Friday, March 31, 2006

Weary Warriors


Weary Warriors lose to OttawaPlaying their fifth game in seven nights (2-1-0-2) the Rangers committed nine penalties, six in the first period, falling to Ottawa last night 4-1. The Senators were 3-9 on the power play scoring two five on three goals in the first period. Ottawa fired twenty shots on goal in the first period and Lundqvist despite surrendering the two goals played very well in stopping 18 shots.

Overall Lundqvist made 28 saves and saw his record fall to 30-11-9. The Rangers though do have to be concerned that their record following the Olympics is .500, 6-6-1-3, which translates into 16 points out of a possible 32. Not good for a team going into the playoffs with high aspirations. They seem to be staggering.

The Rangers are tired. They look tired and are playing tired, how else to explain the nine penalties. Yes their were two brawls between Colton Orr and Brian McGrattan. Would you believe that Orr got all of two minutes of ice time and McGrattan all of 1:13 of ice time but yet they found each other twice. McGrattan got the best of Orr in the major fight and in the minor McGrattan wrestled Orr to the ice where he continued to punch away while Orr was laying on the ice. This is cheap shotting. Sandy McCarthy, who could go with the best of them always skated away when his opponent fell to the ice. There are fighters, we used to call them policeman, and there are goons. Put Brian McGrattan in the goon category.

When the Rangers weren't in the penalty box they seemed to play well, however, they were 0-6 on the power play. I believe the Rangers have only won three games all year without scoring a PP goal. In the hit department the Senators out hit the Rangers 32-25 with Chris Neal of Ottawa getting 9 hits. He also scored the first goal, a rebound on a five on three. Jaromir Jagr got an assist on Fedor Tyutin's goal to cut it to 2-1 and it looked like the Rangers would make a game of it. A Ozolinsh hooking penalty gave the Senators an opportunity in the second period and Dany Heatley cashed in for the backbreaker.

So here we are in the heat of a playoff run, one of the most exciting in years. The Rangers are three points away from clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 1997 and what do we get on the back pages of our New York tabloids? I discount the Daily News, I don't read it. Long Island's Newsday has more George Mason mania. Give me a break already. In the upper right hand corner it mentions the Rangers.

 'The Best Sports in Town' is out of townThen there is the New York Post. Across its back pages it advertises in big bold red letters: "The Best Sports (in black) In Town." What's on the back pages of the Post this morning? Those two paragons of virtue and integrity, Bud Selig and ex-Senator George Mitchell, who will investigate the baseball steroid problem. To it's credit the Post's headline reads, "Bud's Grand Sham." It seems the impartial Senator is: 1) Director of the Boston Red Sox; 2) Chairman of the Board of Disney, the parent company of ESPN, which is doing a reality series on Barry Bonds; 3) Chaired the Special Commission that investigated the Salt Lake City bribery scandal which Players Exec Director Donald Fehr served on. Sounds like the firebugs are on the fire commission.

Back to the New York Post and hockey. Today was the ultimate indignity and insult to Ranger fans and hockey fans. Last night's game was reported by the Associated Press. The Associated Press! The Post could not even spend a few bucks to send what we used to call a cub reporter to Ottawa.

And where is the NY Post's premier hockey writer, Larry Brooks? Where is the writer that the Hockey News calls the 89th most influential person in hockey? I'll tell you where Mr. Brooks is. Mr. Brooks is in Florida covering the Yankees and the Mets.

Wonderful! Here we have the most exciting hockey year since 1997 and the New York Post, "the Best Sports In Town," is out of town. But the New York Post has been out of town all year when it comes to the Rangers and hockey. Give us the daily soap operas of the Yankees, Mets and Knicks and their overpaid and under performing super stars, ad nauseum. Tell us how this is the year that A-Rod really does it all and brings a championship to the Yankees. How Marbury and Brown are going to kiss and make up and the Knicks will win it all. How the Mets will go all the way now that Anna Benson has been traded to Baltimore. Enough!

Tell us about how Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist are casting their stars on the New York scene and how these Rangers have captured the hearts and the imaginations of at least the 18,200 who show up nightly and the few who watch them on TV.

ICINGS: Rangers have four days off before their biggest game of the year against the Flyers at the Garden Tuesday. The rumor has it that the Post will send Cindy Adams to cover the story. The Rangers have the last eight games in fifteen days to close out the season. Should be quite a finish. They need three points to clinch a playoff spot but the goal is an Atlantic Division title.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Record Breaking Party On Long Island



Record shattering night on Long IslandThere is good news and bad news for the Islanders when the Rangers come to the Coliseum. The good news. The place is sold out, thanks to Ranger fans. The bad news. The Rangers kick the hell out of the Islanders. In the last 14 games at the Coliseum the Rangers have won 11 times. Last night the Rangers held a party. Jagr broke Jean Ratelle's Ranger season scoring record. Lundqvist broke the Ranger rookie record for most wins in a season. Petr Prucha tied Camille Henry's record for most power play goals by a Ranger rookie, set in 1953-54. Oh, did I forget to tell you that Martin Straka got a natural hat trick? In the words of maestro Jaromir Jagr, it was the most quiet hat trick he ever saw.

The game ended early. The only suspense was whether Jagr would break Graves' Ranger record of 52 goals. He didn't but he did garner 4 assists. The fourth assist brought the crowd to its feet thinking it was a goal but alas it hit off Straka's leg and still the crowd chanted, MVP! MVP! Jagr now has a seven point lead over Joe Thornton for the scoring race. There was a report in the Times that he plans to retire when his contract expires in two years. Why? Just the other day he was telling us that his father said he would hit his peak when he gets to 37. Two years would get him to 36. C'mon Jags, give us a few more after this run. Watching a super star performing like a super star, carrying his team on his back is a joy to behold and we are lucky to be in on this happening. Compare this to the Islanders and their supposed super star, Alexei Yashin, and you see the difference. MVP! MVP! MVP!

The Prince had a relaxing game for a change, Yashin spoiling his shutout bid. He made 18 saves in achieving his 30th win breaking the jointly held records of "Sugar" Jim Henry (1941-42) and Johnny Bower (1953-54). Its kind of sad for me because I won't be mentioning those two every day now and I did see both play and they were good. However, I believe that the Prince has the potential to accomplish more than they did. God bless Jim Henry and Johnny Bower who are now forever etched in Ranger lore.

Tom Renney had a good game also. He rested Tyutin as Kasparaitis returned. Good move, Fedor needed a day off. Renney reunited the HMO line and they were their usual aggressive selves. Hollweg exhibited no caution with his hits, returning from his three game suspension. Colton Orr was put on a line with Blair Betts and Jason Ward and they were very effective and Betts scored a goal. Orr mixed it up with Eric Godard again with little consequence, Orr going after Godard who along with Petteri Nokelainen sandwiched Kasparaitis into the boards. Good move by Orr. Orr also tangled with John Erskine who wanted Malik after Malik had elbowed Blake behind the Ranger net. Oh, what a tangled web these skaters spin. We should call the Betts, Orr, Ward line the BOW line.

Now on to Ottawa and a battle with the first in the East, Senators. They are too far ahead to catch, nine points, but would you believe we are only six points behind Carolina for second place? Right now any combination of five points, either by a Ranger win or Thrasher defeat and we are in the playoffs, officially. And we laughed when the Rangers sent out the playoff ticket application.

ICINGS: Post Olympic final 24 now stands at 6-5-1-3 with nine to go. The Rangers 94 points and 41 wins ties them for seventh place in both categories for most points and most wins by the franchise.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Prince Saves His Subjects - Isles Next



Rangers comeback to beat SabresYes, I know that Jagr got his 52nd goal to tie the game and also tie Adam Graves's Ranger record for 52 goals in a season. I know he got a hugh assist on Petr Sykora's third period goal. I know also that Jagr tied Jean Ratelle's Ranger record for most points in a season with 109 points. And yes, Sykora besides his big third period goal scored the only goal in a shootout. But let's face it folks, if the Prince doesn't come in and make those eight great saves in the third period, one outstanding save in OT and three spectacular saves in the shootout we don't win this game.

