Sunday, December 30, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

The right guy had the puck skating in all alone on Canadien goalie Cristobal Huet in OT at the Garden tonight. Sprung by passes from Dan Girardi, who had just broken up a Montreal rush, and Chris Drury who feathered him a beauty, Brendan Shanahan blistered one by the hapless goalie to give the Rangers a comeback win over Le Habs. It marked the end of an improbable comeback rally after the Rangers sleep walked through the second period, one shot on goal, and much of the third. I believe the rally started when Fedor Tyutin put a rocket off the post that originally was called a goal but was then over ruled by the powers to be. The goal would have tied the game at three apiece. The Rangers then started to press and with about five minutes left they tied the game as Drury won an offensive zone draw back to Paul Mara, went to the net where Avery was already causing havoc and put in the rebound of Mara's shot.

With a little over a minute to play coach clueless basically played for a point by putting the fourth line out to bottle up the Canadiens. No pretense at trying to win, let's go for the tie. Fortunately, 'player coach' Shanahan saved the night with his 14th goal of the season and the 641st of his career which now puts him in 11th place all time 27 goals behind Luc Robitaille.

The Rangers had taken a 1-0 lead on Girardi's 7th of the season but the Rangers in the person of Marek Malik gave it right back. After losing the puck he committed a foolish penalty which gave the Canadiens a power play goal. While the large contingent of Montreal fans were still roaring the Rangers came back to take a 2-1 lead only 17 seconds later on Jagr's 11th of the year, his fourth in three games and the 632nd of his career putting him 8 goals behind Dave Andreychuk who is in 12th place.

Two goals by Montreal plus passive play by the Rangers had given Montreal a 3-2 lead going into the third period. The Rangers were still sleep walking until Fedor Tyutin's rocket off the post woke them up. As I watched this game I became more and more convinced that there are three people that this team doesn't need and it would be addition by subtraction if they were gone. They are: Coach clueless, Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa. Meanwhile Ivan Baranka and Nigel Dawes are still in Hartford out of deference to two marginal NHL players. They are contributing nothing to this team. Watching Shanahan and Jagr comport themselves night in and night out is proof to me that this team doesn't need a coach, especially a clueless one.

ICINGS: Number two son and I were joined by my son-in-law and my five year old granddaughter Allessandra. Her first question to me was, "Grandpa, what number does Sean Avery wear?" The guy must have it folks. He draws them from all ages. Finally. A Healthy and Happy New Year to all my Pundit readers and their families. May 2008 be the best year ever for you. God Bless.

Happy New Year

Habs' Blogs Roundup

Sometimes it's fun to visit the bloggers north of the border and get their take on things. It is a foreign country after all. Vive la difference!

Four Habs Fans:

  • Bullet Point Bonanza - The Sunday Brunch Game Day Skate & Rangers Game Preview and Open Thread -
    - 7 PM start, Madison Square Garden. Is it the last building left with no sponsor? How can I make jokes?
    - Pay your cover charge to The Dark Ranger. His avatar scares me;
    - Habs are 3-1-1 on the road trip so far, helping to tie the Sens for the most road wins in the East;
    - Rangers coming off decent wins against the Canes and the Leafs, and are starting to show their offense;
    - Habs have scored 5 goals in 2 straight games for the first time since, I don't know, 1979;
    - Hot sexy Habs - I told you, 5 goals in 2 straight, so everyone! Even Michael Ryder!

    [Once you get to know him The Dark Ranger is not that scary.]

  • Canadiens' Contingent at the WJC - One year after the Habs had 3 players play major roles for their respective teams, including the the tourny MVP the Habs again have 3 players in this year's edition of the WJC, albeit in much reduced roles...
Habster / All Habs:
  • Hockey's Future: 2009 prospects: Victor Hedman - Simply put, Victor Hedman is a beast who has the potential to be the first overall selection in the 2009 NHL draft if his development continues to elevate over the next 18-20 months.
  • Habs Inside/Out: Ryan O'Byrne suffers broken thumb... - Canadiens rookie defenceman Ryan O'Byrne broke his right thumb in a fight against Tanner Glass late in the third period of Friday night's 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
    O'Byrne has returned to Montreal. Mark Streit will move to defence for the road trip-ending Sunday night game against the Rangers in New York.
Jaclyn / Habs Haven:
  • Habs Are Victorious In Montr--errr...I mean, Florida - Well, there was certainly no shortage of Montreal supporters at the BankAtlantic Center last night in Sunrise, Florida...
  • 07-08 Playback - Canadiens @ Penguins on October 27th of 2007. The final score of this game was 4-3 in a shootout and for those of you who happened to remember watching this particular game, you would know that this was no ordinary shootout. It took the 16th shooter to register a goal and the winning goal at that. That player was Andrei Markov...
  • Last Week's Poll Results - "Should Bob Gainey attempt to trade struggling winger Mike Ryder?" ...
Jeff J. / Sisu Hockey:
  • Googling PJ Stock Returns A Lot Of Stock Photos Of Pyjamas - Keeping up appearances of trying to sign the record-setting PP point man to appease the fans, knowing full well that Souray would receive and accept a better offer elsewhere? If this is really the way it played out, then it was a brilliant move by Bob Gainey.
  • транскрипция? - The guys are brothers, but apparently that's not enough for nhl.com to spell their surnames identically. Kostsitsyn? Kastsitsyn?
  • Diary of a Madman - This post is intended to be a bit of a primer for other Habs fans, demonstrating how I interpret some of these numbers for the Habs. If you think this is all hogwash, you're not alone. If you see something that piques your interest, I recommend reading some archives of some of the more numbers-oriented blogs
Eyes on the Prize:
Lions in Winter:
A Theory of Ice:
  • 12-8-07: Hurricanes 5, Canadiens 1 - As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously pointed out, any time a person loses someone or something important to them, they go through 5 identifiable stages of grief. It is, apparently, a nearly universal human pattern that allows one to psychologically adjust to the absence of something important in one’s life. Like, for example, a half-decent hockey team, which everyone knows is one of essentials of a happy, healthy existence. The Habs, however, are not a half-decent team these days, so I’d appreciate it if fans of other teams (Leafs excepted, of course, we know what vindictive souls y’all are) would approach each of us henceforth as one would a person who has just suffered the loss of a loved one in a mysterious and inexplicable accident. For the benefit of said other fans, let’s take a moment to review the 5 stages of hockey-fan grieving...
en français

Saturday, December 29, 2007

WOW!

The Rangers may have put an end to the could of, would of, should of as they completely routed the Maple Leafs before a stunned crowd at the Air Canada Centre. The Rangers scored five power play goals including two by Petr Prucha (3,4) and one each by Jagr (10), Shanahan (13) and Straka (7). The lone five on five goal was by Blair Betts, his second, as the fourth line continued their outstanding play.

Jaromir Jagr had a four point game, picking up three assists. It was the first time this season he had a four point game. Jagr now has 33 points for the season, tying him with Scott Gomez who picked up an assist and now has an eleven game point streak, the highest of his career. Jagr's goal was the game winner and he now has 111 game winners in his career putting him in sole possession of third place, seven behind Phil Esposito and ten behind Gordie Howe. Two of the Rangers power play goals were on the five on three as the Maple Leafs completely self destructed. Their one goal was scored by Darcy Tucker to break the shutout.

The recipient of this outburst was Steve Valiquette, who is now 2-2-1 this year and both wins against Toronto at Toronto in front of his mom and dad. This time his dad had the courage to stick it out the whole game. So the Rangers have now won two straight after going 2-6-2 and now are one point behind the Devils, who lost to the Islanders tonight, for the lead in the Atlantic Division. Of course they are only seven points ahead of the 13th place team in the Division. But they seem to have found their offense.

Tomorrow night against Montreal at the Garden will be the second leg of a five game Canadian stretch which then goes on the road to Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. The Rangers may, I did say may, be hitting their stride as the slumbering giant, Jaromir Jagr seems to be awakening and Petr Prucha may be ready to break out, especially on the power play. All systems are go and a good stretch here is key to maintaining their position in their toughest road trip of the season.

ICINGS:

Video highlights: Rangers Rake Leafs
note: nhl.tv allows you to replay each goal and some of the saves from the links on the righthand side of the video window

Friday, December 28, 2007

For the love of the game

The Rocky Mountain News has a great list of the Oddballs of '07:

The strangest hops and funniest bounces from the year that was in the world of sports ... [here's a few]

Golfer Jay Williamson picked a person from the gallery to serve as his caddie after arguing with and firing his regular caddie on the 15th hole during the first round of the Canadian Open. ...

A Staten Island, N.Y., mother sued a Little League coach after her son was injured while sliding into second base because, the lawsuit claims, the coach failed to teach the woman's son the "skills needed to avoid and/or minimize the risks of injury." ...

