Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rangers Hold Serve

For once, the Rangers picked up Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up two questionable goals in the first period. The locker room, between periods, then held a prayer service conducted by Father John, who was voted the worst coach to play for, in an ESPN poll. Wonderful.

Polls aside, the Rangers stormed back in the second period as the big guys, Prospal, Jokinen and Gaborik scored, aided and abetted by the small guys, P.A. Parenteau and Aaron Voros. The win helped the Rangers stay four points behind Philly, Montreal and Boston for the last playoff spot and two behind Atlanta for ninth place. All those teams have six games to play and Atlanta has five. Both Boston and Atlanta won last night while Montreal was idle.

In a previous blog a reader named finn wanted to know why the Rangers play their best hockey at the end of the season. First of all I doubt if this stretch comes under the heading of 'best hockey'. The end of the year drive is famously known as 'the salary drive'. In the old days it mattered as most players were under one year contracts. So they poured it on at the end to impress the owners. Can you imagine this Ranger owner being impressed with anything to do with hockey? I can't. With the large long range contracts the 'salary drive' is meaningless. Who is more meaningless than Rozsival and Redden?

So the Rangers live to play another day. Off to Florida for the Lightning and Panthers. However, right now it's more scoreboard watching than anything else. Let the mediocrity continue.

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ICINGS:

The Grate One, Sean Avery, has resumed tweeting. His new logo says a lot about the Avery style.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take Five?

Take Five by Paul DesmondWhat will it take for the Rangers to make the playoffs? The answer is that the Rangers are likely to need to take five of their remaining seven games.

Here is how we get there:


1. The Tie Breaking Procedure:
If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order:

  1. The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
  2. The greater number of games won.
  3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
  4. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season.

    2. The records:
    Boston 7534291280






    Atlanta 7633311278






    NY Rangers 7533321076

    3. The schedule:

    Boston plays: Devils, Florida, Toronto, Buffalo, Carolina and Washington (twice).
    Atlanta plays: Toronto, Washington (twice), Devils and Pittsburgh (twice).
    Rangers play: Islanders, Tampa, Florida, Buffalo, Toronto and Flyers (twice).

    4. Predictions:

    Boston: Out of a possible 14 points, Boston is likely to get six or seven points and finish with 86 or 87. If the Devils really hate the Rangers, look for them to tank in their game. If Washington hates us too, they might too. Then Boston's total points will be even higher.

    Atlanta: Out of a possible 12 points, Atlanta is likely to get six points and finish with 84 points. They are out of it unless they find the key to beating the top playoff teams.

    5. What does this all mean? Assuming the predictions are likely to be true, and that is a big if, the Rangers will have to finish with 86 or 87 points in order to tie Boston in points just to make the tie breaker. If they do, they will also have to win one more game than Boston does to tie them in wins. Otherwise, Boston owns the tiebreaker. If they tie in wins, the Rangers own the next tie breaker, having beaten Boston three out of four times.

    So, for those of you who still believe:

    Rangers win five of seven, Boston wins three of seven and the Rangers are in the playoffs.

     ICINGS:

    The Rangers making the playoffs with a 5-2 record is also the most likely scenario (playoff chances - 18.945%) under the Monte Carlo simulation run at SportsClubStats.com:

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Softie Beats Lundqvist

    Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves last night, many memorable, but it's the one that got away that may haunt him and the Rangers for a long time. Tomas Kaberle's shot along the goal line with about three and a half minutes left in the game found its way through Lundqvist, tied the game to send it into OT, where the Rangers lost for the seventh time in eight tries.

    The game shouldn't have been close. Jonas Gustavson, Lundqvist's Swedish compatriot, made 36 saves and was outstanding but the Rangers continued to be inept on offense as their so called "big players" disappeared. The Rangers goals were scored by callup P.A. Parenteau and Brandon Dubinsky. If Gaborik was playing, I missed it. He seems to disappear in big games.

    Sean Avery joined the injured Callahan about halfway through the second period with a leg injury and never returned. The Rangers would be hard pressed to make a run at the playoffs without Callahan and Avery.

    The loss now leaves the Rangers two points behind ninth place and charging Atlanta and four points behind collapsing Philadelphia and hanging on for dear life Boston. Again, as I have stated many times before, this team cannot pick up Lundqvist when he comes up with a gaffe like he did last night, though he has rescued the team many times. With seven games to go Lundqvist must be great every night because otherwise there is no hope. With Callahan and Avery out that role becomes more difficult.

