Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
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 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
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
Saturday, May 23, 2009
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:
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.
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
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
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Height: 6' 2"
Goals (23) + Assists (35) = 58 Points
23 Goals/ 219 Shots (on goal) = 10.5%
Goals (0) + Assists (0) = 0 Points
0 Goals/ 12 Shots (on goal) = 0.0%
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.
Monday, May 18, 2009
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).
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".....wow. I'm not sure who wrote that but....wow. 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.
- ..........is 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.
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
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
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 pointSo 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
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)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
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 Nugman - you picked the right team. Again.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
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.
(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
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
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
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.
Friday, May 8, 2009
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
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
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
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
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:
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.
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.