Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hope and Crosby: Rangers don't give up - hang on to beat Penguins 4-3

It takes Hope to beat Crosby. 

It takes belief.  It takes effort.  It takes 60 minutes of determination and guts.  And on Tuesday night - the Rangers showed just enough of each of those qualities to win 4-3 in a streaky up-and-down contest.

Once again there was trouble from the start - the good kind of trouble.  Sean got into it with Kennedy 16 seconds into the contest.

Than, as Pucks Junior so aptly put it, Sean Avery, embarrassed by having his initial fight downgraded to a roughing penalty, rushed out of the box and earned himself an official 5 minute fighting major at 5:21.  Each of those penalties were offset by Kennedy in the box - but the Rangers did suffer through 4 penalties in period 1.  They killed the first 3, but when Lundqvist himself got tagged for roughing at 16:36, this time the Penalty Kill unit couldn't get through their 4th kill.  One Crosby assist later and the Pen had a 1-0 lead at the first break.

Trailing at home after one, the Blueshirt Brothers rose up against a quality Penguin team in a 10 minute span in the the 2nd to notch 4 unanswered goals:

1 - the first was by Captain Callahan off a great feed by the Gifted One Marian Gaborik.  It was, as Sam Rosen likes to say, a powerplay goal.

2 - Mitchell!  Welcome to the NHL.  The rookie center - off a great hand off by Hagelin - notches his first tally in the big leagues.  I can't believe how this duo has jumped from Hartford to the House like they always belonged here,

3 - Richards netted his 9th and the Rangers were rolling at 3-1

4 -  And the Gifted One notched his 11th - once again on the powerplay.  And for the briefest of moments it looked like the route was on.

Of course - nothing comes easily in Rangerland - so of course the fellow let up a goal with just 7 seconds left in the 2nd and we're at 4-2 in the break.

The third period, predictably, featured another Crosby assist, and a nervous 4-3 lead with 16:21 to play. But a funny thing happened on the way to a Ranger collapse:

They didn't. They hung tough.

Instead it was the Penguins who got sloppy, committing 4 straight penalties in the last 8 minutes to prevent themselves from generating any kind of offensive momentum. By the time the last Pittsburgh penalty expired – the Rangers had just 54 seconds to muddle through to hang on for the victory. In the third we couldn't score 5 on 3, and we missed an empty net, but somehow we held on – limiting the penguins to just 3 shots on goal in the final frame.

It was something of a great win for New York – because like a pitcher who doesn't have his best stuff -
we proved we could win anyway over a quality opponent. Hank was mortal tonight - stopping only . 889 percent of the shots he faced. But the team rallied in front of him – outhitting the Aquatic Birds 43 to 23, winning a stunning 40 of 57 faceoffs, and, in the end, outshooting the shooters 30 to 27.

A great win for what appears to be a very good hockey team on the rise. Will they keep it up? Can they achieve greatness?

Well, we'll never have Crosby – but right now we've got hope.


You start your season with a 7-0 run and get to 12-9-1, 2nd place, 3 points behind the red hot Panthers. Your team has the 5th highest goals per game average in the NHL. So, if you're a General Manager, what do you do? You fire your coach of course.

That is exactly what GM George McOhee did to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau on the Monday after Thanksgiving. And so the bold and portly Capitals coach is out – after parts of 5 seasons as Ovechkin's coach. Bruce was hoisted aboard around Thanksgiving of 2007, and now, at the same time of year 4 years later, he's tossed over the side rail.

Did he deserve it? There's not much of a case

1 – The Capitals are the 29th team in goals-against average, letting up 3.3 tally's a game.

2 - Four exits from the playoffs – twice in the semifinals and twice in the quarters.

And that's it really.

So the main reason Bruce was let go is this: The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals have won the SouthEast division 4 straight years. And so – the expectation is that they should win the Stanley Cup. They haven't.

It's a simple as that. Boudreau is a victim of raised expectations.

Still, Bruce was an inspiration to older fatter balder men everywhere. We'll kind of miss him.

Good luck Bruce.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brawling Etiquette, or Did I Just See What I Think I Saw?

I didn't notice it the first time.

 Or the second.

But the third time I watched the replay of Brandon Prust take on Zac Rinaldo - causing a stoppage just 4 seconds into Saturday afternoon's game with the Flyers - I finally saw it.

"Pruster" as Ranger coach John Tortorella affectionately calls him and Rinaldo first exchange words. Then they drop their gloves - and then the really odd thing happens:

They both take off their helmets.

I don't recall ever seeing that before. I've seen one player take another player's helmet off - to make it easier to punch the other guy in the head. In fact, Mike Rupp (before he got hurt) in a fight this year pulled off his opponent's headgear deliberately and clinically before he began throwing punches - like he was literally opening a can of "whoop-ass".

But players dropping their own helmets after dropping the gloves? That I have not seen before.

What is it? Fighting etiquette? An act of common courtesy – directed at the guy you're about to punch in the face? A show of courage? An attempt to protect a fellow fighter's hands by offering your own softer head for him to pummel?

Whatever it was - probably some weird combination of the above, Prust and Rinaldo both did it simultaneously. Then they proceeded to swing each other around and hit each other in their un-helmeted heads.

And in doing so, Prust accomplished several things at once:

1 - He sent a message to Zac Rinaldo – the same guy who gave Mike Sauer a separated shoulder back in September.

2 – He kept Sean from entering a fight of his own. Seanny is still on shaky ice right now - so this is good.

3- He totally pumped up the Rangers (not to mention the MGS crowd) to get the game started.

4 – He served notice to the tough Flyer team that our Rangers would not get pushed around.

I know that in my Ideal Hockey World – there would be no fighting. What kind of message does this send Pucks Junior as he watches his heroes settle their disputes by escalating the violence?

