Friday, November 30, 2007

No Avery, No Sweat!

When the announcement came that Sean Avery would be out up to two weeks, Brendan Shanahan opined that this would be an opportunity for someone else to step up. After all with Avery in the lineup the Rangers are 9-4-1 and without him they are 4-5-1, so the necessity for someone else to step up.

Not one, but three individuals stepped up and it was the three individuals we have been waiting for what seems forever, to step up. Jaromir Jagr with his sixth goal and an assist, Chris Drury with his sixth goal, a power play, and an assist and Scott Gomez with his fifth, also a PP goal. They were ably assisted by two other vets, Shanahan and Straka who got two assists each. The rookie Dubinsky got the fourth goal of the game plus an assist as the Rangers could have scored another three or four goals against DiPietro who did a lot of flopping tonight and lost his stick a couple of times.

Jagr, Dubinsky and Drury were the three stars, in that order, tonight. The power play which was 1-14 in the three previous games against the Isles, was 2-8 tonight and they were shooting and moving the puck with ease. The Islanders were 1-8 on the PP. The Rangers outshot the Isles 31-24 and the best part of the offense was that ice time was fairly evenly distributed.

Only one forward got over twenty minutes of ice time and that honor went to Chris Drury with 21:05 minutes. However, Drury put in 5:16 on the PP and 3:41 on the PK. Petre Prucha got 14:10 and actually got all of 2:04 minutes on the PP. As luck would have it, he got no shots on goal all night. I'm expecting a call from coach clueless tomorrow so that I could explain to him why Prucha got no shots on goal tonight.

My son remarked to me at game's end that even though Lundqvist gave up only two goals he wasn't recognized as one of the stars of the game. Is he being taken for granted? I think its the recognition of his status as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Since the end of the lockout, starting the 2005-06 season Lundqvist ranks 5th in games won with 79, Brodeur leads with 101. Lundqvist ranks 2nd in GAA with 2.22, Hasek leads with 2.15. Lundqvist ranks 2nd in save percentage with .921, Cristobel Huet leads with .923. Lundqvist ranks 6th in shutouts with 11, Brodeur leads with 18. So hopefully we will be privileged to watch Lundqvist climb up in the standings over the next 10-15 years.

For one night at least, the Rangers played the way we envisioned they would be playing with the personnel they have. Can they keep it going? Is Jaromir Jagr ready to go on a roll? Can Straka keep Jagr going? Are Drury and Gomez ready to put up the numbers that they have in the past? This may sound like a promo for a soap opera but think about it for a second. The Rangers are a soap opera. They have the talent to blow their rivals away in the Atlantic Division and make a serious run for the Cup. However getting this collection of stars to play as a complete unit is taking more time then most of us thought. For now, lets be happy with tonight's performance and worry about Saturday's game at Ottawa.

ICINGS: Drury now has scored goals in three straight games and has 199 goals for his career. For the first time this year Jagr has scored goals in two straight games. Rozsival put in the Islanders first goal by trying to put the puck under Lundqvist, and he put it past him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Illusion

Rose colored glasses don't see coach clueless
Webster's definition of illusion. An unreal or misleading image presented to the vision; a deceptive appearance.

This is what the Rangers are under, the "leadership" of coach clueless, aided and abetted by the main stream drive-by media. Even some of my readers have jumped aboard this bandwagon. Anonymous is waiting for my bovine statement when the Rangers go ten games over .500. Maybe I should sing the Whiffenpoof Song. The usually reliable and sanguine, The Dark Ranger, is ecstatic that the Rangers are tied with the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division. This might be more a personal rather than a professional opinion.

Why this euphoria? As stated, the Rangers are tied with the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, are three points ahead of the Islanders, while the Islanders have three games in hand, and generally the Atlantic Division is one of the weaker divisions in the NHL. Look, I take a back seat to no one in my love and loyalty for this team but one fact stands out. This is the most underachieving Ranger team since 1987-88 and it is one of the most talented Ranger teams, on paper, since the Cup Champions of 1994. So what is wrong here?

If Lou Lamoriello were the GM of the Rangers, coach clueless would be fired. The Stealth GM of the Rangers has put together an offensive powerhouse. The addition of two proven clutch players in Chris Drury and Scotty Gomez added to rookies Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes and Marc Staal along with young carry overs like Petre Prucha, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi make this as formidable a team that the NHL has seen in a while. With future hall of famers like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan and all world goalie Henrik Lundqvist, how could this team miss? The coach has no idea how to get these stars functioning as a well oiled machine. That's what this team should be, a machine.

