Friday, April 30, 2010

Round Two (without the Rangers)

Round two of the NHL playoffs is here - and still no invitation has been extended to our New York Rangers to participate. I had assumed when Round One began without us - that this was some sort of scheduling mix-up. Perhaps some invitation had been lost in the mail - or lost on some server out there in the internet ether.

But no - It is starting to dawn on me that we really didn't make the playoffs - and the only thing left to do is face that sad reality.

So - Okay - round two is here. The Capitals - with all their regular season wins and goals - are gone. The Devils? They were the first team to go. Ryan Miller and the Sabres? Thanks for playing, guys.

It all goes to show you - the regular season doesn't mean much. The Caps had the most Points in the NHL this season. But can they feel proud of that achievement after being ousted by the 8th place Habs?

No. It makes it worse - more of an embarrassment this way. And next year their whole season will be looked at in a different light. Are they in forst? So what? Because, until they can win a playoff series - the regular season doesn't matter.

So in the NHL - its really a negative to finish first. You're not battle ready the last few weeks of the season because you've clinched early. And there's much more pressure on you because of your first place finish. I'm not saying 8th place is ideal - but the 4-6 slots look like great positions to start from.

And this is in spite of the fact that unlike any other sport - there is a specific rules advantage for the home team - the right to make the last line change at each stoppage. It's a tangible advantage - but the extra home game isn't enough to offset all the negatives of finishing first.

Anyway - with the second round beginning - who do we root for now?

In the East - the Penguins play the Canadians. Hmmm. Who do we like more? Scotty Gomez or Sidney Crosby?

This is an easy one. We root against Sid the kid and for our former teammate. Go Habs.

The other match up is Bruins and Flyers. That's another easy one. We don't like the Flyers. They eliminated us from the playoffs in the shootout of the last game we played. They try to intimidate their opponents instead of letting skill decide the outcome. So we root Boston - as odd as that may feel to Yankee fans.

In the West - I don't know. I'd sort of like to see the Red Wings win the cup this year - or someone from the left side of the country - so that the Penguins or Flyers don't get it. So I'd want the best team to get to the Finals.

It all starts tonight.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is it okay to “Hate” Sidney Crosby?

A good friend and fellow blogger (actually she's female - so technically not a fellow at all - but you get the idea) took great exception to some of my posts recently.

She didn't like it when I wrote that my hatred for certain other hockey teams is my main interest in the Stanley Cup playoffs now that the Rangers didn't qualify.

And there more: She said I was immature for feeling this way..


Now I've always suspected that my blogger friend is a little more mature than I am (But I'm an inch taller - so there!). Of course - since my 16 year old is already embarrassed by some of my day-today antics - while my 11 year old still likes them - I guess that shows I'm not the most emotionally advanced tool in the shed (Editor - huh?) (Pucks: you know what I mean).

But - this is sports. We're supposed to like the team we root for. And we’re supposed to not like our long time rivals. Maybe even hate them.

Aren't we? I mean - I know the players come and go - particularly with Glen "revolving door" Sather at the helm. And I know that we're rooting for - and against uniforms. We’re rooting against laundry if you really want to get down to it.

But rivalries make it more fun. We have to have a rooting interest - or we're not rooting. And Sports are cathartic. That means we see two players collide and we feel like we've collided - and we release tension and it helps us avoid violence in our own lives. Our exaggerated emotions about Sporting events are a release – a safety valve that keeps us from acting out on those around us. (If you work at the post office – the preceding sentence may not apply to you)

And when we watch a player like Sidney Crosby take a dive – cheating - it is natural for us to dislike him for it. So we can observe and form opinions - even negative ones - about players - and by extension their teams.

But maybe the H word is the problem. There's a lot of hate in the world and maybe I shouldn't be fostering that language here. Even in a sports context. Even in fun.

So - when we root tonight for the Canadiens in game seven (Editor - finally some hockey!) we will mention that we dislike - not hate - Alex Ovechkin and his team.

Besides - if the Caps end up as the only team that can stop Sidney Crosby from the Cup finals - well - we'll start like them a whole lot more in a hurry.

I think I gotta think about this some more. (Go Habs.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guts, Goaltending and Gomez (just like old times)

Scotty Gomez and his team hung on at home against a superior Capitals team. Outshot by a wide margin - Gomez and his mates hung on to win their third game of the series and take Washington to the brink of elimination. Gomez's team was literally saved by their goaltender - who withstood an Ovechkin-led barrage that looked like a shooting gallery at times.

Deja Vu anyone? It was just about a year ago when Gomez played for the Rangers - and we hung on to beat the Ovechkins on home ice and get their 3rd win of the series.

It's 2010 now and Gomez wears a Red Shirt - not a Blue one anymore. He's part of the Montreal Canadiens - one of Hockey's most storied franchises. His star goalie is now Halak - not Lundqvist. But it's got to feel for Scotty a whole lot like last year. Once again his team squeaked into the playoffs and ran into a highly seeded Capitals team.

And once again he's taking them to a 7th game - purely on guts and goaltending. It's got to feel very familiar to the former Ranger. Ranger GM Glen Sather decided to trade away Gomez and his contract last year - using the savings to bring in Marian Gaborik. Gabs responded with a career year for the Rangers - which resulted in.... well, our first non-playoff year in half a decade.

