Thursday, January 27, 2011

THE RANGER revealed

(Thanks to The Rangers Tribune for breaking the update)

Thanks to Stan Lee and the NHL, every team now has a superhero that represents each franchise as a way to appeal to kids of all ages and identify them with the team, and not necessarily the players on the team.  Closely resembling McDonalds and their 'playground' tactics, this is probably one of the stranger things the NHL has done to attract kids into the sport.

Not sure what it has to do with hockey, but I am sure on January 30 they will explain everything.  The only true evil are the guys I can think of are behind making this deal for the league (i.e. Dolan, Bettman, etc...)  Truth be told, maybe the NJ Devils and NY Islanders could use a real-life superhero at this point in the season - the Atlantic Division could grant them this handicap.

Well one thing is for certain - our name lends itself to creating a superhero.  The Ranger.  Easy to remember.  Has a fighter adjective built into the name.  But what happens when you are the Maple Leafs or The Islanders???  Hilarity.

Completely ridiculous...
This is all Stan Lee could come up with?
Sad that THE DARK RANGER was the original unofficial superhero of the New York Rangers, but we accept the new guy in town and understand that it's time to move on. 

Though, we'll stick with the bad photoshops and hold our heads up high!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He Giveth and he Taketh Away.


Henrik Lundqvist must have felt as if he was blindfolded for most of the night and by the end... maybe he was hoping for a cigarette and firing squad. The Marksman however might be aiming elsewhere; in the direction of Artem Anisimov.

Read the official recap here.

It was just the night before where young Anisimov would play the hero and lose his goose egg on Shootout tallies... however last night Anisimov would play guest bumper twice on shots that got past Henrik Lundqvist, including the deciding goal. Some, you win and some, you ....facepalm, then sink between two players on the bench hoping to not be seen or noticed, the hope avoid the shower of debris that rains down from the stands... For young Anisimov, this is just one of many stumbles that every player in blue has experienced at some time or another. As long as his gaffes don't come with a signature (Malik, Roszival, Poti, etc) , he'll move on and tweak his game so that they don't happen again.

So much was made of the fact that we didn't play like a team that had went the distance the night before with another team. I can't say I beg to differ, but I did notice that our game wasn't up to snuff. By that I mean, while conceding we played with intensity and energy that has become synonymous with the team. We didn't have the level we needed to beat the team we played last night. The Panther team that came into the Garden last night, started a game with hard checking and muscling players off the puck. Unfortunately for us, their game is much like ours and they knew exactly where to find us. In the corners and along the boards are the places we hope to lure other teams where our cycling around the boards and slight of stick game has the defense moving enough that eventually a lane opens up to the front of the net. Florida brought a heavier checking game than we expected and played us tighter in the places we normally get the most work done. While the scoring for both teams came in spurts, this game was decided on resiliency and ability to adapt. The Panthers for the most part took their game off the boards and up high instead of working in the traffic jam that occurred in front of the net at both ends of the ice. Multiple deflections and weird bounces and screened shots seemed to cause havoc for Henrik most of the night. For the most part, his facial expressions ranged somewhere between "How the hell.." and "SONOVA...". The Returning Del Zotto actually made one or two extra effort plays that would make you think he's found purpose in his game again. Though the team overall seemed to be treading water hoping for a break, there were a players that did stand out out. Avery getting top ice time of all the forwards must have been such a humbling moment for Torts, who eventually had to put all his eggs in one basket to generate some offense with Boyle centering Avery and Gaborik and forcing things down low. The defense picked up and only allowed one shot for Florida in the third. A little deflection and screen from Anisimov would be all that it needed to go in.
As we head to the All star-break, we can perhaps look forward to a week that will give our players the rest and rehab they need... and we'll settle back for a Dive Free Allstar game with both Crosby and Malkin out.

Till Next time Ranger fans,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Hobbit Shoots and Thrashes / NYR 3, Atlanta 2 (SO)

 ASSOCIATED PRESS below (DARK thoughts tomorrow):

Atlanta Mats Zuccarello scored in a shootout, Brian Boyle's goal forced overtime with 5:19 left in regulation, and the New York Rangers rallied to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Saturday night.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 20 shots through overtime and then was perfect in four shootout rounds for the Rangers, who avoided losing for the fourth time in five games over seven days. Wojtek Wolski added a second-period goal for New York.

Anthony Stewart and Nik Antropov had goals for the fading Thrashers, who have lost six of seven.
Stewart's 12th goal gave the Thrashers a 2-1 lead 18:01 into the second period. Bryan Little's shot from the right circle glanced off Stewart's backside, but Stewart gained control of the puck and scored to Lundqvist's glove side.

Atlanta made it 1-0 on Antropov's tip-in -- his eighth goal -- 6:47 into the first.
Wolski scored his ninth goal to lift the Rangers into a 1-1 tie at 2:43 of the second period. He was skating toward the bottom of the slot when Derek Stepan sent a pass to him from the right circle.
The Thrashers seemed to get a boost from a penalty-killing unit that started the night ranked next to last in the NHL.

Atlanta wasn't short-handed until 14:33 remained in regulation, but Ondrej Pavelec stopped three shots while the Thrashers were down two men.

Boyle set up his 17th goal, tied for the most on the Rangers, with a hit on defenceman Johnny Oduya that forced a turnover. Boyle slid the puck past Thrashers defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, as both players skated past the Atlanta blue line, before regaining it and beating Pavelec.

The injury-ravaged Rangers had six rookies in the lineup, including Brodie Dupont, who made his NHL debut. New York coach John Tortorella gave only seven shifts to Dupont, the team's third-round draft pick in 2005. He is the eighth rookie to make his Rangers debut this season.

New York, which lost forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko this week to injuries, also saw defenceman Dan Girardi get banged up. Girardi had a bloody upper lip and nose after he fought Andrew Ladd in the second period.

