Friday, December 30, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

The Rangers closed out the 2005 portion of the season with a dissappointing OT loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-3. The winning goal was scored by Sidney Crosby on a rebound as the Rangers were trying to kill off a power play. The Rangers spent the entire OT period in a penalty killing situation due to penalties by Marek Malik and Michal Rozsvial. Malik's penalty was the killer, a dumb penalty taken at the end of regulation for arguing a non-call with ref Craig Spada. As Malik's penalty was expiring Rozsvial was given a penalty for clearing the puck into the stands, a disputed call. The refs were horrible the entire game with the most glaring being a phantom call against Ortmeyer that put the Rangers down 5-3 and led to Pittsburgh's third goal.

The Rangers three goals were all on power plays and they were three for eight as were the Penguins, on the power play. In all fairness the refs called some questionable ones on the Pens also. This new NHL better get this referee situation cleared up soon as it will defininitely impact the playoff positions. The NHL wants to save money. I have an idea, Go back to one referee a game. We don't need two incompetent refs competing against each as to who can call the most ridiculous penalty. Tom Renney was seen having words with the refs after the game but to no avail.

The Rangers goals was scored by Jagr, Rucinsky and Tyutin and each one tied the game. The Rangers were outshot 38-17 and rarely created any offense at even strength. The Prince played well in the nets and made some sensational saves as the Rangers semed to be somewhat lethargic especially with five on five hockey where the opponents zero in on Jagr. Petr Prucha who has played well the last few games was a non-factor.

So the Rangers finished the first half of the year, 39 games, with 49 points. Not bad for a team predicted to finish 30th in the league by most experts. This is due to the outstanding play of Jagr, who now has 61 points, the great goaltending of The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I. and the play of the Kamikaze kids especially on the penalty killing. They need to pick up scoring from Straka, Rucinsky and Rucchin for the second half of the season if they are to make the playoffs. They also need more solid goaltending from Kevin Weekes in a backup roll.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rangers 'Czech Mate' Islanders



Martin StrakaThe way the game started it looked like the Rangers were going to duplicate their loss in Ottawa. Two goals by Mark Parrish and Trent Hunter had the Islanders up 2-0 after only 7:09 of the opening period. Then Prucha on a breakaway, his 18th, pulled the Rangers within one and Jaromir Jagr tied it on a rebound, and after 12:32 of the first it was tied at two. The Rangers outshot the Isle's 11-9 in the first period but were outhit by them 14-4. It was ten hits to nothing before the Rangers decided to put a hit on an Islander. The Rangers key hitting forward Ryan Hollweg was benched for Ville Nieminen who distinguished himself early by taking two penalties, the second one was ten seconds after the conclusion of the first.

But the story of the game was Jaromir Jagr and his line mates, Straka and Nylander. They each had four points. The gem of the night was with the game tied at two in the third period. Jagr picked up the puck behind the Islander goal and fought off checks and hits to send a beauty of a pass to Martin Straka, who was to the right of DiPietro, in the slot, and Straka rifled it past DiPietro for the game winner. Poti, Nylander and Straka again scored the last three Ranger goals. The last two were breakaways as the Islander defense seemed out of position the whole third period. DiPietro should sue for lack of support.

The game was a great turnaround for the Rangers following Monday's fiasco at Ottawa. Jagr bounced back from his injury, with a vengeance, scoring the second goal for the Rangers, and assisting on the third, fourth and fifth. He dominated the game. Islander checkers were bouncing off of him and there were times the Islanders seemed to give him too much room and a lot of respect. The top line, reunited after a five game breakup, was outstanding, outplaying York, Satan and Yashin.

Fedor TyutinHenrik Lundqvist was the Prince again, making 23 saves to improve to 14-5-3. Fedor Tyutin played one of his best games of the year both on defense and offense where he picked up two assists. The Kamikaze Kids, Moore, Ortmeyer, Ward and Betts returned to their early season form causing all kinds of havoc against the Islander defensemen and creating some scoring opportunities. What more can be said of Petr Prucha, the fearless one? He turned the game around with his breakaway goal. His 18 goals are only six behind Jaromir Jagr's 24.

The win gives the Rangers 48 points, three behind the Flyers, who have two games in hand on the Rangers. More important, the Rangers are ten points ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers, who lost in OT to the Flyers. The Thrashers are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are twelve points behind the Rangers in the tenth hole.

ICINGS: The Flyers won their third straight road game on an eleven straight road tour. The Flyers have to go on the road because Disney's Holiday On Ice is at their arena. Shades of when the Rangers had to play their playoff games on the road because the circus was in town. The one piece of good news for the Islanders was that the Rangers helped them sell out last night. It was only the second sellout of the season. Sad. These guys want a new coliseum and with a fairly decent team and the smallest seating capacity they can't fill up the place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in Ottawa-Rangers Give til it Hurts



How else to explain last night's fiasco. The Rangers were in a giving mood. They kept giving the Senators opportunity after opportunity until it killed them. The Rangers were "credited" with ten giveaways which was kind. On the other hand the Senators were credited with thirteen takeaways mostly given up meekly by the Rangers. Make no mistake this was one Ranger debacle.

It started with Michal Rozsival turning over the puck and taking a penalty. It led to a power play goal by Dany Heatley and all this only 2:13 into the game. To the Rangers credit they stormed back with a tying goal by Martin Straka 43 seconds later and a go ahead goal by Prucha, the fearless, his 17th. But then it all collapsed as the Rangers continued to give the puck away and were outhustled by the Senators. The last goal by Ottawa was fitting, a clear out by Dominic Moore, on to the stick of Mike Fisher who buried it past Lundqvist. Lundqvist came in to replace Weekes after Anton Volchenkov's goal at 14:58 of the first period.

While Weekes was not the main culprit in the loss, Tom Renney passed up on a golden opportunity for a showdown between two of the top goalies in the league. Right now Hasek, The King, and Lundqvist, The Prince, are tied for second in GAA, each with a 2.11. Fernandez of Minnesota leads the goalie race with a 2.06. It was also a chance for Renney to see how far the Rangers have progressed against the top team in the NHL.

Renney said he was going with experience. We wrote about this experience thing early in the year. Henrik Lundqvist played all year in Europe during the NHL lockout. In 40 games in a select league in Europe Lundqvist had a 1.79 GAA. Renney is now coaching like he forgot it is a rebuilding year. Rebuild? You go with the young hot goalie over the experienced, but less steady goalie. The Rangers have now lost four out of five games and Weekes has been the losing goalie in three of those games. Granted, Lundqvist can not play all the games, nor do I expect he should. However, in the big statement type of games, he should be the goalie. The Rangers have to find out soon how far they have progressed and that progression must include Henrik Lundqvist as the goalie.

ICINGS: It was the kind of game that brought our penalty killers down to earth with a 3-6 penalty kill. The power play returned to its usual doldrums with an 0-5 performance. Jaromir Jagr sat out the third period after a collision with Chris Kelly of the Senators. Jagr is suffering neck spasms but should be ready for the Islanders Wednesday on the Island. Jason Strudwick continues to be the odd man out despite solid and feisty play while the Rozsival's and Poti's get ice time despite their soft and inconsistent play.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Twas The Night Before (A Ranger) Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Ranger Land,
The Blue Seats were rocking to the beat of the band;
The banners were hung from the rafters with care,
With the hope that LORD STANLEY soon would be there;
The owners were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of profits danced in their heads;

And Dolan with his spreadsheet and Sather with his roster,
Had just settled down for a game of canasta,
When up in the Luxury Suites there arose such a clatter,
Don Maloney went up to see what was the matter.
Away from the bench Renney flew like a flash,
To join Rod Gilbert in his holiday bash.

The TV cameras were tapping the spree,
When along came Sam Rosen and JD,
And what to their wondering eyes would be next,
But Jaromir Jagr and his cohorts, the Czechs,
With a little old driver who came to the haven,
Lo and behold, it was Stan Fischler, The Maven.

More rapid than eagles his players they came,
And he stammered and shouted and called them by name;
Now Hollweg! now Ortmeyer! now Ward and Prucha!
On, Nylander! on Kondratiev! on Rucinsky and Straka!
To the top of the Garden they dared not tarry!
For they did not want to miss 'Dancing Larry'!

Then they heard the crowd a rootin,
As along came Kasparaitis and Fedor Tyutin,
As they cheered aloud and were turning around,
From the ceiling came Mark Messier with a bound.
And his ex-mates, Mike Richter and Adam Graves,
He knew it would be tough not to behave.
And the newcomers looked on them in awe!

Betts and Strudwick and Dominic Moore!
They all knew this team played for keeps,
As in came Rucchin, Rozsival and Kevin Weekes!
This was the group they would get the most of,
They were joined by Orr, Poti, Nieminen and Hossa,
But they all knew it would be no cinch,
Even though they had Lundqvist, The Prince.

So they all stayed with the holiday tradition,
Knowing they had Malik the Magician.
They spoke not a word, they knew of the dangers,
As the crowd chanted, "Let's Go Rangers."
They cheered and they yelled as they enjoyed a good fight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Poti Shoots, He Scores-Yes Poti



Jagr congratulates Poti on his game-winning goalThis is not one of my fantasy columns. With 1:48 left in last nights game, Tom Poti blasted a rocket past goalie John Grahame to break a tie on the way to a 4-2 win at the Garden last night to put an end to their 3 game losing streak, all at home. While the Poti story is an uplifting story, for Christmas, the story was the overall team effort in general and the power play in particular.