Goal scoring or the lack of it is the problem. There is only one team that has less goals than the Rangers and that is the Islanders. The Rangers have outscored the Islanders 53-51 but the Islanders have three games in hand. Looks like we are in for a dozy Thursday night when these two juggernauts clash. Bring your no doze pills, you may need them. The big culprit for the season and against the Islanders has been the Rangers powerless play.

The Rangers rank, and I really mean rank, 25th in the NHL on the PP with a 13.9%. Let's not complain about the refs hosing the Rangers either. The Rangers have the third most PP opportunities in the NHL with 122. Only Carolina with 127 and Columbus with 125 have had more chances. The powerless play really shows up big against the Islanders. The Rangers have lost three one goal games to the Islanders scoring all of 4 goals in those three games and the Ranger powerless play is 1-14 against the Islanders.

And what does coach clueless say to all this? After going 0-6 against the Stars, I mistakenly called it 0-9 in my last post, the clueless one came up with this remark which should cement his cluelessness for all time: "Believe it or not, it's better than it's been." I don't believe it. It's 0-6 and it's better than it's been. The clueless one constantly laments that the unit passes too much, doesn't put traffic in front of the net and doesn't shoot enough but he rounds up the usual suspects who pass too much, don't go in front of the net and don't shoot. The next time you are at a game count the number of times on the PP that Jagr and Rozsival pass the puck back and forth to each other.

And therein lies another problem. The team seems to be divided on how they want to play this game. How they want to function on the power play. Jagr, if he had his way, would spend the entire shift trying to find the most perfect pass to feed to some player who is hopefully in position to score. Shanahan is from the old school, shoot first and ask questions later. Jagr is the official captain, Shanahan is the de facto captain. Jagr skates to the bench after a disputed play, Shanahan skates to the ref, demanding an explanation. Who does coach clueless talk to on the bench when there is a disputed play? Brendan Shanahan.

Coach clueless insists that the team think defense first. Not playing defense is not an option he has decreed. Reads like a double negative, which is our offense. Great. Some of the best offensive players in the game, Jagr, Shanahan, Drury, Gomez, Straka you name them must forego their offensive skills to play and think defense first. Is it any wonder our power play is a mess? Is it any wonder we can't score goals? Is it any wonder we are struggling in a weak Atlantic Division that we should be running away from? Coach clueless has no idea on how an offense should function. It is truly a wonder that coach clueless continues to coach the Rangers. Why not. Look at the GM and the owner.

An illusion. A deceptive appearance.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Be Better, Be Tighter"

Those are the words of coach clueless after today's debacle. I call it a debacle because we can't get out of our own way in the offensive zone, were 0-9 on the power play, and despite putting 41 shots on goal we still passed up too many shots and the usual suspects continued to man the power play to no avail. Petr Prucha was again screwed which means the PP and the team suffered. Prucha got 10:47 of ice time and zero time on the power play and yet not one of the experts at MSG and the drive by media asked coach clueless the question. Why doesn't Prucha get power play time?

But according to coach clueless we have to play the game tighter which infers it was defense that cost us the game. I guess we are supposed to win games when we score two goals. Last game we lost to Florida 3-2 in the shootout. The previous game we beat Tampa Bay 2-1. The game before a 2-1 loss to the Islanders. So we have to play it tighter. How about, we have to open it up? How about, we should have won 6-3 today? So now we have lost three out of the last four and our next game is against the Islanders and it's Nolan against coach clueless so we are already down 2-0.

The first goal by Dallas was a gift by Gomez who refused to pull the trigger in the slot and had to make one more deke or pass. He coughed up the puck and trapped the whole Ranger team as Jussi Jokinen beat Lundqvist on a breakaway to tie it at one. After Shanny put us ahead, Loui Eriksson broke in alone on Lundqvist as Hossa waved at him and it was 2-2. The killer and winner was delivered by Brendan Morrow courtesy of Ribeiro undressing Girardi and putting a gimme on Morrow's stick. Since we already had gotten our quota of two goals the game was effectively over. Oh yes, Jagr had scored the first goal to give us a 1-0 lead. However, in keeping with the mentality of this team it was actually a pass that went off of a Star defenseman. Jagr looked annoyed that his pass didn't make it through and that he actually scored.

After the game Lundqvist thought he should have stopped the second shot. I don't know about that, but what I do know is that he should not get any more games off until he literally collapses. He doesn't look razor sharp after he returns from a game off. He insists he is not tired and is ready to play every game so why not trust him and play him until he drops. Who knows, maybe he does make that second save and even that first one and then coach clueless would brag what a great game the team played without going over their allotment of goals. By the way, the PK bent, giving up 2-5. Maybe we have to tighten the PK up.

