Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stormy Weather - Henrik Cannot Outlast Hurricane 3rd Period Onslaught | CAR 4 NYR 3

If the NHL (and the Rangers) want to encourage a growth in popularity, it needs to do 2 things -- schedule more Friday night games and present games like last night.

The difference in the Garden crowd from Wednesday night's crowd could not be more startling. Last night, the stands were packed with fans wearing their Ranger sweaters.

More importantly, numerous kids were in attendance including my friend's little boy, my nephews and some of their friends.

A young mother with her son in tow told me that the Rangers should have more Friday night games so that more kids can come. After last night's game, these youngsters may have become fans for life.

Led by 2 goals and an assist by 18 year old rookie, Jeff Skinner, the Carolina Hurricanes rode the goaltending of Cam Ward and a fusillade of 17 shots in the 3rd period to defeat the Rangers 4-3 in a very entertaining game. Henrik Lundqvist was the unlucky loser who certainly played well enough, especially during the 3rd period, to win.

The teams came into the Garden evenly matched in the standings and statistically -- their special teams, both power play and penalty killing, were near the bottom of the league standings. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Carolina team came armed with more and better weapons, and took 17 shots on Henrik Lundqvist during the 3rd period before finally beating him during a power play with 4 minutes left to break a 3-3 ties and leave New York with a 4-3 victory. Official recap is here.

Stepanesque beginning -- Skinner had 3 points

in his N.Y. debut including scoring 2 goals in

the second period to put the Rangers down twice.

Yes, the Rangers lost but it was not in the dispiriting manner of that dreary Thrasher loss a couple of nights earlier. Although unhappy with the outcome, Ranger fans did not leave disappointed because they saw a free-wheeling, fun game with more than 80 shots on goal, some fantastic goalie play by both Henrik Lundqvist (who was called on to make a series of fabulous saves) and Cam Ward and the continuing evolution of a resilient Ranger squad.

The squad fell behind 2-0 within in the first 54 seconds of the second period (on Skinner's first goal), but kept cool, eventually tying the game at 2 with two power play goals, falling quickly behind 55 seconds later on Skinner's second goal before finally tying the game at 3 two minutes later (after launching 18 shots on goal) going into the final period.

Driving fans batty. Callahan scored to make it 2-1 by batting in the puck

past goalie Cam Ward. Unfortunately, so far this season, he continues

to be unable to score in a more conventional manner.

Ryan Callahan had his second difficult game in a row. He was again guilty of watching an opponent score, missed several checks and missed several opportunities to score (including at least one empty net) before getting lucky by batting a puck past Cam Ward during a Rangers' power play to make the score 2-1 four minutes into the second period.

The tying goal (at 2-2) came on a beautiful power play when Erik Christensen (who was told by Coach Tortorella to step up his game) drew all 4 Hurricane players to Ward's left, and found Marc Staal cruising in from the left side of the blue line. Christensen hit him in stride and Staal waited to settle the puck and take aim before beating Ward to the short side. A beautiful play and quality shot by Staal for his second goal of the season.

Brandon Prust seems to be struggling since his eye injury

on Saturday and has lost some of his speed this week.

Carolina (or really, Jeff Skinner) demonstrated lightning-quick scoring during the 2nd period. His first goal came at the :54 mark. Almost immediately after the Rangers tied the game at 2, Skinner scored (before Staal's goal was announced) to take a 3-2 lead within 55 seconds and the Garden was quickly silenced.

But later, Callahan and Dubinsky teamed up on a 2-on-1 rush and Callahan fed Dubinsky on his left and he went high to beat Ward to tie the game going into the final period. Dubinsky now has 5 goals for the season.

In that final period, the Rangers had some quality chances that were foiled by Ward including a bang/bang play where Avery, behind the net, fed Derek Stepan who was speeding in for a one-timer that was snared by the goalie.

Later, during the fateful power play that cost the Rangers the game, Callahan and Dubinsky had another 2-on-1, but Callahan's shot was stopped by Ward. It was perhaps the Rangers' last quality scoring chance. The Rangers also hit a couple of posts during the game. So it is not a question of making some opportunities but as usual, converting them.

Erik Cole (after his game winner) and Skinner (2G and 1A)

were the offensive recipe for the Carolina victory.

On the ensuing rush back into the Rangers' end, Erik Cole, assisted by Skinner, scored the game winner 20 seconds later with 4 minutes to go in the game.

The Rangers now have lost 2 in a row at home and have a 4-4-1 record. Luckily, you have to figure the team will improve once their front line players return.

Except for the Canadiens, no other team in the East has gotten off to a quick start so the Rangers are not suffering as they try to make their way until Gaborik, Drury and Prospal return. You have to feel better about the team as it was evenly matched against Carolina despite missing its primary scorers.

The Rangers are halfway through a 4 game in 6 night stretch with a visit to Toronto (again) tonight for this week's edition of Hockey Night in Canada.

Then the champion Blackhawks, a team itself in turmoil, visit the Garden. By the time Tuesday morning dawns, the Blue Shirts could be in the midst of a 4 game losing streak.

Last night's loss was not from a lack of effort, simply a lack of corresponding talent.

--- The Graying Mantis

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blueshirts Fall Flat as 3rd Period Effort Unable to Thwart Thrashing.

If one period of play was enough to win a hockey game, all hockey games would be 20 minutes long. My first time at The Garden this season and traffic had me in my seat about 12 minutes late. I still managed to get there a period and half before the Rangers did.

