Thursday, December 30, 2010

King(s) of New York


It was fiercely contest game. Well the second half anyway. Despite assertions from on again/off again coach Lemaire that there was no rivalry till his team started playing better. The opinion either was the ramblings of a disillusioned soul or a strategic chess move from a would be evil genius.

Read the official recap here.

Apparently, we were too busy gloating from the beating we gave the other trespassers from Long Island to start this game full throttle. Its not often I find myself applauding anyone in a rangers suit for their honesty, but during the first intermission Sully hit it right on the head when we acknowledged we were being out played and getting "killed in the corners". I personally took as a bad sign when Girardi got hammered at the buzzer and moped away like it was nothing.

We were sticking close to the evils ones from jersey long enough to feel like applying ourselves and beginning the exorcism. Throughout the second we showed signs of life and and went 1 up off a lucky bounce and the tension started to build. Things would eventually Boyle over (pun intended) in front of the ranger net as Brian Boyle found himself paired up with Zubrus emerging from a scrum. After half a game of turning the other cheek, we had finally had enough and raised the level of our efforts completely shutting down Jersey in the final period.

Ron Dugay pointed out the exact difference between these two teams. "The Rangers can play without Marian Gaborik but the devils haven't found a way to play without Parise". It made all the sense in the world watching last nights contest. With cap problems abound, guys like Rolston being sent to the ahl and being rerun through reentry waivers in the hopes that someone would pick him up and ease the Cap Hell the devils are sinking in because Kovalchuk wanted prestige and notoriety as a hundred mil player. The last thing they need are returning guys like Arnott missing 2 chances at an open net and guys like Corrente stalking Avery while looking for blindside hits that haven't much to do with any plays developing in front of their net... and lastly, their aging backstop only showing glimpses of what earned him the leagues favoritism in seasons past. With one foot in the past and the other in the sh*thouse, maybe Lemaire was right. There is no rivalry. The domination of the islanders and sinking of the devils only alludes to the fact that we have risen to the top of the tri state area. While other teams we trampled regardless of the leagues favoritism will play each other in the winter classic, we may have to sit back and realize that the only thing standing in our way, is ourselves and that sooner or later .... There comes a time for every team to fulfill its destiny and recognize its own greatness....

First New York, then the Tri State Area, Next the Eastern Conference.... and soon Maybe the league.... Lets Go Rangers!!!!!!!

Till next Time Ranger Fans,


P.S. -For those watching the Crosby Streak. It's over... we now return to your your reguarly scheduled sensationalized NHL marketing campaigns. :P~

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A season of Giving....

Snow news is good news! Yeah right... Mother nature can be an unforgiving @!#$%#@ when she feels like it. For all of us that complained about no white Christmas, we were soon blessed with all we could handle. My hats off to those brave fan who trudged through the aftermath to get to MSG.

There the season of giving was alive and well. Between from the pucks the islanders were giving away to the crowd by shooting them over the glass every 10 minutes...and Gilles giving Prusty 2 cheap shots after he slipped (its ok though, a douchey throwback handlebar mustache apparently means you don't have to honor the code) and the flukey goals Roloson was yielding (not his fault, his head was spinning from all the shots)....It was quite the event...

Read the official recap here.

Matt Gilroy was given what was probably at the top of his Xmas list. A second chance to crack the lineup. Gilroy made good on his opportunities for most of the night going on to scoring 2 goals. In fact it wasn't a bad night at all as many rangers would contribute to the 7-2 trampling of poor Dwayne Roloson and company. By the end, the shots were about as lopsided(52-20) as the Xmas fruitcake that gets passed around the family/office because noone wants it... and Roloson was probably wishing he was on a deserted island by the end of the last night. Can't say I blame him, he probably would have gotten better defensive coverage out of the professor,Ginger and Mary Ann than he got from his teammates.

There was a brief disruption in the domination. In fact after the first Ranger goal 44 seconds in. Our boys in blue pretty much hosted an open house in their defensive zone for the rest of the period... Resulting in two quick islander goals. Torts insisted these were "Grade A chances" in his postgame interview. Whether or not he felt any of that was our fault is unclear. Let me clear things up a little.. IT WAS...

We were cautioned by the Micheletti and Gianone, that this was a different islander team than the ones we killed last time we played. Who said because they believed it, that we had to. Their scoring was the result of them rushing into our zone like they owned the place and our d-man receding too far into the zone without dishing out some punishment. Anytime a player can skate past 4 blue jerseys between the red line and the hash marks without getting hammered before taking a shot, we deserved to get scored on. These players could have easily been buried before getting to the hash marks.This may be one of the areas where we notice Cally's absence the most. Poor or non existent second efforts by a defenseman like Girardi who figured "well once they guy has passed me, my job is done.. I tried", were much to blame for the second goal and other chances where it seemed as if we rolled out the red carpet for opposing forwards.

We weren't playing mean or desperate enough for my liking. Good will towards man shouldn't count when the guy is in an opposing jersey... and we should be picking guys like Parentau out of our teeth today. They may have been riding high off a string of wins, but these were still the same guys we crushed last time around.

Hopefully this team gets a lot meaner by tomorrow when we Lemaire's devils and end this year with a bang. Anyone else get the feeling bringing Lemaire back is like some kind of psychological joke in Jersey...used to bring hope to devil's fans. Tis the season, I suppose....

Till next time Ranger Fans,

P.S. - no matter what anyone claims, Gabby still looks to be a little stiff. I hope hes not risking injury again. And it's great to see Zooks get a longer look while Callys out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flyers Embarrass Themselves Silly

Flyers lost to the Florida Panthers 0-5 last night.  Doesn't it warm your heart?  Thought I'd just lay that out there.  Now onto our game last weekend.

So it's Tuesday, three painful days after our Boys in Blue lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 1-4 and it's been enough time to digest and accept what happened last Saturday in Filthy-delphia at the Wells Fargo Center.

If you're looking for stats and who scored and who didn't, today you won't find it here, because I don't want to re-live it over and over -- but there are recaps of the game here, here and here.

Interestingly enough, let's first look at how the Rangers organization portrayed the game's results to the fans:

MSG's take on losing to the Flyers:
"There's a reason why the Flyers have the best record in the NHL, and they showed it. But the Rangers were in a one-goal game until the final 10 minutes and had great stretches of sustained pressure that often left the league's top team scrambling."

DARK's take on losing to the Flyers:
"You win some and you lose some, but the Flyers somehow know how to push the right buttons the last couple of seasons when they play the Rangers.  It doesn't matter the standings when the Blueshirts play the Flyers -- it always carries high emotions and the games always build & destroy confidence.  For some reason on Saturday, we forgot to show up."