So this is what the Rangers and their fans are up against. We will continue to play defense first at all costs, score a goal or two, and not make any critical mistakes. Go over this roster and you tell me who is incapable of making mistakes? And Malik isn't even in the lineup. I have to go dig up old films of the Sabres and the Devils and find where was the event that turned two pretty good hockey players like Drury and Gomez into tentative mushes. You don't think it's the coach? Nah!

ICINGS: Larry Brooks reports that Pat Burns is fully recovered and itching to get back into coaching. Very interesting. Nigel Dawes had a four pointer in Hartford the other night, 2 goals and 2 assists. What was it he was supposed to improve on by going back to Hartford? And Hossa continues to play. In six games with Hartford Dawes has 3 goals and 7 assists. He had four goals with the Rangers. Hossa has zero goals and 3 assists in 20 games. Thomas Pock had a goal and two assists in the same game and is 1-7-8 in 15 games.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Valley Steals A Point

So nothing changes. The goalie stands on his head, making 33 saves, 19 in the first period and the Rangers powerless play goes 1-6 getting all of 7 shots on goal in over 10 minutes of PP time. Jaromir Jagr in 22:31 of ice time got 2 shots on goal, plus one goal post. Wow! Scotty Gomez, who is starting to resemble Michael Nylander without the points, got 21:32 minutes of ice time with 2 shots on goal. Double Wow! Petr Prucha got 11:26 of ice time with zero time, nada, zilch, on the PP. Coach clueless in his infinite wisdom could not find a single second to get Petr Prucha on the ice on the PP.

Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti continue to give their Pollyanna impressions of how good Jagr is playing when in over 22 minutes of ice time he gets all of 2 shots on goal. Dick Button, the famed old Olympic figure skater would do better. So we get, Jagr is really skating well Sam. Yeah Joe, he is at his best tonight. If this is his best, we are in deep trouble. Maybe he should be put on the third line. The shootout was pathetic with only Shanahan trying to score without a deke. All the others went to Vokoun's right with weak shots.

By the way, now that Hossa has stopped scoring on the shootout isn't it time to send him to Hartford and bring back Dawes. The apologists are telling us that he has good chemistry with Jagr. What chemistry? Jagr has two goals and Hossa has none. Some chemistry. Valiquette played great again but the big O let him down. Is there a more offensive offense than the Rangers? So tomorrow we get Dallas who have won four in a row and have outscored their opponents 13-3 in those games. No sweat, we have the Jagr-Hossa chemistry working for us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

"Thanksgiving Day is coming and Mr. Turkey said, how very careful I must be or I will lose my head." Headless Turkey.

It was quite a couple of days. Maryann and I trekked into the city, met my son and his friend, had dinner at 'Cesca's on West 75th street and then went to the Beacon Theater to see The Brian Setzer Orchestra. What a band! Benney, Glenn, TD, Jimmy, Stan, Woody, The Duke and The Count would have loved this guy who truly is a worthy successor to the big bands of old. It was called a Christmas show but it was much more than that. He played some oldies in his rockin' style like "Jump Jive and Wail", "White Christmas", and " Jingle Bells". Then he played Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" and a dynamite version of "The Nutcracker Suite" which surpassed the Les Brown version of the same tune. Then it was his other hits like "Dirty Boogie" and "Rock This Town" which brought down the house. He played The Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ prior to this show and will wrap up the New York week at The North Fork Theater in Westbury on Saturday night. Catch him if you like, as I do, the jazz/rock style he plays. The band has a kind of similiarity to the old Louie Prima band with a lot of fun singing by Setzer, who does some scat on "As Long As I'm Singin'." Brian is not as dynamic as Prima was and who became Mr. Las Vegas in the fifties and sixties. However, I believe Setzer's band is superior to Prima's band musically. Now all the old guys will call me and accuse me of heresy.

Oh yes hockey! We got to my son's home in time to catch the Rangers in sixty. Thank God. I don't think I could have watched the whole game. Before my very old, tired eyes the Rangers are morphing into the NJ Devils. The scoring? Hah! Tyutin scored, which gave the Ranger defensemen the last six goals the Rangers have scored. The winning goal was scored by Colton Orr and the film should be saved and replayed every day at practice. Orr skated into the Lightning zone with a defenseman in front of him so Orr shot the puck, toward the oppositions net, and scored. Yes, you heard right he shot the puck at the opponents net. He didn't whirl, do a 360 and pass the puck back to no one. He shot the puck. He didn't make the safe play and put the puck into the corner. He shot the puck. He didn't pass the puck laterally to the center ice where a Ranger is usually a step late. He shot the puck. Amazing! Shoot that puck. Score that goal.

