Monday, March 31, 2008

Captain Clutch Strikes

He used to give us fits and one playoff game last year he gave us the ultimate agita scoring a tying goal against us with 7.7 seconds left in the game. We lost the game in OT. Now he is on our side thanks to being one of the two best moves our GM made in the off season. He is Chris Drury and he scored his 4th career OT goal and his first as a Ranger. It was his 24th of the year. Remember his big tying goal against Brodeur on the 19th at The Rock? He is starting to come on and why not? Its close to playoff time and these last few games are playoff type games. It is his time of the year. It was his 44th career game winning goal.

The 2-1 win, Jagr got the other Ranger goal his 21st, jumped the Rangers into fifth place one point ahead of Ottawa. We are tied with the Devils for fourth with 93 points each but they have more wins than us and they also have a game in hand. The game at The Rock on Sunday is the season finale and may decide fourth and fifth place. Two points more by the Rangers or a loss by Washington will clinch the Rangers third straight playoff appearance. It would be great if the Rangers could rap it up Thursday at the Island. A lot of my Islander friends already miserable over the teams performance this year will have to go into a thirty day mourning period if the Rangers clinch on Long Island.

The game was a solid, rock 'em, sock 'em playoff type game with the Rangers matching the Penguins hit for hit, (34-33), unlike last nights game. Sean Avery set the tone early, first with a big hit on Sydor and about 20 seconds later he tangled with Ryan Malone, who objected to Avery's hit on Sydor. After a spirited exchange Avery decked Malone with a right cross. Needless to say that brought the crowd into the game.

Jagr played a great game and his goal, a power play goal, was the second fluke goal in a row the Rangers have scored at the Garden. His shot was deflected over goalie Fleury's head and as it came down it looked like Gomez was trying to bat it in but defenseman Rob Scuderi swung his hand to stop Gomez's stick. Scuderi swatted the puck off of Fleury's head into the net. Originally the ref ruled no goal, however, the review showed it was a goal, so maybe just in time for the playoffs the Rangers are getting lucky. The goal was Jagr's third in his last five games.

Lundqvist was outstanding especially in the third period when he made twelve saves. Overall he made 21 saves, quite a few spectacular. The one goal scored by Pittsburgh was because of poor coverage by Dubinsky who was busy trying to atone for a Penguin hit on Jagr which left Lundqvist vulnerable. Its hard to fault Dubinsky who played a great game. To me the three stars were number one Chris Drury, number two Jaromir Jagr and number three Henrik Lundqvist. Sean Avery with three shots, three hits and the big fight played great as did Ryan Callahan who had four shots and eight hits. All in all a strong comeback from the stinker in Pittsburgh. The Rangers took the season series from Pittsburgh five games to three, winning all four games at the Garden. The Rangers have the sixth best home record in the NHL, hence the importance of getting the number four spot.

ICINGS:

For some nice pics, an extensive report, and an "interesting" take on the game, check out the Pensblog:

The Rangers have come out of nowhere the past month or so to make a name for themselves. They are coming together at the right time.

They were a desperate team in this game, and they got it done.

The Pens wanted to win.
The Rangers had to win.

As far as the Rangers postseason hopes go, their defense is solid as balls.

Unlike the whiny New York Media, their fans, and their team, we aren't going to run the Rangers down, like they run the Penguins down. All you can do is appreciate the hockey that went down Monday night.

Chris Drury is clutch, and clutch is everything.
But the Pens got a point, on the road...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Old Bugaboos

Two old Ranger bugaboos showed up this afternoon at the Igloo against the Penguins. No discipline and no killer instinct, also known as defense at all costs. The Rangers got an early power play opportunity and cashed in when Dubinsky scored his 14th on a rebound off of a Jagr shot. They imploded almost immediately with the first of 8 power play opportunities they gave to the Penguins. The killer came on a five on three goal by Malkin, late in the first period, which gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead. That was basically the game. The Pens were 1-8 on the power play and the Rangers were 1-4.

The Rangers seemed to back off after taking a 1-0 lead and instead of trying to get more they played to accomplish less. As Pierre Maguire and Mike Milbury observed, "The Rangers are too passive." No surprise there, look at their coach. The Rangers were also out hit by the Penguins 33-20. No surprise there either as Ryan Hollweg got all of 3:39 of ice time, Avery got 10:07, Dawes skated for 9:12 and Prucha got all of 4:42 and still managed two hits. Straka got 20:08 including 4:01 of power play time and got no shots on goal and no hits. Gomez and Drury also had no shots on goal.

Why is Straka on the first line with Dubinsky and Jagr? Why is Straka getting over twenty minutes of ice time and Prucha, when he isn't benched, gets all of 4 minutes? Why isn't Sean Avery back on the first line where he was a sparkplug for Dubinsky and Jagr? Avery should be back on the first line and Prucha should be on the second line with Gomez and Shanahan. Straka should be on the bench. I for one am tired of his dipsy-doo style of hockey, his excessive passing and his refusal to shoot the puck. But coach clueless likes him.

Despite all that, Martin Straka did not lose this game. The penalties did us in and it is disgraceful at this time of year that the lack of discipline still rears its ugly head. There are only four games left and the Ranger need two wins to clinch a playoff spot, as Washington looks like it is ready to sweep the last three games and work its way into the playoff picture, either in third or eighth. Either way, the Capitals will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers need to start tomorrow night to right a ship that has now veered off course and has lost five out of the last eight.