But – in the jaded, complex, shades-of-grey NHL world we live in – the sport polices itself- and brave smaller guys like Prust show their courage through willingness to take on all comers. I don't pretend to understand it all – especially this taking off your protective headgear prior to fisticuffs stuff – but I can see how Brandon Prust's fight inspired and ignited his team. And I can see that the coach approves.

So – I will learn to adjust to this Helmets-Off Etiquette thing - but for God's sake, Brandon - please keep your Hockey Pants on at all times!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From Hartford to Hat for Hagelin - Rangers beat Flyers!

When the Rangers played the Flyers on Saturday afternoon, one big question was how long the bitter rivals could go without a fight breaking out.

The official answer? 4 seconds.

Our man Sean Avery looked like he was about to get into a scuffle of his own at the opening face off – but the small but feisty Brandon Prust beat him to the punch (Editor – literally) by taking on Zac Rinaldo, throwing a series of circling bombs, earning himself a 5 minute major and, eventually, the 3rd star of the game honors.

Facing a Flyers team who had only lost twice on the road all year, playing a day game after a night game Friday, the NHL's league leading defensive team grabbed a 1-0 lead on Brad Richard's powerplay goal, and never looked back.

GAS Line – after a hot night in DC Friday – Gabs, Artem and Stepan were shut out Saturday – which is okay when their teammates pick them up.

Man-Up! - Special teams often make the difference in NHL games, and this time – the Rangers had the advantage. Our powerplay was 1 of 2 – and the Rangers scored early in the 2nd period on a great powerplay sequence. First of all – the Rangers remembered to SHOOT THE PUCK for a change, getting 5 shots to the net in 26 second span that the start of the 2nd period. At the end of that barrage (Editor – what is a barrage?) (Dave Pucks – it means lots of shots), Girardi and Del Zotto delivered puck perfectly to Brad Richards and the Rangers newest sniper buried a 19 foot one-timer past Sergei Bobrovshy to get the Rangers on the scoreboard. And as it tuned out...

Between the Pipes: …that one goal was all we would need. The Ranger's league leading defense (Editor – is that correct?) (Dave Pucks – you're the editor – check it) (Ed – I can't believe it – but it's true) never let the Flyers score. Henrik Lundqvist was his MVP self once again, stopping all 29 shots that came his way. Bobrovshy saved .938 of the 32 shots the Rangers launched at him – enough to win most games against most teams – but not Saturday night. This was the first Ranger win on Special teams since November 6, scoring once in two tries with the man advantage and killing off all 3 shorthanded situations. The Richards goals would have been enough but the Rangers got a huge second goal from....

Ranger Rookies: Carl Hagalin, who scored his first NHL goal in just his second game since being called up from Hartford. Assisted by Whaler linemate John Mitchell and Ryan McDonagh, the rooks played well and received praise from John Tortorella in the port game press conference. And best of all – Carl earned the Ranger victory hat! What an amazing climb – from Hartford to his first NHL goal and Hat honors – in less than a week.

Say what you will about Sather and Torts – if they don't like what they're seeing on the ice they will not stand pat. It wasn't all that long ago that the Connecticut Rail line was closed – with no rookies ever getting to the top club – but more recently our farm system has been called on over and over again and has produced.

Minute Men: Girardi again led the way with 27:26 of ice time and 29 shifts. And Captain Callahan led the forwards with 19:04.

Offensive Defenseman: This was a night for the back liners: Assists for Del Zotto, Girardi, and McDonagh. When the defensive unit shuts down the opponent and generate s 3 points – they are going to win a lot of hockey games.

Avery Watch: One shot, one hit, playing on a line with Prust - and Dubinsky!. It was Eric Christensen who had the healthy scratch. We're cautiously optimistic that Sean has earned a spot on the team – at least for the moment.  And yes - we are 9-2-0 with Seanny.  

Also of note: Several seconds before Richards scored - Ryan Callahan also nearly had a goal of his own – but the replay correctly ruled that his had used his hand – rather than his stick – to direct the puck in.

So – two very nice wins over quality teams and rivals to get us back in track. We close out November on Tuesday when Concussion Crybaby Sidney Crosby and the Penguins come to town.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

1 Goal, 50 Hits, and Lots of Errors - Ranger fall to Panthers


The Ranger's 7 game win streak suddenly seems like something that happened to a different team in a different, better, season. It's been 9 days now since the Rangers have beaten anyone. Our hockey team lost 2-1 last night to the Florida Panthers – scoring just 1 goal against Jose “Three-Or-More” Theodore and casting doubts about our offense, our identity, and our season. For today's analysis – we'll go with The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: There were several bright spots:

1 – Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers' best player once again kept them in a hockey game where they were badly outshot. Hank made 36 saves with a .947 save percentage – letting up one one even strength goal. Another wasted stellar performance, more than good enough to win most hockey games for most teams on most nights – but again not enough for this hockey team to win with last night.

2 – Marian Gaborik made a nice play to grab an assist on the Lone Ranger goal – stick handling in the offensive zone, drawing skaters to him and making a perfect feed to...

3 – Derek Stepan – who took the Gabroric pass and found the upper right corner of the net to open and close out the Ranger scoring for the night. And for the week, actually.

4 – Hits. The Rangers delivered 50 hits last night – most of them legal (we'll explain later) – with Dubinsky leading the attack with 10 of his own. The aggressiveness is good – the opportunity to hit is partially due to the long stretches where we don't have the puck.

The Bad:

1 – Artem Anisimov was running on empty – dragging the GAS line down with him. The top line center (for the moment) looked silly as he got faked out by Flieschmann down low to Lundqvist's left for the Cat's only even strength goal of the night.

2 - Ryan Callahan - the Captain keeps committing harmful penalties and it was during his 4 minutes (not Deveaux's major) that the Rangers gave up their special team's difference-making goal.

