Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tom Renney

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John WayneRight now I am o'ding on a John Wayne movie marathon on Turner Classics. This one is from 1947, Angel and the Badmen, with Gail Russell. Guess who is the Badman and who is the Angel? TCM is celebrating the 100th anniversary of John Wayne's birth. Its amazing, the Duke has been dead for about thirty years and is still one of the most popular stars of Hollywood. Last year one of the movie magazines ran its annual most popular stars of the year poll and The Duke finished fifth. I think Denzel Washington was first. Imagine being dead for thirty years and still in the top five. Does this say something about the quality of actors today or about the never ending star power of John Wayne?

Tom Renney will not be confused with John Wayne. More importantly, he will never be confused with Mike Keenan, Scotty Bowman or Emile Francis. Roger Neilson is who Renney reminds me of. Neilson coached 280 regular season Ranger games and won 141 of them. Renney has coached 184 regular season Ranger games and has won 90 games. Neilson was fired after 40 games in the 92-93 season at the request of Mark Messier who believed that the Rangers could go no further with Neilson. Remember the Rangers had won the President's Trophy the previous year (1991-92) only to be eliminated in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins four games to two. Remember that was the series where a Graves slash supposedly broke the hand of Mario Lemieux. Graves was suspended the rest of the series and the Rangers lost the series. So into his fourth year Neilson was gone because the Ranger leader, Mark Messier, felt that the coach could not take them to the Stanley Cup. Messier was correct.

Renney is entering his third year as the Ranger coach and Jaromir Jagr has two seasons remaining with the Rangers. Any correlation? You bet. If the Rangers don't get this holy grail within the next two years, Renney is gone. I have a feeling that if the Rangers don't hit the jackpot next year, Jagr will be acting like Mark Messier and deciding that Tom Renney is not the coach the Rangers want to get to the top.

Renney blew the Rangers hope of at least reaching the Eastern Conference finals by his blunder in game five. With the Rangers up 1-0 and about a minute to go Renney had the Jagr-Nylander-Isbister line on instead of having a defensive line on of Avery, Betts and Ortmeyer. Renney won't admit it and the drive by sports media never asked him about his choice but he was hoping for a shorthanded goal from Jagr ala the one Jagr scored against Atlanta in the series clincher. Isn't it amazing that not one sportswriter asked him why the Jagr line was on with less than a minute to play? To his credit I did see The Maven, Stan Fischler, ask that question on the post game show. Too bad he didn't get the opportunity to ask it of Renney. The Rangers should have won the Buffalo series in five games also blowing game two thanks to Malik and Rachunek.

And what of his personnel decisions? Why bring Rachunek back to play against Buffalo and break up a winning defensive combination from Atlanta? Granted Atlanta is no Buffalo but the big difference in the two teams was the goaltenders. Atlanta had the firepower up front that Buffalo has but didn't have the offense from the defenseman that Buffalo has and didn't have as good a goalie as Ryan Miller. So you knew that the games would be tight and low scoring. Why put in a defensive liability like Rachunek who lived up to his liabilities in the playoff? Why bring up Nigel Dawes for the sixth game? He should have been up earlier in the season getting the experience and confidence he needed. But no, we got Brad Isbister. Why? Is Renney the coach or the puppet of Sather? I'll bet on the puppet. Better to make the guy above you happy, that keeps your job, right?

Renney never screamed for the second line center he needed. He never used Matt Cullen properly, especially on the power play. He never gave Thomas Pock a chance to develop into a top notch offensive defenseman. He never gave the young guys a chance to really make the team at the start of the season. Callahan, Dawes, Dubinsky and Pock should have been on the starting team and guys like Isbister, Rachunek, Cullen and Malik, yes Malik, should have been fighting for the jobs. Look at how they handled Prucha. Third line, fourth line, bench, little power play time, decreased minutes and he still managed 22 goals.

This is the coach that the sports experts are extolling as the guy who is keeping this team together and has them winning. Excuse me. Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr are the reason this team is held together and is winning. Brendan Shanahan would be a better coach than Tom Renney. You doubt that statement? He was the on ice captain most of the season and was certainly more vocal on the bench than the coach was.

