Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comeback City - Rangers top Isles

That was a close one. Down 2-0 after one – with injuries to Avery and Callahan – the Rangers backs were once again to the wall. And once again - somehow - they pulled it out, beating the Islanders 4-3 in a must win contest.

The Goalies: Hank had just a .893 save percentage, but by the time the night was over Rolo was at 852. I'm still saying Auld needs to see a little ice time.

Special Teams: We were 0-2 on the PP while the Islanders were 1-4. Including some 5 on 3. We're lucky that didn't come back to bite us.

New Veteran Rangers. Marian Gaborik notched his 40th. Olli Jokinen may have exited the coach's doghouse with a goal, and assist, and a +3 night. Prospal had a goal and assist and a +3 night as well.

Our Returning Rangers - Captain Drury had an assist. Marc Staal had a goal. And Aaron Voros had an assist. Sean and Cally are hurt and we are missing them.

The Kid Rangers - An assist for Del Zotto. An assist for Parenteau – who continues to impress.
Offense on Defense: A goal and assist for the back liners.

In Conclusion: We live to fight another day. And better still – we deny the hated Islanders the chance to kill us off. Of course – we got not love from the scoreboard.
Next Up: Tampa Bay on Friday.

Where We Stand: We're 2 points out of 9th, but just 4 points out of 6th.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Isles try for the dagger - take 2.

9 days ago the Rangers had suffered a devastating loss to the Bruins - and our playoff hopes were teetering on the brink. And our next opponent was the hated Islanders - a team that would like nothing better than to crush our post season dreams once and for all.

Well we won that game - and the next one the next night against the Devils as well. But then of course we screwed the pooch but got a point against the last place Maple Leafs after leading 2-0.
We're not out of it yet - but we're still in 10th place. And time is growing shorter and shorter.

So tonight - once again - the New York Islanders have a chance to finish us off. For a second time - they can take a shot at driving a dagger into the heart of our season.

And believe you me, they know this and it is the one circled game left in the 'slanders playoff-less season.

So our heros better be ready tonight - because the ambush is waiting and the trap is set.

A "Must" game for us? Well, yeah - They all are now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Devil lose on Purpose to hurt Rangers

Holy crap. We know New Jersey hates the Rangers with an undying passion. And we know that anything that keeps us out of the playoffs makes the Devils happy campers. And we know that they had no intention of beating the 8th place Philadelphia Flyers - because that would help our cause.

But come on guys, at least make it look good. Pretend to try. Play a little defense. Make a save or two - I mean your goalie, long long ago, used to be something of an all star.

Instead, the Devils practically escorted the Broad street Bullies to the net, and the best defensive team in hockey let up 5 goals and lost 5-1.

The Philly win hurts us. It puts the Flyers up 6 points on us with 7 left to play. It's Boston now that we're closest to - they lead us by 4 points and have a game at hand

On Tuesday the Devils take on the Bruins - and don't be surprised if they lay down again.

But in the meantime the Bruins play tonight. They host Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres. And so we will root for the Olympic MVP and our NY State cousins to the north.

Also of great interest on the scoreboard is Atlanta. They lead us by 2 points in 9th, and are hosting tonight the Carolina Hurricane - a team that took most of the year to climb out of last place in the East - but did so.

So go Hurricane. Go Sabres. And by Proxy - Let's Go Rangers.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

O.T. bites (us again)

The five minute Overtime period has not been kind to the New York Rangers this year...
The Rangers surged to a 2-0 first period lead in Toronto last night – and then hung on desperately as the Leaf’s clawed back to tie them. It got worse – as Toronto beat us in in just 39 seconds of overtime to send the Rangers to the locker room with one point when they had hoped for – desperately needed – and thought they would have had – two.

A tough loss. And a tough night on the Scoreboard as the Thrashers and Bruins both won. So today we are looking at 10th place – 4 points behind the plummeting Flyers and 2 point behind Atlanta, with 7 games left to play.

We outshot the Maple Leafs 38 to 32 – but Toronto Goalie Gustavsson was tremendous stopping 36 for a .947 save percentage. Hank played well – stopping 29 for a .906% save percentage – but not quite as well and his countryman counterpart.

Girardi managed to be -3 on the night, while Rozsival was +2 with two assists. Goals for Parenteua (who Pucks Junior has been clamoring for all season) and Dubinsky. Assists for Dog House Olli and Christensen.

Erikson (not to be confused with Eric Christensen) was in for Gilroy – who has played his way into Tortorella’s doghouse (move over Jokinen).

Two give-aways for Marian Gaborik. 6 hits for Aaron Voros. Injuries for Sean Avery (oh no) and Callahan (oh no also).

A difficult loss in crunch time. But the point keeps us breathing. Tonight we root hard for the hated New Jersey Devils as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Don’t be surprised if NJ decides to tank one – just to stick it to the Blueshirts Brothers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stop the Eulogy! The Rangers ain't dead yet

The pundits and detractors will have to wait. All those references to the Ranger's season in the past tense will have to stop. All those angry words and articles about why the Rangers didn't make the playoffs will have to take a little break. Flag down the funeral procession – open up that coffin – mark those sympathy cards “return to sender”.

Because someone forgot to tell the Rangers their season was over. Someone forgot that down is not always out. Someone forgot to check on the patient - because your New York Rangers are not dead yet.

The Rangers went into a tough building - played a surging Devils team - and came away with a stunning triple come-from-behind shootout win 4-3 last night in New Jersey.

To win it they needed to overcome three separate deficits – scoring to tie the game three times. To win it they needed great goaltending - and they got it. To win they needed timely offense- and they got that too. All my concerns about using Henrik two straight nights was wrong - Torts went with his best with the season on the line and it paid off as Hank won back-to-back must games on successive nights

Chris Drury finally did for us what we hired him for - the last minute monster goal. With less then 20 seconds on the clock - with Lundqvist on the bench for an extra skater - with the Rangers season fading away - Eric Christensen went behind the Devils net and delivered a beautiful blind backward pass through his legs to the side of the net. And Chris Drury knew exactly where to be to get the puck and exactly what to do with it when it arrived. He shot quickly and perfectly - the rubber disc slid between Martin Brodeur's pads and the Rangers - improbably - had fought their way back to a 3-3 tie.
And then, when we had negotiated that tie all the way through Overtime (a treacherous five minutes for us all year) it all came down to the shoot out. Marty vs. Hank.
And guess what - the better man won! Christensen - who's assist led to Drury's last minute heroics - had to wait several anxious minutes for the replay - but the on-ice ruling was overturned and he was awarded a goal. The shot beat Brodeur - found the left post - and found some net on the right side before rolling out again. It counted - and that was all Hank needed (and all he got). Three Henrik stops later and the Rangers had two points - an unlikely euphoric win - and a pulse in the playoff race.

Now – all we’ve done is gotten ourselves back within shouting distance. We’re three points out of the 8th spot with 8 to play. But what was looking impossible two days ago is now looking not so impossible any more.

The Goalies: Henrik rose to the occasion – shook off any signs of fatigue after playing the previous night - faced 38 shots and made 35 saves - many of them spectacular. Lundqvist was the best player on the ice last night and he flat out robbed several Devils from point blank range. Time after time he came up huge to keep the Rangers from falling behind by 2 goals. And Hank had a perfect 3 saves in the shoot out to nail down the win.

Fatso Brodeur - as Sean Avery calls him - made 28 saves on 31 shots - and let up one in the shootout. Not a bad night – but not good enough to beat us.

Special Teams: The Rangers were 1 of 3 on the powerplay. And our penalty kill was perfect in 3 opportunities. We had the edge here and needed it.

The New Veteran Rangers - With Gaborik kept off the score sheet and Jokinen kept off the ice (for what John Tortorella called his "play away from the puck" that had led a Devil's goal) it fell to the journeyman Christensen to step up - and step up he did. His no-look backward pass to Drury was a thing of beauty - and his shoot out goal was the game winner.

Shelly played well, had an assist – and some interesting fight action where he showed how to grab the front of a Devil’s jersey, make a fist, and get a back-and-forth one-handed motion going to land multiple blows to the head – like one of those rubber balls on a string.