The Ugly:

1 - Andre Deveaux collected 10 of the Rangers 16 minutes in penalties last night – all in one nasty dangerous elbow-to-the-head of the Panther's Fleischmann midway through the 2nd period at center ice. Tomas was down on the ice for several scarey minutes before getting up under his own power – and even eventually returning to the game. Deveaux was correctly assessed a 10 minute Match Penalty – and will likely face suspension by the league office. This was exactly the type of head shot the NHL is finally getting around to caring about. Panther coach Kevin Dineen called it a perfect example of “what's really wrong with the game”. If you want Dave Pucks opinion – I don't like intent-to-injure tactics by anyone in any league and I was very unhappy to see a Ranger do something like this

2 – Man-Up! Ranger Special teams lost the game last night. When we started the game the Rangers had the 28th worst powerplay unit in the NHL.  And when the game was over?  We dropped to 29th!  The PowerPlay was a pointless 0-4 including some 5-on-3 time. And our Penalty kill was 3-4, not terrible, but when you get outscored on special teams in the NHL you lose. We did, and so we did.

A Few More Notes:

Avery Watch: Just: 7:07 of ice time. Not good. No shots. No hits. 1 take-away, 1 give-away. (In Biblical terms: Sean giveth and Sean Taketh Away). 2 Penalty minutes. And an even plus-minus. Oh, and when someone had to serve the 10 minute Match Penalty for Deveaux, who do you think Torts sent to the penalty box? Our Seanny.

Stralman - finally - got his first Ranger ice time – after waiting since November 5th to play in a game. 10:26 of ice time, 3:25 on the powerplay, a plus-minus of +1, and 2 hits.

So as they eat their Thanksgiving Dinner, the Rangers can think about what went wrong in their last two games. Is it the natural ebb and flow of the season, or is it something much worse? Did the Rangers look good against weak competition, and is their poor special teams play exposing them against the better teams? We'll all find out together as the season rolls on.

Happy Thanksgiving from Dave Pucks, Pucks Junior, and the whole Pucks family! We hope you come out of the that nasty scramble in the corner with a drumstick or two.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Bye Week is Over! Rangers Finally Face Florida

Hey – there's a Ranger Hockey game tonight. Just like in the old days.

After playing – and winning - 7 games in 16 days – your Rangers have played exactly one game – a loss to Montreal – since a week ago Tuesday. It felt a little like the bye week in the National Football League. Let's hope out heroes made good use of the time off, resting the injured, and practicing the Power Play and their offense in general

But finally – we have a real live opponent to face off against: the Florida Panthers.

Our warm weather foes lead the Southwest Division with a record of 11-6-3. Their last game was a thoroughly enjoyable come-from-behind win over Martin Brodeur and that Newark team named after Satan (New Jersey Devils). The Panthers were down 3-0 and stormed back to win 4-3.

Florida has the leagues 8th highest Goals per game average at 3.0. Their goals against is 11th best at 2.4 . We would love to have their power play stats: they are 7th in the league with a 20% scoring rate. Their Penalty kill is middling at 82.1% (16th overall).

The Rangers brought some wounded teammates along on the Florida trip. Mike Rupp, Wojtek Wolski and – for the first time – Marc Staal – flew down with the team. This is really the first ray of sunshine on Staal for the longest time. He's been cleared for light activity – and now is at least able to walk around and talk with his teammates. It took about 10 months for Crosby to return to the Penguins – but for Staal we have no idea. The thing with Marc is – we don't know where the clock starts – from the Eric Staal hit, from the end of last season, or what?

Anyway – having him along with the team on this trip was a very classy move by John Tortorella. He may not be long on patience or one-on-one people skills – but he respects and protects his players in important ways. I don't have to work with the man every day – but form this distance – I like him as our coach.

Stralman Watch: Anton Stralman – who the Rangers signed November 5th and seem to have forgotten about since then – practiced with the team on Tuesday – most notably with the powerplay unit. Considering that we are 28th in the NHL on powerplay goals – I'd say we should try anything and everything at this point. But if I could add a small suggestion, Stralman or otherwise, it might help the Rangers to SHOOT THE PUCK a little more often in the Man-Up situations. Just putting it out there.

So, on to Florida to see if we can snap this brutal stretch of 7 days without a victory (just one game of course, but still) and get moving again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Avery demoted to 4th (The BAD Line)

That didn't take long.

Ranger GM Glen Sather and the man he hired, Ranger Coach John Tortorella, agree on many things. But Sean Avery has never been one of them.

Back in 2008, when Sean was kicked off the Dallas Stars for using the term “sloppy seconds” to describe two of his famous ex-girlfriends (Elisha Cuthbert and Rachel Hunter), John Tortorella, whom was a commentator for TSN at the time, had this to say:

"Enough is enough. Send him home. He doesn't belong in the league."

And when Glen Sather re-hired Avery the Ranger GM had this prediction for John Tortorella's relationship with Sean:

“Over time you learn to love him.”

It is now November 2011 and where Sean Avery is concerned, Torts is a slow learner.

John cut Sean in training camp – and sent him down to Hartford, the Ranger's AHL affiliate. We thought we'd seen the last of Avery as a Ranger – but when the Blueshirts skidded to 3-3-3, Glen pulled the trigger one more time and Sean was a Ranger once again.

And after scoring goals in consecutive games Sean was rewarded with ice time and a promotion to the 3rd line.

But, over the weekend – the Rangers were shut out by the Canadiens. Sean Avery had a shot on goal and a plus minus of zero – about as well as you can do in a 4-0 defeat.

The result: John Tortorella demoted Sean from the 3rd to the 4th line.

In practice Monday, the Rangers 4th line looked like this:


Yes – we see that by arranging the initials we can call this the BAD line – and it is a bad step in Sean Avery's season. Because, after a series of positive steps – from Hartford to a healthy scratch on the Rangers, to the 4th line to the 3rd line – Sean has slipped down a notch. And at this tenuous moment in his career – there aren't a lot of notches left.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Heading in the right direction: Marc Staal cleared for light physical activity

The Rangers won't confirm any of this - they never do - but we are reading that Ranger defenseman Marc Staal - who has missed the entire season with post concussion syndrome - has finally been cleared by concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu to resume "light physical activity".