Ah, the previously maligned power play. Last night it was awesome. Snapping out of a 6-65 funk the power play was 3-5. All it took was a little tweaking by Tom Renney. No, Jaromir Jagr was not on the point, but Martin Rucinsky was, along with Tom Poti. Renney also tweaked the penalty kill a bit with Martin Rucinsky getting regular shifts on the PK. Did you also notice that Jagr was also getting on the ice during the penalty kill? Yes, it was at the tail end, usually 15-20 seconds left but there was Jagr on the PK. Did you remember that the Ranger Pundit had proposed these moves in previous columns. Don't tell me that Tom Renney is not taking a sneak peek at the Ranger Pundit.

Renney continues to coach boldly. He benched Michael Nylander in the aftermath of his four penalty game. When was the last time a Ranger coach benched the first line center for poor play? In fact, when was the last time any coach on any team benched their number one center? The move paid off as the Straka-Jagr-Rucinsky line was relentless all night. The line took nine of the team's 36 shots. Rucinsky had a goal and two assists, Straka a goal and two assists and Jagr had three assists. Speaking of relentless, Petr Prucha continued to push his credentials for rookie of the year with a goal and led the team, along with Rucinsky, with five shots on goal.

Then there is the Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, who continues his outstanding play. He came into the game third among goalies with a GAA of 2.11 and improved on that by stopping 30 of 32 shots and is now 13-5-3. Basically out of a total of 42 points, he has brought in 29 for a .730 win percentage. Not bad for a rookie who was picked to the Swedish Olympic team. He was voted the number one star of the game, Jagr was number 2 and Poti was number 3. That is the first time that Poti has made the elite circle of stars. If he continues to play the way he did last night it will be a big plus for the Rangers on two counts. It will help the power play, the team and his trade value, if that's what Sather decides, will go up tremendously.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Birthday Rantings



Mike's 75th Birthday NY Ranger Cake
Today I am 75 years old. I was getting kind of impressed with the fact that I might be the oldest blogger. But lo and behold my son-in-law, who relishes in digging up the most impertinent of facts, found a 92 year old blogger in Tennessee, who has a tomato garden. Oh well, fame is fleeting and maybe I should start eating more tomatoes.

I usually spend my birthdays at Ranger games, they usually lose, so I was at the game last night. Naturally they lost. But they had a double whammy last night. My friend Paul was with me at the game. Over the fifteen years I know Paul we have gone to a few Ranger games but they also always lose when Paul is there. Paul is weird. He said the best part of the game was when the Rangers were killing penalties. They were 11-for-11. His theory was had they taken three more penalties they would have won the game.

My name was up on Sweet Spots last night, because of my birthday, thanks to my oldest son, and I missed it. I had to go where guys my age usually go when they are at a long event. Thanks to Ranger management for the nice presents. It is worth putting it up as the money goes to Children's Charities.

Speaking of the game, or pregame, why must some fool interrupt the National Anthem with the cry of 'Lets go Rangers?' And why must John Amirante insist on waving his hand to spur the crowd to cheer louder? John, this is the National Anthem you are singing not some high school song.

Talk about chants, when are we going to end the childish "Potvin Sucks?" Most of those yelling the chants have no idea who Denis Potvin is. Do they know why they are yelling the chant? Do they know that Denis Potvin was a key hall of famer on a team that won four Stanley Cups? Did they know that he personally won one Calder Memorial Award and three Norris Awards? Do they know what these awards stand for? Will me writing this cause them to stop? No. But they cheer wildly for Ron Greschner, who never won anything. He even lost the girl - to an Islander no less.

The Rangers have lost three games and have "manufactured by committee" (Renney's words) a total of three goals. Worst than that they have created very few scoring chances. In the last three games I would be hard pressed to remember an outstanding save made by the opposing goalie. Brodeur was leaving juicy rebounds all over the place last night and there were no Rangers anywhere near the rebounds. From where I was sitting it looked like Weekes over played Madden's attempted shot and was way out of position on Mogilney's game winner.

Renney continues to round up the usual suspects on the power play and it is not working. The five on five has not had any flow to it but that is understandable when the team is killing penalties and the number one and two lines usually sit. How about one or two of the top six players killing penalties? Don't you think Jagr with his rink savvy and long reach could kill penalties? Don't you think Martin Rucinsky with his speed could kill a penalty? We might even score a short handed goal. And I will continue to mention this in all my articles till the end of the season. Put Jaromir Jagr on the point for the power play and put the HMO (Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer) line on for the power play. We might have some action around the net and who knows, we might even score a goal.

A President once erased an eighteen minute segment of his personal tapes. Could we erase 16 seconds last night and 19 seconds the previous game to save two wins? I guess not. Even Santa couldn't do that.

ICINGS: So there was Mayor Bloomberg on TV yesterday afternoon bragging how his administration had prepared the people of New York with all the contingencies for the transit strike. Yeah, some preparation like walking across bridges and ten dollar cab rides. So you felt good Mayor? You should have been at Penn Station last night Mr. Mayor and seen the people herded like cattle, being shouted at by bullhorns and not having the slighest idea when and if they could get home. Leadership? How about putting the strike leaders in jail and threatening to fire the strikers. There was a President who did that once and it worked. He fired the whole union and replaced them and we never missed a beat. That's leadership, not counting on some judge to hand out a million dollar a day fine to the union. See what happens when you turn 75, you get ornery.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Panic? No! Concern? Yes!

Speaking about the inept power play, now 6-65, Tom Renney after making numerous comments ended them by stating, "I don't want to make the issue bigger than it is." I have news Tom and it is all bad. This issue, lack of power play scoring, will bring this Ranger team down to the lower echelon fighting for the last playoff spot.

"We have to score by committee, we have to manufacture an attack by other ways and means." What the hell is he talking about? Is there a new way to score goals that we haven't heard about? Renney is talking like he is absolved from any and all blame for this terrible performance. Of course, the five on five is not that hot either.

The Rangers are a team that plays on the perimeter. Renney wants them to crash the net. Who are the net crashers? With the exception of Petr Prucha the net crashers are all on the third and fourth lines. They are spending most of their evenings trying to disrupt the other teams power play. Last night they were 1-4. However, the margin is so tight that one goal was a killer. Joe Sakic scored that one and later came back to score on a penalty shot. The Rangers only goal was by Ryan Hollweg who rebounded a Jagr backhander.

Any hope for a quick fix evaporated for a while as the holiday eight day trading freeze went into effect last night at midnight. Any hope of trading Tom Poti to Anaheim for Petr Sykora will have to wait till next year. If the Rangers continue to stumble Brian Burke will be more difficult to deal with. The Devils are talking up the possibility of trading Scott Gomez but now that Larry Robinson has resigned as coach of the Devils, Gomez may escape the doghouse and come off the block.

Tomorrow's game against the Devils now looms larger with a three game home losing streak staring the Rangers in the face.

The Rangers have too many non-producers. Jagr admitted that when he said the team doesn't have many goal scorers. "How many 20 goal scorers do we have on the team?" Right now maybe two. Jagr and Prucha. Nylander hasn't scored in nine games, Rucchin has one goal in 13 games and Straka has one goal in 12 games and pray tell what is he doing as the point man on the power play? We are in a rebuilding year, correct? Then let's go full board and shock the team and the system by bringing up guys like Jarkko Immonen, centerman, 10 goals, twenty two points in 29 games and Thomas Pock, defenseman, 4 goals, 20 points. Let Rucchin and Poti sit for a while. Better yet, after the freeze, trade them both to Anaheim for Petr Sykora.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Too Long a Rest

There is a certain quiet in Rangerland as the team enjoys (?) its fourth straight day off from game conditions. I'm sure they are practicing but let's face it, it is not the same. On five occasions this year the Rangers have played a four game in six night scenario. They have also played five back to back games. Suddenly there is a four day lull. Who makes out this schedule? The Long Island Rail Road? So tomorrow they get back on the ice against the Colorado Avalanche who play the Islanders tonight on the island. So the Av's should be tired right? Wrong. The Av's will probably come out flying and the Rangers could be flat. Hope not.

Two hockey publications have come out with their power ranking and the Rangers continue to surprise. The Hockey News ranks the Rangers fourth behind Ottawa, Calgary and the Flyers. The comment from Hockey News, "Somebody has to say it, these guys are for real". InsideHockey.com ranks the Rangers fifth behind Ottawa, Dallas, Detroit and the Flyers. The Hockey News has Dallas fifth and Detroit sixth so they are pretty close on the rankings. Needless to say the Rangers are getting more and more converts as the season progresses. They need to keep up the steady improvement they have made this year.

Currently the Rangers are two points behind first place Ottawa in the Eastern Conference and are eleven points ahead of the Devils who right now are in ninth place which would put them out of the playoffs. The Islanders have 32 points and sit in tenth place. Jaromir Jagr leads the NHL in total points with 50 and is tied for the most goals with 23. The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, is third in GAA with a 2.11 surpassed only by Hasek, 1.99, and Fernandez 2.06.

However, if the Rangers are going to pull off a trade now is the time to do it while they are riding high. If they start to slip, they would be dealing from weakness not strength. So if we are going to get Petr Sykora now is the time to do it. Strike while the iron is hot.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Canucked! Rangers Talk Trade. Is Poti Going?

Petr Prucha tried to do it all alone offensively last night, and it almost worked.He rebounded a shot for a power play goal (yes, that is correct, power play goal) in the second period and then rifled one in the third and then clanged one off the post a little later in the third period. The first two goals were game tiers, the post shot would have given the Rangers the lead. Thanks to a poor defensive play by Michael Nylander the Rangers lost when Matt Cooke took the puck away from Nylander and buried the eventual game winner. The Vancouver Canucks beat the Rangers 3-2.

