Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ranger Roster Review 1: Nik Antropov

This offseason our New York Rangers are facing a lot of key decisions as they look toward next year. This will be a big off season - their first with Tortorella - as the new coach tires to mold the team in his image and the Rangers try to get the most talent they can within their salary constraints. It's a tough road because the Rangers have less than $15 million in cap space to fill about 10 roster spots. As bad as they want to add talent - the reality is - they will be hard pressed to even keep the team they currently have.

We'll start the ball rolling today with big forward Nik Antropov:

Position: Right Wing
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Salary: $2,150,000
Age: 29 (8 years in the league)

Regular season: (Rangers + Toronto)
Games Played: 81
Goals (28) + Assists (31) = 59 Points
Plus Minus: (-14)
Penalties in Minutes: 30
Goals-per-Shot = 28/224 = 13.3%
Nik's stats are combined from Toronto and the Rangers. In 18 games with us, Nik has 7 goals, 6 assists and a plus-minus of (-1).

Games Played: 6
Goals (2) + Assists (1) = 3 Points
Plus Minus: (-1)
Penalties in Minutes: 6
Goals-per-Shot = 2/17 = 11.8%

Dave Pucks says: A big veteran guy who shows some nice flashes of talent - but who can also disappear for days at a time. A former first round (#10 overall) pick in 1998 for the Leafs, he has size and can use it effectively - especially around the net. A trade deadline acquisition for us from Toronto - he was a part of the Rangers late season surge to the playoffs. His plus-minus got much better once he was off the Maple Leafs. And his goals-per-shot % is well over 10% - one fo the best on the team. Showed up in games 1 and 7 of the playoffs - getting a the Ranger's lone goal in Game 7. He had 2 of our 11 playoff goals. And I think it says something to have a playoff plus minus of just (-1) when the Caps outscored us 19-11. He becomes a "27-7" unrestricted free agent on July 1st. So, if the Rangers fail to sign him - they get no compensation for him.

I'd like to keep him - I think Tortorella can get him to shoot more - hustle more - get in better shape - and be a bigger factor next year. But he will turn 30 next year - and so his best years may be behind him. In the end - it comes down to how much he will cost in dollars (and years)? We'll be hard pressed to keep everyone.

Nugman says: He is like Zherdev for the Rangers. They can be brilliant, but they can't rely on any consistency from them. And if he happens to take a series off mentally, like he did for the most part against the Caps, the Rangers are in trouble. I like Antropov's size, but as we have discussed before, the Rangers have too many COMPLIMENTARY players. Antropov is another guy with 40 goal talent, but only will score 25 and may not show up.

The Rangers will do what most teams do, they will look at what they gave up (a second round pick) to get him, and they will use that as added pressure to sign him long term and give him extra cash, which is stupid. Players should be paid based on play, not what you have up for them. Just because you made a stupid deal once, doesn't mean you should use that as a basis for making another dumb decision.

The Rangers can't pay this guy through the roof. They can't pay for potential, not with their cap space. If I am the Rangers, my number one priority is Marian Hossa this offseason. He took a one year deal from detroit this year, scored his 40 goals, they prob won't bring him back given that aside from zetteberg, they still need to extend most of their younger players. If I am the Rangers, I make Hossa a competitive, 2 year, 12 million dollar offer, see if he takes it. (That 6 mill a season would come from letting Naslund walk, and potentially Antropov)

We need that 40+ goal scoring ability, and he is a safe a bet as anyone on the free agent market to put up those numbers. I could see him and gomez getting along quite nicely together.If Hossa doesn't take it, there are a few other options I would look to for scoring before dealing with Antropov. I like him, but if we are giving out a big contract, it needs to be on a sure thing. The Rangers can't go more than 3 years, 9 million, MAX on Antropov. 3 mill a season for a potential 30+ goal scorer, that will prob score 25 is fine by me. That makes financial sense.


And everybody - feel free to add your comments below too.

Nugman Picks

They are to the right. No real analysis on this one, who cares. Rangers are done, life is a little less worth living today.

(In the West, we don't have it up, but I will take Detroit over the Ducks in 6, and Vancouver over the blackhawks in 7)

(Dave Pucks more indepth analysis* on the second round can be found just 2 little posts below.)

* Less analysis, more moaning about Game 7 and trying desperately to reverse the outcome with words and passion that are falling on deaf ears

Dave Pucks Note: Eyes right, Nugman. My Western Conference picks are in now. This time completely analysis-free.

The Dawn of a new day, the dawn of a new blog? (not here - but maybe elsewhere)

I think I have a rash between my legs. Went for a nice long run this morning and now have this incredible itching sensation between my thighs. I've been using the same underwear for the last few days because I don't want to buy laundary detergent, so that could be the cause, but who really knows? Life throws you a curveball from time to time, gotta roll with it. *

So in between ointment treatments I checked my email and discovered one of our loyal followers thinks we should turn this blog into a "New York Sports" blog. One that covers all our New York teams in depth, while giving credible analysis about the rest of the teams around the country in other cities of far less stature, importance, and cultural significance (like Boston). At first I didn't like the idea, because it meant more effort on my part. If you couldn't tell with the underwear story (see about 2-3 inches on your screen above), effort is not so much a strength for me, as it is an alarming weakness. That said, I have had some time to think this over, and I am starting to like the idea. While I do love the Rangers more than I will ever love any of my future children, my truest passion in the sporting world is baseball, and the 26 time World Champion New York Yankees. (Also a devout follower of the New York Giants, and the once proud New York Knicks)

I know Dave is with me on the Giants, I have no idea about his basketball loyalties, and I could have sworn he once told me he was less passionate about baseball, but if he did follow it, he followed that team from Queens. I think we could provide a wide array of coverage and insightful knowledge, and it would allow this thing to go year round. (If Dave Pucks really thinks I am going to blog about the rumor mill in the NHL off season come mid June, his brain is in worse shape then my inner thighs) Normally I would ask Dave if he is interested in doing this privately through email, but I think it is important to have some discussion among our loyal 5 or so readers. (That and Dave would be doing pretty much all the layout changes, and wouldn't we have to change the name of this thing also? Something with NewYorkSports in it, any ideas?)

Anyway, I leave it to you. Dave, and our family of five readers, what say you? (NHL picks to come later)

* no relevance, just thought you should know who your dealing with here

Picking the Round 2 Matchups (or is it - picking up the pieces?)

Okay everyone. I'm trying to look past my grief and dissappointment and continue in a professional manner. Looking ahead at the second round matchups in the Eastern Conference, I think that....

...Crap. We lost...

Sorry, lost my focus for a second. Starting again: Looking at the second round....

...we lost by one goal...

...uh, anyway, the second round .....

Damn it. My head is still stuck on game 7. One more freaking goal - one more save - one less lucky bounce for the Caps - one appropriate whistle for all those penalties that weren’t called. The Rangers played so well and came so f-ing close. It's killing me….

Sorry. Okay - here we go - In the second round matchups we see...

…and you know, yesterday morning I swung my radio dial to 660 and had the spectacular misfortune of hearing a replay of the Capitals radio call of the final seconds. Apparently the Washington radio team regarded this as some sort of thrilling historic come from behind victory. Anyway - if you missed hearing that radio call - lucky you. Do your best to never hear it. It's tough to listen to - and why in the world did WFAN have to ....

Okay. Re-starting this piece once again. For real now. The 2nd round of the NHL playoffs will begin this week, and... know, the shame of it is that Callahan was hustling back - trying to make a play on defense, but he ended up deflecting the puck past Hank. We let up TWO LOUSEY SHOTS in the first period and the Caps score on one of them. Terrible unlucky bounce. That was the game right there. That and us hitting the crossbar early on. If we could have only.....

Again, sorry. Where was I? What was I posting about again? Okay - deep breath - here we go.

Round 2
Boston vs. Rangers. No, that's not right, is it? Crap. I mean: Boston vs. Calgary. The Hurricanes dealt the Newark club a devastating defeat Tuesday in the best news of that awful evening - scoring twice in the last 80 seconds to beat the Devils in game seven - while the Bruins dispatched the Habs without delay. I think the Circular Winds will blow in hot and powerful for a while - but over the long haul Boston is just too disciplined - too tough on offense and defense. Boston in 5.

Washington vs. Pittburgh. In the other series the Capitals (who will apparently appear in round 2 by some sort of COSMIC INJUSTICE and scheduling error), play the Aquatic Birds who have ousted the Flyers. It's Crosby vs. Ovechkin. Well, from what I've just seen, I think the Caps are much too good with this Russian kid in goal. The Pens can score - but the Caps score more and now, with Varlamov - they can defend better. Caps in 6. (And maybe 5).

