Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Blue Chip to Buffalo Chip...

Blueshirts Choke trying to nail Sabre Coffin...

Without too much time before what better be a rebounding win over the the Isles. We'll keep this short and sweet. A disallowed goal was all we allowed to stand between us and 2 badly needed points. In perhaps one of the biggest 4 point games of the season, The roof fell in on the Tortorella balls out offensive movement. It doesn't happen every game, but several times this year, the chip forward aggression tactic has come back to bite us in the ass big time as any team with a bunch of aggressive forwards and an endless supply of young legs have been able to beat us at our own game.
It was no mystery that our play would leave us with large defensive holes, that someone would have to fill. Our cloning efforts for the Girardi/ Staal tandem falling short, we had to rely on a long of young guys stepping up. Mistakes would be made, and painful lessons learned. Perhaps now is not the best time to revisit the merits on this system or the personnel decisions made regarding veteran presence on our blue line. One thing is clear about this season. The fate of the team always hangs in the balance as far as the fans are concerned. The realist outlook is that this season will go down as a rebuilding year or another disappointment with a pocket full of experience and youthful consolation prizes. Are we hopeful optimists or bitter perennial pessimists?
As we continue a run for the post season, we fight the urge to get too happy too soon .. or two sad without a backwards glance to see how far we've come. With young Chad Johnson possibly looking at some time in net due to the tweak that hobbled the king last night, we must treasure these moments. Its not destination (playoffs) but the journey and the rites of passage our young players must endure that makes this season special.

Till Next Time Rangers Fans,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

King Henrik and His Defensive Troops Throttle Bruins | NYR 1 BOS 0

In yet another game that had playoff intensity, atmosphere, hitting, nail-biting tension (especially during the ENTIRE 3rd period), the Rangers rode Derek Stepan's 20th goal early in the first period to a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins up in Beantown on Saturday afternoon. The recap happily resides here.

The Ranger defense, led by #2 star Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist blocked everything the Bruins launched. During the 3rd period, where the Bruins outshot the Blueshirts 12-1, the Bruins launched a fusillade of 34 shots - 12 on net, 18 were blocked, and 4 missed. Showing how hard the Rangers focused on this aspect of their defensive game -- they blocked 29 shots for the game. The Bruins blocked only 8.

Foreshadowing. Former Bruins broadcaster Bob Wilson dropped the ceremonial puck with Derek Stepan. 6 1/2 minutes into the game, Stepan won a faceoff in the offensive zone and within seconds converted a shot by Vinny Prospal into the only goal of the game.

Stepan became the fifth Blueshirt this season to reach the 20-goal plateau, joining Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle. He also became the first Ranger rookie to score 20 goals in a season since Petr Prucha netted 30 during the 2005-06 season.

Meanwhile since that horrid 3 game homestand a few weeks ago when the Rangers lost all 3 in a row, Henrik has gone 8-1-1 over his last ten games with a sparkling 1.73 GAA and a sterling .935 save %. And those numbers include the 5 goals he gave up in Anaheim in what may have been the only bad game the Rangers have played since mid-February.

Henrik leads the NHL with 11 shutouts and this past week gave up 1 regulation goal in 3 games. "Fortunately", the Rangers mustered a goal in each game as they gathered 5 points out of a possible 6.

The Rangers owned the ice for most of the first 2 periods. Unfortunately, other than Stepan's goal, they could not solve Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask. The Rangers finished the first 40 minutes with a 22-14 shot advantage and 11 blocked shots. The defense looked sharp and played physically.

The key to the game may have occurred early in the 3rd period. The Bruins came out flying building on momentum they had started to develop late in the 2nd period. In what was a critical juncture about 3 minutes in, Wojtek Wolski and Sean Avery put on a forechecking display that bottled up the Bruins for more than a minute in their own zone.

The forechecking continued for another minute with the next shift as the Bruins totally lost the momentum of their initial surge. At the very least, the initial burst of energy the Bruins had shown was thwarted as well as an opportunity to get an early equalizer. It was a statement shift by those 2 players.

Where's my Blankie? After having several shots blocked
in the 3rd period, Capt. Zdeno Chara could only find
solace by curling up like the cheapshot baby he is.

Later, Avery threw his body in front of a shot from the point and from a sprawling position cleared the puck out of the zone. It was evident that the team understood how to make the necessary sacrifice to preserve the lead and not make any bone-headed plays. And it turned into another game where the Rangers did not give up either a tying or winning or any goal in the 3rd period.

Stoned and Stoned Again. With the game on the line,
Henrik stopped Rich Peverley in close twice.

Not that I want to throw cold water on what was a great game, I shudder to think about the Rangers having to rely on such an effort in the playoffs. I shudder over the Rangers engaging the Bruins during an early round of the playoffs because the winner would be beaten up.

Everytime a Ranger player puts his body in front of a shot, he risks getting dinged, or breaking a hand, or finger, or ankle or worse. Dubinsky, Callahan and Drury have lost significant time to such injuries the past 2 seasons.

Let's not forget the beating that Henrik has taken recently -- Bergeron ran him into the back of the net and shook up Henrik. The collective sighs one could hear reverberated like a cold winter wind through streets of Manhattan. The offense could provide some cushion in these games to take some pressure off.

The playoffs will be even more intense than some of these competitive regular season games. Fortunately, the Rangers are heading into the final 2 weeks with a playoff position about to be secured.

A win in Buffalo on Wednesday night may be the final points the Rangers need to secure at least an 8th spot and push Buffalo down. It may also mean that Chad Johnson can give Henrik a night off the next night in Uniondale.

The rest of the schedule continues to be difficult -- a Sunday matinee in Philly, a team that is looking to right the ship. Then Boston visits MSG and they will have revenge on their mind.

