Sunday, January 31, 2010
Okay – there's plenty of bad here. We are now one of those teams that the opposition plays their backup goalie against. We lost our 5th straight game in regulation. We tumbled out of a playoff spot as “the clump” of teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race have overtaken us.
We stormed back from a 3-0 deficit against a good team on the road. Gaborik scored again. Avery scored again. We outshot Phoenix 12-3 in the final period. And at 18:34 – with the Ranger's Shorthanded (Rozsival penalty – don't even ask) after Callahan's shot was deflected – Marian Gaborik swung his stick - swatted the puck out of mid air – beat LaBarbera – but....
HE HIT THE POST!
So close. Almost Gaborik's best Ranger goal of the season. Almost a huge comeback against huge odds. Almost a massive season-changing event.
But no. The shot clanged iron. LaBarbera pounced on it. The Rangers lost. Again.
The Goalies: We did start Chad. Finally. All it took was massive case of stomach flu for Henrik Lundqvist. Chad Johnson – in his 3rd ever NHL start – had a rough start but steadied the ship and kept us in the game. He had to face an unfair amount of odd man rushes – particularly early on – but his numbers ended up okay. He made 21 saves on 24 shots for a respectable .875 save percentage. He also got some valuable experience. Chad is going to get better if we just keep playing him. And we need to give Lundqvist rest – even when he's not half dead with a stomach virus.
The Coyote's LaBarbera stopped 24 of 26 shots for a .923 save percentage. The difference was that one shot that hit the post....
Special Teams: The good: We stopped Phoenix on 7 powerplay attempts. The bad: We committed 7 penalties that gave them 7 powerplays including the come-back killing high stick from Staal on Petr Prucha at 18:05. The Ugly: we were 0-3 on our own powerplay attempts – when a single goal would have changed the game in our favor.
The New Veteran Rangers: Gaborik scored! And he nearly got us an acrobatic game-tying goal with 2 minutes to go. Christensen got an assist.
The Kid Rangers? Anisimov won 6 of 8 faceoffs. Del Zotto had 3 hits and was -1. The under-rated Gilroy blacked 2 shots.
The Returning Rangers: SEAN! Avery scored. And Dubinsky had an assist.
Defense on Offense: Nothing. And too many odd-man rushes against by the way. Not fair for a rookie goalie.
In Conclusion: I'll take the hopeful signs. The comeback. The signs of life. The almost best goal of the season. And Chad looked better as the game went on. I think we need to keep playing the kid – give Hank some time off – it helps us get better both ways. And the way Hank looked last night – like he was about to pass out – we may see the kid again tonight.
Next Up: No time off. Five straight losses. Franchise goalie sick. If it feels like an avalanche is falling on us – it is. Tonight we face the Colorado Avalanche on the road at 8pm local time.
Where We Stand: I don't want to look. But I will. “The Clump” has caught us. So we fall from 8th to 12th. 2 points out of 5th. 1 point out of 13th. The only bright note – we still lead the Islanders.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
it's a shame our Rangers are part of it. It took us 4 straight regulation losses to get here. We were like a sprinter who got a fast start but then was caught by the pack. And now we're right in the middle of it.
Still, like a rainbow - its odd and fun to look at.
Above the clump are the Caps, Devils, Penguins, Sabres and Senators.
Leading The Clump right now are the Thrashers with 56 points. That is before last night's action.
Just below them at 55 points are the Rangers, Flyers, Canadiens and Panthers. And right behind them with 54 points are the Islanders, Bruins, and Lightning. It's a big and interesting mess.
The Rangers take their troubles out west this week - starting with a visit to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Phoenix is the 4th best team in the West - with a 31-18-5 record for 67 points. They've scored 9 more goals than us this year - and have let up exactly 9 less.
And if it is any consolation - Cam Ward and the Hurricane beat the Islanders 4-1 on Thursday. So Carolina is actually a hot team right now - even though they are all alone in last place in the Eastern conference and still 11 points back of "the clump"
Dave Pucks Predicts - a hockey game. I have no idea what will happen - we have to snap out of this slump sometime - but I'll be watching and rooting Rangers.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Another new low. The Carolina Panthers – last place in the Eastern Conference – have now scored 5 goals in 3 of their last 4 games. And our Rangers have lost 4 straight, losing this one 5-1 at home.
Gaborik has this to say: "We're better than this."
And Lundqvist: "There’s no way we can win when I play like this."
The truth is – we did run into Cam Ward and the Hurricane when they were pretty hot. But still – a terrible loss to take at home.
The Goalies: We shoulda started Chad. Henrik has a .792 save percentage and only made 19 saves on the night. Mr. Cam Ward? He saved .974% and made 37 saves. We lost this game at the goalie position, as Hank himself admitted.
Special Teams: Outplayed. We were 0-4 on the powerplay and Carolina was 1-4
The New Veteran Rangers: Gaborik? Switched to right wing. Shot 5 times. No goals. No assists. Prospal had an assist. And Kotalik got some more ice time and responded with a -2.
The Kid Rangers? Anisimov was -2 on the night. Delzy -1.
The Returning Rangers: Callahan scored the lone goal. Staal playing aginst his brother got an assts. Dubinsky was a very uncharacteristic -2 on the night.
Defense on Offense: One assist.
In Conclusion: Uh, I have nothing to say.
Next Up: Two days off. Then we head west and play Phoenix on Saturday night.
Where We Stand: I don't want to look, really, but I will. We're hanging on to the 8th and final playoff spot. Tied at 55 points with the 9th place Canadiens and the 7th place Panthers and the 6th place Flyers. And one point ahead of the 10th place Bruins, the 11th place Thrashers, the 12th place Lightning and the 13th place islanders. Yes – that's right. One Point separates 8 teams – from 6th to 12th in the East.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This year - Glen Sather and Torts were supposed to fix that. We brought in guys we thought could score: Gaborik (yes) and Higgins, Lisin, and Kotalik (not so much). And we are scoring more - slightly more (2.58 goals a game).
But we're also allowing more goals (2.74 goals a game). And when you that subtraction thing - you discover that this year we are being outscored by 0.16 on average, for each game.
So as we limp toward the Olympics we can now statistically prove that the 2010 Rangers are officially, slightly, worse than the 2009 team. A little better on "O". A little worse on "D". And just a little worse overall.
So where’s the goodness? Well, we can't improve the situation without playing hockey - and tonight we do have a game on the docket (Editor - he means "schedule"). So there’s that.
Who the Hell are we playing? As a point of weather-related fact, hurricanes blow. And the Carolina Hurricane are the NHL East's worst team by a wide margin. They are 16-28-7, with just 39 points. But the Hurricane is 5-5 in their last 10. We’re just 3-5-2.
Primary Skaters: Left Winger Ray Whitney leads the Hurricane with 16 goals. And Defenseman Joni Pitkanen leads the team with 26 assist. Your plus-minus champ? That would be Jiri Tlusty, a Center who has played just 13 games and is +3.
In Net: Cam Ward (whose name sounds like a game show host or a character in a bad detective novel) has a 2.82 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Manny Legace and Michael Leighton have worse stats and have appeared in about 21 games between them.
Scoring & Defense: We have outscored Carolina by a little: 137 to 132. Our defense has let up only 145 goals to Carolina's 172.
Special Effects: Carolina is 17.6% on the powerplay to our 18.6%. Their PK is 78.6% to our 84.7%.
Scheduling Conflicts: Neither team played yesterday, so nobody should be tired.
Fronting the Twine: We want Chad Johnson here. But we'll be surprised if we get him. It will probably be Hank again as we are in crisis mode. I don't knoe what Tortorella will do with the line tonight.
