Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mr. Scoreboard, Get Out Of Town!

The Magic Rat has narrowed his focus tonight as he decides what out-of-town scoreboard games he truly loves and which he will never call back for a second date.

The Rat wants Ottawa to beat Florida tonight because Florida is the 9th place team. If the Panthers don't catch us - odds are we will make the playoffs

The Magic Rat also wants the Blackhawks to beat The Canadians - the 8th place team that is also chasing us.

If they could just lose their remaining games, the Rangers will make the post season. So let's start rooting and remember: NOOT (no OT!)

Back tomorrow with more.

Where to go

I should have prefaced mine, if you were looking for more Devils analysis, head down to Dave's recent post. If you were looking for 3 mid 20's guys going nowhere in a hurry, check out mine.

To the best of my Recollection

I'd like to apologize to all our loyal readers for my recent hiatus. I’d like to say that I was off doing something to better myself. I’d like to say I was off trying to make the world a safer place for our children (assuming any of you has any). At this point, I’d even like to say that I was off watching a lifetime movie marathon*. But no, I was doing none of those worthy causes.

I was simply trying to be able to think again. On Saturday, I went up to “East Norwalk, CT” also known as “Boys’ town, USA”. I met two buddies of mine to enjoy a must win afternoon game against the penguins. Knowing the game was in Pittsburgh (a recent house of horrors for the rangers, including 0-3 in last year’s playoffs), and knowing it was a time honored tradition of ours to drink on Saturday, we decided to buy 48 beers for 3 guys. Before I could really even enjoy my first frosty domestic beverage, the Rangers were down 2-0 thanks to a combination of terrible defense, and absolutely no legs. Fresh off the point they gave away in Atlanta, it was clear my hopes at a 4 seed were rapidly slipping away. When you combine that with the depressing body odor of my two friends (one just back from a jog, the other the gym), we decided it would be best if we drank as much, and as fast as possible. The objective was simple, “Drink until you feel good about the Rangers playoff hopes”

As you might be able to imagine, 48 beers was not nearly enough to accomplish this impossible task. So we had to make an early evening run to the liquor store to re-stock. By this point, the Rangers had lost 4-3 (back to back games losing scoring 3 or more goals, shocking), were firmly entrenched in the 7 spot in the east, and a match up with the Devils in the first round looking more and more likely. (Although, I disagree with Dave a little on this. I don’t mind a match up with the Devils at all. (Assuming Dave still stands by his point last week of not wanting to play the Devils) I know all the games will be tightly contested, and for the most part, one goal games that could go either way, when you are the inferior team (which we are right now, though didn’t look it last night), I have ZERO problem with this. It will provide added motivation for the Rangers, and then of course there is the Brodeur factor. As great as he has been in his career, the Rangers are the one team that has given him fits consistently in the playoffs. They are absolutely in his head. The only time he has beaten the rangers was when we lost Jagr (the eastern conference MVP, and should have been NHL MVP) in the first period of the series, Hank (Vezina finalist) was gone for games 3 and 4 with injury, our top defenseman at the time (Kaspiritis) was out the entire series, and the team had a list of other injuries. I would absolutely take a coin flip against the Devils, over say a match up with the penguins right now. Not to mention Brodeur has been “suspect” at best his last 3 seasons in the playoffs, and gave up at least one soft goal EVERY game last year against the Rangers. The rangers just can’t win in Pittsburgh right now, and they know it. Where as the majority of this team has known nothing but success against the Devils, and will have a good deal of confidence against them, especially after last night’s shutout victory)

Anyway, we returned to the apartment and took out another 15 or so beers. Suddenly time began to blur, the sun disappeared, and it was 10:30 pm, one of my friends was sleeping on the downstairs toilet, interrupted by brief fits of vomiting, and my other pal was upstairs, unconscious in his room with toothpaste all over his face. Apparently he tried brushing his nose, and possibly his eyes, but never his teeth. I guess he figured that was outdated and wanted to try something new.

So I sat there alone on the couch, with nothing but their DVR to entertain me. I scheduled about 40 hours of body-shaping, women empowering programs. Including a movie every now and then with an intriguing title like ‘Zorro, the Gay Blade’. When I was done, I felt much like Michelleti or Rosen does after spending an entire game talking about how great marc Staal is, and then looking up to discover he is MINUS FOUR on the night (the Atlanta game, remarkably awful performance), quite unfulfilled.

I regained use of one eye just in time to watch Hank throw up by far his best and most important shutout of his career to date in a must win against the Devils. I have little ability to analyze or offer any input other than this…..I was happy. That and Callahan is really quietly having an excellent year for this team.

*To see the somewhat offensive topic of the Lifetime Movie Nugman watched (you must be 18 years of age) please see comment #2 below

Monday, March 30, 2009


What a difference a day makes. Monday morning we felt like a team on a downward spiral - that whatever boost we got from Torts and Avery was gone now and we were reverting to our midseason (lack of) form.

But then - Monday Night - we did everything I had hoped for in my previous post. We rose up. We played with passion, with intelligence, with intensity. We launched almost 40 shots at Brodeur, and in the end, the Newark Goalie gave way with 3 in the second period.

And Hank! He shut them out. He was stellar. He looked every bit the best netminder of the two this evening (and his lifetime save percentage - which is better than Marty's - and their head to head record the last 16 or so games - further proves that point).

Did you see Sean Avery not rising to the bait? Purposely not fighting as he was getting tossed around? I was almost moved to tears. He gets it now. Team first. I don't think I've ever seen anyone try harder not to get in a fight since Dale Rolf (!). It's been a long long time.

I have to hand it to Tortorella. He's kept up a tactic we haven't seen the Ranger's coaches use in years. He rewards hard smart play and benches the opposite. And the results - the accountability - it is there for all to see.

Tonight it was our Rangers, not the Devils, that looked like the dominant team with the best-ever goaltender. And you know what, maybe The Rangers could really be that if they keep working.

Okay - 2 much needed points moves us more solidly into 7th and gets us closer to 6th (but don't get me started on the Penguins and opportunities lost). Let's just focus on a huge win - when we needed it most.

Very cool, guys, very very cool.

The Devils We Know

So, tonight we face our most familiar and bitter rivals - the Devils of Newark.

The Devils and Brodeur have hated us for what seems like forever. They will be focusing in on this game like a laser - delighting in the opportunity to kick the Rangers when we're down - hoping they can be a part of ousting us from the playoffs before they begin.

What we need to do - in the name of all things good and holy - is rise up and smite the evil men of Newark. Smite the Devils with all the power and fury we can muster as proud wearers of the Ranger colors.

Do this and we will hold on to 7th place, stay in the playoff mix, and throw a measure of doubt into our cross-river rivals. Lose this game and everything we have worked for may start fading away. This is it friends - it's smite or be "smited" (or is it smitten? - no that can't be right)

Oh, and as a small sideline to the game - there's that little tiff between Newark's goalie and our little Seanny. The working relationship between these two men has already resulted in a change to the rules of NHL hockey (The "Avery" Rule) and more than a few altercations. For a fond recollection take a look below:

All I know is that it won't be boring.

What's been wrong with the Rangers? I think Hank is still sick from that mystery stomach thing. That would explain Torts trying to rest him and it would explain the 4 goal night in Pittsburgh (although the Rangers having to take on the Penguins and the Referees didn't make that game any easier). And since Hank's ailment doesn't fit into the Rangers official injury announcement form...

{Insert players name here} has a(n) {check one} [] Upper []Lower body injury

...the Rangers can't or won't report on it.

Dave Pucks Obvious Keys To The Game
1 - Hank be Hank.
2 - Sean be Sean.
This has been... etc.

Goodbye Sauer, Hello Potter

The short NHL career of Mike Sauer has come to an end - at least for the time being. The Rangers have sent Mike back to the AHL and have recalled Cory Potter from the Hartford Wolf Pack to replace him. Sauer had something of a meltdown against the Penguins Saturday, being on the ice for 2 goals in just 4 shifts and 2 minutes of ice time. I think I must have put a bad luck whammy on him by predicting he would do well here.

Potter, 25, has been up with the club already this year, appearing in three Ranger games and notching an assist versus our hated rivals the Devils (and could we ever use another one of those tonight). He's 6-3, 200 pounds, and has some offense to his game: 6 goals and 16 assists in 59 games. He was a 2nd rounder from 2005.
Regardless of the situation on the backline - I can't bring myself to say that I miss Rozsival. Though as your faithful reporter I can disclose that he is scheduled to resume skating again today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Assessing the Damage

Now that the ice has cleared - let's assess the damage.

We're still in 7th place with 6 games to play -6 tough games to play.

Behind us in 8th are the Montreal Canadians, but now they are just one point behind with a game at hand. So our hold on 7th is not so good.

