Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stand Pat Rangers Blank LeHabs-Pens Next

Basically the Rangers stood pat at the trade deadline pawning off the 34 year old, disappointing Aaron Ward to the Bruins for the 27 year old disappointing Paul Mara. It's a wash. Ward has three goals and ten assists and Mara has three goals and fifteen assists. Mara is supposed to be a power play specialist, but before you get too excited, remember that last year Oh No Ozolinsh was supposed to be a power play specialist. We then traded Pascual (we hardly knew ye) Dupuis to Atlanta for hot prospect, first round pick, sixteenth overall in 2005, Alex Bourret. But we know what happens to hot prospects on the Rangers, don't we? They go to Hartford and sufficate under Jim Schoenfield and his staff of prospect experts. But let's not be negative, we had a good night last night.

We beat our long time tormentors, the Canadiens, ending their six game winning streak at the Garden. Isn't it amazing how other teams pile up winning streaks on our home ice? The Rangers are now 13-14-4 on home ice with ten more home games to go. Ouch! This was Lundqvist's 16th consecutive start and he was brilliant. He turned the game around in the first period right after Jagr's opening game's goal, stopping Michael Ryder on a breakaway and coasted from there on. By the way, Karel Rachunek was beaten by Ryder on that burst. Renney gave Rachunek over 22 minutes of ice time. What am I mising here?

Lundqvist has now moved up to 13th with a GAA of 2.53 and a save percentage of .909 which has moved him up to 16th place in the save % category. There are only two teams in the Eastern Conference with less goals against than the Rangers. The Devils and Ottawa are those two teams. Imagine where we would be if we could score some goals? There are eleven teams in the Conference with more goals for than the Rangers. The three teams with fewer goals then the Rangers are Boston, the Devils and the Flyers.

Jagr scored one of his magical goals (23) and Marcel Hossa continued his surge with two goals, (9 & 10) and played one of his strongest games of the season. He played over nineteen minutes had two shots and four takeaways. Cullen scored the final goal (12), an open netter, shorthanded goal. The Rangers played a disciplined game committing only two penalties and stopping the number one power play unit, 2-2. They also held Alex Kovalev to no shots and Saku Koivu to one shot. Overall the Canadens were held to nineteen shots. The biggest improvement in the defense is that the forwards are not getting trapped and are getting back on defense more quickly. Is this killing the offense? Good question.

The Rangers are now six points behind the Islanders and Montreal for the eight spot. The Rangers have three games in hand on Montreal and are even with the Islanders. Unfortunately the Rangers have to catch and pass Toronto (3 points), and Carolina (5 points). The Rangers have one game in hand on Toronto and two on Carolina. The Penguins are coming in bolstered by the addition of hardnose, veteran Gary Roberts and tough guy Georges Laraque. It should make for an interesting game tomorrow night. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who played well against the Devils last night, has been inconsistent prior to last night. He has a 2.89 GAA and a save % of .904 so he could be had but the Rangers must go to the net and get in front him rather than pepper him with long range shots.

The homestand comes to an end with games against St. Louis (Saturday) and the Islanders (Monday) and then on the road to the Islanders and then Pittsburgh. It is our first meeting with St. Louis, we are 0-4 against the Islanders and while we have split with Pittsburgh, 2-2, they have six points to our four as we beat them in OT and a shootout. A lot of teams, the Islanders and Penguins especially, have improved themselves greatly and we have stood pat. It remains to be seen which strategy wins out, but it doesn't matter because Sather is set for life, according to Dolan, and if Sather is set for life, by default, so is Renney.

Go Lundqvist! Long live The Prince!

ICINGS:

March 1, 2007
NY Post
Rangers Taking Shot With Mara
Journal News
Rangers' Malik Opens Up
Hartford Courant
Pack Can't Beat That Devilish Trap

February 28, 2007
Newsday
Ward Sent To Bruins
Daily News
Mess Goes 'Home'
Jagr Deals Habs An 'L'
NY Post
Nothing Of Note
Journal News
Ward Traded, But Jagr Denies Role
Rare Easy Win For Rangers

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rumors Are Flying

Would you believe Mark Messier GM? Craig MacTavish Coach? Adam Graves, either Assistant GM or Assistant Coach? Far fetched and personally I don't believe it, but rumors, according to one of my sources, that a behind the scenes coup may be under way to replace the present management team with the new "old guard" that brought us our first Cup in fifty four years. The change will occur next year as it is almost a given that this year is shot.

While there is concern that Messier may not be quite ready for prime time the feeling is that the Rangers actually went backwards this year. One possibility is keeping Glen Sather as President, handling the money matters and Messier handling the players and trades.

The best part of this deal to me is bringing in a guy like Craig MacTavish to coach. He spent three years with the Rangers as an assistant coach and is in his sixth season coaching the Oilers. In the previous five seasons he has led the Oilers to three playoffs going to the finals last year and losing to the Hurricanes in the seventh game. His overall record as a coach is 190-139-47(ties)-25 (OT losses). The Rangers will then finally get a seasoned coach, something the last three have not brought. He was a successful player, winning a cup with the Rangers, which gives him a jump start on our present coach.

Adam Graves, it goes without saying, is one of the Rangers most popular players. He was dissed by Sather but has returned and done a wonderful job in the PR area. He would be immensely popular with the fans regardless which assistant job he takes. He brings a strong resume as a hard nose winning player.

So there it is. The return of the three amigos who were strongly responsible for the Rangers success in winning the Cup. Do you believe it could happen? Do you believe it will happen? Personally I don't think so but we couldn't do any worse. There are eight million people in New York and there are about sixteen million rumors. You have just heard one of them.