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    God Bless Henrik Lundqvist

    Don't tell Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers can't make the playoffs. Lundqvist has emerged as more than a great goalie. He is a great leader. A fiery leader. An outspoken leader. And he is also the man that can beat the great Maaarrrty.

    Before Lundqvist arrived Maaarrrty owned the Rangers. He owned a 23 game unbeaten streak against the Rangers (15-0-8). Lundqvist arrived and is (16-4-5) lifetime against Maaarrrty. The win against the Devils was Lundqvist'ds 30th win of the season, a number he has reached in five straight seasons. This is a record for goalies in their five first years in the NHL. Last night he made 35 saves, inluding three out of three in the shootout. Bargain basement acquiree Erik Christensen scored the only shootout goal as Lundqvist stopped Parise, Elias and Zajac for the win.

    All this would not have been possible without getting the tying goal from Chris Drury with 17 seconds left in the game. There is history with the Rangers and Maaarrrty and game changing goals. We all remember Matteau, Matteau, Matteau. There was also Graves in 1997 and now, though less significant we have Drury.

    So the Rangers continue to hang in there. And yes, while I don't believe it, the Rangers could make the playoffs. The bottom half of the top eight in the East are crumbling. Boston certainly misses Savard and the Flyers have now lost their two regular goalies, one for the year, and have lost their top scorer Jeff Carter. So who knows. The Rangers will not be the first team to back into a playoff, and surely will not be the last.

    All hail Henrik Lundqvist, the Maaarrrty killer!

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    ICINGS:

    Just in case you missed them. There are a couple of great Henrik Lundqvist blogs that cover all things Henrik. The Lunkan-o-sphere has plenty of Princely pictures.

    Henrik Lundqvist Hockey Goalie God Blog:

    Lundqvist as King Tut

    Henrik Lundqvist blog:

    Lundqvist wearing a hat
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    An interesting help wanted.

    Blueshirt Bulletin:
    Internships at Blueshirt Bulletin -- We are currently looking for interns beginning Spring 2010...

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    So What?

    Its amazing what a meaningless win over a depleted Islander team can do to the mainstream drive by media. "The Rangers are back in the race." Huh! The Rangers are five points behind eight place Boston with nine to play. Boston has ten games left. The Rangers are also two points behind ninth place Atlanta who has nine games left.

    Make no mistake this was a depleted Islander team and with the exception off their 40 year old goalie, Dwayne Roloson, they played awful. Roloson made 39 saves, 17 in a scoreless second period. With the absence of Andy Sutton, traded away, and Brandan Witt, off to the minors, there were no D-Men to punish the Ranger forwards who skated freely in front of Roloson. I have no problem with the three stars of the game, Gaborik, Avery and Lundqvist. However, they should have squeezed Ro;oson in there somewhere.

    Statistics aside, Sean Avery was the most recognizable and dominant player on the ice. He was complete disruption to the Islanders. He showed what he can do and how he can affect a hockey game if unshackled. When your coach is an idiot what can you do.

    So it's off to Jersey tonight and a test to see if the "salary drive" is for real or is it more "fools gold". What do you think?

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    FIRE SATHER

    Don MaloneyFor those who read this column on February 12th, you will recall that I went on record that the season was over and the Rangers would not make the playoffs. I went so far as to say it would be either Boston or Tampa Bay that made the last spot. I wish I were wrong. I was right.

    Where did we fail? How could a team that took the Caps to seven games last year fall so far? Was it the expensive contracts to Redden, Rossy and Drury? That is what I thought, but that is not all that is wrong.

    What is wrong is that we let Glen Sather kill the teams soul. He has taken the teams heart. This is not a team. They do not play like a team.

    How did it happen? Was it trading Petr Prucha? Was it letting Jagr go? Maybe. But I think that the last straw was getting rid of Blair Betts - after he bled for us on the ice and then hiring Donald Brashear. He turned playing for the Rangers from playing on a team into having a job.

    The Rangers have a handful of talented players. A core of players worth keeping. They have youth in the system. Players who are the Rangers future because a man who is not here put them here. It is time to put the heart back into this team and it starts by firing Glen Sather.

    There is one man who can fix this. One man with the talent and experience to bring the Ranger's heart back. No, it is not Mark Messier. We need Don Maloney.

