Thursday, January 30, 2014

Outdoor Chillers

Well there were no excuses from the goalies last night. Both, Lundqvist and Nabokov, had none and played well. Lundqvist made 30 saves and Nabokov made 32. And it was the role players who did the damage not the so called big stars. Brock Nelson opened the scoring for the Islanders, his 10th, late in the 2nd period, and 40 seconds later after Islander coach Capuano got greedy, Pouliot tied it for the Rangers, his 9th. With about a minute and a half to go Capuano put out his top line rather than his checking line. It backfired

The Rangers winning goal was scored by Dan Carcillo his third, at 4:36 of the third period. Carcillo has been quite a find for the Rangers being quite productive in the little ice time he has gotten. Last night in 7 minutes he had a goal, 3 shots, 2 hits and picked up a two minute penalty.  Only Nash, five, and Richards, four, outshot Carcillo on the Rangers.

The Rangers have now swept the Stadium Series against two blood rivals, the Devils and Islanders. They now have one more game against the Islanders on Friday which will decide the season series. Can you imagine, the end of January and the Rangers and Isles play each other no more. It's like the Yankees and Red Sox finishing their season series in July. Only in the NHL folks!

So now the Rangers are three points up on the Flyers for second place in the Metro and are 9-3-1 and playing their best hockey of the season. 50,027 showed up last night which covers all the sins, of bouncing pucks, freezing fans and watered down hot chocolate. The gimmick is over for the year, at least, and now it is back to normal hockey. Imagine this, a big outdoor hockey event and it didn't make the back pages of the local newspapers. All the reporters who feigned interest in hockey can now go back to writing about the Super Bowl, Ad nauseam.

Keep it going Rangers!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Maaarty Gets Iced!

Forget all the hype about playing outdoors. All the reporters who don't know an icing from an offside are all ecstatic about yesterday's event at The Big Ballpark, as the ole redhead, Red Barber, used to call  the old Stadium. This was not a very good hockey game and two goalies who should know better both played poorly. Brodeur made 15 saves on 21 shots. Lundqvist made 19 saves on 22 shots. Mariano Rivera would be embarrassed by those performances.

Both goalies complained about something. Maaaarty didn't like the ice and Lundqvist's pre-game nap was interrupted. Yes, the communication of the off ice officials left something to be desired. Let's face it. An outdoor game starting in the afternoon. The good news. There is sunlight and hopefully warmth. The bad news, there is a glare and balls, er pucks, can get lost in the sun. Left field at Yankee Stadium has been a graveyard for outfielders trying not to lose fly balls in the sun. Maybe in hind sight the backup goalies should have started. Cam Talbot is ranked third in goalies GAA and Cory Schneider is ranked fourth.

But forget the game. It's two points for the Rangers who now have a three point lead over a surging Columbus team and Flyer team for second place. There was a monster crowd of 50,105 most of whom probably couldn't even see the puck. They shelled out $12.50 for hot chocolate. Imagine $12.50 for hot water and a packet of chocolate. They coughed up $10.75 for a Philly Cheese Steak. It cost $35.00 to park your car. But it's historic, it's an event and it was a poorly played game where it looked like the defense, especially the Devils, noted for their defense, took the day off. Yes, the ice was bad. Yes, there was a glare. However, there was no excuse for the Devils defense. For once Maaaarty was probably right complaining about the ice. He should have complained about his defense.

Next big event. Wednesday night. At least we can't complain about the glare.

ICINGS: The T-Birds won their second straight beating a tough West Islip team 2-1.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Islanders Skate Past Rangers

I'm looking out the window and it's all white, except for my newspaper, which is sticking its red wrapper out from the white snow. Well it could stay there. I'm thinking of Yankee Stadium loaded with snow and then they say there is a chance of more snow Saturday. Wonderful. I know I am in the minority here, but a hockey game outdoors in January; this is a promotional boondoggle if there ever was one. Imagine sitting up in the nosebleeds in left center field? Do you think that everyone in the Big House in Michigan actually saw the game? But I'm in the minority here, even in my own family. Number one and number two sons, plus my grandson will be there, so it's me that's out of step. But I'll be warm with a cold beer and they will freeze with hopefully hot chocolates. I'll take my seat any time. It's cheaper, and warmer. I guess I'm getting old!