ICINGS:
Sean Avery can not stay out of the newspapers. The NY Daily News reported: Sean Avery in hooker's black book --

Rangers hockey star Sean Avery's name and private cell phone number are in the little black book of Manhattan madam Kristin Davis.

Avery, 27, a trash-talking enforcer who has dated a string of models and actresses, is listed as a $500 client of brothel Maison de L'Amour...

Contacted Friday at the number in the records, the pretty boy known in the NHL as "The Animal" at first laughed when told where his name had turned up

"For some reason, I highly doubt that," Avery told the Daily News, insisting he was the target of a practical joke.

"It's April Fools' Day coming up and I'm not going to fall for it." ...

"This assertion is false and defamatory," Avery said. "I was never a client of Ms. Davis" ...

Avery's publicist, Nicole Chabot, said, "We deny there is any truth to the story." ...
If Avery needs a date all he has to do is go back up to the Blue(teal) seats. The Dark Ranger called him the "anti-role model."

But, remember in this country you're innocent until proven guilty. There was a young lacrosse player from Long Island, and another one from New Jersey, who both went down to school at Duke and proved that. There was a hooker involved in that case too. The main stream media also had a field day tarring and feathering the Duke lacrosse players. The media is now doing a nice gang tackle on Avery. The motto of modern journalism seems to be to defame first and then maybe, perhaps investigate.

Just a name and cell number listed in a "black book" doesn't mean there should be a "rush to judgement." How many men pose as professional athletes and how many might use the name of a well known NHL player if they are fumbling for an alias? And how "private" are cell phone numbers in this era of caller ID?

If you can have your reputation ruined simply because your name and cell phone number appears on a computer print out or in a black book that is crazy. Hasn't identity theft become a national epidemic?

Wikipedia adds:
He [Avery] said he and his teammates just laughed the whole thing off hysterically. The attorney of Madam Kristin Davis said that his client has "never had any contact ever" with Sean Avery, and even claimed that there is no black book.
The Rangers Report added,
Sean Avery says he doesn’t need to pay for it:
Perhaps it’s fitting that the song playing on my way to the rink today was Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy.”

That would likely be the best way to describe Sean Avery, although until recently, I always thought it was for relatively mundane reasons such as trash-talking and dating the occasional Hollywood starlet.

But then came today’s Daily News, which says Avery is one of 2,000 names on a client list of a Manhattan madam. Of course, you should know Avery vehemently denies this, and given his demeanor at practice today, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him too much.

“I certainly have a lot of enemies, I know that,” Avery said when asked how his name ended up on the madam’s computer spreadsheet. “But I do know if I was ever to venture into one of these establishments, I wouldn’t use my own name. I think that would probably be stating the obvious...
Blue Notes:
Jagr, who did joke that it must have been the first time hockey has been on the front page of a city paper ever (the '94 Cup run and a few of the Isles Cups were before his time)...
Sean Avery on frontpage of NY Daily News March 29th, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

"You Can't Beat Us."

---
Nigel Dawes scores the winning goal on Thursday as he follows the puck into the net.Marty Brodeur has been shrugging off his previous six losses to the Rangers. No big deal says the great one. This is the same guy who gloated mightily after the Devils swept the Rangers in the playoffs two years ago. He always expressed his deep hatred of the Rangers. I don't think Marty will be shrugging off tonight's loss.

After getting a power play goal from Shanahan (23) the Rangers gave up two goals, one on a deflection by Elias (19) and an unassisted goal by Parise (31) courtesy of an awful giveaway by Backman. The Rangers struck back early in the third period with another power play goal. Backman hit the ice to a chorus of boos and less than thirty seconds later there were cheers for the defensemen as he put a shot past Brodeur's stick side and the game was tied again. It was his second as a Ranger. Backman made some awful plays on defense and some good ones on offense. Too bad hockey doesn't have a two platoon system like football.

Speaking of football, Nigel Dawes came roaring down the ice like a tailback heading for the goal line and following Drury. Drury either tried a pass or a shot and Brodeur kicked it right out to the charging Dawes who was now sliding toward the net on his back courtesy of Zajac who took Dawes down. The puck got under Dawes and he literally carried it over the goal line for a touchdown, oops sorry, for a goal, the game winner. There was a review and the review called it a goal.

The Rangers scored two power play goals in three opportunities breaking a huge 3-46 PP slump. Both goals were scored with Drury, Gomez and Shanahan as the forwards. This was the shooting brigade and for one night it worked. Gomez with two big assists was the number one star of the game and he deserved it. He played a gutsy tough game, never shying away from contact and working the corners fearlessly. Drury was the number three star with three assists and a strong defensive game.

Lundqvist with 32 saves was the number two star of the game. The Prince is the main reason why Brodeur doesn't smile or gloat after Ranger games anymore. The Rangers are 7-0-0 against the Devils this year. In the convoluted NHL the Devils are 0-4-3 against the Rangers. Since coming into the NHL in the 2005-06 season Lundqvist has out dueled Brodeur in head to head matches. Lundqvist is 12-2-3 against Brodeur and Brodeur is 5-9-3 against Lundqvist. No wonder Marty doesn't smile anymore. Maybe next time instead of playing Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York" we could play Frank's other big hit with the Tommy Dorsey Band, "I'll Never Smile Again."