Read the official Recap here.

Don’t let the first goal we scored fool you. This was not another hard charging 'full on assault' that lasted 60 minutes like the previous games. In fact, that goal mentally provided us with enough cushion to shoot ourselves in the foot when we didn’t follow through and coasted for two periods while trying to cycle the puck around the boards.

The pot luck Atlanta team across from us was made from enough talented youngsters, extra parts and cap victims and 1-hit wonders that had seen enough ice time with other teams that they found hardly any trouble capitalizing on mistakes as our d-men were caught deep in their own zone, had pucks chip past them or jump over their sticks and stumbled back into our zone scrambling for a clue that would help them pick up their defensive assignments. Our new backup could have been, perhaps, a little crisper in his efforts in goal. However... to lay the blame at his feet would be unfair.

With a back-up in goal, its mandatory that your defense step up their game a little bit and lend some support to their goaltender, even more than they would to their first. The “system” we seem to be playing is a full attack system. Its not 'all men up' and 'no men back', but it may as well be with the defensive conscience diluted with thoughts of offensive grandeur. With so much emphasis placed on goals and attacking… The absence of Gaborik, Prospal and Drury seemed that much greater. We found a niche in the physical, high energy game and just like that, it goes out the window as the team gets taken back to the system where Tortorella plays the hot line, hoping that eventually they will replace Gaborik, Prospal or other top line players, talent for talent. It was never more apparent than after the first goal last night as the farm triplets (Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan) hit the ice every other shift. Normally the strategy might pay off against an older team that is simply worn down by the amount of work put in by this line, but instead the triplets were hammered and their energy suppressed by a mixture of vets and high energy youth players like Kane on the Atlanta side. While the line being the most effective was a mixture of Avery, Fedotenko, Boyle, Prust, White, etc. a guy like Boogaard sees ice so infrequently in this system, that he doesn’t recognize it without a cocktail poured over it. While he’s not the best player on the team, he hits hard enough that it should be incorporated some how because…. A.) It worked in the games where we were taking the lead physically and banging up opponents… and B.) he’s not going to get any better or more consistent sitting on the bench.

A system can’t work on a foundation of inconsistency. It’s even less effective when channeled through intangibles like “untapped potential” as a replacement for documented skill. We saw that all these guys can hit and pressure other teams, so why not keep that rolling and build off of something simple and consistent. 

As for the worry about losing any more players to injury, there was an over abundance of guys that were making it difficult to cut them in camp. Make some call ups, let them pound and grind it out smartly and hand the survivors jerseys. At least we’ll have something to fall back on when “pretty” is injured and “high energy” is worn out. Hell, you might even win a few games on intimidation. The best part of it is players like Gaborik and Frolov (even though Frolov hasn’t impressed me so far) have no trouble finding their stones when the time comes and things get a little gritty.

Till Next Time Ranger Fans,

- J_Undisputed

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bruins and Devils Fall This Weekend

Sat NYR 3, Bruins 2
Sun NYR 3, Devils 1

Are you as stunned as I am?  This weekend the New York Rangers treated us to some of the hardest working and hardest hitting hockey we've seen all season; all this without Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury, all out on injured reserve. 

We may now be witness to the realization of the Utopian John Tortorella system and the kids are listening while the overpaid watch on the sidelines.  With these kind of results, what is a coach to do when your injured are feeling better?  Play Gaborik, sit Prospal & Drury?  I'm just sayin....

Ryan Callahan has been kicking ass the last 3 games
Tonight's win against the NJ Devils at home makes for three wins in a row (4-2-1) erasing earlier worries that we couldn't be a playoff contender.  I know, I know, it's too early to even go there, but our weekend warriors pounded our opponents - the Bruins Saturday night (Official recap here) and tonight against the NJ Devils (Official recap here).  On both occasions, the Rangers outworked our opponents, played aggressive forechecking two-way hockey for 60-minutes each game (Yeah, really!).   It makes everyone believe for a moment or two or three (wins) -- they are united and they know what they need to do.   Even Micky Rozsival played solid hockey (with the exception of that Kovalchuk goal in the 3rd period tonight).

I couldn't be more thrilled and we'll get to more on the games after this Kovie update:
Kovalchuck, in the first season of a 15-year, $100 million deal, returned tonight to New Jersey's lineup against the Rangers a night after he was benched by coach John MacLean for undisclosed reasons.  The NJ Devils proceeded to lose to Buffalo 6-1.
Okay, so let's back up and read that again.

Trouble in paradise NJ Devil's GM Louie Laminated?  Karma catching up to you 'ya salary cap dodger?'  Did the bionic $100 million dollar man have words with Devil's coach McLean before the game?   Perhaps Kovie is blaming everyone else around him for the Devils slumping season -- or perhaps the rest of the team is pissed that he was paid circles around what they're making?    I simply love this.  This is picturesque.    This will continue to be a problem for the Devils.  So much Devils talk for a Rangers blog, but this small digression absolutely has everything to do with the Rangers...

...because we won tonight.  Even more than that, we controlled them tonight.

