Monday, November 30, 2009
We're in 10th place in the Eastern Conference? But we have all those Gaborik goals. And all those defenseman goals. And all the great play from New Rangers. How can we possibly be doing worse than we were last year?
It can't be the player moves. We got rid of Zherdev and Antropov and got Gabs and Prospal. We dumped Mara and Morris - but Del Zotto and Gilroy are playing great. (Well, on Saturday Del Zotto was a surprising and terrible -5, but in general – he's been great)
So what's the problem?
I really can't figure it out. We should be playing better. We should be winning more.
But we're not. And all we can do at this point is focus on the next game and go from there.
Who The Hell Are We Playing? It's a rematch against our last Who-The-Hell-Are-We-Playing opponent, the NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh is tied with the Washington caps atop the NHL East with a 18-9-0 record. We've lost twice to the Penguins this year – in the very first and the very latest games of the year. Pittsburgh will be without Matt Cooke this time – the league correctly suspended Cooke for his hit to the head of Artem Anisimov – for two games.
Primary Skaters: You know this. Sid and Evgeni. Sid's got 15 goals now – thanks to his last opponent (The New York Rangers) who let up a hat trick. Malkin has 8 goals and 17 assists.
In Net: You know this too. Marc-Andre Fleury has that fancy hyphen in his first name. So his name is just a little fancier than yours or mine. It sounds juts a little more sophisticated to say his name – for example - “pass me the salt Marc-Andre”, or “Little Marc-Andre has thrown up on his school desk again.”
Scoring & Defense: The Penguins score 3.22 goals a game, better than our 3 goals per. And the Penguins let up 2.78 scores a game, while we are allowing 3.04. So they dominate at both ends.
Special Effects: Powerplay: Pittsburgh 14.7%, Rangers 21.2%. Somehow this is advantage Rangers. Penalty Kill: Pittsburgh 84.2%, Rangers 83.2%, so that one is close but the Penguins are better.
Nothing to see here. We played the Penguins and they played us on Saturday – so no sleep advantage.
Probable Lines: Not sure what Tortorella is thinking- but he seems to have tried a little Sean with Gabs and Prospal on Saturday. I would like to see Avery get a real shot on the first line. Beyond that – especially with Lisin having been benched – I don't know what Tortorella will do.
On Defense: Still no Redden and still Bobby Sanguinetti in his place. Rangers are 0-2 without Wade (I know, but it's true).
Dave Puck Predicts: We're tumbling off the playoff face of the earth right now. We need a win to restore our confidence and to halt this two game losing streak. We've got two things going for us tonight that we didn't have Saturday: Lundqvist and home ice. We're also mad as hell. Will that be enough to propel us to a win? I sure hope so. I'm saying a 4-3 win. In OT.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In the end the score was more lopsided than the game really was – we were down 3-2 with ONE SECOND LEFT IN THE SECOND PERIOD before a 56 foot wrist shot from Mark Eaton founds it's way past Valiquette with 0.4 seconds on the clock. Still we fought back with a goal from (and yes I checked it twice) Michal Rozsival 33 seconds in to the 3rd to make it 4-3. But the roof fell in after that, we fell behind, we got in some fights, were penalized, gave up power play goals and in the end it was 8-3. The worst aspect of the evening is that the hated Sidney Crosby got a hat trick on Penguins Hat Night – so the Pittsburgh fan just about covered the ice with hats when Crosby got his third goal of the evening.
The best part of the evening's ugliness was Don Brashear continuing to throw punches around the linesmen who was trying to separate Punch-Man from Matt Cooke. Brash is such a veteran fighter that he landed a few going around the ref's body. And not to be left behind – our Sean Avery collected 17 minutes of penalty time for his fight with Fedotenko.
What I like is the fight – literal and figurative – this team displayed. The Monday night rematch – with Hank back in net and the team at home – should be interesting to watch. Hang in there friends – we got 3 goals and with Hank – that might well have been enough. And sooner or later there are a bunch of guys who will start scoring.
Okay – the unhappy recap:
The Goalies: In a way this game was over when Torts picked Stevie V. But Valiquette hung in there fairly well for a while – making some good saves in the first 39 minutes and 59 seconds of play – where we stopped 20 of 23 shots. But in the end it got worse and Steve let in a terrible 8 goals on 33 shots by the time the night was over. I'm still saying – let's give someone else a shot at the #2 goalie slot. We're not getting enough from Vali.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced – good enough for the win.
Special Teams: Our butts, once again, kicked. Rangers 0-3 on te PP and Penguins 2-7. That's your hockey game right there.
The New Veteran Rangers: Two assists for Gaborik – who was shadowed all night by Penguin defensemen. And assist for Kotalik and Prospal. Mr. Higgins, however, was pointless with 6 shots and a -2 on the night.
The Kid Rangers scored a goal from Matt Gilroy and got an assist from Sean.
The Returning Rangers did well for a change, contributing goals from Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival (!) and assists from Avery and Captain Chris.
Defense on Offense: All three Rangers goals came from our defensemen. Not a bad night. Of course letting up 8 goals takes some of the shine off the accomplishment.
In Conclusion: Well, if we're not good enough to beat the NHL champs in their own building – we've got plenty of company. This was rough 2 days for the hockey club – out two game winning streak now flipped on it's head. But think about it – we've got some scoring – we got some defense and we've got some goaltending. And we've got a coach who won the Stanley Cup. So I think we've got enough to turn this around. But can we do it? That's the mystery of this season.
That and how – with Gaborik and Prospal and a full year of Tortorella – can we be worse than we were last year?
Oh yeah – and why was Lisin benched? And has Tortorella created a rift with his franchise goaltender?
Next Up: Sunday off – then home for the rematch to the Penguins.
Where We Stand. It's bad. We're below the line-of-death in 10th place, tied in points with Philadelphia and the hated Islanders.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Anyway - Recap and Preview below.
Friday, November 27, 2009
“It kind of got extended,” the hilariously over-paid former All Star defenseman told reporters, “My arm was kind of in front of me and got tweaked,”
So, from the folks that brought you Gaborik's Tweaked Groin, the Rangers bring you Redden's Tweaked Arm. We're thinking it could be about a week before Wade returns to 100%. (But then again – that's 100% of Wade Redden, so, really, what's the rush? (I hate to be negative the day after Thanksgiving – but maybe Slats can talk to Wade and convince him that he has a season ending injury – for the good of the team?)
But who can the Rangers add to the roster to replace Wade's production? Let's see now – he contributed 1 goal and – on a team that has a plus minus of +8 he has a plus minus of, uh, zero. Okay then, maybe we can replace his stats, but we do need a body. And Tortorella has selected from our Hartford affiliate defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. You may remember Bobby from training camp – he's the guy who looked like he was dying during the endurance skating session. Hopefully Sanguinetti has learned from that experience and will be in NHL condition tonight.
