Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jokinen shaves “stash”, scores twice, wins “Chumpionship”

The Bronze Medal game turned out to be a late night nail-biter as Finland scored 4 times in the third to overcome Slovakia's 3-1 lead and win 5-3 last night in Vancouver.

The first period was scoreless until a power play goal by Sami Salo with 70 seconds left gave the Finns a 1-0 lead.

But instead of letting that goal demoralize them – the Slovaks scored three times in the second period – led by a power play goal by the Ranger's Marian Gaborik that tied the game at one. It was a typical Gabby Goal – a sneaky fast shot that seemed to come out of nowhere – with no windup to give the goalie Miikka Kiprusoff time to get set.

And the Slovaks took their 3-1 lead into the third period – just 20 minutes from an unlikely Bronze medal. But it was not to be.
At 5:06 Niklas Hagman, again on the powerplay, made the score 3-2.

And then Ranger Olli Jokinen took the game over. Appearing – incredibly - without his signature facial hair – the clean-shaven Finnish forward struck twice in a two minute span. When the ice chips had cleared, Olli had turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead and the Finland team was on their way. And empty netter rounded out the scoring.

So it may be the consolation game (or the Chumpionship as my son calls it) but it was a great game and an Olympic medal game besides. It's a shame for the Slovaks – but a great come back for the Finns. And a nice day for Ranger fans – who get a suddenly hot Jokinen and Gaborik back on the team.

Was Team Slovakia so stunned by the clean shaven face of Olli Jokinen that they forgot to guard him? Was he so unrecognizable without his classic Fu Manchu mustache that the Slovak's goaltender didn't recognize him?

We'll never know.

But at 3pm today (Eastern) – find a TV and watch Callahan and Drury go for the gold as the US takes on Canada. This may be the most watched TV event in the history of Canadian Television – but of few of us in the states will be tuned in as well.

Let's go USA (and Rangers). It was bad enough watching Sidney Crosby hoist the Stanley Cup. We do not want to see him win Olympic Gold as well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sorry Olli - Nice Finnish Guys (can't) Last

Team USA rolled over Olli Jokinen's Finland team - taking a 4-0 lead in the first period and never looking back. They built a 6-0 lead midway through the period and the US gave their goalie - Miller - who had been perfect - the rest of the night off. The Finns got one goal back for pride and will play tonight for the Bronze medal in the game my son is calling the."Chumpionship"

Its great news for Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan and assistant coach John Tortorella. I hope John is learning something these olympics - seeing Dru and Cally playing so well under a different head coach.

Marian Gaborik's team (Slovakia) got 2 third period goals but couldn't catch Team Canada - losing 3-2. No goals for Gaborik.

So two more Rangers are out of the running for the gold. Gabby and Olli will play late tonight as Finland and Slovakia will play for the Bronze medal. Either way - the Slovaks must be happy to have lasted longer in the tournament than their rivals the Czechs.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Medal Round!

While Henrik Lundqvist gets a few extra days rest and the Rangers back home resume practicing (without Coach Tortorella - who is in Vancouver) there are just four teams left competing for the gold medal.

At 3pm Eastern time we get Olli Jokinen and Finland against Drury, Callahan, and Team USA. The fans in Vancouver have been predominantly Canadian - and have been booing the Americans ever since we defeated Canada earlier in the tournament. So figure that Olli will get cheered during the game. I'm expecting a low scoring contest - where 2 goals may be all the winner gets. The only upset the US has pulled off so far is beating Canada once. And they'll probably have to do it again - if they get the chance. Finland is a strong team playing well and this game figures to be a close one.

The second game will be Marian Gaborik's Slovakia against the best team still standing: Canada. The Canadians looked very strong in beating Russia decisively on Wednesday and will be very tough to beat. But with Gabby - Slovakia has a shooter's chance. Of course - Canada shut down Ovechkin - so can Gaborik fare any better?

The winners today will play Sunday in the Championship - the winner taking the gold medal and the losers shaking hands and skating home with silver.

The two teams that lose today will play Sunday as well - for the bronze medal - in a game that my son Pucks Junior has named "The Chumpionship".

No matter how it all shakes out, at least two Rangers will get some kind of Olympic Medal out of this. So sit back - take a snow day - and enjoy the games!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gabby shocks Hank, US wins, Canada Rolls

Our first Ranger eliminated from the Olympic tournament this year is a shocker - defending Champion Henrik Lundqvist lost yesterday - and so he heads back to the Rangers. But advancing to the medal round are: Gaborik, Jokinen, Drury and Callahan.

A lot of great Hockey action on Wednesday. Four teams advanced - four more teams went home - and the quest for the Gold Medal comes down to its final days.

First up was the USA - Switzerland battle. The Swiss - on zero day's rest, played hard and well against the favored Americans. Despite a decided advantage in shots on goal - and three 2nd period power plays - the US could not break the 0-0 deadlock through two periods. The American's Miller and Switzerland's Hiller we both pitching shutouts.

Team USA actually beat Hiller at the end of the 2nd period - and the puck was in the net. But a review showed that time had expired before the puck crossed re line.

So to the third period they went. And finally - Zach Parise broke through with a lucky bounce two minutes into the third. Still - the Swiss team hung tough - finally giving up an empty netter in the last few seconds to complete the 2-0 score.

Drury and Callahan have looked good on the 4th line and penalty kill. And several reporters have noted how much happier and more productive Drury has been in Vancouver than he is on the New York Rangers

In game 2 - Canada vanquished the mighty Russian team 7-3.

"They had more focus" Alex Ovechkin said afterward. The Canadians certainly had more something. They scored in the games 3rd minute, came out of the first period with a 4-1 lead, and never looked back.

Ovechkin - possibly the best player in the world - was held pointless by the aggressive and physical Canadian defense - playing their hearts put for the home crowd.

The win puts Canada in the semi finals and re-establishes them as the favorites to win gold. And all this further damages the reputation of Marty Brodeur - who has been benched since losing to the US.

Next, Ollie Jokinen and Finland defeated Jaromir Jagr and the Czech team 2-0. The 38 year old Jagr has not been the same since Ovechkin knocked him to the ice earlier this week.

And finally - the nightcap - Henrik Lundqvist and the defending champion (and heavily favored) against Marian Gaborik and Slovakia. The first Olympic playoff match-up of Ranger versus Ranger. Could The Gifted One break through against Hank - who had not given up a goal in the entire tournament?

The answer: Yes he could. Gabby did score on Lundqvist, and so did his teammates as Slovakia defeated Sweden 4-3. It was a crushing loss for Henrik and his countrymen - who won the gold medal four years ago - but this year go home empty handed. And, unfortunately – it was something of a debacle for Lundqvist – who let up 4 goals on just 14 shots, for a save percentage of .714%. Hank needed just 12 saves to get his team to the medal round – and could not do it. Tough loss. But a least Lundqvist gets a few days of rest before the Rangers final playoff push.

And so the semi finals are set for Friday:

Olli and Finland take on the US with Chris and Ryan (a lot of Ryans actually).

And Gabby and Slovakia will play against the Canadians.

Should be good stuff.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Hockey: And then there were 8

Down The Stretch They Come. If Olympic Ice Hockey started off slowly – with the first 3 games eliminating none of the 12 teams – yesterday the ax finally started to fall.

Four teams went home were eliminated yesterday – four other advanced – and the final 8 are all in action today in win-or-go-home playoffs. And the best news is – all 5 Olympic Rangers are still in the running for the gold medal.

