Friday, February 28, 2014

Cam-Orama

Well the Rangers opened up the post-Olympic period with a big win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Black Hawks, 2-1 with Cam Talbot leading the way. The kid was good again making 31 saves and coming about ten seconds short of a shutout.The win was Talbot's 11th of the year and he is now 11-5 with a GAA under 2,0. Brassard scored the first goal and it was Nash who got the game winner in the third period.

The Rangers got only two shots in the third period, as they were out shot by the Hawks 13-2. Talbot made two big saves as time was expiring to earn star of the game honors. Brassard and Staal won the other game honors with Staal playing a strong game. JT Miller subbed for Zuccarello, got an assist and was strong on the puck and skated well. So the Ranger reserves, Talbot and Miller, stepped in, did their jobs and the Rangers didn't miss a beat. The coach, AV, didn't juggle one line, put Miller in Zucs spot and left the other lines alone. What a marvel. A coach playing all four of his lines, intact, the whole game. Will wonders never cease.

The Rangers are now three points up in second place over the Flyers, who they play Saturday in Philadelphia. Then it's back to MSG for the big, bad Bruins on Sunday. Lundqvist is expected to be back and play both games. However, if needed Cam Talbot is ready. Doirsett is about ready to return, but it says here that we should stick with JT Miller a while.

Also, good news is that Girardi has resigned for six years at $5.5 mil/year. Looks like a compromise. A compromise will be needed to sign Callahan who seems to be determined that it has to be his way. We will see. Meanwhile the Rangers look like they are on top of their game. Keep it going boys!

ICINGS: The NY Post has reported (page six) that our boy Sean Avery is going to try out for Dancing With The Stars. Get those toes tappin' baby! A one anna two anna three...

The T/Birds tied their last game and my grandson,Nicholas, suffered a mild shoulder sprain when he was slammed into the boards. It was a 5 minute penalty and Nicholas will be laid up for a while. Keep your head up kid.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hail Canada

Before we get back to the NHL I believe we should first send a word of congratulations to our neighbors to the north. The Canadiens made a clean sweep of the hockey tournaments. The woman team beat our women team for the gold, leaving us with the silver. The men team beat the Sweden men team for the gold leaving our King, Lundqvist and his teammate on the Rangers, Carl Hagelin with the silver. The USA was shut out of the men's by losing to Finland for the Bronze.

In addition, John Taveras of the Islanders is out for the year with an injury and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers leading scorer is gone from 4-5 weeks with a broken hand. Also, Backstrom of the Caps was suspended from Olympic play taking a medication he has been taking for 6 or 7 years in the NHL without a glitch. Sweden could have used him in the finals.

So what do you think about the Olympics? I didn't watch a shift. Sorry, other important things to do. Anyhow, I'm not a fan of professionals playing in the Olympics. Let's go back to the amateurs. There will never be a bigger moment than The Miracle On Ice, when a band of amateur kids beat the Russian Army Team. Never!

Back to the Rangers. Callahan and Girardi claim they want to be Rangers forever. True. But on their terms. Both want long term deals, in excess of five years. Far be it for me to side with the Stealth, but I don't believe either is worth signing for more than five years. Callahan is too brittle and Girardi is too soft. Put together a package deal with Buffalo and go get Moulson.

But back to Canada and their clean sweep in the Hockey tournaments. It must be one happy place. I tip a glass of Molson beer to my friends in Canada. Salute!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

On To Sochi

The Rangers quickly righted the ship with a big win in Pittsburgh and now leave for Sochi or their homes or vacation sites firmly in second place in the Metropolitan. One night after a loss to the bottom feeder Oilers they rebounded with a big 4-3 shootout win over the elite, top of the East Penguins. In one night they went from pretenders to contenders.

Ranger management now will have two weeks to decide what to do with Callahan and Girardi both free agents after the end of this season. Resign them and risk long term contracts with lots of dough and certainly risk. Trade them and risk the chemistry and the consistency they brought to the team. Not an easy decision.

Is this the team to challenge for a cup or to go for broke in trying to trade for the Cup? Remember 1994 and Mike Keenan who traded big names to get role players. The role players delivered and the Rangers won the Cup. Bring in another scorer and who do you give up?

Right now the Rangers are playing as well as they have all year. Lundqvist is on top of his game and the defense anchored by Girardi, Staal and McDonagh has been solid. The four lines have all been productive and playing consistent hockey. And that is the key, consistent. The reason? Say what you want about the coach, AV, but he has basically stayed with four basic lines with the same personnel on each line. The result? Offense has come from all four lines and if one player slumps another, on a different, line picks him up.

Look at Friday's game. Nash is in a mini slump, Callahan missed a couple of gimmees and Pouliot scores two, one a PP, Girardi chips in with a PP goal and Richards and Zuccarello score shootout goals while Lundqvist stops Crosby and it's two points for the Rangers.

