Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Crashing In Carolina

I didn't get to see much of the game as my grandson Nicholas is in the hospital, but what I saw was horrible. I did see coach clueless at the end of the game complain about defensive breakdowns. The stiff's team scores one goal, in the first minute, then spends the next 59 minutes doing cartwheels, doesn't score again and the bum complains about defensive breakdowns. But this is the great coach that the drive-by media and the apologists love because he has brought stability to the team. Yeah, stability. They are a stable sub-.500 team. The Rangers have won only seven of twenty four road games and have seventeen of the remaining thirty games on the road.

Carolina came out looking for a fight last night and aided by some poor calls by the refs they got away with it. Not that correct calls would have helped the Rangers. The Rangers were 1-4 on the power play. At even strength the Rangers were non-existent. They could score only one goal against a team that has given up 171 goals this year. That is the third worst in the Eastern Conference. How bad is the NHL? Carolina sits atop the Southeast Division and in third place in the Eastern Conference with 54 points the same as the Rangers who have 54 points while sitting in a tie for eight with the Islanders.

But, we must make the playoffs. Why? So we can play Ottawa and get wiped out in the first round. The caliber of the hockey being played in the NHL is at best mediocre and boring and the Rangers exemplify both of these dubious qualities very nicely. The master plan is not working. The two star additions have been at best mediocre (there is that word again). Gomez is okay but Drury seems lost. Jagr and Shanahan are breaking down, despite what Sam and Joe try to tell us, and the young legs don't get enough critical ice time. Despite all this if the Rangers had a good coach they would probably be ten games better then they are now. They have coach clueless and will continue to have him as long as the Stealth GM and the absentee owner stay in power. Where are you Pat Burns?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rangers on the Bubble

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It's a guarantee that Mr. Dolan will never catch a cold.
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Daily News:
Rangers Again In A Rush To Make Playoffs In Eastern Conference
NY Post:
Sather Shops For Malik Deal
Journal News:
Rangers' Malik 'back in the fold'
Newsday:
Renney Gives Unhappy Malik Amnesty
BlueShirts blog:
Malik returns to practice after one-game exile
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2008 NHL All-Star Game slideshowJAMD: 2008 NHL All-Star Game slideshow created by kitten, 89 photos

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Misguided ICBM

Mighty might NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proves once again he's no Roger Goodell. It seems he'll be still stuck in the minors forever.

On Friday (1/25) he was interviewed by Mike and the Mad Dog (Chris Russo) on WFAN AM in New York and he spoke glowingly about the big plans the NHL had to promote the league in Europe. He noted that one third of the league's players are from Europe and surprisingly 30% of the visits to the NHL website originate from Europe.

However, Bettman wouldn't specifically confirm for WFAN when or where games involving NHL teams would be played in Europe. He wanted to save his powder regarding that announcement for a bigger audience. He simply said, scheduling-wise, it was not going to be a big deal to arrange games with NHL teams even in places like St. Petersburg, Russia.

Well today with all the media present for the NHL All-Star weekend Bettman unleashed his big PR announcement: "about four NHL teams opening next season with games in Europe." And it blew up in his face.

The problem is that mighty might Bettman forgot to get formal approval from the NHL Player's Association, or acknowledge that fact, before making his big announcement. The Globe & Mail reported:

Bettman made the announcement on Saturday afternoon at the league's all-star weekend, several hours before the skills competition and Young Stars game. The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will open next season on Oct. 4 and 5 in Stockholm, while the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning will do likewise on the same nights in Prague. The Rangers will also play the 2007 Russian Superleague champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk on Oct. 1 for the new Victoria Cup, an event created for the NHL's European tour.

However, there was just one problem. The NHLPA never formally agreed to the games, which is required under the collective agreement. In talks with the NHL, the union's executive director, Kelly, told the league the players were generally in favour of regular-season games in Europe, but nothing was ever signed.

On Friday night a call was made to Kelly. The league wanted to announce the games on Saturday, since there were a lot of media around and it would generate a positive buzz. Kelly agreed but only if the press release and the announcement noted the NHLPA had still not officially granted its approval.

Whoops. When Bettman made the announcement at his annual all-star media conference there was no mention of the lack of approval from the union.

What is ironic is that on Friday Bettman crowed about how he and Kelly were getting along very well. Kelly even went on Bettman's one hour radio show on Thursday to do an interview. So why can't the NHL shoot straight on a major announcement?

Stanley Cup - Yes, Victoria Cup - ?

The idea of the NY Rangers playing in a "Victoria Cup" sounds exciting until you remember how the NY Yankees screwed up the start of their 2004 season by playing two games in Japan against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Yankees won 101 games that year, but started 8-11, after all the schlepping back and forth from Japan. There were also some personnel problems due to the overseas road trip.

Mike Mussina who started and lost the first game in Japan was completely thrown off his routine. He lost his next three starts and he was plagued by a series of injuries all season. He ended the year with a 12-9 record and a 4.59 ERA. Jason Giambi was also plagued that season by some type of intestinal parasite that he might well have picked up in Japan (bad sushi?). Pitcher Kevin Brown also got that same intestinal parasite that waylaid Giambi (that sushi again?).

So you can take the glamor of an intercontinental hockey game and hip check into the penalty box. It might not be worth the wear and tear on the team.

related:
The Sun / Canadian Press:
All calm and friendly as Bettman interviews new NHLPA boss Kelly

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rangers Shoot Out Thrashers

Brian Leetch looked fit, calm, and capable of stepping back on the ice last night as he received the accolades of his ex-teammates, his family and his fans, the Faithful. Too bad he didn't lace them up, as I'm sure he would have helped the Rangers power (less) play which went 0-5 and is now something like 0 for twenty something. The guy has class and it showed last night in as classy a performance any honoree has ever put on.

