Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big Win In Tampa

The Rangers played a whale of a hockey game this evening beating Tampa Bay 4-3 at Tampa. Well they played a heck of two periods and then turned it over to Lundqvist to save the day. They scored three power play goals, took a 4-2 lead into the third period and then it was vintage Lundqvist who made 15 of his 37 saves in the third period.

Rick Nash ended his slump with his 7th to put the Rangers on top, but Tampa Bay fought back with two goals. The Rangers then scored three power play goals in a row, Zuccarello, (9), Kreider, (10), and Pouliot, (7) to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. Flippula, flipped one over Lundqvist in the third to make it 4-3 and it was nail biting time. But the King, with 15 big saves kept the lead safe 'til the end.

This was no cup cake win. The Rangers beat a team that was 12 games over .500. The Rangers are 19-19-2, a solid .500 team, one game shy of the halfway mark. Zuccarello. Brassard and McDonagh all had two assists. The 'diminutive hobbit' may well lead these Rangers to the promised land.

But the big story is that the King returned and rebounded and led the Rangers to a win. There was one sequence in the third where the Lightning poured shot after shot, but Henrik stood tall and weathered the onslaught. Great win, Now let's go to Florida and get over that dreaded .500 mark. It would be a great end to 2013, a year to forget.

Nash scores. Three power play goals. Lundqvist makes 37 saves, 15 in the third period. What more could you ask for? Good night folks!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Caps Clip Cam

You have seen this before. It is written in Ranger lore. It happens too often. A Ranger skates in on the opposing goalie and takes the shot that could be the game winner. The shot eludes the goalie, but one of the pipes, either the post or the crossbar, gets it and it goes out. No goal. No game winner. The other team picks up the puck comes down the ice, shoots at our goalie and scores. Game winner, game over.

Of course their was still 5:09 left when Eric Fehr scored his game winner after Dan Girardi had hit the post about thirty seconds earlier. But it didn't matter. The Rangers always lose in these scenarios. It's in the books of the hockey gods. It's in the genes. It started in 1951 with Raleigh off the crossbar and Babano with the game and Cup winner. There is not a thing anyone can do about it because it's in the books. This is what happens to the Rangers.

Now maybe some things will change when Staal and Callahan get back, especially Staal. It's amazing watching Del Zotto fighting the puck, giving it up and being out of position. The Rangers have been dangling him as trade bait. Who wants him? Nobody. But he'll be around for a while as Stralman went out early with an injury and the Rangers played most of the game with five defenders.

So it's on to Tampa Bay and maybe Lundqvist, the guy the coach would rather have on the bench than in front of the nets will get a game. Truly amazing. The guy just signed a seven year extension and he is in the fight of his life to keep his job. BTW, the Rangers are under .500, 18-19-2 and have a goaltending controversy  compliments of the new coach. Wonderful!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The Pundit has been AWOL the last few games, however, the combinations of the season, family, birthday, dialysis and such kept me too busy to post. I believe that the Rangers hit rock bottom with their 5-3 loss to the Islanders. It doesn't get any worse than that.

However, the Rangers have rebounded from that debacle with two big wins over the Wild and the Maple Leafs behind rookie goaltender Cam Talbot, who allowed one goal per game. The Maple Leaf game went into a shootout, which never should have occurred, due to a no whistle by the ref on a puck lying under Talbot, that was eventually tucked in by Nazem Kadri to send the game into OT. Talbot righted the wrong and got revenge by stopping Kadri in the shootout to win the game.

The Rangers only goal in the game was scored by J.T. Miller off of a beautiful feed by Chris Kreider. Zuccarello and Stepan scored in the shootout. The Rangers ended the nine game home stand at 3-4-2 and now are at 18-18-2, back to that .500 number again. They hit the road for five games starting with Washington on Friday and then go to Tampa Bay, Florida, Pittsburgh and Toronto. We should see if the comeback is serious or make believe.

Lundqvist should be back in the nets and hopefully the rest has cleared his head. Of course it would help if the Rangers play in front of him the way they play in front of Talbot. As I have stated many times before, the Rangers will only go as far as Lundqvist takes them. Talbot is good, but unless he is the second coming of Ken Dryden, the Rangers are dead without a prime time Henrik Lundqvist.