Prucha now has 15 goals, two more than Sidney Crosby and three less than Alexander Ovechkin. Prucha has scored nine goals in the last six games and twelve goals in his last twelve games. Add him to the Crosby, Ovechkin, Lundqvist sweepstakes for rookie of the year. He is absolutely fearless. Speaking of Lundqvist, The Prince played great, making 28 saves. He was victimized by his own team on two goals. Nylander on the game winner and Poti on the Canucks second goal.

Poti's name has now come up in trade talks with Anaheim over the possible acquisition of Petr Sykora, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. I originally voted thumbs down on a Sykora trade but trading Poti for Sykora would be an excellent move by the Rangers. In getting Sykora the Rangers would have a strong addition to the power play. Lets face it, Don Maloney would be a strong addition to this power play. The Rangers are now 6-62 in the last ten games on the power play with Prucha getting five of those goals. Tom Renney, are you sure you don't want to give Jaromir Jagr a shot at the point on the power play?

Poti's departure would be an addition by subtraction. The talk is that the Rangers would want an experienced defenseman to take Poti's place. Jason Strudwick who is now the seventh defenseman could move right in and either Thomas Pock or Ivan Baranka could be brought up from Hartford to fill the void. The time to move is now and Anaheim seems intent on unloading Sykora. The question is, will Sather make the move? Poti has always been Sather's fair haired boy. He drafted him in Edmonton and after the fans basically booed Poti out of Edmonton Sather traded Mike York to the Oilers for Poti. Poti was brought in to be heir apparent to Brian Leetch but Poti suffers much in comparision to Brian Lettch. Poti has been benched twice this year by Tom Poti. No way Glen Sather would ever bench him.

The Rangers have performed well on the ice this year. Much credit to the team and to Tom Renney and his coaching staff. Now lets see if Sather and Maloney can perform off the ice and bring in the players to make this team a playoff contender and then who knows what. But don't move any of the current rookies and youngsters to do this, because this rebuilding year is going along just fine.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More Magical Goals In A Magical Season



Patrick Lalime
My friends, who sponsor The Carnival, would have loved last nights Rangers-Blues game. It had everything but good hockey. The referees got carried away and called twenty two penalties from excessive breathing to intention to hold. It was ridiculous. The worst infraction was Petr Prucha getting hit from behind into the glass with his helmet flying off and nothing was called. The Rangers continued their futility on the power play going 1-9 and on this three game road trip were 1-22. Unless Renney fixes this fast this will soon cause this magic ride to come to a screeching halt. Anyone for Jaromir Jagr on the point on the PP? Fortunately the penalty kill unit came up big with a 2-13 night and Kevin Weekes was strong enough to get the win. Remember my admonition in my last column that this was a trap game. I was right, The Rangers, if not for three more magical goals, would have lost this game.

First it was Jaromir Jagr, in the circle to the left of Lalime, who put one in off of Lalime's right shoulder to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead, Then Petr Prucha, on a PP, to the extreme right of Lalime, put one in off of a Blue's defenseman's skate to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Mike Sillenger tied the game for the Blues with 7.8 seconds remaining to send the game into OT. Then came the piece de resistance. In a season of crazy, wacky goals for the Rangers this one rivaled Dominic Moore's tying goal in Florida. Crossing the blue line Rucinsky shot a rocket that hit the glass behind the goalie and then came back and bounced in off Lalime's back for the game winning goal. I guess you can say that Lalime had a trifecta.

The Rangers thus picked up five points out of a possible six and now have 44 points. They have won 9 of 11 games. Isn't it amazing that they struggled with the two weakest teams in the NHL and dispatched a top team, Nashville, with ease. Thank goodness most of our remaining games are against plus .500 teams. Seven against the Flyers, four against the Ottawa Senators, three against the Maple Leafs, five against the Islanders and four against the Devils. It's that kind of year folks. However, if we don't fix the power play, this house of cards could collapse. But let's stay positive. With the win and Ottawa's OT loss last night the Rangers are tied with the Senators for the most points in the NHL with the Red Wings two points behind. And as that famous Yankee radio announcer, the late Mel Allen would say, "How about that!"

Friday, December 09, 2005

They Came To Play

Whatever bad taste the Rangers had from their performance in Chicago the previous night ended at 12:31 of the first period last night with one of Jaromir Jagr's patented wrap around goals that leaves the goalie feeling like he was on one of those theme park rides that whips you around three or four times and then jettisons you. The Predators goalie, Tomas Vokoun, gave up one more goal to Petr Prucha and then called it a night with a knee sprain. His backup, Chris Mason, wasn't much better as the Rangers drilled him for three goals in a relatively easy 5-1 win in Nashville.

What made this win all the more remarkable was that Nashvile had won four straight, were 13-2-0 at home and their goalie, Vokoun, was 15-4-3. In fact, Nashville had only given up 63 goals in 25 games, second to Ottawa which has given up 52 in 25 games. The win ties the Rangers with Ottawa for the most points in the NHL with 42, though Ottawa has played six fewer games. The Rangers stretched their Atlantic lead over Philadelphia to six points as the Flyers lost to Edmonton last night. The Flyers have, you guessed it, four games in hand.

The goal scorers for the Rangers were Jagr, and two each for Petr Prucha and Steve Rucchin. Petr Prucha now has 12 goals. Sidney Crosby, the number one pick in the NHL, has 13 goals. Think about that. Prucha has spent time in the AHL and at times has seen limited ice time and yet has one less goal than the number one pick, Sidney Crosby. Also, Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capital phenom, has 17 goals. Remember also that Prucha has two winning shootout goals.

Jed OrtmeyerThe star of the night in my opinion was Jed Ortmeyer. The leader of The Kamikaze Kids was absolutely outstanding on the penalty kill. Nashville was 0-8 on the power play. The Rangers weren't much better at 0-4 as their PP woes continue. But the night was about defense and the penalty kill. Watching Ortmeyer hobbling on the ice after blocking a shot, making no attempt to get off and then coming back for his regular shift was the highlight of the game for me. Obviously he had help and the rest of the kids on the penalty kill unit were excellent. Dominic Moore, Jason Ward and Blair Betts were all strong with help from Kasparitis, Malik, Strudwick and Tyutin. Strudwick got into what seems like a nightly occurrence, a fight. I guess he is the designated fighter on the Rangers. He handled himself well against Darcy Hordichuk who looked agitated after getting nailed by Ortmeyer in the first period. I guess the goons don't like to be hit.

ICINGS: So on to St. Louis for one of those games that could be what they call a trap. The Blues have the worst record in the NHL, only 13 points and we are coming off a huge win, so beware Rangers, beware. The Rangers are 9-6-2 on the road and the Blues are 3-10-1 at home. Oh, by the way, The Prince made 30 saves including one beauty, a glove save on a Paul Kariya laser. But, we expect this from The Prince who is now 12-4-3 with a GAA around 2.0.

update
: Eric at Off Wing Opinion agrees with the Ranger Pundit that Tom Renney should try shifting Jaromir Jagr to the point on the power play to give it some life.

Carnival of the NHL, #15 [deadspin]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Power Outage-Anatomy of a Loss

The mass media is fixated on Martin Rucinsky's careless penalty as the cause of the Rangers 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks last night in Chicago. Nonsense! The loss was due to the Rangers inability to score on the power play. The Rangers were 0 for 9 on the power play including a four minute segment in the third period. More frustrating was the fact that most of the power plays were ineffective and didn't provide too many scoring chances. Sure there were some goalpost and crossbar hits that didn't go in, but guess what? That is hockey. A lot of players hit goalposts and crossbars, it's part of the goalie equipment.

The Rangers came out flat with just four shots in the first period. They turned it up in the second and third periods but Nikolai Khabibulin played perhaps his best game all year turning aside thirty Ranger shots. The best Ranger chances were on breakaways by Tom Poti and Ryan Hollweg but neither got off shots that had a chance to score. He was beaten once, by Petr Prucha who was moved up to the second line. Maybe we will get him to the top line before the season is over. It was Prucha's tenth goal of the year, second to Jagr on the team.

The other frustrating part of the power play is that Tom Renney insists on sending out 'the usual suspects' on every power play. What's more there is no originality. Renney recognized it. "As you get frustrated with the power play and things go on, you start to try to manufacture things that aren't there." The PP Five insist on playing tic-tac-toe with their passing. Rarely is there a good shot from the point. The point? Straka? Rozsival? Poti? Malik, maybe. Tom, why not get drastic and put Jagr at the point? He might make something happen from there. It's worth a try. The opposition doubles up on him even on the PP when he is down low. Let them try and double team him from the point. Let's see how that works.

The Rangers move on to Nashville tonight against one of the top teams in the NHL. The Predators have 39 points in 25 games. This compares to the Rangers 40 points in thirty games. While the Rangers are second in the Eastern Conference behind Ottawa's 42 points (Ottawa has 5 games in hand on the Rangers) they are eleven points ahead of the Islanders who sit in ninth place (no playoffs) with the Islanders having three games in hand.