Yesterday the Swiss team beat Belarus 3-2, sending home a team that I still don;t know where they came from.

Next Canada sent home the winless German team 8-2. No sign of Brodeur – who is benched for the remainder of the tournament for being a bad goalie.

In game 3: Jagr and the Czech Republic stayed alive by beating Latvia 3-2 in Overtime. The Czech team launched 50 shots at Latvia's goaltender Masalskis.

And in the nightcap – Marian Gaborik had a goal, an assist, and 9 shots – helping to lift Slovakia past Norway 4-3

So now there are just 8 teams left – including all 5 of the Ranger Olympians. And here are today's match-ups:

At 3pm Eastern Standard Time – The US plays Switzerland – and the loser goes home. The US has a very good shot at getting to the final game – but Drury and Callahan have to help take care of business today first.

At 7:30pm Eastern – Two powerhouses compete as Russia takes on Canada in a match many predicted as the Gold medal final. Now, one of these teams goes home without a medal. Ovechkin – with Malkin – versus the Crybaby Crosby. It's great for the US that these teams will knock each other off.

And that's only half of the day's action. At 10pm Eastern Olli Jokinen and Finland take on Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic.

And the nightcap at 1am Eastern pits two Rangers against each other. Henrik Lundqvist – who has not been scored on in this year's Olympic games and his defending goal medal Swedish team take on Marian Gaborik (who once scored 5 goals in a single game on Lundqvist) and his Slovakian team

It figures to be a wild day of great hockey. The games are usually on CNBC, MSNBC, or USA. You can always look on NBC if the US team is playing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Playoffs? Playoffs? In the Olympics - everybody makes the playoffs

Big day today for Olympic hockey as the 5 through 12 seeds face off against each other in the first round of the playoff tournament for Olympic Medals in Vancouver.

The 1 through 4 seeds, which includes Team USA as the number one seed, get a bye to the 2nd round.

And if you were wondering - yes - all 12 of the Olympic hockey teams made the playoffs. They played the 3 game round robin round to decide.... Well they decided first round byes and match ups is all.
Take Germany for example. They played three games - they lost all three - and now they're in the Playoffs! It reminds me of a kid's league. In fact - the floor hockey league where my 11 year old son Pucks Junior plays has the exact same deal. Every team makes the playoffs. And that makes perfect sense for 5th and 6th graders. But come on fellas - these are grown men in Vancouver. The first three games should eliminate somebody.

That being said - the US - by beating Canada and grabbing the top seed - have an advantage now.

That is because the other three top teams - Sweden, Canada, and Russia - are all in the opposite bracket. That means they will have to beat each other to advance to the finals - and the US - if we get there - will only have to beat one of them to win gold.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are 4 big playoff games today - and unlike the last three games - these games really mean something. The losers go home.

Four of your New York Ranger Olympians get an opening round bye:
Drury and Callahan with Team USA
Jokinen with Finland
Lundqvist with Sweden

And here the match ups today:

Czech Republic (with Jagr) vs. Latvia
Canada vs. Germany
Slovakia (with Marian Gaborik) vs. Norway
Switzerland vs. Belarus

And then tomorrow - the winners of these games take on the 4 bye teams. We're in for about 24 hours worth of great hockey in the next 2 days.

Good luck Gabby. If he wins - he takes on Hank tomorrow.
Loose Pucks - did you notice how Jagr stopped talking about returning to the NHL after Ovechkin leveled him with that huge hit? Jaromir is still great at 38, but maybe its better if he leaves our league for the younger men. And some Great News - Marty Brodeur - the so-called "greatest goalie of all time" has been officially benched by Team Canada for the remainder of the Olympics. That's my feel-good story of the week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rangers 5 for 5 in Olympic Stars

It continues to be an amazing Olympics for your New York Rangers

Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan have been a huge part of Team USA's success. Last night's stunning 5-3 win over the superstar filled Team Canada with Marty Brodeur got a lot of help from Drury – who scored the go-ahead goal to put the American up 3-2. Callahan blocked a big shot in the third period and both Rangers saw a lot of ice time and were a defensive force on the ice. Drury now has 2 goals in the Olympics and Callahan has an assist. Drury is +3 and Callahan is +2. Team USA is 3-0 and have earned a slot in the quarterfinals.

Marian Gaborik's Slovakia Team is 2-1. Gabby has a goal on 16 shots and is +1. He has been an emotional leader of this team.

Olli Jokinen's Finland is also 2-1 losing only to Lundqvist and Sweden early Monday Morning. The Ranger Center has a goal and an assist.

And Henrik Lundqvist has two shut outs in two starts for Sweden. His team, the defending Gold Medal winner, is 3-0 this Olympics.

So all of our players are doing us proud over in Vancouver. Let's hope they can keep it up. The single-elimination Medal round is next.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Drury Scores! Cally Assists! Gabby Wins!

Thursday was another good day for the New York Rangers at the Vancouver Olympic games.

Chris Drury scored the USA's 2nd goal - the one that eventually was the game winner - in a 6-1 victory over Norway yesterday afternoon.

At 13:04 of the first period, off a great feed from the hard-working forechecking Ryan Callahan (who got the assist) - Drury shot and scored for his (and our) home country. Both Chris and Ryan C. were +1 on the day.

On Team USA, Drury seems to have the same role he has on the Rangers: a fourth line center with limited ice time and a Penalty Kill special teamer. But it's a role he's used to and is making the most of. Count it as another victory for team USA, with Ranger coach John Tortorella assisting behind the bench.

Later on in the same day - Marian Gaborik played an active game for Slovakia as he continues to bounce back from his thigh gash injury. Facing a Russian powerhouse team that should contend for the gold medal - Gabby registered 6 shots but did not score. Happily for him, his teammates were able to knot the game at 1, force it to a shoot out - and in the end defeat the favored Russian team - that includes Alex Ovechkin.

From a Ranger standpoint - it might have been better if Slovakia lost and Marian could return to New York for rest and treatment. But the victory keeps his team in the running to emerge from the first round.

The worst news of the day is the Marty Brodeur on Team Canada, after blowing a 2 goal lead to Switzerland, hung on to win 3-2 in the shootout.

On the TV today at 3pm Eastern on MSNBC we can watch Henrik Lundqvist and his Swedish National team take on Belarus. Hank's opener was a shut out win.

On CNBC at 7:30pm we can watch former Ranger Jaromir Jagr and his Czech team take on Latvia.

And the midnight special is Olli Jokinen and Finland versus Germany.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gaborick Scores! Jokinen Scores! Lundqvist gets the Shut Out!

What an amazing day Wednesday was for your New York Rangers at the Vancouver Olympic games.

Yesterday, Sweden's goal tender - our one and only Henrik "the King" Lundqvist - shut out Germany 2-0 in his team's opening match. The defending goal medal winner turned away all 21 shots he faced.

How about Olli Jokinen? He scored a goal for Finland on his way to a 5-1 win over Belarus (a county that, I'm embarrassed to say, I could not find on a map).

And how about Marian Gaborik? Even though his right leg is still really hurting him from a skate cut he got from Henrik Lundqvist during Ranger Shoot Out practice - the Gifted One could not sit himself out when his home country of Slovakia took on their local rivals, the Czech Republic. And sure enough - Gabby scored a goal. But in scenario that much have seemed very Ranger-like to Gaborik - his team could not score any goals besides his - and they lost 3-1. Scoring for the Czech team was former Ranger Jaromir Jagr.