And just below the Line-O-Death in 9th sits Florida, 2 points back of us with 6 to play. If they and the Canadians catch us .... I can't finish this thought.

So it's a sprint to the finish now. We need points. We need wins. And we need losses in regulation for Montreal, Florida, and well, Buffalo too. Nothing else matters nearly as much.

So our rodent of rooting, the Magic Rat only has one game of interest this evening - and he cares less than he used to.

Bruins over Flyers - to keep some slim hope alive of catching the Cheese Steaks.

And tomorrow - our heroes must beat the Devils or die trying...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Make That: Shown Up In Pittsburgh

Well, that didn't work out too well. Hank's day off - which turned out prettly badly on the front end (with Valliquette losing Thursday) wasn't much better on the back end either as the Rangers lost another tough one, 4-3 in Pittsburgh, in regulation.

Hank's save percentage for the night was just 85% - resulting in a rare four goals against for our superstar. The Rangers did well to get their three goals - especially on the road - but came away with no points and, suddenly, a two game losing streak at a very bad time.

And just to show how bad a judge of talent I am - I've been touting that new Sauer kid on defense - but he was minus-2 in just four shifts and just two minutes of ice time.

What positives can we take away? The Rangers were perfect - yet again - on the Penalty kill - stopping the potent Pittsburgh offense nine times. On the flip side we were 0-3 on the Power Play ourselves.

Fluery stopped nearly 90% of the shots he faced. And on a most basic level - if we're outplayed at the goalie position we're not going to beat many clubs.

Hang in there Ranger fans (and you too Nugs). It's bad, but we're still above the Line-O-Death. We're still breathing. And there's nothing to do but move forward. We'll check back with some scoreboard later on. I see the 'slanders managed to parlay a 2-0 third period lead on the Flyers into a 3-3 tie going to Shootout...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Showdown in Pittsburgh

Okay friends. Okay Nugs. Okay everyone. It's time to let go of that point we left so tragically on the ice in Georgia and re-focus on the puck at hand. That is, our Saturday afternoon road game.

The new enemy: The Aquatic Birds of Pittsburgh.

Yes - it is the team that put us out of the playoffs last year - ending Jagr's Ranger career and spinning the Rangers off to the trajectory they find themselves on today.

The Penguins find themselves exactly 7 wins short of last year's regular season total with 7 left to play. They are coming off an odd 2-0 shut out of the Flames in which their own lines were shut out as well - only the defensemen scored.

Pittsburgh sits one point and one playoff notch above us in 6th place. They are where we want to be - and if we can beat them we will take their place.

There are just 7 games left now. 7 games - and then the rest of our lives.

Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game

1 - Play your best Goalie. Because, you know, he's better than your second-best goalie. I never thought I'd have to list this as a key to the game - but Torts thought it would be better to not use Lundqvist last night - and look what happened.

2 - Score. Then Score again. And, oh yeah, score once again. That, with Lundqvist - should get us home.

3 - Staal and Girardi. Let's keep those plus-minus totals above minus 4 this time, okay guys? Because we can never win if you both go minus 4.

This has been Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game

One closing note: how about that Sauer kid? He was plus 1 on the night. I have a really good feeling about him.

Reiterating a BAD loss

A must have game. That's what it was in every possible sense. Philly lost at home, this would have put the rangers within 2 points of 4th place, with 2 games left against philly. Even though Philly has two in hand, if the rangers won both the remaining games, they still have a good shot at 4th.

Then they just gave the game, and a crucial point away.

I can't get on valiquette TOO much here. Did he give up 4 goals? Yes. But he was VERY good in the first period, when the rangers were BADLY outskated and outplayed, yet somehow had a 1-0 lead. It was a period where I can honestly say that when the play was 5 on 5, the rangers were outplayed on 90% of shifts. The action was always in their end, and all the good chances went to a much faster, and much more aggressive Atlanta team. The difference was some great play from valiquette, and some incredibly stupid penalties from Atlanta. You can see why they aren't a playoff team. They have a ton of offensive talent, but 1) They take far too many dumb penalties, 2) They have a terrible penalty kill, 3) Their goalie, lehtonen, at times brilliant, has no heart and is injury prone, and his teammates prob don't trust him, which is an issue.

The rangers had a 1-0 lead after the first period, but really failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity. Atlanta was on the powerplay, and took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone about a minute into it. (Dumb penalty number one) About thirty seconds later they took another roughing penalty. This put the rangers in a 4 on 3 power play for about 30 seconds, which would then turn into a 5 on 3 for a minute. Right as the rangers started there 4 on 3, an atlanta defenseman threw the puck into the crowd, and took a delay of game penalty. That was 3 penalties in a span of about 90 seconds! So the rangers were going to have 30 seconds of 4 on 3, then a minute plus of 5 on 3, and then another 2 minutes of 5 on 4 once the 5 on 3 was completed.

Not only would this be a golden opportunity to net AT LEAST two goals, but it would take Atlantas best offensive players off the ice for 5 straight minutes. It would also absolutely exhaust their top penalty killers, and probably render them ineffective by the time the third period rolled around. So what do the rangers do? First shift after the third penalty is called, they give one back, by taking a TOO MANY MEN ON THE ICE penalty. MSG didn't spotlight the player that did it, but whoever it was hopped onto the ice right as Mara was coming out of the penalty box, a good 50 feet from the bench! Absolute mental lapse, incredibly costly in such a big game. Naslund served the penalty, not sure if it was him or not though.

Giving up the late goal in the second period to Kovalchuck was regrettable. It was a great move by him, but I have to think Hank would have stopped that one. Valiquette is a strong position goalie, but his lateral movement is nowhere close to Hank. I didn't think Kovalchuck got around the net that fast, to merit beating Vally that badly.

So 4-2 heading to the third, and Hank's illness can't be blamed for this third period. Again the rangers collapse in the third. It's time to start admitting the problem here. This is a team that is not conditioned to run and gun for 60 minutes, and it is a very young, incredibly error prone defense. I can't get over how many times during a game I hear Michelleti and Rosen scream out "What a play by Staal" or "Did you see that from girardi, amazing", and all the kids did were finish their checks, or clear the zone with the puck when they had no one in front of them. The two of them last night could only be described as AWFUL. A great example of what "to do" and what "not to do" when facing a guy like Kovalchuck was shown by Morris, and Staal.

Midway thru the third, nursing a one goal lead, Kovulchuck raced down the left side of the ice, one on one against morris. He tried to make a deke move on morris, and slip the puck between morris' legs. He was able to do it successfully and it resulted in.....nothing. The reason nothing happened is because morris never even looked at the puck. He knew, one on one, against one of the 5 best offensive players in the world, trying to get into a puck handling contest is probably an incredibly stupid idea. So instead he waited for kovulchuck to try and make a move, and the second he did, he threw a vicious body check into kovulchuck, never even making an attempt on the puck, and knocked an off balance kovulchuck on his rear, as the puck slid harmlessly into the rangers zone, where another ranger retrieved it and moved up ice with it. It's called "taking the body". When you take the man out of the play, he can't do anything with the puck. Approximately 5 minutes later, Kovalchuck raced down the right side of the ice, this time on staal. Staal of course backpedaled the entire way, letting Kovalchuck get in close on vally, then staal took one of his patented, off balance, lame swipes of the stick at the puck. Occasionally with his long each, he hits the puck and knocks it away from the offensive player. When he does, the chorus of "what a play from staal!" comes from the announcers. When he misses, like he did last night, his stick and body are now completely out of position, and a kovalchuck with a full head of steam easily breezes past him, and in behind vally where he sets up the tying goal right in front of the net.

The rangers had plenty of chances on the power play, and didn't capitalize near enough. Now 2 for last 20 in last 3 games. Avery had a chance to knock in the game winner on a basically open net with about a minute left in regulation, couldn't get anything on the shot. Gomez had a chance to win it in overtime but hit hedberg's stick, as Dave mentioned. And then in the shootout, the rangers had THREE separate chances to win it (and Zherdev strangely was never given a chance by Torts even after another strong offensive game?) as Callahan hit a post, but it was not to be.

The defense was awful 5 on 5 all game, thus, they deserved to lose a game they had to have. (Had the final score been 4-3, I would have been talking about the solid play of Vally, and the strong games for Drury, Zherdev and Antropov....but, it didn't end 4-3)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bad Loss

It was a game we needed.

It was a game we led 4-1.

It was a game we had a five-on-three in the 3rd period and came away with nothing.

It was a game where we scored our needed 3 goals. We scored our 4th goal. But Hank wasn't in the net. Torts went with Valiguette. Again - I like the idea of resting Hank once in a while -but it sure seems to blow up on us when we try it. I have to say - if Hank had played we would have won. He would have found a way to stop at least one more shot than Valiguette.