Dave Puck Predicts: A win. We implore the Hockey Gods - give us a win. Let's say 3-2.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
We protected it for all of 31 seconds. But then, with Gaborik in the penalty box for slashing, Malkin, who had never scored a regular-season goal at Madison Square Garden before, launched a shot at Lundqvist. Chris Drury came sliding across to try and block it (he leads the league in blocked shots). But he didn't get all of it. Instead the puck deflected off Drury and snuck past Lundqvist for the tying goal.
And a minute later - Chris Conner - who had just been called up from the AHL - put the Penguins ahead to stay. An empty netter completed the crushing 4-2 loss.
At least we weren't shut out. But man - a win - or a point - would have meant so much to the floundering Rangers right now. Here are the grim details:
The Goalies: Hank stopped 24 of 27 shots (the last one was an empty netter). His save percentage was just .889. Fleury stopped 28 of 30 shots for a .933 save percentage. And that was the difference. But Hank faced more quality shots - including 4 breakaways.
Special Teams: Outplayed. We were 0-4 on the powerplay and Pittsburgh was 1-2. Against a team like Pittsburgh - that's usually enough to cost us the game.
The New Veteran Rangers were held scoreless - Gaborik kept off the board again. Lisin and Higgins had assists, though.
Your Returning Rangers produced one assist from the back line - from Girardi.
The Kid Rangers - specifically Artem Anisimov - were the whole show last night from the Ranger side. After a 17 game drought - "Anis" scored both Ranger goals last night. Artem played well - but where was everyone else?
Defense on Offense? One assist. But just 4 shots and no goals.
In conclusion: it's pretty bad right now. But we scored and we hung with a very good team for a long time. But we need points - not good tries.
I would start Chad Johnson Wednesday. Give Lundqvist the chance to recharge a little.
Where we stand: we're not standing really. We're hanging on to the 8th and final playoff seed in the East with 5 other teams within 3 points of us.
Next Up: we get two things we need: (1) a day off and (2) the last place Carolina Hurricanes as out Wednesday opponent.
Monday, January 25, 2010
It feels like we've been here before. Coming off back-to-back shut outs - needing something to get us going.
You know exactly what we need. We need goals. We could certainly use some hitting too. Accountability would be nice. Sticking up for one another would be a welcome addition. Team defense, anyone? And some toughness, as long as we're asking would brighten things up a bit as well.
In short - we need to really get out there and beat somebody. Anybody.
The thing is, tonight we're not playing just anybody:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They are 32-20-1. That puts them in 4th place in the NHL East. They're 6-4 in their last 10. They're better than we are.
Primary Skaters: You know this. They've got this guy named Crosby who has 33 goals already. And this guy named Malkin with 34 assists. And the team's plus-minus champs are of course.... Matt Cooke (?) and Jordan Staal (?) who are both +13.
In Net: The first-name-hyphenated Marc-Andre Fleury has a .908 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA. Brent Johnson is 2.68 and .913 in 15 appearances.
Scoring & Defense: The Penguins have 168 goals already. We have 135. On the other hand, they've let up 150 to our 141.
Special Effects: The Aquatic Birds score only 15.7% on the PowerPlay. We're better, though not good, at 18.9%. Pittsburgh's PK runs at 82.1% and we're, again, better at 85%. So, oddly, we dominate here.
Scheduling Conflicts: We had yesterday off, while the Penguins played and won. So they're more tired
Probable Lines: I don’t know – Tortorella will be shuffling away as the team has been shut out for two straight games.
On Defense: We'll go with our “best” six.
In Goal: Hank played less than half a game before getting yanked on Saturday - so he figures to rested enough to start here.
Dave Puck Predicts: I don't like predicting losses. So I'm flat-out not predicting this game. But you know I'll be rooting for the Rangers.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
It's as if there was a voice over announcement as soon as the Rangers scored the last of their recent 14 goal explosion: “That Concludes the Rangers Mini Scoring Streak and We Now Return You To Their Regular Scheduled Badness”
But let's take this step by step.
We outshot the Canadiens 32 to 31. We outhit them 24 to 16. The faceoffs were even at 22 apiece.
But we could not score any goals and got the crap kicked out of us.
It's like a hangover from the Flyers game. Philadelphia showed everyone how to shut us down – shadow Gaborik – hit him – and shake him up. And when the Rangers don't fight back – when Gabby realizes he's on his own – he can't focus on goals. And when our top line stops scoring – and the other lines can't score anyway – we're finished.
But – we like looking at the bright side over here – John Tortorella is no dummy and they will be working hard on trying to fix this. Aaron Voros did stick up for Gaborik this time – so that's something.
Okay – here's the autopsy
The Goalies: Halak shut us out. 32 shots – 32 saves – and you can figure out the save percentage yourself. Hank was pulled after letting in 4 goals on his first 15 shots. Of course – many of the shots were very high quality chances. With Chad Johnson starting an AHL games (I wish he had started here) the Rangers were forced to made do by dabbling with Zaba (I know - I'm thinking about Fred Flintstone too but we'll do that another time). Matt saved 14 of his 16 shots. So your save percentages were Hank: a jaw-dropping 733%, and Zaba .875%.
Special Teams: We were 0-2 on the powerplay – actually negating 2 PPs with penalties of our own. Montreal was 2-5 on the PP, and that's enough to ensure our loss right there,
Nobody Scored – so not much to say there. Rozsival was out of position on one of our goals – but when you get scored on 6 times it the whole game becomes a sad blur.
In Conclusion: Can we please go back to scoring large bunches of goals instead of getting shut out? It's a lot, more fun to watch. Your New York Rangers are once again a team in crisis. When you're still (barely) in playoff position – you can't say “rock bottom” but “reeling” certainly applies now.
Next Up: If we can't beat Montreal, how about the Pittsburgh Penguins? Like it or not, the Crosby Crybabies – I mean the defending Stanley Cup Champions – will play at MSG Monday at 7pm.
Where We Stand: 7th place. Tied in points with 6th place Philly and 8th place Montreal – both of whom just shut us out. And the thundering herd is just behind us - were just 3 points out of 13th place.
Friday, January 22, 2010
So when we take the ice up north in Montreal tonight - which Ranger team will be skating out there? The Powerhouse or the Pushovers?
And will Montreal - who has now seen a utube of the Flyers pounding Marian Gaborik with their fists while the Rangers stood and watched - take notice? You bet they will. Because until the Rangers learn to defend themselves - every teram in the league will go after them.
I thought that was what Don Brashear was for. I thought Sather brought him in here as a skilled puncher - as someone who could protect our star playersd against exactly what happened Thursday.
If that's not Brash's role - then what is his role? Why are we throwing 1 milllion scarce salary cap dollars at this aging player if not to prevent exactly what happened on Thursday?
So tonight - we'll see if Punch-man is even in the lineup. We'll see if the Habs go after Gabs. And we'll see which Ranger team comes to play.
Dave Pucks Predicts: we win 3-2. But honestly - I'm not feelin' it tonight.
You know, Dave Pucks went to college in Philadelphia. To this day I have a lot of friends there. But man, do I hate their sports teams. I don't even want to get started on the Eagles - so let me talk about the Flyers today.
Marian Gaborik is the heart and soul of the Rangers offense. He's that rare superstar that can also be called a gentleman. He's not a primadonna - he works hard and does not ever put himself above his team. And on the ice he always plays hard - and never gives anyone a cheap shot.
So for the Flyers' Dan Carcillo to target Gaborik - to assault him on the ice - to pick on a much smaller player - well, it is one of the more cowardly disgusting things I've ever seen on the ice. (And I've seen plenty). It's exactly what I don't like about hockey.
