Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Wild Loss – Ranger Recap

Ugh. You can be sure the Wild had this game circled on the calendar from the moment we got Gaborik as a free agent. Even without him in the lineup (and the Wild felt right at home with him on the injured list) Minnesota was psyched to beat us – and beat us they did.

The Goalies: Again – we might as well have rested Hank. But to his credit – Lundqvist played well enough to win. It is not often that the losing goalie has a better save percentage on the night than the winning goalie – but that is what happened here. Hank stopped 29 or 32 shots for a .916. Backstrom also played well – stopping 18 of 20 for a .900 save percentage. Not quite as good as Lundqvist – but good enough to win. So the Goalies were not the difference – it was the shots allowed.

Special Teams: We were marginally better here. We killed 3 penalties and the Wild killed 2. But we didn't score on the powerplay – which would have made a huge difference here. And credit the Wild for committing only 2 penalties.

The New Veteran Rangers without Gaborik are down one huge player. Prospal had an assist on Marc Staal's goal. And that was it.

The Kid Rangers for the second straight game had a straight-from-the minors goal. This time a second period 18 foot wristshot from Dane Byers. And Anis was plus 2 on the night with an assist – hard to do in a loss.

The Returning Rangers gave us assist from Redden and Staal.

Defense on Offense: As just mentioned – 2 assists from Marc and Wade. No shots from Teen Ranger (Del Zotto).

In Conclusion: for some horrible reason two teams that haven't beat anyone in regulations have managed to beat us. We're not scoring enough. And we're giving up too many chances. It's really hard to win when you're outshot 32 to 20. That's 5 shots on goal in the first period. 8 shots in the second. And trailing in third we managed only 7 shots on net. You can't win like that – especially against Backstrom who has some skills between the pipes.

We've lost 5 out of 6 now. Suddenly, we stink. Of course – without Gaborik and Avery we are not the same hockey team. Let's hope their respective knees recover soon.

Next Up: The Dreaded Sunday Matinee. Boston Bruins at the Garden. Puck drops 1pm. At least it will be intimate – with the Giants and Jets on at the same time – you guys and me may be the only people watching.

Back in the morning with the Pregame.

Friday, October 30, 2009

GameNight Tonight: Gabs to miss Wild Reunion (probably)

Opening Remarks: Okay – so there's this injury that Gaborik has that the Rangers will only talk about in the negative. You know, like “it's not his hip” and “it's not his groin” like a medical 20 questions. So we all know is what we all figured out on our own: that he banged knees with Petr Prucha and his right knee is the trouble spot. And we know that Gaborik is traveling to Minnesota with the team – but will not necessarily play tonight against his former team, the Wild. So we know Marian's travel schedule, but not his health status. Gaborik himself, on orders to not tell the truth to reporters, managed to tell us this:

“It’s not that serious. I thought it was going to be worse the way it felt. I have to make sure I do the right thing and treat it and take it day by day. It doesn’t feel great but it feels better.”

And now Avery and Higgins were reportedly too “banged up” (Tortorella's term) to practice Thursday. With Avery it is the knee again, and the poor goal-less Higgins has an ankle issue.
So our Rangers are hurting as they limp into Minnesota. And after a one game reprieve against Phoenix, we have officially resumed “reeling”.

Okay – on with the Preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Wild is (are?) 3-9, in last place in the Western conference. There's some comfort in that. But on the other hand, the Wild are 2-3 in their last 5 and we're just 1-4. So maybe it is the Wild are looking forward to playing us.

Primary Skaters: Minnesota has three players with 10 points: Centers Eric Belanger (2 G, 8 A) and the famous Mikko Koivu (3 G, 7 A), as well as left winger Andrew Bernette (7 G, 3 A)

In Net: Nik Backstrom is the Wild backstop. He has a 2.70 GAA and a Save % of .910, which is pretty good. Our own overworked Henrik Lundqvist is a slighter better 2.65 GAA and save % .915. Sounds like an even matchup.

Scoring & Defense: The Wild are getting outscored by more than a goal a game. They are averaging 2.17 on offense, while giving up 3.25 goals per game. For the Rangers the numbers have been better. We are scoring 3.62 goals a game and letting up (a rising) 2.77 per.
Special Effects: The Wild are the 2nd best Penalty Kill team in Hockey this year at 86.7%. We're 5th best at 85.2%. On the PowerPlay we're 7th at 25.5% and the Wild are 12th at 22.8%. So for a team way down in the standings, their Special teams are pretty good.
Scheduling Conflicts: The Rangers won Monday (beat Phoenix) and lost Wednesday (I can't bring myself to elaborate). The Wild lost Monday and Wednesday so we should be equally rested.
Probable Lines: Dunno. With Gabby unlikely, Avery and Higgins hurting, Dubi in a productivity free fall, and Torts mad at everybody I don't know who he'll send out in what combinations.

On Defense: As usual: Rookies Del Zotto and Gilroy play with the overpriced vets Redden and Rozsival. Staal and Girardi play together.
In Goal: I thought we'd see Valiquette against the Islanders. Maybe we'll see him here. But something tells me we'll see Hank every night until we WIN A FREAKING HOCKEY GAME AGAIN. Sorry – lost it for a second. HOW COULD WE LOSE TO THE FRIGGIN' ISLANDERS? SOMEONE - PLEASE - EXPLAIN THAT TO ME.
Sorry. Lost it again. Where were we?
Dave Puck Predicts: My guess – No Gabs. Maybe no Avery. And if Higgins is out of the lineup we'll uh... actually that would be fine.

But hope springs eternal in my Ranger heart. Rangers will win 3-1. And the sun will rise again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Life Without Gaborik: Not Pretty – Recap (Lose 3-1 to Islanders)

If last night was an accurate glimpse of what the Rangers look like without Marian Gaborik – well, that was scarier than any horror movie I've seen this Halloween week.

The Rangers were out-hustled, out-hit, out-scored, and humiliated by an Islander team that had not won a game in regulation for so long than they nearly forgot how to celebrate. In the end, it was a sad looking 3-1 defeat by the Islanders.
And after a one game reprieve – we are officially reeling once again.

Almost as bad as the loss was the fact that Tortorella couldn't summon a better effort from his troops. I thought the one thing we'd never see from a Torts team was a team laying down on the job. You can only yell at a bunch of guys so long before you start to lose them.

The Goalies: We should have rested Lundqvist. We ended up losing anyway – so what was the point of playing him? The overwork may be contributing to the fact that he's looked good – but never awesome this year. Hank saved 29 of the 32 shots sent his way for a .906 save percentage. It was not a bad night. But Roloson, who was born in the 1960s, played the game of his season stopping 34 of the 35 shots the Rangers launched at him for a .971 save percentage.
Special Teams: We lost in an area we usually win at. The Isles were 1 for 2 on the powerplay. The Rangers: 0 for 3. As it turned out we were also outscored at even strength – but our special teams contributed to this ugly loss.

The New Veteran Rangers were shut the [expletive deleted by Editor] out for the first time all season. With Marian Gaborik sitting out from a knee-to-knee hit by Petr Prucha – the rest of the new vets were strangely silent. Prospal: 3 shots on goal. Kotalik: 5 shots. Lisin: 1 shot. Higgins? One shot and a plus one for the night. But no goals. No goals for any of them.
The Kid Rangers came through with our only goal. And from the newest kid of all: Parenteau, playing his first NHL Ranger game of the season – and one of the first few of his career – came through with our lone goal of the night. But where was Del Zotto and Gilroy?

The Returning Rangers also gave us a whole lot of nothing. Callahan shot it 6 times. Dubi 3 times. But no goals from this unit.

Defense on Offense: First shut out of this unit in a long long time. Was Delzy even there? No shots from the Teen Ranger.

In Conclusion I know Gabs was out and I had predicted a 4-2 win anyway. I was wrong. I'm glad I'm not a betting man, because I'd be house-less this morning.

Let's hope we can look back at this as rock bottom. Because we've lost 4 of the last 5 and at the moment, despite the strong start, we suddenly “stink on ice” (to quote Oscar Madison).
Next Up: The Rangers one and all will be yelled at by John Tortorella at great length today. And Friday they will travel to Minnesota to take on Gaborik's former team: the Wild. Gabby will reportedly make the trip – but the Rangers are giving no further information on his right knee injury – in fact they don't admit he has a right knee injury. Let's hope Gabby's knee -and the Rangers in general - get better.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh My God

I really have no idea what to say. How could we lose to the Islanders?

