Sunday, January 31, 2010

Olli, Olli, Um Come Blue??? (UPDATED)

from TSN,
Sources tell TSN the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames are expected to announce a trade tonight that will send Calgary centre, Olli Jokinen to the Rangers in exchange for Ales Kotalik and either Chris Higgins or rookie defenceman, Matt Gilroy.
TRADING AWAY OUR FUTURE?......Kotalik we understand, but Gilroy - our Hobie Award Winner Future for an under-delivering Center?  Truth is Jokinen may be the only legitimate CENTER on the roster at this point in the season.....the Flames have been waiting for Olli to deliver for two seasons now....will being in NYC be any different?

Keep checking in with Greg W. of Puck Daddy, who is following the story -- and if such a trade happens, he poses 'how will it affect the Fire Sather Rally, when such a trade at this time delivers another Scott Gomez-like Jedi salary dump for the tired, old GM...???.  Go here for the usual and trustworthy Yahoo update.

Here we as usual.  I think we won this trade if we can send Kotalik and Higgins for Olli and Prust from the Calgary Flames.  I hope that Sather and Co. will hold on to our future and trade the dead-weight.   What do you think?


via Sportsnet,
The Flames and Rangers are working out a deal that would send centre Olli Jokinen and left winger Brandon Prust to New York in exchange for centre Chris Higgins and right-winger Ales Kotalik. Sources told Sportsnet the deal is pending approval from Kotalik who has a limited no-trade clause in his contract.
Kotalik’s limited no-trade clause lists three teams he can not be traded to without his permission and Calgary is one of them.
The deal is not expected to be completed until late Monday morning at the earliest.


Kotalik Leaves Rangers

from a Larry Brooks exclusive:

DENVER- Ales Kotalik has left the Rangers after being told that he would be traded, The Post has learned.
Kotalik, the 32-year-old winger who was signed to a three-year, $9M free agent contract this summer, accompanied the Blueshirts to Phoenix for the first game of their three-game western tour but did not accompany his teammates here for tonight's match against the Avalanche.

Head coach John Tortorella did not inform the media of Kotalik's departure in his pre-game press briefing, only stating that the winger would be scratched for the eighth time in the last nine games.

Go here for the full story.

Are you surprised? This seemed inevitable and frees up about $3M in salary cap for a much-needed trade this season -- with Sheldon Souray out for six weeks minimum, Dion Phaneuf going to Toronto....what is the next move for our Blueshirts?


Sather Finished?

from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,

• This could be the final season for Glen Sather in a dual role as president/GM of the Rangers. The belief is he’ll remain president with Mark Messier taking over as GM.

This would keep the fans in place for now.  What do you think?


Ten Minutes of Good Hockey

NYR 2, Phoenix 3

Unfortunately for the first 50 minutes of hockey out-of-town against the Phoenix Coyotes, the ailing New York Rangers failed to capitalize on not having the local media and fans looking over their shoulders, by losing their fifth straight..

Garbage hockey, simplified.

With the "WTF? Blueshirts" embarrassingly trailing 0-3 until the last 10 minutes of the third period, Marian Gaborik scored on a beautiful two-on-one, followed by a scrappy second goal by Sean Avery two minutes later.  What followed were eight minutes of terrific, throw-it-toward the net, forechecking physical NYR hockey -- we owned the last 10 minutes, with a near Gaborik miss with a minute left on the clock.  Now this was a team that cared....that is, for ten minutes out of sixty...

...And then we lost.  Again.

So guess what disgruntled fans?  We are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference!!?  24-24-7 record.  Coach Johnny Torts couldn't use the "we just are not scoring goals" talking point after last night as the Coyotes shut us down and kept us in the neutral zone for the majority of the game with less than 10 shots in the first half.  The dry heat obviously had an effect on rookie Michael Del Zotto as the first two goals were 'his bad' as he decided to play the puck rather than the body.  Backup goalkeeper Chad Johnson - replacing Henrik Lundqvist and his flu - was unable to replicate the 'goalie & blueline as One' that The King brings to every game, but managed well saving every Phoenix attack after his ridiculous debacle of the first period.

Once again Kotalik and Brashear were scrapped, leaving salary cap marinating the bench.  The second and third period brought 7 penalties by the Blueshirts and thank the hockey Gods that all were killed, but that seems like the only strength going for this hurting team.

Tonight we play the Colorado Avalanche, and with Henrik still probably out - we need to avoid that roaring downhill snowball effect that seems to be our path.  Play well, hold your chin high and remember the basics...don't worry about the fans, don't worry about Larry Brooks and what he writes, don't worry about Torts (he's in worse shape than you).

Play like you mean it, as if your Dad is sitting on the bench watching his young prodigy....impress your imaginary Dad -- mind tricks, anything that works!

Here we place to hide!

Let's Go Rangers!!!!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Across The Blueshirt-osphere

When John Tortorella addressed the team after their loss to the Canes, he and Slats reassured the Rangers that "the best thing for us now is to get out of town."  'Out of town' meaning away from the home crowd, where they generally lose games.  So off to Phoenix.

When I heard this, another little piece of me went out the door.  What coach was really trying to say was "Because we cannot stand the pressure of losing on home ice in front of the trusted, loyal and paying fans -- including a media that criticizes the team when we're down -- thank goodness we can try and turn this around elsewhere where there is less accountability and less people looking in."

Tough to grasp.

Other newsworthy links re: the Blueshirts:

Larry Brooks of The Post did an excellent piece on Slats and his bionic tenure as GM of the Rangers.  He simply states that he should not sacrifice our future for the 8th playoff slot. I couldn't agree more.  Go here for a good read.

Puck Daddy chats with the organizer of the FIRE SATHER RALLY.  The Dark Ranger will be there.  Go here for an interesting event.

The great folks over at Blueshirt Banter did a nice piece on Looking forward to the 2010 NHL draft and an overview of what needs to be done as we approach the trade deadline.  Go here.

See you in Phoenix tomorrow night!  May we turn around this rag-tag team and win some games!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relentless Hurricanes Force Fans to Evacuate Garden | CAR 5 NYR 1

So there we were last night in our quiet little section in the 340s – four of us who have been section mates since the lockout. We had just weathered a surprise Hurricane that had blown through the Garden from the Eastern Conference's nether region without advance warning.

Nearly everyone had evacuated the premises when the storm hit “Goal 4” force including two of our diehard friends who advised that they had to do “some serious drinking” to relax from the onslaught. But we persevered -- sitting pretty much alone – to the bitter end.