It’s bad for the game. It's the kind of thing that could get someone arrested if it happened off the ice.
And worse - the other Rangers just stood around and watched it happen without lifting a finger (or dropping a glove) to help.
And while Dan Girardi - who was closest to the attack when it happened - made apologies afterward - it was Sean Avery who tried to retaliate against the larger Carcillo the next time the two were on the ice together.
Sean gets it. He understands that if you don't fight back - the bully just keeps coming. And Sean actually beat the larger Carcillo - or at least got the better of the fight.
The Rangers must stand up for each other - especially for our stars. Otherwise - we're not a team at all.
The Flyers didn't out skill us last night - they intimidated us. And our two game 14 goal explosion came to an abrupt end. We were shut out for the 3rd time in 6 games.
I'm just sick about what happened. But anyway - here are the details
The Goalies: Henrik faced 27 shots and made 25 saves. The Flyers Emery shut us out - stopping 24 shots. Hank wasn't bad exactly - but when we don't score - we can't win.
Special Teams: The Flyers scored once on 3 PowerPlays. We were scoreless on 3 attempts. And that was your hockey game right there.
Scoring - there was none - so nothing to talk about here.
In conclusion: It is very discouraging to see the Rangers mini scoring surge come to such a complete halt - especially when the Flyers are trying to intimidate us. Bad loss. Hard to make anything good out of this one.
Where we stand: Still 6th place but the hated Islander are surging and just one point behind us - and so are the Bruins.
Next Up: Saturday night in Montreal.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The New Veteran Rangers: Wow, there a lot of goals and assist to talk about! Let's start with 4 assists for Marian Gaborik. A goal and assist for Prospal and for Higgins, of all people. A goal for Lisin. And a single assist for Boyle.
The Kid Rangers did good stuff too. Del Zotto had an assist and Gilroy had 2 assists.
The Returning Rangers have been lighting up the night the past 2 games. Last night Callahan had an assist. Drury had another goal. Dubinsky had a goal and an assist. Girardi had a goal. Redden had an assist. Staal had a goal and an assist. And finally – Voros had a goal and a series of fights.
Defense on Offense: Yes there was. One goal and 4 big assists.
So this year's Rangers can look very good - or very bad - sometimes in the same week. A little unsettling for a fan - but hey - it's a lot better than never being good.
I don't know how long thid will last - but let's just enjoy the wave while we're riding it.
Where we stand: Ottawa also won so we are in 6th place in the East, one point behind the Senators and one point in front of Boston. (And just 5 points above of a tie for 12th place)
Next Up - after just avenging a bad earlier loss to Tampa - the Rangers on Thursday Night will get the chance to get back at Philadelphia for a bad loss earlier this year. They play at MSG on Thursday at 7pm.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Now, with the hated Islanders on our tails after they beat the Devils 4-0, we have to turn our attention to holding on to 7th place.
Who the Hell are we playing? The Tampa Bay Lightning have that bolt on their jerseys, just like the San Diego Chargers did. And they are, of course, the team that John Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with back in 2004. They've beaten us once this year already - so figure the coach wants this one. A lot.
Tampa Bay is 19-19-10 for 48 points to our 23-19-7 for 53. But in the tightly bunched NHL East, those 5 points are the difference between 7th and 13th place.
Primary Skaters: Stamkos has 25 goals and Malone has 20. St. Louis (the player – not the team) has 41 assists. And right winger Steve Downie leads the club in plus-minus with a +6
In Net: Mike Smith is 2.97 GAA and .940% in saves in 28 games. Antero Niittymaki (great name) is 2.71 GAA and .911% saves in 22 games.
Scoring & Defense: We have 127 goals to Tampa's 125 - dumb and dumber. But we've only let up 131 to their 146.
Special Effects: Lightning 18.6% on the PP and 79.5% on the PK. We have tumbled al the way to 18.8% on the PP and still have a 86.1% on the PK.
Scheduling Conflicts: Rangers had the day off yesterday (so did I!) but the Lightning played Monday and beat the NHL's worst team, Carolina 3-2. So we're a little more rested.
Probable Lines: I don't know of course - but my guess based on rumors and recent history is this:
Line One: Christensen centers for Prospal and Gaborik. The top line did well against the Habs. Let's hope the Vinnie-Gabby chemistry is back.
Line Two: here's the real story and the best hope for Ranger-ville. Dubinsky returns to the Center position - but on the 2nd line, along with Callahan and Drury - now at wing instead of center. This is the combo that really ignited on Sunday - two goals for Cally - and one each for Dubi and Drury. If the Rangers can get 2 lines hot at once - for the first time all year - it will be very very good.
Line Three: Anisimov centers for Avery and Lisin. Avery is in the dog house with Tortorella right now after some bad penalties versus Montreal. You have two very hot tempers there - let's watch what happens.
Line Four: Who's left? Boyle and Kotalik (who both managed to be -1 in a 6-2 win on Sunday) and Voros.
On Defense: our "original six"
Fronting the Twine: I really feel that starting Chad on Saturday helped Hank win Sunday. But this time, Tortorella will want to beat the team that fired him - so he's going to use Lundqvist who is coming off one of his worst performances in a while - that also was one of his first wins in a while.
Dave Puck Predicts: Have the Rangers re-started their offense, or was Sunday an aberration? (Ed- he means a freak occurrence). The Lightning can get lit up defensively - so we have a real opportunity to keep this going. I say Rangers win 4-2
Loose Pucks: My 11 year old - Pucks Junior - plays his first ever game in a floor hockey game tonight. I'm more nervous than he is. My advice for the little guy? Keep your feet moving - shoot the puck - and think of Sean Avery whenever you’re around the opposing goalie. And - I've promised the little guy I won't embarrass him by yelling horrible things about the opposing team. Let's hope I can live up to that.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Things were looking grim. The Rangers had lost 3 in a row -0 and now they were down 2-0 in the 2nd at home to period down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens.
But – your mighty Rangers rose up and smote Montreal with the fury of .. of – well anyway they had a great comeback and beat the Habs 6-2 in front of an ecstatic (Editor - that means very happy) MSG crowd.
After struggling to score anything for more than a week – the Rangers exploded for 6 unanswered goals in two periods.
The New Veteran Rangers: Finally – some goals and assists to talk about. Remember the name Marian Gaborik? Well, after a few games where he disappeared – the Gifted One showed up with a goal, two assists, and a +3 on the night. And Prospal – shaking off rust from his recent surgery – has 2 assists and a +3 of his own. And Lisin managed to get himself in a fight.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
You could see John Tortorella yelling, pleading, encouraging, imploring his troops to fight on. There was 1:55 left on the clock – we were done two goals and hadn't scored more than one in a solid week of play. But Torts was trying to breath some life into a dejected, frustrated, exhausted, Ranger team.
In the end though – it was St. Louis that scored next – an empty netter that made the final score of 4-1 in a game that gave you had the feeling we could have played 6 more periods without catching up.
For all of you who wondered where this year's team would be without Marian Gaborik – this past week – where he has failed to score a goal – has given us all a clear indication. And it's an ugly mess. Tortorella has been trying to get all the non-Gaborik players to start contributing – and now The Gifted One himself is having a slump. It's like a boat that keeps springing leaks – the Ranger flagship keeps taking on water. Because when Gabs doesn't score – and no one else scores – guess what? We lose.
And not one those encouraging losses. This was one of those hard-to-watch games that makes you wonder why you spend so many hours watching the little rubber puck slide around when you could be making something more of your life. It's a loss that makes me understand why my former blog partner Nugman disappeared months ago never to return.
