Sunday, May 31, 2009

Down 0-2, is it over for Sid the Kid?

This picture is a bunch of dead penguins (you're welcome). In NHL History teams that go down 0-2 are a robust 3-41 in the stanley cup finals.

So .... well .... it doesn't look good.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Here is your upset leave me alone

The Nugman has once again been awaken from hibernation by Dave Pucks for a finals pick, one I certainly do not want to make, but shall to put a cap on what has been, for the most part, an incredibly unsatisfying hockey season.

The red wings are the better team....they are also the more injured team. In fact, they have a LOT more injuries. When you combine that with the fact that games one and two are being played BACK TO BACK (which should all but guarantee the penguins stealing one of those games), and the penguins despite being in the finals with arguably the league's best player have been flying under the radar most of the year due to their slow start, I think they are feeling no pressure whatsoever. As much as I would like to see detroit win another one, especially with the injuries, I am just not crazy about the matchups in this series for Detroit, not to mention Pittsburgh might well be playing their best hockey of the season right now.

I got the penguins in six. The cup returns to pittsburgh for the first time since 1992, and all the pundits begin the "Is Pitssburgh titletown USA?" since the Giants handed them the superbowl by bowing out to Philly, and the Penguins now own the cup as well. At least the pirates are all but guaranteed to have their 17th straight losing season.

Pucks Picks - who hoists the cup?

Another round of NHL playoff hockey has come and gone and the whole hockey world is on pins and needles [Editor's note: maybe "needles" is a bad phrase to use in the steroid era – please start again].

Take 2: Another round of playoff hockey is behind us and the NHL Ranger Hockey Nation is waiting to find out:

Who picked round 3 better: Dave Pucks or Nugman? We both picked our choices for (1) series winner and (2) the length of the series in games.

As you recall (or more likely completely forgot) we have an official scoring system:

-Picking the winner: 2 points
-Picking the number of games exactly: 1 point
-Getting closer to the right number of games than your opponent: 1 point

We both picked the Red Wings in 6 - they won in 5. So 2 points each for picking the series winner is all we hand out. And no points for getting the number of games right – or being closer.

So we start at Nugman 2, Dave Pucks 2.

On to the Penguins series. Nugs and Pucks both had the right winner – so 2 more points a piece. And neither of us called the sweep (our hatred of Pittsburgh clouding our mutual judgment).

But here’s the crucial call: Nugman said Penguins in seven, Dave Pucks – Penguins in six. Both of these are embarrassingly bad calls – just way off the mark. But Dave Puck’s picks were just a little less horrendous. I was off by 2 games – Nugs was off by 3.

So we award Mr. Pucks an extra point for coming closer in the total number of games.

Final Tally:
Dave Pucks: 5 Points
Nugman: 4 Points

So with rounds 1 and 2 resulting in a complete tie, and round 3 giving Dave Pucks that slimmest of one point margins - we move, now to the Stanley Cup Finals.

My final pick of the 2008-2009 season:

Pucks: Red Wings in 6

Nugman – let us know. The world is watching

Friday, May 29, 2009

For a while, anyway, Tom really was terrific

A lot has been said about Tom Renny. To many of us here at Blueshirt Brothers Tom will always be the coach who:

1 - Brought the Rangers franchise back to respectability,
2 - Ended that horrific 7 year playoff draught, and
3 - Successfully managed a bunch of difficult personalities (Jagr and Avery for example) to 3 straight playoff appearances - twice to the 2nd round.

When Tom forgot to treat this post-Jagr year as a rebuilding season and got the team off to an extended hot start - he unfortunately raised expectations for his team and himself. And so, when the Rangers fell back to earth, Renney became the casualty of his own earlier success.

We all realize the roster presented to Tom by Slats was deeply flawed - thin from overspending and yet lacking enough firepower to score enough goals to make the Rangers competitive in the long term. Tom did his best to counter this by leaning on his lone superstar - Henrik Lundqvist - trying to focus on defense - and hoping to win his games 2-1 or 1-0. This worked quite well for a while, but eventually the Rangers began (1) losing regularly and (2) being very hard to watch while doing it - because they didn't produce much offense (SHOOT THE PUCK!).

So in the end Tom got a raw deal here - but at the same time - the move to hire Tortorella added a much needed spark to the team, plus a little more accountability. So, although unfair to Renney, we're glad the Rangers made the move when they did.

Not to get Nugman started - but the NY Yankees have only learned just how much Joe Torre did for them - after he was gone. Tom Renney's two straight trips to the second round of the playoffs is quite an accomplishment compared to what had gone on before - and now, after. The jury's still out (or is it the Drury's still out?) on Torts. Let's see if in a full season at the helm Torttorella can get us past - or even into - round two next year and beyond.

We bring this all up now because the Edmonton Oilers gave Tom Renny a job this week. Not as head coach, but as an assistant to Pat Quinn, recently hired as the Oiler's new head coach to replace Craig MacTavish. We're glad Edmonton called. Tom's a good hockey man and did quite well here for a long time with the hand he was dealt. We'll always remember what Renney did here - and we wish him well.

Except, of course, when the Oilers play the Rangers. Then Tom can take a flying... Sorry - let's just leave this on the high road. Thanks Tom and best of luck.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Its the Wings! And the Penguins. (Again)

Yup. A year goes by. A couple hundred NHL games take place. A couple hundred Blueshirt Brothers blog entries get posted. And we end up with.... a rematch. We get exactly the same two finals teams we had in 2008.

Last year's cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime last night to complete a series victory in 5 games.

In defense of Chicago, they did take last year's Stanley Cup champs to overtime in 3 of the last 4 games - so the series wasn't quite as one-sided as most 5 game series are. Cris Huet played well for the Blackhawks in the net last night - allowing just one goal in regulation. But it was an unlikely bounce off Darren Helm's skate (after he had fanned on a shot attempt) that ended the Blackhawks season.

Never-the-less, in the semi final round, Carolina and Chicago teamed up to produce exactly one victory between them over 9 playoff games. It is as if the Penguins and Redwings are on an unstoppable collision course.

And if the idea of Sidney Crosby holding Lord Stanley's Cup over his head and shouting with joy makes you sick to your stomach, you are now a die hard Detroit fan.

Go Red Wings!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Or... Maybe not

Never mind.

I went on and on yesterday about how to come back from 3 games down in a playoff series, but when a team is down 4-0, well, I got nothin'.

The Hurricanes managed to lose again last night, by a score of 4-1 ending their disastrous series with the Penguins. In the end, Carolina was outscored 20-9. Cam Ward lost a playoff series for the first time in his NHL career. But when the other guys are averaging 5 goals a game - you're not going to beat them too often.

So, farewell Hurricanes. The big winds really blew this time around, but all for naught. They didn't beat the Penguins for us, but remember, they did deliver that nasty come-from-behind crushing loss to the Devils in round one - so we will always be grateful for that. Well done, guys.

12 playoff wins for the Aquatic Birds now. Four more and Crosby gets his mitts and his name on Lord Stanley's cup for all time. Someone please stop this from happening.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's over

Penguins go back to the Finals with an incredibly easy sweep of the Canes, and I just became a borderline redwings fan.

It ain't over until Yogi Berra says the fat lady sings - a psychological analysis of digging your way out of a 3-0 playoff deficit

At this point the unfortunate Carolina Hurricanes have lost something like 5 of their last 6 games - yet still find themselves in the 3rd round of the Stanley cup playoffs. Just barely though - they are down 3 games to zero against Malkin, Crosby, and the Pittsburgh aquatic birds.

In other words, the Hurricanes have the Penguins right where they want them. Well, not exactly, but I've always felt that it's not nearly as hard as it looks to dig your way out of a 3-0 hole. Here's why:

Let’s start in reverse order. If you can somehow get to game 7, at that point you’re in a commanding position and your opponent is just about finished – they have blown a 3-0 lead and are reeling. So that's a very winnable game

And game six would have a similar feel to it. If you get to a game six that means you've beaten your opponent twice in a row - you're in their heads now and when they play you they're thinking about losing instead of winning.

So the series really pivots on games four and five. Or to put it another way- if you can win 2 games – you have a very good chance of winning 4 games – something of a bargain for a playoff team.

Game 4 is of course the win you need to get started. But, come on. If you can't win one game in four against your opponent - you shouldn’t even be in the playoffs. To look at this another way - if you have to be down 3-1 in a series - the best way is to have come back with a win after 3-0 - because that way - you have that little bit of momentum on your side. And teams do have the psychological strength to go all out to prevent a sweep. So you really have a lot on your side, psychologically for that game four. So let's assume you don;t get swept and manage to win game four.

