Monday, April 30, 2007

Rozsival Shoots-He Scores!

Must apologize for the late post but we had a bit of a festive weekend which included the Rangers big win. After the game my son, Chris, his friend and my wife Maryann went to John's Pizzeria for dinner so we had a long, late and enjoyable day. Saturday we went to a wedding in Brooklyn, at El Caribe, that was fantastic. My cousin's son, Michael, got married to a beautiful young lady; and with all the relatives talking we figured that Michael was the thirty first or thirty second Michael in the family. My son Michael was the fourteenth. Both of my Grandfathers were Michael's so you go figure. By the way, Maryann is now on a seven game winning streak at Ranger games she attends. Unfortunately she cannot attend Tuesday's game.

Which leads me into my post on last night's game. It was a Michal who won it for us with a fifty footer that had eyes and got past Ryan Miller, off the post into the net, and sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy. On the exact anniversary date of Peter Stemkowski's OT winner against the Black Hawks, Rozsival celebrated it in style. It was perhaps one of the most exciting and excruciating games I have ever seen and it was marred by the most incompetent officiating I have ever seen. Paul Devorski and Dennis LaRue should return to the Garden when the circus is in town and they would be perfect as the center ring clowns. Enough said.

Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist put on a clinic and were voted the number three and one stars respectively. Miller made forty four saves and Lundqvist made 38. It looked like the game would go on forever. When talking about this very good Buffalo team the talk is usually about Drury, Briere, Vanek and Pominville but from what I've seen in these three games the Man is Ryan Miller. Kudos! And of course, kudos to The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist, without whom this playoff would never have been possible, or as that great philosopher Yogi once said, necessary.

Rozsival was the number two star and why not. Besides the winning goal he logged 38:16 of ice time, the most of any player, with three shots, three hits and eight blocked shots. The Rangers blocked 34 shots while the Sabres blocked 36 shots plus the Rangers took 19 shots that found no net and the Sabres took 16 with the same result. The Rangers took a total of 101, yes count them, 101 shots while the Sabres had 89. So the game had a total of 190 shots and only three goals were scored. Amazing!

Jaromir Jagr scored his third playoff goal and had ten shots on goal in 30:01 of ice time. He was outstanding and never stopped skating. His line controlled the puck well and what I found interesting in the OT's was that it was the Sabres who were slowing down, especially the D-Men, and not the Rangers. I will now get jabs from the Sabres fans that the Garden ice was soft and choppy. Wasn't it soft and choppy for both teams?

The Rangers were 0-5 on the power play and the Sabres were 1-9. Shanahan's cross checking penalty was a terrible call and led to the Sabres tying goal by Daniel Briere, his second of the playoffs. The Ranger penalty killing led by Betts, Straka, Ortmeyer, Avery, Shanahan and Cullen and the entire defense was almost perfect. It was a huge part of the game in shutting down the Sabres. Marek Malik played a good game with almost 30 minutes, with a big 9:06 on the penalty kill. Needless to say he was booed throughout. The booing should have stopped early but it didn't and neither did the stupid Potvin chants which unbelievably continued into the OT when the crowd was sometimes quite and always tense. What goes on in the idiot's mind, who starts that chant?

ICINGS: I never have a problem with fans of the visiting teams coming to the Garden and cheering for their team but some of the Buffalo fans last night night were overly obnoxious and at least one was escorted out of the arena. I have been to other arenas to watch the Rangers play. I root for them and clap when they score but you don't taunt the home team's fans and expect to be treated with respect. However, I will say the last time we played Buffalo, on November 26th, I had a running conversation with a Buffalo fan who sat across the aisle from me and he and his cohorts were loud, noisy but respectful. I'm sure the idiot who was tossed was an exception. There are some Ranger fans who should be tossed, too much of that cheap beer.

April 30, 2007
Newsday
Rangers 2, Sabres 1
No Bypassing Girardi Now
Hey, You've Just Gotta 'C' This Guy
This Time, Lundqvist Matches Miller Save-For-Save
Daily News
Rozsival Slaps 'Em Silly In 2 OT
As Blueshirts Play On, NHL Exhales
Michal An Unlikely Hero
NY Post
Jagr Gives Rangers Hope
Coming Up Rozs!
Henrik Stymies Sabres
Journal News
Rangers Win In Double Overtime Over Sabres 2-1
Rozsival Comes Through For Rangers When It Counts

Friday, April 27, 2007

Three Bad Strikes Kill Lundqvist & Rangers

I'm pissed. I hate to write or say anything when I'm pissed, but I have to. It started with the lineup announcement. Is Ortmeyer hurt? Brad Isbister for Ortmeyer? I missed Ortmeyer right after Prucha took a stupid tripping penalty 29 seconds after Straka had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead. There was Marcel Hossa on the ice with Blair Betts and Hossa didn't have a clue of how to kill a penalty with the result that Brian Campbell skated in untouched and put one by Lundqvist who was totally screened, 21 seconds later. One gift goal for the Sabres who were scoreless on the next three power plays with Hossa sitting on the bench. Unless Ortmeyer is hurt, what was Renney thinking? Strike one!

Paul Mara had put the Rangers ahead 2-1 with 1:20 left in the second period and it looked good for the Blueshirts who had held Buffalo to nine shots in two periods. Then came the play of the game, maybe the series, at the 24 second mark of the third period, for the Rangers. Marek Malik sent a clearing pass from behind the Ranger goal on to the stick of Toni Lydman who fired a shot that was deflected by Chris Drury for the tying goal. Inexcusable. It completely wiped out two brilliant periods of hockey by the Rangers. Had Thomas Pock made that play he would sit for the rest of the playoffs. But this was Malik, the darling of the drive by sports media. This was Malik, the king of plus/minuses. This is the guy that Renney raves about with his great, first pass out of the zone. And you so called sports mavens wonder why we boo him so much every time he touches the puck. It could be a boo festival Sunday afternoon. Strike two!

But the Rangers had one more left in them. Halfway through the third period Rachunek and Hollweg chased Brian Campbell behind the Ranger net and not one of them even put a hand on him and it resulted in the game winner by Thomas Vanek. This is two games in a row that Rachunek has distinguished himself by his inability to pick up or stop his man. And Thomas Pock continues to sit and I will never stop wondering why he resigned a two year extension with this team. Do you think that Pock and Orr would have stopped Campbell from skating like he owned the back of the Ranger net? Strike three!

