Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Streak Ends With A whimper

I guess the Rangers thought all they had to do was show up and the Stars would give them their ninth straight win. Didn't happen. The Rangers didn't bring their A game. In fact it's debatable what game they brought. The Stars, even though they are in 11th place in the West were on a streak of their own, five out of six. Now we go to Florida to play a team that is also hot and only has two points less than us.

The coach brought no game at all.  It's bad enough  he keeps playing with J.T. Miller's play and ice time. Last night he played, on the fourth line, got 9:09 of ice time, scored a power play goal and watched most of the time. In 14 games Miller has 5 goals and an assist. Lee Stempniak got 11:18 of ice time on the third line. He has played in 28 games, has 5 goals and an assist.

The previous game saw Miller sitting and that brought a discussion from Sam and Joe, the homer boys. Sam insisted that Miller sitting had to do with the Rangers great depth. Joe debunked that basically saying that Miller should be in the lineup. period. Joe was spot on, Sam honored his Ranger roots.

Then there is Kevin Klein, 7 goals, 4 assists and a plus 11, third on the team. He got 18:37 of ice time and no power play time. Meanwhile, Dan Boyle racked up 21:11, 2:57 on the power play, got off all of one shot, and that at the goalie who was waiting to be beat. Klein with the best shot of the defensive group sits while Boyle struggles. And struggle he did. A few times he had trouble bringing out the puck in the defensive zone. So we are honoring contracts, not playing capabilities. Nothing changes. It starts in the little leagues with favorites and continues right up to the pros.

I have an idea, stolen from the Devils and their GM. The Stealth should come out of retirement and go behind the bench. On his right should be Mark Messier to coach the forwards and on his left should be Jeff Beukeboom to coach the D. At least then we would have expert opinions why certain guys play or don't not this touchy feeling BS we get from this coach. Two points lost in December will be sorely missed in April.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stepan Tricks Devils

it was a night of tricks in a game devoid of any passion. The first trick was when Devil GM Lou Lamoriello decided to sit behind the Devil bench after firing coach Pete DeBoer. He then assigned two "co-coaches", Adam Oates for the forwards and Scott Steven for the defensemen. What, no goalie coach. Didn't work. The Devils got all of 20 shots in the 3-1 loss to the Rangers.

The second trick was Derek Stepan with a hat trick, giving him six goals.To make sure the crowd didn't fall asleep Stepan had a goal a period. Short handed in the first, power play in the second and an empty netter in the third. The Rangers got 27 shots on goal.

The coach gave us the third trick by benching JT Miller for Lee Stempniak who got over the mumps. So Stempniak got over the mumps and Miller got the bumps. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of our coaches. Me thinks they over coach and over react. Any how it was the Rangers eight straight, win and the team record is ten accomplished twice, 1972-73 and 1939-40. Aaah 1940!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Festival

For two periods it looked like the Caps were giving the Rangers an early Christmas present. They were down 2-0 after two and had all of eleven shots on goal. When Nash scored early in the third it surely looked over. Then the Caps remembered who they were and turned it on.

The Caps came in on a 7-0-2 run having won the previous night and woke up in the third. They pored 21 shots on goal, scored two in five minutes and suddenly it was a hockey game. But they self destructed. A Backstrom double minor followed by a face off violation gave the Rangers a five on three. A power play goal by St. Louis sealed the win and the Rangers are tied with the Caps for third with the Rangers having two games in hand.

Nash had two three goals and St. Louis had two one, on the power play.* The Rangers were 2-7 on the power play and Dan Boyle got his first assist of the year. Lundqvist made 30 saves, 19 in the third period to seal his 15th win of the year.

It was a preview of two teams who will be battling each other and the leaders of the Metro for the top spot. It was an outstanding third period of a very good game by the Rangers. It was truly a Holiday Festival.

Merry Christmas everyone in hockey land.

*Update: NHL gave Rick Nash credit for the hat trick after reviewing the video.

Rick Nash was given credit for a hat trick vs. Caps on Dec 23rd, 201
Rick Nash got belated credit for hat trick vs. Caps

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cam Cools Canes

It was a fitting end to my birthday. A great brunch at Rothmann's Steak House in East Norwich with the family and then another Ranger win, the sixth in a row. The team is hot. It sets up a big holiday game against the Caps at the Garden, The teams are tied at 38 points battling for the third spot in the Metro. It's Alex the Great vs The King. Should be a dandy.

One day after signing a one year extension, Cam Talbot won his third game of the season and his third shutout of the season. He only needed 18 saves to do it and his counterpart, Anton Khudobin, was outstanding with 30 saves. Ryan McDonagh scored the only goal early, 4:10, in the game on a beautiful feed by Stepan.

Once again the Rangers lost a goal by Matt Hunwick, when the Toronto TV watchers declared his shot no goal when the Garden replay showed a goal. The Rangers were once again 0-3 on the power play, but Boyle continues to get power play time. He has no assists this year. Meanwhile Klein, the leading D-man scorer watches the power play go further south.