A member of the New York Islanders' Ice Girls, a team of women that cleans the ice during television timeouts, claims she was spit on by someone on the New York Rangers bench and another reportedly had her squeegee slashed by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist after he refused to move from his crease. ...

New York Red Bulls soccer player Jozy Altidore, 17, was too afraid to ask coach Bruce Arena in person, so he called him seeking permission to miss a match so he could take his girlfriend to her prom. ...

Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard hosted his second youth fighting camp in Canada, which teaches young hockey players the finer points of on-ice pugilism. ...

"Dead man walking" was how New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey referred to a prankster who put some of the unwashable dye that banks use to mark money inside one of his receiving gloves. It took days for the purple dye to fade from Shockey's left hand. ...
Sports Business Radio:
SBR's Top 20 Sports Business Stories of 2007
14. NY Knicks mess - This has become THE worst organization in all of sports. From an embarassing sexual harassment trial with Dolan and Thomas to a miserable record for the NBA team with the highest payroll, James Dolan and company continue to set the bar lower and lower each week. ...
Newsweek:
The 10 Biggest Sports Stories of 2007

Courtney PrinceNY Daily News:
MSG settles sex harassment suit with ex-Ranger cheerleader Courtney Prince
Still reeling from one sex harassment suit, Madison Square Garden settled another Wednesday - striking an out-of-court deal with the former head of the Rangers pep squad.

A lawyer for Courtney Prince, the fired captain of the Ranger City Skaters, confirmed the deal but wouldn't elaborate.

"We resolved this matter with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of any party," her lawyer, Kathleen Peratis, said in a statement.

The Garden issued an identical statement.

Prince filed suit in 2004, claiming the Garden was a virtual frathouse where male executives treated cheerleaders like sex objects. . .

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Comeback Kids

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Oh Prince Henrik! We are not worthyThe Rangers did something last night that they haven't done since the first game of the season. They came from behind in the third period to win a hockey game. Jaromir Jagr did something he hasn't done all year. He scored two goals in one game. Even the refs did something that I have never seen. They called a five minute interference call on Colton Orr, who leveled Matt Cullen, knocking him out of the game. I have never heard of a five minute interference call. I thought Cullen had the puck and a case could have been made for elbowing, which I didn't think was the case, but I didn't see interference.

It was a feisty game fired up by a holiday crowd that reacted to every hit and save as if the season was on the line. It was only the third Ranger win in the last eleven games so there was a little desperation in both the Rangers play and the crowd's enthusiasm. Two Ranger were ejected from the game. Orr, who tangled with Commodore after Orr's hit, and Avery, who tangled with Ladd and anyone else who would get in his way.

The big guys all delivered. Jagr, with his two goals and number one star status, didn't seem that pleased accepting the award. Gomez, played great racking up two assists. His last assist was a thing of beauty, stripping the puck from a Carolina defender behind the Carolina net and feeding Jagr who backhanded it in. Drury was the third star getting the tying goal by doing the dirty work in front of the net. Shanahan got two huge assists. Both were shots on goal during power plays that resulted in Drury's tying goal and Girardi's game winner. Simple game. Shoot that puck, score that goal.

Can't sign off without mentioning Henrik Lundqvist, who in the final minutes made two out of this world saves. Carolina pulled their goalie with almost two minutes to play and the Rangers started to self destruct with penalties. It went from six skaters to five, down to six vs four and finally to six vs three and through it all the Prince stood tall, well actually prone and flat and tall. Well you get the idea. The crowd went wild letting out all the enthusiasm, frustration and cheap beer it had in them. Hail to The Prince.

ICINGS: You keep reading about the Garden scandals and now a former Ranger ice girl has settled a law suit with the Garden over Ranger management behavior, or lack of it. Amazing how the management of this once proud organization has declined in class. No more Season Greetings or Happy Holidays on the ice or seasonal music. Boy how I miss Mike Gutkowski who was Mr. Class and the organization showed it. However. I did have a grand time last night with number one son and two of my grand kids, Kaila and Nicholas, cheering on our beloved Rangers. Lets Go Rangers.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas The Night Before (A Ranger) Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Ranger land
They were all rockin to the beat of the James Dolan band:
The banners were hung on the rafters with care,
With the hope that the Stanley Cup soon will be there.

Management was nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of dollars danced in their heads.
Sather, the Stealth, was busy shopping,
For a big moose that could do some popping.

When up in the Blue seats there arose such a clatter,
They sent Sean Avery up, to see what was the matter,
Away from the bench Renney raced up to the blues
But when he got there he was clue (less).

With MSG tapping the spree,
Along came Sam Rosen and Joe Michelletti,
And what to their wondering eyes would appear,
Six Ranger defensemen moving to the rear.

With a little old driver who came to the haven,
They all knew it was Stan Fischler, The Maven.
More rapid than fore checkers his players they came,
And he stammered and shouted and called them by name.

Now, Hollweg! now, Drury! now Gomez and Prucha!
On, Callahan! on, Betts on, Shanahan and Straka!
To the top of the Garden they dare not tarry!
For they did not want to miss Dancing Larry!

And then they heard the crowd a rootin,
As along came Strudwick and Fedor Tyutin,
As they cheered aloud and were turning around,
From the rafters came Brian Leetch with a bound.

And his ex-mates, Mike Richter and Adam Graves,
You knew it would be tough not to behave.
And the youngsters looked at them in awe!
Girardi and Staal and Nigel Dawes.

They knew this was the crew who won it in '94,
As in came Dubinsky, Mara and Greg Moore!
This was the group they would get the most of,
They were joined by Orr, Malik and Hossa.

But they all knew it would be no cinch,
Even though they had Lundqvist, The Prince.
They did not want it to be a drag-ger,
So they called on the Man, Jaromir Jagr.

They spoke not a word, they knew of the dangers,
But the crowd urged them on, shouting "Let's Go Rangers."
And they cheered and they yelled as they were getting a little tight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Silent Night

Merry Christmas from the Rangers forwards
For the fifth straight game at the Garden, Ottawa beat the Rangers. The team that the Rangers will have to get through if they want to play for the Cup has complete dominance over the Rangers at MSG. It's now five out of five, for the season Ottawa took three out of four. The script is getting old. The Rangers took the early lead and couldn't hold it. Marc Staal had an unlucky night when two pucks deflected off him past an unfortunate Henrik Lundqvist. In past days Lundqvist would have stopped the first, off of Staal's leg, and probably got a glove on the second, off of Staal's stick, but not last night.

But it was of no matter, the Rangers have no offense. The closest they came was a rocket by Jagr off the post in the third period. Shades of Bones Raleigh, circa 1950. I guess I'm doomed to watching Ranger rockets hit crossbars and posts. The best offense came from the fourth line and their forechecking was constantly keeping the puck away from the Senators. However, there are no goal scorers on that line. Come to think about it there are no goal scorers on any line. The Rangers outshot the Senators but most of the shots were from poor angles.

It's close to Christmas so we will cut down on the criticism; but please explain to me why Gomez and Avery got minium ice time in the third period and why with about 1:20 left to play Gomez wasn't on the ice but two defensemen, Rozsival and Tyutin were on the ice. Two goals down and coach clueless is still playing defense.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rocky Mountain Low

Rocky Mountain Low
Well the Rangers went to the mountain and it did nothing but bring them more grief. Ah, the apologists will tell us they played better and earned a point. Did they really play better? Henrik Lundqvist made 16 saves in the first period and the Rangers left the ice after one leading 1-0. There were massive giveaways and misplays. Most of the saves Lundqvist made were from in close. It was amazing. The Rangers kept giving it away and The Prince kept coming up big. You knew it wasn't going to last.

Lundqvist had to fight through a double minor given to Rozsival and later in the period he was outstanding killing off 1:43 of a 5 on 3. Blair Betts was outstanding also during this penalty blocking many a shot. It didn't take long for the Rangers loose play to burn Lundqvist. Strudwick tried one of those soft passes, for which the Ranger D-men have become famous for, and it was converted into the tying goal by Milan Hejduk his first of two as he looked like he would duplicate Gaborik's performance of the previous night. The Rangers rallied to lead 3-2 on goals by Rozsival (9) and Staal (2).

The tying goal that killed the Rangers was a softie by Marek Svatos who fanned initially and then rolled one through Lundqvist. Bad goal but what do you expect when your players are giving away the puck and they refuse to hit anyone who has the puck. Then the winner in OT when after a flurry in front of the Colorado net the Rangers were caught up ice, at least Jagr was, and Jeff Finger pounced on a loose puck and fired a shot that was saved by Lundqvist but a big juicy rebound was tucked in by Wojtek Wolski, left alone, for the winner. There was Jagr standing by the boards watching all this. Somehow the score sheet has him missing on this goal. I think he was missing all night and has been missing for a while now. While the big guys on the other teams have been stepping up our big guy is counting the house. Is there something wrong here?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Birthday Blues

Today is a natural "77" for the Old Pundit. The Rangers have played thirty games on my birthday since that famous day 77 years ago. Their record is 14-11-4, basically a .500 team. So they are playing up to par right now. Actually they are playing below that number as they truly fail to compete every night and their play lacks any semblance of intensity and tenacity except on some rare occasions. So we shall suffer through another year of mediocrity and failure to play up to expectations. But it's not new to me and maybe I've been around them too long and the cynicism is hard to dismiss. Without a complete sweep of the management team this season is another one that will end in disappointment. Happy Birthday Pundit!