It was a game where we had 6 chances in the shootout and came away empty. And this is after going 3 for 3 in our last shootout.

It was a game where the defensive pairing of Staal and Girardi in plus/minus were both -4. You can't win a game like that.

It was a game where the Penalty Kill stayed perfect and the powerplay was 2 of 10.

It was a game where Gomez fired a shot that beat the goaltender but bounced off the skinny end of the goalie's stick. An inch (ONE INCH!!!) higher or lower and that's a goal.

It was a game where Kovalchuk at 19:39 of the 2nd period - scored a swooping athletic game-changing unbelievable 360 wrap-around that was the prettiest goal I've seen since - well I don't know when I've seen a prettier goal.

It was a game where we did salvage a point.

It was a game that hurt. A game we had to have - a game we seemed to have won. But in the end...

It was a game we lost.


Tonight our heroes travel to the classic Hockey Town of Atlanta Georgia to take on the Thrashers (anyone old enough to still remember the Atlanta Flames?) in another critical hockey game in the late season playoff push. The Thrashers are out of the playoff mix themselves (the last team in this category the Rangers will face this year) and are coming off a 6-3 loss to our rivals the Montreal Canadians. Your Rangers just defeated the Wild 2-1 (or so says the Versus network).

Still, Hotlanta has won 3 of the last 4 from us on their home ice - so this figures to be another gut wrenching - will sapping - nail biting - tough game.

To win we will need the power play to wake up and ring a few buzzers.

Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game
1 - Score goals. Score 3 goals. Score on the Power Play.
2 - Defend your own goal. No more than 2 goals against Hank.
This has been Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game

For some reason this game is giving me a stomach ache.

Pre-Hatched Chicken Assumption Error

I really didn't even want to say this out loud - because it's double bad luck...

1 - I'll jinx it and it will happen
2 - It assumes we are making the playoffs in the first place - which is not set in stone and would be considered a prehatched-chicken-assumption-error (that is counting our chickens before they hatch). And that, my friends, constitutes the dreaded double-jinx.

...but I have to say it at this point. I really don't want to face the Newark Devils in round 1. And if they hang on to 2nd and we hang on to 7th that is exactly what will happen.

It's not that I don't think we have a chance against them - it's just that since we hate them so much (and vice versa) losing to them would be doubly crushing. Also - they're sure to play harder and better against us than against virtually any other team (just like the 'slanders do).

So, I'd like to reach 5th. Or 6th. I'd be okay in 8th. But anywhere but 7th, fellows, and anybody but the Devils.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

...but Mr. Scoreboard is at it again

Yes, our mascot and spiritual guide, The Magic Rat has his rooting choices for this evening - after taking a peek at Mr. Scoreboard:

The Rat cares about a few games tonight. And here's how he's rooting:

Flames over Penguins - Let's see if we can keep the flightless birds close

Sabres over Panthers - tough call - they both are chasing us, but I think the Sabres (who used to scare me) are done.

Senators over Hurricanes - It's kind of cool to watch Ottawa's streak (now that they're streaking against someone else.) And Carolina's in our way.

And NOOT, people, NOOT!

Rangers have the night off

Rangers have an off night before they begin a crucial 9 day stretch. 5 games in 9 days, four of them are on the road. And four of the games against teams tied with, or ahead of them in the Eastern Conference. The lone home game is against the Devils. A very tough 9 days indeed, I hope the team is getting a good night's sleep in their Atlanta hotel rooms and mentally preparing for the thrashers tomorrow.

Although I am 95+% sure they are getting ready to head out for a nice dinner, then a long night of high end night clubs followed by a late night trip to a gentleman's club or two. Half the team will probably still be out drinking around 3 am.

Dedication wins championships.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rangers WIN...ugly

Rangers score first for the 7th straight game, a growing trend under Torts. Rangers start very strong, and seem to get weaker and weaker as the game goes on. (+9 goal differential in first, +4 in second, -4 in third period) I think it's a product of the fact that Renney had a defense first mindset with less forechecking, and most of these guys have done that for the last 2+ seasons with the rangers. Torts is full steam ahead all the time.

Hank gets the win with 18 saves (but it felt like he saw maybe ten shots. Only maybe 3 real hard ones all game, and Hank was there for all of them). Now 8-2 2.20 GAA his last 10 games.

Strong games again for Avery, Zherdev, Gomez, and Callahan. Marc Staal also rebounded nicely with a strong defensive game, coming off an AWFUL performance last game. He delivered a couple of bone crushing checks, and most importantly, was not out of position all game, a big reason why Hank wasn't really tested at all.

You knew coming into this it was going to be a low scoring afair (both rangers and wild in top 6 in NHL in GAA), but this could have been a very different game if the rangers power play showed up at all. The Rangers outshot the Wild 30-19, They dominated the faceoffs winning by almost 2-1 margin (35-19), they just couldn't take advantage of the power play. Back to back low scoring games where the rangers got absolutely nothing out of their power play.

Anyway, Rangers move into tie with the penguins for 6th place in the east, and are a point behind the Canes (with a game in hand), for 5th.

My player of the game Stars for the rangers go as follows:

1st Star - Zherdev
2nd Star - Avery
3rd Star - Gomez
4th Star - Hank
5th Star - Callahan

(Also worth noting, another strong game from Morris. This guy would be lighting up the scoreboard with points if the rangers could get ANYONE to consistently get infront of the net on the powerplay for Morris' shots)

Even 2nd period, on scoreboard only, keeps Rangers in lead

Rangers lead 2-1 after 2 as the teams traded goals in the second. Goborik was able to stay healthy long enough to score, but was answered less than a minute later on a slap shot from gomez on a perfect feed from avery. (Zherdev got secondary assist on the goal, 2 points for him)

This is one of those "brodeur" games for Hank. He has seen only 10 shots through two periods. The rangers aren't "dominating" in that they aren't getitng many great chances themselves. Only a handful on the game, but they are allowing almost nothing to the Wild. Outshooting and out skating them so far to the tune of a 23-10 shot advantage through 2 periods.

This game absolutely has the "letdown" vibe going right now, as the rangers are looking at another one of those games where they outshoot their opponent by 15-20 shots, and possibly end up in overtime. Gotta score early in the third and put this game away.

Avery has been very strong. His assist give him 6 points in 5 home games with the rangers this season. (can't help but wonder if we wouldn't already have that 4 locked up, and be making a strong push for the 3 seed if we had had Avery all season long) Callahan having another strong hustle game. He has been really impressive of late. (10 points in last 12 games, but 6 goals already under torterella. Def seems to enjoy this offensive scheme a lot more than renney's)

First Period to the Rangers

What was going to be a scoreless first period became a 1-0 Rangers lead when Zherdev scored with under 5 seconds left. Very fitting goal, since zherdev has been by far the best offensive player on the ice in the first period. He has looked fantastic, setting up a couple of potential goals, as well as creating some good scoring chances for himself. He's in for a big night if he keeps this type of effort up.

Both teams have been pretty physical, trying to feel each other out so far. Owen Nolan made the mistake of trying to feel out Colton Orr and got his clock absolutely cleaned. Besides a quick cheap shot jab after the fight had ended, Nolan got absolutely pounded to the ice by Orr.

The objective from here on out should be get Zherdev on the ice as much as possible, and the puck in his hands. (His goal was really a thing of beauty, just because he didn't rush. He knew he had enough time, he was on the door step of the goal and waited for the goalie and closest defender to commit and take themselves out of position, and then roofed an easy wrister. It was quite enjoyable to watch unfold....on versus)

Versus! Foiled Again

Another huge Ranger game tonight - as our heroes desperately try to hang on to one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. We're hovering just 3 points up on Montreal and Florida with 9 to play.

And where is the game telecast?
  • NBC? No.

  • PIX? No again.

  • Well, MSG for sure. No again!

  • ESPN? ESPN 2? No and No.
The Rangers match up tonight against the Minnesota Wild will be broadcast proudly by (and I checked this 3 times) the Versus network. And as a result - many of us - yours truly Dave Pucks included - can't watch the freaking game!

I mean - why not on MSG? The game is actually being played at MSG. Doesn't that give them some sort of territorial rights? Isn't there some sort of business connection between MSG the venue and MSG the network - or are the identical names just some sort of odd coincidence?

I don't want to turn into Phil Mushnick here (whose biting editorials on sports media often slide into the " I hate sports and everything else" category) so I won't ponder why, in the name of Rod Gilbert, this is happening to us. Let me calm down and try to pivot gracefully into our next segment:

Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game

1 - Score goals. That's plural. As in more than one. Three really. We need three. (But we'd take four or more).

2 - Luck be with Lundqi tonight. Let our superstar goalie be who he really is this evening. And that includes the 3rd period - where he's allowed 3 goals on 9 shots over the last 2 games. Just keep them under 3 goals, Henke.

