Monday, February 28, 2011


Martin Biron broke his collarbone in practice today and is out indefinitely.  Crap!
I guess Henrik Lundqvist carries a lot on his collarbone for the remainder of the season.


Another Blueshirt...

According to TSN's Trade Tracker:

The Rangers Have Acquired John Mitchell from the Leafs for a 7th Round pick in 2012.

Bolted and Jolted -- Rangers Lose Game and Then Biron | TAM 2 NYR 1

This season's Ranger woes against the top 2 teams in the Eastern Conference continued as the Blueshirts are now winless after 8 contests with the Flyers and Lightning, the first and second seeded teams in the conference.

The Rangers finished their regular season slate with the Tampa Bay Lightning with another excruciating 2-1 loss before a packed, vocal crowd at MSG on a children's day matinee. Official recap is here.

Then, further bad news hit the team as the reliable bugaboo this season -- injuries -- reared its ugly head as the Rangers announced that reliable backup goalie, Marty Biron, was finished for the regular season, at least with a broken collarbone sustained during practice.

To add icing to this not-so-delicious cupcake, Glen Sather revealed that Capt. Chris Drury was likely finished for the season.

Running out of options. The cupboard is looking a little barren
as the Rangers need to replace yet another important contributor.

Meanwhile, at the Garden, the Rangers played another one of their disappointing Sunday games. This loss reminded me of their earlier loss to Ottawa 2-1 when Prust scored the Rangers' only goal -- a shorthanded one -- and the Rangers lost in regulation thanks to a 3rd period goal.

Yesterday, again the Rangers fell behind in the first period, used an excellent move by Prust to score a shorthanded goal to tie the game in the second before the Lightning capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play advantage with 17:20 remaining in the game.

Unlike the Ottawa game, the Rangers did compete well with a quality team and were close to tying it up on several occasions. The true difference between the teams yesterday was the 2 man advantage the Lightning exploited early in the 3rd period to score the winning goal.

Finishing touch. Brandon Prust moved up ice with surprising speed and moves to totally undress Marc Andre Bergeron at the blue line before breaking in alone on Dwayne Roloson to tie the game. It was the Rangers' 10th shorthanded goal of the season. Tampa Bay has yielded 11.

The Lightning started off quickly and took a 1-0 lead with less than 6 minutes gone when St. Louis threaded the needle between Lundqvist's pads. Then they clamped down on the Rangers offense holding them to 4 shots in the first period.

Despite playing an uneven game, the Lightning showed why they are 2nd in the conference. They have legitimate three scorers -- Steve Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent LeCavalier -- that are powerful offensive presences on the ice and do not miss many opportunities. While holding Stamkos shotless, St. Louis and Lecavalier scored the Tampa goals.

Bryan McCabe made his Ranger debut and showed that he knows how to QB a power play.
Too bad, his teammates were out of position or could not convert several opportunities.

The futility of the Rangers offense is patently obvious when you consider the Rangers had 3 power play opportunities during the period. The Lightning were extremely effective in stacking the blue line and only during the latter part of the 3rd power play did the Rangers realize that dumping and chasing was the only entryway available into the Tampa zone.

Unfortunately, when there, the Rangers failed to hit the net, or missed open nets, or were muscled off the puck. I stopped counting at 5 the number of times I saw Artem Anisimov get plopped on his ass while the Ranger were trying to execute in the offensive zone. We'll ignore his inability to score from the slot for now.

His linemate, Brandon Dubinsky, did not fare much better -- his growing inability to find the net has grown along with his being tagged for journeys into the penalty box. Dubinsky's stats over the past 7 games are not pretty: 12 shots, 2 assists and 14 penalty minutes.

Still, the Rangers kept themselves in the game and as the game progressed, they routinely set up some beautiful chances but were denied by their own ability to finish what they created.

After the Rangers missed cashing in on the first period power play chances, the refs called 6 straight minors against them. The Rangers effectively shut down Tampa Bay for the first 3 and even scored on one of them.

However, the game winning goal came from a 2 man advantage that Tampa Bay exploited on penalties called on Dan Girardi for boarding (highly questionable) and an unfortunate delay of game penalty on Brian Boyle for lifting the puck over the glass. My heart sank as I watched the puck float so slowly out of play.

That led to Tampa using some slick passing in the offensive zone that freed up Lecavalier to fire a laser that beat Henrik Lundqvist stick side into the far side of the goal. The play happened quickly and without hesitation -- a far cry from the Rangers' 5-on-3 power play attempts that we have seen during the season.

The Rangers, to their credit, picked up the pace after the first period and ultimately out-shot the Lightning for the game (23-19). After pulling Henrik off the ice with 93 seconds to go, they won several consecutive faceoffs in the offensive zone and pressured Tampa Bay for the equalizer. They got close, did not wilt but could not convert. Considering the quality of the competition, there is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Rangers 0-8 regular season record against Philly and Tampa Bay is not inspiring.

Rainy days on Mondays. . . Out for the season:
Competent backup goalie, Marty Biron, and the Captain, Chris Drury.

Next up is Buffalo on Tuesday night. The Sabres have 65 points, trail Carolina by 2 points for the 8th slot in the East and trail the Rangers by 5 points.

--- The Graying Mantis

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Make Room for MCCabe

According to TSN.CA: Florida Panthers captain Bryan McCabe has been traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Tim Kennedy and a third-round draft pick. Read the full story here.

In addition to scoring from the Blue line, Perhaps McCabe will be able to use his experience as captain to provide some added calming influence for when things get a little frantic and the teams energy disperses and mistakes begin to snowball. If not, its only a rental till July 1st. At which point, should we decide to keep him or he decide he wants to stay, he can be signed to a new (maybe less expensive contract.