Finally, the horn blew letting us know it was safe to depart, the Hurricane had left the building and the wreckage of the 2009-2010 Rangers team had been hauled off the ice. It was safe to leave. As we walked down the stairs, I observed “I don’t hate this team; I’m not even angry. It’s not like the way I feel about the Mets the past few seasons. I like a lot of the Ranger players, but let’s face it, they really are terrible.” People in the hallway started to chuckle. I whispered as we headed outside, “I can’t believe I have to write about this game.” My friend laughed – that’s your tagline.
With 12:09 to go in the 3rd period, rescuers
led Ranger fans out of the arena to safety
from another dismal, lackluster performance.

Last night, I sat in my seat and caught up with my friends about life outside the Garden. We barely paid attention to the game except for the Carolina goals, the 2nd period when the Rangers scored their only goal on 22 shots, and the ludicrous late-game Ranger penalties including confronting two 5 on 3s for the Canes in the final 7 minutes. I even took a cell phone call during play and conducted a routine conversation without disruption. The caller could not believe I was at the Garden because it was so quiet. Indeed, it was.

Earlier, as I made my way to my seats, I encountered some visitors from Dallas on one of the escalators. We exchanged some pleasantries and chatted about our respective underperforming hockey teams. One of them asked me about Avery telling me how much he missed him because he had grit and liked to fight.

As we went our separate ways, I meant to tell him that Avery may be the only honest player wearing blue because he candidly admits that the team, except for a handful of players, do not play to their potential. He knows it and based on the turnout for this game, the fans know it.

Since becoming captain last week, Eric Staal has LED his team and rejuvenated Jussi Jokinen. Carolina also has gained 6 points on the Rangers over the past 10 games.

Too bad most of his teammates (other than Henrik) won’t admit what Avery plainly sees. Management is belatedly catching on now because Glen Sather visited the team after last night’s latest lackluster performance. He left them with the kiss of death – “I still believe in you” as they readied themselves for their western trip. Right now, all I believe in is their ability to cash their paychecks. The Rangers were outclassed 5-1 by the improving Hurricanes. The sorrowful recap is here (by the way, could the Rangers management make their website any more obnoxious with their lingering ad for Casino Night?). The Rangers completed their season series with Carolina with a 2-1-1 record.

Come back, Dancing Granny, all is forgiven.
At least one grandmother could enjoy the game.

To the Hurricanes’ credit, after a pitiful start that buried them in the league's basement, including an 0-10-3 road record, they have crept out of the NHL cellar. Last week, the team named Eric Staal as captain. Injured players have come back although they are still missing some key players. The union of Staal and Jussy Jokkinen has rejuvenated the latter. Cam Ward, recovered from his thigh surgery, was in goal for his 20th consecutive start. Coming into last night’s game, the Canes were 5-5 over the last ten but had inflicted some 5 goal dominations on the Bruins and Thrashers during the past week. They got their trifecta with their 5 goal outburst against the Rangers.

The game is easy for a goalie when he has 4 defenders against 1.
I cannot think of one player on the Rangers, other than perhaps Ryan Callahan, that distinguished himself on the ice. Sure the Rangers outshot the Canes by 38-24. That includes 22 shots in the 2nd period when the Rangers got their only tally. They came out flat once again, bottled up by the Canes in the first as they managed a paltry 4 shots. Meanwhile, the defense and goaltending also were flat (I am being kind) at the Canes scored 2 quick goals in the game’s first 3 1/2 minutes, 25 seconds apart. This was consistent with the Rangers' recent play of giving up goals in bunches -- (3 by Montreal in 2 minutes in the 2nd period on Saturday; 2 by Pitt in one minute in the 3rd period on Monday, 2 by Carolina in 25 seconds). During their current 4 game losing streak, the Rangers have led for 31 seconds out of a possible 240 minutes (against Pittsburgh).

As with Pittsburgh, after the Rangers pulled to 2-1 against Carolina,
they immediately gave up a goal within 41 seconds by Sergei Samsonov.
That was the backbreaker. From the look on Henrik's face and the sound
of the crowd, everyone knew the game was over with only 22 minutes gone.

Even though the Rangers had 22 shots during the period, Cam Ward stopped nearly all of them including some outstanding saves on Chris Drury's point blank shots. The Rangers offense showed flashes of competence. They actually CREATED numerous opportunities and their power play provided some point blank shots that Ward deftly deflected numerous rebounds away from Ranger attackers when they actually approached the net and foiled several close-in attempts including several stuff-in tries by Sean Avery and Gaborik at the left goalpost.

Gaborik was denied several times by Cam Ward who displayed a quick glove hand but Marian certainly does not look like he is skating at full speed. The special teams did better than recent games but they had nowhere to go but up. PP futility continued as the team's potency has plummeted to middle of the league. Boyle threw his body around a bit. But really, Callahan was the only player who could skate end to end. Kotalik, back from his 6 game exile, came out looking lazy and did a Randy Moss imitation on a couple of plays in the offensive zone where he came to a complete stop to watch a Hurricane break out. Wade Redden was benched after the 3rd goal – I am not sure what message Tortorella thinks he is sending. I am not sure if anyone other than the NY Post plagiarizer is even paying attention.

Casualties minimized. A photo from the 270s
showing the stubborn masochistically loyal fans
that stayed during the final stage of the
Hurricane (or as the NHL called it, the "3rd period").
You won't see this picture on the Rangers website.

The Blueshirts now have lost 4 games in a row and had another lackluster effort at home. Their home record now stands at a lousy 12-13-4.

Fans have noticed to an extent -- "Fire Sather" chants started late in the game in the 340s but they were weak. More entertaining and more spirited were the "Weeeee Suck” chants coming from the other end of the arena in the 320s during most of the 3rd period. But most fans are voicing their displeasure by not even booing any more, and the Potvin Sucks chants have thankfully disappeared as well. There were no Let's Go Ranger chants even when the Blueshirts were pressuring the Canes during the 2nd period.

Instead, fans are selling their tickets at severe discounts everywhere, or if not finding any takers, simply not coming to games. They may be "sold out" but the seats are not being filled even for Monday's game against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are not fun or compelling to watch as they struggle with the basics – offense, special teams, defense, goaltending. It’s been a total breakdown during this 2-6 stretch.

The Rangers now head west for a week to visit Phoenix, Denver and L.A. The Olympic break is coming and I am looking forward to it so I don't have to pay attention to this team for a while.

Perhaps if Glen Sather wears a disguise,
he may be able to unload some of
the deadwood on this team.

Also, the trade deadline is looming - a little more than one month away. Although the standings say the Rangers could be buyers, they really ought to be sellers. Fans won't be fooled by some quick fix to simply sneak into the playoffs so they can be swept away by another surge from a more talented team.

---The Graying Mantis

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What It Means To Be A Fan

While word spreads of the 'Fire Glen Sather' rally at The Garden (see post below) I simply ask.  Is there is something in the air?

