Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Third Line Is A Charm

The Rangers did something unusual last night. Yes, they won, but it is how they won. It was a laugher. Sure it was the lowly Bruins, who are sinking fast, but they were only four points behind us at game time. What was also unusual was that the Rangers won a game where Jaromir Jagr had no points.

Maybe Renney finally figured it out, maybe. No, we still don't have a second line center but Matt Cullen did very nicely as a third line center. Did I say nicely? Flanked by Petr Prucha and Jed Ortmeyer, the trio accounted for three goals and six assists. Three points each and they were named one, two and three stars of the game in order, it was Ortmeyer, Prucha and Cullen and it was deserved. Prucha had two goals, Cullen had one and Ortmeyer set a career high three assists. Cullen's goal was a shorthanded goal and the line was flying all night.

Other goal scorers were Rozsival, Nylander and Shanahan who got a shorthanded penalty shot goal. He was fouled going to the net but I don't think it warranted a penalty shot. We'll take it. We had the spectacle of Nylander scoring his goal by crashing the net, literally. Nylander's goal was on the power play which went 1-6 and is now one in the last twenty seven attempts. Not good. So the Rangers pulled off the perfecta of scoring every which way you can score in a hockey game except for an empty netter and a five on three. They scored at even strength, shorthanded, power play and penalty shot.

Lundqvist continued his return to last years form stopping 29 of 30 shots. He has now given up only seven goals in the last five games. Barring something unforseen look for him to go for the rest of the thirty two games.

Now the opposition gets tougher and we will see if this imperfectly put together team can sustain its momentum against Toronto, Tampa Bay and Detroit in the next seven days. The Rangers have to go all out in the final 32 games regardless of whether they get a rental like Forsberg or stay with this team.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

So What's New?


The drive by sports media is all excited that the Rangers started out the second half of the season with a hard fought victory over the hapless Flyers. Give me a break! We barely beat a team that has won only three games on its own ice. Peter Forsberg decided to play this one, he has missed sixteen games because of injuries. He got 15:04 of ice time with one shot, two hits and five giveaways. You think he was auditioning for the Rangers as a rental for the last six weeks of the season? The giveaways would indicate that.

The game? Jagr was great. He scored the first goal with a redirection in front of the net and he played a solid game with five shots and two hits. He spent quite a bit of the third period watching Forsberg like a hawk. Shanahan got seven shots on goal hitting posts twice but no cigar as his slump continues. Jed Ortmeyer played a strong offensive game with four shots on goal and the game winner was by Jason Krog his first with some strong pressure by the fourth line of Hollweg, Hall and Krog.

The power play was 0-6 and is now zero for the last twenty two chances. There was nothing new on the power play except a few more shots with the same suspects. If you could believe this one, Marcel Hossa, 2:22, got more power play time than Petr Prucha, 1:13. Renney was ecstatic over the win. Besides praising Jagr, deservedly, he gushed, "I don't know that there's a player we can single out tonight that didn't show up" Wow! The Rangers put 35 shots on Robert Esche who played like he was auditioning for a playoff team. We beat the lowly Flyers 2-1 and everyone played great.

So Renney came back from Hartford with what? Daniel Girardi, who played 11:58, the lowest of all defensemen and played well keeping it simple. With Girardi playing that meant that Thomas Pock sat. That's how it works, you can't have too many young guys on the ice at one time unless you happen to be the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby, Malkin and Staal all get regular shifts and the oldest one is 20 years old, Malkin. Crosby has 25 goals, Malkin has 24 goals and Staal, the younger brother of of Marc Staal has 16 goals. Had the Rangers drafted these guys you think they be on the team or all be in Hartford?

So how do we make the playoffs with this team? Unless Jagr and Lundqvist play super hockey the rest of the way, there is no way we make the playoffs. The Penguins are red hot right now and look like the seventh team for the playoffs along with locks like Buffalo, Atlanta, New Jersey, Ottawa, Montreal and Carolina. That leaves one spot open for the rest of the pack except the Flyers. It may be whoever bids the most will get Forsberg. If he is healthy that team will make the playoffs if he gets injured again it will become the most expensive bomb in sports.