The Rangers? They struggled against another .500 team, but you know what? We are a .500 team. Their old nemesis Johan Hedberg played another strong game against the Rangers and almost stole the game. He would have too if it weren't for the young energetic legs of Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes who got the puck to Michal Rozsival who tied the game in the third period. The Thrashers scored their goal when Marian Hossa got behind Lundqvist to put in the puck that had squirted between Lundqvist's legs. Marc Staal had a chance to win it but shot too quickly on Jaromir Jagr's beautiful feed.

The Rangers pressed hard in the OT, but Hedberg stood tall and then the shootout. Shanahan scored on the first shot and then it was over as Lundqvist made two saves and Marian Hossa shot wide to end the boredom. How bad is the power play? So bad that Joe Micheletti was criticizing the five on three PP while it was being executed. There was coach clueless in the press conference expounding on the great win. Give me a break.

The Rangers now have four full days off before starting a make or break road trip against Carolina, Philadelphia, the Devils and Montreal. The four days off scares me as it gives the clueless coaches more time to tinker with the team. Check it out. Every time the Rangers have more than a day of rest they usually come out flat. But hey. This was about a great Ranger, Brian Leetch, having his number raised to the rafters and the class in which he carried it out.

God speed Brian.

Brian Leetch #2 jersey raised at MSG, Jan. 24, 2008
Brian Leetch Jersey #2 retirement ceremony - NY Rangers

NY Rangers:
Forever A Ranger - Brian Leetch Night [video highlights of ceremony]
The History of Rangers No. 2

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brian Leetch Night

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Brian Leetch steps onto the ice at MSG for jersey #2 retirement ceremony
Rangers.NHL.tv:
Brian Leetch steps onto the ice at MSG [2:49] -- Watch as Brian Leetch meets with the current Rangers and steps onto the ice in front of the Madison Square Garden fans to begin his jersey retirement ceremony.

Brian Leetch's Special Announcement. [2:10] -- Brian Leetch announces during his jersey retirement ceremony that Adam Graves will join him among the MSG elite.

Video highlights of Brian's career:
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Brian Leetch receives the 1994 Conn Smythe Trophy
Brian Leetch receives the Conn Smythe Trophy, as the
1994 Stanley Cup playoff MVP.
NY Daily News
Top 10 Brian Leetch moments - 1. Wins Conn Smythe Trophy as 1994 playoffs MVP – 34 points (11 of them goals, including three series clinchers) in one postseason? For a defenseman? And throw in the pounding that left him unable to raise his arms to celebrate a goal in the Finals and the insane benching by Mike Keenan in Game 4 against the Devils? Messier, who has seen a phenomenal playoff performance or a thousand ranks it as perhaps the best ever. Even better – he's the only American ever to win the award.

Lady Hockey Bloggers / Hockey's Ladies of Greatness

Just in case you are a shut-in male hockey fan, and don't get out much, you should know that women love NHL hockey. In fact, there are now dozens of women who write hockey blogs. Some of them have organized the Hockey's Ladies of Greatness website. Here are a few pictures of these hip hockey lady bloggers and links to their blogs.

Hockey's Ladies of Greatnesslady hockey bloggers - click to enlarge

Lady Hockey bloggers:
  1. Acid Queen at Sweet Tea, Barbacue, and Body Checks - Hurricanes
  2. Jocelynn at A Sharks Fan Knits Hockey - San Jose Sharks
  3. Sherry at Scarlett Ice - Ottawa Senators
  4. Loxy at Hot Oil - Edmonton Oilers
  5. Shmee at Capital Addiction - Washington Capitals
  6. Cassie (with Finny) at Anaheim Duck fan - Anaheim Ducks
  7. Sasky at Five For Writing - general NHL
  8. Bethany's Hockey Rants - Columbus Blue Jackets
  9. The Prez at Hot Oil - Edmonton Oilers
  10. Hockeygirl at double_d(ion) - Calgary Flames
  11. Caps Chick at A View from the Cheap Seats - Washington Capitals
  12. Rinslet at Canucks fangirl - Vancouver Canucks
  13. Alana at Hot Oil - Edmonton Oilers
  14. Finny at Girl with a Puck - Anaheim Ducks
  15. Nadine at Flyers Femme - Philadelphia Flyers
  16. Kristan at eager to go psycho - Philadelphia Flyers
  17. Heather at So Very Obsessed - Boston Bruins
  18. Schnookie & Pookie at Interchangeable Parts - New Jersey Devils
  19. OnyxStarr at Coyotes Hip Check - Phoenix Coyotes
  20. jordi at Girls Don't Love Hockey - Montreal Canadiens
  21. A Quiet Girl at hockey will tear us apart - Ottawa Senators
  22. Rebecca at So Very Obsessed - Boston Bruins
  23. McPhizzle at Musings of a Radical Redhead - San Jose Sharks
  24. Steph at No Pun Intended - Detroit Red Wings
  25. Kristan at Land of Lakes and Hockey - Minnesota Wild
  26. Teka at Talk Hockey To Me - general NHL
  27. Heather at Top Shelf - Buffalo Sabres
  28. Elly at No Pun Intended - Pittsburg Penquins
  29. Cat at untypical girls - Dallas Stars
  30. Leanne at open.ice.hits. - Calgary Flames
  31. KMS2 at Purple Crushed Velvet - LA Kings
  32. Margee at Sport Squee - NY Islanders
  33. Tracy at True Coyote Love - Phoenix Coyotes
  34. Colleen TheHockeyChick at Two Minutes in the Sin Bin - St. Louis Blues
  35. The Ladies of HLOG

HLOG key

HLOG: Hockey's Ladies of Greatnessnot pictured

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Lines-New Results

Coach clueless made some line changes, again, last night and for one night it paid off. The Rangers beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-0 and the line changes, for a change, were quite effective. Sean Avery was moved to the first line with Gomez and Jagr, the JAG line, and it paid off as the line got two goals and three assists. Avery rubbed off on both Jagr and Gomez as both crashed the net, especially on Avery's goal, and was effective all night. Putting Avery on the first line was effective because of Avery's aggressiveness. He creates so much pressure and havoc on the defenders that it allowed Jagr and Gomez to roam freely.