As for Kennedy, he seemed to have a lot of hustle early on and be the type of player that could excel in this young leg, grinding system. Was he another Callahan? I guess the Panthers will have a chance to find that out. The 3rd round pick. Eh well.... A few seasons ago, we seemed like a team that should be grasping for our picks like Rosie O'Donnell for the last jelly donut. But our farm system seems to be a lot more effective with Schoeny back there cracking the whip and helping develop our younger guys. So I'm willing to let a pick slide here and there. At the very least come July 1st, we'll still be free up of Kennedy's money and Kreider would be that much closer to making the team.

Sound Off, Ranger Fans... Will McCabe make a difference? We want your Opinions.

Till next Time Ranger Fans,

Red Carpet Performance by Defense Sparks Another Shutout of Caps | NYR 6 WAS 0

The adjectives start to run out. Resilient, gritty, hard-working, gutsy. The Rangers lose their top offensive threat yet again.

Then they lose one of their star defensemen. They continue to have difficult not only scoring generally but scoring first.

They arrive in the Nation's capital to play one of the East's top teams just back from a lengthy and successful road trip. An opponent, by the way, that is looking for revenge after being embarrassed at MSG 7-0 and thwarted at home before a national t.v. audience and also looking to re-establish their home ice dominance.

Yet, once again, showing a cohesiveness and courage that was never associated with recent teams, the Rangers banded together to inflict a 6-0 drubbing on the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have won 2 in a row against Southeast teams, both on the road. Henrik Lundqvist (25-20-4) benefited from the Rangers' sterling play while Michael Neuvirth (18-10-4) took the loss for the Caps. Official recap is here.

Band of D-Men. The defense did what
was needed to frustrate the Capitals.

One thing the Rangers have demonstrated is that someone will appear to lead the team offensively on many a night. In Raleigh on Thursday, Wotjek Wolski carried the Rangers with his late tying goal and shooutout winner. In D.C., it Eric Christensen with 4 points.

In assessing a thorough team performance like last night's, awarding the usual top 3 stars is insufficient. Since we are in Oscar season, something a little more substantial is in order and we need to think bigger.

The Award for taking the heart out of a team and crowd should go the defense -- helping to pitch a shutout, scoring a goal and adding 3 assists, often giving a clinic on clearing pucks out of the zone and playing smart positional hockey. And yes, covering up for more of Michael Del Zotto mistakes.

Another Award for exasperating the fan base should go to Henrik Lundqvist who made several sparkling saves early on, kept his composure even when under attack, and earning his league-leading 8th shutout of the season. He deserved to be the beneficiary in a game where the Rangers kept piling on goals.

Seeing is believing. Anyone have an idea back in October that any of these
4 players would be on the ice together to congratulate Henrik for a victory?

Finally, another Award for best performance by a below the radar player should go to the player who stepped in to fill the gaps left behind in scoring by Gaborik, Dubinsky and Boyle -- tonight it was Erik Christensen with 2 goals and 2 assists.

#1 Star -- Eric Christensen. Often maligned but the
key to at least 5 Ranger victories this season.

Eric Christensen may have had the offensive game of his career with 2 goals and 2 assists including a beautiful conversion of a Michael Sauer pass in the first period and a terrific backhanded pass to Brian Boyle for the 6th goal of in the game's final minute.

Meanwhile, the formerly glamorous Capital offense suffered its 9th shutout of the season (the Rangers have been shut out 4 times).

The Capital power play continued its season-long woes at home, going 0 for 5, and scoring fewer than 1/2 of the power play goals it did last season.

An Early Spring -- An Even Earlier Choking Feeling? When the
playoffs come, the Caps may not have to worry about the Pens,
but the Flyers, Lightning and Bruins will be formidable.

Nothing epitomizes the Caps' futility more than Ovechkin only scoring 6 points in his last 15 home games. Meanwhile, on the road, he has 18 points in his last 16 road contests.

Even more interesting, Ovechkin had not scored a point in his prior 3 home games against the Rangers. That streak has been extended to 4.

Nothing Doing for $100, Alex. You don't need Watson to know what the
"O" in Ovechkin stands for when he has faced the Rangers this season.

So, when the Rangers played Washington last night, they had the Caps mediocre home record on their side and the tendency of teams returning from long road trips to come out flat. True to form, the Capitals played right into the Rangers' hands.

With last night's win, the Rangers took the season series 3 games to 1. They outscored the Caps by 14-1 over the final 3 games (185 minutes of play).

Just when I thought after the pitiful performances against New Jersey and Philly, I could safely put away my credit card for playoff tickets, the Rangers have won 2 tough games in a row and solidified their 7th place standing and have even drawn to within a hair's width of Montreal and Washington.

Now, Tampa Bay visits the Garden on Sunday afternoon -- the #2 seed in the East. Then Tuesday brings my least favorite NY team -- the Buffalo Sabres and then Thursday the Minnesota Wild (a strong playoff contender in the West) finishes the upcoming 3 game homestand.

Whereas a week ago, a sense of dread was developing after the loss to Philly, now a renewed sense of optimism is starting to appear just like buds on the trees. What the standings will look like a week from now is a mystery that I hope my heart can handle.

-- The Graying Mantis

Thursday, February 24, 2011



It was a fiercely contested game. How fierce was it. It turned brother against brother as older brother Eric had no problem delivering a headshot to younger brother Marc when the Staals met along the boards. Marc who was skating with his head down would eventually leave the game with a slight knee tweak that Tortorella would later describe as nothing serious.

Get the official recap here.

Our blueshirts showed life early with heavy hitting, while Caroline did their best to get the run and gun game going with the speed of Eric Cole and an aggressive as usual Eric Staal. While we seemed to be taking the fight to the Canes, and even managed to score the first goal. The sheer amount of odd man rushes and semi breakaways in their favor was enough to make every Ranger fan facepalm about every 2 minutes. With Henrik making great stop after great stop, we managed to scamper into overtime and netting at least one point, thanks to a lot of patience and puck handling of Wojtek Wolski in the Carolina zone, in the closing minutes. In Jagr-esque fashion, Wolski showed his potential weaving through red Cane jerseys and drawing attention away from the far side of the net. Michael Sauer would come down from the blue line to chip in, but it would be unnecessary as Wolskis pass was batted in on a defensive attempt of a Cane defensemen.