So - to review. (1) Score, and (2) don't get scored on.

This has been Dave Pucks Incredibly Obvious Keys To The Game. Thank you.

Magic Rat's Guide To Scoreboarding

Our mascot and medium - the Magic Rat - offers these tips on how to root in other games:

There is only one non-Ranger game today that the Rat has deep-seated emotional feelings for:

Thrashers over Canadians. The Habs are one of two teams that could potentially catch the Rangers and force us back below the playoff Line-O-Death. Montreal losing would be very very good. And NOOT (which means "lose in regulation" in French-Canadian)

Okay then - good luck watching the radio tonight.

MRI = Michal Rozsival Injury

What is this, the third grade?

The Rangers announced a non-announcement yesterday on their official team website:

"New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that defenseman Michal Rozsival is expected to be sidelined for seven to 10 days with a lower body injury."

Lower body injury? Rozsival hurt his left knee. What in the world is the big secret? If the rest of the NHL suddenly knew which part of his lower body was hurt (for example - maybe the part that got MRI-ed yesterday?) what exactly would other teams do with this valuable secret information?

It's like - let's say a player is wearing a face guard for a broken jaw - would any professional opposing player ever try to take advantage of the injury by grabbing the face guard and ... oh wait - Avery did exactly that over the weekend to Thomas Vanek . Never mind.

But anyway - once you've MRI-ed the left knee, teams are going to figure out what happened. And I'm not exactly sure that opposing teams want to keep Rozsival out of the lineup - if you know what I mean.

On the other hand, maybe it's just that the Ranger medical staff is very slow on the diagnosis - after 2 days all they've figured out so far is Michal's injury is somewhere below his waist. "Your eyebrows look fine, Michal, we'll keep looking."

It's almost like the Rangers are taking a page from NY Giants Coach Tom Coughlin's playbook. As Ralph Vacchiano, our favorite NY Giants writer, has often pointed out - Coughlin and the Giants are not big on disclosing the details of player injuries either - and have used that "lower body injury" phrase themselves a time or two. So I guess the Rangers are in good company...

And hey - your Blueshirt Brothers are happy that at least the Rangers managed to name the player and the body half involved. You know, so that when we see Roz limping around we can say "hey, man - how's that lower body feeling?" or even "I've been thinking about your lower body all week, Michal".

Anyway - moving on - despite the determined rooting of the Magic Rat (our mascot and mystical advisor) , Mr. Scoreboard gave us the butt end of his stick last night as the She-Devils, who can always be counted on to take a dive when their loss hurts the Rangers, gift wrapped another 2 points for Philly with a 4-2 loss. At least Shanny did his best by notching his 5th goal of the year in the losing effort.

And when the Hurricanes and Panthers played - sure enough - OT - points for everyone! Whoopie! The 'canes got the 3-2 OT win and jumped to 87 points, leapfrogging the aquatic fish for 5th place. And Florida, despite losing, was given the "thanks for playing" consolation point to creep a point closer to ousting us from the playoffs.

So when the ice storm had cleared we see, in the cold light of morning, Philly in 4th with 90 points, Carolina (!) in 5th with 87, the suddenly tumbling Penguins in 6th with 86, your Rangers in 7th with 84, and Florida and Montreal ties at the Line-O-Death with 81.

Is it just me or is it getting warmer here in the Eastern Conference? The pressure is on this evening for our heroes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goodbye Rozsival, Hello Sauer

We're seeing from several sources now that Michal Rozsival - who left last night's game with a leg injury - is getting an MRI on his left knee today. So figure - at best - we have a ligament sprain - and at worst - something torn.

And to fill his spot, defenseman Mike Sauer is being called up to the Rangers from their AHL club, the Hartford Wolfpack. Mike was actually born in Minnesota - and figures to get his first action against the Minnesota Wild tomorrow. He's a 2nd round draft pick by the Rangers in 2005, a 6 foot 3 inch right hander weighing 206 pounds.

He has 6 goals on 87 shots and 16 assists in 59 Wolfpack games played this year. Best of all is his plus-minus: +19.

He's got a rep as a tough player - though somewhat prone to injury (whatever in the world that means). His older brother Kurt Sauer plays for the Avalanche. And he is also the brother of Craig Sauer, a former NFL linebacker (Falcons and Vikes).

Not Lundqi's Fault

My 10 year old son, Pucks-Junior, whose school-night bedtime spared him from having to witness the painful-to-watch 3rd period last night, woke up this morning asking, (in that hopeful manner of young kids): "Did they win?"

When I gave him the bad news (Rangers lost 2-1) he had one piece of analysis to offer:

"Not Lundqi's fault!"

("Lundqi”, of course, being Pucks-Junior's spontaneous nickname for Henrik Lundqvist).

There's more analysis I might offer, but Pucks-Junior basically said it all. Give Henrik 3 goals and you will almost always get a Ranger win (and we've got the t-shirt to prove it). Post him just one, like we did last night, and you're in for an ugly night.

Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw. The Senators have been on an unreal streak - winning 9 of 10 and who just smothered and wore down the Rangers - who showed some fatigue from having played the night before. (Of course, Ottawa played Saturday also - but it was just against the 'slanders - so it amounted to little more than a practice scrimmage)

Nugs had mentioned that Rosival seemed to disappear on Saturday - well on Sunday he disappeared for real - exiting with a dangerous looking leg injury and leaving the Blueshirt with just 5 defensemen to combat Ottawa with.

Logic says the (now) 11th place Senators are out of it - but if they keep playing as well as that have - 8th place may not be out of their reach.

You saw what I saw last night. Ottawa was relentless - giving the Rangers little time or space to run their offense.

Our guys battled though - and had a chance or two to get at least a 2nd goal. And the sad part is - we outshot Ottawa 13-4 in the third period but got outscored 1-0. Henrik's 3rd period save percentage was just 75 percent (which is actually up from his 60% third period save percentage on Saturday - but still very un-Lundqvist-like). Is it my imagination or is he tiring as the game wears on?

We were perfect again on the Penalty Kill (3 for 3). But the Ranger Power Play was the difference tonight - we were a debilitating 0 for 6, and our extra-man attempts had trouble generating momentum or even shots. That failure cost us the win. One more goal and we would have grabbed at least a point - maybe a pair of them.

Still - 4 wins in 5 games is not bad. But it was a huge opportunity lost. 2 points would have jumped us to 5th place and put the Line O Death a little more comfortably in the rear view mirror.

At least now Lundqi and the guys have a day to rest and reload for Tuesday's match against Minnesota.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nugman's Take on Last Night

Don't know why, but I had forgotten leading into yesterday's game, that the last time the rangers and sabres met, Gomez took out the sabres goalie, Miller, and in doing so basically ended the sabres season. This dramatically changed the way I thought the game was going to be played. Originally I was looking for a sabres team to come out with a lot of energy in period one, fired up in a must win game on the road, but then to fall apart in periods 2 and 3 because of tired legs from the night before in philly. With the gomez situation, not only would they be fired up, but they'd do what almost every team in the NHL does far too much....try and prove what men they are.

I knew they'd be looking for revenge on Gomez, and they were right from the opening shift. Every sabre had a clear objective, finish your checks on gomez. Hit him often, hit him hard, and try and take him out legally. (Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but he's also a hot head. I don't think he would ever ask his players to take a cheap shot on another team, but he absolutely would tell them to try and break the guy's face legally) The rangers for the good part of the first period were victims of late hit after late hit, which MSG did a very nice job of highlighting. I was pissed not only because I don't want to see Gomez taken out when he's just starting to get his game back, but also because the gomez hit was.....not malicious at all. Yes, gomez took Miller out, but if you know gomez at all, or his game, he was not intending to hurt him at all. Miller strayed far too far AWAY FROM HIS NET, gomez rushed in to try and steal the puck, and get in miller's way before he could get back to the pipes and they made contact. Both players got hurt, but Miller's loss has been devestating to the sabres. (Although, they weren't exactly tearing it up before he got hurt. They hadn't really been playing well since early december)

About midway thru the game, the sabres started crashing the net on Hank hard, and at one point I believe it was connolly that just ran Hank over, making NO ATTEMPT to stop. For whatever reason, the refs kept their whistles in their pockets. I hated the way the sabres played that game, especially when the rangers took control with the 3 goal lead. It was kind of like the Avalanche game at the garden a few weeks ago. The sabres knew they were out of it, and the focus just became starting fights, and trying to take out Rangers players. That's one thing I do want to see the NHL crack down on. When a team is down 3 or 4 goals in the 3rd period, and it's clear that they are looking to start a fight with the opposing team to take out some anger, or try and injure a player, throw them out of the game. No 5 minutes for fight, give them a game misconduct and throw them out.

