Saturday, March 31, 2012

Winning Hab-it Continues: Rangers 4, Canadiens 1

While watching the Rangers convincing 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, I got into a back and forth internal dialog with myself. How really good are these guys I kept asking? Are the Rangers truly the best team in the NHL, a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs, or are the Habs that bad now?

Have the Canadiens checked out early and started their off season? They must be just going through the motions and letting the Broadway boys have their way, I thought. Because, for a 'good skating' team they can't find any room to get shots on Lundqvist.

No, I would then think, the Montreal players must be playing hard. They are playing for their pride, their families, and most of all for their jobs for next season. So the Rangers are just playing their lock down, shot blocking, Tortorella game. They ended with 18 blocks.

But on the other hand, what about the dismal losing atmosphere that has infiltrated Montreal? Heck, the Montreal fans are all singing the ‘Lose Habs Blues.’ The franchise is in total disarray and they are just mailing it in.

So how can we tell if this is one of the best Rangers teams of all time? They will certainly have more than 50 wins and are challenging to beat the season record of 112 points from the '94 Cup team. Plus they can and have shut down much better teams than La Canadiens.

But, how could this be the same Habs team that toyed with and tortured the Rangers the last two times they played at the House of Horrors, the Bell Centre? Montreal won those two games, 4-0 in November, and 4-1 in January. Is that just an old curse that haunts the Blueshirts? Must be, I thought.

Maybe the Rangers cursed Montreal right back, when we pawned Scotty Gomez on them back in June of 2009. The Habs have been going downhill ever since then, in terms of playoff performance. Call it the Curse of the Scotty Gomez.

The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle of my mental monologue. The Rangers are a team with the playoffs in front of them and confidence coursing through their veins. The Canadiens are the polar opposite. Plus, Lundqvist in net, turns a good Rangers team into a great team. The last period was still riveting, because I think we were all pulling for The King to keep the shutout. The Montreal score with 2:29 remaining, was a big disappointment. You could see Henrik was not happy.

Anyway, this debate will rage inside and outside until we close out the season and get to the acid test of the playoffs and see where this team really stands in history.

But in the meantime, what a treat this team is serving up as they come down the home stretch. They are an over achieving group, when for years we have been saddled with chronic under achievers.

Notes and rehashes:

Richards, Gaborik, and their kid flash, Hagelin, have caught lightning in a bottle. They look like a threat to score every time they are on the ice. Richards is getting his points in bunches now, 1 goal and 2 assists this time.

De Zotto, as is typical, played a Jekyll and Hyde game. His early turn overs and defensive lapses gave way to a couple of  great goals and an assist.  #Maddening

The Dr. Jekyll power play also showed up. That Mr. Hyde 0-fer-ever is in temporary remission.

Once the Rangers had the 3-1 lead, it seemed like the intensity level went up as every player on the Rangers started looking to take home some points from this game. #PadtheStats

Finally, it was great to see Cally win the Steve McDonald Award. Adam Graves won the award 5 times, and Callahan looks like he will challenge that record.

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ICINGS:

Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 08:56 EV NYR Gaborik(39) Richards(38) Hagelin(24)
2 2 00:30 PP NYR Richards(25) Stepan(32) Del Zotto(31)
3 3 08:17 PP NYR Del Zotto(9) Stepan(33)
4 3 16:58 EV NYR Del Zotto(10) Gaborik(34) Richards(39)
5 3 17:31 EV MTL Bourque(18) Plekanec(34) Campoli(9)
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Richards vs. Lundqvist

Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist are having a friendly competition to see who wins in their first round coverboy match-up. Fan voting determines which NHL player ends up on the cover of EA Sports' NHL13 hockey game.

Twitter / HLundqvist30:

Go to http://NHL.com/CoverVote and vote for me!! #NHL13COVER #BeBold
Twitter / BRichards_1991:
Hey guys, need your VOTE to get me on the EA Sports #NHL13Cover!!! Go to http://NHL.com/CoverVote now and Vote for me!!! #BeBold


EA Sports / NHL 13 Cover Vote:
Vote for your favorite player from each NHL team to advance one round closer to making the cover of NHL13. Vote now through April 11.

Voting is unlimited; for every vote you cast, you will earn one entry into the Cover Vote Sweepstakes for a chance to win a VIP trip to the 2012 NHL Awards™ (up to 10 entries per day).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor.

Being on the West Coast gave me a chance to see Brian Boyle play angry. And, what a difference it made. Why angry? A chunk of one of Boyle’s front teeth was missing, from of a high stick by Winnipeg captain, Andrew Ladd. Immediately, Boyle knelt clutching his mouth on the ice, then skated off. Moments later Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi saw the tooth, picked it up and brought it to Boyle.

Later, with the score tied 2-2, Boyle found himself behind the Jets goal, on the wall with two defenders and with the puck. A free Ranger winger was on the other side of the goalie ready to receive Boyle's pass. He was sure he was going to pass. So was I. So was the goalie and everyone else. But Boyle was in ill humor and took the shortest path with the puck to the crease right through the defense.

With the goalie not set to hug the post, he elevated the puck over the goalies skate and scored the game winner. Bobby Clark would have been proud, Boyle's smile after he scored looked a little like Clark's.

Freddie Shero said: "We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor." Now we have Boyle: "We take the shortest route to the net and arrive in ill humor". This is the attitude that makes champions. Brian notched the game-winning goal at 3:07 of the third period, registered three shots on goal and won a game-high, 15-26 faceoffs (58%) in 18:05 of ice time.  He has now tallied three goals in the last four games.