But that's hockey and today is Christmas Eve. It's family time. Whether you are a believer or not, it's time for family and friends. So enjoy it. From the Ranger Pundit and jb we wish all out there in Rangerland a very Merry Christmas.

ICINGS: With another loss Friday the T/Birds closed out the first half with a 6-7 record. The second half starts 1/15/14. Hopefully the team will be at 100%. My grandson also plays in a house league at The Rinx and last Sunday he gave Granpa a big birthday present. He scored three goals in a 6-2 win. Thanks Nicholas, you made my year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shootout Win Snaps Skid

Well let's give this team some credit today. After all Christmas is coming. Down 2-0 after fifteen minutes of play, the Rangers could of folded and continued the disaster that had taken hold of them. Instead they rallied, rather quickly, to get back into the game. Derek Stepan scored 25 seconds after Calgary had taken a 2-0 lead. The goal, Stepan's 6th, put life into the team. When Carl Hagelin put in a wrap around the Rangers were back, at least for a while.

Monahan's goal gave the Flames a one goal lead which held up until Kreider's backhand tied it at three with about 8 minutes to play in the game. The Rangers had 1:21 of 5 on 3, but blew it and then gave Calgary 4 on 3 on a Kreider double minor in OT. But the Christmas Gods were on our side and it went to the shootout.

Neither goalie, Ramo for the Flames or Lundqvist distinguished themselves in the shootout. Both seemed to try to out guess the shooters. The Rangers won the contest 4-3. Colborne, Stempniak and Byron scored or the Flames. For the Rangers it was Zuccarello, Richards, Moore and the much maligned Benoit Pouliot with the game winner.

When the ordeal was over and after he had stopped Backlund to win the shootout and the game Lundqvist looked up to the heavens not in triumph but more of a sigh of relief. It was a much needed win, an early Christmas gift. The skid had ended. Finalmente!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rangers, Callahan Go Down

The Rangers lost again last night, their third straight at home, to the Nashville Predators, 4-1, but more importantly they lost their fireplug Captain, Ryan Callahan for at least 4-6 weeks. The injury came in the first period as Cally was finishing a check on Victor Bartley he fell to the ice and sprained his knee. Add in Marc Staal, who is still recovering from a concussion and the Rangers road back to respectability becomes even more difficult. These are two of the grittiest players the Rangers have. Also, rumors have it that Ryan McDonagh is playing with a bad back, which if true, casts a pall on this season.

After Sunday's debacle the Rangers needed to make some changes. Honestly, sending JT Miller back to Hartford and bringing back Aaron Asham and giving him all of 6:33 of ice time is hardly the answer. But, there are no answers for the Rangers with their rosters in New York and Hartford and they must go outside to fix the problems. And they must do it fast otherwise after the Yankee Stadium games the season will become irrelevant.

For the second night in a row the Rangers lost to a third string goalie. One goal games against guys named Philipp Grubauer, Washington, and Carter Hutton, Nashville, is not going to do it. The coach who was known for his offensive tactics now has the team betwixt and between offense and defense. Right now nothing is working and even Lundqvist seems confused.

Does someone has an answer? Hey, isn't that what GM's are for. "If I had the money the Rangers have, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Just Plain Awful

Those of you that read this blog know that I have little respect for the Stealth GM as far as his job goes. He has been here for fourteen years and has done absolutely nothing to bring us a competitive hockey team. It goes without saying, that he is the worst GM in sports in the New York area. Any other New York area team would have fired him years ago. He is protected by the Absentee Owner, whose only concern is the bottom line of his vast empire. Yesterday must have been one of the darkest in his empire's history. His Knicks lost by 41 points to the Celtics and his Rangers didn't show up against the Caps. All at his sacred palace, Madison Square Garden.

It is time for the Stealth to sit down with his coach, Alain Vigneault, and have a serious discussion on the makeup of this team. Where is it going? Off of last night's performance and the season as a whole, 15-15-1, it looks like it's heading to the pits of the degraded Metropolitan Division. The coach, for some reason, was given a five year contract. A five year contract? Are we going to have to wait that long to see results?

