Monday, March 31, 2014

Cool Hand Cam

Would you believe it is snowing in the area this morning. I thought March was supposed to go out like a lamb. Will we have a White Easter? New York's mayor is going to throw out the first snow ball as the Mets open the season against  the Nationals at Citi Field today.

The Rangers returned to their winning ways led by rookie goalie Cam Talbot, shutting out the Oilers 5-0 at Edmonton last night. Talbot improved to 12-6-0 with his third shut out of the season. He had 26 saves. The Rangers improved to 88 points, two ahead of the Flyers, for second in the Metro, but the Flyers have two games in hand. The Rangers hold a five point lead on the ninth place Caps. If the playoffs were held today the Rangers would match up against Tampa Bay. Now that would be an interesting matchup.

Last night the Rangers beat goalie Ben Scrivens who had beaten them twice with two different teams this year. Once with the Kings and once with this Oiler team. In those two games he had stopped 72 of 73 shots. Last night was different. The Rangers scored two short handed goals and one power play goal. Nash and Zuccarelo each had two goals, one short handed and one even strength and Brassard had the power play goal.

It always seems that the Rangers play a much tighter defense in front of Talbot than they do in front of Lundqvist. Talbot has a 1.67 GAA and a save % of .940. However, with only six games left it's highly unlikely he will see more action unless Lundqvist gets injured. If that were to happen kiss the season goodbye.

Now it's the big one Tuesday in Vancouver against the disagreeable one. Vigneault will return to the city where he coached for seven years with some success. Two Presidential Cups, but coming up short against the Bruins for the Cup. Sounds familiar. But that was yesterday. Today he has a mission to accomplish. Take the Rangers to the promised land. Bring home the Cup.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The King Needs A Rest

It's not the way the Rangers wanted to start a four game western swing. The loss to Calgary 4-3, hurts in many ways. Riding a five game winning streak the Rangers were sloppy and even Lundqvist couldn't save them. In fact, the King did not have one of his stellar games allowing a couple of questionable goals. So tomorrow night in Edmonton Cam Talbot gets the start. Good news. The King needs a night off.

A bigger loss is the injury to Chris Kreider. The Rangers will miss his 17 goals and more important his speed and feistiness. St. Louis will take his spot with Stepan and Nash. It's time to smell the coffee for Marty. Time to wake up. He doesn't play with Kreider's edge, but if he hits his stride the goals will more than make up for Kreider.

It's an amazing race. The Rangers go on a five game winning streak and take over second in the Metro by three points and are looking golden. Wham! They lose to a bottom feeder, the Flyers win and suddenly its only a point spread, Philly has two games in hand and it's a dog fight down to the wire.

We need all hands on deck. We need Martin St. Louis's hands to return to their magical form. As a start we need to tighten the D and fore check like crazy. If every one does their job, one shift at a time we will be okay.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rockin' And Rollin' Rangers

The Rangers couldn't have picked a better time to get their act together. Beating rival Philadelphia last night, 3-1, was the Rangers fifth straight and put the Rangers three points ahead of the Flyers, in second place in the Metro. It gave them a six point cushion over Washington and Toronto for the last playoff spot in the East.

What made this rewarding is that the fourth line, along with Ryan McDonagh made the big noise. McDonagh scored his 14th while fourth liners Moore(6) and Dorsett(4) connected. Boyle and Klein rang up assists so it was the down and dirty's who did the grunt of the work. Its a good omen. Maybe St' Louis will wake up in the playoffs. Maybe. Or maybe this is the wrong chemistry for the dynamic point a game forward. Maybe. Lets hope its a temporary aberration. We need the little guy to come up big.

Meanwhile, the biggest of our big guys, Henrik Lundqvist, came up big, again. He made 30 saves and came within 1:53 of shutout number 51. He made some great saves which had the crowd chanting, "Hen-reek, Hen-reek, Hen-reek! It was classic Lundqvist.

Some bad news. Chris Kreider has a broken hand and may be lost for the season. Kreider has 17 goals and 37 points. J.T. Miller skated in his place and he brings lots of promise. Miller had 33 points in 35 games in Hartford so the potential is there. Some more bad news. The power play has reverted to the past two regimes. It's now 3-33.

Good news. Lundqvist and McDonagh are on top of their game. Bad news. Power play, oxymoron, and the lack of punch from the top guys. Can two guys carry the team? Not through the playoffs. The Rangers have eight games to get it fixed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Comeback Kids

It was quite a show the Rangers put on before the game to celebrate Henrik Lundqvist's franchise breaking accomplishments. Mike Richter's most wins and Eddie Giacomin's most shutouts. The two legends were both at the Garden along with The King's parents, his wife and his daughter.