Even though our current team is much deeper than previous seasons, it is hard to match the firepower and depth of the Flyers - Saturday's game validated this and I simply hate them more than I ever have.  The game sucked and the Rangers never had a shot, as Philly controlled the neutral zone, had better goaltending in Brian Boucher, and dominated our zone well throughout the three periods.  Though, if it weren't for a lucky questionable goalie-interference call and Lundquvist in net, the score might have resembled a Flyers/Rangers match one year ago, another much larger embarrassment against the Flyers.  

Confidence and momentum can carry a team well into the playoffs and win a Cup (look at the Flyers last season, oh...right....they didn't win the Cup), and it's vital for Coach Torts to instill that confidence within the locker room after three-big-wins last week and excuse the Philly anomaly as a fluke - if that's possible.  Without Ryan Callahan leading the young'ens and now out for the next 4 to 5 weeks with a broken hand, Torts needs to call on the vets to take them on the same journey and rely on them - just as the young ones have done over the last ten games.  Marian Gaborik has been the invisible man the last three games and he knows what he needs to do.  With Chris Drury back in action, he is an essential piece of this equation and will lead by example (10 bucks he breaks another finger against Tampa on Thursday!!?).  The return of Vinny Prospal (out injured all season, thus far) is anticipated to return soon, which should (on paper) make Gaborik look good again.

The realities of a faster game in the entire NHL and the ensuing injuries is more obvious to the Rangers this year.  Drury, Gaborik, Prospal, Callahan, Boogard, etc. have all sustained prolonged injuries that have effected the team - and ironically, sometimes for the best.  

The Rangers are the "Broadway's Spiderman" in hockey - injury prone and still moving forward.   

 This level of injury was bound to happen, especially for playing Tort's unforgiving game of "grit & hit" - but I have to admit that I'm enjoying this season; the chemistry between young players that 'want to win' has always been entertaining to watch.  There is a consistency to their game, and Tortorella is relying on whoever brings the most to the ice. At the start of the season when our marquee stars were sitting in the stands, we all witnessed a blossoming of the '20-something young' that was promised to us in the off-season - echoes of Torts numerously quoted as touting "The Youth Will Be Served."  

But without Cally now (pretending to be Chris Drury) on the ice, it will be up to that youth movement (Prust, Dubinsky, Boyle, Avery, Girardi, Staal) to rebound and show the surging Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday that they are still a threat.  

We forge ahead, brush off a fluke win in Philadelphia and look forward to the Parade (or is that in Toronto?).



Sunday, December 19, 2010

NYR 1, Flyers 4

The Blueshirts dropped the ball at The Wachovia Center (or whatever the name of that dreaded venue is these days) Saturday afternoon.   Rocky showed up on the ice as the Flies held us to our own zone and nothing clicked and that horrendous Philadelphia spirit took freedoms over our hard working Blueshirts.   The Rangers are currently 20-14-1, sitting 5th in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. They remain a solid third in the Atlantic behind 1st place Pittsburgh (44 points) and 2nd place Philadelphia (49 points). Next up are the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.  Official recap here.

It didn't look good for our boys, but they should still be proud after taking the Caps, Penguins and Coyotes.....a DARK recap coming soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

AARP Can Wait --30-Something Club -- Drury, Roszival and Biron -- Leads Blueshirt Comeback | NYR 4 PHO 3 (SHO)

Being a fan of any sports team requires an investment of time, emotion, energy, money, and sometimes sacrifice. Like for me last night. A long week was weighing me down -- attending the Caps game on Sunday night, a succession of long hours at work (including watching the Pens game at my work computer), sloughing off the effects of a car collision from the day before and basking in the afterglow of singing at an office party (don't ask and I won't tell). Two friends had bailed on Thursday's Coyotes game because of their own holiday party engagements so I scrambled to fill my 4 seats.

When Thursday afternoon rolled around, I was losing my resolve. But I had also invited a friend I had not seen for 15 years to attend the game. He started texting me to check my ETA at MSG. Needless to say, I was running late.

I dragged myself into my car -- engine and gears moving slowly, so was my car. Then came the pivotal text: "I intend to pay you face value for the ticket and buy you drinks." That kind of encouragement transformed my old Subaru into the Mach V along the LIE.

Arriving at MSG, I read his next text -- Rangers down 2-0; goalie looking soft -- we NEED you. Visions of last year's Toronto and Philly 6-0 whitewashings danced in my head -- I had arrived for both games with the Rangers trailing 2-0 early. No turning back now. I entered where the MSG security does its TSA imitation just in time to see Dan Girardi score a power play goal to cut the lead in half.

I ended up being thrilled to have made attended -- more than 17,500 showed up as well. Again the team showed a resiliency and resolve that was sorely lacking in other teams -- the Rangers came back from a 2-0 and 3-1 deficit, sparked in large part by another short-handed goal late in the 2nd period by Brandon Prust.

The third period belonged to the oldsters -- Chris Drury, Michal Roszival and Marty Biron with a large contribution by the youngest, Derek Stepan. Thanks to key defensive plays by Roszy, solid goaltending by Marty, and faceoff wins and a 3 man rush to the net led by Drury, the Rangers rode the backs of their elders to a scintillating 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes. The Rangers are now 9-0 on the back end of back-to-back games. Official recap is here.

Both teams had played the night before. But the Coyotes started fast grabbing a 2-0 lead within the first 5:53 (goals by Taylor Pyatt and Adrian Aucoin). Marty Biron was shaky and the Rangers looked flat. But, the Rangers settled down and exploited a PP opportunity when Dan Girardi wristed a shot past former Ranger/Wolfpack goalie, Jason LaBarbera, during a power play with 7:53 remaining to make the lead 2-1. The Rangers actually had as many shots for the period (10) as Phoenix.

Interestingly, as the game progressed, the level of energy picked up and the game got more and more exciting despite the fact both teams played the night before. The Rangers continued their recent trend of aggressively pushing forward , making some wonderful plays, creating some nifty odd-man rushes that were foiled either by some aggressive stick-checking by the Coyote defense, some nice saves by LaBarbera or some over-passing (Dubi had a great opportunity on a 3-on-1 before making an ill-advised pass to Marian Gaborik instead of shootign).

My Man Love Temp is Rising. The "throw-in" in
the Jokinen deal may be the steal of the year. How good
is Brandon Prust? 5 goals (3 SHG) so far. I'm seriously
thinking of getting a new sweater. Meanwhile, former
Ranger Derek Morris can only watch the celebration.

Unfortunately, despite peppering Labarbera with quality shots, they could not dent him in the 2nd period before the Coyotes took advantage a penalty on Brian Boyle at the 9 minute mark. Within 41 seconds, Phoenix pounced as they rushed the net leaving a bizarre scene of Biron way out of his position on his left, Ranger players sprawled all over the ice and Martin Hanzal with an open net to shoot at. The crowd was deflated as the Rangers were again down by 2.