On the good news front – Cannon Kotalik seems to be recovering from his undisclosed upper body injury. He skated Thursday with the team and could be in the lineup tonight. I think we missed his slapshot in Florida – especially on the powerplay.
Anyway – Happy Turkey Hangover Day, my fellow Blueshirt Brothers – and here's the preview:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Rangers Road Show moves over to Tampa Bay Florida tonight, as our heroes take their fragile two game win streak to our Coach's former team the Lightning. Tortorella coached 7 years here, winning the Stanley cup in 2004, so it should be an interesting homecoming for him.
The Lightning are in 10th place in the East at 9-6-7, two points behind the Rangers with 2 games at hand. So if we don't beat them – they'll pass us in the standings. They have lost 3 of their last 4 games including a 4-3 loss to Toronto earlier this week.
Primary Skaters: 15 goals for two players on the Lightning: Left Wing Ryan Malone and Center Steven Stamkos. And 20 assists for Right Winger Martin St. Louis (who should be playing for the Blues).
In Net: Tampa has a real 2 goalie operation going on. Antero Niittymaki in 12 games is 6-2 with a 2.19 GAA average and a .932 Save percentage. And Mike Smith in 11 games is 3-4 with a 3.37 GAA and a .886%. I hope we get Smith tonight.
Scoring & Defense: The Lightning score 2.68 goals a game. We're better at 3.08. And the Lightning allow 3.05 goals a game to our 2.75. So on paper, we've been better.
Special Effects: Tampa has the league's 22nd best PP with a 18.2% score rate. We're 8th best at 22.3%. And – YES – the Rangers have the NHL's best at 85.6%. Tampa is 25th best at 77.4%. So we need to exploit this advantage.
Scheduling Conflicts: Both teams played Wednesday and both play again tomorrow. So about even in the tiredness department.
Probable Lines: Just guessing here – but the top line will likely stay at Gabs, Prospal, and Higgins. I'd love to see Sean here – but that's just me.
The other lines – after not scoring last game – are likely to get shuffled yet again by Tortorella. And I'm not sure if Kotalik returns and what impact that has on the lines. So we'll have to see.
There's always movement here. Word on the street is that Dubinsky will rejoin the Gaborik-Prospal line.
Back On D: Finally a different 6 with Bobby S. in and Wade out. Some pairing issues here with 4 righties and two lefties – we'll see what Torts does.
Fronting The Twine: Tortorella has a real Big Think ahead. The Rangers play tonight and tomorrow. You might want to rest Lundqvist here and have him ready for the Penguins tomorrow. But Tortorella won the Cup coaching Tampa – he has history and friends here. He's going to want his team to look good. So what would you do - and what do you think he'll do? I'd rest Hank tonight and of Torts does that I will be impressed.
Dave Puck Predicts: My last prediction was a Shoot out win and we got one (not at the score I said – but why are you picking on me?) So this I say – the Rangers score 4 goals. If Hank starts we win 4-2. If Steve V starts – we win a Shoot Out 5-4.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Yes I know - we just had this great win and all's right in Ranger-ville at the moment - but, see, there's still this little Voice Of Doom (VOD) inside my head today. Usually my personal voice of doom stays off of sports and just keeps a running commentary of all my catastrophic life-decisions. But today The Voice is talking Rangers hockey.
And what that voice is saying is: we ran into two uniquely bad goalies last night: "Stank" (Mason) and "Stanky-er" (Garon). And that against an average goaltender having an average night we could well have lost Monday's game.
But forget the Voice Of Doom. In fact - let's start this whole post all over again. Okay - places everybody - roll tape - Blueshirt Brothers Take Two:
Can We Do It Again?
Wow - coming off a thrilling seven goal outburst, our New York Rangers ride their mighty one game winning streak into Florida tonight to take on a team they haven't faced since - well since Saturday night.
As one game winning streaks go - this is a pretty good one. It had a little something for everyone:
-Gaborik Scoring (2 goals)
-Non-Gaborik-al scoring (5 goals)
-Two Exciting fights featuring Voros and Punch-Man!
-Goals from Rookies
-Goals from Defensemen
- and even Goals from Rookie Defensemen!
-And best of all - two thirds of a hat trick - a Double G from Mr. SEAN AVERY who is suddenly looking like that player we all love and miss so much. I can't express how good it is to have our Seanny back - even if it's just for one game.
The key thing though, is to build this game into a trend rather than an aberration (editor's translation: Dave Pucks means "let's keep the win streak going")
I could say more - but I don't want to wake the VOD. So - on with the Game Preview:
Who the Hell are we playing? Like I said - we just saw Florida on Saturday - when they were the rudest sort of house guests - beating us on our home ice 3-2 after we had taken a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers have been somewhat hot as of late - beating Buffalo, Detroit and then us before falling to the world Champion Penguins in overtime.
Florida sits at 10-9-3, with 23 points to the Rangers 25 and a game at hand. They’re in 13th place right now in the East – but if they win tonight they'll pass us.
Primary Skaters: I think you might still remember from last time. The Centers-Named-Steve lead the team in goals: Reinprecht has 10 and Weiss has 7. Another Center - Nathan Horton - also has 7 goals – and leads the team in assists with 12.
In Net: Usually it is Tomas Vokoun who has a 2.72 GAA and a .923 Save Percentage in 18 games.
And for us? Do we rest our exhausted King? What do you think? Happy Thanksgiving Henrik - here's another consecutive start for you. In 20 games Hank has a 2.64 GAA and a .913 save percentage
Scoring & Defense: Our 7 goal explosion Monday pushes our average to 3.13 per game. Florida only average 2.62. Our goals against has been steadily climbing and now stands at 2.83, better than the Panther’s 3.23.
Special Effects: Our PP is 10th best at 22.2%, the Panthers are 29th at 13.3%. And on the PK we’re 3rd best at 84.8% while Florida is dead last at 73.8%. It wasn’t a factor last time – we need to make it one this time.
Scheduling Conflicts: We're coming off the big win Monday and we're in the middle of a 5 game in 8 day marathon. Florida also played Monday – and before that on Saturday we played each other. So we’re about equally tired.
Probable Lines: Well, after scoring a touchdown last time out - Tweaking Tortorella might actually leave his lines alone for one game! On the other hand - there's late word that Captain Chris Drury may rejoin us tonight - for limited action anyway - giving us all a little something to be thankful for. On the downside – “Cannon” Kotalik is hurt and will probably sit.
Line 1: GOAL-borik (that took me long enough to come up with) - and Live Long and Prospal - and the formerly suicidal Chis Higgins will be out top line. Worked last time so we try it again.
Line 2: Callahan and Lisin and Not Kotalik who is hurt. Doe Drury drop in here or does someome move up from 3?
Line 3: Avery and Anisimov and Parenteau – unless we move one up to line 2. Seanny on the rise – what do you say people?