All in all, a strong game for the rangers. They gave up 40 shots, but that's buffalo's M.O. They get as many, or more, bullsh*t goals than any team in the league (like their first one), because they just throw pucks at the net, and hope it bounces off someone and goes in. I actually thought the rangers did a fine job on defense for the most part. They have had games where they gave up 20 shots, but 3-4 of them were breakaways, and 5 of them were from 10 feet out, right in front of Hank, where the other team had 8-9 legit "should be a goal" type chances. Last night the rangers only gave up "dubinsky shots". Those are shots where for the most part they are from 20+ feet out, and from an awful angle where no goalie in the NHL would have a save percentage below .910.

Talking points:

- 32-3-2 when scoring 3 or more goals now

- Hank wins again. They described him well during the game, he wasn't GREAT, he didn't have to be, but he was just solid. He stopped everything that a goalie should have. Now 7-1 2.37 GAA last 8 games. (but with a .920 save percentage) (previous 4 games, all losses, rangers only scored 6 goals)

- I will give Marc Staal some credit (it's not like I don't like him, I just recognize what he is. A solid, young defenseman, prone to crippling coverage mistakes, and very offensively limited; in comparison to Rosen and michelleti who deem him "the next brian leetch"). He had a strong game. He picked up an assist, but his game was much better than that. Defensively he made all the plays he needed to, including a couple of great efforts on the penalty kill to get the puck out of his zone. (MSG highlighted one of them, probably staal's best stickhandling of the season)

- Michael Rozsival should leave the NHL and become a professional thief. The guy could make a killing. He is so deceptive and near impossible to trace. I had no idea he was even in uniform last night.

- Callahan followed up his strong finish to the game in Montreal with another big time hustle game. Slowly putting together a very fine season for the rangers. With his two goals (the first off a BRILLIANT pass from Dooby to set up a break away, where Callahan badly deeked lalime; the second on the empty netter to clinch the game) Callahan now has 19 on the season. I absolutely would have taken 20 goals from callahan this year at seasons beginning if you offered it, and the way he's playing, looks like he'll end up right around 22-23 goals. For a complimentary forward originally thought to be on the third line, that's great production. Not to mention the guy hits everything he sees. (Kind of like holleweg used to but with stick handling and scoring ability...and he doesn't take a crucial penalty in the playoffs to all but end our comeback hopes)

- Drury scores on a nice deflection, and keeps me in line with "I would put money on Drury scoring in 3 of the next 4 games"; after the winner in the shootout in Montreal. Need a big finish from him.

- Naslund, Antropov, Zherdev: All of them strong games. Each of them was either driving to the net, or finding open ice and the open man. Antropov has been fantastic since he arrived.

3rd straight win for the rangers, going for 4 against Ottawa tonight.

Around the league:

- Crushing loss for the panthers (good for us). They blow a late lead in regulation to Colombus, making the rangers playoff dreams for a 4th straight year almost locked up.

- The canadians....I will say it again....they are an awful team right now. Getting blown out of their own building by the Maple Leafs? But of course...sabres and panthers aren't exactly getting it done either. Whichever of them pulls out that 8 seed is going to give the 1 seed (Bruins or Caps?) ZERO fight in the first round.

- Capitals were a no show in Carolina, so....bummer. On the night, the competition when 1-3-0, so rangers gained on all except Carolina, who they have games in hand on.

- And for you NCAA tourney guys out there, so far on ESPN's bracket challenge I was able to pick 28 of 32 games correctly in the first round, and with my second round so far I find myself in the 98th percentile of picks. Meaning Out of every 50 or so people, I'm on top....so with the 5 million people that picked I am a, less impressive.... 95,467th place

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rangers Hang On To Push Sabres Toward The Exit

The Rangers may be the best 2 period team in hockey right now. They continue to look strong for the first 40 minutes - and then find a way to hang on at the end.

I want to say it was a huge win - but they're all huge wins now with the playoffs hanging in the balance. A 4-1 lead after the 2nd period all but disappeared as Callahan's empty net goal was needed to preserve the 5-3 win.

Nice to have an actual Ranger hockey game to write about - it's been a long 4 days.

I'm sure Nugman will have a more complete analysis later on - but let me hit a few of the highlights I saw:

    • How many "deeks" was that on Callahan's first goal - 5 at least. Very cool and lots of fun to watch. And his empty netter iced the victory

    • I think Lundqvist is tiring in the 3rd - and I wonder if he's still having that stomach issue

    • We were outshot 40-31.

    • Were were perfect 5 for 5 on the Penalty Kill. Huge difference maker.

    • We were 1-2 on the Power Play. If we can keep those last two stats up we can compete with anybody.

    • Antropov continues to impress me. Using the big body well and some nice stickwork on that through-the-legs-move in close.

    • 37 saves for Lundqvist - not too bad.

    • We scored at least 3 goals and won again. If we can score 3 or more we're very tough to beat.

    • As much as I like Sean Avery - I read that during a play stoppage he approached Thomas Vanek - who is wearing a face shield to protect a broken jaw - stuck his fingers in the protective shield and tugged. This is why so many people can't stand the guy. But I know that he gets cheap shotted every night - notably losing his spleen to a stick in the gut last year while skating for the Rangers. So without knowing the history between him and Vanek I don't want to pass judgement. And you can't argue about how well the Rangers play with him on the team

    The win keeps us in the hunt for 5th and further sinks the Sabres - who may be just about done now. They are 5 points behind Montreal for the final spot with 10 to play.

    That would leave one less team that could put the Rangers out of the playoffs - which is nothing but good. As it stands now - we're still in 7th, 3 points up on the 8th place Canadians (who lost at home to Toronto tonight) and 4 points up on 9th place Florida (who lost to Columbus). Both of those teams will need to catch us to keep us out of the tournament. So there's a ways to go - but things are certainly looking up from a few games back when we were in 9th.

    Tomorrow it is Rangers - Ottawa - who are themselves coming off a win tonight against the 'slanders.

    Brodeur may play till he is 48

    According to the Daily News, Martin "Fatso" Brodeur just lost a case in court to his former wife. Apparently, cheating on your wife with her sister is a bad thing. I hope the sex was good, because the judge has ordered brodeur to pay alimony in the amount of $500,000 a YEAR until 2020 (when the youngest of their 4 kids goes to college)

    Considering that he's not a very bright guy, probably has no idea how to manage his money, I think it's a safe bet Marty will attempt to play beyond his contract (which ends in 2012 when he's 40)

    Looking at last night's scoreboard, of course the islanders choked on the road in carolina. When your the worst team in the NHL, it is unlikely your going to win a road game against a team in playoff contention desperate for a win. Thanks for the help you f*cking bums. (Someone try and remember the last team they can think of, that scored four goals in ONE PERIOD of a hockey game, and lost that game, like the Islanders did last night)

    The penguins won...again, as did the flyers. Getting little competition from the sabres and kings. The sabres have all but played themselves out of a realistic shot at the playoffs for the second straight year. This of course makes me happy because if it weren't for our current captain's goal with 7 seconds left in game 5 in the playoffs two years ago, the Rangers go to the eastern conference finals, and who knows from there the way they were playing. (Note, that was also the last time Rozsival played a good game) Hopefully the rangers can put them out of their misery tonight. At the garden, with the sabres coming off a physical game with Philly, the sabres have only ONE thing going for them....they HAVE TO WIN tonight. They lose, and they are 8 points (essentially 4 games back) of the rangers, with 10 games left? Outside of the 2007-2008 New York Mets, no one blows that type of lead, that late in the season.

    Hurricanes host the capitals. Caps should have fresh legs, and pull out a close game. If rangers hold, they would have a three point lead on Carolina, with TWO games in hand.

    Gotta hope the Maple Leafs are able to get up for a little rivalry action with the Canadians, but I am not optimistic.

    And finally, the bluejackets badly need a win, they are in florida, and could provide the rangers with a little more breathing room.

    So Caps, Leafs, Bluejackets and Rangers. All four pull it off, I'll be almost as happy as Brodeur's ex-wife.

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Hey Look! It's the Scoreboard

    Yup - as another Ranger-less night falls in Hockey Town - we look at the Scoreboard and ask our mascot and good luck charm: The Magic Rat who should we root for tonight to vicariously help our Rangers into the Post Season?

    Only three games to go steady with tonight. We like some other games too, but not in that special way.

    Islanders over Hurricanes - It's never easy to root for the 'slanders - Dave Pucks is still smarting over a painfully-quick OT loss that happened before many of you were even hatched. But root we must this evening. The Windys are just one point behind us - a win puts them in front.

    Kings over Penguins - The flightless water birds are the hottest team in hockey right now, having rocketed by us and pulled even with Philly (with a few less games left). Someone needs to stop them.