ICINGS: Yesterday was the 64th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I wasn't watching all the newscasts but I saw very little attention given to that infamous date. Mark my words it won't be too long before 9/11/2001 will be forgotten.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Prucha and The Prince



Petr Prucha
Well it was good to see Larry Brooks and Tom Renney jump on the Ranger Pundit's bandwagon to change the lines in general and give Petr Prucha some quality time on the top lines. (See Rangers Cap-Sized 12/4/05). While Renney did change the lines he didn't move Prucha up to the top line but did give him quality time on the first power play unit. Up against the number one penalty kill in the NHL the Rangers scored two power play goals by that man, Petr Prucha, added an empty netter by Martin Straka and hung on to win a hard fought 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. The Prince was excellent in the nets with 22 saves. Martin Rucinsky celebrated his return, again, with three assists.

Prucha's goals both came from in front of the net as he continued to exhibit his toughness around the net. This is the reason why Prucha should be on the first line. He is a perfect compliment to Jaromir Jagr's perimeter game. Right now the way the first line is composed they are all perimeter players. Renney can mix and match Jagr, Nylander, Straka and Rucinsky all he wants but there is no one there that can crash the net. Prucha is that type of player. The "New NHL' is made to order for the Petr Prucha's with the restrictions on the defensemen in front of the net. So complete the move Renney and put Prucha on with Jagr and Straka to formulate a Czech Line which will make Jaromir Jagr happy. Maybe we can get Larry Brooks to champion this move.

The one move by Brooks that I will continue to champion with him is to trade for Brian Leetch. Surely after dumping Joe Thornton, and it was a dump to give up such a dominating player like Thornton, the Bruins would be willing to part for Brian Leetch in exchange for Tom Poti and a draft pick. The move would save the Bruins about two million a year on the cap. Harry Sinden has never been above saving a few bucks. They would also save years as Poti is much younger than Leetch. The Rangers desperately need a puck carrying defenseman who would quarterback the power play. As I have stated before he would help the younger players pick up their offensive games.

The Prince. After every bad game he's had (I believe three) he has bounced back magnificently. His GAA in those games is less than 2.0. The D helped him for once with a strong third period where he only had to stop four shots. The pressure is on him as the team takes to the road for games in Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. I don't know if Kevin Weekes will be back this week so lets hope we don't have another Dan Blackburn situation where we go to the well too often.

ICINGS: Ryan Hollweg missed his second straight game since his gash over the eye injury against Pittsburgh. He is sorely missed. The win for the Rangers was the fifth straight home win and they are 10-2-2 overall at the Garden. Remember years past when we couldn't hit .500 on home ice? The Prince is 8-1-1 at the Garden. No wonder the peasants love their Prince so much. The Rangers moved back to ten game over .500 with a 18-8-3.

Game Recap [NHL.com]

Kevin Maney of USA Today met former "minor league hockey goon," Rich Stromback, who is now the CEO of a high tech company. The company, Ecology Coatings, sells "liquid nanotechnology." Nice work for a former hockey goon.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rangers Cap-Sized

Thank goodness the Rangers play the Washington Capitals only one more time. Everything went wrong that could go wrong last night. Tunovers galore, out hit and out hustled by the Caps and even The Prince suffered through his poorest performance. Alexander Ovechkin had a field day breaking out of his six game slump, with a goal and three assists. Olie The Goalie Kolzig was excellent in the nets stopping 36 shots, but honestly I don't remember any of them being overly tough shots.

The Rangers are 1-2 against the Capitals. The win was the dramatic shootout. Out of the total six points the Rangers have two and the Caps have five. Not good, not good at all. The turnovers started with Ville Nieminen having his pass picked off by Ovechkin who put one past Lundqvist to start the follies. It continued throughout the game. Michal Rozsival took three penalties for interference and hooking while losing the puck and trying to slow down a Cap. But he wasn't the only culprit. It got so bad that at the end Jaromir Jagr, obviously frustrated, was throwing body checks a few which could have been called for penalties.

Is it time to panic? No. But it is time to do some retooling. A big problem is the scoring. Or lack of it. Playing against the two teams with the worst records in the Eastern Conference the last three games, Pittsburgh and Washington, the Rangers have scored five goals. The Rangers, for the season, have scored ninety(90) goals. Jaromir Jagr has scored twenty-one (21). That's 23% of the total goals. The rest of the Rangers, about 20 excluding the goalies, have scored a total of sixty-nine (69) goals an average of 3.45 per player. A solution might be to move Petr Prucha to the top line with Jagr and Nylander. Put Straka on with Rucchin and Rucinsky to maybe generate some offense from that line. Leave the HMO line alone and put Nieminen with Betts and Ward.

Defense? Am I the only one who sees Michal Rozsival turning over the puck and committing the kind of penalties that indicate he is slow and constantly behind in following the play? Three penalties in one game. But he spread them out, one per period. It's a rebuilding year so let's bring up Thomas Pock and Ivan Baranka and trade or waive Rozsival and Tom Poti. Trade them both to Boston for Brian Leetch. Wouldn't that pick up the offense having a defenseman that can carry the puck into an offensive zone without tripping over his own skates? Come on Glen you can do it. Bite the bullet and give this team a legitimate shot at the playoffs and who knows, the Cup. In Stan Fischler's dreams. However, the playoffs are a possibility.

ICINGS:
Game Recap [NHL.com]
Besides ignoring hockey some folks have other issues with ESPN

update: Larry Brooks of the NY Post & Tom Renney agree that offensive changes are needed:

Fact is, the Rangers have become a club with one scoring line — when it scores — and three checking lines...it's now on Renney to find the way to give some support to Jaromir Jagr's unit.

Obviously, this is not news to the head coach.

"I contemplated switching things before [this game], because I think that can get guys' attention," Renney said immediately following Saturday's debacle. "Now, it's certainly an option I'm going to take a serious look at."

... What can the coach do? He can move Martin Straka from wing into the middle and flank him with Jagr and the dynamic Petr Prucha, whose work demands more ice time and offensive responsibility.
RENNEY MUST JUMP-START 'O' [Larry Brooks, NY Post, Dec. 5, 2005]

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Magic Continues



Before a noisy, festive pre-holiday crowd the Rangers extended their winning streak to six games with a hard fought 2-1 win over the struggling Penguins at the Garden last night. There were the usual Ranger suspects delivering the win. The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, was brilliant in turning back 35 shots, the Kamikaze Kids were perfect on the penalty killing, five for five, and Marek Makik, the Wizard of Broadway, scored the winning goal on an ordinary wrist shot from the left circle past a very good Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 30 of 32 shots.

Coming off of four days of rest, the Rangers looked tired. They seemed to be a step behind the Penguins in puck pusuit but they gutted it out for the win. The leader was The Prince. Lundqvist was beaten by defenseman Ryan Whitney who was alone in the slot for the Pens only goal. In one hundred forty two (142) plus minutes, relieving an injured Weekes in Atlanta, plus a shootout over Washington, The Prince has given up only three goals. In addition he has shut down the two rookie phenoms, Crosby of Pittsburgh, and Ovechkin of Washington. He is 10-3-2 (OT or shootout loses), 7-1-1 at the Garden, where he reins supreme with his adoring subjects who roar at every easy save he makes and go bonkers on the great saves. Last night there was a lot of bonkers. He now has a 1.99 GAA and a .933 save percentage. It is time to talk about Henrik Lundqvist as the rookie of the year.

Besides Malik scoring his first official goal of the season, we shall never forget his all time highlight film shootout goal, Maxim Kondratiev scored his first NHL goal ever on a first period power play. The Kamikaze Kids were short their leader, Jed Ortmeyer, who attended a family funeral. Ville Nieminen filled in for him on the HMO line. That's the line of Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer. The HMO moniker comes from my friends at Insidehockey.com. When you call your HMO they usually help you with a problem, this HMO group creates problems. Along with Betts, Ward and Prucha they were relentless all night in keeping the Pens pinned in and on their toes. Ryan Hollweg was especially effective with some brutal hits even laying one on Super Mario. When was the last time a Ranger put a hit on super Mario? Hollweg's may have been a first. Hollweg needed fifteen stitches to close a gash over his right eye on a high stick by Dick Tarnstrom, who was given four minutes which lead to Kondratiev's goal. Didn't bother Ryan who dished out thunderous hits all night. The Rangers are becoming a tough team to beat.

ICINGS:
Game recap [NHL.com]
Carnival of the NHL #14 [hockeydirt.com]

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rantings, Ravings and Musings

The Rangers go for their sixth straight win against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night in a game that will kick off the Hockey Christmas season at the Garden. The Penguins right now are the third worst team in the Eastern Conference. They have a familiar look to them. They look like the old Rangers of pre-lockout days. Plenty of star power little team cohesion. Play a great game tonight and then play two or three bummers in a row. Who will show up Thursday? Probably the good ones as Mario always rises to the occasion at the Garden and it seems so will Sidney Crosby. The Ranger record for winning streaks is ten. It was done twice. The last time was from 1/19/73-2/11/73 when a 2-2 tie against Montreal ended it. Of course, we don't have those nasty ties any more in the new NHL.

Martin Rucinsky and Steve Rucchin could both return Thursday night. Right now it will not pose a lineup problem since Jed Ortmeyer will be out because of a family death and Jason Strudwick will be moved back to defense where he will replaced the injured (groin) Tom Poti. It will be interesting to see who sits when Ortmeyer returns. The call here is it should be Marcel Hossa. The third and fourth lines should not be touched. They are too valuable to this team. Ville Nieminen should take Ortmeyer's spot with Moore and Hollweg. When Ortmeyer returns and goes back to his regular line Nieminen should go on with Rucchin and Rucinsky.