ICINGS:

February 27, 2007
Newsday
Krog Put On Waivers, Next Move Is Unclear
Daily News
Jagr, Ward In Cold War
NY Post
Jagr On Block
Rangers Eye Win Hab-It
Journal News
Rangers Quiet As Trade Deadline Approaches

Bring Up The Kids

Its over and done. Forget rentals. Clean house and I mean clean house. Its time to bring up the kids and see if all the prospects the Rangers keep bragging about are really that good. Why wait? If Jagr doesn't like it, tough! We went through a period of the last three years of Messier where growth was stifled and what did we get? No playoffs. We had Gretzky for three years but at least he got us to the conference finals. Messier came back from Vancouver and in three years did nothing but take up too much ice time that could have gone to younger guys. It looks like the same path with Jagr while kids like Dawes and Callahan come up for Cameo appearances. To top it off we have a coach who is totally clueless and has abdicated his responsibilities to the senior members of the team, Jagr and Shanahan. He has no strategy and no idea how to motivate a veteran laden team. Look at his power play deployment. Its called rounding up the usual suspects. Meanwhile, his two stars, Jagr and Shanahan are at odds how to run the power play.

On defense the only ones I would keep are Tyutin, Pock and Girardi. I would put all the others on the block, though it is doubtful any other team would want them. Lets give Pock a legitimate shot to be a top defenseman before he decides to leave next year. Lets bring up Ivan Baranka, Bryce Lampman and David Liffiton from Hartford to give them much needed NHL experience. Finally on defense, isn't it time to take the wraps off of Marc Staal and let him join the rest of his brothers who have been so successful?

As for the forwards I would keep Jagr, Shanahan, Avery, Betts, Hollweg, Ortmeyer, Prucha and possibly Hossa. If this makes Jagr unhappy, then so be it. Bring up Callahan, Dawes, Dubinsky, Korpimski and give Jarkko Immonen a chance to prove that he is an NHL center. Who knows they might bring some excitement back to the Garden.

Drastic? Yes. But what is the alternative? Last year we caught everyone by surprise but it was a rejuvenated Jagr and a surprising Henrik Lundqvist that carried the day. This year they are less than sensational. What last year did was buy reprieve's for Sather and Renney. In a sense it was bad that we made the playoffs last year. It was fool's gold. Only Dolan and his pockets profited from last year. He rewarded the fans, you remember that group, with an increase in ticket prices, silently, with no notice. So we made the playoffs and what did we do?

We screwed up in the free agency market. We signed two players, Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen, who profited from winning the Cup with a strong team, the Hurricanes. We ignored impact players like Witt and Arnott who may have demanded a bit more cash but you know that old saying, you get what you pay for. Now one player, Ward, is reportedly battling with Jagr, and Cullen has bounced from one line to another and one position to another.

What is the coach's response to all this? Pronouncements. Happy with blowing a two goal lead against the Devils and getting a point. Failing to inspire a team that keeps losing to the bottom feeders. He changed the power play for a few games and it seemed to work and then back to the same old perimeter game where Rozsival always passes the puck to Jagr regardless of who is open and then predictively loses the puck at the point causing shorthanded rushes. But hey, didn't we sign Rozsival to a big contract?

We have been trapped too many times by this rental bugaboo that goes on in the NHL. Lets take a different tact for a change and go big time for the youth. Unfortunately, with Sather and Renney and Dolan it doesn't seem possible. So don't hold your breath for a youth movement.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fire Sather And Renney

Forget the score, 3-2 Columbus, forget the shots on goal, 42-25 Rangers, after opening up with a 2-0 lead after only 5:11 into the game the Rangers were completely outworked by a terrible Columbus team, 14th in the Western Conference and 28th overall in the entire NHL. It was one of the worst debacles in the history of Ranger hockey and believe me there have been many.

A minor league goalie by the name of Fredrik Norrena made 42 saves and the stupid New York hockey writers didn't even make him one of the three stars of the game. Underachiever super star Rick Nash was voted number one, Jason Chimera was number two and Blair Betts was number three.

If ever a team needed a wakeup call, this is the team. This debacle calls for the firing of Tom Renney and his able accomplice, Glen Sather. Not once all year has Renney gotten this team to play above their level and soar to new heights. Name a big game and the Rangers can't win it. Hey the guy is 0-4 against the Islanders who are now six full points ahead of us. We are now seven points behind Carolina for the final playoff spot and all those games in hand we had are slowly disappearing. Sather and Renney should be canned for putting together the most imperfect of teams. They fooled Dolan, a culprit in this collapse, they fooled themselves and they fooled the New York drive by sports media who picked the Rangers to win the Cup. However, they never fooled the fans.

The fans, the faithful, should now retaliate and stay home for the rest of the season. Let these underachievers play to empty seats. Yes, I know you have already purchased the seats but let me tell you how much money you will save and get less aggravated. No commuting and no parking lot fees. No tab at the Play By Play. No dinner at the Club Restaurant and most important will be the money you save on that 'cheap' 3.2 beer that the Garden makes a fortune on. Hell the bottle water alone goes for $4.25 per bottle. This will cut into Dolan's profits and when you think about it he is the biggest culprit for stating that Sather has a job for life.

However the man who has a job for life is the biggest culprit responsible for this mess with his terrible off season moves. His trading away of Dominic Moore for Adam Hall was a disaster which he later acknowledged by trading the slow footed non productive Hall for the quick footed non productive Pascal Dupuis. By trading Moore he broke up the HMO line, Moore, Ortmeyer and Hollweg. This line was a key element in last years regular season success. Sather's free agency signings also led to the Ranger downfall as role players like Cullen and Aaron Ward were put into key roles that they could not handle. In two years since the resumption of play the man who is set for life has not signed one free agent who has made a positive mark on the Rangers. Have you forgotten Oh NO Ozolinsh? Don't count Shanahan, he called us we did not call him. By the way, if Shanny is smart he will sit out the rest of the season and not take a chance on a more serious injury by coming back this year. These Rangers are going nowhere.

How bad was tonight's game? Columbus, which doesn't have a twenty goal scorer, scored two shorthanded goals. You could make a case that both goals were scored from angles that could have been stopped. It was the Rangers sloppy play on the power plays that led to the shorthanded goals. Ward was benched for Pock and I don't know why. However, Rozsival and Rachunek and Malik were still around to do damage and to be kind they weren't very good tonight. How could you fault Lundqvist? In the last twenty four games Lundqvist has a 1.94 GAA and a save percentage of .926. Yet in these twenty four games the Rangers are 11-11-2, Imagine giving up less than two goals a game and we are .500 in twenty four games. No surprise, look at our overall record, 29-27-6. We have lost more games than we have won and we kid ourselves that we will make the playoffs.