However, it was nothing compared to the show the Rangers put on. They fell behind 2-0 in the first, tied it in the second, only to fall behind on a late Coyote goal and trailed 3-2 going into the third period.  Then the defense took over, literally. With less than 3 and a half minutes left, Dan Girardi tied it and with less than 2 minutes gone in the OT Ryan McDonagh put in a rebound to pull of a 4-3 comeback win. So in 5 and a half minutes the Rangers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

The win, the Rangers fourth straight, was huge and vaulted the Rangers into second place, in the Metro, one point ahead of Philadelphia who will be at the Garden Wednesday, on NBCSN. The Rangers have nine games left, the Flyers have eleven. After the Flyer game the Rangers hit the road for four road games. They are at Calgary on Friday and then Edmonton on Sunday. Next week it's Vancouver on Tuesday and Colorado on Thursday. A huge test for a team that is in a dog fight for a playoff spot. Ninth place Washington is five points behind the Rangers and Columbus, in tenth, is six points behind the Rangers.

The coach pulled a big boo boo by playing flue stricken Stepan and St. Louis. Both were ailing and played poorly and sparingly. Stepan got 7:04 and St. Louis 11:04. Both missed the last half of the third period. The coach should have made the decision to sit them and not leave it to the players. I haven't seen a player yet that voluntarily pulls himself from the lineup. Fortunately the Rangers survived with a big comeback that made Lundqvist a winner for the 305th time.

Hail to The King! Hail to the Comeback Kids!

ICINGS: Despite the heavy voting from my wife and me, Sean Avery was eliminated from the Dancing With The Stars competition. Sean was good, but not good enough in the eyes of the judges and fans. We still love you Sean. Hang in there.

More bad news! The T/Birds were eliminated in the playoffs losing to top seeded Northport/Huntington 5-3. The T/Birds fell behind 2-0 and then matched goal for goal, but were never able to catch up.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nifty Fifty

The Rangers continued their drive toward the playoffs with their third straight win with Henrik Lundqvist  notching the 50th shutout of his Ranger career making him the all time leader for the Rangers. The win put the Rangers four points up on Columbus for third in the Metro. The Rangers are 6th in the East four points up on 9th place Columbus. Meanwhile the Devils fell further behind in the East and are now six points out of 8th with only eleven to play. The Rangers have ten to play.

This was another epic Lundqvist-Brodeur battle. Brodeur lost it when Nash's shot evaded him. Hagelin scored an empty netter for the other goal. Head to head, the record favors Lundqvist , 26-10-5. Following the Ottawa fiasco, the Rangers have played two strong playoff type games. It's what's needed to gain a playoff spot and to continue into the playoffs.

Rick Nash continued his fine play. He had a great game at Columbus and followed it up yesterday. His goal was his 23rd and we need him to continue as we wait for St. Louis to start scoring. It looked like he was going to score an empty netter but alas even that failed. Right now St. Louis seems to have no luck. In fact if it weren't for the bad luck, he would have no luck at all.

However, the Rangers are clicking right now and it's two home games before a road trip. Ten to go. One game at a time, two points at a time.

ICINGS: Playoffs start for the T/Birds. It's one and done. Nicholas has come back from his injury and will play. Don't forget to watch Dancing With The Stars and vote Monday for our favorite hoofer, Sean Avery.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

True Grit

You really had to love our guys last night. Plenty of spunk, fight and a big win. The Rangers now have 80 points and sit in 3rd in the Metro, one point behind Philadelphia and two ahead of Columbus. Tonight will be a great night to put the kibosh on the Devils. Play like we did last night and it's all but done.

Columbus threw everything at the Rangers. We were out hit, 42-17, but no matter. There were a couple of fights, lots of cheap hits and the Rangers stood tall. Lundqvist made 25 saves and the goal scorers were Stepan, 14th tying goal, Brassard, 16th go ahead and Hagelin, empty netter, his 17th.

Nash, who was celebrated for his return, was booed constantly every time he hit the ice. He had a target on his back, his legs, his arms. He didn't get a point but he got the Rangers two big points. With all the exes on both teams it could have been a reunion of sorts. But this was no reunion. It was a backyard brawl and the Rangers survived and now move on.

It's eleven games to go and the goal is the same. One game at a time. Two points at a time. Keep moving forward and upward.
 
Last night was True Grit!