Other musings from this game. Jaromir Jagr unable to score a goal even though he had six shots. He has two goals in six playoff games and one of those was an empty netter. Michael Nylander played his poorest game of the playoffs. Twenty one minutes, no shots on goal and losing 13 of 15 faceoffs. Brendan Shanahan had bad luck on five shots and two crossbars and Sean Avery was active again with three shots, three hits and winning eight out of fourteen face offs. Ryan Callahan in 12:35 of ice time had three shots and four hits. This kid should be put on the first line with Jagr and Nylander to jump start it. It needs more life that it has shown so far. Disturbing to me was Dainius Zubrus running around nailing everybody, nine hits, with some questionable hits and no one on the Rangers to challenge him. The hit on Jagr looked like an intent to injure to me, but I see things different when I am p'od.

Lundqvist was credible with fifteen saves and Ryan Miller, perhaps annoyed by the talk about Lundqvist's greatness, played an outstanding game stopping 31 of 33 shots, some of them spectacular. Without a doubt the star of the game. Zubrus, with no points, was the second star and Thomas Vanek with the game winning goal was the third star.

I hope that Ortmeyer is not hurt but I would like to hear a good explanation from Renney than just, "I had to play Isbister." For those who are starting to despair, not me I'm just p'od, remember that all Buffalo did was hold serve for the first two games. Now the Rangers have to do the same back on the Garden ice starting Sunday. Maybe I'll be in a better mood after that game. Maybe, as you age, and God knows I am aging, you look for the little things.

ICINGS:

April 28, 2007
Newsday
No.2 Needs To Be The One
40 Minutes Isn't Enough For Win
Make No Mistake: This Victory Was Squarely In Miller's Glove
Daily News
Rangers Give 'Em 2
NY Post
Tough Loss But Don't Sing Blues Just Yet
Game 2 Slips Away
Journal News
Rozsival Returns To The Ice For Rangers
Sabres Thwart Rangers

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bombing In Buffalo

In the old days of Broadway the shows would open in places like Hartford, Scranton and Buffalo, and if successful they would bring the show to Broadway. Thank goodness they don't do that anymore because off of last nights performance the Rangers would have to close in Buffalo. Maybe the Rangers had too much time off. Maybe the Sabres are the elitist of the elite. Maybe Tom Renney should not have changed the lineup. The bottom line is the Rangers bombed in Buffalo.

What happened to this fine tuned machine that blitzed through the Atlanta Thrashers? True, the Sabres are a better team than Atlanta but it was more the Rangers ineptness and sloppiness that brought down the Blueshirts last night. The Rangers took eight penalties, three holdings, two hookings, a goalie interference, closing the hand on the puck (Malik) and a bogus roughing call against Ryan Hollweg, who played all of 5:29.

Martin Straka's giveaway and subsequent hooking penalty at 13:54 of the second period was the start of the Rangers downfall. The Rangers had started the game strong and Jagr almost scored at the 32 second mark and even though they put 34 shots on Ryan Miller they really never challenged him. The Cullen, Callahan and Prucha line seemed to have the most jump but how do you explain Renney giving Prucha all of 7:42 of ice time? Why play Hollweg over Orr and give him so little time? Watching Rachunuk out of position on Thomas Vanek's second goal made me long for the safe, position playing Thomas Pock. Second guessing, why change a winning lineup?

The Rangers have to regroup and do it fast. Jagr has to be more assertive and forceful. He got two shots in the first period and then went into a funk, giving up the puck five times. Despite getting four hits, Avery was not a factor and finished with a minus three. The Shanahan, Straka, Avery line was a combined minus ten. Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game with 15 saves in the first period but was left naked in the second period when the Sabres broke it up with three goals in 4:05.

The seriousness of the Rozsival injury is not known but the Rangers have to be more disciplined this time. They must cut down on the penalties. One good thing about opening off Broadway, you get a chance to recast and rewrite the script before you come to the big town. Let's do it. Renney has to rewrite this script to bring the series home even.

ICINGS:

April 26, 2007
Newsday
Lundqvist Can't Be Savior
Rozsival Hurt, Doesn't Return
Sabres 5, Rangers 2
Sing It, Lindy: Ya Gotta Have Hate
AP
Sabres Dominate Rangers in EC Semifinals
Daily News
Buffalo Buries Blueshirts
Karel's Back On Blueline
Ranger Defense Takes A 'Mild' Beating
NY Post
Scorers Have To Make Their Point
A 'Bad' One
Journal News
Rangers Fall In Opener Against Sabres

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rangers In Six

They don't get any easier as you go for the Cup and why should it. However, the Rangers seem to have drawn the toughest opponent, the President Cup winners, the Buffalo Sabres. At this stage of the playoffs it really doesn't matter and the Rangers seem to be primed and ready for their biggest test of the season.

As stated previously the Rangers are a much improved and different hockey team from the team that lost four games to the Sabres, all prior to December 2nd of 2006. The Sabres are basically the same group that started out like a house on fire, 10-0-0, but have looked fairly ordinary down the stretch, witness their struggles against the Islanders. Truth be told, two disputed goals, both against the Islanders, played a big part in Buffalo's 4-1 series win. The calls go the other way and its a different outcome.

The biggest thing the Rangers have going for them is the overall team defense and Henrik Lundqvist. During the regular season the Rangers gave up 26 fewer goals than the Sabres. The Rangers had given up 29 fewer goals than the Thrashers and we shut them down in our four game sweep. While there are some similarities in the two teams, Buffalo and Atlanta, offensively the Sabres offer a more challenging group of forwards than Atlanta did. Buffalo led the Eastern Conference in scoring with 308 goals and six players having twenty or more goals. Atlanta scored 246 goals and had four players with twenty or more goals. Still, the Rangers held the fearsome foursome of Atlanta to only two goals and would have to repeat that performance to get by the Sabres.


The Rangers, while scoring 66 fewer goals than the Sabres, have five players who have scored twenty or more goals this past season. Also, Jagr and Shanahan and Michael Nylander seem to be peaking at the right time. In addition, the Rangers have a slight edge in the speciality teams. Surprisingly, considering the Sabres edge in goal scoring, the Rangers have a more efficient power play than the Sabres. The Rangers ranked 8th overall in the regular season with an 18.5% while Buffalo was 17th with a 17.4%. On the penalty kill the Rangers finished 12th with an 83.8% and the Sabres were 20th with a 81.4%. So the Rangers were 1.1% better than Buffalo on the power play and 2.4% better on the penalty kill. Both may be attributed to the goalies. Ryan Miller is a good goalie but Henrik Lundqvist is better.