Gomez, on the other hand - plays on. Last night I wouldn’t call him an impact player – he had one shot on goal and one hit in 20 minutes of ice time. He lost 12 of 20 faceoffs. Still – his team won a must game. And tomorrow night - one of two things will happen:

Either - the Capitals will end Gomez’ season in the seventh game of the first round of the playoffs - for the 2nd straight year - or - Scotty will finally gets his revenge on the Caps and advance to the second round.

Even if it is a year too late - you know which way I'll be rooting.
It was nice to hear Ovechkin mention Hank in the post game interview. I didn't get the exact quote - but the Caps star said that his team keeps running into great goalies in the playoffs - including Henrik Lundqvist last year. No argument here Alex.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Still some things to root for

So - how are our newly adopted teams doing?

Scott Gomez and the Montreal Canadians stayed alive Saturday - winning game 5 by a score of 2-1 against a Washington Capitals team that had scored 17 goals in the 3 games before that. If the Canadians can hold down that goal machine Ovechkin and his mates - they'll have a chance. But Washington scores goals so easily - it will be tough. The win gives the Habs a chance to even the series 3 all tonight in Montreal.

We also have a game 6 in Boston tonight - with the Bruins needing a home win for the series upset over Ryan Miller and the Sabres. Normally I'd be rooting Sabres because of their USA Olympic Goaltender - but Miller hates the Rangers - so it's hard to be on his side.

The Flyers already dispatched the hated Devils - in 5 games - which is great. It just about brings to an end the mighty dominance of a fat aging Martin Brodeur. That New Jersey team has to really start wondering what to do with their starting goaltender position now. NJ had the worst performance of any playoff team this year - winning just one game - despite getting the number 2 seed in the East. What little happiness I have for this hockey season comes from this.

And the Ottawa Senators - who we were rooting for all the way against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins - time has run out. After stunning the 'Quins in the opener - the Senators lost 3 straight - won game 5 - and took a 2-0 lead in games 6. But the lead - and the series fell apart for the underdogs - and the hated Sidney Crosby and company won 3-2, clinching the series in 6 games.

I'm not even thinking about the West yet - other than my surprise that the Red Wings face a game 7 on the road in Phoenix on Tuesday.

But at least - because we dislike so many other teams - this Ranger-less playoffs still gives us a little something left to root for. Or against, really.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rooting Against The Devils - it's all we have left

It's really good to see the Devils losing. Even if it is to the Flyers - a team we also don't like - especially after they tossed us out of the playoffs when Olli's shoot out shot was shut out.

But first things first. We outlasted the Islanders in the playoff race - and now we can root for the Devils to go down in 5 games.

The Devils have scored just 4 goals in their 3 losses - and the old man Boucher is outplaying the other old man Brodeur. Anything bad for Marty is good for us - and the chubby aging has let up 12 goals in 4 games. When the Devils can't goal tend, when they can't score, when they get out-worked, well, it gives me what little happiness there is left in this broken season.

So, while Flyer (and former Ranger) Balir Betts looks good to advance to round 2, things are not going so well for former Ranger and current Canadien Scotty Gomez. His Montreal team just can keep up with the Capital's fire power. Washington has scored 17 goals in the last 3 games to take a 3-1 series lead. But - to take the long view - we may need the Caps to take out the hated Penguins later on - so maybe this is for the best.

Sidney's team is also up 3-1, having won 3 straight over the Senators.

And finally - Ryan Miller - who hates the Rangers even if he is a national here - is losing 3-1 to the Bruins.

Tonight we root Ottawa and Philadelphia.

And, hey, sorry I haven’t been around as much lately. With the season ending so abruptly and in such a terrible way – It’s been a little tough to keep up the posts every day. Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Playoffs without us? How Rude!

As Ranger fans - our season is over - but the NHL playoffs are continuing all around us. It's damned impolite of them - but this is what's happening.

So as hockey fans - we watch and root - mostly motivated by teams we want to see lose.

Already the hated Devils have played game 3 against the hated Flyers. Normally we'd root hard against Philly for edging us out of the playoffs by the barest of margins last Sunday (yes - it's only been 9 days).

But this is a special case. Our opponent is the Hated Ones - the New Jersey team named for Satan - the Devils. This is the team we dislike above all others - and so we root against Martin Brodeur and company even if it means success for the Flyers.

And so - when our old friend Blair Betts and his team beat Brodeur 3-2 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead - this makes us happy. And game 4 is tonight.

And we're less happy when Ovechkin's team - the Washington Capitals - come roaring back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Scotty Gomez and the Canadiens 5-4 on Saturday to tie that series at 1-all and then had a blowout win last night to get a 2-1 series lead.

Likewise - since we - like all right-thinking non Canadians - hate Sidney Crosby - we were not happy when the 'Guins beat Ottawa 4-2 on Sunday to take a 2-1 series lead.

Last night Buffalo lost to Boston to take a 2-1 series lead - and I'm not sure who to root for there. The Sabre's Ryan Miller is an American sports hero for his great play in the Olympics for team USA - but Ryan has shown that he really hates the Rangers - and they seemed to go out of their way to make this tough for the Rangers down the stretch.