--- The Graying Mantis

Friday, March 25, 2011

Point Well Taken, Not So Well Earned | OTT 2 NYR 1 [sho]

Not that I want to quibble with the title of the Rangers' official recap, but the Rangers stole a point last night with one of their patented answers of the 3rd period bell.

Brandon Prust scored early in that period to tie the game at 1 and neither team scored for the remainder of regulation, overtime and the first 4 frames of the shootout. The Ottawa Senators converted in the bottom of the 5th to take the game by a score of 2-1. Craig Anderson, with a new 4 year contract, got a measure of revenge as he bested Henrik Lundqvist. Official recap is here.

Like the Florida game on Tuesday, the Rangers scored their only goal in the 3rd period. Unlike the Florida game, the Rangers slept walked through the first 40 minutes as they had no answer to a combination of Ottawa speed and blanket defensive coverage.

Magically, they converted their offensive malaise into 3 standings points, which, as I will describe, shows improvement from earlier this season.

Bad Gabby. To his credit, after leaving his man,
Ryan Shannon, open to score, Gaborik played at a heightened level
with strong defensive play and several good opportunities to score.
Ottawa scored its goal at the 15:21 mark of the first when Marian Gaborik failed to cover Ryan Shannon in the slot. During the stretch leading up to the goal, Ottawa dominated the ice and the Rangers looked slow-footed in their own end.

Marc Staal, coming back from a knee injury, himself started slowly but gained confidence. In the beginning of the 3rd period, his rush up ice and brilliant pass to Brandon Prust as he was falling down (and drawing a penalty) sprang Prust who was able to beat Anderson to his right side for the tying goal (Prust's 12th of the season) within the first 3 minutes.

Prust "Owns" Ottawa. Without Prust, the Rangers would have
been shutout in both home games against Ottawa.

This season, the Rangers lost both home games to Ottawa this season by the score of 2-1. In each case, Prust scored the tying goal (a shorthanded goal in the first game and a goal on a delayed penalty call last night).

At least last night, the Rangers got it to extra time and gathered a point unlike the earlier loss which happened late in regulation when a shot ricocheted off Henrik's back.

Despite the recent offensive juggernaut being derailed this week, there is good news on the defensive side -- the defense has tightened up nicely and there have been no deflected goals going past the Ranger goalie for the past several games.

Additionally, in both home games, the Rangers did not commit any egregious mistakes that cost a game with a late goal. Henrik played superbly because he was tested in both games, and did not give up any "soft" or fluky goals.

On Tuesday, he robbed the Panthers of a chance to tie the game late in regulation. Last night, he robbed Chris Neil on a breakaway out of the penalty box. So, during this pivotal time, the Rangers did not leave points on the ice with late game failures.

As for Ottawa, a team that went into wholesale liquidation mode, they have truly played the role of spoiler recently. The Rangers took 3 points (out of 4) from them during this month. Meanwhile, the Devils recently lost 2 games to the Senators (so did Tampa Bay) that have torpedoed the Devils' playoff hopes. That point difference is one reason the Blueshirts are in the top 8 of the conference and the Devils are getting ready for early golf.

Finally, it is indeed frustrating to see the Rangers struggling on offense as they did at home this week. At least they did not lose 3 in a row like a few weeks ago. During their recent streak of 7 wins in 8 games, the Rangers scored 32 goals and had nine power-play goals over their past seven games. Scott Burnside had a very complimentary column about the Blueshirts yesterday, worth reading.

But truthfully, we know that the team was truly clicking. During the Florida game, the Rangers dominated the ice but had trouble finishing, could not score into open nets or engaged in too much passing.

Against Ottawa, it was much worse as they had mustered 9 shots during 30 minutes (as opposed to 23 shots in one period against the Isles) and reverted to the old ways of making one too many passes. Yes, #17, I am looking at you -- Dubinsky looked a lot like the old Dubi that Torts chewed out a couple of weeks ago. And Staal failed several times to simply shoot as he went into helicopter wind-up mode on several opportunities. There were other culprits as the offense simply did not click until the 3rd period.

Bad luck (or the crappy MSG ice) also played a role as passes hopped over sticks (like Christensen's attempted feed to Gaborik in the 2nd period) and a couple of others slithered out of reach of Ranger players at Anderson's door step. Whether this was just one of those nights or a reversion to old habits will be evident during the upcoming road trip.

Pass the Lysol. Apparently it was MSG's night to honor NY's most overpaid, untalented and incompetent celebrities as Chris Carton, resident moron at WFAN, Gary Bettman, the 21st century poster dwarf of the Napoleon complex, and Katie Couric (she still has a job???) graced MSG.

The 7th place Rangers have built a cushion (7 points over 9th place Carolina) and teams like Buffalo and Carolina still have to play their "in hand" games to catch up in the schedule. A condensed schedule at this time of year is a mixed blessing -- there are points to get but the wear and tear and pressure can break you when you are doing the chasing. Just ask the Devils.

Now the road beckons and what a trip that is upcoming over the next 8 days -- Boston for a Saturday afternoon game, then a 3 day break before a crucial back-to-back in Buffalo and Uniondale on Wednesday and Thursday nights before a Sunday matinee in Philly. A win in Boston may guarantee Chad Johnson a start against the Isles and Henrik a rest for at least one game.

---The Graying Mantis

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rangers keep things rolling


Emerging from the see saw battle with Florida with 2 points was crucial this time of year. More so because it keeps our momentum going for the final 8 games. 5 points up on Buffalo, 5 under Montreal, All is not safe. There were both signs of life and danger in last nights game.

Read the official recap here.