So where is the offense? Last year Jagr registered 54 goals. This year, counting tonight, he has twenty two. He will be hard pressed to make the thirty goal mark. The talk will continue on making the playoffs, that's the party line. Renney was proud of the point he got in the Devil loss. I wonder what he will say tonight. I didn't catch it but it will be serious and pompous.

However, there are fans who should go to the games. These are the idiots who insist on chanting Potvin sucks while the Rangers were trying to tie the score. This show goes on every night and it is a bad tired show. I think they are at the game to show themselves off as prime time idiots. How else to explain the idiotic chant that goes on almost thirty years after this Hall Of Famer, multiple Norris Trophy winner and four time Stanley Cup winner has retired. If they must continue the chant I'll give them some names to substitute for Potvin. Dolan! Sather! Renney! Rangers!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Remember The Point

That's what Tom Renney uttered after last nights game. "We got a valuable point" was his exact remark to the press after the game. What point? Was it the one point we got hanging on for dear life at the end? Was it the point we lost on Brian Rafalski's shot off Malik's stick, that eluded Lundqvist, and gave the Devil's their first goal? Was it the point we lost on Zach Parise's tying goal as Aaron Ward was gliding back into the play? Was it the point we lost by our Captain, our leader sitting on the bench during the shootout? Or was it the point we lost by the coach not taking the responsibility and ordering his reluctant star out there to take the shot? You think Shanahan would stay on the bench for a shootout? You think Mark Messier would pass up a shootout? He didn't even pass up defensive draws late in tight games.

Ah yes the shootout. The famed Gary Bettman, European soccer style shootout. Nylander matched Parise's goal but Hossa and Cullen couldn't win it, shooting pucks directly at Brodeur, no dekes or anything. Then Langenbrunner lucked one over Lundqvist, in what originally looked like a save, and then Prucha beat Brodeur but hit the crossbar. As I have said many times when facing the Devils it is better to be lucky than good. Brodeur made 28 saves and Lundqvist made 24 but clearly made the more spectacular saves. His save on Elias was out of this world as Elias and Gomez came in two on nothing as Ward was again completely out of the play.

But Renney said to remember this point. I remember a lot of points this year. The two points we lost to the bottom feeder Flyers last week. The two points we lost to Tampa Bay, after we blew a three goal lead, as they scored four goals in the third period. The previous night we blew a two goal lead as the Panthers scored three goals in the third period. The other points I remember are the eight points we pissed away to the Islanders. My family thinks I have a bad memory. I remember what I want to remember, but we have to remember last nights point.

What I mostly remember now is that our Captain, our star player, our leader sits on the bench during a critical shootout and the coach doesn't have the you know what to order him out there. Jaromir Jagr was not a popular player in the men's room outside of the Club Restaurant last night and he will become less popular if he continues to sit on the bench while the Rangers continue to rack up valuable one point games.

ICINGS: The Devil fans in the crowd last night agreed with the Ranger fans on at least one subject, Potvin sucks. Its amazing. The Rangers have what arguably could be the six worst defensemen on a team and they go after a guy who hasn't played in over thirty years. Potvin would never have been caught out of position as often as Aaron Ward has. If he had Al Arbour would have shown him to the bench and he would have remained there for a long time. The only Ranger defenseman who ever gets benched is Thomas Pock who will be leaving us next year for a great career in the NHL. Good luck Thomas.

February 23, 2007
Newsday
Brodeur Wins Shootout Duel
Daily News
Blueshirts End Bitter Again
Devs Find New Way To Torture
NY Post
C'Mon Jagr! Stop Sitting Out Shootouts
Ice Trance
Journal News
Devils Edge Rangers

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rangers Stick It To Themselves

On a night that saw losses to Toronto and Carolina the Rangers literally stuck it to themselves tonight and lost a killer to the Devils. Brodeur was good and lucky. Lundqvist was good but unlucky. Karel Rachunek, who along with Aaron Ward, seems to be on the ice a lot when bad things happen to the Rangers was again the culprit.

The Rangers were pressuring Brodeur late in the third period and then the Devils broke out on a four on two and Lundqvist made the original save on Parise who recovered his own rebound and threw a backhand toward the net headed straight for Lundqvist but Rachunek shot his stick out and put the puck behind Lundqvist. The first goal the Devils scored was also kind of flukey. Rafalski's shot hit the post and then caromed off of Lundqvist's back into the net. Better to be lucky than good.

The Rangers outshot the Devils 36-26 and Jagr had no shots on goal. Sean Avery, who called Brodeur a whiner while being interviewed on MSG2, annoyed him and the Devils constantly and was instrumental on the Rangers goal. He also got into a pushing contest with Brodeur where Marty overreacted and fell backward. Avery got an extra penalty for that. That led to Cam Janssen screaming from the bench at Lundqvist after that threatening retaliation. The only thing Janssen got was Colton Orr in the third period. I would say that Orr won the decision.

All in all a very disappointing evening. Time is running out on the Rangers who are losing games without points. They had some golden chances in front of Brodeur but they couldn't shoot straight. In the case of Rachunek, they do better in their own net rather than the oppositions.

Jagr Needs To Pick It Up

Last year returning from the Olympics Jaromir Jagr scored two goals, bringing his total on the season to 41, as the Rangers blitzed the Flyers. This year, heading into tonights game against the Devils, Jagr is a full twenty goals less than last year, sitting at 21. The other night after the Black Hawks game Jagr remarked that the Rangers can't score goals. Is there that much of a difference in the Ranger scoring from last year to this year? This year after fifty-nine games the Rangers are averaging 2.97 goals per game. Last year the Rangers averaged 3.13 goals per game. Not much difference, only .16 goals per game. But with Jagr, there is a big difference. Last year he averaged .66 goals per game. Roughly that is a goal every game and a half. This year his average is down to .36 goals per game. Roughly, a goal every three games.