But then the Rangers defense and goaltending tightened up. After looking shaky, Marty Biron kept the Coyotes scoreless over the final 35 minutes of the game and in the shootout.

He also gave a clinic on deflecting pucks with his pads and sticks to safety. The Coyotes had few rebound chances and Biron kept the puck in play forcing Phoenix to continually expend energy to cover Ranger breakouts

Then, proving that perhaps a special season may be developing, the Rangers got back into the game, thanks to their special teams and their leader -- Brandon Prust. The Blueshirts were in the midst of killing a penalty as the period wound down. Originally, they had a power play but thanks to a screw-up, Brandon Dubinsky had to slash a stick of a Coyote to prevent an attempted short-handed breakaway.

Scoreless for 35. The Rangers tightened up their defense and did
not allow Phoenix to get what would have been a killer 4th goal.

While that penalty was winding down, Dan Girardi cleared the puck down into the Phoenix zone and LaBarbera terribly mishandled the puck, intimidated in large part by an onrushing Brandon Prust into the corner.

Prust stole the puck and swung around LaBarbera who was scrambling back to the crease. Prust beat him there and potted his 2nd short-handed goal (3rd SHG of the season) of the past couple of weeks. 5.1 seconds remained in the period. This sequence resembled so many botched late-period adventures of recent Ranger teams that fans were shocked to see it could happen to another team.

In the third period, the teams exchanged rushes back and forth -- the Rangers looking for the equalizer and the Coyotes looking for a cushion.

Michal Roszival turned in some sparkling defensive plays including an open ice hip check of Scottie Upshall and then breaking up a 2-on-1 rush with the score at 3-2 by staying with his man and using his stick to deflect a pass to a Coyote that was rushing unimpeded toward Biron. He later was instrumental on the tying goal.

Upshall Upended. Roszival with the 1st of 2 defensive
gems. This one was a beautiful open ice training film quality
hip check disrupting a Phoenix rush. Later, Roszy broke
up a scoring opportunity with textbook positioning on a 2-on-1.

The pace was so quick and the game so exciting that the 3rd period flew by. When only 6 minutes remained, it appeared like the recent Ottawa game that the Rangers would fail again on home ice. But then the Rangers pushed forward once again.

Chris Drury's energy level noticeably picked up during the game as he started skating with quickness, winning key faceoffs and moving his body to keep the puck in the zone. (In comparison. what was worrisome is that Marian Gaborik seemed a step slow all night long -- he had a couple of good plays but something seemed wrong. Perhaps the flu or a tight groin?)

Channeling what we used to see when he wore a Sabres jersey, Drury initiated the late game tying goal by winning a faceoff to Roszival at the left point. His shot gave LaBrera fits. LaBrera stopped Roszival's attempt and then stoned Drury on a putback but Derek Stepan (who with Sean Avery surged toward the net) swooped in to put the puck behind LaBrera to tie the score with 5:13 to go. Demonstrating once again that good things can happen when the puck is shot at the net.

By now, the MSG crowd had found its voice with some raucous LGR chants, the players on both squads found another wind and the teams went back and forth with the intensity and quality of a playoff game -- end to end action, great saves, near misses on passes and shots -- the pace left the MSG crowd breathless and appreciative. Grabbing a point as time expired was definitely a victory especially in light of the 2 huge victories during the week.

Overtime was just as exciting. When there was a break with 2:30 remaining, I was shocked there was so much time left and exhausted from the highs and lows as the teams proved how evenly matched they were in shots and goals after 65 minutes of play. The teams played to the end like neither team wanted to play the shootout.

In the shootout, Erik Christensen went first and he burst from the center circle like he was chasing his car being towed and weaved from right to left and simply beat LaBrera with a beautiful shot. Biron made it stand up as he stopped two legitimate attempts before Eric Belanger lost the puck off his stick on the team's final try.

EC Find Net. Christensen should give lessons on converting shootouts.

I pay attention to the top 3 stars but rarely quibble. Prust and Christensen were 2 and 3. I had no problem with that. Girardi got the first star thanks to his goal to make it 2-1 and his assist on Prust's shorthanded goal. I think the writers picked the wrong defenseman. Michal Roszival was my choice for this game as he perhaps singlehandly kept the Rangers in the game during the 3rd period. So even though I have a #5 sweater, I would have given my vote to #33.

So the Rangers head into a showdown with the Eastern Conference leading Flyers tomorrow at 1 p.m. So far the Rangers have clocked the two Winter Classic participants and perhaps will make a national HBO audience watching 24/7 wonder why the Rangers are playing instead of Washington and Pittsburgh on News Year's Day. I can dream.

The team is not being taken seriously by the rest of the league -- they are getting the Butch & Sundance treatment of "Who are those guys?" I watched the Pens feed the other night -- other than praising Henrik, the announcers could not identify anyone on the team with talent.

The fans are coming around; you could feel it at MSG last night for a non-conference foe from a small market. Just like Knick fans are starting to sense something fun is building.

MSG has been touting its transformation of the Garden. I have a suggestion -- put out a great product and people will flock to the joint. Both winter sports tenants have been transformed and MSG has a life again.

Ranger fans wanted to see youth -- they are here in spades and making an impact, positive and negative. They will make mistakes. There will be growing pains. Deal with them. Stop complaining. The vets are having fun and this season has the makings of one of the more fun teams and experiences we have had in years.

---The Graying Mantis

p.s.: I refused the offer of money from my friend and we ended up spending a lengthy evening catching up and renewing our friendship. He also told me a tale about how he managed to see Game 7 of the 1994 Finals on a whim and without a ticket. That's a story for another post.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Great Rangers Fan Needs Your Help

Fellow DARK-friends, post our third big win against the Phoenix Coyotes, a somber and human request...

My buddy Fran Pizzani, a lifelong Blueshirt Mega-fan was unable to be at The Garden the last two big games because he was taken over by an unknown condition that has left him in the ICU at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. He is unconscious, but his wife Carly is reading stories of hope, funny anecdotes and well wishes from hundreds of people. In two days he has received notes from Howard Stern and hundreds of Fran's friends.

Every voice means something, and as Rangers fans I call on all of you to rise to his occasion! Send anything to DARK at or leave a comment below and every single note will be sent to Fran, as we need him back at The Garden cheering on our boys...

Happy holidays and happy health to all, and thanks for helping Fran out of the DARKness!


NY Rangers 4, Phoenix Coyotes 3 (SO)

The Blueshirts at home won another versus the Phoenix Coyotes. The Rangers are currently 20-13-1, sitting 5th(Wow!) in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. They remain a solid third in the Atlantic behind 1st place Pittsburgh (44 points) and 2nd place Philadelphia (47 points). Next up are the Philadelphia Flyers this Saturday.

It didn't look good tonight, but they found a way.....a DARK recap coming soon.