If there were lessons to take away from the scratch and claw win last night, they were these:
- our hard nose grinding style is not unique. In fact the Panther team we played did a pretty good job of emulating our style and matching our effort. Vokoun included, backstopped his team and gave them a chance to win by 1 goal also. Lots of other teams develop this kind of hard nosed play this time of year for when they're weapon of choice is not getting the job done.

-Our offensive weapon of choice seems to be trying to get into his groove, firing pucks and gaining back his scoring touch. But Gaborik is going to need alot of help. The lunch pail guys like callahan, dubi and prust and even Prospal can chip in goals, but they must channel their focus and refrain from getting too wild. Theres nothing that says they should forgo shots or look from Gabby every time he's on the ice, but keep in mind that this is player that once he started, he's very hard to stop. Having him fired up and shooting and passing with consistency could be the difference between the first and second rounds.

- Injury wise and for guys with a lot of wear and tear, the biggest favor we can do for ourselves is to secure a spot as early as possible and try to rest our hard workers.

- Everyone knows our playoff chances rest with Henrik. After a securing a spot, it might not be too bad to Let Chad Johnson get in a game or two. Sitting on the bench and playing doorman is doing nothing for the kids development. If it turns out we need him later.. it might be better to get the butterflies out of the way early.

-For consistency's sake, Leave the lines assembled and ride it out. Chemistry is not such a horrible concept. Last night it didn't prove to be too effective, but the random benchings have to stop... and the substitutions should be direct and not turn the whole line up over.

Till next time Ranger Fans,


Monday, March 21, 2011

Rangers Surge Into Playoff Territory NYR 5/Pitts 2

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Two days after a five-goal first period, the New York Rangers had to delay their offensive outburst until the Pittsburgh Penguins committed some big penalties in the third.

Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan scored power-play goals 11 seconds apart as part of a four-goal final period and the Rangers extended their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 5-2 win over the Penguins on Sunday.

New York took advantage when Matt Cooke was given a five-minute major penalty and ejected 4:36 into the third for an elbow to the head of defenceman Ryan McDonagh. After Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead with a short-handed goal during the long penalty, Pittsburgh defenceman Matt Niskanen was given four minutes for high-sticking Callahan three minutes later.

Gaborik slammed home a rebound of Brandon Dubinsky's shot to tie the game at two with eight seconds remaining in the 5-on-3 advantage. Cooke's penalty had just ended when Callahan scored the game-winner, his 23rd goal, from a bad angle on the goal-line.

"It's pretty easy to get down on ourselves (and) hang our heads after letting up a goal on the power play like that," said Callahan, who has scored in three straight games and has seven goals in six games. "But to our credit, we showed a lot of character coming back and still working."

New York's Henrik Lundqvist made 38 saves in his 17th consecutive start despite being questionable with a stiff neck. He was run over in the crease on Friday night by Montreal's Benoit Pouliot with 3:39 left of the Rangers' 6-3 win, but stayed in to earn his 30th win of the season.

After sitting out of practice Saturday, Lundqvist got back into the net on Sunday.

"Hank played with some (guts), didn't he?" Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He played very well right on through. He gave us a chance ... and then we capitalized on their penalties in the third period."

Derek Stepan scored with 1:15 left and Dubinsky added an empty-net goal to close out the scoring. Artem Anisimov had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Rangers all-star defenceman Marc Staal didn't play because of an undisclosed injury, but his brother provided a spark for the Penguins.

Jordan Staal tied it 1-1 in the first period for Pittsburgh, which had won four of five. The Penguins missed a chance to move within four points of Philadelphia in the race for the Eastern Conference's best record.

Cooke has been suspended three times over the past three seasons for illegal hits. He also delivered a hit on Boston's Marc Savard in March 2010 that resulted in a severe concussion and prompted the NHL to adopt a new rule that bans blindside hits to the head.

Cooke appeared to stick out his elbow to strike McDonagh near centre ice early in the third.

"I didn't see him coming. I know it hurt, that's for sure," McDonagh said. "I would hope it wasn't his intent. It's a tight game. I'm sure he's not trying to get his team a five-minute penalty. He'd probably just trying to finish his check and just caught me wrong."

Cooke wasn't available to reporters after the game. Tortorella sidestepped the question of what discipline the NHL should give Cooke, saying, "That's not for me to decide. You're not getting me involved in that stuff."

Led by co-owner Mario Lemieux and general manager Ray Shero, the Penguins have been vocal about penalizing head shots with more fervour.

Cooke will likely be suspended for his latest infraction.

"I don't think you can talk about eliminating head shots from the game, as we have as an organization, and not expect (Cooke's hit) to be examined," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's what looks to be a contact right to the head on the play, so the league will look at that and treat it as such."

The Penguins killed almost all of the power-play time, and then the crowd -- the 202nd consecutive home sellout -- roared when Kunitz scored an unassisted goal with 13:34 left.

"I think it made us a little bit angry," Lundqvist said. "Sometimes you have to use your frustration in a good way and use it as motivation and energy, and I think we did that."

The Rangers caught a break when Niskanen drew blood with a high-stick against Callahan three minutes later, giving New York more than two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. It took the Rangers 1:52 before Gaborik extended his point streak to five games with his 22nd goal that made it 2-2.

Cooke's penalty had been over for only three seconds when Callahan scored.

"We gave them a very long time on 5-on-3, and it wears down the PK-ers," Jordan Staal said. "We needed to kill it, but it definitely wasn't there."

New York, which had scored six goals in each of its past two games and 32 in the previous seven, moved four points ahead of eighth-place Buffalo and six up on ninth-place Carolina in the playoff race.