Line 4: "Punch-man" Brashear-Voros-and BB (Brian Boyle). Coming off a 2 fight game on Monday…
On Defense: you know - overpaid stooges on the way out stapled at the hip to underpaid young studs on the way up. That's our system. And then there’s the none-of-the-above: Staal and Giradri.
Dave Puck Predicts: Can we win two in a row - a feat we haven't come close to since the 7th game of the year? Well, voice-of-doom in my head aside, hope springs eternal or something like that.
So I say - with BlueShirt Brothers pride - that the Rangers win 4-3 in a shoot out. And my second prediction - my son Little Pucks get the drumstick and wins his first-ever wishbone pull tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Rangers fell behind by two goals early in the contest and Coach John Tortorella called a timeout. Not to scream at his players – to encourage them.
Torts explained afterward: “I just told them to take a deep breath because we weren’t playing that badly. We just made a couple of mistakes and it ends up in the net. I just told them to take a deep breath. There is a lot of hockey left.”
It's called coaching. And man, did it ever work. The Rangers came back flying and in a 22 minute span of the first and second periods scored 7 times – reversing Columbus' lead, taking over the game, and giving the Rangers a badly-needed win.
What a night! In addition to the 11 goals we had two fights. Voros went after Aaron Boll – who had been punishing Marc Staal and other Rangers with vicious checks. Voros won the fight – in fact all the refs could give Boll was a “roughing” penalty to balance Aaron's fighting major. It was a long-overdue gesture of protecting his fellow Rangers by Voros that the team clearly appreciated.
The fight must have gotten Brashear's attention (“oh yeah, that's right – fighting!”) and so Punch-Man went after Boll himself at 2:14 of the 3rd period, landing ten head shots (I counted them) as Jared tried to clinch and turn his face away.
The Goalies: Hank again made some great saves. And again the Rangers exposed him to a lot of quality chances. Statistically it won't look all that good for Lundqvist. He saved 30 of 34 shots for a .867 percentage. But if you score 7 for hank – you're going to win. Always.
The Blue Jackets switched goalies to no avail. Garon stopped just 12 of 15 shots for a .800 save percentage. And Mason stopped just 14 of 18 for a worse .778 save percentage. The Rangers scored on better than 1 of each 5 shots they took.
Special Teams: Only one Ranger Shorthanded situation on the night and we killed it off. The Powerplay was 1-4. Advantage Rangers, but only part of the story.
The New Veteran Rangers: Two huge goals and two big assists for – who else? - Marian Gaborik. The Gifted One lifted his game when we needed him most and was everywhere on the ice – digging, skating, passing, shooting and scoring. Two goals on 3 shots. Plus Minus of +3. Nearly 19 minutes of ice time. His best night – of many great nights as a Ranger. Thank God for Gabs. Prospal also had an assist. Two assists for Higgins who looked great on the top line. It looks like Torts may keep these guys together for a while.
The Kid Rangers re-joined the party in a big way. A goal and 2 assists for Anisimov. Parenteau had two assists. A nice goal for Del Zotto. And a great breakaway goal for Gilroy, who deked 9 times before burying the puck from close in with his family in attendance.
The Returning Rangers? Finally, yes! SEAN! A two goal night – his second of the season. Sean scored a PowerPlay goal that, for a minute, no one saw but Avery. But eventually the light went on, then the review-crew in Toronto agreed. And less than a minute later Avery found himself on the ice with Gaborik – a rare combo that produced instant results. Gabs put an absolutely perfect pass on Avery's stick that he hammered home. Sean's 2 goals moved us from a 1 goal to a 3 goal lead and broke the game open. I'm so happy for Sean, who has been working hard and who deserves a little success for all the abuse he puts up with on the ice with no help from the referees.
Where was I? Of yeah, returning Rangers. Besides Sean, Wade Redden had an assist – a hard slapshot that was re-directed into the net.
Defense on Offense: Yes there was. Two goals and an assist for this unit. Our Defense has been outscoring the 2nd and 3rd lines.
In Conclusion: A night to remember. Nothing less than the game of the year. We scored seven once before back in October – but this was a night the Rangers desperately needed – an offensive explosion for our first regulation win in 6 games – and just what we needed to get our mojo back.
And someone not named Gaborik or Prospal scored. Lots of someones. Avery (twice) and Anisimov on offense. And Gilroy and Delzy for the defense. Let's hope our guys can keep the momentum going.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This means that Kotalik's tryout at the top slot is officially ended after one game. Colliding with Gaborik at the blue line on Prospal's goal certainly didn't help his chances. We have enough to worry about with opponents ramming into Gabs - we don't need other Rangers hitting him.
The K-Cannon drops to line 2 and joins Callahan - who will try to center - and Lisin - who will try to skate on one good foot.
If my math skills are still intact - that leaves Avery and Parenteau and Anisimov to be that 3rd line. Avery is working his butt off to get the puck to guys who don't know exactly what to do with it.
Chris Drury again skated with the team and may be close to returning. It would be great to get anything resembling Good News at this point.
The Puck (and my general sense of well-being) will drop at 7pm. See you later.
Opening Remarks: The Rangers have now lost 4 out of 5 and 7 of 10. We've tumbled clear out of the playoff picture to 10th place in the East – 2 points below Boston and the Line-Of-Death. We're a quarter of the way into our season and – we're tied with the Islanders for God's Sake! How did this happen?
Coach Tortorella had plenty to say to reporters yesterday about the Rangers losing streak:
"You stay with it. You just keep trying to battle through this. The only way I know is for the team to stay together. We have to have a little bit of resiliency. It is a miserable time, but you have to come to work and fight your way through."
And honestly – I'm not exactly sure what the problem is. On Saturday the Rangers only got goals from their top line. But on the other hand – it was only their top line that let up goals. Lines 2, 3, and 4 were pointless for the night – but were all even on plus-minus. Gaborik, Prospal and Kotalik scored 2 goals but were each minus 1 on the evening. So who is to blame here?
Is Hank as good as ever but the victim of a leaky defense? Or is he slowly slipping from greatness to not-so-greatness?
If you're looking for bright spots – Captain Chris Drury skated with the team this weekend – but won't be back in action tonight. And I don't like thinking like this – but doesn't it feel as if Chris isn't really the team captain anymore?
Anyway – tonight brings another chance for the Rangers to end this losing streak – and so - on with the Preview:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Columbus Blue Jackets are still a name that still sounds fake to me – lie something from a movie that wanted to make up a pretend hockey team. Blue Jackets? Anyway, they are 12-6-3 and in 6th place in the West. In their last 10 games they are 6-1-3.
Primary Skaters: This is a team that gets goals from the Left Wing position. Their top goal scorer, with 14 is left winger Chris Nash. Raffi Torres – also on left Wing - has 9 goals, and Left Winger Kristian Huseloius has 8 goals. Center Antoine Vermette leads the team in assists with 12.