Notes: Wolski has three goals and six points in six games since the Rangers acquired him from Phoenix on Jan. 10 for defenceman Michal Rozsival. ... New York captain Chris Drury has no goals in 19 games since returning from a broken finger. ... Girardi was trying to avenge a clean hit on defence partner Marc Staal when he grabbed Ladd's jersey and fought the forward.

Friday, January 21, 2011

CSI - Carolina Scene Investigation -- Nothing to See Here | CAR 4 NYR 1

Hockey once again proves to be a strange game. Your team can look invincible one night and the very next night very, very ordinary.

Witness this week. The Bruins laid a 7-0 shellacking on Carolina on Monday and beat them again the next night 3-2. Then they lose to the lowly Sabres 4-2. The Leafs got steamrolled 7-0 by the Blueshirts at the Garden on Wednesday and then rock the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 the very next night.

You know where I am going here -- the Rangers -- victorious with the aforementioned butt-whipping of Toronto on Wednesday -- put forth a follow-up pathetic performance losing 4-1 in Raleigh to the Hurricanes. The recap is here.

Thanks to the Bruins, the Rangers did keep some distance between themselves and Carolina but when the task was in their hands to drop Carolina further, the Rangers came up woefully short. Today, the 9th place Canes trail the Blueshirts by 5 points and have 2 games in hand.

There's little about the game to discuss without my wanting to simply hit my computer's off switch. In fact, I am not using any pictures from last night's game since there was nothing noteworthy and I want to spare myself and readers from those horrific black home jerseys that Carolina donned.

Casualty Concerns. So far this year the Rangers already have lost nearly160
man games to injury. Last year -- 78 for the entire season. The number
will continue to increase by 6-7 games for the next couple of weeks at least.
Excuses are plentiful -- back-to-back games while Carolina rested. The infusion of green youngsters (including yesterday's call-up, Chad Kolarik) to replace the missing players: Prospal (Gaborik misses him for sure), Christensen, Frolov, Callahan, Dubinsky, and Fedotenko.

Note the last 3 names on this list -- the bedrock for penalty killing and backchecking -- and you have to admire how well the Rangers have been able to play with all the Hartford call-ups filling the roster. But fans sense (and rightfully so) that the team's resilience can only be stretched so far in the face of losing so many top-line players.

Still, performance from those highly paid to do so is required and it was sorely lacking everywhere except in goal -- Gaborik and Avery had no chemistry last night due in large part to Carolina's making Gaborik a focal point. Chris Drury looked s-l-o-w.

Hartford Express Derailed. Whether the Rangers can keep up
a winning pace relying on several call-ups remains to be seen.

Even at full strength, we have seen that the Rangers do not match up well with speedy teams like Tampa and Philadelphia.

Based on Henrik Lundqvist's quote -- “It was too open a game, too many scoring chances and not the way we wanted to play. They were fast and came at us with a lot of speed.” -- it looks like you can add Carolina to that mix.

Last night's game was lost early in a depressingly similar way to the last weekend's losses against Montreal and Philly as the Rangers fell behind once again 3-0. Only this time, they could only pull to within 3-1 midway through the 3rd period before Carolina closed the door with an insurance goal by rookie Jeff Skinner.

At least this time, from the opening whistle, the Rangers tried to match Carolina's attack. Although outshot 16-11, the Rangers had ample opportunities to score but either failed to finish or were thwarted by Cam Ward, who had a solid game.

Artem Anisimov had 7 shots on goal -- several quality efforts. Wotjek Wolski had several pretty moves that could have been rewarded.

Henrik Lundqvist had a solid game, bordering on spectacular, but was abandoned several times by his defense. The Rangers' play in the defensive zone the entire night looked ragged like their effort against the Leafs in the 3rd period the night before. The loss of 3 of their defensively-expert forwards was very noticeable.

The Rangers defensemen, other than a beautiful goal-denying swipe from the crease by Dan Girardi early in the game, had a forgettable performance. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing Marc Staal's #18 as he was beaten when Brandon Sutter scored to make it 3-0 in the second period.

By the way, Ward's and Lundqvist's numbers so far this season are eerily similar:
  • Ward 20-14-5 2.67 .921
  • Lundqvist 20-15-3 2.26 .927 .
These are both elite goaltenders. Henrik has been the beneficiary of a much more solid defense that has permitted many fewer shots than Ward has faced. Those blocked shots do pay off.

I watched the first 2 periods of the game from my personal man-cubicle (my office) last night. My work neighbor and I watched the game from our respective computer monitors -- each of us muttering to ourselves about what we were seeing.

Toward the end of the 2nd period, I saw that CSI was coming on -- so I simply flicked it on for the 3rd period and relied on my neighbor's outbursts to tell me what was going on.

So I missed Brandon Prust scoring to make it 3-1 (assisted by Chad Kolarik and Ryan McDonagh, both of whom notched their initial NHL points) halfway through the 3rd-- my response to my neighbor: Let me know when it is 3-2.

After hearing that Skinner scored to make it 4-1 -- my response: how much snow are we getting tonight?

Meanwhile, I came to some acute observations while ignoring the 3rd period:

(i) although admittedly a Bruckheimer t.v. addict (Without A Trace, Cold Case, and CSI Miami and CSI NY), I learned that the regular CSI show really is awful. But it was still better than the Rangers' game;

(ii) if I am a cop or detective or treasure hunter and this incredibly too-wonderful-to-be-true good-looking woman "befriends" me and takes a much too curious interest in my work, then I should be watching my gun, my back, my self-respect, and most of all, my privates. Too often, all 4 become victims.

(iii) My final observation needs pictures. . . lots of pictures.

"It Moved." Suffice to say if I am a victim in a CSI Miami episode and Emily Procter and/or Eva La Rue are poking around me, you can be damned sure they will find a pulse. I may be a corpse, but I ain't dead.

Let's hope the Rangers show some life as their ongoing 3 game road trip continues -- Atlanta on Saturday night and Washington on Monday night.