The Rangers came back to tie the game from a 2-0 deficit because Callahan played with attitude. They won because Boyle and the team fed off of it and played that way too. If Boyle can keep it going this is a much more difficult team to beat.

Final note, the magic number is seven. Any combination of Ranger points or Pittsburgh missed points that total seven gives the Rangers first seed. Five games to go and only seven points away. While playing Buffalo or Ottawa is not easy, at least avoiding the Flyers will give Boyle a greater shot at keeping his teeth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rangers Defeat Wild, 3-2

The Rangers had their way with the non-playoff Minnesota Wild, and eased past them with a business-like 3-2 win. The Rangers played their hard hitting East coast brand of hockey and Minnesota played something else. The something else did not do so well.

The Rangers had 30 recorded hits. The Wild had 12 hits. That statistic in a nutshell tells the story of who wanted this game more. The Rangers are on a mission. The Wild are on a countdown.

You know a team is hurting for scoring when they play Erik Christensen for 11:24, and see 1 shot, no hits, and 1 giveaway from the former Ranger. It is hardly surprising to see that level of performance from Christensen, especially when he is all motivated to play his old team.

It actually was very good to see Jed Ortmeyer throwing himself around. He had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:29 of ice time. Keep it going Jed, and maybe Blair Betts is smiling somewhere too.

Notes and Rehashes:

The first Wild PP goal ended up coming on a 5-on-3, after Callahan broke his stick. I think the players should use special heavy duty sticks when they are on the PK. I see too many broken sticks and a team put at a big disadvantage, because these guys are playing with composite twigs. Come on, get an old school wooden stick in your mitts, or something heavy duty, if you are going out on the PK to block shots, etc. How many short-handed goals do you really score in a season? Get rid of the twig, go with some lumber! #NoTwigsOnPK

Unfortunately, the Rangers 4th line has become a total non-factor. The players on the 4th line: Prust (9:12), Rupp (7:19), and Michell (7:17), each got over 7 minutes of even strength ice time. However, they only had a total of 3 shots, 4 hits and 1 block, between them. Brian Boyle all by himself in 17:01 of ice time had 1 goal, 6 shots, 5 hits, and 1 block. Putting Rupp on a line is the kiss of death. He brings nothing to the offense. It is grating to think how having the "Grate One," Avery, on a 4th line with Prust and Mitchell would at least make them an offensive threat. Now, their mission seems to be to just prevent the other team from scoring. #WhatAWaste

Brad Richards (9 of 13) and Brian Boyle (10 of 15) combined to win 19 of their 28 faceoffs. That is a 67.85% winning percentage, which is outstanding. The Rangers as a team won 29 (59%), the Wild won 20. Did you ever notice how 6'-7" Boyle, most of the time, gets his hands and stick lower than his opponent on the faceoff? #LowBoyle

The power play was again powerless, going 0-4. We all know this is the Achilles' heel that will humble our heroes in the playoffs. #Resignation #NothingCanBeDone

So if the Rangers' power play is not working the other special team, the penalty kill, is holding up? #Wrong. Minnesota went 2-for-2 on their PP.

Lundqvist stopped 24 of 26 shots. Lundqvist's .923 save percentage for the game and 2 goals against actually hurt his season averages. Blues goalie Brian Elliott has passed Lundqvist in 3 of the 4 goalie statistical categories. Lundqvist still has played more games (57), to Elliott's 36, and has many more wins, 36, to 23 for Elliott. Therefore, I think Lundqvist still looks to be the favorite for the Vezina Trophy. But, a couple more low scoring wins should seal the deal. I think we can expect The King to make a strong final push. #RoyalFinish

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ICINGS:

Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 11:23 EV NYR Boyle(8) Dubinsky(22) Stralman(15)
2 2 03:05 PP MIN Brodziak(20) Clutterbuck(11) Scandella(7)
3 2 07:58 EV NYR Gaborik(38) Richards(36) McDonagh(22)
4 2 11:52 PP MIN Koivu(11) Heatley(27) Setoguchi(15)
5 3 13:37 EV NYR Fedotenko(9) McDonagh(23) Girardi(22)
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Broadway Boyle


Blueshirts United:
You'll immediately notice that this Broadway Hat photo features a cameo appearance by none other than Rangers forward Artem Anisimov.  Look to the right of Anisimov and you will see the player that the team awarded its postgame honor after a 3-2 victory over the Wild. Forward Brian Boyle sparked the Blueshirts on Tuesday night, scoring the game's first goal at 11:23 of the opening period. It was his eighth goal of the season, his second in the past three games, and third in the month of March. He was also on the ice for Ruslan Fedotenko's third-period game-winner, and won 10 of his 15 faceoffs. This is Boyle's third Broadway Hat of the season, as he also earned it on Jan 14 and March 1.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hanging Tough: Rangers 4, Leafs 3

The Rangers pulled another win out of their Broadway Hat in Toronto. They defeated the Maple Leafs, 4-3, on a shootout winner by Ryan Callahan.

Who would have guessed at the start of the season that the Rangers would have 101 points with 7 games remaining? A remarkable achievement by a resilient and tough team. Especially since they have been running on fumes the last couple of weeks. This is the most points since the 1993-94 season, when they played 84 games, and ended with 112 points. They had an even 100 points back in 2005-06, when they were led by Jaromir Jagr.

This was a definitely a trap game against the sagging, but still dangerous Leafs, who had taken 2 out of 3 prior against NY. Torts' decision to start Lundqvist proved to be the correct call. Getting Lundqvist right back in net was the best medicine for his off night against Buffalo.