In Net: This is a team with a reliable 2nd goalie: Mathieu Garon, who in 8 appearances has a GAA of 2.46 and a Save percentage of .923. Their main starter Steve Mason has a 3.44 GAA and a .889 save percentage – one of the worst we've seen for a starting goalie.
Scoring & Defense: The “Azure Coats” score about 2.4 goals a game and give up 2.7. Our totals are 2.95 goals for and 2.77 goals against.
Special Effects: On the Powerplay Columbus is the 2nd best team in the NHL with a success rate of 25.3%. We're down at 12th with a 22.1% PP scoring rate. On the PK Columbus is 19th overall with a 78.8% success rate shorthanded. The Rangers are 4th best at 84.7%. So their PP versus our PK should be interesting to watch
Scheduling Conflicts: The Blue Jackets played Thursday and Saturday. They lost Thursday to Nashville. We also lost Saturday – so the teams will be about equally rested. And anyway, extra rest was no help at all to us against Florida.
Probable Lines: Honestly - I don't know. Tortorella had a one game experiment with putting Kotalik with Gabs and Prospal on the first line – but he's already said he won't be repeating that.
So who joins that top line? Put Lisin back there? He's still showing the effects of a sore foot. Higgins? But they just started Higgins centering the 2nd line. Mr. Sean Avery? He has been playing better. Hmmm.
And until they set line one – I can;t take a guess at line 2 or 3. So, sorry – I really don't have a clue..
On Defense: More of the same.
In Goal: The Rangers will come to their senses and give a well deserved rest to their franchise goalie and... No- who am I kidding? They will send poor Hank out there yet again until he breaks down.
Dave Puck Predicts: I just don't want to predict a loss. And we're lost a few games at home in a row. But hope springs eternal. I'm saying Rangers win 3-2.
Where we Stand: 10th place. We're 2 points below 8th place Boston and tied with the hated Islanders and somewhat disliked Montreal Canadiens.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Rock Bottom anyone? The Rangers may have hit it. (Until the next rock bottom anyway). After a 7-1 start we are 11-10-1 having just lost to a suddenly hot Florida Panther team that beat Buffalo 6-2 then beat the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and us on Saturday.
We jumped to a 1-0 first period lead on Prospal's unassisted (soft) goal - then watched the Panthers score 3 consecutive in the 2nd and 3rd. Gaborik (who else) made it 3-2 but the Rangers could get no closer.
We out hit (37-27) and outshot (34-28) our opponents. Despite being down two centers we won the faceoff battle (26-23) The give-aways though were 5-0 favoring the Panthers. And we only got one powerplay all night.
The first line did all the scoring again. 2 goals. But Line 2, 3 and 4? Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. Do we miss Dubinsky and Drury? Of course we do. But can't anyone else on this hockey team score a goal? Sean Avery is looking more Avery-like – but his play has not resulted in any actual points.
On the other hand – our top line was -1 on the night. They scored 2 and let up 3. And our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines were the ones that broke even on the night.
However you want to look at it - right now your Ranger team is falling apart – and everyone else we're playing is looking faster, tougher, more organized, and – sorry to say – better coached than we are. I just don't get it. And here's how it happened last night:
The Goalies: Hank made some great saves. But the Ranger defense exposed him for a lot of odd man rushes. In the end Lundqvist faced 28 shots and let in 3 of them – a .893 save percentage. And in the NHL, if you don't save 90% of your shots against – you're probably going to lose. And we did.
Vokoun saved 32 of 34 shots for a .941 save %. And that was a lot of your hockey game right there.
Special Teams: We had a big advantage in this area coming in, but the Panther committed – or make that – the Panthers were whistled for – only one penalty. So the Rangers had one PP – and failed on it. We did kill off the two shorthanded chances against us. But a tie in specials is a win for Florida – who has done poorly in this area.
The New Veteran Rangers: Once again they were the whole show. Gaborik and Prospal had the only two goals, with Vaclav (his name is not Vinnie) getting the assist on Gabs goal. Prospal's goal was unassisted – after Gabs and Kotalik collided and left the center on his own. He made his way to the net and trickled it past Vokoun.
The Kid Rangers were pointless last night.
The Returning Rangers? Nothing much. Rozy had an assist, but the forwards were pointless. 5 shots and 4 hits for Sean who has shown some signs of life but no goals.
Defense on Offense: One assist for Rozsival. One shot for Del Zotto.
In Conclusion: Again we out-shoot the other guys and come up short. I can understand the team's frustration – this should be working. We're shooting more. We have the better goalie. What is wrong? And the answer is – the opponents shots have been better quality. As mentioned, the giveaways last night were 5 for the Rangers and zero for Florida. In a one goal game – that was the difference.
Next Up: Well, extra rest sure didn't seem to help us – so let's try over-work instead. Four games next week. The 12-6-3 Columbus Blue Jackets come to town Monday. Try not to look ahead to next weekend's home and home with Pittsburgh. It's too depressing.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I hope you guys don't mind that my son is posting. With Nugman having left us in a huff - It's nice to have another voice on here and the little guy is thrilled to be able to contribute.
Back later with the details on our huge comeback win - if we have one. Or I might toss the PC in the trash....
We're still down 2 men at center. Drury is still feeling the effects of his concussion - and unlike some players - Chris actually uses his head while on the ice so a brain injury for Chris is far more detrimental than it might be for some other guys on the roster. Which brings us of course to Brandon Dubinsky who has an injury to his strongest asset – his shooting hand. Both men are out – probably past Turkey Day
The team takes the ice tonight as a unit that is only above the playoff line-of-death because we've played a few more games than some other teams. At 11-9-1 we're sinking and badly in need of some changes and some wins.
Your Rangers are faced with many troubles. We are depleted at Center - our fore-check is losing its effectiveness – we have a lack of scoring from all non-Gaborical (Editor – that’s not a word) (Dave Pucks: I know) personnel – and our defense is not so defensive.
But, say what you will about Tortorella - he is one coach who actually coaches his hockey team. So in the face of adversity, Torts will try at least some new things. He's been re-introducing his players to the traditional Tom Renney-style "dump and chase" and has been encouraging his defensemen to lighten up a little on the "4th forward" mentality and play some actual defense once in a while.
On the other hand - Torts has been encouraging Michael Del Zotto to shoot more - both privately and in front of the team - so the teenager won't feel like he should give up shots to pass to his senior Rangers. And Torts will keep on tweaking his brains out until something works. Okay - on to The Preview:
Who the Hell are we playing? The Florida Panthers are 13th of 15 teams in the East at 8-9-2 (pending last night’s game). Of course - that is not all that much worse than our 11-9-1. This is our first time facing them this season.
Primary Skaters: The Panthers are led by The Steves: Center Steve Reinprecht (9 goals), and Center Stephen Weiss (6 goals). Left Winger Cory Stillman also has 6 Goals, and Canter Nathan Horton leads the team with 9 assists.