Now, I am not blaming the coach totally for this team's record. But I am blaming him for how they are approaching these games and the effort they are putting into them. Last night they were awful. However, this is not new, look at their overall record. One would be hard pressed to find the last game where we had a full sixty minute effort. The team has too many passengers and that takes a toll on the few who have been going all out. Lately the all-outers have dwindled and the passengers are increasing in numbers.

I asked my grandson last night what he thought was wrong with the team. The response came quickly, no offense, no defense and we are not physical. Dan Girardi, considered our best D-man has all of 4 minutes in penalties. You may marvel at that, but I wonder if that is an indication of his softness as a defenseman. Do we want a D-man as a candidate for the Lady Byng Award? But Giardi is not alone. When was the last time you saw a Ranger go out of his way to protect a Ranger in distress. I think it's in the genes. Take the power play and we get even later. Unfortunately later never comes. It's the Frankie Boucher curse. Seven consecutive Lady Byng awards from 1928-1935. Is this the main problem? No. But it is one of many that identifies the team. Bring back Sean Avery!!!

The untold story for years is that the Rangers are the softest touch in the NHL and never more so than when they are on Garden ice. Look at this year's record. 10-8-0 on the road and 5-7-1 at home. The crowd last night was docile. A few stupid "Potvin sucks," the usual photos on the big screens of the celebs who show up, the dumb video games. There were a couple of Hen-reeks, a few Let's Go Rangers  but overall, boring. The Rangers took the crowd out of the game. BTW, where was Dancin' Larry?

But the cash registers rang up huge profits and so what if we have another stinking team. Buy your tickets, your beers, your dogs and shut up. It's the holidays and what better way to spend your money and holidays but by seeing the Rangers get pushed all over the ice. AAh, I long for the days when Sonya Heine would skate during the intermissions. That was skating!

ICINGS: We ran into a problem at the Manhasset train station as the trains were delayed. It seems a flake or two fell on the tracks and all trains were stopped, on the Pt. Washington line. A guy named Greg came to the rescue and drove us into the Garden. Pleasant trip along with his nephew and we talked hockey and the Rangers. Despite that, it was a pleasant trip. Thanks guys.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Devils "Kick" Rangers

Much is being made in the lame stream media about Callahan's foolish high sticking penalty costing the Rangers an OT loss to the Devils. It was bad, but the big call that was missed was the kick goal by Cam Janssen which stopped the Ranger mo and put the Devils on the scoreboard. It came at the 6:02 mark of the second period and completely changed the game around. It was the third kicked in goal that the snoozers in Toronto have allowed against Lundqvist this year. Amazing!

But, just to blame that goal won't be fair. The Rangers were awful again and Lundqvist was okay, making some beauties, but allowing a softie. D-man John Moore was torched by Michael Ryder on the third Devil goal. I guess with all the schooling our defensemen get from super hit man Ulf Samuelsson, he forgot to tell them to use the body and not the stick to defend. Speaking of using the bodies, did anyone touch Jagr all night? He skated around like he had the no contact shirt on. Especially in the second period when his play making resulted in Travis Zajac's tying 2-2 goal.

The Rangers got it to OT because of Chris Kreiders rebound, his 7th, on a power play with Lundqvist pulled. To no avail, Eric Gelinas slapper, in OT, while the Rangers were killing Callahan's boo-boo, was the winner. So the Devils (12-13-6) moved to within a point of the Rangers (15-14-1), who are tied for third with Carolina and a point behind Washington in the Metro Division. Under the old setup the Rangers would be tied for 8th and 9th in the Eastern Conference. Sounds familiar? Have been there before. A .500 team, lacking offense, toughness and now suspect goaltending. Not a good omen for a successful season.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The King Is Back

The King is back
The Stealth made one of his few good moves the other day and signed Lundqvist to a seven year extension. The coach followed that up by inserting Henrik back in the nets. The Rangers, as a team, followed that up by playing another of their nondescript games, in beating a woeful Buffalo Sabre team, 3-1. The Rangers beat the worst team in the NHL, who have accumulated all of 14 points, dead last in the NHL, and six points behind the next worst team.