Of course, the great equalizer and plus for the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist finished the year (37-22-6) with a 2.34 GAA and a save % of .917 compared to Ryan Miller's (40-16-6) with a 2.73 GAA and a .911 save percentage. However down the stretch, last 33 games, The Prince has a 1.80 GAA and a save % of .934. This is where I give the Rangers the big edge and why I believe we will win this in six games. Also the defense has stiffened tremendously since the addition of Paul Mara, in exchange for Aaron Ward, and Daniel Girardi who has been a rock on defense. Girardi takes very few penalties and that in itself is a big plus.

Finally where would the analysis be without the mention of Sean Avery. Fearless Avery has already thrown out the gauntlet to the Sabres that he will be going after the Sabres, hitting their defensemen and causing all kinds of problems for them. I love the shy, retiring kind of player, don't you? Avery has already put his stamp on the Rangers making them a more aggressive bunch and now he wants to put the crunch on the Sabres and he doesn't care who knows it. This is all bulletin board stuff for the Sabres to use against the Rangers, but if they need this then they are more worried about the Rangers than they would like us to know. Anyway, the Sabre fans who continue to boo Jagr every time he touches the puck, for what reason I do not know, now will have another target, number 16, the 'Grate One,' Sean Avery.

ICINGS:

April 24, 2007
AP
Sabres Ready to Show Rangers Who's No. 1
Newsday
Rangers Not Ready To Crown Sabres
Daily News
Rangers Won't Be Buffaloed
NY Post
Brash Avery To Sabres: I'm Gonna Hurt You
Journal News
Rangers Hope Things Will Be Different Against Sabres
Buffalo Sabre blogs:
Sabre Rattling --
To finish up my Q&A with the Rangers Review here we go:

What 1 or 2 players do you fear from the opponent most?First, Second and Third on my list are Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Lundqvist and Henrik Lundqvist. I really do think he’s where it all begins and ends. For all of the attention Sean Avery has garnered for himself, he’s not dealing with the hot-headed, unfocused and selfish Thrashers. The Sabres see Chris Neil and Darcy Tucker 8 times each during the regular season. Why does Avery think he’s even in their class?

Dispatches from the Aud --
Prediction: Buffalo has not played their best hockey yet. While they took care of the Islanders in just five games, each game was closely contested, and the Sabres have been catching some flak for how close the series actually was. Head Coach Lindy Ruff will have his team geared up for this series. New York, on the other hand, is walking tall. After an impressive upset over the No. 3 seed, they feel they can hang with anybody. This will be a great series, but an inspired Sabres squad with a chip on their shoulder will outlast the Rangers. Sabres in a long 6.
Confessions of a Teenage Hockey Chick (sabresgirls)

In the Crease

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shuffle Off To Buffalo

The Rangers are the upstarts in the four team tournament for the Eastern Conference Championship and a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Rangers win over Atlanta prevented an all favorite, seeds 1 thru 4, from playing the last two rounds. However, the size and scope of the Ranger sweep over Atlanta sends a signal to the three other teams, especially the Sabres that the Rangers will be a force to be reckoned with. The opening game date has not been set but it looks like the NHL is trying to set up a Saturday afternoon national TV game.

The two teams met four times during the regular season and the Sabres swept all four games. However, and there are a few big howevers, two of the losses were in OT and one was in a shootout. Henrik Lundqvist was the goalie in only one game, and the last time the two teams played was on December 1, 2006. Since the All-Star game on January 24, 2007, The Rangers have played 34 games and accumulated 44 points. The Sabres have played 33 games and have gotten 43 points.

The Sabres may have trouble recognizing this Ranger team over the one they beat four times. Sean Avery, Ryan Callahan, Daniel Girardi and Paul Mara were not on the team during those four losses. Jagr and Lundqvist were recovering from last years injuries and Marcel Hossa was getting marginal time on the fourth line.

Defense is usually the big difference in playoff games and here the Rangers hold a slight edge for the regular season as they have the second lowest goals against in the east with 216 goals allowed while Buffalo ranks fifth with 242 goals against. So far in the playoffs, Lundqvist has a 1.5 GAA and a save % of .939. Ryan Miller, the Sabres goalie, is at 2.21 GAA and .918%.

I have been preaching all year long that the Rangers will only go so far as Jagr and Lundqvist will take them. Jagr has been skating as well as he has all year and Lundqvist has been the best in the NHL since the All-Star break. Add the new guys to the list and Buffalo will be tested to advance to the finals. Ready for some OT games?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Road To The Cup — Part I

The road to the Cup picked up steam last night at the Garden as the Rangers won their first playoff series since beating the Devils in 1997. The sweep against the over matched, underachieving Thrashers was the first for the Rangers since they swept the Islanders in the first round of their 1994 Stanley Cup run. See any omens here?

This was the toughest game of the four for the Rangers. Was it any tougher than the last thirty games or so in that the Rangers have been playing and fighting as they came roaring down the stretch? I think not. Three of the four games were close and competitive but you never had the feeling that the Rangers weren't in full control. So believe it or not, the Rangers become the first team to advance to the second round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. How about those apples.

The three stars of the game for the Rangers were Matt Cullen (1), with his game winning, video reviewed, goal. Brendan Shanahan (3) with his game tying (2-2) goal and Henrik Lundqvist who made 24 saves. The Prince was outstanding the entire series giving up four goals in six games for a 1.5 GAA and a save percentage of .939. He and the Ranger defense shut down the vaunted Thrasher offense that saw only two goals from the big four of Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk and Tkachuk. Marian Hossa had a particularly bad series with just one assist and a minus six for the four game series. Younger brother Marcel had a goal, an assist and was a plus five. It should be an interesting time in the Hossa household this summer. However, Marian will have to wait a while while Marcel continues to conduct business.

So the Rangers gained redemption for last years sweep by the Devils. The fans, who gave the Rangers a three minute standing ovation at the conclusion of last years playoffs, were ecstatic last night. Streaming out of the Garden they were chanting, "We want the Cup." Why not. The way this team has fought down the stretch has made them battled hardened for what lies before them. In Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers, right now, have the premier goalie in the NHL. Last year in the playoffs he played hurt. This year he is a steel curtain. Jagr played hurt also last year, but this year he looks like he visited the fountain of youth the way he has been skating. Jagr wound up with two goals and five assists for the playoffs with seven points, second to Michael Nylander with 4-4-8, who discovered that it is okay to shoot the puck. Brendan Shanahan delivered on what he was brought here to do, score goals. He had three in four games, none bigger than last nights.