In Net: Three men have fronted the twine for Florida (I just made that phrase up): Tomas Vokoun has a 2.76 GAA and a .922 save % in 16 games. But we may see Scott Clemmensen (5.14, .838%) or Alex Salak (6.5 GAA, .714 save%) because the Panthers will have played the night before against Detroit. Who knows really – but I hear some teams like to rest their top goalie – especially early in the season.
And for us? Who do you think? Can we rest our exhausted Goaltender - whose game seems to be slipping from overwork? Of course not. We ride the horse til he dies or breaks down. It's Hank. It's always Hank (2.54 GAA, .917%)
Scoring & Defense: We score 3 a game - which is not bad as I pointed out yesterday. Panthers are right behind us at 2.89 goals a game. On Defense we're letting up 2.76 goals a game, but Florida allows a sizable 3.42. The Panther Defense is their weak spot and the main reason they are 8-9-2.
Special Effects: On the PP we’re ranked 10th with a 22.4% success rate. The Panthers are way down the list at 26th at 14.7%. On the PK we are 4th best at 84.4% and Florida is 29th out of 30 teams at 73.7%. So – big advantage for us here – and we’d better cash in on it.
Scheduling Conflicts: We're coming off the tough home lose to the Caps on Tuesday. Florida kicked butt on Wednesday, beating the Ice-Bosons (Buffalo) 6-2, and then played the Red Wings Friday night. So they will be the winded team and the Rangers catch a break in this regard also.
Like we said – Torts is Tweaking away.
Line 1: Gaborik-Prospal-Kotalik. The Cannon (Kotalik) with his 6 goals (team 2nd best) joins the GAB line. That puts the teams top goal scorers (41% of our goals) together on one line for the first time.
Line 2: Parenteau-Higgins-Lisin. Big change here and Higgs tries his luck as a 2nd line center. You’re talking a total of 6 goals from these three gentlemen this season – but you have to start somewhere.
Line 3: Avery-Anisimov-Callahan. Anis falls off line 2 and lands here. Cally hustles and shoots a lot – but not much is finding the net. Seanny? He’s promoted from the 4th line – so that’s good. It’s almost like he died and his ghost is out there taking shifts. He looks like just another hockey player – which is breaking my heart.
Line 4: Brashear-Voros-Byers. Our Rock-em Sock-em Robots.
On Defense: same old same old.
Dave Puck Predicts: We have to win this game. The schedule turns against us in December and we have to take full advantage of the softer spots while we can. Those Panthers can shoot the puck a little. Let’s hope they play a back up goalie and we shoot their lights out. Rangers win 5-2
Friday, November 20, 2009
It was Glen Sather who brought him in here. And every single day Slats wakes up - realizes what he's done - and gets that awful chill feeling deep in his guts. Unless some sort of miracle occurs (like, say a drunk driving Zamboni accident) we're stuck with Wade until the 2013-2014 season (and how depressing is that?)
We could cut Redden - but half of his salary would still count against the cap for the length of his contract. The $3+ million dollar hole would hang over the franchise for years. And of course - cutting Redden would require Glen Sather to ADMIT HIS COLOSSAL BLUNDER which is not too likely.
Instead, coach John Tortorella is doing everything he can to raise the level of play of the 32 year old former all star. And so far, Wade has been noticeably uh ... less bad .... This season,
Not to say he's been good, exactly. He did have one 3 point evening. On the other hand - he gave up the puck to Matt Bradley with 5 minutes left in a 2-2 tie with the Washington Capitals and ... well, don't get me started.
So it remains to be seen if Wade gets good enough to be tolerable - or fades into a larger and larger Ranger calamity.
There is exactly one thing protecting Wade right now and that is Michal Rozsival. As bad as Redden has been - Rozy has been worse and Michal's salary is also obscene at $5 million a year
So everything bad you could say about Redden - you can say it about Rozsival first - and louder. Larry Brooks (and hi Larry if you're googling your own name and found us again) wrote a nice "dump Rosival" piece earlier this week in the NY Post. So Wade should thank Michal every day for blocking media shots that could easily been aimed at him.
But the situation remains. We're hoping Torts can wake up something in Wade's game and get him going. Because otherwise - Redden is a big "blanking" problem - on the ice and against the salary cap.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
We posted "Come On Somebody" a few days ago - about getting goals from someone other than Gaborik. Then Tortorella mentioned the same issue after Tuesday’s loss. And then everybody and his brother wrote about it. But there was something we all missed.
Yes – of course the Rangers will score more goals if they get their 2nd and 3rd lines to score more goals. That's true for every team in the NHL. But despite all of our reported offensive troubles - through 21 games we have 63 goals. And according to my Official Ty Domi Slide Rule that is exactly 3 goals a game - which for the Rangers is really not bad at all. It’s 10th best in the NHL – slightly better than where the world champion Penguins are right now. We’re a top-third offensive team.
And three goals a game is a lot more than the 2.4 goals per game we scored last year. It's a big step forward. More to the point - three goals a night on offense is NOT the reason we're losing hockey games.
What I'm saying is - the reason we've been in a tailspin ever since game nine is our defense. Or, more accurately, our LACK of defense.
We're letting up more goals than we did last year – 2.76 goals a game - and it's killing us.
And why is this happening? There are a few possible explanations:
1 - You can't have it both ways - Our defense is more offensive: Our six defenders are being coached by John Tortorella to get up ice - crash the offensive zone and shoot the puck. And it's been working - we're getting a lot of goals from our defensemen. But the flip side of making the defender into an extra forward is that now we're down one defenseman. When our backliners are out of position it allows our opponents to get more rushes and more quality chances on Lundqvist. The result is more goals against
2 - Some of our defenders stink. At least dollar for dollar. We have Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival each earning nearly Gaborik-like money. That is plainly ludicrous and is the single most powerful force holding down this hockey club. I don't blame the kids - Gilroy and Del Zotto are improving every day. But Redden and Rozy need to start playing like their contracts - or we should cut them - reclaim half their salaries and find guys who will play the position better.
3 - Hank? Maybe we're spoiled. But I used to be sure Henrik had the potential to dominate - to be the kind of goalie other teams feared. And at times - in past years - he was that goalie. But this year -not so much. Is it Tortorella's system that's slowing Lundqvist down? When Tom Renney was coaching here he designed the whole system around protecting our goalie. Under Torts. Hank is more on his own and his numbers are just not as good. But is it more than just system - are we getting less out of Hank that what we've gotten in the past?
So - is it the system, the quality of our defenders, or (say it ain't so!) Our goalie? Whatever the cause - we're letting up more goals - which is why we're scoring more, but still winning less. And that's just not going to work. If we’re going to start winning again – we’ve got to play better “D”. We’ve got to Just Stop Somebody.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
What Ovie meant by "sick" is that the goal was "pretty". (And what he meant by "pretty" is "extremely".) But from a Ranger's fan point of view (from my 11-year-old son on up to each of you) the goal made us sick.