Performance Rating: C

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ranger Report Card

It is always difficult to grade performances of players that you have rooted for so strongly and avidly during the season. You may boo a player on one shift and the next shift finds you cheering wildly for him. Let's face another thing. Asking a player to put it on the line for every game and performing at his very best every game is sometimes physically and emotionally impossible. I will say one thing for this team, there were few nights, if any, where you could say this team mailed it in. This year I attended 33 regular home games plus 5 playoff games. I caught about 38 road TV games. Plus I saw all seven playoff road games. Also there is a difference in the reviewer. At 76 are you more forgiven, less critical? I don't think so, so let's give it a stab.

A+
Henrik Lundqvist — Without Lundqvist there are no Ranger playoffs. From Christmas on Lundqvist was the best goalie in the NHL. He carried the Rangers down the stretch and was magnificent in the playoffs. He finished the season with a 2.34 GAA and a save % of .917. The numbers in the playoffs were better with a 2.07 GAA and a save % of .924. He was 8-4 in the shootouts with a 8-4 record and a save % of .820. Only Martin Brodeur, 10-6, faced more shots than Lundqvist in the shootouts, 60, to Lundqvist's 50, and Brodeur's save % was .667.

Jaromir Jagr — Jagr was a shell of himself until the All-Star break. Skipping the classic he came back as the old war horse and finished the season with 30-66-96, seven — Playing with an aching shoulder that had been operated on in pre-season, JagrPPG and five game winners. In the playoffs he was second to Nylander in scoring with 5-6-11 in ten games. He scored 30 goals and has fifteen consecutive seasons, in his sixteen years as a NHLer, with 30 goals or more. This ties Mike Gartner's record of fifteen straight years of 30+ goals. Mike scored 12 goals for Toronto in 19994-95 and then came back for two more plus 30 goals to give him seventeen years of 30+ goals. Jagr will continue to be a 30+ goal scorer for as long as he plays.
A
Michael Nylander — (UFA) Had career highs in goals, 26, assists, 57, and points, 83. Led the team in scoring in the playoffs with 6-7-13 in ten games with 2 PPG and 2 GWG. In the regular season he had 14 PPG and 4 game winners. Still too much lateral and figure eight skating for me but picked up his shot production especially in the playoffs. Rangers should resign him.

Brendan Shanahan — (UFA) Brought strong leadership and professionalism to the team. Sometimes acted like he was the Captain. His challenging of goon Brashear to a fight forever enshrined him in the hearts of Ranger fans. Missed out on his 13th season of 30+ goals but racked up 29-33-62 in 67 games. His mid ice collision with Mike Knuble could have been career ending but came back and was a force in the playoffs. Led the team, with Cullen, with 3 shorthanded goals. Had 5 goals and 2 assists in 10 playoff games. A definite keeper.

Martin Straka — Has already been signed by the Rangers and bothered in the second half by shoulder problems. Still managed 29 goals, his second highest total of his career. His numbers were 29-41-70. He had 35 goals with Pittsburgh in 1998-99. Had 8 PPGs and 6 game winning goals. Fluctuated between the first and second lines all year and was on the point on the PP where he was not always effective. As versatile a player the Rangers have, Straka was also a very effective penalty killer.
B+
Sean Avery — (RFA) — In 29 games with the Rangers Avery was 8-12-20 and brought toughness and swagger to a team desperately in need of both. In ten playoff games he was 1-4-5 and was strong in the Atlanta series and ineffective against Buffalo. He was in the middle of most scrums and was always the first player on the ice to jump to a teammates defense. His value to the Rangers doesn't reflect itself in the box score but in his mere presence. A great trade deadline acquisition. Definitely a keeper.
B
Michal Rozsival — Had a career year in goals, 10, assists, 30, and points 40, however he still misplays and loses the puck too often and doesn't shoot enough. Those two points can be deadly especially when he is playing the point, which he does most of the time. His shot from the point is a good one and it's a shame he doesn't use it more often. He scored 7 PPG and two game winners. Picking that up will get him more points and move him up the rating list. He was more aggressive in the playoffs where he was 3-4-7 in ten games and had two PPG and one game winner, the OT game in the Garden.