When is the last time Marian Gaborik had more hits (3) than shots (1)? He did seem to be hustling out there.

Your Returning Rangers: What can we say about Chris Drury? With the season on the line he found his way to the net - and handled a quick tricky pass from Christensen perfectly - and in one motion found a space between Marty's pads to send the game to OT. You can’t be bigger in a big situation than he was last night.

Dubinsky scored the Ranger's first goal on the Powerplay to get us back in the game. Avery had an assist - and from the pre-game skate to the finish he was a constant distraction to the Devils and their goaltender.

The Kid Rangers - Artem Anisimov looks reborn on the 4th line between Shelly and Prust. And with Cally re-injured and Olli in the doghouse – our 4th line had to become our 3rd line and rose to the occasion. Anisimov got our 2nd goal. Prust had an assist. And Del Zotto had two big assists.

Defense on Offense? Delzy's 2 assists. Rozy played over a half hour of ice time and was +2.

In conclusion: The Flyers blowing a 3-1 lead to lose in OT helped us. The Bruins losing in regulation helped us. The Thrashers losing in OT helped us. But most of all – we helped ourselves. There’s plenty more mountain to climb – but at least we’re still climbing. And we’ve still got a chance.
Next Up: Saturday night in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. They are all must games now.
Where we stand:
Not dead yet. 10th place but just 3 points behind Boston. And just 4 points behind Montreal and the fading Flyers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Working on a Dream

Wait! Before we get ahead of ourselves - before we start saying what this game did or didn't mean - before we relate it to the playoff race or evaluate it in the context of the season or dissect the coaching...

Let's just stop for a minute and enjoy this one.

As Ranger fans - we live and die with these guys - so let's just live a little right now - while we can.

In 24 hours this feeling could be long gone - but right now - don't you feel a little better than have in a while? Can't you feel that little bud of hope growing inside? We played great in a meaningful game, we ain't dead yet, and after so many losses it just feels good to feel good about it.

The Rangers put up their best effort - and came away with their best win - of the season. In the first ever 3D broadcast of a regular season game - the Rangers added several dimensions to their game: offence - defense - goaltending - special teams - and drawing penalties. For one night - Lundqvist was perfect again. The Rangers could score again. Gaborik was back flying around the rink - playing like his pre-injured self.

The Rangers played with emotion from the start - leaping to a 3-0 first period lead - out shooting the Isles 16-3 in the 2nd period - but not scoring - and then getting 2 more in the third to win 5-0 over their hated rivals from Long Island.

We don't get long to enjoy it - we play the Devils in New Jersey tonight and we still have a long way to go before we get close to playoff race

But it feels good to have a game like this - and we really needed it right now. So many things went right last night:

The Goalies: For one night at least - Henrik was the king again. 27 shots against - 27 saves. Shut out win. You can't ask anything more from Lundqvist - a perfect game.

Roloson was barraged with 44 shots and made 39 saves - some of them great ones. This could have been much much worse for the Islanders without him.

Special Teams: The Rangers powerplay struck twice last night. With 9 games to go they have already outscored last year's PP unit. And the PK was, of course, perfect.

The New Veteran Rangers - Gaborik finally looks healthy again - and what a difference that makes to this hockey team. The Gifted one had 2 goals, an assist, and nearly got the hat trick. Christensen contributed 2 assists and Shelly had one.

Your Returning Rangers - A Goal and assist for Dan Girardi. Assists for Dubinsky and Staal. And Sean Avery was everywhere - distracting the Islanders - getting an assist on the Girardi goal - and drawing Islander penalties left and right. In fact - Seanny drew a double penalty all by himself resulting in a Ranger 5 on 3 advantage.

The Kid Rangers -
Big night for the young ones. A goals and assist for Del Zotto. A goal for Anisimov and an assist for Gilroy.

Defense on Offense: we were all over this one. 2 goals and 4 assists.

In conclusion: A gem of a moment in a season that has had far too few of them. And mathematically at least - we are still in this playoff race. After all - we're chasing the 8th seed - not an elite team - a mediocre one. Another 9 games of excellence and we could still make some noise.
Next Up: We go again - right away - against the Devils tonight. This is why I wanted Auld last night - because I think it makes no sense to run Hank out there two nights in a row. Why did we get Auld if not for back to back games like this one? But of course - since we used Lundqvist last night - that means we're running our backup against a powerful Devils team. So - I don't like the way we played this - and I'm wondering what Torts will do in goal tonight.
Where we stand - Still in 10th, but just 5 points behind the Bruins and 6 behind the collapsing Flyers. Not great – but not dead yet. We’re still (as Bruce Springsteen would say) working on a dream.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A New Hope

You want my last best scenario for the Rangers to sneak into the playoffs? Here it is:

Forget the Bruins. The Flyers have lost their goalie and 5 of their last 6 hockey games. The Rangers trail them by 8 big points with 10 to play and a game at hand. If we can somehow – some way – get ourselves to three points back with two left to play – those last two games will be a home-and-home between your Rangers and Philadelphia. Then - sweep those two games and we're in.

Sounds easy.

But – before we can get any kind of hope going – we need to win a hockey game.

And tonight – we have a hockey game on the schedule. Our opponents: The hated ones. The New York Islanders – just three points behind us – in 14th place – are loving the opportunity to kick us when we're down.

Nobody asked me - but let's start Auld in goal tonight. We have to play the Devils tomorrow and I'd rather have Lundqvist rested for that one. And Auld went through all the rouble of getting this cool helmet made, honoring three former Ranger goalies. And he's good. Let the guy start a game.

The other thing - this has a side-show addition – the 3D. Cablevision – in an attempt to establish their cable domination – has made tonight struggle between two NHL non-playoff teams into the first ever 3D broadcast of a regular season sporting event – or something like that.

Dave Puck's Mom's big screen TV – purchased recently to encourage Puck's Junior to visit Grandma – is unfortunately not seem to be 3D ready. And it seems a little dumb to me to travel to Madison Square Garden to see a 3D version of a game that is taking place in real life on the same block.

So - tonight I will do as I've done since I was a kid -squinting at a black and white TV image of Rod Gilbert in the 1970s. Tonight I will boldly go - to my couch and watch the Rangers in two glorious dimensions. And for the sake of all that is good and holy on this earth - win a game, guys.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life After Death

So according to just about everyone - the Rangers season is over. Finished. Done.

But - really - there are 10 games to go. We are Ranger fans and we have some hockey season left.

And we're not mathematically eliminated. Not even close to that yet. It just feels that way. But if we can ever start winning a few hockey games - we still have a chances of getting back in the race before it's all over.

So I suggest we take this one day at a time.

Today we have no game to play. But there is some scoreboard to watch. Boston will be playing at Atlanta for one. So - who do we root for? We're chasing both teams - they are in 8th and 9th places in the East. I guess it doesn't matter so much - except that we want a regulation outcome - not an extra point being handed out for OT.

Beyond that - it would be good if Toronto beat Florida - since the Panthers are just 2 points behind us.

And Ottawa plays Philly. I think we root Ottawa. Philly is 8 points in front of us - and if we can get it down to 3 or 4 - our last 2 games are a home and home with the Flyers.

That's all the half hearted rooting I can come up with right now. And tomorrow we get the 3D thingy. I looked into getting the emitter box to convert my TV to 3D - but I'm having trouble getting pumped enough to do anything.

I will watch though - even in old fashioned 2D. It's still a Ranger game - and the patient ain't dead yet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shut Down – in Boss-town


Down the stretch we come and down the tubes we go. With everything on the line – facing the 8th seeded Boston team that had lost 11 of 12 at home and all three previous games to the Rangers – a Boston team that scores even less than we do – your New York Rangers were held scoreless for 56:56 until Michael Del Zotto provided the only Ranger scoring of the afternoon in a catastrophic – crushing – demoralizing – 2-1 loss.

At the exact moment we should be surging – we're floundering. The Rangers have just three wins in their last seven games. And the playoff seeds are getting further and further away.

The Goalies: Hank had 29 saves on 31 shots, a .935 save percentage. A good day – a bounce-back performance. But Rask had a save percentage of .958 – saving 23 of 24 shots. Just a little better.

