Monday, January 30, 2012

Hat Trick for All Star Gaborik

The NHL All Star game. It's like a hockey game.

Sort of.

I mean the box score shows a total of one hit. One. And zero penalties. So the best players in the world skate into the offensive zone unabated (editor: Dude?) (Dave Pucks: It means so one tries to stop them) and there are dozens of quality chances on the goalies.

So - when Marian Gaborik skated in on Ranger Teammate (but All Star opponent) Henrik Lundqvist, I'm sure he flashed back to his 5 goal game against Hank back when he played for the Minnesota Wild.

Sure enough - Gaborik scored the first and 3rd goals of the contest. Both against Lundqvist on Sunday. And he opened the 2nd period with his hat trick goal once Lundqvist had taken a seat for the day.

But the funniest moment was on Gabby's first goal. After scoring he immediately lifted his stick like a rifle and pretended to squeeze of a shot at Hank. He was imitating an infamous moment earlier this season when Artem Anisimov did the same thing in a real hockey game - inciting the opposition and turning the game into a war and eventual Ranger loss. The series 24-7 captured Artem's awkward apology to his teammates for causing the trouble. Gabby found the perfect way at the perfect time to reshape the tough moment into something positive. Anisimov – watching at home must be feeling like everything is okay now – that all is forgiven and that it's time to move on.

Anyway – Gaborik had 3 goals and an assist and won the game MVP. Girardi had an assist. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 9 of the 12 shots that came his way.

A fun diversion – a little break – but now the rest of the season gets underway. Our Rangers are way up high in the standings. And so our expectations.

Here we go.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets (lose to Rangers 3-0)

Dos Nueve! That's what we here at Blueshirt Brothers call Chad Johnson - a goaltender in the Rangers minor league system. That's because the football player Chad Johnson changed his name (hilariously) to Ocho Cinco. So with the Ranger's Chad Johnson having number 29 - we call him - Dos Nueve!

Marty Biron was slated to get the last Ranger start before the All Star Break - but came down with that nasty flu that everyone and his (or Payton Manning's) brother has been catching.

And so the Rangers sent a call out to Chad Johnson to pack a bag and head to New York City and the circular arena they call Madison Square. With Henrik Lundqvist expecting the day off - would our man Chad get the call?

Sadly, no.

Tortorella went with Lundqvist. And the Dave Pucks household (big Chad fans) did the opposite of rejoicing. Pucks Junior asked if we should root for a minor injury to Hank - and I quickly dispelled the thought. Do not bring any bad karma on Lundqvist - don't play with fire - be careful what you wish for (and so on).

Anyway. All this flu and the Chad thing had more drama for me than the game turned out to have.

The Jets (the NHL jets) are just not that good. (Don't get me started on the football jets). And, amazing, our New York Rangers are - to my great astonishment - One Of The Best Teams In The NHL.

And so - Hank reset his mind from "vacation" to "hockey night in New York" and simply went out and recorded his fifth shut out in the Rangers 3-0 win.

Henrik's teammates did most of the work - scoring three times and limiting Winnipeg to just 22 shots on goal. You give Hank 3 goals and just 22 shots to handle and you are going to win a lot of hockey games.

There were Ranger goals for captain Callahan, Mitchell, and Brad Richards.

And assists for Stralman, Boyle, Del Zotto, Stepan, and again, Callahan.

So - another win - another 2 points - and another day high up in the standings.

And we're at the All Star break now - so the Rangers get a chance to contemplate their unexpectedly success so far and recharge their batteries for the 2nd half of the season.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dos Nueve!

Chad Johnson in uniform tonight as Hank's backup - as Biron not dressing tonight
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Thursday, January 19, 2012

3-0 (the good kind) - Rangers Beat Nashville

Hi friends. Your pal Dave Pucks is still in Dublin – squinting at his internet feed trying to see Ranger games as best he can.

In our latest contest – Dubinsky returned – Hank returned to form – and the Rangers once again were in a 3-0 contest – this time on the plus side.

A good and recent pattern has emerged – we out hit and outshoot our opponents. Against the Nashville Predators we out hit them 36-27. And we out shot them 28-27 (just a little bit).

