Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Brad Park Sweeps Fans' Polls

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Brian Leetch - Brad ParkBrad Park was voted by you fans as a better all around player than Brian Leetch by a wide margin of 28%, the final tally being Park 64% and Leetch 36%. The poll ran for one week and drew 98 votes. An additional poll to determine if Park also warranted having his number 2 jersey raised to the rafters was much closer but also resulted in a win for Park by a 54% to 46 %, and 8 percent margin of victory. This poll drew 97 voters.

Park's popularity over Leetch is somewhat surprising in lieu of the fact that Park spent only seven plus years with the Rangers to Leetch's seventeen years as a Ranger. Both were exciting impact players, crowd pleasers, fan favorites and Hall of Famers. Park is already there and Leetch will be also.

The raising of jersey's to the rafters is always a great event but when Leetch's number 2 goes up we like to see a Park number 2 go up and when an Adam Graves number 9 goes up I would like to see an Andy Bathgate number 9 go up. I guess the case could be made for all the Rangers who made the Hall Of Fame. There are 42 Hall Of Famers who played for the Rangers, however, a lot of them made their greatest contributions elsewhere. Guys like Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Max Bentley, Doug Harvey and Marcel Dionne just to name a few who were Hall Of Famers before coming to New York. But what about guys like Bill and Bun Cook, Frankie Boucher, Chuck Rayner, Lynn Patrick, Harry Howell and Ching Johnson. Maybe a night of recognition for past greats, mostly deceased. Rangers talk about tradition and that night would be a night of tradition to end all traditions. What do you think?
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jagr At The Point: He Shoots - He Scores

Would you believe that the Rangers put Jagr on the point on the power play? Would you believe that Jagr took a shot from the point on the power play? Would you believe that Jagr scored the game winning goal from the point on the power play? Jagr on the point on the power play? Yes. These are desperate times that call for drastic measures. But is it so drastic for a great player to whom nothing is impossible to be put at the point? I have been singing that song for two seasons now and I finally saw it. I didn't believe it, but I saw it.

The goal at the 10:45 mark of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and at the 13:29 mark Brendan Shanahan on a beautiful feed from Drury and Jagr put the game away. For a change the Rangers owned the game. Tampa Bay came in with a 3.56 goals scored per game. The only goal they would score against the Rangers and Lundqvist was a penalty shot allotted to Vinnie Lecavalier at 6:28 of the second period to beat Lundqvist for his 6th of the year to tie the game and that was it for the Bolts.

The opening goal was scored by Nigel Dawes, his third, on as beautiful a deflection you will ever see. The first period was the most evenly played of the three periods. The shots favored Tampa Bay in the first period, 11-10. However, the Rangers outshot the Lightning 25-11 the rest of the way holding Tampa Bay to only four shots in the third. The Rangers completely controlled the play the last two periods, hence the low shot total for Tampa Bay. Yes, the best defense is a good offense.

In the second period Jagr lost some teeth catching a puck in the mouth. On that play Lecavalier was awarded his penalty shot when he was hooked by Malik. I found the penalty shot call questionable. Even though the period ended 1-1 it was evident that the Rangers were starting to pick up their game. In the third at the 10:32 mark Gratton was whistled off for cross checking Prucha in front of the Tampa Bay net. The usual five came out for the PP only this time the set up was different. Jagr was at the point. Rozsival took the first shot which Holmqvist saved and then the puck came out to Jagr who shot and scored and didn't even crack a smile. He couldn't. His lip was swollen and some teeth were missing. He looked ready for Halloween.

The Rangers won because while they played defense they weren't defensive and uptight. They played with a purpose and while Lundqvist did make some big saves the Ranger offense controlled the game. Johan Holmqvist played a very good game in goal for Tampa Bay and made some outstanding saves. The Rangers put high quality shots on goal, something that has been missing the last few games plus they hit the posts a few times. They stayed around the net causing screens and havoc. Holmqvist could easily have been voted number three star. Shanahan was number three, Lundqvist number two and Jagr number one. Now its the Caps Thursday and the Devils Saturday and the Flyers Monday then to LI for the Islanders. So the Rangers will be tested. Was tonight a one game revival or is this the real thing what we have been waiting for? I hope so even though I may have to sing the Whiffenpoof song. We shall see.

ICINGS: The World's Most Famous Arena could have been called the quarter empty arena tonight. From my old tired eyes I saw anywhere between 2 to 5 thousand empty seats. Saturday night there were over two thousand Toronto fans. No way you are going to get Tampa Bay fans to travel to NY. Who bought out the Garden? The fans or the brokers? The Ranger luxury box was loaded with suits. Watching or evaluating the team and the coach? Interesting for a Monday night against a low recognition name team like Tampa Bay.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rangers Raked

The Rangers did it again tonight. They let an ordinary goaltender, Vesa Toskala, look like an all-star in a 4-1 loss. They did this by missing open nets, fanning on set ups, over passing and missed opportunities on odd man rushes and totally embarrassing themselves.

Coach clueless had no answers except to put Jagr on the ice every other shift in the third period. Jagr had over 23 minutes of ice time. Jagr had opened the scoring at the 5:44 mark of the second period on a beautiful move on Hal Gill and a shot from the circle to the right of Toskala. It should have sent the Rangers soaring but less than three minutes later Kubina put in a slap shot from the point. Pohl scored when Lundqvist gave the puck away and Antropov camped himself in front of Lundqvist and Tyutin couldn't or wouldn't move him out so now its 3-1. Three goals in less than nine minutes and that was the game. The fourth goal was an empty netter.

The Rangers could not mount any offensive pressure against a team that had given up 41 goals in 11 games. Fortunately for the Leafs they were playing a Ranger team that had scored all of 15 goals in the last nine games.The Leafs average close to 4 goals per game and give up 3.75 per game. The Rangers score on average 1.6 goals per game and give up 2.1 goals per game. You do the math and you tell me who is going to win more games and who is not going to make the playoffs? So the irresistible force met the immovable object and the irresistible force won.

