and had several chances to tie the game but failed. Mercifully, the buzzer sounded as the Rangers got control of the puck behind their net. It is nice for the team to win a game in regulation against a conference foe.
Overall, this was an entertaining game. The goalies played tremendously, there was good scoring chances, good defensive plays. The Rangers played flawlessly for nearly the entire game. The quality of play reminded me of the games between the 2 teams in that memorable playoff series from May 2007.
Unfortunately, with the teams of the past few years, the Rangers are having trouble scoring 3 goals a game. Their last 2 victories have been 2-1 affairs. Meanwhile, they got clobbered by the Lightning and the Pens when they permitted 18 goals to be scored. I remember the selling point of Tortorella's new style was an upbeat attack that would generate more goals. This has not been happening for some time now and this team has that eerily familiar look of an impotent offense despite the presence of Gaborik on the first line.
celebrating a Rangers goal that did NOT involve Gaborik.
With the win, the Rangers caught the Islanders. There's an upheaval going on in the East as Tampa Bay and Atlanta have thrust themselves into the playoff race with recent hot streaks. The Isles have pulled themselves up into the realm of .500 respectability.
New Flyer head coach Peter Laviolette indicating how many years
it will take to restore the Flyers to their glory days
from the Carter administration. He may end up looking fondly on his time
on Long Island if the over-rated Flyers don't improve.
In case you missed it, on Friday, the Flyers, struggling overall, fired head coach John Stevens and hired Peter Laviolette. This has been rumored for the past 2 weeks or so in the Philly newspapers. Then in their first game at home, Philly proceeded to get blasted by the Ovechkin-less Capitals 8-2. That was a nice nightcap to the evening.
--- The Graying Mantis
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Part-time contributor to the site - BlueNationLeafs - has assembled his version of what both Team Canada and Team USA will look like come February, 2010. Let him know your thoughts on his picks:
Dear Dark Ranger,
Let’s put together a 4 line 6 defense and goalie team for the 2010 Olympic in Vancouver.
We’ll also include a 4 man taxi squad in case of injuries.
Parise - Stastny - Kane
Ryan - Gomez - Kessel
Malone - Drury - Brown
Kesler - Modano - Langenbrunner
Rafalski - Martin
Suter - Johnson
Whitney - Orpik
Taxi Squad – Anderson, Bogosian, Pavelski and Van Riemsdyk.
Nash - Crosby - Iginla
Marleau -Thorton - Heatley
Lecavallier - Getzlaf - Perry
Carter - Richards - Doan
Niedermayer - Pronger
Keith - Weber
Regehr - Boyle
Taxi Squad – Fleury, Phaneuf, Stamkos, Toews
Notables not to make the squad – Green, Gagne, St Louis, Stall and Smyth.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHO WINS IN A DEATH-MATCH BETWEEN THE TWO? CANADA or USA ?????
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Meet your new back-up goalie -- Chad Johnson from the Hartford Wolfpack. He saw some preseason duty together with Matt Zaba.
Rangers also pick up Erik Christensen from the Ducks via waivers. No scoring but supposedly picked up to motivate Boyle and replace Brashear who is hurting.
According to this release, the guy has no game.
Other rumors have the Rangers trying to shop Higgins. Good luck. He'll find his game as soon as he leaves NYC.
Link regarding the transactions here.
Check out the coach's comments:
"We'd like to send him down on conditioning, but I don't think we can because of our cap problems," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Valiquette. "We want to get him down there playing and get his game back. Johnson gets to practice with us."
"It's a tough situation for Valley," Tortorella added. "He hasn't played a whole bunch. Sometimes your skills may diminish. It's just been a little bit of a struggle for him. He works his butt off on the ice, but he hasn't played much and I think that's hurt him. If he goes through, he gets an opportunity to play some minutes and get his game back."Precisely the type of comments you would expect to hear for a reference after you have failed to meet your former employer's expectations. Also, aren't the reasons he has not played much include the fact that the team already has slipped out of the playoff hunt because it stopped scoring (thanks to failure to set lines and lack of talent) and the coach passed up opportunities to use Valiquette, a decision which has been reinforced because Valiquette has been horriblewhen he has played.
Torts is being a bit disingenuous to be nice. For example, Valley is already on target to play about 18 games -- more than any other season. The real problem is that his goaltending ability has fallen off the cliff. Go here for his stats. His GPA has gone from 2.19 in 2007-08 to its current 3.74 in 2 years while his minutes have been increasing. His save percentage has eroded from a respectable 92% to something of an AHL player -- 85%. Thus, his own play has shown that he is not an NHL goalie right now.
---The Graying Mantis
Then everyone settled in for their long winters nap... content their position was secure. This team needs a swift kick in the balls (because a kick in the @$$ aint doing it). Maybe hitting this team where it hurts and making them earn their money will get everyone's attention and break up this encore of cumbaya by the campfire girls.
A Few things:
- I think we need to go back to practices without pucks. This team is so focused on the puck they race to get to it only to turn away from the hit and lose it or make a rushed "hot potato" pass that becomes an instant turn over. Ok Bobby Clark was a tool, but he had a point when he said "“We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor.”
- If I had been at that game in Pittsburgh, I think after Cally dropped 'em with cook, I would have hopped the glass behind the bench, Ripped the "C" from Drury's chest and handed it to Cally. The the mere fact that he knew what was called for, stepped up even though its out of his comfort zone and did it says more than anyone else has (sans Gaborik) in the past few games.
The d-system is a friggin nightmare now. Where the hell is Schoeny. The last 3 games have been absolute nightmares with D-men switching off at the worst possible time. Stay in your freakin lane and let our captain, or any other limp d*ck forwards, hustle back and pick up the man. It won't happen because we spend too much time letting our forwards cruise deep behind the net and work the puck around the damn boards when because theyre afraid to take the training wheels off and play the puck in open ice. Half the reason Gaborik is the one scoring all the goals is because hes on the right side of the freakin net.
For a team that's weak on D, and don't like the physical play, we spend too much time bullsh*tting along boards, keeping our forwards too deep to help out on the backcheck and sending open invitations to be run by any knuckle dragger looking to land a good helmet-popper. I agree that we have too many damn cap problems for then number of kids we have in the rebuild. Even without buying power, I think we either need to:
Skate better; pass crisper and get back to being in better condition that the other teams. (Gaborik, Parentau)
Suck it up, get used to taking the abuse and start dishing it out and buying ourself enough time with the puck to do the right things; Go right to the net and scrap for the dirty goals. Stand up for our goalie while we're at it. (Avery,Callahan, Prospal, even Brashear is having some success with it)
...because this in between, mousey bullsh*t (Everyone else) is getting on my nerves.