When you do that – and play aggressive smart defense – you are setting the table for Henrik Lundqvist to win the game for you. And win he did, registering a 1.000 save percentage, stopping 27 shots, and bouncing back after a rare 4 goals-allowed game to shut out Nashville 3-0 (a familiar score, no?)

There were goals for Cally, Girardi, and Mitchell – who continues to show he belongs with the big leage club. Assists for Gaborik (nice to type his name) and Hagelin (the two fastest skaters on the team)

There were a mammoth 7 hits by Callahan, and 6 hits for Brian Boyle, and 4 for Michael Del Zotto (who also led the team with 23 minutes of ice time. We were a perfect 3 for 3 on the PK and 0-2 on the powerplay.

We’re once again leading the league in points – and I still don’t like it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dave Pucks - In Dublin?

Oh my.

Yes friends, your faithful reporter has had a bit of a shock this morning.

In addition to rooting for the New York Hockey Rangers, I am also an avid and rabid fan of the New York Football Giants. And with this past Sunday being one of the best Football days I have seen since – well – since the G-men downed the 16-0 Patriots – your pal Mr. Pucks decided to celebrate the 37-20 improbable win over the (best ever?) Aaron Rogers and the 15-1 Green Bay Packers by stepping out for a quick beer at a local establishment in my Sean Avery t-shirt (within staggering distance of the Puck residence).

I remember ordering a Guinness. I remember toasting the Giants. I remember more Guinness. I remember toasting Sean Avery. I remember getting a bit emotional wondering what ever had happened to my old friend Nugman. I remember reminiscing about getting in an argument with him once where he said that the Guinness in Ireland was 100 times better than the Guinness anywhere else in the world.

Then there was more Guinness and my recollection of events starts to get sketchy at that point. I remember some crazy talk coming from me about flying over to Hartford to give Sean Avery a pep talk and tell him that no matter what the Rangers do (or don’t do) that he will now and forever be my favorite BlueShirt Brother. And, heaven help me, there was more of the dark and mysterious Guinness. Endless pints of it. And suddenly everyone was my best friend and no idea seemed too outlandish to try..

The memories come in very disjointed after that. There was an airport bar.

An airport bar.

And to my inconsolable despair – they were ….

Out. Of. Guinness.

(Not at first – but eventually)

Then it gets bad. Or more accurately, then it goes blank.

I remember some kind of plane ride – and then finally – well – Guinness. And then…..

I’m not proud of this. I’m not even sure what happened.

But as Gordie Howe is my witness I woke up this morning in a hotel.

In Dublin.


Yes friends, that Ireland.

And so, well, until I can raise some funds for a safe return (and patch things up with Mrs. Pucks) your faithful reporter will be corresponding with you from the original land of Celtic pride.

I will get you some photos of Irish landmarks in my Sean Avery t-shirt so you will know this sad adventure is in fact on the level.

Anyway – as New York karma goes – the Giants won, so it wasn’t the worst day to slip in a little Ranger loss. And lose they did – to the Montreal Canadiens.

Not much to say about this one:

We are 1-2 without Dubinsky. We outhit the Habs, but only 26-25. Shots were even at 29. Michael Del Zotto had no shots, no hits and a minus 2. Joining him at -2 were Stu Bickel and Mike (punch-man) Rupp. But at a lowly -3 we find: Wolski and Newbury and we suspect that at least Newb’s was on his way down to Hartford before the Rangers boarded their bus.

You want some goodness? Well, after waking up some 3,000 miles from my intended destination, so do I. Mitchell had a goal, 2 shots, and 4 hits. Girardi also had 4 hits and an even plus-minus in a heroic 29:27 of ice time. Staal continues back with 19+ minutes and a relatively un-awful -1.

The Hankster? .862 save percentage – his second dip in a row. Just 25 saves. Powerplay and p-kill even at 0-1.