What has to be frustrating to Jagr and the Ranger fans is the ability of the Rangers to make goalies like Niittymaki and Lalime look like Vezina Trophy candidates. Jagr said after the all-star break that he has to pick it up and carry the team on his shoulders. Folks, like they say at the track its post time. We need an offensive barrage from the big guy and tonight would be an excellent time to start.

Not that Jagr is having a bad year. The numbers (21-51-72) don't compare to last year but he is ninth overall in the league, but his goal total is down. He seems to be more obsessed with setting up other players for scores rather than shooting it himself. Tonight he will have his shadow, Pandolfo, so maybe Renney could become creative by double shifting him and maybe putting him on the point of the power play rather than the side where they double up on him. Hopefully, tonight Jaromir Jagr will explode.

The Rangers have been playing well, notwithstanding the Flyer loss, winning four out of five and picking up nine points in the last six games. If they continue that pace for the final 23 games they would add 34 points and finish with 97 points. Its a tall order and without Shanahan it will be tougher. A Billy Guerin or a Keith Tkachuk would look awfully good right now.

ICINGS: Had a great day at the Garden yesterday watching Ranger fans, and one Devil fan, skating on the ice. My grandson, Nicholas, was joined by his dad and the rest of us watched. No way does the Pundit hit the ice at this stage of his life. Later we had a wonderful family meal, six of us, at John's Pizza on 44th Street off of Eight Ave. If you are in the area, try it, you'll love it.

February 20, 2007
Daily News
Rangers Follow Shanahan Lead
NY Post
This May Be Rivals' Last Swamp Fling

February 19, 2007
Newsday
Shanahan Will Rest At Home
Getting Unexpected Lift
Daily News
Rangers Win One For Shanny
NY Post
Comin' Out Fightin' Bad
Bounce-Back Win
Journal News
Shanahan Provides A Lift

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Well Its A Win

The Rangers averted a 'lost weekend' today by holding off the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-1 win at the Garden. Goals by Straka (27) and Hossa (7) gave the Rangers an early lead and even though they outshot Chicago, 29-22, the Rangers were hanging on for dear life at the end. The win put the Rangers at 63 points, three behind eighth place Toronto. Both teams have 23 games to play and face off one more time at MSG on Sunday April 1st. Hopefully the Rangers will still be in the running for the platoffs.

There are two teams ahead of the Rangers in 9th and 10th place. The Islanders and Montreal are a point ahead of the Rangers but Montreal has played one game more than the Islanders and Rangers. The Rangers now have to gear up for a home and home against the Devils this Tuesday at NJ and Thursday at the Garden. To say these are critical would be rediculous, all the remaining games are critical. Are the Rangers equipped for this run? Renney thinks so. I don't.

The Rangers came out like gangbusters and scored two goals in a ten minute span and at 11:40 of the first period the Rangers held a 2-0 lead and seemed ready to roll to a huge win. No such luck. After some great saves by Lalime, the Blackhawks got their composure and were on the attack the rest of the game. Lundqvist made seventeen saves in the second and third periods and the Rangers came through with a must win. The one goal scored by the Blackhawks was a lucky shot from the side of the goal by Havlat.

Brendan Shanahan visited the team before the game and wished them well. Too bad he wasn't in the lineup. They were fired up for a while and then couldn't penetrate a goalie that was playing in only his third game this year. Just think we get Brodeur in back to back games. At least we got the two points, clean and in regulation no less.

ICINGS: Plenty of kids among the large crowd. Many were first timers and seemed to enjoy themselves. Tomorrow the family, including two of the Grandkids will have a skate around in MSG. Should be lots of fun and we may also meet some of the oldtimers there. The Pundit will not be on skates. I would need four skates and a pillow to navigate the Garden ice.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Everything That Could Go Wrong-DID!

It figured. It was the classic trap game. You know the one where you get a gimmee. You get the floundering team, the Flyers, against the hot team, the Rangers. Well you know who won, don't you? To cap it off a severe injury to Brendan Shanahan put a pall on the crowd, on the team and on the game. As of this writing Shanahan is awake and alert but no report on the extent of his injury after a vicious collision with Mike Kanuble, who also left the game.

Henrik Lundqvist was injured on the left shoulder by a blistering shot and was taken out in the third period, which probably led to the Ranger's defeat as the Flyers scored two soft goals on backup Stephan Valiquette. Lundqvist is scheduled to pay against the Black Hawks tomorrow, another trap game. Marek Malik suffered a wrist injury and is doubtful for tomorrow. Aaron Ward hurt his hand in a fight with Picard and required stitches to fix the hand but will play tomorrow. It was a rough game and the Flyers returned to their Broad Street Bully days as Jagr was hit, held and belted and there was little retaliation by the Rangers.

The Rangers lost the game in the first period. They had six power plays and came up empty. The first PP unit learned nothing from their recent successes aginst Washington and Carolina and passed the puck around endlessly without a shot, in fact Philly scored one shorthanded goal. The defense played poorly. Ward had poor coverage on the first goal, Rozsival gave the puck up on Umburger's shorthanded goal, then made a poor pass to Girardi which led to Gagne's goal and, well you get the picture. Oh well, nobody's perfect. Today the Garden of Dreams turned into a nightmare and the three game winning streak and good feelings are gone.

The addition of Avery has been a plus, he played fiesty today and Dupuis, with his speed, could also prove a plus but the Rangers still need help on defense and toughness and that is a decision that Sather must make soon. I also question how could Renney sit a player like Colton Orr against a team like the Flyers. You know that they will goon it up. So you need an enforcer, a policeman to keep things honest. That guy is Orr. The Flyers are not a team that you bench a guy like Orr against. They came out in the first period ready to do bodily harm. You stop that three ways. You score on the power play. We didn't. You go after their skilled players and hit them. We didn't. You challenge them and fight them early. We didn't.

One other thing and I have mentioned it before, we can't win at home. We are now 11-13-3. With 14 home games out of the final 24 it doesn't look good for the good guys. Finally, the most important thing, lets all say a pray that Brendan Shanahan doesn't have any serious injury and he returns soon. God bless Shanny.

