Monday, February 22, 2010

Holyyy Shi...Jagr receives NHL reminder.

Dear Mr Jagr,
I hope this letter finds you in good health after that hit you received courtesy of Mr. Ovechkin in the Olympic games. If it doesn't, I wouldn't be surprised. You probably don't remember me. In fact, we've never met... which is why you probably never noticed, but during your tenure as a New York Ranger, you and I never really got along. No matter, that's water under the bridge at this point...(I'd prefer we kept it that way).

In case you're thinking of making a storybook NHL comeback, I want to take this opportunity to point out that the aforementioned hit was a reminder of how much the NHL has changed since your heydays. In fact, as you may remember from your last season, the NHL is quite different and it is indeed quite common for players to be blindsided at open nice and recieve shots to the head from a leaping NHL posterboy that is notorious for leaving his feet on checks. Repurcussions? No, unfortunately...not for him anyway; you however could find yourself the winner in a sweepstakes for a free CAT scan though.

What's that? What if you're more ornery than we all remember and decide you to handle things yourself with some good old frontier style justice? Not likely, I'm'd have about .5 seconds to grab on and start swinging before a teammate or several teammates and appointed bodygaurds came to his rescue. In fact your only recourse might be to grab your knee, writhe in pain, start screaming "MY KNEE, MY KNEE!!! I WAS A LEGEND!" and don't stop till he's suspended for about 2 games. Huh? "Intent to injure" should gain a longer suspension? *Snicker* You'll have to excuse me... You'll find that according to the reinterpretations of the NHL rulebook, you were unfortunately posing a threat and asking for that kind of hit, by simply being on the ice at the same time. I know it must sound a little far fetched... but please keep in mind that these interpretations come from the same office that brought expansion teams to most unlikely of places and changed the intepretations on the fly in the middle of the playoffs, because another posterboy goalie didn't like a stick being waved in front of him.

Considering the aforementioned facts, I would urge you to enjoy your KHL based retirement, the money that comes with it, your health and status as a legend in the NHL.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Garden Says Stay Home

Ah..the Olympic Break and a break from all Rangers coverage for you, the readers, and us bloggers.  With the New York Rangers coming off a stunning two wins, one against the defending Stanley Cup champions and the other a surging Tampa Bay Lightning -- NY management decided it was time to recognize the season-ticket holders and send a reminding gift that the playoffs and renewals are soon coming, an expression that The Garden treats us well and takes care of it's own.

So today I received a NYR glass popcorn maker.    We couldn't make this shit up.

I actually received this today dear readers of DARK (along with another 12,000 people today), accompanied with a Ranger bag of popcorn to go along with it.  This was an odd choice.  (also because it strangely looks like a Blueshirt Bong -- see picture).  In other words, the message I received today was...


News flash to the MSG marketing department:  I always appreciate the free stuff, but perhaps a New York Rangers special jersey, hat, t-shirt, a commemorative Olympic program showcasing the Blueshirt talent would have been more appropriate at this point in the season, or even better, something I can bring to the Garden to show my support and show my friends and family as I further exploit your brand?

Folks in Garden Blue, popcorn takes extreme heat to pop, so maybe this is perhaps symbolic of John Tortorella and a non-popping team?  Maybe you are sending us unedible kernels?  This is a perfect parallel to how the fanbase feels about the team this year as we continue to shell out economy-shaken-hard-earned-dollars for a gesture created by young MSG marketing interns posing "everyone has a hat...!  so why not a Blueshirt diaper bag? a Blueshirt battery charger? HEY a popcorn maker!!!!!"  Think about what these expensive novelties have to do with the fan.  Come on.  Be smarter.

We are looking for value as season-ticket holders.  Save the cute expensive gifts as we are ultimately paying for them.  If you really want to think about your fans, lower the ticket prices.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Henrik & Erik Lead Blueshirts to Olympic Break with Electrifying Performances | NYR 5 Tampa 2

Coming off the inspired win in Pittsburgh, it would not have been the least bit surprising to see the Rangers mail in another effort at home.

True love. Unlike the nonsensical phony marriage proposal (see below), the love showered on the Rangers by the fans was genuine as the Rangers won 2 hard-fought contests leading to the Olympic break.

After the first period, filled with 2 Tampa goals on deflections and 2 half-hearted fights, it seemed that the Rangers were headed for another dreary loss especially since they were missing their leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, and young defenseman, Michael Del Zotto, both recuperating from ugly encounters with a skate blade.

In fact, the Valentine's Day matinee match-up at MSG presented a microcosm of everything we have seen so far in the Rangers' play during the past few months -- a flat first period, an energized 2nd period, a spirited comeback inspired by aggressive forechecking and opportunistic scoring (under the auspices of Sean Avery and Erik Christensen) and another spectacular goaltending performance by Swedish Olympian, Henrik Lundqvist.

