Sunday, December 21, 2008

No California Trifecta

After beating LA and Anaheim the Rangers were dreaming of a California sweep. No such luck as the Ranger offense kept shooting blanks in a 3-2 loss to the number one team in hockey, San Jose, that is now undefeated in regulation at home with a run of 17-0-2. The Rangers only goals were another unassisted goal, this one short handed, by Nikolai Zherdev, and Ryan Callahan, acting like a bowling ball picking up the ten pin, for a rebound.

I stayed up for this one figuring the Rangers would give me an early morning birthday present. However, I should have known better. Counting either the day before, 12/20, or the actual date, 12/21, the Rangers have lost seven straight games on my birthday, with a tie against Tampa Bay, stopping the streak in 19997-98. The previous year, 1996-97, was the last win, a 3-2 effort at Montreal. Knowing better I stayed with the game.

The Rangers were done in by their offense, or lack of it. Despite sitting in the second spot in the East, four points behind Boston, who have four games in hand on the Rangers, the Rangers rank tenth in goals per game and once all the teams catch up to the Rangers in games played, the Rangers will probably be sitting in the sixth spot fighting for their playoff lives. That is why the addition of Sundin or someone like him was so important. Listening and reading the apologists and house media how the chemistry is now intact and that is good is baffling. What is so important about this chemistry? Look at the three stooges on defense and tell me about chemistry.

Chemistry? The offense now revolves around two lines. The third and fourth lines are basically defensive lines. If it was up to clueless he would have four defensive lines. Drury is constantly being shuttled back from center to wing. I don't think the first line has been together for four or five straight games. Meanwhile Redden and Rozsival pile up over twenty minutes a game while their plus/minus continues to get more negative every game. Plus they don't hit anyone. Last night both teams racked up 38 hits each. Did you see the game? Most of San Jose's hits were crunching hits while most of the Ranger hits were glancing blows.

But it's too early to get excited and besides Christmas is coming. Christmas supersedes everything. It even supersedes birthdays. After all what are birthdays? Another day older and deeper in debt.


The NHL looks like they favor the American Idol model of running a popularity contest for an All-Star team. So we end up with the Canadiens playing this year's version of Sanjaya Malakar. Nice guy who got a ton of teen votes, but couldn't really cut the vocal mustard. There is an argument that Sanjaya's remarkable run on Idol in 2007 was evidence that Simon and the Idol crew had "Jumped the Shark." We all know the NHL All-Star game Jumped the Shark long ago.

The NHL All-Star voting has boiled down to an international ballot stuffing propaganda war. This year pitting Pittsburgh against Montreal. The current system is broken and it's not burnishing the old NHL image very much.

One simple solution would be to give every fan who has a season ticket one ballot. Seems like the league could throw a small bone to the people who pay the freight. Or else they could just let the beat writers and anyone who's blogged about the NHL for six months or more decide. That will never happen, of course.

Some teams, like the Sharks, are mildly interested in getting out the 'texting' vote for their guys. For example, they put up a single voting link on their website:


However, the Canadiens have declared all out war on the balloting and their official NHL approved website practically forces their fans to vote with their team landing page:

Vote Often. Vote Canadiens
Yes. Vote Canadiens, Vote Often. Vote for the next Sanjaya and help the NHL get over the Shark again this year.

John Vogl at the Buffalo News has a recent update on the mischief,
Habs, Pens stuffing the e-ballot box:

The NHL All-Star voting has turned into a mix of accolades and accusations, as voters in Montreal and Pittsburgh have used their computers to turn the contest into a two-city competition. Penguins and Canadiens are dominating the leader boards, but whether the ballot casting is legal is up for debate.

Voting for the midseason gala's starters is entirely digital, with Internet and text messaging being the only way to cast ballots. In November, fans in Montreal found a way to have their computers automatically cast vote after vote for Habs players, and they posted the instructions on the team's message boards for others to follow suit.

The early results had Habs in all six starting spots, with their goaltender, two defensemen and three forwards running away with the voting.

But Pittsburgh fans, who boast the NHL's top stars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, quickly joined in. They caught up to the Canadiens and have since zoomed past...

The NY Times reported on some of the history in this NHL race to the bottom. Fans Go High Tech to Tip the Scales in All-Star Voting:
Within hours of the start of N.H.L. voting Nov. 12, it was apparent to the league that fans had written computer scripts that would register thousands of votes automatically on the league’s Web-based All-Star fan ballot, the N.H.L. spokesman Gary Meagher said.

“It wasn’t just Canadiens who were getting those votes,” Meagher said, and within a week, the league had adjusted the bogus totals downward by 18 percent and upgraded its protections against robotic voting.