So then really, Game 5 is the key to the whole thing. Because your team will go all out to win game four to avoid the sweep - and psychology is on their side there. Likewise, games 6 and 7 are not too tough because you've already got a streak going and the psychological edge moves to your side,

But that game 5 - that is the toughest one of the bunch. But shoot, you can win a hockey game. It can happen. And after you just won game 4 you get a little positive jolt from that. You opponent feels just a little bit of pressure – more than you do really. After all, no one thinks you have a chance - so you have nothing to lose. You play loosey goosey and try and steal one. And having taken game 5 - you can now take the series.

So with this outlandish but strangely compelling assessment from Dave Pucks - why does coming back from a 3-0 hole never happen? Two main reasons:

1 - The team in the hole is psychologically shattered. They've been programmed to think the series is over - they've just lost 3 straight - so they feel pretty bad about themselves. They believe they're done and it comes true. They give up.

2 - The other team got a 3-0 lead usually because they are the better team. And being better does count for something.

So it's a tough road for Carolina. But it can happen. And if it does – you heard it here first!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Checking Out Clint Smith Style

I have not yet shuffled off this mortal coil, but I am indeed close. My normal Rangers hibernation is interrupted by the occasional email from Dave Pucks borderline begging me to contribute SOMETHING to this blog. I am affraid this will be near difficult if not impossible for me. I am a creature of habit, and one that spends the entire rangers season thinking about games, bad line changes, and soft goals. I replay games in my head, I change the outcomes and create fantasy situations where the fans of other teams are crying in the stands at the mere sight of the 4 time defending Stanley Cup Rangers as they make run for an unprecedented (in the last 40 years anyway), 5th straight cup run. But when that final goal is scored, the buzzer sounds, and the season is am I. The energy is spent, and it is baseball time. Baseball is the one sport I devote endless amounts of wasted energy to 24/7/365. So while I love the Rangers, this is offseason, and I honestly could not care less about anything related to Hockey. So while I am not quite as gone as Clint Smith at this point, just consider me in the same light. I might occasionally drop in with a blog to haunt our followers with sweet memories of our past encounters, but for all intensive purposes my regular blogging is dead.

As for the anyone still watching? I catch 5 minutes here or there, and in those 5 minutes, here is what I caught. Us eastern conference fans really just wasted a season with our heads up our asses didn't we? Going into this season, if someone asked me, "Who is going to win the cup?" I would have said, "Rangers baby!" and then thrown down another beer and started looking for my pants and car keys. Now if that same person had put the gun to my head and said, "Ok, your life is on the line, who is in the Stanley Cup Finals this year?" I would have said, "Detroit and Penguins...and I have very little doubt". This is the unfortunate nature of the NBA, NHL, and sometimes football. The winners are almost always predetermined. Being the best team all but guarantees you a LATE postseason run, if not a title. Where as a sport like baseball, being the best team often means...absolutely nothing. The reason for this? Because the more physical a game gets, the more a team is simply able to physically impose their will on another team, almost always guaranteeing the larger, stronger team a championship run/victory. Now I know what your saying, what is more physical then football, shouldn't the best football team win every years? The ONLY reason football gets a pass here...because it is a best of ONE. In one game, anything can happen (though upsets are still very rare, and usually are more a result of poor analysis and projection from vegas odds guys and number crunchers that never really watched the teams play). The perfect example of this was the Giants "upset" of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42.

Was it an upset? Yes. The giants beat them, barely, in that one game. But had they taken on a MLB, NHL, or NBA best of 7? There is little to no chance in my mind the Giants beat the Patriots 4 times in 7 games. They probably go 2 and 5 in 7 games, and are very competitive in 4-5 of them. The 1969 Jets beat the Colts right? If those two teams played in a best of 7, the Colts would probably win the next 6 games, or at least 5 of them. And then you look at a team like the Giants, it was such a big "upset" because they were two touchdown underdogs. But should they have been? They went on the road and dominated the top defense in the NFL in terms of Points per game allowed (Tampa Bay), they then went on the road and beat the # 1 seed Dallas Cowboys, they then went on the road to the near impossible to win Green Bay, and physically dominated the #2 seed the entire game. While they were doing this, the Patriots were playing two home games and barely getting by an incredibly inexperienced Jacksonville team that had a very weak QB, and a San Diego team without their top THREE offensive performers. The Giants were the most physical team, with the better running game, and better defense against a high powered offense that hadn't really been tested (sound a bit like Super Bowl 25 to anyone?). Not to mention the teams had just played a month prior, BEFORE the Giants got hot, and the Giants 3. I would have had the giants underdogs, but by 6 or 7 points, a touchdown max. Anything more than that was just a bad read by the "experts" and created an "incredible upset" out of something that realisitically should have been a 1 in 3 chance of happening. Now, because of this one and done, like I said, the NFL can get the occasional upset, but how does it play out over the long haul? Barring EXTREME injuries (to a tom brady, or basically any QB), almost any knowledgeable fan can probably accurately predict 8 of the 12 playoff teams with relative ease before the season starts, and can probably guess another two, with a fluke team that had an easy schedule and quick development from some young players rounding out the field on each side.

Anyway, in basketball, it's a joke. The 1 and 2 seed are in the conference finals almost every year. This year we had an UPSET in the east, as the 1 plays the.....3 seed. (And that's only because the 2 seed lost maybe the best defensive player in the conference, otherwise it would be another 1-2 matchup). At the beginning of the year in the NBA, if asked who was going to be in the finals you would say what? Lakers vs. Celtics half the time, the other half the time, Lakers vs. Cavs (which it will end up being). With probably an equal number of people selecting the Lakers or Cavs to win it all. The upset is incredibly unlikely in a 7 game series in a physical sport, it is usually rare, and in the case of these penguins, it's just a matter of seeding.

The penguins first two months were complete garbage. They had coaching issues, they had an injured and mentally out of it goalie, they were adjusting to new even younger line combo's with the loss of hossa, and they found themselves in 12th place in the east. But the last 4 months, who was better in the east? The penguins ended up as the 4 seed, and didn't get a lot of hype for the seasons the Bruins and Caps had, but the penguins were prob the best team still. And hear it is, 10 months after the rangers were in camp skating, preparing for their trip to Prague, preparing to con me into thinking Naslund could do enough to replace jagr, preparing to make me think Wade Redden was the answer to our blue line, preparing to make me think Doobie was in for a breakout year and Zherdev would be a 40 goal scorer in the trade of the offseason......and it's going to be Detroit vs. Pittsburgh.

Unless Chicago pulls an upset.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Clint Smith - Oldest Living Ranger - passes away at age 95

Before the 1994 was 1940.

It was 69 years ago when the Rangers won their second-to-last Stanley Cup. It was decades before I was born - and long before Nugman's parents were born. It was more than 25 years before Jean Ratelle and the GAG line. It was before World War II for goodness sake.

This last week - the last living member of that 1940 Stanley Cup winning New York Ranger team passed away. He was Clint Smith. He was a NHL Hall Of Fame Player. He was 95 years old.

Smith played 11 years in the NHL and was with the Rangers from 1936 to 1943. He won the Byng trophy twice, in 1939 as a Ranger, and again in 1944 for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he finished his playing career. Here are his career stats:

Goals: 161 + Assists: 236 = 397 points in in 483 regular season NHL games.

Penalties in minutes: 24 (that's right just 24 minutes in penalties in 483 games)

Clint set what was at the time the record for most assists in a season with 49 (in 1944). He also is one of several players tied for the lead with 4 goals in a single period.

After his playing career ended, Smith coached in the USHL and the AHL. He was inducted in the NHL Hall Of Fame back in 1991.
Below is a close up of the 1940 Rangers' names inscribed in the Stanley cup. Clinton Smith's is the second name in the third line from the bottom.

There is one special distinction that Clint Smith will hold forever. Clint was playing when the idea of pulling your goalie first began. And, as it turns out, Smith holds the amazing honor of scoring the NHL's first-ever empty net goal. So, every time you see an empty netter sound the buzzer - remember that the shooter is just following in Clint Smith's skate-tracks - and raise your glass for a world champion Ranger for the ages.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"K-Off" Playoff

(I'm not commenting on the round three playoff series yet - because until the Hurricanes or the Blackhawks win at least one game I don't really consider these to be series - but it sure looks like we're headed for a Red Wings - Penguins final)

My 10 year son Pucks Junior has taken a interest in the item we brought up yesterday - the large number of K's in the name of the Ranger's newest member Ilkka Heikkinen.

My son is convinced the Ranger's front office is happy with the value they are getting from Lauri Korprikoski - a Ranger player with three K's in his name - and so they have decided to see if they could go one better by finding a player with four K's in his name.