What was different from so many Ranger games (especially at home) was the Rangers' ability to come back and not look back as they overcame a 2-0 deficit with 4 goals in the 2nd period and held the Lightning scoreless after the first period. Most importantly, the Rangers scored 8 goals during the past 2 games without the presence of Marian Gaborik, as the entire team stepped up to provide the ancillary scoring the team desperately needs to be a threat in the conference.

At the end of the game, Ranger fans could sing a happy farewell tune to their warriors as the Rangers had won 5-2 and stayed within hailing distance of the 7th and 8th playoff spots. The official recap is here.

Henrik's stellar play kept NY in the game in the first
period until the offense awoke to topple the Lightning.
The win was ensured by several nifty saves that fans
have grown accustomed to and protected the precious
lead until the final horn. In their last 2 appearances in NY,
the Lightning have been outscored 13-4.

The first period was indeed dreary. The Rangers permitted the Lightning to dominate the ice which led to two goals, scored by Erik Stamkos and Steve Downie both on deflections that left Henrik frustrated and the fans deflated. Not even the attempts by Brandon Prust and Aaron Voros to fight seemed to pick up the Rangers.

The Lightning had played the previous afternoon in Long Island and were using a tried and true tactic to snatch a win here -- playing hard early, scoring early and then seek to maintain the lead when the fatigue of the back-to-back might settle in against a more rested team.

As of the end of the first period, it seemed like that the Tampa Bay stratagem was being executed to perfection. That the Rangers were only down a couple of goals was thanks to the continued inspired play of their goalie who thwarted several other opportunities that could have given Tampa Bay a legitimate 3 or 4 goal lead.

Starting the second period, the Rangers forechecked hard right from the opening whistle and drove to the net -- and thanks to the efforts of Sean Avery and Erik Christensen who combined to score 3 goals in that period -- they made some nice plays in the offensive end in the final 2 periods. Within the first 90 seconds of the period, Artem Anisimov stole an ill-considered clearing pass at the Tampa blue line and delivered a beautiful lead pass to Avery that sprang him for an umimpeded shot. Kurtis Foster hooked him and the refs immediately awarded a penalty shot that Sean converted to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Game changer. On the penalty shot, Avery skated down the right side,
moved way over to the left, and drew goalie Mike Smith out of position before
shooting top shelf from a tough angle.

Said Lundqvist: "Avery's shot was a great move. I challenged him a couple of
times in practice and told him he would never do that move in a game. It was awesome."

The Rangers became energized and the Lightning sloppy. About 4 minutes later, Christensen used his size to drive to the net. During a 4 on 4, he went behind the Tampa goal and fed the puck to Staal at the left corner of the net. He missed a shot but Vinny Prospal swooped in to score the game tying goal at the 6 minute mark.

With 8 minutes to go, Prospal found Christensen who shot the puck past Smith to give the Rangers the lead at 3-2. Within 2 minutes after that goal, the Lightning swarmed the Rangers' end and mounted serious pressure to try to tie the score. Christensen calmly picked up the loose puck and skated into the Tampa offensive zone and again used his size to zip a shot past Smith on the stick side to give the Rangers a 2 goal cushion. The Rangers were beneficiaries of quality goals made as a result of strong play in the offensive zone. There was nothing cheap about any of the 5 goals, including Drury's empty netter when he anticipated a pass near the blue line and snapped it into the empty goal. That point was Drury's 600th of his career.

When Henrik's view of the action was unimpeded,
he stopped the Lightning time and time again including Martin St. Louis.

But this glove save on Nate Thompson, a mere 15 seconds after Avery's penalty
shot kept the Rangers in the game and avoided a potentially large letdown.
Later, Henrik stoned Ryan Malone by moving lightning quick from the right
post to the left post on a 3 on 1 to maintain the 4-2 cushion with a minute to go in
the 2nd period. Based on the Rangers' season long propensity to give up final
minute goals, that save may have been the one to seal the victory.

Christensen scores his first of 2 goals in
the 2nd period to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

The number 1 star of the game was Erik Christensen who scored twice and assisted on a third goal in the second period. He is in his contract year and if you have heard him in interviews, he is one of the more thoughtful players you will hear. He has no illusions that he is the type of player that is guaranteed of playing after this year. He also is genuinely grateful for not only the opportunity the Rangers have given him but also the help he has received from them to develop into a better player.

He certainly shows plenty of glimpses of being a good playmaker and he has nice chemistry with Gaborik -- witness that pass sequence that led to the Rangers' only goal against Anaheim recently. Perhaps this 3 point game will be a breakout game for him. Unfortunately, we will not know for 2 weeks or so.