---The Graying Mantis

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rangers Bag leafs 7-0

GABORIK EMERGES FROM SLUMP TO SCORE 4Wow, it was just one of those nights where things clicked and pucks started bouncing in our favor. Prior to the game it was announced that Dubinsky could be out a month with a stress fracture, and as hopes sunk deeper... the prayers were with Gabby to break out of his slump. His extra practice shown on a pre game feature. He delivered like only he could.

Read the official recap here.

Poor Gustavsson in the Toronto net was apparently so starstruck playing against his Idol, in Henrik, that he couldn't see any pucks coming. Actually he saw plenty, in fact his defense abandoned him on so many plays, there should have been a welcome mat painted between the hashmarks in the Toronto zone. The tandem of Avery Gabby and Anisimov, seemed almost unstoppable. It also put a little more shine on the Stepan/Zuccs pairing and the every improving Boyle and hard working Fedotenko (who looks to me like he dislocated a shoulder last night and should be out for the same amount of time Gabby missed earlier this season.) Stoning every Toronto shot he faced, Henrik closed it out in style and racked up another shutout in his meteoric rise to the top of the Rangers list in that category.

It seems to be there could be two sides to this Gaborik issue. There are some of us that will hail Tortorella a genius for calling out Gabby and sitting him for extended periods the other night. I have a hard time buying into that completely and may have the unpopular opinion. I think he's a good coach and I like him taking players to task, but there seems to be some disparity on how things are played across the board. I wasn't of the opinion that Gaborik was slumping, just uninspired by misuse. Its not long ago that we had a captain who was a great player but had more mood swings than a schizophrenic going through menopause. He was often coddled, given familiar linemates, consulted about what kind of game he thought we should play, etc. ... and I hated it. It doesn't mean that I don't recognize its effectiveness. Gaborik is a player cut from the same cloth. Not really prissy because he doesnt back down... but he's a prolific scorer than under the right conditions can produce miracles and magic pretty consistently. Lets face it, Gabby hasn't been given consistent linemates for which to build any chemistry. It also seemed apparent before that Avery on Gabby's line produced the other time it was tried. Then poof just like that after a game, it was disbanded and never came together again without even the smallest of afterthoughts. Oooh, I have one... Perhaps Tortorella couldnt stand the thought of rewarding Avery with as much ice time as he would be receive having to be on the ice every time Gaborik was on even strength.... At least not without Avery first bowing to Tortorella and complying with the coach'es image of Avery. Avery's a better player than many people give him credit for but he has to work in a confined space. Sometime he needs to stretch the boundaries of that in order to be the Avery that we love to see mentally distract the opposition... noone knows that better than for once, trust the guy and give him an occasion to rise to. I'd rather have him be preoccupied with scoring than the many things that run through his mind while sitting on the bench. For a guy like Dubinsky, who's the apple of the coaches eye for developing in the system, it's rewarding to see him progress but it also feeds the coaches ego and strengthens the idea that everyone should play his way or not at all. It's a bit idea that has its merits. Its the basis for a coach player relationship, but having players of different talents means learning to use them all effectively.
By the way, anyone else find it rather rewarding to see Colton Orr turn into a penalty minute collecting hack?

Till Next time Ranger Fans,

Monday, January 17, 2011

All-Star Playground

So, NHL All Stars are borrowing from an old schoolyard tradition to beef up their All Star game by having team captains pick their teams.

Doesn't it bring a tear to your eye remembering the good ol' days? Who wouldn't want to, for old time's sake, revisit the innocence of childhood? It was a time when things were simple and happy. A time when the most popular, the strongest and fastest kids ruled the schoolyard and got to determine every kid's fate by virtue of the stripes they earned rubbing other kids' faces in the dirt. It was the last time you can recall natural selection on display each and every day. Seeing that pitiful look on the face of the kid picked dead last was like watching a weak-ass-back-of-the-line baby zebra get ripped apart by a den of lions.

Based on how this fantasy pick gimmick is being marketed, we're supposed to be excited that the best players - the coolest kids, as voted by you, hockey fans - get to pick their own teams. Feel your pulse - quick! With a chance to tackle the real issue with the All Star Game (i.e. that it's a pointless shinny game rife with self-aggrandizing and goofballing), the NHL and particularly the NHLPA, have instead found inspiration from a simple schoolyard tactic.

Why stop there? Why don't they add a burping contest into the skills competition? They could also gang up on the guy picked last and towel-snap his ass. I'm sure Phil Kessel would eventually get over the humiliation. At the first intermission they could make up dirty poems using the name Pelekanc.

To inject some legitimacy and fan appeal into this All Star game, some real leadership is needed. Instead, NHL fans are being spoon-fed a bunch of kidstuff. Come on, grow up, guys.

"Now put away your toys, sit on the mat, put on your thinking caps and come up with another super-duper idea for fixing the All Star game, mmmkay? Sidney, sit up straight."

- General Ganz

New York Rangers 2, Philadelphia Flyers 3

From Yahoo Sports because The Dark Ranger is too emotionally pissed off to write anything:

FLYERS 3, RANGERS 2: The Rangers are slumping offensively again with just 13 goals in their last nine games, including successive road losses by the same score on back-to-back nights in Montreal and Philadelphia. In both games, the Rangers fell behind early before a third-period comeback fell short. They also have scored just twice in their last 32 opportunities on the power play, including 0-for-3 on Sunday.

"We can't spot (teams) a 3-0 lead and expect to win," leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky said.

John Tortorella has remained patient throughout star winger Marian Gaborik's scoring woes this season.
Until Sunday night, that is.

The two-time 40-goal scorer, including a team-best 42 in his Broadway debut last season, hasn't scored in eight games and was benched for most of the second period in Sunday's 3-2 loss in Philadelphia.

"It's just (that) we need production from him, I'll leave it at that," Tortorella said. "We've got guys grinding their (butts) off. We need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us."