Rangers 11, Winter Classic Participants 1

A typo?   Nope.

A red flag to the selection committee for the Winter Classic? Possibly. A point and laugh at those people buying Bettman's boy band, NHL poster-boy marketing campaign, YOU F*CKIN BETCHA!!!!

Those numbers come courtesy of fellow DARK writer, The Graying Mantis, one of the best stats guys I know. I myself am not much of a stats guy. In fact, in school math was my worst subject. Still, even I am aware of the disparity between those goal tallies and understand the importance of it, despite the entire NHL front office spanking their monkeys to Crosby's 20-game streak and how much he leads the voting for the All Star Game.

You can read the official recap of last nights game here.

All in all, I wouldn't have called last night's game a stellar piece of work by our boys in blue. I liked that we managed to shadow them for most of the game and harassed the diving primadonna (Crosby) every time he touched the puck. Holding everything together, despite losing Cally to a broken hand, is another feather in our cap. For most of the game, Drury seemed to look like one of the sharper players on our team, which leads me to think that he wasn't spending all his time away counting the money as it rolled in.... in fact, maybe some of the under-performers should spend time watching the game from the GM's box for extended stints. We'll see how long it lasts for Drury though. Hopefully at least till Callys back on the ice.

Despite Drury's comeback, it did seem as though we were happy to accept what we were given for the first two periods and were almost a step behind as our attention and focus on second chance efforts was a little lacking. We weren't out played as much as out-focused. In fact we didn't truly play like a desperate team till the 3rd. A good sign that our opponents sensed it was when their goalie (B. Johnson) after making a save, decided we didn't pose much of a threat and chucked the puck back out into the slot, right past Drury. In days gone by,a goalie would often cup his glove to his chest and skate away in terror before thinking of unloading it, out of fear of getting his glove hand lopped off if he stuck it out.

A routine deflection off an Erik Christenson shot in the third, started the first crack in the Penguin armor. It rather snowballed from there... As I sat there watching the mayhem that ensued, I couldn't help but remark to myself that... it all seemed so familiar... .. Where had I seen this before? Oh right... this would be the second poster-boy and flagship team in a week that had been trampled by us. FEED US TOEWS AND KANE, next... We'll sort out this smoke and mirrors crap for the force fed masses who long for hockey the way it used to be, when winners were obvious and didn't seem to miraculously coincide with whatever flavor of the season the league was pushing.

So while we're snubbed over the Winter Classic, take solace Ranger Fan,s in that our last \Cup was earned... and played for against the odds and that any success our team achieves started in obscurity and not under the protective wing of favoritism and marketing campaigns.

Till next time,

Lets Go Rangers!!!

NY Rangers 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

The Blueshirts in Pittsburgh last night beat the surging Penguins 4-1.  The Rangers are currently 19-13-1, sitting 5th in the Eastern Conference with 39 points.   They remain a solid third in the Atlantic behind 1st place Pittsburgh (44 points) and 2nd place Philadelphia (47 points).  Next up are the Phoenix Coyotes at MSG tonight.

Expect DARK thoughts from J_Undisputed soon...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oy-Vie! NYR 7 / Capitals 0

Not even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's anti-Sidney poster boy Alex Ovechkin could escape the legitimate Blueshirt punch-in-the-face that he received last night as the New York Rangers destroyed the Washington Capitals scoring seven times and leaving the Capitals' Ovie-Backstrom-Semin line lifeless.

No love for you Ovie!  This is Blueshirt Country.  Get used to it.

This home-game MSG extravaganza was everything that the team needed and everything that the fans needed...and deserved.  After a hard-working loss on the road the night before, this 'Black & Blue' Rangers squad once again rebounded by opening the first period with fists flying and an aggressive forecheck, reminding the ailing Caps that we are a very different team than season's past (the last time the Capitals lost to the Rangers by at least seven goals was an 11-4 setback in March 1978).   Brandon Prust scored the first goal, using Cap's goalie Semyon Varlamov's pads for the assist.  The game could have gone anywhere from this point, but the Blueshirts maintained the pace and held most of Washington against the boards and in the neutral zone.

The second period opened poorly for the Caps, as a 'lazy line change' led to Blueshirt Artem Anisimov stealing a pass in the neutral zone and scoring the second goal.  Then the "Smorgasbord of Goals' began as a total of three goals were scored within 3 1/2 minutes as Marian Gaborik and Dubinsky also scored to put the Rangers ahead 4-0. Marc Staal added a short-handed goal off a 2-on-1 with Brian Boyle at 10:42 - and might I add, a thing of beauty.  It's exciting to think of what-is-to-become of our Marc Staal as he's showing great promise under Torts and his two-way system. 

"I'm NOT supposed to lose like this, Dubie!!?"  - Ovie
Attempting to do something on the ice, the limp Ovechkin threw a hip check on Dan Girardi in the offensive zone, then skated up ice and dropped his gloves to go at Dubinsky, who landed multiple overhand rights before wrestling Ovechkin to the ice.  I was proud of Dubie and how unafraid he was to take on the wild Russian; it also reminded me how much he's improved over those rookie days of fighting during the Jagr years - they were never pretty bouts, but he kept trying and trying.  Last night, he arrived with the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

With Washington's Captain Hockey trying to light up his own dying team, Ryan Callahan scored twice in the third period as the Rangers handed Washington its sixth consecutive defeat.  Rah-rah.

Callahan after scoring his 2nd goal in the third period. 
 Generally we don't post video on this site, but watching all of these hits and goals is exciting, so I encourage you to watch below and enjoy it in it's full glory below:

Both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were spectacular in embarrassing the Caps from start to finish, as they held  what could be considered the NHL's deadliest and highest scoring line (Ovie-Backstrm-Semin) to chewing on their own fingernails for 60 minutes.  NYR Goalkeeper extraordinaire Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for his fifth shutout this season. 
Prust scores

Our boys are now 18-13-1, well beyond the .500 team we were all hoping for this first half of the season.  Most importantly after a game like last night, a win of this caliber is something to build on --- CONFIDENCE will win games, and we'll need every drop of confidence heading into another Pittsburgh/Rangers match on Wednesday (away).  Pittsburgh, currently on a hot streak, will have to lose at some point and our boys need to look forward to showing Sidney "The Diver" Crosby the same respect they showed Ovechkin last night --- and maintain.

I see movement in the right direction for our Rangers -- a young and wanting that we've not seen in year's past.  Even with Captain Chris Drury ready to hit the ice after a prolonged injury, I see no reason to disrupt our first line with Anisimov currently centering.   Soon afterwards, Vinny Prospal will be back on the ice --- and we all hope, I am certain, that their inclusion on the bench doesn't disrupt some of this overwhelming chemistry that is winning games.

Time will tell, but it's all up to Torts at this point.  Don't let us down, Coach!