It broke up a 2-2 tie in which the Rangers had worked hard and struggled mightily to stay close. It wasted a gallant effort by Henrik where he kept us in a hockey game where we went more than 19 minutes of ice time without a shot on goal. And it wasted another super-human 2 goal night by Marian Gaborik - who has contributed nearly 25 percent of our scoring this season.
All that work was wasted. Tough loss. Bad loss.
The Goalies: Our nemesis - Varlamov. 18 saves on 20 shots. At least it appear Gabby is not intimidated or confused by the young Russian - but he seems to own the rest of this hockey team.
Hank faced 25 shots and saved 22. You can't blame him for not being perfect - and the Rangers are letting up more chances this year. But one more big save and we'd have sent this to OT.
Special Teams: The hockey game was lost right here. Our usually impressive PK let us down - allowing 2 goals on 4 chances. Our PP scored on 1 of 4. And that was the difference.
New Veteran Rangers: Gaborik. Again. Both goals.
Returning Rangers? No goals - but assists for Avery, Girardi and Staal. Of course passing to a goal-machine like Gaborik is always good for a few assists.
The Kid Rangers - P.A. got an assist, (even though none of his "Parentaeus" were in attendance).
Defense on Offense - 2 assists for this unit.
In Conclusion. Wade Redden and his bizarre contract is a lead weight around the neck of this hockey club. And it was the heinous play with 5 minutes left in a 2-2 hockey game by Wade - the give-away to Bradley - that sunk this team last night. I think if we just cut Redden we can reclaim half of his salary verses the cap. It may be time to start weighing that option
We didn't get that 3rd goal for Henrik and of course it cost us. We've got to get the 2nd line going. But without Dubs and Dru we're not at our best. But since the season's 8th game we have been unable to string 2 wins back to back. Our high number of games played masks it - but we're slipping out of the playoffs right now and will need to figure out how to right this ship. Considering our 7-1 start, trying to figure out how to hang on to an 8th place seed and make the playoffs is a pretty sick goal of our own these days.
By the way - thanks for reading my 11-year-old's posts last night. Below this post are Pucks Junior's final thoughts on the evening.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
But I want to thank my 11 year old son - Pucks Junior - for filling in while I was taking Mrs. Pucks out for our anniversary. The little guy did just great for his first blog ever - and thank you all for reading.
As for me - I was at the Autism Speaks event at Carnegie Hall - and saw Bruce Springsteen and Jerry Seinfeld perform. Bruce was great. Jerry was ... Jerry. And meanwhile the Rangers got close but came away empty against Ovechkin and the Capitals. More Hockey Recap in the morning.
But it's worse than that - we had a really hot start (7-1) and since then we've been playing like a team that won't make the playoffs.
Anyway - we've got a one game winning streak - let's see if we can make it two.
Who the Hell are we playing? Our Nemesis. That team that overcame our 3-1 game playoff lead and sent us home in the first round last year. The Washington Capitals
Primary Skaters: Who else? Alex Ovechkin. He has missed a few games due to injury – but I have a strong feeling he will play – and play hard – tonight. He may be the best player in the NHL and there may be no one better at creating his own shot. Last year he did a swoop-behind-the-net maneuver against Valiquette that was the prettiest goal I can remember seeing last year. Alex has 14 Goals and 9 assists (so he does pass occasionally) in just 14 games.
Some other offense comes from Center Brooks Laich who has 8 goals and Alex Semin who has 9.
In Net: For the Caps it's the two headed monster.
1 - Jose "three-or-more" Theodore. Veteran steady - but not great – goaltender. He is 5-3 with a 3.24 GAA and a .893 Save Percentage.
2 - Simeon "don't call me Simian" Varlamov. The younger - better goaltender that was the key to the Caps coming back against us last year. (As a completely unprofessional observation - I hate this guy). He’s 7-1 with a 2.67 GAA and a 0.912 Save percentage.
And for us - who do you think? Henrik "King" "Hank" Lundqvist. We live and die with our star goalie - but oddly - not that we're scoring more - Hank is allowing more. His GAA is now 2.51 with a .918 save percentage
Scoring & Defense: Caps can score. They average an unreal 3.75 goals a game to our 3.05. On defense they average 3.10 goals against, but that really depends on which goalie they use. We’re letting up 2.70 goals per game.
Special Effects: The Caps score on 24.4% of their PowerPlays to our 22.2%. But we kill off 85.9% of our shorthanded efforts while the Caps are more porous at 78.3%. So something of an advantage for us here.
Scheduling Conflicts: We've only played Thursday and Saturday. Caps played Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So maybe slightly less rested. But these teams hate each other so they’ll both be ready ad will play hard.
Probable Lines: We've sort of settled into a post-traumatic Center-less line set up
Line 1: Lisin-Prospal-Gaborik. The GAB line (for Gaborik of course). I am amazed at the production and greatness emanating nightly from Marian G. It's a real pleasure to watch him work and I thank the hockey gods he is wearing the Ranger colors
Line 2: Higgins-Anisimov-Kotalik. The HAK line. Our man "Anis" Anisimov centers the number two line based on his talent (but mostly on catastrophic injuries to Dubinsky and Drury). Higs has located the missing particle in his nuclear make-up and has 2 goals. Kotalik has that massive slapshot and a Ranger 2nd best 6 goals.
Line 3: Avery-Boyle-Callahan. The ABC line. Boyle is our third line center. Not great news. And Seanny is getting praise from his coach but no goals or assists.
Line 4: Brashear-Voros-Byers. The PIM (Penalties In Minutes) line. No one wants to admit it - but our record is only stellar when Gabs and Brash both play the same night.
On Defense: You know this already…
Dave Puck Predicts: I'm actually taking Mrs. Pucks out tonight for our Anniversary - so I predict a large food bill and not enough hockey viewing.
Maybe - just maybe - 11 year old Pucks Junior may Blog the first period - subbing for his dad - until bedtime anyway.
But if you want a score – okay. If Theodore plays we win 4-3 on a SO. And if Varlamov starts – well I don’t predict losses so I just won’t predict. I just hope we can compete with these guys.
Monday, November 16, 2009
These are all admirable goals for a hockey team. But in the end, the most useful goal of all for a hockey team is scoring actual goals.
You have to score to win. At the end of the game they count up all the goals - and if you scored the most - guess what? - you won.
Last year's Ranger team had plenty of intangibles and plenty of grit and fight. What we needed was some goal lights to go on. That's what finished us off last year
This season we have been blessed with Marian Gaborik - an elite goal scorer and one of the nicest - team-first - superstars you are ever likely to see in a Ranger uniform. Gaborik is all we could have hoped for and much more.
But Gabs, last time I checked, is just one guy. We're going to need some more if we're going anywhere this season.
We need someone else - or several someone else's to step up and score a few also.
Gaborik has 13 goals. But our next best? Kotalik with that rifle-like shot of his has 6. And after that? Prospal has 5. Girardi, Anisimov, and Delzy have 4. Higgins has 2. Seanny has only 2.