Fedor Tyutin — Missed sixteen games due to a knee injury and played very well on his return. On the season he was 2-12-14 with one PPG and one shorthanded goal. So all his goals were special. Could use his body more but his positional play has improved. Only 23 years old he should have a great Ranger career, barring injuries.

Daniel Girardi — Playing in only 34 games this 23 year old turned into the most reliable Ranger defenseman as the season progressed. No flash, little dash he kept it simple and picked up his hitting game, especially in the playoffs. Could be a long run as a Ranger for this excellent defenseman.

Paul Mara — (RFA) —When first traded for Aaron Ward the deal looked like a wash. However, he became a strong positional player, though a bit slow afoot. In 19 games with the Rangers he was 2-3-5 but in the playoffs he was 2-2-4 in ten games and both goals were scored on the power play. Needs to get more power play ice time. Was a bit more physical in the playoffs. A keeper.
B-
Ryan Callahan — This 22 year old rookie was brought up at the end of the season and was 4-2-6 in 14 games with one game winner. Loves to skate, hit and shoot and came in with 2-1-3 in ten playoff games. Needs more important type ice time and will become a fan favorite with more ice time.

Thomas Pock — Signed for at least two more years. Vastly underplayed and appeared in only 44 games during the season and was 4-4-8. In four playoff games he had three assists. Benched against Buffalo in one of the dumbest coaching moves of the playoffs. Brings speed, offense and a good shot to a defense corp that desperately needs all three. I am confused why he signed with the Rangers and did not go on the open market as a UFA. Won't get much more ice time next year with this coaching staff.
C
Matt Cullen — Big disappointment mostly due to being misplayed in wrong positions by coaching staff. He is not a second line center and spent a good portion of the year at that position. An excellent point man on the power play, who loves to shoot the puck, he got very little ice time there. He was 16-25-41 in 80 games with two power play goals, and was 1-3-4 in the playoffs with the one goal being the game winner, the scorcher from the blue line against Atlanta. Would probably be better at the wing instead of center.

Petr Prucha — Was 22-18-40 in 79 games, but seemed to lack the fire of the previous year. Perhaps it was the different lines the coaching staff had him playing with. How do you put a 30 goal scorer from the previous year on the fourth line or on the bench (3 games)? Was invisible in the playoff with a single assist in ten playoff games. Totally under appreciated by coaching staff and management who reportedly dangled him as trade bait.

Blair Bettts — While still strong on penalty kills, blocked shots and defensively overall he was 9-4-13 and played in all 82 games. He was completely shutout in ten playoff games. Must pick up his offensive game to make the fourth line at least a minimal threat to score. The Rangers need a fourth line scoring threat to approach the Buffalo model of four scoring lines. Betts has to do that and the good news is he is only 27 years old.

Marcel Hossa — The good news is he is only 26 years old and the bad news is there don't seem to be any strong upside potential. In 64 games he was 10-8-18 with 3 power play goals and two game winners. See what can happen when they keep giving you ice time with Jaromir Jagr. In ten playoff games he was 2-2-4. These stats were all career highs in an NHL career that is all of 187 games in 4 seasons. Good trade bait.
C-
Jed Ortmeyer — (UFA) — God bless him, we all love his spirited, aggressive play. Came back from an embolism that nearly ended his career and was given The Steven McDonald Award for the second time in the last three years. Offensively deficient, was 2-9-11 in 41 regular season games and had zero points in 9 playoff games. With Hollweg, Orr and Betts all signed Rangers may decide not to resign Ortmeyer and the Rangers would lose a bit of their soul.

Ryan Hollweg — The hit man is already signed for 2007-08 and must improve on his offensive skills and output. Had only one goal and two assists in 78 regular season games. He only played in two playoff games and had no points. Could be used as trade bait for a team needing a hitter.