Varlamov allowed 7 goals on 20 shots warming the hearts throughout The Garden.  Thanks for the shitty performance, bro.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

NYR 7, Wash Caps 0 (for real!)

The Blueshirts at home tonight shutout the slumping, but deadly Washington Capitals  7 - 0.  The Rangers are currently 18-13-1, sitting 5th in the Eastern Conference with 37 points.   They remain a solid third in the Atlantic behind 1st place Pittsburgh (44 points) and 2nd place Philadelphia (43 points).  Next up is the Pittsburgh Penguins on this Wednesday night.

Expect DARK's thoughts on this huge confidence builder tomorrow morning...

Rangers Offense Fails Again - Henrik Gives Up Another Late One | Columbus 3, NYR 1

Good grief. Another one goal effort by the offense. It has become ridiculous recently. Last night, despite playing an entertaining game, the Rangers could only net one against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Steve Mason played well with 32 saves but he was helped by at least 2 goal posts when he was beaten.

One goal v. Pittsburgh, one in Nashville (but a shootout win), 1 vs. the Isles (plus an empty netter), one SHG (Prust) v. Ottawa, and one PPG (Staal) in Columbus.

Where are the main line scorers? I have no idea. You will not win many games that way especially of your allegedly world class goalie keeps giving late game soft goals like last night and last Sunday.

So even though the Rangers have a solid record, they are leaving points on the table just like last year when they blew games late and left OT points behind. Something in common from this year and last -- lack of late game offense (the Rangers rarely ever score a goal to extend a lead or take a lead late in the game) and lack of late game solid goaltending.

My fingers are loathe to type the same stuff over and over and over again. I am told I am too wordy; I don't want to be accused of being repetitive but. . . .

The game had plenty of skating, hitting, several posts and some decent goaltending. The Rangers hit a couple of those posts which cost them the game. They outshot the Bluejackets but that was deceiving. Again, the Rangers got dominated on faceoffs, at one point losing 25 out of 30 for a final deficit of 33-23. That's no way to continue possession in either the offensive or defensive zones during the game.
Come to Ricky. Nash did not have to move too
far to celebrate after scoring from an oblique angle. Abysmal.
The Rangers and Bluejackets exchanged power play goals in the second period. The Rangers came from Marc Staal at the 9:53 mark. That tally was matched by Anotoine Vermette 5 minutes later.

Then the 3rd period became the Rick Nash show when he scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season.

The game winner came with less than 5 minutes to go after the Rangers were pressuring in the Blue Jackets zone. The puck squeezed outside the zone, barely evading one Ranger trying to keep it in.

Nash rushed up center and as he came down the center, Marc Staal stumbled to the ice forcing Nash to go into the corner on Lundqvist's left. Henrik had the post covered but Nash shot anyway from an impossible angle and the puck found space between Henrik's pad and the goal post and slithered through. Very reminiscent of the game winning goal by Chris Kelly for Ottawa last Sunday night -- same post, difficult seeing-eye shot that should have been stopped but still lit the lamp.

The Rangers were given a power play opportunity shortly after that they failed to do anything with. With less 1:20 remaining, Lundqvist was heading to the ice as the Rangers had gained the Blue Jackets zone. But Nash outclassed Staal again at the blue line as he used his long reach to poke the puck past Staal outside the Ranger offensive zone.

To put the proverbial cherry on this game Nash totally outraced Staal down the ice as the defenseman vainly slid across the ice to try to stop him. Nash was not finished as he approached Lundqvist and totally undressed the goalie to beat him to his gloveside with a backhand. The game mercifully ended before Nash could complete a hat trick in the final five minutes of the game.

A goal scorer's goal. Nothing more to say as
Nash makes it 3-1 with 1:16 remaining.
It is hard to pinpoint the problem: the team was scoring nearly 3 goals a game before Marian Gaborik returned. Since his return, the scoring has become sporadic. He has had 2 hat tricks but he is invisible offensively most games. Perhaps he is being marked closely but that does not stop other goal scorers like Crosby, Nash, etc.

Sean Avery continues to be extremely erratic. Last night, we saw the abysmal Avery. At least 2 offsides on the rush (and they were not close calls), and during the 3rd period, he made at least 2 egregious passes in front of Henrik that were intercepted and led to serious scoring opportunities. You knew they were egregious when the Ranger announcers sighed audibly. I have no idea what fellow fans see in their ill-conceived write-in campaign to have him as an All-Star. I don't care if he is cute or dresses well. You can say that about Henrik as well. They may want to focus on what makes them famous -- playing in the NHL.

I do not want to cast too many aspersions here but 2 of the Russian players have been terrible -- Anisimov has one point since the Eisenhower administration. Frolov had one good game against Edmonton and is stuck on 5 goals. The team cannot afford any offensive zeros out there. Not when Marc Staal has as many goals as Frolov and Fedotenko.

In summary:

After Saturday night's loss, the New York Rangers are now 17-13-1 with 35 points in the Eastern Conference. They are a solid 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, behind Pittsburgh (1st) and Philadelphia (2nd). Next up is tonight at home vs. the Washington Capitals, a team in a down spin.

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NYR 5, Ottawa 3

The New York Rangers are now 17-12-1 with 35 points in the Eastern Conference.   They are a solid 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, behind Pittsburgh (1st) and Philadelphia (2nd).  Next up is on Saturday night vs the Columbus Blue Jackets.  

A DARK post to follow soon...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Breaking Serve - Rangers Prevail 6-5 | NYR 6 NYI 5

It's an old saw that when certain teams meet, you can throw out the teams' current records because the past washes away the present.

Such is the relationship between the Islanders and Rangers since the time the Isles first eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs on J.P. Parise's infamous OT goal in April 1975. For more than 35 years, the two teams have battled to the utter delight or dismay of their respective fan bases.

So far, this season has been no different. After 2 games at the Nassau Coliseum, there have been 21 goals scored in a pair of tennis matches now tied at one set apiece, 4-6, 6-5 after the Rangers' victory last night.

58 shots on goal led to 11 goals, a nearly 20% accuracy, worthy of near marksman status. Defensive coverage was pretty much an afterthought for the entire game. Goaltending was superfluous as I cannot recall one noteworthy save by any of the 3 goalies -- Marty Biron and Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers or Rick DiPietro for the Islanders.

If I had slapped my television to make it snowy or banged my head against the wall or slipped into a time machine, I could have convinced myself I was watching an old 1980s contest between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames with end-to-end passing, skating, hitting, frequent scoring, some fights and only 3 powerplays. Not quite the level of the WHA but getting close.

Launch, light, repeat. 8 shots - 3 goals for Gaborik.
The Rangers utterly dominated the first period and had an early 2-0 lead. The domination ended swiftly as an old bugaboo appeared when the Rangers yielded a goal in the final 40 seconds of the period.