    And the big stumper of the evening:

    Flyers at Sabres. Fly-boys are just 2 points up on us in 4th. It would be nice to close in on them - and keep Nugmans dream of 4th place alive. On the other hand, the Cold Swords are 6 points back of us - and below the Line-O-Death. As such, they are one of two remaining teams that could climb back in to (and put us back out of) the playoffs. So, what to do? 6 points is a long way back - they may be nearly finished - or are they? Maybe we should hope someone kills Buffalo while they can - before it becomes a crazed wounded beast charging at us from the rear (which, by the way, is something you can pay to have done on Craigslist).

    It's the kind of thing you could obsess about - until you realize that your rooting doesn't actually affect the outcome.

    So, with fingers crossed - by a whisker - The Rat gingerly roots for Sabres over Flyers.

    And tomorrow, boys and girls, your Blueshirt Brothers will have an actual Ranger Hockey game to discuss. I hope we still remember how...

    Let’s Go... (uh, what was that name again?)

    Remember, back in the Winter of 2009, when the Rangers played hockey games every day or two? And when - this being the Blueshirt Brothers Rangers Blog and all - Nugs and I would write stuff about those Ranger games?

    Good times, my friends, good times. At least that's how I remember them.

    That was, of course, last Winter. It's Spring now. We have today reached that Equinox where day and night are tied at exactly 12 hours each (pending OT and a shoot out). So Friday March 20th signals (1) a new calendar season, and (2) the third consecutive day since our last Ranger game.

    Any chance our Rangers will play some ice hockey today? Uh, no. And, of course, they didn’t play yesterday. Or Wednesday. I seem to recall a game against Montreal before that - but time has blurred the details.

    They do have a scheduled game tomorrow - so the team will probably get back together and re-introduce themselves to each other this weekend. (“Colton, this is Brandon – Fredrik, here’s Henrik”, and so on)

    But today (as it snows on me and my Spring attire of authentic Blueshirt Brothers tee shirt and Rangers shorts) I am forced to once again review last night’s Scoreboard and dream of better days to come.

    Last night the Canadians, who played us Tuesday but who seem to play every other day (like a normal hockey team) lost in regulation (NOOT!) to Ottawa. This dispenses with Montreal's "game at hand" and keeps them in the Rangers’ rear view mirror by a whole point.

    One the other hand, 9th place Florida upended Toronto 3-1, getting themselves to 80 points - just one behind the 8th and final playoff spot.

    This of course tightens up the already tight race in the Eastern Conference. Just 4 points separates 4th place (and home ice advantage for round 1 of the playoffs) from 9th (and no playoffs at all). The Rangers squat right in the middle of that pack – 2 points below 4th place and 2 points above the ominous Line-O-Death.

    And that's how it looks right now on the first day of Spring. We'll punch back in later on to cover how the Magic Rat will be Rooting in tonight's games.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Watching Mr. Scoreboard

    As Nugs lamented - thanks to the NHL schedulers - we are stuck in day two of a 3-day No Ranger Game wasteland.

    So to the Scoreboard we Blueshirt Brothers go - invoking our diety and luck charm - the Magic Rat - to bring us good tidings and NOOTs (no Overtimes)

    From a Ranger Playoff point of view - there are only 2 games on the docket this evening that we give a Magic Rat's 5-hole about. And so, we humbly request:

    Senators over Canadians - we need this to keep 1 point ahead of Montreal. (If the Senators give the HABs half the grilling they gave AIG yesterday we should be fine)

    Maple Leafs over Panthers - Florida is just below the Playoff Line-O-Death - so every loss by them helps keep us above that same line.

    And there you have it. Happy rooting, Brothers! Bad outcomes in these two games makes for a much tighter playoff race.

    Newark's Goalie - Greatest Ever?

    In between all the AIG coverage there's been a little bit of newpaper space this week devoted to the netminder for the Newark team (Martin Brodeur) who set some sort of all time NHL wins record on Tuesday. (We were more impressed with Ranger Coach John Tortorella setting the all time win records for an American NHL coach - but that's just us)

    I wanted to follow up on Nugman's question: is Brodeur The Best Of All Time?

    He's certainly won the most games. But he's had the Devils and their skill and defensive style behind him all these years. It's sort of like pitching for a baseball team that scores a lot of runs and plays great defense.

    But in baseball - is the pitcher with the most wins the best pitcher? Not always. I'd look at ERA also.

    Now, ERA is not a pure number either - because the quality of the defense factors into it. But a pitcher with a 1.20 ERA is always a good pitcher. And a 6.50 ERA is always a bad pitcher - no matter how many games he's won.

    So for Hockey I'd say we look at Save Percentage - not just wins - to help figure out who the best of all time is.

    What do you think? Post a comment and let the discussion continue.

    Another night without the Rangers

    I don't know what it takes to make a schedule for a particular sports league. If I had to guess, nepotism, a lot of drug use, and a complete lack of education.

    Once the rangers finished their 3 games in 4 days stretch Tuesday in New York (playing the 3 games in 3 different cities, Nashville, Philly, New York), the rangers now get to play just one game in a 5 day span. They were off monday, played tuesday, then off till saturday.

    So 3 in 4 nights
    1 in 5 nights


    Starting saturday, they play 3 in 4 nights again.

    3 in 4
    1 in 5
    3 in 4

    How about just 7 in 13, playing every other day? Is it really that hard? I am aware other cities, arena, basketball, has to be taken into account. But it really can't be that difficult.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Devils Take Dive

    Sure enough - the Devils, realizing that what's good for Carolina is bad for the Rangers, decided to rest their All Star goaltender tonight and went with Kevin "I haven't played in" Weeks.

    Naturally a 4-2 Devil loss followed and as our Line-O-Death meter shows (to the right) the 8th place Hurricanes have found a way to blow within one point of our 6th place Rangers.

    Just a little Scoreboard tonight

    As Nugman correctly pointed out - we do have a little bit of Scoreboard watching to do this evening.

    The Newark team, who's goalie sets a record every time he wins now for the rest of his life, is taking on the Carolina Hurricanes - a team in 8th place in our conference and just 3 points behind us.

    So, tonight we root for the Devils, who are likely to give the game away to any potential Ranger rival since they dislike us so much.

    By the way - last night was Alex Kovalev's return to the Canadian lineup after missing 2 games and losing 12 pounds to a stomach ailment. I'm wondering if there's any link to Lundqvist who has a mysterious stomach ailment of his own. Maybe they should compare dietary supplements...

    Confusing Times

    I usually don't expect much from the Rangers coverage in the New York Times - but today's article by Jeff Klien is downright bizarre.

    Here are his first 3 sentences:

    Rangers Coach John Tortorella was asked before Tuesday night’s game against the Canadians what he thought of 3-point games — the N.H.L.’s idiosyncratic formula of letting teams each receive a point for a regulation tie, then awarding a bonus point to the winner in overtime or a shootout.

    “I hate ’em,” Tortorella said. “There should just be a winner and a loser."

    Presumably he hates them a little less after the Rangers took the bonus point in a 4-3 shootout victory at the Bell Centre.

    How's that again? Torts didn't say "let's leave a tie a tie". He said he wants "a winner and a loser". The Rangers won the game by winning the Shoot Out and got 2 points for that. And the bonus point was not awarded to the Rangers - it was awarded to the Canadians - the losing team - for losing in a SO instead of regulation.

    Why would Torts be happy the Habs got a point in a Ranger win? That puts Montreal just one point behind us instead of two with a game at hand. Is Jeff even reading his own copy? Does he follow hockey?

    And Jeff, if you're going to refer to the Blueshirt Brother's concept of NOOT (no OverTimes) - at least use the proper term and give us a little shoot-out shout-out.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Rangers beat Rangers in shootout, 4-3

    No, i am not drunk. I am aware the Rangers played the Canadians tonight, but they beat themselves. The canadians were a non-factor in the game, other than Carey price, and to a lesser extent Alexei Kovalev. Tremendous amount to talk about here, so get ready for a long post.

    First, this game could not have been more frustrating. Montreal is an awful team right now. Amazing how much things can change in a year. One year ago today, heading into the playoffs, you could have made a case that the rangers and the canadians were the two most dangerous teams, getting great goaltending, strong penalty killing, pretty much every facet of their games were strong, each team only had one real weakness, for the rangers it was their power play (no surprise), and the canadians, it was whether a young carey price could handle the playoffs and the pressure of living up to Dryden and Roy. Now a year later, and neither team has the look of a real threat in the playoffs. With the rangers, the veterans are there, and they have a goalie that COULD win a series on his own, so if they get in, with a decent seed, maybe they can make some noise, but the Canadians? They look awful. IF they make it, and after tonight I am saying they may not, they are one and done. (I am not overly impressed with buffalo or florida. They can be great one night, awful the next. I don't think either can overtake the Canadians, the canadians have to lose the spot, and I am not sure that crowd will let them)

    What an amazing crowd to play for. The montreal fans always bring such energy, the place is always exciting, even with an AWFUL effort being displayed. (Perhaps its because next to the Yankees, who no team is really "next" to, the Canadians are the greatest sports team in history and the fans are just used to winning and trying to get the team fired up, but they really create the best atmosphere in the NHL in my opinion) What an awful show by the canadians. They have been terrible of late, especially 5 on 5 where there own coaches said they have been owned. The first period the rangers were VERY average. Their play was inconsistent, and if it weren't for the FANTASTIC play of Hank, they would have been down 2-3 goals. (More on Hank later) The rangers brought nothing to the table (despite what the announcers wanted to hype up). The play was equal, equally sloppy.