Special Teams: The nail in our coffin. The Rangers had 6 powerplay opportunities. 2 goals would have won the game. 1 for 6 would have gotten us to OT. But we were 0 for 6, and that was the difference. Our PK was perfect in 3 tries.

New Veteran Rangers. Olli Jokinen is now a 4th line player, registering 6 penalty minutes and one shot. Gaborik had 4 shots and was -1. Eric Christensen lost 75% of his faceoffs and besides that – in 21:44 of ice time – was a ghost: no goals, no assists, no shots, no hits.

Our Returning Rangers contributed one assist – from the rejuvenated Sean Avery – who was the only Ranger who was +1 on the day.

The Kid Rangers - featured a good performance by Michael Del Zotto who scored the lone Ranger goal and was also +1 on the day.

In Conclusion: It ain't over til it's over – but the Rangers are rapidly falling out of contention. A five game winning streak right now would help – but may be impossible for us to pull off – and if we somehow did – might not be enough to get us over the top.
Next Up: The 3D game against the Islanders Wednesday night. Since the Rangers have looked really “flat” for weeks – maybe this is exactly what we need. (Editor: stop that right now, you)

Where We Stand - 10th place. 5 points out of 8th place. And only 7 points out of dead last in the East.

High Noon: Showdown in Beantown

Circle the wagons. Pull out the stops. Put a puck with some vodka and ice in the blender as an offering to the Hockey Gods.

Today at 12:30 the Rangers take on the 8th place Boston Bruins in a game that will mean their season.
Eleven games to go. 3 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. 2 points behind 9th place Atlanta. And there are 4 other teams within 4 points of us.

You want analysis? Here's my analysis: The Rangers need to win. If they want to keep any hope of their season alive – their two game losing streak cannot become a three game losing streak.

They need to rise up. And really – all we need is the exact same effort as we showed against the St' Louis Blues – with one very important difference.

Henrik Lundqvist needs to be Henrik Lundqvist again. We can't have 4 goals on 16 shots – because you can't beat anyone that way.

And make no mistake – this is doable. They are not playing the 1980s Edmonton Oilers today. They are playing a Boston team that is 4-5-1 in their last ten, and limping toward the finish line.
And speaking of Finnish Lines – we need Olli Jokinen to start putting the puck in the net.

Who The Hell Are We Playing? Boston is 31-27-12, a mediocre record we wish we had. They have lost 11 of their last 12 home games.

Primary Skaters: LW Marco Strum has 21 goals and leads Boston with a +12. Defenseman Zdeno Chara has 30 assists.

In Net: Tim Thomas is 15-17 with a 2.57 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Tuukka Rask is 16-10 with a 2.12 GAA and a .928 save percentage.

Scoring & Defense: The Bruins have scored just 174 goals this year to our 185. But they've only let in 180 goals to our 195.

Special Effects: Boston's PP is at 17.5 to our 18.6. Their PK is 85.8% to our 83.3%

Scheduling Conflicts: We played and lost Thursday. So did they.

Probable Lines:

The top line looks like: Dubinsky – Christensen – Gaborik

Then we are guessing:

Drury – Propsal – Callahan

Jokinen – Avery – Anisimov


On Defense: Same 6.

In Goal: Figure that Auld will play later this week – maybe the 3D game against the Islanders as we have the Devils the next day. So I think they go Hank here – expecting – hoping – praying he bounces back strong.

Dave Puck Predicts: I am not predicting and end to our season. Not today. So we win 2-1

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hank's for Nothing

16 shots. The Ranger's defense limited St. Louis to just 16 shots on goal. That is outstanding.

And then the Rangers' offense produced three goals of their own.

That is exactly what this team is trying to do every night - what we were built to do. You would sign up for whole a season of that if you could. Limiting the opponent to 16 shots and staking your goaltender 3 goals - you have to love your chances.

You're not asking Lundqvist to be amazing. If he can stop 90 percent of the shots you win easily. If he stops 80 percent of the shots - a bad night for any goalie - you still get to OT.

But Henrik's save percentage was a junior league .750. That is a performance that does not give your team a chance to win.

We all see it now. Our franchise goaltender is not what he used to be. It's heartbreaking. And it's killing us.

And it's hard to watch.

The Goalies -
Hank - 12 saves on 16 shots. 0.750 save percentage. Conklin made 26 saves on 29 shots. The difference. Terrible night - in crunch time.

Special Teams: The Blues scored once on two powerplays. We were one for five - and failed to score in a 5 on 3. Another key battle lost.

The New Veteran Rangers - Marian Gaborik returned to us - scoring a goal and grabbing two assists. Jokinen had an assist. Prospal had an assist.

Your Returning Rangers - Wade Redden of all people - scored a goal and gets an assist. Callahan scored. Dubinsky had an assist.

The Kid Rangers - Were not on the score sheet tonight.

Defense on Offense? Goal and an assist

In conclusion: In a game they desperately needed - the Rangers played well enough to win - except for their man between the pipes. I'm sorry to say that in all likelihood our backup netminder Auld would have won this game for us.

We've been saying you have to rest Hank a lot more this year. Even the Swedish Olympic team realized that. We didn't - and it came back to bite us.
Next Up: Season on the line Sunday. Beat Boston or die trying.
Where we stand -
Still 9th. Still 3 points out of 8th - having wasted a golden opportunity. But now we have company - the Atlanta Thrashers have tied us in points and hold a game at hand.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ranger Admits Cocaine Use

That was the headline I saw this morning - but of course it was the Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington - not the New York Rangers. So, for John Tortorella - there is still no official explanation for why he acts the way he does.

A lot of us were happy to see the Captain Chris Drury finally (!) speak up - calling out his fellow Rangers for the "immaturity" on the ice that led to their total domination by Montreal on Tuesday. Did the coach step up to support his captain? No.

"I think that's the wrong word to use," Torts told reporters yesterday. "We've ironed that out in the locker room". It would have been nice to hear the coach support his captain - but that is not what we're seeing this year.

There are 12 games to go in this hockey season and all reasonable hope of catching the streaking Montreal Canadiens collapsed in a 3-1 home loss that could easily have been 6-1 without the heroics of Henrik Lundqvist. Montreal is in 6th now and climbing.

So, instead - we've got to set our sights on 8th place. The Boss-town Bruins are 3 points ahead of us with a game at hand. There is nothing left to do but give our best effort to catch them and hope to claw our way into the tournament and a playoff rematch with the Washington Capitals.

The Penguins play the Bruins tonight while we take on the St. Louis Blues. And then on Sunday - we play the Brians in Boston. You know what I'm thinking - but you won't catch me in a classic Pre-hatched Poultry Assumption Error again - so let's take this one day at a time.

St. Louis is 32-28-9, a record similar to, but better than our own (31-30-9). But is the wild Western conference, the Blues 73 points are only good enough for 11th place.

It is a winable game - a home game - and a must game. We need goals - we need intensity - and we need to win a hockey game. So, come on fellas - think about that Blue Jersey you're pulling on tonight. Summon up some pride and - yes Chris - some maturity.

So, tonight, Let's hit. Let's defend. Let's compete. In other words - Let's go, Rangers, before it's to late to go anywhere.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We needed this one - but we didn't get it

And that is the problem with yesterday's pre-hatched poultry assumption error (counting your chickens before they hatch).

The Rangers ran right into a red hot Montreal Canadien team that has now won 6 in a row and ended up falling 3-1, despite a great performance by Lundqvist (and an empty netter at the end).

We just couldn't get or keep possession of the puck. We were outshot 34 to 20 - and it's almost impossible to win in that situation - even with Henrik Lundqvist.

The Goalies: Hank kept us in the game - and was the victim of a very unlucky bounce 6 minutes into the third as Sergei Kostitsyn's shot hit Artem Anisimov right in the ankle - and then deflected past Lundqvist for the deciding goal. In all Henrik faced 34 shots on goal and saved 32 of them. Montreal's Halak stopped just 19 shots - but that was enough for the win.

Special Teams: This was our downfall. On five powerplays the Rangers not only didn't score - they only managed 3 shots.