Returning HeroesThere is a group in Texas trying to build a support center called the Warrior and Family Support Center and they need help and money to build a new center for returning injured veterans. If you can take a little time from your busy Christmas and holiday schedules and send them a check, I'm sure they would appreciate it greatly.

For credit cards call 1-888-343-HERO or at ReturningHeroesHome.org

By mail: Returning Heroes Home
P.O. Box 202194
Dallas, Texas 75320-2194

Checks should be made out to Returning Heroes Home Inc. This is a nonprofit 501c3 endeavor; all donations are tax deductible. Thank you and God Bless You.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TOASTED!

Rangers were Toasted!
For a while tonight I thought that I was watching Wayne Gretzky in the old WHL or was it Mario Lemieux against the Rangers in 1993 with five goals? I witnessed that game and the performance was so bad that Ranger fans were chanting, "We Suck." Tonight not only were the Rangers bad, the refs were bad. We picked up two unsportsmanlike penalties on plays where the Wild should have been penalized.

The first one was Burns elbowing Prucha. No call on Burns, but Rangers get two minutes for yapping too much. Second one was a blatant crosscheck on Drury, no penalty on the Wild, but the Rangers get two minutes for yapping again. Two dangerous hits that should have been penalties and weren't called, but let a hand touch a body or a stick near the waist and the whistle blows. Both calls led to Wild PP goals as the Rangers gave up three PP goals.

In case you haven't heard Marian Gaborik scored five goals tonight. Two were goals that he hit out of mid air. One goal he waltzed through the Rangers without anyone even looking at him. One goal was a give away and he skated in all alone on Lundqvist. Another goal he put in his own rebound in front of Lundqvist. No one laid a hand on him all game. It was like he had leprosy and if you touched him you got it too. However, Prucha continues to get hammered, but no retaliation by the Rangers. Strudwick tried by exchanging blows with Voros, but no one went after Burns after the hit on Prucha. Prucha gets hammered every night, but we never retaliate. In the old days we sent the enforcer out to get the culprit. Do the Rangers have an enforcer?

I was puzzled by the comments of Shanahan and Lundqvist after the game implying that the Rangers didn't play that bad a game and it was a contest five on five. Huh? Did they miss Jagr giving up the puck meekly leading to the Wild's first score? Did they miss Girardi and Tyutin getting toasted regularly by the Wild's forwards? Did they miss Drury making an ill advised cross ice pass that was picked off by Gaborik? Did they miss the fact that Lundqvist stopped only twelve shots out of eighteen? How could you have played a good game when the other team has a guy who scores five goals against you in one night?

So tomorrow we go to Colorado who is 13-3 at home and they love to come after you so prepare for another rough night. However, tomorrow is a big day for me and I will not let the Rangers ruin it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One Night Stand

One Night Stand for Renney?
Well for one night it worked. For a change coach clueless made the right moves. He scratched Malik and Hossa and that opened up all kinds of good things for the Rangers. Marc Staal was moved to the first defensive pairing with Rozsival and that steadied Rozsival who racked up three assists, two on the power play. Strudwick moved back to defense which allowed Ryan Hollweg back in the lineup from exile in the blue seats. Hollweg was an instant hit, five to be exact, and along with Betts and Orr shut down the Sidney Crosby line. They were the unofficial stars of the game. The HBO line of Hollweg, Bets and Orr. Kudos.

The other change by 'clued for one night' was putting the top six scorers on the top two lines and leaving them there all night, no adjustments and no tweaks. It paid off. Gomez, centering Jagr and Straka had two goals, (7,8) and an assist, Straka had a goal (5) and an assist and Drury had a goal (8) and an assist. Seven different players shared the points. The Rangers were 2-7 on the PP. Pittsburgh was 0-4 on the PP.

Lundqvist who took a nap for the first two periods, 5 shots, put up his 6th shutout of the season which ties him for the league lead with Pascal Leclaire of Columbus. It was Lundqvist's 13th career shutout. The last game the Rangers won was also a shutout by Lundqvist, 1-0 over the Devils in OT back on December 9th. Lundqvist stopped 13 shots in the third period as the Pens tried to rally. Lundqvist was number one star, Gomez #2 and Chris Drury number three.

Now the Rangers go on a two day swing of Minnesota and Colorado and we shall see if this truly was a revival or a one nighter. Pittsburgh did not offer the same fierce forechecking that Phoenix and Washington did so the jury is still out. Let's see if the top two lines stay in place for a few games. Let's see if Malik and Hossa continue to sit and that Dawes continues to get meaningful ice time. Let's see if the fourth line continues to go against the other guys top lines. One game does not make me a believer. Let's see.

ICINGS: Joseph Kaiser of the Metropolitan Opera, who is starring in Romeo and Juliet, belted out the National Anthem and I mean belted out. He had to fight off the jerks who continue to chant nonsense during the singing but he received a loud ovation at the conclusion. Much better than John Amirante waving his arm to stir up an already rowdy crowd. The National Anthem deserves respect and not some inane chant.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Will 'Shakeup' Wakeup the Rangers?

John Dellapina, The NY Daily News
Tom Renney's goal in shakeup is more goals, wins for Rangers:

For a solid month, Tom Renney had three excellent reasons to avoid overhauling his forward lines even though the combinations left Jaromir Jagr largely to fend for himself:

  1. The Rangers were winning.
  2. The familiarity was contributing to the Rangers keeping the puck out of their own net.
  3. Jagr preferred remaining tethered to rookie Brandon Dubinsky rather than being centered by either Scott Gomez or Chris Drury.
With Reasons 1 and 2 no longer applying and Reason 3 defying reason, Renney yesterday moved some big pieces around in preparation for tonight's visit to the Garden by Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. . .
NY Post:
DESPERATE RENNEY SHUFFLES RANGER DECK

Newsday:
Slumping Rangers juggle line combinations
Blue Notes: Jagr, Gomez reunited in shuffle...

Journal News:
Rangers might turn to Gomez to spark Jagr

NorthJersey.com:
Play Drury or Gomez with Jagr

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Yotes Yowl!

Go back to my last post. My post, dated 12/13/07, entitled Slipping Away, not jb's flights of fancy posts. In the last sentence of my first paragraph I wrote, "Bad news for Sunday's game, three days of practice."

Just as sure as God made little green apples the Rangers collapsed after not being able to score on an early minute power play. Check it out. The more time off the Rangers have to practice the worse they play. So what do they learn during practice? The practices according to 'inside' sources are gruelling. Wonderful. They must have left their game in that intense practice Micheletti was taking about after the game. So they are telling us if we really want to see the Rangers at their best we best schlep up to Westchester County and watch coach clueless and his lieutenants run an intense, hard skating practice. The only hard skating the Rangers did tonight was skate off the ice after the final buzzer.

Poor Valiquette, I feel for him. The Coyotes first goal was off of Tyutin's skate and then the Rangers stayed away from the net leaving Valiquette hanging out to dry. For some reason coach clueless felt impelled to put Marek Malik back in the lineup. Why? Watching him and Rozsival trying to get out of their own zone was a comedy act worthy of Abbott and Costello in their prime. The young ' Yotes forechecked the hell out of the Rangers as did the Caps the previous game. The Rangers are now 1-4-1 in the last six and have been outscored 24-10 in those contests. Whatever happened to coach clueless comment that not playing defense is not an option. He should restate it, maybe one of the nots fell out of the sentence.

Staying home has its benefits. I got to see the news conference. There was coach clueless with the look of the deer in the headlights. He sat Hollweg so Hollweg could see from the stands what he can do better when he returns to the lineup. So that's how it works, you have to sit to see how you can play better when you return. It didn't help Malik. If his logic is correct, then I suggest coach clueless goes and sits, for the rest of the season, and maybe he might learn a thing or two about what's wrong with his team.

What's wrong with his team? Well, obviously they can't score. They have no forechecking ability. Their attack is more ad-libbed than planned. They are not able to handle a tough forechecking team. Their defense is soft not only with taking the body but even their passes are soft. This is something that Girardi and Tyutin are doing more of, soft passes. Are they learning from Rozsival/Malik? Ray Bourque, the great defenseman had a philosophy on hockey. He said, you skate hard, shoot hard, hit hard and pass hard. I think tonight we were 0-4 on Borque's theory. The Rangers do everything opposite. Every facet of the game is soft. The cutesy passes that are often picked off by the opposition leading to odd man rushes.