ICINGS: Rangers out shot the Flyers 43-25. The win for the Flyers was the first without Forsberg. Figures.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Huge Weekend Ahead

The Rangers could jump right back in the middle of this playoff picture by picking up four juicy points this weekend against bottom feeders Philadelphia and Chicago. If they play with the same tenacity and determination that they did in dispatching Tampa Bay, Washington and Carolina by a combined 14-3 score the Rangers will have come a long way back from what looked like a disaster finish.

Going into Saturdays schedule the Rangers will have played one less game than the Islanders and Maple Leafs who we trail both by three points. They will have played two less games than the Canadiens which we trail by three points and we have played three less games than Carolina which we trail by four points. Saturday the Leafs play the Oilers while the Islanders play the Devils. The Canadiens play the Hurricanes Saturday and the Blue Jackets Sunday.

As the Rangers did to Washington and Tampa Bay they completely dismantled Carolina. Their special teams were perfect. Three for three on the power play with the scorers being Nylander (19), Rachunek (4) and Shanahan (28). The penalty killing was also perfect killing all three Carolina attempts. The Rangers power play now ranks eighth in the league with a 19.4% success rate. San Jose is first with a 23.4% success rate. The penalty kill is now ranked sixteenth with a 82.2% success rate. Vancouver is first with a 88.8% success rate. There were nine different players on the three power plays for the Rangers a far cry from the same five that would spend the entire two minutes on the power play. Also there was the Jagr unit and the Shanahan unit and the mix and match unit. All were effective.

So far the difference and main reason for the sudden turnaround have been varied. Of course the addition of Sean Avery has been big and quite surprising. He brings more than an edge, he brings talent and speed. Speaking of speed, Pascul Dupuis brings a lot of it along with a nose for the puck. He scored his first goal as a Ranger, his eleventh of the season, by crashing the net. Will wonders never cease. The use of two separate lines on the power play has been a big factor and Cullen playing the point has been an asset. Also, Cullen is now the third line center, which is where he belonged all along. So what took Tom Renney so long to make these basic changes that fans have been screaming about all year. It comes under the heading of, don't ask, don't tell.

The Rangers will be playing two teams with nothing to lose. The Flyers rented Forsberg to Nashville for the rest of the season. Want to bet he is back with the Flyers next year. I don't believe the Flyers have won a game without Forsberg but you can rest assured that the Flyers will play like a wounded bear against the Rangers tomorrow. The Blackhawks are pretty bad this year. Point wise, they are the fourth worst team in the NHL. Can Lundqvist play back to back games after this grind? Will Renney gamble and go with Stephen Valiquette on Sunday? If the Prince breaks down the season will go with it.

Problem is the Rangers are very bad at the Garden. They are 11-12-3 at home and 17-12-2 on the road. They have fifteen more home games and ten on the road so we have to pick it up at home. The Rangers play eight of the next nine at the Garden with their away game being against the Devils. Jagr claims the poor home record is because the Rangers get stirred up by the Garden crowd and try to put on a show. Interesting take. The best show the Rangers could put on is the one they put on last Friday against Tampa Bay. That should be the model for the rest of the season.

ICINGS: Despite getting only an assist Jagr played a great game on his birthday. He had the unique experience of watching one of his shots hit both goalposts. He also stormed the nets and was denied a goal after a review. His assist was a thing of beauty as three Hurricanes went to him as he passed the puck to Nylander, who was voted number one star of the game. Rachunek was number two and Andrew Ladd of Carolina was number three. Carolina out hit the Rangers 43-34. Wow! Tyutin with seven and Ortmeyer with six led all players with hits. Four Hurricanes had five hits.

February 16, 2007
Newsday
Blueshirts Continue On Their Power Trip
Daily News
Reborn Rangers Roll On In Raleigh
NY Post
Blueshirts Turn On The Power

February 15, 2007
Newsday
Weekes Out, Valiquette Up
Daily News
Surging Rangers May Be Too Rested
NY Post
Blueshirts Gear For Playoff Push
Journal News
Rangers Finding More Power After Split

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Critical Week

Hopefully the long layoff won't take the steam out of the Rangers surge to get back in the playoff hunt. While their next game isn't until Thursday at Carolina against the Hurricanes, their rivals will be in action trying to pile up points. Carolina plays the worst team in the Western Conference tonight, LA Kings, at home. Carolina currently holds the eight spot, four points ahead of the eleventh place Rangers. After this game tonight,Carolina will have played three more games than the Rangers. An upset by LA tonight, though unlikely, would be a huge boost to the Rangers chances.

Toronto and the Islanders square off in Toronto tonight, both teams ahead of the Rangers. Toronto in ninth has a two point lead over the Rangers and the Islanders one point over the Blueshirts. Right now, all three teams have played the same number of games, 56. Sixth place Tampa Bay gets the other bottom feeder in the west, Phoenix, at Tampa tonight. Montreal, which has fallen to seventh, has two games in two nights. At home tonight against Florida, which at 53 points, is barely alive in the playoff race and on the road tomorrow at New Jersey. By the time the Rangers take the ice on Thursday night the playoff picture will probably be tighter. Hopefully there will be no three point games and we get regulation wins and losses.

Tom Renney has a little bit of a dilemna for Thursday. Does he put the new guy Pascal Dupuis in the lineup and break up the chemistry of a team that has rolled through two straight wins? Who gets benched? Orr? Hollweg? Prucha? Orr has supplied the Rangers with some of the toughness that has been lacking and scored his first goal ever against Tampa Bay. He was in two fights with two tough guys, Roy and Brashear. Hollweg is still the Rangers most aggressive player and quickly jumped to Lundqvist's defense against Sutherby of Washington. Plus he leads the Rangers in hits. Prucha, while in a slump, has the speed needed against a team like Carolina and has the ability to put the puck in the net.