Henrik Lundqvist should have had his fifth shutout but it was ruined by coach clueless who had Jaromir Jagr on the ice with less than a minute to play and Tampa Bay with six skaters. But this is coach clueless's M.O. Remember last year against Buffalo in the playoffs, the last time Chris Drury scored a meaningful goal? Coach clueless wants to see Jagr get an empty netter because he obviously can't score full net. Well he could score if he would shoot. Jags, watch the Colton Orr tape. You face the goalie, you lift your stick, you bring it forward and it will hit the puck and send it propelling toward the other team's goalie. Oops, sorry, I forgot defense first.

We ended the holiday at my daughter's house in Holmdel, NJ where eight people had a very enjoyable diner and three stupid men watched the Jets get trampled. Come to think of it, they had trouble scoring also. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Powerless

The highlight of the evening for us was watching my grandson Nicholas and his friend Matthew riding the Zamboni's between the first and second periods. The game was a lowlight from beginning to end.

Powerless. The PP was 0-5 last night and the five on five was equally atrocious. The PK bent a little giving up one goal, 1-6, but kind of made up for it by scoring a shorthanded goal by Rozsival who leads the team with seven goals scored. Do you believe that? Michal Rozsival leads the team in goals scored and may be the only Ranger to crack 25 goals this year. Jagr and Drury again were pointless and almost shotless again. They each got one shot on goal and Jagr didn't get his until late in the game.

The Rangers had one last shot, drawing a penalty with 1:24 left in the game. I told my son Chris that coach clueless should put in the six defensemen with Girardi and Mara at the points, Staal, Tyutin and Strudwick up front and Rozsival in the slot off the faceoff circle. Coach clueless rounded up the usual suspects and they made a lot of noise in front of the net but that was it. After the game the philosopher belched out about responsibility, caring, dedication and I think Thursday is Thanksgiving. Blah, blah, blah.

You have to remember that when we play the Islanders it's basically Ted Nolan against coach clueless. I figure that gives the Isles a two goal lead to start the game. We have lost three games to the Islanders this year, all by one goal. We have scored all of four goals, an average of 1.33 goals/game against a team that gives up 2.65 goals/game. In fact if you remove the Rangers from the equation the Islanders have given up almost 3 goals per game, 2.93.

Ah, but we are still in first place. Really! The Islanders are three points behind the Rangers and have four games in hand. Who the hell makes up these unbalanced schedules? But it's too early to worry about first place with three quarters of the season still to play. Lets worry about a moribund power play and a clueless coach that does not know how to fix it. There are enough worries there to last the rest of the year. The power play ranks 22nd and is falling despite having the second most opportunities in the league. Where will it end? Round up the usual suspects.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

D-Lightful

The Rangers seem to have found their offense. The only problem, if you want to call it that, it's that the defense is now the offense. For the second game in a row the defense put on an offensive display that was supposed to come from the highly touted, highly paid forwards. Rozsival with two, Girardi with one and Jason Strudwick with the game winner in OT. The defense put 12 of the Rangers total of 26 shots on goal. Tyutin led the shot parade with 4 and tied with Hollweg for the most number of hits with 5. Besides the 4 goals the defense had 3 assists. One of the goals, by Rozsival was a short handed goal.

The defense even saved the putrid power play of another schneid with a goal by Girardi, assisted by Prucha and Tyutin. Avery and Drury were the other PP lineman which was a departure from the 1 and 1A tic-tac-toe tag team that usually mans the power play. The power play was 1-6 and a day of reckoning is approaching when the futility of the PP is going to start costing us games. The Ranger took a total of seven shots on goal in 11:41 minutes of PP time. Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury had no shots on goal for the entire game with a combined total of 37:59 minutes of ice time. Instead of Drury bringing a strong offense to the Rangers he has fallen into the tic-tac-toe trap and has become another pass first, play defense and maybe shoot, if its not going to cause a breakaway by the other team. In fact, at times he looks lost and he certainly doesn't look happy. I never see the guy smiling.

By why so gloomy Pundit? We are in first place. Twenty games in, is not a time for chest pounding. The Rangers rank 20th in PP scoring with a 14.3%. The saving grace is that they rank 4th on the penalty kill with a 89.8%, and they have Henrik Lundqvist. One quarter of the way into the season and coach clueless still has not found a way to get the PP working. After twenty games the five top scorers for the Rangers with their total goals and PP goals are: Jagr 4-1, Gomez 4-2, Drury 3-1, Shanahan 6-4 and Rozsival 6-3. So you have Michal Rozsival tied with the goal lead with six and second in PP goals with 3. But everything is great because we are in first place. The Islanders are up next on Monday night. See you there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Shootout Twins

So there was Sean Avery with about eight seconds left in OT last night and skating toward Henrik Lundqvist. Skating toward Lundqvist? He should have been skating toward Biron, the Flyer goalie, right? No, Avery knew that a shootout was playing into the Rangers hands because they had the shootout champ in Henrik Lundqvist. And so it came to pass that the Rangers won the shootout on Brendan Shanahan's goal and Henrik Lundqvist's perfection.