But the worse part is that there is no idea on how to fix these problems. The Rangers are in a free fall and all we hear are words. Well we are only four points out of first you say. Were it not for Henrik Lundqvist and his sparkling play we would be about four points out of last place. He has carried this team so far without any support from the big guns. Or the little guns either. Lately there have been signs that Henrik is starting to crack. If the crack becomes serious the season is over. The other thing that is obvious is that the 'detrimental' Avery is sorely missed. Without him the Rangers have no spine. What he and the Rangers need are more Averys. We need more check mates for Avery and less Czech mates for Jagr.

Of course what we really need is a coach that has a clue about what's going on. However, then we would need a GM with a plan and an owner with some vision. Boy, are we in trouble.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Elf Pundit

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The Elf Pundit
link:
elfyourself.com: The Dancing Elf Pundit

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kayvon Zahedi meets Mr. Glen Sather

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Kayvon Zahedi meets Slats
Video: Kayvon meets Glen “Slats” Sather at NHL Awards:
What a truly hectic time and whirlwind adventure I had at the 2007 NHL Awards which were held at the Elgin Winter Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Thursday, June 14, 2007. Before we even got to the red carpet, I had a chance to meet the great Glen Sather - supreme architect and general manager of the Edmonton Oiler dynasty (home of my all-time personal favorite, Mr. Glenn Anderson.) Well… meeting Slats didn’t quite turn out as expected...
Yep, that's our 'Slats', now supreme architect and general manager of the New York Rangers. Kayvon doesn't know Slats like Rangers fans do ...

Glen Sather aka the evil Dr. Zen Blatherthe evil Dr. Zen Blather

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Slipping Away

Ranger season slipping away?
It not only refers to last night's game it is also pertinent to the Ranger season. Shanahan, who personally lead the comeback to tie the game twice, slips in OT and the Rangers lose. The Rangers are 4-5-1 in the last ten and are merely treading water, or is it ice, right now? Do you also notice how poorly the team plays when it has more than one day of practice? Bad news for Sunday's game, three days of practice.

The Rangers who are on a 1-3-1 skid have been outshot 19-9 in those five games and the one win was the Devil shutout. Another thing. Since Washington changed coaches they are 6-3-1, overall 12-17-2. Another team that has blossomed since changing coaches is Atlanta which is playing way over .500 with its new coach. Hmm! Changing coaches in the early part of the season to wake up a lethargic team, what a novel idea. You think the Stealth GM would do it. The absentee owner would have to fire the Stealth.

The Caps were charging all night and the Rangers could not build on their two goal lead. Sounds familiar. Coach clueless blamed the team. How often has the team blown two goal leads. You don't think the team goes into its 'defensive mode' and stops attacking, do you? It sure seemed that way last night. Ovechkin ran all over the Rangers last night. A goal, an assist, five shots on goal and five hits. Jagr had an assist, three shots on goal, a few giveaways and many pirouettes. Ovechkin plays North American style hockey, Jagr plays Euro-soccer hockey. It's time to make Brandon Shanahan the team captain. Shanny tried to bring the team back with an assist on Straka's tying goal and then his own tying goal. But then he stumbled or slipped and so did the Rangers.

ICINGS: Rosen remarked about how he was surprised by so many empty seats in the Washington Arena. Why act surprised, it's like that many nights in most arenas. The Rangers have empty seats every night but we always get the usual 18,200. The NHL is not putting a good product on the ice. The Rangers, overloaded with offensive firepower, have morphed into the New Jersey Devils. So the games are boring and we have a ton of goalies with GAA's around the 2.0 stat. I'm stopping now, this team with a couple of exceptions is becoming annoying. Plus the sleet and snow are starting to fall.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where to Watch the NHL Online

News you can use. Website Last100.com has some helpful info.

Where to watch NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL online:

The Internet is not just a place to get the latest scores and follow your favorite team in the standings. The Web has evolved so well that it has displaced traditional media as the first-stop source for all your major-sports needs.

Except for local coverage, there’s no need to watch TV sportscasts anymore. Pardon the sports pun, but the Internet has all the bases covered — from providing the usual scores, standings, and statistics to rich, always-available highlights, interviews, streaming games, downloadable games, podcasts, extensive season and historical archives, and a host of mobile solutions from wallpapers and ringtones to live GameCasts with Audio. Best of all, there are no timetables...

NHL TVWhere to Watch the NHL Online

Like the NBA, the NHL also has a YouTube channel [free], with nearly 21,000 subscribers and 1.4 million channel views less than halfway into the season. The quality of the NHL’s channel — as with the NBA’s channel — is typical YouTube: lower resolution for faster load times. It’s a great way to pick through the highlights of last night’s games.

The NHL streams games to Comcast digital Internet subscribers and will let Slingbox users share video clips online. Like the NBA, the NHL offers additional games though NHL Center Ice to the satellite companies and other digital cable providers.

The NHL’s video portal is NHL TV / NHL Center Ice Online [Adobe Flash Player needed], accessible through the league’s Web site, which is much more overcrowded and difficult to navigate than the NFL’s, NBA’s, and MLB’s sites. As with the other leagues, fans can find clips, interviews, highlights, analysis, and historical footage at NHL TV...

Web Mobile Satellite
NHL NHL.com NHL Mobile Center Ice (DISH)
video highlights (via NHL TV) wallpapers/ringtones Center Ice (DirecTV)
Center Ice Online Mobile Club SMS alerts
NHL Game Radio NHL PowerShot2
NHL Channel on YouTube Mobile Web
NHL Podcasts

Sling Media

NHL video content available on iTunes

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ducks want "Crazy or Downright Outrageous" fans

Ducks want Crazy or Downright Outrageous fans
You can tell the Anaheim Ducks are working hard to attract fans. They are holding a "fan contest" to win a Honda Ridgeline.

The Ducks website:

What kinds of funny, crazy or downright outrageous things would you be willing to do to win a Honda Ridgeline? We want to find out!

Submit a video 30 seconds or less showing us what you’re willing to do to win a brand new 2008 Honda Ridgeline.

We’ll show selected contestant videos all season long at selected Anaheim Ducks home games and let the fans choose their favorites.

The more creative the better, and winning entries will then qualify for a chance to win a brand new Honda Ridgeline at our final home game on Fan Appreciation Night.

The sooner you enter, the more games and chances you’ll have to win, so get out your camera phones, digital or video cameras and show us what you’ve got!
Would any Rangers fans sign on for a chance at a new car? These restrictions apply:
  1. Must be a resident of the United States (void in NY, FL, and RI).
  2. Must be 18 years or older to enter.
  3. Videos that show the destruction of public property or property that does not belong to the contestant, offensive behavior/visuals, use offensive language or are inappropriate in any way for viewing by the general public will be disqualified.
The 'outrageous' plan: Go win the car. Put NY Rangers logos on sides. Post video of "Rangers mobile" in action on YouTube and give us the link, which we'll post.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Henrik Is Back

In a double streak ending contest, Henrik Lundqvist returned to form against the Devils today with his fifth shutout of the year, his twelfth careerwise and his second against the Devils this year. Lundqvist is now 9-2-3 against the Devils and Broduer since he came into the NHL. The win ended a three game Ranger losing streak and ended a nine game Devil winning streak. While Lundqvist only had to make 17 saves, he had two beauties in the first period. Thirteen seconds in, on sloppy play by the Rangers, he made a great save on Parise's deflection and then some more sloppiness by the Rangers forced him to make a great save on Madden's breakaway. Broduer made 28 saves and was voted third star.

Shanahan with the game winning goal, his tenth and second game winner, came off a beautiful feed by Gomez 30 seconds into OT. I wasn't there and watched the game on TV but I'll bet a big part of the crowd missed it coming back late to their seats because they needed another cheap beer. Shanny was the number one star and Lundqvist was number two. Broduer had no chance on the one timer. The Rangers have beaten the Devils four out of four this year.

While winning and having Lundqvist return to form was great, the Rangers overall problems still remain. The power play was 0-5 and it was the old story of pass, pass, pass and then pass. The number one line of Dubinsky, Jagr and Straka got all of two shots on goal the entire game and were practically useless on the PP where they got most of the time. The second line was spearheaded by Gomez who had a great game against his former team and got five shots on goal before setting up the game winner. The best line was the Drury, Callahan, Prucha line which played aggressive the entire game and got eight shots on goal.

It was fun listening to the drive by media announcers and commentators spinning what a great game plan coach clueless had in pulling off the victory. What? Henrik Lundqvist pulled off the victory. If you were watching you saw it, you don't need spinmeisters. Anyway, lets enjoy The Prince getting back to form and maybe one of these days the big O might actually wake up.