Jagr picked up two assists, one on Avery's goal and the other on Dubinsky's goal during a line change while Jagr was still on the ice. The strangest goal came when Straka scored a shorthanded goal when Kozlov was skating to the bench and completely ignored the puck as it passed him on the way to the Thrasher zone. Straka pounced on it and put a backhander past Atlanta goalie Lehtonen who got poor support all night from his team. Jagr closed out the scoring by scoring from in close.

Henrik Lundqvist got his seventh shutout of the season, the 14th of his career in about as easy a game he will ever have. He'll take it, as he needed only 14 saves to move to within one of tying Eddie Giacomin's record of eight in a season. He had help from the Thrashers as Kovalchuk self destructed by boarding Rozsival and got a 5 minute penalty and a game misconduct. Marian Hossa, the real Hossa, was held to no shots on goal as the Rangers played a solid game.

Remember how easy we beat Montreal and then lost back to back to the Bruins? Remember we are now 8-12-4 and its not the first time we played well after changing the lines. So we get Atlanta tomorrow night on Brian Leetch night and it is a good possibility that Kovalchuk will be suspended for the game. Do we come out flat or do we come out flying in honor of one of our all time greats. After the All Star break we hit the road for four toughies. Carolina, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Montreal. That will tell us a lot of about where we are going. We will also find out if the line changes are permanent. Hopefully it's up, up and away.

Brian Leetch - Jersey #2 retiredICINGS:

1050 ESPN Radio NY / Michael Kay show:
Brian Leetch Interview, Wed. show [mp3] -- Michael Kay and Don LaGreca talk with New York Rangers Legend Brian Leetch. Leetch discusses some of his most memorable moments in the NHL, his former teammates and whether or not he's going to cry when they raise his jersey.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Slipping and Sliding Away

Thank God for The Makos, my grandson Nicholas's hockey team that just won the New York Islander sponsored tournament. The Rangers may not be dead yet, but it is not because they are not trying. I didn't see the Ranger game today as I was at the Coliseum watching Nicholas and his teammates win a Championship. Yeah Makos! Boo Rangers!

The Rangers are showing no signs of life, no spirit, no ability to score goals, no discipline, and no chance of making the playoffs. Making the playoffs? They are closer to last place in the conference then first place. What will making the playoffs do? It will make more money for Dolan. It will ensure the return of coach clueless. It will authenticate the philosophy of coach clueless. It will perpetuate mediocrity. It will cause another ticket price increase for next year. It will give false hopes. It will mean bringing back the old warhorses for one more try.

I know that I have been down this road before, but why go out and buy an offense oriented team and give them a defense-first mentality head coach, who has no idea of what an offense should be? Vancouver didn't get rid of him for nothing. The Rangers would be better off coachless and let the players decide the lines and the defensive pairings. The Rangers are 7-12-4 and getting worse. One step forward and two steps back. Out of the last possible 46 points they have gotten 18 points for a winning percentage of .391. Where is that guy who wanted me to moo after the Rangers go ten games over .500? Ten games over .500? They are 22-21-6. In my book that is 27 losses. Hah! This is the NHL and we know that in the NHL all teams are over .500. Well most teams. The Rangers have played 49 games and have 50 points so I guess by NHL standards they are over .500. The Rangers have 33 games left. That's 66 points sitting on the table. To get to ten games over, or twenty points over, the Rangers would have to go 21-12. Hold on to your money.

Today was another futile effort. Dubinsky scored the only goal in the last minute of play. But the offense is okay. We have to tighten up on the defense. Lundqvist has to start getting shutouts. That is what is wrong. Tell me what is wrong when a team is averaging about five penalties a game? The coach can't fix it. He doesn't know how to fix it. Remember when we had a coach who benched Brian Leetch during a playoff game? You think they are going to mention that Thursday night? You think that coach will be there Thursday night? You think the Stealth GM will be there Thursday night? You think the absentee owner will be there Thursday night? For the answer to these and all other Ranger questions please stay tuned.

Makos Champs!

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Lighthouse TournamentThe Makos thrilled their followers of parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters with a decisive win over the Cantiague Phantoms before a noisy crowd at the Nassau Coliseum, 6-3. The win was the climax of a fabulous run by the Makos in the last week that produced victories over Superior, Port Washington, Long Beach and finally Cantiague. Johnny put the Makos up 1-0 less than ten seconds into the game and the Makos never looked back. Johnny would go on to score a hat trick. Other scorers were Joey, Troy and Ben.

Brandon was outstanding in goal for the Makos, especially in the third period when Cantiague made their bid to get back in the game. Cantiague was on the attack most of the third period, which was spent almost entirely in the Makos defensive zone. The Mako defense was also great. It bent a few times, but it never really broke. Coaches Mike and Rob did an outstanding job in the third period making frequent substitutions keeping fresh legs out there. It was a sight to behold at the final buzzer as the entire team rushed off the bench to the net and literally buried Brandon and each other.

So the Makos who went into the tournament classified as The Rinx 2 team, a wildcard team so to speak, are the champions of the Squirt Division of the The New York Islanders Lighthouse Tournament. They are the number one Squirt Division team in all of Long Island. How about those apples? The team got better with each game and you could see the confidence and swagger building the last two games against two highly rated teams. Congratulations to the team, its coaches, The Rinx, and especially the families and friends of the team. It's going to be a treat to see the Lighthouse Trophy at The Rinx. Let's Go Makos!