The NHL in general - and the New York Rangers in particular - do not like to give a lot of information about player injuries - often keeping the public diagnosis as general as "upper body" or "lower body" injury.

It always seems kind of over-secretive and silly. But there is an unfortunate logic to this tactic. It's a league where players hit one another - slash each other with sticks - and get in lengthy fist fights with each other during games - it puts your players at a distinct disadvantage to tell their opponents where their injuries are located. (It's like placing a sign on the injury that reads "hit me here")

In the case of Marc Staal - there is not a whole lot of information flowing out of midtown. But if Marc is cleared for light activity this is very very good news,

Still - if you're thinking Marc is close to resuming his season - think again. Sidney Crosby is finally getting set to return 6 weeks after getting cleared for contact. Marc Stall is NOT cleared to get hit - only to skate around.

So we are looking at months and months before any possible return for our top defender.

Still - it's great news - not just for the Hockey player - but for the human being. (And yes - there is a difference)

Because we can guess that Marc's life has been a living hell. There's nowhere to hide from a brain injury - you can be in a distressing mental fog for months. If Marc can skate again it means his symptoms are starting to subside - at least when he's sitting still. And that's a very welcome turn of events - even if Staal never gets back on the ice this season - or - well, let's not go there just yet.

Anyway - good luck Marc - and continued improvement.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

To Hab and Hab Not - Win Streak ends at 7 as Rangers fall 4-0

Well - it was fun while it lasted.

What had been a 7 game Ranger winning streak ended in with a 4-0 defeat in Montreal to the Scott Gomez Canadiens. We ran into a northern buzz saw tonight – a red hot Hab team that extended goaltender Carey Price's shut out streak to 132 minutes at our heroes' expense. Ex-Ranger Scotty Gomez, who has been on the hot seat in cold Canada recently for not producing enough for his top line status and Salary Cap hit, had a bounce back day with a pair of assists. The Rangers have traditionally had troulbe in the Canadiens home ice – and tonight was no different.

So - suddenly - our Rangers have gone from the hottest team in the NHL to a club that hasn't scored a goal since Tuesday.

Torts gave the net tonight to Marty Biron. A smart move actually, as this gives Hank more than a week off - a rare opportunity in the NHL where they play 10 months of meaningful hockey games - usually 3 time a week. Even in retrospect – if Hank had been there we might have lost 2-0 instead of 4-0, but a loss is a loss (of course of course).


Really? If you're looking for highlights in a 4-0 defeat, well, okay - I'll see what I can do:

- Your Ranger officially out hit the Habs 28-15. There. So at least we didn't go quietly.

Beyond that - uh, not so much.

Sean Avery had a shot on goal and had a plus minus of zero on the night - that's about as well as you can play in a shutout loss

Low Lights: If you're looking for the bad – there's plenty. For starters the Rangers had only 17 shots on goal. You won't win many games like that. Marty Biron had a save percentage under .900 (stopping 27 of 31 for .871). The Ranger PK let up 2 goals on 6 tries and our Powerplay was shut out in 3 attempts.

John Tortorella summed it up this way:

"Don't look at our goalie, I'll tell you that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Our whole crew in front of him never had the puck and we were chasing the game. We never caught up to it."

What John means is that the Rangers didn't have the puck much on offense – didn't defend as well as we needed to – and didn't do much offensively when we did have opportunity.

Worst of the worst: Gabby, Richards, and Del Zotto and minus 2. Deveaux with 9 penalty minutes.

So, we'll have to let the win streak go at 7.

Final analysis: Our 2 main strengths this year - Penalty Kill and Team Defense – both let us down tonight. It's hard to win when you...

1 – get out shot by your opponent
2 – only get off 17 shots
3 – Don't score
4 – Let up 4 goals
5 – Get shut out on the powerplay
6- Let up 2 goals on the penalty kill

Still, we're 10-4-3, and we'll take it.

Next Up: We play the Florida Panthers on Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday). Let see if we can get the road trip to 2-1.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stralman: "A Ways Away"

The New York Rangers went to the trouble of locating, wooing, (editor - "wooing"?) (Dave Pucks - you know what I mean) and then signing a journeyman defensive player - Anton Stralman - to shore up a perceived weakness in their defensive top six.

Stralman played for the Toronto "Make-Believes" for about half of 2 seasons from 2007-2009, then played for Columbus the last 2 seasons. Unloved as a free agent, Stralman tried out for the (hated) Devils in camp this year but failed to make the team. So naturally Glen Sather pounced, and the former Blue Jacket is now a Blueshirt.

And then as soon as Sather signed Anton - on November 5th - he took this new weapon in the Ranger's arsenal and did....


Absolutely Nothing. For close to 2 weeks now.

Anton certainly hasn't seen any ice time. Or bench time for that matter.

Anton has been working out with Ranger staff - but not with the actual hockey team.

And how have the Rangers done without him? Uh - perfectly. Seven straight victories. A goals-against average well under 2 goals a game. A defensive performance that is clearly superior to what we had last year (when we had a healthy Marc Staal).

So is Stralman close to joining the Rangers team? Let's see what John Tortorella has to say:

"He's still a ways away. I still think there's some work to do there. I don't know what the lineup will be in Montreal, but I still think we have a number of things to accomplish with him."

So there you have it – Stralman is signed, sealed, and delivered – but not exactly ours. At least not yet. But if the Rangers ever lose another hockey game – expect Torts and Sather to start pushing whatever buttons they have.

And right now – one of those buttons is named Anton.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aaron Voros? Seriously?

Aaron Voros?

Dude, Seriously?