Gaborik played just 12:45 against the Flyers, including just 2:25 over five shifts in the middle period. He finished with two shots on goal and a minus-1 rating. Tortorella added that there are no physical issues with Gaborik, who missed about a month early this season with a shoulder injury.

"Obviously, I haven't produced much lately. Obviously, in these types of games, it's a big game. I'm not giving up, I've just got to work harder, just try to get out of it, that's the bottom line," Gaborik said. "Confidence is a very big part. The last few games, I felt good and we created chances. I think things were happening but it was not going in. It surprised me (Sunday) to get benched. It's the coach's decision, that's the bottom line. I have to produce and help this team win games... You definitely want to go out there and prove you should be on the ice."

And So The Story Goes...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Duh-binsky Made The Loss / NYR 2, Montreal 3

"I swear I'm better than Brad Richards!!?"
With the Blueshirts alone on the scoreboard more than halfway through the first period, NYR Brandon Dubinsky gave the turning point for Montreal when he took an adolescent (albeit minor) penalty against P.K. Subban in retaliation for liberties Subban took against the Rangers on home ice earlier in the week.   A complete breakdown by Lundqvist and our blueline followed - lazy, panicking and simply horrible.    So what happens there, Blueshirt's Newbury in his first NHL game decides that he is the schlump to throw some fists and attempt to turn the momentum.  You sure it wasn't Prust or Avery?  No chance.  We were then treated to three Montreal goals in 2 minutes and 44 seconds.  Sound familiar?  Thank goodness this happened in the first period as the forthcoming disappointment was expected for the rest of the game.  At least this didn't happen in the third period. 

Which leads to the second period with only eight minutes left and no change in score, Dubinsky pulls another stupid penalty, this time tripping.  One would naturally believe another Montreal goal was on it's way, but that did not happen.  With the Canadiens power play taking over six pot shots on Henrik and our boys unable to clear, Dubinsky was bailed out by The King, some of the greatest Henrik Lundqvist saves of his career.   The game could easily have been 5-1.   The momentum turned when  Lundqvist was slammed by Montreal's Paccieretti -- and at that point Henrik decided he had enough and jumped him with fists flying.  Goalies that fight.  HEN-RIK....HEN-RIK....  Various penalties were given, but the Rangers were on the power play once again.

Henrik provided more 'turning point' material than Don Rickles at the Flamingo Hilton in his heyday.

So what followed was an anemic power play opportunity with 'zero' shots on goal.  Second period ends with both teams bear hugging each other and no one actually throwing down the gloves.  Emotions running high, frustrations wearing on their sleeves and Torts looking down with one period left, the refs decide the little scrum wasn't worth handing out penalties, the first sign of leniency to our boys in Blue.

For anyone watching the MSG broadcast and interview with Scott Gomez during the break, I have only one thing to say, "You're not funny Scotty...go f*ck yourself!"  Why do we bother?
I hate this P.K. Subban guy.  Cheap shot artist

The third opened as a virtual Montreal shooting gallery against the Rangers, the Montreal defense pushing forward preventing any of the puck-moving-Torts-system to be effective.  At best, the Rangers looked a version of the NJ Devils of years gone by - defensive hockey and stellar goaltending.  But behind on two goals and no shots on the Montreal, oh shot that period by Marian Gaborik....(hiccup) we looked like the team that is only capable of scoring one goal a night, as evidenced by our loss to Montreal earlier this week, our win against Vancouver on Thursday and tonight. 

Then off a beautiful Derek Stepan feed, Mats Zuccarrella scored the second Rangers goal to give us hope and life once again.  Whew.

Then something changed the last six minutes of the game.  The Rangers took control and owned puck possession.  Multiple scoring chances, open nets and a new confidence dominated, but still unable to close a tying goal, they were given a gift from the nail-biting Gods, Montreal's Gill committed a bad penalty with a minute and a half left giving our Blueshirts the opportunity needed to tie things up.  Scoring chances a plenty , followed by an incredible Brian Boyle high rising tap toward the Habs net, Montreal goalkeper Carey Price made the best save of his career giving Montreal the win.

What we never saw in the first two periods, we saw in the last minutes of play.  Not quite the three periods of blue collar hockey we've come to expect from this 'black and blue' Rangers squad.  Two losses to the same team in one week marks the spot.  Embarrassment?  Shame?  Nah.  Just suck.

That's how I see it, but if you're interested in how MSG spins it, the Official Recap is here.

While the Rangers were losing in Montreal, the Philadelphia Flyers took to Central Park a day before our meeting tomorrow night and practiced at the outdoor skating rink.  I am sure there were some beautiful photo opportunities, but shouldn't Mayor Bloomberg have something negative to say about Philadelphia pissing in our backyard and marking their territory the day before?   Just sayin...

Maybe it's a foreshadowing of a Rangers / Flyers Winter Classic in New York City!!?

Tomorrow night.  Philadelphia Flyers 7pm.  Pray.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Rangers Swarm Canucks in Finals Quality Contest | NYR 1 VAN 0

In a game that had 1994 Stanley Cup Finals intensity written all over it, in front of a vociferous and appreciative Garden crowd, against an opponent with the best record in the NHL, the Rangers protected their King and home ice like a hostile swarm of bees against invaders from the Northwest, the Vancouver Canucks, in perhaps the most intense game of the year by prevailing 1-0. The official recap is here.

Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 30th shutout in his career (and 6th this season) -- he is now tied for 3rd in the Rangers' record books. He outdueled Corey Schneider, who entered the game with an 8-0-2 record.

How good is Vancouver? Let's try these little nuggets: They had not lost in regulation since December 5 -- a 14-0-3 stretch. They were 13-5-3 on the road. During their previous 22 games, they were held to fewer than 3 goals, 4 times. (Meanwhile, during their past 7 games, the Rangers have scored 3 goals ONCE.)