The New Veteran Rangers - Gaborik? Jokinen? Prospal? Christensen? Fellows? Nothing - and it is killing us. If our big guns can't score - we can't win.

Your Returning Rangers - The whole show again with another goal by the energized - or is it enraged - Sean Avery. Sean did a pretty cool deflect ion off a Matt Gilroy shot with his back to the Canadien goal. Drury had the assist.

The Kid Rangers - as mentioned Gilroy - who has had a better all around rookie year than Del Zotto in my opinion - got the assist as it was his shot that Sean deflected in.

Defense on Offense? One assist.

In conclusion: If we don't, make the playoffs - this will end up as a key reason why. Montreal has opened up some real distance now - we're 7 points behind them with 12 games to play. We've got to set our sights on 8th place Boston now - play hard - and hope the ice chips fall our way
Scoreboard Last Night: The Flyers lost in OT and fall to 7th, 6 points ahead of us. Boston unfortunately beat the Hurricane to grab a 3 point lead on us for the 8th and final spot - with a game at hand. Atlanta beat Buffalo and move just 2 point behind us. At least Tampa and Florida lost.
Next Up:
Rangers get the Blues when St. Louis comes to town Thursday. They are just about all must wins now.
Where we stand. 9th place. 3 points out of 8th, 2 points out of 10th.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Uh - Thank You Martin Brodeur?

This is awkward. With the Rangers desperately chasing a playoff spot - and with us starting Monday in 9th place - one point behind the 8th place Boston Bruins - and with the Bruins playing New Jersey last night - a very odd thought came into our heads:

Go Devils?

Root for our most hated rivals? Really? Well, yes - but just for one night. Besides the one point lead - Boss-town had two games at hand over the Rangers - and to catch them we need whatever help we can get from the Bruins' opponents. Including - last night - the New Jersey Devils.

And those Devils scored three times in the first period - and somehow, fatso Brodeur managed to not give the entire lead away and they won 3-2.

So it was a Bruins' loss (yay) in regulation (yay again) to keep the Rangers one point out of 8th place - and squandering half of Boston’s extra games at hand.

Tonight we are home to 7th place Montreal - Scotty Gomez's team. The Canadiens are 5 points up on the Rangers - but have played one additional game.

At the same time - the Bruins are in action again - this time traveling to Carolina - a team just 8 points out of 8th place - who have been climbing their way back into the playoff race week by week.

Now we don't want to commit our classic pre-hatched poultry assumption error - but

IF - the Rangers win.

And IF - the Bruins lose

Then when the ice chips clear we will be in 8th place - just 3 points out of 7th with a game at hand on Montreal.

But - if those two games go the other way - we'll be buried in a non-playoff pit we will have trouble ever digging out of.

And while we're at it - we could use a 10th place Tampa Bay Lightning loss to Phoenix and an 11th place Atlanta loss to Buffalo (go Ryan Miller).

And of course - it would be peachy keen if the 6th place Flyers could stumble against Nashville

So to review - we want 6 different hockey games to result in regulation losses for our rivals and opponents.

Is that too much to ask? I guess we'll see.

We will invoke our lucky talisman - the Magic Rat himself - to petition the hockey gods for help. Laugh if you want - but my lucky Jean Ratelle card worked just great last year.

Let's go Rangers.
In other news: Alex Ovechkin was suspended for two games. He pushed the Blackhawks’ Brian Campbell into the boards in a nationally televised game on Sunday – reportedly breaking Campbell’s clavicle and at least one of his ribs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Thanks For Waiting"

Maybe we've had it all wrong. Maybe Tortorella isn't at fault for not letting Avery be Avery.

Maybe we really needed Torts to motivate Sean to be Sean.

"Sean needs to realize that he's a really good player" John Tortorella told reporters after the game.

For weeks, Torts has been asking Sean to be more "engaged". But as Avery admitted last week - he wasn't exactly sure what his coach was talking about.

When Tortorella felt he had run out of other options - he made Avery a healthy scratch for the first time in his Ranger career.

It seems to have worked - because Avery came out of the chute yesterday fully engaged - energized - and ready to go. He responded by scoring two goals - drawing the Flyers into several penalties - and distracting them off their game. At one point Sean faked as if he were dropping his gloves to confuse and incite the Flyers. It all worked to perfection and the final result was a 3-1 desperately-needed Ranger win.

Our last two meeting with the Flyers had been shut outs - with the Rangers on the short end of the hockey stick. What was worse - the Blueshirts were pushed around physically by Philadelphia. So yesterday - with their playoff hopes starting to fade away - the team defended their home ice with toughness, intelligence, and skill. They limited the Flyers chances and made the most of their own.

And Brandon Dubinsky took on the Flyer's Richard in a fight late in the contest - showing he and the Rangers are ready to stand up to the team once called "the broad street bullies".

When it was over - reporters hung around hoping - expecting - to get an inflammatory quote from the volatile Mr. Avery. Here he had just responded to a benching with a two goal break out performance. And Sean had more than once let his mouth off the ice get him into trouble - most notably his remarks that got him kicked off of Dallas.

But, trying his best to stay out of trouble - Sean simply told reporters.

"Great game. Great two points. Thanks for waiting guys"

In may have been brief - but it's true. We have been waiting for Avery - the Avery we saw yesterday - for months now. And man, it's great to finally see him.

The Goalies: Hank faced just 18 shots and saved all but the very first one. The Flyers Leighton stopped 18 of 21. Very good to see Hank not let up a 3rd period goal in a close game - something he has unfortunately done quite a bit this year.

So was Lundqvist back on his game - or were the Rangers finally playing the right kind of defense? Some of both, probably.

Special Teams: The Rangers were 1 of 6 on the powerplay - the Flyers 1 of 4.

The New Veteran Rangers - Christensen had a pair of assists - but from Gaborik and Jokinen we had no scoring.

Your Returning Rangers - were the show yesterday. Avery of course had 2 goals. Rozsival had a goal - one he admitted closing his eyes before shooting. Drury had 2 assists. And defensemen Redden and Girardi had assists as well.

The Kid Rangers - were not on the score sheet tonight.

Defense on Offense
was a big factor - 1 goal and 2 assists.

In conclusion: Tortorella may have gotten his team into the exact mess they were in when he took over a year ago - but he's also well equipped for this - the short burst - the sprint to the finish - the push for the playoffs. We're not there yet - but with a 2 game win streak - hope is starting to perk up again in our Ranger hearts.
Next Up: Day off Monday and then we take on 7th seeded Montreal on Tuesday. Each game from here on out is a huge one.
Where we stand: 9th place and just 1 point below the 8th place Bruins. But Boss-town has two games at hand. We've got to keep winning to climb back in to playoff seeding.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Well take it

It may have been a win over a Thrasher team that has lost 5 straight - but a win is a win - and at this point we'll take the points.

The Rangers finally got their 30th win last night - jumping to a 3-0 lead and eventually defeating the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 in a game that felt like the season was on the line.

Three first period goals - two from Prospal and one for Gaborik - got the Rangers going in a hurry.

"When you get a three-goal lead, especially on the road," Vinnie Prospal told reporters " it gives you confidence and lets you relax a little."

Michael Del Zotto added a goal in the second - off a Gaborik assist - and Callahan found the empty net in the third. Chris Drury had a pair of assists.

Lundqvist let up 2 goals on 31 shots - a much better performance than his previous appearance when he was benched in the second period after letting in his 5th goal of the night.

Sean Avery was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. In past years the Rangers always had a better record with Sean than without him. This year for some reason he is not making the same impact on the team.

The Ranger will play again tomorrow against Philadelphia in a rare 3pm Sunday matinee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

De-Seaning Sean – Rangers Scratch Avery

I wrote this morning that I thought John Tortorella was torqued off at Sean Avery - and it was true. The latest news is that Tortorella has scratched Sean Avery from tonight’s game. I’m stunned and confused. And so is Sean. To his credit – when interviewed he said all the right stuff:

When told that Coach Tortorella said that Avery is not engaged enough in all facets of the game - Sean replied:

I don’t know. You have to talk to him about that. I’ll figure out exactly what that is and instill it in my game

For me – Dave Pucks – we are now full circle. It was just about a year ago that the Rangers re-acquired Avery – and I was so pumped I started this Blog. Now - a year has gone by – the Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot again – and apparently the Rangers would rather have waiver-man Lisin in the lineup than Sean.