According to Pucks Junior, it’s a contest among members of the Rangers staff. Sort of a "K-off”, if you will.

I thought this couldn't possibly be true - until the little guy pointed out it literally says K-off right on Heikkinen’s uniform (take a look at the photo). Hard to argue with him there.

So here are the official results of the first annual NY Ranger's K-Off:

First Place: Ilkka Heikkinen - 4 Ks

Second Place: Lauri Korpikoski - 3 Ks

Third Place: Henrik "King" Lundqvist - 1.5 K's (we count nicknames for half a K)

Fourth Place (3 way tie):
Brandon Dubinsky - 1 K
Nik Zherdev - 1 K

Nik Antropov - 1 K

Seventh Place: Sean "F--king" Avery - 1/2 K

Eighth Place: Colton Orr - 0 Ks (tied with several others)

Honorable mention: Markus Naslund (1 K but retired)

The only question that remains - is there someone out there with a 5K name that the Rangers can grab? Rest assured - Slats is looking.

And by the way – Puck Junior’s long postponed 5th grade hockey game may take place today – with my son getting the start in goal. I’ve been helping him practice with multiple slapshots in the living room – which has caused some damage to two lamps and an antique carpet Mrs' Pucks grandfather made on an actual loom some 70 years ago. Pucks Junior was clearly benefiting from the practice time - but Mrs. Pucks was quite upset and her protests were getting quite loud. So I've worked out a thoughtful compromise - ear plugs - for me and the little goalie - and our living room practices are going quite well once again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ilkka Heikkinen? That's 4 "k"s!

So - clearly the New York Ranger's problem this past year was scoring goals. What the Blueshirts need is a proven goal scorer that can put the puck in the net, throw a little fear into opposing teams, and take some of the ridiculous amount of pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist - who has to carry the team on a regular basis. So when word came down to the Blueshirt Brothers main headquarters that Slats had pulled the trigger on a new player - there was some high fiving and backslapping around the office.

We were glad to see that Slats really understands the off season mission - get some scoring. So, with the playoff season still underway he's wasted no time in signing... uh ... a defenseman from Finland who plays in a European league and who scored a big 11 goals last year (and has no less than 4 "k"s in his name.)

At this point the high fiving was replaced by head scratching.

Well, for all of you who have been clamoring for: Ilkka Heikkinen, you got your wish (Yes, I spelled his name correctly, and No, I don't know why the Rangers signed him.)

He's 6-2, 200 pounds and scored a big 11 goals last year for a team called HIFK Helsinki in a league called SM-liiga (unless it's the other way around).

He's big - and Torts likes size. And he's got four "k"s in his name and ... and....

Never mind.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ranger Roster Review - Zherdev

Okay - with your permission, Nugman, I'd like to talk a little Ranger's Hockey:

Our first Ranger Roster Review was about Nik "A" (Antropov) - so for our third one we thought we'd take a look at Nik "Z".

Traded to NY Rangers by Columbus with Dan Fritsche for Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman, July 2, 2008.

Position: RW
Age: 23
Number: 13
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 203
Shoots: Right
Regular Season
Games: 82
Goals (23) + Assists (35) = 58 Points
Plus-Minus: 6
23 Goals/ 219 Shots (on goal) = 10.5%
Games: 7
Goals (0) + Assists (0) = 0 Points
Plus-Minus: -3
0 Goals/ 12 Shots (on goal) = 0.0%

Here at Blueshirt Brothers we don't believe in stereotyping. So when we hear that in general, Russian forwards tend to be enigmatic (yes - I spelled it correctly - and yes - I know what it means). In other words, some say that Russian forwards show flashes of great talent - but at the same time - the tendency to disappear for shifts, games, series at a time. We disregard that kind of thinking as antiquated stereotyping that has no place in modern society.
But, at the same time - it is entirely true that Nik Zherdev showed some flashes of greatness during the regular season - but also disappeared for long stretches. On the plus side he was our 2nd highest goal scorer with 23 and was tied for the team lead in points with 58. But the table was set for Zherdev be an offensive star here - to carry the team on his back - and Nik did not come close to seizing that opportunity.

In the Playoffs - when everyone's output is under a microscope - instead of stepping up, Nik Z was something of a no-show. Like you, dear reader, Nik had no goals and no assists in the 7 games against the Washington Capitals. And unlike you, Nik was minus 3 in seven games (you, sitting in your living room, raging and throwing things at your TV managed to have a plus-minus of zero).

We have been hearing that Zherdev, who spent a few years on lowly Columbus was absolutely stunned by his first NHL playoff action. The speed. The intensity. It freaked Nik out a little. He talked to the coaches about it. And he did manage to launch 12 shots at Theordore and Varlamov - even though none of them rang the buzzer. But I do think time and experience can fix that next time. And a year with Torts to condition and coach should help too.

It seems so long ago now, but once upon a time Zherdev was a first round draft pick - the 4th player taken overall - that was six long years ago in 2003. He had been seen as a rising star with Columbus - but they became disenchanted with him as he seemed at times to lose focus and not play up to his potential (I won't say enigmatic - but you see what I mean).

This was his 5th full season, but at 24 years, he's still pretty young. So there's definitely potential upside in the mix for this 20+ goal scorer.

The Russian National team also saw something they really liked in Nik, selecting him as a starter in their World Championship winning team (of course some of the best Russian players were unavailable because their NHL teams were still in the playoffs). Nik broke his hand early in the tournament (pulling a "Drury") but toughed it out - playing two more games before having to shut it down. This may be good for two reasons - it shows his grit when he's motivated and may improve the Rangers' bargaining position a bit.

And on the surface at least - Zherdev seems like the kind of player Tortorella likes and can work with - young enough to mold - big man - with offensive skills. On the other hand - he's been known to sulk when punished - and Torts already had to bench him once this season for failing to get back on defense. It's possible that he's too sensitive for Torts coaching style - and its possible Torts - after watching him through the last few months - just doesn't want him.

He is an unrestricted free agent. Which means our Rangers have some serious thinking to do.

They have to sign him or lose him.

I say - yes - sign the guy. He can put the puck in the net and he's young enough to still be on the upside of his career. Even if we want to use his salary Cap room to land a bigger offensive stud - we can package him in a trade. He made $3.25 million last year - and I don't think his playoff stats will impress anyone to go way higher than that. I'd try to sign him for 2 or 3 years going somewhere in the range he's making now - between $3 and $3.5 million per (not that I have a clue about these things).

Talking to Russian reporters during the World Championships - Nik mentioned that he would not worry about his contract and would "turn his phone off" during the tournament. But now Nik has his trophy - his phone is back on - and the clock is ticking. July 1st is coming and the Rangers need to get going.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lundqvist is like A-Rod? Nugs, are you on Steroids?

You know, I comment on a nice story on a popular blog that compares the NY Mets to the NY Rangers and my colleague Mr. Nugman goes on a wild tear, posting a foot and a half worth of anti-Mets invective (yes, I spelled it correctly - and no, I don't know exactly what it means). And all the while he sneaks in these Mike Pelfrey balk references just to get me steamed.

Well, I'm going to take the high road here. I could say that...

...Nugman may be correct in comparing the steroid-taking sign-stealing Alex Rodriguez to Ranger superstar Henrik Lundqvist, but only during the playoffs - when both players ensure that there is very little scoring (Hank on defense, Alex at the plate)...

...but I won't, because I'm taking the high road.

And really - I'm just kidding. Nugs did an interesting job of comparing Yanks and Rangers, even if I don't always agree. But that's enough baseball on a Ranger's site. And as I said earlier to my good friend Nugman, I would be more than happy to argue the relative merits of rooting for the people's team versus the evil empire. But if we're gonna do that - let's not do it here. Just say the word, Nugs and I'll set up Baseball Brothers and we can have at it. But otherwise, let's make this a place for Ranger fans (and I don't mean the Texas Rangers).

Good to be back

It's good to be back. For a second there, I almost thought we were one of those sites that crashes everytime they get twenty or so visitors. That would be rather pathetic. I was happy to learn that it had nothing to do with our visitors (of which we only had 4) but rather just an act of God striking us down for our moral weakness.

What is this weakness I speak of? Well a few weeks back you may recall someone (Me), suggesting that we expand this blog to cover all the New York Sports. I threw a bone out to my partner in crime here Dave Pucks and said he could even talk about the New York Mets, for the 6 to 7 people in the tri-state area that actually care about the Mets. If you recall, he "balked" at this idea. In fact, after a few of our followers re-iterated their interest, and urged Dave towards this expansion, he "balked" not once, but twice more. So three balks for Dave. There was talk of starting an entirely NEW blog, since we had such high moral standards and did not want to damage the integrity of a "Rangers Only" blog. So you can imagine my shock when I came onto the site one morning and saw a "Mets-Rangers" comparison, I practically fell off my proverbial mound (or in this case, out of my chair, but the point here is to creatively find ways to discuss the embarrassing performance by Pelfrey last night on national television).