The fans have known it for years.  The number of  loyal DARKreaders and new folks who visit this site every day have more than doubled from last season, which is a result of  'fans wanting CHANGE from a losing team.' 

The country collectively got a candidate named Barack Obama into the President's seat, so maybe this little rally is a small microcosm of the same political power of the people.  One can only hope.  The Dark Ranger will be there.

We are tired of the 'spoon fed' hockey goo shoved down our throats, the rising ticket prices, good loyal paying season-ticket holders who are stuck with tickets that nobody wants, allowing non-season ticket holders to pay money to be 'THE OFFICIAL FANS OF BLUESHIRT UNITED offering perks and events that season-ticket-holders do not have access to, and the rag-tag assembled teams that  never have more than a season to gel as a team, which might explain why we don't have any consistency as a franchise.

Tell us how things will change this year or the next.  Maybe the following is a start...

Things will change when we don't purchase the playoff tickets if they make it.

Things will change when we don't renew our seats for 2011.  

Things are already changing with the empty and unpaid-for corporate seats, and next year will be worse.  

Things will change when we stop listening to Joe & Sam.  

Our only leverage is to walk away from our commitment to you.  

Even iPhone application developers have created a FAN MISERY INDEX APPLICATION for the New York Rangers, which is one of the most depressing gadgets I've seen in a while.  The site outlines:

The Rangers Index App chronicles the day-to-day exploits of the Rangers – a team that has a fanatical fan base of historic proportions.  It’s more than just an interest – it’s an abiding fascination, skipping over into love. An obsession passed from generation to generation. It’s painful, bordering on ridiculously painful at times. It makes the heart pump and adrenaline flow. But, no matter what happens on or off the ice, your passion is renewed each and every time you even think about a game at the Garden.  A unique set of statistics, opinions, and news provides you with insight into what is going on with the Rangers – on and off the ice – and your level of misery or bliss – as a Rangers fan.
It's not quite the iPad announcement from this afternoon, but depending on the level of abuse you can take as a Blueshirts' fan (watching the games are enough for me) try out the app and let us know if this is something we should all get to make ourselves feel better.

Maybe change will come in the form of a win tonight!!?

Anyway, I love our team.  That is what it means to be a fan.  You can like Glen Sather or you can despise the guy.  Maybe you like a losing team.  Who cares?  But I think (and the readers of DARK) feel someone needs to be held accountable for these post-lockout Blues, fellow Blueshirts.  I say we start with Slats!  You?

See you at the rally.


Had Enough, Yet?!?!?

Any of the Garden Faithful should find the image above familiar. Countless times we've seen it used to rally fans at The Garden. The problem was it never caused anyone to march to the GM office and hold him accountable. We'll never say never...

I received this invite via Facebook. There are already about 127 confirmed attendees. If you're on Facebook, I invite you to look up the event. If you're not, well... I've found this bump worthy and included the details below.


Description: Tired of Mismanagement, Bad Contracts, being mired in Mediocrity and a lack of results? Come down to Madison Square Garden before the Rangers– Sabres game, join the rally, and let Mr. Jim Dolan know that you want Glen Sather FIRED immediately!!!!!!

Type: Sports - Pep Rally
Network: Global
Date: Sunday, March 7, 2010
Time: 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: The Steps Outside Madison Square Garden
Street: 1 Penn Plaza
City/Town: New York, NY

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HEART'S not Enough..


Artem Anisimov’ first 2-goal game opened some eyes from fans wondering when the youngster would finally live up to the potential he was rumored to have before being brought up to the Rangers. Last night, its hard to say he didn’t do his best to live up to that. His cut across the middle and using the defensemen as a screen was definitely pro move on the 1st goal and the effort on the second goal is something the Rangers should be looking for in their young players. Unfortunately , it wasn’t enough.

Official recap here , if you can stomach it.

So here we are again Ranger fans… A good effort from few players and the rest of the team that took turns being invisible. It was kind of expected, wasn’t it?  I mean we can all act surprised now and go, "I can’t believe that one got away from us…". Or we can admit to feelings going in that we were going to get run ragged by a Pens teams with a balanced offense and all that fancy stuff, like guys that stick to their defensive assignments, make intended passes and an offense that sets up immediately and follows the plan. Trivial details on a team such as ours, where our D-men do just fine being steamrolled along the boards every 5 seconds and our forwards break out like packs of Vietnamese soldiers trying to outrun a firestorm. All this complaining is still getting nowhere… Unfortunately, as fans, its sometimes all we’re left with and it is the tie that binds us. So maybe it’s time we start taking stock in this team.

Now before I start, I am not saying the defending cup champs (that were practically escorted to and through the cup finals) are the model team. In fact, taking a look around the league, there are a few young teams (like Chicago) that are showing a lot of promised and proving themselves a force to be reckoned with. So how is it that stalks of youth players are shooting up all over the league and ours is growing slowly and unevenly? It’s common knowledge that a seedling growing in the shadow of an old tree will never get enough sun to reach full size, if it survives at all.

Our youth right now is growing in the shadow of more experienced teammates that play a soft game. The money and the contracts dictate that these vet players are important. That might be true if there were used effectively to bring along and teach the fine points of the game to the youth. Instead, they dictate the pace of the games, and the pace of the practices and breaks (hear about anymore Tortorella bootcamp practices lately? Yea me neither.) Moreover, they are dictating the mood of this team on the ice. Earning a contract on star power and then playing the diva that has had their ego shattered by a tough crowd at the garden has gotten to some of these players and they are setting a bad example for their younger counterparts.

What’s more telling is that the younger players are full of energy with nowhere to go because they have no idea where they belong… in the play, on the ice, or on this team. Young Anisimov is a classic example of this. Last night, he either sat around waiting around for someone else to score or he took upon himself to do it. Too often these young kids are waiting for their older counterparts to lead the way only to hear the final buzzer and think “$hit… I could have done that…”. The vets on team don’t do crap because they are either afraid of getting yelled at or can’t be bothered. What is clear is that, they need to be turned before anyone else. It’s no secret that of the players that stood out on this team this season.... Callahan, Gaborik and Lundqvist aren’t waiting to be told to do what they know how to do … And between the other two, Avery yelled back at the coach during the game and Prospal told the coach where to stick his criticisms once upon a time in Tampa Bay.

The others however are looking for validation and correction and it needs to be dished out with authority. Young teams like the Pens, Chicago and LA have drafted well, but their players are made well aware of what they need to do to stay in the NHL and get ice time with their respective teams. How is it that rebellion of youth can accept guidence and take direction better than proven NHL players. The answer must be in the delivery of the directions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If We Can't Beat 'em, Make Fun of Them

 Maybe I'm being PREMATURE (he he eh eh) about not beating the Penguins tonight, but maybe the following 'separated at birth' headshot resemblance and the following (PG-13) link from will make you laugh and feel better.   Come 'on can play hockey but can you truly control your stick (he he he).   If you've already seen it, then enjoy it again.  Go here.