The Islanders?

We lost to a team that hasn't won in regulation since April?

How is this even possible?

I knew the Islanders would be pumped to play us in their building. I even figured they'd score a few. But we got one goal? And from Parenteau in his NHL Ranger debut, no less.

So from the rest of the squad: From Prospal and Lisin and Avery and Kotalik and Del Zotto and Anis and Duby - we get nothing?

And we don't even rest Hank?

I'm kind of speechless here. If a team can be 8-4-1 and hit rock bottom - we have done it.

And if I listen carefully I swear I can hear Tortorella yelling all the way from Long Island.

Bad day in Ranger-ville. Bad day. At least Nugman was glued to the Yankees and didn't have to witness this.

And you know - it is downright eerie that both Brashear and Nugman were absent for all 3 of the recent losses. They're both still 8-1. I can't even contemplate what that means.

I'm signing off and will post a more coherent recap tomorrow. Or I will jump off my terrace. One or the other.

GameNight Tonight: It's Just The Islanders

Opening Remarks: You know – after all the trouble we had scoring goals last year – and after all the work Sather and Tortorella did to bring some scoring in here – I thought we'd improve – but I never dreamed it would work this well this fast. As I write this – your New York Rangers lead the entire NHL with 47 goals. And 4th from the bottom of that same list, with just 22 goals in 10 games is our next opponent, the New York Islanders.

The Rangers have dodged a few bullets recently. They broke their 3 game skid Monday, beating the Coyotes 5-2. Marian Gaborik – who has been lighting up the league with his offense – appears to be recovering from an undisclosed lower body injury. And Henrik Lundqvist has escaped from a auto accident Tuesday with apparently no ill effects.
Editor's Note: The latest on Gaborik: the injury is apparently from a knee-to-knee hit between Gaborik and Petr Prucha - similar to the pre-season practice hit between Avery and Callahan that sidelined Avery for several games. But the Rangers are not admitting the event or the specific injury or the time Gabs might miss. We're just guessing here.

The Rangers may rest Marian to be on the safe side and probably won't rest Hank – even though they should. The game tonight is not on MSG because they have some kind of season opening basketball game instead. It's on MSG+ if you can find that.
Okay – on to the Preview:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The 'slanders (as I call them) are 1-4-5, leading the league in OT loses. If the season ended today they would be slated to go home and watch the playoffs on TV.

Primary Skaters: Long Island is led by the 9 points of left winger Matt Moulson (5 G, 4 A). Right winger Kyle Okposo has 7 points (1 G, 6 A). Center John Tavares also has 7 points (3 G, 4 A). And beyond that – not much else.

In Net: The Islanders feature not-so-good and not-so-gooder in goal. Marin Biron has a 3.45 goals against average and a .891 save percentage in 6 appearances. Dwayne Roloson has a similar 3.36 and 0.890. In contrast – our Henrik has a 2.61 Goals against average and saves .915 percent of the pucks thrown at him. I'm thinking this is a good place to rest Hank.
Scoring & Defense: The Islanders are scoring a not-so-great 2.2 goals a game and letting up 3.7. In contrast, your New York Rangers score 3.83 goals per and let up only 2.75.
Special Effects: Advantage Rangers. The Islanders score on just 20% of their man advantage chances and are killing 81.1% of their shorthanded situations. The Rangers are 27.5% on the PP and 86.4% on the PK.

Scheduling Conflicts: The Rangers played Saturday (lost to NJ) and Monday (beat Phoenix). The Islanders lost 3-2 on Saturday and Monday to the Caps and Habs respectively. So we should be about equally rested.
Probable Lines: The big wild card here is Gaborik's undisclosed lower body injury. I'm thinking the Rangers will rest him as a super cautious careful-with-the-fragile-franchise-superstar maneuver. They practiced yesterday with Voros in Gabs place alongside Lisin and Prospal. It looked like this:
Line 1: Lisin-Prospal-Voros (wow did that line get worse in a hurry!)
Line 2: Avery-Drury-Kotalik (Drury with two guys who rose up from lower lines)
Line 3: Higgins-Dubinsky-Callahan (All three are falling stars...)
Line 4: Brashear-Anisimov-Boyle (Brash line usually does better than we'd guess - and Brashear is 8-1 as a Ranger)
But I think Aaron was just a placeholder in hopes that Gabs would be ready. If they shut him down - then all the lines get disrupted. So – my bad – I don't know what the final lines will be tonight.
On Defense: Still the same 6 guys will play. Rookies Del Zotto and Gilroy play with the overpriced vets Redden and Rozsival. Staal and Girardi play together.
In Goal: To me this is a slam dunk Valiquette game. Hank had a car accident Tuesday. He's overworked as it is. Don't wear him down – he's got the Olympics this year.
Dave Puck Predicts: My guess – No Gabs and I hope no Hank. Now the Islanders would love to beat us and will give an effort. But I think we have enough talent to beat them 4-2.
I have a feeling that with some sort of Yankee baseball game on the schedule (isn't it a bit late in the year for Yankee baseball?) – that we won't be seeing Nugman tonight.

I'll be back with some post game tonight and a fuller recap in the morning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gaborik held out of Tuesday Practice - will probably miss Islander game

Marian Gaborik's secret injury has held him out of Tuesday's practice and is likely to miss the Islander game on Wednesday.

The Rangers are calling it a "lower body injury". So at least Glen Sather's top notch medical staff have ruled out the upper torso.

We're also hearing that it is is not the hip or the groin - the areas that the NHL's 2nd leading scorer got operated on last year. And unlike training camp - no one has used the word "tweaked".

Gaborik himself told reporters today: "It's nothing major". So there's some comfort in that.

Let's hope Marian is right. Because if healthy - Gaborik is on a pace to get more than 60 goals this year.

The latest news is that P.A. Parenteau of the Hartford Wolfpack (the Ranger minor league team) will be joining the Ranger team shortly - presumably to replace Gaborik in the lineup against the Islanders on Wednesday night.

Anyway - regardless of what the mystery injury is - from all of us at Blueshirt Brothers - Get Well Soon!

Gaborik More Or Less Okay – Ranger Recap

The Ranger Nation watched in horror as Marian Gaborik - our best offensive player since I don't know when (he may be better than the version of Jagr we had here) - left the bench early and limped to the locker room. Now – the Rangers are notoriously secretive about injuries – which makes sense I suppose in a league where players fight and cheap-shot each other – but it is frustrating not to know the details. Here's the quote from Gaborik himself (thanks to Blue Notes):

“It's nothing related to my groin or hip or torso. We'll see how everything is in the morning. I collided with one of their players, but it's nothing major. It happened with about five minutes left and the game was pretty much over."

So we have a “lower body injury”.

Oh yes – and there was a hockey game last night. The Rangers finally ended their 3 game slide, jumping to a 4-0 lead and ultimately winning 5-2.

(Be sure to read Nugman's amazing in-game analysis in the several posts below. Did anyone else notice that while Nugman was away the Rangers kept losing? Anyway, I'm glad he's back.)

The Coyotes are a hard working (if ownerless) hockey team and were 6-3 coming in to last night. They had their moments but in the end the Rangers had too much offense and too much Hank.

The Goalies: Lundqvist made 30 saves on 32 shots for a .938 save percentage. He came up huge once again. Phoenix had to pull Bryzgalov after he let in 4 goals on just 11 shots (.636). LaBarbera did better, saving 12 of 13 (.922) but it was our guy who made the difference. We were outshot 32 – 24 on the night, but having the superstar goalie made all the difference.

Special Teams: Another win on the powerplay. We were 2 for 5 and the Coyotes were 0-5. And that was too big an advantage for Phoenix to overcome. The Coyotes did score a shorty – but we did better than they did on the night.

The New Veteran Rangers were most of the show once again. The amazing Gaborik had 2 more goals and an assist. Vaclav Prospal continues to amaze with a goal and 2 assists. Boyle had an assist. Brashear had an assist! Kotalik had an assist. Lisin continues to be on the rise here with a goal, an assist, and some great play.