I have been told to not be mean to our new Mets friends, or to rip on their site, or this association in anyway. Only time will tell if I actually hold myself back. If I stay in a good mood, and continue to be apathetic towards most things in life outside the Yankees,Rangers,Giants and to a lesser degree the Knicks, perhaps I will let this attack on my internet sensibilities slide. In the mean time though, I have decided to take the "Mets-Rangers" comparison, and give it more of a "championship feel", by removing the 1999 NLDS Winners (yes, they have a banner for that), and replacing them with the 26 time World Champion, New York Yankees. So here's a nice comparison for those of our followers that bleed pinstripes.

Alex Rodriguez is Henrik Lundqvist (winning with no offense)(team's most important player)

The Yankees don't have any clear scoring problem, and even when arod is out, they find ways to dent home plate every now and then, but records don't lie. Coming into this season with Arod from 2004-2008, the Yankees had BY FAR, the best record in baseball with him in the lineup. When he was out, they were slightly under .500. Arod missed the first 28 games this season and the Yankees went 13-15, in the 9 games since his return, 7-2. Like Hank, he gives the entire team confidence around him (at least in the regular season), and makes everyone else better. And like Hank, his playoff history has been mixed and not matched up to his regular season accolades. (His time in seattle, and start with new york were excellent, but since Arod's team performance around him has crashed, so has his. And as many great games as Hank has had in the playoffs, he's had just as many "average" games, with a handful of "no shows". A lot of that has to do with a porous defense, and light offensive support) Both guys still have to prove they can get it done in postseason, both guys carry the pressure of being "The guy" that is going to deliver a title to New York, and both guys need a stronger performance from their postseason teammates if they are ever going to have any hopes of heading down Canyon of Heros.

- Derek Jeter is Chris Drury (captain needing another great playoff run)

Both guys end up putting up respectable numbers. Both guys play hurt and have to be dragged out of the lineup. Both known more for past excellence in big games then their current stature. Both are quiet leaders who even though they wear the "C", don't really stand out in their clubhouses. They lead by example and continue to make important plays when it matters most. And the 2009 MLB season, and 2009-2010 NHL season need to be big bounce back type years for both. (Jeter still hit .300 last year, 2nd best among AL shortstops, but his big game aura has died down slightly along with his power numbers) And the most important thing these two have in common? They are winners. Jeter a 4 time World Series Champion, Drury a stanley cup champion.

- Robinson Cano is Nikolai Zherdev (Incredible physical game, incredibly weak mental game)

(Reading the reyes thing was really hard, "sometimes reyes seems like the best leadoff man in baseball" I'm not sure who wrote that Was that you Dave? Come on, the guy is the third best shortstop in his division!) Like Zherdev, Cano has physical gifts that can match any player in his league. While Zherdev has the ability to be a 40+ goal scorer, Cano has that same ability to not only hit 30 homers, but also be a batting champion. Like Zherdev, there are nights where Cano is clearly the best player on the field, and you find yourself not spending the game appreciating the performance, but rather asking yourself, "Why don't I see this every night?" In both sports, baseball more than hockey, your going to fail more than you succeed, and we can't expect both these players to score, or hit 2 homers every night, but what we can look for is a strong mental approach to the game: working the count, swinging at smart pitches, not taking offside penalties, shooting at goalies weaknesses, finding the open man, knowing where to position themselves on the ice/field etc. and this is something you rarely see from either player. Both are in their respective leagues, on their NY Teams, and have their careers entirely based on their talent, and nothing between their ears. Not all players are able to develop mental games. We can only hope these guys do, because if they ever do, they will quickly develop into league MVP caliber players for both teams.

- Mike Mussina is/was Markus Naslund (old guy, great career,....retired)

This one is a bit of a stretch since the Yanks don't really have a naslund. Their older players still produce at a very high level, that and none of them retired. Mussina gets the nod here because they were both good teammates that didn't ruffle too many feathers, made reasonable contracts for their value, and both retired leaving money at the table. And both had long, very strong careers, never able to capture that elusive ring. The difference here is Naslund leaves as an average all-round forward, with still some offensive skill but not enough to merit a big pay day. Mussina left the game a 20 game winner and a probably hall of famer.

- Steve Valiquette (the tall backup to the Ace)

The Yankees don't carry backups....they carry all-stars.

- Damaso Marte is Wade Redden (too high-priced for what he can do)

This one really is a season to late. Had this come around in 2008 I could have thrown Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi, even Bobby Abreu in there, but this Yankee team has shed a lot of dead weight in the offseason. We still have high priced and probably overpaid (in some cases) guys, but they make the all-star team. Marte, like Redden, came to our team with a reputation as one of the best at his position on past performance, and like Redden, his best days may be behind him. Both make far too much money for their performance so far, but unlike Redden, Marte has a "little" window of possibility for redemption, seeing as his terrible performance has been hampered by injury, where as Redden's is clearly a factor of age/confidence

- Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera is Ryan Callahan/Brandon Dubinsky (young, up-and-comers, still learning)

Gardner and Callahan make some sense, with a talent edge to Callahan. Both have non stop motors, and may be the fastest skater/runners on their teams. Both are very young, with nice contracts, and still trying to develop their offensive game to go with their hustle. Cabrera and Doobie have more offensive skill then their young counterparts. They also have more size and power potential. But they also seem to lack the drive and hustle that the other two do, and to this point in their careers it has stunted their development.

That's all the Mets and Dave came up with. So that is where I will stop....for now.

Technical Difficulties - FIXED!

Very sorry folks - we were having some technical trouble over here at Blueshirt Brothers for the last 24 hours or so. But we are back up and running now.

Here's what happened: As the result of some kind of fistfight among senior members of our IT staff over some kind of geek theological debate (something about Captain Kirk, the new Star Trek Movie versus the original TV series, and the space-time continuum) - our main server had taken a direct hit and - as you may have figured out - our dot com address went down like a...(Editor - vulgar reference has been removed - shame on you Dave Pucks).

We've given 3 of our tech staff members five minute majors for fighting, pending a review of the video tape, which on first viewing - looks a whole lot like a stampede of ostriches played backwards in slow motion.

Anyway - our remaining uninjured IT staff pulled an all-nighter to restore service. And so - 22 hours (and about 4 dozen donuts) later - we're back!

Pardon the interruption and thanks for sticking with us.


David "Pucks" Pucella
Charles "Nugman" Nugmahan
Blueshirt Brothers International, Inc. L.P.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nugmans Picks Are In

Nugman just got me his picks for round 2:

Eastern Final:

Detroit Redwings versus Chicago Blackhawks:
Nugman says: Detroit in six
Pucks says: Detroit in six (but I was first - he's copying me this time)

Western Divison Final:

Pittsburgh Penguins versus Carolina Hurricanes
Nugman says: Pittsburgh in seven.
Pucks says: Pittburgh in six.

So, not a whole lot of difference on this one. We agree on the Redwings. And on the Penguins, the whole difference there is one game. So we're not going to know much for a while.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who Had The Best Round 2 Picks?

Okay. Now that all the ice chips have settled and the Zamboni's come and gone - it's time to officially see who called round 2 better: me (Dave Pucks) or Nugman. As you remember we both picked our choices for (1) series winner and (2) the length of the series in games.

Here's our scoring system (suspiciously posted at the end of the round rather than at the beginning).

      -Picking the winner: 2 points

      -Picking the number of games exactly: 1 point

      -Getting closer to the right number of games than your opponent: 1 point

      So the Detroit series is easy. We both picked the Redwings in 6 - they won in 7. So 2 points each for picking the series winner is all we hand out.

      So we start at Nugman 2, Dave Pucks 2.

      Looking at Boston - Carolina, Nugs had Boston in 7, I had Boston in 5, Carolina won in 7. So no points for either of us on the series winner. But I give Nugs another point for being closer to the right number of games than I was.

      So now its Nugs 3, Pucks 2.

      Capitals - Penguins. I had Caps in 6. Nugs had Penguins in 6. It turned out to be penguins in 7. So 2 more points to Nugs for picking the winner. And I guess he gets one more point for being a game closer than I was to the right number of games in the series.

      So Nugs 6, Pucks 2. (Getting ugly out here)

      Okay - last series. Blackhawks and Canucks. Nugs went Canucks in 7. I said Hawks in 6. And lo and behold - it was Blackhawks in six games. So I award myself 2 points for getting the winner right another point for coming closer than Nugs to the right number of games and a big 4th point for hitting the number of games (6) right on the nose. So as our final we have:

      Nugman: 6 points. Pucks: 6 points. A tie. And I'll take it.