Given the history of these contests, I doubt anyone was surprised when the Isles came back from a first period 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead midway through the 2nd period. But the Rangers countered to take a 5-3 lead in the 3rd period and then scored the game winner within 25 seconds of the Isles tying the score at 5. The official recap is here.

So much happened in this game, I don't have enough words to describe it and the short turnaround time from the conclusion of last night's game to a workday to a new game makes the effort a Sisyphean task. Perhaps when the schedule finally settles down, as I wrote the other day, we can assess what has been going on recently.

Time to party. Sean Avery brought his A-List game last night.
The noteworthy talking point of the game was the elevation of Sean Avery to the first line with Marian Gaborik and Eric Christensen. Coach Tortorella urged Avery to be his abrasive self and not to worry about being a playmaker.

Avery decided to define the term playmaker in a way that the Coach was probably not thinking of. From the opening whistle, he led that on a tear all over the ice wreaking havoc, annoying the opposition, laying waste to the Isles defense and making DiPietro look pedestrian at best.

When the carnage was complete, the line had 11 shots on goal and 9 points led by Gaborik with 4 points (a hat trick and an assist), Avery with 3 assists, and Christenensen had a goal and assist. To say that the line was electrifying would be to understate what we saw on the ice. Meanwhile, despite the 4 goals from the first line, the Rangers needed Brandon Prust and Ryan Callahan to chip in goals as well to provide the winning margin.

The defense left Marty Biron exposed and he could not fight back which led to a game similar to a couple we saw during preseason where he gave up goals in bunches. Inserting Lundqvist in relief more than 30 minutes into the game got the temporary attention of the Rangers as they shut down the Isles for several minutes to enable the squad to rebound from turning a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 deficit back into a 4-3 lead heading into the third period.

The Callahan/Dubinsky/Stepan line had a terrible game defensively as each player ended up in serious negative territory by the end of the game. Still, the team had a first line which never lost energy and was unstoppable at least for this night.

Cleanup on Isle 3. Finally, the Ice Girls got to do something useful.
Gaborik got his 2nd hat trick of the season and the Rangers' third. The team may have already surpassed expectations about the number of hat tricks it would have this season.

Besides grabbing 2 points and improving their sterling road record to 10-4, the Rangers are putting some distance between themselves and other teams in the early playoff hunt. The best part is that they play again tonight, this time at MSG.

--- The Graying Mantis

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blind Aggression No Match for Puck Possession

Well Ranger fans,

With everyone wondering whether or not the team would be worn out of the road trip, the Rangers surprised everyone, starting the game with an up-tempo aggressive checking style. But like a an arrow without feathers, you're not hitting anything if you can't keep it straight.

Read the official recap here.

Speaking of misses,despite the energy brought by the team and feisty style, there was an obscene amount of Ranger shots (when being taken) that were deflected. A large percentage of the non-deflected shots still went wide of the net. We were a team hell bent on showing off our brass b@lls. While we darted in random directions, chipping pucks and then chasing them down .. only to work the puck around the boards trying to buy time for a shot... our opponents followed and waited for a mistake... We didn't disappoint them as we were caught deep in our own end, out of possession and even managed to get in our own way sometimes. It seems there may have been a good bit of false bravado in that comeback win last time that convinced us that we only had to be aggressive for long enough to see the more tender underbelly of the tuxedo'd poultry... and then we'd go in for the kill.

They say survival is a game best suited for those who can adapt. Adaptation became the fulcrum on which last night's game teetered... as will the rest of the games in this series. A game of chess in which we have exhausted our resources and sacrificed all our pawns thus far on the direct approach. It's indeed a dangerous game to play as it not only wears us thin, but it exposes us as 'one trick ponies' and demonstrates the way to beat us. The aggression is good if it can be bottled and applied when and where needed. It should be a means of channeling our offense and defense, and not our whole game. It becomes more apparent as we play the more hyper and bigger teams, that they know just where to wait for us and will attempt to outwork us along the boards. Thank God we're not playing on a pond, we'd never get anywhere without the boards.

We are now a younger team with younger legs, there's no reason to linger around the perimeters of the zone, using the boards as training wheels. I wouldn't mind seeing this team take the puck off the boards and practice their passing and puck handling in open ice... where it could ignite the skills of players like Gaborik, Stepan, perhaps Frolov..

Kudos go out to Prusty for taking on a much bigger man in Rupp, Avery for punching Kennedy and Roszival for not showing signs of rust. Still for the toughness factor, it's much better when it means something and is perhaps topping off a win. Even the most aggressive of Blind aggression is still Blind.

Between my periodical calls to my local pastor to see if hell has frozen over yet, I manage to check the NHL website to see if any disciplinary action, or hell, even an admission that the league witnessed Skidmark Sid slewfoot Callahan.   I guess I really only need to be checking one to get the answers to both.

Till next time,


Monday, November 29, 2010

Dubinsky Shines Over The Predator(s)

There is nothing better than a horrible photoshop there.
NYR 2, Predators 1 SO

As an old friend said recently, "Two out of three aint bad" an unexpected and pleasantly optimistic viewpoint of the Blueshirts recent roadtrip as the New York Rangers dropped a bomb in Tampa, followed by a perfect shutout of the Florida Panthers and ended with a hard-earned shootout win against the Nashville Predators.

Official recap vs Nashville here.

Brandon Dubinsky once again demonstrated his all-around game - though not on the boards against Nashville, he is showing signs of a leader on the team and his stats are proving just that; the all around efforts by him and Ryan Callahan are getting the attention of the league and we're beginning to see opposing teams double covering Dubie, 'as if' he were some Marian Gaborik or something....  Oh, and did I mention that Gaborik didn't play on Saturday night either?  Again?  This time out with flu-like symptoms, our core team of Dubie, Callahan, Fedotenko, Prust, Sauer, Girardi, Staal, Boyle and Sean Avery are defining this team with a hard working ethic that is mostly winning games.

Henrik Lundqvist in goal the last two games had a strong showing - a blanking against Florida and a terrific shutout whitewash against Nashville, but let us not forget Marty Biron, who is becoming as important as anyone on this "Black & Blue" squad - one that never gives up despite the score and generally manages to deliver a solid effort.  If Henrik can adapt to a two-way goalie system, then we're better for it.
Sticking up for a foul Christensen hit, Sean Avery stepped up and had his head handed to him by Nashville's Tootoo.
Michal Rozsival played a damn good game.  How's that?  After coming off a nine-game absence, he was surpringly in line with the system and played hard as if it were a playoff game.  So there.  I'm still Rozzy-agnostic, though, so don't celebrate too hard, but credit is due to a solid performance.

So with six minutes in the third period left on the boards, Ryan Callahan scored to tie-up the game, which led to overtime, which led to the shootout.