"Right now it's fun," Lundqvist said. "When you're winning, everybody's having fun."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rangers Go Slap-Habby -- Net 5 in 1st as Henrik Gets Win #30 | NYR 6 MON 3

Last night at the Garden, a golden opportunity presented itself to the Rangers. The Montreal Canadiens came into MSG, having arrived in the wee hours after their shootout victory over Tampa Bay in Montreal.

Coming into the game, the Rangers were in 7th place and had a chance to solidify their place and perhaps, with a regulation victory, draw closer to Montreal in 6th place.

Montreal was also missing 4 players due to injuries. The Rangers, meanwhile, were rested from their Tuesday night game against the Isles, watching other teams in the conference playoff race taking turns knocking each other off.

The simplest approach for the Rangers would have been to exploit these advantages like they did against Philly a couple of Sundays ago, as opposed to the klunker against Minnesota. The game would be an indication whether the maturation of the team now included taking advantage of a depleted opponent, continue a consistent offensive presence, and perhaps string some wins at home. Much to the fans' surprise, the team proved that it could capitalize.

The Rangers hit the ice fast and furiously, starting with a fight at the opening whistle between Brandon Prust and Travis Moen. They also brought again their new uptempo offense, ferocious forechecking and cycling as they outscored the Habs 5-1 in the opening period as they won their 3rd straight home game with a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in front of a loud MSG crowd. Official recap is here.
Slap Shot Homage.
Steve Eminger eyes Lars Eller along the boards.

During their last 3 home games -- all high-scoring wins, 7-0 over Flyers, 6-3 over the Isles and 6-3 over Montreal -- the Rangers have scored at least 2 goals in the opening period of each game.

They have forechecked relentlessly and dominated great swaths of game time in the offensive zones, even on the road s evidenced by their strong effort in San Jose. It is evident that the loss in Anaheim was just a bad game and not symptomatic of the team falling into a late-season swoon.

They have launched numerous shots on goal, the power play has shown more energy and actual success (they even surprised fans by scoring on a 5-on-3 PP against the Isles).

Their playmaking has improved; players are not afraid to shoot from anywhere on the ice as witnessed by Dan Girardi's goal (his first in 3 months) by blasting a rebound from outside the left circle, and the 3-on-1 rush orchestrated late in the first period by Marc Staal that led to a cross-ice pass to Brian Boyle on the right who rifled a shot past weary Carey Price.

Another Early Start. Keeping with a recent theme of play of scoring in the first period, Artem Anisimov starts the 5 goal first period by converting a breakaway at the 5:28 mark.

Missed it by that much. After PK Subban tied the game nearly 2 minutes later, Carey Price proved you cannot stop what you cannot see as Dan Girardi's opportunistic blast from the left circle blows past him into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead at the 10:11 mark.

Glove Hand Needs Work. Ryan Callahan extended the Rangers lead to 3-1 at 17:09. Then 32 second later, Marian Gaborik's shot whizzes past Price's glove hand for a 4-1 lead at the 17:41 mark.

3-on-1 breakout converted -- 35 seconds later, Brian Boyle converted a cross-ice pass from Marc Staal in a terrific 3-on-1 rush. Over a period of 1:07, the Rangers scored three times to extend a 2-1 lead to 5-1.

3 straight home wins; 3 straight goalie knockouts. During their current streak of 3 straight wins at home, the Rangers have outscored opponents 19-6 and knocked out 3 straight starting goalies. The latest victim, alleged Vezina candidate, Carey Price, got to sample the same view of the inside of the net that the 5 Ranger goals enjoyed in the first period.

One worrisome point -- because they need every point they can get and no longer have Marty Biron to rely on, Henrik Lundqvist has been playing every game for a month. He deserves our admiration as he won his 30th decision of this season. In his 6 years as Ranger goalie, he was won 30 or more games each year from the start of a career -- the first goalie in NHL history to do so.

Fortunately, there have been some gaps in the schedule between games. Also, the Rangers' scoring has taken some pressure off Henrik during crunch times of recent games where outcomes have not been in doubt in the 3rd period (except for the San Jose game).

However, he still has been called upon to make incredible saves early in games to keep the Rangers in the game. Henrik's performance during the Sharks and Isle games were filled with highlight reel saves.

Also, last night Henrik took a beating from the Canadiens and seemed to suffer a neck injury with 3 minutes to go when he was hit by Benoit Pouliot. Whether the injury impacts his ability to play in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon remains to be seen. In the post-game Henrik admitted that his neck felt sore. The Rangers may have to start Chad Johnson to play it safe -- it helps that the Blueshirts have won 3 in a row.

The Rangers have hit this stretch of 4 home games among the next 5 by beating 2 rivals (the Isles and Montreal). Tomorrow, they travel to Pittsburgh for a mid-day contest before the next 2 home games against lesser conference teams. Getting 4 points or more from these 3 would enable the Rangers to maintain or even increase their position.

Meanwhile, at the Rock, the Devils' storybook run from the outhouse to the subbasement of the Eastern Conference took a real hit last night. Although outshooting the Washington Capitals, 33-12, Marty Brodeur let 3 behind him as the Devils were shutout 3-0. The Devils have lost 2 in a row. Their inability to score (Kolvachuk has 25 goals) has come back to hurt them recently. The Devils have been outscored 5-1 in the past 2 games and Brodeur has not looked like a difference maker out there. With 10 games to go, the Devils have to leap over 3 teams to get to 8th and trail Buffalo and Carolina by 6 points.

Right now, the Rangers are in control of their destiny and this season, which has taken on its own identity and magic, continues to be entertaining and promising.

---The Graying Mantis

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rangers Sign McIlrath and Ryan Bourque

It's official.


Let's take a visual look at our newest Boys in Blue.