      So with rounds 1 and 2 officially draws, we move on to OT, or more precisely, round 3. My Picks:

      Penguins over Hurricanes in 6. As much as I hope this doesn't happen - the Penguins have won 3 of their last 4, while the Canes have lost 2 of their last 3. Canes are over-achieving and the Crosbys have been here before.

      Redwings over Blackhawks in 6. Just can't pick against the Redwings.

      Okay Nugs - you're up. I'd say "Let the best man win" but then I'd have no chance.

      Friday, May 15, 2009

      Rangers Skate Offs and Minutiae

      If you like baseball - and if you like cool sports blogs - chances are you already know about the blog: Mets Walk Offs And Minutiae. (And yes - I spelled "minutiae" correctly - and yes - I know what it means).

      The reason I'm bringing it up today (especially after telling Nugman this is a NY Rangers Only blog and to quit the Yankee's talk) is that there was a recent post there that mentioned our New York Rangers in a very interesting way. Basically, the story finds eerie similarities between certain Mets and certain Rangers. I'll show them one by one below in bold blue - followed by my comments on each:

      - Johan Santana is Henrik Lundqvist (winning with no offense)

      No argument here. Both are their respective team's brightest stars. Both are all about shutting down the opposition. Both often seem to be holding down the fort all by themselves. Both routinely turn in stellar efforts that are agonizingly wasted by their teammates inability to put any points on the board.

      - David Wright is Chris Drury (struggling captain)

      Well, yeah and nope, actually. We do have two underachieving captains. Two guys who seem to have all the tools but inexplicably are underperforming. And two guys who seem to say all the right things. And we have two men for whom the captain's "C" feels a bit uncomfortable. But with Drury I get the feeling that he's very good - just not as good as the Rangers (and their checkbook) thought he was. With Wright - I still feel he can be that very special player - but his own head gets in the way. With Drury I don't think it's mental.

      - Jose Reyes is Nikolai Zherdev (flashy, disappears at end of season)

      Is Reyes as enigmatic as Russian Forward Nik Z? Interesting. Because sometime Reyes seems like the best lead off man in baseball. When he's hot and on his game the Mets are unstoppable. But then there are games, innings, baserunning opportunities where Jose seems to disappear. And we can say the same for Zherdev (not the baserunning - but you get what I mean).

      On the other hand - if Reyes really did get secretly benched this week for losing focus and letting his emotions get the better of his actions in the game - well, you could argue that it's really Sean Avery who is Reyes - the talented emotional sparkplug who can make your team much better - or ruin everything all by himself.

      - Carlos Delgado is Markus Naslund (old guy who gets good wood on it every once in a while)

      I can see this one. And if his hip gets worse and Carlos retires than it will be right on the money. Both are aging former superstars. In both cases we wonder how much is left in the tank. For Naslund - it's now officially empty. Hopefully Carlos has a few more miles to go.

      - Mike Pelfrey is Steve Valiquette (the tall backup to the ace)

      I'm not feeling this one at all. It's not like Steve V. has to go out there every 5th day. Of course with Hank the 2nd most used goalie this past season - we should have used Vali more.

      - Luis Castillo is Wade Redden (too high-priced for what he can do)

      Yes. This one is right on. Rapidly fading former superstar signed to a horrendous long term high priced contract that cripples his teams ability to get the other talent they desperately need. (Maybe we can trade one for the other?)

      - Dan Murphy is Ryan Callahan/Brandon Dubinsky (young, up-and-comer, still learning)

      I like this one too. A whole lot of promise from a young player performing with ability beyond his years. A guy from the farm system who is fitting in just fine and becoming an offensive force.

      And that's all they had. I can't think of others. Maybe last year's Ranger: Brendan Shanahan and this year's Met: Gary Sheffield - aging former superstars on their last legs.

      The Rangers could use an Carlos Beltran - a great two-way player in his prime. And the Mets could use a Sean Avery - a gritty hustler who fires up everyone around him and provides some much-needed edge to the team.

      If you have any others - let us know. And thanks again to Mets Walk Offs And Minutiae for the idea, for letting us play along, and for a great Mets Blog every day.

      Thursday, May 14, 2009

      F*ck Boston

      THANK YOU CAROLINA. A great night for the NHL, a great night in sports, and a completely miserable night for everyone in Massachusetts means I am going to bed with a smile on my face. Am I upset my "pick" the Bruins did not win? No. I have spent more time contemplating the importance of ear wax then I did these picks. The Rangers are out. Nothing is relevant...except Boston not winning. I am sick of this fan base. Watching the game tonight, almost the entire crowd decked out in brand new jerseys, and hats, most with no crease in them. None with sweat stains. The bandwagon stink all over the place....god that was great. I wouldn't have had it any other way. I am glad they forced a game 7 (bruins now 0-21 all time when down 3-1, forcing a game 7 just twice). I am glad they forced OT. And I am glad they lost at home, in front of their "fans", and I can't wait to see how many of those people actually return next season, or are there two seasons from now as the Bruins slide farther back into the east standings and eventually out of palyoff contention.

      The story was Carolina, who along with the ducks, have shocked everyone with their remarkably calm play in big games. The ducks lost tonight in a great game to the wings, but after beating the Sharks, and giving the Wings a better series than anyone has in a couple of seasons, no shame in the performance they put on. They were just minutes away from stealing a Game 7 on the road. And Carolina, they didn't sit back (officially called "the rangers offensive scheme"), they attacked most of Overtime in Boston and controlled pretty much the entire period. Along with a Celtics loss in Orlando in Game 6 of their series, a Red Sox loss earlier in the day in Anaheim, and a Yanks win in Toronto, this Rangers fan didn't think he could have this good of a night in mid May with the Rangers eliminated, but Carolina really gave me a boost.

      Their series with the Penguins should be entertaining. Cam Ward has cemented his status as maybe the best big game goalie in the eastern conference right now, but a tough task awaits ahead in Pittsburgh. As much as I would like to see a blackhawks and carolina upset (only to not see a penguins title for crosby, and to not have the steelers and penguins as champs and inevitably start another "titletown" debate on the near unwatchable ESPN), I think a Penguins/Redwings rematch is all but a foregone conclusion.
      Thank you again Carolina. I can't begin to think of how awful an Eastern Conference finals filled with non-stop mentions of the red sox, patriots, and celtics for no reason would have been. I could not stomach Bruins caps and jersey's popping up in places they had never been seen before. I can't stomach another overnight "life long, die hard" fan base.

      Is it "poetic justice" the Scott Walker delivered the knockout blow for the Canes against the Bruins?...well....who cares....F*ck Boston.

      Nugman. Again With The Picks

      I should have known.

      The world keeps turning, the sun keeps coming up every morning, and Nugman keeps picking hockey series better than Dave Pucks.

      I had the Capitals. Nugs had the Penguins. Game seven was last night. The Caps of course had won 4 consecutive win-or-go-home games this year, including three against our own New York Rangers.

      I figured - Ovechkin is better than Crosby and Varlamov is hotter than Fluery - so the Caps will win. I thought they could win the cup this year.

      But, like the Rangers tried to do, the Penguins started game seven with a barrage at the 21 year old rookie phenom goaltender. 16 shots in the first period. And unlike the Rangers, the Penguins have enough finishers to put 2 goals home in period one. And finally, the kid started to crack.

      You can't blame him really. It was a lot to ask of the rookie - maybe the only player in NHL history to have more playoff starts (13) than regular season starts (5) in his rookie season. He had played brilliantly for so long. He mostly hung in there in the first period - but did give up 2 goals in an 8 second span. And then early in the 2nd the Penguins got two goals on their first two shots by him - the first of which clearly upset Varlamov - and the second devastated him. With the score now 4-0, Varlamov was given a seat on the bench.

      And there it was - the doomsday scenario - out onto the ice skates the ghost of goalie's past - Jose "Three-or-more" Theodore. I never thought I'd see him between the pipes for the Capitals again. But there he was. And true to form - Jose let up a pair before it was over - thwarting any chance of a comeback by Ovechkin and the Caps - who mustered two tallies but fell far short of the mark. Ovie had a pretty goal - swooping behind the net - stripping Fluery who had wandered out of the crease - and wrapping it around to pump a little life into the fans and teammates. But it wasn't nearly enough.

      (If you're the Caps do you dump Theodore in the offseason and name Varlamov your starter? I would - and I thought it was all but done before game 7. But will he bounce back from the tough outing? Can he be a full time starter? I think so - but the Caps have to figure that out themselves. Anyway - as Ranger fans we have plenty of our own offseason problems to worry about.)