So whats the rush to get Dupuis in action? Renney has said before that the Rangers like it when Orr is in the lineup. Does he give them courage? What he does give them is the ability to skate around knowing full well that any cheap shot taken at them will be revenged by Orr. So what's the rush? The rush is that Sather went out and got this guy and they have to find out if he is going to be a participant or a bystander. Will he be an asset or a liability? Asset, then maybe roll the dice and go with this group to the end and not lose any prospects. Liability, then we need more help or we decide that we don't want to lose any players, prospects and not challenge for the Cup. Notice I said challenge for the Cup. To me making the playoffs is no big deal unless we can mount a serious effort to go win the Cup. Sorry, making the playoffs and going quitely just doesn't cut it.

Interesting week ahead, lets see how it plays out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Stepping Up Big

Who are these masked men posing as gunslinging goal scorers? Has Marcel Hossa, with three goals in four games, morphed into his brother Marian? Is Michal Rozsival the second coming of Rob Blake? Rozsival got the first two goal game of his career last night as the Rangers pasted the Capitals, 5-2, with a three goal third period as they try to climb back into the playoff picture. Last night was a good night for the Rangers as they gained on every team above them from sixth place Montreal to tenth place Islanders.

Rozsival's two goals were both scored on the power play. His first was the game's opening goal and his second was the game winner. Jagr assisted on both goals, wound up with three assists and pushed his all time total points to 1501, 12th on the all time list, only thirty points behind Paul Coffey. All this and he wasn't even voted one of the stars of the game. Rozsival was number one and Straka, who also had two goals, number two. Milan Jurcina, a defenseman who had no shots on goal, dished out five hits and was a minus two was star number three. I guess the hockey writers of Washington are not much better than the Caps fans who booed every time Jag had the puck.

Two key goalie incidents helped trigger the Ranger win. Brian Sutherby hit Lundqvist behind the net in the first period which precipitated a brawl between Sutherby and Ryan Hollweg who jumped in immediately. The Caps were shorthanded for two minutes on a charging call to Sutherby. It was right after that that Rozsival tallied his first goal on the PP. The other incident was 'Ollie the Goalie' Kolzig smashing chief pest Sean Avery in the puss getting a two minute roughing call. Rozsival then scored on a laser that would have made Rob Blake proud. But Avery giveth as Avery taketh. He took a slashing penalty early in the third period which led to the Caps tying goal by Chris Clark.

Truth be told, Lundqvist should have had a shutout. Both goals by the Caps were scored by crazy bounces off the boards behind the goal that left the puck in front of a helpless Lundqvist. Ovechkin was the recepient of the first lucky carom. Funny thing about those caroms. None happened during the second period when the Rangers were going that way. Strange things happen in Washington and not all of them are related to politics.

The Rangers win was obviously huge. In the past after winning a big one they usually collapsed. Not this time. In fact the Rangers have to play with the same desperation they have shown the past two games. It won't be easy. Eight place Tampa which is leading the Devils, 4-1, as I write this have only nine games against contending teams the rest of the way so the Rangers have to play not to lose a regulation game the rest of the way. They can't just play to make the eight spot, they have to go all out. But they are on a good start, five points in six games, and they have to keep it going. They must turn it around at home as a good starting point. If Sather is going to make a major move it should be now, not later.

ICINGS: Delay in writing this today due to a myriad of things. Lazy Sunday morning, church and a nice leisurely Italian dinner. Everyone has a different priority.

February 12, 2007
Daily News
Winning Combination
NY Post
Singin' Sean's Praises
Newsday
Dupuis Wants To Get His Story Straight
Journal News
Rangers' Dupuis Clarifies Locker-room Issues

February 11, 2007
Daily News
Rangers' Play Adds Power
Deal Or No Deal
NY Post
'Fix' Doesn't Foil Rangers
Cap Overflow
Newsday
No Falling Apart After A Big Victory

Saturday, February 10, 2007

First Nighters

Martin St. Louis - Sean Avery(16) & Karl Rachunek(23)
It was a night of firsts for the Rangers as they thumped the Lightning and drove redhot goalie, Johan Holmqvist, (9-1), from the nets in a 5-0 rout at the Garden tonight. Colton Orr scored the first goal of his NHL career. Ryan Hollweg scored his first goal of the year and Sean Avery scored his first goal as a Ranger. Each goal brought roars from the crowd when they were announced. Hollweg's goal, set up by a beautiful pass from Jagr on a two on none breakaway, brought down the house with chants of RY-AN HOLL- WEG ringing through the Garden's rafters. He was voted the third star of the game to more cheers and chants. Besides the goal he also contributed eight hits.

Marcel Hossa, who is starting to make guys like me eat my words, scored his fourth goal of the year. Jagr playing another spirited game scored his 21st goal to compliment his great feed to Hollweg. Colton Orr mixed it up with Andre Roy and also played a fiesty game and was named the second star of the game and proceeded to take the longest skate around the Garden that I have ever seen. As far as I know he may have returned after we all left and started skating again.

Henrik Lundqvist was my Prince again, in spades. He stopped 29 shots in recording his second shutout this year and his fourth in two years. The defense played well and aggressive. What I liked was watching the forwards coming back to help out on defense keeping the Lightning at bay. The loss snapped a Tampa Bay four game winning streak that now has them in eight place, five points ahead of the eleventh place Rangers.

To me it's too early to tell if this game is going to be the one to turn around the season. Certainly the Rangers beat a top flight hot team and did it convincingly and rather easy. Can they do it with regularity? So far they have been a .500 team. Can they break that habit? Is this the start of something big or is this the same old one game wonder? Is this the real deal or is it fools gold? They have disappointed and fooled us before, maybe this time they will fool us in a positive way. I hope so. If not we will always have last night to remember as a classic game that came along in the middle of a dreadful season. Hope springs eternal.

ICINGS:

February 10, 2007
Daily News
Rangers Rockin' With Role Players
NY Post
Light's Out
Newsday
Orr, Hollweg Supply Power In Stunning Win
Journal News
Unlikely Scorers Give Rangers A Lift
Perlmutter Captures Rangers Passion In Pictures

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Renney Plays "What's My Line"

Like the great Rip Van Winkle who awoke from a great slumber, Tom Renney woke up today and decided to shake up his lines and break up the fabled tic-tac-toe combination of Nylander, Straka and Jagr. Buoyed by the addition of Sean Avery, Renney has decided with twenty eight games to go, and the team wallowing in eleventh place that it is time for some changes. Is this a death bed admission?