Oooops. "We're going to need some goals
tonight," Tortorella said before the game. "We're
not going to win a hockey game 1-0 tonight."

Fans, forgive me, were buzzing all over the Internet last night about the game. At my office today -- with its semi-regular "Jeans & Jerseys Day", plenty of employees proudly sported their Rangers sweater. The Rangers' play has started to capture the spirit of New York fans even in the face of the upcoming hate contest this weekend between the Jets and Patriots. When the Blueshirts took the ice this fall, who would have thought that.

Wall of Blue. The Rangers protected their Swedish King
all night long against Vancouver's high-powered offense.

The game did not start off well when Derek Stepan took an early penalty and the Rangers seemed to be on a different flight schedule than their visitors.

From the opening faceoff, the Canucks sped around the ice leaving the Rangers flailing behind at times. Fortunately, other than Stepan's early penalty, the Rangers did not panic and although outshot early by 8-3, they settled down and the scoreless first period ended with Vancouver only having an 11-8 edge. During the period, the Rangers blocked 14 shots (and 24 for the game).

Save of the game? Henrik stretches out to use his toe to (maybe)
deflect Mason Raymond's effort to go top shelf in the 1st period.

During the second period, Vancouver found out about the Rangers' lunch pail, blue collar mentality.

Outshooting the Canucks by 16-9 and defending the blue line and Henrik's goal with wave after wave of checks, blocked shots, stick checking, and faceoff wins, the Rangers dominated play territorially, and most importantly, on the scoreboard.

The Rangers' aggressiveness was rewarded with 2 power plays early in the second period. The first was called on Manny Malhotra for hooking at the 6:49 minute mark.

Within 30 seconds, the Rangers would score the game's only goal as the Rangers won a faceoff to Corey Schneider's left. Marian Gaborik immediately shot the puck after the faceoff win and after Schneider stopped the puck, new acquisition Wojtek Wolski moved his way to the goal and pounced on the loose puck to shoot into the net.

Fedotenko. More than 19 minutes played. He has been rock solid
all season long. Here, he gives Henrik Sedin a chance to rest his jaw.

During the remainder of ther period, the Rangers pressured the Canucks and Schneider denied them every step of the way.

He registered 34 saves for the game, but as in Tuesday's game against Montreal, the Rangers failed to finish plays, shot wide or high and let Schneider off the hook several times just as they did with Alex Auld of Montreal.

The playmaking, passing and skating -- which were missing early in the season -- have developed. What is needed is some finishing.

Conversion Rate Issues. Against Montreal and Vancouver this week, the Rangers have come tantalizingly close to scoring but have been foiled by good goalkeeping, bad luck or simply poor decisions. Here, Boyle cannot use his 6'7" frame to get the puck into the open net. Later, Gaborik failed to convert a breakaway in the 3rd period, a miss that could have proven fatal.

The most important stretch of the game occurred late in the second period. During a Vancouver attack, Marc Staal was guarding the front of the net when Alex Burrows stuck his stick between his legs, toppling Staal with a cheap and dangerous shot to the groin.

On his way down, Staal whacked at Burrows' ankle, knocking him down. Of course, that was what the ref saw, so Staal was whistled off for tripping with 5:07 to go.

Jewel Heist Averted. Marc Staal celebrated his 24th
birthday by nearly losing his delicates to spearing by Alex Burrows.

The Rangers proceeded to start to kill the penalty when Chris Drury, who won 7 of 11 faceoffs, tried to clear the puck out of the Rangers' zone. The puck took an unfortunate deflection off his stick into the crowd for a delay of game penalty.

Two questionable (to be charitable) penalties to a team that has a PP success rate of 25% did not bode well. The Rangers persevered to kill the 47 second two man advantage. The home crowd cheered and gave the team a standing ovation in salute for the efforts. The second period ended with the Rangers leading 1-0.

In the third period, the pace was frenetic with few stoppages and no penalties -- reminiscent of playoff hockey. Both teams had 11 shots in the final 20 minutes. Marian Gaborik, with perhaps the Rangers' best chance of the period, failed to score on a breakaway that gave Vancouver some hope.

Ultimately, it was the Rangers' stingy defense and the work of the Prust/Fedotenko/Boyle trio that shut down the Vancouver offense. During the final minutes, the Rangers worked hard to keep the puck in the Canuck end and keep Schneider from leaving the net.

Finally, the goalie was able to get off the ice and play remained in the Rangers' zone for the final 40 seconds or so. With the teams fighting for every inch, the game ended. For once, an opposing team's media acknowledged how well the Rangers played.

Meaningless Regular Season Game? Brian Boyle -- with nearly
19 minutes of ice time -- kneels on the ice after the final horn mercifully
sounds. His improved play this season epitomizes what Tort's coaching is all about.

There is no rest for the weary. For Saturday night, the Rangers travel to Montreal for a Hockey Night in Canada tilt with the Canadiens.

Then they return to MSG for a Sunday night contest with the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, who will be visiting NYC for the first time this season.

--The Graying Mantis

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can the Blueshirts Win the Cup? - Analysis

A Message From Fran Pizzani

A Ranger is an original. Like no other.

A Ranger is a symbol of hard work, drive, determination and character.

A Ranger is someone very special. He plays with heart. He does not back down from a fight.

A Ranger does not fear hospitals. Does not shy away from blood work, intravenous medicines or more tests.

A Ranger can beat a fever of 105.

A Ranger can survive very little sleep in a noisy ICU.

A Ranger can survive a coma. A 14 day coma. He can survive organ failure, even organ shutdown.

A Ranger will go through dialysis or a ventilator if they are needed to help him

But, a Ranger cannot do it alone. He needs family, friends and a great, great deal of support.

We’ve all seen the Rangers raise their sticks at the end of a win to the Garden faithful. I have always loved that. It always made me feel like I was a real part of that win.  I am writing this to thank all of you for all of your support through all of this. I have read all of your comments over and over again and have been crying like Mark Messier during one of his speeches. I am overwhelmed by all of you.