But talking about the future will have to wait for another day. Let's relish in this outstanding playoff sweep and let the other pretenders fight it out to see who can avoid playing the Rangers in round two. A dominant performance by the Rangers in eliminating a number three seed has sent shock waves throughout the Eastern Conference. Let the games continue.

ICINGS:

April 19, 2007
Newsday
Shanny Got What He Came For
Lundqvist Makes Sure Series Is Over
For Chippy Game, Orr Gets Call
Follow Bouncing Puck And Advance
Daily News
Rookies, Stars Meet Their Goal
Heads-Up Play From Shanahan
For Rangers, It's So Sweep
NY Post
Blue Streak
Defense On Lockdown

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rangers Soar As Fans Roar

---
Rangers salute fans after sweeping Thrashers - April 17, 2007It looked like a tough act for the Rangers to follow. The act was the fans and the deafening roar they created when the Rangers hit the ice. Ex-policeman Rodriguez with the booming voice was drowned out singing the national anthem. The introduction of the lineup brought more roars especially for Jagr and Lundqvist. It continued through the opening seconds of the game and then the Rangers struck. At the 32 second mark of the game Michael Nylander scored his first of three goals setting off another roar from the crowd but the Rangers and Nylander were just getting started.They had matched the enthusiasm and expectations of the crowd on their way to a 7-0 rout over the listless Thrashers that have the Rangers one win from advancing to the next round.

Nylander with three goals (2,3,4), rookie Ryan Callahan (1,2) with two and Malik (1) and Shanahan (2) were the scorers who torched Kari Lehtonen who made 28 saves and has now given up eleven goals in two games against the Rangers. It looks like Hartley will go back to Johan Hedberg Wednesday night. Patrick Roy where are you now that Hartley needs you?

How dominate were the Rangers? Look at it this way. The first two games the Rangers were outhit by a two to one margin. In this game the Thrashers outhit the Rangers by one, 28-27. Shots? Forget about it. The Rangers once again outshot the Thrashers 35-21 and in three games the Rangers have a 112-73 shot advantage over Atlanta. Puck control? Forget it. The top line of Jagr, Hossa and Nylander usually controlled the puck for shifts at a time and the Thrashers just seem to spend their time chasing them around. The scoring slump of Atlanta's big four continued and Hossa was a -3, Kozlov was a -2 and Kovalchuk a -1. Along with Keith Tkachuk they got all of ten shots on goal. To make matters worse, Kovalchuk got tied up in a scrum with Avery, who else, in the third period with the result that they were both penalized for 17 minutes each which basically ended the game for both of them. Neither player seemed to be missed.

The Ranger power play finally got going with a 3-9 night and Atlanta was 0-5. The Thrashers were completely over matched and have to be scratching their heads wondering who is this buzzsaw they have run into. "Sweet Caroline" was introduced with 5:16 left in the game, followed by Nylanders third goal and the shower of hats and caps, then Dancing Larry and then the fans went to the Tomahawk Chop. Then the constant roar with about a minute and a half to play followed by the game ending roar as the Rangers won their first home playoff game in ten years and their first home shutout, 3-0 vs the Devils, in ten years. Then the roar for the raising of the sticks in victory and more roars and cheers for the three stars. Nylander, Callahan and Lundqvist were one, two and three. Other contenders were Jagr who had four assists, Avery who had two assists, Malik who had a goal and an assist and finally the fans or as Mark used to call them "The Faithful" who never stopped cheering and roaring. It was about as loud as I have heard in two years.

Four tickets to last night's game..................$260.00
Parking............................................................$ 37.00
Food at the Food Court..................................$ 55.00
Watching the Rangers beat Atlanta in a playoff game with my two sons Michael and Chris and my grandson Nicholas .................................... Priceless.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rumors Are Flying

First of all, let's all take a moment to pray for the victims and their families at Virginia Tech in a horrific crime that has again struck America. This transcends all sports and we hope that each playoff game tonight is preceded by a moment of silent prayer for the victims and their families. God bless them.

There are a bunch of rumors going around for tomorrow's Ranger, Thrasher game. It now seems that Bob Hartley will reinsert Kari Lehtonen back in the goal tomorrow night. I would have thought that he would have stayed with Johan Hedberg, but trying to out think or out guess Bob Hartley is beyond me. I guess he feels it is important to Lehtonen's psyche, and he may be right. After this is over he may have the sequel to Abbott and Costello's, 'Who's On First?'

The Rangers on the other hand seem to be set except for the fact that Blair Betts may be hurting. Betts only got 8:58 of ice time on Saturday and 2:42 of that was on the penalty kill. He only blocked one shot and lost four of seven faceoffs and both areas are his forte. If he sits, which Renney claims he won't, Ryan Hollweg would take his spot at center. Brad Isbister is also mentioned as a replacement, not only for Betts but also for Orr. My take is that if Betts is well leave everything alone and give Colton Orr more ice time. He only got 3:43 of ice time Saturday and when he has been given up to 7-8 minutes he usually performs well. Also when he gets more ice time the other team takes less liberties with the Rangers. While the addition of Hollweg would certainly improve our forechecking the question remains, whom do you sit? Hollweg is a hitter not a policeman.

It seems that Karl Rachunek is not quite ready to play and while Pock seemed a little tentative Saturday I believe that he will be fine playing in front of the home crowd. No question that the Thrashers will come out storming again. They cannot lose this game and will face a desperate do or die situation. The danger for the Rangers is that the Garden faithful doesn't over hype the team. Remember Jaromir Jagr's early season statement that the team tries to do too much when the crowd is roaring. Well guys, and Jagr, be ready because the Garden faithful will be raising the roof tomorrow night. But lets face it. You can't come home in any better situation than winning the first two games on the road.

ICINGS:

April 16, 2007
Newsday
Pumped For Garden Party
Daily News
Blueshirts Take High Road Home
NY Post
A Golden Opportunity At Garden
Journal News
Rangers Not Shaken Or Stirred

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Sean Avery Revival Meeting

How else to describe today's game? Sure the entire team played great. Sure the big four of the Thrashers, Hossa and Kozlov and Tkachuk and Kovalchuk all stepped it up. The foursome got a goal, Kovalchuk (1) and an assist, Tkachuk, and got 12 shots on goal and dished out nine hits but to no avail. With a goal (1) and an assist on Shanahan's (1) game winner, Sean Avery played as complete a game any Ranger has played this year. He put in 21:18 of ice time with 3:59 of power play time, 3:02 of penalty killing time, put nine shots on goal, dished out three hits and won 12 of 18 faceoffs for a 66% face off percentage. His goal was about as flukey and lucky as you can get but these were Philips Arena glass not MSG and his beautiful feed for Shanny's game winner was the play of the game. And yet, the dumb Atlanta hockey writers didn't even mention him as one of the top three stars of the game. Maybe he should have hawked Thrasher year books on the side. One Ranger, Lundqvist was picked as number two while Johan Hedberg with 37 saves was number one and Kovalchuk was number three.