Colton Orr — Another role player that is signed for next year. He was 2-1-3 in 53 regular season games and was shutout in four playoff games. One of the highlights of the year was his knockout of the Flyers Todd Fedoruk at the Garden. It made up for some of the indignities that the Flyers imposed on the Rangers in a previous game. Too little ice time has made it difficult for Orr to develop into a more complete player. Coach only plays him when there is a tough guy on the other team.

Brad Isbister — (UFA) — Played in only 9 games and was 1-4-5 and was shutout in four playoff games. Curious call up from Hartford when guys like Dubinsky and Dawes were available. In fact Dawes call up for last game against Buffalo was even more curious. But what can you expect from this coaching/management team? Should not be signed.

Marek Malik — Close call on whether to give him a D. Forget the plus 32 in the regular season and the plus 6 in the playoffs. His massive giveaway in game two at Buffalo enabled the Sabres to tie the game and eventually win it. He had give aways all season long that were mostly negated by Lundqvist's goaltending. In 69 regular season games he was 2-19-21 and 1-3-4 in ten playoff games. A media and coaching favorite who has outlived his usefulness in New York use his plus/minus stats as a plus to trade him as he is getting close to being booed out of the Garden.
D
Karel Rachunek — (RFA) — He was 6-20-26 in the regular season with 4 PPGs, 3 game winners and a shorthanded goal so why does the Pundit give him a D? In 6 playoff games he had 4 assists and was constantly caught out of position. He was the main culprit on Buffao's game winner in game two. He came off the injured list to replace Thomas Pock on defense against Buffalo. Why? A winning combination was broken up. Why? Don't bring him back.

ICINGS: Coaching, Management and Ownership will be discussed in another post. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Run Is Over

It's a tradition that has been going on for years. I get home, or am home, after the last game of the season, usually a loss, and the messages and the phone calls are there. Samo, samo. Sorry. Awful. Disappointment. How come? Why? The answer is always the same. We ran out of gas. One more goal. One more save. Blah, blah, blah.

Tonight was kind of different because I actually thought we should of won this series, but the 7.7 second goal and the Malik gaffe were too much to overcome because they cost us two games in the series in Buffalo. Then tonight Renney decides it is time to implement the youth movement and we get a great young prospect who we have been clamoring for all year, Nigel Dawes, and he has the misfortune of having Buffalo's first goal deflect off him and past Lundqvist. He is on a line with Avery and Shanahan and that line gets burned for three Buffalo goals, one without Dawes, with Straka.

Lundqvist played like a human tonight and not the superman we have been accustomed to. He was great in the first period when he made saves on all eleven shots the Sabres put on him. With a 1-0 lead starting the second the Rangers decided to get into a run and gun with the Sabres and that proved fatal. Another deflection off of Rachunek, getting caught on odd man rushes and before you knew it, it was 4-2 Buffalo going into the third. Jagr got one early to make it 4-3 but the Sabres came back with a little over five minutes to play on a deflection by Jochen Hecht, as the Rangers were running around. Nylander started the comeback and a furious rally with a goal with about three minutes to play that fell short.

The Rangers put thirteen shots on goal in the third period, at least three in the final seconds, to no avail. The Rangers were buzzing the Sabres and Miller with about 90 seconds left and guess what? Lundqvist was still in his goal. It was at the one minute mark that Renney summoned him to the bench and there were exactly 55 seconds left before the extra Ranger got on the ice. Twenty five precious seconds lost while Renney dawdled.

This was a series that was lost in Buffalo, in games two and game five. Renney's curious lineup at the end of game five and his more than curious decisions prior and during this game cost the Rangers. The main stream drive by sports media will extol his virtues and say he is the reason for the Ranger turnaround. Nonsense. It was Lundqvist and Jagr and they just couldn't pull it off at the end. Renney was right about one thing though. The Sabres are not an elite team.

The Ranger fans showed their class and love for the team at the end with a standing ovation and a chant of "Let's Go Rangers" and Hen-rik, Hen-rik! Too bad Renney had to spoil it by holding his hands over his head like a boxing champ.