But, we move on to the big game Tuesday night. Rangers versus Caps. Alex the Great versus The King. As I stated before, it should be a dandy. Let's Go Rangers!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Birthday Bliss

My birthday has a habit of intertwining with Ranger hockey with mixed feelings. This year the feelings are good, so far. Remember, there is another game tonight. So in 84 years there has been about 77 of Ranger hockey. A lot of years. A lot of tears.

The Rangers won their fifth straight last night, 3-2, over Carolina in a shootout. It was their fourth straight road win. Always a good sign for a team, road wins. Good signs, bad sign. The worst was Lundqvist flubbing on a soft shot by Skinner, which gave the Canes a one goal lead about 20 seconds after JT Miller had tied it at one. Good signs. Miller playing strong again and that Bargain Basement Beauty, Kevin Klein, scoring his 7th of the year tying the game with about two minutes left. Lundqvist recovered in the shootout, stopping three Canes as Zuccarello was the lone scorer in the shootout.

The three stars, for me, were Klein, Lundqvist and Miller. The team seems to have found its stride. The early injuries and sickness, i.e. mumps, has given everyone on the roster to get ice time, hence we have a deeper squad with a lot of depth. Should help down the stretch.
Now to put icing on that cake, a win tonight.

ICINGS: The T/Birds won their second straight, a 8-0 win over Half Hollow Hills, that put their record at 5-6-1 and in the thick of the playoff hunt. Nicholas was given a game puck, symbolic of being one of the players of the game. The league is off 'til after January 1st.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ranger's Roll Thru Western Canada

It wasn't like Sherman rolling through the south but it was very productive all the same. The Rangers ran off three straight in western Canada, and have now won four in a row heading to Carolina for the start of a home and home. The Rangers are clicking on all cylinders. Coming off player of the week last week, Lundqvist continued his fine play. He made 29 saves as the Flames used two goalies, Ramo and Hiller. All four goals were scored off Ramo, Hagelin had an empty netter.

Nash is stoking the Ranger resurgence. He had two goals, one a short handed, and now has 20 goals as he heads for the magical 50 goal mark. Also encouraging was that two scoreless streaks were ended. Kreider snapped a 13 game scoreless streak and Stepan snapped an 8 game streak.

This was no crème puff streak. Vancouver sits in the number two spot in the Pacific and Calgary is fourth. However, Calgary lost its sixth straight, but do have 36 pts in 32 games. They are young, fast but undisciplined right now. Bob Hartley seems to be safe for now.

So now on to a weekend clash with Carolina, last in the entire East. Beware of the trap game. Beware.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lundqvist Blanks Oilers

I missed last night's game due to a family function, it's that time of the year, but the Rangers seem to be getting it together in western Canada. Lundqvist won back to back nights with an easy shutout. The defense stepped up again with a goal by Dan Giradi. And another Ranger got the mumps.

What is this with the mumps? I had the mumps as a kid and it's strange to hear grownups getting the mumps. Sydney Crosby got the mumps and now Brassard got the mumps. I thought all these diseases were eradicated but they seem to be making a comeback. Why? Who knows. I only hope that Santa doesn't get the mumps. The kids would be disappointed.

Back to the Rangers. The defense looks like it's got its act together, now to get the offense rolling. Next stop is tomorrow night in Calgary. Promise not to miss that one. Recollection is that we usually have problems in Calgary. Hopefully, that's a wrong recollection. But we seem to be going in the right direction and let's keep going. Also, no more mumps.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rangers Blitz Canucks

The sermon at mass today was about suffering and pain leading to joy and redemption. Case studies were St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi. Both suffered greatly from persecution and illness and both received great joy and sainthood. So there is good news for Ranger fans. Who has suffered more in sports over the years? Okay, Jet fans, get in line. So the question is. Continue the suffering and then-Sainthood? Stop the suffering, forget Sainthood, and win a Cup?

Last night was one of those head scratching games. How, all of a sudden, could we be so good, no, so great? A three goal blitz in the first period, covering all of 4 minutes and ten seconds, and suddenly the Rangers were up 3-0. Bam! Bam! Bam! McDonagh, his first of the year. JT Miller, his third, and Zuccarello, his 5th. The onslaught continued in the second with Staal, his first, and then Zuccarello on as beautiful play one could see. Brassard to Nash, back to a speeding Brassard, and then a beauty to Zuccarello, in front of the net for his second of the game and sixth of the year. 5-0 going into the third. Nick Bonino ended the shut out for Lundqvist who made 29 saves. Ryan Miller, the ex-Sabre made 19. Nash and Brassard had two assists each. The three stars were McDonagh (1), Nash (2) and Zuccarello (3).

Good start to the western Canada  trip. Next stop, Edmonton, and then Calgary. Good to see the defense getting offensive. JT Miller has played great since coming back from Hartford, with three goals. Unfortunately, that leaves Kreider out of the top six, but if he finds his game that would give us a potent fourth line. But that's not a negative that's a positive. Miller and Kreider are both young, fast, strong and tough.