Okay - I'd better close this out before I go off on another ranting jag. Let's see how Nugs calls them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thanks For The Ride

Even though this is killing me right now - even though that 2nd goal beating Hank keeps running over and over again in my head like a viral youtube clip – even though my dreams about round 2 and the Bruins have been shattered like a 1970s defenseman’s teeth - even though it's still hard for me to fully grasp that there's no next game on the schedule – there is also something else I'm thinking about this morning:

I have really enjoyed Blueshirt Brothers. For the past couple of years Nugman and I have been emailing each other about the New York Rangers – ever since we discovered as former co-workers – that we both knew which hockey team is the right one to root for. Reading the emails of Nug's unique, declarative, 3am manifestos I began to realize that I liked his writing better than most of the Rangers stuff I saw on the web (and in the newsstands). So, about 2 months ago, when I was pumped up about the second coming (of Sean Avery of course) I suggested to Nugs that we start blogging rather than emailing. I had two purposes in mind:

1- It's a nice sneaky way around the blocking of email sites on my employer's Internet access

2- Nug's emails were too good for just me to be reading.

We put up our first post in March, called SEAN!, about Avery’s return. And that, incredibly, was 208 posts ago. I was hoping to get about a half dozen friends and family to drop by from time to time - just to read along and join in. But I was not expecting anything close to what we got:

In just the last three weeks 523 of you stopped by. We are averaging more than 50 "hits" a day on recent game days. That is so much more than I ever expected – especially in less than 2 months of operation. So I just want to take a moment and say thanks to every single one of you. You've made this a very cool ride for me and Nugman. And we’ll do our best to keep up our end of the deal.

And even though it makes Nugs uncomfortable when I show emotions (other than rage, sarcasm, and abject despair) I want to thank him too. Nugman took a leap of faith - when he could just as easily told me to take a flying "puck". Nugs jumped right in and has devoted many hours to producing a body of work here that I think stands up to any Ranger reporting and analysis done by anyone out there in the real world.

So, to Nugman, and to the Blueshirt Brothers readers, I thank you all - and a thought occurs to me:

What happens now? Nugs and I never really thought this far ahead.

For my part - I think there's still Ranger news to discuss - playoffs to handicap – a season to dissect - an NHL draft to obsess over - and more. I know it’s not like a Rangers playoff run – but Blueshirt Brothers will be here when you need us. So, if you can everyone - bookmark us - and check back for much more on our New York Rangers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's over

(If you want some Dave Pucks lovin and his optimistic views, check below my long rambling borderline tirade. I love the Rangers, but I am less comforting right now. Dave is more like a mom giving us Rangers fans a hug after we struck out in little league. I'm like the drunk father that told you "stop sucking!" and then spent the rest of the game staring at the girls in your grade in attendance) Crushing defeat for the Rangers. Absolutely brutal, as most Game 7's usually are. A season that started 10-1-2 led to a number one ranking in the eastern conference in early December, then a mid-season slump that derailed any hopes of a top seed an home ice in the first round, followed by a late push to reach the playoffs for the 4th straight season, finished with a crushing defeat on the road at the hands of the heavily favored Washington Capitals.

Speaking as a yankee fan, this one is different. With my baseball team, we expect to win. We are better at almost every position on the field, we usually had the best record or the better record then our opponent, and when we lose, it's an empty, how did we let that happen sort of feeling. A feeling like we were supposed to be great, and gave it away.

This is different, in some ways worse, in some ways better, but in no way fun to take. By all rights, the Rangers had no right to be in a Game 7. The Caps were the quicker, more talented team, but one that had two potentially fatal flaws: 1) Their goaltending, 2) Their defense was suspect (only ranked 17th in NHL, and if I can compare them to the Patriots of the NFL when they lost to the Giants, they were also considered a middle of the pack defense, but in reality, they were far worse. Their offense was so dominant, it controlled the ball, took the running game away from other teams, and forced them into predictable passing situations. The Caps defense is similar, they have holes, they only have one real strong defensive defenseman (Poti), but they benefit from the puck always being in the other zone.

Well Boudereau took care of the goaltending with what turned out to be the most important move of the series. He was open to a lot of criticism removing the veteran Theodore for the rookie Varlamov, but it paid off. Had theodore not giving up such soft goals, it is probably a tougher call, but the move paid off. Varlamov's numbers ended up being strong, but I can't ever remember any sustained pressure from the Rangers. The closest they came was the first period tonight where they had four scoring chances in a 5 minute span, scoring a goal and hitting a cross bar. What I will give the rookie is he never showed any signs of panic. He for the most part controlled the rebounds, and he never gave up a soft goal. Can't ask for much more from a rookie.

The Rangers were never able to take care of the Caps defense, and I wonder how many other blueshirt faithful are out there thinking what I am thinking, no offense to Markus Naslund, but how different is this series if you replace Naslund with Jagr? Naslund was miscast. He was asked to come in for half of Jagr's salary in the twilight of his career and take the place of what was, on any given night, still one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL. (What jagr also commanded, much like Ovechkin, the constant double team, creating much more space in front of the Net for the other forwards. All series, the Rangers had nowhere to go, there was no space in front of the net, the Capitals were very comfortable with one on one matchups on all the Rangers forwards)

There are a lot of ugly thoughts that creep into your head after a game like that.

Is the game different if the refs decide to actually call the game like they did Games 1-6, and don't change their style just because it is a Game 7 (I will never understand in hockey why penalties suddenly are no longer penalties in a Game 7, when they were in a Game 3. Is Game 7 more important? Really? That's like the April games don't count for as much in baseball as the september ones. Well, if the Rangers win Game 3, game 7 never happens, so pretty sure Game 3 is important too)

- Are the Rangers in for a LONG period of "almost there" teams? Was this the last best hope at making a run? It seems sort of fatalistic, but worth discussing. If the Rangers beat the Caps, they have the momentum of the huge upset, and get to play the underdog role again against a rather inexperienced playoff team in Boston. Unlike the Caps who were constantly pressuring the Rangers and presented awful matchups, the Bruins played almost the exact same style as the Rangers (just more talented). The Rangers would have presented a very tough matchup for the Bruins, despite the pundits that claimed the Bruins caught a bad break with the Rangers blowing this lead.

A bruins upset could put the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, and who knows....but not worth getting into. Might be too early too look at next season, but you can't like the way this team is constructed. A lot of money tied up in Drury, Gomez, Rozsival, Redden. Those 4, make up about half the team payroll, and all are on the books for at least the next FOUR YEARS. I like Drury, I consider him like the Jeter on the Rangers for Yankee fans who are into cross sport analogies, but for Jeter to matter, you have to have an Arod, or an O'neill. You need the guy who hits the 3 run homer in the 5th inning, that makes what was a 4 run game, a one run game. So when Drury scores that late goal, or Jeter gets that late rbi single, it actually matters. They aren't going to do the heavy lifting, and the rangers don't have a player right now that can do that.

Gomez is only as good as the scorers he plays with. At times last season he looked brilliant when he played with Jagr and had him drawing double teams, and finishing his passes. But when gomez doesn't have a finisher, and a large checking forward on his line, he becomes an irrelevant player making far too much money to be irrelevant.

Gomez and Drury are complimentary players, and can be GREAT complimentary players, but they are being paid like "THE MAN", and when you have two complimentary guys, both being paid like "THE MAN", you are in trouble on offense and with your cap.

The redden and rozsival contracts have been covered to death on this site. In fairness to both, I thought redden had a "solid" series. Defensively he did not give up much (although the series winning goal off the stick of Federov I still think Redden got back in from ten feet in front of his own blue line to ten feet in front of Hank. Why wasn't he up on Federov? Why was he back pedaling and treating him like Ovechkin?), otherwise, Redden was probably the Rangers best defenseman, defensively, during the series. And Roszival did the best he could on a bum leg and showed a lot of heart tonight. Their performances get viewed a lot differently if the Rangers win this game, but they didn't. Where was the offense from this defense pair making 11 million dollars combined? In Game 6 the Caps got their first THREE goals from defenseman, and had one defenseman in tom Poti get four points. Only green stands out as a great offensive player on the caps defense, but they were still able to get an offensive game from that unit, the likes of which I'm not sure we saw ALL SEASON from the Rangers blue liners.

Going into this off season, the Rangers have some big questions. Do they bring back antropov? The skill and size are there, but is the heart? Aside from two shifts in game one, he was a complete no show until the first period of Game 7. If they bring him back, how big a contract do they give him, and does it shut down their chances of signing any elite offensive players?

Doobie's play will be lost with this loss. The guy earned a lot of respect from me. I thought he was a complete no show for almost the entire regular season this year, but he really stepped up this series. He didn't exactly light the lamp that much, but did any Rangers? But he scored a game winning goal in Game One, and was maybe the Rangers best centerman all series. Taking very important faceoffs in Game 7 for the injured drury and ineffective gomez. He was constant energy. With Callahan, the Rangers have two nice young players, but NEITHER of them is going to develop into "THE MAN". Their games don't dictate it, at least not now. They are complimentary players, but once again, strong ones. But if the Rangers lock them up to long term deals, where is the money going to come from for the big time scorer this team desperately needs?

The rangers are forcing themself to get a big time scorer from their youth, hoping it will become Zherdev? Well, he looked like Kovalev all season. At times brilliant, at times taking nights off, but what Kovalev did was step up in big games in the playoffs.....where was zherdev? He really never did anything all series, and we desperately needed offense from him.