With the Rangers surviving a 5 minute overtime in which 4 on 4 would have almost spelled doom for the team considering the Canes speed and even more breakaway opportunities, the attention turned to the shootout. We seemed to have a pretty decent first 3 for shootouts in Christensen, Zuccs and Wolski. With Ward stopping Christensen and Zuccs shooting wide, Wolski took his time winding his way down and drawing Ward off center. While many of us were expecting Wolski to do his divide and conquer move (body and skates going left and his Stick and puck going right) around Ward, Wolski took advantage of the non centered Ward and smoke one top shelf over the glove.

Prior to the shootout, Wolski could be seen in the corner consulting with Marty Biron on what his options were on Ward. Perhaps Zuccz and Christensen could have benefited from the Back up sage. At this point we should be doing everything we can to close out games and win and separate ourselves from those behind us. Wolski showed an awareness and appreciation for that urgency. It is, however, a concept that hasn’t seemed to resonate with some members of the team. We must move forward every chance we get. Every second of every period or every game or we’ll find ourselves in that dreaded or die last game of the season again.

Till next time Ranger Fans,


Monday, February 21, 2011

Philly Sends Rangers Fly-ing Downward

Is it just me or do you think our Blueshirts make an impact when we're injured?

With six losses in a row, followed by wins against the Penguins and Los Angeles, and with the Rangers losing in a monstrous battle against the Jersey devils of Newark on Friday, one would think they'd bring their "A" game to The Garden yesterday against the top team in the East - the Philadelphia Flyers.

Well...they didn't.  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Official recap here.

So where do we start?  Let's just say half way through the first period, 'supposed-difference-maker' Marian Gaborik left the game not feeling well, which in other words mean 'concussion-like symptoms'; in hockey terms that means out for at least the next two, twelve weeks or indefinitely, as evidenced by every major NHL star who wants to get back in the game after such concussion-like symptoms (Crosby, Malkin, Savard) but cannot properly tie their shoes in the morning, let alone skate.  So here we are again, without the million-dollar-sniper who was supposed to steal games from others - while faraway chants of "We told you so..." can be heard from as far away as Minnesota.  Hardy har har, you Wild bunch.

I do wonder if all the crazy Gaborik trade talk has any truth to it?

Goalie once-extraordinaire Henrik Lundqvist played fairly well, except for a softie backhand by soon-to-be-incarcerated Daniel Carcillo in the second period.  It kills me that this criminal is turning out to be their difference maker for the Flyers.  It hurts bad..

Not to be forgotten were the efforts by Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust - and even Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.  These guys are the makeup of never giving up, the ones that won us games when our stars were out.

As it turns out, the experiment called Vinny Prospal appears to be dwindling as he is slow and extremely tired looking, unable to stay with Gabs when he is actually on the ice.  But it's a moot point for now, as Torts will be spinning his wild line rotater over the next 2-3 games in an attempt to find the magic that used to win the third periods.  Wouldn't you do the same?  Maybe we can borrow Tom Renney for a couple of practice sessions because the line changing is beginning to parallel that of John Tortorell

Speaking of injuries and players not playing to their potential, here's an update:
Medical Watch:
  • RW Derek Boogaard (concussion) remains out indefinitely due to headaches and other concussion symptoms stemming from a fight Dec. 9 against Ottawa.
  • C Chris Drury (left knee) underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Feb. 11 and will miss about six weeks.
  • LW Ruslan Fedotenko (sprained shoulder, appendix) already was out with a shoulder injury when he underwent an appendectomy Feb. 2. He's expected to be sidelined until late February.
  • LW Alex Frolov (right knee) is out for the season after suffering torn knee ligaments Jan. 8, requiring surgery.
Makes you feel good on a playoff race, doesn't it?
Mathematically, it seems that in games when you're down (which defines the entire season thus far) you either play strong in the third, you win them or lose them.  The first half of this season we won most of them -- exciting last-to-the-minute type games that drew you in and made you believe "This team could actually go all the way..."  But like a casino, keep playing and the house will get it's money back.  The latter half we find ourselves playing as hard and with as much passion, but the losses are plentiful.  

And so it goes, we find ourselves again scratching our heads wondering if this ailing Blueshirts squad, with 21 games left can win 13 of them to make the post-season...

And so it goes...tomorrow vs Carolina.


Lundqvist has to be the difference maker for the remainder of this season.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ilya Providing a Belated Return on Investment | NJD 1 NYR 0

There are those games where you marvel at a player's skill and remember how beautiful ice hockey can be, even if the team you root for loses.

Last night at the Prudential Center, the surging New Jersey Devils (now 14-1-2 since January 8) rode Ilya Kovalchuk's talent and leadership to a 1-0 victory as Johan Hedberg bested Henrik Lundqvist. The official recap is here.

I have not been a fan of Ilya Kovalchuk. I did not get behind the idea of him joining the Rangers. And I am still glad he is not on the team. Still, I give him his credit -- he is not dirty or self-reverential like the twin-headed Bettman butt-buddies named Malkin and Crosby.

Under the proper tutelage, his talent has fully revealed itself. Next time, someone tells you coaches are not important to a team's chemistry -- compare the Devils under John McLean and under Jacques Lemaire.

The game started off at a frenetic pace -- play continued from the opening puck drop for nearly 6 minutes. The crowd was chanting Let's Go Devils and Let's Go Rangers. Blue Ranger sweaters were a strong presence in stands. The buzz and cheering reminded me of watching some tapes of the infamous 1994 conference final series. Too bad it is not like this every night at The Rock.