ICINGS: Daniel Rodriguez, ex NYPD, belted out a spirited version of the National Anthem. The crowd was at its boisterous best serenading Brodeur and the Devils with the chant, "You Can't Beat Us." So far, they can't. Shanahan's goal was the 650th of his career and he is 11th on the all time list. The Rangers are tied with the Devils at 91 points one point behind Ottawa, who has played one more game than the Devils and Rangers.

Quote of the day:
"Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis seventeen times in a row." — Tennis great Vitas Gerulaitis (from Queens) after he finally beat Jimmy Connors after sixteen straight losses.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Puck-Bunny Progression

So while the Rangers are marking time in 6th place, handing over games to the Flyers, and wallowing away at a .500 clip with a clueless, pathetic power play, there are more important things to worry about: like what is Sean Avery's ex-girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert, up to?

Deadspin's NHL Closer written by Greg Wyshynski deftly covers the NHL gossip-scape, and it had this Rangers related (one degree of Avery) story - Sean Avery Wuz Here:

Yes indeed, the woman who was fast-tracked to become the first Mrs. Sean Avery last year is allegedly involved with Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, as this gossip site colorfully broke the news: "Just signed 6 year contract reportedly worth over $6 million a year and he's only 22...one of the brightest young stars in the league. [...]

There's no denying Phaneuf's effect on people...although usually his unique charm leads to professional hockey writers penning lines like "Phaneuf is a punk, by the way. And some day he's going to get his, and it's not going to be pretty for him." Our buddy Erin Nicks notes that Cuthbert was once described as "very short, and very stupid" when she was with Avery. But I tend to side with Margee on SportsSquee, who tracks Cuthbert's shrewd puck-bunny progression from Avery to (allegedly) Montreal's Mike Komisarek to Phaneuf: "She's graduated from the meth-faced 'charms' and middling paycheck of Avery, to the strapping good looks and higher pay grade of Komisarek, to the panty-burning glare and 6-year, bajillion-dollar contract of Phaneuf. From here, it's Ovechkin or bust." . . .
NHL Closer also had a note about last night's game with an 'interesting' take on the mayhem.

I Miss Ties, For Games Between Teams I Hate

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Not A Good Point

---
Flyers win in overtimeIn the end it was two of the Rangers season stalwarts who were responsible for the Ranger defeat tonight. Sean Avery threw a foolish cross ice pass that resulted in Mike Richards winning goal, a soft backhander that Lundqvist should have smothered. Oh yes, Malik could have made a better move, or as Eddie Olczyk, Versus color announcer said, "Malik should have taken Richards down." But I gave up a long time ago depending on Malik for defensive heroics. He was also on the ice for the first goal, scored by Danny Briere.

Both Flyer goals were scored in four-on-four situations. The Rangers only goal was scored by Jagr early in the first period. It triggered off all kinds of career achievements for Jagr. It was his 20th goal of the season, marking the 17th consecutive season he has scored twenty goals. It was the 641st goal of his career putting him in sole possession of 12th place all time. He also moved into ninth place on the all time point list with 1591 points. He played an excellent game drawing two penalties for the Rangers. This should have been a night where the Rangers should have celebrated with a big win but there was no game in the Rangers game. The Rangers played the game for a 1-0 shutout and in the end they lost, the shutout and the game.

The power play was 0-4 and is now something like 3-48 and time is running out to fix it. There are only six games to go before the playoffs, assuming there will be playoffs. Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan got no time on the power play while Marc Staal got all of 24 seconds. Brandon Dubinsky played an outstanding game with 8 shots and 5 hits in 22:35 of ice time. However, unless the power play starts to work the Rangers will continue to lose the tight games. It will be their obituary at season's end and the clueless coaching staff don't have a clue on how to fix it.

The Ranger injury list grew to three as Michal Rozsival was scratched due to a leg injury and joined Gomez and Betts on the injured list. The Rangers now have 89 points with six games left to play. They are two points behind the Devils and Senators who are tied for fourth. The Devils have six games to play and Ottawa has five. The Flyers are a point behind the Rangers with five left. The Bruins are in eight place, three points behind the Rangers with six left to play. Washington continues to surge with two points out of eight place with five to play. They are five points behind Carolina for the Southeast lead and Carolina also has five games to play. If Washington gets into the playoffs they will win the Eastern Conference and play for the Cup. And you read that here first. The Dark Ranger must be a very sad man tonight. He is not alone.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not So Good Friday

All things considered it could have been worse. We probably won't know how bad it is until we see if Gomez's ribs are bruised or broken. At least I'm assuming that is the problem with Gomer. The game was reminiscent of the Devil game with the Rangers trailing by a goal, Richards solo rush, courtesy of Malik's aborted shot from the point. However if Malik giveth, he also taketh as he led the comeback by scoring the Rangers first goal, his second, with 8 minutes to play. Dawes cashed in his twelfth, less than two minutes later and we had a new hockey game.