How is that for a blast from the ghost of Ranger past? (Editor - you're mixing metaphors) (Dave Pucks - you're ugly - leave me alone)

What Happened: The Rangers announced Tuesday that their minor league AHL affiliate - the Hartford Whale - has signed former Ranger Aaron Voros to a 21 day PTO. (Editor - a PTO is a professional try out).

During the 3 weeks, Aaron will have a chance to show he's still got enough talent to play in the NHL. And if the Rangers don't sign him, other NHL teams will have that chance as well.

For those of you who don't remember – Aaron Voros was a Ranger forward for 2 seasons: 2008-09 and 2009-10. He appeared in 95 games, amassing 211 penalty minutes (more than 2 minutes a game). He also managed 11 goals and 12 assists in that span. After that Glen Sather traded Voros for Defenseman Steve Eminger (who scored a goal for us in the Islander game - by the way).

What Does It Mean: it could mean one or more of the following things:

1 - that Rupp is a long way from returning to the Rangers and another tough guy is needed.

2 - that Tortorella is still unhappy with his 4th line and wants some more choices - even if it's just to manipulate some better play out of Christensen and Deveaux.

3 - it's just doing a solid for a former Ranger - to showcase him for a job elsewhere.

What Does It Mean For Sean Avery: that's the bigger question to Sean-atics like me. Well let's see:

The Voros signing could be bad for Sean - he's brings that same toughness the Rangers get from Aves. And any competition for forward spots is not good.

But let me stop myself right there - I'm probably worrying about nothing here:

Voros is one of Sean Avery's best friends. He and Sean and Lundqvist own a restaurant-bar together Tiny's and the Bar Upstairs that opened last year. The restaurant is located at 135 West Broadway in the Tribeca district of southern Manhattan. So it may have been Avery who asked the Rangers to give Aaron a showcase at the Whale – to give him a chance to catch on with an NHL club - maybe even the Rangers.

Voros replace Avery? I can't see it happening. But we will be watching and hoping for the best for an old friend who once pulled on the Blue Jersey, fulfilling his childhood dream, and skated for our New York Rangers.

Good Luck Aaron. The Blueshirt Brothers will be rooting for you.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rangers stand tall as 'Slanders fall – that makes 7 in a row!

Here's Dave Puck's initial piece of analysis: Wow!

Seven. Wins. In a row.  (Are you sure this is the NY Rangers were talking about?)

Your New York Hockey Rangers are flying right now, defeating their long time rivals the 'Slanders by the score of 4-2 (Editor – no one knows what that means) (Pucks: everyone knows that I mean the New York Islanders) – and gaining some revenge for a defeat in Nassau on October 15th.

The Gas Line: Gabs, Anisimov and Steps, played really well – again – generating 9 shots including some great chances - but could not find the net. Still – they occupied the Islanders top defensive duo setting things up for the other lines to roll

The Richards Line: Yours truly was massively disappointed when John Mad Scientist Tortorella quickly moved Richards off the Avery line and back between Callahan and Dubinsky – especially after letting Aves and Brad practice together for 2 days. But the move sure worked. Richards: +3 and the game winning goal – breaking a 2-2 tie late in the third period. This is exactly why we brought him here and the move is looking brilliant (Can you believe how good Sather looks on this? I can't believe I just typed that). Callahan had the empty netter and an assist. And Dubinsky added an assist (he waited 15 games to notch his first goal – and he'll have to wait at least one more game for his second).

The Avery Line: I would have loved to have seen Seanny have some real ice time with Richards – but it was not to be – as Torts put Boyle with him and Feds for most of the contest. But no matter – Avery took another huge step forward in rehabilitating his season (and let's face it – his Ranger future) with another huge goal – snapping the 0-0 tie for the 2nd straight night with a 19 foot wrister – off his own rebound. Sean had a plus 1, 2 shots, 2 hits, a fight, and 7 penalty minutes in 11:57 minutes of ice time– the first of which was off an absurd call by the officials (the good news here is that John Tortorella sided with Aves on this one). Boyle had the assist on Avery's goal and 4 hits, and Fedotenko added a hit of his own.

4th line: one hit each for Prust and Christensen.

Man Up – Our powerplay is this season's most notable failure. The Rangers again failed to score on the Power-play – missing on some 5 on 3 time no less – and yielded a Power-play goal against while shorthanded. We're not complaining during a 7 game win streak – but if the Blueshirts ever start delivering when up a man – watch out!

Blue Line Blueshirts: make no mistake – this defense is winning these games for us. Another night of 2 goals or less. A big goal and a plus 2 night for Eminger. 27+ minutes for All Star Girardi. An assist for McDonagh and Sauer, and a plus 2 night for Woywitka. 4 blocked shots for Del Zotto

Crease Monkeys: The defense is helping him – but when called upon Lundqvist continues to make the very special save – keeping the Rangers afloat when they have lapses in the defensive zone. 31 saves, and a .939 save percentage – Hank could easily be the star of the game. Again.

Next Up: It's a too-long 3 days off and then a Saturday night contest in Montreal.

In conclusion: We're undefeated in November and undefeated with Sean Avery. And we beat a cross-town rival that always plays us tough.  I don't want to even peek at the standings this early on (but we're just 2 points behind the Penguins with 2 games at hand). There's still plenty to work on (and a few days to do just that) but you can't argue with results. John Tortorella has coached his club to 10-3-3. We'll take it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Mr. Avery - I have Brad Richards for you - on Line Three!"

I will say this about Ranger's Coach John Tortorella – he rewards hard work – in real time. When he sees a player hustling, fore checking, back checking, making things happen, John will give that player more ice time and move him up the ladder.

And so, when Sean Avery contributed a goal, 3 shots, an early fight, and a plus 2 night against the Hurricane on Friday – John took notice. And then he took action.