The Ranger community, actually, even better, FAMILY, has amazed and inspired. I am so, so grateful to The Dark Ranger and to each and every one of you for all of your comments and support. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have been home for 6 days now after close to 30 days in the hospital. Most everything is a challenge. Just getting dressed can be exhausting. Walking 8 blocks was like climbing Everest. But after all of the love and support I have seen, I am not backing down. I will chase the puck, I will I charge the net, I will finish my checks. Yes, I will drop the gloves and fight to get my life back.

My name is Fran Pizzani and...



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Injury ReHAB too slow for Rangers


Last night was the first meeting this season between the Rangers and Habs. Or maybe we should say Hartford and Habs. Don't misunderstand, this isn't a jab at our young players who have been developing nicely in their time with the big club, but the Canadian team might have seen more Rangers last night in civies hobbling around the backstage area, than in uniform.

Read the official Report of Last nights game">here.

Altogether, it wasn't a horrible game as both teams started off with some good energy and worked their advantages. The Canadians for their part showed why they had the second lowest goals against totals in the league. Their high pressure game was difficult one to get past. I was almost sure the style would be a nightmare for our blueshirts and our only consolation would be that former and brief Ranger Alex Auld in net for Montreal and whiles he's no slice of swiss cheese, he's rarely a wall. However, he was made to look like an all star as his team did their best to keep the pressure off him and succeeded. For two periods the teams were neck and neck and scratch and clawing for possession. This was hardly the shooting gallery the Bettman campaigners were looking for when shrinking goalies equipment and thinking up new tippy tap penalties to open up offense and pave the way for higher scoring games. This was essentially a defensive chess match between two teams riding their defense in the absence of some of their more offensive players. It was up to the players left to step up and unfortunately it happened for the habs before it happened for us (last night's Hab nots) as Poullion wristed a beauty of a shot, that dare I say is almost impossible to pick off when when you're trying you make yourself as big as possible in net, as a goaltender.

The other story for us last night was new Ranger Wotjek Wolski. Assumed to be an offensive force, with an underlying motivational defect that saw him moved twice already. He didn't seem to play that bad of a game. Especially considering he showed up shortly before game time and was only given one instruction in a pregame pow wow with Coach Torts: That being "Play...". It was probably best to keep it simple for a guy who probably thought twice about putting his pads on while on the plane if he was going to make the game on time. In between periods we found out a little more about Wolski. One, he's not a heavy accented Polish player who stuck playing a euro perimeter style... He grew up mostly in Canada from an early age and speaks and plays as such. The second thing we found out about him is that thoughts about free agency would have had him looking forward to the possibility of being a Ranger. I know a lot of players have said that before just as their eyes gleem over with Dollar signs and they begin to mull over colors for their new sportscar and Wolski's one game has yet to give him a chance to play like a Ranger, battle like a Ranger and above all BE a Ranger... but I have to say I like what I saw out there for a kid who was simply trying to fit in. He wasn't afraid to use his size and throw the body (God knows we need someone like that), take shots and defer to thoughts of Gabby before winding up and shooting. I think there may be a few more games for him to get into a comfort zone... but he can eventually get there... and show us what he has and whether hes worth hanging on to when his contract ends after next season. At the very least, we might have at least more than a snowballs chance in hell (with Zucc's and Wolski) in the shootout sans Christensen. Let's hope he can get comforted fast as next up is Vancouver and last night's 3rd period shows how much we are missing Callahan's energy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rozzy Is Outta Here!!!! Strengthens Depth Up Front

One day after finding out left wing Alex Frolov is out for the season, the New York Rangers made a pretty significant move in an effort to replace him.

The Rangers acquired left wing Wojtek Wolski from the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday in exchange for defenseman Michal Rozsival. Wolski could be available when the Rangers play Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

The 24-year-old Wolski has 6 goals and 10 assists in 36 games and should immediately fill the void left by Frolov, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. Wolski had 23 goals and 42 assists in 80 games split between the Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche last season.

It was a move the Rangers could afford to make because of their depth on the blue line.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blues Lose To Rangers' Dangers / NYR 2, St. Louis 1

"Is THAT all you got?"
Brandon Dubinsky is a Gladiator!

It's been ten years since the New York Rangers beat the St. Louis Blues, and last night with backup goalkeeper of the Gods, Marty Biron smashed and decapitated this little-known fact (23 saves), holding the Blues to one goal and making some outstanding quality saves to give the Blueshirts their third win in a row, only five points away from leading the Eastern Conference.  Their opponent was young and strong and wanting, just as they were, but they battled on, despite having played the evening before in Dallas. 

Official recap here.

"Backes away you scoundrel, and take that....and that...." - Staal

Looking back at this team's inefficiencies from the beginning of this season, our first pair on the blueline -- the shutdown Marc Staal and Dan Girardi -- are turning out to be one of the more consistent combos on this Rangers squad, holding The Blues to a season-low two shots in a scoreless first when New York managed only six. Though semi-responsible for St. Louis scoring on its second shot of the second period, they well made up for it in brutal shutdown defense that keeps getting better and better this season.  This Torts system has well conditioned our young guys and it's working especially for the pairings of Staal-Girardi and Eminger-Sauer. Both lines are showing off and preventing goals.