Flags of the countries which Ranger
players are representing in the Olympics.

The team continued to show a bit more aggressiveness and snarl as evidenced by the feistiness of Brandon Prust and Aaron Voros. The addition of Jody Shelley from San Jose has provided some much needed muscle and competition among the Rangers willing to engage in fisticuffs. Even the defenseman have started to bang some bodies including Wade Redden who has looked steadier on defense over the past few games. A bit more anger is necessary for the upcoming games against teams such as Ottawa and Pittsburgh, who are the Rangers' first 2 opponents after the break.

As of the Olympic break, the Rangers and Tampa are tied for 9th a mere 2 points out of the 7th spot. The Broadway Blues showed determination and resiliency to grab a victory from one of the teams they are combating for a playoff spot. The question becomes -- will the Olympic break serve to break this momentum or will it provide a tonic to refresh the Ranger bodies and spirits? It will certainly help to mend Del Zotto's lacerated chest. It may serve to give some time for other players, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, in particular some time to rest and sharpen their focus. Unfortunately, depending on how well their respective teams fare, Ranger olympians may not get much of a respite at all. We all remember how tired the team looked (especially Lundqvist and Jagr) after the 2006 break when they were unable to score and lost 9 in a row as they limped home with the division title.

We can only hope that the momentum will not dissipate as some positive things are being shown over the past few games.

---The Graying Mantis

p.s.: Proving that the NHL will stoop to anything to "entertain" the crowd, during a break, there was a video proposal of marriage from Nick to Melissa. How romantic for a Valentine's Day afternoon. The woman turned down the suitor much to his embarrassment and taunting by the crowd. As it turned out, the whole affair was a hoax and the Garden appears to have been a willing participant.

This reminds me of the tasteless NBA in-game proposals a few seasons ago where the man would get on one knee at court side only to be rejected by his potential bride. She would stalk off stage and after soaking in the humbling, he would sheepishly depart. After about a half dozen of these, the shtick wore thin. I guess because it was Valentine's Day MSG management thought it would be amusing. Meh. At least the Rangers were genuinely entertaining.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Kid Couldn't Take The King

NYR 3, Penguins 2 OT

Heard the news?  The New York Rangers 'had game' last night at The Igloo in Pittsburgh. 

With a smorgasbord of 'everything Canada' happening during the Vancouver opening Olympic ceremonies and Canada's very own Sidney Crosby scoring two goals, perhaps the Rangers win was a foreshadowing of Sweden's future gold medal over Canada in the Winter Games!!?  NYR Goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist - who serves as Sweden's amour-propre -  was extraordinary.  Two Olympic heroes battling for pride & country;  a diving finesse player versus Ultra Man in goal.   Blue country won last night.

Official recap here.

It was the end of an era at The Igloo for the Rangers, as it was their last regulation game at the arena.  No doubt about one thing - The Igloo was a place of many Ranger losses over many seasons - a dreadful place for Blueshirt fans and players alike.  The only now lasting impression is of Henrik holding his ground and fending off acrobatic odd man Penguin rushes to his net, with little help on his own blueline -- a feat of demi-God proportions, now etched in the memory for all.  In my imagination, I saw Mike Richter tipping his glass after Henrik's inspirational performance.  I also saw Fatty Brodeur eating another piece of dripping gristle, but back to the game... 

The Blueshirts' goals were sweet, the first at the beginning of the second period - a Chris Drury backhanded feed to a cycling Brandon Dubinsky.  Goal one.  The second a beautiful Anisomov feed to hardest-working-Ranger Vinny Prospal.  The much deserved game-winning-goal in overtime, a gift from newbie Ranger Olli 'Twist' Jokinen -- who played well throughout and earned the privilege of disappointing the Penguin faithful.  So there.. Igloo poo...we won our final Igloo game f*ckers!

There were plenty of Ranger-post-shots (tilts) in the second period, so the score could have been dramatically different if some of them went in, but it is reassuring that our forwards are, at the very least, now aiming for the net.   Boy, the Penguins are damn good, but we beat 'em.

I cannot say the Rangers were the better team last night, but there were moments when they controlled the tempo, got in on the forecheck, battled hard and, unquestionably, had the better goalie.  Recently thigh-injured Marian Gaborik opened the game but after four minutes left the game unable to continue.  Shortly after "big mouth sit-on-that-side-of-the-bench Torts whipping boy" Michael Del Zotto sustained an injury to his abdomen -- also a significant laceration, as later reported.   So even without our only consistent goal-scoring now injured Wild-wonder and our playing-better-hockey-19-year-old removed from the game, we rose to the occasion and stepped up our play for the win.