Dylan McIlrath's nickname is "The Undertaker" (he is #8)

Ryan Bourque, son of Ray Bourque is ready for prime-time


King gives Isles Royal Treatment

It was a much needed win. Does it help that we won by more than one goal or drubbed a former goalie who would have loved to come back and beats us with vengeance for being traded away? Not really, but the coffee is probably a little sweeter this morning, the breakfast warmer and the outlook on the day a little brighter, knowing that we are still in the thick of a race for a playoff seed.
Read the official recap here.
Two goals from Gabby and the first from McCabe could have been almost just been icing in this game seeing as we had 2 two spare. This is about more than this game, however, and having a prolific scorer on a roll and a shot from the point to salvage or at least sort something out of our tangle of a power play and could be huge for us down the stretch. With the supporting cast of hard chargers in Dubi, Cally, Prust and others we could shore up some kind of offensive force. The race is only getting tighter at this point, with Buffalo gaining and a 4 point game coming up against the Habs on Friday. All Henrik has to do is continue to be God-like in net and not get injured.

Going foward: A few things that could be pivotal.
- When the other team ups the pressure, we often scramble to keep the buck alive around the end boards. Tort's strategy of defenseman being aggressive and fighting and holding the line at the offensive blueline backfired much of the time I have seen it this season. Resulting in countless oddman rushes the other way.
- We outshoot our opponents in many games but how many are actually high percentage shots. The low bad angle shots are seriously inflating our numbers many games but aren't helping us score as much as teaching our players to close in and pick the upper corners from the slot.
- Mccabe can net a few more if the pucks is kicked out to him for second chance opportunities on downed goalies. Hes shown ability to get get pucks through to the net. Its not quite Lidsrtom-esque but its better than anyone else's we have so far.

Prepare for the final push boys and girls...

Till Next time Ranger Fans,

Fighting Or No Fighting?

Clearly, there is great debate recently over the role of violence and fighting in the NHL.   Thirty general managers are discussing this as you read this.   NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has publicly made it clear that fighting "is part of the game" in response to crticism from hockey pacifists, but on the flip side there seems to be an unspoken resurgence of players lobbying to limit fighting in hockey. 

We can all agree that things are changing this season and with the great number of injuries as a result of a faster game and the continued 'head-shot' issue, it seems there is no consensus on the the issue of fighting in hockey.   

Some recent comments on this site under a post titled Stupid Heads is drumming up thousands of hits and I thought it was worth re-posting - see below.  Both are valid arguments.  Both are not wrong.  Where is this all going to end up... 

The Shivering Sands said...
There is a kind of street justice (or perhaps "ice justice" would be more appropriate here) in hockey that no other sport has. There is a reason why there is no dancing on the ice, or trash talking to the media. It is because of the toleration of fighting.

I certainly do not want to the NHL to regress back to the days of "Hanson Brothers" type goonery; however the ability for two players who have a problem with each other to be able to take a minute from the game and just duke it out really is one of the reasons why hockey is so special, and in all honesty, why I have grown to love it.

Completely eliminating fighting from hockey all together is totally unnecessary and won’t solve anything and will only push away the need for support for truly needed rules like a "zero tolerance for head shots" policy.

These players are big boys and they know what they are getting themselves into.

And then
General Ganz said...
The problem with fighting is it's antisocial. Fighting is fine, if it's the sport itself - boxing, MMA, whatever. The issue with fighting in hockey is that it's treated as an outlet to resolve disputes. 
When you don't like something, you're permitted to lose your shit and fight it out. That's not how things work - in life, in sports, in general. It's only how things work in pro hockey, which is increasingly disconnecting itself from reality and the society within which it operates. 
Tell me, what the Hell am I supposed to tell a kid about controlling himself and resolving disputes "using his words", when his so-called heroes are out there chucking the knuckles anytime shit doesn't go their way? All this "part of the game" nonsense is bullshit. It's there to validate the self-image of those dinosaurs who grew up within it. 
Are you telling me Bettman jerseyed the judge in court whenever he ruled against him? Come on, dude - give your own head a shake.

Send us an email or leave comments below...let us know what your thoughts are.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Joy of Optimism?

I have never been one known for my positivity. Glass half full? Probably not. That said, after an impressive win over Ottawa in Ottawa and throwing a touchdown on the board against Philly, I began to see, and even feel a glimmer of hope. My hope would be dashed just days later by the feathered ones of Anaheim. Regardless of their change in ownership, they still remind me of everything I dislike about theme parks and tourist attractions. That loss stung on so many levels. Which brings us to last night's game in San Jose. I would stay up late and make an effort to be positive.

The start of last night's game did not lend itself to positivity. Between the zebras missing I want to say, 3 high sticking calls to yet another goal deflected off a Ranger's jersey. C'mon. Poor Mark Staal, man. This guy takes a high stick to the chops and then has a puck bounce off him and into the Rangers' net. I was already picking out which piece of furniture would feel the wrath of my frustration, but still refused to give up.

You can't give up on this team. You can't, because you know they don't have quit in them. They work so hard and play with their hearts. They battle. I am talking Mel Gibson in Braveheart, they BATTLE!! Just look at Brandon Prust. If things don't work out with the Rangers, a stab at being one of the X-Men would not be out of the question. He could easily take Wolverine's place. Seriously, his toughness knows no bounds. That kind of work ethic and tenacity deserves a reward. And yes, a goal from Erik Christensen will do nicely, thank you. Pretty goal. I mean Cindy Crawford circa 1990, pretty. Great pass from Prospal. Well done, boys.

The Rangers defense continues to impress as well. Aside from McDonagh's 2 falls that scared the hell out of me and nearly resulted in one goal, if not two, it was a solid, solid night
for the defense. It was nice to see Michael Sauer put one in the net too. That guy is a worker. He blocked 4 shots last night. I have never seen him back down to anyone if the gloves need to come off, and offensively he showed some poise in front of the net with that goal he had. Lunch pail? Check. Hard hat? Check. Yeah, punch the time card and go to work, and they did just that. It wasn't just Sauer. The boys on defense did their job last night.