So - three players - three games - 21 saves - a shut out - 2 goals - and two wins. That is a dominating performance by your Olympic Blueshirts.

And on Tuesday Drury and Cally were both +1 in team USA's opening win.

Not a bad start, guys.
Up Today: Team USA with Drury and Callahan take on Norway at 3pm Eastern time on the USA Network. Pucks Junior will be watching.
And Slovakia with Marian Gaborik have a make or break game at midnight against the powerhouse Russian team with Ovechkin and Malkin.
Good luck guys.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drury + Cally won yesterday - Hank and Olli up today

The US Olympic Mens Hockey team won their opener yesterday - defeating Switzerland 3-1.

Chris Drury played and didn't register a point - just like most Ranger games, unfortunately. Ryan Callahan was the only Ryan on the squad NOT to get a point: Ryan Malone scored with Ryan Sutter assisting.

John Tortorella seemed to do just fine behind the bench. Olympic hockey is actually perfectly suited to him - throwing lines together - getting the team motivated for a short burst of games - coming out of the gate fast - attacking aggressive play - it's all in John's wheelhouse.

Should we infer anything from the fact that of the 3 American goals - 2 were unassisted? Just one assist for the game for the (selfish?) US players.

Later on, Canada looked very strong in their victory over Norway. But the best part was looking at a very unhappy Marty Brodeur sitting on the bench.

On MSNBC at 3pm today we get Finland (with Jokinen) versus Belarius. And at 8pm on CNBC we can watch Sweden with Henrik Lundqvist on goal against Germany. It will be very interesting to see how Hank looks on a different hockey team.

The late game - at 12:30 pm on CNBC is the Czech Republic versus Slovakia. Marian Gaborik reportedly will miss that game - still recovering from the nasty leg gash he got from Lundqvist's skate in a Ranger practice last week.
Loose Pucks: I forgot to mention that it was a lot of fun teaching my 11 year old son about some of the great Ranger traditions when he attended his first hockey game last Sunday. "Dad, why did they yell Potvin Sucks?" He asked me. I enjoyed explaining why - and then showing him the bird-call-like whistling that alerts the faithful that the historic cheer is about to be sounded. I love hockey.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nick And Mellissa’s Infinite Playlist

It was hilarious. It was heartbreaking. And now, it appears, it was a hoax.

I was there on Sunday and witnessed a moment at Madison Square Garden that was every bit as compelling as anything we saw on the ice that day.

The main scoreboard showed a live shot of a couple sitting in the stands. Alongside were the words:

Melissa Will You Be My Blueshirt Bride? Love, Nick

It appeared that some brave and crazy Ranger fan had taken his girlfriend to the Ranger game on Valentines Day - and had pre-arranged with the MSG staff to make this very public proposal.

As we watched - the young lady appeared to slowly figure out what was happening. That she was on the big screen. That she was being proposed to - at a hockey game. That the entire arena was now cheering for a happy ending - yelling for her to say yes.

She looked at her boyfriend - sizing him up - taking it all in. And then - rejection!

She stands up - and exits - shaking her head. And the fans begin yelling - booing - and calling out in disbelief. The poor boyfriend has to chase after her - not only losing his girlfriend - but missing the rest of the Ranger game.

I thought that was the end of it – but the next day - and the next - the story seemed to have "legs". They were talking about it on Sports Radio. They were writing about it on the internet. They were discussing it on the Today Show. They were covering it in the Daily News.

And then - we began to hear the entire drama was in fact - a fake. That the proposal was not real and the live-action drama was staged. And this morning we're reading that Madison Square Garden was in - and in fact was behind - the entire thing.

What was the purpose of this? Entertainment? I mean if you're going to stage something like this - why wouldn't you go for the happy ending? Why do this?

And the story keeps growing. People don't like being fooled - and new information keeps coming out.

For me - originally this was a cautionary tale about proposing in a big public place. If you've got a chance of going down in flames - why make it public?

But now – learning that I was tricked – along with 18,000 others – I just feel disappointed. It’s just another example that shows you can't trust anyone or anything. Instead of feeling good – I feel used.

You know, the whole thing was a little bit like Donald Brashear's Ranger career:

-Uncomfortable to watch
-Full of conflict
-Very brief
-A complete failure
-Not what we hoped it would be
-And in the end - utterly pointless

From now on MSG – please - don’t spend time trying to fool – or make fools of - your customers. We have enough fake-ness and insincerity in the real world. We come to hockey games because hockey games are real. The teams are both trying to win – anything can happen – and what we see out there on the ice may not be pretty, but it is always 100% real.

Isn’t it?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rangers Win - Pucks Junior is 1-0 lifetime at MSG

The Rangers hold on for a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in front of a happy Madison Square Garden crowd that included Dave Pucks and Pucks Junior (at his first ever hockey game)

Lundqvist stopped 27 of 29 shots - which was enough for the win. When you give Hank 4 or 5 goals - he is very tough to beat'

The Rangers fell behind early 2-0 but scored. 4 unanswered goals in the 2nd and added an empty netter in the third to win 5-2.

This is the first game I've been at since the Rangers won their last playoff game - game 4 against the Capitals last spring. Not only is my consecutive win streak alive - all the scoring this afternoon took place at the goal we were near - with the exception of Drury's empty netter at the end.

So we're on our way home now - but a great win for the Rangers who now head to the Olympics having won 3 of 4 - two of those wins without our top goal scorer Marian Gaborik.

Gabby's injured thigh is now the problem of the Czech Olympic team - who play Wednesday. We'll do our best to keep you up to date on our Rangers in the Olympics - as they compete for their countries - and against each other - for the Gold Medal.

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Ooooo Oooo Oohhhh - live from MSG

Well - so far - my son Pucks Junior could not have picked a better first ever game to attend

He was feeling a little down after the first period - as we fell behind 2-0.

But the second got him - and everyone else at MSG pumped up.

4 ranger goals. A penalty shot by Sean Avery where he waited and waited and finally scored from a tough angle.

And then three more goals. 2 by Christensen. One by Prospal. And the Rangers - without Gaborik - have a 4-2 lead as we sit through the 2nd intermission - too stuffed with dippin dots and cracker jacks to move.

Another amazing moment came up during a commercial break - when the scoreboard showed a live marriage proposal. The young lady was stunned. Then upset. Then annoyed. And then she stormed out as the entire arena shouted and booed. The unfortunate groom-not-to-be chased after her. The poor guy lost the love of his life - and missed the rest of the hockey game.

But Pucks Junior got the chance to sing THE GOAL SONG four times in one period. Not a bad way to enjoy your first every live hockey game.

We'll be back later - but so far - so good

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We'll Be There!

Yes it's true - Dave Pucks and Pucks Junior will be at Madison Square Garden this afternoon to root for our New York Rangers as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning - and to say goodbye to our heroes as the NHL shuts down for the Olympic games.

If we can get a signal and think of something interesting to say - we'll try posting directly from the world's most famous arena

Today the Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa is the team that Coach John Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with - and I'm sure it's still personal with John and he will do what he can to keep the Ranger's focus on today's game - rather than on what they'll be doing during the Olympic break.

And Tampa Bay sits above us in the Eastern Conference standings. They are in 9th with 63 points and we're in 11th with 61. The Lightning have lost 2 in a row after a 6-1-1 stretch. And we're 2-1 with wins over the Devils and Penguins after a 1-7 tumble.