The Returning Rangers added just a little. Dubi, fresh off his benching, had an assist. Avery drew a penatly or two. And that was it.

The Kid Rangers again contributed big time. Anisimov had a nice spin-o-rama goal. I'm running out of adjectives for Del Zotto, but Delzy added 2 more assists.

Defense on Offense: Had Kid Ranger's 2 assists. Something every night from this bunch.

In Conclusion I had predicted a 3-2 win and we won 5-2. This is exactly how the Tortorella plan is supposed to work. The new guys score. The defense scores. Hank is Hank. Let's just hope Gaborik is okay.

How We Stand: The win puts us at 8-3-1 with 17 Points. This means 4th place in the Eastern Conference, 5 points above 5th place NJ, and just one point behind the 1st place Penguins. And by the way - our 46 goals this season lead the National Hockey League! How about that?

Next Up: Wednesday we have the hard-luck but still hated Islanders. Let's rest Hank – and Gaborik if he's sore.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rangers win 5-2, losing streak over

Rangers win 5-2, Hank gets his 7th win of the season, definitely strongest player tonight, outside of maybe Gaborik. Rangers move to 8-3-1. More on the Rangers later, gotta find out what happened to Gaborik, could be crushing blow.

Lisin scores, never any doubt

Lisin with a slap shot from the left side just inside the top of the circle, his third goal of the season, prospal picks up an assist (3 points tonight), Del Zotto gets the other.

7:28 to go, Rangers lead 5-2, and the crowd is breathing a lot easier as the 3 game streak is coming to an end.

UPDATE: Gaborik just limped off Rangers bench to head to lockeroom, no idea why, but....F*CCCCCCCKKKKKKK

12 minutes left in the 3rd

Rangers lead 4-2 with about 12 minutes to go in the third....and are being outshot 26-18 on the game. Strange game. For the most part, the play has been even, or tilted in favor of the coyotes. Except for a brief minute or two spurt from the Rangers each period. The difference has been their power play, and Hank. Certainly not a strong performance from the Rangers, but 12 minutes from putting one in the win column.

4-2 after 2.....Brashear still has no friends

Well, perhaps it isn't over just yet. The Rangers, who especially the last 3 games, have redefined the term "soft" defense, allowed 2 late goals to the Coyotes, including a short handed one in the final minute where the Rangers just got badly outworked.

It's 4-2 Rangers heading to the 3rd

Gaborik is absolutely filthy, as this one is over

Rangers score on the power play again, their second of the game (9th game of the last 10 with power play goals). Gaborik picks up his 10th goal (tied for NHL lead), and his 18th point (now second in NHL in points).

Prospal took a pass from del zotto on the right side of the ice, and rushed the net hard with Gaborik to his right, near the goal line. As Prospal rushed the net, he drew two defenders and dumped the puck off to Gaborik who somehow ripped a shot from a bad angle past Bryzgalov. Absolutely perfect shot. You'd say it was a 1 in 100, but he does it every other game.

3 points on night for Gaborik, Rangers lead 4-0, and the Coyotes have pulled the goalie. Only at the ten minute point in the second period, but I am saying the chances of Hank giving up 5 unanswered, and the Rangers not scoring again are the same as me buying a Brashear jersey someday, or Brashear having's just not happening.

Rangers get the Elusive 3 goal lead

Prospal scores on an assist from Gaborik (those guys basically score every game). Prospal now has points in 10 of 12 Rangers games this season. The Rangers get the 3 goal lead that eluded them in Montreal the other night. Prospal gets his 4th on a nice backhander he took 5 hole, Gaborik and Lisin pick up assists. (Gaborik now tied for second in league with 17 points)

Rangers follow with another strong shift where Gilroy draws a tripping penalty. Can put the game away here with a power play goal

12:44 left in second, 3-0 Rangers

Rangers and Coyotes trade penalties...Higgins continues to miss

The Rangers started the period shorthanded, but were able to kill off Avery's penalty. Avery returned to the ice, and as he always seems to do, made ammends and drew a power play for the Rangers. The Rangers turned in a relatively uneventful power play as the puck drifted back and forth along the blue line, but rarely actually shot towards the net, where Higgins was waiting for a rebound.

2 points for Higgins on the season....has to get it going. Torts benched him in Montreal, where he played for 6 years, as a wake up call. Tonight he has gotten him out there on the power play twice, but still no results.

14:31 left in the second, and refs missed a penalty on the Coyotes

Avery takes a late penalty, Rangers lead 2-0 after 1

Avery goes to the box with just over a minute left in the first, to give the Coyotes a power play that should end up carrying over to the second (hopefully). Offensive zone penalty for Avery, tick tack call, but can't take one like that when up 2-0 and putting a road team that looks like they have no interest in showing up tonight to sleep. I won't say it was hollwegian, but perhaps it was "avery-ian"*? Don't want to give the Coyotes any chance to think they can get in this game.

UPDATE: First period over, Rangers lead 2-0. Rangers allow 9 shots in the first, but unlike Montreal, almost no quality chances. (On offense, just 5 shots. Rangers aren't giving up anything, but don't seem to have a lot of life in their legs either)

Observation: From the always raucus atmosphere in Montreal the other night, to...whatever is going on at the garden tonight. Typically weak opponent, maybe some people suffering a little Yankees hangover, maybe a little Giants depression, who knows, but I can't remember such an enormous dropoff in crowd noise and life from one Rangers game to the next.

* - New Nugman phrase, averyian penalty? A penalty that is stupid, usually caused by a player playing with anything but his head, but almost never hurts the team since the guy was just made to play in New York and his kharma is just too good.

Gaborik scores! 2-0 Rangers

Rangers convert on the 4 on 3, Gaborik gets the goal on assists from Doobie and Kotalik. Gaborik was open in the slot in front of Bryzgalov, Doobie gave him a pass right on his stick, and Gaborik one timed it for his 9th goal of the season. (16 points total, 5th in NHL)

2-0 Rangers, 3:30 left in the first, Crowd ALMOST pretending they are interested

Rangers and Coyotes trade penalties

Rangers were on the receiving end of a holding penalty, but the power play last only 29 seconds as Prospal took a boarding penalty. The teams will play 4 on 4 for 1:31 before the Coyotes get a small power play.

The crowd is LIFELESS.

UPDATE: Staal draws a hooking penalty. Strong effort from Staal in front of the Coyotes net. Michelleti LOVES it. Rangers go 4 on 3 for 50 seconds. (Rangers bring out 4 forwards, they want it)

Anus pounds one in, 1-0 Rangers

Anisimov does a little spin-o-rama picking up a deflected puck from Boyle, and slams it off Bryzgalov's pads and into the net for a Rangers 1-0 lead. (Boyle and Brashear combine to form the least talented assist pairing in the NHL)

Not sure on the stats, but any time you get scoring from your 4th line, usually leads to an excellent night.

Rangers have the early lead, but no clear edge in play here.

13:00 minutes left in the first.

3 game losing streak leads to poor crowd

Economy stinks, unemployment near 10%, Rangers have lost 3 in a row, and Coyotes (in theory), are going to be a bad team. All possible contributing factors to the very poor showing from the fans around the boards tonight. It's still early, but LOT of empty seats.

Nugman in game blogging tonight

You want some pregame analysis, you can scroll down for Dave Pucks. As for me, I have returned from my mini-Yankee induced slumber. I would have loved to have been here for the recent 0-2-1 slide, but unfortunately, I was watching the Yankees advance to the world series. And for those of you that follow teams that have been to the World Series 40 times, you realize it's not something that happens every year, but rather once every 2, ocasionally 3 years...for a century.

Yanks with a few days off, Giants coming off a game I'd rather not think about, time to get the Rangers back on track and I can't think of a better way than some in-game blogging, a few beers, and some agressive profanity.

Go Blueshirts, see you all at 7 pm est.

Gamenight Tonight: Rangers Reeling as they Face Phoenix

Opening Remarks: Yes, now we can officially call it "reeling". Their 7 game winning streak a distant memory, your New York Rangers have lost three straight games – giving up 7, 4, and 5 goals in the process. Our biggest concern last year was offense – but this year – under Tortorella's new system – we are scoring goals. The problem these last three games is that we're letting up more goals than we are scoring.