Early on the game looked to be a repeat of last night's lackadaisical effort. The Rangers again gave up an early odd-man rush, where Kessel set up Franson for the first Toronto score.

Dubinsky plays his best hockey after being chastised. Torts must know by now that demoting and yelling at Dubi for a blown assignment on Toronto's first score would bring out his best hockey. Because Dubi did not sit for long and he scored the Rangers 2nd goal late in the 2nd period. That's a very telling stat, if when Dubinsky scores a goal the Rangers are now 7-1. Tortorella should find an excuse to yell at Dubi and temporarily bench him early in every game. Hey, if it works...

Richards and Gaborik came back after taking last night off. These guys must have an on/off switch. Because they certainly had it turned on against the Leafs. The Richards set up of Gaborik's second goal was jaw dropping. #Sick

The fact, that Richards finally scored in the shootout this season is great news. Having a confident Richards in the playoffs will be key. It also looks like his point production this season will match or come close to his career average. So he's living up to his big contract. #DeliveringTheGroceries

The power play went 0-2. #SOP

I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the new Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle call a timeout and then take out his drawing board to diagram how he wanted their power play run. You mean head coaches actually get their fingers dirty diagramming the power play? I can't say I have ever seen John Tortorella lay his hands on a hockey drawing board during a game for the power play. #WhatMeDiagramAPlay? #Problem

I want to call it shot blocking porn. Because MSG kept showing Ruslan Fedotenko's obscenely stupid sliding attempt at a shot block, where his face ends up in the kill zone. My prediction is that someday the NHL will ban going down on the ice and sliding to block a shot after some player takes one between the eyes and doesn't get up. I appreciated Ron Duguay's comment on the after show, where he said he kept getting injured blocking shots in the juniors so the coach told him not to do it. Great advice for Duguay's hockey and media career, it was wise not to put that face in the line of fire. #PrettyBoy

All in all fans have to feel much better after seeing the Rangers rise to the occasion, and come back to beat the Leafs. The Rangers have been excellent front runners when they get the lead, but getting behind has been another story.

Now how close can they come to that 112 point total of that 1993-94 team?

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ICINGS:

Marion Gaborik's 2nd goal, off the the sweet dish by Richards:



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Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 09:11 EV TOR Franson(5) Kessel(41) Bozak(27)
2 1 12:19 EV NYR Gaborik(36) Erixon(2) Richards(34)
3 2 06:53 EV TOR Crabb(10) Steckel(3) Phaneuf(32)
4 2 15:29 EV NYR Dubinsky(9) Mitchell(11)
5 3 04:19 EV NYR Gaborik(37) Richards(35)
6 3 04:37 EV TOR Connolly(12) Crabb(12) Steckel(4)
7 SO

NYR Callahan
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Gabby Hat:


Blueshirts United:
Marian Gaborik was a dominant offensive force throughout the Rangers' 4-3 overtime shootout win at Toronto on Saturday night, so it was no surprise that he went home with the team's postgame Broadway Hat. Gaborik scored two goals -- the first to tie the game and 1-1 and the second for a 3-2 lead -- and used his speed to cause problems for the Toronto defense all evening. He now ranks third in the NHL with 37 goals and needs six in the final seven games to break his previous career-high...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blades Slice Up Rags: Sabres 4, Rangers 1

Ouch. That was painful, watching the Buffalo Sabres dismantle and then carve up our Rangers 4 to 1, and also losing Zuccy. It was certainly not as painful as taking a hard slap shot off my pale nether regions.

Thank God, shot blocking is a spectator sport. But, watching our heroes take one for the team has lost all of its appeal here. Cringing and saying to yourself, "man that's gotta hurt," is getting old and not something that makes my hockey highlight reel. By the way, thank you MSG for all of your most excellent slow motion replay video of players getting marked up by stopping hard shots. I think the Rangers in 60 should focus on showing us all 17 shots the Rangers blocked.

Zuccarello getting his wrist busted blocking a Jordan Leopold shot is a lousy deal. And then losing the game just adds infection to the Sabre wounds. The third period was not ours, it was theirs. #Sloppy.

Lindy Ruff must now be worshiping at the alter of John Tortorella. The Sabres looked like they were playing better Rangers hockey than the Rangers. Backstopped by Miller, who looked all-world, the Sabres just tried to keep the Rangers on the outside, let Ryan Miller work his magic, and going for odd-man rushes when they were gifted by the Rangers. It worked.

The Rangers had no answer for the powerhouse Sabres line of Ennis, Stafford, and Foligno, who scored Buffalo's last three goals. They had a total of 31 goals before tonight. They also picked up a total of 5 assists off the Rangers. Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal were on the ice for all three of those goals. Who do you think is the weak link on that defensive tandem?

Richards was credited with just 1 shot. The defense: Girardi (4 shots), Del Zotto (2 shots), McDonagh (3 shots), and Bickel (1 shot) looked to pick up the slack, since Brad took the night off.

The power play was doomed yet again to being shutout, going 0-2. Why even bother complaining?

Callahan and Girardi each had three blocks and led the team in that all important category. Seeing Zuccy get hurt reminded me of last season when Callahan got hurt blocking shots. Cally broke his hand in December 2010 blocking a Kris Letang slap shot. He then broke his ankle on April 4th, 2011 stopping a Zdeno Chara slap shot during a 5-3 comeback win by the Rangers over Boston.The Rangers limped into the playoffs without Callahan and were soon dispatched. We'll have to keep our fingers crossed this year. I hope MZA going down is not a bad omen.