What? Did you really think I would forget the King?
Not a chance. One of the elite goalies in the NHL, and can dress better than James Bond. And Henrik in the cage going into a shootout? Even a negative guy like me can see the bright side there. And he didn't disappoint. He had ample highlight reel material during regulation, especially in the third period, but man, he was
John Wayne with pads and a glove in that shootout. He is a patient, patient goaltender. He has the patience of a Kindergarten teacher before Ritalin. He didn't flinch. And yes, he is a worker. How can you not be happy for the guy? Great goaltending. Great win.

So, did I wake up this morning, brimming with optimism and a declaration that the glass is truly half full and NOT half empty? No. I am not Tony Robbins and I have made my peace with that. But I like this Rangers team and last night I was reminded of why. Wednesday night was a tough loss, and to bounce back the way they did last night was impressive. Resilient. No doubt. Half full? Half empty? Undecided. And really, who cares about me and my negativity? 12 games left to play. All for the glory of the cup. One game at a time, boys. Keep up the good work.

- Frandom Notes

Stupid Heads

"Step right up you saps and lemmings! Give us your money and shut your face. And if we want your opinion we'll give it to you!"

You probably think I pulled that line off of the confidential NHL's marketing strategy documents. I didn't, but I can't blame you for thinking so. Bettman and Co. continue to do business on the spilled blood of their players, and as more of their franchises continue to go quietly broke, they're gonna need a whole lot more of the red stuff. God help you if you question violence and hockey and suggest they showcase the good part of the game - skating, stickhandling, and scoring. He's even got the whole country of Canada behind him - ask any Canadian hockey pundit about fighting and they'll tell you it's part of the game. I don't know what counts as sport up there, but in the rest of the sporting world, people don't put up with that bullshit in their leagues. Sure, you've got UFC and WWE, which are in good company with the NHL as it nudges its way toward the lunatic fringe.

Right off the bat, you can discount those sponsor letters to the League - those were all Montreal companies who have been conspicuous by their silence until now, when their favorite team got victimized, so their arguments about violence in hockey are inadmissible. You gotta admit though, the little Commish has some set of stones on him telling them to shove it. Hey, he makes a cool 7 mil, so in my books that counts as 'fuck you money,' so he has the cheddar to shoot back like that.

The problem here was summed up well by Ken Dryden in an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail, basically saying that peoples' justification of violence in hockey is "stupid." It is. Painfully stupid. That Todd Bertuzzi collects millions today after almost killing a guy is stupid. That headshots are subjected on anything less than zero tolerance is stupid. Don't even get me started on fighting. The talking goons will tell you that fighting is necessary because it prevents guys from using their stick on each other. That's as stupid as changing the law to let guys walk up and feel a girl's tits because it will prevent them from becoming all-out rapists.

The thing that's most concerning here is that stupid is not necessarily ineffective. Stupid can come out on top. Stupid can win people over, and stupid can keep coming back to life even when it gets so stupid it seems to self-destruct. 

Stupid gets peoples' attention - Charlie Sheen, Mohammar Ghadaffi, Sarah Palin, Lindsay Lohan, that stupid cat on YouTube! Maybe stupid is the strategy! Of course, how could I have been so stupid!

General Ganz

Monday, March 7, 2011

BOO-YAH! !!!!!!!!!!

Five points, 4 goals and 1 assist.
NYR 7, Philly 0

So you missed yesterday's game Rangers fans?  

The Blueshirts only scored 7 goals against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist earned his 9th League-leading shutout in the NHL, soon-to-be-Captain Ryan Callahan scored four goals and one assist - his first hat trick in the NHL, Mats Zuccarella scored his career-leading 2 goals, Marian Gaborik was back in the lineup and looked solid, Sean Avery actually had ice time and Brandon Dubinsky, challenged to throw-em-down by Mike Richards, taught the Flyers Captain a lesson in pain.

So you really didn't miss much.  Official recap here.

Where Have I been all season?
So with fourteen games left in regulation this season, and on par with the win over Ottawa Friday night, every game is a 'must-win' for our young Rangers.  New York, seventh in the East, leads eighth-place Carolina by three points and ninth-place Buffalo by four.

There is a lot of chatter online about how the Rangers are likely to miss the playoffs this season, given the limited trades at the deadline (acquired McCabe from Florida) and sticking with a team comprised of top-talent 2nd and 3rd liners.  This may be the case as we continue to believe in and build a youth movement in the Rangers system and current roster.  In future seasons we should see a much improved and more consistent team as they gain valuable ice experience, but they are not 'dead in the water' this season and are still believing in the philosophy that they are a playoff contender.  After yesterday's blowout, it is a huge confidence boost and if, God forbid, they do qualify for the 7th or 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, it is likely to be against the Flyers, Penguins, or Lightning.  Knowing that the team has it in them to shutout and destroy the Capitals or Flyers at any point in the season gives slight comfort to getting further than the first round. Only the Lightning scares me.

Back to the game yesterday, Callahan got the Rangers going 51 seconds in with a redirection of a pass from Brandon Dubinsky and made it 2-0 with 7:02 left in the first with a power-play goal. Zuccarello pushed the lead to 3-0 at 5:06 of the second, then Callahan chased the shaky Boucher. He struck again 4:20 into the third against Bobrovsky, turning his left skate to steer the puck into the net. Anisimov made it 6-0 with 5:19 left off an assist from Callahan, and Zuccarello scored his second with 1:13 remaining.
"Oh Danny Boy...the summers' gone and all the Flyers are dying"

With Jeff Carter out with the flu, our defensive core made Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Versteeg, etc. invisible.  It was shutdown defense, and although we did our job and played the system -- it actually felt that Philly didn't give a sh#t; they looked uninterested in the game after the 2nd or 3rd goals.  And unlike our own team, the Rangers took advantage of that demeanor and continued to play hard, never changing the forward-moving system of scoring goals first.  Defensive positioning we were not, and Torts pushed and pushed and the team followed - a good coaching effort.