The Blues' Brad Winchester opened the scoring on a deflection early in the second period. NYR Derek Stepan's 12th goal beat Blue's netminder Jaroslav Halak between the legs to tie it 1-1 midway through the second. Avery's second of the season at 15:26 erased momentum the Blues had built while taking nine straight shots. Dubinsky emerged from the scrum with the puck and fed it to Marian Gabroik, whose fluttering shot deflected off Halak's chest and sailed over his helmet, landing near the goal-line. Avery tapped it in for his first goal since Oct. 27. It was a give and go and give wet dream goal.....pure and sweet!  “A couple great passes by my two linemates and I was able to get one past him there,” said Stepan. “It was a good play by the whole line. Something just seems to click with us, and we’ve built some good chemistry.”
"We weren't spot on. Our team's tired, we're a little bit beat up," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "But we grinded. That's who we are, that's how we're going to have to play."
The Coliseum a.k.a as The Garden
 It was a big game for all, and that momentum needs to be bottled up and transported to the haunting Coliseum known as Madison Square Garden, where in two days time the Rangers will meet The Habs for the first time all season.  The Canadiens currently have 49 points and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.  So while the Blueshirts and every team through tenth place in the Eastern are now in playoff-ready mode, every point means a lot. 

Montreal hasn't seen the grit & tenacity of this team and this is one Rangers pack I don't think would allow six or seven goals, as we've witnessed (and never forget) the last three seasons against them.  The Habs should look forward to a team that retaliates and stands up for each other, a team that rises to the third period occasion and unexpectedly wins games when you let your guard down.   Now mind you, there are four tough games this week for the Blueshirts:  Tuesday against Montreal, Thursday against the non-losing Vancouver Canucks, a re-match against Montreal on Saturday, ending with a home game against the first-place Philadelphia Flyers.  This is another true test for our young 'ens in Blue.  How many of the eight points available are they good for and is it conceivable to take over a leading spot in the division and/or conference with a couple of Pittsburgh & Philly losses this week? 
The Hobbit Gladiator has impressed The King (Henrik)

Hang tight Rangers fans.  This week will define who we are, and as all of the New York teams seem to be surging, we should all first rejoice & lift our glasses of mead and toast the victories of the past and look toward the slaughtering of those that wish to dethrone us.  New York is the best sports town in the world.  New York has the best fans in the world.  And it doesn't hurt when your teams don't suck. 



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dallas Star Light, Dallas Star Bright, Yes, The No Name Rangers Beat You Tonight | NYR 3 DAL 2 (SHO)

"Road Trip" -- words that signified fun times in the masterpiece, Animal House, but words that strike terror into most professional sports teams.

Time zone changes, traveling, buses, airports, inhospitable arenas, unevolved fans (I'm looking at you, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). Add the momentum killers of back-to-back road games like last weekend's near zero trip to the Sunshine State and you know why fans dread these excursions.

But somehow, in nearly all of their road games this season (Philly being the noteworthy exceptions), the Rangers play decently and stay in games for 2 periods. Opposing team announcers highlight Henrik and Gaborik as the Ranger stars and keep thinking their home team will put them away before long. But the Rangers hang around. (In fact, overall, the Rangers have a 5-9-3 record when trailing after 2 periods.)

The 3rd period comes, the Rangers (a truly well-conditioned team this year) step it up and when the final whistle sounds, the Rangers are heading off the ice with yet another come-from-behind win or at least a point. Opposing fans shake their heads as unrenowned scorers with names like Stepan, Fedotenko, Christensen, Staal, Zuccarello deliver game-changing or killing blows.

An Obvious Question that the NHL -- teams, fans, announcers --
keep asking about the Rangers: Who Are Those Guys?

For the Ranger faithful -- fans, pundits, writers, bloggers -- it has become routine (a happy one) to hear them celebrate the youth, the exuberance, the lunch pail mentality, and of course, the resiliency of this team, a resiliency that is all the more remarkable given the youth of the players and the injuries that have knocked out Drury, Callahan, Christensen, Roszival, Gaborik, and Prospal (we'll omit Boogaard) for weeks or months at a time.

Ranger fans, who have warmed to this team as it has played at a high level of competence for now more than half the season, have started to become more noticeable in the place that counts -- MSG was nearly totally filled BEFORE the National Anthem was played at Wednesday's home game with Carolina. Probably for the first time this season since opening night. Hell, I busted my ass in my aged chariot (do not equate those two) to get to the game and got to my seat 18 seconds before the Anthem began.

Ready for My Close-up.
Fedotenko let Trevor Daley know
early on that the Rangers would be playing this game close,
attached to your ass close.

Friday night, the Blueshirts visited Dallas to play the talented Stars with their Pacific Division leading 52 points. After playing another in a series of playoff quality entertaining contests (think of recent games with Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Carolina), the Rangers prevailed in a shootout by the score of 3-2. The official recap is here.

The much ballyhooed return of Sean Avery to Dallas since his exile was an afterthought, probably enhanced by his recent mea culpa to the New York Post about his time in Dallas and the departure of Marty Turco and Mike Modano, his two nemeses on the team.

Henrik Lundqvist faced former Thrasher goalie, Keri Lehtonen, in what became an exciting evenly battled matchup. How even? Shots 31-30. Each team had a power play goal. Dallas took 2 one goal leads and the Rangers used their special teams to match them each time, the first with a SHO (the Rangers NHL-leading 9th) by Rouslan Fedetenko and then with a PPG by Artem Anisimov with 11 minutes remaining in the game.

The Rangers fell behind in the first period when Brian Sutherby scored with nearly 8 minutes gone after the Rangers failed to clear the puck from behind their net. The goal came a mere 30 seconds after Dale (not to be confused with Rolfe) Weise tangled with Dallas's bad boy, Steve Ott.

In the second period, the Stars were on the power play when a Stars' shot missed the short side and careened around the board to the blue line. Marc Richards, who was apparently skating off for a line change, let the puck continue past into center ice where Rouslan Fedetenko dashed over to grab it inside the Stars zone to start a 2-on-1 with Chris Drury. He looked off Lehtonen by staring over at Drury racing down center toward the crease before wristing a shot past Lehtonen on the far side to tie the game at 1 at the 2:49 mark. On the Stars' next power play, Dallas demonstrated how dangerous it is s they passed the puck around the Rangers zone and got the Raangers scrambling. Mike Riberio took advantage by shooting into an open net after Gilroy, Sauer and Lundqvist were out of a position at the 10:20 mark. The 2nd period ended with the Rangers trailing 2-1.