ICINGS: Nigel Dawes continued his hot streak with 2 goals and 3 assists in his last game. In 12 games with Hartford, Dawes is 9-4-23. Greg Moore in 24 games is 14-13-27. Remember what the great Redskin coach Allen once said, "The future is now."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sinking Fast

going down
It was too good to be true. Marek Malik was going to sit as Paul Mara returned to the lineup. That was about as good as it was going to get. Yes, the Rangers came back with two straight goals, the first by Marcel Hossa and Chris Drury's seventh, to give them a brief 2-1 lead and then the tying goal by Dupuis and finally the winner by Kozlov past backup Steve Valiquette who started for Lundqvist. Marian Hossa, quiet all night, scored an empty netter to close out the game.

Valiquette, making 18 saves, did not play badly, but should have had Kozlov's game winner. However, he was not to blame for the loss as the Rangers offense, except for the first period spurt, was non existent. The top line was the chief culprit. They were on the ice for Atlanta's second and third goals and put very little pressure on Atlanta's goalie Johan Hedberg who is now 8-3-0 against the Rangers. Jagr continued his slide with only two shots on goal and Straka had none and over passed on numerous occasions. But Lazarus arose from the dead and maybe so will Jagr. The second and third line had some good spurts and the Drury, Prucha, Callahan line was quite aggressive. Each of these two lines had a goal as Hossa was paired with Gomez and Shanahan.

Now it is the red hot New Jersey Devils, winners of nine straight, in the Garden Sunday, and it could get ugly both on the ice and in the stands. The Rangers have lost three straight and while sitting Malik was a good move, coach clueless must come up with some kind of plan how to turn this rudderless ship around. The Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Devils, including a shootout win, but that was before Sutter shook up the Devils. Patrik Elias is no longer the captain. What a novel thought, removing the C from an underachieving captain. Coach clueless doesn't have the guts to make such a move. Did I tell you that Pat Burns is looking to get back to coaching in the NHL?

Of course the other reason the Rangers have swept the Devils is Henrik Lundqvist. Right now this is a much different Lundqvist who has given up eight goals in his last five periods. His GAA is 2.02, the first time all year he is above 2.0. Look for Lundqvist to be back in the nets Sunday night and the first period will be critical for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 2 points behind the Devils and sinking fast. But if the Rangers goal scoring funk continues it may not matter how good Lundqvist plays.

ICINGS: Chris Drury scored the 200th goal of his NHL career and has picked up his game.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Trouble In Gotham City

Ranger Pundit: Trouble In Gotham City
I read an article the other day that said that Paul Maurice is in trouble as the Toronto Maple Leaf coach. If Maurice is in trouble then coach clueless is in double trouble and in fact should be finished.

Before a less than capacity crowd, at least 2-3 thousand short, and about a couple of thousand Toronto fans, the Rangers worst nightmare is starting to take shape. Henrik Lundqvist played like a mere mortal tonight and gave up four goals on ten shots before exiting after the second period.

Henrik Lundqvist is in a slump and therefore the scoreless wonders known as the New York Rangers are also in in a slump. You can't have one without the other. Forget Jagr. Forget Avery. As Lundqvist goes so go the Rangers. Lundqvist has given up 15 goals in 5 games while the Rangers have scored 13 goals in those 5 games and are 2-3 in those five games. Lundqvist cannot save the inept and soft Ranger defense much longer. Lundqvist has not been that sharp since coming back from that one game rest against the Panthers in Florida.

After scoring nine goals against the Islanders and Senators the Ranger offense has returned to mediocrity. The two goals tonight were by defensemen Girardi and Tyutin and both were on power plays. The even strength Ranger offense did nothing. There was no forecheck or sustained offense. They got all of 25 shots on goal. While the D supplied the offense its defense left something to be desired. Toronto forechecked with two forwards, sometimes three, and the Rangers had trouble getting the puck out of their own end. The so called top pair of Rozsival and Malik were awful and Malik's double minor led to a Toronto PP goal that started the rout. It is galling to know that when Mara returns it will not be Malik who sits. It'll be either Strudwick or Staal.

So we have useless Malik while Pock is in Hartford and we have useless Hossa while Dawes is scoring goals in Hartford. Of course we have a lot of other uselesses but most of them make big bucks and it's only a question of time before they open up and turn things around. At least that's what coach clueless and the drive by sports media would have us believe.

So coach clueless will preach defense at all costs tonight in Atlanta and those of you that were all excited about us being in first place in the Atlantic Division may soon find that by the end of this week or early next week the Rangers will be in last place in the Atlantic Division.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

M.I.A.

Its been a long morning. I had to arise early to go for a physical and that is why I did not show up at the game last night. However, I wasn't the only one who didn't show up last night, the Rangers didn't show up either, with some minor exceptions. I'm amazed at hockey players. They have to skate anywhere from 15-20 minutes a night and some of them seem to have a problem doing that night in and night out. They put in roughly 20-30 hours a year and they get tired and can't always give it their all. Think of it. How many hours a week, a year you put in? Do you ever mail it in? You can't.

Sam and Joe kept praising the fourth line for their great work but what did it get them? Hollweg got all of 8:13, Orr got 9:05 and Betts got 10:20 of which 2:01 was PK time. The usual suspects got their usual amount of big time Straka got 21:40 with three shots and Jagr got 20:49 with two shots. Two shots in over twenty minutes boils down to a shot every ten minutes, tough night for the big guy. Hopefully, he will show up against Toronto, and I do mean show up. There was one sequence in the first period when both Jagr and Straka passed up shots to pass the puck backward, away from the net, to no avail. Coach clueless was behind the bench for sixty minutes, that was confirmed.

Carolina is last in the NHL in goals against having given up 86 goals in 28 games. They are also last in PK with a 75% success rate. The Ranger were 0-4 on the PP getting six shots in eight minutes. How bad was this game? Bad enough for me to go back and fourth with an old John Wayne movie that I have seen many times, Angel and the Badman. It ends for the best and the Duke doesn't even have a gun in his hand at the end. The Rangers could have used a gun at the end.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Payback In Ottawa

The Dark Ranger must be very happy right now. The Rangers are in first place in the Atlantic Division over the hated Philadelphia Flyers by two points. The Flyers play Dallas tonight in Philly.

The Rangers got revenge big time against Ottawa today. They chased Martin Gerber, after the first period, scoring three first period goals. Remember Gerber shut out the Rangers last time they were in Ottawa back in October. Also, Lundqvist took over the lead in goalie wins passing Gerber, with 14 wins. The Rangers blitzed the Senators in the first period putting 12 shots on Gerber and cashing in three times. Dan Girardi started it with his third of the year, then a PP goal from Jagr, his seventh and Shanahan with his eight.

It looked like the Rangers would skate Ottawa right out of Scotiabank Place after Shanahan scored a PP goal, his ninth, at 9:33 of the second but Ottawa struck back five minutes later on a goal by Corvo. The third period saw the Rangers playing rope a dope as Heatley brought the Sens to within two at the 14:02 mark. Ottawa put 15 shots on goal in the third period but the Rock (Lundqvist) was there for all but Heatley's goal. Betts ended it with a empty netter for his first of the year. The Rangers only put four shots on goal in the third period.

So the Rangers who couldn't win a game on the road, now can't lose on the road. They are 6-0-1, with the shootout loss to Florida, in their last seven road games. Jagr scored in his third straight game and finally looks like he is ready to become Jagr. The question is, are the Rangers that good or is Ottawa, in a big six winless run, that bad? But the power play was 2-6 and has now scored two PP goals in the last two games. The Rangers are two points behind Ottawa for the Eastern Conference lead. How about that!

Friday, November 30, 2007

No Avery, No Sweat!

When the announcement came that Sean Avery would be out up to two weeks, Brendan Shanahan opined that this would be an opportunity for someone else to step up. After all with Avery in the lineup the Rangers are 9-4-1 and without him they are 4-5-1, so the necessity for someone else to step up.

Not one, but three individuals stepped up and it was the three individuals we have been waiting for what seems forever, to step up. Jaromir Jagr with his sixth goal and an assist, Chris Drury with his sixth goal, a power play, and an assist and Scott Gomez with his fifth, also a PP goal. They were ably assisted by two other vets, Shanahan and Straka who got two assists each. The rookie Dubinsky got the fourth goal of the game plus an assist as the Rangers could have scored another three or four goals against DiPietro who did a lot of flopping tonight and lost his stick a couple of times.

Jagr, Dubinsky and Drury were the three stars, in that order, tonight. The power play which was 1-14 in the three previous games against the Isles, was 2-8 tonight and they were shooting and moving the puck with ease. The Islanders were 1-8 on the PP. The Rangers outshot the Isles 31-24 and the best part of the offense was that ice time was fairly evenly distributed.