However, that only lasted about three minutes when Danny Boy Briere notched his twenty sixth to put the Flyers back up. A minute and a half later Jagr tied it, his nineteenth, with some great work by Backman, who kept putting the puck toward the net until Jagr backhanded it in off of a Flyer defenseman. The two points by Jagr tied him for ninth on the all time points list, with the great Phil Esposito. His goal, number 640 career wise, ties him for twelfth place with Dave Andrechuk. The hope is that the goal will get Jagr going for the stretch but we have been hoping that most of the year.

Valiquette played well though he seemed to be lost in the shootout but he did make 27 saves a lot of them big ones. The Rangers seemed to be scrambling quite a bit but that may have been due to the loss of Gomez. The team did rally and played a gutsy game. Backman had his best game as a Ranger with three big assists. The Dark Ranger probably had a mixed night but overall he'll probably take it. The Rangers are 4 points behind Montreal, 3 behind the Devils and six ahead of ninth place Washington that is charging into the playoff picture and will be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs. You read that here first.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shootout At The Rock

In a hotly contested playoff type game, in a playoff atmosphere, the Rangers remained perfect against the Devils with a 2-1 shootout victory. The Rangers have beaten the Devils six out of six and three of them have been shootouts. Had this been a playoff game it probably would have ended late in the night or early in the morning. There will be no shootouts in the playoffs so the Ranger sweep of the Devils so far has to be tempered.

It was the kind of a game that you knew would be won by a big play or a big gaffe and the tying goal for the Rangers was a combination of both. Ryan Callahan made a great play from behind the net and the Devil defenseman made a poor decision then suddenly Callahan's pass/shot found Drury and Captain Clutch deposited it. Isn't that why we got Drury? Callahan continues to sparkle playing a somewhat minor roll. I say minor because coach clueless refuses to give this gritty player any power play time. Other key players not getting power play time are Sean Avery and Marc Staal. Backman got over five minutes of power play time and Tyutin got over four minutes. Putting Tyutin on the power play is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Coach clueless insists that there are certain parts of Staal's game that are not ready for the power play. What part of Backman's game impressed him to give him over five minutes of PP time. The power play was 0-4 and is now 3-40. There are only eight games to fix it.

There is no need to fix Lundqvist's game. The Prince made seventeen saves was only beaten by Zubrus power play goal and was outstanding in the shootout. Somehow seeing the Devils and Brodeur brings out the best in Lundqvist. He is 11-2-3 against Brodeur and the Devils in the regular season. He stopped Langenbrunner, Gionta and Parise while Dawes was working his magic on Brodeur.

The Rangers are four points behind the first place Devils, who have a game in hand, and are tied with Ottawa who has a game in hand. They stay six points ahead of ninth place Buffalo and both have eight games to play. Now it is on to play the Flyers in Philadelphia. Will the Dark Ranger be there to work his magic? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Re-sign A-very! Re-sign A-very!

The chant rocked the Garden after Sean Avery scored his second goal of the game and fifteenth of the season. Besides the fans did anyone else hear it? Neil Smith, who was at the Garden heard it. I don't believe the Stealth GM heard it. Where is the Stealth GM? Only The Shadow knows. Avery's fifteen goals are only three less than Jagr's and Jagr has played in twenty five more games than Avery. Needless to say Avery was the number one star of the game. The Rangers are 11-1-1 when Sean Avery gets two points in a a game. Re-Sign A-Very.

Ponder this for a moment. The Rangers are 16-8 against the five teams that are above them in the Eastern Conference. Against eight place Philadelphia and ninth place Buffalo the Rangers are 9-1. Against the rest of the league the Rangers are 13-26. I am counting all OT and shootout losses as regular losses. The Ranger's win put the Rangers in sole possession of sixth place, two points ahead of Boston and two points behind Ottawa. The Rangers are four points behind Pittsburgh and all four teams have nine games remaining.

The win took the sting out of the lost weekend debacle in Florida and also ended Pittsburgh's three game winning streak. The Rangers scored two goals in forty seconds to take an early 2-0 lead. Avery off of a beautiful feed from Jagr and Callahan (8) putting in a long rebound shot from Drury and it looked like a rout. But a bad line change by the Rangers led to Jarkko Ruutu's breakaway goal and later the Rangers and Lundqvist got real sloppy in their end and Jordan Staal tied it at two. Coach clueless made a good call by calling for a timeout and I swear I actually saw his lips move. What ever he said, it worked. It was then Pittsburgh's chance to get sloppy and they payed dearly as Fredrick Sjostrum had the puck in front of Pen goalie Ty Conklin and the youngster buried it for his second Ranger goal. Avery's second of the game and Straka (13) then put the game away.

Lundqvist made 22 saves for his 33rd win of the year and the 100th win of his career. He has achieved 100 wins in the shortest time for any goalie in Ranger history. The only bad news was the power play and while it was only 0-2 and didn't affect the game its play was awful. There were only two shots on goal and Staal and Malik were the only defensemen who didn't get any power play time. Others not getting power play time were Dawes, Avery and Callahan. These are three gritty players who could do some damage on the PP but no sir, no time. Avery is the type of guy they need in front of the net but when you are playing a perimeter game there is no need for a guy in front of the net. Coach clueless refuses to make any personnel changes on the power play, but God knows that the Rangers need to make changes on the power play which is now 3-36.