As for us - Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto will both be out of the lineup with lacerations from the blades of hockey skates - Gabby's was "friendly fire" from Lundqvist. (Pucks Junior is quite bummed that we won't get to see Gaborik - and so am I - but it's my son's first ever Ranger game - so he's pumped anyway.)

We will be seeing the first Ranger Game of Jody Shelley - the enforcer they traded a draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for. Shelly has 10 fights this year according to (Brandon Prust is 2nd in the NHL with 22). Shelly's role is to replace Brashear as the team's aging Punch-man.

Also it's Welcome Back Potter (Editor - stop that!) as Corey Potter rejoins the team to fill in for their abdominally lacerated teenager Michael Del Zotto while he heals up.

See you at the game!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Signs of Life - The Rangers Win!

The Rangers have only had Olli Jokinen for 4 games - but now those 4 games include wins over the Devils and Penguins.

Marian Gaborik tried to go - but his thigh laceration was clearly bothering him and he had to sit after 6 shifts. And Michael Del Zotto was cut in the abdomen and had to sit as well. So the Rangers - down 2 men - were in a tough spot.

When Michael Rozsival got a 10 minute major for being the 3rd man in a fight - really he was just trying to keep his captain Chris Drury from being massacred on the ice - the Rangers were down to just 4 defensemen. (And making us wish we hadn't sent Corey Potter back to Hartford))

But somehow - we fought through all the adversity. Down 1-0, we struck back for two 2nd period goals - from Prospal and Dubinsky - and some great goal tending from Lundqvist - and took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd.

When Crosby gort his 2nd goal on a Powerplay - the Rangers still managed to take the defending NHL champs to overtime.

And then a minute in - the new guy - Olli Jokinen - notched the game winner. Its a great way to start fitting in with your new teammates.

Welcome to the New York Rangers, Olli. We've been waiting for someone like you for a long time - a hustling - talented - first line Center who can move the puck through traffic - lead his team through adversity - and score huge OT goals to beat elite teams in their own arenas.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rangers wave goodbye to Brashear. What were we thinking in the first place?

The season - such as it is - rolls on. We're stumbling toward the Olympic break. We've lost 8 of 10. Tonight we travel to Pittsburgh to take on the mighty Penguins.

And our lone goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, sat out of practice yesterday, trying to heal from a deep thigh gash he sustained from a collision with Henrik Lundqvist in a break-away drill on Tuesday.

Gaborik isn't ruled out of tonight's game - but he hasn't tried skating in his gear since the accident.

If we go up against the Penguins without Gabby - well, let's just say I don't love our chances.

The Rangers made a few moves yesterday:

They waived Donald Brashear. The washed up thug was pretty useless on the Rangers this year. He was often injured and couldn't fight - which was the only thing he was ever good at anyway.

Brash was a bad idea from the start. Considering how he nearly took Blair Betts head off while on the Capitals in last year's playoffs - most of us Ranger fans could not begin to understand why we would bring him here. It seemed disloyal. And it seemed like a dumb hockey move. The only bright spot is that at least Sather can admit his error by waiving him.

At his salary level he will certainly clear waivers and the next move will be back in the Ranger's court (or is it rink?). They don't have to invite him to Hardford.

And speaking of our Hartford affiliate - the Rangers made a few more player moves.

They sent goalie Chad Johnson back to the minors and brought up Matt Zaba. This move is designed to get Chad more starts - to keep him ready. I wish they would get him some more NHL starts - to improve his game and rest Hank. But it seems we are determined to get every last penny's worth out of our starting Goaltender before turning him over to the Swedish Olympic team for 3 weeks.

And finally - Corey Potter was sent back down after one game on the Rangers. What happened? Maybe one of our defensemen was hurting and is okay now. Maybe there was a possible trade that fell through. We may never know.

Anyway - tonight it is the Penguins. Let's hope something good happens. I'm trying to stay positive - but I'm starting to lose my way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Captain and the Kid – both let the Rangers down

That makes 3 games all season without Marian Gaborik. And all three were Ranger losses. Last night the Blueshirts without their goal scorer – could not score - except for a 5-on-3 powerplay.

They fell 2-1 to a Nashville Predator team that had played the night before while we rested. And in the process we wasted an all-too-rare great performance by Henrik Lundqvist.

But worst of all was the play of the Captain and the Kid. Drury was given Gaborik's top line slot - and made the least of it. And Michael Del Zotto looked every bit the inexperienced teenager out there last night. One day after the Rangers’ charity Casino Night - our rookie defenseman went double or nothing on a 2 minute minor – parlaying one penalty into a double minor by yelling at the referee - resulting in a power play that put the Rangers in a hole. It wasn’t that deep a hole – but still – without Gaborik we couldn't dig out of it. Here are the grim details:

The Goalies: Hank was brilliant. And it wasn't enough. He stopped 34 shots. The first goal was a wicked deflection through traffic. And it took a 4 minute powerplay and a failed clearing attempt for him to yield his second goal.

Nashville’s Ellis stopped 37 of 38 shots.

And that was the difference.

Special Teams: It took a 5 on 3 for us to generate our lone Ranger goal. We were just 1-6 overall on the man advantage. The Predators were 1-5. So about even here. One more PP goal would have sent this into OT.

The New Veteran Rangers - The biggest deal was the guy not playing. But Jokinen made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone with the Rangers on the powerplay that lead to the goal. Olli got the assist and Prospal got the goal.

Your Returning Rangers let us down yesterday. No other way to say it. Dubi and Cally should be able to produce something at even strength - especially with Jokinen centering for them. But it just wasn't happening and so Tortorella broke the line up.

And Drury. Last night was an attempted wake up call from Tortorella. By putting Chris on the top line in place of the injured Gaborik - it was as if John was saying: Here you go Captain - show us you can lead - show us you're worth all that money we're paying you – show us something - anything.

And Chris tried - you could see it - but he just couldn't make anything happen. I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy. He couldn’t even score on a breakaway.

The Kid Rangers - last night Michael Del Zotto showed us why the NHL is not loaded with 19 year olds. Del Zotto got called for a hooking penalty in the second period – got mad about the call - and started yelling at the referee. The thing is - there are not a lot of NHL refs who like getting yelled at publicly by teenagers - so Del Zotto got an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty thrown in on top of the original - for a full 4 minutes of Predator powerplay.

The Rangers gamely killed off 3 straight minutes - but you can only hold out for so long when you’re down a man. Inevitably Nashville scored the game winner - and Del Zotto got an earful from Tortorella when he got back to the bench.

Nothing else from the other Kid Rangers. Anisimov seems to be disappearing before our eyes.

Defense on Offense? There was none.

In conclusion: I like to be positive here. I realize it's hard to win hockey games. I can see that the Rangers are trying. We just can't score.

It's good that Hank is playing better now. There was a long stretch where he wasn't playing that well. It seems like we can never get it all together. When we score we can’t defend. When we defend we can’t score. We've lost 8 of 10 now and the season feels like it is starting to derail. When is that Olympic break getting here?
Next Up:
With the team in a free fall - we get nothing less than the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. We can only hope Gaborik will be back soon.
Where we stand:
I don't want to look. It can't be good. Seriously – I’ll check tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nashville Comes To Town

Three more games until the Olympic break. I hope we can build on our fragile one game winning streak and get a little momentum going here. Otherwise – I’m worried that after the Olympics some of the guys may not feel like coming back to camp.

There’s no further word on the Gaborik Injury. It’s his right knee. He cut it on Lundqvist’s skate in practice on Tuesday. They stitched him up at the Ranger’s facility. There’s no news of any further tests or doctors or hospitals. But until today’s skate we’ll have no idea what shape he’s in or if he’ll lay tonight. The Rangers don’t discuss injuries.