Kovalchuk back in the lineup had ZERO effect on the game, with the exception of his one goal.  NY's Ryan Callahan played Kovie man-to-man much of the game, and very effectively at that, and the Blueshirts shut them down.  Not until the last four minutes did we see a threatening force attacking the Rangers goal and waking up a hibernating Henrik Lundqvist.  The only redeeming force on the Devils side tonight was Mahhh'ty Brodeur in goal.  That's it.  He prevented numerous Rangers scoring opportunities, but our boys never let up and never stopped believing.  Pound the net, push forward and shoot...and shoot....and shoot.....  "Gooooaaaal......."

Those last 30 seconds of defensive hockey were awesome.  Thrilling, adrenaline inducing and proud moments for a fan.

The King Henrik is back with Prince Biron at his side. 

Last night against Boston and tonight against the Devils are the perfect examples that we have finally left the days of the Jaromir Jagr perimeter-hockey system - or simply, the 'play the outside and look for the perfect shot' system.  Even Rozsival & Dubinsky seem to be moving toward the net with more frequency.  We have now entered 'dirty goal heaven' where you shoot no-matter-what and dig and grind your way in.    It also appears that Tortorella's message of 'stick up for your own' is having an effect on the boys, as there haven't been many hesitations on our end to stick up for a player that might have been wronged.  Yes - there were a couple of clean hits that we retaliated against (i.e. Sean Avery/Boston) but it sent the right message to not f*ck with us and keep the game fast and clean.  But most importantly, we are seeing the results of "LET YOUTH BE SERVED" a bold statement made by coach John Tortorella in the off-season.  We are seeing just that and these kids want it and are earning it.   Amen.

We all acknowledge it's early in the season - the Rangers sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference (NJ is 15th) but it is this crucial time that a team develops the chemistry necessary to pound through another 75 or more season games together.

Things are looking up for this young Rangers team and, for the moment, we are proud fans and proud devotees of this very special Original Six franchise.

Let's Go Rangers and see you Wednesday against The Thrashers.


Always A Favorite Picture of Mine....he he eh eh  MAAHHHHH-TY

Friday, October 22, 2010

(A)pathetic Leafs Fan Post

This afternoon, The Dark Ranger received this letter from an anonymous guy about his beloved home town heroes the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It's a good read and it sums up the Toronto experience last night against the Rangers:

About 85% of a full house at the Air Canada Centre sat and typed on their Blackberry's while a boring hockey game was being played on the ice.  A couple of them looked up from their mobile screens when Orr and Boogaard started fighting, but they were too shy to make any noise because nobody else was. 

Leaf game attendees (couldn't tell if they were fans because they didn't show any emotion) walked away disappointed on Thursday night.  Those passionate and somewhat delusional fans who create memorable sound-bites on local sports talk radio had their superb mathematical instincts intact, still glowing in the fact that their beloved Leafs are 4-1-1 and in first place!

I don't know what's worse.  The privileged, quiet, apathetic live audience who smothers the fun out of the rink every game, or the fanatical shlubs watching from home plotting Stanley Cup parade routes.  The people who go don't care, and the people who care can't go.  (A)pathetic.  Now, Rangers fans were treated to a stinker when the Leafs game to our place last week, but New York Leaf Fans were, if nothing else, present and audible.  I think they were Ranger fans who defected when we signed Redden to cheer for a team whose D-men have backbones. 

Typically, teams count on a home ice advantage because their fans put some emotion into their team, and heap hostility onto the bad guys.  Problem is Leaf fans, your team can't hear you screaming in your living rooms!  And those people occupying the seats at the ACC aren't going to lower themselves to clap or whistle or (God forbid) cheer. 

Maybe they'll pump some crowd noise off of one of the floats at that Stanley Cup Parade next Spring.

 How right he is.


Leaf Bagging Party in Toronto | NYR 2 TOR 1

On Thursday, the Rangers arrived in Toronto's Air Canada Centre to face the Maple Leafs in the second of their 3 meetings over the course of 2 weeks (they will return to Toronto next Friday). During the first 2 weeks of the season, the Ranger defense has been in disarray, their goaltending shaky, their offense without 2 first liners (Prospal and Gaborik) and were facing a team that totally dominated them last week in the home opener at MSG last week.

Pregame pageantry. Fans pass along the
Canadian and Maple Leaf flags before game time.

Meanwhile, Coach Tortorella, refusing to yield to early season panic, announced that he was not going to deviate from his goalies schedule. So that meant Marty Biron would make his debut in goal paired against Jonas Gustavsson the Toronto backup goalie, starting his 2nd game of the season. Vociferous Ranger fans moaned all day long on the interweb that the game was being written off as a loss. Apparently, the Ranger players were deaf to the "unwavering" support of their stalwart True Blue defenders. And Ranger fans seemed to forget that the Rangers routinely use visits to Toronto to use their backup goalie.

This time, though, the Rangers had no Steve Valiquette ready to self-destruct in goal. Instead, the wily and capable veteran, Martin Biron, played angles beautifully, controlled rebounds, flashed the glove repeatedly like Keith Hernandez, stick-handled the puck and came up with a spectacular save to deny Mike Komisarek on a late 3rd period breakway.

"A" for effort. Marc Staal appeared on the ice with
an "A" on his sweater for the first time.

The rest of the squad play efficiently and intelligently, maintained their spacing in the defensive zone, and broke up numerous plays of the Leafs the entire night and skated away with a satisfying 2-1 victory. Official recap is here.