We can't survive like this. It can't be just Gabs every night. We need some legitimate scoring on that second line.
Because if Gaborik and Prospal are the first line - and the primary PowerPlay line and the Primary Shorthanded line - sooner or later this will catch up with us. I thought we were supposed to be protecting our best player - not exposing him.
We need that number two line - whoever they end up being - to start scoring. And not having Dubinsky in the lineup for a few weeks makes it all that much harder.
So somebody - Sean - Higgy - Lisin - Cally - one of you guys - start shooting the puck in the net and get hot.
Because otherwise - this is going to be a long season.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
It was a classy move for Torts to start P. Parenteau in his home town so that Parenteau's Parent (his dad) was able to see him play. And the rookie left winger did nicely here – getting the Shoot Out winner to make dad proud and stop the Ranger's losing streak.
The Kid Rangers had the winning SO goal by P. A. Parenteau – with his dad watching (and wolfing down fist fulls of popcorn more or lest constantly).
Next Up: Just 2 games in the next week. The fellows can rest until Tuesday night, when they are home to our arch nemesis – Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Should be nice and loud at the Garden.
Waking up Sunday morning, your New York Rangers find themselves in 5th place in the East at 11-8-1. They are two points up on the 6th place Flyers and 3 points back of the World Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I don't have a good answer for him. It's more than a little ironic. When we couldn't score the last two years, Hank was lights-out amazing. This year - when Gaborik and the fellows can light the lamp for him - he's started letting in more goals than he ever did before.
Of course - the playoffs are miles away and there's plenty of time to right the ship. But right now it feels like the ship is sinking.
Anyway - Saturday at 2pm (it will feel like 10am) the Rangers will get back on the hockey-horse and try again.
Who the Hell are we playing?
(I forget. Let me look at the paper.) That's right - it's the Ottawa Senators. The guys we beat 5-2 in game two of the season - our first win of the year.
The Senators are 8-6-1. They're just 3 points back of us with three games at hand - in other words - they're really ahead of us if we both keep at the same pace. Anyway kids, here's your preview:
Primary Skaters: Dan Alfredsson leads Ottawa with 19 points (6 G. 13 A). Center Mike Fisher has 14 points (7 G, 7 A).
In Net: The Senators main man is Pascal Leclaire, who sports a 2.89 GAA and .892 save percentage. And for us - Hank. We ride our best horse until he dies or we do. Lundqvist has a 2.62 GAA and a .914 save percentage. I just hope he starts looking King-like again. It used to be - get him three goals and we were home free. Can we get that guy back please?
Scoring & Defense: Ottawa scores 2.94 goals a game and lets in 3.13. Your slumping new York Rangers score 3.11 goals per contest and have let up a steadily growing 2.79.
Special Effects: The Rangers are 6th in the league on the PowerPlay, scoring 23.4% of the time. Ottawa is way down the list at 22nd, scoring just 17.3% percent of the time that have the man advantage.
On the Penalty Kill, the Rangers have fallen somewhat – to 6th, with a PK success rate of 85.1%. The Senators are in the middle, 14th best, with an 80.6% success rate. So on paper anyway – we should win the special teams battle.
Scheduling Conflicts: After a long layoff we came home Thursday night and lost. So maybe rest is overrated. Ottawa also lost Thursday night - to the Flyers. So equally tired. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Probable Lines: When things aren't going well coach Tortorella likes to mix his lines up. And Mixed Up is what we are right now especially short two Centers. Here's my best guess:
Line 1: Lisin-Prospal-Gaborik. The GAB line (for Gaborik of course). Gabs keeps scoring - God bless him. Lisin's foot continues to feel better. Prospal continues to have his epic tug of war with his coach play out on the ice.
Line 2: Higgins-Anisimov-Kotalik. The HAK line. Anisimov gets the long look centering the #2 line because there just ain't no one else. Kotalik has the 2nd most goals on this team - mostly because of that cannon he shoots with.
Line 3: Avery-Boyle-Callahan. The ABC line. And Boyle actually scored on Thursday. But where oh where is that Seanny I know and love? Has our coach stolen his soul?
Line 4: Brashear-Voros-Byers. Let's call them the PIM line - not for their initials - it stands for Penalties In Minutes - the one area this crew figures to dominate.
In Goal: Hank sat out two straight with an undisclosed lower body injury – but should be back tonight. Valiquette is looking less and less like a strong back up.
Dave Puck Predicts: I know we're short on Centers right now - but If Lundqvist plays and if Gaborik plays and if Brashear plays - we will win. And I'm saying 4-3. But then again - I always predict Ranger wins - because that's what fans do.
Friday, November 13, 2009
You okay, man?
Look, I know King Henrik caught a bad break on the deflection on a Kovalchuk shot that bounced in off a Ranger's face of all things. And I know we're not playing great defense and he is rusty after a long layoff.
But the Rangers can only win if Hank is a top 5 goalie in this league. And last night – and for too much of this season – he just isn't.
You can't blame the Centers – we won 35 of the 70 faceoffs. And we out-shot Atlanta 36 to 27. We're just supposed to win games like this. And with Hank in goal we usually do. Or did.
“I felt pretty good physically” Hank admitted after the game. But he just didn't play all that well.
Let's hope it's just rust from the long layoff. Because if Hank isn't going to be Hank anymore.... I really don't want to think about that.
(Nik Antropov got himself an assist in his first return to the Garden since being a Ranger himself.)
The Goalies: Like I was saying – we lost the game right here. Hank faced 27 shots and Hedberg faced 36. I would sign up for that shot differential in a minute. We really can't play much better than that. But Hedberg saved .917% of the shots he faced while Lundqvist only stopped .846%. This team simply can't win when we're outplayed at the goalie position.
Special Teams: Not that special last night. We were outplayed here too. Atlanta was 2-5 on the Powerplay while we were 1-4. You won't win many games when you're outplayed ion specials – and this game was no exception.
The New Veteran Rangers: Stellar once again. Boyle had a goal. Higgins had and assist. Cannon Kotalik had 2 assists – one of which came off a rebound from his cannon-shot that Boyle punched home. Gaborik? What can I say. Another goal on a beautiful sneaky fast shot that beat Hedberg to the left post.
And Gabs made an incredible diving play to deflect away a sure empty netter and give us a few more moments of live late in the third period. Night after night - the man is just amazing.
The Kid Rangers contributed again. Anisimov moving up to the 2nd line had a goal, Delzy had 2 assists.
The Returning Rangers? Pointless. And I have to say it – where in the world is my favorite player Sean Avery?
Defense on Offense: Two assists from this unit.
In Conclusion: There are horrible sick to your stomach losses. This wasn't one of them. For the 2nd straight game we out-shot out opponents by a wide margin. Not bad for a team down two Centers. If we can keep this up – Hank is bound to return to form and we're sure to start winning some games. We have to. Or I will kill myself.