I like Tort's system. It makes sense to me to forecheck and put pressure on the opposition. It makes sense to create chances for both sides – because you've got the better goalie in Hank most nights. What is not making sense to me is how many goals we are giving up. It seems like our defensemen are being groomed and trained to score goals and help the offense – which is good – but the defense also needs to – you know – play defense.
Okay – on with the Preview:
Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Phoenix Coyotes are 6-3-1 which is currently good enough for the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. They are 3-1 on the road. Hank has beaten them the last two times we faced them.
Primary Skaters: The “yotes” are led by the 9 points of RW 33 year old Shane Doan (3 G's, 6 A's). Radim Vrbata may be missing a vowel or two in his last name, but he's leading Phoenix with 4 goals.

In Net: Speaking of vowel-challenged players, the Coyotes feature goalie Ilya Bryzgalov ( I wonder if Ilya even knows what a Coyote is?). Bryzgalov (the only name I can think of with the last 2 letters of the alphabet in order) has an impressive 1.59 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. As hard as it is for me to write this – those stats dominate Lundqvist who lets in a goal per game more at 2.68 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Scoring & Defense: The Coyotes score 2.67 goals a game but are only letting up 1.89. They are winning 3-2 and 2-1 games. We, of course, score a goal more than they do at 3.73 per. And we let up one more goal than they do at 2.82. So the best units on the ice tonight will be our offense and Phoenix's defense.

Special Effects: The Coyotes are scoring on the PP at a 22% rate (we are better at 26.1%). The Phoenix PK succeeds 77.8% (and again we are better at 85.2%). So Specials tilt toward the Blueshirts.

Scheduling Conflicts: Phoenix won in Detroit Thursday 3-2 and lost Saturday night 5-3 to the Kings. We lost Thursday and Saturday to the Devils and Habs. So the amount of rest is about equal – but the Coyotes have some older players than we do.
Probable Lines: Uh... no comment.

Torts has ripped up his lines chart and is running guys out there based on how the last 20 seconds of their last shift seemed to be going. On Saturday he benched both Dubinsky and Higgins in the 3rd period – hopefully he'll keep enough players out of the doghouse to field more than 2 lines tonight.

On Defense: There's only 6 guys. They'll all play. Usually rookies Del Zotto and Gilroy play with the overpriced vets Redden and Rozsival, but Coach has been shaking that up too.
In Goal: No way Valiquette gets a start now. Maybe the next game against the Islanders. But I think we will start Hank until he either wins or gets run over enough times to cause an injury

Dave Puck Predicts: We're slumping. Tortorella doesn't like losing and doesn't take these little bumps in the road in stride. He is going to demand better play from this team. He gets mad and he lets the press know it. He humiliates players who don't play hard or don't think on the ice. I think all this is good – but if the Rangers don't get a victory soon I think John is going to have a stroke. I sure hope we can get it going tonight.

My prediction (always for a win) is Rangers 3-2. But that will take a little more defense than we've seen for a while.

I'll be back with some post game tonight and a fuller recap in the morning. Let's Go Rangers!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recap: To Hab and Hab Not - Montreal beats us 5-4 in OT for third straight loss

Opening Face Off: Look boys and girls – at least it wasn't boring. This was a fast paced, fun-to-watch hockey game. It's just the final score we didn't like too much. Montreal, in their own building, played well, skated well, and met us fore-check for fore-check. Tortorella's (“safe is death”) system (where the defensemen are 4th and 5th forwards) is going to produce chances for both sides – and last night it truly did. The Rangers offense did fine - striking for four goals – but all it did was get us to overtime – and an eventual 5-4 loss. The team defense let up a number of odd man rushes and left Hank all alone out there too many times – getting him run over and hurt in the process. Coach Johnny T realized this and was benching players left and right for sloppy play – but in the end you have to put someone out there and we're just not going to win a lot of games where we let up 5 goals.

The Goalies: Hank was put under some heavy pressure at times. And Montreal seemed to know how to go after him in OT – high on the glove side – for the game winner. We gave up a lot of chances – we put Hank under heavy fire – and three times he was flattened by men in the crease – once clearly hurting our Superstar as Hank was face down on the ice in pain for several terrifying seconds before getting back up. On a night King Henrik stopped 26 of the 31 shots he faced, an un-Hank-like .839 save percentage. For the Habs, Halak stopped 23 of 27 shots for an.852 percentage. So we'd have to give Halak the edge last night – but it was close. (I wish they had started Price – we'd have won 6-4).

Still – for the first time all season we got 3 goals for Hank (in fact four goals for Hank) without winning. Let's hope that was an aberration. (Editor – that means Dave Puck's hopes it is something that won't happen again)

Special Teams: We were 0 for 2 on the power-play last night and killed 3 of 4 penalties – the lone exception was Mike Cammallaeri's 2nd goal of the night. Of course – if we had broken even here – we would have won the game. On the year, our power-play has been running at 26.1% success rate, and we've killed off 85.2% of the shorthanded situations we've faced.

The New Kid Rangers did well. Michael Del Zotto – this kid is juts amazing – had yet another assist. Anisimov – from the 4th line no less – had a great goal – a seeing-eye shot from a tough angle reaching back across the end line.. And Gilroy had a great goal from the point. G-Rot got the puck on the right side and slide left get a better angle and increase his chances and just buried it in the back of the net.

The New Veteran Rangers – the guys Torts and Sather brought in this year - were again the main contributors. Gaborik got us another goal and an assist. He has been a godsend this year. Prospal, Kotalik and Lisin had assists. Another "pointless" night for Higgins though – with his failure to get back on defense on one Montreal goal led to him riding the bench for the whole third period.

The Returning Rangers helped also. Sean Avery had a wonderful assist on Kotalik's blast – a perfect feed from behind the net for the one-timer. Rozsival and Voros each had assist. And Dan Giradri had an assist and was making great plays all over the ice last night – on defense and keeping the puck in the Montreal zone on one goal.

Offensive Defense: And again - the Defense added offense. As a unit they netted one goal and three assists.
Dave Pucks Last Word - the Canadiens gave us a taste of our own gameplan last night. They forechecked us and ended up getting a lot of chances. In a game like this we usually win – because we usually have the better goaltender. But on a night where Hank was good, Halak was just a bit better. The Rangers came out strong, outshot the Habs 12-6 and out scored them 3-1 in the first period, but couldn't finish them off. Touch loss number three and I think you can finally say we are reeling.
Tortorella has pumped up the offense on this team – addressing the major flaw last year – our inability to score. But in the last three games against the Sharks, Devils and now the Candiens, that offense has come at a cost – the loss of defense. If you count empty netters and OT goals (and they do count) we've allowed 16 goals in three contests – and you're not going to win that way.

Next Up: The 6-3 Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Not Good - Rangers fall 5-4 in OT to Canadiens

We'll have the full recap after midnight - but the Rangers losing streak has extended to three - as the Canadiens on their home ice erase a 4-2 second period deficit to win 5-4 in overtime.

We did manage a point after two regulation losses - but this was a game where we got more than three for Lundqvist - but it wasn't enough. I wouldn't lay this one on Hank - there were plenty of defensive lapses by the Blueshirts. There were times when it felt like the Canadiens were on the powerplay - but it was really even strength. And I counted 3 times Hank was knocked down - one of those seemed to really hurt Lundqvist - although he stayed on the ice.

The Habs seemed to have more fire and energy than we did as the game went on. Our conditioning edge early in the season seems to be evening out.

Tortorella benched not one - but two players during the game. Brandon Dubinsky, who had previously been demoted off the first line - tonight had a terrible turnover and was sent to the bench and stayed there. And Higgins, who is still goal-less, was late getting back on a 2nd period goal and so he, also sat and watched the third period.

I really like this by the way. Torts is out there coaching and he won't tolerate bad play - and that's how it should be. What a nightmare for Higgins though. Reportedly, out of habit he headed to the wrong locker room when he first arrived - and then played badly against his old mates - and had the humiliation of the benching on top of it.

Horrible to get 4 goals and just one point. And some wonderful play by Girardi, Gabs, Kotalik, Anis and others were wasted in the effort. I'll be back after midnight with more analysis.

Gamenight Tonight: Rangers a "blanking" mess as they face Montreal.

The Rangers hit the road tonight, "blanking" after 2 consecutive home loses.