One other move – they have recalled defenseman Corey Potter from Hartford. What does this mean? It could just be that the Rangers finally realized what a lot of us were already thinking: that we could use a 7th defenseman. Or it could be the precursor (editor – he means “the thing before”) to another one of Sather’s deals. That makes me a little uncomfortable. Sather has made two good trades in a row – the Gomez exit and the Jokinen acquisition. What are the odds he can do three trades in a row without one of them being a complete fiasco?

I’m also wondering why we didn’t bring Heikkinen or Sanguinetti up instead of Potter. Maybe it’s Potter we’re showcasing for a move.

Anyway, Who the Hell are we playing?

There are a lot of teams that, when you hear their names, a huge bundle of strong feelings and powerful memories come flooding into your head. The Flyers. The Islanders. The Devils.

Now try: The Nashville Predators.

Nothing, right? Almost like it’s a made up name – a fake team name from a movie or something. I mean, why is Nashville a hockey town?

In the Western Conference, Nashville is the 7th Playoff seed right now with 67 points and a 31-22-5 record. They are 15-11-3 on the road and come into MSG with a 2 game losing streak and just 2-6-2 in their last 10.

Primary Skaters: Right winger Patrick Hornqvist leads the team with 23 goals and a plus-minus of +13. J. P. Dumont has the Predators most assists with 25.

In Net: Pekka Rinne has a 2.77 GAA and a .903 save percentage in 39 games. Dan Ellis, in 25 appearances has a 2.66 GAA and a save percentage of .910

Scoring & Defense: Nashville is just about dead even with 162 goals for and 164 against. In comparison, we’ve scored only 152, and let up 163.

Special Effects: Nashville is only 16.6% on the PP and 75.6% on the PK. Our PP is at 18.7% at and our PK is still very good at 85.2%

Scheduling Conflicts: We’ve had one of our longer rests of the season – off since Saturday night. The predators played and won in a Shoot out last night. So they may be sleepier.

Our Lines: Not sure of anything now – because of Gabs injury. We had been going with Gabs-Vinnie-Christensen on line one and Ollie-Cally-Dubi on line two. And it seemed to help both lines.

Fronting the Twine: We continue to want Chad Johnson here. But Torts will likely ride Hank until we have to turn him over to Team Sweden in a few days.

Dave Puck Predicts: A win. 4-2. I hope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gaborik Hurt!

When we first learned the Rangers had signed Marian Gaborik we all wondered what it would be like when Gabby and Lundqvist came together.

Well in practice today they did come together. In fact - they collided.

And Lundqvist's skate blade hit Gaborik's knee. And our leading goal scorer sustained a deep laceration - requiring multiple stitches to repair.

But - big sigh of relief - it appears to be what they used to call in the movies "a flesh wound".

No torn or cut tendons. Just some blood. That's all we know right now. No further word on his status for Wednesday night..

That's all for now
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John Tortorella: Flip-Flopper or Losing Streak Stopper?

About this time last year - John Tortorella was sitting with Glen Sather and making a case about why the Ranger Coach Tom Renney should be fired and why, he, John Tortorella should replace him.

"Safe Is Death" was the phrase Tortorella used.

The Rangers under Renny were playing a style that emphasized defense first - with 5 skaters doing their best to protect Henrik Lundqvist and the Ranger goal. They also conserved energy - laying back and letting the other team punch themselves out. They tried to score when opportunities presented themselves. They waited and reacted.

The idea was that the Rangers lineup could only score a goal or two a night - so they tried to win 2-1.

Tortorella told Sather this approach was all wrong.

"Safe is Death" he said. Laying back and playing defense gives your opponent too many chances. Tortorella’s philosophy was to forecheck and attack. To get the puck out of the defensive zone and away from Lundqvist - to get it near the opposing goalie - where good things can happen.

You know what happened next. Sather listened. Tortorella got the job. The Rangers made the playoffs and got a 3-1 lead against the Caps. But then the wheels came off and we stopped scoring and that was the season.

This year - with some new players - a pure goal scorer - and a training camp - Tortorella had the team – His Team - ready. They came flying out of the gate - going 7-1, scoring goals, and playing exciting-to-watch, attacking-style hockey.

It was fun - a lot of fun - while it lasted.

But the Ranger high wire act came crashing down to earth. Teams began to adjust to our style - we stopped scoring - and we started getting scored on.

So - reluctantly - to stop our losing steaks - Tortorella changed his style. He began attacking less - playing more defense -staying back.

In short - he began playing a style that was a whole lot like the safe-is-death style of hockey that got his predecessor fired.

So - what do we make of this? Is our coach an opportunist? Did he say anything to get hired? Was he wrong in assessing how to fix the Rangers? Is he, in the end, a motivator more than an Xs and Os guy anyway?

Well, you can look at it that way. But I don't

I think John has done the best he can with the roster Glen and the Salary Cap Gods have given him. I know he's had input - but the team has more than a few over-paid unmovable catastrophes clogging the lineup that John could do nothing about.

And the one thing John didn't anticipate was the increased goals-against this season. Is that the fault of an all star goalie starting the downside of his career? Or can it be blamed on letting veteran defensemen go and replacing them with rookies? Or the unavoidable result of a goalie ridden too hard and too long for too many years?

Maybe, to some degree, it’s all of the above. But I don't fault John for changing the team philosophy in mid-season to focus more on defense.

That's not hypocrisy. It’s learning. It’s adapting to the situation as it changes around him. It's just Tortorella paying attention - thinking - listening to a quality group of assistant coaches – and taking action..

Whatever you think of John Tortorella - that man won the Stanley Cup just a few years ago. He's not clueless. He's built and coached winning teams.

So if "Safe" doesn't equal "Death" anymore - that's fine with me. As we limp towards the Olympic break there are actual signs of life. The team is still playing hard. The GM just pulled off his 2nd GREAT TRADE of the year (Gomez was the first). And our new lineup is showing more toughness and the ability - in Jokinen - to carry the puck into the offensive zone. We just pulled off a great win against our hated rivals - The Devils - in which we seemed to play great D - get great goaltending - and score timely goals - to defeat an elite team in decisive fashion.

If we can keep that up - anything is possible.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mad about the Wrong Boy

There are two rookie defensemen on the Rangers this year. One of them is doing great - the other one - I'm not convinced is ready yet for the NHL.

And it's not who you think.

Michael Del Zotto is getting all of the attention this year. He's got the tools. He can shoot the puck. He has shown a real talent for the long outlet pass - an almost Drew Brees-like ability to launch these bombs that can hit Marian Gaborik in stride at the blue line.

Meanwhile - Matt Gilroy - the other Ranger defenseman toils on in relative obscurity. You don't hear his name much. His offensive numbers can't compare to Delzy's.

But guess what? I think Gilroy’s better. And here's why:

If offense was all you needed from your defensemen - you could play forwards back there. You may recall that Tortorella actually tried playing 5 forwards on the powerplay recently - resulting in a shorthanded goal against. And there's a reason that happened - defensemen are needed to defend. Preventing a goal is exactly as valuable as scoring one.

And for every great pass or great shot we see from Michael Del Zotto - there is a moment where he's out of position defensively - or late getting to where he should be - or worse - when he is in the right spot - but then gets completely faked out by his opponents’ dekes and moves.