Maybe Kevin Weekes was a little soft but he wasn't any softer than his defense which was awful for the first two periods. Rozsival and Malik made like Abbott and Costello on Drury's opening goal. DuMont waltzed through three Rangers to score Buffalo's second. Tyutin gave a master giveaway for Pominville's goal and Weekes left a juicy rebound for Briere. Outside of that the defense was flawless.

Flawless was the Prince. He made a great glove save on Mike Grier. He stopped J. P. Dumont's breakaway chance in OT and in the shootout he was magnificent. A pokecheck by the Prince negated Daniel Briere attempt. An unbelievable stop with the left leg stopped Maxim Afinogenov and then put out his glove hand to flick away Derek Roy's last gasp for the win. He now has 29 wins which ties Jim Henry (1941-42) and Johnny Bower (1953-54) for most wins by a Ranger rookie goaltender. He is now battling Cristobal Huet of Montreal and Dominick Hasek of Ottawa for the goalie awards the GAA race it's Hasek 2.09, Huet 2.14 and Lundqvist 2.17. In the save % it's Huet .930, Hasek .925 and Lundqvist .924. Not bad for a rookie that wasn't even on the Ranger radar screen in the long off season. Of course Huet has been tough on the Rangers and they would have their work cut out for them if they were to meet Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

Ah yes the playoffs. With the Flyer loss to the Maple Leafs last night the Rangers are two points ahead of the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead with ten games to go, two against each other. Tonight the Rangers go into the lions den at the Coliseum against the Islanders, a team with no where to go and nothing to lose. The stats favor the Rangers, but throw out the stats when these two teams play. The season series stands at 3-1-1 with three games left against each other. The Ranger power play is sixth in the league and have scored at least one power play goal in 49 of their 72 games this year posting a 33-8-8 in those games. The Rangers penalty killing ranks 5th in the NHL. The Islanders rank 22nd on the power play and 26th on the penalty killing. The Islanders would love nothing more than putting a big crimp in the Rangers playoff plans.

Any combination of seven Ranger wins or Atlanta Thrashers losses will give the Rangers their first playoff spot since 1997. Of course we are aiming higher. The Rangers want to win the Atlantic Division to get home ice advantage for the first round. A second place finish in the Division would put them in fifth place and have to face Buffalo with home ice advantage to Buffalo. Right now the Rangers are two points behind the Sabres so there are a lot of spots at stake in the final ten games.

ICINGS: Look for the Prince to be in the nets tonight and tomorrow night against Ottawa.. Renney may have blundered in starting Weekes against Buffalo at the Garden but the Prince sure saved his onions. If Weekes sees any more ice time it would probably be on the road against the Bruins or the Devils. Kasparaitis should return tonight. Rangers post Olympic final 24 stands at 5-5-1-3 with ten games to go.

old computer problemsSorry for the delay in getting this out but was having computer problems the last few days and spent them talking to Jake from Bombay who claims I am now ok, but I doubt it. So we shall see as we go along The Road To Mandalay. My computer is old, he said. I reminded him that so was I, and we both need fixing occasionally.

Let's Go Rangers!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Lost Weekend (Well Two Ties)



Lightening win shootoutHow else to explain it other than a lost weekend when you blow two goal leads in back to back games in funny Florida. Yes, Jaromir Jagr continues his assault on the Ranger all time scoring records. He now has 51 goals and 56 assists and is two away from Jean Ratelle's all time record of 109 points.

The other key component of the Ranger surge, Henrik Lundqvist, had a mixed bag night, making 31 saves. He gave up a soft goal in the first period, seemed disoriented in the second and played like gangbusters in the third (10 saves) and OT (6 saves).

The refs (not again?) played their usual dominating roll in this game. The Rangers were called for five penalties, all soft. The Refs missed many cheap shots by the Lightning, calling only three penalties against Tampa Bay. One particular case was a Lightning player, possibly Kubina, slamming his stick across Steve Rucchin's mouth and no call with the ref a few feet away. Reminiscent of the one handed slash by Jay Bouwmeester of Florida on Martin Rucinsky, which broke Marty's finger. The Ref was near the goal and the play was right in front of him. No call, no penalty. Plus a soft penalty call on Tom Poti (what else) in OT killed any chance of us winning in OT.

However, the piece de resistance was the waving off a Ranger goal in the second period. Can't blame the refs for this one. Blame the experts upstairs, or in Toronto or Hades, wherever they are sitting because to quote JD, "It was inconclusive." Inconclusive? The ref pointed his finger to signify a goal, the goal judge turned the light on and it was inconclusive? The Lightning players didn't complain and John Grahame, Tampa Bay goalie never said a word. Why? Because the puck was under him and he didn't move a muscle for minutes. His feet were inside the goal. Look at the picture, if you can find one and tell me its not a goal.

Then came the shootout and the unthinkable. Jagr, Sykora and Nylander unable to put one past John Grahame. John Grahame? One wonder why Petr Prucha was not given a shot on the shootout? Also, it is puzzling why Jagr is so ineffective in shootouts, 2-8. I wonder why he just doesn't skate in and from about ten feet away fire off one of those lasers that he has been firing past goalies in regulation?

Tom Renney seems to have forgotten how we got here. Its Jagr, Lundqvist and the HMO line. That is how it has been mostly done. With Hollweg on a three game suspension, no guarantee he would play anyway, the Rangers brought up Alexandre Giroux from Hartford. Giroux is Hartford's top goal scorer, thirty four. Despite playing well early on, he helped draw our first PP by being interfered by Fedorenko, leading Sykora's PP goal. So Giroux gets all of 2:50 of ice time and this cascades down the HMO line where Ortmeyer gets 3:50 and Moore gets 4:41 of ice time. WOW! The one line that holds its own, goes check for check with the other team and they sit for almost 55 minutes of the game. Remember Moore and Ortmeyer killed of the bulk of the Lightning's five power plays. Tampa bay was 0-5 on the PP.

ICINGS: The Rangers post Olympic final 24 is now 4-5-1-3 with eleven to go. There are three left against the revitalized Islanders, two against surging Philadelphia, two against Eastern Conference leader Ottawa and singletons against the Bruins, Devils, Penguins and Buffalo. Read Larry Brooks' Slapshot article in the New York Post about the machinations of the Jagr deal and how the NHL as a league is 229 games over .500. Only in the NHL folks, only in the New NHL.

17th hole at TPC SawgrassMore Florida Fun: watching professional golfers hit the ball in the water at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The joy of watching pro's firing blanks in another Florida "shootout." Google Maps satellite view.


The pin is set at 138 yards today with a 7-8 mph breeze.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ranger 'D' And Other Rants



<RANT>
The Ranger defense needs to step up on this two day Florida trip otherwise there will be questions about even making the playoffs never mind finishing in third place. The addition of Sandis Ozolinsh and the injury to Darius Kasparaitis have Tom Renney in a quandary as to the pairings for each game. Hopefully, Kasparaitis will return and pair with Fedor Tyutin in a Russian revival.

Michal Rozsival and Marek Malik have been partners all year and the Czech connection along with the Jagr line paid dividends early on. I do wish that Malik will go back to playing stay-at-home defense and let Rozsival make the rushes and pinches. Malik seems to be suffering the most from the Olympics and his shoulder injury from Devil Cam Jannsen's hit seems to be hindering him. This leaves Ozolinsh to pair with Poti. How is that for a challenge? Frightening! Possible solution. Dress Jason Strudwick for tonight and have him play wing, in place of Hollweg, on the HMO line. He then can be used as a seventh defenseman.

On penalty kills, sit Ozolinsh, and pair Strudwick with Poti. At least there will be some physical presence. Maybe he can keep the crease manageable. Notice, I said manageable not impenetrable.

Refs to Star

The referees have been the subject of a few responses from our readers. Don Van Massenhoven, Craig Spada and Mr. Magoo, McGeough were a few mentioned. But why stop at these three. There is a whole slew pot of incompetent referees parading around blowing whistles and calling stupid penalties and ignoring the more flagrant ones. The cause of this is the addition of an extra ref to call a game. The departure of fabled ref, Red Storey, got me to thinking about this ref situation again. How come the Olympics went off smooth as glass with one referee in a bigger rink? How come? Because now there is competition between refs not to be outshone.