But the Canadiens players still held substantial leads at all six positions by huge margins. That would have put Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev and Alex Tanguay, all good players, on the ice for the opening face-off rather than the league’s two top scorers, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Goaltender Carey Price, and defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek were also in the lead.

Penguins fans were outraged, and the outrage grew when a Pittsburgh fan showed evidence on a blog that a Canadiens fan known only as tomzilla had posted instructions on the Canadiens’ official message board showing how to robo-vote.

So the club mobilized a counteroffensive...
Counteroffensive? Maybe the Pens and Canadiens should exchange prisoners at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
Over at the 5-Hole blog, Ryan is calling out Sidney Crosby. This is after Sid took some cheap shots at the Thrashers's Boris Valabik during a game last Thursday (12/18). Boris is a big boy, 6'7" and 249 pounds and can probably take care of himself. But, the NHL reportedly frowns on two-on-one stuff and even the UFC wants to nix the below the belt work.

So let's get this sorted out. Sean Avery gets a six game suspension and possibly run out of the league for public potty mouth and Bing gets an old school bus trip to Buffalo? Sounds completely fair.

5 Hole -- Crosby the Coward:
Dear Gary Bettman,

The last time I checked, you can’t do this in the National Hockey League:

We think the Rangers should just play something from the Nutcracker Ballet every time Sid does something of note at the Garden.


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  • blow-me-down said...

    Good stuff, Mike.

    I wonder if a sporting equipment manufacturer could advertise their cup protector with a slogan such as "stronger than a Crosby uppercut" or similar. I'd chip in some $ for their legal defense if they got called on it.
    Disgusting display, and don't forget about the punch to the head. I wonder what some stand-up players on the Penguins, e.g. Jordan Staal, really really think of Sid, and his pavlovian sidekick Malkin after that display.

    Is Sid still the NHL's baby-faced role model for the kids? Where is the punishment from the league? Aah, nothing but silence.

    I think I will try to tune in to the next Flyers/Penguins game. If there is a team to take issue with his behaviour, it might just be Philly.

  • jb said...

    Crosby is getting a complete pass from the league. The extent of the league/Bettman hypocrisy is amazing.

    It would be fun if the Flyers exercised some frontier justice on the chosen one.

  • Anonymous said...

    Bettman was too busy trying to get Ron Greschner out of retirement so he could suspend him for talking about Alexei Yashin's girlfriend.

    Bettman's also too busy (doing what?) to ...
    -get the NHL a decent tv network
    -scrap the shootout
    -realize that unlike basketball, hockey does not rely on a few individuals to make the game appealing
    -keep players from going to Europe (wasn't too long ago they were coming here!)

  • down by the seaside said...

    "Anonymous" (aka down by the seaside) trashing Bettman also wonders what ever happened to objectivity in sports journalism. Those employed at the Ranger house organs (MSG, 1050ESPN, NY Post, Daily News, etc.) have abdicated any interest in being honest about this Ranger team. They talk about Renney's ability to prepare a team (for what?), but never put blame on him for a powerless play. They fall over themselves praising key cogs like Henrik and Drury, yet when they grumble about how the team is playing, the StanTrautmaloney wonder "what's that about?" The 1050 post-game show is completely without thoughtful insight and is nearing an unlistenable status. Thankfully, it only lasts minutes before the programming switches back to anything but hockey.

  • blow-me-down said...

    At least Dave Maloney actually does dare to critique the team. It was good to hear him question Redden's commitment, among other things.
    So, hypothetically, let's say Redden hears such a thing and gets all pissed off, as in "I'll show those pricks that I can play". But, alas, so far it has not happened that way. So, Joe or Sam or whomever, keep talking about Wade's hidden passion.

    It's so hidden, that for most Rangers fans, it does not exist.

  • jb said...

    That's good, "Stan Trautmalone" the house organs.

    It's like the relationship between the old Pravda newspaper (the Soviet news organ) and the Soviet Politbureau. Pravda by the way means 'The Truth' in Russian. Of course, that's the last thing they wanted in Russia.

    Maybe that's the last thing they need at MSG. For example, they were all over that Knicks sexual harassment lawsuit. Not.

    I can see Stan Trautmalone on the witness stand saying: "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."

  • mike said...

    anonymous-Its too late, Alt dumped Yashin when he went back to Russia. She is now posing for the mags.

    Bettman has a new passion. Its called the Winter Classic. See people play hockey in the snow. People no see hockey because of snow.

  • mike said...

    Down By The Seaside-Nothing is worse than MSG with Al Trautwig and The Maven. Add in Sam and Joe and you get a completly biased reporting where the word great is tossed around like a Greek Salad.