Did a little surfing with the Islanders-Flyers and Devils-Bruins last night and caught both ending and needless to say the referees had a big part in both games. Of course they were wrong again on their calls, but who's counting. The Islander game were the more damaging. With the Islanders pressing at the end for a tying goal Brent Sopel was tripped by the Flyers Branko Radivojevic (should get two minutes for having a name like that) and there was no call and then it looked like Sopel had scored the tying goal with 0.2 left but the referee Stephen Auger blew his whistle and waved off the goal because he claimed he lost sight of the puck. They then went to the video review which said, no goal. Question: If Auger lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle why did he go to the video review. His whistle stop ended the play and made the review irrelevant.

The Devil call by the ref was more subtle but equally damaging. With 31.4 seconds remaining in a tie game and the faceoff deep in the Bruins zone, Travis Green, one of the premier faceoff guys in the game was tossed out of the faceoff circle and in stepped Super Joe Thornton, who can't win faceoffs. The rest is history. Madden winning the faceoff to Alexander Mogilny who buried the puck ala vintage Bobby Hull to seal doom for the Bruins. I for one can never figure out the machinations that go into an official tossing out a faceoff player. Remember folks. It's well into twenty games and it was late into the third period. Let boys be boys. New NHL, same old bad, inconsistent refs.

ICINGS
:
If you have about 7 minutes to watch a great sports highlight video with some historical hockey video mixed in go here-
Sports Montage [vsocial.com]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Malik The Magician




The circus was back in town in the Garden last night. It was disguised as a hockey game. The game ended in a 2-2 tie and no one scored in OT despite the fact that the Caps had a two minute power play because Jaromir Jagr's stick was just a little bit too curved. The circus involved a fifteen round shootout that had such Ranger 'snipers' as Ville Nieminen and Jason Strudwick score game saving tying shootout goals to keep the Rangers alive.

Then onto center stage stepped the Ringmaster, Marek Malik. He skated in and performed what will be remembered as the most amazing, incredible goal ever scored in the history of hockey. He slid the puck back between his legs and then back went his stick, between his legs, and the shot past a startled Olie the Goalie Kolzig. If the goal wasn't enough, the deadpan look on Malik was even better. The look of, what's the big deal? Then The Ringmaster stood at center ice looking up to the heavens (thank you dear lord) and beckoned the rest of the cast to come out and take a bow. Unbelievable! Unbelievable that they call this hockey.

The goalies put on a great show. The Prince made 35 saves in the game including the OT. He stopped 12 of fifteen in the shootout, one better than Olie The Goalie Kolzig. The Prince also stopped the Cap phenom Alexander Ovechkin in the shootout marking the first time that Ovechkin had been stopped in a shootout. He was previously four for four. It's about time that The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, started getting some recognition as rookie of the year.

The win extending the Rangers win streak to five games and they are now nine games over .500, for the first time since the end of the 1995-96 season. They are also six points ahead of the Flyers who naturally have four games in hand. They now have the third best record in the NHL. Unbelievable. Two goals scored in the regulation game were tallied by two of The Kamikaze Kids, Jason Ward and Jed Ortmeyer. The circus will be off until Thursday when the Rangers play Pittsburgh and that other hotshot rookie. Long live The Prince!

ICINGS:
Game recap [NHL.com]
Official Shootout Summary [NHL.com]
NHL Highlight Video [NHL.com, reg. required]
Malik Goal - Rangers & Caps Shootout, here and here [video highlights]

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's Getting Scary!



Jaromir JagrJaromir Jagr claimed he didn't play and the Rangers still won. Fact of the matter Jagr played 17:46 minutes but for a guy averaging over 21 minutes he figured he had cheated the team. The Rangers responded with six different players, including Jagr, scoring goals and eleven players getting assists. Kevin Weekes went down in a freak accident as the goal cage fell on his right foot. The injury is not serious and he should return within a week or so. In the interim Chris Holt was brought up from the EHL to back up The Prince. Oh yeah! The Rangers beat the offensively gifted but defensively deficient, goalie starved Atlanta Thrashers 6-3.

What is also scary is that in certain quarters they are now talking up trades. Larry Brooks first mentioned in The New York Post that Petr Sykora is available from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Stan Fischler followed that up on MSG on Thursday night that it was too bad Weekes got hurt as he would be the bait to get Sykora. Why this rush? Where did it go wrong for the Rangers? Well nothing is going wrong for the Rangers. The win over the Thrashers were their fourth straight. A win over the Caps tonight would put the Rangers nine games over .500 for the first time in over nine years.

What is going wrong is now some 'Pundits' are forgetting this is a rebuilding year and are starting to overreach. Fischler even states boldly, "The Rangers have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup." OK, let's say Sykora is all that he's advertised to be. He has scored 206 goals and 472 points in 629 NHL games. Are these numbers to get ecstatic over? He has hit a high of 35 with the Devils but this year has only four goals in twenty one games. Is he another Valerie Kaminsky, all world, all bust with the Rangers? Who gets traded for him? Right now the Rangers are a very tight knit team with all the right parts in place, except for some spotty defense. The Rangers have a third and fourth line made up mainly of grinders and muckers that hasn't been seen in New York since the Stanley Cup Champs of 1993-94.

So who do we give up to get Sykora. If I were Anaheim I would ask for Petr Prucha. Are the Rangers willing to give up Prucha? I'm not. Then who? Tyutin? No way. Or dip into Hartford and trade off Nigel Dawes? Jarkko Immonen? Al Montoya? Thomas Pock? Ivan Baranka? Hugh Jessiman, now in the EHL? Who are these guys you may ask? They are our future. They are the Rangers of the future and if we stick with the plan we could still make the playoffs this year and for many years in the future where a Stanley Cup is a possibility again. Where we need help is on defense.

Ah defense! Our best defenseman is Fedor Tyutin and he is a rookie (25 games in 2003-04) and is only 22 years old. I've gone through this defense drill before. Malik is slow and immobile; Maxim Kondratiev is young, also 22, and learning fast; Darius Kasparaitis in his 15th year is slowing a bit and stills delivers some hard hits but many a time gets himself beaten by quick forwards; Michal Rozsival turns over the puck too easy and is ineffective as a point man on the power play; Jason Strudwick has been a dependable, hard hitting 7th defenseman, sometimes winger, who seems to be the teams designated fighter. And then there is Tom Poti. All I can say is why? Why is he playing? Why is he still on the team? Thank God for our goalies, Weekes and Lundqvist who have been fantastic.


Brian Leech should be on the Rangers. Can Glen Sather do it? Will Brian Leetch play for Glen Sather? Larry Brooks thinks this would be great for the Rangers and for Leetch. Positives? The Power Play will improve immediately. The Rangers will have their quarter back on the power play. The garden crowd would go nuts watching Leetch take the puck deep into his own end, fly through the neutral zone, without a red line, and splitting the defense into the offensive zone. This is the trade that must be made. Who do we trade for him? Tom Poti, who else? Poti is a Boston area boy, cheaper and younger than Leetch. The Bruins are in a free fall and would save roughly two million in salary cap. Maybe a change of scenery would do Poti some good. Throw in a couple of draft picks and that should close the deal. The Rangers are stocked with good young players in Hartford so the picks would not be a problem. So there it is. No on Sykora and yes on Leetch. Leetch would help many of our young forwards, The Kamikaze Kids, become goal scores. He is the all time Ranger assist leader with 741 and ranks second in points with 981. With Leetch, the Stanley Cup that Fischler covets, will be within reach.

ICINGS:
Jes Gőlbez rants and raves about the Ranger's Czech Mafia-

The Czech Mafia (with the token Slovak, just like old times):
Jaromir Jagr RW 25 21-18-39 +6 22PIM
Martin Straka C 25 3-21-24 +4 14PIM
Martin Rucinsky LW 12 6 8 14 +4 6PIM
Marcel Hossa LW 24 5-6-11 +4 10PIM
Petr Prucha C 19 6-3-9 +2 6PIM
Michal Rozsival D 25 1-6-7 +8 32PIM
Marek Malik D 24 0-5-5 +6 28PIM

The New York Rangers seem to be a great place for Czechs to play. I mean, they managed to turn Jan Hlavac into a useful player.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Amazing, Absolutely Amazing Jagr

Eight shots on goal, three off the posts, one goal, one assist and the game winner in a shootout. The shootout was won 3-2 and therefore the game was won 3-2. Yes, its Jaromir Jagr I'm talking about, who else. Last night the guy did everything including working the defensive end. I won't swear to it but the rumor has it when he wasn't on the ice he was selling Ranger Jerseys to the adoring crowd. Adoring? They booed him every time he touched the puck which was every time he was on the ice. They booed him. For what? For showing up and putting on an offensive clinic? Maybe if some Buffalo fan reads this they can write me and explain why they booed him.

Another win, three straight, and the Rangers are now four points ahead of the second place Flyers, with the Flyers having four games in hand. It seems like the Flyers always have four games in hand. We'll probably sneak into the playoffs with the Flyers having four games in hand.

Besides Jagr the Rangers got a great performance from Kevin Weekes who stopped 38 shots. He also made the key stop on the last Buffalo shooter, Chris Drury, to win the game. One of the Sabres goal was scored on a five on three as two Rangers were whistled on the same sequence thereby creating the five on three for a full two minutes. Of course the refs did their usual outstanding work blowing two calls on one play. Mike Grier charged Kasparitis into the boards and as Darius was skating off bleeding a Sabre punched him in the back of the head. Remember when I told you way back that when we hit the twenty game mark it will be "let boys be boys" time. Ranger game last night was their 24th.

But a win is a win. On to Atlanta and those gunnin' Thrashers. Should be fun. But it's holiday time and I want to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving.