Have you seen the new Kerry Fraser in action? He now wears a helmet. No playing without a helmet jokes, please. He skates on the ice like a peacock and now takes it upon himself to explain all the controversial calls even those called by the other refs. So who told us we need two referees on the ice? Outside of the ref's union, is there another group? The GM's you say. How fitting, there was Lou Lamirello, GM, now coach, screaming his head off as Scotty Gomez lay on the ice from a stick in the face, while Petr Bondra was scoring the game winning goal and no call. Maybe, Lou the coach should scream to Lou the GM.

Ryan Hollweg gets a three game suspension for running R.J. Umberger into the boards. Justified? Maybe. No problem with the five minutes or the game ejection, but three games? Umberger returned to the game and participated in the fifth goal. Rucinsky gets slammed into the boards by Rivet of Montreal, is out for six weeks, and Rivet doesn't even get a two minute penalty. Darius Kasparaitis gets sucker punched by Grant Marshall, of the Devils, from behind, and Marshall gets two minutes. The play was reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore, to a lesser degree, and only two minutes, no game ejection, no nothing (bad grammar). But lay a tap on a stick, brush a player in the crease, put your stick on someone's body, shoot the puck into the stands and bingo, two minutes. Crash the net and injure the goalie, nada. The playoffs will star the referees and that is unfortunate.

Thirteen games to go and we need a strong finish from the Rangers. Let's get all our positive vibes directed to the Sunshine State and hope that in the words of our readers, Tonto and the rest of the posse show up to help Jaromir Jagr so that he doesn't remain the Lone Ranger. Lets Go Rangers. Get 'em up Scout!
</RANT>

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jaromir Jagr - The Lone Ranger

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Jaromir Jagr: hired gun and Lone Ranger
Sorry for the delay in reporting last nights game. I had to spend two hours in my dentist's office this morning and believe me the pain of the Rangers loss was worse than the dental visit. Mental anguish can be worse than physical pain.

Ranger loss hurts worse than dentistSo how do you talk about and explain last nights game. The mantra going around sounds like, "If I told you back in October that we would be battling for first in the Division in March, you would have accepted it." Even my dentist hit me with that one. Okay, but this is March and October is long forgotten and we blew a chance to get a lock on first and the three seed.

The mainstream media is quick to put the blame on Ryan Hollweg's boarding penalty on R.J. Umberger, resulting in a five minute power play and Hollweg's disqualification. That shouldn't have been a big deal for a team like the Rangers who are first at home in killing penalties with a 89.4%. In the previous five games against the Flyers the Rangers killed 28 of thirty three chances for a 84.8%. So how did the Flyers go three for five on the power play last night? So what went wrong? Before you answer, I have a question for you. Where was Jed Ortmeyer?

It is tough to second guess Tom Renney with only thirteen games left to play. He has done a great job in bringing the Rangers to a point where they could possible win the Atlantic Division.

But how do you leave Jed Ortmeyer out of the lineup? Ortmeyer is one of the key penalty killers in the NHL. He is one of the premier shot blockers in the NHL. He ranks second to Kasparaitis in hits and blocked shots on the Rangers. Renney knows and has preached how different components bring different skills to a game.

It's Jagr on the offense, Lundqvist in the nets and Ortmeyer on the checking and harassment and killing penalties. Isn't it kind of late for experiments like Colton Orr to be getting ice time over an established player like Ortmeyer? Was Orr in the game to challenge and combat Brashear? If so, how do you explain Brashear getting almost eleven minutes of ice time and Orr getting four? Has Renney forgotten that the HMO line is a critical piece to this Ranger puzzle that he has so carefully crafted?

Flyers spoil Jagr's hat-trickJagr was unbelievable. He almost won this single handedly. The JagrMeister must be smiling today. OK, half smiling. The rest of the Rangers were awful, especially the defense. I know this new NHL forbids much of the body work that is needed to clear the crease, but this was ridiculous how soft the Rangers 'D' was. Kaspy being hurt certainly did not help but isn't that when others are supposed to show up. Sandis Ozolinsh was invisible, no shots on goal and coughed up the puck twice, once to Simon Gagne who buried it past Lundqvist. Ozolinsh gives credence to the adage, you get what you pay for. A third round pick has given us, so far, a third rate performance.

The Prince did stop 30 of 35 shots. The Flyers crashed the net all night and our 'D' was helpless to stop it. The offense wasn't much better getting 23 shots on goal but not putting any traffic in front of Esche. There was one sequence in the third period where Jagr was skating around in the offensive zone, around the net and not a single Ranger got in front of the net. He was brilliant. The assists given to the Rangers were ridiculous. Jagr got all the goals on his own initatives and skills. Last night, Jaromir Jagr was truly The Lone Ranger.

ICINGS: Rangers post Olympic final 24 game record now stands at 4-5-1-1. Rangers now stand at 3-1-2 against Flyers with all three wins coming at Wachovia Center. There are two more games against the Flyers, at the Garden April 4th and at Philly April 15th, the next to the last game of the season.

NY Rangers player salaries vs. NHL averages
Left Wing          Center            Right Wing
Prucha($525,000) Straka($3M) Jagr($7.8 M*)
Hossa($585,200) Nylander($2.28M) Sykora($3.116 M)
Moore($450,000) Rucchin($2.261M) Ward($625,000)
Hollweg($526,000) Betts($500,000) Ortmeyer($501,600)
Martin Rucinsky ($3 M) LW
Colton Orr ($450,000) RW

Defense
Sandis Ozolinsh($2.750 M) D. Kasparaitis ($3.344 M)
Marek Malik($2.5 M) Tom Poti ($2.356 M)
Michal Rozsival($703,000) Fedor Tyutin ($450,000)

Goaltenders
Henrik Lundqvist ($817,000)
Kevin Weekes ($1.9 M)

*Washington picks up part of Jagr's $7.8 million salary, which is reduced from $8,360,000 under the new CBA. Rangers pay Jagr approx. $4,900,000 (estimate). Jaromir Jagr, whose $7.8M salary is the league's highest, is also the NHLer whose salary is furthest above average for his depth-chart position.

Colby Cosh's breakdown of average NHL salary by position:

Average NHL salaries by current depth-chart position
Average NHL salaries by current depth-chart position [Colbycosh.com]
NY Rangers Depth Cart & Salaries [tsn.ca]
NY Rangers Salaries [OutsideTheGarden.com]

UPDATE:

TORONTO (AP) - New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg was suspended for three games without pay by the NHL on Thursday (Mar. 23rd) for checking Philadelphia's R.J. Umberger from behind Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Hollweg was given a a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct for the first-period hit in the Rangers' 6-3 loss to the Flyers. Philadelphia scored twice during the 5-minute power play for the major penalty.

Hollweg will forfeit $7,515. He will be eligible to return Wednesday night for the Rangers' game at the New York Islanders.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Leetch Returns: Rangers Celebrate



Brian Leetch returns to Garden as Boston BruinPregame at the Garden tonight was all about Brian Leetch and his first game at the Garden in an opposing teams uniform. Prior to the playing of the National Anthem (yes the jerks yelled while it was being sung), the Garden video center played a tribute to Leetch. You couldn't hear it as the crowd was roaring and chanting: Brian Leetch-Brian Leetch-Brian Leetch. The ceremony ended with a thunderous ovation for the man who played seventeen years with the Rangers before being dumped unceremoniously by Glen Sather. While the return on the trade is beneficial to the Rangers the manner in which it was handled was bush league.

The Ranger fans who came to cheer an ex-defenseman wound up cheering for a new (this year) defenseman, Michal Rozsival, who scored the game's first goal and also picked up two assists, which gave him number one star designation. With Jagr being shadowed by Yan Stastny, son of the great Petr Stastney, it was up to the other Rangers to deliver and that is just what they did. Betts, short handed, Straka, Nylander and Moore were the other goal scorers. Jagr got an assist on Nylander's goal and now has 101 points, two ahead of Joe Thornton. But the true stars of the game, the ones who set the tone were the HMO line. The Kamikaze Kids returned with a vengeance.

The HMO line was absolutely outstanding. The Rangers actually outhit the Bruins 19-15. Hollweg had seven hits and three shots on goal. Ortmeyer had a shot on goal and three hits. Moore had three shots and one goal and to top the evening off Ryan Hollweg and ex-Ranger Dan LaCouture mixed it up near the end with no damage to either player. It was a great team effort and the Rangers are now closing in on their first playoff after a seven year drought. They have now won three straight after losing six straight. They are four points up on the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division with both teams having fourteen games left to play. Wednesday nights game against the Flyers should be a barn burner.