And that, friends, is all my aching head can manage to type about right now. Somebody send me a game feed web address so I can watch us attempt to right the ship against Nashville. If you want a reason to watch – here it is: Hagelin will likely skate with Gaborik tonight – uniting the two fastest Rangers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Boyle, Rupp and Biron - Rangers win 3-0

Prust and Boyle. Together again. Last year these two were awesome on a line together – forechecking – digging – and keeping the puck away from whoever they were playing against. Last night – for the first time in a long time – John “the mad line-tist” Tortorella messed with his lines again – this time putting P&B back together again,. The results?

The first goal in 23 games for Boyle – an assist for Prust and great play for both against the Leaf's top line.

Torts also went with “1a” goaltender Marty Biron – who once against turned in a tremendous effort – shutting out Toronto and getting the Ranger back on track.  And got an assist in addition.

Ranger Hockey has a real brand this year – it means we out-hit and usually out-shoot our opponents. And last night we out hit Toronto 48 to 39. And we outshot them 30 to 20. If you do that – and if your goalie plays well, you're going to win a lot of hockey games. And we have.

The Rangers started off the scoring in the 2nd period with an Odd Man Rush goal. And you can't get much odder men than Mike Rupp – the career enforcer who is suddenly gotten a scorer's touch – and Wolski – who wasn't even on the NHL club a few days ago. Those two and Stepan did some nice back and forth passing before Rupp ripped one past Gustavsson for the 1-0 lead.

Boyle's goal came on a 49 foot bomb that found the net through 3 pairs of Maple Leaf legs that Jonas Gustavsson only got a good look at after it was behind him.

The final goal came in the third. Marty Biron started it – with a great long pass to the rookie Hagelin. The former Michigan Wolverine turned on the jets, advanced the puck and fired a perfect pass to Derek Stepan, who moved in, and buried the back-breaker.

It was 3-0 Rangers – more than enough for Marty B.

What a season the Ranger's back up netminder is having. He stopped all 20 shots he faced last night upping his record to 8-2 this year – giving the Rangers a huge boost and Lundqvist a nice day of rest.

Elsewhere in the box score: Only 1 SOG for Gaborik, but 3 hits. Brad Richards: 1 shot, 1 hit. Marc Staal had 18:53 of ice time with 2 shots and 2 hits as he gradually returns to top form. What you have to like about this team is that we have many ways to score goals – even when the top players and the top lines go cold. Our defense has been a constant – our hitting and blocked shots our identity. And our offense, wherever it comes from – has been enough to put us over the top.

We're good. We're 28-10-4. We have 60 points on Jan 14th.

And yes, I'm still having trouble believing it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Night Of Badness - Our 10th Regulation Loss

The Senators always play well against us. And they are a hot team right now psyched up to play the top-pointed club in the NHL - which amazingly is us.

We out-shot Ottawa 34-24. We out-hit them 37-21. In other words, we gave ourselves a legitimate chance to win the hockey game.

And we started off flying - at one point putting a barrage of 12 consecutive first period shots on their goalie, the honorable Senator Craig Anderson.

After a great chance by Derek Stepan - a big tasty rebound found the stick of the recovering Marc Staal, who is recently back from a long concussion-injury layoff and looking for his first goal of the season. How perfect would it have been for Staal to notch one to put the Ranger's up a goal in their attempt at an eight consecutive win?

Marc sent a nasty 11 foot backhander at Craig Anderson. But - the Senator from Ottawa handled it. And he kept on handling the Ranger's offense for the rest of the night.

It's hard to win if you don't score - and in the end another Ranger win streak ended, this time in a 3-0 loss to a team that almost always finds a way to beat us.

Gaborik, notably, had zero shots on goal, no hits, one give-away and a -1 for the night. Boyle, Richards and Stepan launched 4 shots each. 8 hits for Boyle - the highest total for a single player I can remember this season. 4 hits each for Callahan and Prust.

Hank had a very ordinary .875 save percentage - the lowest I can remember him having in a LONG time.

We were 0-4 on the powerplay and let in a power play goal in 2 kill-attempts.

So, a night of badness, and our 10th regulation loss. But - with 27 wins - it's hard to complain. We ended one win streak. Let's try to get another one started.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mr. Smith comes to Gotham

26-7-4. First Place in the NHL. Unbe-freakin-lievable. The Ranger bandwagon rolls on with a 2-1 ShootOut win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night at Madison Square Garden.