Did Chris Drury actually drop his gloves and fight Cooke last night?  I must have been dreaming.   Did Gilroy and Anisomov throw themselves to defend cheap shots on our goalie?  This isn't my team!!?  Did they commit less than 2 penalties?   The Rangers?   Momma Torts must have had a talkin' with our boys because this was a very different level of game.  It had discipline.  They left some beating heart on the ice and walked away with a girlfriend - a win.

I only wish that Brandon Dubinsky charged Sidney Crosby right after the second period.  With Brandon being held back by an official on ice, Crosby leaned over and tapped Dubie's stick as a challenge (mind you, while being held back by Bettman's black-&-white stripemen).  I do love that Dubie was quoted as saying "Not sure what was wrong with Sidney, but he is such a baby sometimes out there..."  We love you Dubinsky....speaking our language. " 5-hole posts the videos here.

"Hey Sid, don't hurt those knuckles today as it might effect your signature in Vancouver..." - tdr

The Blueshirts currently reside in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, only one win away from the final eighth slot.  With over 20 games left, there are eight teams that will be battling for the final three slots of playoff qualification -- we need to be greater than a .500 team, winning at least 12 to 15 of the next 20+ games.  Possible?  Probably not.  But there is hope & desire.  If they can play every other game like they played against Pittsburgh, we can look forward to that eighth slot.   And do we even want that last slot? 

Still in shock here.   A win.   A win?   Uh huh.  A  WIN!  Say it over & over & over and it might just come true.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Rangers Acquire Another Goon

At the trade deadline of 3pm EST today in Brian Burkian fashion, Glen Sather announced the trade of Jody Shelley from the San Jose Sharks as our new fight-boy in Blue, one-goon out and another goon-in, in exchange for a sixth round pick.

That works for me.

Here are his stats and here is the official announcement.

No Horton or Booth on this lovely trade day, but when all else fails,  appeal to the angry fan base by fisticuffs and fighting!    With the Rangers on a downward slide, now having to win approximately 12-15 games of the next 23 in order to qualify for the playoffs, The Dark Ranger sees that management is doing everything possible to keep the audiences coming and cheering for a losing team.

If you can't beat 'em.......
Entertain 'em!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Anyone Surprised?

Here is the link.  Now our part-time enforcer Donald Brashear is on waivers and it is most likely that no one in the NHL will claim him.  So....look out Hartford!!!?        tdr

Growing Pains


Like any hunter without their biggest gun, we stumbled into last night's game, the first of 3 before the Olympic break, hoping everything else we had would be enough. It wasn't.

Read the official Recap here.

The Rangers lost Marian Gaborik to a laceration he sustained in a collision with Lundqvist at practice while practicing shootouts. While sportswriters were jumping the gun and blurting out groin injuries suspicions, it was telling that Tortorella didn't switch his lines much as to prepare for life without Gabby. If he had and did occasionally throughout the game, it probably wouldn't have and didn't help anyway. The Rangers were a step behind for most of the night... Playing as though they felt they deserved points for just showing up to play in the middle of a blizzard.

For the first period, they kept pace with Nashville before a momentarily lapse allowed a screened shot that snuck past the king to make it a 1-0 game. The Rangers would spend most of the night on their heels. Yielding several odd-man rushes and breakaways. Despite St. Henrik keeping it 1-0 with amazing goaltending, our beloved Blueshirts never did mount much of an offensive, aside from the scrappy dig in the Nashville crease by Prospal that tied the game at one all. Any other suspenseful moments for us, turned ugly rather quickly as there were several good looks that our forwards got at the net, making room to make textbook plays... only to forget one very important thing... THE PUCK!  WTF? we're that good, that we even managed to dangle ourselves out of the play.

Much was made of our ability to kill penalties last night. In fact, if there was one place we did look comfortable, it was defending our zone and wheeling back behind our own net and praying Nashville would give us room to break out cleanly. The pivotal point in the game even had us flubbing the penalty kill. Young Michael Del Zotto racked up a minor, for hooking a Nashville player working near his crease. Unfortunately, after the whistle was blown, DelZo pursued the ref about a missed call when he had been taken out of the play only moments earlier. Going just a little too far, the rookie was given a second minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. His teammates did their best to kill off the double minor and with the help of the king, were seconds away from succeeding when a Rozival clearing attempt hit Callahan as he floated through the slot and ricocheted to a Predator who shot it over Henrik's shoulder to make it 2-1. DelZo got an earful from his coach upon returning to the bench and was made to sit in the doghouse at the end of the bench while enduring the rant/lesson about keeping his mouth shut. The rookie would return in the third... but the chances of the Rangers developing a second offensive threat, didn't come to fruition. With several shots and stepping up the tempo on the attack, much was made of taking an abnormally high number of shots in regards to the average of shots against Nashville. It's not news to me as we always seem to manage a high volume of shots against teams and usually have nothing to show for it. Its simply a by-product of many of our scoring opportunities being so transparent that opposing teams rather let their goalies see the puck and make the easy saves, than screen their own goalies and making an easy shot difficult to stop.