Henrik Lundqvist was voted second star. He made nineteen saves and a few were of the sensational variety and prompted the crowd to chant his name. Very quietly, without a declaration from Tom Renney he has become the number one goalie on the Rangers. Not so quietly he has become the number one goalie in the NHL. I don't think he will play all of the last fourteen games because there are three back to back games coming up. They go to Florida this weekend with Florida and Tampa Bay on Friday and Saturday. Then next week its on the road again for Wednesday and Thursday against the Islanders and Ottawa, and the the following week its Saturday and Sunday against the Bruins and the Devils. Look for Kevin Weekes to get some action in these sequences.

With the Flyers coming in it may be time for a lineup tweak. I think Hossa should sit and Jason Strudwick should be moved up on the wing. It gives the Rangers a little more toughness for this game. Hossa hasn't been scoring anyway and Strudwick would give the Rangers some insurance on the back line as a seventh defenseman.

ICINGS: I have a pet peeve with Marek Malik not waiting for the National Anthem to end as he puts on his helmet and skates away from the blue line. Did he do that in the Olympics when they were playing the Czech Anthem? Post Olympic final 24 count now stands at 4-4-1-1..

Eric McErlain over at the Off Wing Opinion blog has a poll asking:

"If the season ended today, who would be the NHL MVP?" Guess who is leading with 34% of the vote? That's a moot question here in Ranger Land.

Tim Hortons Hot Joe is Hot IPO


So Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money was ranting about the Tim Hortons IPO last night.

Do you remember Tim Horton? He was a hall-of-fame defenseman who played 19 years for Toronto and was with the Rangers for two seasons. He played his final two seasons for Punch Imlach's Buffalo Sabres until his untimely death. Legends of Hockey:


Tim Horton (1930-1974) Early in the morning of February 21, 1974, Tim Horton was killed in a single-car crash while driving home to Buffalo after a game in Toronto against his old team. Police who chased the sports car reported that it was traveling over 100 miles per hour before it crashed just outside of St. Catharines, Ontario. Toronto won the game that night, but Horton, even though he missed the third period with a jaw injury, was selected as the game's third star for his standout play.


In 1964, Tim Horton opened a coffee and doughnut shop named after himself, in Hamilton, Ontario. That small shop was the start of a chain that took over the coffee and doughnut business in Canada. Today that "small" coffee shop chain is the hottest IPO on Wall Street as Wendy's international is spinning it off as a separate company to the public. Bloomberg - Tim Hortons Boosts Offering Price, May Raise $800 Mln:

Tim Hortons logoTim Hortons has 2,597 restaurants in Canada and 288 outlets in the U.S., selling coffee, doughnuts, sandwiches and soups. The company says it has 74 percent of the Canadian market for coffee and baked goods, based on customers served.

Wendy's, based in Dublin, Ohio, plans to spin off the rest of its stake in Tim Hortons by year's end. The company will trade under the symbol THI and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Here's a cup of hot joe and a good donut to you Tim Horton. R.I.P.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Jagr And The Prince: Broadway Stars



Jaromir Jagr making historyThere was a duel at The Garden last night and it was between the two linchpins of the Rangers. Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist took turns drawing raves from the crowd as each put on outstanding performances, one offensive and one defensive. Jagr scored a goal and had three assists in a record breaking night and was awarded the number one star of the game. Lundqvist made 33 saves on 35 shots, was deprived of a shutout by excessive Ranger penalties (9), and was awarded the second star of the game. Role player, Petr Prucha, was the third star with a goal and two assists.

Jagr's goal, his 46th, a power play goal tied him with Vic Hadfield (1971-72) for most power play goals in a season, 23. Hadfield, by the way, was the ace left wing on the 1971-72, G-A-G (Goal-A-Game) Line with Rod Gilbert on the right side and Jean Ratelle at center. Jean Ratelle racked up a record 109 points on that line. That was one amazing offensive line with 312 total points (139 goals - 173 assists). As the threesome continued to fill the net that season they were re-named the "TAG Line" for Two-A-Game. Jaromir Jagr is now skating into history with them. Jagr now has the most points by a Ranger right winger, surpassing Rod Gilbert's 97 points in 1971-72 and again in 1974-75.

Jagr's goal combined with his three assists gives him 100 points for the season. So he takes back the league lead over Joe Thornton who has 98 points. Jagr is the sixth Ranger to score 100 points in a season and is headed to the top of the list which is Jean Ratelle's 109 points from his injury shortened 1971-72 season. His forty-six goals leave him six short of Adam Graves' 52 garnered in 1993-94. Jagr got only two shots on goal but it was amazing watching him skate and pass with precision to open Rangers.

What was also amazing was that the Toronto players also seemed to be watching in awe as he skated almost uncontested most of the night. His setups of Petr Sykora and Petr Prucha were things of beauty and a clinic in pinpoint passing. The addition of Sykora and the return of Prucha have added a much needed lift to the offense. The crowd responded to Jagr's performance with chants of "M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P."

Henrik Lundqvist should have had a shutout. The Rangers insisted on testing their young goalie by seeing how many penalties they could take. They took nine and killed off seven. They also killed any chance the Prince would have for a shutout. As it was he improved on both his 2.12 GAA and his .926 save percentage. The crowd responded to his performance in the third period with chants of, Hen-reek, Hen-reek, Hen-reek. When Allison scored with 8 minutes to go, on a five on three, the crowd rose to give The Prince a standing ovation. The win was Lundqvist's 27th of the year, third highest for a Ranger rookie goaltender, and two short of the Ranger rookie record of 29 wins held jointly by Johnny Bower, 1953-54, and "Sugar" Jim Henry, 1941-42. The much heralded duel between Lundqvist and his Swedish team mate, Mikael Tellqvist, never materialized as the Toronto goalie was torched in the second period for three goals.

Its tough to put in a negative on the night that the two brightest stars on Broadway shone brilliantly. However the penalty situation is getting out of hand. The penalties for the most part was due to: (a) slowness, (b) laziness, (c) carelessness. It has to stop.

With fifteen games left the games are now playoff type games with power plays playing a big part of the games. Is it reasonable to expect that Henrik Lundqvist stands on his head every night? There are times when it seems that the defense is watching Lundqvist instead of assisting him. The Rangers now have seven defensemen and it is time that we start seeing some kind of rotation before there is a breakdown. Malik for one seems to get slower as the game progresses. I know he missed a few games due to an injury but he seems tired. Is he still hurt? Why not start rotating Jason Strudwick through the defense?

ICINGS: Brian Leetch returns to the Garden for the first time in an enemy uniform. The Bruins are red hot with wins over Ottawa and Carolina and will go for the trifecta against the Rangers to try to come up with wins against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Post Olympic record for the final 24 games is now 3-4-1-1.

   Jaromir Jagr is skating into New York Rangers history.

Vic Hadfield Jean Ratelle Rod Gilbert New York Rangers

NY Rangers TAG (Two-A-Game) Line of 1971-72:

Vic Hadfield - left-wing, 50 goals, 56 assists, 106 points, 78 games

Jean Ratelle - center, 46 goals, 63 assists, 109 points, 63 games

Rod Gilbert - right-wing, 43 goals, 54 assists, 97 points, 73 games

The NY Rangers in 1971-72: 78 games, 48-17-13, 109 points, 317 goals for, 192 goals against.

Note: Jean Ratelle scored his 109 points in only 63 games before a season-ending broken ankle on March 1, 1972. That injury probably cost him the Art Ross Trophy and may have cost the Rangers the Stanley Cup that year.

The Rangers still finished 2nd in the East Division and were ten points behind the Boston Bruins, who were led by Esposito (133 points & Art Ross winner) and Orr (117 points). The Rangers eventually lost to the Boston Bruins in six games.

Friday, March 17, 2006

FINALMENTE!