I said "blanking" not as an obscenity - but because I'm not quite sure what the verb should be.

"Reeling"? After 2 consecutive loses? Not yet. You need at least a 3 game slide to really "reel".

"Stumbling"? Maybe closer to the mark - but really they stumbled in the past and they are not necessarily stumbling as they hit the road. You're only stumbling as you head to a road game if you're a little drunk in the airport - which may be the case for Dubinsky - but is not what we had in mind here.

So not stumbling. And not reeling. But they are getting that feeling where you start to doubt yourself and the confidence and delusions of grandeur that came with seven straight wins has faded away.

(Editor - Hey - Dave Pucks - stop with the thesaurus and do the preview already)

(Pucks - Will do, chief)

Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Montreal Canadiens - are struggling at 4-5 and currently below the playoff "line of death" despite having the former Ranger Scott Gomez on their side. The Canadiens (also called the Habs for a reason I once knew and forgot) are the premier franchise in this league but have fallen on some hard times recently - nearly missing the playoffs last year and doing even worse so far this year. In fact, their victory over the "'slanders" last night was their first non-OT win of the season.

Primary Skaters: The Habs are led by Center Tom Plekanec’s 8 points (2 G’s, 4A’s), and Mike Cammalleri’s 7 Points (2 G’s, 5 A’s). Only Brian Gionta has more than 2 goals (he’s got 4).

In Net: The Canadiens have split time between Carey Price (6 games) and Jaro Halak (4 games). Price is 2-4 with a .886 save percentage and a 3.36 goals against average. Halak has been much better with a 9.21 save percentage and an impressive 1.87 goals against average. Our own Hank, in comparison, has a .922 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. Let’s hope they start Price.

Scoring & Defense: The Canadiens score 2.44 goals per game this season and let up 3.22. The Rangers have been slipping in both categories this week, but still average 3.7 goals per on offense and let up only 2.6 per on Defense. So on paper it’s a 3-2 win for us.

Special Effects: Our special teams continue to rock. With a week to go in October we’ve already got 12 PP goals – and we had only 48 all of last year. The Ranger PP is 12 for 44, a 27.3% success rate. The Canadiens on the other hand, are hitting on just 16.7%, almost a Last-Year-Ranger’s pace. On the PK, we’ve killed penalties 86% of the time – while Montreal has killed just 77.1%. So we’re in the plus category here as well.

Scheduling Conflicts: We’re coming off a tough Thursday night loss at home to the Devils, while the Canadiens broke a light sweat polishing off the Islanders 4-1. So the rest factor is about even – unless the Habs get in early and go out partying Friday night.

Probable Lines: Really? You know – this was a fairly easy section to write for the past 9 games – but after the mix and match free-for-all that we saw Thursday night – I can honestly say I don’t have a clue what the line will be. I mean, Coach Tortorella said the same thing in the post game interview. He did call pairing Dubinsky and Gaborik to be “stale” – so it’s a safe bet the Dub-Warrior is off the top line and Prospal will center Gabby and somebody. But who? Avery? He’s been on every other line so far. Lisin? Kotalik?

Higgins and Callahan seem to be in some kind of free fall this season. Higgy hasn’t even scored yet and is getting more despondent by the day (in an almost Nugman-esque fashion).

So – sorry –I don’t have any probable lines for you right now – other than Gabs and Prospal on the top line and Brashear and Boyle on the bottom.

On Defense: Again – Torts has been messing with the pairings. I’m pretty sure I even spotted Gilroy and Del Zotto together out there once on Thursday. But it’s the same "Original Six" guys – and despite a couple of “bonehead plays” (Tort’s terminology) on Thursday they’re played pretty well overall.

In Goal: Unfortunately, with the ship taking on water, you gotta throw Hank out there until we can win a hockey game. Although Vali might be able to win this game – we do have the Islanders coming up. And last time Vali was a disaster – and we can’t afford another one right now.

Dave Puck Predicts: I always think we’re gonna win – that’s part of my definition of what it is to be a Ranger fan. But the Canadiens can’t play "system" like the Devils and can’t skate and shoot like the Sharks. So even though it’s the road – I think our Rangers will get 3 for Lundqvist (and maybe more) and I can’t see the Habs netting more than a pair.

No need to panic yet. But if we lose again tonight – then you can feel free to panic - just a little - in the privacy of your own home. For tonight, let's call it pre-panic readiness. Something no Ranger fan should ever be without. And if we do lose 3 in a row I can say we're reeling - which is worse than that "blanking" term I still can't come up with.

Depending on the Yankees and Nugman’s state of mind and sobriety – he may jump in for some game stuff. Or he may be gone forever - I really don't know. Otherwise I’ll give a post-game reaction and then the full recap sometime after midnight.

Oh, and our poll results are:
77% “Don’t Go Nugman, we need you.”
23% “Who’s Nugman?”

I think the 23% are just Nugs friends giving him a hard time. Nugs, if you’re out there, come home. All is forgiven.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Recap: Where's the "oomph"? Rangers fall to hated rival Devils 4-2

I was speeding home in the car with with Pucks Junior, and we heard Dave Maloney sum up the first period by saying that the Ranger's needed to play with more "oomph". He meant that the Blueshirts were lacking in intensity - looking a little bit slow and a little bit behind the play. The Rangers were able to raise their oomph level in the second period - knotting the score at 2, but could get no further, eventually losing 4-2 to that team we hate above all others - the New Jersey Devils.

Lundqvist has owned the Devils as of late - especially in our own building - but not last night. Hank wasn't bad - he was good - but not stratosphere stellar. Still, if he'd been given that key 3rd goal - he'd have gotten us at least to OT (the 4th goal was an empty netter).

As Tortorella said in the post game - the Rangers are getting goals from Gaborik - but they need other top six forwards to light the lamp - especially Higgins and Callihan. Higgins has zero goals and seems to be fading. Tortorella did not like what he saw on the ice and kept mixing up the lines trying to find something that works - a new tactic for him - he has been pretty patient with his lines up to now. But Torts has no patience for losing - and he will coach this team - so he tried everything he could think of. Afterwards, Johnny T told Sam Rosen that he wants to look at the game tape to figure out what lines we're going to see Saturday.

Anyway - on the the unhappy recap:

The Goalies: I don't want to have to write this part. It hurts. Brodeur faced more shots - 31 - and only let up 2 goals for a .935 save percentage. And Hank, facing just 24 shots, let three of them slide by for a save percentage of .875. It was that discrepancy that let the Devils win this game.

Of course - the first Devil goal by Parise was a full breakaway as the Devil's top scorer was untouched behind the Ranger defense. And it took a double deflection and an unaccosted Dainius Zubrus at the side of the net to get that third goal past Hank. So I would not blame the King for this one.

Still, in spite of everything, if we'd gotten that 3rd goal for Lundqvist - it says here we would have found a way to win this game.

Special Teams: We actually won this part of the game - what there was of it. The Rangers were whistled for just one penalty and killed the lone powerplay against them. And we converted one of the three chances they were given on the Powerplay. So our specials are still looking good.

The New Veteran Rangers were again the main contributors. Gaborik got us yet another goal. Kotalik added a goal and an assist. And Prospal had an assist as well. Another "pointless" night for Higgins though.

The Returning Rangers? Well, Girardi had an assist. But our forwards? Callahan? Captain Drury? Dubi (minus 2 on the night)? All "Pointless". And we're going to need more from these guys to compete.

The Kids were held off the scoreboard, but every game where Gilroy and Del Zotto play competent defense - like tonight - is a victory for these rookies. And it was out teenager - Zots - who finally stood up for Lundqvist and went after a Devil who tried slashing Hank. (By the way - contrary to some reports you've read - the Rangers can still send Zots back to Junior hockey this year - but not to the AHL - and if they send him - they can't get him back until the Junior season ends.)

The Defense added just a little offense. As a unit they netted one assist.

In Conclusion our once red hot Rangers now have a little two game losing streak going - a two game HOME losing streak. Tortorella had his team in better physical conditioning than the other teams at the start of the season - and we got a nice jump on the opposition. But now - it may just be that other clubs - playing for the long haul - are catching up to us.

Or it could be that a little success has some Rangers thinking that all they have to do is throw their skates on the ice to win. Dubinsky seems to have played his way off the Gaborik line. Tortorella referred to several "bonehead" plays losing he game for us.