You have to admire the Coyotes. Outshot 32-19, out face-off-ed 33-14, and out hit 39-29, they hung in, keeping the Rangers off the board for the first two periods and fighting back for the equalizer in the third. And the reason was one guy: goaltender Mike Smith

Smith was stupendous and kept Phoenix in the game. Through 65 minutes of ice time he out-saved Hank with a save percentage of .969% to Lundqvist's .947%.

The key moment - in the last 2 minutes of overtime Marian Gaborik swooped in alone and Aucoin hooked him from behind. The refs blow (the whistle).

Penalty Shot!

And it all came down to Gabs and Smitty. The Gifted One pulled a triple move, leaving Mike Smith sprawled on his back - flailing his stick handle at the left post as Gaborik lifted the puck...

In retrospect - Gabby may have been too cute. Had he just slid the puck along the ice it would have ended the contest. But Marian anticipated a low stick and lifted the puck. Smith anticipated Gabby's anticipation and kept his stick handle off the ice. The result....

"Thwack." Smith's stick handle found the puck.

Play On!

And play on they did - right up to the shootout.

In round 2 - Radim Vrbata broke through with a perfect 10 foot backhander that beat Hank and the Rangers were suddenly down to their final shot.

And - once again - it was Marian Gaborik one-on-one with the game on the line. The G-Man skated full speed at Smith - most likely unnerving him - but certainly getting his full attention - as he launched a 12 foot wrister that tied the shootout at 1.

After that it was scoreless until the 6th round - when Derek Stepan did what I think everyone should do on shootouts. He pulled up and shot from 13 feet out - and scored.

So it came down to the Coyote Captain and the Swedish King. Shane Doan put it on net - Hank stuck out his pad - and the Rangers had won their 7th straight contest.

There was one regulation goal - for Feds - which nearly won the game for us - and assists by Boyle and the speedy Hagelin.

Another night – another way to win.

Enjoy the standings folks. We haven't been this high up this late in the season since the mid 1990s.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ranger Beat Pens 3-1, Topping the League

So much for skating under the radar.

Your New York Rangers have assembled a big Blue target on their backs as they win their 4th in a row and 9th win in 10 games. And here we sit – 56 points – and way atop the Eastern Conference standings, a full 3 points ahead of 2nd place Boston as I type this. We're the only team in the only team in the NHL without double digit losses. We're the over-all point leader.

I mean – I wanted to be good – but not this good. At least not this good this early. I mean – as a Ranger fan – I'm conditions to scan the middle of the Eastern Conference standings to see if we're in 8th place. From that 7 year stretch where we didn't make the playoffs my next reflex is to look at the bottom. And it is only then, confused and perplexed that my eyes will wander up the standings to find us all the way at the top.

Okay – enough nervous venting – on to the game. The Aquatic Birds (who are somewhat harder to hate without Sid Crosby) started the game with a barrage – hoping to exhaust the Rangers who had won in OT the night before while the 'Guins had 5 days rest. Pittsburgh had 11 of the first 12 shots and held the Blueshirts SHOTLESS for the opening 10 minutes. And is was Henrik Lundqvist who kept us in the game – making several massive saves and only surrendering a single tally to Ben Lovejoy (how would you like that last name?) at 5:43.

Later in the first, the Penguins had tired themselves out and the Rangers struck back as McDonagh worked the puck down low to the resurgent Dubinsky – who found Richards alone on the doorstep for a

hockey's version of a layup – tying the score at 1 and visibly deflating the Penguins – who had thrown everything at the Rangers and had little to show for it.,

Our defense continued to hang tough and at 3:09 of the 2nd period, Dubinsky cashed in on a shorthander and the Rangers had their first lead.

The in in the 2nd minute of the third period Marian Gaborik caught Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out of his net (Marc-Andre – how could you!) stole the puck, and found himself with a nearly impossible shot from the red line. Still – being super-human, Gabs launched one that hit the post. And the hockey gods rewarded The Gifted One as the puck bounced straight to Stepan who took a second try at the still-empty net and made this one count. The Pitt-Pens could get no closer and your Rangers climbed to 26-9-4.