    For those who do not know, on May 29, 2007, the Coyotes announced that Don Maloney had agreed to a multi-year contract to become General Manager. In three years he has taken them from 4th in the Pacific to 1st. From 31-46-5 before he was hired to 42-26-5 today. And, he was the reason we have the home grown talent on the ice now. The fact is, he made Sather look good, and we now see Sather for what he is because Don is gone.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Another Nail In The Coffin

    So when do we finally send up the white flag? When do we blow taps? This group is dead, fini. Another big game and another non big game from anyone but Lundqvist. What a shame that a great goalie, a class guy has to suffer the indignity of playing for this group of non-performers. BTW, put the coach in the same category. Must we have a choice between coach clueless and coach brainless? Can't we have a quality coach who can coach, talk to the press and treat the fans to the respect they deserve?

    This was a typical Ranger game. Very strong Lundqvist performance, weak offense, odorous power play including one shot on a four minute power play and no sense of urgency. So the Rangers are now in tenth behind Atlanta in ninth and trailing eight place Boston by five points. Thirteenth place is getting closer than eight place.

    The solutions? The Stealth must go and the coach must go with him. This will not happen unless someone buys out the Absentee Owner. We are in for a long siege of losses and incompetency that will rival the 54 year drought. We as fans must demand changes and demand them now. As a start, do not purchase season tickets for next year.

    Fire The Stealth now!

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Skating Backwards

    What's that old line about taking one step forward and two steps back. Well the Rangers have added a new dimension. Don't take that one step forward at all. Just keep going back. And back they are. They are now tied for 9th and 10th with Atlanta at 71 points. While the Rangers are technically in 9th because of more wins, Atlanta has a game in hand.

    Henrik Lundqvist has carried the Rangers all year and picked them up many a time when the team sagged. The Rangers have rarely picked up Lundqvist and last night was a classic example. To use Lundqvist's own words, "I stunk." He let in four goals on sixteen shots. Sure the defense sucked and the forwards didn't come back and cover but the basic fact was that Lundqvist didn't bring his A game. It was more of a F game.

    With a chance to move within a game of the losing Bruins the Rangers couldn't rise to the occasion. What else is new? Can you remember the last time the Rangers rose to the occasion? 1994? 1940? While Gaborik rebounded with a goal and two assists, my memory of him last night was the patty cake he played with Jokinen when the Rangers had a five on three for 1:17 of the third period. The Rangers got one weak shot on goal during that time.

    The good news is that there are only eleven games left to tee time for this group of pretenders. Fore!

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    ICINGS:

    HockeyFights.com:
    Brad Winchester vs Brandon Prust -- Who won?
    Brandon Prust -- 66.7%
    Draw -- 23.5%
    Brad Winchester -- 9.8%
    From 51 votes with an average rating of 5.5

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Le Habs Beat Le Have Nots

    So this was a big game? So this was to be the game that the 'big guys', like the coach likes to call them, show up big? Show up big? They didn't even show up. What is it with this group? It is not a team, it is a group. It's amazing that coming down to the wire, with 13 games to play, they come up with a non-performance like this.

    But what did you expect. It's in the genes. 1994 was an aberration. If it wasn't for Mark Messier the Islander fans would stil be chanting 1940. There is a pattern of being non-shows on big games. So now we are three points behind depleted Boston and Boston has a game in hand.

    Sean Avery who scored the only goal, led the team with four shots, had three hits and imploded with seven seconds left, taking a roughing, slashing and game misconduct. He should have left sooner and spared himself the embarrassment of being associated with this group. One good thing about watching it on TV you can switch stations or turn it off completely. I turned it off, and have turned off this group.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Avery Does Philadelphia

    The Dark Ranger and my granddaughter Allessandra are two very happy people tonight. The Dark Ranger because his favorite team, the Rangers, beat the team he loves to hate, the Flyers. My granddaughter because her favorite player, Sean Avery, scored two goals as the Rangers continue to stay alive with a 3-1 win over the Flyers. The Rangers are now one point behind Boston for the last playoff spot. Boston has two games in hand.

    The Fyers took a 1-0 lead scoring on, yes you got it, a deflection. Then Avery took over. It wasn't only the tying goal he got from the doorstep but his overall play, the annoyance, the checking, the skating and the scoring. His second goal was a thing of beauty. He started it all with his checking of a Flyer that forced a turnover. That in turn sprung Drury but his shot missed the net and came out to the neutral zone where Girardi fed it to Avery who came in, shot and scored.