Shot blocking has become an important part of Rangers hockey, so we have to learn to take the good with the bad. But I don't have to like it.

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ICINGS:

Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 2 03:14 EV BUF Trunbull(1) Boyes(14)
2 2 09:32 EV NYR Boyle(7) Anisimov(20) Erixon(1)
3 2 13:43 EV BUF Stafford(16) Ennis(14) Foligno(3)
4 3 14:00 EV BUF Ennis(12) Stafford(28) Foligno(4)
5 3 16:09 EV BUF Stafford(17) Ennis(15)
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This Day in Hockey History, Mar 23, 1994:
Wayne Gretzky scores number 802 --
On March 23, 1994, Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd goal, breaking his childhood idol Gordie Howe’s National Hockey League record for most goals scored in a career. Gretzky, known to hockey fans as "The Great One," broke a total of 61 offensive records in his NHL career, including many previously held by "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe...

Yesterday in Hockey History, March 22, 1884:
First Stanley Cup championship played --
On this day in 1894, the first championship series for Lord Stanley’s Cup is played in Montreal, Canada. The Stanley Cup has since become one of the most cherished and recognized trophies in sport.

The Stanley Cup was the creation of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, lord of Preston and the 16th earl of Derby. Stanley was of noble birth, the son of a three-time prime minister of England. He served in Canada’s House of Commons from 1865 until he was named governor general of Canada in 1888. Stanley became an ice hockey fan after watching an 1889 game at the Montreal Winter Carnival...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Callahan Lights the Candles in OT: Rangers 2, Red Wings 1

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan served up a scintillating overtime goal at the Garden last night to celebrate his 27th birthday. His wrist shot in the slot, off a pass from Michael Del Zotto, clinched a tough, hard fought, 2-1 win over a depleted, but scrappy, Detroit Red Wings team.

It is amazing that in New York you have this tough, personable, hockey hero, who has led the Rangers to the top of the NHL, yet he is virtually invisible. More New Yorkers probably know who Tim Tebow is, than who know about Ryan Callahan. We have Linsanity and now Timsanity, how about some Cally Craziness? This guy is totally the real deal. Rangers fans now have a choice of naming their newborn boys Henrik or Ryan. Newborn girls, I guess, could be named either Henriette or Cally.

During the game Callahan was throwing his body around like there was no tomorrow.

"He just had an unbelievable third period and overtime," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He does so much for the hockey club. It's fitting that he gets the winning goal. I thought Ryan Callahan was our best player."

True dat, oh disagreeable one.

Detroit gifted Brad Richards a coast-to-coast power play goal to commemorate Cally's party. That might temporarily take the focus off the inept power play, but me thinks things still stink there. The PP went 1-for-3, in 4:28 of ice time.

Michael Del Zotto, who set up Callahan's game winner, had me screaming at him frequently during other parts of the game. He seemed to be making bad passes and coughing up the puck all night. He still had 26:53 of ice time, 4:25 of which was on the power play. How in the world does he stay out of Tortorella's dog house?

Lundqvist flew another near perfect Lundvist mission, only one goal allowed on 27 shots. Lundqvist is 2nd in the league in save percentage, at .934%. Brian Elliott of St. Louis is first with .937%. Lundqvist is also 2nd in GAA with 1.87, behind Elliott's 1.62 goals against average. Lundqvist still leads with 8 shutouts, and is 3rd in wins, with 34. Game-by-game it looks like the King is moving closer to claiming his first Vezina Trophy.

There are only nine games left, and this late rush by Pittsburgh might be the best thing in the world to keep the Rangers sharp and focused on playing good hockey down the stretch.

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ICINGS:

Callahan's OT Winner:

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Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 03:36 EV DET Zetterberg(19) White(24) Nyqist(5)
2 1 14:58 PP NYR Richards(24) Lundqvist(2)
3 OT 02:42 EV NYR Callahan(27) Del Zotto(29) Dubinsky(21)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lundqvist Likes Blink

Blood on the Ice: Rangers 4, Devils 2

Ryan Carter after his fight with Stu Bickel

There is nothing like a good old fashion hockey brawl to start a game and put everyone in a good mood for some hard hitting hockey. And a Rangers game at the Garden against the New Jersey Devils can't start these days without a fight, or two, or three kicking off the festivities. Because sometime this season Devils' coach, Peter DeBoer, decided that throwing punches, the more the better, is the best way to get his team motivated to play the New York Rangers.

First, a review of the bad blood and haymaker history. Back on December 20th at the Garden, Mike Rupp and Cam Janssen squared off three seconds after the puck dropped. Rupp won that fight by a wide margin. Lundqvist and the Rangers ended up winning the game, 4-1.

On February 7th at the Garden, the Devils decided to kick the intensity up a notch. This time two fights started at the two second mark of the first period. Again, Mike Rupp got the decision over Cam Janssen.  And Eric Boulton squared off with Brandon Prust. Boulton won that fight. New Jersey ended up winning the game and shutout the Rangers, 1-0. They also handed Henrik Lundqvist one of his few losses versus them.

So, you can see where this Devils' logic is going. If two fights starting a game results in a win, and one fight equals a loss, then the more fights the better.

The February 27th game at the Garden got off to a slow start. The fights didn't get going until the 2nd period. Eric Boulton had the edge over Prust at 16:52 of the 2nd. David Clarkson thumped Dubinsky in their third meeting at 19:27 of the second. The Rangers and Lundqvist win 2-1.