Jagr scores game winnerSo I get home late from one of the sloppiest played Ranger game in years, eleven turnovers, and my wife, Maryann, hits me with, "The Capitals got cheated." That was a goal they scored that the ref called off. Why did he call it off she asked? I replied that the ref waved it off because he lost sight of the puck. What was he watching, she wanted to know? So this morning she hits me with the same story, "Washington got jobbed last night." Washington got jobbed? Does she realize how many times over the years the Rangers got jobbed? Jobbed by stupid owners, incompetent coaches, inferior players, dumb refs and goalposts and crossbars. I still hear 'Bones' Raleigh's shot clanging off the crossbar in the 1950 Cup Final and Detroit coming back on the ensuing play to score and win the Cup. So you need a little luck once in a while.

It was ugly, but it was a desperately needed win. It was good seeing the team in a circle at the end of the game raising their sticks. The Rangers were outshot 40-27 and they blocked 22 shots. Tyutin had five blocks. The Caps came out gunning, putting nineteen shots on goal in the first period and scoring when Lundqvist failed to control a loose puck.

The Prince was magnificent in the first period stopping eighteen of the nineteen shots. His glove save on Zubrus, when the Rangers were playing short for four minutes, brought the crowd to their feet with a standing O and roars of Henreek, Henreek, Henreek. In the third period he did the same stopping Ovechkin on his doorstep with more roars from the crowd.

He was our Prince again. The Caps scored three times in the second but The Prince came back strong in the third with a perfect eleven shots, eleven saves. He hasn't given up this many goals (4) since fifteen games ago. His GAA is now 2.12, second behind Hasek's 2.09. His save % dropped to .926 which puts him behind Tim Thomas and Cristabal Huet's .927. However, they have played in twenty fewer games than Lundqvist.

The game was also a duel between the old gunner, Jagr, and the new gunner, Ovechkin. The old gunner won handily with a goal and an assist to remain one point behind Joe Thornton in the scoring race, 97-96. And what a goal he scored. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is still checking his skates to find out why they failed him as Jagr blew right around and put in as beautiful a goal you will ever see past a weary Olaf Kolzig. You think Jagr enjoyed it a little extra sticking it to his ex-mates and all those stories about him not giving his all when he played in Washington? Jagr now has nine game winning goals this year which ties Mark Messier (1996-97) and Don Maloney (1980-81) for the Ranger team record. By the end of this season Jaromir Jagr will have established all kinds of Ranger scoring records.

The Ranger defense corp pairings played like they just met each other for the first time. And I know I've said this in one way shape or form before but is there a more insignificant hockey player than Tom Poti? Isn't it time with Ozolinsh aboard, who scored his first goal, from the point, on the power play, to sit Poti? If you don't believe me about him, next time you go to the game watch him every time he is on the ice and pay attention to what he does or doesn't do. Isn't Jason Strudwick an improvement? Isn't Thomas Pock an improvement? My grandson would be an improvement and he is only seven and skates for the Snow Devils. Go get them Nicholas.

ICINGS:

Red Storey Red Storey, one of the great refs of all time passed away at the age of 88. He ref'ed the Stanley Cup finals from 1952-1959 and retired after the Montreal Canadiens-Chicago Blackhawks 1959 final after league President Clarence Campbell claimed he choked in the finals. NHL.com has a great story by Mike Wyman on him. Read it. It's a wonderful story about a great human being. Rangers post Olympic final 24 now stands at 2-4-1-1 with Toronto, Boston and the Flyers coming up on this homestand. To all my Irish readers, Happy St. Patrick's Day. In fact to all my readers, you don't have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick's Day. Stay well and safe.

Red Storey & Lori Dupuis during 1983 commercial

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Six And Sputtering



Rangers sputtering and breaking downYou remember way back on March 5th I wrote, "A Shot Across The Bow," a reminder that after a 2-1 loss to the Devils that it was going to be playoff type hockey and the Rangers better get their act together. I may have misspoke, the shot may have actually hit an engine because the Rangers have been sputtering ever since.

Last nights performance was an attempt by the Rangers to wipe out all the good things that had been accomplished prior to the Olympics. The loss was a season high six. There was no crispness, no attention to detail, no forechecking, no checking and no coaching. The fact that it was so close only underscores what might have been with a little effort.

It was a game of failures for the Rangers. In the second period with the score tied 1-1, Blair Betts, about ten feet from the blue line in the defensive zone, failed to get the puck over the blue line with a cutesy pass which led to a goal by Doug Weight which fittingly bounced off of Blair before it went in. Marion Hossa had a shorthanded breakaway in the second period and failed to get a shot off. In the same period Martin Straka, hooked on a breakaway, was given a penalty shot and failed to get a shot off.

With the Rangers down by one, with about a minute to play, and pressing with six skaters Petr Sykora failed to get the puck in deep and then Sandis Ozolinsh failed to hold on to the puck giving Cory Stillman an empty net shot which he buried. And Tom Renney failed to sit an injured Martin Rucinsky before the game and the Rangers paid for it as he only played 5:14 before leaving injured again. Renney for some reason failed to play Ryan Hollweg again and the Rangers accumulated all of ten hits in the game.

Ten hits for 60 minutes of ice time. You would think that by accident players would hit each other. Nine Rangers had no hits. Tyutin, Poti and Kasparaitis had no hits. Is Kaspy wearing down? The only Ranger with more than one hit was Rozsival. The Hurricanes had fifteen hits and these were quality hits with the Ranger defensemen being punished. The way the Rangers are structured there isn't much hitting expected from the first two lines. Steve Rucchin is built to be more aggressive but he plays a very soft game. His game does pick up once he is in the locker room.

Tom Renney is beginning to look like all the ghosts of coaches past. What went through his mind to put Martin Rucinsky in the starting lineup. He said it was optional. He left it up to Rucinsky to tell him if he was ready. Ridiculous. Most hockey players will play with any kind of injuries. These are not baseball players who take a week off for a head cold. Hockey players want to play and will despite any injuries. You are the coach man. You make the call. He could have gotten seriously injured. Then see what happens coach?

What is the story about sitting Hollweg? The HMO line without Hollweg dished out a total of three hits. Yes, Hossa generated offense, six shots, but came up blank on the scoresheet.

Where to go from here? How to stop the bleeding? Jaromir Jagr, who played a great game hurt, summed it about the four game homestand coming up. "It might be our season. That's the way I look at it." Jagr has lost his scoring lead to Joe Thornton who has 95 points to Jagr's 94. Look for the Rangers to go with Lundqvist for the four game stand. The Prince leads the league with a 2.07 GAA with Hasek second at 2.09. The Prince is in a three way tie in save percentages with Huet of Montreal and Tim Thomas of Buffalo. All have a .927%.

ICINGS: Think about this. With seventeen games to go the Rangers are still two points ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference and are seventh overall in the NHL. Post Olympics record now stands at 1-4-1-1.

Rangerland is dumbfounded by Renney not playing Hollweg.

Blueshirt Bulletin:


the Rangers were being pounded not by big bruisers, but by guys like Weight and Mark Recchi -- with no fear of payback with Ryan Hollweg in street clothes. The Rangers are doomed if they insist on keeping their best sparkplug, their best hitter, off the ice, doing their opponents a favor every time they scratch him.

Blueshirts on Broadway:
Ryan Hollweg rode the bench tonight-for the life of me I can’t understand why, this kid gives the team good strong clean hits and makes things happen and he is rewarded with a trip to the bench.

Larry Brooks at the NY Post:
Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why junkyard dog Ryan Hollweg was scratched from last night's lineup and why Renney has seemingly lost faith in the energy unit of Hollweg, Dominic Moore and Jed Ortmeyer that was so effective and important throughout so much of the pre-Olympics portion of the season.

The HockeyRodent:
Where was Ryan Hollweg? Wouldn't he have made more of a difference out there than Hossa? I'm telling you this experiment with the Slovak has got to stop. It's wasting precious ice time. So what that Hossa's got talent? He has no clue how to use it. The team needs an injection of something. Maybe it's got to come from Hartford.