The new lines are Hossa-Krog-Jagr; Avery-Nylander-Shanahan; Straka-Cullen-Ortmeyer and Prucha-Betts-Hollweg. Of course, one has to wonder what the hell is Prucha doing on the fourth line. However, the other changes seem positive, at least through the first couple of shifts or until Renney reverts to old habits. But lets not be negative. The most interesting change is the complete breakup of the Jagr, Straka, Nylander line. In some sense Jagr playing with Hossa and Krog may make him more freewheeling than he has been this year. That is when Jagr is at his best. Also Shanahan has finally gotten a center who will be able to pass him the puck, Nylander. And Shanahan also gets daredevil Avery on the other wing to create some energy and havoc.

The third line has speed to spare and Betts returns to a more normal position, fourth line center as Cullen becomes the third line center. One other note is than Cullen is penciled in at the point on one of the power play units, a position he filled quite ably with Carolina last year. It remains to see how long Renney sticks with this and how the lines perform defensively to the wide open speed game that Tampa Bay plays.

These changes all came about because of the addition of Sean Avery and it remains to be seen if he is the real deal or if the other night was a one game abberation. Let us hope it is the real deal as the titanic is sinking fast.

ICINGS:

Elisha Cuthbert Hollywood Hockey ThoughtsFrom Elisha Cuthbert's blog at NHL.com:

My name is Elisha Cuthbert, born in Calgary, Alberta, but raised in Montreal, Quebec. Growing up in Canada opened my eyes to the world of hockey. My brother plays on two teams -- his school and city. My mother plays on a team as well. I, on the other hand, am just an actress who loves the sport and does not play -- but that doesn't mean I can't talk about it!
---
Sean Avery and actress ex-girlfriend Elisha CuthbertElisha Cuthbert and new Ranger Sean Avery
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update: Ms. Cuthbert and Sean Avery's former relationship came back into the news in December 2008. See: The Sean Avery File, Dec. 4, 2008

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sean Avery Shines In Debut

Now I know why the Rangers voted to stay with the present schedule. Even though the Devils are about twenty points ahead of the Rangers we play our best hockey against them. Last night we should have won. The addition of Sean Avery gave the Rangers something they have been missing since Esa Tikkanen annoyed the hell out of everyone he met. Remember him kissing one of his antagonists? Chico Resch, the Devils color guy, was ecstatic about Avery. Words like, the Rangers could use more guys like him and, he certainly brings more to the trade than I thought. In 17:30 (wow) of ice time he got 4 shots, 1 hit and two takeaways and numerous run ins after the whistles. We will find out soon if this is a one game wonder or the real deal. Also, is it too late? Avery was on the second line with Shanahan and Cullen. I would have preferred Prucha instead of Cullen but who knows what goes in the mind of Tom Renney.

While the Rangers picked up a point, they lost ground to the Pens, the Canes, the Lightning and the Maple Leafs, all above them who all won. The days are getting short and there are too many teams to pass. If there are any more deals in the bag now is the time to pull them out as February 27th will be too late. Sather made the comment that if the Rangers were out of it by then he would bring up some young guys. Why wait? Bring them up now.

Jaromir Jagr was voted the number one star. He scored the tying (2-2) goal, got six shots on goal, a hit and two takeaways. I thought he was hooked by Rafalski in the second period on a breakaway. I've seen less infractions called. Maybe it is time for Jagr to take some diving lessons. Why no Jagr during the shootout? He is the man. He must step up in these situations and take control.

The Rangers blew the game in OT when they were on a four on three power play. They could only get three shots on goal in a full two minutes. They missed the net at least three times on point blank shots. Maybe they should have had Sean Avery out there.

ICINGS: Just in case you missed it. October 30, 2006 - The day Jaromir Jagr almost killed Sean Avery -




via the CapsChick at A View from the Cheap Seats
Feb 7, 2007 Ranger news:
Daily News
Making Mess At Garden
Brodeur Stymies Rangers
Avery Impresses In Stirring Debut
NY Post
Devils So Good
Sather Vows To Keep Kids
Messier's Mission Misguided
Newsday
A Point Gained, Lost For Rangers
Messier Eyes Rangers GM Job
Journal News
Messier Wants To Be Rangers' Next GM
Rangers' Spirits Higher Despite Loss To Devils

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The End Is Near

Dominick Hasek played poorly to start the game which led to a 3-1 Ranger lead going into the third period. Henrik Lundqvist played poorly in the third period and that led to a 4-3 Red Wings win. Basically that is what happened last night in a very poorly played game in which the Rangers showed very little emotion. The Rangers are a portrait of their coach. Lifeless, emotionless, colorless and timid. The end is near.

Can Sean Avery change this? Not if he gets no more than four minutes of ice time. Not if he is spotted on the fourth line. Not if Tom Renney decides that he needs to be Rangerized. Rangerized is never throwing the first hit. Rangerized is the defense playing with their sticks, and God knows what else, rather than their bodies. Rangerized is going east west rather than north south. Its the figure eight, perimeter game, rather than crashing the net.

But we need more than Sean Avery. We botched it up during pre season with acquisitions like Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward, two of the biggest culprits on the team. Ward was in fine form last night watching the third and tying goal by Detroit and taking a stupid penalty less than a minute later which led to the winning goal. Cullen? He was his usual ineffectual self during the game and his most talkative after the game.

The good news? None. The bad news? Jagr is hurt again. Now that we got a guy who might protect him, he is hurt. Want more bad news. We play the Devils tonight in Jersey.