ICINGS: Even some fans on the Sabre hockey message board are confused by this booing of Jagr? HFboards.com - Rangers at Sabres comments:

what do the genius fans in the HSBC tonight think it does when Jagr is booed everytime he touches the puck? Disheartens him? He's showed up and played hard all year...

I don't understand why they boo EVERY time he touches the puck. I guess I can get it in Pittsburgh and Washington, but this really has no roots...

"The Puck Stops Here" thinks Henrik "The Prince" Lundqvist should be considered for Rookie of the Year ahead of Crosby and Ovechkin. Please don't jinx the kid.

Why Isn't He Considered A Rookie Of The Year Favorite? [puckstopshere]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jagr The (J)Great

After the lockout ended there were rumors that Jagr would stay in Russia, Siberia actually, with a team called Avangard Omsk and not play in the NHL. In 32 games with them he would score 18 goals and 38 points. Prior to that he led his Czech team, HC Rabat Kladno to the World Championship with 11 goals and 28 points in 17 games. This follows the pattern of his NHL career where in 1,050 games he has scored 556 goals and 1,344 points. He is truly a point a game player. This year in 23 games he has scored 19 goals and 35 points. This World Class Player has been dominate in three continents, North America, Europe and Asia.

He lived up to his contract and is playing for the Rangers. Oh boy, is he playing. The new annoyance making the rounds is that when the Rangers flounder he will be dealt to a contender for a couple of prospects. It is Jagr's intention that the Rangers do not flounder. Indeed when it is mentioned that the Rangers are in a rebuilding year he bristles and says this team can make the playoffs. That would fly in the faces of many a pundit, including this one, who thought that the Rangers would be lucky to just finish period. Right now the Rangers are in first place in the Atlantic Division with 29 points, one behind Eastern Conference leader Carolina. Imagine, after 23 games the Rangers have 29 points.

Jaromir Jagr is no ordinary player. In his first two years the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. He has gone over 100 points in a season 4 times. He has scored over 50 goals in a season twice. Since 1990-91, his initial year, he has more points than any other player during that period and the second most goals, Brent Hull is first in goals and has the second most assists, Adam Oates is first in assits. He trails Hull by 39 goals and Oates by 67 assists. Barring injuries this could be a record breaking year for him. It looks like a record breaking year for the league what with the new rules.

He is a team player with a huge perspective on the history of the NHL. I remember watching Wayne Gretzky's last game as a Ranger in the Garden. They were playing the Penguins, without Lemieux. The Rangers tied the score on an assist from Wayne Gretzky, which pleased the crowd who wanted a goal from The Great One. The game went into OT and was won by a goal from Jaromir Jagr. There was no celebration on his part. He acted like he was sorry he scored the goal, after all this was Wayne's night. After he was mobbed by his teammates Jagr noticed that they were skating off the ice. He was the Captain of the Penguins then. He immediately went after them and made sure they stayed at their bench and watched the entire proceedings for Wayne Gretzky. Jagr's comments were something to the effect that this was a part of the NHL history and it must be viewed and must be respected. Now we view and respect Jaromir Jagr for the great player he is.

He is only 33 years old but seems to be playing like 25. He has these young players around him like Prucha, Lundqvist, Tyutin and the Kamikaze Kids and he wants them to continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to win. He wants the Rangers to win and accomplish something. He aspired to be a Ranger prior to being traded to the Capitals. That was a bad trade. Bad for him, bad for the Rangers and bad for the Penguins. The GM, Craig Patrick out of spite for being bounced as the Ranger GM years before, traded him to the Caps for three guys named Beech, Sivek and Lupaschuk. Honestly I did not make up those names. But he is here now and maybe he can accomplish the miracle in New York. Maybe he can be Bobby Thompson in the bottom of the ninth; or Joe Namath who led the Jets over the Colts; or maybe Joe Paterno who went from nowhere (4-7) to a BCS Bowl (10-1). Worst case if he doesn't he will give us a lot of exciting moments and a lot of fun. These things have been missing in the Garden for far too long. Jaromir Jagr, one of the all time greats and we get to view him in New York.

ICINGS: You're never too old for the carnival.

Carnival of the NHL #13 [Behind the Jersey]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Notice to Renney - Fix the Defense

In one game Kevyn Adams scored almost a third of the goals he scored in 2003-04, when he scored ten. For Adams it was his first hat trick of his career. Adams scored one goal unassisted and the Canes added two other unassisted goals, one shorthanded as they routed the Rangers last night, 5-1. While the goals were officially labeled unassisted there were actually some pretty good passes that lead to those goals. Unfortunately the passes were from the Rangers. The beauty of the night was Steve Rucchin clearing a puck, when he had all the time in the world, right on the stick of Eric Staal who buried the shot past Lunqvist to start Carolina on its way.

The Prince allowed more that three goals for the first time this year. He started out with three very good saves but was soon swamped by the Ranger giveaways and loose play on defense. The Rangers lost Fedor Tyutin with a finger injury and that put a strain on the rest of the defense. The other five were not up to the challenge as the Rangers ended the road trip with three wins and two losses. Normally that would be cause to rejoice but the way they lost this one should send up alarms.

The Rangers even with Tyutin have a soft defense. Tyutin, Kasparitis and occasionally Kondratiev do play tough and hit. However Kasparitis has been beaten too many times as he attempts some of his hits. Marek Malik is slow and not very mobile. Michal Rozsival gives the puck away too often and especially on the power play that result in short handed chances for the other team. And then there is Poti. I am getting a little tired of the announcers over emphasizing every decent play he makes and ignoring the obvious.

Granted that the team still takes too many penalties. The Canes were one for eight on the power play. This is a credit to our penalty killers. But they are out there too long and they are mostly the third and fourth lines. They are also the checkers of this team. They get tired killing penalties and this cuts down on their effectiveness during regular shifts.

It's time for Renney to act. Bring up Thomas Pock and also Jason Strudwick. Pock brings movement, offense, youth and would be great on the power play. In 2003-04 in six games with the Rangers he scored two goals and had four points. He fits in with Renney's rebuilding program. Strudwick brings experience and toughness, something that is sorely needed. This is not a panic move as the team has played well on the road except for the last game. I'm sure the Rangers were tired and that contributed to their demise. However after one quarter of the season (21 games) now would be a good time for Renney to do some fine tuning.

ICINGS:

Game recap [NHL.com]

David Lee at "Red and Black Hockey" saw some "Good stuff" from the Carolina perspective that Ranger fans might have missed:

* Not only did we prevent Jaro Jagr from scoring, but we kept him off the scoresheet entirely, and he finished the game at -3.

* Mikey C finished with a +2, leading all D-men in that category

* Craig Adams had seven hits, tops in the game. One of these hits was instrumental in allowing Kevyn to score his second goal.

* Radim Vrbata quietly snuck in two assists and finished the game with a +2. He's making a strong case for his place on the team.

Do the Ranger fans in the Czech Republic get better televison coverage than we do?

Adams hattrickem sestřelil Jezdce [newyorkrangers.cz]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dutch Hiller - RIP

It was a three sentence blurb in the NY Post but it brought back some memories to the Pundit. Dutch Hiller at the age of ninety died in California. Dutch, born Wilbert Hiller in Kitchener, Ontario May 11, 1915, was a member of The Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers of 1940. A left winger he played for nine years in the NHL, five with the Rangers. In the Stanley Cup year he played 48 games (full schedule was 50 games), scored 13 goals and a total of 31 points. His best years were with the Rangers, 1943-44, when he played in all 50 games and tallied 18 goals and 40 points and Montreal ('44-45, 48 games, 20 goals, 36 pts). His name will forever be etched on the Stanley Cup. RIP Dutch.

Wilbert (Dutch) Hiller
Blueshirt Bulletin remembers Dutch:

Ironically, the last three survivors of that Cup team before Hiller's passing was his entire line -- Clint "Snuffy" Smith and Alf Pike were his linemates. Smith, the oldest living Cup winner in the NHL, recently told John Halligan for an article to be included in the next issue of Blueshirt Bulletin that “Dutch was the fastest [skater]. Nobody could keep up with him, not in the entire League.”
related:
Former NHLer Dutch Hiller dead at 90 [cbc, Nov. 17, 2005]
Dutch Hiller career stats [legendsofhockey.net]
Bryan Hextall & Dutch Hiller photo [legendsofhockey.net]
Wilbert "Dutch" Hiller [hockeyresearch.com]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New NHL - Same Old Refs

So what happens when an irresistible force (Toronto's power play, ranked second in the NHL) meets an immovable object (Ranger penalty kill, ranked second in the NHL)? In this case the force, Toronto, aided and abetted by some questionable calls from referee Massenhoven wins. Bryan McCabe scored a power play goal, his second of the game, early in the third period on an interference call by Jed Ortmeyer on goalie Ed Belfour. Belfour was way out of the crease when he and Ortmeyer hit each other and from these tired old eyes the call could have gone against Belfour for overacting. There could be an opening for him in the World Wide Wrestling Federation.

The only Ranger goal was an even strength goal from Jagr which was surprising to me because Toronto's defense has given up the fifth worst goals against in the NHL. Martin Straka hit the post on a breakaway after faking Belfour out of his skates and Marcel Hossa had a goal waved off on another questionable call, this one a high stick of a flying puck.