As for the DelZo situation, it's to be expected that a team full of young players are going to make these kind of mistakes. He got chewed out back on the bench, was reinserted back into the play a period later with a lesson learned. He didn't lose his nerve or get rendered ineffective for a few games like Dubinsky was last season in a similar incident with Renney. I'm also glad the kid spoke up. Ok - it went a bit far, but you never know how far you can push it unless you push it a little... We've all seen how effective a silent guy can be at being heard, especially when he is wearing the "C". Speaking of which is it just me or does Drury actually seemed to be playing harder now that the Olympics are almost upon us? Nice to see him finally get excited about something, huh.. and team USA, didn't even have to dump a truck load of money on his doorstep.. Now I'm really pissed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rest in Peace, Brendan Burke

Funeral Mass held for son of Maple Leaf GM [Yahoo News]

CANTON, Mass. (AP)—Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and an advocate for gay rights, has been remembered at a funeral Mass.

The Mass at St. John The Evangelist Catholic church in Canton, Mass., on Tuesday came four days after Burke died in a car accident on a snowy Indiana road.

The funeral was attended by Maple Leafs players and staff, as well as players and coaches of the Miami University of Ohio hockey team, where the 21-year-old Burke was the team’s student manager.

Burial was private.

Burke lived in Canton and graduated from Xaverian Brothers High School.

He was in the news last year when ran a story about his decision to tell his father he was gay. Brian Burke said it didn’t change how he thought of his son.


Only the heartless could fail to empathize with the Burke family over their loss. The above article refers to a story in about Brendan telling his father he was gay. The article was by John Buccigross and the link is here. It is well worth reading.

Despite Brian Burke's tough outside, he is a father that loved his son, no matter what.

"Imagine if I was in the opposite situation, with a family that wouldn't accept me, working for a sports team where I knew I couldn't come out because I'd be fired or ostracized. People in that situation deserve to know that they can feel safe, that sports isn't all homophobic and that there are plenty of people in sports who accept people for who they are." -- Brendan Burke

The world appears to be a bit gloomier without Brendan's presence. May the love, support, devotion and tolerance that is apparent in the Burke family and his former teammates become a model for all of us. May the Burke family and everyone touched by Brendan's life find solace in celebrating his life and memory.

--- The Graying Mantis

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Henrik Outduels Marty as Blueshirts Prevail at MSG | NYR 3 NJD 1

Two hated rivals, both slumping teams, met at the Garden for their 4th encounter this season on Saturday night. Both the Rangers and New Jersey Devils have been offensively challenged and last week both sought some scoring punch with major trades. The Blueshirts obtained Olli Jokkinen from the Flames while the Devils grabbed Ilya Kolvachuk from the Thrashers. Tonight would be their first game against each other as they would sample one of the more compelling rivalries in the East.

This game represented an opportunity for the Rangers to snap two negative streaks. So far, the home team had lost the first 3 games between the 2 teams. Henrik Lundqvist had lost his last 6 decisions in a row, the longest losing streak of his career, including the most recent loss, a demoralizing 6-5 loss to the Capitals on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Devils came into the game on the heels of a stunning reversal from the previous night when they scored 3 times in the last 2:32 of the game to turn a 3-1 deficit to the Maple Leafs into a regulation victory.

But when the final horn sounded at the World's Most Famous Arena, once again Henrik Lundqvist had outdueled Martin Brodeur to lead the Rangers to a much-needed 3-1 victory. The official recap, well worth reading, is here.

Not tonight, Ilya. An early glove stop by Henrik let
everyone know he had to come to play.

The Devils controlled nearly the entire first period as they cycled freely in the Rangers end and showed their patented passing that led to numerous opportunities. They outshot the Rangers 10-7 and had 2 power play opportunities.

Early on, Brandon Prust engaged Andrew Peters in 2 fights to break up the Devils' momentum. Neither fight was entertaining but they did serve to slow down play.

The Rangers only had a couple of quality scoring chances including a two-on-one that ended up with Sean Avery coming down the left side only to pull a Chris Higgins by launching the puck a mile wide of the net.

Henrik was sharp from the outset and his glove hand was especially so. He stole a deflection that Kovalchuk tried to put in at the right doorstep. In fact the Devils apparently decided to shoot glove side often but they were denied all night long. One problem may have been that none of those shots were higher than Henrik's elbow so he was able to snag all of them without worrying about shots going over his shoulder.