I'm not sure I have the heart, or the stomach, or any other required internal organs to write the full recap today – but here goes:
The Goalies: Even though Pucks Junior and I shouted “Dos Nueve” (Ole' style) whenever Chad made a save – in a sideways homage to Chad OchoCinco – it was all in vain. (Editor: homage means “sort of like”)
Chad let in one bad goal, Alexander Steen's seeing-eye back-breaker from the side of the net, but we've seen Hank do worse – and over all it was an entirely acceptable performance from a rookie in his 2nd ever NHL start. An .875 save percentage isn't great – but there are starting NHL goalies who aren't much better for the whole season. All told, 21 saves on 24 shots – some of them pretty good ones.
And even though we lost - I still love the move to start Chad Johnson. It's a long season – the kid still looks very impressive for a rookie in his 2nd NHL start – and the rest gives a dejected Henrik Lundqvist some time to get his mojo back. If Hank had started we could have easily lost this game 2-1 – or worse – and we'd have a tired Hank tonight against Montreal. So we get a better hank tonight – and a more experienced Chad next time out.
The Blue's Mason was helped immensely (Editor: that means “a whole lot”) but the fact that the Rangers only shot 22 times on goal yesterday. But he saved 21 of 22 for a .955 save percentage that could have beaten almost any team last night.
Special Teams: You could pin the loss here. We were 0-2 on the powerplay and let up 1 goal in 4 tries on the PK.
The New Veteran Rangers: It was Boyle that broke the scoreless streak – that had reached nearly 3 full hockey games – with an 11 footer off a great play by Aaron Voros. Also 5 hits for Brian. But notably absent from this section are Mr. Gaborik and Mr. Prospal, both of whom were -2 on the night
The Kid Rangers: A minus 3 night for the teenager. But he's learning. Maybe this is a rebuilding year?
The Returning Rangers: Voros? One assist.
Defense on Offense: Next...
In Conclusion: As my former co-worker Hamilton Shippee used to say “Where's the Goodness”? I wish I knew. Maybe the best thing is we get right back at it tonight.
Next Up: Montreal. Tonight. With Hank back between the pipes. Let's hope the crossbar isn't mad at him after he slammed it with his stick on Thursday – he needs all the help he can get.
Where We Stand: The loss tumbles us to 7th place in the East, just 1 point above the 8th place Islanders and the 9th place Montreal. So if we lose tonight... best not to think about that too much.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
We play the St. Louis Blues. And getting the Blues seems appropriate somehow - because our consecutive point game streak came to a crashing halt Thursday night as we wasted some of the best goaltending we are ever likely to see in our lifetimes in a 2-0 loss to Ottawa (the 2nd goal was an empty netter - so the usually flawless phantom goalie, Mr. M. T. Nett let us down)
The Blues play over in the Western conference - where they are 20-19-7 (to our 22-18-7). Out West that is good enough for 13th place.
They have scored eactly 120 goals and so have we. Of course - that number looked better last week before we were shut out twice. And the Blues let up 131 goals to our 125. So they are a lot like us.
They are coming off a 1-0 shutout of Minnesota.
Dave Pucks Predicts: I don't, really. No idea what we're going to see from the hockey club tonight. Hoping for the best.
Loose Pucks: my 11 year old son Pucks Junior is playing in his first ever game in a floor hockey league on Tuesday night. I hope the little guy does well.
Friday, January 15, 2010
So, statistically at least - with no exaggeration - that was the best he has ever played here.
The only problem is - he's lost 2 games in a row while doing it. It doesn't even seem possible - but it's true. After Tuesday's shoot out loss to the Devils, last night the Rangers found a way to lose 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators - a team that had lost 5 straight and was missing most of their top line and their two top goalies due to injury.
The Rangers have been ramping up the defense the last two games - and Henrik has shown a level of play I had been concerned earlier this year that we'd never see from him again. So the fact that the King can be as goos as he ever was is very good news.
But the very bad news is - we can't score.
You can point to Lundqvist and the late goal (just 1:46 left in the third when the Senators Campoli broke the scoreless tie), but you shouldn't. Lundqvist was magnificent - it was Marian Gaborik who failed to cover Alex Kovalev which led to the game-tie-back breaking goal.
And to John Tortorella's credit, he saw what happened and benched Gaborik for the final minute of the game. And, to Gabby's credit - he stood up and took the blame. The Gifted One told reporters yesterday:
"I totally lost my man. It was Kovalev. It was my mistake. It should have been right there. It cost us the game"
So if you're looking for positives in this terrible loss - think about this:
It's good that we have a superstar like Gaborik who gets it - and who doesn't complain or try to deflect the blame in a situation like this. There are things he might have said - that the coach had put him out there with an unfamiliar line (with Higgins and Anisimov). Or that the man he was supposed to cover didn't score the goal. But Gabby is a rare superstar - a true stand up guy - and we're lucky to have him.
And of course the other positive - as mentioned - is that Henrik has showed us he can still be The King. Of course - you can't blame him if he's not feels so good about things right now. After the late Ottawa goal Henrik turned and smashed his stick against the crossbar - even though that crossbar had been his best buddy earlier that night - it had stopped a shot that had beaten him. And he had some angry words for reporters:
"You're not going to win games if you can't score. That's pretty simple. I'm so mad right now"
And you can understand why. When we score we can't defend. And when we defend, we can't score. Add that up and you get 127 consecutive shut out minutes.
And 2 straight losses.
Next up - a day of practice and yelling by John Tortorella. And then, Saturday night in St. Louis.
Loose Pucks - forgive me if I don't mention the fact that Ottawa's rookie goalie was named Broduer and was a distant cousin of the guy who also shut us out the game before. It was weird though. Let's hope the Blues don't have another one to throw at us.
Where we Stand: still in 6th place, but a thundering herd of teams just behind us.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
“Shoot The Puck!”
It's more than advice. And it's more than strategy. It's a feeling in the gut. It's an emotion. We can't stand it any more and we start to yell.
Shoot The Puck!”
Because it's so obvious to us that you can't score unless you shoot. And that there's no benefit to just standing there not shooting.
Of course, we are not professional hockey coaches, you and I. We don't know all the complicated stuff that John Tortorella knows about hockey. So when the Rangers go 1-10 on the PowerPlay, you know he's going to have a much more technical analysis than we do in our living rooms.
Well, here's Tortorella's quote from yesterday:
"We were looking at tapes of Montreal, the best power play in the league and they did nothing but take point shots, they've got a pretty good guy in Markov and they were just banging away. We're trying to get across to Michael (Del Zotto) that he does not always have to give it to Gabby, he does not always have to give it to Kotalik. If he just takes some wrist shots....The key for Michael is that when there's someone in front he sees of his color, his uniform, throw it on the net and things will open up elsewhere.”
In other words: Montreal has the best powerplay in the NHL. And what do they do? They shoot the puck. From the Point. Over and over again.
And so, in practice this week, the Rangers are in powerplay formation and Tortorella is telling them the exact same thing you and I have been yelling at our TVs.
“Shoot The Puck”
(Or, in Tortorella's case we'll bet there's an expletive or two thrown in for emphasis.)
Anyway, here's your game preview:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? It will be the Ottawa Senators – a team that has lost five straight games and has not won since January 3rd. They are 22-21-4 and on the verge of tumbling below the playoff Line-O-Death as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, with five other teams within 4 points of them. The Rangers at 22-17-7, sit 3 points and 2 playoff slots above them.
Primary Skaters: Michalek and Fisher and 16 and 15 goals respectively. Dan Alfredsson leads the team in assists with 22 (but he is injured). And it is left winger Nick Foligno that has the teams best plus-minus (+8).