Now - don't get me wrong. I love the kid's potential. And he's only 19. It’s not his fault he's at the NHL level right now. He's learning and improving every day. But at the same time - with a one goal lead and 2 minutes to go – he can be a liability out there.

The numbers tell the story. Del Zotto has 6 goals and 20 assist. And Gilroy has only 4 goals and 7 assists.


Matt Gilroy’s Plus-minus is at +4. That’s the best of any defenseman on the team. In fact, it’s the 5th best plus-minus of all Ranger players. Only Gaborik and 3 guys who have been his linemates have done better.

Michael Del Zotto’s plus-minus? In spite of all of those goals and assists – Mike is at Minus-17. That is the worst number on the Rangers. Much worse than Rozsival or Redden. What that means is that in spite of all of Delzy’s offensive production – he has given it all back and a lot more besides. When Mike is on the ice – overall - we have not been a very good hockey team.

All I’m saying is that Matt Gilroy’s Plus-Minus is much much better than Del Zotto’s. And that a defenseman is more than offense. And that Plus-Minus is a good indicator of defensman's overall game - offense and defense.

Del Zotto is still a really young player. And a lot of what he lacks right now can be taught. But considering how the two rookies are doing – I just don’t think it’s fair that Michael gets all the positive attention while Gilroy is the forgotten man. Matt Gilroy as a rookie has stepped in and done a quietly professional job night in and night out. Whatever success this club has had – Matt is an important part of it. It’s about time he got his due.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Think I Glove You! Lundqvist reclaims his game - Rangers Win

That was a long time coming. After six straight losses – Henrik was the master out there last night – out-classing Martin Brodeur and making the difference as the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1.

After giving up 6 goals to the Washington Capitals – and wasting 5 goals from his teammates on Thursday, Hank was the Franchise superstar on Saturday night – stopping 41 shots. Most impressive was his work with the glove. Henrik has been altering his glove side positioning this season – in response to a growing reputation around the league that he can be beaten high on the glove side.

Last night Hank stood a little taller and kept his glove a little higher. And it paid off. He snatched a half dozen shots out of the air with a lightning fast left hand. One shot – a six foot slapshot from Mottau that Hank didn't even see coming – but somehow got his glove on and caught cleanly – was one of the best glove saves I've ever seen Hank come up with.

The Rangers battled throughout – exploded for 3 goals in 2:40 of the 2nd period - and held on to get a much needed win over a very good Devils team. Kovalchuk took 8 shots – and came away with nothing.

The Goalies: Like the Garden crowd chanted for much of the night: Hen-Rik! Outshot 42 to 25 the Rangers won because Hank was much – much – better than Marty.

Hank stopped 41 shots – several of the saves spectacular. A save percentage of .971% is much better than we've seen lately and the kind of performance that gives the Rangers the edge against any other team in the league.

Marty – who was serenaded by the MSG crowd in a derisive “Mar-ty” chant that actually seemed to shake the fat old man's composure – fell apart over a 2 minute 39 second span and let in 3 goals on 4 shots. Overall he stopped just .880% of the shots he faced – just 22 saves.
So – yes – we beat the Devils on goaltending. And it feels great to say that.

Special Teams: The Rangers Penalty Kill has been one of our strengths this year. Despite giving up 3 PP goals tot the Caps (and stopping them 6 times ) - we bounced back last night and denied the Devils on all 5 of their extra-man chances. On our own PP we scored once in three tries. So we won special teams – which helped us with the game.

The New Veteran Rangers: Gaborik was in perfect position – and didn't even have to move his stick – to direct the puck past Brodeur for yet another goal by The Gifted One. Jokinen won 8 of 12 faceoffs and was +1 on the night with 2 blocked shots and a hit. Boyle had a great (if late) check that helped create an odd man rush that resulted in a Ranger goal. I will mention that Prospal and Christensen were the only Rangers with a -1 last night.

The Kid Rangers: I am putting Prust in this category – it's his first full season in the NHL. The kid got an assist, two fights, a hit and was +1 on the night. It's hard not to notice him. Del Zotto and Gilroy had assists. Anisimov won just one of five faceoffs – and it has been a long time since we called his name in a positive way. With all the centers we have on this team – well, I'll let you finish that thought for me.

The Returning Rangers: won this hockey game for us. Callahan was everywhere – 6 hits – 5 shots – a goal and an assist. Chris Drury – the forgotten 4th line captain – scored a goal. Dubinsky didn't score – but won 3 of 4 faceoffs and played an active game. And how about Sean Avery – goading Kovalchuk into a fight with 2 minutes to go – effectively removing the Devil's best weapon from the ice for the remainder of the game?

Defense on Offense: Two assists. When we hear from this unit – odds are we will win.

In Conclusion: Wow – did we ever need this one. Huge, clutch, great performance from your New York Rangers – defending their home ice against a great Devils hockey team. And it goes to show – Lundqvist can still pull out these incredible performances. And when he does – the Rangers have just enough firepower to compete with anybody. 8 goals in 2 nights – with an empty netter just beaten by the buzzer.
Next Up:
Only three more games before the Olympics. On Wednesday night we're home to the Nashville Predators. I'd start Chad – it helps him develop and helps Hank rest.

Where We Stand: The Clump continues. We're in 9th – tied in points with the 8th place Flyers. One point out of 10th. Two points out of 12th. And the Islanders have fallen 3 points behind the clump by going 2-8. Carolina, by the way – have won 7 of 10 and have climbed out of last place.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Loose Pucks

Just a few random thoughts today.

So - tonight it is the Devils. And Kovalchuk. As if they weren't good enough without him.

I'm wondering what our new lineup would look like against some team that wasn't one of the best in the league - or on a hot streak - or both. But we're going to have to wait a while longer to find out.

I think we are playing better. But we're losing anyway.

And you know - I'd put Chad Johnson out there. It will help Hank get his head on straight. And I don't know for sure - but Chad might let in 5 or less against the Caps.

I've got a nickname idea for Jokenin. How about Olli-jo (pronounced Olli-yo like in Olli Jokenin). Let me know what you think.

I'm feeling bad for my 11 year old son Pucks Jr. The little guy is still full of hope. He's just a kid. He's not used to the misery of being a Ranger fan. So all this losing is hard for him to take. Most of us were upset by the loss to the Caps - but completely entertained by the wild game. It was just a bad loss to my little guy.

I hope the Rangers can win tonight - for my kid's sake, anyway.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rangers score 5 - still lose to Caps

As losses go - this one was pretty entertaining. 11 goals. 5 by the home team. Some real offense by the Blueshirts. And that Ovechkin is really something to watch. He's so fast and agile and large and quick. I hate the guy but it's still hard not to admire him out there on the ice. That one goal at the end of the second period was stunning. He took the puck right through Rozy's legs, snuck around him, and whacked the puck at Lundqvist. It deflected up and over Hank and just snuck in the opposite post.

For a change, we scored plenty of goals. Jokinen showed how he can light up the Ranger's second line - and the powerplay - but he also committed 3 penalties. Would Higgins and Koty together have matched Olli's offense last night? No. So the trade was a good move - both in who we got and who we got rid of.

Look - we ran into the best team in the NHL right now - playing on an 11 game winning streak. And we hung in with them all night.

But man, one more goal. Redden came close with a slapper that beat Theodore and HIT BOTH POSTS before bouncing out. And Ovie's goal just floated in. Another inch or two and we win this one.