The Devils are a changed team since Jacque Lemaire took over. Their discipline in the defensive zone is admirable but they now focus more on offense, thanks to the presence of Kovalchuk, than his previous boring trap teams. (If this team, which I picked in the preseason to be 4th in the conference, had Zach Parise playing, they would be quite scary.)

If you want a full understanding of how the Devils set-up works, you should read my colleague's analysis over at Hockey Rodent. He can explain this in much better detail than I could ever hope to.

Zuccarello's shootout mastery is not translating into goals
during regulation play. This missed first period opportunity was a killer.

After an initial flurry during the opening minutes which included a couple of missed golden opportunities (including 3 attempts by Mats Zuccarello), the Rangers were a step behind the Devils until the 3rd period.

Unfortunately, the missed chances were costly because for the 7th game in a row, the Rangers surrendered the opening goal and against a defensive monolith like the Devils, that goal stood up.

Besides the fact that the Rangers looked tired after the previous night's win against L.A., Marc Stall picked the worst night to have perhaps the worst game of his career. He was guilty of making several ill-conceived passes in his own zone. His failure to stop a puck at the blue line led to Kovalchuk's racing up ice, picking up the loose puck and sailing in on Henrik to beat him for the only goal of the game with 11:42 remaining in the second period. The suddenness of the score deflated the Rangers. He tried to help on the offense but I saw him out of position or simply uninvolved too often that made me think he was simply exhausted.

Later in the 2nd period, Kovalchuk proved why he is quite an offensive talent as he glided around the right faceoff circle, eluded 2 Rangers and calmly blasted a shot that beat Lundqvist over his left shoulder -- fortunately, the goal post stopped the puck, otherwise we would be watching that highlight goal for the next year or two.

Sandwiched. Kovalchuk was launched into the bench but
jumped back out smiling. An indication of someone enjoying the game.

Of course, the Rangers surged in the 3rd period but Callahan was stoned by Hedberg early on. The Rangers buzzed around the Devils' zone but as they often do, they failed to put the puck on net. They hesitated to take shots from the point enabling the Devils to get in position to block pucks. The Rangers only had 4-5 scoring chances all night long.

During a power play opportunity midway throught the 3rd period, the Rangers passed the puck smartly around the zone but could not convert their passing into any shots. Even though the Rangers applied plenty of pressure during the period, they still only had 6 shots (and only 16 for the game).

It was a shame the Rangers did not play with this intensity earlier in the game. It is apparent that the Rangers' inability to score the first goal of a game is putting them at a severe disadvantage, game after game.

Meanwhile, the Devils had no fear about taking shots from all angles as soon as they presented themselves. Several last moment desperate clears by Ranger defensemen kept the Devils from scoring more.

The Devils, once trailing the Rangers by 31 points in the standing, now trail by 14. They are within hailing distance of 8th place but their surge has started too late. However, they are certainly showing signs of what this team will look like next year, when they could be quite scary.

The standings got tighter again -- Carolina beat the Flyers in Raleigh. I still think Carolina has the best chance of beating the Flyers in an opening round series. The Rangers face the slumping Flyers on Sunday afternoon and then visit Raleigh on Tuesday night. Then a trip to D.C. for the Caps next Friday night. This is one hard stretch coming up.

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, February 18, 2011

The King Topples the Kings for his 200th Win | NYR 4 LAK 3 [sho]

There are just some games where you really really should have been there to enjoy it. From what several fans told me, last night was one of them. Thankfully, it was also kids' night and the young fans in attendance got to see quite the game.

The Rangers and Kings played an entertaining up-and-down the ice game without the dirtiness and brutality that marks so many games against Eastern Conference foes. The Rangers, relying on their season-long resiliency and trademark strong 3rd period surges, defeated the Kings in a shootout by a score of 4-3. The official recap is here.

A Captain Earning his C. Kings' Captain Dustin Smith had 2 goals for L.A.
including the game tying goal with less than 3 minutes left in regulation.

The Kings put on a skating exhibition for a full 60 minutes, justifying their lofty standing out West, proving that their Sunday victory in Philly was deserved and showing Ranger fans that their recent 8-0-3 streak was no fluke.

Fortunately, Jonathan Quick was not in goal for the Kings or else the result could have been different. His replacement, Jonathan Bernier, was shaky at times especially in the 3rd period and shootout. The Kings had 9 shots each period and the Rangers at least 10 as both teams played offensively minded hockey the entire game.

Besides grabbing 2 points, the best thing about the game for the Rangers is seeing the positive impact of the return of the wounded have had --

Exhibit A is Ryan Callahan who proves time and time again that captaincy is his destiny. He scored in the 2nd period to awaken the slumbering Ranger offense. He was all over the ice, helping to kill penalties and provide a jolt of energy to the squad.

Meanwhile, his counterpart, Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the team's 3rd goal providing the Rangers with a brief 3rd period lead, again found himself sitting in the penalty box thanks to 3 foolish penalties that either broke the team's momentum including nullifying the back half of a 4 minute double minor in overtime.

Exhibit B is Vinny Prospal whose return has re-energized linemate Marian Gaborik. He scored an important goal for the first time since Obama became President as his tally gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. More importantly, Gaborik has scored 9 points in his last 9 games.

"Here, let me get this." Christensen puts Bernier out of his
misery by escorting the puck into the net. EC is 4 for 4 in shootouts.

Exhibit C is Eric Christensen whose shootout prowess is undeniable. His undressing of King goalie Jonathan Bernier was so ridiculous that it almost appeared Christensen was ashamed to score.

His goal provided a model for Mats Zuccarello to follow when he gave the Rangers a 2-0 shootout lead as Mats deked to Bernier's right and left him just as out of position.

Deja blue. Zuccarello putting the finishing touch on
his latest successful execution of another goalie.