ICINGS:

May 7, 2007
Newsday
Finding Their Way
Shanahan Ponders Return
Can't Overcome Buffalo's Blitz
Playoff Run Was A Big Step In Right Direction
Daily News
Rangers Foiled And Finished
Getting No Younger, Blueshirts Still Far From Ultimate Goal
Tough Loss, & Decision, For Shanny
NY Post
Leading Man
A Long Way To Go
Shanahan Not Sure He'll Return Next Season
Journal News
Rangers Season Ends In 5-4 Playoff Loss To Buffalo
Rangers Focus On Free Agents

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Reflections

All the right things are being said today by the Rangers and there are rumors of some lineup changes. Biggest one is that Nigel Dawes will be penned into the starting lineup. I will believe that one when I see it. Spent the morning at The Rinx in Hauppage and my Grandson Nicholas' coach blurted out to me, "What the hell was Jaromir Jagr doing on the ice at the end of the game"? And this from an Islander fan. I have been hearing it all day. Would you believe that the Jagr, Nylander, Isbister line is the line that Renney wanted out there? With guys like Betts, Avery, Ortmeyer and Shanahan available, Renney made the wrong pick, again. I think he was hoping for an empty netter from Jagr but wouldn't admit to that.

I would like to see a lineup change. I would like to see Colton Orr, who played four games against Atlanta and kept complete law and order, back in the lineup on the opening shift against Dainius Zubrus, who has gotten carte blanche against Jagr the entire series with not a bit of retaliation against by any Ranger. Is there anyone else but me who is getting tired of seeing this goon deliberately trying to hurt someone on the Rangers, especially Jagr?

I would like to see the power play go back to two units with Shanahan and Jagr each playing on a different unit. I would like to see Renney act like a coach and replace the players who refuse to shoot the puck. When it comes to power play time it becomes the Jaromir Jagr show and making that perfect third or fourth pass seems more important than putting some pucks on the net. Maybe the fans can help with the 'shoot the puck" chant. Also, I want to see Paul Mara in front of the net when the second unit comes on with Cullen and Shanahan at the points. However, I think its too late for Renney to become a creative coach, its not in his M.O.

Contrary to the opinion, mostly of Buffalo people, we are not dead yet. Remember, we were down 3-2 and swept the last two games from the Devils, who also scored a tying goal against us with 7.7 seconds left in the seventh game of that series. So besides having to live with that dreaded two goal lead all year we now have to live with the last 7.7 seconds left in a game.

So we hold serve at the Garden, where we have won nine straight, including four in the playoffs, and we go back to Buffalo and we win the series. We have pissed away two games up there already, and should have won this series in five. Maybe three times will be a charm and Renney will get it right this time. But first things first, tomorrow afternoon at the Garden in front of the faithful. I'll be there. "It ain't over til its over".

Friday, May 04, 2007

Not This Time

Maxim Afinogenov went from the dog house, benched game four, to the penthouse with the game winning goal at 4:39 of OT to give the Sabres a 2-1 win and a 3-2 lead in the playoffs. The loss was devastating to the Rangers as Chris Drury scored the game tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in the game. Martin Straka had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead and seemingly the win with a goal with 3:17 to play but the Rangers could not hold on.

An unnecessary icing by Daniel Girardi with 16.2 seconds gave the Sabres an opportunity to tie it up. Girardi had time to move the puck or just flip it lightly to center ice but instead iced it and the Rangers had a tired group on the ice and even though Nylander won the faceoff the Sabres were relentless and when Thomas Vanek was stopped by Lundqvist the rebound went to Sabres 'old reliable' Chris Drury who drove it home, his sixth of the playoffs, to tie the game.

The Rangers have only themselves to blame. They had a goal waved off on a needless and questionable goal tending interference call against Brad Isbister. Their power play was 0-7 and they took very few shots and went back to the old habit of perimeter game, tic, tac, toe play. Remember Michal Rozsival who won the first OT game of this series with a blistering 50 footer? Tonight he had no shots on goal despite getting 7:01 of power play time. Nylander had no shots on goal with 22:47 of ice time including 6:56 of power play time, he had the goal that was waved off by the interference call. While Straka had the Rangers only goal, that was at even strength. He had no shots on goal with 6:55 of PP time. Paul Mara, with 6:22 of PP time had no shots on goal. Is it any wonder that the Sabres stopped the Ranger power play? Look at the differential in shots on goal.