The Rangers meanwhile took leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before collapsing under the pressure of a speedy Islander team led by their top line of Taveras, Okposo and Vanek, who got a goal, 6 assists and poured 12 shots at Cam Talbot. Talbot played for an ill Lundqvist and was abandoned by his team. Even though the Rangers looked good early the Islanders completely out played them. Kreider played an unusual game. He had a goal, 2 assists, 3 shots on goal, but yet was a minus two. He was also the culprit in the too many men on the ice penalty that ignited the Islander comeback.

So tomorrow night it's the big, bad, tough St. Louis Blues. Then comes the PR stunt at Yankee Stadium. "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio....."

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's The Henrik/Rick Show

If vaudeville were still alive Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash would be on the road doing a skit before packed houses. As it is they are bringing Garden fans to their feet night after night with their sterling performances. Nash scored two first period goals, 13, 14, one a power play and the Rangers were on their way to a 4-1 win over the struggling Caps. Nash has now scored seven goals in his last eight games and now leads the Rangers with fourteen goals. What a difference an Olympics makes.

The other half, Lundqvist, was brilliant again. He lost his shutout on a PP goal by Ovechkin, 35th, in the second period. But that was it. The King made 24 saves, evened his record at 17-17-3, is 7-2-1 over his last ten starts with a gaudy GAA of 1.98 and a save % of .934.

The big guys are doing the job. Batman and Robin. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Whatever you call them, they have been outstanding and are leading this Ranger revival which has catapulted the Rangers into sole possession of second place in the Metro two points ahead of the Flyers. They are now over .500 at home. Derek Stepan (9) and Ryan Callahan (9), shorthanded, were the other Ranger scorers. Stepan has a two game streak and Callahan scored his first goal in fourteen games. The Rangers put 25 shots on goal and the PP was 1-5 and has been very good. They now practice the PP and sit sixth in the NHL.

What a difference a coach makes.

So this is a big week with home games against the surging Islanders and a big, tough St.Louis team before going against the Devils in Yankee Stadium. Maybe Lundqvist and Nash will duplicate Mantle and Maris. Remember that duo? Should be interesting week. Two rivals, Yankee Stadium and a true Stanley Cup contender in St. Louis.

ICINGS: The T/Birds returned to the ice after the holidays with a split. They lost to Ward Melville 4-2 and beat St. John's 8-4. Nicholas picked up an assist in the loss and two assists in the win.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cam Keeps Rangers Rolling

They, the Senators, scored early on Cam Talbot to take a 1-0 lead but after that it was all Rangers as the big guys stepped up. Richards, PP, (13), 5 shots on goal; Nash(12), 6 shots on goal, 5 goals in 7 games; Stepan(8), 2 assists, 4 shots, 3 hits; Zuccarello(13) another third period goal, his 5th. While the stats were close, Shots were Rangers 31-30, and hits were even at 26.

Despite these stats and the Sens trying to goon it up, Neil and Conacher, the Rangers and Talbot stood tall and it was a convincing victory. The Rangers streak is now at 6-1-1 and it was their 15th road win, tops in the East and second only to Anaheim. The Rangers are now in second place with 55 points, two ahead of the Flyers and 15 behind the Pens.

Talbot is now 10-3, made 29 saves, 16 in the third period and stood up to Conacher who tried to intimidate him. The Rangers as a team, have given up 8 goals in six games. Talbot has played six games on Saturday and is now 6-0, so I guess we could call him "Saturday's Hero." But there were other heroes. Derek Stepan, scoring his first goal in 14 games played his finest game of the year. Rick Nash continues his surge. How good was this win?

The Rangers showed grit against a chippy team. They held a team that had been averaging over 3 goals per game. So it was an all around team effort. Strong goaltending. Timely scoring. Good defense and a willingness to stand up for each other. Tough combination to beat. Let's keep it going.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Goalie Duel At The Garden

They had a hell of a goaltending duel at MSG last night where two Olympic bound goalies put on quite a show. In the end, the Rangers lucked out, to win the game 1-0. Don't believe it was luck? Lets look at it. Lunqvist made 38 saves for the shutout. Jimmy Howard, the Red Wing and USA goalie made 47 saves and was beaten on a goal by Mats Zuccarello that was actually a pass. Zuccarello was looking to pass the puck when it bounced off Red Wing D-man Brian Lashoff and oozed by Howard for the only goal of the game. It was the Rangers 45th shot and it came with a hair less than six minutes left in the game.