Maybe Anus will be the next big thing for the Rangers? Who knows, I don't want to think about it anymore tonight. The dream matchup I wanted so badly with Boston is gone, the season is over, and now the Rangers are potentially at their weakest, with Glen Sather calling the shots.

Guess it's time for baseball......F*CKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. (Still thinking about that Game 5 loss in Buffalo two years ago, taking a step back since then, gotta have a strong off season)

Our Season Ends

One lead change.

In seven games we only lost one lead - but it was the one we needed most. The Rangers showed plenty of fight tonight - but in the end - we came up one goal short.

Those two goals Henrik let in - the first was a seeing-eye fluke bounce. The second was a perfect nasty rising shot that cleared Hank's glove by an inch and just snuck under the crossbar.

At least we showed up tonight and really took it to the Caps. If we hadn't had that unlucky bounce on their first goal...

We came in against possibly the best team in hockey - and took them seven games and a 1-1 tie in the 3rd. Without any real goal scorers we fought with a superior team and gave them all they could handle.

I know it hurts right now - you could hear it in Lundqvist's voice after the game - saying that the team played well and that "the margin between winning and losing is so small."

But the season was not a total loss. We found our coach this season. The Rangers look like they will skate through a brick wall for Tortorella. In a year from now, when Torts can have more say in who's on the bench - when he can have a year to mold this team - I think we'll see some more success.

And we got back Avery - we rejuvenated him and he rejuvenated us.

And we came back from the dead (and 9th place) to make the playoffs.

So I see a team headed in the right direction. I see a team on the rise. And I will always keep believing because I am a New York Ranger fan.

For life.

Save Hank, still alive

With 3 minutes left Ovechkin and Semin broke in 2 on 1 and Hank robbed Semin on the doorstep.

Gotta make it count Rangers.

With 4:59 left in the third, Federov scores

Federov has been asleep most of the series, but just ripped one past Hank. Caps lead, Rangers are going to have to dig deep.

4:30 left, have had only one shot on goal in the third.

Penalty called...on the Rangers

The star call gets broken out in the third period as the Caps get a powerplay when Girardi is called for interference after he upends Ovechkin. Was it intereference? Yep. Was avery's non call even more flagrant? Yep.

Rangers kill the power play, featuring a great skate save by Hank on a deflection.

Rangers gotta find a way to trade for a star, super player that the league wants to promote in the offseason. Crosby last May, Ovechkin this April, the rules are different for these guys. It's not griping, it's not bias, it's just facts. It was that way for Jordan, it's always been like that in leagues struggling for ratings and looking to promote star players. Call the game fair.

20 minutes left in the season?

We are tied 1-1 heading to the third period of Game 7.

The Rangers have fought too hard to lose this game. They have worked too hard. The key to the third period, three keys for the Rangers:

1) Forwards....keep doing what your doing on defense. Naslund, Drury, Antropov, Doobie, Callahan have had an excellent game come back to help the defense and break up scoring chances in front of Hank. Callahan saved a sure goal with 2 minutes left in the second period. That along with the amazing glove save by Hank in the opening minutes of the second period stand out as the difference so far.

2) If the Rangers can get ONE MORE LINE, to play like Avery, Doobie, and Antropov. (Callahan and Gomez have been strong in spurts) If the Rangers can get one more line to outwork everyone on the ice, to never give up, to fight for every loose puck like those guys are, they will win this game.

3) CALL/DRAW A PENALTY. If the Rangers can get a powerplay, Torts will send out Avery, Doobie, and Antropov (unless they drew it), and they will score. I feel it. These guys have been great all game, they just can't get any space in front of the net. If they can get in a 5 on 4 situation, they will capitalize the next time.

- Avery playing by far his best game of the series, so far has been the best player for either team thru two periods.

- Hank made some very tough saves in the second, including a spectacular glove save at the opening of the period on Kozlov (pictured). I feel good about his game.

- Rangers have to take advantage of the Caps ridiculous gameplan. The Caps are keeping two of their forwards, one usually ovechkin, out past the blue line when the puck is in THEIR zone. They obviously believe this will force the two Rangers defenseman out of the zone, and make it a 3 on 3 situation (their defense and center vs the rangers forwards). They believe they are more skilled, will get the puck, and then flip it out to Ovechkin, and he will have a lot of space in a 2 on 2 situation going the other way. So far the Rangers have used this idiotic game plan to their advantage, keeping the vast majority of the play in the Caps zone. (Somehow the Caps forgot that forwards are usually more talented at controlling the puck then defenseman) By the time Ovechkin has got it, he's been on the ice for almost a minute and is coming to the end of his shift. A more talented offensive team would have buried 2 or 3 goals on the Caps down low with the lack of support from the Capitals forwards. Rangers have to take advantage.

20 minutes for the season.

AGAIN! Another non-call!

For the 4th time this game, a blatant penalty on the Caps is not called! Brooks Laich skated in on Hank, and knocked him into his own net. Laich was not pushed, there was no contact from a Rangers defenseman, he just pushed Hank into the net because he was out of control. No call.

For the Rangers, Rozsival has gone to the lockeroom with some sort of leg injury. Rangers are down to 5 defense.

Dave Pucks: Caps have to be thinking about their 7th game OT loss last year to the Flyers. We've got to find a way to get one more goal. The Rangers have been holding the puck behind the Caps goal more than I've ever seen a team do that before. I think the way to beat Varlamov is to shoot from the point in traffic and knock in the rebound.


The refs are trying to put the whistles away for Game 7, that's fine and all, but not when only one team is committing penalties! After the ridiculous no call on Avery last period, there was a very questionable non-call on holding on Gomez when he was forechecking in the Caps zone. Then around the 13 minute mark the Caps have a bad change, and have SIX guys on the ice as they play the puck in front of their bench, and AGAIN it is missed by Refs staring directly at the play. Instead they call an offsides! Rangers have yet to be given a 2 minute power play, only call for them was the blatant cross check by Green that would have set up a goal for the Caps had it not been called.

Rangers control the first period, tied at 1

That's a tough one to swallow for the Rangers. They control almost the entire period start to finish...yet are tied. The Rangers gave up just TWO SHOTS to the Caps all period, one of them being the fluke goal scored off a double deflection (both coming off callahan). Rangers outshot the Caps 8-2, and kept most of the play in the Caps zone.

If the Rangers can play 40 more minutes like that, they will win this game.

They have done a great job on Ovechkin and his line, holding them in check. Naslund, Antropov, Doobie and Drury all coming back to help in front of the net. Have broken up a lot of blind Caps passes intended for the front of the net.

Sean Avery, well said by Michelleti, was the best player on the ice in the first period. Avery, who so far this series has been...non-existent (at best, his game has been awful, and he's been taking penalties when he does show up), was fantastic in the first. He was non-stop energy getting hitting from all sides by multiple Caps players looking to punch at him every chance they got. Avery set up the Rangers first goal with some great work on the boards in the Caps zone, and didn't stop all period. He Also kept his head after receiving multiple late hits during the period, including one where to the shock of the MSG crew, Avery was knocked down by Erskine RIGHT IN FRONT OF A LINE JUDGE, over 100 feet from the puck! (Isn't that the definition of a penalty?) Avery should have drawn a penalty there for getting under Erskine's skin, but refs decided to pull a brashear on that one.

If you're in the Caps lockeroom, you didn't show up the first 20 minutes of a Game 7, and your tied.

If you're in the Rangers lockeroom, keep it up. You owned the first, come out and control the first few minutes of the second.

(Something to be worried about: If you don't have enough already. Throughout his young career Hank has shown the more action he sees, the better he is. If he is constantly under pressure, and peppered with shots, his game stays sharp, and he is usually at his best. It's the games where he doesn't see a shot for 5-6 minutes at a time, where he seems to either lose focus, or just have a very hard time maintaining his best game. He didn't see a shot tonight for the first THIRTEEN MINUTES of the game, and then the next one was the fluke goal. Not saying I want to see more shots on Hank, but it is a bit of a concern)

Rangers tie it for the Caps

After the refs miss an interference penalty on the Caps (Avery got knocked down in front of the Rangers bench over 100 feet from the puck), the Rangers give up a 3 on 2 chance. Callahan trying to get back into the play dives, and actually deflects the puck off his stick and past Hank to tie the game at 1.

It's been all Rangers so far.....and we're tied.

Rangers kill it, and will get a power play

Rangers kill the first 80 seconds before Mike Green cross checks Staal from behind in front of Hank. Green put one of his legs into the back of Staal's knees, then knocks Staal to the ice. Green looks shocked that the refs actually caught him. (I guess if they missed Brashear, he figures they'd miss anything)

Drury hits the crossbar, so close, now shorthanded

Drury just missed giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Rangers have been in complete control as we are more than ten minutes in and the Caps don't have a shot on goal!

But Antropov just got called for a high stick, so the Caps dangerous power play now gets a chance to attack Hank.