Avery's game was much more than the stats. His constant harassment of Thrasher defensemen, his play in front of the Atlanta net and his work in the defensive zone were all a tribute to his work ethic and grittiness, and he took the rest of the Rangers with him. He was in every scrum, in every meeting near the boards, in every pile up in front of the net, any net, around any teammate who may have needed some kind of support. He even was an advisor to the refs and linesmen, who tried to ignore him. How do you ignore Sean Avery? Do you ignore an itch? Do you ignore a gnat on your neck? The Rangers acquired Avery on February 5th and the Rangers went 17-6-6 to end the season. He was as big a part of the Rangers getting into the playoffs as Henrik Lundqvist is. The Rangers could not have made the playoffs without either one.

I have often said that the Rangers key to the playoffs was Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist. That is also true if they hope to make a serious run in the playoffs. However, we must now add another name to the list and that is the 5'10" 185 lb buzzsaw named Sean Avery. New York has a new star and he will be treated as such on Tuesday night at The World's Most Famous Arena.

ICINGS:

Newsday
Avery Bounces His Team To Win
This Is Why Shanny's Here: To Score A Game Winner
Loss Wasn't Moose's Fault
Daily News
Blueshirts Land A 1-2 Punch
Grate One Does It All
NY Post
Halfway Home
One Check Rangers Don't Want To Give Holik
Journal News
Avery, Rangers Rolling

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hartley Blinks

As I predicted after the first game, Bob Hartley, Atlanta's coach, will make a goaltending change in game two. The first volley in over coaching maneuvers will take place tomorrow afternoon when veteran goalie Johan Hedberg goes in the nets for Atlanta at Philips Arena against the Rangers. He will replace young Kari Lehtonen who lost the first game 4-3, despite making 34 saves. Hartley is probably thinking back to March 16th when Hedberg made 38 saves in turning back the Rangers 2-1 in OT. Hedberg is 9-4-2 this year with a 2.89 GAA and a save % of .898. Career wise against the Rangers, Hedberg is 5-3-0 with a 1.69 GAA and a save % of .940, so it seems that Hartley is playing the percentage and likes what he saw in Hedberg's past performances against the Rangers.

Of course Lehtonen wasn't the problem against the Rangers. Hartley and his high powered forwards were the problem. Hartley tried banging the Rangers into submission but got caught with his fourth line on against Jagr and company and he paid dearly for it as Jagr scored the games first goal. His top four lineman didn't help getting all of one shot on goal so Hartley hopes that putting in the veteran Hedberg will jump start his team. Atlanta claims they didn't play their best game and tomorrow they will likely come out more charged than they were in the first game and really try to bang the Rangers into submission.

Naturally the Rangers have their own plans. Tom Renney claims he over prepared for last years playoffs and doesn't seem likely to tinker with the success he had Thursday against the Thrashers. The Rangers also think they did not play their best game. Look for the Thrashers to come out storming in the opening minutes and the Rangers countering with their transition game. Also look for more penalties to be called, as they should, as the Thrashers got away with some boarding and charging calls in the last game, particularly Marian Hossa's hit on Pock into the boards.

So the Thrashers have to get their big four to generate some offense and the Rangers have to steady their defense, especially Girardi and Pock, to withstand the attack and generate their own offense, with maybe Shanahan and Prucha picking it up and it should be a whale of a game as the Rangers try to go up by two and come back home to a friendly and noisy reception.

ICINGS:

April 14, 2007
Newsday
Lehtonen Gets Hook
Daily News
Thrashers Pull Their Goalie
NY Post
Keepin' It Heal

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rangers Tough One Out

---
Petr Prucha, left, and the Rangers held off Scott Mellanby and the ThrashersThe Thrashers plan seemed to be based on the theory that hitting the Rangers and hitting them hard would make them go away or fold in the process. It didn't work. The Thrashers outhit the Rangers 24-10, a few illegal that didn't get called, but the Rangers were resilent, hung tough and took the first game, 4-3, thus taking away the home ice advantage that Atlanta had.

Jaromir Jagr was voted the number one star of the game with a goal and an assist and had five shots on goal as the Rangers outshot the Thrashers 38-24. Michael Nylander was star number three with a goal, two assists and 3 shots on goal. Marcel, the other, Hossa also had a goal so the Rangers top line had 10 shots, 3 goals, 3 assists and were a combined +7. The Thrashers top players, Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Keith Tkachuk had a total of 6 shots, no goals, 1 assist and were a combined -3. Basically the Rangers shut down the big guys and the Thrashers were unable to shut down the Rangers big guys. Bob Hartley decided that he could send his bangers, the fourth line, out against the Jagr line but Jagr made him pay by opening up the scoring at 12:50 of the first period.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves and Kari Lehtonen, though he looked shaky at times, made 34 saves. Hartley could make a goalie change in the second game with Johan Hedberg, who beat the Rangers earlier in the year but to me the story of the game was the Rangers absorbing the hits and shutting down the Thrashers big four gunners. He may make the change to fire up his shooters.

While Pascal Dupuis was voted the number two star with a goal and an assist, I would have voted for Bobby Holik who had an assist, 4 shots on goal and 4 hits. The Rangers chief pest Sean Avery got 7 shots on goal, one hit and two blocked shots. After Jagr, Avery was the prime target for the Thrasher checkers. The question for Tom Renney will be whether to put Ryan Hollweg in the lineup for Saturdays game. It is hard to imagine the Rangers getting out hit by a 2-1 margin every night and not getting fatigued. But that is a minor problem. Suffice to say the Rangers now have the home ice advantage and must continue to press the Thrashers on Saturday. Rangers were 1-3 on the power play and the Thrashers were 1-2 on the power play so it behooves both teams to stay out of the penalty box. The Rangers had to kill off the last 1:11 of the game due to a holding the stick penalty on Thomas Pock but Lundqvist held the fort while the Ranger fans held their breath.