Goals (as mentioned) for Gabs, Dubs, and Step. Assists for Cap-Call (Callahan), Dubs, Girardi, and McDonagh. Plus 3 for Girardi and McDonagh. 4 hits for Bickel, Callahan, Dubinsky, Prust and Rupp.

28 minutes of ice time for Girardi. And for the returning Marc Staal 15 minutes, 3 hits, and one shot on goal. When Staal returns to form – this impressive defense will only get better. And just think what we'll look like with Sauer back as well.

We out hit the Water-Wings 35-22, and outscored them despite being outshot 35-22. And in a rare face-off advantage we won 40 and only lost 25. (Richards won 18 and only lost 5).

So to sum up – Dave Pucks is a happy guy – Rangers win – and all's right with the world. The Rangers may not be under the radar any more – but they're thriving in the spotlight – at least for now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

25-7-4 - Rangers roll past Panthers 3-2 in OT

Your faithful reporter Dave Pucks has been a Ranger fan for a long time. And it has been a LONG time since we've been perched atop the eastern conference at 25-9-4. Thirty Seven games. Only 9 regulation losses.

Frankly - it's disrupting the natural flow of my life. I'm used to complaining. I'm used to misery. All this goodness has me just a little....


But I'm not complaining (or am I?). Anyway - I'll adjust.

Last night the Rangers - fresh off a triumphant come-from-behind win in the Winter Classic against the unliked Philadelphia Flyers - found themselves home against the Panthers - a team they also played just before the Classic.

In typical fashion - the Rangers fell into an early hole as Marty Biron (subbing for Hank) let in a goal to Goc four minutes in.
It was Stalman of all people who tied the score at 17:44. And it sat at 1-1 for 27 minutes of game time.

In the 3rd period - stop the presses - the Rangers scored a powerplay goal. Richard played the point - his natural slot - for just the 3rd time this year - and it worked. It was a Richards-launched laser that Captain Callahan deflected past Clemmensen to put the Rangers up 2-1.

But less than a minute later Santorelli knotted the teams up again - at 2-2.

On to overtime - where the GAS line finally mattered again. Marian Gaborik blasted one at 3:29 off a rush to sound the buzzer and end the game with a 3-2 Ranger win.

The Rangers out shot the Panthers 41-21, one of their wider margins of the season. We were 1 for 3 on the powerplay and stopped florida on their single man advantage. And we outhit the Panthers 50 to 30. That's fifty hits.

There were assists for Fedotenko, Richards, Girardi, Stepan and Del Zotto.

Biron faced just 21 shots, saving 19. Clemmensen stopped 38 of 41.

And so our Rangers sit today and 25-9-4, one point ahead of the Bruins and four points ahead of the Flyers in the Atlantic division. And I am as happy as can be.

But I'm still a little confused.....

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Success in South Philly - Rangers beat Flyers and Referees 3-2 in Winter Classic 

That.  Was.  Cool.

The New York Rangers hung tough and overcame so many different obstacles to win the Winter Classic 3-2 Monday on South Broad Street.

1 –The Rangers overcame the outdoors.  Citizen Bank Park introduced the elements to a hockey game that very few NHL players have had to deal with: cold, bad ice, crazy-bounce boards and wind (!) for example.

2 – They overcame a 2 goal deficit with 25 minutes to play.

3 – They overcame the most hostile environment they're ever likely to face: nearly 47 thousand screaming Philadelphia fan(lun)-atics.

4 – They overcame a talented, motivated, gritty (and ultimately, evil) Philadelphia Flyers team.

5 – And shockingly – they had to overcome some of the worst refereeing you are ever likely to see in an organized sport (or an NHL game, and there is a difference).  I wish I could say the refs were having a bad day – but it was much worse than that.  The league seems to hate the New York Rangers and were not at all shy about showing it.

Ranger Coach John Tortorella went so far as to call the officiating "disgusting", saying that the league and NBC were conspiring to send the game into overtime.  Glen Sather added "You see three or four calls [in the third period] that are enough to blow your mind".