Dave Pucks: We have to come up big here on the PK. Remember the Caps have never come back from behind to take a lead in this entire series.

Rangers draw first blood

Antropov scores! Rangers lead 1-0. First 5 minutes have been all Rangers for the first time this series. For the first time this series they are testing Varlamov. Avery on the opening shift had a great chance on Varlamov and got stopped. Antropov had a breakaway on Varlamov, didn't get much of a shot but a strong save from Varlamov. But finally Doobie, Avery, and Antropov who all worked incredibly hard on the forecheck draw first blood for the Rangers as Antropov blasted a puck past Varlamov after he gave up a rebound on Doobie's shot.

1-0 Rangers, gotta keep up the intensity and get that crucial second goal.

Pre-Game Notes

- Rangers have a lot of guys on their squad that have been to game 7 (Chris Drury, this will be his 9th game 7, currently 4-4; Scott Gomez will be playing his 6th game 7, he is 4-1), but on the Caps, it's just Federov who has any real Game 7 experience, aside from the teammates that were there for last year's game 7 loss at home to the flyers.

- If the Rangers do suffer an devestating loss, expect an ABUSIVE article from Larry Brooks in the New York Post. Watched an interview that John Tortorella did with him where Torts refused to answer Brooks' question about how Torts felt about the Game 6 suspension. It got ugly quickly.

- Rangers blocked 52 shots in the first two games (26 a game) of this series. Hank looked amazing, team went 2-0.

- Last 4 games the Rangers have blocked 51 shots (13 a game), Hank has been lit up, the team is 1-3

- Rangers are 3-0 career in Game 7's at home.....0-4 in Game 7's on the road

- Tort's is 2-0 as a coach in Game 7's

- Markus Naslund has just 7 shots on goal the last 4 games.....Ovechkin will most likely get 7 shots on goal in a period during this game.

- What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. Rangers came into this series heavy underdogs, picked to be swept or taken out in 5 quick games. They find themselves 60 minutes away from an enormous upset, and a trip to Boston. (Which I badly want) They need 60 minutes of no giveaways, 60 minutes of discipline and no stupid penalties, 60 minutes of diving infront of loose pucks and physical play, they need someone to step up and have the game of his life, who will it be?

This Is Your Time

A little pre-game clip to get you warmed up.

Oh - and Mike Francessa (of all people) just said on the radio that NY Rangers fans and NY Football Giants fans are the best fans in New York - in terms of loyalty and support. It's true - but Mike's so often wrong about everything it surprised me to hear him say it.

Go Rangers

As if Hank needed more motivation?

I'd like to think athletes don't need extra motivation to get fired up and do their job, but then I remember most of these guys make millions of dollars and are already set for life, spend their offseasons drinking and at strip clubs, come to camp 20 pounds over weight and have to play themselves into shape, and created the idea of the "bulletin board material" just to find something to get them up for big games.

So with that, not that he needed anything more than getting knocked out of Games 5 and 6, not that he needed more than a Game 7 on the road, not that he needed more than EVERYONE picking the Caps to win Game 7 tonight, but now Hank has a little extra motivation. The Vezina finalists were announced yesterday (NHL's award for best goaltender), and for the first time in his career, Hank was not a finalist. (Up until now, he had been the only goalie in NHL history to be a Vezina finalist in each of his first 3 seasons in the league)

The honor went to Backstrom, Mason, and potential foe for the Rangers next round in Tim Thomas.

We could use a Vezina performance tonight from Hank.

(Around the league, the west is all set as Detroit, Vancouver, the Blackhawks, and the Ducks have all advanced. The San Jose sharks, the NHL's number one seed, have been eliminated in the first round by the 8 seeded ducks (although the majority of this ducks team is of similar makeup to the one that won the cup a few years ago.) Ducks can do it, why not the rangers? The final two teams left in the Elite Eight will be decided tonight, with Game 7's in Washington and New Jersey)

Don't Give Up - Don't Ever Give Up

Feeling doomed, over-matched, hopeless? Starting to agree with the so-called experts who told us the Rangers have no chance at 3-3?

Well, don't. (The same experts said the Caps were done at 3-1 and look how that worked out.)

We can win tonight. And here's why:

Coaching. John Tortorella is a very good hockey coach. He's won the cup - something no other US born hockey coach has ever done. He's tough. He's smart. And because of what happened in games 5 and 6 (he got spit on by fans and got suspended for reacting to it) John is now very very angry at the Washington Capitals and their fans. And there is nothing that he wants more in the whole world than to beat the Caps in their own rink in front of those same obnoxious fans. And he had the unique opportunity to really watch the game six from the skybox without the distractions of, say, coaching a hockey team. I'm betting saw a few things he can use.

History. The Capitals have a really terrible record in game sevens. In their history they've played six game sevens and have lost five of them - including the last 4. Last year they were down 3-1 to the Flyers - struggled back to 3-3 and lost game seven at home in OT.

Pressure. The Caps have not done all that well in this series in games they were expected to win. They didn't win a home game until they were down 3-1 and expected to lose the series. Now they are the heavy favorites and all the pressure is on them to win. The Rangers, on the other hand are the underdogs expected to lose. They won 2 games in DC in exactly that scenarios earlier in the series

Goaltenders. No way Henrik will play three bad games in a row. No way. And Varlamov - there's playoff pressure and there's game 7 playoff pressure. This is his first taste of that - coming off his 3 goal - worst ever - performance against the Rangers.

The Lead. In the end this is very very simple. The Caps play pretty well when they're up a goal or two. But so do we - the Rangers have never lost a lead in this series. In game one the Rangers were down 1-0, then up 2-1. After that there have been zero lead changes. None. So the first goal is everything. Give our boys the lead and we get a different Hank - and a different level of team defense. And the Caps, when losing, expend a lot of energy without scoring a lot of goals. To win this series we are going to need one more lead. One more lead and this could be a very different hockey game than the last three. Get Hank that lead and the Rangers will win this series.

Puck's Prediction. When this whole thing started I said - in print (well, in pixels, anyway) that the Rangers would win this series and might need to steal game 7 to do it. Well, we are in exactly that scenario. I said we'd win more than once in DC - and we have. I said we'd lose at least one game at home - we lost 2. (And I also predicted that the ShamWow Guy would end up getting arrested and he did.) In short - Nugs and I have been calling these series pretty well so far - and we both said the Rangers would win.

So here we go. Our boys back in the battle one more time. At the end we'll have handshakes all around - and one team advances while the other heads home. I'd say - may the best team win - but I don't want that - because I'm picking the Rangers!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brashear Suspended for SIX games...still no powerplay

Brashear's hit, which was so flagrant and dirty to everyone who watched, apparently except for the refs on the ice, and the capitals bench (who later to a man claimed they had seen the replay and thought it was clean and he has used his shoulder and not his elbow. First of all, who cares what he used, he hit betts in the head, second, it was clear he did it intentionally), has been reviewed by the league and deemed....dirty.

The league called it a late hit. (Story link here: , sorry Dave, that's just how I link) They gave Brashear 5 games for the late hit, and an additional 6th game for his actions during the pre-game warmups, when he skated unprovoked over to the Rangers in the warm up skate and made contact with and tried to start a fight with Colton Orr.

This reeks of bullsh*t. It's not just that Brashear didn't get penalized in game 6, not even giving the rangers a power play for something so flagrant the league suspended him for SIX games. It's not just that it was obvious Brashear intentionally took out the rangers top penalty killer (showing instant returns, Capitals 0-13 previous 3 games, went 2 for 2 after Betts went down), but Brashear is a goon, he's told to fight to "get the team fired up", so he fights. He was clearly told to take a run at betts. In baseball, when the pitcher does something that flagrant, and throws at a player with the intent to injure, assuming warnings had been given, the pitcher doesn't just get tossed, so does the manager, because he is responsible for his player. I want to know with such high scrutiny of Torts and his behavior, why is Boudreau getting a pass when he clearly sent Brashear out on the ice to take Betts out of the game? He should be suspended for Game 7 along with his goon.

Torts: We're Still Not Dead

Rangers Coach John Tortorella - back from his one game suspension had this to say to the media:

"We come here today to prepare for a Game 7. We're still not dead. And we go into their building and we won two games there. They have the advantage. Home ice is important for Game 7, but it's funny what happens with the pressure of it all, too. They're supposed to win. I bet I can poll everyone here, no one thought we'd get to a Game 7 in this series. I'll poll you right now, who thinks we're gonna win tomorrow? (No hands raised). I appreciate your honesty. There's no pressure on us... That's the key to Game 7 because everybody thinks we're done. So it falls back on them. They deserved that seventh game, but it's funny what can happen."

In other Rangers news: Blair Betts has a broken Orbital bone as a result of the clear-intent-to-injure cheap shot he took from Brashear. Betts, who played heroically and well for us - is now out indefinitely. This was no accident. Brashear targeted our best Penalty Kill player - targeted his head - and fractured a bone in Betts skull - long after Betts had played the puck and had turned away from the action to skate off for a line change.

Brashear is supposed to have a hearing with the NHL today to see about a possible suspension.