The Rangers are now 3-1 in shootouts losing only to Boston, 1-0. They have beaten Toronto, the Devils and now the Flyers. Lundqvist has faced 12 shots and only one has gotten by him. Last night he stoped Briere, Richards and Upshall. Shanahan scored his second shootout goal to give the Rangers the win. He also tallied one in the game as his line is starting to smoke with Gomez and Avery. No surprise the Rangers who are riding a four game winning streak have lost only one game since Avery returned to the lineup.

The Drury line is also clicking as Drury is doing everything right except score a goal. His beautiful takeaway, feed to Prucha and driving to the net to create a screen, as Prucha put in his second of the year, was a thing of beauty. It wasn't one of the Rangers best games of the year but it shows how much this team has improved that it wins ugly games. The young guys are really making a difference. Staal is playing like a veteran and not like a 20 year old.

Lundqvist also gave up a couple of gimmees, however when the chips were down in the shootout he was on top of his game, stopping Briere on a stick check, getting Richards to shot high and making a save on Upshall. Maybe the rest didn't help. Petr Prucha's ice time improved getting 12 plus minutes and he led all forwards with three shots on goal. The defense was quite active on offense. Besides Tyutin's goal the D put thirteen of the teams twenty nine shots on goal. The increased offense by the defense along with more ice time for the youngsters is paying off. Should be interesting to see who sits when Straka, Callahan and Malik return. I know who I would sit.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ranger Romper Room

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Romper RoomMost of you remember the kiddie show, Romper Room. It ran from the fifties to the nineties and had kids in a classroom setting, supervised by adults, having a whale of a time. Last night we had a rerun of the show as the kids, Dawes, Dubinsky and Staal had a heck of a time, each scoring a goal, supervised by the older kids, Jagr, Gomez and Shanahan.

Marc Staal played a great game. He is a calming influence on the defense, especially on the first pairing. It would be a shame and a move of utter stupidity if Malik goes back on the first pairing when he comes back. That happened last year when Pock was dumped for Rachunek after the first round sweep of Atlanta. Staal's reaction on Vishnevski's hit of Prucha was priceless and one not too often seen by Ranger teammates. He immediately skated by Vishnevski and dumped him drawing an interference penalty. It was a good penalty.

In the process the Rangers stopped Broduer who was 9-0-1 against the Rangers in the last ten games at the Meadowlands, from getting his 500th career win. The Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Devils this year and Brodeur is 0-2-1, in the pervase NHL scoring method. Since Lundqvist's appearance on the hockey scene in New York his record against the Devils is 8-2-3. Conversely, Brodeur's record aginst the Rangers is 5-6-2. Lundqvist has forged a sea change in how the Rangers now approach the Devils.

The Rangers move on to Philly tonight for a first place battle with the Flyers who are one point ahead of the Rangers. My only complaint about last night is the ice time afforded Petr Prucha. Last night Prucha got all of 9:37 of ice time while Hossa racked up 17:27. Huh? I know there are a lot of Hossa lovers out there but am I missing something with this guy? Prucha, the guy who rang up 32 goals in his first two years sits as the wrong Hossa continues to pile up the ice time. Put Prucha on the first line with Jagr and Dubinsky and watch the goals start to rack up. One other thing. Sean Avery played the quietest game of his life. No shots, no hits and from what I could see, no talks. That must have been some conversation he had up in Toronto's Puzzle Palace.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who Was That Masked Man?

I know I mentioned in my last article that it was time for Steve Valiquette to make his season debut for the Rangers, but I did not know that he was Lundqvist's clone. In front of a packed Air Canada Centre crowd that introduced old and new Hall Of Famers, Valiquette put on a princely performance making 32 saves in regulation and OT and then coming up big in the shootout stopping Antropov and Sundin while Shanahan and Hossa were scoring to give the Rangers there first road win of the season.