The victory gave the Rangers a 2 game win streak, both wins coming at home this week. It also gave them a little cushion as they took advantage of other playoff competitors losing this week -- the Canadiens (to Buffalo), the Canes (to NJ), Atlanta (to Phoenix) and Buffalo (to Toronto).

The importance of last night's victory cannot be overstated. The Rangers are visiting Newark tonight to face the 13-1-2 Devils (since January 8). Then a home match against Philly for Sunday brunch.

The Rangers can effectively terminate the Devils' lingering playoff hopes. Their fans have risen from the grave recently to taunt Ranger fans. It is the final cry of the fans before the fingers of futility close around the season for New Jersey. It would be sweet to see the Rangers throttle them tonight.

--- The Graying Mantis

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tonight The King Meets The Kings

Tonight's Game
The Rangers will face-off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in the first game of a back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 30-24-4 (64 pts). The Rangers enter tonight's contest having defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-3, on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, to reach the 30-win plateau for the sixth consecutive season. The Kings have posted a record of 32-22-3 (67 pts) to rank eighth in the Western Conference following Wednesday night's 4-3 overtime shootout win at Columbus, and are now 5-0-2 on their current 10-game road trip. Following tonight's contest, the Rangers will conclude their back-to-back set when they face-off against the New Jersey Devils on Friday, Feb. 18, at Prudential Center (7:00 p.m.), in an Atlantic Division match-up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Callahan Lifts Rangers Out of Slump

NEW YORK, Associated Press -- A perfect storm of potential greeted the slumping New York Rangers when the battered and beaten Pittsburgh Penguins came to town at the end of a long, emotional weekend.
Pittsburgh was missing injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and was down in toughness with Matt Cooke and Eric Godard serving suspensions.

Throw in the fallout of Friday night's fight-filled blowout loss on Long Island, and the Penguins were a seemingly early target for the Rangers, who had lost six straight.
When New York fell behind by two goals in the opening 5:06, coach John Tortorella called a timeout that turned around his team's fortunes. The Rangers scored five straight goals and beat the makeshift Penguins 5-3 on Sunday.

Behind a struggling power play that produced three goals in a game for the first time this season, the Rangers broke an 0-5-1 slide.

"Even though they made a few plays and scored early, we felt good about our game," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "We just kept grinding away. We had two tips-ins."

Ryan Callahan had two goals and an assist to help the Rangers win for the first time since he returned from injury on Feb. 1. New York took advantage of Pittsburgh's NHL-leading, penalty-killing unit.
The Rangers tied it before the first intermission and busted out in the second period -- while recording 16 shots -- on goals by Vinny Prospal, Callahan, and Artem Anisimov. That was enough to end the skid that put the team's playoff hopes in jeopardy. The Rangers hadn't won since beating Washington 2-1 in a shootout on Jan. 24.

"It's definitely good to stop the bleeding," Callahan said. "We put ourselves in a little bit of a bind standings-wise. With this one, we can start looking at teams ahead of us, not the teams behind us."
New York's rally was sparked by Tortorella's timeout called after Nick Johnson's second NHL goal. Deryk Engelland had given the Penguins a 1-0 edge at 2:06.

Brett Sterling brought Pittsburgh within 5-3 with a power-play goal 5:12 into the third, but the Penguins, who failed to capitalize on a double high-sticking penalty to Michael Sauer later in the period, have lost four of five following a five-game winning streak.

New York hadn't scored more than three goals since beating Toronto 7-0 on Jan. 19. The Rangers scored only 12 during the losing streak, but found their touch against Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
In its previous 20 games, the Rangers connected for only eight power-play goals in 70 chances.
The Penguins tried to get back to normalcy in their first game since Friday's 9-3 loss that produced 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he didn't sense any carry-over into Sunday's game.
"We tried to forget about what happened Friday night and focus," defenceman Kris Letang said. "We came out and had a good first half of the first period, and a penalty killed us."

Upset with the supplemental penalties handed out by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, that included a US$100,000 fine to the Islanders, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux lashed out at the league.

"Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn't hockey. It was a travesty," the Hall of Famer said. "It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that."

Lemieux, who bought the team out of bankruptcy in 1999 and ended his playing career during the 2005-06 season, said the sanctions weren't nearly enough.

"The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed," he said. "We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.

"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it."

His team responded well early, and it appeared as though the Rangers were headed for another loss. New York hadn't earned a point in a game since a 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 1 after the Rangers squandered a two-goal lead. Before Sunday, that was the last game the Rangers were ahead by two.
Callahan scored the first of the Rangers' power-play goals at 9:20 of the first. Brian Boyle had started the comeback at 5:43, 37 seconds after Tortorella's timeout.

New York broke it open in the second, starting with Prospal's second goal in five games after returning from knee surgery. Callahan made it 4-2 at 11:04 during the first half of a double high-sticking penalty to Sterling.
Anisimov pushed the edge to three with another power-play goal with 4:37 left in the second and ultimately put away Pittsburgh.

Prelude To The Blueshirts Win

What helped our boys in Blue yesterday was a fight-filled night between the Penguins and The Islanders on Friday night.  This is mandatory viewing; with Pittsburgh physically taking advantage of The Islanders this season and with Rick DiPietro getting knocked out by Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson only weeks ago, as the laughing stock of the league - the Isles were no longer willing to watch their guys take any crap from the Penguins. 

Friday's game, won 9-3 by the Islanders, featured 346 penalty minutes, 15 fighting majors and 11 game misconducts. The Islanders were fined $100,000 by the league, and two of their players - if that's what you call Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin - were suspended for 10 and four games, respectively. Pens' Eric Godard was suspended the mandatory 10 games for leaving the bench to join the fight.

The videos below outline a brawl of a game.  So for once in my hockey lifetime, I'd like to tip my DARK hat and thank The Island for a dirty game well done.



PERIOD THREE (yes...there are still more fights)

So who feels bad for Talbott?   Ha ha ah aha ha .....