In Net: 26 game appearances each for Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliot. Leclaire has a 3.07 GAA and Elliot has a 2.91. Both men have save percentages under .900, which is frankly, terrible.
Scoring & Defense: The Senators have scored 127 goals to our 120. But they have let up 147 goals to our 123.
Special Effects: Our Powerplay has been fading and is at 19.3% right now, but is still much better than the Senator's 14.0%. On the PK we also dominate. We kill penalties at an 86.4% rate while Ottawa stops only 82.1%.
Scheduling Conflicts: The Senators played and lost Tuesday 6-1 (to Atlanta). We played and lost Tuesday in a 96 shot marathon that went to shootout. So I'd say we're more tired , particularly Henrik Lundqvist.
Line One: Prospal-Christensen-Gaborik. I'm liking this line a lot. So far Christensen has been a great acquisition by Sather.
Line Two: Dubinsky-Drury-Callahan. It would be great if this crew could catch fire. With Dubi on the line they have some real firepower on line two for the first time in a while.
Line Three: Avery-Anisimov-Higgins. Avery's foot is sore from a blocked shot Tuesday – but I'm hoping he will play.
Line Four: Brashear-Boyle-Kotalik. Some scoring from down here would be great – and Koty has that super-hard shot.
On Defense: The same
In Goal: I am guessing that Chad Johnson will appear over the weekend when the Rangers play on back-to-back nights. But with hank being warn out from a tough game Tuesday – I would rest him here too. Torts probably won't though.
Dave Puck Predicts: We win 3-1.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
You know, these last dozen games or so – I even like how the Rangers lose. Don't get me wrong – we wasted this supreme defensive effort anchored by Henrik Lundqvist but radiating outward through the defense and forwards. But we hung tough and got a point – against a pretty good Devils team that took 4 rounds of Shoot Out to beat us.
All said the Devils launched 45 shots at us but The King Henrik stopped them all. And we fired back with 51 shots of our own.
My 11 year old son Puck's Junior was mesmerized by the game. “96 shots,” he said before the Shoot Out began, “and nobody's scored.” He's right – if you like classic defensive struggles – this certainly was one.
And you know - I'd sign up to get us in a Shoot Out with a first place team any night of the week. With Hank in goal and the Shoot Out talent we supposedly have on this team – we should be scoring more
Anyway, here's the recap:
The Goalies: Hank was perfect for 65 minutes and 3 shoot out rounds – and he gets a shut out – and... it wasn't good enough. It was however – amazing and the best he's played all year. Lundqvist is the reason we skate off with a point last night. He stopped 45 shots. That's 2 games worth in one night.
But that fat one – the devil – was a little better. He stopped 51 shots and 4 rounds of Shoot Out. Still – Gaborik almost beat him. Almost. Damn.
And I'll keep saying it – just the idea that Chad Johnson is around and will start some games is lifting a weight off Hank's shoulders and making him a better player.
Special Teams: Both teams were 0-2 on the PowerPlay. We stopped some 5-on-3 action. But again one PP goal would have won it.
The New Veteran Rangers: No one scored – but Gaborik came the closest - an OT shot that trickled by Brodeur and slid into the post. So close.
The Kid Rangers: Pointless
The Returning Rangers: Also pointless.
Defense on Offense: Nothing – but the Defense really played some defense.
In Conclusion: Still only 1 regulation loss in the last 12 games. Big test against an elite team and we hung with them and got a point. I'll (reluctantly) take it.
Next Up: On Thursday Ottawa comes to town.
Where We Stand: The point keeps us in 6th place and runs us to a tie at 51 points with 5th place Boston. Those Flyers (8-1-1 in their last 10) have climbed into 7th, just 2 points behind us with a game at hand.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
And, what do you know; word is that Prospal will play tonight against our most hated rivals: the New Jersey Devils.
And so, John Tortorella was faced with the dilemma (Editor: he means problem) we had written about. With Christensen playing so well (he's plus 5 in the last six games) and Dubinsky seeming to do better at wing - who was the odd man out on Gaborik's line?
And we are hearing that Brandon Dubinsky is the man to drop down. He'll join Drury and Callahan on line two.
We like the move because it helps both lines.
Gabby and Prospal have played well together all season. But Erik Christensen is more of a natural center than Vaclav is. So this way - you get a real center plus the Gaborik-Prospal combination.
And this helps the second line as well. The line of last year's Ranger favorites: Dubi, Cally, and Drury will be sure to work hard for loose pucks. I'm assuming the captain will play center - which frees Dubi up to play the wing where he suddenly looks more comfortable.
Of course - I'm guessing here, but this puts Sean Avery on the 3rd line, with Anisimov and, I suppose, Higgins.
Rounding out line 4 to Boyle, Kotalik, and whoever is not a healthy scratch tonight.
Also notable - Chad Johnson's demotion to the AHL was temporary and for a purpose - to keep him sharp. He won a 2-1 shoot out game. And now he's back with the Rangers.
Who the hell are we playing? Tonight - we play the team we really don't like - the New Jersey Devils. It's an interesting test for us. We’ve been playing much better lately - but the schedule's been kind to us too. This is our first contest against an elite team in a while, so this will be a good way to see where we are as a hockey club.
Dave Puck Predicts: I always pick wins. I can't help it. And tonight I'm saying we score 3 on fatso and Hank only let's 2 by him. The Rangers only have one regulation loss in their last 11. It has to end sometime - but let's home it's not tonight.
Monday, January 11, 2010
First, though, they had to hit rock bottom with a terrible loss to the Flyers - where Brandon Dubinsky was exposed as a Center who was at his worst doing Center-type stuff like stick handling the puck through traffic (or, more accurately - trying to and failing).
After watching Brandon struggle, the Ranger's coaching staff had an epiphany (Editor- he means "a big idea"). They realized the Dubi was best at crashing the net and cleaning up rebounds and other stuff that Forwards - not Centers - are generally used for. So they realized that Center Brandon Dubinsky might be able to contribute more to the Gaborik line if he didn't play center.
Realizing this, they moved Brandon to wing - opposite The Gifted One. But in solving that problem - they created another:
Who plays center on the top line?
The answer - incredibly - has been Christensen. Christensen, a few weeks ago, was kicked off his team and put on waivers where any team could claim him. This is what the Rangers had done to Valiquette - it’s a move that often is the beginning of the end of a player’s NHL career.
But Christensen managed to jump off the trash heap and into the Ranger's top line. He's been Centering for Gabs and Dubi - and the Rangers have responded with their current (season-saving?) hot streak.
This is great news of course - particularly if he can keep it up. But if he does, here's the problem:
What happens to the top line when Prospal is ready to play again?
Clearly Gaborik stays on the Gaborik line. But then you'll have 3 players: Prospal, Dubinsky, and Christiansen, who can all play center and all play wing. There are, like, four different viable (Ed - he means possible) combinations:
Dubi Center, Prospal wing
Prospal Center, Dubi wing
Christensen Center, Prospal wing
Christensen Center, Dubi Wing
(You could also play Christensen at wing - but that makes no sense)
And honestly, if it were up to me, I don't know which I'd pick. If Dubinsky plays better at wing - and if you want to keep him on the top line - then you have to pick between Christensen - the natural center - and Vaclav - who has been thriving on Gabby's line for most of the year.
And if you want to keep Prospal with Gaborik - which has been a potent combination this year - you have to decide whether make Vinnie play Center - which puts two players sort of out of position - or give Christensen a shot at centering for them.
And whoever you drop off the top line can potentially make a 2nd or 3rd line that much stronger.