      My 10 year old (Pucks Jr.) was happy to see the Caps down and out. He doesn't remember last year and he doesn't know much about Sid Crosby so he doesn't hate the 'Guins like I do. But for all of you who wanted to finally see the Capitals lose a game seven - you got your wish.

      And Nugman - you picked the right team. Again.

      It's over

      Well, as far as the picks go, no reason to even discuss the Penguins-Caps anymore. That series is over. I don't like sid the kid, or the penguins, but they are proving that they are a better team, with better depth, than the Caps. And I really didn't like Ovechkin telling the penguins fans to be quiet after the Game 6 victory, off a fluke soft goal, that wasn't even scored by him, so talking sh*t to a fan base (that you know you won't see again no matter what) is pretty soft. After watching him do that, seeing him getting outplayed by Crosby isn't that big a deal now. Penguins will advance, which is a good thing if the Bruins win Game 7 tomorrow, because I think the Penguins have a better shot of beating the Bruins.

      (2 notes on the penguins-caps: 1) ovechkin will finish with 11, possibly 12 goals if he nets another, in 14 playoff games, pretty damn good, 2) What a great trade pickup Bill Geurin has turned out to be for the penguins)

      The Bruins......well I said I was confident the Rangers would be 2-2 against them thru this point I am pretty confident the rangers would be 2-4 and done, so I guess I am ok with Carolina taking a shot at Boston in Game 7. They need a big performance on the road like Pittsburgh is getting tonight, score early, score often, then let your goaltender take over from there. Come on Hurricanes, it will be the last game I officially care at all about until next October.

      Wednesday, May 13, 2009

      Caps jump to 4-0 lead

      They just pulled Varlamov. I never thought I'd see Theodore in the Caps goal again. But the kid faced 16 shots in the first period. I think the pressure finally got to the rookie.

      And for those of you - who like Dave Pucks - can't afford the Versus network - we just want to point out that official Blueshirt Brothers policy is that we are opposed to bootleg feeds of playoff hockey games on the Internet. They are illegal and they take money away from the poor cable companies.

      If you're not exactly sure what we're talking about - click HERE for a great example.

      If you have any trouble with the link - just let us know.

      Bruins Even Series (Just Like Nugman Said They Would)

      In the tightly contested hockey match up of Nugman's playoff picks versus mine (Dave Pucks'), Nugman's pick of Boston in 7 is looking better and better.

      (And for those Hurricane fans who have watched a commanding playoff series lead disappear against a highly favored opponent - well, we here at Blueshirt Brothers know exactly how you feel.)

      The Bruins, who looked finished when they were down three games to one against the Carolina Hurricane, won their second straight contest last night to knot the series at 3 pucks a piece.

      That Swirly Wind team (the Hurricanes) had their chances to take the series against the heavily favored Bruins. But the Bruins came out flying last night, grabbed an early two goal lead that they never relinquished.

      And so the momentum swings strongly back to the Bruins now, who return to Boss-town for the seventh game Thursday night that will decide the series.

      If they can complete the comeback, Nugman will have picked this series just right - Bruins in seven. As for me, well, Dave Pucks said Boston in 5 - so I was wildly off the mark. On the other hand, as I endlessly mentioned yesterday - I was right on the Chicago-Vancouver match up - correctly picking the Blackhawks in 6 (and no one's more surprised about it than I am).

      So our Pucks-Nugman tie-breaker is the showdown tonight in DC. Nugs and I both incorrectly picked a 6 game series - but he has the Crosbys (I mean Penguins) and I have the Ovechkins (also known as the Caps). We both picked the Red Wings series identically, so this game will be "the decider".

      For those of us who don't have the Versus network - if I can find a stable feed of the game - I'll find a way to let you know. And if any of you can locate it first - please do us a solid and send a comment our way. Thanks.

      Tuesday, May 12, 2009

      First Team Into Round 3: The Blackhawks

      Nugman is smarter than I am.

      At least about hockey.

      You folks don't see the little backstage assists I get from Nugs on an almost daily basis. For example - he had to remind me early on, that I had mixed up the NFL's Carolina Panthers with the NHL's Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. He hoped I was joking. I wasn't - I just forgot. And I not only had to fix the story - I had to redo this little logo picture I did to replace a large cat with a swirly wind thing. My bad.

      He also had to let me know that Ovechkin was not a human puck vortex - but in fact one of the best players in hockey. I was looking at stats - and looking at all the shots he took and the low goals/shot ratio - without realizing that (1) Ovie is creating all those shots (2) Ovie is the focus of the entire defense whenever he's on the ice, and (3) Ovie gets a ton of assists because he draws coverage and then can make great passes to the open skater.

      Like I said - Nugman is hockey-smart. Dave Pucks - not so much. So forgive me for tooting the home horn a little for a small advantage in the playoff series prognostication department. Keep in mind that Nugs was depressed from the Ranger's sudden departure, possibly hung-over, and his heart wasn't in those picks. Still...

      Nugs had picked Vancouver in 6. I had Chicago in 6 as well. Early on it was all Nugs. The Canucks had a 2-1 series lead and OT in game four.

      But my pick, the Blackhawks struck back - winning three straight, becoming the first team to reach the NHL's round three, and somehow, proving Dave Pucks a better prognosticator than the (usually smarter) Nugman in at least one playoff series. It should be noted, however that I said Boston in 5 and they are down 3-2 - while Nugman said Boston in 7 - which can still come true and is more correct that my pick no matter what happens from here.

      While were talking about streaks, when the Caps have faced playoff elimination games - they have now won 4 consecutive times this year. And if you include last year they've won 6 of 7 elimination games. That's an odd and compelling stat. Teams can only face elimination games by falling behind in playoff series - so it's a dubious honor - but it does show how clutch they have been when they needed to.

      Tonight the Hurricanes (that's Carolina - which I remember now) have another chance to oust the Boss-town Bruins. And the Red Wings can finish off the Ducks in 6 tonight (hitting Nug's and my prediction right on the duck-bill)

      Monday, May 11, 2009

      Capitals Force Game 7

      With elimination staring them in the face, Ovechkin, Varlamov and the Washington Capitals responded with a 5-4 overtime win, stunning the Penguins in their own building and taking the series back to DC Wednesday for the deciding game seven.

      The Penguins goalie, Theo Fleury was not able to save even 80% of the shots launched at him. The rookie varlamov was again the difference, turning away more than 90% of the shots he faced and making 38 saves.

      Ovechkin was held without a goal, but contributed 3 assists (and was +3 in plus-minus) on the night. Kozlov, the Caps Left winger, scored twice and was the first star of the game. Sid Crosby added a goal and assist for the losing 'Guins.

      And it was the unlikely Dave Steckel with his third goal of the series that broke the tie and won the game at 6:22 of the first OT. Steckel, who missed an empty net in Saturday's OT loss, redeemed himself tonight with the game winner.

      So, in our predictions, Nugs had the Penguins in 6 and I had the Caps in 6. Now we're both wrong - but the series winner is still up for grabs.


      The Hurricanes lead their series against Boston 3 games to 2. My pick of the Bruins in 5 is laughably wrong - while Nugman's Boston in 7 still has a chance.

      The Red Wings are up 3 games to 2 on the once mighty Ducks. Both me and the Nugman have Detroit in six, so no competitive rooting interest there.

      The Blackhawks lead the Canucks 3 games to 2 (with game six in progress). In this case I had the Hawks to win in six, while Nugman picked Vancouver in 7. So I've got a chance there.

      Sunday, May 10, 2009

      Tough to care after Rangers were eliminated...but I'll try

      While some here at the blueshirt brothers are upset at Tom Poti, that might be because they had the Caps in 6 instead of the Penguins. Others of us never minded Tom and always thought he got a real bad rap from Rangers fans his years in New York. (The guy was a Yankee fan growing up in New England, he can't be all bad) I actually almost didn't mind seeing him put up a huge series against the Rangers (until I saw him wagging his fingers at Rangers fans leaving MSG after Game 6 with a confident swagger that you just don't like seeing in your opposition). Perhaps it is poetic justice that Poti played such an integral part in the end of the Rangers season, and now has put the Caps on the doorstep to playoff demise as well. Or more likely, as is often the case in sports but doesn't help tv ratings so why say it, it's just a freak coincidence.

      Red Wings have started out strong against maybe the best 8 seed of this decade in the NHL, the ducks, and look like they are going to go up 3 games to 2 in that series, with a shot to finish it on the road in Anaheim in Game 6.