The Rangers frustrated the Leafs early, ultimately breaking their spirit late in the 3rd period as they could not enter the Rangers' zone for most of the final 4 minutes and took the fans out of the game for nearly the entire night. The team blocked 30 shots (including 12 in the first period), deflected numerous passes, stick checked the Leafs without mercy, pursued the Leafs all over the rink with a relentless forecheck and simply outworked them to puck after puck.

Much of the game looked like the Rangers had tapped into old videos of Tom Renney's defense first scheme as the Blue Shirts dominated the first period with their forecheck. Biron was obviously sharp including making 2 glove saves (and holding on to the puck). Forechecking started leading to some creative playmaking but no finishing.

But then, the team's 2 Russian forwards, Ruslan Fedentenko and Artem Anisimov, struck for 2 goals within 1:01 late in the first period.

Monster Mash. Fedentenko (left) breaks through to break the ice at 16:11.
For the first goal, Derek Stepan led a forceful rush up ice using his speed to gain the offensive zone and then using his strength to keep the puck as he went past the goal line. His shot was stopped by Jonas Gustavsson but the puck trickled behind him where Avery and Fedentenko both swooped in and the Russian smacked it into the goal for his first score as a Ranger. The refs were in good position to see the puck was not covered up and correctly did not blow the whistle.

One thing this sequence exemplified was the controlled rush by defensemen all night long -- Roszival, Del Zotto, Sauer, Staal and Gilroy -- forcing the issue. What was terrific was the fact the remaining defenseman on ice would play conservatively so that the Rangers would avoid having 4 or even 5 skaters caught up ice if the play broke down in the offensive end.

Gone in 60 (really, 61) seconds.
Anisimov nails the game winner at 17:12 of the first.
The second goal epitomized the communication on ice by the Rangers. The opportunity was created by a breakout pass across the rink from Marc Staal to Ryan Callahan who broke from the left boards across the rink, banging his stick on the ice for the pass. Staal hit him in stride and Callahan crossed the blue line to feed Michal Roszival, who, in turn, fed Anisimov in front of the net for a tip-in as he out-muscled Kaberle for position in front of the goal to give the Rangers a lightning quick 2-0 lead.

Almost immediately thereafter (and with less than 2 minutes to go in the period), Sean Avery committed an ill-advised slashing penalty that could have led to one of those trademark last minute goals allowed. But the Rangers penalty kill team, which was magnificent all night long, killed the penalty for the reamining 1:49 of the period including shot blocks by Callahan, Dubinsky and 2 by Dan Girardi. The Rangers maintained their poise and position in the defensive zone and the period ended. The Rangers, besides blocking 13 shots, outshot their hosts 15-8 (and 32-25 for the game).

The Maple Leafs came to life for spurts during the final 40 minutes. Early in the 2nd, they pressured the Rangers and Colton Orr missed a deflection that could have brought the Leafs close and perhaps change the momentum. Still, the Leafs could only muster single shots at Biron, there was little follow-up and few rebounds left for the taking.

The Rangers, unlike prior games, were not scrambling in their defensive end but controlled the ice and the puck for nearly 60 minutes. After a slow start in the 2nd period, they started regaining control of the ice and creating opportunities. Anisimov had a few chances at scoring but was denied by Gustavsson, who played a solid game. Gilroy on a rush up ice hit the crossbar with a shot that beat Gstavaason to the glove side and unfortunately, Frolov whiffed on the rebound into a wide open net. The 4th line created some havoc in front of the net as Boyle and Boogaard had legitimate scoring opportunities and kept the puck away from Biron's end for shifts at a time.

With 9 minutes to go in the game, the Leafs finally struck when one of the few times Biron was unable to control a loose puck ended up near Colby Armstrong who banged it into the net over the goalie. Less than a minute later, Brandon Prust (who had a solid game) was called for a hooking penalty.

Almost immediately during the ensuing powerplay, Tomas Kaberle lifted a pass to Kris Versteeg at the Rangers' blue line who streaked in unimpeded toward Marty Biron. Biron came out to the front of crease and denied Versteeg with a combination of his glove and left pad. Immediately, the Rangers took control of the penalty kill (ending the game with a 5 for 5 performance). The Maple Leafs sustained some pressure over the next couple of minutes before finally succumbing to the Rangers' reassertion yet again of a tenacious forecheck and good positioning.

The victory was truly a result of a total team effort. The much maligned defense saw each defenseman deliver a solid, if not outstanding, performance. Michael Del Zotto had an excellent overall game. Michal Roszival played smartly in the defensive end and contributed offensively. Michael Sauer patrolled the ice with calmness.

The entire squad played a cohesive style and employed blocked shots, deflected passes, a presence at the blue line to frustrate the Maple Leafs time and time again. One word missing from their play was "giveaways" especially in front of their own net. Their absence was noticeable and contributed largely to the win as Biron could focus on the Maple Leaf players without worrying about his teammates leaving him vulnerable.

Leafs in the Wind. The Rangers hurled themselves all over the ice.
Here Michael Sauer kicks it up with Tomas Kaberle.
Prior to this game, the other NHL teams had already played 5 to 7 games already while the Rangers had played 4 in nearly two weeks. With this type of scheduling, it is hard to develop chemistry and cohesion.

The question was answered emphatically that the coaches had gotten the team to buy into a game plan and tighten up their overall play during their time off.

There were genuine glimpses of the development of a strong 4th line and a chemistry between Prust and Avery. One can see Stepan starting to feel more comfortable playing an overall game and the defense playing as a unified force. The question is whether this game was a flash in the pan or the first manifestation of what the team will be.