    (I need to pause my train of thought for a second because Stan Fischler just said, "This is one of the greatest, funnest, runs of all time that tortorella has the rangers on"....the rangers are 6-3-1 their last 10....that's solid...but not as good as their 10-1-2 to start the season, or the 9-0-2 the penguins are on currently....someone kill this guy already)

    The rangers came out in the second and def picked up their level of play (I assume after getting lit into again). Once again Hank was solid. The rangers took a 1-0 lead on a nice goal by antropov. (He followed up a solid shot by drury by crashing the net, that's where goals are found) The rangers looked like they were gonna start to put the game away...then took 3 penalties, giving the canadians their 5th power play of the game, they finally scored to tie it. And somehow through 2 periods the rangers and canadians were tied 23 shots a piece, and the canadians didn't play ONE SINGLE GOOD MINUTE in the game yet.

    In the third, the rangers ABSOLUTELY dominated. Outshooting the canadians 16-5, scoring 2 goals....and giving up 2 goals. Leading 2-1 Marc Staal let a puck bounce over his stick (AGAIN), which turned into a scoring chance the other way, girardi made an awful defensive effort, callahan decided to KICK Hank while he was trying to make a save, and it was 2-2. The rangers kept pressing, got a 3-2 lead, and then drury tries to get fancy with a puck he should have dumped, especially with a lead, gives up a scoring chance the other way, and Hank gives up his softest goal of the year. (Which he just called in the post game "Absolutely awful, terrible goal" and "inexcusable") From a bad angle, not much on it, hit his shoulder and bounced into the net, awful goal.

    It went to a shootout, where the rangers got goals from Naslund, Antropov, and Drury to back up a suddenly shaky Hank that allowed 2 goals, and won 3-2 in the shootout, 4-3 overall.

    Some of the positives:

    - Scoring 3 or more: Rangers now 31-3-2 on the season

    - Hank, overall an "ok" game, 26 saves on 29 chances, gets the win. He was great the first two periods, but in the third seemed to fall asleep, including the shootout, allowed 4 goals on the final 8 shots he saw. Now 6-1 last 7 games with 2.29 GAA.

    Hanks game tonight reminded me about Martin "Fatso" Brodeur. Marty became the all time winningest goalie tonight, 552 wins, pretty amazing accomplishment. A friend asked me earlier tonight, with the wins, second all time in shutouts, and the 3 cups, is brodeur the greatest ever? It's tough, and the fact that he makes it tough to answer is a credit to how good he has been for how long (and hasn't shown much sign of slowing down, aside from injury this season), but right now I can't give him the nod. He is certainly one of the greatest, but unlike a guy like Roy who took multiple teams to cup victories, with different styles of play in front of him, and more offensively minded teams, Brodeur played the majority of his career in the most defensive, low scoring era in NHL history, with a team with very strong defenders who sole game plan was "do not allow shots on goal", especially in that 1997-2002 area where the devils were very good, and the rangers were in a heavy decline, it really stood out when watching a guy like mike richter, every game you would see, "Richter, 35 saves on 38 chances, rangers lose 3-2", and then you'd check the devils boxscore and see, "Devils win 2-1...brodeur with 13 saves" 13? That's it? He was getting routinely sub 20 shots per game the vast majority of games. And if you watched the devils, they were rarely tough saves. It was a team that gave away almost no chances, rarely a break away. So I think brodeur is great, but he also probably played for the most defensive minded team in the league, in the lowest scoring era ever.

    But a plus for brodeur which I have said before. If you watch Hank in games where he only gets 15-18 shots, VERY RARE, but you might see him give up a weak goal or two. Most goalies would say that they prefer to see consistent shots throughout the game. It's very tough to stay on your A game, when you see one shot every 5 minutes. We saw that tonight with Hank. When the rangers took over in the third, allowing just 5 shots all period, only 2 shots the first 10 minutes, Hank looked VERY shaky, giving up his weakest goal of the year, and just losing his touch in the shootout. I would def say brodeur had the focus of an all time best goalie, because he always seemed to stay in his game regardless of how slow a night it was.

    - Tortorella. This is a game they don't win under Renney, at least this year. You could tell when they came out at the beginning of the second, and especially the third, that they had had a fire lit under their asses during intermission. They have a renewed focus and energy that they absolutely didn't have earlier in the season. (Part of that is due to the influx of new players, especially avery, but still) And the one move I give Torts total credit for, Drury in the shootout. Drury has not only not been great in the shootout his two years with the rangers (and said he didn't want to be in it last year (as did Jagr...which created a bit of a problem)), but he also made the key giveaway in the third that caused the tying goal and the overtime. Drury would not have been my choice. I was preparing my "Is their a better 3-some hands wise in the NHL, then Naslund, Antropov, Zherdev?" (Scoring, sure, but pure hands, no way, no one can top that) By going back to Drury, torts wanted to make a "Your my captain, go win this game" sort of statement, and Drury delivered with the winning goal. Drury looked real fired up afterwards, got some big high 5's from the team, big goal for him and usually with a guy like Drury, that sparks a nice scoring stretch. I would absolutely put money on him scoring in 3 of the next 4 games. Also for Torts tonight, the win makes him the winningest US born coach ever. Congrats, 245 wins.

    - I've been on him all year, so I will give him tonight. Redden was very strong. Despite the CONSTANT jerking of girardi and Staal by Micheletti and Rosen (despite their normally very average play), Redden was the best defender for the rangers tonight. He not only made a fantastic play to break up a 2 on 1 in the first (which girardi later butchered in the third), but he also was very effective on offense pinching in all night. He had a great deflection in OT that almost won the game, and picked up an assist on Antropov's goal. Strong game for him.

    - Callahan. After just an ugly play where he rushed back on HANK, pop up slid in front of him, kicked Hank with his SKATE, and then knocked the net out of place as the tying goal was scored, Callahan rebounded, and showed why he is a young player worth hanging on to. Kept his head, kept crashing the net, this time against Price, and scored a big go ahead goal for the rangers. Strong come back for the kid.

    - Antropov. The guy has been great since he arrived. (Can I really give sather credit? I mean he did f*ck up the team first right, just because he is fixing some of his screwups, can I give him that much credit?) He is a 6'6 monster with fantastic hands, that crashes the net and has been a force on the power play. He scored his 25th goal tonight, (4th with the rangers), and I'm excited to see what he could do in a playoff series. Also scored a goal in the shootout with a wrister over price on the stick side where he had NO chance. Amazing release. Very shannahan esque.

    - Morris and Avery. Again, Morris, Avery, and Antropov very strong games. Avery and Morris didn't light up the scoreboard, but both were skating very well, and creating good chances, and I love Morris' shot, and avery's intensity (again, avery drawing penalties)

    The bad:

    - So much here. The rangers as a team CARRIED the Canadians to a point in the standings. The Canadians had NO BUSINESS getting a point in that game. A team that plays that bad, in front of that crowd, should not go to postseason, but the rangers helped them along.

    - Gomez...he can be so good....and so flaky. A ridiculous penalty in the final two minutes, where he had no shot at the puck and went off for a trip, could have cost the rangers the game..and their season? And then at the start of OT he throws a very ill advised pass across the middle of the ice, looking to make a play to zherdev, who was behind him, when he should have been dumping the puck. Had the canadians handled it cleanly, it's a 3 on 1 on Hank in OT. When gomez and zherdev are on the ice together, it is a "ANYTHING can happen, but something WILL happen" sort of moment. Either they are going to create a fantastic chance for the Rangers...or the other team.

    - Sjostrom, Hank makes an AMAZING save to preserve a one goal lead after Zherdev just scored, and you throw the puck over the glass for a penalty that sets up the tying goal for the canadians??? That play was indicative of the entire game. The rangers would do something great, then do something awful, and would find a way to keep both teams in the game.

    - Staal and Girardi. If your going to give next to nothing on offense, you have to make ALL the plays on defense, and they didn't tonight. Staal let a bouncing puck hop over his stick as he was trying to make a play off it, rather than just stopping it with his skate and dumping it, and girardi was then beat BADLY one on one to allow a goal on Hank. Not an awful night for them, but not a great one either.