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Splat!lanta Provides No Solace for Rangers | ATL 3 NYR 2

Another dispiriting loss. Another one goal loss. One point taken out of the past 6 games. This loss may have signified the Rangers finally hitting bottom during this 0-5-1 streak -- yielding 2 goals to Evander Kane in a 3:31 stretch late in the 3rd period to turn a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss. The official recap is here.

The Atlanta Thrashers, in the midst of their own losing streak, gratefully accepted their guest's gift that keeps them in the playoff race.

The Rangers actually had a lead within the first 2 minutes of the 3rd period when Brandon Dubinsky one-timed a pass from Marian Gaborik early in the 3rd period. It was the Rangers' first lead since scoring the 2 goals against Pittsburgh on February 1 -- a stretch of nearly 13 periods of hockey (255 minutes). Too bad the lead taken with 18 minutes to go in the 3rd period did not even last 13 minutes.

There are good things to mention about the game -- Henrik Lundqvist was active in net and sharp making 32 saves. Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery had very good games overall. The Rangers even scored a power play goal.

That's about it. . . .

The Rangers defense was slow all night long and scrambled way too many times in the defensive zone to keep up with the Thrashers.

The Rangers flowed back and forth often leaving Lundqvist abandoned and shifting wildly to snare pucks the defensemen failed to clear or possess. This led to Atlanta scoring both of its goals late in the 3rd period on rebounds after Lundqvist made terrific saves.

We should not overlook the horrid giveaway at the blue line led to a 2-on-1 that gave Atlanta a gift goal in the first period. To his credit, Henrik was very diplomatic: “It seems like [the Thrashers] always got to the rebound. They were hungry around the net." Indeed.

What is up with that headdress?
Even Tortorella seems shocked.

Gaborik made a strong play during an Atlanta powerplay in the 3rd period to draw a penalty shot opportunity. His 2 for 6 success rate went even further south when he came up with an incredibly unimaginative attempt that was easily stopped. Punching in a short-handed penalty shot goal there would have extended the Rangers' lead to 3-1 but Gaborik failed yet again.

Other offensive players failed as well -- it is becoming apparent why Wolski was traded (3 goals in 14 games). He has moments of splash but his ability to finish and score appears to be nonexistent. The rest of the team looks tired -- those who have played the entire season like Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle.

A statistical note -- Steve Eminger missed several games as a healthy scratch -- the Rangers did not win without him in the lineup. His replacement, Michael Del Zotto, has taken ill-timed penalties (like the one late in the 3rd that led to Atlanta's powerplay winning goal) has not scored a point and is a -8 over his last 9 starts.

He is not totally to blame. If you are going to put a 20 year old defenseman on the ice, you need to pair him with an experienced veteran that will settle him down. The Rangers do not have one -- Michal Roszival is in Phoenix and was the best candidate. The Achilles heel that is Del Zotto has been exposed time and time again.

Alone Again. Not a Ranger defenseman in sight as Evander Kane scores the tying goal (top) and the winning goal (bottom) within 3 minutes of the 3rd period.

I keep reminding myself that this is a rebuilding year. Youth is being introduced into the mix and older players are being eliminated. It's not as if anyone is expecting the Stanley Cup to return to NY this season. But it is too bad to watch this recent swoon as the team had overachieved for so long.

But then I remind myself that even great teams have losing streaks and the Rangers still are in playoff position and can get it turned around, especially as the newly returned healthy players get back into shape.

Beating Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon -- a thoroughly depleted team wracked by injuries and suspensions -- would be a good step forward.

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tonight Is a Must-Win Against The Thrashers

The Rangers will conclude a three-game road trip when they face-off against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m.). The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 29-23-4 (62 pts). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having been defeated by the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, on Monday at Joe Louis Arena. Fourteen of the Blueshirts’ last 18 games have been decided by one goal (6-6-2 in those games), including seven of their last 10 road games (4-2-1 in those games). The Thrashers enter the contest with a 24-22-10 (58 pts) record to rank ninth in the Eastern Conference, and have lost 11 of their last 13 games (2-7-4). Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers will face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (3 p.m.) in an Atlantic Division matchup.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rangers only wing Detroit before losing 5th straight.

Exploding out of the gate and owning the first period still wasn't enough to earn us a win. In fact while most of the commentators seemed to be impressed with how less sucky Jimmy Howard was in net for Detroit, I was unimpressed. Overall, it was great Original 6 game with lots of energy and battles all over the ice, but for all the rushes, scoring chances, and back and forth play... the score hardly tells the tale.

Read the official recap here.

With no disrespect to the Howard, it seemed many of our shots where channeled straight up the middle, exactly where the defense wanted them. As with many of our past games, we seemed to out shoot our opponents and still wind up on the short end of the sticks. This could only point to our quality of shots. The bottom lines echoed by commentators across different networks and analysts throughout the league are always commending our high energy game and tenacity, but whats missing is that our game is also very easy to read. The other teams defense is slowly migrating toward the board where they they can apply pressure and take away our puck movement and what few goal that we've scored in the past 5 games, have come from a higher percentage of bad angle shots.

The wings came out flat last night and our energy and defense too over causing turnovers and quick rushes toward the Detroit net. After the first period, the tides began to reverse as Detroit up its game and started to play a smarter game. Going to the boards and digging the puck off to where they're fowards could play us in open ice and then crash the net for rebounds. It was telling that Datsyuk could outplay two skaters and our backup with only inches of space. Energy alone doesn't win a game and it has to be directed with consistent lines and fundamental basics like crisp passes without cycling the puck around the endboards hoping to confuse the defense. While it creates space for players like Prospal who seems like hes on his own mission these days; going rogue and crashing the net every opportunity he gets, the itch to play certain shows but it heard seems like the rest of the team is aware of his objectives and his of theirs or theirs of each others. As a team, the only way to roll forward is communication and repetitive practice in open ice with room to work around defensive pressure.