And get this - Brandon Dubinsky was bitten on the arm by the Capitals defensmen Shaone Morrisonn in the 2nd period. According to the Rangers he required a tetanus shot - and no - I'm not kidding. Here's that story.

Rangers call up Anisimov

In a move to replace the injured Blair Betts, the Rangers have asked the Wolf Pack's 20 year old center Artem Anisimov to join the team in practice - and probably in the game tomorrow.

Anisimov had 37 goals and 44 assists for the Hartford AHL team.

Let's see now, if we call Dubinsky the nickname "Dubi" for short, what can we call Anisimov...?

Tuesday night game - which was TBD - has been officially slated for 7pm. Puck drops in about 28 hours and change.


The Washington Capitals throw a malicious cheap shot at Blair Betts’ head – giving him a concussion – and putting him out for game seven - with no response from the refs? They run over Hank (see photo) without consequence? They humiliate us on our own building?


The Capitals management fail to respond to our teams request for more security in game 5, they leave us dangling, they let the Capitals fans throw beer on our coach – they let them Spit on our players - and the league responds - by suspending Tortorella?


The TV talking heads announce the series is over in the first period – they congratulate the Caps on winning a game 7 that is two days away - and start slamming our Rangers for a lack of effort?


We've been outshot, out scored, out-goaltended for God's sake, injured, laughed at, and left for dead.


But the TV pundits, the refs, the Capitals, the city of Washington, the NHL, have all forgotten one thing:

We’re not dead yet.

This series didn’t end on Sunday. The Capitals tied us. They evened the series at 3 games a piece. That’s all. Game 7 hasn’t even started yet. The score there is still 0-0. We’re not trailing anyone.

We’re still breathing.

We may be wounded. We may have lost momentum. We may have our backs to the wall now. But all that means is - we now have our first real must-win game of the series.

And we can win game seven.

Look – the Caps are good. But they can lose a hockey game. And rest assured, this opponent has royally torqued off John Tortorella. He got to watch them in great detail from the skybox in game 6. And this is a proud man, a smart man, a Cup-Winning coach, who now wants to beat the Caps in their building more than he has wanted anything else in his life.

The Caps will show up Tuesday expecting a coronation. Instead they are going to get the fight of their lives.

The time has come. We are New York Rangers. We are the hockey heart and soul of our city. We are an Original Six Hockey club that was playing in the NHL and winning the cup long before Ovechkin was born.

We can do this. We can rise up. We can tell the world “Enough!” and win one more hockey game with pride and anger, with Guts and Goaltending. You can do it men. Let's Go Rangers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Devils get blown out in Game 6, 4-0

Devils took one on the chin in Carolina, so they share the fate of the Rangers, and will have a game 7 coming up. (Although the Devils will be hosting game 7, Rangers will be on the road)

Rangers Lose 5-3, it's going to a GAME SEVEN

Another no show from the Rangers. Aside from a lot of effort from Callahan, and a "decent" game from Dubinsky, no Rangers really showed up today. The passing was not crisp all game, and the team really never seemed that into it.

We are letting a young goalie beat us, and we aren't testing him at all.

Rangers add an irrelevant goal from Staal with 5 seconds left to make the game look closer than it was, lose 5-3.

We can talk about what the Rangers need to do for Game 7 later, time to drink till we pass out.

(By the way, by far the best defenseman for either team in this series through 6 games, Tom Poti. 4 points in Game 6 (1 goal, 3 assists))

Just 6 minutes left, Rangers get another 5 on 3

Capitals taking some cheap shots now (all on Callahan, the only guy still playing for the Rangers), Rangers get 1:12 of 2 man advantage)

Still a small chance, Redden and Roszival HAVE to play better, they are making such incredibly slow decisions with the puck

Callahan SCORES, now do it again!

Rangers score on the 5 on 3! Callahan flips a back hander into the net. Rangers have over a minute of powerplay time left, gotta score to have a chance.

Update: Rangers don't score on the 5 on 4 (where they look just awful). Rangers are down 3 goals with a little over 13 minutes left, have to score by the ten minute mark. When are the Rangers defense going to join the rush and stop playing back to protect against odd man rushes the other way?!?!

Hank is Out, Valiquette in, our last chance...

Rangers get the first 5 on 3 power play of the series for either team, they will have it for 1:06. If they can score in that first 66 seconds, they will remain on the power play and have a chance at making it a 2 goal game with 15+ minutes left.

Make It Stop

I don't think I can watch this anymore. So tough to think we can't win 2 of our 3 home games. But - incredibly - the series is not over yet. And maybe Torts learned something up there in the skybox. I know the guy is as motivated as he can get after what happened in DC Friday night.

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All Caps going to the third

Ovechkin picks up his third goal of the series on a deflection from 15 feet out in front of Hank. The announcers harping on the fact that the Caps are now capitalizing on their power play, 2 for 2 today, not really mentioning that Betts has been gone for both of them. Hope the league reviews brasheer's hit on betts and does the same due dilligence they did with Torts.

Rangers will be on the power play when the third period starts, but they are down 5-1.

The announcers did a decent job in the second saying what I have been all season about the Rangers power play. Guys like Redden and Rozsival are sitting out at the blue line and refuse to pinch in, attack the open ice, and put any pressure on the defense, so the Rangers end up having 4 guys who are in a position where they are unable to score on the power play, and the Rangers only have one guy down low, he's usually undersized, and even that one guy refuses to get in front of the Caps goalie.

Rangers need to come back and win this thing if for no other reason then to shut up Pierre Mcguire and get him off his pedestal screaming about the Rangers body language and their no show performance so far today.

Zherdev can't finish, Caps can

Zherdev for the FOURTH TIME the last two games, had a goal on his stick, an open net to shoot at, inside 5 feet, and could not finish, missing the open net wide.

For the second time this series the Caps took it right down the ice after a sure Rangers goal, Marc Staal got badly beat by Victor Kozlov, who then roofed one over Hank glove side again, and finished it up by running Hank over, shoving his elbow into Hanks chest and burying him into the net.

4-1 Caps, they are running away with Game 6 and right now the Rangers are showing no life, and not Capitalizing on any chances.

Rangers being written off, series is apparently over

Pierre and Milbury screaming during the first intermission. Milbury, "Hey, the rangers were a team that just squeeked into the playoffs, they are not a power house team", says Pierre, "This is unacceptable, this is their Game 7!" (Apparently no chance Rangers could win in Washington, where they are 2-1)

Caps score AGAIN, Rangers down 3-1 after 1

Not a good start for the Rangers. The Caps killed their power play with about 2:30 left in the first and then broke down the ice on a 2 on 1, which became a 3 on 1 when Tom Poti came out of the box.

The Caps put on a passing display the likes of which the Rangers have not performed once all series, the end result was an easy tap in for fan favorite Tom Poti, his second goal of the series, and the Capitals lead 3-1 heading into the first intermission.

Rangers need to find some life, and some offense, fast. Giving up odd man rushes and taking bad penalties is probably not the best way to approach the remainder of this game.

Caps retake the lead on a PP goal, 2-1

Mara and Brasheer came out of the box after their minors for roughing and Mara headed to the Rangers net to help try and clear the zone. He took his hand off his stick and grabbed a Caps player. It was a very tick-tck call (but one that has been made most of the season to increase scoring in the NHL, you take your hand off your stick, they are going to f*ck you), but I have to wonder how Mara gets called for that, and Brasheer leveling Betts with a late hit is "missed".
Rangers go on the penalty kill without Betts and a bad bounce off a Ranger ends up on the stick of Mike Green. He roofed one over Hank glove side for his first goal of the series, and the Caps take a 2-1 lead.

Caps just took a delay of game penalty on Tom poti, too much to ask for another PP goal?

Rangers Answer! Gomez Scores!

Rangers score on the power play...FINALLY! After 18 straight kills for the Caps (Rangers only 2 for 22 in the series prior), Rangers score a needed goal to tie this thing up.

Avery had two men on him in the corner, made a great back pass to redden at the blue line. Redden fired a slap shot at the net, Gomez gets a beautiful deflection by Varlamov, game tied 1-1.

Right after the game tying goal, Naslund had a great chance on the doorstep at an open net, but fired a back handed shot into Varlamov's pads. Tough play for nAslund who had to catch the puck out of mid-air, put it down and shoot it, but had he put it down on his forehand side, Rangers would lead 2-1.

Moments later, sensing the Rangers were starting to dictate the play, the Caps sent Brasheer out on the ice to take a cheap shot at someone, which is his entire game. Brasheer takes a late, cheap hit that blind sides Betts and appears to have knocked him out of the game. Enormous loss for the rangers, not only on faceoffs, but on the penalty kill. Brasheer and Mara getting minors that cancel, Refs missed the Brasheer hit, awful non-call.