ICINGS:
April 13, 2007
Newsday
Nailbiter To The End
Exciting Moments For Hossas
Daily News
Marcel Scores In Return
The Curse Is Over!
Rachunek Still Not Ready To Go
NY Post
Long Time Coming
Journal News
Rangers Start Fast In Playoff Opener
View from Thrasher Land:
Blueland blog (official Thrasher blog):

Post-Game Sound Bites
Photo Gallery From Game One
Soooooooooooooo Close
One Down, One To Go
Time To Put On The Rally Caps

Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?:
ATL-NYR Game 1 Reaction - 1st game where almost every fan was in their seat when the puck dropped. It was amazing to see a full building chanting “Let’s Go Thrashers” at full throat volume BEFORE the national anthem had been sung. I’ve never seen it that full even that early even on a weekend game. The crowd enthusiasm and noise was fantastic and better than I was expecting...

Talking Thrash:
My Two Cents About Game One - Tonight was so freakin stressful. I think I pulled a muscle waving the flag. While there were a few lulls at slow points in the game, Phillips was so freakin loud. The crowd was really into it. I've never heard it that loud--from the opening puck drop until midway through the first fans were on their feet, honking, waving their scarves...I hope it looked good on TV...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rangers In Six

Before you get too excited over my pick I should warn you that I picked Thomas Dewey over Harry Truman in the 1948 Presidential election and Germany to win two wars. This series promises to be one of the more exciting ones in the playoffs. With the exception of the goals against discrepancy, Rangers have given up 29 fewer goals, the teams are almost dead even in all other categories. They even come into the playoffs on hot similar streaks in their last ten games. The Rangers are 7-2-1 and the Thrashers are 6-3-1.

Where I believe the Rangers have the edge to carry them to the next round is in goal. Even there, there is little to choose between Henrik Lundqvist and the Atlanta goalie, Kari Lehtonen. Lundqvist has appeared in two more games than Lehtonen and has won three more (37-34) and has one more shutout (5-4). Lundqvist ranks eighth in GAA with 2.34 and Lehtonen is 25th with a 2.79 and Lundqvist has an edge in save %, ranking 10th with .917 and Lehtonen is 14th with a .912. Remember however, that Lundqvist carried the Rangers on his back for the second half of the season.

This series, like most playoff series, will probably be decided by special teams and on paper the Rangers have an edge. The Rangers ranked 8th on the PP this year at 18.5% and the Thrashers were 23rd with 16.5%. However, in the last 31 PP chances the Rangers only scored 4 goals. Their first unit led by Jaromir Jagr passes the puck too much and sometimes have gone the entire two minutes on the PP without getting off a shot. The second unit led by Shanahan is more shot oriented and under no circumstances should Jagr and Shanahan be paired on the same unit. Renney is to blame here for his failure to get the Jagr unit off the ice after a minute or so of PP team. He must also be willing to change the personnel on the PP and not feel obligated to round up the usual suspects.

The penalty kill shows a bigger discrepancy between the two teams. The Rangers rank 12th with a 83.8% and the Thrashers are 26th with a 79.8%. This is where the Rangers will have an opportunity to take over the series but they will have to improve their performance over the last few games. Despite the ineptness of the power play the Rangers finished the season on a 13-3-4 roll, one of the best in the NHL. However, it all depends on the performance of Henrik Lundqvist. If he continues his strong play and steals at least one game in Atlanta the Rangers will come back to the Garden where they won their last five in a row, including wins over Montreal, Toronto and Pittsburgh, in excellent shape to sweep the two Garden games. So let the games begin.

ICINGS: Absolutely taken by surprise by the two year signing of Thomas Pock. I think Pock is vastly underrated by the Ranger coaching staff and definitely underused. Pock will probably sit when Rachunek comes back so it baffles me that he signed with the Rangers when he could have entered free agency next year with a lot more bucks than the Rangers gave him, roughly 1.3 million for two years. Anyway, I am happy he will return and I hope he has a great playoff series.

April 11, 2007
Newsday
Pair Is Ready For Prime Time
Daily News
Avery Raring To Go
Rangers, Devs Icy Hot
NY Post
Thrash Talking
Rangers-Thrashers Matchups
Journal News
Rangers Might Look Back At Game Against Blues As Key To Season

April 10, 2007
Daily News
Shanny Leads By Example
NY Post
Renney Or Not
Newsday
Feeling Confident
Journal News
Rangers Playoff Tickets Go On Sale Today At Noon
It's Hossa Vs. Hossa
Other thoughts about the series:

Lyle Richardson, aka Spector of Fox Sports
:
Atlanta Thrashers vs New York Rangers. The Thrashers won three of four in the regular season series. The Thrashers possess a lethal offence powered by Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, and were bolstered down the stretch by the acquisition of Keith Tkachuk, but there's not much depth beyond them. The Rangers were red hot down the stretch, and have more offensive depth led by Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan. The bluelines of both teams are average at best, so it'll be up to their respective goaltenders to carry the day defensively. Ultimately, the Rangers experience could be the determining factor in this one. RANGERS IN FIVE.
BlueLand Blog [Official Thrasher blog]: Breaking down Spector
Combined Games of Playoff Experience By Roster Players

New Jersey Devils- 1318
Detroit Red Wings- 1315
Calgary Flames- 1133
Dallas Stars- 897
Atlanta Thrashers- 872
Anaheim Ducks- 775
San Jose Sharks- 688
Tampa Bay Lightning- 611
New York Rangers- 597
Ottawa Senators- 550
Vancouver Canucks- 543
Buffalo Sabres- 528
Minnesota Wild- 472
New York Islanders- 466
Nashville Predators- 457
Pittsburgh Penguins- 451

Despite all the talk of this being the Thrashers first playoff appearance it turns out that the Thrashers, as individuals, have oodles of experience in the post-season... I have a feeling our seasoned warriors are going to thrive come Thursday night.
Thrashers Thrashings blog: Are you Ready?
I've been thinking... unless you are an older fan and were in Atlanta and experienced the Flames playoff experience, then you may know. But even for those that have lived in Atlanta since then and remember it, it goes without saying it's been a very long time and remembering what it's like it something too far in the past.