On the other hand - you commit 9 penalties and let up 6 goals - you ain't gonna be nobody. (Editor - he means...) (Dave Puck - they know exactly what I mean)

Anyway - here are the grim facts

The Goalies: If you give Henrik Lundqvist 5 goals - I usually like our chances. But the Caps - especially the way they're playing right now - are unbelievable.

Hank faced 32 shots. He let in 6 of them for a 0.813 save percentage. And that's not going to beat anyone. Still he made some very good saves and the Rangers seemed to be down a man all night.

Theodore "three or more" made 33 saves on 38 shots and beat us. When Jose Theodore outplays Hank - we are in trouble.

And yes - we lost the game right there.

Special Teams: A tale of two cities:

It was the best of times - our PowerPlay - with Jokinen on the point - woke up for 4 goals in 6 attempts. You can't ask for any more than that.

It was the worst of times: our Penalty Kill let up 3 goals in 9 attempts. Not a fiasco - but bad enough to lose.

The New Veteran Rangers: First - the new guy. Jokinen had a goal and an assist - and sparked our 2nd line. And he was the only Ranger that won more than half of his faceoffs. But he also took 3 penalties. Gabby had 2 assists. Prospal had 2 goals and 2 assists.

Your Returning Rangers showed up as well. Callahan scored a goal and had an assist. Dubinsky scored. Staal had an assist.

Drury painfully blocked 4 shots – and was minus-two on the night for his troubles. And I’m sorry – but have we ever had a worse season from a Ranger Captain before?

The Kid Rangers contributed assists from Gilroy and Del Zotto. Gilroy is quietly having a great rookie season by the way.

Defense on Offense? Three assists from the back line.

In conclusion: Plenty of offense. But the Capitals are amazing. We've said it before - but if we can play like this every night we will beat a lot of teams. Still it's Hank's 6th straight loss and at this point I've had enough with the encouraging losses. I'd settle for a discouraging win or two right now.
Next Up:
we get The NJ Devils. You may have heard - they just added this guy named Kovalchuk to the roster.
Where we stand.
Just barely standing. The loss puts us in a tie for 9th with the Florida Panthers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Updates – We’ve Got Updates!

Usually we post just once and let you guys get on with your busy day. But a few things have percolated to the surface that we wanted to talk about:

How They Skated this morning: The lines that were put together for today’s practice – usually a pretty good indicator of how they will start tonight look like this:

Line 1: Christensen centering for Gaborik and Prospal. It makes sense – what little offensive chemistry this team has is in this line combination

Line 2: Jokinen centering for Dubinsky and Callahan. I hope they explained this to Olli. He had complained that he wasn’t given enough time in Calgary to jell on the number one line. In Tortorella’s system he was given about 15 minutes on the top line before the demotion. But, like we said below, we love this move. It can potentially create a 2nd scoring line for the Rangers – something opposing teams actually have to think about. Note that Dubi is back on the wing – we’ll see how that plays out.

Line 3: Anisimov centers for Avery and Lisin. I’m sure “Anis” is surprised and thrilled to find himself at the pivot in Line 3 when there are no less than four legitimate veteran centermen theoretically ahead of him on the team. And Lisin is surprised to be off the healthy scratch list and back on the team. Avery has been on every line 1-4 in the system and I’ll bet nothing surprises him anymore – other than, say, a kind word from an opposing goalie.

Line 4: The Captain continues to go down with his shift (Editor – stop that!) as Chris Drury centers for our new and improved Punch-Man: Brandon Prust and Boyle.

I’m feeling like the trade made us bigger, tougher, and less bad offensively. So – it feels weird but I have to say: Good Job Glen.

The other item out there today is that the Atlanta Thrashers have given up on re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk and have announced they will trade the goal-scoring superstar as soon as they can. But it’s a rental – Ilya’s contract is done at the end of the year. And he is actually asking for the official league maximum (somewhere north of $11 million per) and a 10 year deal. And the Thrashers would want quite a lot in return – like a top 6 forward and top defenseman. So word is – the Rangers are looking – but can’t give up what Atlanta wants and couldn’t fit Ilya into the cap – so we’d lose him anyway. Of course – Glen is Glen – and we’re always a player when there’s a player out there.

Okay - Back to work kids – I’ll see you later.

Line One? Line Two? What Do We Do?

Let's try to remain positive. The Rangers have some relatively fresh faces in the lineup – they do have at least one victory in their last 7 games – and they are looking to increase that number when they return home tonight from their west coast road trip to take on the (hated) Washington Capitals.

The Capitals are riding high - first place in the Eastern Conference and a full 10 points above the next best team (the Devils). They lead the NHL defending champion Penguins by 11 points. They are the best team in hockey right now.

None of this is good for the Rangers - who are reeling - or for Henrik Lundqvist - who has personally lost 5 straight regulation games. I’m thinking that’s his worst streak ever – unless any of you can remember him doing this badly before.

But – to stay positive - our team appears to be still be hustling out there. We’re playing hard and trying to play team defense. And the recent addition of Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust has brought some more hope to the Blueshirts. But it has also brought some questions. First and foremost: How do we line these guys up?

I'm really interetsed to see how Tortorella sets his lines up tonight- and in particular where he plays Jokinen. Christensen seems to have some real chemistry with Gaborik and Prospal. You could keep him there - but then why do you trade for a first line center if he's not going to play on your first line? Olli could be another target for Prospal's creative passing. He could draw some attention away from Gabby. He could get the puck into the zone and set up Marian like a first line center is capable of. He could make our first line into something that can go toe to toe with any line in the league.

Of course - on the other hand - having multiple lines that can score is very important in the NHL - and having anyone besides Gaborik score for the Rangers is long overdue. Right now The Gifted One has 5 of our last 6 goals. If we drop Olli down to line two he could turn that into line 1a - making it an offensive force and giving the teams that play us problems in deciding when to play their best defensemen.

Either plan could work - or could fail. And of course, knowing John Tortorella - we'll probbaly see both combinations - and a dozen others - before the year is out.

Nobody asked me - but I'd try to put Dubinsky with Olli on the 2nd line to see if we can get that going.

I'm not going to predict a winner tonight - but I will predict:

- Rangers will play hard
- Olli will respond to his first-ever MSG game as a Ranger with a big game.
- Prust will punch somebody

This is the same Capitals team that won 3 straight to oust us from the playoffs last year. In a way - we've been trying to re-make the team to fix that ever since. We've had all this time to regroup and re-engineer ourselves. We know we don’t like Ovechkin and his mates. Let's see what Sather and Tortorella have come up with.

Puck drops at 7pm.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maybe the Jokinen is on us

Opening night for the New Look Rangers ended up looking a whole lot exactly like our last few losses. We played defense pretty well with a few stunning lapses - our Penalty Kill was awesome – our our powerplay was terrible – we couldn't score much – we tried to come back. And we lost to the Kings 2-1.

Olli Jokenin in his Ranger debut was minus 2 on the night. The guy did have to play the day before and travel and get used to a new team. He launched 4 shots on goal, had 4 hits and won 6 of 8 faceoffs. He also gave the puck up 3 times.

And (the other Brandon) Brandon Prust was a checking, fighting demon out there. 7 minutes of ice time - 19 minutes in penalties. You certainly knew the young man was out there – and you can't question his courage. Tortorella may not like all the penalties – but I'll bet he likes Prust's attitude and will work with him.

Would Higgins and Kotalik have changed the outcome in a positive way? No. I like the trade and I think it will work better as time goes on.

Oh – and two more times we HIT THE POST.

