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]

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