    Lundqvist, the number three star, making 17 saves, and he was solid throughout. Rozsival was the number two star, scoring the winning goal, on the power play. But the number one star of the game was Avery. There is no doubt that he can spark this team like no player on the team can. No one on this team brings the attitude that he brings. No one on the team is such a distraction to opponents. He brings out the worst in his opponents. He drew two key penalties. He also seems to bring out the worst in his own coach, but that is another story for another day.

    So the Ranger dream continues. Another big game, aren't they all, will be Tuesday against Montreal. Right now every game is a must. It remains to be seen if the Rangers can be consistent enough to make it but I still think that the odds are against the Rangers making it. Maybe I'm wrong but for the long run I believe its better for the Rangers to miss the playoffs. The Absentee Owner will miss the cash but the lower we finish the better the draft pick.

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    ICINGS: The Grate One ... the Hockey gods have a way of smiling upon you...

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Staying Alive

    The Rangers kept their flickering playoff hopes alive last night with a 5-2 win over an undermanned Atlanta Thrashers. The win moved the Rangers to within 3 points of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have two games in hand but are also without Marc Savard for the rest of the year, so anything is possible.

    The Rangers big guys did their work which makes "King John" especially happy, at least for one night. Oh yes, there were the usually changing of lines and mixing and matching but the big guys did deliver. Lundqvist made 29 saves while Johan Hedberg made 30. This was possibly the worst game I've seen Hedberg play against the Rangers. Prospal had two goals and an assist while Gaborik bounced back with a goal and two assists. "King John" also benched Sean Avery for poor play. Really. How come those Twin Towers of Ineptitude, Rozsival and Redden are still in the lineup?

    So the Rangers live to play another day. Remember though, this was Atlanta, sans Kovalchuk, and in the previous five games against formidable opponents the Rangers were 1-2-2. However, to paraphrase that great poet Gertrude Stein, "A Win Is A Win Is A Win."

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    ICINGS: Canadian Friday at the White House. Some Canadians are wondering if Gibbs welshed on the bet because he didn't keep the Canadian jersey on for very long.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wears a Canadian jersey  after losing bet
    CBC.ca:
    White House press secretary wears Canada jersey (with video) -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has made good on a bet on the outcome of the Olympic men's hockey gold-medal game, wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey at his daily briefing on Friday.

    Gibbs lost the bet he made with Prime Minister's Office spokesman Dimitri Soudas on the outcome of the Feb. 28 game...

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Is It All Over?

    The much anticipated goalie duel between Marty and Henrik never materialized. Instead, Henrik played his worst game ever against Marty and the Devils, allowing five goals on seventeen shots leading up to a 6-3 Ranger loss. In the previous 24 games against Brodeur, Lundqvist was 16-3-5 with a GAA of 1.43 and a save percentage of .948. Granted three of the goals were deflections and two were off Rangers.

    The Rangers have now lost four in a row and have gotten two points in those four games. They are now three points behind Boston for the last playoff spot and Boston has two games in hand. Lundqvist looks tired. Dubinsky is inconsistent. Avery doesn't get enough ice team. The league has figured out how to stop Gaborik. The lines get changed every period, sometimes every shift. The coach never stops screaming, especially on the bench and he might as well be a politician the way he handles his news conferences.

    This is a team and a coach that is in complete disarray. This is an organization that is in chaos heading for a shipwreck. From top to bottom in the management chain there is nothing but mediocrity. So we continue with the charade that this is a playoff team and once we sneak in we will surprise a top team. Hogwash! We had the Caps down 3-1 last year and couldn't finish them off.

    My wife was watching an old Sonja Henie movie this morning. It was Wintertime (1943). Henie was a Norwegian skating star of the 1930's and 1940's. My wife called me over to notice Henie skating. She's great, she remarked. "The Rangers could use her", I replied. "She's dead", she uttered. "So are the Rangers."

    Sunday, March 07, 2010

    Capsized Again

    In the previous four games, without Gaborik, the Rangers scored 16 goals. Last night the sniper came back and he produced nothing, and I do mean nothing. I have never understood the philosophy of playing hurt. Isn't it better to have a lesser player who is 100% healthy over a star performer who is clicking at 50%?

    Apparently, Gabby's performance seemed to rub off on the entire team. Backup goalie, Alex Auld, was the exception and played well. Auld had 26 saves in his Ranger debut, losing 2-0. A five on three for the Caps, and a poor defensive play by Dubinsky gave the Caps the two goals they needed. Jose Theodore made 30 saves for the shutout but he was rarely challenged.