It was Hockey Night in Canada and for at least one night only Valiquette outshone Messier, Stevens, Francis, Macinnis and Gregory not to mention Gilbert and Bathgate. All the stars were out in Toronto plus there was a tribute to the Canadien troops past and present as today is Remberance Day in Canada, commemorating World War II. In addition Valiquette's mother and father were there to see their son as they live in nearby Etobicoke, Ontario. At least the mother was there the entire time as the father seemed to disappear from time to time. Imagine your son playing the biggest game of his life and you can't bear to watch? I can't imagine that.

The win evened Valiquette's record with the Rangers at 3-3 and lowered his GAA to 2.33 for those six games. Not bad for an infrequently used backup goalie. More importantly it gave Valiquette and the team confidence that he could step in during an emergency and do a fairly decent job. Heck, he even put in a sequence of two acrobatic saves on Antropov when he tried to make like Marty Brodeur and put the puck on Antropov's stick. I'm sure that's when his father left.

My friend,The Dark Ranger, should be pleased as Sean Avery and Darcy Tucker reintroduced themselves during the warm ups as a prelude for them getting together in the game exchanging a few unpleasantries. I don't know why Tucker gets into so many fights, he is not too good at them. Avery played a whale of a game getting the 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick', a goal, an assist and a fight. Shanahan got a goal and an assist. Gomez got an assist as this line clicked all night.

The Rangers are still having trouble scoring goals but for one night a star was born and it remains to be seen if he plays again before Christmas. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Night Of Firsts

There were a lot of firsts tonight at the Garden. Brandon Dubinsky scored his first NHL goal. Sean Avery scored his first goal of the season. Nigel Dawes got his first assist of the season. The Rangers scored their most goals since opening night. Henrik Lundqvist was not named one of the stars of the game and I missed my first home game this year. You pick what was the key moment. My sons will tell you it was the last one.

My biggest enjoyment tonight was watching the continued development of the young guys. Dubinsky, Dawes, Staal and Girardi. Staal is playing like a veteran on the first pairing with Rozsival and got over twenty minutes of ice time tonight. Dubinsky is absolutely fearless and moves the puck quite well. While he started as the center for Jagr and Hossa he scored his goal on a three on two rush with Prucha and Dawes. Dawes fed him beautifully. He did take a dumb penalty after his goal which led to a Penguin power play goal but hey, that's youth for you.

The three stars was number uno, Sean Avery with a goal and an assist and numerous agitations. Number two was Scott Gomez, who played his best game of the year, converting Avery's shot off the boards for his fourth goal and a great feed to Rozsival for a power play goal. Number three went to Dubinsky. Lundqvist was not idle making 26 saves, quite a few in the third period when Pittsburgh opened it up. The Rangers put 39 shots on goal. The power play clicked for 2-8 and the PK's held the Pens to 1-7.

Now its time for another first. The Rangers take to a four game road trip starting in Toronto, then to New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before coming home to play the Islanders. They are 8-2 at home and 0-5-1 on the road. Time to turn this around. Is it time for Steve Valiquette to make his first start of the year? I think so.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Road Wrecks

In six road games the Rangers have accumulated all of one point and Lundqvist had to pitch a shutout to get that point. Last night was a typical road performance, unfortunately it came against the Islanders who have now beaten us twice at the Coliseum. The Rangers with future Hall Of Fame goal scorers like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan plus other top goal scorers like Martin Straka and Petr Prucha decided to bolster their scoring at the beginning of the season by adding top notch offensive talent like Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to give them as potent a force of wingers as any team in the NHL.

So what kind of a powerhouse do we have? We have come off of a six game homestand where we won five of six and the last four straight and we scored a total of twelve goals in those six games. Imagine, twelve goals in six games and five wins. Why can't we score goals? Why can't we have a sustained forecheck game and put more pucks in the net? We bulked up on offensive firepower and we have basically turned into the reincarnation of the NJ Devils. We have a coach who has proclaimed his doctrine. Defense comes first and the offense will come from the defense. Stupid me, I thought the best defense was a strong offense.

If you saw the game last night you saw the tale of two teams and more importantly two coaches. There was Ted Nolan, animated, smiling and smirking throughout the game. Then there was coach clueless, tense, unsmiling and lost. This demeanor reflects on a team. The Rangers right now are playing a close to the vest, don't screw up type of defensive game which is anchored by Henrik Lundqvist who has covered up many a mistake.

In the second period, Gomez had a chance to split two Islander defensemen and go directly to the net. Instead, he passed the puck backward to a defenseman and it caused a turnover. One of the beat writers wants to know if Gomez left his game in the Lincoln Tunnel. I think Gomez and a few others are leaving their game in practice.