The Rangers have a tough weekend coming up. On Saturday, they travel to Boston to face the hot Bruins (4-0-1 after sweeping Washington) and then return to the Garden to face the improving Devils on Sunday night. The team is a work in progress. The important thing to see is that they build on what they showed us on Thursday evening in Toronto.

--- The Graying Mantis

Speaking Of The Fight Culture.....

It happened last night three minutes into the rematch against The Toronto Maple Leafs at the A.C.C, you know that place where the the polite audience only claps and shouts when the LCD tells them to.   "Everybody...clap.....your hand...."  (clap)  (clap)  (clap)   Don't drop your sushi Leaf fans...

So I digress...

The long awaited match with former Ranger now Leaf enforcer Colton Orr was on a mission and instigated  Derek "the Boogeyman" Boogaard into a fight.   Clearly, Boogey shook up Orr's head and made connections a couple of times - and you can see the fear in Orr's reaction; until Colton tugged his jersey and threw the big man down.  Those at the A.C.C. declared the bout won by Orr, but look again...   The video doesn't show the load in Colton Orr's pants after the bout. gave the bout to BOOGEY.  Given this was the first real fight we've seen this season, last night was probably worth about $300,000 in Ranger's salary cap.  Woo hoo....


Derek Boogaard 54.6%
Colton Orr 23.5%
Draw 21.8%
From 119 votes with an average rating of 6.0

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Fight Culture Has To Change (UPDATED)

The role of enforcing has always been a part of the game and the fighting culture of hockey has it's place, but I am beginning to feel that the culture is forgetting when it should be used - and now the fan's need and want for fighting is taking over.  This is a problem with the culture of fighting and hockey.

What disturbed me the most about this video was watching the Mom at the bottom of the video looking concerned at the beginning, then clapping her hands at the bench clear and tremendous violence to follow....

WTF???   Let the video speak for itself.


I added this relevant commentary from J_Undisputed --- he makes good points below:

Yeah, this just seems to be an exhibition put on by a bunch of kids trying to look like the guys on TV. There is no message sent except for that of stupidity. The funny thing is.. thinking back. Hockey fights were less of a spectacle and sensationalized before Bettman's PR team started screaming TABOO!!! and league officials started trying to impose their glorified hall monitor power by shaking fingers at players before the gloves even come off. This sounds mean, but I really hope a Ref catches an errant punch and is knocked cold while trying to stick his face in the middle two guys mixing it up. The sooner it happens, the sooner things can get closer to being the way they were and kids like the ones above get to see that fights are a part of hockey and they are done for specific reasons and can notice the way it develops naturally on the ice.... i.e. momentum change, standing up for teammates, sending a message to cheap shotting blind siders, etc.

Then pen is mightier than the sword and the rule book will soon be overflowing with extra rules with no concrete criteria for application and left up to the discretion of refs. Sooner or later the pen fails and you should have a sword handy. And the more effective question before doing something questionable is not "can i get 5 minutes if they see it wrong?" but "Is there someone waiting to punch me in head even if I get it right and is it really worth it?" The answer will always be yes for the guys that live for this game. Whether or not that kind of passion lives in every player on the ice these days is really questionable. With it becoming fashionable for rookie posterboy captains to jump other guys off the faceoff, delivering shots to the groin in team scrums and then being protected by the refs before other guy gets his bearings and starts chucking appears the instigator rule only works selectively. Fighting has never become more of a sideshow then now. The only time it made the news before was for full bench clearers and team dustups... or brawls in the stands between players and opposing fans... ah, yesterday...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Youth Buried by Avalanche, Lose Another At Home....

Youth. Its what the league is about these days. Young legs, hearts of fire, skillful prodigies, sharp reflexes and baby faced sharpshooters going end to end. Every team is developing their own prized studs on the farms across the league in the hopes that one day they'll be a dynasty team. The game against Colorado showcased two hopefuls in the future dynasty era. The difference between their youth and ours was attitude and strategy.

One was clearly more adjusted. Read the official Recap here.

The one thing becoming clear is that its going to take plenty of patience if we ever expect this team to be competing with the monsters teams of the league one day. The better part of the first period last night was spent in pursuit of a Colorado team that seemed quite lucid of the fact that we had a lot of kids cruising the ice last night and taking advantage of the second guesses, hesitations and perhaps an unnerved veteran or two.

The scoring doesn't really reflect how close the game remained for the majority of the evening. After a quick and early time out by Torts, we came out full of fire and assert ourselves. They weathered our storm and from there, it seems as though we forgot why we showed up. Defensive lapses around the net costs us 2 goals in the course of 26 seconds.

There were a few things missing out there last night. Leadership, a scoring threat and security. While I'm still of the opinion that losing Drury for a number of weeks is not catastrophic, Losing Seems to have affected the team and Boogards absence on the ice last night could have played a factor in the testicular fortitude area. While the Tandem of Prust and Avery seemed to be fairly effective at getting some of the dirty work done, there was none to take advantage of the distractions and, none to channel that energy toward the goal. Inserting Todd White into the line up last night really didn't add anything but age. Call me skeptical, but I get the feeling Torts is reluctant to change the strategy he has for this team in the hopes that Stepan, Anisimov and Dubinksy, Del Zotto and every other kid on the Clearasil squad will develop overnight and fill in. Maybe my perceptions and ideals are little outdated for this league of figure skating and diving fairies Bettman is trying to cultivate, but not so long ago... after losing brain, brawn kind of took over on its own and that team we played last night would have been beaten from pillar to post on defense and on offense, our entire team would have been huddled around the opposing crease hacking and chopping at loose pucks. Instead it seemed as though just being able to keep pace and bear witness as they attacked would be enough to get us some points. Torts is going to have to come up with a temporary strategy that our kids can apply with some consistency that takes a lot less skill/luck. There's an ugly side of hockey where offense is a byproduct of deflections, dirty goals, and grinding down the opposition. If that's still possible in the NHL.