I'm sorry folks but more and more this team is reminding me of the 1997-98 team that had a dismal year and missed the playoffs after an exciting run the year before getting to the conference finals. The only good news is that the coach that year, Colin Campbell, was fired mid season. The other day Fox Sports published a list of coaches who were in trouble on its web site. Paul Maurice was number one and coach clueless was number two. Guess who just moved up to number one coach who is in trouble.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hockey Beacon On Long Island

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Mike Savino (left) visits Rob Kowal at NY Hockey TalkThe station is WGBB, 1240 on the dial and it is powered by a 1,000 watts station located in Freeport, LI. The radio station is located on Route 109, south of the Sunrise Highway in West Babylon, LI, New York. Drive too fast and you will go right by it as it is nestled between two business concerns, one an auto repair. The sign on the building is WYNG, which technically owns the building. This is the home of New York Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal.

Rob Kowal is the young, energetic founder of New York Hockey Talk. Truth be known, Rob Kowal is New York Hockey Talk. He is the producer, director, the host and the driving force behind what could become the finest hockey radio show in the metro area. His assistant is an engineer named Dave , never got a second name. Dave was behind the glass directing us, actually me, with hand gestures like too low, get closer, up to the mike, keep it moving and what I think was good job. Who knows, I was never good at charades.

In one hour, every Sunday night, between 9-10 you will hear more hockey than that heard in a month on WFAN. The guests have been a combination of announcers, writers and ordinary fans, the bloggers. Rob took over on 9/23/07 and his first guest was John Dellapina. He has had top announcers like Sam Rosen, Rick Jeanneret the Sabres TV guy for over twenty years, Jeremy Noeson, the Sabres radio guy plus Bob Crawford the voice of the Hartford Wolfpack.

Rob has also had the four minor league coaches of the four area teams. Rob puts the Buffalo Sabres area team. He has interviewed Ken Gernander, Wolfpack, Kurt Kleindiest, Lowell Devils, Randy Cunneyworth, Rochester Americans (Sabres) and Jack Capuano, Bridgeport Sounders (Islanders). In addition he has had Ranger Ryan Callahan and ex Islander Mike Bossy and ex Isle and ex Sabre Pierre Turgeon.

The bloggers have been many, representing all four teams. The one hour is broken up into three segments. It usually starts with Rob doing a ten minute review of the four teams for the past week with the highlights and a commentary. Then it becomes the guests turn. Some are prerecorded, some phone in and some like me, are live.

Think about the last time you heard a hockey report for an hour? Times up. You never heard one. Forget the post game reports, I'm talking a regular show about hockey.This show has a great opportunity to blossom into something unusual. In Boston, my friend Kevin of Insidehockey.com has put together a great hockey show serving the Boston area with great guests. New York HockeyTalk has a chance to be that in the New York metro area. If they don't make it, it's not because Rob Kowal isn't trying or working at making it better. It's the best thing that has happened for hockey fans in the New York Area and you don't want to miss it.

To listen to the show go to http://www.nyhockeytalk.com

And A Babe Shall Lead Them

Martin Brodeur played his usual tough game against the Rangers, stopping 28 of 30 shots, and was voted the number three star of the game. There were two problems for Marty tonight. One was Henrik Lundqvist, with 22 saves on 22 shots, and the other was Nigel Dawes.

Brodeur has seen Lundqvist before. The Prince is the reason that the Rangers are no longer overwhelmed by the Devils. The two put on quite a duel tonight and Brodeur only lost because a newcomer to the rivalry, a babe, had come upon the scene.

Actually Dawes came on the scene by accident, a series of them to be exact. Avery, Hossa, Straka and Callahan have all come down with injuries that have given Dawes his chance. Hossa is the only one who has returned to claim his spot but the others will be out for a while. Tonight Dawes staked his claim to a full time position on a goal starved team.

The two goals were the first of the season for Dawes. The previous game against the Pens he put six shots on goal. He broke the Ranger goal scoring drought by rifling one past Brodeur on a feed by Shanahan at the :57 second mark of the opening period. It was helped by a turnover by Devil defenseman Karel Rachuneck. We've seen that before. It was the first Ranger goal in over 126 minutes. It was the first even strength goal for the Rangers in over 180 minutes. More important it gave the Rangers a lead they would never relinquish. In the third period, he iced the game with a power play goal on assists from Prucha and Dubinsky. This goal was noteworthy due to the fact that the coach did not round up the usual suspects for the power play. He put out Dubinsky, Prucha and Dawes to start the power play. How about that! Maybe the coach is paying attention.

Dawes will probably have about four weeks to prove he belongs in the lineup as Avery should be back in about a week but Straka still may need a couple of weeks. When Avery returns he will probably go to the second line with Drury and Shanahan. Dawes will join Dubinsky and Prucha on the third line and Hollweg will return to the fourth line and Strudwick will go back to the bench. I think. Dawes should be on this team when all hands return on deck. Hossa should sit with either Dawes or Prucha moving up to the top line.

What I found amazing tonight is that the Rangers are always bragging about their talent pool in Hartford. So if we have so many hot prospects, why did the coach use Strudwick as a forward on the fourth line? Wouldn't it have been nice to see Greg Moore or Alex Bouret or Lauri Korpikoski skate for a few shifts? The win snapped a four game losing streak and began a six game home stand that includes another game with the Devils on Saturday November 3rd and ends against the Flyers on Monday November 5th. We should know a lot more about these Rangers after this home stand. Hopefully somebody else, anybody, will start putting some pucks in the net. Otherwise we will continue to put undue pressure on Lundqvist to steal some games for us.

Who says they don't read the blogs? Colton Orr and Ryan Hollweg each got over nine minutes of ice time and responded by getting ten hits betwen them. Hollweg had three hits and two shots on goal and both were very effective. While Petr Prucha only got 11:29 of ice time he did get 3:29 of PP time. Dubinsky got 10:17 of ice time and 2:59 on the PP. Dawes was 15:27 of ice time and 1:58 of PP time. Lets see how long that lasts. The power play for the Rangers was 1-8 and the Devils were 0-3.