 ICINGS: Saddened by the report of the death of Gump Worsley, the Hall of Fame goaltender. I had the pleasure of sharing a few drinks with him in a hotel bar in Minnesota a number of years ago and he was a delight to talk to. Like most great Rangers he went elsewhere to star and his time will be most remembered with the Canadiens. The AP/CBC has a story about Gump. God bless you Gumper!

Jan 28, 2007
Journal News/AP:
Krog picks right time to score for Rangers
Daily News
Jagr Gets Rangers Going
NY Post
Points To Playoffs
Rangers' Lines Put Fourth Effort
Newsday
Jagr Shoulders Load

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Charade

Webster describes Charade as: A guessing game in which each syllable of a word to be found is represented by a tableau or by dramatic action.
Tableau: A vivid representation; specif., a representation of some scene by the grouping of persons who remain silent and motionless in appropriate postures.

This then is what Tom Renney and Slick Sather and Don Baloney are trying to pull off by sending Tom Renney to Hartford for about a week. Renney is to look over some top prospects to see if any can be brought up to the Rangers to help their drive toward a playoff spot. Maybe some scoring punch, maybe some toughness and stability on defense. Don't bet on it. What scorer or scorers is he going to bring up and give an honest shot at making the team? He has a thirty goal scorer by the name of Petr Prucha who can't get more than ten minutes of ice time and most of it is on the fourth line.

And what do we hear about Petr Prucha? We hear his name being bandied about in trade rumors for the likes of Martin Rucinsky and Peter Forsberg. One, Rucinsky, has been recycled through the Rangers twice already and has not scored thirty goals once in his fifteen year NHL career. The other, Forsberg, has missed sixteen games to injuries and has scored all of eight goals. To add insult to injury, Forsberg and the Flyers, have intimated that Forsberg will resign with the Flyers as a free agent at the end of the season. So for six weeks we give away a thirty goal scorer for a player, past his prime, and prone to injuries.

That's not all. The Flyers want Dubinsky and/or Montoya thrown in the deal. Why not throw in Renney, the Flyers could use a coach. The deal for Rucinsky is just as bad. Ole JD, wants Dubinsky and Prucha for the journeyman Rucinsky. How about that. Everyone wants Prucha except the Rangers. Everyone wants Dubinsky but he can't play for the Rangers. However, all this will be resolved by Tom Renney spending a couple of days watching the Wolfpack practice. The Wolfpack have fought their way up to second place in the Atlantic Division of the AHL. What's the chances they dive after Renney's visit?

Brendan Shanahan says the team doesn't shoot enough. He says the Rangers average one shot every thirty seconds on the power play. Shanahan says the Rangers pass the puck too much. The other night The Perimeter Prince's of Jagr, Straka and Nylander all getting over twenty two minutes of ice team each managed to get all of seven shots on goal, which included six power plays, and no shots in the third period. Jagr got five of the shots while Straka and Nylander did their figure eights. Prucha with 9:27 of ice time, very little in the third, and mostly on the fourth line got three shots on goal. Shanahan says that something has to change.

So amid all this, Renney goes to Hartford. Renney, who believes that all the Rangers need is to rest and rethink and all will be fine. Ah yes, there will be a brighter day tomorrow. Renney will return probably with Dubinsky in tow and he will insert him on the second line to start the game and then Dubs will be back on the fourth line and will probably log all of five minutes and Renney will claim it's too early for Dubs and Don Baloney will claim he is too young to play in the NHL, disregarding the fact that a player younger than Dubinsky is leading the league in scoring.

What Renney, I mean Sather should do, is bring up Dubinsky, Dawes and Callahan and play them as a unit either as number two or three line. They should get no less than fifteen minutes of ice time. Shanahan should be moved up to the number one line and Nylander dropped down
to either two or three center. Hall, Hossa and Jason Ward should be used as trade bait (hah!) or put on waivers. Serious consideration should be given to Wolfpack defensemen Baranka, Lampman and Girardi to replace the likes of Malik, Rachunek and Aaron Ward who should be dangled as trade bait or put on waivers.