The action picked up on March 6th at the Prudential Center. Ryan Carter and Dubinsky dropped their gloves at 3:03 of the first period. Carter then hammered Dubinsky. That was followed by the Rangers' John Scott getting the better of Cam Janssen at the 12:32 mark of the first period. It was Scott's third fight, and third win, against Janssen. The Devils won the game 4-1, again defeating Lundqvist. It was also the start of a three game losing streak for the Blueshirts.

The tone has been set to that of a fight ring bell this season. Last night's game had both teams come out swinging. Swinging to knock each others block off. In a move clearly orchestrated by DeBoer to start a rumble, the Devils deployed their goon squad to start the game. Tortorella felt compelled to match fire with fire, by starting the Rangers' tough guys.

So just 3 seconds into the game, three fights erupted: Ryan Carter vs Stu Bickel, Eric Boulton vs Michael Rupp, and Cam Janssen vs Brandon Prust. When it was all over in less than two minutes, they were scraping Carter's blood off the ice as he retired to the dressing room for some wound dressing.

Two of the three fights were grudge rematches. Eric Boulton must think that he's due to win one eventually over Mike Rupp. But, no such luck. This was Boulton's fifth fight with Rupp since February 2008, and his fifth loss. Cam Janssen and Brandon Prust have now battled six times going back to their OHL days in 2004. Their first scrap back in February 2004, set a high standard. Prust introduced himself by cleanly tagging Janssen and winning their first fight. Since then Janssen has had the upper hand, and this most recent tilt currently looks like it will be voted a draw.

So, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play, you might ask? The play, the actual hockey was as hard hitting and fierce as I've seen all year. Not pretty, but you couldn't take your eyes off it for fear of missing some wanton mayhem. The Rangers were credited with 41 hits, the Devils with 23.

The big news is that the Rangers finally scored on the power play. The smallest guy on the team, Zuccarello has to go to the net and put away a rebound for them to score. The experiment of putting Brian Boyle in front of the net on the power play looks like it is over. Boyle had only 37 seconds of power play time. The Massachusetts Spruce has proven that his limbs don't work so well when asked to wack at anything moving faster than a bark beetle. So better to put the small guy near the net. Right?

Seeing Brandon Prust get smacked into the boards late in the 3rd period by Adam Henrique was not good. Hope he is all right.

Good things: seeing other guys like Dubinsky and Stepan score. Dubinsky played one of his best games of the year. He got 17:57 minutes of ice time, which might be a high for him. The King is back as master of his domain, despite letting a couple sneak in over his right shoulder. If Lundqvist does his standard excellent royal job and limits the other team to 2 or less, if the defense doesn't goof too bad, then the Rangers have dibs on winning the game, right?

Hearing chants of Maaarty, Maaarty, and sending Brodeur home a loser, sweet stuff.

The Rangers have clinched a playoff spot. Now maybe everyone, except Mike Rupp, should start clinching in fights to keep themselves in one piece for the playoffs.

ICINGS:



HockeyFights.com:
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Scoring Summary:
G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 01:11 EV NYR Dubinsky(8) Stepan(31) Callahan(23)
2 2 00:33 EV NYR Girardi(5) Hagelin(22)
3 2 05:03 EV N.J Elias(25) Sykora(21)
4 2 07:33 PP NYR Zuccarello(2) Callahan(24) Richards(33)
5 2 11:08 EV N.J Sykora(17) Zidlicky(19) Kovalchuk(43)
6 3 18:50 EV NYR Stephan(16) Dubinsky(20) Hagelin(23)

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slipping and Sliding

So there was the news conference after the game. We played great. One of the best games we played all year. We are putting it all together. We had great chances. We hit the pipes. Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah! Hey coach we lost. We scored one goal against a team fighting for its playoff life in the Western Conference.

Yes, Semyon Varlamov was great with 41 saves. He was cat like, crouched low and going side to side with the greatest of ease, but we helped him. That ole bugaboo, the power play, what a misnomer, was 0-5. It is 6-60 over the past 16 games. Five of those power play goals came in two games against the Islanders. So that makes our vaunted PP 1-49 in 14 games against the rest of the NHL. Wow! You know what's worse than that stat? What's worse is that no one in the blame stream media had the you know what to ask the question: "When are you going to fix the f-ing power play." It has been a three year problem and it will be the death of us. But we played great.

It's getting crowded in the East. The Pens are two points back and after today's game may well be tied. Philly is five points back, could creep to three, and if it's another one of those three point games both teams will creep up. There is what, eleven games left, and regardless of what coach disagreeable says. or doesn't say, the points right now are more important than the style. This isn't figure skating, this is hockey where goals matter and power plays are important.

Fix the power play, damn it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pens Blow By Blueshirts!

It was an uneven fight. A surging, getting well team against a tired hurting team. It looked good for a period and then in an instance, 1:12 to be exact, it was over. Two quick goals, Malkin and Cooke and a 3-1 lead never relinquished and now the Penguins are only four points behind the Rangers for the top spot in the East and the Pens have a game in hand.

The Penguins got back their Captain, Sidney Crosby and also Chris Letang and Paul Martin. The Rangers continued to play without their MVP, Henrik Lundqvist, supposedly out with the flu, and Ryan Callahan their dynamic Captain out with a sore foot. Michael Del Zotto is also out with bruised ribs. Without Lundqvist the Rangers have no chance of beating anyone, no less the top team in the NHL. The Pens have now won ten straight and show no signs of stopping soon.

Outside of the injuries the only thing the Rangers showed was a top line and nothing else. Richards, Gaborik and Hagelin are really clicking. Each had two points each with Gabby and Hagelin getting the goals. The Rangers were credited with 34 hits but I didn't see one Ranger even lay a glove on Crosby, or brush by him, or whisper in his ear.