Rangers come out with Good energy...Caps strike first

Rangers skating well in the opening minutes to this one, not creating a lot of offense, but Doobie just made a fantastic move on a Caps defenseman to get a quality scoring chance on Varlamov, but the young goalie was up to the task. So far the energy has been high and the skating good on both sides, the weakest part to the game has been the announcing, where Doc Emmrick and Eddie Olchyk have actually uttered these two statements:

1) "For the rangers, they probably want Ovechkin to have the puck, because he is easier to defend that way"

Umm, when Ovechkin has the puck, my heart stops beating.

2) "You know, more so than maybe the Caps, this is a must win for the Rangers, this is their game 7."

Pretty sure if the Caps lose, they are done. Almost positive. Perhaps they need to win more?

As I was writing this, turnover in the Rangers zone, Caps take advantage and score. We have to be stronger in our zone. Rangers going on the power play, need to get it done here.

GAME 6, NOW or....possibly never

For those of you as worried as Dave Pucks, let me put your minds at ease. No, I don't have a problem with cutting myself, nor do I consider it a reasonable option for watching my hockey team lose a road game. I found after the Yanks lost to the Dbacks in 2001 it was much more rewarding to try and smother yourself with a pillow. It's pretty ineffective in terms of long term damage, but it puts you to sleep real fast, which is nice.

As for today's game, need to see the Rangers from Game 4 (keep in mind, that team still got badly outplayed), but that team started the Game strong, and played with a lot of energy that was just non-existent in Game 5. Hank has to stand on his head one more time, going to need a "1 goal or less" performance to win this thing I think. Which ranger will step up? Antropov? Avery? Gomez? will someone find some offense? Will Zherdev find his game before the season ends?

No torts behind the bench. Sounded like a really good decision by the league. I heard they interviewed the Caps fans that threw the beer on Torts, and also interviewed the Capitals Security personal, who get their checks signed by the Caps, and they also confirmed that the fans did nothing to provoke or warrant Torts reaction. It's clearly just a case of an incredibly undisciplined coach (....ooops, not true), watching his team trailing in a series (...ooops, not true), and the guy has no experience handling losing or big playoff games, especially on the road (...ooops, he actually is the only coach in the East to win it all, and has coached in Much, MUCH, bigger games), so he randomly decided it was a good idea to spray water all over some incredibly polite and victimized fans. At least that's what the NHL expects me to believe. What incredible horsesh*t.

"Torts being here has won us a lot of games, and we gotta win this one for him." - Chris Drury

Showdown at MSG

Lock all the doors. Turn off the telephone. Remove all breakable items from the room. Grab the beverage of your choice. Log on the Blueshirt Brothers. Clear the premises of non-hockey fans. Warm up the TV. The Game Six Showdown between your New York Rangers and the heavily favored Washington Capitals takes place today at 2pm.

All that's at stake is playoff survival and keeping alive the chance to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. Technically the Rangers could lose here today and win game seven in DC, but logic dictates that this final home game is their last best hope of holding off the East's number 2 seed.

Questions abound: Will Avery be back? Can the Rangers win with their coach John Tortorella suspended by the NHL for threatening a fan and throwing a water bottle into the crowd? Will Hank snap back to his usual incredible self (he'll need to if we are to have any chance). Will the Rangers ever score on the Power Play again (the Caps have one shorthanded goal so we are minus 1 on the PP in the last 17 tries)? Will the Rangers ever score again, period? Can our heroes pull one last miracle out of their bag of tricks. Do we still have the Guts and Goaltending to take this series?

And what exactly will Torts say to Avery today about keeping emotions in check for the good of the team? I would love to hear that conversation.

Avery, for his part, has been contrite and apologetic in his one allowed chat with Larry Brooks. He went so far as to say that Torts suspending him was a good thing. And as I said I'm okay with it provided Seanny gets back on the garden ice today.

Look - if we can't win 2 of 3 at home - we can't expect to win a playoff series against anyone. We've got to do this now. It's this one game - and then the rest of our hockey lives.

And we need to invoke the Hockey Gods. I'm bringing back the Magic Rat for luck. And all of you out there - remember whatever it is you did in game 4 and do it again today. Same socks. Same t-shirt. Every wacky ritual that has ever worked for you and the Rangers.

We are out-gunned out-skated and over matched. But we're not dead yet. Our Ranger hearts are still beating. And we will not go down without a fight.

I was in the building for game 4 and it was one of the most thrilling - beat the odds - never say die - leave it all on the ice - victories I have ever witnessed. It was a win for the ages. A little miracle. A ugly-beautiful masterpiece.

Now we just have to rise up and do the same thing one more time.

Say it with me boys: Let's Go Rangers!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tortorella Suspended For Game 6!

I can't believe this one. Coach John Tortorella, the fiery coach of the New York Rangers, has been suspended for game six by the NHL for his actions on the bench during Friday night's playoff game with the Washington Capitals.

Tortorella got into a shouting match with a fan behind the Ranger's bench - losing his composure - throwing a water bottle into the stands and waving Aaron Voros' stick at the fan.

The NHL ruled that Tortorella will be suspended for one game and cannot coach the Rangers tomorrow in their crucial game against the Washington Capitals.

There are some huge ironies here: Torts was carrying out his one game suspension of Sean Avery in game five because Sean had lost his composure in game four. If Sean had played - Aaron Voros would not have - so Torts wouldn't have had his stick to wave. Now of course it's Torts who lost control and put his team in jeopardy - and it's Torts who in turn is suspended.

Hang on - this series is getting wilder by the minute....

Hang In There Everybody

Look folks - the Caps are a pretty good Hockey Club - with this Russian Kid in goal I'm not sure who I'd say is a better team than they are. So it was a little much to hope that we'd sweep all three games from them in their building. What we've seen are three straight road wins followed by 2 straight home wins.

I didn't expect Hank to let in 4 goals on 14 shots - but he has flat out won a bunch of these games for us all by himself - so a letdown was not totally unexpected. And in the end we never scored - so 1-0 would have been the same as 4-0.

I could bring up the team's record with and without Sean Avery - but it's moot now. I was glad to see that Torts is out there coaching. He does things - he tries stuff - and he's not afraid of his players like so many other coaches are. I mean - the guy has won the cup - we could do a lot worse than having Tortorella behind our bench. Now, if Avery is a healthy scratch for game six I'm going to have a whole different opinion - but I'm assuming our little Seanny (still anatomically correct, don't worry Raymond) will suit up and play on Sunday. And, trust me, we will notice him out there.

I still think we're going to win this series - possibly in game seven - but our best shot is at home tomorrow.

Now, like I tell my 10 year old son - this is just hockey. Now, hockey is not baseball - there is pain and anguish along with the "bluephoria" and we are living and dying with our team every day. But no matter what happens we can be proud about how this unit pulled together to make the playoffs and how they stood up to a superior team and went punch for punch with them. If this series was the Stanley Cup Finals I think people would be talking about it for years.

Anyway - not that I know that much about hockey or anything compared to the Nugman - but here was my prediction - posted here - from before the series began:
Rangers over Caps
. Heart over head on this one. Throw out the regular season meetings because the Rangers have a new coach, a new attitude, and Mr. Sean Avery now. Rangers have the better goaltender - a crucial factor in a long series. Our PK will (somewhat) neutralize the Caps greatest strength (their PP) which could lead to frustration and pressure on the Caps. Rangers will play tough at home. Rangers need to steal one of the first 2 and still may need to steal game 7 to scratch their way to round 2. One qualifier - if Drury's "undisclosed double-secret" upper-or-lower body injury puts him out for an extended period I'd have to revise my pick to Caps. If the captain plays at something approaching full strength he's good for at least one massive momentum shifting goal. I could give a past example... but it's too painful to recall.

So, as it turned out we did steal one in DC (both actually). And Drury did get one game winning goal. So now we just have to "play tough at home" and win game six, or "steal game 7". I think we could do either. But again - this is a really good hockey team we're playing.

So hang in there. Lundqvist just has to win us one more. And to the hockey gods - please guys - can't the Capitals throw one stinker out there? A little help please?

And as a personal aside to my friend Nugman - we can't win them all. And if you ever start thinking about any self inflicted wounds - give me a call. Also - you may want to check out a surprisingly good Brian Setzer song called "The Knife Feels Like Justice."

Just an AWFUL night

Pretty awful night for the Nugman. Rangers didn't show up, Yanks gave one away. It's the sort of night that makes you remember why you used to cut yourself (...if you happened to do that). But some say you can't enjoy the true highs in sports without experiencing the lows. I of course completely disagree with this. At the very least, I would like to try and experiment and have nothing but highs for the next 5 or 6 years, and see if I am able to enjoy them as much.

Anyway, Rangers have to look at it this way, going into this series with the Caps, who thought the Rangers would win (besides Dave Pucks and I),....that's right, no one. No one picked them to pull the upset. Even some people picked the Ducks to upset the Sharks, but no one had Rangers over Caps. The Rangers have been badly out played, or have given away, every game in this series. Yet here they are, returning to the garden, for one game, and if they win, they advance. I don't think there is a guy on that team who wouldn't have taken up 3-2, heading home for Game 6 when the series started. Forget Game 5, it doesn't matter, they are 60 minutes from the next round, just play one strong game, and the upset is complete.