ICINGS: Dawes was number one star and Lundqvist was number two. So coach Sutter says he will not have a checking line. Eh? Opening faceoff. The Jagr line is on and there is Pandolfo and Madden. It went on all game. The more things change the more they stay the same. Coaches talk too much anyway.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sub Zero Performance

Big things were expected from the Rangers this year, and why not. They made a fairly decent run in the playoffs last year. They acquired two great offensive players like Chris Drury and Scotty Gomez. Shanahan would return after his concussion better than ever. We would have Avery, Mara, Girardi and Callahan at the beginning of the season. Jagr and Lundqvist would both be 100% healthwise and both have the year of their careers. It was all sewed up. What went wrong?

Henrick Lundqvist is the only one living up to expectations and fulfilling his part of the bargain. Jagr, Shanahan, Drury and Gomez are all off to the worst starts of their careers. Avery separated a shoulder and wont be back for at least another two weeks and with the exception of Dan Girardi, last years rookies are treated like this years rookies, getting limited ice time.

Last night the Rangers accomplished something that they never accomplished in their 81 year existence. They lost 1-0 for the second successive night. No goals in 125 minutes plus 3 shootout shots. Never before has a Ranger team performed so ineptly. So we will always have 2007 as a year to remember depending on how this season ends.

But wait. This record may not be over yet, for tomorrow night the Rangers face their nemesis of all nemesis, Martin Brodeur. In the last three games we have made three struggling, journeymen goalies like Hedberg, Fernandez and Fleurry look like the second coming of Kenny Dryden. What is a Hall Of Famer like Brodeur going to do? Maybe he will bring out the best in us and we can explode for a 2-1 win.

The drive by media makes much of the fact that the Rangers outshot the Pens. Heck, we outshoot all the teams. Have you been witnessing the shots we take? Our best shots go wide or hit posts and crossbars. Last nights 36 shots were about as feeble a shot attack I've seen in years. My grandson, Nicholas, and his teammates, the Mako's, put harder shots on the opposing goalie. Are you bored with the Rangers? Saturday morning at 11:00 AM go to the Rinx in Hauppage, LI, NY and watch the Makos play. Last week they lost to the Shark Fins, 3-2. The previous week they beat the Dolphins, 3-2. As you can tell this is a fishy league. Both games went down to the wire and in both games they were almost tied at the end.

Right now the Rangers are the worst team in the NHL. You say that Atlanta has one less point then us. Well Atlanta beat our butts good which makes us the worst team in the NHL. I have a suggestion for those of you who enjoy the chant. _ _ sucks. I don't. Lets have a new chant. Its simple. Lets all chant, "Play The Kids", "Play The Kids", "Play The Kids".

ICINGS:


Some photos of me at NY Hockey Talk this last Sunday with Rob Kowal. Thanks Rob!

Mike Savino, The Ranger Pundit and Rob Kowal, NY Hockey Talk
Mike Savino, The Ranger Pundit
The interview (.mp3)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brian Leetch — Brad Park

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Brian Leetch - Brad ParkOpening night was filled with many surprises and many standing ovations, however the biggest surprise and loudest ovation went to Brian Leetch showing up to drop the first puck. Everyone knew that he would enjoy a special night on January 24th when his number two will be retired. But there is another great #2 who also should have his numbers raised to the rafters and that is the equally great #2, Brad Park.

Leetch played 18 years, seventeen with the Rangers and then was traded to the Maple Leafs for a string of players, none of note. Brad Park played 17 years, eight with the Rangers and with Jean Ratelle was traded to the Boston Bruins for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. Leetch was Captain of the Rangers from 1997-200. Park was Captain of the Rangers from 1974-11/75. Brian Leetch was twice selected to the All-Star team, 1991-92, 1996-97. Park was picked three times starting in 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74. In fact Brad Park was considered the second best defenseman in the NHL with the first being the immortal Bobby Orr.

Brian Leetch played 1139 games for the Rangers, with a 240-741-981 offensive total. That is an average of 57.71 points/year. Brad Park played 465 games for the Rangers with a 95-283-378 offensive total that averages out to 47.25 points/year. Considering that Leetch averaged nine games more a year that Park the averages are awfully close. Their best years were also remarkedly close. In 1991-92, Leetch played 80 games and was 22-80-102. In 1973-74 Park played in 78 games and was 25-57-82.

Leetch won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers, Park never did. Leetch was also the winner of the James Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL, in1991-92 and in 1996-97. Brad Park won the Bill Masterton Trophy with the Detroit Red Wings in 1984-85. This trophy is awarded for perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Only four Rangers have ever won this award the last one being Adam Graves in 2000-01.

Defensively I would give the edge to Brad Park. He was just as smooth on defense as he was on offense with an edge over Leetch. He took the body more often and more effectively. Leetch was a good skater who could burst into the offensive zone as good as anyone and was a great offensive threat. Park was a great skater who often seemed to be gliding.

So there you are. Offensively, the edge to Leetch with Park a step behind. On defense, the edge to Park, with Leetch a stride behind. My pick is Brad Park. But the point here is that while #2 Leetch is raised to the rafters so should #2 Brad Park. What do you think?
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Matinee Malaise

The Rangers goal scoring drought continued this afternoon in Boston as they shot blanks and misfired half the time against backup goalie Manny Fernandez who came into the game with a plus five GAA. Truth be told both teams were rather inept with Boston going 0-8 on the PP and the Rangers going 0-6. The Bruins got 19 shots on goal and the Rangers got 26. The Rangers were particularly bad in the first period when they got only 4 shots on goal against a goalie who might have been vulnerable in the first period.

Shanahan, Drury and Jagr shot blanks in the shootout as did Sturm and Bergeron before Phil Kessel ended the agony by putting one over Lundqvist. While making seven fewer saves than Fernandez, Lundqvist made by far the more spectacular saves. His save on Savard was all world and will be a film highlight after this season ends, which may not be quick enough.