Tonight Against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Nationally Televised Game
Tonight on Versus

Tonight's Game

The Rangers face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in a matchup between Atlantic Division rivals. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 24-21-7 (55 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight's contest having been defeated by the Montreal Canadiens, 6-0, Saturday at the Bell Centre, and have now recorded a point in 14 of their last 19 contests (10-5-4). The Penguins enter the contest with a 32-20-1 (65 pts.) record, and rank fourth in the Eastern Conference. Following tonight's game, the Rangers will face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in their fourth and final matchup this season.

TV: Versus.
Radio: 1050 ESPN New York, XM 204

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confidence Officially Lost!

 NYR 0 / Montreal 6

Could we possibly say anything that we haven't already said, you haven't already read or, more importantly, can anything/anyone provide any stability to a team that hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up?  Herein lies the story of the New York Rangers.

The abomination of a game last night against the Montreal Canadiens exemplified a team that is much like a 100-year old house, rather than franchise -- one desperately in need of renovation, some new plumbing, and a complete internal makeover.  The team is slowly falling apart by the beams, a little crack here and there, and now the weathered Rangers are looking around to see why the roof is caving in.  The house of MSG is an eye sore. 

The Rangers were shut-out for the second straight game and for the fourth time in seven contests.  The Rangers have been outscored 8-0 in their two latest losses after winning their previous two by a combined score of 14-4.  Previously mentioned last post, after two huge wins taking the Canadiens 6-2 last week followed by an 8-2 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning, I think many of us fans were believing that this Rangers team may be turning a corner and a winning streak was foreshadowed.  After a physically limp performance against Philly on Thursday night and now a publicly humiliating undressing in front of the Montreal fans last night, as Rangers fans we find ourselves sitting in the shitter once again -- on that roller  coaster that never goes higher than the drops.  At least when you pay for an amusement park, you generally always get what you pay for.

Here's the horrendous recap (if you are a sick, perverted fan).
Here are John Tortorella's post-game remarks.
Here is a picture of Wade Redden's wedding, to remind us that he's really just a family man and a good guy. 

I think we can all say with certainty that our team has lost their confidence -- coach Tortorella has lost faith in just about everyone on the squad, which potentially puts him at risk for 'how long can Torts sustain' this level of accountability to his players and at what point will the players turn around and blame the coach.   Time will show.  Who else can you blame when you're stuck with Redden, Rozsival, and Chris Drury contracts? 

Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist is not to blame.  He was let down by his defenders.  Pulled after three goals, Matt Zaba debuted as a New York Ranger and played well.  Not well enough as three-goals were to follow.  Again, the D-sucked the biggie.

Pest Sean Avery was probably one of three players that actually worked harder than any last night, along with his CRASHmates Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros;  Ryan Callahan continues to work harder than anyone around him, our D-men were nothing but disappointing begging for the MSG brass to trade away one of our bloated Redden-Rozzy contracts (plus Dubinsky, etc) for a blueliner such as Sheldon Souray or Dion Phaneuf to provide stability to our blueline.   Dan Girardi and Rozzy were horrible last night.  If they can convince one of these veterans that NYC and the MSG-first-class treatment is enough to play for a hopeless team, more power to them....because SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE.  

For those reading this blog for the first time, note that this is a nice post after what we've lived through this season, so rest up readers of Blue, an easy team named the Pittsburgh Penguins await us tomorrow night at the Garden --- not a test of whether or not this is a turning point, but a test of scoring a goal and avoiding another shut-out.  We don't expect to win at this point, but only to survive.  At least we spend our evenings supporting Blue with low expectations --- because when they win, we begin to take back a little of that belief system we crave every time they deliver.
Happy Sunday and LET'S GO "J"....."E"....."T"....."S"...........JETS!!!


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Gutless Defeat The Heartless | PHI 2 NYR 1

I admit it. I started falling into believing that the Rangers had turned the corner. They had gone past the .500 mark, jumped up in the conference standings, solidified their defense, showed some more aggression (a fight starring Wade Redden, for God’s sake) and started getting increased and balanced scoring.

Memories of the start of the season flashed in front of my eyes as I watched the goal lamps light and light and light again – 14 times over 5 periods. But that surge disappeared under a hail of fists from Carcillo on Marian Gaborik at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night.

While most of us thought (or realistically, hoped) that the Rangers’ offense had found a groove, the Philadelphia Flyers exposed the shortcomings of that offense, and worse, exposed the lack of grit and team heart that we have known has been missing for several years or even decades from the Broadway Blues. Ray Emery, in his 3rd start since abdominal surgery, “outdueled” Henrik Lundqvist 2-0 at the Wachovia Center. Truth be told, the game was not that close and Emery could have just as easily earned that shutout from his hospital bed than stationed in goal. The official recap is here.

To Henrik’s credit, for the 11th straight game, he allowed 2 or fewer goals. To the Rangers’ discredit, they were shut out for the 2nd straight game by the Flyers. Even though they scored a goal late in the 3rd, it occurred right after the final horn sounded thus preserving Emery's shutout. In some ways, that goal would have made the score respectable and would have been totally undeserved. So now the Rangers have not scored for nearly 150 minutes against the Flyers.

The Rangers left something
behind in traveling to Philly.
The game had some unfortunate symmetry - the Rangers’ ineffective fisticuff ineptitude in the 2nd period was sandwiched by two periods of offensive ineptitude. The Rangers needed to come out flying in the first to maintain their recent momentum and get the Flyers off balance. But the Flyers wasted no time disrupting the Rangers’ flow. You could sense early on that the Rangers had no timing or momentum and it’s not for lack of trying, it was attributable to the Flyers’ exploitation of their size and territory.

The Flyers’ initial score was created by a tantalizingly slow pass from Chris Pronger in front of the net that traveled up the center of the ice to a streaking James van Riemsdyk at the red line. Henrik stopped the breakaway attempt but Marc Staal failed to mark him and he was able to get the rebound, make a move and backhand the puck over the defenseless goalie with 4:50 to go in the first. At that point, I knew if the Rangers did not score quickly, that goal might stand up.
Lack of Heart on Aisle 2.
The Flyer Ice Girls were needed to clean up
the Rangers' lack of heart that was spilled
over the ice during the second period.

In the second period, the Flyers decided to throw their weight around seeing that the Rangers were no offensive threat. With nearly 6 minutes gone, a scrum developed by the Philly goal and as Brandon Dubinsky and Ole-Kristian Tolleson battled. At that point, Dan Carcillo, the Flyer’s 21st century of Dave Schultz, decided that he needed to exercise his manhood by targeting Marian Gaborik. Marian took the bait and dropped his gloves and took the inevitable pounding. The Ranger players were spectators and did nothing to protect their only legitimate scorer.