Only one forward got over twenty minutes of ice time and that honor went to Chris Drury with 21:05 minutes. However, Drury put in 5:16 on the PP and 3:41 on the PK. Petre Prucha got 14:10 and actually got all of 2:04 minutes on the PP. As luck would have it, he got no shots on goal all night. I'm expecting a call from coach clueless tomorrow so that I could explain to him why Prucha got no shots on goal tonight.

My son remarked to me at game's end that even though Lundqvist gave up only two goals he wasn't recognized as one of the stars of the game. Is he being taken for granted? I think its the recognition of his status as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Since the end of the lockout, starting the 2005-06 season Lundqvist ranks 5th in games won with 79, Brodeur leads with 101. Lundqvist ranks 2nd in GAA with 2.22, Hasek leads with 2.15. Lundqvist ranks 2nd in save percentage with .921, Cristobel Huet leads with .923. Lundqvist ranks 6th in shutouts with 11, Brodeur leads with 18. So hopefully we will be privileged to watch Lundqvist climb up in the standings over the next 10-15 years.

For one night at least, the Rangers played the way we envisioned they would be playing with the personnel they have. Can they keep it going? Is Jaromir Jagr ready to go on a roll? Can Straka keep Jagr going? Are Drury and Gomez ready to put up the numbers that they have in the past? This may sound like a promo for a soap opera but think about it for a second. The Rangers are a soap opera. They have the talent to blow their rivals away in the Atlantic Division and make a serious run for the Cup. However getting this collection of stars to play as a complete unit is taking more time then most of us thought. For now, lets be happy with tonight's performance and worry about Saturday's game at Ottawa.

ICINGS: Drury now has scored goals in three straight games and has 199 goals for his career. For the first time this year Jagr has scored goals in two straight games. Rozsival put in the Islanders first goal by trying to put the puck under Lundqvist, and he put it past him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Illusion

Rose colored glasses don't see coach clueless
Webster's definition of illusion. An unreal or misleading image presented to the vision; a deceptive appearance.

This is what the Rangers are under, the "leadership" of coach clueless, aided and abetted by the main stream drive-by media. Even some of my readers have jumped aboard this bandwagon. Anonymous is waiting for my bovine statement when the Rangers go ten games over .500. Maybe I should sing the Whiffenpoof Song. The usually reliable and sanguine, The Dark Ranger, is ecstatic that the Rangers are tied with the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division. This might be more a personal rather than a professional opinion.

Why this euphoria? As stated, the Rangers are tied with the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, are three points ahead of the Islanders, while the Islanders have three games in hand, and generally the Atlantic Division is one of the weaker divisions in the NHL. Look, I take a back seat to no one in my love and loyalty for this team but one fact stands out. This is the most underachieving Ranger team since 1987-88 and it is one of the most talented Ranger teams, on paper, since the Cup Champions of 1994. So what is wrong here?

If Lou Lamoriello were the GM of the Rangers, coach clueless would be fired. The Stealth GM of the Rangers has put together an offensive powerhouse. The addition of two proven clutch players in Chris Drury and Scotty Gomez added to rookies Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes and Marc Staal along with young carry overs like Petre Prucha, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi make this as formidable a team that the NHL has seen in a while. With future hall of famers like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan and all world goalie Henrik Lundqvist, how could this team miss? The coach has no idea how to get these stars functioning as a well oiled machine. That's what this team should be, a machine.

Goal scoring or the lack of it is the problem. There is only one team that has less goals than the Rangers and that is the Islanders. The Rangers have outscored the Islanders 53-51 but the Islanders have three games in hand. Looks like we are in for a dozy Thursday night when these two juggernauts clash. Bring your no doze pills, you may need them. The big culprit for the season and against the Islanders has been the Rangers powerless play.

The Rangers rank, and I really mean rank, 25th in the NHL on the PP with a 13.9%. Let's not complain about the refs hosing the Rangers either. The Rangers have the third most PP opportunities in the NHL with 122. Only Carolina with 127 and Columbus with 125 have had more chances. The powerless play really shows up big against the Islanders. The Rangers have lost three one goal games to the Islanders scoring all of 4 goals in those three games and the Ranger powerless play is 1-14 against the Islanders.

And what does coach clueless say to all this? After going 0-6 against the Stars, I mistakenly called it 0-9 in my last post, the clueless one came up with this remark which should cement his cluelessness for all time: "Believe it or not, it's better than it's been." I don't believe it. It's 0-6 and it's better than it's been. The clueless one constantly laments that the unit passes too much, doesn't put traffic in front of the net and doesn't shoot enough but he rounds up the usual suspects who pass too much, don't go in front of the net and don't shoot. The next time you are at a game count the number of times on the PP that Jagr and Rozsival pass the puck back and forth to each other.

And therein lies another problem. The team seems to be divided on how they want to play this game. How they want to function on the power play. Jagr, if he had his way, would spend the entire shift trying to find the most perfect pass to feed to some player who is hopefully in position to score. Shanahan is from the old school, shoot first and ask questions later. Jagr is the official captain, Shanahan is the de facto captain. Jagr skates to the bench after a disputed play, Shanahan skates to the ref, demanding an explanation. Who does coach clueless talk to on the bench when there is a disputed play? Brendan Shanahan.

Coach clueless insists that the team think defense first. Not playing defense is not an option he has decreed. Reads like a double negative, which is our offense. Great. Some of the best offensive players in the game, Jagr, Shanahan, Drury, Gomez, Straka you name them must forego their offensive skills to play and think defense first. Is it any wonder our power play is a mess? Is it any wonder we can't score goals? Is it any wonder we are struggling in a weak Atlantic Division that we should be running away from? Coach clueless has no idea on how an offense should function. It is truly a wonder that coach clueless continues to coach the Rangers. Why not. Look at the GM and the owner.

An illusion. A deceptive appearance.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Be Better, Be Tighter"

Those are the words of coach clueless after today's debacle. I call it a debacle because we can't get out of our own way in the offensive zone, were 0-9 on the power play, and despite putting 41 shots on goal we still passed up too many shots and the usual suspects continued to man the power play to no avail. Petr Prucha was again screwed which means the PP and the team suffered. Prucha got 10:47 of ice time and zero time on the power play and yet not one of the experts at MSG and the drive by media asked coach clueless the question. Why doesn't Prucha get power play time?

But according to coach clueless we have to play the game tighter which infers it was defense that cost us the game. I guess we are supposed to win games when we score two goals. Last game we lost to Florida 3-2 in the shootout. The previous game we beat Tampa Bay 2-1. The game before a 2-1 loss to the Islanders. So we have to play it tighter. How about, we have to open it up? How about, we should have won 6-3 today? So now we have lost three out of the last four and our next game is against the Islanders and it's Nolan against coach clueless so we are already down 2-0.

The first goal by Dallas was a gift by Gomez who refused to pull the trigger in the slot and had to make one more deke or pass. He coughed up the puck and trapped the whole Ranger team as Jussi Jokinen beat Lundqvist on a breakaway to tie it at one. After Shanny put us ahead, Loui Eriksson broke in alone on Lundqvist as Hossa waved at him and it was 2-2. The killer and winner was delivered by Brendan Morrow courtesy of Ribeiro undressing Girardi and putting a gimme on Morrow's stick. Since we already had gotten our quota of two goals the game was effectively over. Oh yes, Jagr had scored the first goal to give us a 1-0 lead. However, in keeping with the mentality of this team it was actually a pass that went off of a Star defenseman. Jagr looked annoyed that his pass didn't make it through and that he actually scored.

After the game Lundqvist thought he should have stopped the second shot. I don't know about that, but what I do know is that he should not get any more games off until he literally collapses. He doesn't look razor sharp after he returns from a game off. He insists he is not tired and is ready to play every game so why not trust him and play him until he drops. Who knows, maybe he does make that second save and even that first one and then coach clueless would brag what a great game the team played without going over their allotment of goals. By the way, the PK bent, giving up 2-5. Maybe we have to tighten the PK up.

So this is what the Rangers and their fans are up against. We will continue to play defense first at all costs, score a goal or two, and not make any critical mistakes. Go over this roster and you tell me who is incapable of making mistakes? And Malik isn't even in the lineup. I have to go dig up old films of the Sabres and the Devils and find where was the event that turned two pretty good hockey players like Drury and Gomez into tentative mushes. You don't think it's the coach? Nah!

ICINGS: Larry Brooks reports that Pat Burns is fully recovered and itching to get back into coaching. Very interesting. Nigel Dawes had a four pointer in Hartford the other night, 2 goals and 2 assists. What was it he was supposed to improve on by going back to Hartford? And Hossa continues to play. In six games with Hartford Dawes has 3 goals and 7 assists. He had four goals with the Rangers. Hossa has zero goals and 3 assists in 20 games. Thomas Pock had a goal and two assists in the same game and is 1-7-8 in 15 games.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Valley Steals A Point

So nothing changes. The goalie stands on his head, making 33 saves, 19 in the first period and the Rangers powerless play goes 1-6 getting all of 7 shots on goal in over 10 minutes of PP time. Jaromir Jagr in 22:31 of ice time got 2 shots on goal, plus one goal post. Wow! Scotty Gomez, who is starting to resemble Michael Nylander without the points, got 21:32 minutes of ice time with 2 shots on goal. Double Wow! Petr Prucha got 11:26 of ice time with zero time, nada, zilch, on the PP. Coach clueless in his infinite wisdom could not find a single second to get Petr Prucha on the ice on the PP.

Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti continue to give their Pollyanna impressions of how good Jagr is playing when in over 22 minutes of ice time he gets all of 2 shots on goal. Dick Button, the famed old Olympic figure skater would do better. So we get, Jagr is really skating well Sam. Yeah Joe, he is at his best tonight. If this is his best, we are in deep trouble. Maybe he should be put on the third line. The shootout was pathetic with only Shanahan trying to score without a deke. All the others went to Vokoun's right with weak shots.

By the way, now that Hossa has stopped scoring on the shootout isn't it time to send him to Hartford and bring back Dawes. The apologists are telling us that he has good chemistry with Jagr. What chemistry? Jagr has two goals and Hossa has none. Some chemistry. Valiquette played great again but the big O let him down. Is there a more offensive offense than the Rangers? So tomorrow we get Dallas who have won four in a row and have outscored their opponents 13-3 in those games. No sweat, we have the Jagr-Hossa chemistry working for us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

"Thanksgiving Day is coming and Mr. Turkey said, how very careful I must be or I will lose my head." Headless Turkey.

It was quite a couple of days. Maryann and I trekked into the city, met my son and his friend, had dinner at 'Cesca's on West 75th street and then went to the Beacon Theater to see The Brian Setzer Orchestra. What a band! Benney, Glenn, TD, Jimmy, Stan, Woody, The Duke and The Count would have loved this guy who truly is a worthy successor to the big bands of old. It was called a Christmas show but it was much more than that. He played some oldies in his rockin' style like "Jump Jive and Wail", "White Christmas", and " Jingle Bells". Then he played Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" and a dynamite version of "The Nutcracker Suite" which surpassed the Les Brown version of the same tune. Then it was his other hits like "Dirty Boogie" and "Rock This Town" which brought down the house. He played The Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ prior to this show and will wrap up the New York week at The North Fork Theater in Westbury on Saturday night. Catch him if you like, as I do, the jazz/rock style he plays. The band has a kind of similiarity to the old Louie Prima band with a lot of fun singing by Setzer, who does some scat on "As Long As I'm Singin'." Brian is not as dynamic as Prima was and who became Mr. Las Vegas in the fifties and sixties. However, I believe Setzer's band is superior to Prima's band musically. Now all the old guys will call me and accuse me of heresy.

Oh yes hockey! We got to my son's home in time to catch the Rangers in sixty. Thank God. I don't think I could have watched the whole game. Before my very old, tired eyes the Rangers are morphing into the NJ Devils. The scoring? Hah! Tyutin scored, which gave the Ranger defensemen the last six goals the Rangers have scored. The winning goal was scored by Colton Orr and the film should be saved and replayed every day at practice. Orr skated into the Lightning zone with a defenseman in front of him so Orr shot the puck, toward the oppositions net, and scored. Yes, you heard right he shot the puck at the opponents net. He didn't whirl, do a 360 and pass the puck back to no one. He shot the puck. He didn't make the safe play and put the puck into the corner. He shot the puck. He didn't pass the puck laterally to the center ice where a Ranger is usually a step late. He shot the puck. Amazing! Shoot that puck. Score that goal.

Henrik Lundqvist should have had his fifth shutout but it was ruined by coach clueless who had Jaromir Jagr on the ice with less than a minute to play and Tampa Bay with six skaters. But this is coach clueless's M.O. Remember last year against Buffalo in the playoffs, the last time Chris Drury scored a meaningful goal? Coach clueless wants to see Jagr get an empty netter because he obviously can't score full net. Well he could score if he would shoot. Jags, watch the Colton Orr tape. You face the goalie, you lift your stick, you bring it forward and it will hit the puck and send it propelling toward the other team's goalie. Oops, sorry, I forgot defense first.

We ended the holiday at my daughter's house in Holmdel, NJ where eight people had a very enjoyable diner and three stupid men watched the Jets get trampled. Come to think of it, they had trouble scoring also. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Powerless

The highlight of the evening for us was watching my grandson Nicholas and his friend Matthew riding the Zamboni's between the first and second periods. The game was a lowlight from beginning to end.

Powerless. The PP was 0-5 last night and the five on five was equally atrocious. The PK bent a little giving up one goal, 1-6, but kind of made up for it by scoring a shorthanded goal by Rozsival who leads the team with seven goals scored. Do you believe that? Michal Rozsival leads the team in goals scored and may be the only Ranger to crack 25 goals this year. Jagr and Drury again were pointless and almost shotless again. They each got one shot on goal and Jagr didn't get his until late in the game.

The Rangers had one last shot, drawing a penalty with 1:24 left in the game. I told my son Chris that coach clueless should put in the six defensemen with Girardi and Mara at the points, Staal, Tyutin and Strudwick up front and Rozsival in the slot off the faceoff circle. Coach clueless rounded up the usual suspects and they made a lot of noise in front of the net but that was it. After the game the philosopher belched out about responsibility, caring, dedication and I think Thursday is Thanksgiving. Blah, blah, blah.

You have to remember that when we play the Islanders it's basically Ted Nolan against coach clueless. I figure that gives the Isles a two goal lead to start the game. We have lost three games to the Islanders this year, all by one goal. We have scored all of four goals, an average of 1.33 goals/game against a team that gives up 2.65 goals/game. In fact if you remove the Rangers from the equation the Islanders have given up almost 3 goals per game, 2.93.

Ah, but we are still in first place. Really! The Islanders are three points behind the Rangers and have four games in hand. Who the hell makes up these unbalanced schedules? But it's too early to worry about first place with three quarters of the season still to play. Lets worry about a moribund power play and a clueless coach that does not know how to fix it. There are enough worries there to last the rest of the year. The power play ranks 22nd and is falling despite having the second most opportunities in the league. Where will it end? Round up the usual suspects.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

D-Lightful

The Rangers seem to have found their offense. The only problem, if you want to call it that, it's that the defense is now the offense. For the second game in a row the defense put on an offensive display that was supposed to come from the highly touted, highly paid forwards. Rozsival with two, Girardi with one and Jason Strudwick with the game winner in OT. The defense put 12 of the Rangers total of 26 shots on goal. Tyutin led the shot parade with 4 and tied with Hollweg for the most number of hits with 5. Besides the 4 goals the defense had 3 assists. One of the goals, by Rozsival was a short handed goal.

The defense even saved the putrid power play of another schneid with a goal by Girardi, assisted by Prucha and Tyutin. Avery and Drury were the other PP lineman which was a departure from the 1 and 1A tic-tac-toe tag team that usually mans the power play. The power play was 1-6 and a day of reckoning is approaching when the futility of the PP is going to start costing us games. The Ranger took a total of seven shots on goal in 11:41 minutes of PP time. Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury had no shots on goal for the entire game with a combined total of 37:59 minutes of ice time. Instead of Drury bringing a strong offense to the Rangers he has fallen into the tic-tac-toe trap and has become another pass first, play defense and maybe shoot, if its not going to cause a breakaway by the other team. In fact, at times he looks lost and he certainly doesn't look happy. I never see the guy smiling.

By why so gloomy Pundit? We are in first place. Twenty games in, is not a time for chest pounding. The Rangers rank 20th in PP scoring with a 14.3%. The saving grace is that they rank 4th on the penalty kill with a 89.8%, and they have Henrik Lundqvist. One quarter of the way into the season and coach clueless still has not found a way to get the PP working. After twenty games the five top scorers for the Rangers with their total goals and PP goals are: Jagr 4-1, Gomez 4-2, Drury 3-1, Shanahan 6-4 and Rozsival 6-3. So you have Michal Rozsival tied with the goal lead with six and second in PP goals with 3. But everything is great because we are in first place. The Islanders are up next on Monday night. See you there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Shootout Twins

So there was Sean Avery with about eight seconds left in OT last night and skating toward Henrik Lundqvist. Skating toward Lundqvist? He should have been skating toward Biron, the Flyer goalie, right? No, Avery knew that a shootout was playing into the Rangers hands because they had the shootout champ in Henrik Lundqvist. And so it came to pass that the Rangers won the shootout on Brendan Shanahan's goal and Henrik Lundqvist's perfection.

The Rangers are now 3-1 in shootouts losing only to Boston, 1-0. They have beaten Toronto, the Devils and now the Flyers. Lundqvist has faced 12 shots and only one has gotten by him. Last night he stoped Briere, Richards and Upshall. Shanahan scored his second shootout goal to give the Rangers the win. He also tallied one in the game as his line is starting to smoke with Gomez and Avery. No surprise the Rangers who are riding a four game winning streak have lost only one game since Avery returned to the lineup.