And so – when the Rangers skated in practice today – here's how the lines looked:


Yes – we all can see it. Sean has climbed off the fourth line and is now skating on the third. And what does it mean, exactly? Well, it means a whole bunch of things:

1 - It is sure to mean increased minutes for our favorite instigator. Sean will get a real chance to prove himself now

2 – It means Aves has climbed up over Deveaux, Christensen, and even Prust (our fireplug who has unfortunately been hurting this year). Which also means that as other forwards get healthly, Sean won't be the first to go.  He's top 9 now

3 – Sean will be skating with the best Center on the team. Brad Richards – our “top line” center is skating with Sean on the 3rd line. And what exactly, does that mean? Is Richards being demoted? He has the 2nd highest point total on the Rangers with 12 (trailing Marian Gaborik who has 15). His 5 goals trail only The Gifted One and Cally. So Brad's numbers look good – or do they? On a team that has 12 more goals than it's opposition, Brad is at minus 2.

So there is some question here: is this the 3rd line – or the 2nd? In a way it doesn't matter – Sean, Brad and Feds will be whatever their numbers say they are.

And by the way - seeing how well our naming the GAS line has gone (everyone has been using it) - we'll give Avery's new line a name too.  How about the StarLight Line - because Feds, Aves and Richards are all former Tampa Bay Lightning or Dallas Stars players (Brad is both).

However you look at it – this is a huge opportunity for Avery to claw his way back from the dead to a permanent position on this hockey team – the only team Avery has ever really wanted to play for.

As a 4th liner – and the last man called up – Sean was in perpetual danger of having his dreams yanked from under his skates and ending up back at the Hartford minor league affiliate. But Friday night changed that. Sean has an all star Center to play along side of – the best center Avery has ever had the opportunity to skate with.

Step 1 was the recall from Hartford. 
Step 2 was being activated. 
Step 3 was getting in an actual game. 
Step 4 came last week with the goal and the promotion.

How many more steps does our 31 year old Seanny have left in him? Well start to find out Tuesday night against the (hated) Islanders. But Avery has a real shot now – it's up to him to make it count.

I know Pucks Junior and I will be watching and rooting for Seanny with everything we've got. And I'll bet you'll be doing the exact same thing.

Come on, Aves, one more time, for all the old times.

What the Deuce? The Rangers Defense allowing less than 2 goals per game!

It's not Rocket Science.  There are two ways to improve as a hockey team. One is to score more goals. And so far, despite the high priced addition of Brad Richards – and the bounce back year of Marian Gaborik – and the unexpected offense of Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers offense is not scoring more goals than last year. After 15 games, the Ranger attack is performing more or less the same as we did in 2010-2011. Our Goals Scored Per Game average is 2.74, just a few Dubinsky facial hairs above last season's 2.69.

So then, why have we won 6 in a row?

No one else seems to be talking about this - but the big difference this year – surprisingly – has been the Ranger defense. (And remember - you heard it here first). This defensive surge is occurring even though:

1 - The Rangers have been playing without their top defenseman Marc Staal (who has been suffering from post concussion syndrome ever since s nasty blow to the head by his evil brother Eric), and

2 – Henrik is a year older, and

3 - Top four defender Mike Sauer missed five of the current fifteen Ranger games games due to injury, and

4 – the Rangers have been outshot in the majority of their games.

In spite of all of this, somehow, the New York Rangers have let up, on average, LESS THAN 2 GOALS PER GAME.

It's true. The current average sits at an amazing 1.95 GAA. They've only allowed 30 goals in 30 games (plus some overtime periods). That 30 goals ties them with Edmonton for the league's fewest goals allowed this year.

This stellar defensive performance is, so far, the best GAA the Rangers have posted in at least 6 years. And you can't just attribute the whole thing to Lundqvist, because, incredibly – in three starts – back-up backstop Marty Biron's save percentage and GAA is BETTER THAN HANK's

Why is this happening? Here is what we're seeing:

1 – The Ranger defense is forcing their opponents to the outside – clearing the middle of the ice – and pushing shots to the edges where the angles are worse and the goalies have a better chance to see the shots and control them.

2 – The Rangers appear well coached – organized - and resilient in their own zone. They are rarely out of position and efficient at clearing the puck.  (I know, it's hard to believe, right?)

3 – Our shorthanded minutes are down while our Penalty Kill success rate is up at over 88%.

4 – Dan Girardi, finally out from under Marc Staal's shadow, is quietly turning in an (mostly unrecognized) All Star caliber season, routinely shutting down the opposition's best lines and logging an unreal 30 minutes of Ice Time a night.

5 – the whole team, including the forwards, are just plain hustling back and working hard on defending every shift.

Put this all together and you get the best defensive hockey I have ever seen our Rangers play. It's still early but the 2011-2012 Rangers have already put together an identity – and that identity is about keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.

It may not be Rocket Science - but Defense wins hockey games and if our Blueshirts can keep their blue-liners playing at this high level, there's no telling how high this team can fly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Avery scores! Dubinsky scores! Rangers get 6 in a row!

It was just a few short weeks ago that we thought we'd never see Sean Avery pull on the blue jersey again.

But tonight - we got to see him score his first goal of the season - a breakaway roof shot that beat Cam Ward from the doorstep. The Garden rose as one to welcome their crazy gritty champion back into their Ranger hearts.

And with just one lapse by Henrik in the second period the score stood knotted at 1 midway through the 3rd when the Rangers rose up - took over the game - and extended their winning streak to 6.

It started with Girardi - who we suddenly - belatedly - finally - realize is a home grown all-star defenseman. The G-man first drew a high stick from the Eric (worst brother since Cain) Staal - and then capitalized on it soon after. As Sam Rosen surmised: It's a Power Play goal and the Rangers took a 2-1 lead with about 9 minutes to go. It was good.

But it got better.

9 seconds later - the puck found the stick of the goal-less Brandon Dubinsky (not "Pointless" like the Daily News says - if you're gonna borrow Dave Puck's terminology - please use it correctly). Dubi's eyes got real big as he saw nothing but net - fired the puck and then - as he finally got his first goal of the season - Brandon looked skyward and release a yell of simple joy and relief before getting mobbed by his teammates.