Erik Christensen was the first player called to take part in the shootout, and he beat Pekka Rinne with an aggressive move before slipping the puck just inside the left post.   It turned out to be the game winning goal as Henrik Lundqvist did the rest by denying three subsequent Predator attempts.  Amen.

It was a well deserved win that kept this young and rookie team in the sixth slot in the Eastern Conference with a 14-10-1 record, 3rd in the Atlantic Division behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

I'd say we have a damn good team, not great.  But they're getting better.

Tonight we host the Penguins (15-8-2) at MSG and, dammit, I look toward another win against this franchise --- it's always fun to see Sid the Kid Crosby banging his stick on the ice, hitting the post in frustration and losing --- each of the Rangers last three games vs. the Penguins have gone into overtime, dating back to a 3-2 win on Feb. 12, 2010 at Pittsburgh. The Blueshirts are 2-1-0 over the span, so luck will be on our side tonight.

See you at MSG...


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rangers Tame Panthers as Special Teams and Henrik Shine | NYR 3 FLA 0

The Rangers once again proved that it is hard for them to throw back-to-back clunkers as they rebounded from their 5-3 loss in Tampa on Wednesday night with a a solid 3-0 whitewashing of the Florida Panthers. Official recap is here.

Thankfully, the Panthers do not have the scorers or speed of the Lightning because Florida outshot the Rangers 40-19 for the game. However, many of the shots were clearly seen by Henrik Lundqvist and many rebounds were cleared by diligent forwards and defensemen. Henrik did make a couple of spectacular saves including stopping a tip-in try in the first period and shooting out his left leg to make a pad save to thwart Mike Santorelli's shot on a 2-on-1 in the second period. He and his teammates faced down 2 four minute man advantages without yielding a goal.

Meanwhile, the Ranger special teams were markedly improved from the Tampa game. No goals on 5 PP opportunities for the Panthers including a 4 minute penalty in the first period. Shortly after that kill, the Rangers struck for their first goal thanks to quick puck movement by Staal with a pass to Avery streaking out of the penalty box that led to Sean's shot off Scott Clemmenson (former Devils goalie) leaving a perfectly placed rebound for Derek Stepan to convert. There's nothing more exhilarating for a team to conclude a long penalty kill with a goal of their own (of course, a shorthanded goal is just as sweet -- foreshadowing alert). The first period ended with the Rangers outshot 15-5 -- a disturbing trend recently that bears some analysis after this stretch of games is completed.

Stepan was on the first line with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik and all three had a wonderful chemistry. Stepan scored for the 2nd game in a row (points in 6 games in a row) and missed an open net in the 2nd period that could have proved crucial later. Coach Tortorella increased Gaborik's minutes to 20 for the game and exhorted him to play harder. He certainly did with some quality shifts on the penalty kill as well.

The second period was scoreless and saw plenty of activity in the Rangers' end. In the third period, the Ranger special teams struck for 2 goals. First, in a picture-perfect display of power play proficiency, Eric Christensen won a faceoff to Steve Emminger who passed it back to Christensen along the right boards (Eric had sprinted over from the left faceoff circle to get into position). Christensen then centered a pass to Ryan Callahan between the circles who deflected the puck past Clemmenson to put the Rangers up 2-0 with 5:34 gone in the 3rd. It was the 4th straight game in which the Rangers have scored a power play goal.

Later in the 3rd, Brian Boyle was whistled off for interference with 6:41 remaining. This was a potentially critical moment of the game. The Panthers had picked up steam and even had a goal waved off because it was batted in by a Florida player hand.

During the penalty kill, 3 Panthers got caught deep in the Rangers zone. Brandon Prust moved up the left side past the Rangers blue line and worked a 2-on-1 up ice. Seeing that there was no pass option, he wristed a shot between Clemmenson's legs that gave the Rangers an insurmountable 3-0 lead with 5:35 left.

For the remaining 3:36 of the game, the Panthers pulled their goalie. 11 skaters filled the Rangers defensive zone for nearly 3 minutes without a break or a clear. Thanks to the density of players, the Rangers were not scrambling all over as in a normal power play. Henrik made some key stops, the Rangers kept moving the puck but could not get the puck out of the zone until finally it was cleared with only a few seconds remaining, thus keeping the shutout intact.

There was a sizable crowd for the game -- more than 17,000 reported -- it was obvious this was a NY crowd based on the number of Ranger jerseys throughout the arena and the vocal cheers after Ranger goals. (A couple of Florida resident/NY Ranger fans attending the game advised me by e-mail that the Florida PA had fun with the Ranger fans in attendance by exhorting them to return "home.")

Hockey is a strange game -- Tampa scored the first 5 goals against the Rangers in the first 2 periods of their Wednesday victory over the Rangers. The Bolts gave up 3 goals in the final frame of that game and then got shutout in D.C. yesterday, 6-0. So after looking invincible for 2 periods, they yielded 9 goals over 4 periods. Meanwhile, the Caps had been shut out twice within 3 games last week, including one by the so-far woeful Devils.

Tonight the Rangers visit Nashville with their vocal fans to complete this 3 game in 4 night road trip before returning home to face the Penguins on Monday night at MSG.

As has been reported, during the 7 weeks ending December 5, the Rangers will have played the most games of any team in the NHL -- 24 games in 46 days. So if you have been thinking the Rangers have been playing frequently, you are correct. The fact that they are staying solidly in the pack of the Eastern Conference despite missing several players and integrating new players is a testament to their work ethic and their coaches.

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks That It Wasn't Worse....

Ugh... thinking about last night's romp in Tampa, I may just lose my Thanksgiving dinner.  Okay every once in a while, we get outplayed by a better/equal/much worse team. It happens to everyone...blah blah blah// join the Bettman chorus in singing the praises of Stamkos, league's leading scorer...

Read the official recap here.

Now that being said... F*ck me? You've got to be kidding! Ok yeah we got out played or at least our goalie got out-gunned by Tampa... I don't consider it a team win or loss as much perhaps my perspective on this is just as clouded as Henriks last night and I can't see past Ryan Malone camping out in our crease with his stupid Tampa mustache.(ok, I've seen team trends...Mohawks, Rally caps in the dugouts.. When the hell did the stupid musketeer mustache become a pop culture trend?) Anyway, as Doc Holiday relaxed in front of the net like a tourist sitting the middle of Times Square.... Our d-men circled cluelessly for the first 2 or 3 goals giving him full access to Henrik... so he could hack, chop and dig uninterrupted. We were taking penalties anyway. How big a pair does it take to come by and send a message to Shakespeare Malone? This was one of the reasons I thought we were a little quick in dismissing Excelby from his tryout.

At any rate, at a loss for more rational thought after this loss... I present to you the top 10 things that may or may not have been caught on John Tortorella's Microphone last night.