Makos wins Lighthouse Tournament Squirt DivisionMakos wins Lighthouse Tournament Squirt DivisionMakos wins Lighthouse Tournament Squirt DivisionTeam Makos celebrates winning Lighthouse Tournament Squirt DivisionTeam Makos celebrates winning Lighthouse Tournament Squirt Division

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Makos Move On To The Coliseum

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Lighthouse TournamentFinishing a remarkable run of three straight wins the Mako's are headed to the Nassau Coliseum for a championship showdown with Cantiague of Hicksville at 1:30 PM tomorrow. It will be the Squirts Championship game betwen two 3-0 teams. Today the Mako's were dominant in beating off a determined Long Beach team. The final score was 9-7 as the Mako's built up a 9-3 lead before Long Beach roared back and put a little nervousness in the Mako's fans.

The tournament is under the sponsorship of the Islanders and is called New York Islanders Lighthouse Tournament. Former Islander Steve Webb is the coordinator of the tournament and definitely is the driving force behind it. The idea is to recognize In-House League players in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The preliminary rounds are played at five sites across Long Island. Tomorrow at Nassau Coliseum there will be four championship games in the Squirt, Pee Wee, Bantam, and Midget Divisions.

The Mako's took a 4-1 lead after the first period on two goals by Joey, one by Johnny, and one by Troy. In the second period the Mako's scored five more times to take a 9-3 lead going into the final period. The goal scorers for the Makos were Joey giving him a hat trick, no hats thrown, Johnny and Troy each getting their second and Ben and John each notching their first goals.

But there was no quit in Long Beach as they came back with a furious rally that cut the once formidable lead to 9-7 with a little over two minutes to play. A great save by goalie Brandon with about a minute to play eased the nervousness of the Mako's fans. The first two periods saw some strong Mako forechecking led by Tyler, Alyssa, and Kyle. The defense led by James, Brendon, Billy, and Nicholas was solid especially at the points when they constantly kept the puck in Long Beach's zone. Nicholas was chosen as the Mako's player of the game.

A special word of thanks go out to the two coaches who gave of their time and energy and it really paid off as the Mako's seemed to have hit their stride in this tournament. Kudos to head coach Mike and his able assistant Rob for a job well done. A big thank you from all the parents, grandparents and fans. On to the Coliseum and one more win.

Lighthouse Tournament/Project Hope:
Steve Webb at Lighthouse Tournament Blog - Long Island Division
Islanders: Lighthouse Tournament Blog
Newsday: Islanders host youth game for Chinese teams

Burnside in the Box at ESPN
:

Owner Charles Wang was born in Shanghai, and the team for the past three years has been helping to establish rinks and youth hockey in China. This week the team will host two teams born of that project (dubbed Ice Hockey Project Hope) that will travel from Qiqihar and Harbin to take part in a massive youth tournament on Long Island. Some 2,500 kids aged 3 to 18 are expected to take part in the first-ever tournament hosted by the Islanders' children's foundation. The two China-based teams (players are aged 9-12) will also play a mini-game between periods at an Islanders game and be recognized during the opening ceremonies.
IslandersTV:
Steve Webb discusses the Lighthouse Tournament, a part of the Long Island Hockey Fest, from Parkwood Arena in Great Neck.

Lighthouse Tournament highlights & Steve Webb discusses the tournament

Hockey Fight Camp

Here are some pictures and snips about Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's hockey fighting camp for kids. Meantime, the Rangers are planning a camp featuring the perimeter offense and penalty killing for Ranger Land kids next summer.

Aaron (black jersey), left and Derek (green jersey) Boogaard, right at hockey fight campAaron (black jersey) and Derek (green jersey) Boogaard

Boogaard brothers offer fighting tips to young hockey players at Canada.com - snip:
REGINA - When Aaron and Derek Boogaard take a wannabe tough guy to school, they usually do it on the ice.

The venue switched to the classroom this week when the Boogaard brothers - who make the Hansons of Slapshot fame look like lightweights - staged their inaugural hockey fighting camp at a Regina training centre.

The clinic included more 30 registered players from age 12 to 18 who signed on to receive a crash course from two of the toughest customers in the game.

"We're out here to show kids how to look after themselves when they're on the ice," said Derek Boogaard, a 25-year-old enforcer with the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

"We're showing them the little things that would help them out, rather than them learning the hard way and getting hurt."

You'd be hard pressed to find two more qualified instructors.

Derek Boogaard, also known as the Boogeyman, is coming off his second full season with Minnesota. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, he's regarded by many as the most intimidating pugilist in the NHL. ...
Hockey fighting campOrganizers defend Regina hockey fight camp at CTV.ca - snip:
A controversial summer hockey camp that teaches youth how to scrap on skates is attracting censure from critics who fear the youngsters are being groomed for hockey mayhem.

But organizers defend the fight camp, saying it teaches players to protect themselves.

"We're not trying to make it more fights in hockey," said Trevor Lakness, general manager of Puckmasters. "What we're doing is if kids get into fights, they're not going to get hurt, they're going to know how to protect themselves." ...
More on fighting technique at kidzworld - snip:

Whether you agree with violence or not, there is a certain excitement when you watch two players beat the snot out of each other on the ice. A hockey scrap always gets the crowd going and it can change the momentum of a game. Good players, like NHL superstar Mario Lemieux don't fight, but even they know how to defend themselves.