So tonight we root Flyers (even if it is hard to do) and Ottawa - even though that may be a lost cause.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Torts Right On Shootout

We say: John Tortorella was dead right on the shoot out - even if the Rangers were shoot-out-ed right out of the playoffs last Sunday.

With the Flyers and Rangers tied at 1 and headed to the 5 minute 4-on-4 Overtime period, the Ranger Coach told his players to try to score but not to take wild chances that would leave us vulnerable on defense. His thinking was that we'd have an advantage if we could last until the shoot out.

And I agree with Torts on this one. Our record in the 5 minute overtime has been terrible this year. And the Flyers had outshot us nearly 2-1 in regulation. So - yes - we would seem to have a better chance in the shootout - where we have Lundqvist and they have Boucher and both sides get the same number of shots.

But now - after we lost in the shoot out - everybody and his brother has been all over Tortorella for not using Gaborik - his leading scorer - as one of the three Ranger shooters.

Not fair - we say. Tortorella used the same lineup he had played in our last shootout. Christensen, Parenteau, and Jokinen have the team’s best percentages in shoot out goals.
Gaborik is just 2 for 18 lifetime. Parenteau, by comparison, is an amazing 3 for 3.

Tortorella has held Gaborik out of the shootout before - and he's indicated in the past that he's slated as our number 4 - which he would have been Sunday if only.... (you know).

So I don't think you can fault John here. He had the intelligence to have thought this through in advance - and already had a Shoot Out order in his head before the game started.

And there was nothing in Gaborik's performance Sunday that would make Tortorella want to move Marian up. Gabs did not have a good game - didn't score - and didn’t generate offense.

Look - in general - teams score on shootouts less than half the time. And the Rangers got a goal. It's just that an exhausted Lundqvist, after 47 saves, had nothing left in the tank.

Look, you can blame some things on the head coach - but second guessing his shootout choices now - after he's been consistent with them for several games - doesn’t seem fair to me.

This is a coach that has won the Stanley Cup, okay? And you gotta love that he tells the press - and us - almost everything he's thinking. That is a rare commodity - something unheard of in the modern era of say-nothing "coach speak." Torts really lets us in on what's going on in his head and behind the scenes at the Rangers - and we here at Blueshirt Brothers appreicate it.

So yes – we all felt bad watching Olli Jokinen not score with the entire season on the line. But no – we don’t blame coach for putting him out there. And if Olli-Jo had just made the shot – well, don’t get me started again…
Scoreboard: I'm still bummed out from Sunday - but I was happy to see Ottawa beat Pittsburgh 5-4 last night. The Flyers - with a rejuvinated Boucher - beat the Devils and I was almost happy about that. The Red Wings fell to the Coyotes 3-2, and the Avalanche beat the Sharks 2-1.
Tonight we get: Bruins-Sabres, Canadiens-Caps, and Kings-Canucks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How The Game Should Have Ended

Permit me a little revisionist history:

"This is Sam Rosen with Joe Micheletti and New York Ranger hockey.

It all comes down to this, Ranger fans. The Rangers and Flyers are in the shootout. Game 82. A Ranger win puts them in the playoffs and a loss ends their season.

Moments ago P. A. Parenteau scored to tie the shootout at 1 all. The Ranger rookie is an amazing 3-3 in the shootout this year. He's never missed. But the Flyers have scored again on an exhausted Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers trail 2-1.

So it all comes down to this final shoot out attempt. The Rangers need a goal here to extend their season.

There's a commotion on the Ranger bench. What happening, Joe?"

"Sam, someone has jumped onto the ice. It's a guy in street clothes"

"Wait a minute Joe - that's a designer suit. It’s Sean Avery on the ice in dress shoes. I can't believe it. Avery runs over to Boucher - he's shouting something at the Flyers' goaltender. I can't make out what he's saying Joe"

"Sam, I think I heard it. And I think it's the most vile ugly statement I've ever heard one human being say to another. Sam, I think I need a moment to compose myself after hearing that"

"Joe, whatever he said to Boucher - it's working. The Flyer goalie has taken his helmit off. He's sitting down on the ice. And now Boucher.... What's he doing?"

"He's crying Sam. He's burst into tears. This is hard to watch"

"Avery has left the ice now and the referees have restored order. Boucher is slowly moving back to the net.

And here come the Ranger shooter. It's ... It's - well the jersey says Jokinen. But it looks 3 sizes too big. Is that really Olli Jokinen?"

"Sam, look. It's P.A. Parenteau again! They painted the Jokinen mustache on him and swapped jerseys"

"Here he comes - Jokinen - or is it Parenteau - advances on Boucher. He dekes him. Boucher slips and falls. Parenteau shoots....

HE SCORES – the shootout is tied at 2. And the Rangers play on!

Now its the Flyer's turn. The skater advances on Henrik Lundqvist. Here’s the shot. Glove save Lundqvist! Henrik Lundqvist with a great save high on the glove side.

And now the Rangers have a chance to win. John Tortorella sends out.... Marian Gaborik - the Rangers leading scorer.

Gaborik takes the puck - he skates in on Boucher. He shoots. HE SCORES


(oh well, it sure would have been nice)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

They Gave It Everything They Had

What a tough way to lose a hockey game.

What a heartbreaking way to end a season.