Friday, April 24, 2009

See you in Game 6

Well, the Rangers had three shots at it, now they have two. This one isn't over....technically. But the chances of the Rangers scoring 5 goals in the next period (or 4 to send to OT), after scoring just 3 goals the last 11 periods......well they are remote. (Also, Rangers have NEVER come back from 4 goals down in playoffs, and no NHL team has in almost 25 years)

I am now on board with resting Hank for the third, no reason to have him out there to potentially get injured or to let the Caps hang 6 or 7 goals on him heading into Game 6.

Even if Hank doesn't give up a soft goal tonight, and even if he plays like the Hank of the first 5 games, and even if Ovechkin doesn't score an AMAZING goal, how are the Rangers going to win a game where they have only TEN SHOTS thru two periods? And honestly, other than one shot from Doobie, where Varlamov had to sprawl for the save (but Doobie had no angle, and couldn't shoot, had to try and push the puck through Varlamov's arm), Varlamov has not been tested with a single shot all game, nothing.

The Rangers aren't creating ANYTHING. Their best line has been doobie, callahan, and korpikofski, and they have really only generated two chances, neither of which generated any great shots.

Ron Dugay just said both teams look like crap, and he's right, just Washington looks like less crap. Ugly game, especially for Rangers fans.

2-0 Caps after 1

Tough first period for the Rangers. Their 5 on 5 play was actually quite strong (still not generating offense, but defensively a very strong job against the Caps). The problem is once again the penalties, and special teams. The Rangers gave the Caps 3 power plays, one of them canceling a Rangers power play. The Caps went 0 for 3, but put a lot of pressure on the Rangers, and more importantly, gave the Rangers almost no offense for 5 minutes of the first.

The real killer for the Rangers is that they HANDED THE CAPS TWO GOALS. It is not a smart move to give another team a free goal at any time, but two? In their building? Rozsival fell down for what feels like a season long problem with this team. Rozsival or Redden falling down at the blue line and giving up a short handed chance the other way. Bradley beat hank up stairs with a great back handed shot. Then in a very "brodeur" off moment, Hank gave up maybe the worst goal of his young playoff career. An incredibly soft goal, from a bad angle, once again from Bradley.

The Rangers may have played their best period of the series, but the difference is Hank wasn't Hank.

I am not with Dave just yet. A 2-0 game is not over, and I am in no mood to bench Hank. Let's see what the second period brings. Rangers get a quick goal, and they are right back in this game. But they HAVE TO GET SHOTS ON GOAL. They went almost 7 minutes to start the game without a shot on Varlamov. The kid is not being tested.

In a game where we need the veterans to step up, Dubinsky has been the Rangers best forward (after arguably being their best forward in Game 4). Need someone to give Doobie some help.

2-0 already

Well - that didn't take long. The Caps roar out to a 2-0 lead. Since the start pf game 2 they now have scored more on the Ranger Power Play than the Rangers have. I'm thinking we should sit Lundqvist - rest him for game 6. I could point out our record when Avery isn't in the line up - but there's still a lot of hockey to play. I will say that I didn't think we'd be able to beat the Caps 3 straight times in their own building.

Avery Benched for Game 5

Coach John Tortorella made a tough but correct call tonight - making Sean Avery a healthy scratch for tonight's game 5 against the Washington Capitals. Avery lost his composure late in game 4, taking 2 stupid penalties and putting the game - and the series at risk.

Tortorella has made accountability a big part of his coaching style - its a welcome change from prior coaches here - and it's the right way to play it.

When Sean hustled and put the team first - Torts rewarded him with ice time and promoted him to the 2 top lines. And now - Sean is feeling the downside - he put his emotions in front of the team at the end of game 4 - and so - tonight - he sits and watches.

Aaron Voros takes Seanny's place. I'm sad about benching Sean - but I think it's fair.

Go Rangers

Game 5: Come On Henrik - One More!

So. Here we go again.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never - in my life - in any sport - felt worse about my teams chances with a 3-1 series lead than I do about this 3-1 lead the Rangers have over the Capitals. Why is that? A bunch of reasons:

The 2009 NHL statistical leading goalie in the playoffs? Of course it is Washington's Varlamov with a 1.0 Goals Against Average over 3 games and a .962% save percentage.

Our own superstar Henrik Lundqvist? He's fifth in the NHL with a playoff GAA of 2.0 - double of Varlamov's. And Hank's save percentage is .946%. So as incredible as it seems - our future hall of fame goalie with a playoff shutout is statistically underperforming the caps Rookie. But that being said - Henrik has been as good as I've ever seen him - facing much tougher and more frequent shots that Varlamov and making incredible save after save.

The Ranger's League Leading Penalty Kill? We've allowed 4 goals in in the last 4 games. Meanwhile our own powerplay has not scored at all on Varlamov.

The Capitals have outshot the Rangers 149 to 99. That's 50 more shots on goal in 4 games. The Rangers are averaging less than 25 shots a game and the Caps have launched 50 more shots at Henrik in 4 games than we have at the Cap's goalies. And that's not counting all the Capital's shots we've blocked.

So, here's what we're looking at:

  • The Caps have outscored us.
  • They have completely outshot us.
  • Varlamov has out goaltended us (120+ consecutive minutes of shut out hockey)
  • But somehow we're up 2 games on Washington with a 3-1 lead.
So why are we winning? Well here's one thing: The Rangers have never lost a lead. Now - in game one we were up 3-1 and let the Caps tie us - but we never trailed again and won that one 4-3. In Games 2 and 4 we scored first and never let Washington catch up. The Caps lost a 1-0 lead in game one. When we're up a goal or more in this series - we have circled the wagons and protected that lead - and that's been the difference.

And the time to finish the Caps may be, as Nugman says, right now. Right now Washington is reeling - wondering how they can lose a game they dominated - wondering how they lost two at home - wondering if the puck can ever get past Henrik Lundqvist - and wondering how the 7th place team that can't score has them on the brink of elimination and humiliation. When a team plays as well as the Caps have and they find they are losing the series - badly - it must be confusing and demoralizing.

At this point the Caps may start to question everything they thought they knew about the game of hockey. The second guesses creep in: Should they shoot more? Less? More high shots? More low shots? Should they attack more? Defend more? Because dominating the Rangers has, inexplicably, not been working for them.

(This is why - as we said before the first puck was dropped - when you have the better goaltender you always have a chance to win - no matter who you're playing or how good they are.)

The key for the Rangers in these games has been - keep it close early. The longer the Caps don't have the lead - the more the pressure will mount for them - their crowd will get on them - they will get confused and frustrated - and they will press. And they will exhaust themselves.

On the other hand, if the Caps get an early lead, like game 3 they could easily be off to the races. The danger here is that if Washington wins game 5 they will storm back into the Garden with a little more zip and confidence - having just beaten the Rangers and feeling they can do it again. And the pressure for game 6 falls back right back on the Blueshirts.

So, like Nugs says, the best thing is to win it now. Win it tonight. Because otherwise - well, those floodgates won't stay shut forever.

Dave Pucks Actual Keys To The Game
(real ones this time)
1 - Out Work Them (Grit)
2 - Hank - be the best goalie on the ice tonight (Goaltending)
3 - Avery - We wouldn't be here without you - but you nearly killed us with bad penalties - KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME (and out of your...)
4 - Win the first period. At least - stay even.
5 - Don't get in a run & gun with them - we' can't match the Caps in a wide open game
6 - Get a lead somehow and hang on, men, hang on.
This has been Dave Puck's Actual....

Let's steal one more. Let's end this now. Let's Go Rangers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Surprising Night in the NHL

1) The Devils held on to beat the Hurricanes 1-0 at home behind an excellent effort from brodeur (and a strong losing effort from Cam Ward). These two teams really are incredibly even, and not quite on the level of the bruins/caps but probably just below. I am convinced if they played 21 games, one would win the series 11-10. Now Carolina has to hold serve in Game 6, or the Devils advance. (While I always love to see the Devils lose, a thought has popped into my mind. I still believe the penguins go to the next round, and while I'd like to see Carolina go, maybe it would be best for the Rangers if the Devils did? For you tennis fans out there, that used to remember classic agassi/sampras, and the 2002 US Open. Sampras was on his way to his third straight final (the previous two he got killed by Safin and Hewitt, both running him ragged all over the court). Agassi faced Hewitt in the semis, and while I liked Agassi, I was a sampras guy, but I found myself rooting for Agassi because I knew Sampras would beat him, but there was no way Sampras could beat hewitt. Agassi had a different skill set that allowed him to beat hewitt, and he did. Then Sampras won his final and 14th grand slam against Andre in the final. If the Devils win, I think they have a much better chance of beating the penguins then Carolina. With brodeur in net, and a pretty physical front line, the Devils would give the penguins a lot more problems than Carolina. And looking big picture, the Rangers know they can win in Jersey, and have had great success against the Devils in the playoffs, the penguins? Not so much. Melon Arena has been a house of horrors for them lately)

2) Flyers pull a big upset and win in Pittsburgh, sending the game back to Philly for game 6. Could set up a 7th game in pittsburgh, and I am all for Pittsburgh being as tired as possible so someone else can try and knock them off next round. But anyway, very big, shutout win for Biron in Pittsburgh, didn't see that one coming at all. Betts will have to wait to celebrate.