Proper Fighting Skills:
What's the best way to protect yourself if you're in a hockey fight? Dustin McArthur plays for the Corpus Christie Ice Rays of the WPHL. He runs a hockey fight camp during the summer for kids. "The most important thing is where you grab your opponent. You should grab around the elbow so your opponent can't get his arm up. If he can't get his arm up, he can't hit you," says McArthur. "The more things about the game you know how to do, the better. A player who can score, check and fight is more valuable than a player that can only score," he says....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Popularity Contest: Crosby v. Ovechkin

Two of the biggest and youngest stars of the NHL: 20-year-old, Sidney Crosby, of the Pittsburg Penguins, and 22-year-old, Alexander Ovechkin, of the Washington Capitals have been locked in a horse race regarding who is more popular.

Using a Google Trends analysis of the search volume for each player shows how the two superstars have gone back and forth in terms of the public's interest in them. Crosby was the man in 2005, Ovechkin dominated in 2006, but Crosby came back to lead in 2007.

Note: the big spike for Ovechkin in January 2006 was due to his famous "falling-backward, over-the-head, twisting goal" against Phoenix. And the spike at the end of 2007 for Crosby was due to his play in the January 1st, Winter Classic game.

Wonder if Ovechkin gets his shot at a Winter Classic someday?

who is more popular Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin?source:
Google Trends

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Third Line's A Charm

They played a hockey game last night befitting a tenth place team and an eleventh place team. It was easy to see why Buffalo lost their tenth straight and why the Rangers only won their second game in the last eight. Buffalo was missing three key players: Roy, Connolly and Afinogenov were all out for the Sabres. What was the Rangers excuse? The game was played before a less than capacity crowd. There was a good 3-4 thousand short. In the past large contingents of Sabres fans would attend these games. I guess they have given up too. The scalpers are having a tough time this year at the Ranger games.

The third line, the kids, were the story last night and that was the good news. These stupid kids think that you are supposed to keep skating and charging and getting in front of the net and shooting all the time. Dumb kids, they'll learn. Dubinsky (5) and Prucha (6) sandwiched goals around Pominville's (11) to give the Rangers the win, 2-1. Dubinsky, Prucha and Dawes also picked up assists as did Paul Mara, one of the few D-men not afraid to shoot the puck.

The goalies both played well considering the caliber of most of the shots. Lundqvist made 23 saves and lost his shutout when Marek Malik did his worst impersonation of Brian Leetch and pinched too much leading to a Sabre breakout which resulted in Pominville's tying goal. Prucha's goal was the game winner deflecting Mara's shot past Ryan Miller who made 33 saves. The three stars were: number three Blair Betts, who played well on the penalty kills and was tough all night, Dubinsky number two, and Petr Prucha was number one.

Now I will go out and pick up my morning papers where the drive by media will tell me what a great game it was and how the Rangers are turning it around. I already heard that nonsense on WFAN coming home from the station last night. Coach clueless has it all under control. Sure, and the price of gas will fall to $2 a gallon tomorrow.

Let's Go Makos!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

First Period Blowup Dooms Rangers

The Rangers continued their undisciplined play in the first period last night and unlike Saturday when they held the Canadiens to 1 goal in 8 power play attempts, last night they collapsed as the Penguins scored two power play goals in the first period. The Rangers took four penalties in the first period and one of the power plays was a five on three which the Pens converted en route to a 4-1 win over the hapless Blueshirts. The last goal was an empty netter by Malkin which gave him his second hat trick in the last eleven games.

The first power play goal was Ranger coverage at its most inept. Marek Malik was completely out of position which allowed Malkin to literally walk in and score with a helpless Michal Rozsival being picked by a Penguin. In truth a penalty could have been called against the Penguins for interfering but they did this all night and only one penalty was called on the picks against the Pens. However, Rozsival was quite passive and made no attempt to stop Malkin. To think this is coach clueless's number one defensive pair. To think that we have young legs like Thomas Pock and Ivan Baranka in Hartford while the dynamic duo of Rozy and Lurch continue to dazzle us. Aah, but they have great plus minuses. They also get great press from the drive by media who are in cahoots with coach clueless to foster this sham upon the fans. By the way, the fans are all wrong and so bad when we boo Malik 'The Maleficent.' We should be cheering him when he doesn't trip over the puck or get torched by an opponent. Notice how Sam and Joe go out of their way to extol any non foul-up. Unfortunately there is no change in sight.

The Rangers took 41 shots on goal and most of them were from their favorite spots, the perimeter. The one goal scored was when Jagr went to the net and was stopped and then he rebounded his own shot in. The charges to the net were few and infrequent. Meanwhile, the Penguins were skating around at will and were basically untouched. There was a fight at the beginning and a big skirmish at the end but in between was Ranger hockey. We won basically all the statistics but lost the game. The Ranger were 1-6 on the PP and the Pens were 2-5. The Rangers were 17% and the Pens were 40%. That's quite a difference and the young team beat the old team.

So now what? It already started that Shanahan and Avery were missing. Are the Rangers that fragile that no one can pick up the absence of these two players? The Rangers are now 21-20-5 and heading in the wrong direction. This is a team that should be fighting for the top spot and are clinging to dear life in an attempt to make the playoffs. We are 15 points behind Ottawa for the top spot and only 8 points ahead of 15th place Tampa Bay. The team has about as much talent as any team in the NHL, but they perform night in and night out as poorly as the worst teams in the league. But what do you expect with an absentee owner, a stealth GM and a clueless coach?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One Day Miracle On 33rd Street

No, Santa didn't show up but the Rangers did for a change. While they made it more than interesting by giving the Canadiens eight power plays including two five on threes, the Rangers prevailed last night to stop their five game losing streak. The Rangers won, 4-1, but the game never seemed in doubt even when it was only 2-0 and we were taking terrible penalties. So what went right?