But it may just have been an off night. We outshot our opponents 31 to 25. With Hank in goal that's usually enough for a win. We didn't give Hank the proper support back there - but Give Fatso a little credit. Brodeur can still win a game now and again - he's not a bad goalie.

And also - I agree with Dave Maloney. Whatever's causing it, the guys need a little more oomph.

Next Up: Game Six at the Stadium against the Angels. Sorry, I mean the Rangers get one day off and hit the road to face the Canadians and Scotty Gomez in Montreal at 7pm Saturday night. The once proud Habs are 4 and 5 and currently in 10th place in the conference despite beating the hapless 'slanders 5-1 last night.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fatso Prevails - Rangers Fall 4-2

With Nugman watching the Yankees and drinking (or gone forever - I'm not sure which) your faithful blogger Dave Pucks remains at his post. I'll have the full recap with your morning coffee - but a few quick thoughts on a tough loss before calling it a night:

Some exciting play - and some good efforts by your heroes. They dug out of a 2 goal hole - but never get that third goal Hank needs to win. We looked a little tired and slow - it could be the Devils 4 days of rest - but we always seemed to be chasing and it was always a huge struggle to get the puck around.

Tortorella who had been so patient in letting his lines develop - just started throwing different combinations out there at random. I'm not sure it was wise - but at least Torts is a coach who coaches. If it's not working - he has the courage to try something else.

Still - you hate to lose. Especially to these guys. Especially at home.

I'll have more for you past midnight....

GameNight Tonight: Rangers-Devils II

With our hated rivals in the building, the flu on the rise, and an ugly loss to try and shake off - tonight should be fun to watch. On to the Preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing?: Our opponent tonight is the Devil we know – the New Jersey Devils – our nemesis – that team we hate above all others. The Newark team is 4-3 so far this year, with one of those losses to your New York Rangers. If the season ended today (everyone would freak out that season ended in October and) the Devils would be the Eastern Conference's 7th seed.

Primary Skaters: NJ is led by the 7 points of left winger Zach Parise (3 G's, 4 A's) and the 7 points (4 G's, 3 A's) of center Travis Zajac. For a team leader though, Zach's goals-per-shots-on-goal are an anemic 9.1%. Not a lot of scoring here.

In Net: The one and only – most overrated goalie in the history of hockey Martin Brodeur. His save percentage this year is .903 and his goals against average is 2.68. Our King Henrik dominates in both categories with a 2.33 goals against average and a save percentage of .927

Scoring & Defense: The Devils have had trouble putting the puck in the net, much like we did last year. So far they've average 2.57 goals a game. The Rangers are faring much better this year with 3.89 goals a game. And the Devils are letting up 2.71 goals per contest while our guys have let up just 2.44 per game (and this average was much better before Valiquette forgot to show up against the Sharks this week).

Scheduling Conflicts: After back-to-back games on Friday (Atlanta) and Saturday (Carolina) where the Devils scored a pair of goals in both games – they have been given a surreal 4 days off to rest and focus their rage on the New York Rangers. We, on the other hand, have had 2 free days to try and get our mojo back after our streak-ending blowout loss to the Sharks. And the trip for the Devils couldn't be shorter – so no travel trauma is on our side this time (not that it helped last time).
Special Effects: the Devils are converting a sad 14.7% of their powerplays, good for 24th in the league. Your New York Rangers convert 26.8% of their changes, 6th best in hockey. On the Penalty Kill your Rangers, with their 6th best 85.7% success rate dominate the Devils 77.8% PK ratio (good for 16th place). So the special teams tilt toward New York.

And for your New York Rangers, Probable Lines:

1: The GAB line: (named for Gaborik) will have Gaborik-Dubinsky-and Prospal. These linemates have netted 12 goals in 9 games, but suffered their first shutdown of the season against San Jose.

2: The Classic Rangers with Avery, Drury, and Callahan put together a goal and 3 assists on Monday – a good start for a line Avery just joined.

3: The Third Line, will be changing for the third consecutive game. This time Lisin, who has scored twice in two games - moves up from the 4th line to join the frustrated Mr. Higgins and Anisimov. Kotalik will drop to the 4th line...

4: The Brash Line – Brashear and Boyle, “Pointless” last time out - will be joined by Kotalik - who is free falling from the 3rd line - and this is the last stop before exile.

On Defense – our guys took a huge step back Monday, letting in more than 3 goals for the first time this year (7 goals). But the 6 man rotation of rookies, bloated-contract veterans, and Rozy and Staal, seems to be doing the job most nights. Word is that Torts and Sather are looking for that 7th blueliner, and that 33 year old Mathieu Dandenault, the 13 year NHL vet, has signed with Hartford. So help may be on the way.

In Goal, It's got to be Hank. The bloom is off the Vali rose. Steve Valiquette after getting a shut out the first time out, was lit up like your drunk uncle on New Years by the Sharks with 5 goals on 23 shots in 2 periods. It got so bad that Hank had to suit up and rush on in for the third period – ruining his opportunity to rest. Well, there's no question who will take the MSG ice against the Devils tonight – Hank has owned the Devils and we love him for it.

Dave Puck Predictions: We'll see how well the Blueshirts bounce back from a tough loss. With Hank in the pipes, we'll give up 2 goals or less, so it will be up to the offense to get 3 or more and take this one – and I say we'll do it. But the one wild card – Gaborik and Callahan were sent home from practice with flu-like symptoms yesterday. If Gabby can't go – this is a different hockey team – but with him it says here we'll jump back in the win column.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

19 past 9 - Del Zotto Here to Stay

When the 19 year old Michael Del Zotto made the Rangers roster at the end of training camp - a lot of people thought it was just going to be a 9 game visit to the big leagues.

That's because the born-in-the-year-1990 defenseman still has Junior Hockey eligibility. Which means that the Rangers have a 9 game window to either keep playing him - or send him back to the Juniors.

So with a little shaky play - it could have been a quick cup of coffee for "Zots" (our nickname) and then back to the teenage league. And as we all know, Coach Tortorella is known for many things - but having patience with his players is NOT one of them.

But what we have seen these past few weeks is stunning. The kid's level of play is not only NHL-ready, it's at the top of the list.

Make that two lists. As of Tuesday morning, Micheal leads all defensemen with 9 points (4 goals and 5 assists). And that's not just all Ranger Defenseman - he leads ALL NHL DEFENSEMEN.

And there's more: Del Zotto leads ALL ROOKIES in points as well. That includes all rookie forwards.

And it's not just offense he's bringing. The young Canadian-born player has contributed mightily to a 6 man Ranger defensive rotation that has helped keep the goals per game around two goals a game. And that's not all Hank's doing - before Valiquette's implosion Monday, the defense helped Vali manage a shutout last week by limiting the shots he faced. In fact, the kid is pulling his weight on the back line better than a few multi-million dollar defensemen I could name.

You know, the much-maligned Ranger GM Glen Sather and coach John Tortorella took a big calculated risk this year. They jettisoned two veteran defensemen - Mara and Morris - and started their season with two rookies, the puck handling Gilroy and young Mike Del Zotto. This was no the safe bet and could have been a disaster. But Tortorella knew he wanted stamina and offense from his defenders and he took the risk. And so far - Torts has hit the jackpot.

And on Thursday night, the teenage Ranger will officially cross over. It will be his 10th game as a Ranger - severing his ties to the junior leagues forever. That will be our 19 (year old) past 9 (games) that we referred to in the title.

According to several reliable sources - and Larry Brooks - Sather has told the kid to find a place to stay in town. He's a Ranger for the season. And what once looked like a short visit in Ranger blue for Zots is going to be a long and productive stay.
9 days? The kid could be here for 9 years! Or more!
We're running short on time - don't let Nugman leave us - vote in the poll on the right and let my co-blogger know you want him to keep blogging.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recap: Ranger win streak ends badly - lose to Sharks 7-3

Well, the winning streak had to end sometime - and end it did. The Rangers were a mess last night - losing to Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks 7-3. Your Blueshirts actually jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals from Captain Chris Drury and the amazing Michael Del Zotto. But then it was as if we pulled to the side of the road and watched a freight train rumble by. There were 6 unanswered goals and the Rangers basically collapsed.