The 2nd period started out the same with the Devils controlling play and they were rewarded with 2 early minor penalties in the first 4 minutes. In fact, they had a short 5-on-3 advantage but the Rangers stubbornly refused to give ground.

Who Dat? Gaborik converts a Callahan pass for a
backbreaking power play goal. For once, I could use the word
"backbreaking" for something positive for the Rangers.
Then the game changed dramatically over the course of the next 4 minutes. Rob Niedermayer, within 40 seconds of the expiration of the Devils power play, was whistled off for hooking Eric Christensen. A little more than a minute later, Marian Gaborik padded his league leading power play total by tapping in a beautiful cross slot pass from Ryan Callahan behind a helpless Brodeur. The Rangers' success, a direct result of some pretty passing, on the power play picked up from the Capitals game. The success also served to deflate the Devils and energise the Rangers for the next couple of minutes.

Callahan the opportunist. His hard work pays off
after his steal and shot gives the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

Within a minute later, Ryan Callahan stole the puck off Mike Mottau's stick inside the Devils' blue line and launched a shot that beat Brodeur for a 2-0 lead. Within 2 minutes, the Rangers again mounted an attack led by Bradon Prust and Matt Gilroy who combined to find Chris Drury between the circles where he beat Brodeur for a lightning quick 3-0 lead.

Despite being outplayed and outshot for 2 periods, the Rangers had bunched together 3 goals within 2:40 to take what would become an insurmountable lead. At the conclusion of the 2nd period, Henrik had shutout the Devils at the Garden for 105 minutes and counting.

After two periods, although outscored, the Devils had outshot the Rangers 22-17. That was a prelude to the onslaught of 20 shots they would fire at Henrik during the final 20 minutes, which itself was surprising given that the Devils had played the night before in an exhilarating battle with Toronto. But the Devils energy did not flag.

The Rangers scrambled to cover but they used their bodies effectively at times so that Henrik would have clear views of the shooters. On some occasions, was high in the box to cut down angles and aggressively go after shots. It appeared that he changed his game to break his recent losing streak. Also, as others have pointed out, besides having a new glove, which Henrik says is better for catching the puck than simply blocking it, he also has kept his glove hand up a bit higher recently.

Finally, with under 9 minutes to go, Zubrus broke the shutout but that was the only goal they would score. One of the keys to the Rangers' ability to thwart the Devils was the simple fact that the Rangers took no penalties in the third period that put them a man down. This was a big difference from the 9 minors they took against Washington. Henrik made several more key saves including a nifty across-the-crease glove save against Mike Mottau to prevent the Devils from getting within one goal late in the game.

With 3 minutes to go, at a pivotal point, Sean Avery antagonized Kovalchuk to the point that both ended up taking double minors which took them off the ice for the remainder of the game. Avery, other than missing on a 2-on-1 opportunity, had a good game. The presence of Prust and Avery have given the Rangers a bit more snarl and Avery has been using Prust's presence to be more physical. Apparently, the refs are having a hard time deciding who they want to penalize more.

Well-deserved bow after 41 saves.
Henrik has allowed the Devils one goal
at the Garden during 125 minutes of play.
His career record against NJ is 17-6-5. .
As for the recent scorer acquisitions, both Jokkinen and Kovalchuk made their presence felt even though neither scored. Ilya had 8 shots on goal and showed a physical presence that you can see will help the Devils once he settles in. Olli had 3 shots but also showed some strength with the puck and did a good job winning faceoffs -- 2 skills that the finesse-laden Blueshirts need.

In case you have not been watching the standings, there is an interesting disparity occurring as the top teams in the Eastern Conference are distancing themselves. Washington is on a 13 game winning streak. NJ, Pitt, Ottawa and Buffalo (despite losing their last 4) have put some serious distance between themselves and the rest of the conference. The Canadiens have become hot and moved past the Rangers. The Bruins and Isles have been in worse tailspins than the Rangers.

The only reason the Rangers are still in the playoff hunt is the fact that several teams went into huge slumps. Still, they are 9th but Philly, the team ahead of them, has 3 games at hand and Atlanta, right behind, has 2 games at hand. Without a significant winning streak like the ones the Rangers put together the past 3 seasons, they are nowhere a shoo-in to make the playoffs.

Personally, as I have said here, the Rangers are not a playoff threat, at best a contender to get in. Unless Glen Sather can pull out some more rabbits out of the hat in trades, this team will remain a 7th or 8th seed at best and a likely candidate for a quick exit this spring. Compared to the past playoff years when they took Buffalo to 6 games in the second round and Pittsburgh to 5 games the following year, this season does not constitute progress in terms of competitiveness.