It seems to me that Tortorella has been working all year to de-Sean Sean – to make Avery as un-Avery-like as possible. And now – they’re so unhappy with the result of their actions that they scratch him from the lineup.

In positive news – just take a look at Auld’s new helmet (pictured above). That is a depiction of steady Eddie Giacomin and John Davidson’s masks on one side and Mike Richer hoisting the cup on the other side. I love this – and I have to say – this looks like the actions of a goaltender that would love to play here. I really hope Tortorella gets him back out there soon.

Torts Torqued at Avery?

What happened with Sean Avery? He was practicing on the 2nd line with Jokinen. And them - kaboom - he's demoted to line four. I think Tortorella might want to bench almost everyone - but he's got to send some guys out there.

We know what Sean can be at his best - a magnificent pest - drawing penalties - distracting opponents - drawing attention - making opposing goalies cry on the ice - making the NHL change the rules for him. But Tortorella is not getting Sean's best. Is he getting anyone's best this year? And if not - isn't that the coaches job?

So here we are. Another rough day in Ranger-ville. Our team - floundering. Our season - fading away. You know what's happening. You don't need me to tell you we've lost 4 straight games and we're in 9rth place and falling apart. Our franchise goalie is losing his greatness. Our goal scorer is not scoring goals. Our coach is looking more and more like he's losing his team. Our GM is looking more and more confused.

So it all turns to tonight's game with the Atlanta Thrashers. For once we are not playing a top 4 team in the East - we just played them all and lost them all.

I've read a few sentiments out there saying it would be better in the long run if we keep losing. That we need a new GM and a new coach and that losing is the fastest way to get there.

Well - you can think what you want - but I can't root against my team. Those are our guys out there - and as long as at least some of them are trying while they wear the sweater - I will cheer and hope for them.

And in my head I am thinking that Gaborik has been hurt - and when he's 100 percent and we have Jokinen going too - we can score goals. We really haven't had a healthy Gabs since the Jokinen trade.

Anyway - tonight's game doesn’t make or break our season - but it sure feels that way. We have 15 games. Those 15 games will determine if we make the playoffs again or miss them.

And it starts tonight.

Who The Hell Are We Playing? Atlanta Thrashers. They are a little like us. They're on a 4 game losing streak and their season is starting to unravel. We know exactly how that feels.

Primary Skaters: Their top goal scorer for the season is now a Devil. Next up with 30 goals is Right Winger Maxim Afinogenov. And leaning the team with 38 assists is our old friend Center Nik Antropov. Nik also dominates the team with a plus-minus of +18.

In Net: They have Hedberg with a 2.63 and a .914 save percentage – and also Ondrej Pavelec with a 3.47 GAA and a .901 save percentage. Both have appeared in about the same number of games.

Scoring & Defense: For all our complaints - Tortorella has improved the Ranger scoring this year over last year. We’re scoring 2.58 goals per game. The Thrashers acre scoring 2.97 per game – of course – those are mostly “with Kovalchuk” numbers. On defense we only let up 2.76 per game while Atlanta lets us 3.23.

Special Effects: Our PP is 18.5% and there is 16.5%. Our PK is 83.9% and there is 80.7%. So that’s in our favor.

Scheduling Conflicts: We played and lost Wednesday. They played and lost yesterday, 2-1, to the Panthers. So they will be more tired. But they’ll also be at home.

Probable Lines: There are no probable lines. Torts keeps shuffling like an obsessive compulsive Vegas card dealer. But I'd like to keep Gaborik and Jokinen together for a while.

On Defense: You know. Those six guys. The overpaid vet. And the other overpaid vet. The pretty good one. The other pretty good one. The rookie everybody loves who is -20. The rookie no one thinks about who is +3.

In Goal: I'd vote Auld. But that's just me. He looks like he wants to be here. They guy had a special helmet made honoring past Ranger goalies. You have to love that.

Dave Puck predicts: Just win, baby, and all is forgiven. But then, that's more of a request than a prediction...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finnish Forward Finally Finds First Line - but Falls to Foes

I like to start with a little good news - even on a real bad news day. Yes - we lost our 4th game in a row - by a score of 6-3 to our hated rivals the NJ Devils. But there was one thing I liked:

The Rangers (finally) put their Finnish first line center - Olli Jokinen on the first line. It seems so obvious – but it certainly took long enough to happen. When we first brought Gaborik in here - this Blog received several comments to the effect that - without a first line center to give him the puck - Gaborik would be a waste of talent and money. That has already been disproved - Gabby has shown he can score just fine with Vinnie Prospal. But I was very interested to see what our only legitimate first line players - Marian and Olli - can do together. The short term results - their line got a goal (for Vinnie) and nearly got another when Marty robbed Olli from close range with his stick. Let's hope Tortorella keeps this unit together for a while. Because with 80 percent of the season gone - isn't it a little late to keep scrambling the lines every night?

Okay - that was the more or less positive stuff. Here's the rest of it:

What is happening to Henrik Lundqvist? And what is happening to our Rangers. At the every moment we need to put on our playoff push - we are collapsing.

This game hurt. We've lost 4 in a row now - against some elite teams - but you are what your record says you are - and right now we are a non-playoff team that is reeling down the stretch.

There was a time where, if you scored three goals for Henrik Lundqvist - it was lights out for the opposition. Last night the Rangers notched three against the all time great goaltender Marty Brodeur - but got blown out.

And there was a time when Hank dominated Marty Brodeur - outplayed him - just about owned him. But not last night.

Not only did Hank fail to finish with a victory - he failed to finish at all - getting pulled by an angry John Tortorella after letting up 5 goals and making just 12 saves.

The Goalies:

Lundqvist. He faced 17 shots. He saved 12 of them. Now - many of those goals were on nasty shots - deflections, screens, point blanks - but the numbers are the numbers. If Hank saves, say, 85 percent of the shots that came his way - we win.

Auld. Hank's replacement. 10 shots. 9 saves. That's a .900 save percentage. The best goalie of the night.

Brodeur: 19 shots - 16 saves. Not good - but good enough to beat us.

Special Teams: We were 0-3 on the powerplay. The Devils we're 1-2. Another nail in our coffin.

The New Veteran Rangers - Just about the whole show - what there was of it. Prospal scored. Christensen scored. Gaborik had an assist. Jokinen had an assist. Even Shelly had an assist - and a fight (more or less)

Your Returning Rangers: Dubinsky and (new dad) Girardi had assists. Nothing from our American Olympians though.

The Kid Rangers - I count Prust here - it's his first full season - and he scored a goal last night.

Defense on Offense? One assist.

In conclusion: I think we alternate Lundqvist and Auld game by game for the rest of the season unless and until Hank starts looking like Hank again.
Next Up: Friday night - Atlanta.
Where we stand: I don't even want to look. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Detail is in The Devils

For openers - The scoreboard was no friend to the Rangers last night.

The Islanders lost a lead and the game to the Flyers, who move 7 points ahead of us.

The Panthers beat the Wild - in OT - to pull within 3 points of us.

Toronto did beat Boston - but it went to OT so the Bruins get a point and move three ahead of us.

And Montreal beat Tampa Bay - moving 5 points ahead of us.

So - it is becoming more and more clear that the Rangers will have to start winning if they want to stay in the playoff race.

Which reminds me - we have a game today.

Who The Hell Are We Playing? We all cheered for Zach Parise during the Olympics - but those days are gone forever now as Zach and Marty and the Devils play host to our New York Rangers tonight.

The Details are in those Devils - they do all the little things right to maximize their aging fading goaltender. They have excelled for many years by playing team defense really really well - though player changes, coaching changes, and rule changes designed specifically to stop them from stopping other teams.

The Devils are tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference with 79 points at 38-23-3. They are also a Ranger rivalry that dates back their first moments in the Turnpike state.