Now it's tomorrow night, or is it tonight, against the Devils at The Rock. A win against the Devils will put the Rangers three points behind the Devils and Montreal for first place in the East. No sweat, they are above us in the standings.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Powerless — Scoreless — Clueless

There is an old adage that states, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Coach clueless does not subscribe to the first part of that theory. After mouthing off on possible player changes and at the least some changes on the power play the clueless one did nothing. In fact, last night the Rangers did nothing, mustering all of twenty shots on goalie Mike Smith who had a great disdain for staying in his net. Smith was so confident the Rangers could not score he left the net wide open for the Rangers a couple of times. Both Fredrik Sjostrum and Jaromir Jagr were stopped in attempts to score. Sjostrum by a sprawling Smith and Jagr by a sprawling Picard. Right now, Jagr would have a problem scoring an empty netter from ten feet out.

In some ways this was probably the Rangers worst performance of the year even including the 6-0 shutout at the the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. With the exception of Lundqvist no one else on the Rangers showed up. Girardi played a soft sloppy game. Tyutin with 3:53 of PP ice time was his usual ineffectiveness on the point. Straka was invisible. Shanahan seems to be running out of gas and Jagr had no game last night. Gomez and Drury were awful. Well, you get the point.The team was 0-3 on the PP last night and now the futility on the PP has reached 3-34. The promised changes really never came. Well, there was some. Staal's PP ice time was increased from 19 seconds to 34 seconds.

Lundqvist made 28 saves which were remarkable considering the play of the team in front of him. Even though Valiquette is a good backup there doesn't seem to be any plan to let Lundqvist rest at any time down the stretch. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any plan on anything on this team. Before the game, Sam and Joe were lauding coach clueless for not panicking and making any changes. Since when is making changes a cause of panic? How much longer do we have to wait before we see Hollweg and Prucha back in the lineup? Hollweg is a great forechecker who loves to hit and right now we need that badly. Prucha is a gifted player who is excellent on the power play, when given the time, and we need that badly. The trades at the deadline made the Rangers softer and that we didn't need. So now instead of looking up to see how close we are to the top we are looking back to see who is closing in. We have ten big games left, five at home and five on the road. We have three with the Devils, two at Newark. We have three with the Penguins, two at the Garden. We have two each with the Islanders and Flyers, evenly split at home and away. The Rangers need seven wins out of ten to guarantee the playoff spot. This will not happen if we remain powerless, scoreless and clueless. We have to fix the power play. Tyutin at the point is not the answer. Jagr and Straka are not the answer. Do you think coach clueless has an answer? Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Florida Flopparoo

---
Tom Renney living on Fantasy Island: the power play boss, the power playWith an excellent opportunity to move onward and upward in the Eastern Conference the Rangers instead flopped and lost a precious game with only 11 more to play. The biggest cause for the loss was that old bugaboo, the power play. Actually the lack of a power play. This is the same inept power play that we have been talking about for two years and coach clueless doesn't have a clue in how to fix it.

Last night it was 1-6, the one being on a five on three. The Rangers are 1-15, in the last four games, and are 3 for 31 in the last nine games. They rank 19th in the league among all teams. Now, you might ask, what does it matter about the power play? After all this is our first regulation loss in fourteen games, so it doesn't affect our game. How do we know that? Maybe instead of going 10-1-3 we could have gone 14-0, 13-1, who knows. It helped lose last night's game.

The clueless one stated, "I don't think it's too late to make a change." Wow! The guy really has a handle on things. Later he commented, "I'm thinking about Staal back there, that's not out of the question." Terrific. Seventy one games into the season and the clueless one is thinking about putting the best offensive defensman on the point. Too bad he didn't think about it during the game when Staal got all of 19 seconds on the power play. Meanwhile Rozsival got 3:30 of PP time with no shots, not even a missed one. Tyutin got 1:53 of PP time with no shots on goal and three missed ones. Straka got 16:53 of regular ice time, 1:32 of power play time with no shots at all. So three of the main point men with an accumulated power play ice time of 6:55 of ice time had a grand total of no shots on goal and three missed shots. And the clueless one thinks, thinks, it might be time for a change on the PP. Wow! He's right. It is time for a change. A change in the coaching staff.

You would have thought at the trade deadline instead of picking up two marginal players in Backman and Sjostrom we would have gotten a power play specialist. Wouldn't you think that? But wait a minute. We do have a power play specialist and his name is Petr Prucha. You guys remember him, don't you? He is non-existent under coach clueless. When was the last time he played? But how can he get back in the lineup when we have a new hero, Fredrik Sjostrom, who got all of 6:32 of ice time last night, including 33 seconds of power play time. Maybe he is our new PP specialist.

But all is well in Ranger La La Land. The Great Pretenders will conquer all despite their inept power play and coach clueless will prove that tic-tac-toe hockey is the wave of the future and damn the shoot the puck and crash the net hockey. He better be right, otherwise the Florida trip will turn into a lost weekend and instead of looking up and forward we will be looking back and downward. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Great Pretenders — Part II

---
Whatever Lola wants, Lola getsSo I walk into my favorite liquor store to pick up some vino and the boss hits me with, "Hey Pundit, is this coach nuts or what, playing this Backman guy? He's awful."