Dan Girardi, standing nearby, was the guiltiest but was fearful of drawing another penalty because he knew that Dubinsky had just been tagged with one. Is this what Tortorella’s system has wrought – players are afraid to be hockey players? Tortorella, the Carcillo of coaches in picking on beat reporters, does not let his players play to their strengths – witness the season-long (until recently) emasculation of Sean Avery. And other teams are well aware of it and take liberties.

Human Targets. Avery continues to be targeted
by the league and the refs. Other teams have
targeted Gaborik in order to stop the Rangers.

Avery decided it was time to defend his team as he fought Scott Hartnell and then Carcillo just before the end of the period. Unfortunately, the Rangers were not energized and Gaborik took an ill-timed slashing penalty with a minute to go. With only a couple of seconds to go in the second period (2.5 seconds to be precise), the Rangers could not clear their zone and Marc Richard’s shot from the blue line found Marc Staal’s right skate and deflected behind Lundqvist. The game was over, the Rangers’ fight was over. Another lost opportunity for points against a team pursuing them in the standings. The third period started off with a fight between two Aarons Voros and Asham but then the Rangers whimpered away for the remainder of the game.

Belated payback. Avery takes on Carcillo.
Much has been written about the fights during the game and the post-game “fight” between the Ranger’s coach, John Tortorella, and Larry Brooks, the opportunistic scribe at one of the NY tabloids. See the post below for the YouTube clip of Tort’s press conference (and I highly recommend reading the comments to that post as well).

Fans on blog sites have savaged Dan Girardi for looking the other way during the Gaborik fight. Girardi has realized his mistake. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ tv team apparently has no concept about what real hockey is about as they sanitized the events unfurling before their eyes even to the extent of extolling Girardi's efforts during the game.

Forutnately, I was listening to the game on radio as Dave Maloney groaned and ranted about, as the play occurred in real time, Girardi’s failure to come to Marian's defense. Who do I give more credence to -- a former Ranger captain about proper decorum or the homer pansies sitting in the tv booth? It’s amazing that the Ranger organization would subject fans to such idiocy – we are not blind. Do I have to start to hope that VS or NBC carries all Ranger games?

"I have your back. Not." Gaborik was the first to congratulate
Girardi after Dan scored against Tampa on Tuesday.
Girardi was the first to avoid jumping in to protect Marian.

Back to the lack of physicality – for all the criticism of Dan Girardi – no other Ranger moved in as well. But they all had something to say AFTER the game. Really -- what do we expect – the Rangers are a small team that relies on speed and finesse to succeed. Montreal and Tampa Bay put up the slimmest of opposition and yielded wide swaths of ice, so it was no surprise that the Rangers dominated. But when teams challenge the Blueshirts on breakouts or jam them at the blue line or clog the neutral zone, the Rangers cannot succeed. They are not big or mean enough to compete. They try but they only excel when unchallenged and show frustration at the first or second signs of physical opposition.

The Rangers were reaching and never
sustained any pressure on Ray Emery all night.

As Thursday’s game demonstrated, the Rangers simply do not have bangers on the blue line like Pronger and they don’t have large wingers like Richards the way Philly does. They don’t have physical intimidators that police the ice.

Avery has a target on him. Voros tries but he is no Colton Orr. Brashear is not even Voros (who also has outscored the Donald). Add all this up and you can see why the Rangers will not win a playoff series against Philly or New Jersey or Buffalo or Washington or Pittsburgh or Ottawa or probably any Western team. By game 5, the Rangers are either beaten up or worn down as we saw in last year’s playoffs.

Thank goodness the Rangers get to see Montreal again on Saturday night affair in Quebec for Hockey Night in Canada. Let's see whether the Philly game is an aberration. Let's see what happens the first time that the Habs take liberties in front of their own home crowd with Henrik or another Ranger. Last Sunday night's game at MSG was a physical affair that the Rangers ended up dominating because Montreal cannot back up its hitting with any defense. Can the Rangers take their MSG scoring show on the road and erase Thursday night's performance? It will go a long way of showing how truly resilient the Rangers are and whether the Flyers game will have any longlasting effects.

---The Graying Mantis

John Tortorella - Post Game - Worth Watching

Wednesday, January 20, 2010



HOLY SH….*deep breath* Hot Damn, Ranger fans. Who’d have thunk it. Fo r the second game in a row, we score over five. This time at the expense of those cabana boys from Tampa Bay.

Now, I’m not a stats guys but even I can’t contain a smile when looking at the numbers. See for yourself with the official recap.

Sixteen different Rangers registering at least one point over 3 periods, punctuated the stunning performance in front of a ecstatic Garden Faithful (and the first meeting between the The Dark Ranger's scribes) hoping to stretch the stomping of Montreal beyond Sunday’s game. The first surreal period started quickly with a Voros taking on the PIM league leader, Konopka in a lively scrap that got the crowd into it quickly and got the ball rolling on a ride that wouldn’t end for 60 min.

In contrast to many games past where seemingly no Ranger wanted to step up, there were several players tonight that all in their own way, put the team on their backs and carried us to victory. With the first goal of the game, Dubinsky would take his first part of the his Gordie Howe Hat-trick. The assists would come from two players that had their own missions. Marian Gaborik getting his first of 4 assists on the night and Vinny Prospal who would continue his Vendetta against the Tampa team that bought him out and cast him aside just months earlier. As the goals rolled forth, each with more surprise, bewildered Blueshirt fans looked skyward toward the jumbotron in amazement as the names exploded with the spontaneity and spectacle of a fireworks display on the Hudson.

The noise came booming over the loud speakers, “RANGERS GOAL, HIS # of the season SCORED BY CHRIS DRURY; ...DAN GIRARDI; …ENVER LISIN; …AARON VOROS; …MARC STAAL; …CHRISTOPHER HIGGINS” . With each name and assist announcement, the faces flashed across the screen, the cheers reached deafening levels and the faith grew and blue hearts swelled with pride. After a second fight with Malone gave Voros less to celebrate and Dubinsky got the better of Halpern to complete his Howe hatter, the minutes would wind down and we clamored for more and when it was all over a deep cleansing breath could be heard across the stands, as we not only survived another game, but we commanded a win for the second time in a row and rather than be surprised at ourselves… the team reaffirmed that its how things should be and further distanced themselves from the fluke accusations after the Montreal game.