The Rangers were out shot 40-23. The Rangers blocked 16 shots and Buffalo 12. Buffalo missed 13 shots and the Rangers 11, so the Sabres had a total of 69 shots and the Rangers 46, so the Rangers were badly outshot. If not for Lundqvist the game would have been a rout. Buffalo put 30 shots on goal for the last two periods of regulation and the Rangers had 9.

In OT the refs called two bad penalties one on each team. They called Drury for hooking at the 27 second mark and decided to make it up with a hooking call on Betts at the 4:28 mark and that was it. Both calls were questionable. Neither should have been called for a playoff OT game. Meanwhile Dainius Zubrus pushes the envelope and hits Jagr every which way he can and there isn't a Ranger available or willing to protect Jagr who drew a two minute roughing penalty for punching (?) Zubrus. Maybe its time to get Orr back in the lineup and bench Isbister. The Sabres were 1-6 on the power play with the one being the winner.

Tonight it can truly be said that Lundqvist was The Lone Ranger. Maybe if one Tonto had showed up the Rangers would be looking to wrap up this series Sunday instead of having to win and go back to Buffalo one more time to see if they can get it right on the third try. I know their goalie will show up. Will the rest of the team?

ICINGS:

May 5, 2007
Newsday
Nylander's Illness Passed Along By Family
Sabres 2, Rangers 1
Sabres Winner Of Presence Trophy Too
Daily News
Blueshirt Shocker
NY Post
Maxim-Um Agony
This Loss Caused By Panic Attack
Journal News
Rangers Let Chance Slip Away, Lose To Sabres In Overtime
Rangers' Nylander Still Battling Flu

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Huge

Huge is the operative word. We are sitting at a game and the Rangers are on a power play during a critical time in a tight game and one of us would say this is a big opportunity and one of us would reply, "Huge". The same thing with a penalty kill or a key faceoff and one of us would say, "Huge". My friend Beansie would say huge all the time. There was an old time actor, a comedian, Hugh Herbert, and every time Beansie would mention him it would come out Huge Herbert.

Huge is what is coming up tomorrow night in Buffalo. The Rangers have come back remarkably after losing the first two games in Buffalo. You might say they held serve, but it was much more than that. They sent a message to the President Trophy winners that they will be a tough out. However, that was at home where the Rangers are practically unbeatable. The Rangers have won nine straight at home, including the last four in the playoffs. While they were a good road team during the regular season and beat the Thrashers in two games in Atlanta, the Rangers have not beaten the Sabres in Buffalo this year.

As the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference the Rangers have to win road games to advance to the next round. Tomorrow is the night to pull that off. Assuming that the Rangers will continue to win at home, big assumption, the Rangers don't want to have to play game seven in Buffalo. Not too many road teams pull off wins in game seven. Right now the Rangers have Buffalo thinking and wondering about their offense and their big players, who have yet to play big. This is a sea change from Buffalo's attitude after their first two wins in Buffalo. They were primed and ready for a four game sweep but some guys named Lundqvist, Jagr and Shanahan had other ideas.

The Rangers actually blew game two in Buffalo and Tuesday night at the Garden almost duplicated that feat. They fell back to early season habits like allowing a goal to the other team right after they scored a goal. You could see that Tuesday after Shanahan's goal had given them the dreaded two goal lead. They thought the game was over. Ales Kotalik brought them back to earth with a thud. They then hung on for dear life the rest of the way.

The key to tomorrow's game is discipline. The Rangers must stay out of the penalty box, must. The Rangers, like most people, are creatures of habit. Marek Malik, who was booed mercilessly, continues to ignore the boards when clearing and insists on passing up the middle especially if Jagr is cruising nearby. Jagr, refuses to shoot the puck into the offensive zone and insists on carrying the puck which many times results in turnovers and opposition rushes. Lundqvist, to paraphrase Jag, must stay in the net.