Did coach clueless give a Knute Rockne win one for the Gipper speech? Did the Captain stand up in the middle of the room and exhort his team mates to give their all for Ranger Blue? I don't think so. Getting two goals from their third line, Prucha and Dawes, the Rangers parlayed great penalty killing and Henrik Lundqvist's return to form to beat an outstanding power play road team. The Canadiens have the second best road record in the Eastern Conference and the number one power play in the NHL. Holding them to one goal in eight PP chances was quite an accomplishment. The Rangers had a 4-0 lead when the Canadiens scored their PP goal. Montreal had over two minutes of five on three PP time on the two penalties and didn't come close.

Can the Rangers turn it around with this win? Not if they continue to take stupid penalties. They took three tripping and two hooking penalties, the laziest of all penalties, last night. Also the power play continues to falter. It was 0-3 last night and 0-7 against the Flyers. They have fallen to the 18th spot in the rankings for PP%. They play a hot Penguin team in Pittsburgh tomorrow so let's see if we can continue the fine play we showed last night. And lets stay out of the penalty box and let's start lighting up the power play. However, if I have said it once I have said it over a hundred times, as Lundqvist goes so go the Rangers. I used to say it was the one-two punch of Lundqvist and Jagr but I don't see anything in Jagr's performance that will make that happen. So its Lundqvist and anybody, Drury, Prucha, Dawes, whomever.

ICINGS: A large contingent of Canadien fans were there to cheer on their heroes. They didn't get much to cheer about, but I do believe that they had quite a few cheers before coming to the game. Spent the morning at an ice rink in Port Washington as my Grandson Nicholas's team the Mako defeated Superior 5-1 in the first round of the New York Islanders Lighthouse Tournament. There are four age divisions that will be playing at local sites across LI with the two top teams in each group meeting in the finals at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday January 20th starting at 7:00 AM. Steve Webb, the former Islander, is coordinating the entire event and from what I have seen it is first class. Had a chance to meet and talk to Steve and just maybe the Rangers could use his toughness. Good luck Steve on a great tournament.

Friday, January 11, 2008

S.O.S.

I know of no other way to put it. The ship is taking on water. With Henrik Lundqvist now an average goalie, for whatever reason, there seems to be no help or hope in sight. The Rangers are now 5-10-3 in the last 18 games. That is 13 points out of a possible 36. They are sinking fast. They need help but who can do it? Coach clueless? The invisible Captain? Early in the season it was Lundqvist. When the Ranger faltered, there was The Prince to bail them out. Now The Prince is faltering and there is no one to bail him out. In fact they are adding to the problem. When I got home last night the first thing Maryann asked me, "What's wrong with this team, there is no one protecting Lundqvist?" Protecting him? They are adding to his problems.

What are Lundqvist's problems? He does not seem focused. I counted four goals that he would have eaten up previously. The Flyers first goal, which trickled in off his glove. The miscommunication on the potential icing which led to a goal. The goal scored from the side, behind the net and the breakaway which he did something he never did, he fell for the deke and moved first. However, where was the rest of the team? Is Lundqvist concerned about his father's brain surgery? Is he focused on the contract negotiations rather than his play? Is he becoming too big of a New York celebrity with his music and band? I hope not, but something is wrong. Those of you that have been readers of this post know that I have long claimed that Henrik Lundqvist is 'The Man' as far as the Ranger success goes and I for one still believe that and will not abandon The Prince. I don't care how many goals Jagr scores it is Lundqvist who is the glue to this team and as he goes so go the Rangers.

The fourth line tried to show the Rangers how to win last nights game. They constantly went to the net on every shift they had in the first period with the result being that Hollweg scored his first two goals of the year. That should have set the pattern. However, there are too many timid souls on this team who enjoy the view of the oppositions net from at least 20-30 feet out. Don't let the 41 shots on goal fool you. Most of them would have been stopped by the goalies playing in the junior Rangers game. The Rangers were 0-7 on the power play, and gave up three goals out of seven chances on the penalty kill. So all aspects of their game are crumbling. What's the common denominator?

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead into the second period but they were two men down taking three stupid penalties, none dumber than Chris Drury tossing his stick to a defenseman. He said he didn't know the rules. You think coach clueless knew it? Anyway it all unraveled and the Rangers lost their fifth straight. What's worse, is there seems to be no hope in sight. The Dark Ranger had a very bad night last night. Had he been sitting with me it would have been worse as there were four Flyer fans who kept jumping up all night for their team. At least someone had a good time. Bring on Le Habs.

ICINGS: Brendan Shanahan was missing most of the third period. Hurt? Disgusted?

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S.O.S for NY Rangers

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Homecoming Pawns


There was a big roar from the crowd when the PA announcer said that Marek Malik was scratched, but I swear his spirit was on the ice. The Rangers, coming home from a dreadful three game western losing streak, were not ready to play and were sloppy and indecisive. Three of the four Tampa Bay goals were deflections, one by a Ranger. Earlier in the season Lundqvist may have made a save or two on these deflections but those moments seem far gone for now. Chris Gratton, who always seems to do well against the Rangers scored twice. Ex Rangers Jan Hlavac and Jason Ward each picked up an assist with Hlavac a +2 and Ward a +3. Our number one line of Gomez, Jagr and Drury were each a -3. Strange night.

The Rangers still scored the first goal by Jagr at the 3:02 mark and then the obsessive defense first coach clueless decided to play defense. Defense against a team that is 29th out of 30th in the NHL. Defense against a team that had three road wins before this game. Defense against a team that had given up the most goals in the NHL. Defense against a team that was playing a goalie, Karri Ramo, who was playing in his 8th game and had a GAA of 3.25 and a save % of .892. No wonder Lightning coach John Tortorella was smiling all night. The fourth line got plenty of ice time, Orr 13:16, Hollweg 13:51 and Betts 13:44 of even strength time. Only Betts got PK time, 2:21. Petr Prucha got all of 8:13 of playing time, no power play time. This was the least of any forwards. One of my sources at the Garden told me that Prucha is being shopped around the NHL.