ICINGS: There is a big debate among Ranger fans on Facebook over whether Rick Nash scored or didn't when he ran into, was pushed into, Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The food fight is getting testy but these tired old eyes says it was a bad call and Nash should have been awarded a goal. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Goal Festival In Ottawa

It was like when we were kids playing basketball. It was the shirts versus the skins. I guess this was more like pond hockey. Damn the goalie, shoot the puck score the goal. And score they did last night and when the smoke had cleared it was 8-4 Rangers. Ten players form both teams scored. Two Rangers, Nash and Brassard scored twice and no, Martin St. Louis did not score a goal but got an assist.

Henrik Lundqvist notched the 302nd win of his Ranger career putting him in 29th place for the all time goalie winners. He is about 380 wins behind the all time leader Martin Brodeur. Its tough to catch a guy when he still is playing. Both teams got 39 shots on goal so Lundqvist did make 35 saves. The Senators started with Robin Lehner, switched to Nathan Lawson and then it was back to Lehner when Lawson got hurt. It didn't matter, the goals kept coming. Lawson isn't stupid, he wanted no part of this.

The good news is that the two points put the Rangers back in third in the Metro two points ahead of Columbus who they meet Friday in Ohio. In the overall East the Rangers are 6th, three points ahead of ninth place Detroit. Its down to the wire now, twelve games to play. Its a game at a time, two points at a time. Doesn't matter, who's hot, who's not. Just get those points baby!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Niemi, Toronto Beat Rangers

Anti Niemi is a great goalie, but yesterday in shutting out the Rangers he got a lot of help from two expected sources. He made 41 saves and none was bigger than the one the Toronto suits awarded him when they ruled against Carl Hageman's wrap around in the second period. They ruled there was no conclusive proof that the puck crossed the line. Never mind that a Garden review showed the puck across the line, the suits ruled. No goal.

The other culprit, the Rangers. There were at least four or five attempts at wide open nets and the Rangers either missed or shot the puck at Niemi. This is not a new phenomenon, this is an old story. The Rangers are not scoring goals. Martin St. Louis is goalless in his seven games with the Rangers. Remember, he came here as a point a game man and has all of two assists here. Nash has one goal in his last nine games. Want more?  Zuccarello hasn't scored in eleven games. And the power play. Forget it. It's back to normal. It was 0-3 yesterday and is now in a 1-16 funk.

Yes, the Sharks are a good team. They are tied for first in the Pacific and are only two points out of first in the West. They have won six straight but yesterday they were beatable but we don't have the players to score the big goals. We thought that was St. Louis. We thought that was Nash. Once upon a time we thought it was Gaborik, and for a while it was. But now, nothing.

Now we are in a dog fight for the last playoff spot in the East with Washington and Detroit nipping at our heels. What's the answer? Goals is the answer right now. There are only 13 games left. It's time to put up or shut up. It's too late for a big shakeup, maybe a minor shakeup. JT Miller is a spark plug type of player who is doing well in Hartford. It's a minor deal but we need something. We can't score goals. Help!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How Swede It Is

As the Rangers are tangling with San Jose this afternoon they continue to struggle scoring goals and all the so called big guys have disappeared. Also, there are only four teams in the NHL that are stingier than the Sharks in giving up goals so the Rangers will definitely be tested today.

Taking St. Louis out of the equation the Rangers top goal scorers are; Nash, 20, Kreider, 17, Richards and Hagelin, 16 and Zuccarello 15. Nash and Richards have gone south and St. Louis still hasn't gotten used to wearing a Ranger jersey. Fortunately the Rangers have Lundqvist and Talbot and have only given up four more goals than San Jose has.

Lundqvist was brilliant again against a big tough Winnipeg team. Yes I know the Jets are struggling to make the playoffs in the West, but they are a big, young, tough team. They average 3" taller than the Rangers and a full 16 pounds heavier than the Rangers. So the Rangers passed the tough test. Could they pass it in a seven game series?

But we know Lundqvist and we know what we will get from him. It says here that he is the best goaltender in Ranger history, Cup or no Cup. So we need the scorers. Of late Kreider has stepped up and it was great seeing Hagelin getting the hat trick. Hagelin has great speed and if he keeps putting the puck on net he will have great results. But it's all on St. Louis. He has to revert to Tampa Bay form. He has to return to a point a game machine that he is. Maybe if Nash wakes up and starts to hit the back of the net it will take the pressure off of St. Louis.

The Rangers sit in third place in the Metro, a point ahead of the Flyers. They are second in the wild card race. Points are at a premium. To paraphrase an old song. "Bring the Cup to New York, St. Louis, bring it to the Garden." Okay, it was terrible but you get the idea.