So I really don't know which way to go on this. But I can take comfort in two things:
1 - John Tortorella doesn't care what I think. (This is to his credit), and
2 - John is almost sure to try every different combination he can think of. So unless one combination clicks instantly and produces many many goals (not a bad thing) John is sure to shuffle his players around until we see every possible unit on the ice.
Of course - for this problem to even occur we need Christensen to continue to play well and Prospal to get well. Both of which would be really good things.
So this is one Ranger problem that I'm actually rooting for.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
This seemed impossible just a few weeks ago, but your New York Rangers have only one regulation loss in their last ten games, beat Boston yesterday for the third time this season, and have climbed all the way to 6th place in the NHL Eastern Conference.
We predicted a 3-2 win – and again – the Rangers did us one better – winning 3-1 in regulation.
The thing is, we got three goals. And when you get three for Henrik and when you play some real defense for him and when you give him a backup goalie who can give him a night off – he's really tough to beat. So, yes, he late in a late goal – but it was the only goal he let in and the Rangers won easily.
This is why were were clamoring (Editor – he means asking loudly) for Chad to get a start. Because it helps The King get a little bit of rest and come back stronger.
Anyway – here are the details:
The Goalies: Boston's Thomas didn't play badly. He made 31 saves and had a .912 save percentage. That is plenty good enough to win many nights in the NHL. But it's not enough to beat Hank – when Lundqvist is on his game. The King stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, for a .967 save percentage. And so, Lundqvist won the game for us.
Special Teams: We could not convert on 4 PowerPlays – but our Penalty kill was perfect in two attempts.
The New Veteran Rangers: Marian Gaborik had an assist. And Christensen – the guy that was put on waivers and was almost out of hockey – has been consistently contributing on our top line. He was +2 on the night with a goal and an assist.
The Kid Rangers: Del Zotto came back to the party with a pretty goal, skating with the puck all the way to thr crease before beating Thomas down low.
The Returning Rangers: Dubinsky had a hand in all three Rangers tallies - with a goal and two assists. And Dan Girardi had an assist as well. Drury won 59% of his faceoffs – best on the team.
Defense on Offense: One goal, one assist. A good days work.
In Conclusion: Things are looking up in Ranger land. That little bit of hope I started having a few short days ago is starting to grow.
Next Up: A couple of days off – and then the Devils come to the Garden on Tuesday night. This will be the best team we've played in a while – and should be a good indicator of how much we've really improved.
Where We Stand: Incredibly – we continue to climb the ladder. We've now have sole possession of 6th place in the eastern conference with 50 points. Ottawa and Montreal trail us with 48 points, and Boston, who we have beaten three time this year, remains 1 point ahead of us in 5th.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
It sounds so civilized. Saturday 1pm game in the city of Boston. They'll be snow on the ground, time for a fancy brunch at the Harvard Club, and yet not enough time for the locals to drink themselves senseless.
It figures to be another low scoring contest. Last time around we fought our way to a 2-0 lead, lost it quickly in the third period, and then we got Higgy with it - as Chris Higgins found a way to score in the last two minutes to claw back the win.
On Thursday we rested Henrik and got a point when Chad "Dos Nueve!" Johnson let in just a single breakaway goal in his first NHL start.
So now we get to see if that rest helps Hank. And my guess is it does. Another goalie in Red Pants playing well can only spark the King to raise his game. Lundqvist will be feeling rested, a little challenged and a little less pressured all at the same time.
There's a reason most teams rest their top goaltender. And hopefully today - we'll start to see what that reason is.
But the other question is - can we score? On Thursday we slipped backward offensively and only got the single tally. Of course many of our players spent a lot of their time and energy helping out the rookie netminder (including several Rangers literally in the crease with Chad and making saves).
We'll see how this all plays out at 1pm. I can see the Rangers getting 2 or 3 goals. So it's up to Hank. I'll predict: a 3-2 shoot out win.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Look, we lost. But....
We took the game all the way to a shoot out and got a tough point on the road against a tough goalie that always plays well against us. We played great defense and we were great on the penatly kill. And we played with energy and desire despite back to back games and the travel.
But the real story of the night is Ranger Rookie Goalie Chad Johnson.
Our last word of our pre-game post was this: “John Tortorella – we plead and implore you – start Chad Johnson!”
And lo and behold (Editor - that means “lookit”) Tortorella, after 17 straight games of Henrik Lundqvist, sent out rookie goaltender Chad Johnson out between the pipes.
And Chad was nothing short of magnificent. This is a 23 year old rookie making his first NHL start. And he went up against Atlanta's Hedberg who always has the Rangers number.
Hedberg was nearly unbeatable – but Johnson matched him save for save. Chad was in command out there – moving with confidence – making saves high, low, left and right. And it was only a bad line change by the Rangers that let to the breakaway that produced Atlanta's only regulation goal.
There's something about Chad's game that settles down his teammates. I can't explain it exactly – but he exudes (Editor – he means “give off”) this calm and confidence that spreads to his team. And I don't think I have ever seen a rookie do that before – especially in his first ever NHL start.
And to top it all off – Johnson got an assist on the lone Ranger goal. The box score doesn't even have a way of recording that. Johnson got the puck to Staal who got it to Lisin for a 12 foot tip in.
And if only the Rangers could have managed a 2nd goal, they could have gotten the kid his first NHL win. But the Blueshirts did help Chad out as best they could on defense – blocking shots and slowing down the Thrashers any way they could.
In the end, on the Shoot Out we could manage one goal and Chad let up 2 in 5 attempts. But don't blame the kid – this was a masterful NHL debut. Make no mistake – most NHL goaltenders would have lost this game in regulation. Chad didn't, and now the rangers have points in 9 of their last 10 games.
Also – I don't want to nit pick – but I don't understand why Tortorella sent Del Zotto out for his first-ever shootout with the game on the line. Too much pressure to throw at a 19 year old. But I did like Gaborik shooting third – I think that's better than having him first – and it worked.
Here's the official recap:
The Goalies: If Hedberg was brilliant (30 saves, .967 save percentage), Johnson was “brilliant-er” (32 saves and .969 save percentage). And the move helps Hank get a little rest after 17 straight starts.
Special Teams: Again one goal here would have won this for us. We were 0-2 on the powerplay. But we were perfect, dominant even, on the penalty kill (3-3)
The New Veteran Rangers: One goal by Lisin. Gabby scored on the Shoot Out.
The Kid Rangers: Chad counts as a kid – he had an assist.
The Returning Rangers: Staal had an assist as well.
Defense on Offense: Just the one assist.
In Conclusion: If there are Encouraging losses – this was one. We got a point – we got a new Goalie up and running – we got hank some much needed rest – and we played hard after playing the night before and traveling.
Next Up: Saturday afternoon at Boston.
Where We Stand: Every point helps. We're still in 7th place in the East, but we're tied now with the 6th place Ottawa Senators
Thursday, January 7, 2010
A great night in the Garden: The Rangers got a 2nd straight home win for the first time in 2 months, defeating the Dallas Stars 5-2 in a contest dominated by Dave Puck's favorite Ranger: Sean Avery.
SEAN! He was a force of nature last night - seeking revenge in his first game against his former teammates. Dallas had signed Sean last year - but then kicked him off the team for making vulgar remarks about a former girlfriend to the press. As a result - the Stars ended up playing half his salary and the Rangers pay the other half. So last night - both employers got to see Sean earning his paycheck - with a goal, 3 assists, lots of disruption, great skating, plenty of pushing and shoving, 4 hits, 16 shifts, and a slew of penalties - both committed and drawn (from the Stars).
And the Rangers had a second big night of scoring by guys not named Gaborik. Now, The Gifted One did score, but he almost always does. The big deal is that the Rangers added 4 other goals to Gabby’s and gave Henrik Lundqvist all he needed to win - and then some.