But that was yesterday and the Rangers now move on to Carolina where they face their toughest test of this young season. Hey Pundit, didn't you say that prior to the Toronto game? Yes I did. But that is the kind of season this is evolving into. Every game is a must for the Rangers. There is no looking ahead or no looking back. We all knew this was a rebuilding year. Just don't tell that to Jaromir Jagr. But it is also a year of growing and learning. Who would have thought that after twenty games the Rangers would be first in their division, two points ahead of the Flyers. Yes I know the Flyers have four games in hand but we will deal with that and hands have been known to disappear (see Godfather movies).

It is now time to return the Prince back to the nets. So far this twofer is working well where each goalie plays two and then sits two. This puts the Prince back to back, home and home against Carolina. Carolina is tops in their division, second in the conference with 27 points. The Rangers are fifth and the other pundits (notice I use a small p for them) must be scratching their heads wondering what happened here to a team that was supposed to finish thirtieth. So far its great coaching by Tom Renney. By the way, where is Glen Sather? Does anyone care? Great coaching, great goal tending, the energetic Kamikaze kids and the wonderful great Jaromir Jagr. Eat your heart out Don Cherry.

ICINGS: For those of you who are new to Ranger Pundit, goalie Henrik Lundqvist is referred to as "The Prince" and the collective bunch of young scrappers, Hollweg, Betts, Moore, Ortmeyer, etc. are known as the "Kamikaze Kids."

Update - Ranger Land agrees about the refs.

Dubi at the Bullshirt Bulletin:

I always believed that referees should be fined for blatantly bad or missed calls that affect the outcome of games. The referees in this game, by that standard, should be relieved of their duties...

Alan at The Rangers Game Log:
...once again I’m forced to point to two questionable (and in one of those cases, ‘questionable’ doesn’t even begin to apply) penalty calls as big turning points in the game.

Shari Forst at Blueshirts on Broadway:
The officiating so far this season has been more one sided against the Rangers than I can remember. The Rangers always seemed to be penalized more than other teams, now I don’t know if thats just my jaded judgment, or the refs hate NY or both, but I can tell you in this game the Maple Leafs capitalized on a very bad call to get their second goal.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hot Rangers, Jagr Head to the Mecca

The Rangers road tour gets its latest test with a trip to the Mecca Of Hockey, Toronto. Riding a three game road streak and led by their hot star, Jaromir Jagr, the Rangers are hoping to prove that they are for real and will not fade anytime soon. All aspects of the game are now clicking. The goalies have been outstanding with Kevin Weekes now joining The Prince as the top goalie tandem in the NHL.

Another big plus is the sensational play of the penalty killing unit which now ranks second in the NHL. The Kamikaze Kids: Betts, Ortmeyer, Moore, Ward etc. have been fantastic and play defense with complete abandon. They have also contributed with big goals lately as the opponent's defense concentrates more and more on Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr is racking up points at a record breaking pace. In nineteen games he has seventeen goals and twenty-eight points. The seventeen goals tie him with Gagne of the Flyers for the league lead and his twenty-eight points rank him third in the league. He has exceeded all of Tom Renney's expectations and while not the official Captain he most certainly has been the Ranger leader. They will need him at his best in what looms as the Rangers toughest test in this young season against Toronto.

Speaking of Toronto, I was watching Hockey Night In Canada two weeks ago and caught Don Cherry making some remark about some article that puts the rap on Jagr for not playing all out when he was with Washington. Something to the effect that he was kind of mailing it in. I can't attest to that. I didn't see that many Capital games but he almost always played well against the Rangers. However, in three seasons with the Caps Jagr played 190 games, scored 83 goals and had 201 points. That is some mailing it in. Over a point a game, not bad. In six playoff games, two goals and seven points. So where is the problem?

Hopefully, Jagr and the Rangers can continue their magic before some of the harshest critics in the NHL, the Toronto Press. Kevin Weekes will probably get the start in goal against the Leafs. It looks like Renney may decide on a rotation of every two games now that Weekes is back on his game. So each goalie gets two games and then sits for two games until we get deep in the season. Then who knows? We may have another Ed Giacomin/Gilles Villemure duel that took place back in 1970-71. Why not?

Retired NY Rangers Number 1 - Ed Giacominrelated:
Retired Numbers - #1 Eddie Giacomin [NY Rangers]
Vezina Trophy [Wikipedia.com]
1970-1971 Rangers Team Roster [NY Rangers]
I remember Eddie Giacomin [I remember]

triva: In the late 1980's, Eddie Giacomin was mugged in broad daylight outside Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

He Shoots-Oops-He Scores

Dominic Moore must be an excellent billiards player. How else to explain his game tying goal against the Panthers with three seconds left in the game. Moore behind the net threw out a backhander off Panther defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, which hit off of goalie Roberto Luongo and into the net to tie a game that the Rangers seem destined to lose because of penalties and soft play by the defense. The Prince (Lundqvist) played well in goal with 38 saves and shined in the shootout stopping four out of four Panther shots.

The shootout, ah, my favorite of all the 'gimmicks' that Bettman and company have come up with. However, the Rangers have come up with the right prescription for this game within a game. It's called Petr Prucha. Petr again came up with the game winner; for the second time in three games he netted the winner. Again he was the fourth one sent up and Tom Renney may have to change his plans. Imagine, Petr Puck is two-for-three in shootouts and Jaromir Jagr is nothing-for-three.

One move that Renney made helped the power play score a goal after going nothing for seven against the Pens. He took Tom Poti off the first power play unit. Don't tell me that Renney is not reading Ranger Pundit. I had that in my last article that Poti should be taken off the first power play unit. Good job, Tom.

Finally the goalie, Prince Henrik Lundqvist, played great. Thirty-eight saves in the game plus four out of four in the shootout. Looked a little rusty in the beginning but then came on strong at the end. He was burned by his defense early in the second period when Stephen Weiss broke in on him untouched to put the Panthers ahead. Moses never parted the Red Sea the way the Rangers parted, or departed, on this one.

The road trip is off to a good start. We got a break on Moore's goal, won the shootout with Prucha again, got great goaltending from The Prince and got scoring from Rucchin and Straka whom we need more from. And when Jagr doesn't score (two assists) and we win that is surely a plus.

ICINGS: another adventure watching the NHL on TV. This time Cablevision was the culprit. The audio was terrible all night and then the entire system went down at the start of the shootout. We were rescued by FSN in Florida to witness the shootout. Too bad their announcers didn't show more enthusiasm on Prucha's game winner.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Star Gazing

The big crowd came to see the Rangers play the Pens and watch all the Penguins stars. Unfortunately, the Rangers also watched as Lemieux scored from Weekes' doorstep, untouched. Crosby scored by splitting the Ranger defense, untouched. Finally, Palffy scored on a shot that he pumped faked a couple of times before scoring. I thought the Rangers were going to applaud him after the goal. Frankly, had this been the NBA the shot clock would have expired before the goal.

It was 3-0 in the third when Palffy was awarded a penalty shot. Weekes came up big, Hollweg delivered a big hit and the Rangers woke up, too late. Hollweg and Hossa brought the Blueshirts within one but to no avail. The Rangers are not the kind of team that can take any portion of a night off and expect to win.

Jagr was dogged all night by at least one Pen defender. On the power play it was usually two defenders. If Jagr doesn't score the Rangers are in trouble. Martin Rucinsky being out is adding to the problem. The Rangers do not have enough firepower. Grit? Yes. Determination? Yes. Effort? Missing last night. They are the type of team that needs all four lines chipping in and solid aggressive defense.

Aggressive defense? This brings up Poti. Must I? Yes. Renney insists on using him on the first team power play unit. Why? He is so ineffective. He has no shot to speak of. This is a weakness the Rangers have on the power play. Their point men can not get the puck to the net. This is how you score power play goals. Shoot from the points or middle not the side. Drive the net and look for the rebounds. This game exposed too many Ranger warts. Now they hit the road for five straight games which should tell us a lot about this team.

ICINGS
: Congratulations to Sal 'RedLight' Messina on his election to the Announcers Hockey Hall of Fame. What a fun, smart color commentator.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Stars Will Be Out Tonight - So Should The Prince

It will be star power at the Garden tonight. Old stars, new stars and potential stars. It should be quite a show. The Penguins are in town with the perennial Ranger nemesis, Mario Lemieux, and the league's poster boy, eighteen year old Sidney Crosby. Mario has five goals and twelve assists and Crosby has four goals and fourteen assists. Add Mark Recchi (six goals and twelve assists), Ziggy Palffy (five goals and eleven assists) and Gonchar on defense and you have a talented group of offensive players that will give the Ranger D and goaltending quite a test. The Pens have scored the same number of goals (48) as the Rangers have, with the Rangers playing one more game. However, the Pens have given up 63 goals, twenty-six more than the Rangers have.

The Rangers have their own star power. Jaromir Jagr has been outstanding with a twelve game scoring streak. He seems to be lapping up the crowd's adulation toward him - hamming it up as the number one star against the Devils, as the Rangers completed their home and home sweep, conceding the Devils one point. In the new NHL it isn't hard picking up a point. Beside Jagr, the Rangers have The Kamikaze Kids (Ortmeyer, Betts, Hollweg, Ward, etc.) and The Prince of Goalies, Henrik Lundqvist I. And that's the difference in this year's team compared to past teams.

The Rangers this year are devoid of the players who would mail it in on many a night. They are also devoid of head coaches who were overly impressed with past performances, afraid to challenge some egos or just not competent enough to recognize and correct the flaws that were affecting the team. This is all gone with Tom Renney, who has become the most pleasant of surprises. Tom is playing the players who can best perform up to the standards he has set. And that is why Poti was benched. That is why Nieminen was recently benched. He was taking too many penalties, mostly of the lazy variety. When players get sent down to Hartford they are not lost forever but monitored closely with the help of Jim Schoenfeld, GM and coach of the Wolf Pack. Petr Prucha was sent down for two games, scored two goals and returned and Saturday scored two goals, one in the shootout. Incidentally, they also brought up Ryan Hollweg, a tough winger who can hit.