Till Next Time Ranger Fans,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Impudent Gomez and Impotent Offense Doom Blueshirts | MON 2 NYR 0

When the post-mortem of this season is written and the Rangers do not find themselves among the 8 teams in the playoffs or in 8th place ready to get swept by the Flyers, they will look back on games like yesterday's as the reason why.

In fact, they can look at pretty much every game since the All-Star break as a reason why epitomized by the Rangers' again being unable to score early in games, falling behind heading into the 3rd period, mounting a frantic rally in the 3rd period and falling one goal short.

This perilous recipe for success has not worked its early season magic recently. Throw in the fact that the Blueshirts are 0-for-3 against Montreal (so far), 0-for 3 against the Flyers (so far), 0-for-2 at home to Carolina and you can count up points left behind on the table.

Instead, the Rangers were shut out by Montreal, 2-0, in a matinee before the usual packed house at the Chambre du Horrors known as the Bell Centre. The recap is here. The team's losing streak is now 4.

Proving once again that goaltending is the least of the team's problems, Mary Biron was saddled with the loss despite showing an excellent glove hand, being a 3rd defenseman with his adept puck-handling and zone-clearing passes, and making some outstanding saves. Unfortunately, Carey Price bested him by playing well but helped by plenty of blocked shots, one too many passes by Ranger forwards and overall hesitation by the team in trying to finish plays.

Bodies Everywhere. Despite only 6 penalties
called in the game, there was plenty of hitting.

Let's also not forget the incredible ineptitude of the Rangers' power play -- the one that had 4 straight chances in the second period and came up with one lone shot on goal during those 8 minutes of a man advantage.

It was during this stretch that the game was lost. The Rangers simply had trouble keeping the puck in the zone at times. At other times, 3 Rangers would cycle endlessly behind the net enabling the Canadien defenders o collapse in front of the goal.

No Rangers were in front of the net and the Rangers did nothing to stretch the defense by getting the puck to the net. When the Rangers actually succeeded in doing that, Del Zotto had the lone shot on net during the 3rd power play. What became noticeable was the fact that because the Rangers created no momentum during the power plays, Canadien players did not seem to exert any energy. In fact, after each power lay was concluded, the Canadiens burst into the Rangers' zone to attack as if they had been resting.

It was, of course, not surprising, when after the 4th power play failed with 2:04 left in the 2nd period, within 40 seconds, Montreal scored the game winning goal. That play showed sharp passing along the blue line first by Yannick Weber at the right point who sent a sharp pass over to the left point to Alexandre Picard that got the Ranger players moving out of position.

Picard shot the puck that went wide to Biron's right where it caromed off the board to the left side of he goal where an unchecked Gomez calmly collected it and went up high over Biron's left glove. Whether it was a deliberate pass or an errant shot, the passing at the point opened up space that enabled Gomez to exploit the opening. This was exactly the kind of passing and chaos the Rangers could not create during their power plays.

Gomez collects the puck from Picard's shot as Biron scrambles from the right post to cover the left.

Gomez roofs the puck (puck is to the left of the "G" on his uniform); Biron had no chance . . . .

and can only watch the puck as it starts to tall into the corner of the net. Game over.

Picking up a recent theme, the Rangers came out flying in the 3rd period and held a huge territorial advantage and scorched Carey Price with 19 shots. Montreal had 6. Price was skilled and lucky enough to withstand the onslaught.

Why the Rangers have fallen into the habit of raising their offense in the 3rd period instad of earlier is a mystery. Perhaps they are in fact a better conditioned team. But the tactic, such as it is, is not working because the Rangers come into the 3rd periods of many games trailing or tied and that adds pressure to score an equalizing or winning goal while keeping the other team off the scoreboard.

It has not worked in the last 4 games -- the Rangers outshot Florida 11-1 (and outscored the Panthers 2-1 but that one shot allowed was the Florida game-winner), Pittsburgh 11-3 (no goals and a shootout loss), Devils 15-2 (no goals and a regulation loss) and Montreal 19-6 (no goals and a regulation loss). 56 shots yielding 2 goals and 1 point in the standings.

Dark Days Coming? 10 games ago, the Rangers were tied with the Capitals at 55 points for 5th in the conference and led Montreal by 4. Things have changed now thanks to their recent 3-6-1 streak including an abysmal 3 game (and pointless) home losing streak (Florida, Pitt and NJ).

The teams ahead of the Rangers in the conference are putting some serious distance between them and the Blueshirts. Over the past 10 games, the Canadiens have outgained the Rangers by 7 points and lead them by 3, the Caps - 4 points, the Pens and Flyers - 9 points each, Tampa - 7 points.

That is a lot of territory to try to make up as the number of games dwindle. Carolina beat the struggling Thrashers to replace Atlanta as the number 8 seed and are within hailing distance of the Rangers.

Where there was talk during the All-Star break that the Rangers could make a run at a top 4 conference slot, that dream may be disappearing as quickly as Marian Gaboirk's ability to score in consecutive games.

The Rangers are off to Detroit for a Monday evening game on Versus at the Joe. Fortunately, the Red Wings have been inconsistent recently with their own 4-5-1 stretch. If there's any consolation, anyone notice that the Black Hawks are 11th in the conference.

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, February 4, 2011


Remember Wade Redden, kids?  He's worse!
This scares the hell out of me.  Even at the beginning of this 2010-11 season, Sheldon Souray was put on waivers and no one in the entire NHL inquired.  Just say no!

Go here for yet another attempt to scare all Rangers fans into oblivion.  Please stop.  Enough.


King Lundqvist Was Overthrown, NYR 2, NJ Devils 3

A much needed regime change was in order last night

It was to be a battle of two elite goaltenders, Mahhhhh-ty Brodeur on the Devils side & Henrik Lundqvist on the Rangers side.  With Brodeur having one of the worst seasons of his career and Our 'King' Lundqvist having one of his top seasons, no one could have predicted that Blueshirt backup Marty Biron would be the one to keep the Rangers in the game.