Drastic? You bet, but this team is going nowhere with one line that refuses to adapt and a defense that is too soft. We also need a new coach and new GM but until we get a new owner we are stuck with these clowns. We Ranger fans deserve better. What we want from a coach is action not platitudes. What we want from our players is an ability to adapt to the different nuances of the game, not to stick to the same pattern, the same style. That pattern, that style has seen us lose eleven of our last sixteen and fall in a three way tie for the last playoff position, and the fourteenth place team five points behind the Rangers. The Rangers, the team that Larry Brooks, Stan Fischler and Boomer Esiason all picked to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season. What the hell do they know?

ICINGS:

January 21, 2007
Daily News
Rangers' Punch Lacks Power
NY Post
Power Outage
Newsday
Major Search In Minors
Journal News
Rangers Have Plenty Of Things To Fix During Break

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mediocrity Continues

This has to be a quick and short one as the Pundit is not feeling well. Been fighting a stomach virus the last three or four days and the way they are playing the Rangers must be suffering the same. During the third period my wife asked how is it going and when I told her we were losing she said, "So what else is new." She is right, nothing is new. Renney only has a few chips to play. Pock plays, Kaspy sits. Jason Ward plays, Hall sits. Cullen is no longer the second line center, Krog is. Later in the game Cullen is back at second line center, Krog disappears. Either way Shanahan suffers.

The prophet Renney preaches we have to shoot the puck more and while Jagr picks it up Straka and Nylander continue to do pirouettes. We have played 47 games and Renney is preaching the same story about getting pucks on the net but Straka and Nylander continue with their figure eights. Will they pay the bench price? Nah. We just signed Straka for next year and Nylander is not far behind. Meanwhile, Renney contemplates no new changes in this team. He has confidence in them.

He has confidence in a team that gave up the puck 14 times to only two for Atlanta. He has confidence in Marek Malik, on the number one defensive pairing, who gave up the puck three times. The Jagr, Straka, Nylander trio gave up the puck six times, perhaps one tic-tac-toe too many. But only Pock from the young Hartford group can get ice time, at the expense of Kaspy, while Malik, Rachunek and Aaron Ward give their best impersonations of the Three Stooges On Ice.

There is no number two center on the team, there hasn't been one all year, but there is no room for Immonen or Dubinsky. Maybe we should send Shanahan to Hartford so that the "Drain Trust" of Flim Flam Sather and Don Baloney can see that it does work. We can't get any scoring but Petr Prucha plays less than ten minutes on the fourth line and Dawes and Callahan can't get any ice time on Tom Renney's Ice Follies. And Marcel Hossa continues to get important ice time and does nothing. I don't believe he is Marian's natural brother, I think he was adopted.

The game? There was one real goal and that was Jagr's game tying goal. Kovalchuk put in the first goal that Lundqvist let the rebound get away from him and tucked it in with his stick. Niclas Havelid skated in untouched as Marvelous Malik lost his stick behind the net and somehow Havelid stuffed it through Lundqvist. It was his second of the season. Remember Lukawich's second of the season in the Devil game. Then Lundqvist stops Marian Hossa on a penalty shot.
Go figure.

I'm going on too long. Bottom line. Sather and Baloney are idiots. Renney is incompetent and the Rangers will not make the playoffs without at least two major changes, one on defense and one up front.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brodeur Bests Lundqvist

Brodeur stops Straka
The Rangers revamped, punchless lineup could get no more than nine shots on goal in any period tonight and lost a key game that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Any hopes that the Rangers could climb up the ladder in the Eastern Conference were dashed by the Devils defense and Brodeur. Brodeur stopped 26 shots, mostly ordinary and Lundqvist stopped 31, letting what looked like a harmless wrist shot from defenseman Brad Lukowich go in for the only goal.

The Rangers new lineup was more of a reflection of the team's weaknesses than it was some bold strategy by Tom Renney. How else to explain true fourth line center Blair Betts, maybe a third liner, centering the second line of Shanahan and Hossa. Poor Shanahan. Not only did he not have a gifted center to feed him he had an obstacle on his opposite wing. Think of this for a moment. Brendan Shanahan, the free agent, who called the Rangers, has scored twenty four goals without having a true second line center on his line.