Shanahan, Jagr, Gomez and Drury all got over 21 minutes of ice time and had a combined total of 11 shots and missed the net 6 times. So a grand total of 17 shots in a net total of 91 minutes and 31 seconds of ice time. Callahan, Prucha, Dubinsky and Dawes got a combined 7 shots on goal and missed the net 3 times for a grand total of 10 shots in a net total of 49 minutes and 38 seconds. That averages out to one shot every 5.35 minutes for the big four and one shot every 4.94 minutes for the 'small' four.

Also, the Rangers were awarded 8:50 of PP time of which Jagr had 7:50, Gomez had 7:25, Shanahan had 7:23 and Drury had 6:30. Conversley, Dubinsky had 1:25, Dawes had 1:08, Callahan had 1:00 and Prucha, the same Prucha who scored 52 goals in his first two years, had all of :19 seconds on the PP. Our PP is now 6-43, what is that .14% efficient or is it deficient? The point of all this? Maybe its about time we changed the personnel on the PP and maybe its time we distributed the ice time of the regular shifts a little more equal. What does that tell you about a coach who gives his most efficient PP goal scorer all of 19 seconds of PP time? This is the same Prucha who set a Ranger rookie record two years ago by scoring 16 PP goals and tallied 8 PP goals last year. But no, round up the usual suspects when its PP time. See Jagr hold the puck. See Jagr pass the puck to Rozsival. See Rozsival hold the puck. See Rozsival pass the puck to Jagr. Repeat 10 times and then shoot the puck or start the sequence all over.

So the malaise continues and the words continue. We have to look in the mirror. We have to gut it up. We have too much talent on this team. Blah, blah, blah. Shades of 1997-98 when the Ranger roster included five players who had been captains on other teams, hotshots like Mike Keane, Brian Skrudland and Bruce Driver. It was the same mantra, there is too much talent in this room. By the way, that team finished with a 25-39-18 record and no playoffs. However, that can't happen this year. There is too much talent in the Ranger locker room.

ICINGS: A Power Play Clinic

via Off Wing Opinion:
Want to know what it's like to spend 2:20 on the ice with the puck bottled up in your defensive zone and no way out? Then take a look at this sequence from Saturday [Oct 13] night in Vancouver, where the Canucks put on a virtual clinic on the power play while the Edmonton Oilers merely tried to hang on:


Friday, October 19, 2007

Disgraceful!

My compatriots have all beaten me to the punch about last night's game which was as an abominable a performance that any sport team can come up with. Think about this though. After the Rangers were outclassed by Ottawa last Saturday night they had four days, four days, one more time, four days of practice to get their collective acts together to face a winless Atlanta team that had not won a hockey game since April 2007. A team that had lost six straight and given up 29 goals. A team we swept in last years playoffs. What were the Rangers practicing? Were they practicing? Where is the coaching staff? When does Tom Renney start talking responsibility for all this?

Those of you who read me regularly know that I never believed Tom Renney is the coach to lead this team to a Cup. I was shocked on opening night when I heard the ovation that was given to Renney by the fans. Let me say this one more time. The Rangers won last year because they discovered lightning in a bottle, Henrik Lundqvist, and because Jag had a return to form. The Rangers cannot win anything with Tom Renney as coach.

Tom Renney will use last nights debacle to return Marek Malik to the starting lineup replacing Thomas Pock who did not have a good game. So name me a player, especially on defense who played a good game? The Rangers have the softest defense in the league, a defense that brings out the best in even the most average of opposing wingers. Also, with minor exceptions the Rangers do not have the kind of forwards who like to come back and play defense. They also don't have the type of forwards who want to forecheck and get dirty in the corners. They like to play the basketball version of war, everyone in a circle, but no shots only passes.

The other disgrace here is that Henrik Lundqvist should not be left defenseless every night. Which brings up another point. When is Lundqvist going to get a rest so we see what Steve Valiquette can do and what the defense will do in front of him? Against Boston tomorrow afternoon or is Tom Renney going to play Lundqvist until he drops and then we bring up Montoya? It is getting late early but it is not that early to get a hockey coach to turn the Rangers around.

Forget the score. The three third period PP goals were totally meaningless. As bad as the defense is the Ranger offense is offensive to ones sensibilities. Last night was a circus with the forward lines with even the announcers not certain which combo was on ice. Speaking of announcers, I though Sam Rosen got carried away with his comment about how the Rangers were losing it with Shanahan wanting to go after Garnet Exelby who not only put a high hit on Prucha but kept hitting Jagr and took a cheap shot at Jagr when his back was turned. . Hollweg tangled with Steve McCarthy after he kneed Prucha. So the Rangers finally stand up for each other and Rosen says we are losing it. The one good thing we did all night and Rosen moans.

I see where Sather was at the arena to greet Atlanta GM and interim coach, Don Waddell. Is he going to go to Boston tomorrow? Is he following Renney around and ready to drop the hammer if the Rangers lose to Boston tomorrow and Pittsburgh on Tuesday? Maybe Dolan should follow them both around and drop the hammer on the stealth GM who has given the Rangers all of six playoff wins in his seven year term. Now you know why they didn't bring Messier into the management group. Messier is result and action oriented and would not tolerate this mess. Remember he already got rid of one Ranger coach.

ICINGS: Remember the New York Hockey Talk show Sunday night from9-10 PM on 1240AM WGBB. I'll be there live.

Rangerland Pukes

NY Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal
New York Rangers fans got universally sick to their stomachs last night.

The Dark Ranger said:
Renney Successfully Transforms Rangers Into AHL Team... -- The falling from grace continued this evening as The New York Rangers embarrassed themselves in Atlanta, losing to the ailing Thrashers 3-5. The beat writers are going to have a field day with their abominable performance tonight. The team will probably shrug off whatever Tom Renney, coach of the Blueshirts, has to say this evening after the game and during the trip to Boston. That is, until they read about themselves in the papers tomorrow morning. Maybe it's time for a shot of heroin to take the burn-off, bring the anger down...please hold me back from writing in caps...