Here's what happened.

The Goalies. Look no further - the game was lost in goal. Both Nugman and I don't understand why Valiquette didn't play Saturday night in Toronto with Hank starting this one. Tortorella sent Steve out last night with one job - to keep it close enough to let Hank rest one game - and Valli was a complete and total failure. Against a potent Shark offense, the Rangers let up 23 shots in the first two periods and gave their netminder a 2 goal lead. But Steve only made 18 saves. He let five goals get by him. His save percentage on the night was a terrible 72.22%. Things got so bad that Torts had to send Hank out there for period three - so Hank didn't even get a rest. In contrast, Nabokov saved 26 of 29 shots on goal for a save percentage of 89.66%.

You know, the whole idea of resting Hank only works if we at least have a chance not get blown out when he's resting. This was a huge step back for Stevie V. Back in the pre-season I said I'd like to see Chad Johnson get a start in goal - but at least for now we're stuck with Valli. He did pitch a shutout his first time out - but this time he was lit up so bad we had to go to a relief pitcher.

Special Teams: The good news is our power play scored on one of every three chances. The bad news is that we only got three chances all night. And our Penalty Kill gave up 2 goals on 7 chances. So we were outscored here.

The New Veteran Rangers did show some offense - but not enough to keep us in this game. Marian Gaborik was shut out for the first time all season. Boyle and Brashear were each "pointless" players last night and each minus 3 for the evening. Lisin did notch a goal and Kotalik an assist. And that was it.

The Returning Rangers showed some fight. Our Seanny, playing up on the 2nd line grabbed two assists. Drury scored a goal, and Staal had an assist. Avery, Drury and Callahan were positive in plus-minus on the night. But Sean committed 2 consecutive penalties that cancelled any chance at generating positive momentum.

The New Kid Rangers added something as well. Del Zotto got his 4th goal and 9th point of his career. And Gilroy added an assist.

And again the Defense had Offense. In addition to Zot's goal and G-roy's assist, Staal had an assist as well.

But it wasn't nearly enough.

The parallels to Sunday's New York Giants blowout loss against the Saints are downright eerie. We scored enough to win most nights, but the defense just couldn't stop the other guys. What remains to be seen is if this is the beginning of a big ugly trend - if other opponents can copy the Sharks and we're in for more of the same - or if Torts can yell his way into righting the ship. I'm betting on the 2nd choice. Look - if you wanted a pure demonstration of what we look like without a hot Hank Lundqvist between the pipes - you saw it last night. We got our three goals alright, but Valiquette was letting in more than 25% of the shots he faced. We can't win that way and we didn't. So now we feel remarkably bad considering we're 7-2, which is something each one of you would have signed on the dotted line for when the season began.

Next Up: That team from Newark which invokes Satan's name will roll their fatso goalie into MSG on Thursday. So a few days of rest and Tortorella yelling his way though practices and then we have to get well again against our most hated rival.

Monday, October 19, 2009

F Hindsight

This isn't an 20/20 garbage, I barked this saturday night when the Rangers were dismantling the Maple Leafs, as my loyal devil fan follower Matt could attest to. The Rangers playing in Toronto, against maybe the worst team in the NHL (at the moment), in a place where Valiquette has had great success in his limited could Torts' plan (which he masterfully worked the last time he wanted to get Hank rest) not only be to get Hank LESS rest (he could have gotten him what, 4-5 days had he skipped him saturday), but to start Hank against the probable win in Toronto, and Valiquette at home against the far superior, both offensively, and in net, Sharks?

I don't understand it. The move makes no sense to me. And now seeing that Hank got the win in Toronto (a game where he ended with a lot of saves, but my drunken eyes didn't see many good chances in a game the Rangers again dominated), and Vally gets lit up against San Jose.....why? All I can wonder is why? To get Hank another easier win? Because Toronto is in the east, and technically their game matters more to the standings? I wanna win every game. I want Hank in net against the Sharks, let Vally handle the Maple Leafs of the world.

LOOONG night

Just turned on the Rangers to see they are down 5-2.....and that they were once up 2-0?

Jesus. After a glorious stretch of NY Sports, it has the makings of a horrendous 24 hours.

Time to drink

Back for In game updates?

Since the schedule makers over at MLB decided on a little day game action, Nugman will most likely be...unrepresentative in the first period for the Rangers-Sharks tonight. But barring any 5 hour and 10 minute games, or any severe depression brought on by a potentially heartbreaking loss, you can expect more consistent updates late first, early second period from Nugman this evening. For your pre-game analysis, be sure to check Dave Pucks blog below. My hopes for this evening are simple, Rangers make it 8 straight, and Heatley manages to make it thru a night in the tri-state area without driving drunk and killing anyone.

GameDay: Rangers Host Sharks

Dany Heatley is finally coming to the Rangers. Not as a Sather acquisition, but as a member of the visiting San Jose Sharks tonight. To Dany and his team the game will seem like a 4pm start to their west coast internal clocks. I had originally thought they might be flying cross country today - but an alert Blueshirt Brothers Reader "RyanLoral" was able to scout the Sharks practicing at Chelsea Piers on Sunday so we can confirm they've been in town over the weekend. (Great catch Ryan and thanks for the assist)

On to the GameDay preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing?: San Jose is 4-3-1 this season, good enough for the 8th and final seed if the season ended today (which would be mighty odd after just 8 games, don't you think?). But they're just one point behind Phoenix for 1st place in the pacific division. Last year of course they topped the NHL with 117 points.

Primary Skaters: San Jose is led by Center Mighty Joe Thorton with 13 points (2 G's, and a league leading 11 A's). The famous Left winger, Mr. Dany Heatley who talked his way out of Ottawa and nearly on to the Rangers before landing on the Sharks, has 10 points (5 G's, 5 A's). Center Pat Marleau leads the team with 6 goals (and 7 points).

In Net: Their primary goalie is Evgeni Nabokov, with a 2.63 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. In contrast, King Henrik is better – having only let up 2.15 per game with a .932 save percentage

Scoring & Defense: So far the Sharks have been averaging 3.13 goals a game (we have been letting up 1.88 on average). And San Jose's defense has let up 2.88 goals a game (we are scoring an amazing 4 goals per)

Scheduling Conflicts: The Sharks come in after an off day. They beat the Islanders 4-1 on Saturday and lost 4-1 to the Caps on Thursday. After tonight they get two off days and play Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Rangers beat the Leafs on Saturday but didn't look all that great doing it. So in theory, both teams will be in about the same state rest-wise. But in reality, as the Sharks have been away from home and partying in New York all weekend - they may show some sag by the Third period tonight. The New York Nightlife: that's what we call home ice advantage.

Special Effects: The Sharks powerplay scores 26.5% of the time (the resurgent Rangers PP is at 26.3%) . San Diego's PK is at 81.6% and ours is an amazing 88.1%

And for your New York Rangers, Probable Lines:

1: The GAB line: Gaborik-Dubinsky-Prospal – still firing on all cylinders. One more point for Gaborik and he breaks the all time Ranger record for consecutive point games from the start of the season – which has stood since the 1950s.

2: The former American Line will now be known as the Old Rangers with Avery replacing Chris Higgins – who has not scored and is struggling and was demoted by Tortorella in the 3rd period Saturday. Avery joins Drury and Callahan – all contributing Rangers from last year's team.

3: The third line changes yet again as Kotolik joined Sunday from the 4th line and Higgins flops aboard tonight from the 2nd line. Anisimov will have had different linemates in 3 straight games now. We'll call it the HAK line (for Higs, Anis, and “Kannon” Kotalik).
4: The Brash Line – named for Brashear – stays the same with Boyle and Lisin. Lisin contributed with a Goal Saturday. Or Voros, a healthy scratch Saturday – could scoot in here
On defense - Torts has the 6 backstops playing pretty well – though Rozy's not exactly sparkling back there. This will be the 9th game – the one where the official decision on Del Zott0 will have to be made – but save your worry beads – Zots has made the hockey club.

And in goal – the continuing question - should we rest Hank tonight? I would have done this over the weekend – but not sure about now. You would want him against the Devils later in the week though – so maybe he sits here.

Predictions: Not sure what to make of this. We've played worse these last 2 games, but kept our win streak alive at 7. So far Torts has stepped in and fixed any trouble spots – and he'll need to here to keep the streak going. Tough opponent.