Primary Skaters: Olympian Silver Medalist Zach Parise leads the Devils with 30 goals - and has a plus-minus of +22. Jamie Langenbrunner has 35 assists.. And there's that new guy - Kovalchuk.

In Net: It is always Marty Brodeur - the Olympic back up goalie - with the .913 save percentage and the 2.37 GAA.

Scoring & Defense: The Devils have scored 169 goals this year - and we've scored 170. The difference is that the Devils have only allowed 154 goals to our 179.

Special Effects: NJ on the PP: 18.7 to our 18.8. NJ on the PK 80.9 to our 84.2.

Scheduling Conflicts: We played and lost Sunday. The devils lost to the Oilers Sunday. So both teams rested and annoyed.

Probable Lines: Did Tortorella mess with the lines again? Does a Bruin shoot in the crease?

Prospal - Christensen - Gaborik - Gabby back on top

Avery - Anisimov - Jokinen - interesting - a promotion for SEAN or demotion for Olli? And does this make Anisimov move to wing?

Drury - Dubinsky - Callahan - Our best 3rd line in a while

Prust -Boyle-Shelley (etc.) whoever is left over.

On Defense: Same old - and old. Dan Girardi became a dad this week. Let's see if he plays with renewed determination now that he has another mouth to feed.

In Goal: I would like to see Auld again soon - but after 2 days off it will be Hank - who played well last time - just not quite as good as Miller did.

Dave Puck predicts: Lots of bad feelings between hockey players. And a Ranger win - 3-1.
Where We Stand: still in 9th - but now 3 points behind 8th place Boston who have a game at hand. Carolina - by the way - a former laughing stock - has won 8 of 10 and is just 6 points behind us in 13th place.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Blueshirt Brothers

On March 9th 2009 we started it off with SEAN! - a post about how happy we were that Sean Avery had returned to the New York Rangers. And one year later, with this 717th post we can wish ourselves a happy birthday.

Since then we've been here almost every day - talking Ranger Hockey with you guys - and loving every minute of it.

My sincere thanks to all of you for reading – because without you I'm just typing in the dark.

Anyway - with the season winding down - the Rangers off today - and the playoff push heating up - it is time to start watching the scoreboard again.

Islanders at Flyers - I think we root Slanders here - Philly is 5 points up on us and the Islanders 7 behind. Philly is a team we're chasing and could catch.

Boston at Toronto - we root Maple Leafs - we're chasing Boston.

Nashville at Atlanta - we root Country Music town - Atlanta is on our heels

Tampa Bay at Montreal - the Lightning are chasing us and we're both chasing the Canadians. So we root Tampa - cautiously.

Those are the NHL games that matter to us at Blueshirt Brothers tonight.

And - if anyone remembers - its time to root "NOOT" again. NOOT means No OverTime - which means - when 2 rival teams play in our division play each other - let's have regulation wins - not OT games where both sides get points.

And one last item - my 11 year old son - Pucks Jr. is in the semi finals of his floor hockey league tonight. I will rooting like crazy for that one (while trying not to embarrass myself or my son in the process).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rangers get the point – but they are also missing the point

G-brick. J-kinen. That's what their names look like with the "O" removed. And the Rangers have been missing the "O" – the offense - since the midpoint of the Penguin's game – the last time we scored an even strength goal. As a result it is us who are getting crunched in crunch time – and we have now lost three straight games when we desperately need to win to move into playoff position.

We got another point from another loss - which is better than no points. But as we sit in 10th place with our season winding down - I'm starting to wonder if the Rangers are missing the point about getting the point. It’s good to get something out of a loss – but if we don’t start winning soon we’ll miss the playoffs.

They are playing hard. We see emotion and intensity out there. We out shot, out hit, and out “face-offed” the Sabres. And we are just about hanging with the top teams in the conference. But the time for style points and good efforts are long gone. We need wins. We have teams to climb over to qualify for the playoffs. And there are plenty of other teams that are trying to climb over us at the same time.

The Sabres remind me of us 4 years ago. They got the hot Olympic medal-winning star in goal. They can't score - but they can defend. The US Olympic-star goalie Ryan Miller was perfect in goal. But in the last 3 minutes we countered with our own Olympic Ryan - as it was Callahan who shook off fatigue - took the puck across both blue lines on his own - cut to the net - and drew a huge penalty. In the ensuing 5 on 4 Dubinsky swung at a loose puck in the crease and got just enough of it to tie the game - and rock the Garden.

But OT has been a nightmare for the Blueshirts this year. Patrick Kaleta - a new face in a long line of Ranger Killers (does anyone remember Druce?) Kept scrambling for the puck and banked it off of Henrik from an nearly impossible angle.

Hank - to his credit - felt or sensed the puck rolling up his leg as he lay on the ice - and tried to roll his pad to keep the puck in play.

But no - it trickled into the goal and the Rangers fell – hard – by a score of 2-1 to Buffalo.

The Goalies: Lundqvist was very good. Miller was better. Ryan made 35 saves on 36 shots. Lundqvist made 30 saves on 32 shots.

Special Teams: We won this battle (editor: but we lost the war). We scored on the games final powerplay - going 1-2, while stopping both of the Sabres' chances. Of course this also means we haven't scored an even-strength goal in about 2 and a half hours of ice time.

The New Veteran Rangers - No goals. Olli did get an assist on the Dubi goal. And Jokinen continues to hustle out there - and he creates and takes shots - a rare commodity on this team. Gabby does not look like Gabby. Is it injury - or something else - or both?

Your Returning Rangers were the whole show - what there was of it. Ryan Callahan nearly took it end to end - as the third period was winding down - drawing the penalty that gave us the chance to tie the game. And Dubinsky's diving swing at the puck got just enough of it to edge it over the line and get the Ranger to Overtime.

The Kid Rangers - Del Zotto had an assist on the lone goal.

Defense on Offense? Redden shot the puck wide.

In conclusion: It ain't over til its over - but this year's team has shown a few (bad) tendencies:

We give up the late goal.
We lose in OT
We score just enough to lose.

Good to see Gabby back – but he’s got to get up to speed in a hurry. I was very interested in Tort’s idea of playing him on the Avery line. That – along with Cally on the top line – could give us 3 lines with scoring – and you know Sean can deliver Marian the puck in good spots. But as the game wore on – Gaborik was returned to the top line.

No use crying over spilled points – we have to regroup and find a way to win. Maybe a game against someone who isn’t a top 4 conference team would help...
Next Up: ...but we don’t get that luxury. It’s the Devils on Wednesday. Circle the wagons.
Where we stand: 9th place officially. But Atlanta is one point back with 2 at hand. And Boston is 2 points up on us in 8th – also with 2 games at hand. We need wins.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Same "Auld" Rangers

We outshot the Capitals. We outplayed them at even strength. We neutralized Ovechkin. But, despite the return of Gaborik we were shut out and lost 2-0 to Washington.

Another tough loss – with no points – against a very good team. And we're running out of hockey season. Here is how it happened:

The Goalies: It was the right move and a great move starting Auld in goal. Lundqvist had just faced 55 shots on Thursday and clearly needed the rest. And Auld played well. He was aggressive and in command in goal. He stopped 26 of 28 shots – with one of the two goals coming in a 5 on 3. When your goalie's save percentage is .929% - especially against a high scoring team like the Capitals – you can't blame the loss on him. And remember - last time we faced Ovechkin and company Henrik Lundqvist let up 6 goals.

Theodore was a perfect 30 for 30 in saves. You just can't win if you can't score on the guy.

Special Teams: We let in the 5 on 3 goal, but that was our only lapse in 4 shorthanded tries. Out own powerplay was 0-2. So we lost here – and that was enough to lose us the game.

And with no goals – there's nothing much else to talk about.

In Conclusion: We played hard. We just couldn't score. We launched 30 shots at Theodore – but he was much better than usual and we couldn't solve him. It's a night with no points – and we're running out of chances to catch the top 8.
Next Up: We play again right away – tonight against the Buffalo Sabres with Olympic Hockey MVP Ryan Miller. Expect Lundqvist back in net. If we couldn't score on Theodore – we'll have to do a lot better to score on Miller.