A wonderful moment.

But, it got better.

2 minutes later a rejuvenated Dubinsky won a long battle for the puck in the right corner - carried it behind the net - and got in position to shoot. A mad scramble ensured - capped off by Captain Callahan banging the puck in from point-blank to make it 4-1.

And yes - it got better still.

Minutes later an alert Brad Richards (with Sean Avery promoted to his line) stole the puck from the Carolina Goalie behind the net, wheeled around and stuffed it home.

Queue the goal song - it was 5-1 and the Rangers were rolling.

And who started it all but our own Seanny - back from the dead - back on Ranger home ice - notching his first goal of the year - and starting to look like the Avery we know and love.
And - for one night anyway - all's right in Ranger land.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Staal Brothers – recast as Cain and Abel

And The Lord made Canada and the National Hockey League and saw that it was good. And on the Seventh day he rested, as it was Hockey Night in the Garden (of Eden)

And Adam, after a great many Molsons, knew his wife, Eve, and they had two sons: Eric and Marc (Staal).

Now Eric spent his days shooting pucks and throwing elbows, while Marc toiled at the blue line.

One day Eric brought an offering to the Lord of a used Zamboni, and the Lord was not pleased and gave Eric a Five Minute Major.

Marc brought an offering of an authentic Rangers Jersey and the Lord saw the beautiful Blue Shirt with classic Red lettering and saw that it was good. Wicked good, in fact.

This angered Eric, and when he emerged from the holy booth of penalties, he smote Marc in the head until he was concussed.

Then the Lord said ”Eric, were is thy brother Marc, eh?"

And Eric said, “I don't know, am I my brother's goal keeper?"

And the Lord said to Eric” What have you done, you hoser? He is your brother, and the Ranger's best defenseman. I had chosen Marc for my Fantasy Team and now, Al Trautwig, who has chosen Ovechkin, is going to win for sure.”

And Eric said, “I did not realize that his head was such an important part. After all, he's a hockey player”

And the Lord grew angry and said ”Eric, you are under a curse and must toil forever in a hot southern city where no natural ice ever forms – to be forever plagued by a demon I shall call Sean Avery”.

Anyway you get the point. It's going to be weird when Eric Staal and the Hurricane play Friday night at the Garden because:

-Normally - when a player returns to MSG for the first time after injuring one of your players - you think about a little revenge.

-Especially when the victim is your best defenseman.

-Especially when the injury is to the head

-Especially when the effects are still being felt half a year later - as Marc still can't practice without the headaches returning.

-And Especially when it was a cheap shot - a gratuitous hit to a vulnerable player with clear intent to injure.

But this time it's different. This time the villain is the injured player's own brother. So, obviously, Marc wouldn't want the Rangers to retaliate.

Would he?

And if you're not attacking Eric – what are you saying to him. Asking how his brother is doing? Relaying best wishes through the guy that hurt him?

The whole thing is too weird to contemplate. And as awkward as it will be Friday night – just imagine how it will feel around the Staal Thanksgiving table this year.

Anyway, get well soon Marc. And Let's Go Rangers!

Five For Fighting: Battling Blueshirts take 5th Straight in Ottawa

Victory abroad!  Our Rangers traveled to Ottawa Canada and came out with a well deserved 3-2 win. Unlike our last meeting where the blueshirts tossed away a third period lead - this time we (just barely) protected our lead and won.

The Gas Line - yes - you heard the name here first: Gaborik, Anisimov, and Stepan are the G-A-S line - not just for their initials, but for the way they keep the hockey pedal to the metal - shift after shift.  On a night  where all other Rangers forwards were even or minus one, the Gas Line was an outstandng plus three.

The first goal was a great Stepan feed to Gaborik on the right side that the Gifted One easy slammed home.

The second goal was an interesting one.  Anisimov, who appears reborn on the wing, took the puck to the side of the goal mouth and - accidentally or on purpose - left it there as he cut across the crease.  The Senator's goalie stayed with Artem, not noticing that when Anisimov seemed to shoot - he no longer had the puck.  Stepan followed and was able to tap the unattended puck into the net from a foot away.

The third goal, in the third period, came on an odd-man rush.  Gaborik thought about getting fancy-passy but in the end fired it at the net himself and scored the eventual game-winner.

All told, Gabs had 2 goals, Stepan 1 goal and 2 assists. and 2 assists for Anisimov.

Offensive Lines:  elsewhere, the Ranger lines struggled offensively - and so John The Mad Shuffler Tortorella moved his lines around.  He put Prust up with Dubi and Richards, and dropped Captain Cally to join Feds and Boyle.

CreaseMonkeys: Henrik, once again, made some outstanding saves, outplayed his counterpart, recorded a .935 save percentage, and was the difference in a night where the Rangers were again outshot - this time 31-19.

Man-Up: Only 3 penalties the whole night,  The Rangers were Pointless on their lone Ranger powerplay, but perfect in 2 shorthanded defenses.

The Great Defenders:  the Blueline crew continues their stellar play.  Girardi again the workhorse, McDonah the surprise rising star, and Del Zotto returning to form.

SeanShots:  Avery tried to ignite himself and his teammates with an early fight - getting himself a 5 minute trade off penalty.  Beyond that he didn't get a shot on goal - and was the last trailing Ranger defensively on the Senator's 2nd goal.  He doesn't look like our Seanny.  I'm worried about him and his future with this team.  He's got a little window here to make a statement and so far, he hasn't,.

In Conclusion:  Well what do you know!  Our Rangers, after a 3-3-3 start have won 5 straight, are perfect in November, have found their top line and are looking like a team on the rise.

Future Foe:  on Friday it's Marc Staal's concussion-causing brother Eric and the Carolina Hurricane at the Garden.