Acid Queen enjoyed Canes smacking Rangers, except for the drunken peasantsThe Acid Queen enjoyed watching her Canes "smacking of the Rangers." But it doesn't sound like her royal majesty was sitting in the Royal Box. Those damn drunken peasants and their "jackassery" - off with their heads:
the durnken asshats sitting behind me in 332 Row D, who were still being served beer even though they were clearly intoxicated, and who should (in my opinion) have been tossed by the RBC securebots (who were posted at each end of the section) when all of us in Row A plus all the people sitting around them complained to the ushers AND to security about them...two morons, who roont a lot of the night for me and everyone else with their drunken jackassery

Stan Fischler:
By now it should be clear that Sid (Der Bingle) Crosby will not win The Calder. It’s not even close. Henrik (I’m Not Henny Youngman) Lundqvist and Alex (I’m All-Inclusive) Ovechkin are neck-and-neck for the prize. If The Big O totals 50 goals, that should clinch it for the rapid Russian.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Things could be worse in Rangerland

Just to put everyting in perspective things could be worse in Rangerland. At least we don't make it into the Poop Report yet. Look at the poor Islanders. Les Gomez said it best - "New York Islanders: Crapped Out" -

Burst sewage pipe causes major damage at Coliseum

The Islanders had a big 3-1 win in Boston on Saturday. Back home at the old arena in Uniondale, it was a different matter

A sewage pipe burst in the Islanders' dressing room at approximately 7:45 on Saturday night. It is the second time broken pipes have caused damage to the Islanders' room in the Nassau Coliseum in the last year. In August the damage was major. This time, the damage was devastating.

The Islanders' workout room has been almost completely destoyed. It is estimated that over one million dollars of damage has been done. Luckily, the Islanders are on the road next week so preliminary repairs can begin, but there's little to no chance the room will be ready when the Islanders return to home ice on March 21.

According to eyewitnesses -- at the Coliseum for an ice skating show on Saturday -- water started flooding the hallway where the Islanders' and visiting team locker rooms are located soon after the start of the skating show. "We could not believe it," said one Coliseum worker. "We've had plenty of problems over the last few years, but it's usually stuff you can patch up. Not this. The flooding was out of control. When they finally got the Islanders' locker room door open, you wouldn't believe what it looked like in there."

The ceiling in the workout room caved in, with debris and sewage crashing on top of the team's treadmills, bikes and other training equipment.

Mike Milbury inspects destroyed workout room
Les:
It looks Mike Milbury can't stand the taste of his own management *yukyuk*

Islanders' sewer pipe bursts

Islanders' sewer pipe bursts
Update: This topic seems ripe for comment. Just in case you forgot, Mike Milbury has a history with Rangers fans:

Mike Milbury beating Rangers fan with shoe
On Dec. 23, 1979 Milbury in a game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden followed his teammates into the stands for a brawl and ended up with a shoe in hand. He used the shoe to beat a Rangers fan.
Hopefully, this disaster at the Coliseum has disarmed or unshod the always dangerous Mike Milbury and forced him to wear hip waders.

Mike that's a great job on the press release and thank you for the pictures.

IT'S OFFICIAL: ISLES STINK [NY Post, Mar. 13, 2006]
Mike Milbury Beats Fan With Shoe [On The Wings, Nov. 23, 2004]
For Milbury, the shoe is on the other foot [Newsday, Nov. 21, 2004]

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rangers Self Destruct, Losing Fifth Straight



Atlanta Thrashers rally to beat RangersThere is an adage in sports: play the game not to lose and chances are you will lose. The Rangers went into the third period at the Garden tonight leading 2-0 and for some reason tried to play rope-a-dope and it didn't work. The Thrashers outshot the Rangers 16-7 in the third period and took advantage of four careless Ranger penalties, the worst one being Darius Kasparaitis shooting the puck into the stands giving the Thrashers a 1:55 five on three power play. Kovalchuk tapped in a rebound shot to tie the score with :03 left on the penalty. They then won it in OT on a four on three power play goal by Marc Savard. Straka had been whistled off for a lazy holding the stick penalty right in front of the referee.

Make no mistake my friends, the Rangers are in a free fall and it only gets worse as they go to Carolina on Tuesday to play the Eastern Conference leaders, the Hurricanes. Jaromir Jagr who looked hurt late in the second period, possibly groin, played over twenty two minutes, scored his forty fourth goal, and led both teams with seven shots on goal. If he goes down for any time back up the truck and get the team out of town fast. The Ranger power play was 1-6 and the penalty kill was 6-6 until the penalty parade started late in the third period and continued into OT. How many times can a team shoot itself in the foot and expect to escape calamity?

Martin Rucinsky injured his knee at 2:46 of the third, taking an interference penalty. Jagr sat in the box for Rucinsky and Marty never returned to the game. So he may miss the next game or two. There were some odd moves by Renney. For some reason he sat a healthy Jed Ortmeyer to dress Colton Orr, who played all of 3:09, five shifts, administered two hits and spent most of the night glowering at Thrasher forward Eric Boulton, who glowered back. They almost came to blows once but Boulton didn't seem to want any part of Orr. Strange move by Renney. He sits Orr against the Flyers and Devils where he probably could have used him and plays him against the Thrashers for whatever reason only Mr. Renney knows.

As usual the Rangers were outhit. The hits were 17-9 in favor of Atlanta. Ryan Hollweg got two hits on the first shift of the game and then must have decided that his quota had been spent. Michal Rozsival, Steve Rucchin and Jason Strudwick had perfect nights. No shots and no hits. Darius Kasparaitis had one shot on goal and no hits. That's correct stat fans, no hits for Kaspy. With the exceptions of Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist the rest of the Rangers played like they would rather be watching the NCAA Selection Show.

The Rangers need new blood and a new direction from Renney and they need it fast. The Devils, the Canadiens, the Flyers and now the Thrashers are closing in on the Rangers. What was once unthinkable is now possible, missing the playoffs. How about we go down to Hartford and bring up Jarkko Immonen and Nigel Dawes and bring back Thomas Pock. It might get some life back into the team to know there is young blood waiting in the wings. Tom Renney constantly preaches about individual responsibility as it relates to the team concept. How about Tom Renney's responsibility to correcting this slide and correcting it fast. We cannot continue down the same path with the same non-performers, playing the same offensive perimeter game.

ICINGS: The Garden added a nice touch with tributes to Dana Reeve and Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion. They played a tape of Reeve singing the National Anthem and naturally it was interrupted by the jerks who insist on yelling out during its singing. The Ranger last 24 game watch score is now 1-3-1-1 and falling with tough Carolina coming up Tuesday.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Ghost Of 'Boom Boom' Haunts Rangers



Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion, 1931-2006In a shocking developement on a night he was to be honored, the great Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion, passed away Saturday morning succumbing to stomach cancer. They raised his number 5 to the rafters right next to his father-in-law Howie Morenz as his family, ex-teammates and fans looked on. There they were lined up to honor him, Ranger nemeses of the past. Dickie Moore, Henri 'Pocket Rocket' Richard, Guy Talbot, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire and many more who gave me many nights of agita back in the fifties and sixties. Bernie broke in with the Canadiens against the Rangers in December of 1950 and scored his first goal in his first game against Chuck Raynor that would end in a 1-1 tie.

How could the Rangers win on a night like this? Bernie played from 1950-51 to 1963-64 with Montreal and after two years off played with the Rangers from 1966 to 1968. In 117 games with the Rangers Geoffrion scored twenty two goals and forty one assists. The following year he took over the coaching duties of the Rangers compiling 22 wins 18 losses and five ties before resigning because of ill health. What a great player and a great personality and character. Condolences to his wife and family. God bless and rest in peace.

The Rangers since their inception back in 1926 are 179-310-94-1 against Montreal. At Montreal they are 61-191-40-0 including one win this year. This would be one tough team for the Rangers to play against in the playoffs. Right now, though, any team will be tough for the Rangers to play. The Rangers have now lost four in a row after achieving a seven game winning streak after the Flyer win. Since that game the Rangers have scored four goals in four games. The opposition has scored seven. The opposition has devised a scheme to stop Jagr and it is working as the Rangers are firing blanks. They had a great opportunity opening up the third period with a five on three for 1:42 but they couldn't score. Renney went with five forwards and for some reason chose not to use Sandis Ozolinsh on the point on this sequence.

The goalies put on a clinic. Cristobal Huet made 26 saves in picking up his fifth shutout in the past twelve games. The Prince played great making 23 saves, many spectacular and getting beat on a shot by Rivet that deflected off of a Ranger. The Rangers were 0-4 on the power play and are now 1-21. Montreal was 1-6 on their power play. The refs seemed to miss a couple of other penalties especially a flagrant hold and take down of Petr Sykora in front of the net in the second period. But when you are firing blanks it doesn't matter how many penalties you get.