Want more? Niklas Kronwall almost tied the game with 44.5 seconds left in the game. The puck got under Lundqvist and he had to reach back and stop it on the goal line. Want more? The Red Wings had 8 regular players out for one reason or another and that group had totaled 139 points. That doesn't take away from the job Lundqvist did and what Howard did. Needless to say Lundqvist was number one star, Holland number two and Zuccarello, who now is tied for the team lead with 12 goals, was number three star.

Nash played a strong game with eight shots on goal and Dan Carcillo fell into the over coaching Vigneault's head game with a game low of 5:51 of ice time, registering one shot on seven shifts. The Red Wing's low man was Eaves Patrick. The forward got 11:15 of ice time and had three shots and five hits. The Red Wings out hit the Rangers 25-18 and easily could have won the game. However The King was strong, stood tall and it looks like he's back. If he is truly back, then NHL, watch out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bishop Checkmates King

It was like a chess match. The Rangers kept coming and pouring shots at the big monster like goalie, Ben Bishop, but to no avail. The 6'7" tower of strength made 33 saves in beating the Rangers for the fifth straight time. He has allowed only four goals in four plus games against the Rangers.

Lundqvist wasn't bad either, making 23 saves, but he was burned by a phantom call that turned into a nine second disaster. The call was against Callahan for high sticking Bishop. In reality, Tampa Bay defenseman Brewer lifted Cally's stick and it hit Bishop. Two minutes in the sin bin. Victor Hedman then scored the power play goal and nine seconds later Nikita Kucherov split the Rangers D and scored the game winner. Actually there was no Ranger D, it was more like the parting of the Red Sea. Rick Nash had a quiet game getting only three shots in 18:28 of ice time. Dan Carcillo, who was a big part of the win over the Flyers, got a disappointing 7:05 of ice time.

This is what bothers me when we get these tough role players who could turn a game around and they sit on the bench. How is that helping the team? One old hockey player, who shall remain nameless, and no it is not Sean, told me a long time ago that most coaches over coach the game and don't follow the flow of the game. Well we saw over coaching in the last two reigns, let's hope we don't have another one. Anyhow, the streak is over. Let's start a new one against the Red Wings tomorrow night.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Formula Is Starting To Click

So the big guys are starting to get the idea. Nash and Lundqvist. Rick and Hen-Rick. Quite a duo. Sounds like a law firm but more like a pair of exterminators. One puts them in and one keeps them out. They put on another show last night and of course they had help. Dan Carcillo the old Flyer reject came back to haunt his ex-mates. He opened the scoring a little over two minutes into the game, his first as a Ranger, dished out two hits, got into a fight with Luke Schenn and wound it up with a four player brawl at the end of the game. In other words, he brought his Flyer game to the Rangers and played it against his ex-mates. All this in 9:42 of ice time, and 17 minutes of penalty time. However the game was over when he got the five and ten.

Back to the big guys. Rick Nash scored 28 seconds after Carcillo's goal and the Rangers were off and running. It was his 11th, and they are coming fast and furious as we head to Sochi. Brassard closed out the first period with his 8th as the Rangers had a 3-0 lead after one. Chris Kreider's 12th, a PP goal, gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead and Lundqvist lost his shutout when Mark Streit scored a PP goal in the third. Lundqvist was brilliant, again. He made 37 saves and is now 5-1-1 in his last 7 with a glittering save % of .926.

The win was the Rangers third straight and they are now 24-20-3 and in a tie for second in the Metro, with Washington at 51 points. Its a simple formula the Rangers are using now. The big guys are playing big and the supporting cast is being very supportive. It's a formula that works well and all it boils down to is that every one does the job they are supposed to do. It's working. Let's keep it going.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Way It Was Meant To Be

This was the way they drew it up on paper. This was the way they practiced it. This was the way it would happen from day one. Unfortunately, nothing works as good as it does on paper, in practice and in the minds of leaders. Rick Nash, scored a big goal. He scored it with less than two minutes to go in a tied game. It was his tenth of the year, his third goal in six games. And to think, all we had to do is mention Sochi, Russia. To Russia with love, I do believe.