However, on the bright side, the Rangers have gotten younger and have put together some scoring lines that need the rest of the season to gel. There remains purging to be done (and we know all the names) and let's hope that the next GM (I can remain optimistic, can't I?) will show more restraint when armed with the MSG checkbook and avoid useless signings like Brashear and others who are past their prime.

Matt Carkner, the bully who mercilessly beat up Vancouver's Tanner Glass the other night, about to get a beating from a real fighter who is cheaper and more skilled than the worthless Donald Brashear.

Speaking of the oft-scratched pugilist, recently two Colton Orr highlights have appeared on the net from his play during the past week or so (e.g., his breakway goal against Brodeur and his TKO of Matt Carkner of Ottawa on Saturday night during Hockey Night in Canada). Orr has more points and more highlights than Brashear. I cannot help but continue to wonder how much hockey sense Tortorella actually has since he insisted on bringing Brashear and getting rid of Betts (to be replaced on the 4th line by the overpaid captain who cannot win faceoffs) and why MSG ought to get rid of both no later than the end of the season.

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, February 5, 2010

Announcement! Devils welcome Kovalchuk.


IR Blueliner Available For Sale

Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray has the Rangers on a list of six teams he would accept a trade to, according to
Souray, who has a no-trade clause, also would be willing to go to the Capitals, Flyers, Kings, Ducks or Stars, Darren Dreger writes.  Souray had surgery on a hand he injured fighting Flames captain Jarome Iginla on Saturday. He is expected to be ready to return in time for the playoffs.

Dreger says Oilers sources doubt a deal will be made before the NHL's Olympics roster freeze on Feb. 12. The freeze ends Feb. 28, and the trade deadline is March 3.

What do you think?  The picture below says it all...


But We Scored Five Goals!!??

NYR 5, Caps 6

'Bittersweet' is the word to describe tonight.

Not only is former-super-sniper Atlanta Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk officially now a New Jersey Devil, but the Rangers lost in regulation for the seventh time in eight games and have slipped below the post-season cutoff in the Eastern Conference.

But we scored five goals???!!!!

Here is the tsn synopsis:
The Rangers carried play in the first period and took a 1-0 lead at 8:58 when Callahan tipped in a shot by Jokinen, snapping New York's 0 for 25 power-play slump over seven games. Gordon tied it with 3:20 left in the frame, despite Washington being outshot 15-5 at the time.  Prospal got that one back just 10 seconds later, and New York finished the period with a 2-1 lead and an 18-6 shots advantage.

The tide turned in the second as Washington quickly caught up in shots and on the scoreboard. Knuble's 20th goal made it 2-2 at 4:41, and Ovechkin's power-play tally at 7:16 gave the Capitals their first lead.  Jokinen, in his second game since being acquired from Calgary on Monday, scored his 12th of the season and first with the Rangers to make it 3-3 at 12:19. Prospal put New York back on top 40 seconds later.  Dubinsky's power-play goal with 1:12 left in the second made it 5-3 and had Madison Square Garden rocking.  It didn't last long as Ovechkin quieted the crowd by netting his NHL-leading 38th, scoring a one-handed goal with only 8.5 seconds left in the middle frame.  Former Rangers defenceman Poti tied it 5-5 just 59 seconds into the third, 36 seconds after New York newbie Michael Del Zotto was sent off for high-sticking.
Despite the loss, it was an awesome game to watch, complete with all of the short-handed turnovers, too many penalties, and defensive gaffs one comes to expect as a Rangers fan, but there was a confidence from the start in our Blueshirts very different than the level of play we've seen throughout this losing streak.  They were fast and hungry and they fed off the Garden, something I don't remember in some time.  Henrik Lundqvist was solid in goal, regardless of how many he let in --- if he hadn't played to his level, the Caps would have scored five more goals.

Alexander Ovechkin is truly a marvel to watch.  He is a guy who loves to win, is motivated by The Garden, and is the consummate hockey player.  I wish he was on our team.  Is it me, or am I the only one scratching my head with Rozsival covering Ovechkin one-on-one?  TORTS you ineffective Napoleon!!!!  - one thing is for sure, Torts has his favorites and sure loves benching Redden.  He's got it half right.

Some quotes of the night:
“For sure this is very, very tough to take, but we screwed it up ourselves,” Marian Gaborik said after the Blueshirts yielded three power-play goals while shorthanded nine times overall, including three times in the second period and five times in the third.  "We have to be disciplined; we can’t take that many penalties against anyone, certainly not against a team like that.  It’s our own fault.”
At the very least, it's refreshing that we're not being fed the usual "We played hard, we're just not getting pucks in the net" sound-bite that bites the ear.