3) The Red Wings advance, finishing off a sweep of the bluejackets.

Hank Tributes

Couple of youtubes:

1) Hanks against the Flyers 2 weeks ago, the start of his current run of dominance.

2) The other is a compilation of Hank saves, although a little old. Hope he has a few of these left in the tank for game 5. (Try and ignore the Linkin Park music, not my doing)

3 down......13 to go

Enough Bluephoria, enough patting each other on the back, enough talk about being up 3-1, time to look forward to game 5, take a look at what's going on around the league, and see what lies in store in our Ranger's Crystal Ball.

Some questions that need to be answered for Game 5:

1) How many awkward man hugs do we think a drunk Dave Pucks had at Game 4 with random strangers? I am going with at least 3, but under 6.

2) Can the Rangers possibly win another game where they get ABSOLUTELY DOMINATED? So far in the series they are being outshot 149 to 99! 50 shots, over 4 games, so between 12-13 extra shots a game for the Caps. Can't remember ever seeing a shot descrepency like that where a series was even tied, let alone the team that was outshootin the other by a 3-2 margin is TRAILING 3 games to 1?

3) Can we get just ONE dynamic offensive performance this series, just one, please? Gomez was a force in game one (3 points, tying goal) but since has been relatively quiet. Other than that, we have just had moments where antropov had a great shift, callahan had a great period, Drury sucked it up and threw a great shot on goal, but can't we get just one magical night where a Zherdev scores TWO goals, has 2 assists and puts this game away for Hank on his own? (I wouldn't count on Zherdev because Torts is not giving him much ice time against the Caps. He knows Zherdev might be the Rangers best offensive counter punch to the Ovechkin line, but at the same time, if Zherdev does one of his lazy behind the back passes, he could set up a 3 on 1 rush, two or three times during a game, and the Rangers might never recover)

4) At what point does the unstoppable force finally move the immovable object? The Capitals started this series 2 for 5 against the Rangers vaunted penalty kill. The best power play vs the best penalty kill, an intriguing matchup, and through two periods of game 1, the Caps were at 40%, had two goals, and looked like they were going to decimate the Rangers greatest "weapon". Since then, the Caps have gone 2 for 17 the last ten periods (11.7%), which other than Hank, is the difference in the series. The Rangers have won 3 games by ONE goal. Two of their wins they scored 1 goal, and 2 goals total. For the series the Caps power play 4 for 22 is at 18.18%, a full ten percent (or in this case, 2 goals) less than there season average. Can the Rangers keep it up for one more game? Will Sean Avery allow them to?

5) Can the Rangers really beat arguably the best home team in the Eastern Conference, THREE times in their building? The Capitals played near .750 hockey at home, losing only nine times in regulation all season long, and the Rangers are looking to go 3 for 3 in their building, is this possible? The Rangers were a below .500 road team, one that during one stretch, went over a MONTH without a victory on the road.

Answers coming Friday at 7 pm

Some Rosen Comments from Last night I am not letting go:

Some fan bases grow to love their announcers over time. Their announcers remind them of their childhood, great victories, they find their voices to be calming like a parent (assuming you didn't grow up in a broken home, or aren't irish). This is not the case for me with Rosen. I have always found his voice to be annoying, and while I do respect how hard it must be to call a hockey game, I have always thought he has floundered. Not to mention that the man is just horrific to look at. Every time they do a close up of him, my freshly made grilled chicken sandwich, or my delicious steak that I've been waiting all day for has to get put aside, because my appetite is surely gone. Which leads me to drink. So yes, I blame Rosen and his Penguin Profile for my drinking. That said, I usually give him a pass on his ridiculous comments, but I decided a few last night needed reprimand. Here's what you missed Dave:

1) "Good shot, but it missed the net."

It's a Rosen classic, I have just chosen now to attack it. Explain to me how a "good" shot ever misses the net? Are there "shots" that intentionally miss the net, bounce off the boards, and end up directly on someone's stick for a goal? Yes, they are called "passes". Was that what happened in this case? No, Paul Mara rifled a shot well wide of the net, which went out of the zone on the other side, and led to an odd man rush for the Capitals. Almost every shot that has missed the net this series for rangers defenseman has led to a rush the other way for the Capitals. By definition, a shot can't be good, unless it is on net. I guess Rosen just gets impressed with the power that these guys can drive the puck? Well, I am sure Hank wouldn't mind seeing 100 GREAT shots on net in Game 5, as long as all of them missed the net.

2) "Boy if callahan could play non-stop all game, he'd be amazing."

Remarkable. I mean, it is a true statement. If Ryan Callahan could play for 60 straight minutes, that would be pretty amazing. He'd be the only player in NHL history outside a goalie to play 60 straight minutes, that's pretty cool. He'd also be playing more than 3 times as much as he does normally, so his stats would probably triple, so I guess we can give him around 66 goals on the season, leading the league, that's pretty amazing. He'd also be some sort of cyborg with lungs and a heart twice the size of Rosen's penguin nose, enabling him to never understand the concept of "tired". Rosen might be right on this one, if Ryan Callahan could play non-stop all game, he'd be devestating. I was wrong.

Some Things to Look Ahead for: (Dave, hang on to your chickens)

- Does past playoff history mean that much in the present? Nope, in fact it almost always means nothing. But when the past playoff history is the PREVIOUS YEAR, and the current team has a similar makeup? It might be slightly more relevant. The Rangers won 2 road games in jersey last year, lost a game 3 at home, pulled out a one goal victory in game four, and then went to Jersey for Game 5 in the same situation they will be in friday night, and they got the job done in game 5. A lot of guys on this team were on that team, they know the importance of finishing this series as soon as possible.

- That said, this young Caps team, outside of Theodore (who is no longer a factor) and Federov, have very little playoff experience, but the experience they do have is falling behind the Flyers 3-1 in the first round last year. They then rallied to force a Game 7, and then overtime in Game 7, but ended up losing. We'll see which team harps more on last years experience and is able to repeat history.

- Rangers lead this series 3-1. They have had a 3-1 lead 11 times in their history. They are 11-0.

- Boston waits: Heading into the playoffs we talked about the potential prophetic nightmare journey the Rangers might have to make to go to a stanley cup (Washington-Boston-Pittsburgh-Detroit), well so far in the first round, it appears the Rangers potential next 3 opponents are all advancing, so its time for the Rangers to get it done. Boston wrapped up a dominating performance over Montreal last night in Montreal. A series that really was never close at any point. Now Boston waits, snug in their fair weather sports loving town. An entire new generation of hockey fans with fresh pipes screaming for their team, ready to collapse at the first sign of adversity, or a home loss. I am not going to spend too much time looking forward to Boston, but let me say this: The Caps have maybe the most explosive offense in the NHL....Boston scored more goals than them in the regular season...and allowed less. It's a different type of attack, with a slew of 20+ goal scorers on every line. Where as the Rangers went into this series with a goalie edge, statistically there will be none in Boston. But the biggest thing the Rangers have to take into account, outside of Brasheer and Ovechkin (who looks to hit everything he possibly can), the Capitals are not a very physical team. They are just skating the Rangers to death, exhausting them on every shift. The Bruins score as many goal as the caps, and are a VERY physical team. It would not be wise to head into Boston with the Bruins having a week's rest, and the Rangers coming off a hard fought 7 game series. They know this. They have to end it Friday night.

- Very good article from Pierre LeBrun on that I have provided the link to here and at the end of this post. For those hockey fans out there wondering if they had ever seen a performance like this one from Hank before (it's not just the plays he is making, but it is the scorers he's doing it against), LeBrun makes an excellent comparison between Hank vs. these Caps, and Roy vs. The Nordiques (soon to be Avalanche) in the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs (which montreal went on to win, their last cup). From the article:

The way in which the high-flying Caps are down 3-1 to the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series following Wednesday night's 2-1 loss at Madison Square Garden brings back memories of that '93 first-round matchup between the ubertalented Nordiques and rival Montreal Canadiens.

The Nordiques were loaded with 21-year-old Mats Sundin, 23-year-old Joe Sakic, 20-year-old Mike Ricci, 20-year-old Owen Nolan and 21-year-old Adam Foote. But what they didn't have was Patrick Roy. He was in the Montreal net and single-handedly stole the series away from the more talented Nordiques; the Habs were outshot and outchanced, but not outscored, during their six-game victory.

Feel like you've seen this movie before?

The Caps have the 23-year-old Ovechkin, 21-year-old Nicklas Backstrom, 25-year-old Brooks Laich, 25-year-old Alexander Semin and 23-year-old Mike Green. But what they don't have is Henrik Lundqvist. Sure, Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov played another solid game, stopping 19 of 21 shots. But like Roy in '93, Lundqvist is in the process of stealing this series.