Which brings me to my next point, WTF?!?!?!  This Ref interference is getting way out of hand. Can we even call this hockey anymore? Two guys jaw at each other a little and trade shoves and a Referee tackles one to the ground and blows a whistle and starts handing out penalty minutes like its his time of the month. This is messing up the natural order of the game. Between this and whistles be blown for shoving someone down while racing for a loose puck,....I don't even know if I can make it through a season of watching this. Whats next telephones in the penalty boxes so you can mandatory phone calls to the other guys mom and apologize before your two minutes are up?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

There's No Place Like Home!

New York Rangers 3 / Toronto Maple Leafs 4  OT

It's that old familiar feeling again one day after 'horrible' took over The Garden.  For one night only, the New York Rangers allowed the Maple Leafs to 'lay it out in front of us how vulnerable this new Blueshirts squad really is.'   Seconds after the game ended and Toronto scored the final answer, fans across Section 203 and 103 bashed the chairs and screamed 'Here We Go Again...'  

Much like the game against The Islanders, last night was much about unnecessary penalties - one in particular, Marc Staal, with 2 minutes and 12 seconds left to the much desired skills competition shootout, he allowed Toronto the man-advantage - Phil 'fast' Kessel with the game winning goal proving to be an emerging 'good to great' trade last season.  Staal made a stupid penalty and knowing Tortorella and his coaching tactics, he will pay for it off the ice.  

For the official recap go here.

The first five minutes in the first period was fierce and competitive, Blueshirts were dominating on all sides of the ice, fore-checking everyone Leafs were flying everywhere. a faulty firework, the explosion fizzled out and slowed and slowed and slowed down......   For every Ranger shot, Toronto took six.  Nothing worked.   The second period melted our hearts with 2 more Toronto goals and a Rangers team reminenscent of our mid-season team last year.

Just as Frolov, Boogaard, Fedotenko and Stepan weren't part of The New York Rangers last season, they weren't part of the home opener last night either.  Too bad.

Shortly after, we lost Chris Drury to another injury to his broken finger (estimated six weeks out) and then a left shoulder injury to Marian Gaborik (estimated four weeks out) thanks to the newly undefeated Maple Leafs.  Our star player hit, hurt and out.  No retaliation.  Too bad.

The long awaited face-off in the third had arrived.  Derek Boogeyman lined up against Colton Orr --- in the shittiest of shitty games, we were at least in this for some fisticuffs.   I remember the dramatic crescendo.....Puck hits the ground, players slightly delay, the fans took a deep breath....waited.....Boogey shoved Orr.......shoved him again....called him out that it was 'ready and time for this'......Orr looked down.....shook his head 'no' ......then nothing.  He skated away.  Coward.


We were treated to a very welcoming third period comeback with 2 sweet Ranger goals, getting us to overtime and a point in the standings, but it was only adrenaline that kept us in the game.  Honorable mention to Brian Boyle who never stopped working and scored a couple of biggies, proving that you don't need to make $6 mill a year to score goals.  Last night Gaborik who?   Prust & Avery kicked ass as usual and The King remained the greatest losing goalkeeper in the league.  There were more than five unusually outstanding saves - and thirty others - again taking over for the extremely young and inexperienced Blueshirt D-men.  I was worried that Henrik has been letting in more goals than I've seen in the past during the pre-season and opening two games, but he reminded me that he is always overcompensating for a blueline that doesn't quite understand the Torts two-way system.  Not sure I understand it either.

In any case, it was a disappointing home opener.  If it were a great loss, we'd take it and move on with the point, but the weakness of this team was never more evident than this most important game against Toronto.

I haven't given much thought about this game - it is the beginning, things need to gel and even worse and more gratifying, New Jersey lost again last night, but I do hope the right things are being addressed for the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night --  and perhaps Boogaard should stop thinking about playing real hockey and giving the people what they want.  Though, with our Captain and our superstar Marian Gaborik out for the next month or so, I'm not sure who he is now protecting these days.   Go ahead, Colorado, we dare you.....this guy is ready to explode and so are the fans.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Goon Match at the Home Opener? Will Orr get taken to school by the Boogeyman?

Two season ago Colton Orr left NY for Toronto for that eternal optimism of Leaf fandom... Smug and secure he had made the right decision minutes into free agency when looking at his older, slumping, often injured pug faced replacement. Many of us cursed the management for not jumping at the chance to retain our resident knockout artist, but the truth is Colton Orr was not thinking about staying, he wasn't waiting or negotiating.