So where was or is the mistake happening? Was it wrong to go after Drury and Gomez in preseason or is it wrong to follow this defense at all costs philosophy? If defense was the main theme of this team why sign Drury and Gomez? If defense was the overriding theme of this team, then keep Nylander and go after some defensive forwards. Apparently it is defense and if you watch any of the games you can see the tentative play that has taken over the team. Except for Lundqvist, who should have not been held out to dry like he was last night and like he has in other games.

Is it the players or is it the system that has kept the scoring down? Is this what the Stealth GM wants and if so why the big dollar surge for two potent forwards? Will the press ever ask these questions? Am I a minority of one who wants to know if I will continue to pay top dollar to see boring hockey games, where every night the goalies are the stars of the game? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The New Mr. Zero

Back in the late 30's and early 40's the Boston Bruins had an American born goalie named Frank Brimsek. He would later be known as Frank "Mr. Zero" Brimsek. In his rookie year with the Bruins, 1938-39, Brimsek in 43 games had 10 shutouts and a GAA 1.56. In the following two years he would post 12 more shutouts with GAA's of 1.99 and 2.01. Brimsek was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. He is also in the American hockey Hall Of Fame.

Now we have the heir to the throne named Henrik Lundqvist. Last night he pitched his fourth shutout of the season which puts him second to Pascal Leclaire of Columbus who has five. Lundqvist ranks fifth on the list of goalies since 2005-06 with eleven shutouts which puts him six behind leaders Martin Brodeu of the Devils and Mikka Kiprusoff of Calgary.

Last night was another night at the office for Lundqvist as he out-dueled Flyer goalie Biron who was also outstanding in the nets, turning aside 43 of 45 shots. Biron should have been the third star of the game but lately the writers are becoming homers when naming the three stars. Brandon Dubinsky, who along with Marc Staal continues to improve after every game, was voted number three star.There was one particular sequence in the third period with about five minutes to play and Lundqvist made a great save with his left leg and the Rangers came down and Biron made a great save with his left glove.

Jagr made number two star with a beautiful shot past Biron's glove with 33 seconds left in the first period. In the third period he fed Shanahan for a power play goal after Tyutin made a great play keeping the puck in the zone. And what did the new Mr. Zero, the number one star think of all this? "It wasn't a great game to watch, but we played smart and got the two points." Now its at the Island tonight where the Rangers hope to stretch the winning streak to five and to do that they will have to win their first road game. With the heir to Frankie Brimsek guarding the nets anything is possible

ICINGS: If there are any other Ranger bloggers out there who read this blog we should all make a concerted effort to get our readers to stop the _ _ sucks chant. It is annoying; during pivotal times in the game some idiot, and I do mean idiot, starts the whistle that lets the other idiots yell the chant.

No Stupid Chant

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Scoreless Wonders

Back in 1906 the Chicago White Sox won the American League pennant despite having a team batting average of .230 and hitting 7 home runs all year. Yes, that is correct seven home runs. They then went on to beat the Chicago Cubs, who had won 116 games that year, 4 games to 2 in the World Series, despite a team batting average of .196. Hence the moniker "The Hitless Wonder".

The Rangers are fast becoming the scoreless wonders. They have the fewest goals scored in the NHL, 23. The next lowest scoring team are the hapless Phoenix Coyotes with 29. Phoenix is tied with Edmonton for the 14th and 15th position in the Western Conference. The Rangers are tied for 8th with the Pittsburgh Penguins. How can that be? It is because the Rangers have one of the top goalies in the game. I say top because Lundqvist is ranked fourth in GAA behind Leclare of Columbus (1.25), Ellis of Nashvile (1.35) and Osgood of Detroit (1.43). Lundqvist is at a lofty 1.61. It is the same in save % as Lundqvist ranks fifth with a .939 and Leclare is the leader at .953.

Last night Gomez and Brylin exchanged goals, 33 seconds apart in the first period, and from then on the goalies took over. It remained for Petr Prucha to decide it in the shootout as the Rangers won their third straight game in which they have scored a grand total of five goals, plus one in a shootout. They lost three of the previous four in which they gave up five goals, plus one in a shootout. How long can this go on? Will the Rangers become the scoreless wonders of hockey? Will Lundqvist wilt under the pressure of having to protect and win one goal games? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hail To The Prince

So now I know why so many of you are confident that this Ranger team will turn this season around big time. Stupid me. I forgot that we have the closest thing to a blockade, a sure save that exists in hockey today. Henrik Lundqvist, the Prince of New York, the Count of the Crease, and the eliminator of all things bad to the Rangers. He who has created the eleventh commandment: "Thou shall not score." For the third time in six games, Henrik Lundqvist has pitched a shutout. In these six games he has given up seven goals, one of which was a shootout goal, so its six goals in six games. Yet, his record for those six games is 3-2-1, a 1.0 GAA and a .951 save %. His season record is 5-6-1 with a 1.67 GAA and a save % of .937. Career with the Rangers Lundqvist has a 2.24 GAA and a save % of .921. Not bad for a seventh round pick.