The Rangers put on a third period rally that got the fans excited but it fell short. They had a good shot at tying it when they were presented with a five on three power play for 1:24 about halfway through the period but they came up empty as Shanahan couldn't hit the net and Rozsival refused to shoot the puck. Later on Mara sent a rocket off the post and Gomez's shot got by Ramo and just skipped by an open net. Then it was over and the Blueshirts lost their fourth straight and are tied with the Islanders, who lost in the shootout last night, for the eighth and final playoff spot.

After the game there were the usual quotes, you've heard them before but there was this from coach clueless. "We've put ourselves in the position where every second of hockey is crucial to us." Really! He sure didn't coach that way. In fact he hasn't coached at all as this team continues to sink like a rock. They are 5-9-3 in their last 17 games. I was wrong when I called them a .500 team, they are sub .500.

ICINGS: Bad news on Avery, who may need surgery and could be out for the season. That would be devastating to the Rangers. Becky Gulsvig of "Legally Blonde" belted out the national anthem and must have been primed for the many outbursts that take place during the singing and she paused at the right moments. She received a rousing ovation at the end.

Brian Leetch Interview

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source:
Brian Leetch on MSG Hockey Night Live [5 min. video]

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Western Woes

The Rangers slide into oblivion continued last night with a 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton. Edmonton which had only won two out of their last nine. And the aberration, the gimmick, known as the shootout, hockey's version of European soccer, decided the "contest". Edmonton has won 18 games all season and has an 11-2 record in shootouts. Think about it? In 43 regular season games Edmonton has only won 7 in regulation. Want more shootout nonsense? The kid who scored the winning goal, Sam Gagner, has four shootout goals. In 40 regular season games Sam Gagner has 3 goals with 13 assists for a grand total of 16 points. Baseball has its DH and hockey now has its SS. This is what Gary Bettman and the GM's have given us. Sam Gagner is tied for 270th place among all NHL forwards in goal scoring. And the guy who ranks 13th on the all time goal scoring list shot a blank at a goalie named Mathieu Garon who ranks 18th in GAA and save % this year. However, he is 7-0 in shootouts having stopped 21 of 23 shots.

But the Rangers have no one to blame but themselves. They were swept in the three game Western tour and are 0-6-1 against the Western Conference this year. They have three games at the Garden against LA, Anaheim and San Jose. They lack any of the spark and cohesion that is needed to be consistent. Of more concern is the fact that Brendan Shanahan may have been seriously injured in another collision at center ice. I find it amazing how these big moose always seem to bang into him. Coincidence? Shanahan will be sorely missed if he is out for any games. He is the only leader on this team and that includes coach clueless. Any lengthy absence will severely damage the Rangers playoff hopes. Martin Straka was also injured and there is no update on him either. His loss could force coach clueless to bring Nigel Dawes back and give him some serious ice time.

I turned the TV off right after I heard Sam Rosen make the comment that the Rangers had gotten a point. Wow! A point against one of the dregs of the NHL. I could hear the post game show now. "We played a good game but didn't get the breaks." "It was a big point". "It's starting to come together." "That was a bad call by the ref." "We have to be more disciplined." "We have to play a full sixty minutes." "We'll turn it around in the second half of the season." Blah, blah, blah, blah. Guess what? The second half started last night and it doesn't look too good. I saw enough of it on the pregame as Trautwig and Fischler, the happy boys, told us that everything is fine and soon we will be putting it all together.

So we continue to drift and slide. We are 4-4-2 in the last ten, confirming that despite the predictions of a Stanley Cup by the drive by media experts, we are basically a .500 club. We are in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, only six points ahead of 14th place Washington and only one point ahead of 9th place Islanders who have two games in hand. Belaboring a point, we have put together a collection of offensive players and are struggling to win games where we give up two goals. What's wrong with this team? There is an old Italian expression but I will use the English translation. "The fish stinks from the head."

Road Trip is Rotting in the Fridge

LA Lakers sportscaster Chick Hearn had a catch phrase he used after a game's outcome was set and only the final score was in question. He'd say:

This game’s in the refrigerator: The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jigglin’.
It was Chick's variation of "the game's on ice."

Borrowing Chick's metaphor, you could say this last game of the Rangers western road trip went into a broken refrigerator. The door is closed. However, the coach's light bulb brain has burned out, the power play is cracked and oozing, the defense is soft and rancid, and the offense has melted and is just a favored puddle in the fruit chiller. It's not a pretty picture.

Dubi at the BlueShirt Bulletin saw it this way:
But this was worse than bad -- this was ugly. The power play -- ugly, even as it stumbled and bumbled its way to Drury's goal. The deflected goal the Oilers were gifted, and the identically deflected goal they gifted back -- ugly. Ranger face-offs, losing 60%, with Drury 5-11, Scott Gomez 10-14, and Blair Betts 5-8-- ugly. Sean Avery's shootout attempt, having been chosen because he was familiar with former L.A. teammate Mathieu Garon -- ugly. Gomez's shootout attempt -- well, not necessarily ugly, but Scotty, don't be smiling, get your game face on! Jagr's lame shooutout attempt with the game on the line -- doubly ugly. And Lundqvist stopping Sam Gagner's shootout attempt but letting it bounce in over his shoulder -- ugly, ruining whatever confidence he may have built up during the game.

Ugliest of all was the continued lack of discipline, especially in the third period and overtime, the Rangers sabotaging themselves for a second straight game with ugly penalties. . .
ICINGS:
Daily News
Rangers Tie It Late, Fall In Shootout
NY Post
How The West Was Lost
Journal News
Rangers Lose In Shootout To Oilers

Friday, January 04, 2008

Underwhelming!