      The big game tonight is of course Carolina vs. the Bruins. Rangers fans and players, those that aren't busy nursing broken hands, or counting the millions of dollars they didn't earn this season, can only wonder what would have happened had they gotten to play the Bruins. I can't say we'd be up 3-1, because we just don't have a scoring threat like Eric Staal on our team, and in the playoffs, the true MVP type players are the ones that really get things done and push you to Lord Stanley's cup, but I almost feel confident in saying we'd be 2-2 right now. Cam Ward has returned to his Stanley cup form of 2006 and Boston's defense, so reliable all year has been uncharacteristically sloppy. (Perhaps this is what should have happened to a boston team lacking ANY playoff success, and all season seeming like a "they're good but....I'm not worried about them" sort of team. The sort of team that benefited by getting the Canadians in round 1. The canadians of course were maybe the weakest team heading into the playoffs in the East this decade, and were predicted to be swept out of the first round, or lose in 5 games, by the Nugman a full MONTH before the playoff seeding was even decided.)

      Boston is home, so they certainly have a chance to extend this series to 6, but Carolina is just too confident at home. They will be as loose as can be tonight knowing they are playing with the house's money, while the Bruins will be trying to fight off their first elimination game in 10 years.

      I honestly hope every Ranger breaks their hand(s) this offseason. Maybe when they heal learning how to shoot will be part of the rehab process? It certainly can't hurt the Rangers bargaining position, and thus their cap for next year.

      Poti - You Idiot

      Big game 5 - Capitals and Penguins. Overtime. Capitals back on defense. Penguins driving at the net. Malkin and Crosby in a 2 on 1. Tom Poti falling back on defense. Malkin tried the pass across the crease from close in. Poti dives back with his stick flat to the ice to try and deflect the pass.

      And well, Poti deflects it alright - right into his own net - right by a stunned Varlamov. Ruining a 2 goal performance by Ovechkin.

      And suddenly, the Capitals, who came close winning game 3 for a 3-0 lead, now find that it is they who are on the brink - down 3-2 and heading to Pittsburgh for a must road game 6.

      This is twice now that bad luck bounces off his own defenseman have foiled the Russian rookie goaltender and sent his club to defeat in overtime.

      My thought of the Caps winning the Cup and having no other team extend them to 7 games is gone now. The Penguins have at least extended to seven - but now only need one more win to advance to the next round.

      Varlamov - who had his helmet knocked off and was shaken up in a collision with Pother a few minutes earlier, for the 2nd time had a better save percentage than Fleury despite taking the loss.

      Friday, May 8, 2009

      Zherdev Handed Tough Break (he breaks his hand)

      Nik Zherdev, the Rangers' enigmatic Russian right winger - otherwise known as Nik Z. (not to be confused with Nik A. - who is Nik Antropov - the Rangers other enigmatic Russian right winger) broke his hand this week while playing the Russian Hockey Federation in the Hockey World Championships. Well, at least one Ranger was still in the playoffs this week...

      Zherdev, a free agent, tied last year for the Rangers lead in points with 58, and had the second highest plus-minus on our squad with +6. The injury is a broken bone in his left hand. Great timing for Nik Z. who will not only miss the remainder of the World Championships - but now enters into Free Agent negotiations with the Rangers as an injured player. Maybe this gives us a little advantage in trying to re-sign him.

      Nik spoke to the Russina news media. My translation is not so great - but I was able to make out that Zherdev told the Russian papers that he will think about his next contract after the World Championship playoffs conclude. Also that he thinks we lost to the Capitals because we could score when we needed to. That's true in any language.

      Admitting the Problem, Slats, is the First Step to Recovery

      Glen Sather, like most guys who make their way up to General Manager, is a proud man. Sather built a multiple Stanley Cup winner in Edmonton back in the 1980s (a long time ago). Then Slats (his nick name as a player in the 1960s – a long long time ago) was hired and compensated pretty well to try to do the same thing for our New York Rangers.

      And he hasn't bombed out in New York. He returned the Rangers to four years of Playoff Hockey after those horrific years of not qualifying. Four straight playoff years – and two trips to the Semi Finals - is not easy – and we appreciate it. And he's put some quality players on his team. Certainly Henrik Lundqvist is a special talent - certainly a good enough netminder to win it all - but not - as we saw this year - all by himself. And many of our younger players drafted on Staher's watch (Callahan for one) show a lot of promise and potential upside.

      But Sather has also been guilty of apparently trying to make good players into great ones by paying them like superstars. That's what we call a classic "reach" - and our roster is full of examples of Glen’ over-reaching. We talked about Redden (maybe the worst hockey contract ever). Rozival also fits into that category. Gomez, I think, has been overpaid too. And as much as we like Drury - he's also making a lot of money for a lot of years. And this isn't the Yankees, where there is no meaningful salary cap. The Rangers have a hard cap – a cap that may even shrink this year - and a set of fat contracts that are killing us. And how, exactly, do you spend all that money and not bring in one sharpshooter - not one guy who strikes some fear across the ice when he gets the puck. (I know we have a few defensemen who strike fear into OUR HEARTS when they handle the puck – but that’s not the same thing.)

      This is an important off-season. There are hard choices to be made. But can Sather make those tough choices? Because in any journey of self awareness and self improvement, the first stage of recovery is to admit the problem.

      Sather is, as we said, a proud man. Can he step up now and admit he's made some mistakes? And not just goofs – he’s made some catastrophic, all-time, historic blunders? Because if Slats can't - or won't - then he can't get busy trying to fix them.

      For Sather to succeed here – for himself – for us – and for the Rangers - he needs to forget his pride - admit his errors – roll up his sleeves - and start fixing this hockey club.

      And he’d better get started now. Because the clock is ticking – on Hank’s productive years, on our own free agents, and on available talent around the league.

      Thursday, May 7, 2009

      Pens barely stay alive

      The Dave Pucks wing of the Blueshirt Brothers complex is rooting for the Capitals now. We want to see them beat everybody - so that the Rangers extending them to 7 games grows in stature - and makes people think of us as the 2nd beats team in hockey.

      Last night the Penguins just managed to avoid a 3-0 hole, by winning in overtime. Rookie goalie sensation Simeon Varlamov was brilliant again. Even in defeat he was selected as the 3rd star of the game, repelling 39 shots with a .929 save percentage (which was higher than Fleury's - even though he won)

      The winning shot deflected late off a Caps defenseman - but Varlamov still appeared to get a piece of it before it got behind him.

      The Bruins also won in OT, 3-2 over the Hurricanes. So all four series are 2-1 now.

      Caps goals by Ovechkin (who else?) and Backstrom. For the Aquatic Birds, Mr. Crosby had two assists on the night and a big faceoff win that led to the OT winner.

      In a related story - the NHL selected their 3 finalists for the Pearson award for Most Outstanding Player. Ovechkin made the top 3 - and the Penguin's Malkin - but not Sidney Crosby. That's my feel good story of the day.

      Now we are:

      Just a quick note to let you all know - in addition to our original address, you can now also find us at Both addresses will continue to work - both will point you here. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

      Wednesday, May 6, 2009

      Ranger Roster Review 2: Wade Redden

      Last time in the Ranger Roster Review we looked at Nik Antropov. This time we're cutting to the chase and looking at the biggest problem the Rangers have right now: Wade Redden.

      Wade Redden’s Stats:

      Height: 6-2 Weight: 202 Shoot: Left
      Born: June 1977 (31 right now)

      Games: 81 - Plus/Minus: -5
      Goals (3) + Assists (23) = Points (26)
      3 Goals in 161 Shots-on-Goal = 01.9% (really bad)
      Penalties in Minutes: 51

      Goals (0) + Assists (2) = Points (2)
      Penalties in Minutes: 0
      0 goals in 12 shots = 0.0%
      Plus/Minus: -2 (including the series losing goal)

      Dave Pucks Says: When we last saw Wade, it was with about 5 minutes left in game 7 with the Caps. Redden was covering (and I use the term loosely because he was covering him pretty loosely) the Capital’s Federov - who was skating down the right side. The wily Cap’s veteran used a passive Redden as a screen to beat Lundqvist, break our hearts, and end the Ranger’s season. That put a bow on Redden’s catastrophic first season as a Ranger and has us staring at the $6.5 million he’s due next year.

      It's not that Wade is always playing horribly. He's a veteran player with some useful skills who has the ability to give you a competent game on defense. But his skills seem to diminish every year – his goals per shot percentage is absurdly, ridiculously low (he scores on less than 2% of his shots). And he’s certainly no shut-down defender - and he's no sharpshooter from the point. And that’s not even the main problem.