Let's Go Rangers!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MEH Awards!

Hey - It's early November and time for the BlueShirt-Brothers Monthly Excellence in Hockey awards! Otherwise know as MEH!

So without further delay - the October 2011- MEH awards:

Award 1: Pleasant Surprise of the Month:


A- The Ranger Defense without Marc Staal
B -Ryan McDonagh - the offensive defenseman
C - MSG construction finishing On Time!

And the Meh goes to:

The Ranger defense. Take away their all star defenseman Marc Staal - let the Rangers get out shot on a nightly basis - have the Blueshirts lose the puck possession battle every night - and what do you get? A goals-allowed per game average that is BETTER than last year! Nothing short of stunning. And how about that stellar workhorse Dan Girardi - I think he's toiled in the shadow of Staal long enough - Dan is the man on defense.

That being said - Ryan McDonagh has been playing first line defense and has played at a much higher level than any of us expected. And when is the last time any heavy construction project in the history of New York ever finished when it was supposed to? So honorable mentions to our runners up.

MEH award 2: best Goalie

A: Henrik Lundquist
B: Marty Biron

Well, come on - it's gotta be Hank, right? Let's take a quick look at the October stats to lock this down....

October Records:

Hank 2-3-3
Marty: 2-0

Uh, really?

But wait - save percentage, right? That's the pure measure of a goalie's work:

Hank: .929
Marty: .963

Wow. So - reluctantly, the October MEH for best performance by a Ranger Goalie goes to the only Marty B we don't despise: Mr. Biron!

And finally - MEH award 3: comeback "playa" of the Month:


1 - Marian "The Gifted One" Gaborik
2 - Michael "+7" Del Zotto
3 - Sean "back from the dead" Avery

And the winner is:

We'd pick Seanny "gloves down" but his miraculous return was really an November event - so he loses on a technicality. And Gabby looks like his old self this year - skating faster - getting free and finding the back of the net. But we're giving the award to Michael Del Zotto.

Last year MDZ played his way off the team with uneven effort and more than his share of bonehead plays. And this year - given a small sliver of daylight by the Marc Stahl injury - has made this one count. His home run passes are much better chosen this year - his turnovers are way down. He's playing with intensity and (for him) relative smarts. And to top it off - Michael Del Zotto leads the Rangers with a mighty Plus 7 in October!

So there you have it - all winners are eligible for a free slice of Pizza at the Pucks homestead.

Thanks for reading friends and - Let's Go Rangers!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bad for Wolski - Good for Avery

Wojtek Wolski is no dummy. He saw his chance to play on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and worked hard in the off-season to make the most of it. Wojtek worked all summer with a renowned skating instructor – trying to get his speed and strength up to keep up with Gabs and Brad.

So, Wolski gave it all he had. He stretched his limits. He pushed himself to the brink. He asked more of his athlete's body than he ever had before.

The result: A Sports Hernia – an operation – and Wojtek is out for about a month.

I like the term “Sports Hernia”. It's like an attempt to macho-up the common old man hernia so that athletes won't be ashamed to have it. When I was a kid no one got Sports Hernias – so I suppose they are a new invention of the modern medical world.

In any event – it's bad luck for Wolski – and bad luck for the Rangers. But – it sure looks like good luck for Sean Avery. With the Rangers down a forward, Sean has some time to get his game going, and hopefully, stick with the club.

In the meantime – we wish Wolski the best of luck and a speedy recovery. And as long as he's getting operated on – maybe they can remove the “W” from the start of his name and replace it with a “V” so that everyone will pronounce his name properly....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jet's Shut Down and Out by Rangers 3-0

Once again – let's start with Sean. Unfortunately our favorite agitator had another uneventful 5 minutes. This time Avery had 8 shifts, 5:21 of ice time, and one hit. Nothing bad – but nothing Avery-esque (And I know that's not a word, okay?) (Editor: okay). And with the Rangers going so well, I don't see a reason for Tortorella to change up anything right now.

Okay – let's talk about the game itself. The Rangers rocketed through what looked like a classic trap game – the final contest of a homestand against a bad opponent after a modest win streak:

As a team: The Rangers outshot the J-E-T-S Jets 27 to 24, outhit them 24-23, and won the faceoff battle 37-27- once again reversing the bad trends we had seen earlier this year. And they only took 4 penalties to the Jets' 6.

Man-Up: On Special teams the Rangers were perfect on the Penalty Kill in 4 tries. And it was the power play that got the first Ranger goal, on a great feed from Del Zotto to Stepan in the 2nd period. The 1-0 Ranger lead was all they would need.

Pipe-Cleaners: Marty Biron is the unheralded MVP of this team. He's now 3-0 on the 7-3-3 Rangers, registering his first shutout – and stopping all 23 shots he faced. Pavelec had a .923 save percentage, stopping 26 of 28. That's good enough to win most nights – but not against last night's Rangers.

Hot Pockets: A Plus minus of +2 for: Anisimov, Gaborik, Girardi, McDonagh, and Stepan. 2 goals and an assist for the Gifted One, as Gaborik is thriving despite being separated from Richards. You can't do much better than being a factor on all 3 Ranger tallies. Also, Stepan had a goal and an assist, Anisimov had a pair of assists, and a single assist was notched by a resurgent Michael Del Zotto.

The Lone Ranger: Above and beyond all the rest of last night's heroes – stands marty Biron. You cannot underestimate the value of a 3-0 backup goalie. Not just for the boost he gives when he plays (we're just 4-3-3 without him) but also for the rest he's given Hank – which will pay off down the stretch and in the playoffs.

In the End: A well deserved shut out – a another huge night for the defense (imagine what we'll be if Stahl ever returns) and a sniper in Gaborik looking as good as he's ever looked. Not a bad night right now – a great finish to the homestand – and we'll take it out on the road later this week. I would have loved to have seen more from Sean – but other than that, all”s right with the world.

Let's Go Rangers