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?

NY Rangers on Twitter

NHL Tweets