Lundqvist shut out a Washington team that was averaging close to three goals per game and had put up seven goals in its last outing against Toronto in a 7-1 rout. He had to stop the most exciting player in the game today, Alex Ovechkin, who came into the game with eight goals along with seven assists for fifteen points. Ovechkin had six shots on goal as the Capitals fired 31 shots at Lundqvist though my old eyes caught about three more that weren't counted. I guess that's a thirty dollar saving for the donors of the charity. In two games against Washington, Lundqvist has given up only one goal.

Oh yes, the Rangers did score. In the second period Chris Drury deflected a shot by Marc Staal, who probably played his best game of the year, getting 16:31 of ice time. Rozsival scored the second goal on a 5 on 3 PP in the 3rd period on a feed from Gomez. The refs were on top of their game by calling two penalties twice on one sequence. The first was against the Caps when Brian Sutherby was whistled for hooking and then John Erskine was caught throwing an elbow. This double minor led to the Rozsival goal. They also nailed Fedor Tyutin for a hooking/slashing call at the 12:52 mark which gave the Caps a chance to get back into the game but Lundqvist would have none of it and he rose to the occasion with numerous saves that brought roars of approval from the fans with the shouts, "Hen-reek", "Hen-reek", "Hen-reek". The four minute power play ended with the crowd on their feet roaring his name.

ICINGS: What goes? Another night of about 5 thousand empty seats. Every section had some empty seats and I counted about five luxury suites that were totally dark, but still we get the 18,200 attendance number. I guess brokers don't go to hockey games. Met two young ladies from Massapequa on the train home and they informed me that Sean Avery spent the entire second period with them in section 408. They had a snapshot with him. Hopefully he will be ready for the Devil game.

Update:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rangers' Greats Remembered

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WFAN: Top 20 Sports Celebrities of the Last 20 Years Poll
New York radio station WFAN (Sports Radio 66), 660 AM, ran a Top 20 Sports Celebrities of the Last 20 Years Poll and contest. Former New York Rangers, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, and Mike Richter were voted in by the station's listeners. All three players were instrumental in the 1994 Stanley Cup victory. Messier getting voted to number two is a welcome surprise. Also having Mike Richter ahead of Bernie Williams and just behind A-Rod has to be considered an "upset" of sorts. Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo had a special edition of their afternoon radio show to announce the list on November 1st.
#1 Derek Jeter
#2 Mark Messier -- Mark Messier talks with Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo.

#3 Lawrence Taylor
#4 Joe Torre
#5 Patrick Ewing
#6 George Steinbrenner
#7 Mariano Rivera
#8 Bill Parcells
#9 Mike Piazza
#10 Don Mattingly
#11 Phil Simms
#12 Dwight Gooden
#13 Martin Brodeur
#14 Brian Leetch -- Brian Leetch talks with Francesa & Russo.

#15 Darryl Strawberry
#16 Wellington Mara
#17 Curtis Martin
#18 Alex Rodriguez
#19 Mike Richter -- Mike Richter talks with Francesa & Russo.

#20 Bernie Williams
Home News Tribune (NJ) reporter and NY Mets fan Steve Feitl was a voter who put Roger Clemens first - "he was part of one of the biggest stories in New York sports history with Mike Piazza and he did win championships here. Huge star power." Steve put Brian Leetch at number 4, and Mark Messier at number 7. He also "nixed the great players who didn’t transcend into celebrities of their own, meaning Martin Brodeur, Curtis Martin, Mike Richter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams all didn’t make my list."

Based on the final list, estimates of Clemens "star power" in New York might be slightly exaggerated.

Note that four of the twenty celebrities, or 20%, are hockey players. It's funny, but WFAN probably spends 2% or less of their air time on hockey. Something is out of wack.

Interestingly, Francesa & Russo spoke with Joe Torre about 2:30 pm to discuss his selection for the list and he told them there was no deal with the LA Dodgers. Torre also said he was going away today in order to attend a family wedding over the weekend, so any deal might have to wait until next week. About two hours latter while they were still on the air, Russo and Francesa had the news that Torre had worked out a deal to manage the Dodgers.

Regarding the Dodgers, before he was hired Torre told WFAN: "As a kid growing up, you didn't like them.'' He also said, "as a player, to me the Dodgers were the Yankees of the National League because ... you either loved them or you hated them.''

source:
WFAN: Top 20 NY Sports Celebrities

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