Where was Prucha, the rookie sensation who scored 30 goals last year? Why he was on the fourth line with Hollweg and Orr. The third line was new guy Jason Krog at center with Cullen and Ortmeyer on the wings. Wow! Prucha's name keeps coming up in a potential trade with the St. Louis Blue's for the recycled Martin Rucinsky. Martin Rucinsky. In his fifteen years in the NHL Rucinsky has never scored thirty goals in a season. He has never had more than sixty points in a season. The kicker is that John Davidson, President of the Blues wants Brandon Dubinsky, the twenty year old in Hartford for retread Rucinsky. Would you trade Prucha or Dubinsky for Rucinsky? I would trade Malik and Rachunek for Rucinsky, wouldn't you?

And what of our top line? Nylander, Straka and Jagr got all of four shots the entire game. Four shots! And there was Renney after the game beating his chest on what a game his team played. Four shots! Unbelievable? No! The line insists on playing an east, west, tic-tac-toe, perimeter hockey game exerting no pressure on the goalie and magnifying the defensive attributes of the Devils. This team needs help now, not at the trading deadline. Is it any wonder there wasn't a sell out crowd at the game? Is it any wonder that the Devils haven't sold out one game this year?

Another oddity in this game was the fact that the Rangers did not get one power play opportunity. Amazing. The Devils were 0-4 on the PP and seemed to be their old whining selves every time one of them was smashed into the boards. But the Rangers couldn't beg, borrow or steal a PP. Maybe the refs figured that if the team doesn't have the heart to crash the net and play north, south rather than east, west than they don't deserve a power play.

ICINGS:
January 17, 2007
Daily News
Ex-Islander Lukowich Now Totally Devils' Advocate
Rangers Do Zip Vs. Brodeur
NY Post
Checking It Out
Fans Should Savor Masked Marvels Marty And Henrik
Straka Gets Another Year
Newsday
Brodeur Shutout Widens Gap
Journal News
Jagr, Rangers Lost In Devils' Shadows

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Matinee Idols

It is hard to imagine a more unlikely hero than Jed Ortmeyer. With 2:47 remaining in the game and the Rangers clinging to a 2-1 lead and trying to kill off a penalty, Ortmeyer was pulled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. Playing in only his sixth game Ortmeyer put at least three fakes on Boston goalie Tim Thomas before scoring his first goal of the year ending Boston's hope to come back.

Both goalies played well in a defensive struggle that was a relief after the last two Ranger losses. Tim Thomas made 35 saves and Henrik Lundqvist came up with 24 saves. Boston's lone goal went in off of Marc Savards skate which tied the game a minute after Nylander had given the Rangers a lead in the first period. Martin Straka scored the game winner in the second, his 24th.

But the play of the game was Ortmeyer's penalty shot goal. One of the most popular Rangers on the team, the Ranger bench and the crowd erupted after he scored. Jaromir Jagr got into a roughing match with Paul Mara in the second period and it is clear that Jagr is getting fed up with being pushed around with no one on the Rangers retaliating. Brendan Shanahan can not be the policeman for this team.

Good news for the Rangers is that Jagr did not make the All Star team and will be able to stay home and rest. Think about this for a second. The number six scorer in the NHL and truly one of its biggest stars was not picked for the All Star game. You don't think the NHL isn't a Mickey Mouse League. Better he stays home and rests. Maybe he will talk to the "Drain Trust" and talk them into getting some serious help for this team. Shanahan was chosen to the All Stars for the eight time.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nineteen Minutes Don't A Hockey Game Make

Ottawa Senators win 6-4
The Rangers tried to make up for five lousy periods of hockey by pulling of a miracle finish. It didn't work. Trailing 4-0 going into the third the Rangers gave up a goal to Daniel Alfredson at the 1:02 mark to go down 5-0. It practically emptied the Garden. Those of us who refused to leave were mistreated to a tough loss, aided by a blown non call by the refs in the third period.

Rip Van Winkle Renney woke up sort of, and decided to scramble his lines. Prucha joined Straka and Jagr. Nylander centered Shanahan and Hossa and Betts worked with Jason Ward and Ortmeyer. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do with the defense which was as porous as usual. Malik, Kaspy and Rachunek all played down to their levels. Kevin Weekes was left out to dry and had no support in giving up four goals. He was replaced by Lundqvist at the end of the second period.