The Goalies: A good strong game for the King as he starts to gear himself up for the Olympics. Hank saved 25 of the 27 shots that came his way. And the two that got by were tough ones. The 2nd and final Stars goal was a perfect deflection - but for some reason if was Ranger Captain Chris Drury who did it.
Dallas' Turko only faced 24 shots, but only stopped 20 of them. So Hank was the difference last night.
Special Teams: Our Penalty Kill Unit was again spectacular. Dallas had 6 PowerPlay chances - including some 5-3 time - and the Rangers shut them down. Our PowerPlay had its troubles - but did connect on 1 of our own 6 chances. So we dominated here too.
The New Veteran Rangers: Gaborik was back on the board with a nasty laser-like backhander shot that beat Turko. But Gabs also had help tonight. Kotalik blasted the cannon and found the net for the 2nd straight game. And Christensen is suddenly hot as well and contributed an assist.
The Kid Rangers: Gilroy had an assist.
Your Returning Rangers were led by SEAN AVERY who played his best game of the season. He was all over the ice and played smart, disciplined hockey – there was not one sloppy second of ice time that I could see (Editor – knock it off) (Dave Pucks: Sorry)
Anyway, what I was saying is that Avery had a hand in the first 4 Ranger goals. His goal in the first tied the game at one - a great sprint and slapshot. And then he had assists on each of the next 3. His feed to Gaborik was perfect – I wish he’d get the chance to do that more often. His Pass-shot to Drury for the tip-in was beautiful as well. And a nice feed to Kotalik for the cannon blast.
Callahan also scored for this unit - the empty netter. Drury had the two tip-ins (one for the Stars unfortunately). And a good night for the Salary Cap Crushers: Redden had an assist and Rozsival had two. (I must point out however that Rozy managed to be -2 on the night.)
Defense on Offense? A big yes. 4 assists for the back liners.
In conclusion: Can you feel that small bud of hope growing in your soul? I can. There's a long way to go - and we haven't been beating great teams - but things are looking better in Ranger-land than they've looked in a while.
If we keep playing defense, goaltending, and scoring - there may be a real upside to this season.
Where we stand: Still in 7th place, 2 points above Montreal (with 2 games at hand) and one point behind 6th place Ottawa.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
It's a little bit of an odd feeling for a Ranger fan this season - but there it is. A little bud of hope growing in my Blueshirt Brother's soul this morning.
And why am I feeling that hope?
Well, the Rangers got some goals last time out. Three goals in fact - from guys who aren't named Marian Gaborik. And you know, if Christensen can function and score like a first line center - that would be like a gift from the Hockey Gods.
And if Chris Higgins - who clawed us back into the lead Monday with a great move to shed a defender and a shot that popped the net - can get going as well - that would be another gift.
And if Kotalik could use that cannon shot of his for good instead of evil - that is - for scoring instead of his scary-bad plus-minus statistic - that would be good as well.
If these things happen while the Rangers keep playing team defense and if Hank plays like he's (hopefully still) capable of and if Gaborik keeps on rolling - well - it makes me have some real hope for this season.
I know this might not work out - but let me have this little island of happiness. It's a new decade. Maybe we can keep this rolling.
Who the Hell are we playing? The Dallas Stars - unofficially named for that star in the middle of the Dallas Cowboy football stadium - have to be one of the NHL's most illogical franchises. I mean - why are they playing hockey in Texas? And do you think there is one person in Dallas this week with the slightest interest in how their local hockey team is doing? No sir. They are looking at the Cowboys and their playoff game this weekend.
So Dallas skates around in the Texas heat and gets a whole lot of indifference from the locals. They are 18-13-11 this year, with 2 more points than your New York Rangers have. Out in the west that is good for 10th place.
Oh yes – and this is Sean Avery’s former team – the one that’s still paying part of his salary – the one that he was ousted from for making a high school locker room type adolescent remark to reporters – which led to his suspension – which led him back to the Rangers. I don’t really see that much of a story here – but it will be fun to watch Seanny interact with his old pals.
Primary Skaters: The three leading scorers on Dallas are all on their Left Wing: James Neal has 18 goals, Loui Eriksson has 17 and Brenden Morrow has 13. Center Brad Richards has an impressive 34 assists. And defensemen Mark Fistric leads the team at +8.
In Net: Their top guy is Marty Turco who in 30 appearances has a 2.66 GAA and a .911 save percentage. And they have let Alex Ault appear in 14 games, even though he lets up 3.05 GAA and has a .897% save percentage. There is a lesson in there for us – but we’re not learning it.
Scoring & Defense: The Stars have scored 122 goals to our 111 and have let up 131 to our 117.
Special Effects: Dallas scores 20.5% of the time on PowerPlays, while we convert an identical 20.5%. On the penalty kill they stop 79.9% while we are better at 85.5%
Scheduling Conflicts: Dallas played and lost to New Jersey 4-0 last night. We've been at rest an extra day having won 3-2 on Monday. So we're a little less tired.
Probable Lines: I don’t know for sure of course – but here are my best guesses:
Line 1: Dubinsky-Christensen-Gaborik
Line 2: Higgins-Drury-Callahan
Line 3: Avery-Anisimov-Ales Kotalik
Line 4: Brashear-Boyle-Lisin
Fronting the Twine: Every night I hope the Rangers will come to their senses and start resting Henrik Lundqvist - for his own sake - and to see what kind of talent we have behind him. And every night I'm disappointed because the Rangers keep rolling Hank out there - night after night.
Dave Puck Predicts: Keep Hope Alive! Rangers will stun the world by getting 4 goals and will win 4-2.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
How did we get to 7th? With a shocking 3-2 win last night over the Boston Bruins.
Why shocking? Let me explain:
1 - I was amazed and pleased to see the Rangers work hard at home and get within 6 minutes of a 2-0 shutout win at home.
2 – I was astounded when the Rangers instead of taking a bad penalty in the third period – were the recipients of one at 13:28, giving us – I thought – a chance to eat up 2 big minutes to get us that much closer to the final buzzer up by two.
3 – I was shocked and dismayed when we let up – of all things – a shorthanded goal at 14:33 to let the Bruins back in the game at 2-1.
4 – And I was shockingly UNSURPRISED to see the 2nd Boston goal get by Lundqvist to tie the game at 2 with 4 minutes left to go.
5 - But Higgins scoring a clutch game winner? With less than 2 minutes remaining? At MSG where he has never scored as a Ranger? Well - that is about as shocked as Dave Pucks can get watching a hockey game.
So, as unhappy as I was to see Lundqvist surrender not one but two late goals - I was elated (editor - he means "happy") to see our Rangers rise up and strike back against a team that had all the momentum swinging their way.
In short: A VERY encouraging win for the Ranger offense.
Here are the details:
The Goalies: Lundqvist faced 28 shots and made 26 saves. That was, in the end, a better performance than the very hot Mr. Rask, who made 32 saves on 35 shots. If we had Boston's back up goalie, we'd be challenging for first place right now - I really believe that.
Hank, who has been letting up late goals this season - this time let up 2 late goals. In the last six minutes of the game, less than 90 seconds apart, Hundwick (on a shorthander) and Wheeler scored. But over the 60 minutes Hank played well enough to win
Special Teams: A mixed bag. Our Penalty Kill was perfect, blanking Boston in 3 attempts. Our PowerPlay, in 5 chances including some 5-on-3, scored one goal - but let up the terrible shorthander with 6 minutes left that woke up the hibernating Bruins.
