Sunday, March 02, 2008

Goalie Gimmes

Coach clueless changed goalies at the start of the second period of a 3-3 game in which both goalies did not distinguish themselves, but if truth be known the defense on both teams was horrible. The first Flyer goal was a blatant giveaway by Tyutin, twice, deep in his own zone which led to the Flyers goal. Rozsival was completely frozen and useless on another goal and that's the way it went as the Flyer defensemen reciprocated. So the 3-3 tie at the end of one.

The replacement of Lundqvist by Valiquette left many in the seats wondering why, considering his prior record against the Flyers, Valiquette did not start the game. In fact, that was the subject of our discussion at the brunch before the game. However, if our coach was clueless, the Flyer coach John Stevens was brain dead. He started the second period with Niittymaki in goal and only removed him when Christian, a.k.a. 'Malik II,' Backman scored his first Ranger goal at the 1:51 mark of the second period. Biron then came in and blanked the Rangers the rest of the way with 21 saves. Valiquette stopped 17 of 18 shots. In the infamous shootout the Rangers were two for two with Shanahan and Dawes. Valiquette stopped Timonen and Carter, who had scored two goals including the tying one, hit the post and the game was over.

Stevens reluctance not to remove Niittymaki after the first period probably cost him the game. Both goalies had to be removed after the first period even if only to send a message to the rest of their teams. The first period was pond hockey at its best and the brass at NBC, which was televising the game, must have loved it. They must have loved the shootout also, though the consensus in our area, Ranger and Flyer fans alike, agreed that a 4-4 tie would have been ok.

The three stars were Jeff Carter, number three, Valiquette, number two and Shanahan number one. My vote for number one would have gone to Valiquette. The goal of the game was scored by newcomer Fredrik Sjostrom, who never gave up on a play where his initial shot was stopped, he rebounded that shot and that was stopped and he finally put in the third shot of the sequence. There was also a heavyweight bout between Colton Orr and Jesse Boulerice that was quite entertaining. I will leave the result to the boxing purists, but it was a dandy.

While Backman scored the fourth Ranger goal his defense leaves much to be desired. He truly looks like a Malik clone. I believe Jason Strudwick should be back in the lineup especially as a steadying force for Staal, who played one of his poorer games in quite a spell. Sjostrom continues to show promise but his playing left the hit man, Hollweg, out of the lineup. Colton Orr has to be in the lineup for the remaining 16 games. Perhaps Sjostrom could be tried as center on the fourth line but honestly I do not know if he can kill penalties like Betts.

With a home and home coming up against the Islanders this Tuesday and Thursday, Tuesday might be a good time to put Valiquette in against the Islanders at home to let Lundqvists psyche recover a bit or at least get a night off. We know that Valiquette is a legitimate NHL goaltender so why not use him more down the stretch? I would definitely get Strudwick back in the lineup, but the Stealth GM would not like his latest acquisition, Backman, riding the bench.

ICINGS: An ugly situation developed after the game with a series of fights breaking out between Ranger and Flyer fans. There were no security personnel in the area. None, zilch, nada. Terrible. I have noticed the last few Ranger, Flyer games that these occurences are becoming more frequent. Who is to blame? Who knows. However, I do know one thing. If you are rooting for the visiting team, root and cheer, but don't start taunting the home team fans. Shame on them. Shame on the Garden for not having any security. The combination of a fierce rivalry and cheap beer can spark a riot if not handled properly. You would think Dolan could handle this. You would think.

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  • John said...

    Hey "PUNDIT"... About your "coach clueless" comment to start your rant? O.K. Mr. Monday night armchair quaterback, I think the decsion to start Henrik was fine (yes he could have gone either way) but there is no problem with starting your #1 goalie at home for an all important game (regardless if the back-up won the last 2 against such team). More importantly "coach clueless" as you call him (Which I take a strong objection to) made the correct and smart coaching decision to start Vally in the 2nd period. I had no problem with the coaches decisions today. I especially liked that he went with the new guy Sjostrom instead of Hollweg.

  • Section 335 said...

    I give the coaching staff credit for changing goalies to start the Second Period. That was the moment to change the direction of the focus of the team, and it worked.

    Fredrik Sjostrom may prove to be this year's Avery. His speed is game changing, as the other team now has to pair against our fourth line. The loss of Cullen's speed hurt us, and this was a needed touch.

    Backman is another story. He is not Malik. He actually hits and tries to be aggressive. Still, he almost cost us two games. So, in that way he is Malik like. Putting him with Staal is pretty odd. Staal needs someone with experience with him. Still, I spent a lot of time watching Backman and must say that is positioning is excellent as is his anticipation of the play. Since he only had 35 minutes of penalties last year, I am hoping this sudden rash of mistakes is an aberration. If it is not, then he sits.