In my last article I said that Prucha, Hollweg and Purinton should be brought up to give the team more toughness. The Rangers only brought up Prucha and Hollweg - two out of three. Not bad, I guess, Sather didn't finish reading my article.

The Prince should be in goal tonight. Weekes played two good games against the Devils but tonight should be a magical night at the garden. What better way than to have Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Two of the top rookies in the game. Sidney Crosby vs Henrik Lundqvist. Imagine a shootout (which I detest) and then it's Crosby vs Lundqvist for the game. Crosby skates in on Lunqvist he shoots and.........
Talk to me tomorrow.

ICINGS: Penguins will try to make it a three game sweep against New York area teams. They beat the Devils in OT at New Jersey and beat the Islanders on the Island. However in their last game against Boston, the Bruins hammered the Pens 6-3. John LeClair was injured and will be out for awhile.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rangers, Habs Split Weekend

Despite playing their worst game at home things looked up for the Rangers when Jaromir Jagr tied the game with a little over ten minutes to play with a five on three power play goal. However all turned sour when about a minute later on a five on four power play Michael Nylander had the puck stripped which led to a two on one breakaway and a short-handed goal by Steve Begin. Marek Malik was the lone defender on the two-on-one and was indecisive as to which player to play with the result he played no one and the Rangers were on their way to their first regulation loss at home.

Both goalies, Henrik the Prince and Jose Theodore, were outstanding. Theodore perhaps responding to the PA announcing that Theodore was shaky in Saturdays game was solid in the first period making nine saves, many at his doorstep. The Rangers, missing Martin Rucinsky, who will be out for about four weeks, could not mount any sustained offense after the first period. One has to question why Petr Prucha was not brought up to bolster the offense rather than use Fedorov who again seemed lost. Also unless the Rangers are on a power play the other team simply double-teams Jagr every time he gets the puck. Without Rucinsky in there the Rangers have no balanced threats.

The defense also seemed to have problems getting out of their own zone and the double minor penalty assessed Kasparitis at the end of the second period turned out to be a killer when Saku Koivu scored the games first goal 47 seconds into the third period near the end of the penalty. Overall the Rangers took nine penalties, killing eight and were short handed for over fifteen minutes. The Canadians took six penalties and killed off five. One wonders when will the dumb, lazy penalties stop. One also wonders if Tom Renney can get this team to stop.

One other point, albeit a big one. Craig Rivet was allowed to skate around like it was the rink in Central Park. I don't know if a Ranger even touched him. There is no doubt that Rivet's hit on Rucinsky which was illegal, was also deliberate to pay Rucinsky back for a clean hit on Rivet. But not a Ranger went near him. This is a problem that will surface more as we get into the season. If we didn't go after Rivet we should have gone after Kovalev or Koivu, somebody.

As a start the Rangers should bring up Ryan Hollweg and send Fedorov and Taffe to Hartford. Good beginning. Bring up Prucha, Hollweg and also Dale Purinton to add some muscle to a pretty soft defense that last night had trouble getting out of its own way. What happens when we meet the Brashears of the hockey world? The Rangers looked awfully tired last night. Even the Kamikaze Kids (Ortmeyer, Betts, etc) were not their usual feisty selves. Back to the drawing board and get ready for another home and home against the Devils starting in NJ on Thursday. Weekes should be in the nets and the Rangers need a big game from him. I think we will see some changes on Thursday. I hope we see some changes.

ICINGS: Upon arrival at home I decided to watch the rerun to hear some commentaries. The guide said that OLN (hockey network) would have the replay 11:00 PM-1:30 AM. Put on the channel and lo and behold some guys were hunting. No replay. Wasn't till this morning that I read where the game had video difficulties in the first period and audio problems the last two periods. Oh well. Mickey mouse league gets Goofy TV. What a shame. Some of the most gifted athletes in the world playing the most exciting sport in the universe and no one gets to see it....Stunned last night after the Canadians first goal. It looked like a couple of thousand people stood up to cheer. What's happening is that ticket sales to the game are not going well which opens up the arena to the visitors fans. What's scary is that the Rangers are playing rather well and for the most part are entertaining. If the Ranger fans don't show up now when are they going to come?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Prince Henrik and The Kamikaze Kids

They gave out the three star awards last night and while all three were indeed stars the biggest stars were the Ranger penalty killers. Jed Ortmeyer led the charge but he was ably abetted by Blair Betts, who scored the empty netter to put the game away, Dominic Moore, Jason Moore and two normally offensive players, Martin Rucinsky and Steve Rucchin. Additionaly on defense Tyutin, Kasparitis and Strudwick gave their bodies in blocking shots and protecting the Prince from the enemy intruders. It was quite a night and the Blue Shirts are 4-0-1-1 at home capturing 10 out of a possible 12 points. The Rangers must now channel their energies on the road where they have not fared as well.

The Rangers play nine of their next fourteen games on the road and if this years road record (1-3-1-0) is any early indication of their ability to play on the road they are in deep trouble. Unfortunately the Rangers will not have their home crowd which in six home games has absolutely fallen in love with this team and their goalie, Prince Henrik. Fortunately they will have The Prince and his Kamikaze Kids. What else to call them? Did you find it interesting that in the closing minutes of a one goal game, Betts, Ortmeyer and Ward were on the ice. Think back to the last time there was hockey. Did we dare send anyone but Mark Messier out to take a defensive zone faceoff?

Tom Renney has coached this team beautifully to date. Fedor Fedorov who loooked lost the first two periods was given ice time in the third period. Tom Poti took a stupid penalty that looked fatal at the time but Renney brought him right back and Poti did play well. And Jagr got less than five minutes in the third period. However, this could be due to the four penalties the Rangers took in the third period The Ranger penalties added up to almost twenty minutes of minus a man but except for the goal by Chris Campoli The Prince and The Kids held the fort. In what has become a disturbing trend the Islanders forced the play the entire third period with thirteen shots on goal. It could be a fatigue factor, though watching Ortmeyer and the rest of the group it was hard to believe.

Renney now faces a difficult decision. Nine out of fourteen on the road is tough with the first one in Montreal Saturday. Montreal over the years has been a house of horrors for the Rangers. Stay with The Prince or go with Weekes? Weekes has to get in and play sooner or later. Put him in against Le Habs and bring The Prince back then on Monday at the Garden. Or play the hot hand, play The Prince and try to steal a road game. Stay tuned, an exciting start. Can we keep it going? We have other problems on defense and center but that's for another day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The New NHL

Ran into Beansy the other day. He is from the old neighborhood. Never knew his real first name. It was a neighborhood of nicknames because there were too many similar names. So we had Vinnie Legs, Tommy Boo Boo, Johnny Butch, Vinnie Head and the likes. We used to go to the old Garden, 8th Ave between 48th and 49th Street, stop in Nedicks, grab a couple of dogs and an orangeade for about two bits each and then go in to see the game. We would sit in the side balcony then for fifty cents. Of course everything after Row A was an obstructed view. You had to stand to see the side boards and even then the view wasn't too hot. We eventually graduated to the end Arena for a buck and a half with a clear view and amuse ourselves between periods by blowing up balloons and keeping them in the air and see how far they would go. It has now evolved into 'Potvin sucks' and Dancing Larry.

Been to the Garden lately, I asked? Naw, he said, no fights. I said sure there are fights. Boxing is back at MSG. Not those fights, he countered, they are all fixed. I'm talking about hockey fights where guys met at center ice, dropped their gloves, and went at it until one guy went down. They gave them five minutes each and they would come back and maybe go at it again. That was hockey, he said. I reminded him this is the new NHL.

Then he wanted to know how could a guy stand in front of the goalie without being pushed, shoved or clobbered and allowed to score a soft goal. Beansy said in basketball if you go up for an easy shot you get butchered. I told him that was a deliberate foul. Beansy said, you bet your life it was deliberate. It should be. Nobody should be allowed to score an easy goal. I reminded him this is the new NHL.

Beansy was going now. "I saw a guy throw a pass the other day from one end of the ice to the other end and there was no whistle." I told him that is because they got rid of the red line. He said, there still is a red line I saw it. I tried to explain that while it was there it really wasn't. I told him it was to speed up the game and increase offense. He wanted to know what would happen to basketball if they got rid of the center line. No backcourt, no ten second, no shot clock. I was losing ground here so I reminded Beansy that this is the new NHL.

That didn't stop Beansy. He wanted to know about this shootout. I told him that if the game ends in a tie after a five minute over time each team picks three players and they all get to go against the goalie and whoever scores the most goals wins the game. Beansy said, "Oh, its like when we were kids and stood toe to toe and each get a shot at punching the other guy in the jaw and see who falls first." Not quite, I reminded Beansy that this is the new NHL.

Beansy had enough. I gotta catch the last race at OTB, he said. Beansy was always catching the last race. Give him five bucks and if it came between a sandwich and a horse the money went on the horse. Beansy was fascinated by beautiful horses and fast women. But he was definitely old school and when you are old school it sometimes takes a while to change. So this new NHL hasn't grabbed him yet as he would say. But give him time. Given the choice between the new NHL or no NHL Beansy will eventually go with the new NHL. It will take time but it will happen. As he was moving away Beansy shouted out to me. "I get it now. New NHL - No Hit League."