The Goalies: Hank returns. Hank was treated to a breakaway by Kopitar which would be hard for anyone to stop. On the night Lundqvist faced only 21 shots – but two of them squirted by for a .905 save percentage and a loss. US Olympic goalie Jim Quick only saw 12 shots in the first 2 frames and only 21 overall. He saved 20 of them for a .952 save percentage and a win.

Special Teams: Our Penatly Kill was again amazing. And our freakin' PowerPlay cost us the friggin game. Not only did we not score on three attempts – we let up a catastrophic shorthander to the King;s best player that cost us the hockey game.

The New Veteran Rangers: You can't get newer than Jokinen. We already talked about him up top – but he's a big guy – good skater – good shot – and should do some good for us once he gets some time in with the team. And Gaborik scored again! He's scored 5 of our last 6 goals now.

And Christensen got the assist – making me wonder if Jokinen may be better off on line 2.

The Kid Rangers? Do I put Prust here? It's his first full hockey season as an NHL player. As mentioned – the kid has a motor and some toughness.

The Returning Rangers: Redden had an assist. In fact Redden and Girardi were +1. Can we say Redden played well? That can't be right. Oh, and Chris Drury seems almost utterly lost out there.

Defense on Offense: An assist.

In Conclusion: We came close tonight – and we were playing a very good and very hot team on the road. I like the trade. I think it will get better as the guys practice together and start to mesh. I think Jokinen may be better off on line 2. And I think we should start Chad Johnson in goal every 3 or 4 games.
Next Up: The boys come home to face the hated Capitals on Thursday.

Where We Stand: That damned clump. One loss – and now we're out of the playoffs in 10th . But we're still tied in points for 8th and just 3 points out of 13th.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

We Fire The Cannon!

Hey – a first line center. Why didn’t I think of that? Actually I did. And so did you. And so did every Ranger fan in the world. We knew that Marian Gaborik needed a first line center to get him the puck where he can really do some damage with it. And Ladies and gentlemen – that day may have just arrived.

You can like Glen Sather – hate him – or feel sorry for him (I’ve got a little of each of those) but you have to admit – the man is out there trying to improve his hockey club. After much back-and-forth, discussion, delay, contract clause invocation, and waiting – a deal has been made between the Rangers and the Calgary Flames

The Rangers get:

Olli Jokinen. A legitimate front line Center who in his last 6 NHL seasons has scored: 36 goals, 26 goals, 38 goals, 39 goals, 34 goals, and 29 goals. At 32 he’s no spring chicken but still should have plenty of juice. And playing off of Gaborik – he will get a lot more open ice than he’s used to. His 11 goals this year are below what he’s capable of – but it’s pretty high on the leader board on our team.

We also get:

Brandon Prust is the NHL’s 2nd most prolific fighter this year - having dropped the gloves 18 times this year (that’s 17 more than Gaborik. He’s 26, and this year’s 43 games is the most he’s ever played in a season at this level. For all of us who didn’t want Don Brashear to be a Ranger – this move seems to indicate that Glen Sather may finally be agreeing with us. Not sure what Brashear would do for us anymore.

The Ranger lose:

Ales Kotalik: Kotalik has that massive slapshot. If you can point him at the goaltender and get him some time and space with the puck - he will score goals. But his defense is and sense of team responsibility is such that he is already -18 on the season. That makes him a major liability on a team that struggles to score goals. And let's face it - having John Tortorella yelling at you every day isn't for everyone.

Chris Higgins: I really liked Chris – and he clearly seemed to care and play hard – but he could never seem to get going here. You could see his frustration with his own performance on his face every game. Maybe a new team will change his luck.

So goodbye Chris, goodbye Ales. The Rangers just removed a minus 27 from their plus-minus in moving you guys – but you each had your moments here and we wish you well.

We play LA tonight. Should be really interesting to see the new guys.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chad's More Like It! Ranger's win one

Finally - after 5 straight losses - some good news to talk about. I don't even know how to start - but the Rangers sure did. From the opening face off they looked like a different team than we’ve seen lately. They were quick - they were hustling - they were smart - and they were effective. Three goals isn't a landslide - but it was enough to beat the Avalanche. And our team defense was the best it has been in quite a while. It all added up to a much-needed 3-1 road victory over Colorado.

CHAD! We've been talking up this young man all season - saying he needed a longer look in camp - lamenting that he didn't make the team - commending his promotion over Valiquette - and begging Tortorella to start him more. And well, it may have taken a stomach flu by Lundqvist - but the kid finally got a few chances. And after Saturday nights rough first period - the kid has been superb. Just one goal in his last 5 periods - and that only came after he lost his stick. (Very classy move by a visibly ailing Henrik Lundqvist to skate out to Chad after the game to congratulate him and give him the game puck from his first-ever NHL win.)

But it's not just his saves. There’s something about the kid's manner - the deliberate movement - the poise - that seems to calm down his team. Now - make no mistake - we still think Hank is the best Ranger goalie ever - but Chad can be a huge asset as a change of pace - and to give Henrik the rest he needs to be at his best.

MARIAN! The Gifted One finally got back on track - producing nothing less than the entire Rangers offensive output - three goals - and showing us why he's an elite player. How could you not love this guy? With a hat trick on the books and an empty net to shoot at - Gaborik was looking to feed his teammates to give one of them a goal.

MARC! And Marc Staal played a tremendous game. Huge minutes - great defense - and 2 assists to top it off. His best night as a Ranger.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves:

The Goalies: The numbers tell the story. The Rookie Chad Johnson stopped 34 of 35 shots on goal - for an amazing save percentage of .971. Colorado's Anderson saved only 31 of 34 and that was the difference.

Special Teams: The Zebra-men called 12 penalties last night - giving each side 6 powerplays. And our result was our usual mixed bag. The PK has been excellent - stopping the Avalanche in all six tries - but the PP was pointless again. The game was won at even strength.

The New Veteran Rangers: - well one of them in particular - took over the game. It was Marian Gaborik's 10th career hat trick - but his first as a Ranger - and man, did we ever need this one. The Gifted One was everywhere - supplying our whole offense and putting the team on his back. Prospal had two big assists - one of them a beautiful no-look backhand pass from behind the net right to Gabby's stick on the edge of the crease. If Vaclav (that's his name) and Marian can get hot together again - they sky is the limit for this team.

Your Returning Rangers produced as well. Sean Avery assisted on the first goal. And Marc Staal had a career night - playing almost half the game - shutting down whichever Colorado players were in his path - and earning 2 big assist on Gaborik's 2nd and 3rd goals.

The Kid Rangers helped with an assist by Artem Anisimov. We noted that Del Zotto was kept off the ice for much of the 3rd period - but with his plus-minus you can understand why.

Defense on Offense? Two assists.

In conclusion: We really needed this one. And to the Ranger’s Credit – we rose up and got it.

Firing The Cannon: The Rangers just about completed a trade to remove Ales Kotalik from the lineup. Kotalik – who has a cannon-like slapshot but a plus-minus that was like an anchor around the team’s neck – has been sent home awaiting the final announcement. The reported deal was to Calgary for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust – with Kotalik being sent along with either Chris Higgins or an unnamed defenseman (please God, let it be Redden – or Rozsival). But the trade wasn’t finished yesterday – and now we’ll have to see if it ever happens at all.
Next Up: The Western road trip concludes in Los Angles Tuesday against the Kings at 10:30 NY time.
Where We Stand: In the middle of The Clump the win boosts us back from 12th to 8th. We're tied in points for 6th and 3 points out of 13th.