The Drury line is also clicking as Drury is doing everything right except score a goal. His beautiful takeaway, feed to Prucha and driving to the net to create a screen, as Prucha put in his second of the year, was a thing of beauty. It wasn't one of the Rangers best games of the year but it shows how much this team has improved that it wins ugly games. The young guys are really making a difference. Staal is playing like a veteran and not like a 20 year old.

Lundqvist also gave up a couple of gimmees, however when the chips were down in the shootout he was on top of his game, stopping Briere on a stick check, getting Richards to shot high and making a save on Upshall. Maybe the rest didn't help. Petr Prucha's ice time improved getting 12 plus minutes and he led all forwards with three shots on goal. The defense was quite active on offense. Besides Tyutin's goal the D put thirteen of the teams twenty nine shots on goal. The increased offense by the defense along with more ice time for the youngsters is paying off. Should be interesting to see who sits when Straka, Callahan and Malik return. I know who I would sit.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ranger Romper Room

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Romper RoomMost of you remember the kiddie show, Romper Room. It ran from the fifties to the nineties and had kids in a classroom setting, supervised by adults, having a whale of a time. Last night we had a rerun of the show as the kids, Dawes, Dubinsky and Staal had a heck of a time, each scoring a goal, supervised by the older kids, Jagr, Gomez and Shanahan.

Marc Staal played a great game. He is a calming influence on the defense, especially on the first pairing. It would be a shame and a move of utter stupidity if Malik goes back on the first pairing when he comes back. That happened last year when Pock was dumped for Rachunek after the first round sweep of Atlanta. Staal's reaction on Vishnevski's hit of Prucha was priceless and one not too often seen by Ranger teammates. He immediately skated by Vishnevski and dumped him drawing an interference penalty. It was a good penalty.

In the process the Rangers stopped Broduer who was 9-0-1 against the Rangers in the last ten games at the Meadowlands, from getting his 500th career win. The Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Devils this year and Brodeur is 0-2-1, in the pervase NHL scoring method. Since Lundqvist's appearance on the hockey scene in New York his record against the Devils is 8-2-3. Conversely, Brodeur's record aginst the Rangers is 5-6-2. Lundqvist has forged a sea change in how the Rangers now approach the Devils.

The Rangers move on to Philly tonight for a first place battle with the Flyers who are one point ahead of the Rangers. My only complaint about last night is the ice time afforded Petr Prucha. Last night Prucha got all of 9:37 of ice time while Hossa racked up 17:27. Huh? I know there are a lot of Hossa lovers out there but am I missing something with this guy? Prucha, the guy who rang up 32 goals in his first two years sits as the wrong Hossa continues to pile up the ice time. Put Prucha on the first line with Jagr and Dubinsky and watch the goals start to rack up. One other thing. Sean Avery played the quietest game of his life. No shots, no hits and from what I could see, no talks. That must have been some conversation he had up in Toronto's Puzzle Palace.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who Was That Masked Man?

I know I mentioned in my last article that it was time for Steve Valiquette to make his season debut for the Rangers, but I did not know that he was Lundqvist's clone. In front of a packed Air Canada Centre crowd that introduced old and new Hall Of Famers, Valiquette put on a princely performance making 32 saves in regulation and OT and then coming up big in the shootout stopping Antropov and Sundin while Shanahan and Hossa were scoring to give the Rangers there first road win of the season.

It was Hockey Night in Canada and for at least one night only Valiquette outshone Messier, Stevens, Francis, Macinnis and Gregory not to mention Gilbert and Bathgate. All the stars were out in Toronto plus there was a tribute to the Canadien troops past and present as today is Remberance Day in Canada, commemorating World War II. In addition Valiquette's mother and father were there to see their son as they live in nearby Etobicoke, Ontario. At least the mother was there the entire time as the father seemed to disappear from time to time. Imagine your son playing the biggest game of his life and you can't bear to watch? I can't imagine that.

The win evened Valiquette's record with the Rangers at 3-3 and lowered his GAA to 2.33 for those six games. Not bad for an infrequently used backup goalie. More importantly it gave Valiquette and the team confidence that he could step in during an emergency and do a fairly decent job. Heck, he even put in a sequence of two acrobatic saves on Antropov when he tried to make like Marty Brodeur and put the puck on Antropov's stick. I'm sure that's when his father left.

My friend,The Dark Ranger, should be pleased as Sean Avery and Darcy Tucker reintroduced themselves during the warm ups as a prelude for them getting together in the game exchanging a few unpleasantries. I don't know why Tucker gets into so many fights, he is not too good at them. Avery played a whale of a game getting the 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick', a goal, an assist and a fight. Shanahan got a goal and an assist. Gomez got an assist as this line clicked all night.

The Rangers are still having trouble scoring goals but for one night a star was born and it remains to be seen if he plays again before Christmas. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Night Of Firsts

There were a lot of firsts tonight at the Garden. Brandon Dubinsky scored his first NHL goal. Sean Avery scored his first goal of the season. Nigel Dawes got his first assist of the season. The Rangers scored their most goals since opening night. Henrik Lundqvist was not named one of the stars of the game and I missed my first home game this year. You pick what was the key moment. My sons will tell you it was the last one.

My biggest enjoyment tonight was watching the continued development of the young guys. Dubinsky, Dawes, Staal and Girardi. Staal is playing like a veteran on the first pairing with Rozsival and got over twenty minutes of ice time tonight. Dubinsky is absolutely fearless and moves the puck quite well. While he started as the center for Jagr and Hossa he scored his goal on a three on two rush with Prucha and Dawes. Dawes fed him beautifully. He did take a dumb penalty after his goal which led to a Penguin power play goal but hey, that's youth for you.

The three stars was number uno, Sean Avery with a goal and an assist and numerous agitations. Number two was Scott Gomez, who played his best game of the year, converting Avery's shot off the boards for his fourth goal and a great feed to Rozsival for a power play goal. Number three went to Dubinsky. Lundqvist was not idle making 26 saves, quite a few in the third period when Pittsburgh opened it up. The Rangers put 39 shots on goal. The power play clicked for 2-8 and the PK's held the Pens to 1-7.

Now its time for another first. The Rangers take to a four game road trip starting in Toronto, then to New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before coming home to play the Islanders. They are 8-2 at home and 0-5-1 on the road. Time to turn this around. Is it time for Steve Valiquette to make his first start of the year? I think so.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Road Wrecks

In six road games the Rangers have accumulated all of one point and Lundqvist had to pitch a shutout to get that point. Last night was a typical road performance, unfortunately it came against the Islanders who have now beaten us twice at the Coliseum. The Rangers with future Hall Of Fame goal scorers like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan plus other top goal scorers like Martin Straka and Petr Prucha decided to bolster their scoring at the beginning of the season by adding top notch offensive talent like Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to give them as potent a force of wingers as any team in the NHL.

So what kind of a powerhouse do we have? We have come off of a six game homestand where we won five of six and the last four straight and we scored a total of twelve goals in those six games. Imagine, twelve goals in six games and five wins. Why can't we score goals? Why can't we have a sustained forecheck game and put more pucks in the net? We bulked up on offensive firepower and we have basically turned into the reincarnation of the NJ Devils. We have a coach who has proclaimed his doctrine. Defense comes first and the offense will come from the defense. Stupid me, I thought the best defense was a strong offense.

If you saw the game last night you saw the tale of two teams and more importantly two coaches. There was Ted Nolan, animated, smiling and smirking throughout the game. Then there was coach clueless, tense, unsmiling and lost. This demeanor reflects on a team. The Rangers right now are playing a close to the vest, don't screw up type of defensive game which is anchored by Henrik Lundqvist who has covered up many a mistake.

In the second period, Gomez had a chance to split two Islander defensemen and go directly to the net. Instead, he passed the puck backward to a defenseman and it caused a turnover. One of the beat writers wants to know if Gomez left his game in the Lincoln Tunnel. I think Gomez and a few others are leaving their game in practice.

So where was or is the mistake happening? Was it wrong to go after Drury and Gomez in preseason or is it wrong to follow this defense at all costs philosophy? If defense was the main theme of this team why sign Drury and Gomez? If defense was the overriding theme of this team, then keep Nylander and go after some defensive forwards. Apparently it is defense and if you watch any of the games you can see the tentative play that has taken over the team. Except for Lundqvist, who should have not been held out to dry like he was last night and like he has in other games.

Is it the players or is it the system that has kept the scoring down? Is this what the Stealth GM wants and if so why the big dollar surge for two potent forwards? Will the press ever ask these questions? Am I a minority of one who wants to know if I will continue to pay top dollar to see boring hockey games, where every night the goalies are the stars of the game? Stay tuned.