The Hockey Rabbi said:
Pathetic! -- The woeful Blueshirts are losers again. The most recent defeat came courtesy of the NHL's doormat Atlanta Thrashers. It's getting late real early on Broadway. It's not so much the losses that are cause for concern. After all, we're only six games into a season of drastic change. Rather, it's the fact that their don't seem to be any line combinations that make sense. Or maybe it's the coaching staff that can't seem to find the right combinations? ...

Dubi at BlueShirt Bulletin said:
No Excuses --Let the official "Have the Rangers hit rock bottom?" watch begin. They had four days of uninterrupted practice to work on their team chemistry and their moribund special teams. They were facing an 0-6 team reeling from a coaching change. There is no excuse for the Rangers to have falled behind 2-0 early and 5-1 late before a couple of garbage time power play goals made it an unrespectable 5-3 final. ...

Rocha at Rangerland.net said:
Panic time? Yes. Well, right on the edge, and I’ll tell you why. They haven’t looked right since the first minute they stepped on the ice in pre-season. They’re not working hard. And now they’re falling into a hole at 2 games under .500. Are they suddenly just going to start playing 60 minute games and find chemistry where previously was none? I think this is going to get worse before it gets better..

Pucks on Broadway said:
The Rangers defense collapsed again and left countless Thrashers in front. Garnet Exelby played a completely dirty game and his hit on Petr Prucha should be reviewed by the league. If fans dare boo Marek Malik again and continue to ignore the ignorance and lax manner of Michal Rozsival and Paul Mara, I may lose it. ...

Hockey Rodent added:
Enough with this arrogance that this roster is somehow entitled to control the puck to victory. It is not happening. And it will not happen as long as the forward line combinations keep churning and chemistry remains nothing more than a wish.

Change your ways, Tom Renney. Convert your strategy from one of fruitless attempts to control the tempo and flow of a game. Admit you cannot achieve that objective at the present time. Begin playing as overachieving underdogs do. They dump and force the other team to skate the puck 190 feet. They lay ambushes and other shrubbery to goad the opposition into making one too-many laterals.

Why can't NYR become that opportunistic team... at least until such time as the lines begin to gel? ...

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ICINGS:

In an effort to make order out of chaos.

NY Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal, 1240AM WGBBThe Ranger Pundit and NY Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal, 1240AM WGBB
This Sunday, longtime Buffalo Sabres television play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret will be a guest on the show. New Jersey Devils fan and administrator of the popular Devils message board njdevs.com, Matt Sweetwood will also be on the program. Joining Rob LIVE in the studio this week, will be New York Rangers fan and blogger Mike Savino, otherwise known as The Ranger Pundit !
Broadcast Sunday evening from 9:00pm to 10:00pm on Long Island's 1240AM-WGBB, and can also be heard LIVE From NYHockeyTalk.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Return To Atlanta

The Rangers return to Atlanta, the site of one of their triumphs last year to face a team that is winless in six games, scoring only nine goals and giving up twenty seven. In addition, the Atlanta coach, Bob Hartley, has been canned and the GM, Don Waddell, has taken over. Sounds like a skate on the pond for the Rangers. Not quite. These are the games that losing teams wake up for, a new coach after a dreadful start. For Waddell this is his second time he has taken over the coaching reins as Thrashers GM. He was 3-5-1 in his last stint before hiring Hartley, who had won the Stanley Cup with Colorado.

The Rangers may have some changes in their lineup tomorrow night. Marcel Hossa is hurt and will probably be replaced by Nigel Dawes. I'm sorry Hossa is hurt but the move is one that should have been made sooner. Dawes may skate on the first line with Jagr and Gomez, so he may get a solid chance to show his skills. Hopefully he will get more than a cup of coffee and we will see him in a few games. Hopefully.

In practice Pock, you remember him, paired with Rozsival and Malik was with Strudwick as the fourth pairing. This is truly earth shaking but it remains to be seen if Renney has the fortitude to bench Malik. Supposedly, Renney believes that Malik is the kind of a player that must play to get out of his slump, funk, poor play to improve. So that explains why Malik plays in 82 games, he never quite makes it. So tomorrow night we will have a test of Renney's ability to assess talent other than Jagr, Shanahan, Lundqvist and well, you get the picture.

Dave Scatchard has been sent to Hartford for about five games to see if he has anything that warrants giving up a slot to Dubinsky or Dawes. Blair Betts, who did not perform well as a third line center will be moved up to the second line center between Shanahan and Straka. So Shanahan continues to be the test case for centers. Maybe Matt Cullen doesn't look so bad now. Chris Drury now becomes the third line center for Prucha and Callahan. Hey, that could turn out to be the most productive of lines. The two kids could use an experienced go to guy between them. To allay all feelings, Renney has referred to his three lines as 1, 1A and 1B. Sounds like a Chinese menu.The fourth line will be Dubinsky, Hollweg and Orr the designated hitters and fighters, all two minutes of them.

ICINGS:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"We Haven't Found Our Game Yet"

We Have Not Found Our Game Yet
No, that wasn't Joe Torre who said that. It was said by the captain of the star studded Rangers, Jaromir Jagr. And pray tell me when is this game going to be found. Where is it lost? Is it lost in the bowels of Madison Square Garden? Is it on the stage of the WaMu Theater along with all those other rock stars. Because that is what the Rangers are, rock stars, right? They must be rock stars because the game of hockey seems to be passing them by.

It is sad coming out of the Garden with my two sons and grandson and hear the fans making statements like: "We outshot them". "That 52 seconds killed us". "We played them even up, except for the 52 seconds". "Our defense is strong". The fact of the matter is that the Rangers are not ready for prime time and are not in the class of the Ottawa Senators and that is one of the teams they must beat to win the Eastern Conference. Hell right now we are not in the class of the Islanders, who have one third the talent of the Rangers but 100% more grit and a coach who knows how to adjust to a game situation.