The Rangers gave it everything they had today. They left it all on the ice - every ounce of strength and effort they could muster against the Flyers. They played hard and smart - without the injured Callahan and Avery - and kept battling to the very finish. You can't get any closer to the playoffs than the Rangers did without actually getting in.

60 minutes into game 82 we were still in the playoff race. And after 5 minutes of overtime we were still beathing. And with one shot left in the shootout we still had a puncher's chance.

But when Olli Jokinen's final shoot out attempt failed – the Rangers season – their heroic rush to the finish - and all the hopes and dreams of the Blueshirt Brothers and all our friends – came crashing down to the Flyers ice surface.

We held a fragile lead for more than 40 minutes, but in the end we lost that lead, the shoot out and the game, 2-1. And so in losing the game we lost the playoffs as well. The funny thing is – it feels like we were in the playoffs. It feels like we just lost a playoff game seven. I was half expecting the Rangers to line up and shake hands at the end.

I don't really want to right now – but let's analyze the game – for one last time this year:

The Goalies: Hank - what can I say? Henrik was every bit The King today – and I can't even imagine what he must be feeling right now.

47 saves. 47. A .979 save percentage. You can't really expect much more from your goaltender. He saved enough shots for a shutout and then some. He shut the Flyers out for more than a hockey game between late second period Friday and the third period today.

But who would have thought that Brian Boucher would save 24 of 25 shots? His save percentage was under 90% for the season. So if life were fair, 25 shots would have gotten us 2.5 goals in regulation – which should have been enough. One more Ranger goal and … and... Well, you know.

And it was Boucher who stopped 2 of 3 shots in the shootout. Hank could only stop one of the 3. What a way to lose a hockey game – and a season.

Special Teams: Killed us. We were 0-2 and the Flyers 1-4. One more PK and ….

New Veteran Rangers: Marian Gaborik had 2 shots, and, surprisingly, 3 hits. And it retrospect I'd love to see what he might have done as the 3rd man in on the shootout. I'd feel better losing with him than with Joki. No goals and no assists for Prospal, Jokinen, Boyle (2 hits). And of course – next year all these guys become returning Rangers and, knowing Sather, we'll have a new crop of new Vets to take their places in this section.

Our Returning Rangers: The Captain? 19:24 of ice time. No goals. No assists. No shots. No blocked shots. He did win 14 of 24 face offs and registered one hit. Dubinsky, Boyle, and Voros – all shut out and shut down.

But God Bless Jody Shelley. He once again found a way – scoring in the game's 4th minute. And in a game where we never let up an even strength goal – it nearly stood up as the game winner. Shelley had 4 hits and his line was the only line to get anything done all night.

The Kid Rangers? Prust and Anisimov made that 4th line into something very special. It was those two (with Shelley) – not Gabs – not Joki – not Dubi – who were +1 on the night. One more goal from anyone else and ….. (don't get me started). And you know – next year all of these guys – Delzy and Anis and Prust and even Gilroy will no longer be rookies. They'll join the others a bit higher on the page as Returning veterans.

Offense on Defense: Not tonight. Check back again in the fall.

In Conclusion: What a crushing loss. What a sad way to end a hockey season. To claw back into the race – to come so close – and then just barely miss – it's almost too much to handle. My 11 year old – Pucks Junior – was inconsolable for a few minutes. We played a little rod hockey – I let him win – his players have Ranger uniforms – and he feels a little better now. At least one of us does.

To all of you Blueshirt Brothers readers – thank you.

Thank you for your visits – for your support – and for your comments all year. It's been a rough year of sorts at Blueshirt Brothers – I really do miss Nugman – the mad blogger who just up and left in mid season. But I'm glad and grateful you all stayed with me and Pucks Junior here over this long season.

I may not be here every single day of the off season – but I will be here and I hope you'll keep stopping by.

At least we got 82 games of meaningful hockey – and the Rangers were in it until the very last shot fell short. They may not have made it – but they gave us every ounce of effort they had inside them. That's why we love this team – and that's why we are forever Ranger Fans.
Next Up: Uh – a mid September preseason game, I guess. It's only 5 months away.
Where We Stand: 9th place. A single point out of the playoffs. And we'll get no closer as we have completely run out of season. On the other hand – we're in a decent position to get a good draft pick – so there's some consolation in that.
One Last Thought of the Season:
A heartfelt Thank You to the New York Rangers. You guys really showed us something down the stretch and it means a lot to us.

Oh No

What a shame. Can't even write about it yet. Too sad - and I'm trying to console Pucks Junior who feels like he lost his best friend.

Back later. Thanks everyone.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

20 Minutes To Go

It's still 1-0 after two periods. Long way to go. That Jody Shelley is looking like a pretty good acquisition, isn't he?

Come on guys - just 20 more minutes!

This Is It: It's Us or Philly

Game 82 and the season comes down to this. One more game. One game for the whole season.

It's a death match. The New York Rangers and our hated foes – the Philadelphia Flyers. Every other team in the NHL has either clinched or been eliminated. Boston beat Carolina yesterday and clinched. And Montreal, despite a big time effort from Toronto – managed to get to Overtime before losing and that point put Scotty Gomez and company in the playoffs.

So forget the scoreboard – forget the other teams – forget everything else and find a way to be in front of your TV at 3pm today. The Rangers and Flyers face off in South Philadelphia with a very simple situation. The winner makes the playoffs and the loser's season ends.