Nuts? Who knows. Clueless? Definitely. I explain to him that he has no choice. The Stealth GM bought him and coach clueless has to play him. You remember the play, "Damn Yankees". The vamp, Gwen Virdon, sings the hit tune from the play, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets." The Stealth GM is Lola and whatever he wants he gets. He is not only the Stealth GM he is the Ad Hoc coach. So we needed a tough bruiser who could clear the crease and keep the opposing snipers at bay and what do we get? We get Malik II.

Defense. This is the second problem that faces the Rangers in the playoffs. For years it has been an axiom that in the playoffs you need eight good defensemen. If you count the bodies the Rangers have eight when Paul Mara is fully healed and returns to the lineup. So the Rangers will have the required eight bodies for the playoffs. The question is. How many good ones do they have? How many playoff battle hardened do they have? You could make the case that discounting Backman, they have six such defensemen. Remember, this will also be Marc Staal's first playoff appearance. But it's not Staal I'm worried about and neither should Ranger fans be worried about him.

First of all, Staal should be on the first unit with Rozsival but he won't as clueless will pair the frightening duo of Rozsival and Malik. I still see the blind passout of Malik on the stick of a Sabre in game two of last year's playoffs, leading to the tying goal and eventually defeat. Malik is soft and Rozsival is careless. This makes for a dangerous duo in front of Lundqvist, who fortunately has risen to the occasion to deflect their mistakes. Unfortunately this duo averages well over twenty minutes a game. This could be deadly for us.

The second unit of Tyutin and Girardi is our best pairing. Yes, Girardi occasionally resorts to the cutesy soft pass and Tyutin seems to have trouble getting his shots to the net, but overall they are solid. Tyutin is our most solid checker and should do it more often. Girardi is becoming more offensive oriented and has a decent shot from the point. This unit should be on the ice more, especially in tight games late in the game.

The third pairing is now Staal and Backman, but this unit should not stand. Upon Mara's return, Backman should go to the bench. However, don't bet on this happening. Coach clueless will use every excuse under the sun to keep Backman in the lineup. The guy who was booed out of St. Louis has now won the hearts of the Ranger hierarchy. Actually, the main man likes him.

The pairings on defense should be as such. Number one pairing should be Rozsival and Staal. Number two will be Tyutin and Girardi and the number three pairing should be Mara and Strudwick. Malik and Backman should keep each other company up in the blue seats, if they have the guts to sit there. As far as the power play goes, Staal and Mara should be on the first unit. Staal can quarterback it and Mara can be the shooter from the point. Up front on the first unit should be Drury, Avery and Prucha. That's my number one unit, what's yours? More important what does coach clueless have in store for us? Chances are he will play it safe and keep the Stealth GM happy. The question is: will the Ranger fans be happy?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Great Pretenders — Part I

That was a number one hit on the charts in 1956 when Rock n Roll was beginning its run. The Platters first did it live on Dick Clark and it later became a big hit. The song describes the Rangers perfectly. Many of the pundits, not me, are predicting great things for the Rangers in the playoffs. Many are predicting the Stanley Cup. I look at this team and see a team that could be dangerous, could make noise, could advance to the top but right now the way they are constituted I can't see it. Why?

The Power Play. The Rangers currently are ranked 20th in the NHL with a 16.6% success rate. Compare that to the Montreal Canadiens who are number one with a 24.7% success rate. Look at who is in first place in the East. In the playoffs the power play is a key ingredient in winning games. You can count on a lot of penalties in the playoffs. The Rangers have had this problem all year and coach clueless doesn't have an idea how to fix it. Yes, I said coach clueless for all of you apologists and know it alls who object to me calling him that. Have you been to the games? Do you see the same personnel out on the power play all the time? Do you see coach clueless sending out the usual suspects time after time and faltering time after time? Is it any wonder why the Rangers are among the teams that average the fewest shots on the power play?

Do you hear coach clueless lament about the power play not shooting enough, especially from the points? Do you hear coach clueless complain that there is no one in front of the net on the power play? So who is on the point? Straka and Rozsival mostly. Straka is the guy who passes the puck backward when he is ten feet from the goal. Rozsival is the guy who almost always passes the puck to Jagr, regardless of where Jagr is. So who is in front of the net? Jagr is over on one side near the boards, Shanahan is trying to get free for a one timer and that leaves the center to a) dig out the puck for the four statues and b) try to get in front of the net. By the time the second unit gets out there we are down to 20 seconds. But why is coach clueless complaining? He is the man who puts these guys out there. He acts like Jagr is calling the shots and he is helpless to change it. The second part of that is correct and so may the first part.

Whatever happened to Petr Prucha? Remember him? Thirty goals in his rookie year and sixteen of them on the power play. Had he not got hurt he would have broken the Ranger rookie goal scoring record of 36 goals. He was the most efficient Ranger on the power play. Last year he fell to 22 goals as his on ice time dwindled. This year his ice time has gotten lower and lately he has been a healthy scratch. He is losing ice time to Ryan Callahan and Fredrik Sjostrom recently acquired from Phoenix. You could make a case for Callahan, but Sjostrom? So Prucha has lost his spot to Sjostrom. As one writer said the other day, would you have traded Prucha for Sjostrom because by sitting Prucha and playing Sjostrom that is exactly what you are doing. For minutes played, Prucha probably has the best goal per minute ratio of any Ranger.