ICINGS: The Rangers put on another of their feel good meetings that accomplished nothing. There was Gilbert, Larouche, Brian Mullen and Anderson and we rehashed old times. Old times include, for me at least, one cup in 1940 and one cup in 1994. How about we have these meetings and we discuss The Future and where we are going not where we were. There was Steve Sommers of the WFAN on the way home discussing how the Rangers need good guy Don Maloney as the GM. What? The guy who brought the Islanders to their knees as a GM. The guy who was one of the dumber players in the NHL. Give me a break. I'm getting tired of this group ineptitude and good guy mentality. Bring in a sob like Mike Keenan who will kick butts and get results. I'm getting older and crankier.

Daily News
Jagr hurt, Rangers Fall
NY Post
Wing-Dinged
Jagr's Shoulder Leaves Rangers Lookin' Unhinged
Journal News
Rangers Let Another Win Get Past Them
Newsday
Rangers Again Find Way To Lose
Rangers Get Avery, Left Wing Who Packs Punch
NY Times
Leetch Deciding When To Call It A Career

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Where Is The Bottom?

The Rangers have now lost eight out of the last twelve, fifteen out of twenty since their five game winning streak, beating only bottom feeders Boston, twice, Philadelphia, twice and Washington. This does not bode well for Tom Renney's underachievers. Each game brings a new pronouncement from the Philosopher In Chief about even though they lost they continue to play well. The drive by media is bemoaning the fact that their top defensive pairing was missing last night and that rookies took their place. The fact that Michal Rozsival and Marek Malik are considered their top defensive pair is a problem unto itself.

Jaromir Jagr who promised a surge after the All Star game just can not do it. He gets no respect from the refs or his teammates. Outside of Brendan Shanahan who has fought for Jagr and criticized the refs for him the rest are a silent brood of pacifists. The only true scrapper in the bunch, Ryan Hollweg, gets all of four minutes of ice time, if he is not benched, in the Tom Renney scheme of things. The Ranger got three power plays last night, Tampa got eight. The Rangers spent all of 3:42 on the power play, Tampa got 11:32. Apparently John Tortorella's constant complaining and pained expression gets more results than Shanny's post game comments and Renney's puzzled looks. Even the announcers were silent after Jagr was taken down near the end of the game with no call.

The Rangers are now in 11th place, five points behind 8th place Carolina. The Rangers have three games in hand on Carolina. The problem is that Toronto, in 9th place, and the Islanders in 10th place, are two teams that the Rangers have a lot of problems with. Conversely, the Rangers are only 5 points ahead of the 14th place Florida Panthers. Can the Rangers do it? Is it impossible to do it? They can't do it with this team.

The Rangers need new blood and a new direction from their coach. The top line seems to be faltering. The power play is predictable and there are still too many giveaways. But it is the lack of toughness that is doing this team in and will prevent them from making the playoffs. A decision will have to be made soon on whether to be a buyer or a seller. The question is, who is desirable on this team that can appeal to a contending team? It will be interesting to see what kind of a crowd shows up tomorrow night against Detroit.

ICINGS: The Pundit's jb has added videos to our site's sidebar and it is truly great. Take a look see and tell us what you think.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ineptitude

Jaromir Jagr is tripped up by Matt Stajan
Tom Renney is an idiot. How else to explain his post game comments. After lasts night game he proclaimed that"if we can play like this we will win a lot of games." What? He said the same thing after the Devil's 1-0 loss. I have news for Tom Renney. The Rangers have played like that the last six games. In that span Henrik Lundqvist has given up nine goals in six games. That's a Vezina Trophy 1.50 GAA. Guess what? In those six games the Rangers, despite Lundqvist's heroics, have lost three of those games. However, the Rangers have scored thirteen goals in the last six games. Sounds good right? That's a shade over two goals per game. They scored six goals in one game against the Bruins and three goals in another game against the Bruins. They leaves four goals in four games, three losses. But Renney wants the Rangers to continue to play that well. If they do, the season will be over by the trade deadline.

Want more proof about Renney? He benched Ryan Hollweg, to send him a message, to wake him up. Huh? Ryan Hollweg, while he has no points, is fifth in the league in hits with 149. Renney wants to send a message, a wakeup call? I have all kinds of people he can send messages to like Marcel Hossa who got 13:25 of insignificant ice time on the significant number two line. How about Adam Hall, or Marek Malik or Karel Rachunek or Jason Krog? Renney benched Hollweg for Colton Orr and while I don't have a problem with Orr, play him. Renney gave Orr all of 4:40 of ice time.

There were no in game line changes. Renney recycled the same lines with minor or no changes. Maybe its time to put the whole deal on one line and Shanahan should be part of that line. Jagr, Shanahan and Straka would make one super line so when they double up on Jagr maybe Shanahan can get free. I think it's time to break up the lines. Shanahan had a point after the game about the many uncalled fouls that are foisted on Jagr. Last night there was a deliberate cross check in the back, at least one good takedown and numerous clutches and holds on Jagr with no calls. The Rangers were 1-2 on the power play while Toronto was 1-6.

I believe the suits were up in the executive suites. Time and objectives are not on the Rangers side right now. If Sather doesn't do something soon the Rangers will be out of the playoffs by the trade deadline and will become sellers instead of buyers. There are three options right now:

1. Go after Keith Tkachuk. Without him or a player of his caliber there is no playoff and no playoff means no cup. However, the price will be steep.

1a. Go get Gary Roberts from Florida. Yes he is forty years old but he is still one tough cookie and could probably be had for a draft pick.

2. Bring up a slew of rookies from Hartford and elsewhere. The fans would love to see a line of Callahan, Dubinsky and Dawes and defensemen Marc Staal and Ivan Baranka.

3. Call up the movers, back up the truck and unload: Malik, Rachunek, AaronWard, Hossa, Hall and Weekes. Get whatever you can for them if anyone would even want them.
ICINGS: The Gardens SRO had its usual scattering of empty seats and too many Toronto fans. Are Ranger fans giving up and peddling their seats to the visiting teams fans? I notice it a lot with Islander fans and Devil fans but the Toronto crowd took me by surprise.
NY Daily News
Shanny Rips Refs After Rangers Fall
NY Post
Shanahan Snaps
Journal News
Rangers' Latest Loss Costly
Newsday
Taking Shots At Refs