The goal scorers were Prucha, Jason Ward, Hossa and Betts which cut the lead to 5-4 with about nine minutes left. However the Rangers couldn't get the equalizer and an empty netter by Heatley sealed the game. With about three minutes left a non call by the refs on a delay of game infraction by Chris Phillips, who from his defensive zone lifted the puck into the stands on the far opposite side of the rink. It should have ben a two minute delay of game but it didn't happen.

The "Drain Trust" of Glen Sather and Don Maloney were sitting up in the luxury boxes. You think they saw anything? You think they saw what a poor defense they have put together? You think they saw the perimeter 'Czech-less' offense they have put together? You think they saw their off season acquisitions, Aaron Ward, Matt Cullen and Adam Hall performing so poorly? You think they saw a coach who needed most of the game before he changed tactics? They probably saw the third period and think all is well and the recovery is under way. Did they see the Islanders win last night and move to within three points of the Rangers? You think they saw that the Rangers are falling out of a playoff spot? As that great philosopher once said, "It's getting late early."

ICINGS: My son and I had dinner at the Play By Play. There were three tables near us with two persons per table and we were discussing the Rangers. It was amazing that we were all on the same page and all agreed 100% on the following:

1. Tom Renney is a horrible coach.
2. The Rangers are too soft.
3. The Rangers aren't tough enough.
4. The defense is awful.
5. Malik is awful.
6. Where are the young players.
7. Offense doesn't go to the net.
8. No one protects Jagr from getting hit.
Amazing! I wonder if the "Drain Trust" saw all that up in the sky box?

Jason KrogJanuary 12, 2007
NY Rangers: RANGERS CLAIM JASON KROG OFF WAIVERS FROM ATLANTA - New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has acquired center Jason Krog from the Atlanta Thrashers, claiming him off waivers.

Krog, 31, has appeared in 14 games for Atlanta this season, registering one goal and three assists, along with six penalty minutes and a plus-three rating. Krog posted an NHL career-high three-game assist streak from December 23 to December 27 after he was recalled by the Thrashers from the American Hockey League (AHL) on December 12...

Headlines:
Daily News
Blueshirts' rally fails
NY Post
RALLY KILLER - REFEREES THWART COMEBACK
Newsday:
A furious rally still can't win a curious game

January 11, 2007
Daily News
Rangers Look For Quick Fix
NY Post
Renney Venom More Of Same
Newsday
Looking Outside For Goals
Journal News
Rangers Need To Show More Hunger

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We Can't Beat Them

The crowd seemed to chant it every five minutes. "Potvin Sucks." Occasionally it was "DP sucks", referring to the Islander goalie. In reality it was the Rangers and Tom Renney who sucked. Here was a chance to put a skidding team nine points behind us and we couldn't do it. Tom Renney couldn't get his team up and ready to crush and bury an inferior team. He just couldn't do it. He doesn't know how to get a team up and ready for a big game.

Both teams made u-turns tonight. The Rangers winning streak was stopped at four games and the Islanders losing streak ended at six games. The Islanders outhustled, outclawed, outplayed and outscored an indifferent Ranger team. All the warts came out tonight. The defense was a sieve. The offense didn't or couldn't put sustained pressure on DiPietro and Henrik Lundqvist was a mere mortal tonight, giving up some questionable goals, aided and abetted by his sloppy defense.

The second line center Matt Cullen played like a third line center again, which is what he really is. Petr Prucha shanked a shot with a wide open net similar to the one Kozlov scored on for the Islanders. Twenty seven seconds later Mike Sillinger put in his second of the game, rebounding his own shot and the game was over.

Jaromir Jagr scored a goal, his 17th, and picked up two assists on Straka's 23rd and Shanahan's 24th. The hip and shoulder did not seem to bother him as he skated freely and looked to be his own self. I've said it before and I will say it again, again and again. The Rangers will only go as far as Jagr and Lundqvist take them. Tonight, the Prince, Henrik Lundqvist, did not live up to his part of the bargain. He seems to play erratically against the Islanders.

Glen Sather better be working the phones now to shore up a soft and pourous defense and to get a tough number two center before it is too late. He may have his job for life, courtesy of James Dolan, but it won't do any good if the fans stop coming. Because he is set for life it doesn't mean that Renney is also set for life. I don't believe that Renney can take this team deep into the playoffs. In fact, he may not be able to get them into the playoffs.