While the Rangers are going backwards the rest of the East is catching up. The Flyers, who have suddenly found goaltending are only six points behind the Rangers and the Devils are only eight points behind. Fatso is now back to flourishing in the net unencumbered by the spectre of Sean Avery 'stalking' him. So what's Mike Rupp doing these days? Besides post game interviews, nothing much.

There is still time to right the ship. The key is Lundqvist returning. Biron is not up to the job. Callahan is also a must as the second line has to get going. You can't do it with one line. No way. However, the team is one tired team and it doesn't have the depth of the Pens, Flyers, Blues and Red Wings, some of the top teams in the NHL. The following week should be interesting.

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ICINGS:

Scoring Summary:

G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 02:54 EV PIT Cooke(13) Kennedy(17)
2 1 13:36 EV NYR Hagelin(14) Richards(31) Gaborik(31)
3 2 01:19 EV PIT Malkin(39) Neal(35)
4 2 02:31 EV PIT Cooke(14) Kennedy(18) Staal(17)
5 2 14:32 EV NYR Gaborik(35) Richards(32) Hagelin(21)
6 3 03:01 EV PIT Kunitz(21) Crosby(11) Neal(36)
7 3 07:35 EV PIT Dupuis(19) Letang(23) Martin(22)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Penguins Tonite

Huge test tonight against the Pens.

ESPN:
Sather: Pens are best team in league

"They're obviously, I think, the best team in the league," Sather told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun after the GM meetings wrapped up in Boca Raton, FL Wednesday. "With [Crosby] back, it's certainly going to make it a lot more difficult."
Pens blog:
A Night of Returns --
Sidney Crosby is back tonight. Paul Martin is back tonight. Kris Letang is likely back tonight. Community is back tonight.
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Penguin Poop:
Penguins Matt Cooke is the Perfect Winger for Sidney Crosby --
However things works out with “The Shooter” aspect of Crosby’s line, I willing to bet you will see a whole lot of Matt Cooke in the mix.
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Penguin Cam



via Discovery.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Open The Door, Richards!

You remember that old song, "Open the Door, Richard." Of course you don't. If you did you would be as old as me. But Brad Richards not only opened the door, but he demolished it. Richards aided by his linemates, Gaborik and Hagelin racked up nine points in turning back the 'Canes 4-2. Richards two goals, (22,23) and an assist. Gaborik a goal (34) and two assists and Hagelin a goal (13) and two assists. The trio had 15 of the 28 shots the Rangers got on goal.

Richards has been fooling us all year. He waited until things got serious. He was a sniper, laying in ambush waiting to strike. And strike he has. He is on top of his game now. And its none too soon. Coming in Thursday are the red hot Penguins, who right now are only six points behind the Rangers. The big danger for the Rangers is if they fall off the top and get into a dogfight with the Flyers, Devils and Senators for fourth place.

Marty Biron played another strong game with 27 saves and for a change didn't give up the first goal or two. Lundqvist was out with the flu and hopefully will be back at full strength against the Penguins. Should be an interesting and wild night. Stay tuned.

ICINGS: Official or unofficial, Sean Avery has announced his retirement claiming he threw his skates in the Hudson. Stay loose and in shape Sean. Next year is another year and there may be a spot for you with the Islanders, Devils or Flyers. Wouldn't that be marvelous. Don't let the bastards wear you down!

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Hags Hat


BlueShirts United:
Any one of the three forwards who currently make up the Rangers' top line combination likely could have been named the recipient of club's Broadway Hat following Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Carolina at The Garden. All three---Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards, and Marian Gaborik---recorded three points.

However in the end it was the rookie, Hagelin, who proudly wore the Broadway Hat in the post-game locker room.
"To me the biggest key (on that line) is Hags because he chases down pucks and they have puck posession because he is always chasing down pucks and making plays," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Hagelin.
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update: Thank you Sec 335!

Open the Door, Richard (#1 hit version) - The Three Flames

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hunger Game: Rangers 4, Islanders 3

The NY Rangers were starving for a win, and they got one from the perpetual bottom dwelling Islanders. Nothing comes easy in the NHL. So the Rangers had no shame in feasting on the still kicking carcass of the fishsticks. A win is a win.

Going into the game Brad Richards had the gaunt look of a man who hadn't eaten, or scored an important goal, in weeks. His power play fast had been going on since Dec. 11th, 40 games ago. Talk about emaciated. However, Richards is actually well ahead of his career goal scoring pace. He has averaged 22 goals a year in his prior ten seasons. He now has 21 for the Rangers with 14 games remaining. It is Richards' assists that are well off his normal pace. He has averaged 49.6 assists per season during his career. He currently has only 29 for the Rangers, none sweeter than the one setting up Gaborik for the game winner.

Mats Zuccarello wasn't just hungry, he was famished. Banished to the Whale, he finally gets back to the Rangers and delivers an assist on the Rangers' second goal by Richards. In fact, Richards and Zuccarello were on the ice together for all three of the Rangers power play goals. Three power play goals, amazing. Could the secret key to unlocking Brad Richards, the Lord of the Assists, be the Norwegian hobbit? A little elfin magic couldn't hurt.

Until the game winner with 6 seconds remaining, the game was setting up as a shootout homecoming for Zuccy.

The puck action in the 4-man power play that eventually won the game in OT was impressive. That unit consisted of Gaborik, Richards, Stepan, and Zuccarello. Not a defenseman on the ice, just the four most offensively skilled players on the team.