The New Veteran Rangers: Somehow - when that icy smoke had cleared - there were no goals and no assists by Marian Gaborik. But even without The Gifted One - this unit was pretty much the whole show.
But Cannon Kotalik produced a goal with his powerful slapshot. And Waiver-man Erik Christensen continues to show he can compete on the top line with a goal of his own. And Chris Higgins somehow shook off a half-season's worth of disappointment and produced a Huge goal - the game winner in the final two minutes after the Rangers had blown a 2-0 lead in the Third.
The Kid Rangers showed up after a few nights off. Del Zotto had a nice assist on Christensen's goal.
Your Returning Rangers worked hard and collected five big assists. Dubinsky and Callahan in the first period, Dubinsky in the second, and Drury and Callahan again in the third.
Defense on Offense? One assist.
In conclusion: The best part about last night was that we managed three goals without so much as an assist from Marian Gaborik (or of course the injured Prospal). This gives me this happy little feeling inside. A feeling I couldn't identify right away because I hadn't felt it in so long.
That feeling was hope. Hope for the Rangers season. Because if we can get non-Gaborik-al scoring. And if we can play tough and smart and come back when the ice chips are down - then maybe - just maybe - this team can make some noise this year.
Where we stand: As mentioned up top - the win pushed us to 7th place in a very crowded playoff picture. This is the highest we've been in a long time.
Next Up: We're back on the ice Wednesday to face Dallas. (Really? There’s a hockey team in Dallas?)
Monday, January 4, 2010
The problem (this week) is the Ranger's performance on home ice. We're just 8-10-2 at the Garden, tied with Carolina for the worst home record in the NHL (thanks, in part, to Carolina for beating us here on Saturday).
So the Ranger's head coach has reportedly had enough of the Rangers poor MSG performance and according to the Bergen Record, John is considering making changes to the Rangers pregame routine to try and fix the problem.
And what exactly are these changes that John told the Bergen Record about?
He's not telling.
(How's that again?)
That's right, John Tortorella told the Bergen Record he was considering making changes – but he would not tell them what changes he was considering making.
That would make them Secret Changes. Which means that the Ranger coach has some kind of Secret Plan to improve the Rangers Home game performance.
So – will they work - these Secret Changes Tortorella told us about – but won't tell us about?
Time will tell. (Unless it doesn't).
One thing that's not a secret – our next opponent:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? Fresh off their New Year's Day Winter Classic come-from-behind win at Fenway, the Boss-Town Bruins come to town to face the Rangers on home ice that has been anything but kind to the BlueShirts. The Bruins are in 5th place in the East at 21-12-7, (six points ahead of us at 19-17-5). The Bruins are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and on a 2 game winning streak.
Primary Skaters: Boston is lead by the 14 goals of Left Winger Marco Sturn and the 11 goals of Center Patrice Bergeron. Defenseman Zdeno Chara leads the team with 22 assists and with a +10.
In Net: Tim Thomas has a 2.36 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 25 games. Tuuka Rask has a GAA 1.85 and a save percentage pf .935.
Scoring & Defense: The Bruins have 105 goals to our 108. They have let up only 95 goals to our 115.
Special Effects: Boston converts 17.9% of their PowerPlays to our 20.5%. They kill off a league-leading 88% of their penalties to our 85.2%.
Scheduling Conflicts: We lost in OT on Saturday afternoon. Boss-town, as everyone knows, won the Winter classic on Jan 1. So they're a little more rested.
Probable Lines: The top line seems to be Gaborik with Waiver-Guy Christensen and Brandon Dubinsky. Not sure aout the rest.
On Defense: Same six.
In Goal: The Rangers actually sent Chad Johnson down to the AHL over the weekend to get him a start – bringing up Matt Zaba for the Carolina game. Maybe this means one of these guys will get an NHL start soon. I sure hope so. Our current plan of over using Hank is not good for anyone.
Dave Puck Predicts: I'm trying to think about how we can get three goals tonight. I'm not sure exactly. Boston will get at least one or two. So how about this? We win 3-2 - on a shootout.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Let me put this another way. The Rangers are 11-7-2 on the road this year. But our home record is the same as last place Carolina at 8-10-3.
Why can't we win at home? Why can't the Rangers, with the home ice privilege of the last line change, find a way to score two goals against a Hurricane them that has let up a league leading 146 goals this year?
This was a game where we outshot Carolina 28 to 19. But the Hurricane out hit us and won more faceoffs. There were many shots clanging off the post and crossbar for both side. But in the end we lost – in OT – 2-1, in a game we should have won. Shoot – we should have won this easily.
And here are the grim details:
The Goalies: We keep saying it. Chad Johnson needs to start some hockey games. We're wearing out Henrik Lundqvist to the point that he can't outplay Cam Ward. Cam Ward!
The Cam-man made 27 saves last night for a .964 save percentage. Hank couldn't stop 90% of the shots he faced, making just 17 saves for a .895%.
And, as we've been saying – if we're outplayed at goalie – we're going to lose.
Special Teams: Both teams were 0-4 on the PowerPlay. One goal would have won this for us.
The New Veteran Rangers: Who else? Gaborik scored out lone goal – and Christensen, from the scrap heap to our top line – had the assist.
The Kid Rangers: Another pointless night for these guys. Delzy and Golly has no shots. One shot for Anisimov
The Returning Rangers: Dubinsky had one assist. Drury's career is in a free fall – no goals – 4 shots – minus one – and he losty 14 of 24 face offs.
Defense on Offense: Nada.
In Conclusion: Normally, you'd be happy with 3 points on a home-and-home series. But this was the league's worst team we were playing – with the worst defense and the worst road record – and still we couldn't gte the 2nd goal needed to win the game. Heartbreaking way to start a new year.
Next Up: Monday night we get the Boss-Town Bruins, hot off their 2-1 OT win in the Winter Classic at Fenway.
Where We Stand: The point limps us into 8th place – above the playoff line-o-death. But three teams trail us by one point, a 4th team by 2 points and a 5th by 3. So it's just short tumble to 12 or worse.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Our next opponent? Same as our last opponent: the Carolina Hurricane - the worst team in hockey.This time we play at home - at the ungodly hour of 1pm Saturday.
John Tortorella is not really a X's and O's kind of hockey coach. He does motivate - and he tinkers with his lines all the time. But big strategic ideas - I think - he gets from his assistants. That's no knock on John - he smart enough to know what he's good at and when to get a little help.
And the word is - it was Tortorella's assistants that thought up the idea of moving Dubinsky back to wing on the top line and off of the Center position. The thinking was this: Dubi is not at his best when he tries to do Center-type stuff like (1) stickhandle the puck past opposing Centers or (e) guard opposing Centers. Dubinsky is great when he crashes the net and slams rebounds past the opposing netminder.
That doesn't mean Brandon can't take faceoffs. It just means he doesn't have to have the 2 way responsibilty or puck handling duties of a classic Center. So that's why Christensen was promoted to Line One. The result? Dubi doesn't commit any bonehead giveaways in the opening minute of play (or the next 59). And Dubi scores a goal. And Gaborik gets 2 assists. So the move is a success.
Of course the Hurricane are not the suddenly hot Philadelphia Flyers - so the 2-1 win Thursday is not a complete erasure of Wednesday's 6-0 humiliation. But it's way better than a second straight loss.
So 2010 begins with the same opponent - and the same woes we had back in 2009. We need to get Hank some rest. We need to see what Chad Johnson can do. We need our lines 2-4 to score some goals. We need our defense to be more consistant. We need to see more from Higgins, Koatalik, Lisin, Drury.... really I could just like the whole roster hear other than Gaborik.But - it's a new year - a new decade - and a chance for a fresh start.
Let's go Rangers