Recently acquired Olli "Twist" Jokinen scored a goal and an assist and pushed the puck forward --- with Proust doing a great job with the body throughout.  The team has improved with them in the lineup.  Time will show what happens, so if our newly acquired Westerners can beat the historical "Lackadaisical Garden Syndrome" (the disease that gradually slows down hockey players to not work so hard, but still hastily cashing their checks), they might improve the tempo of the game.

The NJ Devils of Newark tomorrow, with Stanley Cupping Kovy on their side.  I call on Sean Avery to rise high and make fun of Fatty Brodeur, and do what he does best.  Be a pest.  Throw off their game.  Let's win this one and remind Kovy why he should have taken his Atlantian $100 million dollar contract, rather than one that belongs to a half-attended, half-hearted hockey town.  Yeah...they're on top right now, but a loss to the Blueshirts would do wonders in elevating our half-feeling team.

Who knows?  If not the Devils tomorrow, maybe we'll win a game one of these days!!?  10th place in the Eastern, by the way folks.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Instant offense? The Joks on you!


The trade with the flames that sent Higgens and Kotalik to calgary definitely brought fire to the Ranger team... for the first period anyway. The rest of the way, they sort of just got burned by a Kings team that was young, fast and in a winning groove.

Official recap here.

Newly acquired Jokinen started the game at center for the Rangers while being flanked by Marian Gaborik and Vinny prospal. The thought being that this could be a legit first line that could capitalize on a variety of offensive opportunities. To his credit, Jokinen definitely seemed energetic and used his large frame to take the body. In fact it was quite odd to see a Ranger forward that aggressive and interested in playing the game.

The same could be said for our other Calgary import, Brandon Prust. Prust, 2nd in the league in fights, definitely played his game and wasted no time in making his presence known as he racked up a boarding penalty (which was quite worth it in my opinion as I havent seen someone in a Rangers jersey deliver a hit like that in quite a while). Most importantly, the rest of the team seemed to be inspired and stepped up their level of play to seemingly impress their new teammates in the first as if trying to mask the fact that they have been slacking all this whole time.

It would almost all seem to be for naught though as Vinny,Gabby and Olli worked on their chemistry for much of the night... while the Kings had an already queasy Lundqvist on edge in their shooting gallery. As the game wore on it became obvious that we were trying to keep pace with an LA team that just had more focus. Trying to project the same energy and keep the frantic pace was a good step in the right direction, but the difference was that a Kings team going for their 6th straight win was doing so by channeling their energy toward their offense and taking the body and much of our team was simply just committing the usual errors in doubletime and more aggresively. The second seemed to be a 20 minute long version of dueling penalties, with the relentless pressure of LA's offense pushing us to a pace we couldn't sustain for long, as evidenced by the shorty scored on a Kopitar laser of a shot on a break away turnover (There were NO defensemen on the ice during the man advantage). While we weren't done any favors by the refs who interpret the rules how they like, we didn't make much of a case for ourselves with our play. After weathering wave after wave of Kings forwards, we started to come on late in the game as a winded Kings seemed to relax a little. Gabby's coversion of a saucer pass, mid-sacuer, to score would allow him to keep his offense rolling, but it wouldn't be enough as we simply ran out of time before we could get ourselves back into this game.

If theres anything that could be learned from watching the two latest additions, it's that we need to start playing like them before they start playing like us. I've always been amazed at how players that ride into NY bright and shiny, manage to leave the city with a dull finish that covers most of the players during their tenure here. While Prust picked up the instigator for his fight (I disagree with the call), he did what needed to be done... and thats what mattered. After a hit by Segal along the end boards on one of his new teammates, Prust sought out Segal after the whistle. Segal looked surprised to see Prust and rather reluctant to drop his mitts...Prust didn't care and took care of business and Segal was made to answer for his indiscretions. Prust didn't stand there mouth agape, watching things unfold *cough*girardi*cough*, nor did he have to muster up any false bravado before hand. He came, he saw, he conquered. It was business, then it was personal (during the punching), and at the end it was business again.

As for Jokinen, his shock and dismay exressed at the trade and having to move his family, seemed to quickly turn into acceptance. While it didn't pay off on the ice last night, it's only been a game. He was however quick in his assesment and has said something that has been the Achilles heel of this team's offense for a while.

We had a cycle game but we have to find a way to take the puck to the net, too. We don't want to stay in the corner.... I think we can be a lot better as a team, too, getting the puck to the net

A player without the training wheels mentality of using the boards to cycle the puck around and wants to work the prime real estate down the middle and around the net? Here, in NY? Good passing, good skating, good shooting and solid fundamentals is really the only way to go in making this team better. Team changing offense usually doesn't come in one player. It can come from one player but it must be played by everyone.
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