Win or lose – we have to admire how our Rangers fought their way back from the dead to get in this position. Three weeks ago we lost to Boston 2-1 and our season looked over. But, with our hockey life slipping away – with the media asking the Rangers to look back on a failed year – our Blueshirt Brothers fought back. Against all odds they put together a 7-1-1 run, pulling in 15 of a possible 18 points to climb back into contention and put themselves in this position.

Meanwhile, the Flyers were going 2-7-1, grabbing just 5 of a possible 20 points.

The Flyers have lost not one, but 2 starting goalies this year: Ray Emery and Michael Leighton. So it comes down to the old man from Woonsocket, Rhode Island – Brian Boucher, 33 years old. Boucher has a 8-18-3 record this year with a .898 save percentage. In our favor is our starting goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist, 35-27, and a .919 save percentage.

And the pressure – all of it – is fully on Philly today. They've been collapsing while we've been surging. A loss would put them below 8th place for the first time in months – on the last day. They're the one's with something to lose.

Our Rangers should be loosey goosey. According to the press, our season ended three weeks ago. They were supposed to be long gone by now.

But we're not. We have one more miracle to go. One more game and we'll shock the world.
You wanted a season of meaningful hockey games? Well, Game 82 is for everything. We win and the playoffs await us – and the Cup will be just 16 wins away. We lose and … well, you know.

We go to war today without Sean Avery – still down with a knee injury. And most probably without Ryan Callahan – who re-injured his leg Friday, left the arena in a leg brace, and didn't skate yesterday.

So - Is Tortorella a master motivator or a knucklehead? Is Glen Sather a confused, sad old man, or a wise old veteran GM who always kept working to improve his hockey team? Was this season a rousing charge to the playoffs or a complete and utter failure?

We'll know in a few hours. One more time fellows – one more game to shock the world. Let's Go Rangers

Dave Pucks Predicts: Rangers 3-2.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Alive! Rangers Win! Tie Flyers for 8th and final playoff spot

I am so proud of those guys. Our New York Rangers played their hearts out last night - fought back to tie - forged ahead to a two goal lead - lost it on a crazy bounce - regained the lead and held on to defeat the hated Philadelphia Flyers 4-3

A rare terrible turnover by Staal led to a Flyers 1-0 lead just 40 seconds in and cast a dark cloud over our heros.

But the Rangers refused to fold - fought off a penalty kill just one minute in and then - struck back. First Captain Clutch (Chris Drury) scored one of his trademark 3 footers to knot the game at 1. Then Jody Shelley scored his first ever goal as a Ranger from in front - off a face off and a Flyer defensive lapse. And the first period ended 2-1 Rangers.

In the 2nd, the Rangers took a 3-1 lead on Gaborik's finest assist of the season. He took the puck all the way in on Boucher - but then did a daring - stunning - drop pass right near the right side of the crease. Gabs continued behind the net without the puck - drawing the Flyer defenseman and the Goalie's attention. With Dubinsky trailing - all Brandon had to do was slam the puck into the unguarded right corner of the Flyer's goal.

But the Rangers could not hold the 3-1 lead. The Broad street Bullies fought back to tie. The third Flyer goal was a very unlucky bounce for us - Lundqvist made the initial save - but the puck hit a Ranger skate and bounced right back in the net for a 3-3 tie.

But Marian Gaborik rose to the occasion. He stole the puck on the forecheck, skated in on Boucher - and roofed a crazy side angle shot for the 4-3 lead.

Then came the third period and it was King time. Lundqvist stopped everything the Flyers threw at him. Jody Shelley nearly had a 2nd goal - but Boucher - after skating out of the crease - passing the puck through the crease - accidentally hitting the outside post and sending the puck directly to an unguarded Shelley - managed to dive back across the net to make the desperate save.

And Hank kept stopping Flyer shots. And stopping them. In the end he made a total of 24 saves - many of them spectacular - and the Rangers won - in regulation 4-3.

And so we rest today and get ready for the winner-take-all Sunday showdown. The Rangers have come all the way back and have tied the Flyers in points. The Flyers hold the tie breaker - but that's meaningless now. The Sunday winner makes the playoffs.

The Rangers have gone 8-1-1 to shock the world and get to the brink of the 8th seed. All they have to do is win one more.

It's like the play-in game in the NCAA basketball tournament. The impossible dream is in front of us now - just beat the collapsing Flyers one more time - one more and we're in.

Let's Go Rangers!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thanks for nothing Sabres – The Rangers will have to do this ourselves

Okay - last night's game proves it. The Sabres hate us. Last year Scotty Gomez injured Ryan Miller - and the Sabres missed the playoffs and they despise us with a passion. It doesn't matter that Gomez is a Canadien now - the Sabres hate our uniforms and anyone in them.

So last night, the Sabres - who are just 1 point out of the 2nd seed - rested Ryan Miller so that the Boston Bruins could win. And win they did, by a score of 3-1, propelling them to 3 points above the Rangers with 2 games to play.

So any hope of sneaking into the 8th spot without passing the Flyers is gone now. The Flyers are the 8th place team now and we have to pass them or go home.

And so - possibly for the final time this season - the Rangers have a meaningful hockey game to play tonight.