The Shuffle Master was in all his glory last night. The reshuffled power play had Boyle centering between Gaborik and Mats Zuccarello, with Richards on the point. Planting the Massachusetts Spruce in front of the goal is a good place for him, if he has to be on the ice. So let's recap that bit of Shuffle Master brilliance: you put one of your largest players in front of the goalie to screen him and then all of your skilled players around the outside. Brilliant. But why did it take 68 games for the disagreeable one to figure this out?  The question becomes, does this new power play lineup stay together once Callahan and Del Zotto come back?


Re-hashes:

#DubiOrNotDubi – The Rangers lost 3 games after Dubinsky goes out early against the Devils. He comes back, they win. Coincidence?

#PAParenteau – Alongside Tavares, Pierre-Alexandre, the former minor leaguer and NY Ranger has wracked up 46 assists this season. Tavares is one dangerous player, who elevates everyone around him.

#NeededRest – They took the captain off the ice. Good.

#SaveOftheGame – Lundqvist in overtime on Frans Nielsen's one-timer in the slot.
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Scoring Summary:

G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 11:15 EV NYI Tavares(28) Parenteau(46) Hamonic(15)
2 1 18:47 PP NYR Richards(20) Stralman(14) Lundqvist(1)
3 2 07:44 PP NYI Moulson(29) Streit(31) Hamonic(16)
4 2 16:03 PP NYR Richards(21) Gaborik(28) Zuccarello(1)
5 2 19:24 EV NYI MacDonald(5) Tavares(38) Jurcina(7)
6 3 03:29 EV NYR Boyle(6) McDonagh(20) Prust(12)
7 OT 04:54 PP NYR Gaborik(33) Richards(29) Stepan(30)
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ICINGS:

His 4th Brad Hat:


Blueshirts United:
This might have been one of the easiest decisions this season for the Rangers, deciding that Brad Richards should wear the Broadway Hat following the club's crucial 4-3 overtime victory Sunday night over the Islanders.

While it was Marian Gaborik who scored the winner, and Brian Boyle who netted the tying goal, and Henrik Lundqvist who preserevd it all with a monster save in overtime, it was Richards who was the single most dynamic player on the ice for either team from start to finish. In the end even his excellent totals---two goals and an assist---did not scratch the surface for the dominating game Richards played...

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Re-hash: Rangers 3, Blackhawks 4

The Rangers have fallen into a late Winter slump that you knew was coming. It will hurt if they slide too far down the standings. Are the Rangers tired? The grinding, forechecking, shot-blocking game they have played for five months and 67 games must be factor. Mentally and physically the Rangers have expended a lot of energy getting where they are. Tortorella, the disagreeable one, is going to have to find a way to recharge their batteries.

Riding Henrik Lunqvist all season is not an option. Lundqvist came out sharp and his great early save put them on the right path. But, he can't stop them all, especially the wicked deflections.

Here's a quick hashtag recap of this heartbreaking loss:

#SluggoStart – Rangers come out a step behind, the new standard operating procedure.

#ShuffleMaster – John Tortorella's private 'handle' for himself. His gut just knows what to do and no line shall go unchanged.

#ArtyTheOneManParty – Artem Anisimov's slick goal, his 14th, in the first period was a pretty piece of work off of the assist from Mitchell.

#ScottsMiracleGoal – Planting John Scott in front of the other team's net and having him score a goal.

#OnTheForecheck – The Rangers had their forecheck going, but the Blackhawks did onto the Rangers one better.

#SameOld – Rangers powerplay went 0-3.

#McDonagh – Great game.

#Callahan –  Still not at 100%. He was a -3 for the game. As goes the Captain, so goes the team.

#BackBreaker – Surrendering two goals in 1:02, after taking a lead in the 3rd.

#EmptyNetter – Again.

#BickelonBickell – Stu Bickel from the Rangers versus Bryan Bickell of the Blackhawks. The wrong Bickell came out on top.

#7GameHomeStand – From this Sunday, March 13th, versus the Islanders, to Friday, March 23rd, against the Sabres the Rangers play seven in a row at MSG.

#MarchofthePenguins – The Pittsburgh Penquins have won 8 in a row, 9 of their last 10, and are now only 4 points behind the floundering Rangers.

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Scoring Summary

G Per Time Str Team Goal Scorer Assist Assist
1 1 19:13 EV NYR Anisimov(14) Mitchell(9)
2 2 14:28 EV CHI Shaw(7) Oduya(12) Bickell(10)
3 3 07:11 EV NYR Prust(5) McDonagh(19) Boyle(13)
4 3 13:02 EV CHI Sharp(26) Hossa(38) Kane(38)
5 3 14:04 EV CHI Oduya(3) Kruger(12)
6 3 19:07 EV-EN CHI Kane(17) Sharp(31) Hossa(39)
7 3 19:19 EV NYR Richards(19) Hagelin(18) Gaborik(27)
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Rangers Voted Down by Senators, 4-1

Has anyone seen the Broadway hat recently? Has it left the building, and is it now hanging out in a cappuccino bar in the Village? Someone needs to send out an all points bulletin and ask the fickle fedora to please come home. We need you.

The Rangers lost, 4-1, to the Ottawa Senators, in a game that was like an uneven Presidential primary. It was like watching Newt Gingrich battle Mitt Romney in the Utah Republican Presidential Primary. It was tad lopsided if you catch my drift. It was the well oiled machine versus the man on a shoestring budget. The Rangers offense like Newt finds itself severely strapped for cash as the season winds down. All contributions are most welcome, unfortunately our usual donors look like they are tapped out.