Where We Stand: 10th place – out of the playoff mix – with 17 games left to make a move.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rangers get 2 goal lead - Lundqvist makes 50 saves - and we LOSE in OT

Heart breaker. The Rangers led the world champion Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 and chased (hyphen-man) Marc-Andre Fleury to the bench midway through the 2nd period. But we only managed 4 shots the rest of the way while Crosby and company launched 55 shots at Henrik. The Penguins caught us and eventually won out in OT 5-4.

The game winner was a deflection by Olympic gold medalist Jordan Staal. It went past Jordan's brother Marc Staal - and then past Lundqvist - while our dreams of a 4th straight win crashed to the ice like Sidney Crosby taking a dive.

And it was one of Sid's crybaby specials - a sad look to the refs and a flop early in the first that had Henrik Lundqvist steaming. Hank left the crease to let Sid know how he felt about it. Very cool move by the Hank-ster - and it reminded a few of us veteran Ranger fans of Jagr's similar conversation with Sid in Jaromir's last playoff series as a Ranger.

"You don't need to do that cheap stuff Sid - just play hockey like a man"

I'm paraphrasing - and sanitizing - but that's essentially what Jagr said back then and what Henrik said last night. More or less.

The Rangers competed hard and got some scoring - but their offense completely ran out of gas at the mid point. The third period and OT looked like a 20+ minute Pittsburgh powerplay - despite the fact that the teams were at even strength. When Redden got called for hooking in the OT - the Rangers mustered what they could defensively - but ultimately could not give Hank enough help to hold off the Pens.

The best news is that we did get a point - and we've gotten points in 4 straight games without Gaborik. Before the Jokinen trade we had never gotten a so much as a point in Gabby's prior absences.

But as the remaining games fall into the teens - we're still below that playoff line-of-death looking up. We need points. But last night we let one get away. Here's how it happened.

The Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist makes an all time career high 50 saves. But he let in 5 goals. The Rangers didn't do enough to help him - no one should have to face that many shots. So you can't blame Lundqvist.

Fleury was pulled after making just 8 saves on 12 shots. Johnson saved the game - but incredibly only had to make 4 saves to do it.

Special Teams: Our Powerplay was 2 of 3 - pretty good - but in the third period when a goal would have won it - we went 2 minutes with the man advantage without taking a shot.

Our PK had an uncharacteristic breakdown - successfully defending only once in three tries - including losing on the OT 4 on 3.

One more stop would have won the game.

The New Veteran Rangers - Jokinen - still sans-mustache - had two assists and was the one Ranger able to generate a shot on goal in the third. Prospal had an assist.

Your Returning Rangers: Stop the presses - Rozsival had a nice goal - roofing it from close in - and an assist.

Captain Drury had a goal. Dubinsky scored as well. Avery had an assist. Redden had an assist but also took the OT hooking penalty that did us in. On the other hand - Redden has quietly upped his plus-minus to +5, the 5th best number on the Rangers.

The Kid Rangers - We’ve been calling for Anisimov - and he comes through with a rare goal. Del Zotto returned from his long recovery from a slash injury from Malkin’s skate - and had an assist. And Gilroy had an assist.

Defense on Offense? A good night - one goal - and 4 assists. We could have used more defense though.

In conclusion: With an Olympic-charged Jokinen, Drury, and Cally - the Rangers are scoring. But with time running out on our season we need Marian Gaborik to get back out there and help the team. Get well soon Gabs. Or we’re finished.
Next Up: Back to back games on Saturday and Sunday. Both are tough ones – The Caps (with Ovechkin) and the Sabres (with Olympic MVP Ryan Miller).
Where we stand: We’re in 9th – tied in points with 8th place Atlanta – but they have 2 games at hand. And The Playoff Clump lives – just 10 points separate the 6th place Flyers from the 14th place Panthers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

News Flash - Rangers do (almost) nothing at the trade deadline - face Crosby tonight

If you take one last look at Miika Wiikman on Wikipedia – you will see that the Rangers traded him yesterday to Phoenix for a 35 year old defenseman (and former forward – like Gilroy) named Anders Eriksson. This was certainly not the blockbuster we were expecting – or dreading. Eriksson will be assigned to Hartford. Which makes me wonder why we did this in the first place. Eriksson was a Red Wing in 1995, a Springfield Falcon in 2005 and on Calgary last year

Hmmm. (This is the sound of me wondering why Sather made this trade. It's like a shopaholic who can't leave any store without buying something)

Anyway – our 3 game winning streak (without Gaborik) is on the line as Rangers take the ice again tonight.

Who The Hell Are We Playing? It is the World Champion Pittsburgh Penguins featuring gold medal winner Sidney Crosby – and a team we love to hate. They are in 4th place in the East, 14 points behind the Capitals. They are 5-2-3 in their last 10.

Primary Skaters: Well, Sid, for one. 42 goals. 37 assists. Which adds up to a mighty … +9. That’s one better than Vinnie Prospal!

Evgeni Malkin has 45 assists. (And I was stunned - by the way - that Malkin and Ovechkin together in the Olympics didn't do better than they did for team Russia)

Jordan Staal has a plus-minus of +16.

In Net: That flurry of activity himself: Marc-Andre Fleury with a .908 save percentage.

Scoring & Defense: Those Penguins have scored 198 goals already to our 165. But while we let up 170, they have given up 181.

Special Effects: The Penguin Powerplay clicks at 16.7%. We are better at 18%. The aquatic fish kill penalties at an 83.5% rate while we are higher at 84.8%

Scheduling Conflicts: We played and won on Tuesday. They did too. Like us – their best players are still hot from the Olympics.

Probable Lines: Gaborik is still hurt. Of course if this were the Olympics – and this was a game for Slovakia – a team that does not play him $7 million a year like we do – Gabby probably would suit up and play. But instead he rests and hopes his lower body recovers. So do we.

We’re guessing the lines will be:

Prospal - Christensen - Callahan (if Cally can keep pretending he's Gaborik - like he did with 2 goals Tuesday - that would be a good thing)

Drury - Jokinen - Dubinsky (three Centers on one line)

Avery - Anisimov - Lisin (he cleared waivers and is apparently still on the team. Avery is playing the elder statesman and traffic cop on this line - not the way I'm used to thinking about him)

Prust -Boyle-Shelley (the Punch Line - Prust never sleeps)

On Defense: We will see if Del Zotto - who has been out since Malkin's skate cut his chest - will be back tonight to face Malkin again. If not - Potter doesn't have Delzy' offense - but is a better defender - something defensemen also need to be good at. Just check out their plus-minus stats if you don't agree.

In Goal: We want to see Auld in there soon - but maybe you don't make his first start against the Stanley Cup champs. So - probably Hank - and that's probably good.

Dave Puck predicts: a hockey game. Can we beat the Penguins twice in a row and won our 4th straight without Marian Gaborik? I hope so - but I can't say I'm expecting it. So no prediction tonight.


Where we stand: 9th place. Tied with Boston in points - but they have 2 games at hand.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The LONGEST 3 game winning streak ever

Since when does a 3 game winning streak start in the 2nd week of February and last until March? When you have an Olympic break in the middle - that's when.

Your New York Rangers won for the third consecutive time - again without the services of their leading scorer Marian Gaborik who was hurt before the break - got better - played for Slovakia - got hurt again - and ended up back on the Ranger injury list.

The Rangers took on the third-place-in-the-East-Ottawa Senators - on the road - and came up with 4 goals in the 2nd period to erase a 1-0 deficit and blow by a team that had won 14 of their last 16 games.

The Jokinen version of these Rangers is looking pretty good right now. And when Gaborik returns - we might really have something to get excited about.

The Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist - still stinging from an Olympic meltdown where he gave up 4 goals on 14 shots - came back huge last night, stopping 24 of the 25 shots that came his way. Any night the King has a .960 save percentage - he's giving us a very good chance to win.

Ottawa's Elliott stopped just 12 of the 16 shots he faced before getting yanked.

Special Teams: Not a factor. Rangers 0-1 on the Powerplay and 2-0 on the penalty kill. Good job for our guys staying out of the box. Or are the refs taking a cue from the Olympic refs who were happy to let the other players slash at one another as long as play kept going?