The other given was that the goalie, our goalie, would be there to make big saves in critical periods. Well our goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, made twenty four saves. More important, from roughly the three minute mark in the second period he didn't allow another goal for the rest of the game. This is getting to be a nice habit for the Rangers. In the last five games the Rangers have outscored their opponents in the third period by a 12-4 margin. They are 3-0-1 and 7-2-1 and now are a giddy three games over .500 at 23-20-3.

So there you have it. The two big guys, scorer and goalie, are performing like two big guys are supposed to perform. Of course they had, and have, help. Callahan scored his 8th, to tie the game at one. Brassard scored his 7th, a power play goal, to tie the game at two. The power play is clicking now, 6th in the NHL, with a 21.4 %. Will wonders never cease. Plus, new addition Dan Carcillo, played like the tough guy he is supposed to be. In 8:38 of ice time he dished out 8 hits and committed no penalties.

Wow! The big guy scores big goals! The big guy makes big saves! The big tough guy plays tough  without sitting in the big box! What's going on here? Whatever it is let's keep it going because, this is the way it was supposed to be!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The King Stands Tall

Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarelo had given the Rangers a 2-0 lead over the defending Cup Champion Black Hawks and all that changed quickly in a two minute span in the second period. First Towes at the 6:17 mark of the second, followed two minutes later by a Bollig shot that eluded Lundqvist and suddenly it was tied and it quickly looked like the Rangers would fold in Chicago.

After all besides reigning Champs the Black Hawks were 29-7-9 and the lowly Blueshirts were 21-20-3. However the Rangers weren't cooked yet. They were 6-2-1 in their last nine and Lundqvist decided to close the door after the tying goal. He put up 35 saves, 15 in the first and 11 in the third. It was vintage Lundqvist, a hint that the big guy was ready to return to form.

It was typical that Lundqvist would rise to the occasion before a sold out Chicago crowd. It was also typical of this Ranger team that is now 14-10-0 on the road and 8-10-3 at home. But Lundqvist was and is the story. The King looks poised to retain his throne. He is ready for greatness once again. Greatness he understands and lives it. He will have a date with greatness at Yankee Stadium and will wear a facemask that will bear the faces of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. That's greatness!

So the Rangers are back in the playoff hunt. Third place in the Metro, thank you. Carl Hagelin's game winning goal ensured that. It's an amazing season. We beat the Red Wings and the Blackhawks on their ice and lose to Columbus and the Islanders at the Garden. Aah hockey! I love it.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Missing The Point!

There was a time when the Rangers looked forward to shootouts. Heck, there was a time when the Rangers played for a shootout. They figured they had the best shootout goalie in the NHL and actually played to get into the shootout. I don't know the exact records, maybe jb can look it up, but in 2012 Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne of Nashvile were voted the top two goalies in a shootout.

Not any more. Last night against the JV Bluejackets the King was 0-2 on the shootout and the Rangers lost to Columbus 4-3. The Rangers were down 3-1 going into the 3rd period and fought back with two goals to tie the game and send it into OT and eventually a shootout. Lundqvist did make 30 saves but this isn't the old Lundqvist, something is missing here.

Henrik seems to be fighting the puck. The old Henrik would wait out the shooters and beat their final dekes. Now he seems to be reacting to every deke and is usually down on the ice and out of position. Granted I am not an exper,t but from my fan's perspective that is the way it looks to me.

What is ironic here is that he just signed a seven year extension and he seems more tense and less relaxed. He seem more anxious and less secure. To me he looks like he is over reacting to every shot on goal. The smoothnesss is missing, The air of confidence is missing.

For the first time in his Ranger career he has a bono fide NHL backup goalie in Cam Talbot. Could that be causing a problem? Maybe we will find out more after the Olympics. I believe he will be Sweden's goalie but not knowing the country's team, I don't know if he has another threat from another goalie.

I may be wrong but these are my thoughts. Again, without a top notch Lundqvist, the Rangers are going nowhere!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

As I Live And Breathe, We Are Alive

No that was not a seismic roar you heard, it was not a big snow bank breaking loose and it was not a Canadian cold wind blowing down from the Arctic. By God, it was the New York Rangers having a party at the Toronto Garden, scoring seven goals for the first time this season. They did it against a Toronto team, 21-17-5, sixth in the Eastern Conference, that had just come off of a big shootout win over the Red Wings, in the Big House, before 105,000 fans, in the Winter Classic.