However, the story was the return of the King, Henrik Lundqvist, the squire of Rangerland, the Lord of the Nets. He made 27 saves and a few of them were quite acrobatic. He lost his shutout with 2:06 left in the game when Ennis beat him. Nash (5), continued his fine play when he tucked one in on a faked out goalie, Ryan Miller, who was good again, 28 saves, but has a hapless crew in front of him. Brad Richards (8), scored a power play goal after a pair of stellar saves from Lundqvist and Zuccarello (5), closed out the Rangers scoring.

The Rangers now are 15-14 with a big weekend coming up against the Devils, Saturday, and the Caps, Sunday. Let's hope the King is in the nets for both games. I hope so as I will be there, Sunday, with number two son and granddaughter and grandson. The Rangers have to pick up their game as I'm sure Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin will be at the top of theirs so it should be two lively shows. A sweep would put the Rangers in second place in the weak Metro Conference.

Hail to the King! Long live the King! Let's Go Rangers!

ICINGS: The T/Birds lost their fourth straight, a tough 3-1 loss to Sachem. It was a penalty filled game with the T/Birds unable to cash in on a five minute power play, which included over a minute of 5 on 3 time. Nicholas was on the ice for the lone T/Bird goal and missed a golden opportunity when the goalie made a glove save on his shot. The T/Birds played with only eleven players due to injuries and suspensions.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Coach Guesses Wrong

Coaches are quick to criticize players. Slow to react, not skating hard. Missed assignment. Yada, yada, yada. But they pull many a boner and usually skate free. So there was our coach proclaiming that Lundqvist is, "definitely our number one goaltender," as he played the number two goaltender.

Now I have nothing against our number two goaltender, Cam Talbot. He is good and has even better potential but to sit your goaltender, one of the best big game goalies in the NHL for two straight games is not the thing to do.
 
Something is going on here between the coach and the most important player on the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist. It started a few games ago when he criticized Lundqvist for letting in a goal he should have stopped. The Rangers needed a win. Yes, Talbot has been going good but when you need a win you go to The King. Talbot is that once in a couple of weeks goalie. He is that two out of ten goalie.

I'm of a suspicious nature. Does this have to do with free agency for Lundqvist? If so the coach is pressing the wrong buttons. Do the Rangers want to annoy The King so that he jumps to a legitimate contender at year's end. Let's face it, the Rangers are a .500 team, 14-14. Without Lundqvist they are mediocre and probably wallowing at 10-18.

But maybe I'm wrong and the coach is using a motivational tool. Maybe. Meanwhile Winnipeg came to the New York Area and got whole again by sweeping the three New York teams and are now 13-12-4. So they were hot coming in and when a team's hot you go with your best. We didn't. We lost.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Kreider's Revenge

Aah, how sweet it is. Vindication. Retribution and most of all a taste of extreme satisfaction. Chris Kreider put on quite a show at the Garden last night. It was put on before an adoring packed house and a not so adoring visiting coach. No frowning, no grimacing, just a stoic look watching his former whipping boy light up the Canuck goalies for a hat trick, three goals.

So the twenty-two year old rookie, who spent last year on the bus or the pines, spent yesterday afternoon having his own personal scrimmage. In 14:31 of ice time he had three goals on six shots and belted out three hits. No, he didn't toss any of the pucks to his former mentor, or is it tormentor, but he did it with class, something the other guy lacks.

Yes, he had help. Cam Talbot was brilliant again. He made 35 saves, improved to 6-1 with a 1.49 GAA and a save % of .944. He is the first goaltender in Ranger history to hold opponents to two or fewer goals in each of his first seven career starts. He is also the first Ranger goalie since Jim Henry, (1941-42) to win six straight in their rookie year. Continuing, the last goalie to hold opponents to two or fewer goals in their first seven games was the Great Mr. Zero, Frankie Brimsek, with Boston, (1938-39). He has just two fewer wins than Lundqvist. The coach didn't announce Monday's goalie. Hmmm!

The other goal scorers for the Rangers were Rick Nash (4), and Michael Del Zotto (2). Nash also had two assists as he continued his fine play. Should be an interesting game tomorrow night in terms of who is in goal and whether Del Zotto gets another turn or sits. I remember when hockey was such a simple game. BTW. We are back over .500, 14-13.

ICINGS: The T/Birds continued their slide, losing their third straight to Kings Park/Commack, 8-3. They are now 5-4 after a fast 3-0 start. Injuries are hurting the team.