The New Veteran Rangers - Christensen, playing on the top line, had two assists. Prust had an assist. And Enver Lisin - who was placed on waivers earlier in the day - played hard and earned an assist of his own. If this is goodbye Enver - thanks for the effort - a very classy move.

Your Returning Rangers: rocked the house. Silver medalist Ryan Callahan kept his motor running from Vancouver - scored twice and nearly had the hat trick. Sean Avery had a goal and an assist. I would love for the guy to get hot down the stretch. And Dubinsky scored. Even Redden had an assist.

The Kid Rangers - were missing Michael Del Zotto - who had 50 stitches in his chest from a collision with the Penguin's Malkin's skate before the break. The Olympics were perfectly timed to help the teenager heal up. But the big story is that Corey Potter stepped up and played just fine. And Gilroy continues to perform. 2 rookie defensemen on the road - where the opposition gets the last line change - and we only give up one goal. Well done fellows

And yes - it has been a while since we called Anisimov's name.

Defense on Offense? One assist.

In conclusion: Let's hope Gabby gets well soon. And check back here as the 3pm trade deadline approaches. With the madman Slats in charge - if we don't make a deal - that in itself will be news.

Next Up: the Olympic Gold Medal crybaby Sidney Crosby on Friday. The start of 3 games in 3 days. Let's see Auld on Saturday. Please.

Where we stand. The win gets us to 65 points - tying the 8th place Bruins. There is still a big clump of teams from 6th place on down. It should be a fight to the finish.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wave goodbye to Voros and Lisin

Draw your own conclusions:

In this morning's skate - Aaron Voros rocketed a shot at Henrik Lundqvist that caught the jet-lagged goaltender square in the mask. Hank was okay.

And then - later today - the Rangers placed Voros on Waivers.

Hmmm. (That's the sound of me wondering what is going on)

And then - just to make it look good - they also waived Enver Lisin. Hmnm again.

In other news - Marian Gaborik is scratched tonight with a lower body injury. It is his second straight NHL game missed due to injury. But of course - between those two games he played in the Olympics. And for a third time I say to you: Hmmm.

The trade deadline is 3pm tomorrow. I have this feeling - with those two scratches and Corey Potter being called up - that something may be about to happen.

Hank is the confirmed starting goaltender tonight. More stuff on tonight's game below.

It Just Hit Me

I just realized - I have a big suggestion for Glen Sather:

Slats - if you were ever going to move Chris Drury's untradable contract - this would be that moment. He looked great in the Olympics. Some teams might be hungry to pull a little of that Olympic hype into their own team.

We love Chris - but he's just not worth his contract. Good luck Slats and happy hunting.

That's all for now - my 4 suggestions for Tortorella and the preview of tonight's hockey game are below.

4 Lessons Torts should take from Vancouver

Can you believe it, boys and girls? There is a Ranger Hockey game tonight. After two weeks of Olympics – our Blueshirts are finally at it again.

But as Gaborik, Lundqvist, a (clean shaven) Bronze medal-ed Jokinen, and Silver medalists Drury and Callahan become teammates once again – the big question is:

Has John Tortorella learned anything in Vancouver?

Because if he was paying attention – he sure should have. And if he did – it might just make the difference between the Rangers making or missing the playoffs this year:

Lesson # 1: Rest Lundqvist. It's not as simple as this but – in the Olympics when Lundqvist was given a game off he responded – twice – with shut outs. And when he was asked to play back to back games he collapsed – letting in 4 goals on 14 shots. I know Hanks likes to play all the time. But the numbers show he;s better when he doesn't. And now that Sather finally got an experienced backup in Alex Auld – there's really no excuse any longer. Try resting Hank one out of every three games and see what happens.

Lesson #2: change your coaching style with Chris Drury. On the Olympic team Chris Drury looked like a new man – or more accurately – like the old Chris Drury. The Ranger captain looked loose, relaxed, and – yes – happy - on the Olympic team. And he scored twice and notched an assist as well. So hopefully Tortorella got to see whatever it was that got Chris going in Vancouver and - and John should do his best to keep him going the same way in New York - even if it means adjusting his coaching style.
Lesson # 3 : Get Olli Jokinen to keep that Mustache off. Minus that sinister Fu Manchu "stache" Joki suddenly caught fire, scoring 3 goals. My bold prediction: Make sure Olli's facial hair is “Finnished” for the season and he'll keep that scoring touch.
Lesson #4: Figure out what the Slovak's did to get Gaborik going - and copy it. On the Rangers the Gifted One was slumping. In the Olympics – despite two injuries – Gabby scored 4 goals and notched an assist despite fighting off two injuries. John – figure out what Slovakia was doing to free up Gaborik - and plagiarize it.
We know you can do it Torts. I'm sure your Olympic time was something you'll never forget. And - you got to experience a different head coaching style than your own from the inside - a chance you may never get again. So, please John - Try to learn from it. You're a great head coach - but everyone can benefit from an open mind and a little self tweaking.

Okay - my heartfelt plea is completed - And now – we resume our regular post Olympic programming

Who The Hell Are We Playing? Ah -yes – that feels good to say after a two week hiatus. The Ottawa Senators have won 14 of 16 games – but of course that was before everybody sat around for two weeks watching the Olympic games. So it's no longer a “hot streak”.

The Senators are 36-23-4 in 3rd place in the Eastern Division – looking down at the 10th place Rangers.

Primary Skaters: Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek have 20 goals each. Dan Alfredson has 32 assists. Nick Foligno is +13.

In Net: Brian Elliot is the primary goaltender with a 2.59 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
Scoring & Defense:

The Senators have scored 178 goals to our 161. And they've let up 179 goals to our 169.

Special Effects: Ottawa is 16.1% on the PP (we are 18.1) and they are 83.3% on the PK to our 84.6%

Scheduling Conflicts: Olympic break – so everybody rested except the all stars.

Probable Lines: Not sure yet – but I like Olli and Gabby on separate lines.


On Defense: Corey Potter is up with the big club/ Del Zotto had 50 stitches taken out of his chest and should be ready to go.


In Goal: We should see Auld – eventually and hopefully soon – but figure we get Hank tonight.

Dave Puck Predicts: We win 3-1. Hank gets mad and almost shuts the Senators out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

USA came so close

You really have to admire the USA Olympic squad. They hung in there for more than 60 minutes with a team that was simply more talented than they were. Canada invented the game of hockey – they were the home team – and they were incredibly skilled and deep. To win the gold medal – the US would have to defeat them twice in Canada.

And they almost did it.
Clawing back from a 2-0 deficit, Ryan Kesler of team USA scored at 12:44 of the second period to get within one goal. US goaltender Ryan Miller was magnificent – and kept the Americans in the hockey game.
It looked like the score would end 2-1 – but with Miller pulled for an extra skater Zach Parise found a way to beat Robetro Luongo at 19:35 of the third period to silence the Vancouver crowd and send the game and the gold medal into overtime.
Team USA managed 4 shots in OT, but it was Canada's Sidney Crosby who scored the game winner for Canada. This was the worst case scenario. Did it have to be Sid?
Still – the United States showed they belong – and surprised the world in this tournament by passing Sweden, Finland and Russia for the Silver Medal.
And the best part of all was the complete humiliation of Martin Brodeur. Marty was pulled after nearly losing to Switzerland and then losing to the US squad. It was Luongo who took team Canada to the gold medal. Marty was nothing more than a backup goalie for his country's team. And it was funny to watch Brodeur during the team celebration – trying to find someone who would hug him – or even acknowledge his presence.
I had this crazy hope that they would find themselves one medal short and have to take Marty's to give to Crosby. Wouldn't that have been fun to watch? But no - they had enough medals on hand for everyone.
Here's how the Rangers ended the Olympics:
Ryan Callahan: One Assist. +2. Silver Medal.
Chris Drury: Two Goals. +3. Silver Medal
Olli Jokinen: Three goals. One Assist. +1. Bronze medal
Marian Gaborik: Four Goals. One Assist.
Henrik Lundqvist: Two Shutouts
Not bad, guys. And tomorrow we face the Ottawa Senators as the season revs up again.