So enjoy the Olympics. I'm not sure Rangers management will. They need to make big decisions on the future of this year's team. It will decide this year's record and maybe the record of future Ranger teams. All is not always lost on the ice.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Scrivens, Oilers Stun Rangers

You can't tell me the Rangers weren't looking past a lowly Oiler team last night. As the bottom feeder of the West the Oilers looked like the good patsys prior to the big game against the Penguins. Maybe it was the fact that this was the 6,000th game in Ranger history and there must have been at least 3,000 of these kinds of games. The Oiler goalie, Scrivens, won his second game against the Rangers this year. As an LA King, he shut out the Rangers 1-0 and now in two complete games he has given up all of one goal. Let's hope they stop trading him to teams that still have to play the Rangers. The Oilers are now 20-33-6, and the Rangers are now 30-24-3.

It's a different ball game tonight. The Rangers play the number one team in the East and Lundqvist will be back in the nets. But don't blame this one on Talbot. He was good, with 29 saves but the Rangers were bad. They opened up with a sloppy first period, let Ryan Smith score the 384th goal of his illustrious career and though they tied it on Brassard's 11th of the year they were doomed to lose and did when Nail Yakupov netted his 11th late in the third period.

So tonight it's the Pens in Pittsburgh. No looking ahead and no looking back. It's a statement game for the Rangers. If they are to be the great pretenders they must play a strong game against one of the NHL's elite teams. So all hands on deck. Forget the loss to the Oilers. Forget the Olympics. It will be on us soon enough. It's Pittsburgh. It's Crosby. It's Malkin. It's Fluery. We better be ready otherwise this spurt we were on prior to the Oiler game will be for naught.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Cally! Cally! Cally!

He may be gone by Friday, but while he is still around Ryan Callahan, Captain Extraordinaire, is still making his case for being team leader, with as forceful a game a player could put up on the board. When the night was over, The Captain, in 17:05 of ice time, got two goals, 10th and 11th, an assist, 6 shots and 7 hits. And 'The Faithful' appreciated it showering him with chants of "Cally, Cally Cally." I imagine the chants were more for the Stealth GM than they were for Callahan.

We are staying out of this fight whether to re-up Callahan at the GM's terms or at the players terms. There is a case not to go beyond five years in an extension. The record is not good with long term extensions. Callahan is 29 years old. A five year extension, GM's terms, puts Cally at 34 and still pumping. A seven year, Cally's option, puts him at 37 and pumping less. It says here that a five year extension puts Cally in a good spot. Still young at 34 and able to go free agency or stay with the Rangers for another three or four years. Do it Cally. We love you and will continue. Five at $32-33 mil is a good deal.

Meanwhile the Rangers behind Lundqvist's stellar goaltending, 27 saves, and a twenty shot barrage on Av's goalie Varlamov in the first period, rolled to their fourth straight win, seventh in nine, and 11-3-1 in their last 15. They are in 2nd place in the Metro East with 65 points, three ahead of third and fourth place, Columbus and Philadelphia. It's going to be an old fashioned dog fight for the final positions in the East. So we need all hands on deck, including Captain Ryan Callahan.

A reader wants to know if the Rangers will be tired coming back from the Olympics and if that will hurt them. Well, a lot of teams will have  the same problems so it becomes a crap shoot. All teams will be affected. The big unknown in the Olympics will be the danger of how many players get injured in the Olympics. Lundqvist is a work horse so I don't believe the extra work will hurt him. Callahan always goes all out so he may be at risk. Of course none of this would be an issue if the Olympics had stuck to their original principles and only let amateurs play.

Meanwhile the Rangers have two games before the Olympics. A 'trap' game against Edmonton Thursday night and a showdown against the Penguins at Pittsburgh on Friday. Edmonton is the worst team in the West with 44 points and Pittsburgh is the best in the East with 80 points. Then it's off to Sochi and the joy of victory or the agony of defeat.

ICINGS: The T/Birds, undermanned due to injuries, lost to the leagues top team, Smithtown, 5-1. The T/Birds are now 8-9 with ten more games to go. Long season.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Rangers Beat Isles, Again

The Rangers continued their winning ways last night against the Islanders, beating them for the second straight time, this time indoors, 4-1. The win was the third straight for the Blueshirts, while the Isles lost for the fifth straight time, damaging their fading playoff hopes. The win kept the Rangers four points ahead of Carolina for second in the Metro. The Isles, with 50 points, trail seventh place Washington by seven points and are 13 points behind the Rangers.

Lundqvist was brilliant, again. He made 38 saves. He has now given up 15 goals in his last ten games. He surely is ready for Sochi. Nabokov wasn't that bad either, making 33 saves in a game that was very entertaining and if not for the goalies, it might have been a 5-4 affair. While Lundqvist was the star of the game the other big star was Mark Staal with two assists and a solid defensive game.

The Rangers are clicking now with all the big guys playing big. Despite being held scoreless, Rick Nash had seven shots on goal. Brassard had a goal(9) and 8 shots. Other goal scorers for the Rangers were Boyle, (4), Richards, (14) and am empty netter by McDonagh, (8). Richards is having a come back year and its amazing what a new coach can do to a players psyche.

Thee Rangers are off til next week when it's at home against Colorado, third in the Central, (73 points), Edmonton, eight in the Pacific, (42 points) and at Pittsburgh, first in the Metro, (78 points). Sochi beckons!