10. "Stop this Chip and Fetch crap. Hold on to the puck and make some plays."
9. "Hit Stamkos... Repeatedly"
8. "Slow the game down in the neutral Zone and stop trying to out sprint the sprinters!"
7. "I coached you b@st@rds to a cup, where's the respect?"
6. "Anyone seen Vinnie, I owe him a kick in the nuts..."
5. "Boogey.. Sic Malone!"
4. "Sean, go shoot the $hit with Stamkos...Got any dirt on him?"
3. "For God Sakes, don't just stand there!!!"
2. "Somebody Retaliate! Boogey, Crash the net!"


1. What's with the stupid Mustaches?

Till Next Time Rangers,
Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless...


P.S. Torts felt the need to call out Gabby after the loss, calling him invisible for 20 minutes. Call it a hunch but, unless I missed something Gabbys not a chip and fetch player. He needs to be fed the puck and have some ice opened up for him to move. The only way Gabby could have been effective with the way the team was playing was to cruise the neutral zone waiting for passes and cherry picking opportunities.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Holidays and Happy Hockey

...or (insert) the head of Ilya Kovalchuk

Nothing better than a good Turkey Shoot, eh?  

As the holiday season begins, here at The Dark Ranger we wanted to wish everyone safe travels and a fun-filled weekend of hockey! We appreciate your readership and hope that you continue to visit for some good fan insight and, better yet, a good laugh.

Happy holidays to all and see you tonight in Tampa Bay.

The Dark Ranger        Graying Mantis       J_Undisputed

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ranger Reduce Flames To Embers In Close One

The Flames lived up to their name when their aggressive play ignited a rough and tumble game in the Garden last night. Watching the two teams go at it for 3 periods brought about one observation, they're a lot like us. They're not a start studded team, but make/get their wins off the back of hard work and more often than not are backstopped by a very good goaltender. They're just like us, except last night for once, the breaks fell in our favor.

Get the Official Recap here.

The heavy hits went back and forth, the aggressive forechecks and play along the boards. Goaltending on both sides was solid. Kipper kept his team in the game with the exception of a few bad bounces. The Rangers were playing with the Iginla Factor looming over them as he now has goals in 6 games. There seemed to be no shortage of work on either side except for the Boogeyman who once again found himself without a willing dance partner.

The only controversy on the night came in the form of Marc Staal drilling Matt Stajan with an open ice hit. Was it legal, perfectly... but you know the soupy and the guys in the war room in Toronto have been scratching at the surface of it, anyway. We welcome your opinions. Legal?  Illegal? Brutal? A love tap?

Also does anyone else notice there seems to be a lot more targeting of the head since the league actually said something about it?

Till next time Ranger Fans,

Monday, November 22, 2010

She Loves Me Not, She Loves Me

Fri  NYR 1,  Avalanche 5   Recap here.
Sat  NYR 5,  Minnesota Wild 2,  Recap here.

It was a wild weekend of hockey for us Rangers fans, as much fun as having your girlfriend break up with you and one day later having her beg to have you back.  In other words, 'rebound love'.   Now hold on Rangers, I'm not suggesting anything dirty like the pat-down you're all going to receive at your neighborhood airport this holiday season, I'm referring to the hate & love of Rangers hockey that we all felt within a 24-hour period.

Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche will never be explained, as the Blueshirts decided that the altitude was good reason to not show-up and play hockey - where a scoreless first period was followed by the Avalanche lighting the lamp four times, our King Lundqvist letting in 3 softies out of 16 shots and soon after replaced by surprisingly stellar backup goalie Martin Biron.  By the time Biron took goal, the rest of the team was deflated and there was absolutely nothing that could be done to revive the scoreboard in our favor. 
"I felt like everything went their way in the second period and that kind of killed the game," Lundqvist said. "I didn't think we were that bad. We needed a couple more saves to keep us in the game but we didn't get them tonight."
Scary bad Henrik in net
Well for once, I disagree with Henrik's assessment.  Coming off the Boston loss last Wednesday and Lundqvist taking responsibility for what probably was his worst focused game of the season, the three goals on Friday night scored against him were stoppable and it is worrisome.  Is it fair to suggest that the more he sits, the softer he gets?  Larry Brooks of The Post posed an interesting article over the weekend, questioning Lundqvist's ability to play in a two-goalie system (go here).

The game against Colorado 'was what it was' - a bad game.  We 'shat the bed' and let's move on.

So Saturday couldn't have arrived any sooner as the Blueshirts arrived as well.  It was the return of Marian Gaborik and as part of Minnesota's greeting, the Wild brass handed out overstocked Gaborik bobble-heads in his Minnesota jersey to everyone at the arena -- a clever little joke gone awry by management, as we stalked them, played as a team and made a 'Wild fool' of their obnoxious psychological giveaway act --- all goals without Marian.  Ha! 

Saturday's game was the parallel opposite to the night before, where on both nights the first period both teams looked strong and solid  - East Conference meets West Conference and the courting before the kill; the second period the Rangers took control scoring four lovelies in a row, one of them a delicious Derek Stepan feed to Michael Del Zotto's coming up the chute goal.  These goals were solid goals, none of them were soft, and Minnesota Wild's goalkeeper Backstrom didn't have a chance as his own squad let him down.  Sound familiar?  Minnesota found two pride goals in the last period, enough to keep their heads up high.  We win.

Biron Battles and deserves the start tonight
But here's the difference - Marty Biron was in goal for the Rangers, with Henrik on the sidelines.  So the operative question is as the Rangers head home tonight against the Calgary Flames - who starts in goal tonight?   I'd actually like to see Marty Biron open the game tonight.  It would fit the Torts philosophy and system.  If you win and play hard, you will be rewarded.   What do you think?

Looking ahead, here are the stats going into tonight's matchup:

The Rangers will face-off against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in their third consecutive game vs. a Northwest Division opponent. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 11-9-1 (23 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Minnesota Wild, 5-2, on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center, to improve to 5-0-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets. The Flames enter the contest with a 8-10-1 (17 pts) record to rank 14th in the Western Conference, and have lost four of their last five games (0-3-1).

There are games we should win and there are games that we just need to work hard and see what happens. Tonight we are expected to win, which are usually the ones we don't. So perhaps Saturday night's game did a little good to the confidence factor - as we meet our old friend Olli Jokinen (who I believe is still suspended for a cross-checking incident here), the Sutter family will be in attendence (former coach of the NJ Devils... "help Sutters, we need you back" - Lou L.) ....and I believe we'll all be treated to Brandon Prust welcoming his ex-teammates to the Garden. It should be a battle. 

The ride continues tonight Rangers fans.....onward!


Garden fans, look out for that funny looking dude wearing the Flames jersey

A great moment in hockey history, note Olli forgot to defend again.
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