I'm not sure what Nugman will do – he's having a crisis of faith right now (and please take a moment to support him in the poll on the top right side of this page) – but no matter what - one of us will be back to recap later on tonight. Thanks to all of you who voted in the pool – and if you haven't – it just takes a second.

Puck hits the ice at 7PM. I think we've got an not-on-MSG cable issue tonight – so you can expect to find me hunting down a good web-feed of the game.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Recap: Rangers Defeat Leafs Again: 4-1

Hey, can we play the Leafs every night?

As expected Toronto, winless at home - winless everywhere - came out with all they had and played hard, outshooting the Rangers 35 to 28, with most of that edge coming from a 14 shot first period barrage on Lundqvist. But Hank stood tall (or squatted short depending on the circumstances) and in the end we out-lasted and out-performed Toronto for a 4-1 win.

Here's how we won:

The Goalies. Once again you don't have to look much further than Henrik Lundqvist's domination of Toronto's MacDonald. Hank saved 34 of 35 shots for a save percentage of 97.1% - and the lone goal came only after he had saved 3 quick shots in a row. Once again the Leafs ran him over a few times - and once again it was to no avail. MacDonald on the other hand, had no SuperSized night in goal last night: giving up 4 goals on 28 shots, saving just over 85%.

Special teams: And once again, we won the special teams battle as the Rangers connected again for a PowerPlay Goal in four attempts, while blanking the Leafs on all six of their man-advantage chances. For the year now, our Power Play is at 26.3% (up from last years 13%). And our Penalty Kill is humming along at an 88% rate that is BETTER THAN LAST YEAR. That's right, our lone strength last season - and without Betts and Sjostrom we're even better this year.

The New Veteran Rangers again were a big factor. Gaborik didn't find twine tonight, but added two more assists to his impressive start. Lisin, presumably pissed off after being dumped from the 3rd to the to the Brash line (the 4th line with Don Brashear), responded with a goal off of a rebound. Prospal added an assist.

The Returning Rangers made some noise as well. Dubinsky got one of his patented skate-and-shoot goals plus an assist. And Staal scored on a nifty wrap-around. And the much maligned (by me) Redden and Rozsival each provided an assist.

The New Kids again showed they belong. The teenage wonder Del Zotto, playing with his friends and his Mom and Dad in attendance, ripped a shot past MacDonald on the powerplay. (I liked how DZ's Mom clapped enthusiastically, while Dad smiled and tried not to anger the locals by cheering against the home team.)

And in the category of Offensive Defense: While the Leafs had one goal (White) and no assist by their defensemen, the Rangers had 2 goals and 2 assist by their back liners.

In lineup news - it looked like Sean Avery was promoted to playing with the 2nd line in the 3rd period, most probably because of a demotion to Chris Higgins, held scoreless for the season, who was dropped to the 3rd line with "Anis" and "Kannon" Kotalik (a recent arrival from the 4th line).

I like how Tortorella is tinkering based, again, on performance on the ice. But since I had nicknamed the 2nd line "The Americans" and the 3rd line "Avery's Line" I'll have to come up with new labels going foward.

The Rangers, however, keep going forward quite well. This was one of the worst teams in the league - but they did what they needed to win once again. Winning ugly is still a giddy feeling for me. Last year we had to play perfectly just to have a chance. But this year - everything Tortorella touches turns to GOALS!

Next up - and off day Sunday followed by the 4-3-1 San Jose Sharks, who come to the Garden on Monday night in a game that I think will not be on MSG cable. Plan your drinking location accordingly.
In case you missed the big news - Nugman says he will be leaving Blueshirt Brothers. But take a minute to vote in the poll on the right side of this page and let him know we still need him.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rangers Keep Rolling: Beat Leafs 4-1

I'll have the full recap for you guys tomorrow morning - but I just wanted a quick moment to say:

Can you friggin believe this?

We're tied with Pittsburgh with 14 points at the top of the entire NHL. As I am writing this - we have the most goals of any team at 32. We are 7 and 1.

Coming in to the season - I thought we'd be good. At least, I hoped we be good. But I never in my wildest imagination thought we'd be this good. I mean, the Flyers, for example, are a pretty good hockey team. And they're 3-2-1. And they trail us by 7 points already.

Right now it's very simple. If we can score 4 goals a game, as we have averaged over the first eight contests, it's going to be very tough for any other team to beat Hank for three goals, let alone four.

Anyway - more analysis in the morning - but right now - it just feels really good to be a Rangers Fan. Enjoy the moment - because starts like this are extremely rare around here.
Don't forget to show you want Nugman to keep blogging - otherwise he's going to leave us. Take a moment and vote in the poll on the right side.

GameDay: Rangers at Toronto

Our resurgent New York Rangers carry their 6 win, 12 point season on the road to Toronto, to take on an angry, winless, desperate Maple Leaf team.

How the once mighty Leafs have tumbled! This season has so far been a disaster for them. They can't score. They can't defend. They can't play special teams. Add it all up and its a winless record and a season that may be lost beyond repair in October. In their last home game the Toronto fans booed their way through most of the third period (and don't laugh - we've been there).

So tonight our Rangers are likely to see a team focused and determined to compete. The Leafs will not go quietly. We are more likely to see a war this evening. One win - especially over a hot team like we suddenly are - would be a huge boost for Toronto - and they know it and will give it everything they have.

The two teams met on our home ice last week - and it was fairly close until the third period. The Rangers started the final frame clinging to a precarious 3-2 lead. But that's when Tortorella's focus on conditioning took over and let the Rangers pull away for a 7-2 win (including Avery's first pair of goals for the season)

The Blueshirts eventually made a party of the game - as Nugman pointed out - Avery celebrated like it was a playoff game - and this is not likely to be forgotten by the Maple Leafs.

Here are our probable lines tonight - and we commend Tortorella for forming good lines and sticking with them to let the chemistry develop.

The Gab line: Gaborik-Dubinsky-Prospal - these guys are lighting up the night sky. Gab and Vaclav with 10 points each. Fun to watch

The American Line: Callahan, Drury, and Higgins. Hard working - and a point explosion waiting to happen. Chris Higgins certainly looks like he's going to combust if he doesn't get a goal soon.

Sean's Line will change as Kotalik will replace Lisin -changing this to the A-K-A line. The rookie "Anis" is is hanging in there at the NHL level and will only get better as the season goes on. Sean missed the first 5 games with a knee injury but is back being his Avery self - drawing penalties and driving his opponents to distraction - which is the plan exactly.

The Brash Line - Brashear-probably returns to join Boyle. And Lisin either falls here to replace Voros - or Lisin falls all the way off the active roster. Boyle had a big goal against the Kings Wednesday. And Brashear has - well - he's had some interesting fights and taken some penalties.

On defense - Torts again looks smart in figuring that rookies like Gilroy and Del Zotto could jump right in - and they have. And an in-shape Redden is playing better this year.

And in goal - should we rest Hank tonight? You know - I'd do it. Valli threw a shut out last time out and the Leafs just saw Lundqvist. But word on the street is Hank takes the net.

So expect Toronto to come at us - hard - all evening. But then - this is another good test. Can Torts keep the guys on track and working hard in the face of all this success?

The puck drops at 7pm.
Don't forget my fellow BlueshirtBrother Nugman. Take a few seconds to vote on the poll to the right. Tell him we need him - or he'll leave the site forever.

Checking out, just for Tonight

While the outpouring of emotion and sentiment has been wonderful, it has done zero to detract from the fact that I am a booze hound that simply can't handle the rigors of the life associated with a professional blogger. The constant updates. The interesting pictures. The dress code. All too much for me to handle. And now, there is a dilemma. Do I want to do the in game Rangers updates tonight against the winless Maple Leafs as the Rangers march to their 7th straight victory? Of course I do....but the Yanks are also in the ALCS, and my buddy and I (a blueshirt brothers follower who is actually a devils fan) will be getting hammered at his place, so....blogging is unlikely. Not to mention, around the second period, my attention will become divided. So just letting you all know, I am taking this evening off. I am going to try and recharge my batteries for the next Rangers game. And here's hoping Dave Pucks doesn't write any more sad/desperate posts. Go Rangers.