Next Up: The dreaded Saturday Matinee. A 2pm road game against the Ottawa Senators, a team we got our first win of the season against (5-2). Those were the days...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
We need to rise up and show something. And we need to stop being victims and targets. I hate saying this - but I sure hope Brashear can play - because we need his protection to play our best. (I wonder - when Brashear is rehabbing does he practice skating - or throwing punches?). This is a different Ranger team when Brashear sits out - and not in a good way.
We also need some non-Gaborik player to start scoring goals. Kotalik has 6 goals and no one else more than 4. We have to get something going on the 2nd and 3rd lines.
And as an added bonus - our opponent tonight brings with them former Ranger Nik Antropov. When Nik was on a hot streak last year he was fun to watch – but when he wasn’t… well, that - and his contract demands are why he isn't here any more.
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Atlanta Thrashers have an Injured Captain problem of their own, having lost Ilya Kovalchuk for the past 6 games with a broken foot. In 14 games the Thrashers are 7-6-1, in 12th place in the Eastern conference.
Primary Skaters: Atlanta's Kovalchuck traveled with the team to New York – so it is possible he'll play tonight. Despite missing 6 of the teams 14 games – he leads the Thrashers with 9 goals – just one assist though – I guess he doesn't pass much. Their assist leader is ex-Ranger Nik Antropov, who has 13 – but Nik has no goals so far this year. Rich Peverly is their overall points leader with 17 (10 G, 7 A).
In Net: It's a tale of two goalies for Atlanta. Ondrej Pavelec has a 3.17 GAA and a .909 save % in 12 games. This is kind of interesting – to save 90% of your shots and let in more than 3 a game – your team is letting up a lot of shots on goal. Johan Hedberg has a (better) 2.70 GAA and a .917 save % in 5 games.
Scoring & Defense: Atlanta is the first team we’ve faced in a while that outscores us. They average 3.42 goals a game to our 3.11. (Of course our number has been heading south lately.)
The defense favors us. The Thrashers let in 3.21 goals a game to our 2.67. As we noted – Atlanta lets up 34.4 shots per game – the 2nd highest number in the league
Special Effects: On the PowerPlay, Atlanta is the league’s 8th best with a 22.8% success rate. Rangers are 5th best at 23.3%. Shorthanded, the Thrashers are 10th best, getting through 82.5% of their shorthanded situations successfully. The Rangers, to my continued surprise, are the leagues 2nd best with a 86.6% prevent rate. So the special teams favor us.
Scheduling Conflicts: We’ve been resting and making trips to the hospital since Saturday night. It’s been our longest game-less stretch since the season began. But the Thrashers have had it almost as good – their last game was Sunday – a home win against the Blues 3-2.
So you’ve got two well rested teams facing off tonight at MSG.
Probable Lines: It looks like the early word we got from Glen Sather about Higgins at center was typical Slats – incorrect and disconnected from his own team. Tortorella – correctly – is giving the current Ranger centers a chance to step up and show something:
Line 1: Lisin-Prospal-Gaborik. We’ve seen this before and it has worked. Clearly Dubi won’t be back for a while.
Line 2: Higgins-Anisimov-Kotalik. “Anis” steps up to line 2 – and maybe Higgins can keep on the upswing.
Line 3: Avery-Boyle-Callahan. This is where we really start hurting in the middle. But it’s a hard working tough minded bunch that I’ll be curious to watch in action.
Line 4: Brashear-Voros-Byers. Three tough guys – and well need this after the way we got pushed around in Vancouver. Dane Byers leads the Rangers in penalty minutes after just 4 games with the club. Brashear finally back is a good thing – like it or not we’re much better with him than without him.
On Defense: Still the “Original Six”
In Goal: Hank sat out two straight with an undisclosed lower body injury – but should be back tonight. Valiquette is looking less and less like a strong back up.
Dave Puck Predicts: I know we're short on Centers right now - but If Lundqvist plays and if Gaborik plays and if Brashear plays - we will win. And I'm saying 4-3. But then again - I always predict Ranger wins - because that's what fans do.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
One of them is of course our offensive superstar Marian Gaborik.
And the other? Less obviously - is Donald Brashear, the 37 year old behemoth better known for his punch ability than for his puck skills.
Why my interest in the violent head-hunting Brashear? Because - like it or not - I am starting to realize what he brings to this hockey team when he's in the line up - and what we're missing when he's not.
By now you've probably heard that Calgary's Glencross was suspended (just) 3 games for a vicious blindsided illegal hit to the side of the head of Ranger Captain Chris Drury. Drury didn't have the puck - was nowhere near either goal and had no reason to expect to get hit. But Glencross went after him with intent to injure.
It took a few minutes for Drury to gather himself and slowly skate to the locker room. And after that - there was no Ranger who tried to retaliate for this attack on their captain. The Refs were silent and the league didn't do anything for three days.
I don't understand why there's a place in the NHL for Glencross' actions. But - ironically - this is a play Donald Brashear does understand. Because last year in the playoffs he did something fairly similar to former Ranger Blair Betts - removing Betts' from the team and nearly removing his head in the process.
Glencross was striking a blow at the heart of the Rangers - trying to intimidate us. It's like a brush-back pitch in baseball. It is designed to make the Rangers think about their safety instead of how to win the game. And, at least to some extent, it worked - just as it worked against us in last year's playoff.
The trouble was - Don Brashear wasn't on the roster Saturday night, he’s been listed as a "healthy scratch" but really - he's been hurt with one of those injuries the Rangers don't like to talk about.
Look - I don't like this part of hockey. Not at all. But I can't ignore it either. If Brashear was out there, I figure Glencross would be looking to see where Brashear was or at least thinking about him. With Brashear in the lineup, Glencross and the other Flames would be trying to avoid becoming a victim instead of looking for one of their own.
Am I just guessing here about Brashear's value? Is he really helping us - or is he just an aging, slow poor-shooting forward with little to add to the mix? Well, like I said - I've been keeping track of how we play with him and with Gabby in and out of the lineup:
With Gaborik playing and Brashear sitting out - the Rangers are a very ordinary 3-3-1. But when Gaborik and Brashear both play – our record improves to an impressive 7-2-0.
Why is that? Because Brashear provides protection to Gaborik. Without it, Gabs has to keep his head on a swivel - looking to avoid cheap shots instead of taking shots on goal.
We've only played 16 games this year - but so far - the numbers tell the story. And so far the story is: when Brashear and Gabs both play – only then - are the Rangers something special.
That's why Sather and Torts got this guy. And like it or not - that's why we need him. Because if the Rangers won't defend their captain - other teams take notice. And until we FIGHT BACK - we're going to see more teams coming after us.
Where We Stand: as of Tuesday morning the Rangers are the 5th seed in the Eastern conference - trailing the (much hated) Devils by 1 and leading the (much hated) Flyers by 2.