ICINGS:

January 10, 2007
Daily News
Isle Be Darned
NY Post
No Isle-usion
Newsday
Isles, Renney Rip Blueshirts
Getting Total Team Effort
Journal News
Islanders Bring Out Worst In Rangers

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rangers Shine In House Of Horrors

The moon may have come out this afternoon in Montreal. How else to explain the Rangers improbable win over Les Habs in the House of Horrors. In the prior twelve games the Canadiens held a 9-2-1 advantage and since the Rangers inception the Canadiens hold a 310-179-94-1 advantage. Improbable? The Rangers completely outplayed Montreal five on five but gave up three power play goals in five attempts to the number two power play unit in the NHL. Improbable? The Rangers were two for seven on the PP against the number one PK team in the league. Improbable? Matt Cullen, one of my favorite whipping boys, scored two goals. Improbable? Hollweg, Hossa, Jason Ward, Hall and Betts all logged over ten minutes of ice time each. Hossa was a dynamo and should have been one of the stars of the game.

Improbable? Jaromir Jagr got less than ten minutes of ice time with one shot on goal before leaving with was described as a minor groin injury. Toward the final minutes of the game Renney rotated the third and fourth lines and they were energetic right up to the final buzzer. Improbable? The Rangers swamped Montreal on face offs winning 34 of 50 faceoffs for a whopping 68% face off wins. Blair Betts was outstanding, winning 12 of 14 faceoffs. No wonder the Rangers just resigned him for two more years.

While Straka got another goal (22) and an assist and Nylander racked up two assists and voted number two star it was the role players who dominated this game. Thomas Pock played another outstanding game. There is no way this guy should not be in the regular lineup every night. The third and fourth lines constantly harassed Montreal with steady solid forechecking, hard checks and constant pressure on the puck all game. To Renney's credit he recognized this and kept the pressure on with the two lines. Rozsival scored the other goal, the Rangers third , to give a short lived 3-2 lead.

Next stop, the Islanders at the Garden. Rangers play the same kind of five on five and stay out of the penalty box and the streak should go to five matching the previous streak. The Rangers escaped The House Of Horrors with an exciting win.

ICINGS:

January 8, 2007
NY Post - Time To Save Jagr

January 7, 2007
Daily News - Now Matt's More Like It
NY Post - Painful Victory
Newsday - Rare Power Surge By Cullen

Friday, January 05, 2007

Free Straka Tricks Flyers

Martin Straka scores
Martin Straka would never admit it but maybe the opponents doubling up on Jaromir Jagr is not such a bad thing. Last night Straka was free in front of the net and converted a beautiful pass from Nylander for his first goal. The second came off of a rebound to the right of Robert Esche, Flyer goalie, which he roofed and on the third he sprung himself free from the pack and went in all alone to score his third after Alexei Zhitnik's shot rattled off both goal post's behind Lundqvist.

Lundqvist tried to spoil the party by going for an empty netter but the puck hit Michael York in front of the net and he converted it to make it a one goal game with about 22 seconds to play. That was the only mistake Lundqvist made in another sterling performance. He made 22 saves and could have had a shutout except for his gaffe and Matt Cullen's lazy offensive zone tripping penalty which paved the way for Philly's first goal. The goal went in off of Eric Meloche's skate. Hey Renney, how come Cullen didn't sit the rest of the period? It's a shame that Jarkko Immonen sits while Cullen impedes the number two line.

Lundqvist now has a GAA of 2.90, 24th in the NHL, behind Hasek's number one 2.01. His save % is now up to 9.02, 25th in the league, behind number one Huet of Montreal at .920. Lundqvist has given up eight goals in the last five games. Should be a good matchup Saturday afternoon in Montreal.

Straka is on a pace to set a career high in goals for a season. He tallied 35 goals for the 1998-99 Pittsburgh Penguins. He is 21-27-48 which is second to Jagr's 54 points which is fourth in the league behind Sidney Crosby's 61 points. Jagr's body language is not very encouraging. Though nothing has been said I almost have to believe his shoulder is not 100%. He did get off a great blast in the third period that almost drove Esche into his own net.