The Rangers are tied with the Ottawa Senators for the best GAA in the Eastern Conference this young season, 2.0. However, Jagr, Shanahan, Gomez, Straka, Drury, Prucha, Callahan and company have scored all of ten goals in five games. After going 3-8 on the PP against the Capitals the Rangers returned to form and were 0-6 on the PP last night. This year they are 3-29 on the PP. However, the tic-tac-toe is working beautifully.

Marek Malik continues to distinguish himself by his feeble and tentative play. However all three Senator goals were caused by Ranger defensive breakdowns and while that in itself is a problem that soon won't be corrected how do you explain the lack of goals from this high powered collection of all stars? The offense is dismal and lacks any pattern. The power play is a complete shambles. Other teams shoot from the point, our plan is to pass. It reminds me of my kids little league basketball teams. The coach always admonished, "No shots until everybody touches the ball". But Pock sits while Malik continues to give the puck away. Marc Staal gets about twelve minutes of ice time while Malik gets over twenty. Nothing will change soon, not with this coach.

However, soon we will find our game. Ah yes, there will be a brighter day tomorrow and we will find our game. Tom Renney said it, "You can't kid yourself into wins". Whom is he kidding.

ICINGS: Had a great day in the city today celebrating my young son's birthday with his friend, my other son and my wife. We went to Angelo's in Little Italy and the food was fabulous. The pasta dishes were a meal unto themselves and there were really no reasons to order an appetizer but we did anyway. Great food, great time and great company.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rangers Over Power Caps

Just when we thought the Rangers would go O for a gazillion on the power play, last night, Scotty Gomez broke the schnide with his first goal of the year and the Rangers first PP goal of the year and the Caps first goal given up on a penalty kill this year. A lot of firsts. There were four PP goals in the first period and the Rangers scored three of them and basically that was the game as the goalies took over after that. The Rangers were 3-8 on the PP and the Caps were 1-5. "Ollie The Goalie" Kolzig was outstanding for the Caps keeping them in the game with a 38 save night and winning third star honors. Straka (2) and Rozsival (2) were the other goal scorers for the Rangers. Jagr had three assists and was voted the number three star. Gomez was number two star. Lundqvist was, well he was Lundqvist, with 24 saves but eleven big ones in the third period.

If truth be told the Rangers won because my wife, Maryann, was there. She has run her personal game winning streak to eight games. The last eight home games she has attended we have won included last year's fourth game against Buffalo which tied the series. Bad news. She is not attending tonight's game. The pressure is on for me to swap spots with her, but I won't do it. No one in Ranger fandom has suffered as much as I and that streak will continue.

The lineup returned to normalcy last night. Paul Mara was back in the lineup and was paired with Marc Staal, who quietly, is doing his job. Each got over 13 minutes of ice time and about a minute and a half of PK and did well. The stars on the backline were Tyutin and Girardi. Both have elevated their games. Tyutin had two shots and four hits while Girardi had five shots and five hits. Girardi is making his presence felt. Dubinsky had one shot on goal in over seven minutes of ice time. His shot was a breakaway when he was tripped and crosschecked and no call. The crosscheck was by old friend Tom Poti who was booed all night. Blair Betts had a breakaway also on a beautiful play he created but he was stopped by Kolzig who always seems to play great at the Garden.

ICINGS: Jagr passed Paul Coffey on the all time point scoring list and now will set his sights on Ray Bourque for tenth place. He is only 48 points behind him. Quite an achievement. A few thousand empty seats last night. Did not the corporate guys show up or is Friday night too much of a party night? Gotta run and catch my grandson Nicholas's hockey game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Power Puffs

Isles win 2-1, October 10, 2007
I was going to write this last night but fell asleep. I don't know what was worse, the game or the calling of it by VS. I guess the Islander fans would call it a good game, they won. I have watched the Rangers play three boring hockey games, save seven minutes in game one. Between the Rangers lack of execution and the trapping of the other teams, the games have been stinkos. And we have been paying top dollar for these contests. I saw the first one live and the other two on TV and it doesn't matter, it's the same odor. The first game was tempered by all the hoopla preceding the game and the play of Henrik Lundqvist. Ah, The Ultimate Prince. I keep having this nightmare that he leaves us after the season and signs with the Devils to take over from Brodeur. How does that nightmare grab you? As I write this I am listening to a CD, "Souvenir di Sorrento' by various Italian artists. It helps keep my sanity.

I know it's early and we have only played three games but last nights game was lost when Tom Renney, philosopher extraordinaire, wrote the starting lineup. For the second straight game Paul Mara was benched. For the second straight game Blair Betts was moved up to the third line and Brandon Dubinsky was moved to the fourth line. For the third straight game Michal Rozsival and Martin Staka played the point on the power play for most of the PP time. Two guys who refuse to shoot the puck but insist on passing. They are the tic-tac in the tic-tac-toe PP offense this team has. The Rangers were 0-6 last night and 0-15 for the season. But that is okay. When its PP time Tom Renney rounds up the usual suspects and sends them out and they bore us to death. And Paul Mara sits. Why?

Paul Mara was a big part of last years turn around. While Paul is a tad slow, not slower than Malik, he is not afraid to mix it up, Malik wont. Mara has a damn good shot from the point, Malik doesn't. Renney says he is playing Strudwick because he has a sandpaper mentality. That's good. Have him replace Malik, who has a creampuff mentality. Outside of his willingness to drop the gloves Strudwick has no advantage over Mara as a defenseman and offensive player. Renney plays players on what he thinks the other team is going to do not what the Rangers want to do. He is a reactive coach not a proactive coach.

I love Blair Betts. He is gritty, a great penalty killer, blocks shots, wins faceoffs but is not an offensive center. His presence on the third line is retarding the growth of Prucha and Callahan. With Dubinsky at center this line could well become the sleeper offensive line for the Rangers. We are supposed to be developing young players like Dubinsky. How can you do that when you give him all of 2:58 of ice time. Put Dubinsky back on the third line and give that line at least 12 minutes a night. Right now the Rangers are turning into a two line team and that is not good.