Fast forward - This season, there's a new sheriff in town. He's paid more than the most knuckle-draggers in the game and that causes some concern for some Blueshirt fans for the minutes he'll play... But Derek Boogaard, if nothing else, has what he needs to patrol the ice at the garden. In fact with the exception of one year (last year) his tenure in the NHL has been spent looking out for one man, if no one else... Marion Gaborik. Outside of the hockey fight school he runs with his brother in the off-season, the Boogeyman has had some difficulty finding a dance partner ... especially in the preseason and the first 2 season games. That could be attributed to his limited ice time or the fact that many guys (like Leblonde out of Jersey) suddenly remember a promise they made to their mothers not to fight, when paired up with Boogaard outside the face off circle. Even at -30 lbs this season at the insistence of Torts, Boogey is still bares a striking resemblance to an Cadillac Escalade in a Rangers jersey.

While many have trouble finding their spines when confronted by Boogaard, Orr's never been one to back down from a fight. In fact when they met in the Juniors, it appeared that Orr may have even gotten the better of the scrap. That was then though and this is now. Orr's a real tough guy and he'll be forever endeared to our hearts (well mine anyway) for splattering Fedoruk across the ice to send a message and for cross checking Ovie the kneecapper in retaliation, and folding him like a cheap suit in that game against Washington years ago... That being said, dare I say Colton's could be already on the slide. He hasn't seemed to elevate his game at all and wins as many fights by chucking bombs with bravado and reckless losing as many on strategy as he has in the past. That always limits the longevity of an enforcer's career. It shows as Orr was apparently KTFO'd (Knocked the Fu... well you get the picture) earlier this week by some kid out of Pittsburgh that out-chucked him, so to speak, and landed a chin-checking sledgehammer right on the button.

There still could be a showdown tonight, but for Orr's sake, it might be best if he suddenly remembers a promise he made to his mother...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! Devils!

All this makes me really happy.

The New Jersey Devils of Newark haven't won a game, spent $100 mill on Kovalchuk who has been lackluster, the bloated contract alone is leading to serious cap problems and Fatty Brodeur is shitting the bed this season.  Wah! 

from Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice,
Devils coach John MacLean halted the team’s morning skate today at HSBC Arena and ripped into his players for being listless and sloppy during one of the drills.
MacLean stopped the drill, called the players over to him at center ice and then began yelling with several profanities mixed in. Then, he made them restart the drill they had been doing. MacLean apparently spotted one player shaking his head after he yelled at the team because I heard him say, “Don’t shake your head.”
“I thought it was a little too laissez faire for a team that hasn’t won a game yet,” MacLean explained afterward.

from Mark Everson of the NY Post,
In this upside-down world of the desperate and winless Devils, here’s another injury that could help general manager Lou Lamoriello temporarily manage his salary cap and short roster dilemma.
Forward Brian Rolston is receiving a second opinion after an initial examination suggested a possible sports hernia. If confirmed, he could require surgery and the Devils likely would place him on long-term injured reserve and temporarily free some $5 million in vital cap space to restock their short-handed lineup.
Rolston and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (stiff neck, broken nose) are to sit out their second straight games tonight when the Devils visit the Sabres tonight.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Late Signs of Life at the Mausoleum Spell Trouble For Blueshirt Penalty Kill

It was a spirited game and a see-saw battle in the holiday matinee game between our Blueshirts and the Gordon's fishsticks. Proving to be a contest that pivoted on power play opportunities and penalty calls, you have to give credit to both teams for trying to make their own luck every time a whistle blew, whether or not anyone had a clue as to what was called.  Read the official recap here for the details.

There were a lot of things to like and not like about yesterdays game. I was particularly impressed with:
- The added scoring from our defensemen - It's in this light, that Tort's ideal for the defense really shine. They are shooting more on the power play and chipping in goals wherever possible.
- Boogaard throwing the body around. It almost led to a goal yesterday and it's a presence that we have been missing the past few years except when the occasional player stepped up for a game or two.
- Brian Boyle on face-offs. He seemed to pick up a little bit on using his size from that Messier center workshop and has worked to improve his game this summer.
- Stepan continuing his hard work - there's a lot that can be said about this kid and his vision on the ice. His work around the net also shows another facet to his game that is the sign of a 'one day' elite player. He doesn't seem to be physically intimidated very easy and will push back if he needs to. The little scruff with Martinek yesterday did show that he could use some preparation for when the stuff really hits the fan. I was happy to see the first guy to jump in there and start throwing gloved punches on his behalf - and that was Gabby.

Now that being said, is it too early to see some alarming trends...?

- Second chances around the net. WTF?!  We're practically gift wrapping them at this point. We can expect a lot of '5-goal against' games for Henrik if this continues. It was one of the reasons I was skeptical about cutting Exelby from camp that quickly. He was one of the few guys willing to make his presence felt around the net when guys crowded Henrik. Of course it will be Henrik that has to pick up the slack if the D-Men don't and try to make spectacular saves without being taken off his feet. A feat that is a lot to ask of a butterfly goalie. When you have a good goalie, your opponents will inevitably resort to screening and picking up garbage around the net and it will pay to have someone who can hammer people in the crease. Which brings us to the next point.

- Stay at home defensemen. Is there even such a thing anymore in the Bettman league? Its nice that our defensemen are chipping in on offense, but wasn't the whole point of jamming up camp with all these extra d-men tryouts, to find a defenseman that could defend? Staal has an edge to his game and doesn't seem to have any qualms about hammering someone as well as finding his offensive game because well, he can. Our other d-men are getting pucks to the net but play far too soft in their own end and have fallen into that trap of becoming the 4th forward rather than a defenseman. Quick to streak up ice and get caught deep in the opponents end; its going to present a lot of odd-man rushes this season and wear Henrik thin. Girardi, in particular, was supposed to be a stay at home defenseman and still strikes me as a little soft; a few season ago he was stepping into guys and playing them hard. Unfortunately, that all seemed to go out the window once he got punched in the mouth and driven into the ice by Cam Barker a few seasons ago.