ICINGS: The Rangers trail 1-0 after the first period despite getting 20 shots on goal. Wake up St. Louis, forget you are in New York.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Minnesota Flats

When I watched the Rangers play Tampa Bay the biggest thing I noticed was a little guy skating freely all over the ice and seemingly picking up any loose puck and usually hitting the back of the net. Of course that little guy was Martin St. Louis. Now five games into his Ranger career the Rangers are 2-2-1 and Marty has one point, an assist in the win over the Red Wings.

But Marty isn't the only one in a slump. The Rangers are now 2-4-1 in their last seven and are hanging on for dear life in a tie for second with  Columbus with 74 points, one point ahead of Philadelphia. The coach is starting to shuffle the lines because suddenly the Rangers can't score goals, again. And what is the coach's other answer? To keep swapping Dorsett for Carcillo.

Aren't there any other solutions? How about bringing J.T. Miller back. He is doing great in Hartford and was doing fine as a Ranger with limited ice team. When questioned about St. Louis, the coach referred to his strengths and said, "but the team has to come first." OK, but shouldn't we try to go to a guy who in his career is a point a game guy, until he came to the Rangers.

They said that coach Dean Smith of North Carolina was the only guy who ever stopped Michael Jordan from scoring. I hope AV isn't the coach that stops Martin St. Louis from scoring.

ICINGS: I forgot to mention that when I went to the game Sunday I saw Nick Fotiu. I said to him that we need some guys like him on the team. He said, what would happen if I hit the ice. I said everyone would skate away from you. Still a great guy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Carolina Swoon

Maybe it was the law of averages, but couldn't they at least put up a fight. I guess the Rangers thought all they had to do was show up, skate around the rink and pick up the two points as they skate into the locker room. What a horrible performance. Lundqvist should sue the team for lack of support, especially the defense. Did you see that last goal by Lindholm? Where were the Rangers?

The Rangers were out shot 35-25, I would ask for a recount. The Rangers got 25 shots? Where? In the local bar before the game? The Canes came in on a 'hot streak'. They were 1-7 the last eight. Their goalie, journeyman Cam Ward, was 6-10-5 with a GAA of 3.21 and an .891 save %. The Rangers had beaten the Canes 10 straight games. Hello!

The Rangers big guns have gone quiet. Rick Nash and Brad Richards have been dormant. We are waiting, ever so patiently for Martin St. Louis to be the point a game man he was at Tampa Bay. The only Ranger goal scorer was Kevin Klein, his first goal was on 12/27/13 for Nashville against Dallas. D-man Stralman, who just turned down 9 mil for three years, was awful. He should run back and steal the money from the Stealth

Now it's on to Minnesota and Winnipeg. Time to regroup. It's also time to get Cam Talbot back. Give Lundqvist a rest and shake up the rest of the team. Defend the goalie, push the puck and forecheck, forecheck, forecheck!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Matinee Idols

I was always a fan of Sunday afternoon games. Maybe it was because, early game, early home, early bed and work the next day. But now it doesn't matter all those things, but I still love the matinees. This one was particularly entertaining. Original six team, Detroit Red Wings. Many historic battles, 1950 anyone? Battle for position. Big, young crowd.

It was all that and more as the Rangers behind Henrik Lundqvist shut out the Red Wings 3-0, at a packed and noisy Garden this afternoon. It was noisy and it didn't need the artificial noise. Larry danced and had two young lovely assistants to join him. And there were a few, maybe many, Red Wing fans, witness the jerseys, who didn't get much to cheer about. Boyle scored early in the game, his 5th, and Chris Kreider added two, his 15th and 16th.

The win moved the Rangers three points up on the Red Wings, into a tie with Tampa Bay for 5th in the East and a point ahead of Philadelphia for 6th in the East and one point ahead of Philadelpia in the Metro Division. So the Rangers are in a dog fight for the playoffs with 17 games left. Is this season going fast or what?

The win put the Rangers a tad over .500 at home (16-15-4). The Red Wings, a good road team, fell to 17-11-4. The win was Lundqvist's 300tth of his career and he now is one win away from Mike Richter's franchise record of 301 wins. Lundqvist is hot. He is now 12-4-1 in his last 17 games and has held opponents to less than 2 goals or less in 12 of his last 17 games. Moreover, he is 14-5-2 in his last 21 games with two shutouts. The King truly reigns!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sweet Carolina

Yes, the Rangers love to play in Carolina. Last night's win was the Rangers 6th straight win in Carolina. But it wasn't easy. They were down 1-0 going into the third period and after McDonagh scored a short handed goal, the Rangers third short handed in a row, to tie it they fell behind on Skinner's penalty shot goal, before erupting for three unanswered goals to win the game 4-2.