ICINGS: Both teams wore the number 5 on their helmets. Jagr gave a present to Geoffrion's wife Maureen which read something to the effect of a Ranger Player, a Ranger Coach and a Friend, Forever. Nice touch. Boom Boom was credited with developing the first slapshot. The final 24, post Olympic Ranger count is 1-3-0-1.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sandis Ozolinsh



Sandis Ozolinsh



Create polls and vote for free. dPolls.com


The New York Rangers acquire defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in exchange for San Jose's third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, obtained in an earlier trade for Ville Nieminen on March 8.

Ozolinsh is a seven-time NHL All-Star who won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and helped Anaheim reach the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.

Sandis Ozolinsh
Defense
Born Aug 3 1972 -- Riga, Latvia
Height 6.03 -- Weight 205

Selected by San Jose Sharks
round 2 #30 overall 1991 NHL Entry Draft

---Regular Season-- --- Playoffs ---
Season Team GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
---------------------------------------------------
90-91 Rus. 44 0 3 3 51
91-92 IHL 34 6 9 15 20 15 2 5 7 22
91-92 Rus. 30 6 0 6 42
92-93 SJ 37 7 16 23 40 -- -- -- -- --
93-94 SJ 81 26 38 64 24 14 0 10 10 8
94-95 SJ 48 9 16 25 30 11 3 2 5 6
95-96 IHL 2 1 0 1 0 -- -- -- -- --
95-96 SJ 7 1 3 4 4 -- -- -- -- --
95-96 CO 66 13 37 50 50 22 5 14 19 16
96-97 CO 80 23 45 68 88 17 4 13 17 24
97-98 CO 66 13 38 51 65 7 0 7 7 14
98-99 CO 39 7 25 32 22 19 4 8 12 22
99-00 CO 82 16 36 52 46 17 5 5 10 20
00-01 CAR 72 12 32 44 71 6 0 2 2 5
01-02 CAR 46 4 19 23 34 -- -- -- -- --
01-02 FLA 37 10 19 29 24 -- -- -- -- --
02-03 FLA 51 7 19 26 40 -- -- -- -- --
02-03 ANA 31 5 13 18 16 21 2 6 8 10
03-04 ANA 36 5 11 16 24 -- -- -- -- --
05-06 ANA 17 3 3 6 8
---------------------------------------------------
NHL Totals 796 161 370 531 586 134 23 67 90 125

Koharski 'Sticks It' To Rangers



Thrashers down Rangers in shoot-outThere is a new wrinkle in the New NHL. Its called stick measurements. We now have every stick measured prior to the shootouts. Did you know that? It all started after the Olympics. It seems the New NHL is now very aware of all that went on in the Olympics. The New NHL wants to incorporate things from the Olympics? I have a good start. Get rid of the two referee system where it looks like one referee is in training and doesn't want to be upstaged by his more senior partner. Notice how smoothly the Olympics ran with one referee on a much bigger ice surface?

Back to last night's fiasco. Jagr was penalized not once, but twice for having an illegal curvature on his stick. The first time was in the OT and he was given a two minute penalty which was a killer because the Rangers were going to have a four on three power play in OT and the chances of Jagr clicking for a goal was better than fifty percent. He then was penalized prior to the shootout and did not get a chance to score.

Now let me ask you a dumb question here. Is it possible that after a stick penalty in OT that no one on the Rangers checked Jagr's stick to see if it was okay? Do they, the refs and the club personnel, use the same measuring device? Jagr claims that his stick is OK, Koharski said not okay. This is not the first time that Jagr has been penalized for an 'illegal' curvature. The Rangers should get together with league officials to straighten this out. Maybe Renney is correct and they need a seminar. Would you believe that the NY Post's story this morning doesn't even cover this stick incident.

Another disappointment in the game was Henrik Lundqvist's play in the shootout. He seemed disoriented. He played a great game, making thirty three saves, although the first goal by Atlanta looked a little flukey and may have gone off of Michal Rozsival. Where have we heard that before. The shootout was another story. While he stopped gunner Ilya Kovalchuk he looked lost against Savard, Kozlov and Hossa. Of course any chance the Rangers had in the shootout disappeared with the loss of Jagr. Nylander and Sykora opened up with scores and Jagr would have been next but Straka took his place. With a chance to win it Straka was stopped by Kari Lehtonen and that was the Rangers last chance.

To me the highlight of the game was the hitting of Hollweg (3), Kaspy (3) and Thomas Pock (2). Hollweg laid a beauty on Garnet Exelby who had just flattened Jagr on the previous shift. Exelby had to leave the game and may have a concussion. He has had previous concussions. Sorry to hear that and hope he is well but if you live by the sword you die by the sword. The NHL is reviewing the hit. Funny, they never reviewed Grant Marshall's Bertuzzi type sucker punch on Kasparaitis. Pock put a good one on Bobby Holik, scored a goal and played a strong eighteen minutes. When Malik comes back, Pock should stay in the lineup and Tom Poti should sit, permanently. But don't bet on it. Maybe the Moon and the Sun will come together and we will trade him by today's deadline.

Time for some tweaking with the lines? Maybe put Jagr with Rucchin and Sykora on the top line and have Nylander center Rucinsky and Straka. Maybe this could help spring Jagr from the 'trap' the teams are putting on him. Sykora seems to be getting some decent scoring chances and with him and Jagr feeding off each other he might break out, What do you think?

ICINGS: The trading of Nieminen will open a roster spot if no trades are pulled off. Look for Jarkko Immonen, 5'11" 202 lbs, to be called up. Immonen has 28 goals, 33 assists for 61 points in 62 games. The final, post Olympics 24 games now has the Rangers at 1-2-0-1.

UPDATE:

Sandis Ozolinsh

In the closing hours before the NHL's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the New York Rangers acquired defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in exchange for San Jose's third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, obtained in an earlier trade for Ville Nieminen on March 8.

Ozolinsh is a seven-time NHL All-Star who won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and helped Anaheim reach the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"We Are Not There Yet"



Rangers & Lindqvist lose to Carolina and GerberThose were the words of Jaromir Jagr after the Rangers second straight 2-1 loss at the Garden last night, this one to the league leading Carolina Hurricanes. "They out smarted us", he added. Indeed they did. For the second straight game the Rangers got trapped into a frustrating, disappointing loss. They tried to rally in the third period by putting 17 shots on goal, scoring on a Steve Rucchin rebound with 16:32 left, but could not get the tying goal. Jagr tried with a ten footer with about 20 seconds left and the tried to bank one off of Martin Gerber's pads from behind the nets as time ran out but to no avail. Strong comeback, no cigar.

But where were the Rangers for the first two periods? In fact, where have the Rangers been since the Olympics? They were badly outplayed in the first period against the Flyers, saved by an excellent performance by Weekes. They were outplayed by the Devils for most of the first two periods and now last nights performance. Is this a pattern? Did the Olympics take too much out of them?

The goalies have been great. Lundqvist was given the number three star last night. Steve Rucchin was the number two star, scoring the Rangers only goal. He had seven shots on goal. Jagr had five, Nylander four and Straka three. Who was that masked man in goal? Ken Dryden? No it was Martin Gerber, buoyed by his Olympic performance, he was outstanding, making 37 saves to pick up his 30th win.

Where do the Blueshirts go from here? Some of the players looked tired. Straka looked like he was out of gas. Nylander came in on a breakaway and the goal seemed to get further away as he was getting closer. Does that make sense? He never got off a good shot as a penalty was called against Carolina. Strudwick took two holding penalties, a sign of weariness, slowness or both. Though he did block four shots. Poti, while blocking three shots was absent on the offense, so what else is new. As a reader opined, wouldn't Dale Purinton be an upgrade right now for these tired bodies? Marcel Hossa had no shots on goal but had two hits.

Give Renney credit though. He may have recognized the symptoms before the game and started the HMO line. They generated some enthusiasm and actually had some scoring chances. Hollweg led the hit parade with four and Ortmeyer and Moore each had two shots on goal. While the penalty killing was great, 7-7, the power play was 0-5. The Hurricanes zeroed in on Jagr and almost dared some other Ranger to score. Thomas Pock while playing tentative in the first period, showed some promise on the point, getting three shots on goal. However, he was way out of position on Justin Williams goal in the second period.