So how good were we? Better than good enough. Granted, the wilting Tampa Bay defense may have fallen by the wayside, early… but amazingly as it sounds, this was not a game of goals. This, much like the come back win over the Habs was bout the passion. Good things happen, when this team shows up ready to defend their home and each other. For some, maybe its superstition… Henrik’s white liberty helmet design is 2 for 2 and got its mojo working. I’ll chalk it up to some scoring allowing the King to kick back and little and play more relaxed… even though he’s been stellar even when the scoring was scarce. The point is everyone will find their own reason for the improved play. I’ll take whatever works for each player and keeps it going. Can we stretch this beyond 2 games? I’ll go out a limb and say we can carry this all the way to the Olympic break. We’ve done it before. The challenge is to carry it through the Olympic break and not come back cold. Ok, I maybe getting ahead of myself here (can you blame me? 14 fckin goals in 2 games!!!!) Ok, instead I’ll end this one by jotting down some notes and observations about our winning formula over the past 2 games.

- The passion. – Start early. Take advantage of opportunities to collect yourselves and regroup. Screaming at a player. Screaming back at a coach. Its all constructive criticism, right? Take it and do something with it.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your role. Handle your business and then don’t be afraid to chip in and handle somebody else's. There are many sides to a hockey player and even more to a New York Ranger. Knowing/Showing only one of them doesn’t make you either.
- The Mystery fighter. First Redden, then Dubinsky...Who makes a stand today on behalf of every player that won't? You can’t win them all and as long as you’re not fighting for yourself, your teammates will never let you feel like you lost em all either. Just ask Voros.
- Guard your goalie. Defenseman is a position but DEFENSE is a responsibility of every player.
- Let the players play. They have to discover who they are before they’ll believe who the coach says they’re not.


- J_Undisputed

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Limited Tickets Available For Our Sold-Out Game!

As a die-hard NY Rangers fan and a season-ticket holder for a decade, I am alarmed at this offer below that shows up on the site every game and every piece of RANGERS INSIDER email correspondence I receive daily:

A limited number of tickets are available for tonight's Rangers-Lightning game. Be there for the follow-up to Sunday, as  head coach John Tortorella looks for his first career win vs. the Tampa Bay team he once led to a Stanley Cup championship.

It seems that every game this season a limited number of tickets are becoming available for purchase (and a pretty lame sales pitch behind it), 'direct marketing' from a supposed SOLD-OUT venue called The Garden --- and if this is happening to the second most successful hockey franchise in the league, then I cannot imagine how the expansion teams are dealing with 30% capacity houses (see Phoenix, Carolina, Atlanta).  The economy.  The economy.  They scream.  I agree, but maybe it starts from the 'inside to out' and how you build and maintain a franchise.  Folks still have cash in hand for hockey...good hockey rather, so think about it.

Also, stop friggin undercutting my loyalty with this BLUESHIRTS UNITED bullshit --- how non season tickets holders can buy into privileges that no one else can get.  It's insulting to your loyalists, Garden management.  Don't make OFFICIAL BLUESHIRT FANS over the Garden Faithful -- because we are the ones that come every year despite the rag-tag rosters you assemble, we are the ones to rub your backs, we are the ones that serve your food.  Most importantly, as a whole we are the ones that can get you fired!

And by the way, if anyone wants tickets , make sure to come to the DARKside first (because no one is buying 'em from me either).  Support the fan first. ;)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Sheldon Souray a Blueshirt?

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports the following: He believes the NY Rangers might have interest in Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray, although they’d have to shed the salaries of either Michal Roszival or Wade Redden to make cap space. LeBrun suggests the only real option would be to demote Redden to the minors and “eat” his contract…

TDR comments: Obviously, this is the kind of news we've been looking for all season -- that is, if it were to happen.  It's refreshing to know that Slats and Co. are attempting to improve the team.  Our weak at the knees blueline has not only tested the limits of elite goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist, but have downright fallen apart when you least expect it.  Sheldon Souray wearing Ranger's Blue would support the up-and-coming talents in Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy - adding a higher caliber veteran presence in the locker-room, other than the overpaid and underachieving Wade Redden and Michal Roszival.  It all sounds too good to be true.  Additionally, given Souray's family resides in southern California, it is unlikely that he'll pack it all up and move East.  

On a side, check out Souray's ex-wife Angelica Bridges head shot.  What pretty eyes you must be thinking?  Souray and Bridges separated last year.  Maybe she is the reason why Souray's season has been out-of-whack and a trade is possible!!?

Blueshirts Actually Make Larry Brooks Say Nice Things

Sat.  NYR 1, St. Louis Blues 4
Sun  NYR 6, Montreal 2

Take a breather folks and fellow Blueshirt Groupies, if your weekend was at Bernies like mine then you've arrived back to a hairball of emotions.  Having traveled the last six days (and missing posts -- sorry fans, it won't happen again - I promise) I woke up this morning to Larry Brooks of The Post saying great things about The Rangers after their blitzkrieg of goals against the Montreal Canadiens last night.  When have you heard the 'Torts-busting-his-chops-unhappy-since-1994' Rangers columnist says nice things like the following?:
"First the Rangers rocked.  Yes, the Rangers. And then the Rangers rolled to six consecutive goals over the final 40 minutes to bury the Canadiens at the Garden 6-2 in a rollicking game of old-time hockey. Yes, the Rangers." -Larry Brooks, NY Post

So there you have it from our creepy hockey uncle of The Post.  Take a breath.  Relax.  Enjoy.  Keep him away from your kids. 

Saturday official recap here (no need because the game sucked)
Sunday official recap here.  (no need...just believe!)

Having only seen the Rangers in 60 late last night post-game, I cannot speak to much of the above with authority, but friends at The Garden last night proclaimed it even more exciting than the shootout loss to New Jersey last week -- two equally exciting games, but this time with goals!!!!   Sam Rosen of the MSG network declared post-game the 'end of the Rangers drought', which frankly is jumping a little ahead of himself.  Yes...we are hopeful fans and it is optimistic to think our Boys in Blue have gained back a smidgen of confidence in their skate -- LOOK MA, THEY CAN SCORE!, but another 3-4 games of scoring more than 2 or 3 goals would be worthy of such proclamation. 

So for fun here's a friend's take on last night at The Garden (not a literal translation, but I tried best to articulate):

"First period, F*ck this shit, Michael Cammaleri and Brian Gionta score first period goals - that was a high-stick goal...friggin refs...calling it their way, Henrik is off his rocker again.  What is it with this team already?  Next thing you know Mara and Gomez are going to score against The King, I mean...the Prince....  (Second period & third period) Wow Callahan just scored from a delicious Gaborik feed....maybe there's hope, but another one of these merry-go-round games when.....Mama help me, Dubinsky just scored throwing himself to the net...and another....WHAT?  Lisin defending himself AND WADE REDDEN DROPPING THE GLOVES??????  AM I DREAMING?  WHAT IS HAPPENING?  CAN YOU FRIGGIN BELIEVE THIS?  GRIND MY GEARS, TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!  ANOTHER SWEETIE BY CALLAHAN... ANOTHER BY GABORIK..... PULL MY FINGER, CAUSE I GOTTA SHIT SO BAD I CAN TASTE IT!  LET'S GO RANGERS!!!  (air drum, air drum, air drum)....LET'S GO RANGERS?   WHAT?  CHRIS DRURY SCORED 2 ON 1?  THE CLUTCH MAN ROCKS.....send this guy to the Olympics!"