- The musical center game continues. Equipment problems aside, Torts has been plugging Stepan when possible and stirring up the other lines with Dubi and Christensen. It's still early and I am fine with exploring the options and trying to generate offense with click rather than a gel in desperate situations. Even still, times running out for Coach-a-rella as Drury and Prospal are getting antsy to play.. and something will have to be done eventually. Christensen may inevitable find himself the odd man out as he waits in the press box for Drury to break another bone or age to to further catch up to Prospal. Lets play these kids now with some consistency and find out what they can do before we stick them in 'Pressbox Limbo' and have to start the reintegration and assessment process every time we want to bring one back because of an injury. All in all, I expect at least one announced change in the line up before the home opener on Friday. How do you announce a team with a captain and an alternate on the DL?

- Derek Boogaard - Can he please punch someone in the head already? I'm tired of seeing Boyle and Prust tangle with guys while he's out there searching for a dance partner and people avoid him? Its not his fault, mind you but.... Damn, punch someone already... even off the ice, I'd settle for watching him wail away on John Giannone... Actually, I'd kind of pay to see that.

Till next time, Ranger Fans..


P.S. This isn't over Fishsticks! We're just getting started!!! Bah!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stepan Nets 3 in Debut to Blunt Sabres | NYR 6 BFO 3

Opening night in Buffalo. Typically a house of horrors for the Rangers dating back to the days of Gil Perreault and the flashy French Connection Sabres of lore. This season, the Sabres are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a return to their old uniforms and a nod to the old Buffalo Bison uniforms in their alternate sweaters which they donned to greet their downstate rivals.

However, like ungracious guests, the Rangers brought nothing to the HSBC Arena except an insatiable hunger for the net and a new offensive balance that left their host's heads spinning.

And leading the rush for the Buffalo buffet table that the Sabre defense set out was Rangers' rookie Derek Stepan, playing in his first NHL game as he scored a hat trick and led the Rangers to a 6-3 opening night victory. Official game recap here.

Stepan started out with scoring the Rangers' first goal on a deflection - a case of being in the right place at the right time -- in this case, the front of the net to Ryan Miller's right. Then with the score 2-1 in the final five minutes of the second period, Stepan used his skills on his next 2 shots -- wristing a shot around Ryan Miller on a pas from Marc Staal and then 3 minutes later going high above Miller to complete a hat trick to convert a Sean Avery pass from behind the net. 3 shots = 3 goals.

A quartet of hats floated on to the ice and don't we all wish our first day on the job was always like this.

Ice Treatment. America's Olympic hero

did not bring his A-game last night.

Yes, the Sabres were playing the second of a back-to-back (the first of 22 such pairs this season) but to look so slow and so out of sync was unexpected. One would figure the Blueshirts would show opening game jitters, especially with the new players on the ice, but they continued their outrageous pace of offense first, defense second as they peppered Ryan Miller, America's goalie, by getting 5 past him within the first 41 minutes of the game.

The Rangers offense showed a lot of what brought them success early last season -- a tenacious forecheck supplemented by strategic pinching by defensemen. Dan Girardi was outstanding at keeping the puck in and was rewarded with 2 assists. Marc Staal and Michal Roszival also had strong games in the offensive end. The defense chipped in with 3 assists and were pivotal for the offensive success.

Brandon Dubinsky scored twice, Avery had 2 assists and the first line also appeared on the scoring card when Eric Christensen scored the Rangers' 5th goals.

So now eyes around the NHL (including Ranger fans) were opened to the possibility that the Rangers may have scoring threats on more than one line. That would be a dramatic change from recent seasons. Of course, we should not get too excited about one game -- many rookies appear like comets in every sport only to flame out, but it was an enjoyable debut and we know that Stepan certainly has major league talent.

It is the first game and the Rangers have much to work on. Their defense maintained their helter skelter pace by being inefficient in protecting Henrik and clearing the puck. During the final 2 periods, the Sabres had 32 shots, outshooting the Ranger 19-9 in the 2nd and 13-9 in the 3rd.

The 3rd period saw the Rangers permit the Sabres to pull to within 5-3 with 5 1/2 minutes left before Dubinsky put the game away an empty net short-handed goal with 85 seconds to go.

R.I.P. Buffaslug.

Henrik was under siege during the second half of the game and thankfully was sharp and lightning- quick. Late in the third period, he also was saved by the right post on a shot that hopped over his pad and veered to the left before hitting the post. Fortunately, the Rangers exploited the opportunities they were given by a charitable porous Buffalo defense to convert nifty passes into goals and that was the difference.

As I mentioned last week, Stepan sweaters may be a big seller at MSG now.

Grabbing 2 points in Buffalo is always sweet. Seeing the Rangers' offense start out on fire is terrific.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that Stepna will not keep up his pace to score more than 240 goals and the Rangers are not a 500 goal team. Still, the thought that the Rangers may have some firepower is intriguing.

What is important right now for the Rangers is to work on the defense because there is no guarantee that they will continue to average 5 goals a game as they have since preseason started.

--- The Graying Mantis

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