Who The Hell Are We Playing? You know this. It is the Philadelphia Flyers. When the season schedule first came out we all looked at this final home-and-home series and wondered how important these games would be. It turns out they are mighty important. The Rangers need a win tonight to stay alive in the playoff race. Anything less and our season ends. If you're looking for omens: We swept the final home-and-home last year - but that's ancient history now. For example: Blair Betts - who scored a big goal for the Rangers in that series last year - is now a Flyer!

Philly, after losing 7 of 8, have won twice in a row now and stand one win away from clinching. They are a physically imposing team - and we'll have to stand up to them.

Our job is simple - beat the Flyers - defend our home ice - keep Philly from celebrating a playoff berth in Madison Square Garden - and set up Sunday night's winner take all game for the final spot.

Our main advantage is in net. The Flyers are forced to go with the last man standing - their third goalie Brian Boucher. We'll have Lundqvist - the man we've lived and died with all season long.

The Flyers will likely get back their leading scorer Jeff Carter - who will be a morning-skate decision after a long absence with a broken foot.

So, faithful Ranger fans and Blueshirt Brother readers, here we go. You wanted playoffs? This is our playoff right now.

Win tonight or go home. One last home game - for the season.

To do that, we need Gaborik to be Gaborik. We need Drury to be Captain Clutch again. We need Dubinsky and Callahan to step up. We need Anisimov and Prust to keep rising to the task. We need Olli to be the Olli he can be.

We need the defense to be... well let's start with competent and work our way up from there.

Look. We're Ranger fans and we hope to see our team playing meaningful games. And game 81 of this 82 game season is very meaningful. That's more than the Islanders got. It's more than a lot of teams got. So I guess we should be thankful we got this far - especially since it took a 6-1-1 burst to get here.

But is it too much to ask to have game 82 mean something as well? We'll find out tonight.

Let's get this last home win. Let's rise up and defend our Garden. Let's go Rangers!

Dave Puck Predicts: Rangers win 3-2 in Regulation. (Please)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Go Sabres (just for tonight)

Okay kids - down the stretch we come. The Rangers are resting tonight and there is just one game we care about on the Thursday schedule.

The Boston Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres at 7pm.

Boston has a one point lead on the Rangers for 8th place - and this one game at hand.

So we root - root - root for the visiting team tonight. If Ryan Miller and the Sabres can do to the Bruins what they did to us on Tuesday - then Boston will stay just one point ahead of us.

In fact - if Boston can lose all 3 of their remaining games - then all we need is one point to qualify.

But let's take this one step at a time. And tonight that step is - let the Sabres beat the Bruins. Come on Mr. Scoreboard - throw us a bone.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Rangers rebound to beat Toronto - and still control their playoff destiny

Eat, drink, and be merry Ranger fans - for tomorrow our season may die. But for one more night the Rangers rose to the challenge and gave it everything they had.

Needing points last night to have any realistic shot at sneaking in to the playoffs - the Rangers jumped all over Toronto last night at the Garden. They outshot the Maple Leafs 12-1 in the early going, scored 21 seconds in, led 3-0 and never looked back.

No matter how this season turns out - our Rangers have showed class and determination down the stretch. They have gone 6-1-1 in their last 8 games and still control their playoff destiny. (See below for the complete playoff rundown).

One thing about John Tortorella - he may be a knucklehead at times (can you imagine if an NFL coach said he never looks at game films?) but he has figured out something important. If the whole team gets mad at the coach - it unites them and builds team spirit. Tortorella ticked off his goaltender by embarrassing him on Tuesday. Then he called out Christensen in front of the team. And Christensen responded with two goals - the first of which was just 21 seconds into the game. And Hank bounced back nicely with a solid effort in net.

The team may not like Tortorella - but John is using that to his advantage.

The Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist - responding to a rare benching Wednesday - made 26 saves on 27 shots - and was the difference last night. Toronto's Gustavsson - sometimes seemingly on his own - stopped 27 of 32.

Special Teams: Both teams were 0 for 4 on the powerplay.

The New Veteran Rangers - Christensen played like the first line center he (technically) is - scoring twice in the first period. Gaborik had an assist on the night. Jokinen could not score on a breakaway - but did score in the 3rd period and had an assist in the first. Prospal had a goal as well.

Your Returning Rangers: Aaron Voros had the last goal of the night. Dubinsky had two assists in the first period. Rozsival had an assist.

The Kid Rangers - Prust never sleeps! Another assist for the feisty hard working Ranger. Anisimov - who is finally waking up near the end of his rookie season - got an assist as well. And Parenteau had an assist.

Defense on Offense? One assist.

In conclusion: Let's enjoy this - because we've still got a steep hill to climb this weekend to get to the dance.
Next Up: The home and home death match with Philly starts Friday night.
Where we stand. Take a deep breath and get comfortable - this will take a little explaining. After playing 80 games of an 82 game season we are the only team left in the National Hockey league that is (1) not currently in a playoff slot but (2) still mathematically alive.

It comes down to the Canadiens, the Bruins, the Flyers and us. Everyone else has clinched or been eliminated.

The Bruins are one point ahead of us with a game at hand. But we hold the tie breaker over them (most wins). Their remaining games are the Sabres (who they have played tough), the Panthers, and the Capitals. So if they get no points in three games, we need one more point to catch them. If they get 1 point, we'll need 2 - and so on.