Where is this fist going?  It wasn't pretty, but Redden dropped 'em (I mean the gloves)

You have to appreciate die-hard Rangers fans.   I know, just like the guy who sits next to your seats.

Here's an alarming fact from last night. The Rangers snapped a goal-scoring drought at home of 147:02. The six goals were one more than they had in the previous five games combined, five more than they scored over their 0-2-1 run in the previous three games and the most since they had seven against Columbus at home Nov. 23. So there is much to be done and much more to prove to themselves before we can rejoice our new scoring Blueshirts of 2010. Against an Original Six rival like the Montreal Canadiens, a blowout of this magnitude was atypical of how we've historically played this team -- a role reversal, so we will watch with enthusiasm as we play the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night (Tuesday). As both teams have shown 'the skids' over the last months, the Rangers sit with a 23-19-7 record sitting unstable in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. We are dreadfully two losses away from 11th place in the standings so a win tomorrow night would be nice to further the distance from the non-playoffs.

Sean Avery rocks.  Brushed off two penalties in the first period, shouted back at Torts and ignored him and lit it up to defend everyone on the team.  He defies his reputation and plays great old time hockey.  Dubinsky and Callahan are two of the hardest working guys on the team --- we are finally seeing the potential....may it continue God willing.

So that's the crude recap from a killer game folks.  Check in post-Tuesday as J_Undisputed will hopefully say 'Larry Brooks'-like things about our beloved Blue-Men post-game.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Brodeurs 2, Rangers 0

Stings doesn't it, Ranger brethren. 2 nights a row we were shut out by Brodeurs, first by the flopper and now by an AHL goalie in his second NHL game. While many of us took solace in the effort we put forth against the division/conference leading devils. (and truth be told.... niether goalie deserved to lose that game... ok maybe Marty did because he's a bit of whining d**che.. but anyway I digress.) Either way, from a night where the fans of this team could settle for the point from getting to overtime and the self satisfaction that came with hard work... Last night was a rude awakening and the Ottawa Senators came to town to tell us that our best wasn't good enough. Facing a team that was three points behind us in the standings, we failed to show... and rightfully at the end of the first we should of and could have been down 4-0 if not for the specatcular play of Henrik Lunqvist, who grew eyes in the back of his head and had a full time job just keeping himself aware of the presence of former Ranger, Alex Kovalev.

Read the official recap, here

Perhaps we were just worn out from all that work we did against Jersey... but more over, my logic and history as a Ranger fan, tells me that this team was riding high on the effort... and stumbled into an ambush last night as we prepared to face an Ottawa team that was in the midst of a losing streak and 3 points behind us in the standings. I'm not accusing any of this team with being happy with a loss, but I know if theres one thing that tends to be more consistent on my team, more than anything else, it's playing up or down to the level of competition. We can beat the best of the league on one night and lose to the worst the next. Perhaps it would be best if we kept the schedule a mystery to the team so they would have to prepare for the worst case scenario all the time.

Our boys in blue stunk up the place pretty bad in the first and heads snapped and jerked in different directions trying to catch a glimpes of the Ottawa players whizzing past them with the puck. Bewildered and alone, our blueshirts floated aimlessly hoping for a break. There were faint signs of life after the Ottawa skaters did our job for us and cycled the puck back into their zone and turned it over. We were quick to jump on those wells of opportunity, hacking away in the Ottawa crease only to come up dry. Was it the bizzaro Brodeur in goal for the Sens that turned us away? Nay... In fact, it was hard to find any Rangers shots that made it past the forest of legs gathered in front of the Ottawa net or could be taken before being turned over on an intercepted pass. In essence this was a typical Rangers game vs. the Sens; where the Sens cruised the passing lanes, salivating and waiting for the next pass from a paniced Ranger. Add to that, the typical blindsiding display from Chris Niel as he riccocheted from corner to corner pasting Ranger after Ranger .... after Ranger (Girardi and Anisimov are probably wearing smelling salt necklaces today to stay vertical). Ok I'll admit I'm jealous and wish Niel has taken our offer in the off season. But its ok, because we got Brashear... and he struck fear into to the Ottawa team last night by being powerslammed to the ice in a early scrap with Carker and showed his resiliance by finishing what he started and getting in a few noogies before he was reintroduced to the ice by a Carkner right hand in round 2.... making himself the example of what happens to Rangers that fight back... (a secret that all the other Rangers must have known and kept from Brashear)

Yes the tone was set early in the first, kiddies. As our saving grace in net gave coach Torts enough time to call one of those early time outs to attempt to right the ship.. Tortorella, probably 2 steps from the looney bin after watching the horror unfold in front of him, probably let out a nice.. "WTF?!?!?" and let everyone gathered around the bench, absorb it and take a moment for a self reflection. Really, what else could be said at that point? Even the most elementary of observations would have been helpful, yet so comical. "Get the puck" ... "Hit back" ... "stop turning it over" or maybe just a simple "TRY HARDER!"

Yes in fact, if I had to choose a theme of the night and of the lesson learned from last night's demoralizing brutality... It would be try harder. Because sometimes your best isn't enough. (no matter how many times its claimed and blurted into microphones around the lockeroom after losses like last nights tha the team did it's best.).

I can't begin to even speak about the 2nd and 3rd period, though we did seem considerably more concious in the final stanza of the game. I could be guilty of jixing us with remark to the other dark writers about the assignment of covering the game and the all heartstopping moment that occurs whenever Kovalev makes a return to the garden, gets the puck on his stick and we scream NOOOOOOO! in slow motion. I strangely get the feeling though that I am not alone in that sentiment and if its something you were thinking too, its just as much your fault as it is mine.

Your partner in Crime,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

All Hockey Games Should Be This Good (and we lost)

 NYR 0,  NJD 1 ,  SO

All season long we've been talking about the importance of the rivalry games, regardless of where you are in the standings there should be a higher level of 'bringing to the game' when our Blueshirts are playing the NJ Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, NY Islanders and Penguins.  Last night in the Garden, we saw just that.

104 combined shots in regulation, overtime and shootout.  1 goal between us.  Official recap here.