Official recap here.

Shameful to watch and eerily feeling like watching Rick Dipietro in net, Henrik Lundqvist was in the Twilight Zone throughout this match of the elites.  Kovalchuk connected on New Jersey's first shot to give the Devils the lead 1:04 in,  a hard shot that caromed in off the post.  Shortly after, Dainius Zubrus' scored.  By the second period our very own Zuccarello (Hobbit) failed a clearing attempt pass to Chris Drury, which Elias stole and assisted Brian Rolston who scored giving the Devils a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead.  Lundqvist was pulled like pork from the bone (and we 'aint talking about Brodeur and his meat fetish).

This is what was left of Henrik.
Marty Biron replaced the fallen goalie, and managed to keep all subsequent pucks out of his net.  

That 'nostalgic stomach gas feeling' filled Rangers fans at this point (see picture to the right), made even worse that half of MSG was filled with strangely happy and cheering Newark fans.  I thought all Devils fans had their heads between their legs this season???!  What motivated them to buy an overpriced Garden ticket in the first place when all hope had been lost?

In his second game after missing 19 because of a broken hand, Callahan took a pass from Anisimov and fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle that beat Brodeur over the left shoulder to make it 3-1 with 3:35 left in the second.

Hope filled the room...maybe.

It got busy at Marty's Meathouse
The third period furthered our hope and positioned the Rangers to comeback, as Vinny Prospal - in his first game of the season after prolonged injuries - scored on Brodeur less than 2 minutes in the period, leaving 18 minutes left for the Rangers to tie up the game, and who knows? maybe even take this one away from the Devil-losers

There were scoring chances....and more chances.....and more chances.   All missed.  The closest scoring opportunity arrived with only 2 seconds remaining in the game, with a blitzkreig of shots and bodies in front of Marty Brodeur's net, Brandon Dubinsky finally found Marty vulnerable, laying on the ground upside down like a spicy rotiserie chicken from Price Chopper with the legs facing the sky, took the shot hitting the post with one second left.  Tie goal, almost..

Cheap Eats if you ask me.  Game effin' over.

The Blueshirts are now 7th in the Eastern conference, only two and a half losses away from sliding into the eighth & last slot for playoff qualification, so let's move on toward a successful points-run starting tomorrow night in Montreal.  Should be an easy one!  Right?

Let's Go Rangers!  Don't let the once-injured vets mess up the chemistry that has won us games!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nabokov Meets With Bettman

Courtesy of the Houses of Hockey Waiver Wire!




Returning from the all-star break, there were questions floating around about possible rust on the team and the returning forwards. Would we instantly be better with all the players healthy or would it sour the mojo that our patchwork quilt of reserves and only slightly injured players had been building?

Read the official recap here.

While the rangers were trying to feed off the energy of the returning Callahan. Bylsma's $h*tbirds were trying invoke the spirit of Crosby and Malkin (who were probably at home engaged in a Halo deathmatch). It seemed to be working Marc Andre Fleury managed to wander outside the small blue patch in front of him and hit the ice after ranger player brushed by him. Jordan Staal managed to do his part by suckerpuching Brandon Prust while in a scrum and sullying the family name. After all, it wouldn't be a Penguin team without at least one cheapshotting douchebag known for his scoring, to jump and unsuspecting player in an effort to lead his team by example. (Stall got a match penalty and a 1 game suspension)

In the first period, during the usual Vs. fanfare, They managed to pull Tortorella away from important stuff like coaching in order to do an interview. His response to the euphoria of the interviewer over scoring the first goal against the media hyped, league hyped, vs. hyped Pittsburgh hockey Juggernaut, was simply "I dont think we're playing that well and the score is deceiving... They're making too many long passes and we're not taking away enough space in the neutral zone..." Boy was he ever right. Attribute it to rust, returning players, or fear of penguin team (what vs. would love to have you believe at the leagues request).. but our Defense was G*ddamn atrocious. Players not getting their sticks down, missing coverage, weak and lackadaisical switching off. Creating just enough holes for players to shoot without paying for it and wristing shots from far off distances. It was a see saw battle back and forth for 3 periods because we allowed it to be. We didn't shut down this team and we didn't commit to a plan. Instead a mixed batch of players were sent out on the ice as if they needed to evaluated all over again and our offense seemed to be adlibbed as the game progressed. Rushing to get up ice and attempts at low percentage passes to Gaborik without first drawing the attention elsewhere; Scampering in errant directions and trying to chip the puck up ice. Our game last night was one dimensional and our apprehension showed in overtime as we wasted time volleying the puck between d-men in our own zone rather than moving the puck up ice. Only slightly more anti-climactic were the pedestrian shots taken by our shootout selections. With all the success guys like Wolski and Zuccs have been having the shootouts with fancy stick work, the feeling last night was "who wants to be typecast as a dangler...? Kids stuff". It was indeed a let down for the returning Lundqvist who must have been hoping for an easy night after playing against the best players in the world while most of the rest of the team had the week off.

Ref Reality check- No Vs. Broadcast would be complete without idiotic commentary, annoying announcers and watching Sean Avery take a blind side hit without a ref's acknowledgement, but somehow the same officials manage to exponentially inflate Newbury brushing by Fleury outside of the crease into a full blown elbowing call. Fortunately "hockey Lives on Versus" because calls like this, will have it dying everywhere else.

And for the sake of all that is Friggin right with the world, can someone explain the link between chemistry and linemates to our coach. Is it so hard just to make substitutions for the injured guys and let them try to fill a role? I feel like i'm being haunted by the Tom Renney Line changer...
Dubinsky-Anisimov- Callahan
Gabby - Drury (till Christiensen comes back)- Avery
Zuccs- Stepan- Wolski
Prust - Boyle - (Newbury... till Fedotenko comes back)

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