In the third, the Rangers picked up the pace which was rewarded when Brandon Segal was penalized for boarding Brandon Prust at 6:32. With 35 seconds to go in the powerplay, Lundqvist grabbed a clear in the right corner and saw Marc Staal all alone on the far right side coasting past the center ice line. Henrik hit him in stride with a rink-wide pass and Staal proceeded up the right side into the Stars' zone. He sent a pass to Anisimov in the center at the top of the right circle where he launched a shot that beat Lehtonen stick-side and ringed off the post.

Henrik now leads goalies in the NHL with 3 assists and notched an assist in consecutive games. The Stars had some serious chances during the remainder of the game but Henrik and the defense foiled them as regulation ended in a tie. Overtime was cautiously played as neither team had much success getting out of the neutral zone.

Coming into the shootout, so far this season, the Rangers had scored 4 shootout goals -- 3 by Eric Christensen, who is injured. So the questions would be whether Henrik could keep the Stars off the scoreboard and whether a Ranger could score. The Stars went first with Jamie Benn leading off. He lost the puck after trying several dekes and yet Henrik had to make a difficult save as the puck nearly trickled past his left toe. Derek Stepan's shot was stopped by Lehtonen's glove save. Marc Richards then moved in and blast a shot that pinged off the insider of crossbar as he had beaten Lundqvist high.

Next up for the Rangers: Mats Zuccarello -- the hero of the OT victory against Carolina --

From the center ice circle, he deliberately approached Lehtonen and first went to his right and then left, getting the goalie off his feet just enough (see how Lehtonen's center of gravity is compromised) . . . .

before bringing his puck to the left to beat Lehtonen to his right side. From the center ice camera, Zuccarello had opened up a significant part of the net to shoot at with his moves. The best part of the goal was how Zuccarello hit the brakes so that he did not collide with the goalie (as seen here). 2 games, 2 game winning goals for Mats.

Riberio had Dallas' final shot. He went to his right and tried to beat Henrik with a backhander but was denied by Henirk's glove. The Rangers had secured their league-leading 14th road win with a come-from-behind road victory.

It's amazing how the recent 2 victories (one inOT and the other, by shootout) can erase the memories of last weekend's losses. Much of the praise for the Rangers' success has to do with the defense in addition to some top-notch goalkeeping.

Defensive Surprises so far: Sauer & Eminger
Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger have provided significant defensive support that was not expected when the season began. Eminger had more than 19 minutes on the ice last night.

The Rangers move on to St. Louis (20-13-6 and 9th in the West) to play the Blues tonight. The Rangers already have 2 points on this brief road trip and a victory in St. Louis would help buttress their playoff standing.

The Blueshirts trail Washington by a point in the conference standings. Who would have thought the Rangers could be so close to the elite at this point of the season? Teams have started to bunch up in the 5th through 9th positions in the East, so as it is with every NHL season, every point counts.

--- The Graying Mantis

NYR 3 / Dallas Stars 2 (SO)

Mats Zuccarello scored in the second round of the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist was perfect in the tiebreaker to lift the New York Rangers over the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night. Zuccarello, playing in his seventh NHL game, beat Kari Lehtonen with a nifty hesitation move to help the Rangers improve to 7-2-2 in their last 11    The Rangers are currently 24-15-3, sitting 6th in the Eastern Conference with 51 points. They remain a solid third in the Atlantic behind 1st place Pittsburgh (56 points) and 2nd place Philadelphia (55 points). Back to back (away) games continue tonight against the St. Louis Blues. 

Official recap here.

Even without sniper Gaborik putting pucks in net and Ryan Callahan & Prospal still on injured reserve, our Blueshirts continue to never give up and win games.  Apparently, Glen Sather has accompanied the team for this two-game road trip, most likely to meet with Brad Richards and his agents as the February trade deadline soon approaches.  I'd say it's 50/50 that Richards wears Blue going into the playoffs.

More thoughts to come...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

NY Rangers 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

 Lifted from Yahoo Sports - Team Report:
The Rangers reached the 41-game midway point of their schedule Wednesday, virtually equidistant from having the top record in the Eastern Conference and from missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

So what should curious onlookers expect in the second act of this Broadway production?
"I like what we're capable of," leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky told the Record (N.J.). "It's a funny team. We're in the middle. We could either not make the playoffs or be first in the (East).
"Right now, we're right at the fork. If we can find a way to bury our chances and to play consistently for 60 minutes and not just rely on the last 30 minutes, we can be dangerous."

At 23-15-3 entering a two-game trip beginning Friday in Dallas, the Rangers are six points ahead of their pace from last season at the halfway mark.

"The dynamic of the two teams is completely different," Dubinsky said. "I think this year's team is suited better for the tougher part of the season, which is the second half. We have guys who play physical, and we can grind wins out. I don't know if we were that team last year."

Added star winger Marian Gaborik: "I think we've created an identity as a team. We're a hard team to play against, we lead (the NHL) in hits and are (third) in blocked shots. That tells you something. We just need to get some wins here, win a few in a row ... begin to create a gap with the teams behind us now.
"The belief in this room is we (will make the playoffs). But we have to take it step by step. Nothing will be easy."

RANGERS 2, HURRICANES 1 (OT): Mats Zuccarello showed a flair for the dramatic Wednesday, netting his first NHL goal. The talented Norwegian rookie, recalled late last month from AHL Connecticut, emerged from behind the net and roofed the game-winner at 3:09 of overtime. Zuccarello also assisted on defenseman Matt Gilroy's regulation goal, and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as the Rangers ended a two-game slide (0-1-1). "I saw the puck went in and it was an unbelievable rush," Zuccarello said. "You hear the fans cheer. It's just a great feeling."
 DARK thoughts coming later in the day...

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