For Rangers fans, it was New Year's Eve - the 'Goal Song' blared throughout The Garden, high fives aplenty and angry little ugly bitter Orange jerseys silent throughout the game, an occasional "Let's Go Flyers" chant subsequently overshadowed by the "Let's Go Rangers" chant --- even the fans of Flies couldn't overcome this historical bloodbath, now known as "WHEN THE GARDEN BLED ORANGE".

Deke and Doh!  Anisomov scores.
 As to the physical nature of the game, the Award For "Lamest Attempt To Fight" goes to Philly's Kris Versteeg who took a run at a non-fighter coming off of a concussion - Marian Gaborik; our boys answered and didn't necessarily receive the benefit of the referees penalties.  One particular Brian Boyle 10-minute penalty had Coach Torts up in arms, receiving an official warning from the refs - so it is certain the COMCAST-OWNS-NBC, who had the official broadcasting rights for yesterday's game from top down had the refs ready to keep the Flyers in the game (great conspiracy, eh?) but to no avail.

Even when a second period Sean Avery goal was overturned by the officials (surprised? = Comcast) with Philly down 3-0, a turning point, Flyers Captain Mike Richards called out Dubinsky for a brawl meant to remind his own team that this was the moment we've been given and the game was not over; the young Brandon Dubinsky, our gawkiest fighter, held Richards to a standard unseen - three fists to Richards face later, Dubie took him down and The Garden celebrated one of their own - a young warrior crowned in Blue.  The Flyers Captain from that point forward was The Walking Dead.  

Henrik Lundqvist was again stunning in goal with his ninth shutout of the season, with a couple of spectacular saves.   Flyers' goalies Boucher and Bobrovsky have now given up 18 goals on the last 132 shots they've faced for a ghastly .864 save percentage and 4.52 GAA combined, their greatest vulnerability.  The Blueshirts exposed what the Flyers' critics have been saying all season long -- goaltender problems.  Hah ahah a ha aha hah ah.

So two road games this week against the Anaheim Ducks, followed by the San Jose Sharks -- two tough contenders will be difficult.  But we can all agree on one thing.

They are must-wins.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Getting Each Other's Back -- Rangers Put It Together for One Night | NYR 4 OTT 1

Coming into Friday night's contest in Ottawa, the beginning of the past week had shown 2 thrilling victories on the road vs. Carolina and Washington.

Then a return to the Garden left fans weeping over 3 straight defeats to decent teams (Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Minnesota) that dropped the Rangers into 8th place on the cusp of oblivion.

During the dismal home stand, the Rangers' inability to score -- one goal in each game -- shaky defense, shaky goaltending and terrible special teams were disheartening and fatal.

Arriving in Ottawa, the Rangers did not appear fazed and were not panicking -- the players had regrouped and talked a good game. Coach Tortorella extolled the efforts of the players, singling out Brandon Dubinsky for his effort (although he may have been the worst Ranger for the past 2 weeks), and pretty much assured them that he had his back.

Glen Sather, using understanding that he has a good blend of talent, did not pull the trigger on any trades to unload young assets for a rental and gave the entire team a vote of confidence. BTW, anyone notice that Brad Richards still has concussion symptoms? How nice it would be for Dallas to have 2-3 Rangers playing while the Blueshirts played nursemaid for Richards.

The players' ongoing mission has to be to put pucks in the net and keep opposing pucks from getting behind Henrik's back. We know the former has been a struggle all season long and it keeps getting harder thanks to an unending parade of injuries -- add Del Zotto and McDonagh to the list late in the week after losing Marty Biron earlier in the week.

But for one night at least, in Ottawa, the Rangers put together a complete game effort -- their shooting was much more creative and accurate as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead on their way to a comfortable 4-1 victory. The official recap (did you think I would forget?) is here.

Marksman Aim. Prospal's shot was aimed at the one place
Anderson could not cover in time -- low and along the ice to the glove side.

The team would be facing Craig Anderson with a sparkling 95% save percentage in his career against the Rangers (4-1-1, 1.48 GAA, .958 Sv %), That percentage took quite the beating as the Rangers scored 4 on 27 shots.

During the game, they continued dominating swaths of ice and time in the offensive zone as they have all week but with much better results.

The defense and goaltending were sharper (and perhaps luckier as a couple of deflections stayed out of harm's way as opposed to finding the back of the net like in the Minnesota game).

Rounding into Shape. A month ago, you could not have convinced me that
Prospal would return and that he would actually show some of his scoring ability.

Each of the Rangers' goals showed that the players were thinking better about their shot selection. Vinny Prospal slid his shot along the ice (after a wonderful feed from Sean Avery, his 21st assist of the season) and the puck went underneath Glen Anderson's glove hand -- perfect placement to beat him.

In the 2nd period, Mats Zuccarello and Artem Anisimov scored 12 seconds apart. Zuccarello picked up a loose rebound of a Stepan shot in the crease and cruised in front of the open net and roofed the shot instead of shooting it into the goalie's side which we saw all too often this week at home.

Anisimov took a crisp pass at the blue line from Ryan Callahan right after the ensuing faceoff and marched into Anderson's kitchen, made a strong move to his left and sent the puck into the back of the net.