That is what the Rangers were last night and that is what the Rangers are this season. After last night's stinker the Rangers are 20-17-2-2- at the halfway mark of the season. They are below .500 with 21 losses in 41 games. Of course the way the NHL figures they are above .500 with 44 points in 41 games. The way the NHL figures most of the teams are over .500. Go figure. I for one am getting tired of Sam and Joe telling me every night that the Rangers had a great period. Pray tell me how do you have a great period when you can't score a goal?

Last night we out shot Vancouver. Big deal, every night we out shoot the other team. But you can't score if you don't have the ability or the courage to get in front of the net. No one on the first line gets in front of the net and most of them would rather pass the puck backwards rather then forward. The good news is that all the individual scoring streaks came to an end. I'm happy about that. I want to see some team scoring streaks. I would like to see this overpriced, underachievers go on a long winning streak scoring a ton of goals. No, I don't believe in Santa Claus any more.

The new mantra is now that we have entered the second half we will start to turn it on and play better. Why? The basic team philosophy is not geared toward offense even though we have some of the top offensive players in the NHL. How do I know that? Well the drive by sports media tell me that every day. Meanwhile coach clueless preaches defense, defense, defense. No one ever told him that the best defense is a good offense. So we have a coach who dwells on the defense and leaves the offense to the players who with minor exceptions play the perimeter, pass at all costs game. So we get night after night a minor leaguer like Marcel Hossa blowing easy goals in front of the net while a proven goal scorer like Nigel Dawes plays in Hartford and when they do bring him up they give him less then ten minutes of ice time.

But this is what you get from a clueless coach and an under achieving team. Underwhelming!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Slow Start — Worse Finish

The Rangers did what Ranger teams have done over the years. They come out slow, relaxed and unprepared and a little over a minute into the game they are down 1-0. While they fought back to 2-1 and 3-2 they eventually lost 4-3 ,because even their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, allowed one of the cheapest goals he has allowed all year.

They screened their goalie, guess who, for the first goal? They then put on a Marx Brothers act, which allowed Jerome IIginla to score at Lundqvist's doorstep. Then on a power play a defenseman, guess who, first challenged Iginla and then backed off while a forward left him untouched. On our end 'The Wrong Hossa' was at the doorstep of Miikka Kiprusoff for a gimmee but didn't shoot hard enough or didn't loft it over the goalie.

So we move from one hot team to another, the Canucks. But all is well with the world because Dubinsky played well, but the predictable breakdowns and screw ups broke down and screwed up. And Dawes and Baranka stay in Hartford.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

NHL Winter Classic: Penguins 2, Sabres 1

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Winter Classic video and pictures
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Sidney Crosby: 1 assist and game winner in shootout at NHL Winter Classic
ESPN: Our grades from the Winter Classic - Weather: If you are grading the weather on the optics, this was Western New York weather at its best -- swirling snow, but not as bitterly cold as the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Someone suggested the stadium looked like a giant snow globe. If you are grading the weather as it related to the game itself, well, the snow pretty much made passing and seeing the puck impossible, especially in the third period. . .

Overall grade: When you decide to take your game into Mother Nature's backyard, you never know what kind of reception you're going to get. That's part of the allure of these events. But, by the end of the afternoon, with the snow piling up and the ice breaking down, it seemed less magical than when the game started. Grade: B-plus.
71,217 The NHL record-setting attendance number for New Year's Day Winter Classic
National Post [Canada]: 2nd & Short: Winter Classic by the numbers -- The Count 71,217 The NHL record-setting attendance number for New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor games between Pittsburgh and Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. An additional 11,500 watched the Penguins score a 2-1 shootout win on the big screen at HSBC Arena in downtown Buffalo.

2 Number of outdoor games in front of 70,000-plus fans Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller and Penguins' forward Adam Hall have now played. Both were part of the 2001 Cold War game between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan — which is still the largest-ever crowd at a hockey game with 74,544 in attendance. . .
NY Times: Winter Wonderland for Crosby and N.H.L. - With more than 71,000 fans filling a football stadium that at times resembled a snow globe, the N.H.L. had a storybook setting for its outdoor game Tuesday between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. . .
Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman (5) and Pen's Sidney Crosby
NY Times: The Perfect Snowstorm: The Winter Classic Scores - The National Hockey League needed a game like Tuesday’s outdoor Winter Classic. In its fight for the attention of sports fans, it requires events that set it apart. It needed a tight game . . .
Winter Classic: Sidney Crosby, right, screens Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, left, prior to Pens' Colby Armstrong's goal
AP: NHL, Penguins Winners in Winter Classic -- Snow, a sold-out football stadium and Sidney Crosby scoring the shootout winner. The NHL couldn't have scripted a better finish for its showcase event, the Winter Classic outdoor game, to kick off 2008. . .
Sidney Crosby of the Pens avoids a poke-check by Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to score the winning goal in the shootout at the Winter Classic.
Buffalo News: In cold light of day, this was no instant classic - The NHL has constantly grappled, and without much success, over how best to sell hockey in the United States. It emerged from the lockout of three seasons ago with a new set of rules and promises of strict enforcement. But enforcement waned and scoring diminished and the sport returned to the stranglehold of coaches with defensive bents, spoiling the game’s natural beauty and attraction.

The league needs to find ways to extract and emphasize the talents of its gifted players and capture the imaginations of its fans. The winning shootout goal scored by Crosby fit the script. But the 65 minutes of rag-tag hockey it took to reach that point did little to enhance the league’s allure.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The NHL's Great Outdoor Winter Classic

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Pens practice at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, NY Dec 31st
Brian Campbell: "Once your face gets a little numb you feel fine. The ears were cold a little bit, maybe a little frostbite on them, but that's all right."

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