    Overall, the rangers got the 2 points they had to, in a tough place to play, but they gave away one. Around the league, the flyers blew a 2 goal lead to the red wings and lose in regulation (huge, that basically negates the rangers loss on Saturday, the 4 seed is alive and well). Sabres and Panthers both lose in regulation, so rangers gain another crucial game on them each, and they keep pace with Pittsburgh who won 6-2. Pittsburgh is still 2 points up, but has played one more game than the Rangers. So the opposition went 1-3-1 tonight (including Montreal), so rangers gained on 4 of 5 teams playing, good night overall.

    Rangers hold the 6 seed, 2 points out of the 4 (Philly has 2 games in hand, but 2 left against rangers)

    Must Beat Canadians

    It's hockey night in Canada as our guys travel North take on the team one spot "north" of us in 6th place. Montreal has the same 80 points we do - but with a game at hand.

    The Canadians have pounded us in two previous losses this year - scoring an unheard-of 12 goals against Lundqvist. We'll have to do much better to have a chance this evening.

    But of course, things are not going as well for the 100 year old Montreal franchise as of late. Their recent winning streak and former Coach are both long gone now (sound familiar?). They have dropped 2 in a row, including a loss to the lowly (and much despised) Islanders.

    Win and we can take 6th place, and set our sights on the Penguins and Flyers. Lose and the thundering herd of playoff hopefuls comes at us from the rear.

    Dave Pucks Overly Simplified Keys To The Game

    1 - Score goals. (Three or more please)
    2 - Don't give up goals. (No more than two please)
    This has been Dave Pucks Overly Simplified Keys To The Game

    And now, to the scoreboard. To our Hockey Deity (the Magic Rat) we respectfully wish for:

    Red Wings over Flyers (Flyers can't fly when there are red wings around)
    Senators over Sabres (The Sabres, pursuing the playoff pack, scare me)
    Thrashers over Penguins (surging aquatic fish are 8-0-2 in last 10)
    Capitals over Panthers (let's keep Florida below the Line-O-Death

    And please, people, NOOT! (That is "No OT" so the losers don't get a cheap point for losing).

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Rangers-Flyers (Nugman's Scenario)

    Nugman looks at the 2009 Playoff glass and sees it half full - shooting for 4th place out of 8 playoff spots - hoping our Rangers can pass the Flyers and secure home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Notable sentiment and I hope he's right.

    (As for me - I see the glass as more than half empty. I'm looking at the close-on-our-heels Panthers and Sabres and hoping we can hang on to at least 8th place and stay in the tournament.)

    But if we do creep up to the Flyers it could make for a very interesting end of the season - because our last 2 games are another home-and-home with Philly.

    So imagine, if you will, Nugman's scenario that with 2 games to play the Rangers are closing in on the 4th place Flyers. In that case the two teams would be in unusual position of playing 2 straight games leading into a playoff series against each other. And those 2 games could determine home ice for the series.

    And if that happens - the Rangers may play the final regular season game in Philly - needing a road win to secure a extra playoff home game. In effect they would have to beat Philly in Philly to earn the right to not have to beat Philly in Philly and still win a playoff series - if you follow what I'm saying (and I'm not sure I do myself).

    Another potential scenario is that the Rangers are 5th - slated to face the Flyers in round 1 - and the last season game is meaningless. In that case I'd expect to see back up goalies - and many many fights - as both sides seek to intimidate each other leading into the playoff series.

    Either way - if the Rangers finish 4th or 5th there will be a lot of consecutive Flyers games before we're done.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Weekend Split, but I'll take it

    To realistically catch the Flyers and have a shot at the 4 seed in the east (and home ice in the first round), the rangers needed to win all of their final 4 games against philly (since philly has 2 games in hand). After the depressing loss yesterday, it's not out of reach, but Rangers absolutely had to win the next 3, starting with today on home ice.

    Thanks to solid Hank again, a more and more dominant avery, and a resurgent power play (which got plenty of practice) the rangers were able to overcome some tired legs, and some awful announcing by Doc Emrick, to hammer the flyers 4-1. The win moves the rangers up to 80 points on the season and guarantees they will stay in the top 8 heading into next week. It also moves the rangers 4 points back of philly for that 4 spot in the east and keeps some hope alive to attain that spot.

    Some highlights:

    - Avery, 2 goals, drew a couple of penalties, and took a very debatable one (an interference on the goalie where he was pushed into the goalie, made an effort to not run him over, and it was still called. The refs were terrible all game, but for the most part it benefited the rangers, since the flyers, while the bigger team, clearly had no legs coming off yesterday and were hooking almost every minute to compensate for their lack of energy). Avery was probably the quickest skater on the ice, constantly driving to the net and putting pressure on Nitimaki. NBC did a nice job of showing Avery keeping his stick on the ice for his first deflection of a hard slap shot from Morris. Often players leave their sticks up, and try and bring them down when the shot is on the way, which is MUCH more difficult then starting low and bringing your stick up. Also having the stick low gives a guy like Morris a target to shoot for. As big of a jerk as he is on the ice (which helps him take the star player on the other team out of his game), Avery actually is an incredibly well schooled, fundamentally strong player, who happens to also be a great skater. Avery has played his "best game with the rangers" now three straight games.

    - The Rangers power play was strong. They got a lot of work thanks to a ton of calls on philly (most of them deserved). Morris really looked great with his ability to not only find the open man, but to actually SHOOT when he had a lane. Antropov also scored his third goal with the rangers, second on the power play. He has very talented hands, and is a big body that plays down low. I think it would be fair to say outside of Hank; Avery, Antropov, and Morris have probably been the rangers 3 best players the last 5 games. (Gomez has been solid as well, but I give the edge to those guys)

    - The rangers penalty kill was excellent again. They gave up a deflected goal in the second period, but otherwise gave up almost no chances short handed on Hank. Sjostrom and Betts are fantastic on the kill. Betts has now almost reached that special "He's overrated for being underrated" place as a player. He is one of, if not the best penalty killing forward in the league, and for the most part, announcers never notice this. So it went un-noticed for well over a year. Then finally, one announcer says it, and it immediately goes on every announcer's pregame notes sheet that "betts top penalty killer for rangers, underrated". So now every time the rangers do a game on Versus, or NBC, some announcer that has covered them maybe twice all year has to say how great Betts is on the kill to show he knows what he is talking about.

    - Hank, strong per usual. Coming off a tough game in Philly, glad torts went back to him infront of the home crowd today. With the win, Hank now 5-1, 2.16 GAA the last 6 games in net (Rangers 5-2 last 7). Hank has been incredible down the stretch in each of the last 3 seasons, need to have that again.

    Guys I have been on, and how they did today:

    - Redden and Doobie: Neither had ANY positive impact on the game. They weren't bad though, they just didn't do much if anything. That's the way it has been with these two most of the year. Redden either is no help on the power play, lets a puck hop over his stick that turns into a goal the other way, and plays soft, OR he has a game like today where he did nothing to stand out, but didn't hurt the team. Hard to imagine 5 more years of this type of play (for 30 million dollars). Doobie on the other hand isn't washed up, he just won't realize his talent (or his talent was drastically overestimated). When he tries to be physical, he takes a penalty hitting guys upstairs with his elbows. On offense, you didn't even know he was on the ice.

    - Rozsival:.......wow....just wow. That's all I can say. I don't think it is a completely absurd statement to say that was the worst game a rangers defenseman has played this year, in a winning effort. He was taking bad penalties, he missed a WIDE OPEN NET on a perfect feed from callahan rush, at the time a huge missed shot. He is playing incredibly soft, and on the powerplay, he is starting to do more and more of a Dan girardi-esque slow wrister with nothing on it towards the net in traffic that never even gets close to the goal. He makes VERY slow decisions with the puck. He looks lost. 3 more years of him and redden together at 11 mill a year is a bit of a nightmare. (Mark Streit, with the Islanders, got a 5 years, 21 million dollars deal in the offseason. Rozsival got 4 years and 20 mill. Streit was a part of a Montreal power play that led the league in goals two years in a row, and he was a huge factor why. Now he is playing great on a terrible Islanders team. Where was sather???)

    Today was a huge win. Team played hard after a tough loss yesterday, gotta rest for an ENORMOUS game on tuesday in Montreal, where the rangers play has been "poor" the last two seasons.

    Only game of relevance the rest of the day, Bruins at Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is hot, Bruins are skidding badly. I really can't root for a team from Boston because I have a college education and no one in my family has ever been a roofer or worked with any type of stones or bricks for a living that I know of. Also most people in my family would probably think the guy that bashes a girls head into a windshield over and over because of something she said was at fault, not the other way around (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/13/many_boston_teens_surveyed_say_rihanna_is_at_fault_for_assault/) OOh well, hope pittsburgh loses.