    The Rangers are now in a three way tie for the last playoff spot in the East with Montreal and Atlanta. Atlanta has two games in hand. Tampa Bay sits a point behind in 11th and has a game in hand. What is amazing about the standings is how Atlanta has turned their season around after trading their super star, Ilya Kovalchuk, and the Rangers played better without Gaborik, briefly.

    Tonight the Rangers play the Sabres, the third place team in the East. The Rangers are 1-1 against the Sabres this year. They finished with the Capitals, the first place team, 1-3, and finished against the Pens, the second place team 1-5. Do we really want to make the playoffs so the Absentee Owner and his minions can pick up a few million dollars?

    Friday, March 05, 2010

    Henrick Steals A Point

    If you didn't know better last night you would have thought you were in a shooting gallery or the Rangers were going through a defensive drill to see how many shots they could possibly take before their goalie was to collapse. Well, Henrik Lundqvist, made 50 saves last night and stole a point for the Rangers who played half a game. They got all of 12 shots on goal and scored four times against Marc-Andre Fleury and when Brent Johnson came in about halfway through the second period they got all of four shots on goal and only one in the third period where they were outshot 19-1. Yet, we got a point. Rather Lundqvist got a point.

    Lundqvist proved he is more than a great goaltender, he is a great leader. He went after Crosby after Syd the Kid was "leveled" by a "crosscheck" from Marc Staal. He chided the great one for overacting on the hit. I now know why my buddy, Scotty Hockey, calls him Cindy. C'mon Kid, you may be a great player but you are doing a lousy imitation of Mario Lemieux. To quote Vinnie Prospal, "Wayne Gretzky has been retired for some time, so everybody's hittable."

    So the Rangers continue their kamikaze run with the Caps, Sabres and Devils coming up and the question is will Lundqvist survive. The team looked dead tired in the third period as they were playing "rope -a- dope". What wonders what the coach was thinking by keeping the fourth line glued to the bench in the third period. Maybe in a couple of shifts they might have slowed the Pens down but we will never know. With this coach we will never know a lot of things. We have gone from clueless to brainless.

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    ICINGS:

    An excellent deconstruction of Dolan's destruction of Newsday. Professional journalism gets flushed. The Dolan touch is toxic.

    Dolan and Cablevision Destroying NewsdayTwarowski & Nelson / LongIslandPress.com:
    How Cablevision Is Destroying Newsday -- The Dolans are tearing apart the Long Island news institution...

    [former Newsday Editor in Chief] John Mancini and two top editors were fired due to the fury of Cablevision’s owners following the paper’s coverage of a sexual harassment suit filed against New York Knicks center Eddy Curry...

    [Jaci] Clement, who is also a former Newsday editor, tells the Press that since Cablevision’s purchase of the paper for $650 million in 2008 . . . . Newsday has been reduced to little more than a marketing vehicle for its owners...
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    related: Special "limited edition" James Dolan urinal at the NHL's New York City headquarters. Newday staffers might be interested.

    NHL Headquarters: Executive Washroom sports custom James Dolan  Urinals

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    O Canada

    It was a classic, too bad the USA was on the wrong end of it. But overall it was a game for the ages, or at least for the next four years. Sid Crosby now joins the ranks of other great Canadien players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux who have ben raised to immortality in the eyes of Canadien hockey fans. To the Canadien and their fans, congratulations on a well earned victory.

    To the Americans and their fans, congratulations are also in order on a well played game and a well played tournament. Zach Parise's game tying goal will be a memory we will cherish a lifetime and Ryan Miller's heroics in goal will set a standard for goaltending in a pressure packed tournament. It was truly a magnificent tournament played at a highly competitive level.

    Now back to the NHL, and as one fan put it so succinctly in Newsday this morning, back to the clutching, holding, and I might add trapping of the NHL. I would also say that I doubt that the success of Olympic Hockey means that hockey will become more popular in the US. Certainly not NHL hockey and more certainly not Ranger hockey.

    Now we will see what kind of shape the Ranger players return in, especially Gaborik and Lundqvist. Gaborik was injured again and Lundqvist may be going to the well once too often. We will see. anyway, the excitement is over and we will now pause as we return to the same boring NHL hockey. Let the trappings begin.

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    ICINGS: If you stayed up and watched the closing Olympic ceremony you would have fallen out of your chair when the Canadian band Nickelback came out and played their grunge rock anthem "Burn It To the Ground!" Those Canadians are a rowdy fun loving bunch.

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