The Canadiens are most probably out of reach.

The Flyers are 2 points up on us with 2 games left - both against us. (I'm still really upset that they beat the Red Wings on Sunday - this would be so much easier if they hadn't.). So to catch the Flyers we need to beat them twice - with at least one of those wins happening in regulation. Of course, if we do that, we'll have a good chance of passing the Bruins also.

So we stand in 9th place - two games to go - and totally in charge of our own destiny. Just win and we're in.


A special shout-out to BlueShirt Brothers pal Aviva C. who attended her first hockey game last night. Wecome aboard Aviva - and thanks - you brought the team good luck.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hank Yanked as Rangers Tank

We knew we'd have to be on top of our game to beat Buffalo.

We weren't. The result was a 5-2 loss that pushed the Rangers to the brink of playoff elimination.

With three games left in this difficult season - the Rangers are still in 9th place in the NHL East. They trail the Boston Bruins by 3 points. And they trail 7th place Philadelphia by 4 points - but the Flyer have just two games left - both against the Rangers.

And - as crazy as it seems - the Rangers still control their own destiny.

If the Rangers can get one point tonight against the last place Maple Leafs - and then can sweep the Flyers - we're in. There are other possible scenarios - but one point tonight and a sweep of Philly - in regulation outcomes - would do it.

The other way in is past Boston. The Bruins, like us, have 3 games remaining – with Buffalo tonight – with Carolina Friday and with Washington at noon on Sunday. If we can tie them in points - we will have more wins than them and would make the playoffs on that basis. That may be the easier route - but neither route is an easy one.

10th place Atlanta – and all teams below them – are officially eliminated. The Rangers are the last team below 8th place in the NHL that still has a shot at sneaking in. So, if nothing else - we outlasted the Islanders.

The point is we have to win now. Win or lose our season.

I'm not sure if you want to dwell on last night's loss - but here's a little bit of it:

Our powerplay was 1 for 3, but our Penalty Kill let up a goal in 4 attempts. So - about even.

We outshot the Sabres 32 to 30. Hank made just 13 saves on the first 16 shots - and Tortorella pulled Hank to give Alex Auld a chance. Auld was brought in to the Rangers as an experienced backup to give Lundqvist the opportunity to rest - something that John Tortorella never was able to make happen for some reason. Auld made 12 saves on 14 shots. Ryan Miller - the Olympic MVP - was better than both of them - stopping 30 of the 32 Ranger shots against him.

You're not going to get a lot more than 2 goals on Miller - the object is to stop the Sabres from getting more than 2 against you. The Rangers failed to do that. Hank didn't play badly, exactly, but Miller was clearly the better goalie last night - and if the Rangers are outplayed in the net - we have zero chance of winning.

Our offense was in the first period. Brandon Prust continues to show heart, grit, and a motor. The rookie stole the puck - pounced on it - and whacked it past Miller. Later on another rookie - P.A. Paranteau - scored a goal that got the Rangers back to a 2-2 tie. But we got no closer. There was one horrendous sequence by Mikal Rozsival where he failed to clear the puck and then took a bad penalty leading to a Buffalo goal.

Callahan returned and appeared to be he old hustling self. Gaborik and Jokinen were again held scoreless - but Gabs was robbed on a great save by Miller. Still - we've had the lower lines scoring - but where are our top lines when we need them most?

So it all comes down to tonight. The Rangers must beat last place Toronto - a team that overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat us in overtime last week. Lose in regulation and we lose contact with the Flyers - we'll have no way to pass them.

All season long the Rangers have been at their best with their backs to the wall. It doesn't get any more back-to-the-wall than we have right now.

So - for all of us BlueShirt Brothers - let's go Rangers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rangers Tie for Playoff Spot - beat Panthers 4-1

No matter how this all turns out – our New York Rangers have really shown us something these past 2 weeks. After losing to Boston – after tumbling to 10th place – 5 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot – the Rangers have refused to quit. They've fought and clawed their way back up the mountain. They've kept overcoming deficits and kept getting points. In their last 6 games they have won 11 of a possible 12 points and – as of this morning they sit in a virtual tie with the collapsing Flyers for 8th place in the Eastern conference.

After blowing out the Tampa Bay Lighting 5-0 on Friday – our heroes had to play the next night agaist the Florida Panthers. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead into the third period. But the Rangers, instead of running out of gas, rose up – struck back - pulled even – pulled ahead and won 4-1. It was nothing short of magnificent.

And so – our Rangers – missing three injured players off their top 4 lines: Avery, Callahan, and Boyle have climbed all the way back into the playoff race. With 4 games to go they have tied the 8th place Flyers in points – and trial 7th place Boston by 2 and 6th place Montreal by 4. Atlanta sits one point behind – but has just 3 games to play – against Pittsburgh, Washington, and New Jersey and so are unlikely to catch us. So it will come down to us and Flyers – a team we face head to head for the final two games.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves – here's how we did it last night:

The Goalies: Why exactly did we acquire the backup goaltender Auld? Tortorella went with Henrik Lundqvist in both ends of a 2-games-in-2-days marathon – for the 2nd time in two weeks. And it paid off. Hank was nearly perfect – stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced (.950 save percentage). Florida's Clemmensen stopped 23 of 26 (.885%). And to top it all off – Hank had an assist in the crucial tying goal.