    Last point, Jagr may not be able to shoot anymore, but man can he play hockey. His ability to move and control the puck - making accurate away from play passes while in motion - is a lot like Frosberg and Gretzky. If he were on a line with Mike Bossy, Bossy would have had 100 goals a year every year.

  • william Peace said...

    The tension between Ranger and Flyer fans is an issue MSG seems to ignore. But cheap beer at MSG? Yikes, who can afford to get a buzz on at MSG?

  • jb said...

    Regarding Backman, he might be trying to hit and be aggressive in order to try and make a good impression on the coaching staff and change people's perception of him. He certainly has heard the knock against his game. Perhaps he's been taking these penalties since he's not playing his normal game. Once he settles down and plays his normal game what will that look like?

    It brings up a couple of interesting points. Is it easier for a defenseman or forward to change their game as they get older?

    As Sec. 335 suggests, can Jagr change into a stellar setup man rather than a scorer? And is any attempt by Backman to become more of a hitter doomed?

  • mike said...

    John-It was Sunday morning, not Monday night that I rested my arm.
    Never a problem starting your number one goalie but when #2 seems to have the other teams number, you go with your gut.

    After last years finish (6th) and playoff run the Rangers bolstered (?) their team with two strong additions (Drury & Gomez), two top notch rookies (Staal & Dubinsky) and had the goalie that was twice nominated for the Vezina. They have a team that should be challenging the Pens, Devils, Senators and Canadiens for the top spots in the East. They are now locked in a life and death struggle with the Bruins, Flyers, Sabres, Islanders and Caps for the last three bottom spots.

    What do you want me to call him? Coach Genius.

  • mike said...

    section 335-There are credits and debits to every person. Add them up at the end to see which category has more..

    I like Sjostrom but don't like Backman. He is not a hitter, he wasn't with St. Louis. See jb's comments on Blackman.

    You are correct that Jagr is still a heck of a hockey player however I would like to see him put more pucks on net.

  • mike said...

    jb-Good comments on Blackman. I don't know if its easier getting old at one position over another. We have had great players at all three positions, including goalies, who continue to perform well. I doubt Backman will ever become a hitter.

  • mike said...

    william peace-You are correct. I was referring to its contents not its price.

    The Garden seems to have no interest in quelling out of control fans and will continue with its toothles big screen postings.

  • Section 335 said...

    Addition by subtraction.

    Marcel Hossa update.

    Last three games, Phoenix has given up four even strength goals. Hossa has been on the ice for 3.

  • mike said...

    section 335-Imagine how much addition it would be if we got rid of Malik.

  • Section 335 said...

    Hmmm, Malik v. Clueless. Who first? Hard choice.

  • The Dark Ranger said...

    This business with Henrik bothers me still...Tom REnney not starting Vally is 'business as usual' for the 1/2-coach that he is and is expected, but Hank playing 180 degree hockey will stop us from getting past the first round - if we are fortunate enough to get htere.

    Come to think of it..."signing our goalie for 5-6 years during a slump" might not have been a good idea. the boy needs to earn that money and commitment. drury and gomez are certainly earning it these days...

    Without goalie, we 'aint nothing.


  • mike said...

    Hey Dark Ranger-Your grammar is bad but your logic is 1000%. I think tonight would be a good night to put Valiquette in the nets.

    Six years to the goalie but not an extra dime for Avery, the heart and soul and spine of the team.

    Meanwhile the stiff we picked up from St. Louis, Blackman, gets $3.4 million next year. The Stealth GM is an idiot.

  • mike said...

    section 335-Clueless wins hands down.

  • Section 335 said...

    Well Mike, I guess I have to agree - although I would like to get rid of each. My observations about last night:

    1. A good point. Team played well enough to win.

    2. The Prince is still not on his game.

    3. Backman is a work in progress, and I would not dress him for the next game. He does block shots and tries to hit. Just needs work. Why did Clueless put him on the ice at the end of regulation??????? The man was -2.

    4. Dawes is awesome.

    5. Sjostrom was a great addition. Speed on the fourth line makes us a much more difficult team.

    6. We have 15 games left and need 17 points to make 94 and the playoffs. I like our odds. Why?

    7. It is too late for the Islanders to catch us, if we do not crash. In 14 games they need 23 points to get to 94. Not happening.

    8. The only team that has a realistic chance to push us out of the playoffs is Buffalo. They can get 21 points in 17 games. The game against them 3/10 is huge.

  • Section 335 said...

    One last point, if you go to the Rangers site and see the post game interviews, please compare Clueless to Shanny. Shanny should be the coach. Now.

  • mike said...

    section 335-In order of your comments.
    1.Bad point.
    2.Way off.
    3.Its too late for Blackman. Check St. Louis record.
    4. Dawes is the future. Great.
    5. We give up grits and hits (Hollweg) for speed.
    6. Where are we going in the playoffs?
    7. We have crashed before.
    8. Buffalo or Washington or maybe even the Islanders.
    Also see my new blog on the coach cluelss/Shanahannews conference. Thanks.