But Thursday is a special time. Win or lose, it's the first playoff game in this team's history. If you thought Saturday night's last game was intense, it will be nothing compared to Thursday and Saturday night...
SouthEast ShootOut blog: Thrashers Roundtable: Part 2
Henrik Lundqvist concerns me the most because good goaltending trumps everything. The Thrashers have gotten derailed by hot goalies before and I could see Lundqvist getting in their heads. That’s where veteran leadership from Mellanby, Kozlov and Holik will pay dividends. The key is getting to Lundqvist early and not letting him build up his confidence...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Playoff Previews

Rangers Headlines:

April 9, 2007

Rangers v. Thrashers Schedule:
  • Game 1 Thurs., April 12 - 7:00 ET @ Philips Arena
  • Game 2 Sat., April 14 - 3:00 ET @ Philips Arena
  • Game 3 Tue., April 17 - 7:00 ET @ MSG
  • Game 4 Wed., April 18 - 7:00 ET @ MSG
  • *Game 5 Fri., April 20 - TBD @ Philips Arena
  • *Game 6 Sun., April 22 - 1:00 ET @ MSG
  • *Game 7 Mon., April 23 - 7:00 ET @ Philips Arena
  • * if needed
Thrashers blogs: Playoff Previews:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Georgia On My Mind

There is an old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." Well the Rangers and their fans wanted a sixth place finish to play the Atlanta Thrashers and, no thanks to the Rangers, they got it. I say no thanks because this was about as sterile a game you could get. With the exception of Jerkko Ruutu running around the ice hitting Jagr whenever he could and challenging Sean Avery, the game was dull. You think Ruutu would have been that aggressive if Colton Orr was in the lineup? Dull? The Penguins outhit the Rangers 11-10. The Rangers continued their ineptness on the power play going 0-4 while the Pens went 2-6, so there was the game. Another game lost because of the power failure.

Not to worry you say. I say worry, because special teams are an integral part of playoff hockey. The Rangers, even though they are ninth in the NHL with a 18.7 on the PP, are 4-31 in their last seven games. The first unit of Jagr, Nylander, Straka, Rozsival and either Prucha or Shanahan pass too much and Rozsival always passes the puck to Jagr no matter where he is positioned.

However, we have made the playoffs and we will play Atlanta in the first round. While they seem more offense oriented they have only scored three more goals than the Rangers and have given up thirty more goals than the Rangers. Remember they were bolstered at the trading deadline by the acquisition of Keith Tkachuk. In 18 games with the Thrashers Tkachuk is 7-7-14. Marion Hossa is their leader with 43-55-98 and other big goal scorers are Ilya Kovalchuk with 41 and Slava Koslov with 28. Their goalie is Karl Lehtonen who has a 2.81 GAA and a .911 save %. Atlanta finished with 97 points, the Rangers with 94. The Thrashers won 43 games, the Rangers 42. There seems to be little difference between the two teams and Atlanta won the season series 3-1. Two of the losses were in over time.

However, there is a difference and that difference is Henrik Lundqvist. In his last 28 games Lundqvist has posted a 16-4-6 record along with a 1.72 GAA and a .936 save %. He has been brilliant since Christmas. Jagr has also turned it around down the stretch so I believe that the Rangers should advance to the second round. This should be a very tough series but more about that later.

Happy Easter.

ICINGS:

Newsday
Atlanta 1st-Round Foe
Love & Hate
Daily News
Blueshirts Headed To Atlanta
NY Post
It's Playoff Time!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

We Want The Cup

Leave it to the Ranger fans to raise the bar. With the Rangers clinching a playoff spot on next to the last game of the season there were the fans standing and chanting, "We want the Cup." They were chanting all kinds of things last night mostly, Hen-Reek!, Hen-Reek! He was his usual strong reliable self. He made 25 saves and is now the hottest goalie in the league going into the playoffs. In the last seventeen games the Rangers, and Lundqvist, have only given up more than two goals in a game twice. They are 8-1-1 in their last ten and beat a Montreal team that had won six of its last seven. Lundqvist was voted the number one star.

Petr Prucha(21) got the Rangers on the scoreboard at 2:53 of the first period by rifling a bullet past Jaroslav Halak. No truth to the rumor that he yelled out to Renney as he past him, "Hey Tom watch this." Prucha was voted the number three star. No way should this kid be benched at any time. Jagr got the eventual game winner (30) which extended his consecutive 30+ goal seasons to fifteen, two behind Mike Gartner's seventeen consecutive years. The game winning goal was Jagr's 107th, fourteen behind all time leader Gordie Howe, who has 121. Jagr was the number two star. Marek Malik ended the Ranger scoring with his second of the year and gave the Rangers a 3-0 cushion. He also gave the fans agita by carelessly flipping the puck into the stands and drawing a delay of game with 1:19 left in the game.

Montreal was 1-6 on the PP and the Rangers were 0-3. The Ranger win over the Canadiens kept the Islanders playoff hopes alive, believe it or not. The Rangers are back in sixth place with 94 points, two more than Tampa Bay which has a game in hand. The Rangers will finish either sixth or seventh. Sixth, they get either Atlanta, 93 points, or Tampa Bay, 92 points. Seventh they will get the Devils and I do believe that we owe the Jersey boys one big payback. Lou Lamoriello should be happy though. Playing the Rangers just might fill up the Continental Arena. The Devils last game against the Ottawa Senators brought in less than 10,000 fans. Tonight the Islanders drew a little over 14,000 and didn't even sell out against the Rangers on Tuesday. In fact, the Islanders have had only six sellouts all year and three were against the Rangers. The Devils have not had one sellout all year even with the Rangers visiting four times. However, he says with his tongue firmly in cheek, this will all change when the Devils move to Newark, NJ. The Rangers are the team that Islander and Devil management love to hate.

The shutout lasted until 15:17 of the third period and was a present from the refs to the Canadiens. Rozsival and Jagr were whistled off on the same play which gave Montreal the opportunity they could not get playing five on five or five on four. Sheldon Souray scored his 26th of the year, his 19th on the power play, which set a record for NHL defensemen which was held by Denis Potvan, who is well known to Garden fans.

The Rangers are on a 13-2-4 roll which started with a 4-0 win over Montreal at the Garden back on February 27th.

-----
ICINGS:

Here is a round-up of stories about the great Ice Girl Squeegee-gate game.
April 6, 2007
Newsday
NHL: Ice Girls Flap Done
Goal Accomplished: Rangers Win And In
Daily News
Rangers Roll In
Squeegee-gate Shut
NY Post
Babes 'Goal' To Distract
It's A Clinch!
Confident Henrik
Journal News
Lundqvist Not Punished For Ice Girls Incident
Rangers Finally Clinch Playoff Berth
-----
Henrik Lundqvist refuses to move for Islander 'Ice Girl' hottie helper Kelli Higgins Ice Girl flap as reported by Larry Brooks, Dan Martin and Lorena Mongelli of the NY Post (they need 3 reporters for this story?) :

BABES' 'GOAL' TO DISTRACT
One of the girls, Kelli Higgins, 23, said Lundqvist, 24, slapped at her squeegee while she was cleaning up around his net during the first period of the game.
Another Ice Girl, Chanel Benson, 19, said something wet hit her back while she was cleaning ice near the Rangers' bench - and thinks it was spit. She left the ice crying.