      The main problem is that your New York Rangers are paying him like an elite player – and he most certainly is not one. They are handing him – it’s hard to write this - $39 million dollars over 6 years – that’s Lundqvist type money - and we are getting maybe $2 million a year of value for it. It has been called the worst contract in the history of Salary Caps in Professional Sports. And you know - it's not Redden's fault we're paying him too much - it's our fault. More accurately: it's Glen Sather's fault. If there were no salary cap this would merely be a terrible misjudgment of talent and a waste of all that money us fans put in to the system with our tickets and jerseys. But there is a salary cap. So Redden's contract is eating a six year $39 million dollar hole in our hockey souls - preventing us from getting the talent we need to compete - while running down the clock on Henrik Lundqvist's most productive years. Every time I think about this it makes my fists clench, my blood pressure rise, and my face - I guess I’d have to say - it makes my face redden in anger.

      His salary makes him completely untradable - unless we want get back more bad salary in return - which solves nothing. And the space-time continuum prevents us from stopping his parents from ever having met (I've looked into this).

      By now the Rangers realize the magnitude of the error they've made - but their options are limited. Maybe they can do a Sean Avery type trade in reverse - getting him off the roster but still paying half or more of his salary. Or maybe a Bobby Holic style buyout. I've read that if the Rangers do buy out Redden they still have to pay him over $16 of the remaining $33 million not to play and will still get a salary cap hit of $1.8 million a year going forward. It's that bad.

      But we're not really addressing the root problem: gross mismanagement of a hockey club - manifested as the horrendous overpayment of a defenseman. We will need a miracle to get us out from under this.

      So… Let's go .... car accident?

      Tuesday, May 5, 2009

      Hat Tricks for Ovechkin AND Crosby

      Game 2 of the round 2 series between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins:

      Sidney Crosby, the highly publicised (and referee-protected) Pittsburgh star, scored all 3 goals in a Natural Hat Trick for Pittsburgh - but it wasn't enough. The Cap's own star, Alex Ovechkin (who I can no longer call a Human Puck Vortex) matched the over-rated Pittsburgh crybaby with a hat trick of his own.

      With arguably the leagues two best forwards deadlocked at 3 goals each - it turned out to be the Capital's David Steckel who added the difference-making goal for the Caps 4-3 win. It was Steckel's second goal of the series - he only had 8 goals in the regular season. (Frankly, I don't think I even noticed him in the Rangers-Caps series).

      Varlamov, the Capital's young goaltender, who entered the Ranger's series as a 20 year old back-up rookie goalie with 5 games of NHL experience, looked every bit the seasoned 21-year-old rising star last night. Other than Crosby's 3 goals, the Russian goaltender shut down the 'Guins, making 33 saves, including a couple when his club was defending a 5 on 3 power play.

      So, Caps hold serve at home for a 2-0 lead. We'll see if Pittsburgh can win in their own building. (So far, the Rangers put up a much better fight than the Penguins have).

      - In other news:

      The Rangers finally got around to announcing what Nugman told you yesterday: Naslund decided retiring was a better option than getting millions of dollars to play for the Rangers next year. I have to respect that - there are plenty of players who retire in their heads but still skate around and draw paychecks. Naslund helps us by freeing up some desperately needed cap space.
      Tonight we have B-hawks/Canucks, and Red Wings/Ducks. Both series tied 1-1.

      And my 10 year old son, Kid Pucks, gets the start in goal today in his 5th grade gym class Floor Hockey match. I've advised him to treat any opponents that approach the net with the same sense of respect and sportsmanship that he's seen professional NHL goaltenders show towards Mr. Sean Avery. I'll let you know if I get a call from the school...

      Monday, May 4, 2009

      Naslund retires?!?!?!

      Markus Naslund has apparently decided to retire from the NHL?!?! (story link included at bottom)

      Now, I am not entirely killed by this, considering I originally thought we only had Naslund under a one year deal, and I had no problem with letting him walk if we had. Naslund was miscast when he came to the Rangers. He was supposed to be the guy to take the leadership and goal scoring place of Jagr. I like Naslund, but at age 34, he was a complimentary player, yet another in the long line of complimentary players on this team. I knew he'd be capable of getting his 25 goals, and almost approximating jagr's goal scoring, but he was not the dynamic, one on one, big game threat jagr was. (It was part of the reason that 10 months ago I thought the Rangers were doomed for mediocrity and a first round exit....if I had only not lied to myself for the past year, think of all the heartache I could have avoided, always stick with the gut). Naslund played solid for us, but he was not the big game threat we needed, so his departure is actually quite welcome....and curious.

      It is very hard for me to remember the last player that retired with years and money left on his contract, and wasn't injured. Heck, most guys with injuries like an Albert Belle in baseball, or a Allan Houston in basketball, do their best to "rehab" them, and keep claiming they will return for YEARS to keep accepting those paychecks (because once you retire, the contract is done). Naslund is walking away from at least 3 million dollars here, and he never hinted at this being his last season. Very strange. Especially when you consider how badly the Rangers need an elite scorer, and how badly strapped they were with the cap situation. If Naslund returns, their is almost no way the Rangers could go after a marian hossa or gaborink (if they are stupid....which sather is) and still field a full team. There chances aren't great now, but they just got a lot better.

      I liked Naslund, and I thought he did a fine job, but facts are he won't be that hard to replace. Drury and Gomez stepping up and having stronger years next year could almost account for his production, and a full year of a guy like antropov, and we probably score the same amount of goals, for 3 million less.

      I wanna know how this retirement went down. Did the rangers tells him they were going to buy him out anyway, so why not retire, save them the cap space, and they would slip a 3-4 million dollar check into some off shore account for him? It would make sense, the Rangers were dead in the water for this free agency class, and looking at another first round exit next year (assuming they made the playoffs scoring 2 goals a game all season), so why not make it worth it for Naslund to retire since he was going to get bought out for less money anyway? Maybe Naslund returns to play overseas and makes more money there, and returns to the NHL a year from now with a "hunger" to return to the game? Who knows?

      But the rangers have options now, with Naslund gone, they can weigh how realistic a run at a guy like Hossa would be, and proceed accordingly with Antropov.

      Dave Pucks Adds:

      Here are Naslund's stats for the Rangers last year:

      Regular Season:
      24 Goals + 22 Assists = 46 Points in 82 games. Plus Minus of -10. Goals/shot = 11.2%

      Playoffs: 1 goal + 1 assist = 2 Points in 7 games (all in game 1). 1 goal in 10 shots = 10%
      Plus Minus of +2 (which is impressive considering we were outscored 19-11).
      But in games 5 ,6 and 7 he had 4 shots and no points.

      Revenge or Beat By The Best?

      I got on the elevator in my apartment building this morning - and a fellow Ranger fan was already in there. He’s a teenager and a die hard Ranger fan. We talked a little about the NHL playoffs, (tiptoeing around the Ranger’s CRUSHING LOSS) and focusing instead on Sunday's games (Ducks in triple OT).

      Then I asked him the essential question: How you gonna root now?

      Because after a team puts your team out of the playoffs - like that Washington Capitals team did - there are two diametrically opposed philosophies of rooting.

      1 - The first is Revenge Mode. If we couldn't vanquish our enemy - we can't wait to see someone else do it. So we root for Sidney Crosby and the Penguins to finish the job we could not - to make the Caps feel what we felt - the bitterness of defeat.

      My friend in the elevator was leaning towards Revenge Mode. But I have a different theory on this. The second way of rooting:

      2 - I call it Beat By The Best mode. I think this is the more reasoned and intelligent approach. It gets past the petty “eye for an eye” mentality and takes a broader more philosophical view.

      The idea here is that, if the team that beats you goes on to win the cup - it elevates your own team’s season - because you lost to the best team in hockey. In this case we would root for the Caps to beat everyone - because it makes the Rangers look better.

      So I said to my fellow Ranger fan as we exited the elevator:

      "If the Caps win the cup and no one else takes them to 7 games - that makes us the 2nd best team in hockey. People will see what we were up against and realize we almost beat them."

      He thought about it a second – the inherent logic of the Beat By The Best mode registering in his head for the first time. "I think you're right" he said.

      So I have at least one potential convert. But my 10 year old son, "Little Pucks", has a slightly different view:

      "The Caps are poop-heads," he explained (cleaning up his language because his Mom was in the room), “I hate those guys."

      So I'm not making much progress with him. Still - I'm comfortable in my logical, intelligent choice to root for the Capitals. Besides all the reasons I said earlier, to root for the Caps is to root against the Penguins. After all, the Penguins, and that crybaby cheater Crosby put us out of the playoffs last year.

      To tell the truth, when it comes to the Penguins, I hate those guys.

      Which means I have to re-think my entire philosophy. But I'm still rooting for the Caps.