Special Teams: We were 0-1 on the PP – but killed off all 4 of the Panther man advantages. A huge advantage for the Blueshirts.

New Veteran Rangers: Marian Gaborik was +3 on the night with the empty net goal and an assist. Shelly had an assist as well. 4 hits for Olli Jokinen.

Our Returning Rangers: The Captain Drury is re-learning what he does best – go to the net and slam home those three footers. And Marc Staal turned the entire game around by taking the puck from behind his own net – going end to end anmd scoring the game tying goal just 18 seconds into the third period. Aaron Voros had an assist and a fist fight.

The Kid Rangers? Prust never sleeps! He never stopped working and scored a goal and 2 hits. Del Zotto did some great work keeping the puck in then offensive zone and was rewarded with an assist.

Offense on Defense: A goal and assist for the backliners.

In Conclusion: How about those Rangers? Every time you think their season is over they have fought back. And they've played their best hockey just when they needed it most. Now they just have to keep doing it.
Next Up:
A tough one. The Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night.

Where We Stand
In control of our own destiny once again. Tied for 8th with the Flyers.

Scoreboard: On Sunday the big game to watch is the Red Wings at Philadelphia. A Flyers loss here helps us immensely.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Best Day Off Ever

Sing it with me: "Day Off! Day-ay-ay-off. Playoffs come - we don't wanna go home."

Why am I singing like an idiot? Because yesterday - while the Rangers had the day off - we had three separate hockey games go exactly the right way. Three of the teams we're chasing for a playoff spot lost last night - all in regulation - and the impossible dream of a Ranger Playoff got a little less impossible.

First of all - our hated cross town rivals - the Islanders - who had lost 14 straight games to the Philadelphia Flyers - managed six goals against a Philly team decimated by injury - and held on for a 6-4 win that kept the Flyers from pulling away from us.

Next - the 9th place Atlanta Thrashers lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals.

And finally - the Boston Bruins failed to score against Florida and fell 1-0.

And so - here's how the playoff race looks.

The Rangers are in 10th with 6 games to go and 78 points. We need to finish 8th or better to make the playoffs. That means we need to catch at least 2 teams.

The Thrashers are 2 points in front of us with 80 points. But - the Rangers have a game at hand - and - the remaining Thrashers' schedule is brutal. They face the Caps again - and the Devils - and the Penguins twice. They could easily lose 3 of those games.

The Flyers - who have lost an amazing number of goal tenders and other players to injury this year are 4 point up on us. But they have been playing very badly the last few weeks. And the Rangers have a game at hand. And we close out the season with a home and home with Philly.

What that means is - if the Thrashers lose as expected to the top teams they are facing - and if the Rangers can get within 3 points of the Flyers with 2 games to play - we will control our own destiny.

But there's more. The Bruins and Canadiens are only 4 points up on us as well - and we hold a game in hand against each of them as well. We're only 4 points out of 6th.

Tonight the Flyers play the Canadiens. Let's root for no over time ("NOOT" for short"). That game guarantees that one of those teams will stay at 82 points.

And the Rangers head to Tampa Bay to take on John Tortorella's former team - the Lightning. The table is set - all we have to do is win. All of last night’s scoreboard good luck inspired by the Magic Rat (my lucky Jean Ratelle card) means nothing if the Rangers can't hold up our end of the bargain.

Just win, baby. The playoffs are there for the taking. Let's go Rangers!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Let's Go Islanders? (Just for tonight)

The season is growing short and in the NHL playoff qualifying game of musical chairs - we're still not near one of the eight seats.

Six games to go. Tenth place. 4 points out of the 8th and final position in the East.

But - on the plus side - we're also 4 points out of 6th. The Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins all have 82 points. We've got 78. The Thrashers have 80.

What we need now are two simple things:

We need to win - and we need some other teams - at least 2 other teams - to lose.

Against us is a New Jersey Devil's team that keeps losing on purpose to the teams we're chasing - just to try and keep us out of the playoffs.

And the question tonight is - will the Islanders do the same thing? The Islanders play host to Philadelphia - a team with a few key injuries. The 'slanders aren't quite officially eliminated yet - so I'm hoping they give it their best effort.

On the plus side - our remaining schedule - in theory - is a little more favorable than some of the guys ahead of us. Of course - teams that have made the playoffs already won't be playing as hard - so you can throw that analysis right out the zamboni window.

It's just a mad scramble to the finish line (not the Finnish Line - that's Jokinen and his line mates) with five teams clawing for 3 spots.

Beside Islanders-Flyers there are other important games tonight. Boston plays Florida tonight and Atlanta plays the first place Washington Capitals

The Rangers get the night off and can focus on the part of the equation they can control - a game against Tampa Bay on Friday.

It isn't over yet - but it's getting late. We've got to make our move soon. So tonight, even though we're not playing - we'll be rooting like crazy. We'll keep one eye on the Islander game - and the other eye on the scoreboard. And we invoke the hockey gods - and my lucky Jean Ratelle card - for assistance.

Let's go Islanders! And Panthers! And Capitals! (But just for tonight)