But that is the way coach clueless works. The Stealth GM pulls off a trade and automatically they are put in the starting lineup. Sjostrom is one and Backman is the other. Never mind that they were both marginal players on poor teams. They play because the Stealth GM acquired them. That is how you keep your job at Madison Square Garden.You obey the higher ups. See Isiah Thomas for further proof of this theory.

ICINGS: Part II will be about the defense.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another Shootout

So there we were, in front of a TV set, number one son, my grandson and me. We have three generations of Ranger madness. The game was so exciting, (HAH!) that we talked about everything else under the sun. It took me back to when I was a kid and they allowed me to put the hockey game, my new found sport love, on the radio. It was WHN and the broadcasts were usually handled by Bert Lee or Marty Glickman. Yes, the Marty Glickman of basketball fame. There were no tutorials so I had to figure it out myself about icings, offsides, poke checks and faceoffs. I knew all about goals and saves, which were both too few for the Rangers. Sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.

The game last night was not very good. The Rangers played liked they were tired and going through the motions. At least most of them. Avery and Lundqvist were there in full force. I guess you could say the same for Jagr who scored a goal, finally. The Sabres did not play with the desperation of a ninth place team fighting for a playoff berth. The refs were their usual awful selves. I stopped complaining about the refs a long time ago. It's unusual when they have a good game.

Last night they called a phantom penalty on Avery which gave the Sabres a full two minute five on three power play. In fact they kept on giving for the Sabres until they finally tied the game with the help of a terrible goalie interference call against Sjostrum, who was pushed into the goalie by a Sabre defenseman. Vanek's PP goal tied the game. The worst call came at the end of the game when they called misconducts against Orr and Peters. Peters threw a punch from the bench and should have also been penalized for that, which would have given the Rangers a PP going into OT. Lundqvist saved the game in OT with a big save on Afinogenov who was stopped on a breakaway.

That save along with Avery's wipeout of Paetsch, which led to Jagr's goal were the highlights of a very dull game. The Rangers are now tied with Ottawa for fifth place in the East with twelve games to go. You think Prucha and Hollweg will get back in the lineup soon? Stay tuned. Oh yes. Shanahan and Gomez scored in the shootout to win the game which was the fourth shootout game in the last five. The Rangers have won three of those.

ICINGS: Technology is catching up to me as the old computer has been acting up all day. Got to get another ten years out of it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Prince And The Kid

The Rangers have revealed their strategy for the drive to the playoffs and beyond. It's simple. Lundqvist stands on his head and one player rises to the occasion to win the game. Thursday on the Island it was Sean Avery with two goals and a ton of mischief helping Lundqvist with his 26 saves and 30th win. Today it was the kid, Nigel Dawes, who scored the winner in the shootout to give Lundqvist his ninth shutout of the year and sixteen career- wise. Dawes shootout goal was his third in four attempts and his first game deciding goal in the shootout.

Lundqvist was the Prince again and was voted the number one star. The number two star was the equally brilliant Boston backup Alex Auld who was appearing in his fifth straight game for the Bruins. Lundqvist made 29 saves and Auld made 35. The Rangers failed on many big opportunities, the biggest one being Gomez stealing the puck from Bruin defenseman Andrew Ference right in front of Auld and shooting wide. The number three star was Dawes. It was the second game in the last five that Dawes was voted a star of the game. At Carolina on the 28th of February he was voted the number one star in a 4-2 Ranger win.

The win moved the Rangers into sole possession of sixth place with 81 points, one better than Boston and only two points behind Ottawa with the Rangers holding a game in hand. They are four points behind Pittsburgh for fourth place and have a game in hand on the Pens. More importantly they are seven points ahead of ninth place Buffalo who they play tomorrow night in Buffalo. The game will be on Versus.

Lundqvist earned the win by stopping Marco Sturm, Phil Kessel and David Krejci. The other Ranger shooters were Shanahan, who is now 4 for 10 in shootouts and Chris Drury who is 0 for 5. Fortunately Dawes and Lundqvist brought the win home and I for one was glad. I did not want to see Michal Rozsival in the shootout and don't want to see him in another shootout, ever.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Melting Ice: The Hottest Ice Girls

Here is an NHL related story that recently received a lot of attention and not just from hockey fans. Perhaps too much attention, because all the web traffic apparently burned up the server for the "Puck That Hit" blog that ran it. Anyway, here are a couple of favs:

The Islander Ice Girls are not just pretty, they're fierce. Remember "Squeegee Gate" last year and how the Islander Ice Girls got in the face of Henrik Lundqvist and roughed him up.

----
Islander Ice GirlsIslander Ice Girls
Official Link
Summary: Once GM Mike Milbury left the organization, pride and talent began to return to the island. Forget Nolan, DiPietro, and Comrie. Let’s hear it for Kelly and Kristy.

Islander Ice Girls: Kelly and Kristy

Kelly and Kristy

Islander Ice Girls: Kelly and Kristy

----
Panther Ice Dancers
Official Link
Summary: The Panthers know exactly what they are doing. Not only do they have the largest squad (in terms of performers), they have the best T&A marketing machine. They even have a calendar, a MySpace page, and a video. Oh, umm, that every dancer is supermodel-worthy doesn’t hurt. And the itsy-bitsy costumes are not entirely unwelcome.