Captain Cally bravely soldiers on and he got the Rangers on the board first. But, the Rangers need one of their other go-to players: Richards, Gaborik, Stepan, or Anisimov to give the team an offensive lift. Sadly the GAS line has ruptured and there is a bad odor wafting through the rafters. Meanwhile, Brad Richards looks determined to boost his shots on goal stat. No problem with that. However, it would be nice if someone went to the net and tried to make life uncomfortable for the big Bishop that was keeping the crease. Why do newly minted NHL goaltenders always seem to have the Rangers' number?

Some random observations:

Joe Micheletti roused the ire of the hockey gods when he alerted them that Stu Bickel had gone 21 games without a minus. Do the gods really listen to Joe? The Bickel situation was quickly corrected after 5:50 into the game. Stu's stick assisted on Ottawa's first goal, by Smith. Don't blame a producer for that one, Joe. #godsneedasacrifice

John Scott on a breakaway is like John Tortorella teaching a Dale Carnegie course. #fishoutofwater

A key phrase an announcer needs for a Rangers game: "The power play is over." Going 0-4, the Rangers look determined to claim the league's worst PP. #futile

Another key phrase an announcer must have during a Rangers game: "Blocked in front." It is frequently used at both ends of the ice. #blockedinfront

Thank you Mike Rupp for that bug on the windshield imitation. Smashing your head on the glass after missing a check was a memorable game highlight. #faceplant

Speaking of highlights, why couldn't MSG show us the video replay of that last minute Rangers shot the Ottawa goalie had wedged up against the post? #veryclose

Thankfully the Rangers do not play Ottawa again. The Senators outscored the Blueshirts 14-8, and won 3 of the 4 games in the season series. #haveournumber

How will the Rangers end up the season going into the playoffs? #limping or #surging

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ICINGS:
click for Rupp #faceplant
via Scotty Hockey

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Devils Rock Rangers

To say that the final result last night, Devils 4, Rangers 1, was kind of shocking, is an understatement in the least. After all coming in the Rangers were on a 15-5-3 ride and the Devils were on a 1-4-1 slide. So the Devils totally destroyed our heroes last night and to add insult to injury Marty outplayed Henrik. Of course Marty had a lot of help and most of it was from the Rangers.

It took just 49 seconds for Kovalchuk to give the Devils the lead as Gaborik, Stepan and McDonagh made like the three stooges. A few minutes later a fight broke out between Dubinsky and Carter upon which Dubinsky hurt his hand and it's not sure how long he will be held out. And so it went all night. Lundqvist was usually hung out to dry by his team and while he gave up three goals he did make 25 saves which was matched by Marty.

The last few games has seen a big difference in the Rangers performance. They are tired and seemed to be a step behind the Devils last night. This has been their style the last few games. The grinding, forechecking and blocking shots are now beginning to take its toll.

The coach gave his usual 'screw you' press conference after the game and abruptly left after answering three questions, if you call them answers. It should be a delightful finish to what seemed like a promising season.

ICINGS: Word is out that Sean Avery was left off the Hartford playoff roster. They don't want him. They wouldn't put him on waivers and they won't trade him. Hmm!!!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Lundqvist Holds Off Bruins

They fought a war of attrition at the Garden this afternoon and when it was over the Rangers had outlasted the Bruins 4-3. The Bruins badly out shot the Rangers 33-17, but the heroics of Lundqvist gave the Rangers the edge. There were three fights in the first period with the Rangers Prust, Bickel and Rupp battling Lucic, Campbell and MacDermid. The Rangers did better playing hockey.

If this was a preview of what we could expect in the playoffs it is going to be a dandy. The two top teams in the East going at each other. Boston seemed to have more in the tank than the Rangers did but we have the great equalizer, Henrik Lundqvist. When the chips were down there was Henrik with the big save. With a shot to get his team into OT and a big point at stake, Tim Thomas fanned on Derek Stepan's game winning wrister.

The Rangers out hit the Bruins 33-15 and in a sign that some key Rangers are wearing down ice time was doled out a little more equitable. Marc Staal led all Rangers with 24:28, Girardi was down to 21:56. looked tired and was a minus two. Dubinsky, continued to sneak out from under the bus and record a game high of seven hits.

The Rangers are 12 points ahead of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference and ten points ahead of the Penguins in the Atlantic Division. The Pens right now look like a bigger obstacle to the Rangers reining supreme. More than ever the Ranger season is going to be a direct reflection of the performance of Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist will be a first time father this year. Let us hope that he also becomes the 'father' of the Rangers fifth Stanley Cup.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Biron Bounces Back!

I didn't see the game last night but after reading about it I would be remiss if I didn't make a comment or two especially about the play of Marty Biron. Biron bouced back after a couple of subpar performances. He only had to make 21 saves last night but the main thing was that he responded when the Rangers needed him.

We are coming down the stretch now and Lundqvist needs all the rest he can take. So when Biron sits in it's not just as a fill-in it's to win a game. And win he did last night with help from Gaborik, Anisimov and Prust.

The Rangers were shorthanded last night. Callahan is out with a bruised foot and Del Zotto got hurt late in the game. How is that kamikaze defense working, coach? To add insult to injury Brandon Dubinsky sat most of the game for taking a misconduct penalty. Hey, it's hockey and players get misconduct penalties. It's an emotional game and players do things on emotion. At least he didn't throw a water bottle at the fans.

But this is about our backup goalie, the other Marty in the Metro area, Marty Biron. Great job and surely the number one star last night, at least in my book.

Maaaarrrty!!!