The general consensus is that the Sabres will come out flying and the Rangers must weather the storm in the first ten minutes. Guess what? I believe it is the Rangers who should come out storming and put pressure on Ryan Miller and put people in front of the net for distractions and deflections. The best defense still remains to be the best offense, that's what needs to be done. This is a big game. It's huge.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Save (Or Is It) And A Beauty!

Lundqvist stops Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere with 16.7 seconds remaining
I'll say this for the Sabres and especially Daniel Briere, they showed class last night. Yeah, Lindy Ruff screamed for a while, very little, but the team as a whole and Briere who almost tied it said it all. Briere's comments were, "I'm hoping that the league is right. I think they misjudged the one in the last game (Karel Rachunek's goal that was waved off), I think the Rangers should have had a goal there. For the sake of the league, I hope they made the right call. It wouldn't be good to have two critical goals disallowed." Now I wait for the Buffalo fans to talk about their 'big market team' conspiracy.

This is a call, a save, that they will be talking about for a long time. If the Sabres win the series it will be forgotten. If the Rangers win, the discussion will go on as long as the Rangers are in the playoffs. The fact that Lundqvist even got to the puck with his right leg pad to make the save was unbelievable. He looked hopelessly out of position after getting tied up with Rachunek behind the net. What the heck was he doing behind the net when Rachunek had complete control? The best line of the night might have come from Jagr, who again rose to the occasion, in the locker room. Speaking to Lundqvist, Jagr said, "Hank, stay in the net, please."

For fifty minutes, 50:56 to be exact, the Rangers completely dominated and shut down the Sabres. Two power plays goals by Jagr (4) and Shanahan (5) had given the Rangers that dreaded two goal lead with 11:29 to play. Dreaded almost turned into nightmare as Ales Kotalik (2) brought the Sabres within one at the 9:04 mark of the third period. It then turned into hang on for dear life as the Sabres stormed the net and Lundqvist. Lundqvist had to make ten saves in the third period but none bigger than the save on Briere with 17.1 seconds to go in the game. He made 29 saves overall and was voted number one star, Jagr was number two, and Shanahan was number three. The big guys carried the Rangers to this win but the little guys, the role players, were equally as good. The Rangers outshot Buffalo 30-28, outhit them 39-32, blocked more shots, 21-14, and won more faceoffs 55% to 45%.

Up until Kotalik's goal the Rangers had played a classic game. They shut down Buffalo's vaunted attack and killed off four Sabre power plays. The Sabres are 3-25 on the power play during this series. They are 7-49 in the entire playoff. That's a 14.3% for the playoffs and a 12.0% against the Rangers. So the Ranger penalty killers are doing an excellent job. Meanwhile, the Rangers were 2-4 on the power play last night and against the Sabres in four games they are 5-19 or 26.3% . Overall in eight playoff games the Rangers are 10-43 or 23.3%. So the Rangers are winning the special team's contest.

Now back to Buffalo and I do expect that the Sabres will come out storming. Their big guys haven't come through as they expected though Ryan Miller continues to play outstanding. He was not at fault on either goal and made twenty six saves. We are witnessing a classic goalie matchup. Lundqvist has a 1.75 GAA and a save percentage of .932 while Miller has a 1.99 GAA and a save percentage of .932, it doesn't get any closer or better than that.

ICINGS:

May 2, 2007
Newsday
Special Teams Prevail
Rangers 2, Sabres 1
Sabres Review Of Themselves: Poor
Relentless Defense Perfect Foil For Sabres
Daily News
Rangers' Review Rewinds Sabres
Call Cuts Sabres To Core
Henrik's Risky Maneuver Secures Series Turnaround
NY Post
Lundqvist Saves His Best For Last
Garden Of Even
Sabres Keep Their Cool After No-Goal Call
Journal News
Rangers Sweat It Out Before No-Goal Call Is Upheld
Rangers Hang On To Beat Sabres, Tie Series 2-2

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