So what do we do? The trading deadline is Thursday at 3:00 PM. We need a stay at home guy who can take care of business in front of the net. Carolina's Kevyn Adams scored the first goal in front of Lundqvist with Tyutin and Kasparaitis watching and not laying a glove on him.

We could also use a puck carrying defenseman who can generate some offense and put a new wrinkle in the power play. How about Bryan McCabe of Toronto? McCabe, 31 years old, has 17 goals and 54 points in 51 games for the Maple Leafs and will be a free agent at the end of the year. He would be an upgrade for this year and the playoffs. We could start by offering Tom Poti and some draft picks. I don't know how much trade value Poti brings. What do you think?

On a personal note. I have another test scheduled for today. See what happens when you get old, the doctors use you for testing. Seriously, after the last procedure they found something else they want to look at. So we will do that today. On that note I would urge all of you around the age of 40 to start thinking about getting a colonoscopy and a PSA test. If you have anything, let them find it early. Trust me on this one I am an expert.

ICINGS:

Since the Olympics the final 24 games countdown is 1-2-0-0 for the Rangers. Steve Rucchin, much maligned here, had a strong game. One goal, seven shots, one hit, two take-aways, one blocked shot and won eight of fourteen faceoffs. Rangers now head to Atlanta who is trying to fight their way into the playoffs. The Thrashers are three points behind the Canadians for the eight and final playoff spot. I doubt the Rangers will face the trap in this game but one never knows.

Less than two months ago on Jan 13th, in the story about Mark Messier's retirement ceremony, "And The Tears Flowed Like Wine" I wrote:

Messier had Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve belt out a tune called, "Now and Again" that brought the entire Garden to tears.

Sadly, Dana Reeve, age 44, died Monday night of lung cancer. Leaving behind a 13 year old son.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Shot Across The Bow



Devils deliver shot across the Ranger bowThat's what the Devils delivered to the Rangers last night, a shot across the bow. If this is the way the Rangers want to play the game they will go nowhere in the playoffs. The Rangers didn't get aggressive on offense until the third period. They didn't crash the net. Jagr got only three shots. While the team hits were close, 17-16 Devils, they were deceiving. The Devils got the jarring hits. Playing a little over four minutes Cam Jannsen of the Devils got four hits. One of them knocked Marek Malik out of the game.

Playing a little over nine minutes Marcel Hossa of the Rangers got one hit. At least that is what the scorer called it. Hossa is not a checker you say, well he isn't a scorer either. There is some belief on the part of Renney that Marcel will soon morph into his brother Marion. In forty nine games he has 8 goals and six assists. The point of all this? Simple. Why the hell isn't Ryan Hollweg playing, especially against a tight checking hard hitting team? The HMO line does not exist without Ryan Hollweg. It is out of sync without the hit man. There was no Ranger pressure on the Devils D, while the Ranger defensemen had to dodge and swerve out of the way of hits. Rozsival was sandwiched between Jannsen and Erik Rasmussen and left the ice bleeding.

Darius Kasparaitis was again the target but he gave as good as he got. He almost tied the game with a Brian Leetch type move, splitting the defense and putting a backhander on goal that clanged off the post. Aren't those the kind of moves we are waiting for Tom Poti to perform? Speaking of which, where was Tom last night? When JD announced that the Rangers were going to play with five defensemen I thought he meant without Poti, not realizing that Malik was hurt. And there was Grant Marshall going after Kaspy all game and trying to goad him into a fight with the old chicken flap. I thought that went out with Sandy McCarthy. Kudos to Kaspy for blowing him a kiss.

You say I am over reacting to a loss after a seven game winning streak. After all we were 11-1-1 in the last 13 games. All great, but now we are down to the nitty gritty. The last 24 games, now 22, are playoff type games against teams fighting for positions and their playoff lives. Are the Rangers equipped for this ordeal? Offensively the Rangers look like they are there. The Petr Sykora pickup was huge. He almost tied the game but his shot went off the crossbar. Petr Prucha will be back in about a week or so and that should bolster the offense as Petr will probably go on the third line with Betts and Ward. Then the fourth line should see the reuniting of the HMO boys, Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer. The Kamikaze Kids will return with a flourish. The offense is set.

The defense is another story. While the team has compiled an excellent GAA, second in the NHL, Ottawa is first, the defense lacks toughness. Malik, Rozsival and Poti are finesse players. Kasparaitis does a majority of the dirty work with occasional help from Strudwick and Tyutin. Thomas Pock is an excellent puck moving defenseman and could help the power play but he is not a bruiser.

The Rangers need a tough, stay at home, clear the goalmouth type of defensemen.
There are many defensemen out there that will be available and we should not have to give up much to get a good one. I would not trade away any of the current roster and use draft picks. The way Hartford is stocked with good young players we can afford to trade away draft picks. But we do need a tough guy who can also come to the defense of his teammate. Colton Orr seemed to do that against the Islanders but doesn't get enough ice time and I don't believe Renney trusts him enough to play him regularly. But he is not a defenseman and the four lines are fairly solid. The trading deadline is Thursday March 9th. Stay tuned.

ICINGS: Weekes played another strong game stopping 18 of 20 shots. Brodeur was very good and very lucky. He stopped 26 of 27 and the pipes were 2 for 2. Coming up three big games. Carolina at home Monday and Atlanta and Montreal on the road Wednesday and Saturday. Montreal is hot and have a four point lead over Atlanta for the last playoff spot. For the final 24 after the break the Rangers are 1-1-0-0. We will tally that up to the end.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Weekes, Jagr Power Ranger Rout of Flyers

Rangers Defeat Philly 6-1Any doubt that the Rangers would be flat coming off the Olympics was erased tonight as the New York Rangers clobbered the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia 6-1. Kevin Weekes played his best game of the season, especially in the first period, stopping 36 shots overall and fifteen in the first period. The Rangers took four penalties in the first period and the combination of Weekes and the penalty killers held the Flyers scoreless and basically won the game right there.

The game ended in the usual Flyer manner when they are about to lose. Donald Brashear was unleashed upon the Rangers and did the thing he does best, gooning it up. With 1:52 left in the game he took five penalties totaling 27 minutes and finished the game with a total of 35 minutes in penalties. There were more penalties that could have been called as for some reason the refs didn't call the hits after the whistles and the general shoving and sticking that has become his modus operandi. In fifty-five games this year Brashear has three goals and three assists plus 110 minutes in penalties. Flyer coach Ken Hitchcock will probably be fined also for this fiasco and rightly so.

Jaromir Jagr sparked the Ranger offense as only he can. He took over the game early with a gorgeous feed to Michael Nylander to put the Rangers up 1-0. Then in the second period, in a span of 1:58, he scored two power play goals to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. He now has 42 goals and 91 points, both tops in the league. He played a little over 14 minutes as Renney wisely did not overplay him in the third period. If he was tired from playing in the Olympics, he hid it well. Did you notice that Jagr scored his goal from the point on the five on three? I guess Tom Renney was paying attention when my son mentioned to him at the Ranger charity event the other night about putting Jagr at the point.

The Rangers were four for six on the power play getting the other goals from Blair Betts, Jason Ward and Martin Rucinsky. The Rangers have now scored 16 goals in their last 39 attempts. The penalty killing was back in early season form killing eight of nine Flyer attempts. Blair Betts was strong in his return after a six week absence. Besides scoring a goal he won 10 of 15 faceoffs and was a key penalty killer.

A good word about Kevin Weekes. He played outstanding through the whole game and has now won three straight. Finding his game now has to be a big plus for the Rangers and could pose a headache for Renney. There is no doubt that Lundqvist is the number one goalie but a strong steady Weekes has to be an asset for the Rangers. Remember the days of Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure who were co-winners of the Vezina Trophy in the 1970-71 season? Can history repeat itself? If it does, we may see The Banner up there again. We have a right to dream.

ICINGS: Good omens for the Rangers. They have not lost to the Fliers in regulation this year. Both losses coming in OT. They are 3-0-2 against Philly and have now won 4 straight at Wachovia Center, including the last one in the 2003-04 season. The win was the Rangers seventh straight and they also have a six game road winning streak. The winning streak is the best since 2000-01 and the road streak is the best since 1992-93.