The Islanders scored the first goal with 4 seconds left in the first period on a three on three. Malik was behind the center instead of being up on the line. He was totally out of the play. If he is that stupid why wasn't the coaching staff yelling at him to get up on the line? Nobody speaks Czech on the bench? Malik and coaching staff were both asleep. Malik then combined with Blair Betts to put the Rangers down five to three and Bryan Barard put in the game winner. The Rangers also had a five on three but they spent the time passing while the Islanders shot.

So another 2-1 loss to the Islanders. Jaromir Jagr has not scored a goal against the Islanders in the last five games. He did pick it up in the third period but the Rangers have to learn to pick it up early. DiPietro made 36 saves, same as Gerber did for the Senators against the Rangers. To be honest, the number of shots are more imposing than the shots themselves.

Now I know that the Rangers are better than this and that they will soon start scoring goals, lots of them but if Tom Renney's early season decisions are a glimpse of what is in store for us, we are in trouble. We can not win with just two lines. We can not win with the same perimeter game we had last year. We can not win if we do not give the young players meaningful ice time. Last year we waited to put the young players in toward the end. We can't do that this time, we have to play them early and often. Finally, we can't win with Tom Renney as coach.

ICINGS: Thomas Pock was benched for the third straight game. Thomas Pock,who played so well down the stretch, especially in the Atlanta series. He played so well against Atlanta that he was benched against Buffalo. He was benched for Karel Rachunek who along with Malik lost two games for us against Buffalo. I championed Pock all year last year and felt he was getting screwed. However, he re-upped with the Rangers last year and that was the wrong move. He knew he wasn't going to get a fair shake from Renney and should have never re-signed. Thomas, you made the wrong choice and now you must live with it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Yankees Go Quitely Again

I know this is a hockey blog, but just a few words on the Yankees. I've been a Yankee fan as long as I've been a Ranger fan. I like the Yankees, but I love the Rangers. I used to love the Yankees too, but then Steinbrenner bought them.

The Yankees must stop the 'buy the star' mentality and keep bringing up the youngsters. The future of the Yanks are in the arms of Hughes, Kennedy, Chamberlain and Wang. The Yankees disgraced themselves in the signing of Clemens. Clemens also disgraced himself in this deal. The Yankees must look at their positional players and people like Giambi, Abreu and A-Rod, yes A-Rod should be let go. I for one am tired of his meaningless record breaking homers which still result in one and out come playoff time. I want to see the Andy Phillips and Shelley Duncans join the Canos and Cabreras to lead the Yankees back.

The other thing, the Yankees must stop having knee jerk reactions to everthing the Red Sox are contemplating. Let the Red Sox bankrupt themselves and pay the A-Rod the $30-35 million per he craves. Joe Torre? Joe, it is time to go. You have built up a record that ranks along with other great Yankee Managers like Stengal, McCarthy and Huggins. You are now a legend. Retire and enjoy. Too many players have become too comfortable with you and a few need a kick in the butt. However, I don't think Tony La Russa is the answer. I think Joe Girardi would be an excellent manager and should be given a shot.

So goodbye baseball, goodbye football as my Jets are also dead and let's concentrate on my first and only love in sports, the New York Rangers. Interesting week coming up with the Isles, Caps and Sens.

ICINGS:

Good-bye Joe Russo.

Joe Russo is apparently the road alias of Joe Torre. Joe has to worry about those manager groupies.

The Smoking Gun reported:

In a story this week in The Village Voice, reporter Neil deMause matched aliases with some actual Yankees by comparing the invoice with a separate key that he examined while sifting through documents submitted by the team to New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation, which oversees the club's Yankee Stadium lease. Here's a Who's Who from the 2005 squad: Johnny Drama (Jeter); Simon Phoenix (Mike Mussina); Bruce Almighty (Don Mattingly); Ricky Ricardo (Jorge Posada); Joe Saturday (Hideki Matsui); Sam Adams (Randy Johnson); Richard Long (Bernie Williams); Turd Ferguson (Jaret Wright); and Austin Powers (Ruben Sierra). We're not sure why outfielder Matt Lawton used the "Eleven Fifty" alias, but Luis Sojo apparently went by "Harry Pelotas" because the fake surname translates to "balls" in Spanish. As for the true identities of Johnny Blaze, Ray Charles, Davey Crockett, Jack Daniels, Payne N. Deneck, Fyfe, Bo Jackson, Bruce Lee, Leon, Ghost Ryder, Charlie Wattsizname, and Randy White, well, that's a mystery. But we're pretty sure that "Joe Russo" is manager Joe Torre and that "Alex Emanuel" is Alex Rodriguez, who appears to use his actual middle name as his phony surname.
Do you think the Rangers get rooms like this on the road? It looks like Joe got the penthouse. [click to enlarge hotel bill, 2 pgs]

NY Yankees hotel bill with aliases

NY Yankees Hotel bill with aliases

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ottawa Swoon Song

There is something about the Rangers going north of the border. They are 3-14 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa and we all know their dismal record in Montreal and Toronto is not much better. And it doesn't matter how good or how bad they play, they always lose. Maybe we should cross the border and say we are draft dodgers and they will treat us better.

Henrik Lundqvist must be saying, "Dear Lord, protect me from my friends, I can handle my enemies." Michal Rozsival and Marek Malik gave their best impression of two drunken sailors in Scully Square when Mike Fisher torched Rozsival and Malik left Lundqvist naked as Andre Meszaros scored on a bad Ranger line change. No surprise there, we see that often only this time Lundqvist couldn't make the save of the year. Chris Drury was officially introduced to the Rangers when Strudwick picked him off to allow Daniel Alfredsson to score, and that was it, all in the space of 57 seconds. Maybe Struds still thinks that Drury is on the other team. As they say in that other non contact sport; game, set, match. Imagine this. The Rangers played seven good minutes out of sixty against Florida and won and 57 bad seconds against Ottawa and lose.