First of all - the officials were ignoring Flyer infractions left and right.  But then – with an empty net and the Flyers trying to even the score in the last 2 minutes – Ryan Callahan was tackled from behind by with no one between him and an empty net.  Any rational person (or hockey fan, and there is a difference) was thinking "penalty shot" – but apparently the officials were watching the game in some alternate universe where cats and dogs are line-mates and the time-space continuum does not apply.  At first the zebras actually thought about giving the Ranger Captain a penalty for taking a dive ("Crosby-ing") but they quickly realized that this would be too absurd for even them to let stand.  So they made it a "stick-holding" minor"!  On Callahan!!  Talk about blaming the victim!!!

And then – to top it all off – with the Rangers about to win and the NHL about to lose its Winter Classic audience for the year – Ryan McDonough was whistled for "covering the puck in the crease" (which sounds like a euphemism for something nasty).  The only problem was – Ryan hadn't covered anything – he swatted the puck away from the Ranger goal.

And so with 19 seconds to go the referees exited the rational universe and decided, just for fun, to award Philadelphia with a penalty shot.  A penalty shot.  The same penalty shot they just stole from Callahan they are now awarding – falsely – to Scott Hartnell – as John Tortorella's head looked about ready to explode.  But – in epic fashion – Hank stoned Hartnell – the Rangers won – and good triumphed over evil in South Philly.

And that's not even the best part.  Marc Staal – our long lost concussed defensive all star – returned to the ice for 12:41 and 20 shifts.  It was like seeing an old friend out there and had this not been the Winter Classic – Marc's return would be the top headline of the day.  Staal skated with several different defensemen – including reuniting with Girardi.  It may not be the best place to put him now – but wow, was that a sight for sore eyes.

Hank was nothing short of spectacular on the big stage, stopping 34 shots for a .944 save percentage, besting the .909 of Bobrovsky.

And get this – it was Mike Rupp (a.k.a. "punchman") who scored the first two Ranger goals to knot the game at 2.  Rupp's first, in the second, ignited the Rangers – as he mocked Jagr's earlier goal celebration by saluting the Flyer bench.

And in the end it was the below-the-radar superstar- Brad Richards – who netted the game winner in the third.

Assists for Callahan and Dubinsky – plus two each for Mitchell and Prust.  And once again in a game we were outshot and out-face-offed – the Rangers emerged triumphant.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rangers beat Panthers – but Lose their Soul

Okay – so the Rangers bounced back and beat the Panthers 4-1, but I don't want to talk about that today.

I want to talk about Sean.

There were goals by Carl (speedy rookie) Hagelin, Brad (finally bouncing back from a slump) Richards, Michael (plus-minus superstar) Del Zotto and Brandon (finally waking up) Dubinsky. But I don't want to talk about that today.

I want to talk about Sean Avery.

There were assists by McDonagh (2!), Callahan, Woywitka, Richards, and Hagelin. But I don't want to talk about that today.

I want to talk about Seanny

There were 5 hits by Girardi, and 4 each for Bickel, Boyle, and Fedotenko. But that's not what I want to blog about.

I want to talk about Aves.

There was a masterful performance by Henrik Lundqvist, with 28 saves and a .964 save percentage – but I don't want to talk about goalies today.

I just want to talk about my favorite player.

Look – I like John Tortorella. I think he's a good coach and has brought a real sense of work ethic and accountability to this ranger team. But I have to say – cutting Sean like this – a week after Christmas – and hiding it on a Friday morning before New Years – where he knows they'll be less questions from the press – well, it's cowardly. It's mean. And it's a classless way to treat a player that lived, breathed and bled for the New York Rangers.

This is clearly a personal not a personnel decision. The coach hates the player – event though then player can clearly still play.

Bad job Torts. Bad job Glen.

So, Avery has since cleared wavers and will return to the Hartford Whale. And I will be in the uncomfortable position of not knowing whether to root for or against my favorite hockey team.

There will never be another Sean Avery – and even if we win the cup this year – without my favorite hockey player there to hoist it – it will not feel the same.