Though New Jersey arrived the winner of the skills competition 'a.k.a. the shootout' Marty Brodeur cannot be declared the better goalie of the night.  In fact, NJ's coach Lemaire declared that the puck last night should be split between both Marty and Henrik, admitting the game as one of the most exciting displays of elite goalie performance in years.  Not only that, but we were treated to some of our usual antics between Sean Avery and Devil's goalie Marty Brodeur.  During the second period -- and for anyone watching the tv version or the highlights, which I don't think they made it -- while the double Rangers penalty was called on one side of the ice, on the opposite side of the ice, Avery was facing Brodeur and exchanging pleasant conversation.  He literally stood before Marty and verbally shanked him.  Obviously, it had no effect on Joisey's game but it was fun to watch and be there for the subsequent AVERY CHANTS.   Henrik and Marty were stellar on both sides of the ice throughout the game, and any hockey fan missed treat if you didn't see the game.
Fatso spoke, "It was a fun game," Brodeur said. "Both goalies had to be excellent to push it to overtime. Even in overtime, both of us made a couple of saves. The shootout pushed it even more to the limit. I know people like offense, but it was a pretty entertaining game. It was thrilling. I had to shut them down to win. It was just one of those games."
King Henrik simply remarked, "The shootout is fun, but it is a lottery sometimes."
We should all be very proud of our New York Rangers.  As long as they continue to play like this...our spirits will be up and we'll all start thinking playoffs.  Currently we are tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference, with an abundance of teams climbing right up our backside.  Careful Torts -- something might pinch you in a bad way.  It's The Dark Ranger reminding you that the trade deadline approaches and you still have the opportunity to enhance the team.  psssttt....just keep Slats out of it.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Code Blue as Ice Cold Rangers Leave Chad Hanging | ATL 2, NYR 1 (SHO)

Coming into their third match with the Atlanta Thrashers this season, the Rangers and Atlanta were two teams going in different directions. The Rangers were a quiet 7-1-2 in their last 10 games while Atlanta was struggling in the midst of a 9 game winless streak.

As the puck hit the ice, the Rangers were 17-0-1 when they led going into the 3rd period while Atlanta was 0-14-2 when trailing after 2 periods.

Needless to say, all these trends were broken as Atlanta rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third and ultimately prevailed after 5 shootout rounds, 2-1. Official game recap is here.

This game portended to be and played out like so many other road games that we have seen over the past couple of seasons where the Ranger back-up goalie opened the game. For the first 2 periods, he played well, the Rangers defense kept opponents off the scoreboard and the offense gave the team a 1 goal lead going into the final period.

Then comes the third period and we watch open-jawed in horror as the roof caves in, when the offense disappears and the defense becomes more porous than the NY Football Giants secondary leading to a rout for the hosts. We have seen it in Toronto, Dallas, Uniondale and Pittsburgh over the past couple of seasons to name the ones that come to mind immediately. Steve Valiquette's own third period meltdowns in these games are the primary reason he now is backstopping the Wolfpack.

Quick, call FEMA! What a joke -- An inch of snow
shut down Atlanta. I saw more snow in Scarface.

So trying to avoid a repeat of history, Atlanta was the destination for the debut of Chad Johnson as a starting goalie against the struggling Thrashers.

Adding to the dramatic setting was the plight of Atlanta -- a metropolis being shut down faster than Jets CB Darrelle Revis clamping down on football's Chad Johnson in the face of the horrific effect of a devastating Thursday afternoon snowstorm that shut down the city and schools for Friday and led to less than 50% attendance at the game with the Rangers. BTW, anyone notice that only an inch of snow induced the panic?

The game followed the usual script -- during the first 2 periods, Chad Johnson never wilted under steady pressure from the hosts and did his level best to maintain a 1-0 lead provided by Enver Lisin. He even assisted on that goal. He responded well to the non-stop pressure of a Thrasher power play in the first that was relentless in launching shots from all directions. He showed great quickness in moving from one side to the other in denying two point-blank opportunities in the crease by Peverley and Jimmy Slater.

Building on the momentum of an early 2nd period power play, Lisin
flipped a Artem Anisimov pass into the top of the net a
mere 10 seconds after the power play expired with 2:39 gone in the 2nd.

Johnson was superb turning aside 24 shots in the first two periods. In the 2nd period, he stopped Slater on a 2 on 1 shorthanded opportunity and then stoned Evander Kane on another one. The Rangers defense was focused and did some good work clearing the crease and Marc Staal cleared a puck that eluded Johnson before it crossed the goal line.

Kane disabled by Johnson in the 2nd.
Watching Johnson's confidence and economy of movement, I started to feel hopeful (not confident) that the Blueshirts might add another win to their recent streak and Johnson might have a shutout in his first game as starter.

But just like old times with Steve Valiquette, the 3rd period was a bit of a different story. Chad continued to excel but you noticed (just like the other Valiquette games), the offense disappeared and the defense started to fade.

The Rangers' offense which has been playing
better recently lost its footing against Atlanta.

The Thrashers started to break through the defense more frequently and get better scoring opportunities. Johnson continued to repel their efforts. Meanwhile, Rangers were missing the few opportunities that presented themselves.

Ultimately, despite his overall great recent play on the penalty kill, Brian Boyle was undressed of the puck at the center red line by Pavel Urbina who found Jimmy Slater streaking across the blue line. After receiving a beautiful feed in stride, Slater moved in on Johnson splitting 3 defenders and beat Johnson between the pads with a quick move.

Jimmy Slater gives thanks to Urbina for the assist.

Johnson showed some grit by using his
stick to deflect not only pucks but also opponents.

Still, Johnson never wilted and did not give up the deciding goal either in the final 14 minutes of the game or in overtime. In all, he made 31 saves during the game. Of course, the skill competition followed and for the 2nd time this season, the Rangers succumbed in the shootout after 5 rounds by the score 2-1, which matched the final score of the game. So now the Rangers are 0-1-2 this season against Atlanta and Thrtasher goalie Johan Hedberg is 3-0 this season.

The Rangers travel to Boston for a Saturday matinee. They started this week with their stirring 3-2 victory on Monday night against the Bruins at MSG. They have garnered points in 10 of their last 11 games and have caught Ottawa for 6th place in the Eastern Conference.

Based on how much noise there was during the Rangers' slump in December including the public benching of Wade Redden, it's interesting to see how much better the Rangers have been playing and yet the fans have been very quiet. It will take a while for skeptical fans to have faith in this team that its recent play is not a mirage like the first 10 games of the season.

A couple of things have been fairly consistent over the past few weeks (except for a couple of real bombs) -- the PK and goaltending. Those have been the reasons the Rangers are in most of their games. The recent increased scoring and the distribution of goals have been critical to the Rangers' improved record.

While getting a victory would have been nice, at least the Rangers got a point on the road and gave Henrik Lundqvist a much-needed night off. It's not worth complaining during a 7-1-3 stretch.

---The Graying Mantis

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