Rick Nash tied the score, on a four on four, by banking one in off of D-man Andrej Sekara's stick. McDonagh's goal also reflected off of Sekara's stick. The winner came on a five on three off a beautiful feed by Martin St. Louis to Derek Stepan who buried it past a very good goalie, Anton Khudobin who made 40 saves. Lundqvist had 22 saves and gave up his 4th penalty shot goal this year.

The Rangers scored a short handed goal, a 4 on 4 goal, a 5 on 3 goal and an empty netter. The Canes scored a 5 on 5 goal plus a penalty shot so the crowd was treated to see every type of situational goal. I think!

Anyhow, good win. The Rangers are tied for second with the Flyers and its Detroit at the Garden tomorrow afternoon, at which I will join number two son. In his second game with the Rangers, St. Louis looked quite comfortable and ready to take over a leadership role. He was very much in control on the 5 on 3 power play and his pass to Stepan for the game winner was a thing of beauty. More good news. There are two more games at Carolina this year.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

St. Louis Blues

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The Rangers were not going to lose in OT to the Maple Leafs, 3-2. The new guy, Martin St. Louis was supposed to score a late minute goal to win it, or win it in a shootout. But lose? No way! This point a game career guy played a so so game, three shots 20:11 of ice time, playing with ex-line mate Brad Richards and replacing a popular Captain, Ryan Callahan.

The trade, a 38 year old Hart and Lady Byng winner for a 29 year old crunching popular Captain has Ranger fans all abuzz and at odds with their GM and each other. But something had to be done. It's reported that while Callahan said he wanted to stay in New York he kept making demands that kind of pushed him out. His last was a no trade clause. No trade, no way!

St. Louis has 61 points in 63 games. He has 29 goals and 32 assists. Career wise, he has 973 points in 1,042 games. Last year he led the NHL in points scored. He will be here for this year and next year. Callahan will be an unrestricted free agent after this year and what are the odds the Rangers sign him after this year?

The Rangers out shot the Maple Leafs 37-29 and scored both of their goals, McDonagh and Dom Moore, short handed on the same Toronto power play in the third period. The Rangers are now in 3rd in the Metro, a point ahead of Columbus, two ahead of Washington and three ahead of the Devils. They play at Carolina tomorrow and are home Sunday afternoon against Detroit.

There is a possibility that Zuccarello will be back against Carolina and it might be interesting to pair Zuccs with St. Louis. Also, the Rangers picked up Raphael Diaz from the Canucks for a 5th round draft pick in 2015. I guess you never have enough D-men, whether good, bad or indifferent.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Lost Weekend

What a difference a weekend makes. What a difference two days make. Flying high on Saturday morning, in 2nd place in the Metro and a three point lead over the Flyers, the Rangers hit a wall. Two games later they are sitting in 3rd in the Metro, one point ahead of Washington and of more concern they sit in 7th place in the East one point ahead of Washington and Detroit who are tied for the final playoff spot.

What happened? What went wrong? Everything! The Rangers and Lundqvist gave up ten goals in two games. Who is to blame? Everybody. After a weak, lackluster effort against the Flyers in a 4-2 loss they came out hungry in the first period against the big, bad Bruins. They out shot the Bruins 20-9 in the first period, but left the ice tied at one. They out shot the Bruins 14-12 in the second period and trailed 3-2. The third period was a complete debacle with the Rangers being out shot 12-8 and outscored 3-1. Talk about diminishing returns.

Does this collapse have anything to do with the tinkering of some minor positions; fourth line center Dominic Moore sat in Philadelphia for Derek Dorsett who clearly wasn't ready to play. Moore was back in yesterday. Also Anton Stralman who had effectively been paired with Marc Staal as the number two pairing was dropped to number three  and for some strange reason Dan Girardi got only 5:24 of ice time in the third, the least of all six defensemen. Is it any wonder the defense looked awful in the third. And it's the goalie who gets the blame? Just think, the other day I was praising the coach for being consistent with the lines and pairings and then suddenly, poof!

But it's no time for recriminations. It's Toronto, Carolina and Detroit coming up every other day starting Wednesday. It sounds and feels like the coaching has to shape up and get the team back on course. The Captain has to right the ship. Speaking of Captains, I think it's time to trade Callahan. He says his heart is in New York, but his moves say otherwise. Supposedly he has reduced his demands to six years for $42 mil. That's a lot of dough for a twenty goal scorer.

ICINGS: Congratulation to Jaromir Jagr on scoring his 700th NHL goal. I believe that puts him in 8th place all time. Always liked him and he's my wife's favorite player. He was great as a Ranger and it looks like we gave him up too soon. What else is new.