Panther Ice DancersIce Dancers Calendar
----

Looking for Jimmy Boy

----
James Dolan hanging out with some of his friendsJames Dolan (center) hanging out with some of his friends.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Prince And The Detriment

Number two son will be happy this morning. The Ranger are only four points behind the first place Penguins and Canadiens and we have a game in hand on the Pens. More importantly, the Rangers are six points ahead of ninth place Buffalo. The Rangers jumped over Boston which got destroyed by Toronto, who are trying to make a late season playoff run with all those guys who refused to be traded. This is as bizarre a hockey season as I have seen. Abbott and Costello would have loved this rendition of "Who Is In First" in the Eastern Conference.

The Prince returned to normal last night and would have had a shutout except for that old bugaboo, the deflected shot. Only this was a good one a double carom, off of Malik and off of Rozsival, or was it the other way around? Regardless, it really wasn't either ones fault. It's the way the Islanders score goals. They have to bank them in or deflect off someone. The win put the series at 4-2 Islanders so there is still much work for the Rangers to do. The Islanders have won the four games by one goal and the Rangers have scored four goals in each of their wins. They have two more to play, a back to back on April 3rd and 4th to conclude the series.

Lundqvist's win was his 30th of the season. It is his third straight 30 win season and he ties Bryan Hextall as the only two goalies with that accomplishment. Hopefully this win will get the Prince back in stride for the stretch run. His play in the second period when he made 14 saves was outstanding. Also the Rangers had to kill off a 50 second five on three and Chris Drury was on for the entire five on three and was brilliant in breaking up rush after rush.

Then there was The Detriment, Sean Avery, who seemed to control the tempo of the game. The two goals were his 12th and 13th of the season and his eight in the last ten games. He had four shots on goal, two hits and numerous 'meetings' during the game. I have always said that the Rangers big success relied on three players performing well. Since his return Avery has been exceptional. Look up the record of the Rangers with and without him, Its unbelievable. The other two are Lundqvist and Jagr. Was this a return to form for Lundqvist? I hope so. We need the Prince down the stretch not the pauper. Even though he failed to score, Jagr's game was crisp and free flowing. He did everything but score. We need some goals from the Big Guy.

One more thing. The young guys are beginning to take over this team. Dawes, two assists, Staal, an assist, Dubinsky, an assist, Tyutin, an assist all played well. Callahan had three hits. The duo of Girardi and Tyutin were strong and Marc Staal came back with a great all around game. So the future looks good. The present? The Rangers are 8-0-3 and 13-3-3, so they are on a roll. Can they continue? Can they win the East? Will the Maven's prediction come true and the Rangers win the Cup? Are we getting carried away? Can we dream? Yes, Dark Ranger, we can. Stay tuned and let the games continue.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bad Habits Die Hard

Another big Ranger defeat to another over achieving Islander team. Forget the one point for the shootout that most of the drive by media mavens think is great. The Islanders beat the Rangers last night. We outshot them 30-18 but they out hit us with regularity 41-30. That's okay though. Keep guys like like Hollweg and Prucha on the bench. How about giving Straka and Jagr a night off? Suddenly newcomers like Sjostrum and Backman have become regulars. Where is Jason Strudwick to steady a Swiss cheese defense? Or is it a Czech cheese defense?

The Islanders beat the Rangers for the fourth time in five games. The Islanders have beaten the New Jersey Devils five times in six games. That is a 9-2 record against their two intra city rivals. Without the patsies of Rangers and Devils the Islander record is 23-27-7. All three goals the Islanders scored were off of huge Ranger defensive goofs and sloppy goalie work. The first Islander goal by Blake Comeau highlighted all the latest defensive shortcomings by the Rangers. Comeau took the puck away from a lazy Malik and from behind the net hit a confused Rozsival's skate and trickled off of an indecisive Lundqvist's skate into the goal. Whatever happened to a goalie putting his stick on the ice to stop ice level shots from going in? The Three Stooges would have incorporated that fiasco into their routine.

Bergenheim goal was scored off of a retreating Ranger defense which Lundqvist should have stopped and Hunter was standing in front of Lundqvist when Backman was stripped of the puck and Fedetenko's shot hit him and went in. Don't get me wrong, though. The Islanders earned all three goals as they constantly pressured the weak Ranger defense. At times Nolan was sending in three forwards to forecheck the Rangers who didn't have a clue (there's that word again) how to break out.

Before the game one of my sons mentioned that the Rangers were only five points out of first in the East. What he forgot to mention was that they were only five points out of ninth. They now are six points out of first and only four points out of ninth. Is that progress or what? Hey we got a point. Wade Dubielewicz weathered the first six minutes of the game helped by some bad Ranger luck and then beat us in a shootout for the second time in his short career.

One more point worth mentioning. Ryan Callahan, who played a strong game and scored the tying goal, shorthanded, was left off the ice in the five minute OT and completely ignored in the shootout as specialists like Michal Rozsival were given a shot. However, I guess it was okay as our Captain and team leader was also left off the shootout list. Not one main stream publication mentioned that Jagr wasn't in the shootout. Maybe he had to prime himself for the postmortem. Amazing.

ICINGS: Reader from Section 335 brought to my attention the post game news conference comparing coach clueless's comments to Shanahan's, suggesting that Shanahan should be the coach. Check it out and you may come to the same conclusion. Thanks Section 335.

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.

NHL Tweets