Thursday, December 30, 2010

King(s) of New York


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

Read the official recap here.

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

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

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

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

Till next Time Ranger Fans,


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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A season of Giving....

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

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

Read the official recap here.

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time Ranger Fans,

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flyers Embarrass Themselves Silly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, December 19, 2010

NYR 1, Flyers 4

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---The Graying Mantis

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Great Rangers Fan Needs Your Help

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

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

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

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


NY Rangers 4, Phoenix Coyotes 3 (SO)

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

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

Rangers 11, Winter Classic Participants 1

A typo?   Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time,

Lets Go Rangers!!!

NY Rangers 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

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

Expect DARK thoughts from J_Undisputed soon...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oy-Vie! NYR 7 / Capitals 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

NYR 7, Wash Caps 0 (for real!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In summary:

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

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NYR 5, Ottawa 3

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

A DARK post to follow soon...

Friday, December 3, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--- The Graying Mantis
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