What happened? Who knows? It certainly wasn't anything the coach said. He makes Job look like a madman. Team meeting? Those things are usually held for the purpose of finding the great bars in town. Dominic Moore scored two goals. Up to now, he had trouble hitting the net, and now he has three goals. Brian Boyle scored his first goal in 28 games, his second of the season. Brad Richards scored his tenth, his first in 13 games. Other goal scorers were Hagelin (10), Pouliot (8), and Kreider (11), who also showed a Sean Avery type game, yapping at and finally tussling with Toronto D-man and tough guy Dion Phaneuf. The kid's a potential game changer and maybe by March the coach will discover that.

Can't go without saying something about Cam Talbot and the Ranger goalie situation. Cam made 24 saves and is now 9-3, however the Rangers put 50 shots on two Maple Leaf goalies which proves the old adage that the best defense is a good offense. The Rangers seem to play with more discipline in front of Talbot than in front of Lundqvist. Its time for the team to stand up for The King and pay him back for all the times he has bailed the team out. That should start tomorrow night against the Blue Jackets in the Garden.

The Rangers made a minor trade picking up tough guy Daniel Carcillo. The coach said it's an area where we needed to get better. If he is going to be used 4-6 minutes a game, forget it. It's questionable what help he will give the Rangers. Every 'supposed tough guy' the Rangers have played never got more than six minutes of ice time. He hits the ice, drops the gloves, and sits in the sin bin for five minutes. Real help, Six on the ice, five in the box. But we shall see. Maybe the Generals have a plan.

However, let's not get carried too far away. Let's enjoy last night. Maybe during the summer they will rerun it once a month to show us how things might have been. Kind of a Christmas carol for hockey. See what happens when the Rangers score seven goals. You go bonkers.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

It's The Pitts

The Rangers fell back to .500 last night against a Penguin team that was missing three key players. It didn't matter as the Rangers lost 5-2. The Rangers put up little resistance and looked more like a fair AHL team than an NHL team. They also lost Dorsett for about four weeks due to trying to block a shot, and when is that craze going to stop.

I must admit that I quit after the second period due to an early dialysis this am. But I had seen enough. It was like the JV scrimmaging against the Varsity. The turnovers were awful, the defense seemed confused and there was no offense. One sequence had four Rangers near the puck in the defensive zone, with one Penguin and the Rangers lost the puck which led to a Crosby goal.

This win one, lose one, might well go on to the end of the season. Of course if this play continues and Lundqvist is left with no one in front of him it wouldn't matter anyway. The Rangers need help and need it quick. Maybe its time for the old Emile "The Cat" Francis tactic. Put the whole team on waivers and see who bites.

Last night was the Pitts!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

The missus and I along with number two son and his wife rang out the old and toasted in the new at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to the music of The Piano Man himself, Billy Joel, and his wonderful band. It was a delightful night that was also joined for a tune by ABC's Rockin New Years Eve. And yes, we were awake the whole time. So a Happy New Year to all you out their in Rangerland. May 2014 be the best ever for you and have a happy, healthy and hockey New Year.

The Rangers also made it a happy eve and New Year by some late game heroics. With 2:10 remaining in the game, Dan Girardi, who had been the goat up until then, tied the score to send the game into OT and the eventual shootout. Brad Richards scored the only goal in the six man shootout and the Rangers closed 2013 with a win that put them one game over ,500 at 20-19-2. So halfway through the season, 41 games, the Rangers are one point over .500.

Lundqvist made 21 saves to win his second straight game, 12-15-2, as he pitched a shutout in the shootout. The Rangers weren't very good and they were lucky their opponents were the woeful Panthers. Florida is 15-20-6, is seventh in the Atlantic and 14th in the Eastern Conference.

But to paraphrase and old poem, 'a win, is a win, is a win." So the Rangers next game is Friday where they start a back to back against Pittsburgh and Toronto. Michael Del Zotto was scratched for the eighth time this year. Now I am not a Del Zotto fan and I know the Rangers are trying to trade him. The kid is only 23 years old. You would think the Rangers have someone who could teach the kid how to play defense. What's Ulf doing, besides making D pair moves? Let's teach Del Zotto how to play defense. He will surely learn it if he goes to another team.