The win stretched the Rangers winning streak to three games and ended the Flyers streak at three. The Rangers won five straight, then lost seven straight and now have won three straight. That's 8-7 in the last 15 games. Overall they are 21-17-4 and it all adds up to a .500 hockey team. So what's the problem? You don't think its the coach, do you? I do.

ICINGS: The fans love this new NHL? The Rangers and the Wild were the only home teams to draw capacity crowds last night. Granted there were a few empty seats at the Garden but by and large it was a full house. The Devils against the Islanders drew 12,529, 6,511 short of capacity. Last years Stanley Cup Champs, the Hurricanes, drew 15,096, 3634 short of capacity. At Boston in an original six matchup against Toronto they drew 14,560, 3005 short of capacity. At Washington 11,287 showed up, 6,990 short of capacity to watch the Caps battle the Canadiens. The Blackhawks, another original six, drew 11,849, a whopping 7,411 below capacity. There are about seven or eight strong franchises that regularly sell out. Rangers, Flyers, Maple Leafs, the Wild, the Red Wings, Senators and the Canadiens. I may have missed one or two but that's about it. Add to this weak attendance to the TV national station Versus, is it any wonder that poker gets higher ratings than hockey?

January 5, 2007
Daily News - Rangers' hats off to Straka
NY Post - RANGERS PULL WIN FROM STRAKA'S HAT
Newsday - Straka on mark for trick

January 4, 2007
Daily News - Jagr Assist For Prucha
NY Post - Prucha Pounces
Newsday - Prucha Regaining Touch
Journal News - Rangers' Prucha Having Trials As A Sophmore

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Shootout

HossaIt is the biggest aberration in sports. It is akin to a foul shooting contest in basketball rather than OT. It would be a field goal contest in football rather than OT. A home run hitting contest in baseball rather than extra innings. It is like putting ketchup on your mother's favorite spaghetti sauce. It is like putting peanut butter on a Del Fresco's steak. It is the Gary Bettman, new NHL solution for depriving the fans of hockey. The announcers get giddy, the fans stand and roar and carried to its ultimate absurdity one day we will see a Stanley Cup decided by it. It is the shootout.

They say the fans love it and that is what brings them to the games. What fans? last night in a game between two hated rivals battling for the division lead the crowd was 1,281 short of capacity and half the fans were Ranger fans. The fact is that the Devils have not sold out their rink once in twenty home games this year. If they can't sell out with the Rangers when can they sell out. Across the river on the Island 10,461 fans showed up which is 5,773 short of capacity. What is keeping them away. European soccer style hockey is what is keeping them away. Here you have two teams, one the Devils with players like Elias, Gomez, Gionta, Parise and Brylin and they are averaging 2.64 goals per game. The Rangers, with two of the most prolific scorers in the history of the NHL, are not much better at 2.98 goals per game. Maybe we should have a shootout after every period.

The game. The most important thing to me last night was that the Rangers continued their feisty play. They outhit the Devils 23-11 with the hit man Hollweg leading the way with six hits and would you believe he got 13:01 of ice time. You think Renney finally gets it. Betts added five hits and Slammer Shanahan chipped in with three hits. The Rangers are good in these shootouts and are now 5-1 in them while the Devils fell to 4-4. Lundqvist is now 5-0 in the shootouts though his shutout streak was stopped at 22 saves. He is now 27-30 saves in the shootouts. More important he is 3-0 against the Devils this year. The Rangers are 3-1 against the Devils this year and that can be attributed mostly to The Prince who is back on his game and has become The King of the shootouts.

The winning goal? Marcel Hossa had his second game winner in a shootout. Marvelous. He has one goal in 38 regular season games. The defense rests. Next game is against the red hot Flyers who always give the Rangers fits at the Garden. The feistiness must continue and it would be great if Jagr and Shanny come out of their scoring slumps.

ICINGS:

January 3, 2006
Daily News
Rangers, shootout burn Devs
NY Post
Shoot To Thrill
Newsday
Shootout victory a net result

January 2, 2007
Daily News
Jed Ready To Return For Rangers
NY Post
This League Lifeless
Newsday
Ortmeyer's Return Imminent
Journal News
Rangers Get Energy Boost From Ortmeyer's Return

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