The other story is the loss of Sean Avery on an elbow to the shoulder by the old Lady Binger himself, Chris Neil. There is no doubt in my mind that Neil was going for the head and missed, no doubt. He also elbowed Petr Prucha in the head. The guy should be suspended for an attempt to injure. Neil got all of 15:29 of ice time and spent 13 minutes in the penalty box. He said he was disappointed in the penalties because the coaches congratulated him after the hits, and he said the hits were clean. Since when is elbowing a clean hit. So there are no goon coaches? I guess very few people in hockey are sad that Avery is hurt. I'm sure the Islanders will miss him Wednesday. Naturally no Ranger rushed to Avery's defense but Strudwick did challenge him later in the period and in my opinion Strudwick handled himself well, bloodied Neil and I think won the fight. Small consolation. By the way, where was Colton Orr? He spent all of 4:55 on the ice which I think is :55 above his normal average. You would think he would challenge Neil, no? What the hell do I know.

While Lundqvist was very good, 31-33, Martin Gerber, was perfect for Ottawa, 35-35. And all the Rangers big guys had plenty of opportunities but to no avail. While the consensus may be for Hossa to take over Avery's spot I'd rather see the Rangers bring up Nigel Dawes who would fit better with Gomez and Shanahan. Of course, the Rangers have no replacement for a guy who is basically the Rangers spine and does so many things needed to win a hockey game.

ICINGS: Hockey is a major sport. Don't believe it. Of the three major dailies only the Daily News covered the game with John Dellapina while the Post and Newsday sent wire stories.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sleeping Giant Wakens

Sleepwalking through the first two periods and booed off the ice after the second period, the Rangers exploded for four third period goals in a span of seven minutes to stun the Florida Panthers, 5-2, in the Rangers home opener. There were five different goal scorers for the Rangers.

Michal Rozsival gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 37 seconds into the game on a beautiful feed from Chris Drury , who was voted the number one star with the game winning goal and two assists. However, the Rangers were down 2-1 going into the third period on goals by Brett McLean and Nathan Horton.

The Rangers electrified The Faithful in the third period when Prucha tied it on a nice feed from Malik; Drury with the go ahead from Malik; Callahan stealing the puck and roofing it past Vokoun and finally Straka putting in the rebound of Malik's shot. My God, who was that masked man impersonating Brian Leetch? Malik with his three assists was voted number three star but early in the game he was saved from embarassment by Lundqvist who made two great saves on Malik's miscues. Hey, there is nothing new there but we'll take the three assists. At this rate he will wind up with a plus 60 while giving up an equal amount of pucks. Thank God for Lundqvist who got the biggest ovation of the night.

A sign of how good Lundqvist is and how blase we are about his performance is that with 27 saves on 29 shots he was not voted one of the stars. But this is what we expect from our Prince. Jagr with two assists , was the number two star. There are two givens on this Ranger team and they are Lundqvist and Jagr. If the new additions come along this should be one exciting and interesting year.

While the second line of Gomez-Shanahan-Avery did not score, they were quite active. Gomez who looked over-pumped showed some of his skating form on a couple of end-to-end rushes. I haven't seen moves like that since Max Bentley. Sean Avery is still the darling of the team and his name was chanted the most during the night for his feisty play. He received the loudest ovation after Lundqvist, Jagr and Shanahan.

The young third line of Dubinsky-Prucha-Callahan is scary. This line is going to be a problem for most teams to defend against. How many checking lines can an opposing team have? Renney tinkered with this line in the third period switching Bettes for Dubinsky.

The fourth line of Bettes-Hollweg-Orr were active, aggressive and created chances. The defense on a whole was good though Girardi and Malik had their moments and Staal started out tentative but improved as the game progressed. It was a good night with reservations. The third period showed how explosive this team can be. The first two periods, who knows. Getting the kinks out? Over pumped? First goal came too easy? Must question why this team could only get nine shots on goal in the first two periods? However, we did get two points. Questions will come later. God bless Henrik Lundqvist.

ICINGS: With his two points Jagr moved to within one of Paul Coffey for tenth place on all time point scorers. Jagr will pass legends Ray Bourque and Phil Esposito and sit in eight place at years end about 100 points behind ex teammate Mario Lemieux. Brian Leetch almost stole the night with his surprise appearance and dropped the ceremonial first puck to a thundering ovation. Marcel Hossa was a surprise scratch along with Thomas Pock and Jason Strudwick.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Arriverdecchi Italia

San Silvestro in Capite on Piazza San Silvestro
Well the eighteen day odyssey is over and it's time to return to reality, but as my old co-worker friend Al Connor used to remind me, maybe the vacation was reality and the daily hum drum was, daily hum drum. The highlights will last a lifetime. Renewing the marriage vows in a church in Rome, San Silvestro, in front of an Irish priest. The Forum and Spanish Steppes of Rome. The majesty and history of Genoa. The beauty and friendliness of Sorrento. Scenic Sicily. Historical Ravenna. The marvels and wonders of the sinking city of Venice, the pigeons, and its neighbor Lido, which basically closes from November to March. Malta, Corsica, Monte Carlo, Greece, Croatia and Montenegro. And of course, the wonderful food. The luxurious cruise ship, The Royal Princess, with its wonderful crew and passengers. My son, who arranged it all, and his friend and my daughter and her husband, who surprised us by showing up at the hotel in Rome. The memory will last a lifetime.

Hockey? The Rangers did the predictable. They got rid of Kasparaitis early. It was a foregone conclusion with his salary. But Kaspar is gone and Strudwick stays. Huh? Marc Staal looks like he will get an early chance. He may be paired with Paul Mara. Look for about 8-10 minutes a game and hopefully he can expand that, if not, then back to Hartford. Renney seems tentative on the Staal move. Dubinsky will be the third line center and that is fine. How long will that last? So two more youngsters will make the team, initially. The assests are many with the addition of Drury and Gomez, and the youth of Staal and Dubinsky and of course the rock, Henrik Lundqvist. The debits are plentiful. Soft defense, questionable penalty killing and Tom Renney.

Still recovering from the vacation, so more hockey later.

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