"The girls come out and try to do their job. It's not right," Islander coach Ted Nolan said.

Fans at the Islanders game last night defended the Ice Girls.

"Those are the Rangers - to me, they are a bunch of fighters, they are antagonizers," said Mary Lober, 56, of Brooklyn. "At every game they play, they are agitators. Even their fans are like that."

Observers in the Rangers' camp noted that the girls were being particularly aggressive when they were cleaning around Lundqvist, perhaps trying to throw him off his game.

The stoical Swede is known for standing in a stone-like trance during breaks in the action and rarely moving.

"For 65 games, I didn't have to move, and now I have to?" he asked. "I guess they changed the rules on Long Island."
-----
more:
Newsday
Ice Girls: Punish Rangers for slashing, spitting
NY Daily News
Isles: Henrik hacked Ice Girl
Fox News
Report: Rangers accused of Ice Girl abuse
BlueShirt Bulletin
Squeegee-Gate
Lundqvist talks with the referee after he refused to let the ice girls clean the goal crease

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cautious Rangers Fail To Clinch

There is an old saying that if you play not to lose a game, chances are you will lose the game. This is what happened to the Rangers as they played in spurts tonight and hardly played at all in the third period. Once again the Ranger power play failed to win a game. The Rangers were 0-6 and the Islanders were 0-4. The Rangers had a four on three power play for the last 53 seconds of the OT and got all of one shot on goal. The big surprise was the Rangers losing in the shootout as Satan beat Lundqvist and Nylander, Shanahan and Jagr could not beat Wade Dubielewicz (WHO).

Dubielewicz was outstanding, especially in the first two periods when he stopped 29 of 31 shots. He had very little work in the third period when the Rangers fell asleep and almost lost the game then. The Rangers got all of 5 shots on goal in the third while the Islanders put 16 on Lundqvist who stopped them all. Lundqvist was outstanding with both Islander goals coming off of Ranger deflections. Surprise, surprise. It is hard to imagine the Ranger performance tonight after their gangbuster game against the Maple Leafs. Dubielewicz stopped 36 of 38 shots and was voted the games number one star. Lundqvist stopped 32 of 34 shots and was voted the number two star. To say that the Islanders outworked the Rangers is a gross understatement.

Where does this loss leave the Rangers? Think about this. If the Rangers lose to the Canadiens and Penguins they will miss out on the playoffs if Toronto beats the Islanders and the Canadiens. Then the Rangers and Montreal will be tied with 92 points each but the Canadiens would get the eighth spot having more wins than the Rangers. So not getting themselves up against a team that is battered by injuries could turn into the Rangers Waterloo. Thursday night against the Canadiens will be the biggest game in two years for the Rangers. If the Islanders sweep the next three games they will finish with 92 points and would only make the playoffs if the Canadiens lose their last two games. They would tie the Rangers if the Rangers lost their last two and the Islanders would win their last three. However, the Rangers would get eighth because they will have one more win than the Islanders. A regulation tie in one of the last two games will put the Rangers in the playoffs. Confused?

ICINGS:

April 4, 2007
Newsday
Rangers lose out on a chance to clinch
NY Post
Still A Point Shy
AP
Dubielewicz, Isles Survive, Beat Rangers

April 3, 2007
Daily News
Rangers Can Clinch Berth On Island
Richter To Rick: Be Careful
NY Post
Rangers Count On Berth Day
Newsday
Clinching A Playoff Spot Won't Be Easy
Journal News
Rangers Try To Sew Up Playoff Berth

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rangers Rake Leafs

---
Sean Avery, top, slams Toronto Maple Leafs' Darcy Tucker to the ice during the first periodIn as an impressive a win the Rangers have had in two years the Blueshirts moved to within two points of clinching a playoff spot with a 7-2 trashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The win put the Rangers in sixth place, one point ahead of Tampa Bay with three games left for both teams. Toronto remained in ninth, one point behind the eight place Canadiens, who are three points behind the Rangers.

The Rangers are now in position to give their fans the ultimate present, clinching a playoff spot by winning at the Coliseum in Long Island. Remember when the Islanders were blitzing the Rangers in their first four meetings? Well, the Rangers have changed that by winning the last three and bolted ahead of the Islanders. The Rangers have changed a lot of things since their mediocre beginning.

Since the trading deadline the Rangers are 16-5-5 and that is due mainly to the acquisition of Sean Avery in a trade for Jason Ward. At that time it seemed like one of those even up swaps with two average defensive players swapping teams. Boy, were we wrong. Since the trade Avery has 8 goals, 11 assists for 19 points in 26 games. But it is more than the goals and assists that Avery brings to the Rangers. He brings a decree of toughness and nastiness not seen around here in ages. He brings swagger and the team has picked it up. Add in the youngsters and the Rangers have a winning attitude for the first time all year. Tonight he scored the 'Gordie Howe' hat trick by getting two goals (17,18), an assist and winning a fight against the hated Darcy Tucker. Needless to say, he was voted the number one star, Nylander with a goal (25) and an assist was number two and Lundqvist with 25 saves was number three star.

Jaromir Jagr continued his revival with a goal (29) and two assists. Straka (29), Rozsival (10) and rookie Callahan (4) were the other goal scorers as the Rangers toyed with the Maple Leafs. Three more games to go and the Rangers must keep up the pressure and keep performing at a high rate. They have won seven of their last eight and a sweep of the last three teams, the Islanders, Montreal and Pittsburgh, would send shock waves through out the Eastern Conference, a marked turnaround from last years dismal playoff performance.

ICINGS: Crowd was as noisy and boisterous as I have seen all year and the large contingent of Maple Leaf fans were hardly heard at all. Loved those Toronto female fans with their blue colored hairdos.
Newsday
Avery instigates a win
Lightning holds lead on Rangers
NY Post
Avery Good Night
Journal News
Avery earns cheers from Rangers' fans
CBC
Rangers rough up Leafs
AP
Rangers 1 Win Away From Playoff Return

NY Rangers on Twitter

NHL Tweets