Finally, in the 3rd period, Derek Stepan took note of Zuccarello's shot and roofed his own for a goal to make the score 4-0.

Each goal was a the direct result of confidence and forethought of each player putting the puck into places where the goalie would have difficulty if any chance at all to stop the puck. Contrast that with the number of shots that the Rangers flailed at in the slot against Minnesota or the shots they kept launching into Jose Theodore's midsection or the shots they could not lift over his prone body. Against Ottawa, these shortcomings were rectified. Now it becomes a question of whether the Rangers have learned a lasting lesson.

Meanwhile, the Devils, Sabres, Hurricanes, Canadiens do not seem to want to lose and provide the Rangers with any cushion. Those teams are all bunched up around the Rangers. The Blueshirts could easily fall to 10th as much as rise to 6th depending on whether they string together wins or losses.

Recent numbers are truly ugly for the Blueshirts -- 5 wins in regulations in their last 28 games (more than 25% of the season). Since January 25, the Rangers are 4-10-1. Two of those victories are shootout wins. Included are several hapless offensive results where they only scored one goal (including the last 3 games of the home stand).

Still, during that 3 game losing streak, you could see the team trying to make plays, try to break in on the net, try to shoot from all over the ice. To little avail. Why?? Some fans claim the team has no heart or is being victimized by its coaching -- these fans are and should be easily ignored.

More thoughtful fans should realize the following two facts: The team is still very young. The team is not all that talented. Correct that -- they are talented if you are assembling only a roster of 2nd and 3rd line players with precious few of them having any finesse or sense around the net.

Some players should be more advanced with their scoring skills -- Dubinsky (the leading scorer on the team with 43 points in 61 games, nearly identical to the 44 he had in 69 last season) and Callahan are primary culprits of missing open nets or shooting shots that totally miss the mark and carom around the boards and out of the zone.

But the maturing of youth can lead to some unexpected gains -- for example, look at Brian Boyle, look at how Derek Stepan has developed, Zuccarello shows feistiness and fearlessness; Michael Sauer has been solid on defense; Ryan McDonagh shows that he has a clue.

One friend eloquently summed up the Ranger offensive woes: "The Rangers need someone to pass to that can think and aim fast enough to make the lamp shine that wonderful shade of red. They don't have it and that's what they need."

Mark my words -- Stepan, Wotjek Wolski and Zuccarello -- this trio will be good for 70-75 goals collectively next season and images of unfilled nets will be less of a problem.

If Gaborik returns to form, and Dubinsky and Callahan can stay healthy and notch more than 20 goals each, and Boyle is not a flash in the pan . . . . I won't go so far as to look at the next coming of the Detroit Red Wings, but a noticeable offensive improvement is not that big of a stretch. Add an improving defense and a quality offensive free agent pick-up and you can see that the rebuilding process may pay dividends sooner than many fans expect. But I am getting way ahead of myself.

Back to the here and now -- in another Sunday nationally televised matinee, the Rangers face the Flyers yet again. Fortunately, the Flyers played and lost (their 3rd loss in a row) to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon so the Rangers will be more rested.

Then the Rangers bring their 20-13-5 sterling road record to visit Anaheim and San Jose in critical games for all participants. Another interesting week looms.

---The Graying Mantis

Friday, March 4, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy NYR 1, Wild 3

F*** you Bobby McFerrin!
There are few reasons to be happy, so turn off the radio.

With only 16 games left, the Blueshirts are trying to hold on. After their terrible loss to the Minnesota Wild last night, the Rangers dropped to eighth place behind Carolina on Thursday and hold only a two-point edge over Buffalo, which has played three fewer games.  This makes three losses in a row at home.  The Rangers were/are sluggish and only scored once in the first period, thanks to Sean Avery - his first since early January.  The only potential reason to be happy is not having to pay for the playoff tickets, as it is becoming more clear that even if we do grab the 7th or 8th slot, it is likely to be a first-round only series against either Philadelphia, Boston or Tampa Bay -- teams we generally don't beat.

Official recap here.

It is quite depressing to think that the bottom-feeders New Jersey Devils or the Toronto Maple Leafs very likely could take one of the last playoff slots this season, as both teams are playing great hockey.  The playoff hopes will now be determined by wins and wins only, and Blueshirt fans are left scratching our heads screaming, "WTF???"

Tonight against the Senators is crucial as a win could/would build some confidence heading into a matchup against the Eastern Conference leading Flyers on Sunday on national television.  That should be a special game.

Not much else to say, Rangers fans, but I would like ask, "Why is it that we torture ourselves year in, year out?"


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Slipping deeper into the Abyss

Last nights PK was atrocious, so many back door conversions on the open side and the our Defense looked clueless. We were outworked. In the last in a series of 1 goal losses, story remains the same. The other team wanted it more than we did. By one more goal.

Read the official recap here.

Here we are again, Rangers fans. Another season in which we could be proving our selves to be perennial frontrunners who blaze through the first half of the season only to gas in the home stretch. While it might be easy to use the injuries as an excuse, They were hardly a factor early in the season. The difference is all the other teams have stepped it up and we have yet to find out if we have another gear.

In that respect, credit should be given .. or at least not as much taken away from Slats and the suits. Mccabe was a fairly modest deal for most concern that freed up some salary at season end and John Mitchell for a 7th round pick probably didnt cost us anything. The only thing worse than chugging along in 2nd gear while everyone is passing us in third would be to add a high octane players like richards that would only add weight and not add enough pick up to qualify us for the post season.

While the possibilities are still there to make to the first round. A quick exit would only hold water with the ticket prices. The fans demand more now that we've seen what this team can do. Its up to them to find another gear and up to us to keep hope alive even if they play better away that they do at home.

Till Next time Ranger Fans,
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