Let's get this suffering off of our backs. It was okay for St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi. They were Saints, who suffered long and hard. Us? Mere mortals who have suffered long and hard being Ranger fans.  Let us pray.

ICINGS: The T/Birds pulled off their biggest win of the season Friday night beating a good Sachem team 7-3. The T/Birds are now 4-7. Sachem dropped to 6-5. Nicholas was a plus three.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kool Hand, er Ear, Klein

In the Ranger win over the Pens in OT, the lame stream media gave the number one star to Rick Nash. Nash scored his 18th goal of the year and may well be on his way to join Vic Hadfield, Adam Graves and Jaromir Jagr in the Ranger 50 goal club. Not bad, but me thinks they picked the wrong guy.

Kevin Klein scored the game winner in OT with a blast from the blue line to give the Rangers a 4-3 win after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period as the Pens scored two goals in 24 seconds to tie it. Boy that's getting to be a bad habit. The previous game saw the Red Wings score two in 61 seconds. The players gave the Broadway black hat to Klein as the player of the game. They got it right.

If you remember, Klein is the guy we got for Del Zotto. Heck, two tickets to the Circus would have been a bargain for Del Zotto. Klein was kinda a throw in. Some throw in. Klein's winning goal was his sixth of the year, tops among Ranger D-men. His ten points are tops among Ranger D-men. His plus nine rating is tied with Nash for the team lead. When he is not racking up game winning goals he also protects his mates. His willingness to drop the gloves and defend his team is secondary to none on the Rangers.

Tough? He almost lost an ear on a high stick in the first period. Stop him? Are you kidding? They stitched him up, thirteen stitches, and he came back to play, star and eventually win the game. Imagine, thirteen stitches to reattach part of an ear and he comes back on the ice to play. I think of all the baseball players taking days off with upset stomachs and sprained pinkys. And to think, we had to give up Michael Del Zotto for Klein. I'm almost ready to forgive The Stealth for his past transgressions. Almost.

Icings: Late condolences to the Beliveau family on the death of one of the greatest players ever. He won 10 Stanley Cups, topped only by Maurice "The Rocket" Richard who had 11. The top player winning Championships in sports was Bill Russell of the Celtics with 13, followed by Sam Jones with 12. Baseball's top winners were Yogi Berra with 10 and Joltin Joe DiMaggio with 9. Mean Joe Greene was tops in the NFL with 4. All great Hall of Famers.

R.I.P. Jean Beliveau.

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A little blood on the Broadway Hat...

Kevin Klein got his ear put back together then beat Pens

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Motown Meltdown

The coach blamed the loss on lazy back checks. Amazing. You score two goals in the first period and you go zippo the rest of the game and it's blamed on "lazy." You go 0-7 on the power play, what else is new, and you blame it on "lazy." You have a five on three power play time of 2:36 and you don't score and you blame it on "lazy." You bring in a "power play expert" like Dan Boyle, who gets 23:34 of ice time, 8:36 of power play time and manages to get off all of one shot the entire game, and you blame it on "lazy."

Amazing. You bring in a Dan Boyle, he of the boomimg shot and he plays the point like he is Michael Nylander. One shot! One shot! He could have gotten more in the local bar. Of course there was some rotten luck. I counted at least four crossbars and posts. But this is Detroit. There are always crossbars and posts. It's part of the Detroit scene. It's in the genes.

Anyway, another loss that could have been averted. Detroit got two goals in 61 seconds when our forwards played "lazy." The Rangers two scorers were Nash, (17) and the ever surprising Klein, (5). St. Louis shot in hard luck, Kreider seems to be lost and Duclair sat again. Maybe he should play, he might not be that "lazy." Cam Talbot played okay and I will not join the chorus of critics who wonder why Lundqvist didn't play. No problem with Talbot playing.

So now the Rangers have played 25 games. 11-10-4. 26 points, 4th in the Metro. The inept Devils have 24 points. The high flying Islanders have 38 points, 19-8-0. The Islanders are energetic. The Rangers are "lazy."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

After watching the latest debacle against the Lightning I have come to the conclusion that the Rangers are not ready for prime time. That is, they are not contenders for the big prize, at least right now. In the old days of baseball when they had two leagues of eight teams each, the top four in each league were called the first division, the bottom four were called the second division. The Rangers right now are a second division team. They are eight points behind the second place Islanders and rank eight in the East.

Sure we have beaten Montreal and Pittsburgh, but look at our record against Tampa Bay. We were outscored 15-7 and our goaltending, Lundqvist, was awful. In fifteen days they beat us three times. Lundqvist now has a GAA of 2.70 and a save % of .905. But he isn't the only culprit. Tampa's goalie, Bishop, is now 9-0-0 against the Rangers. He says he is inspired by seeing Lundqvist in the nets for the Rangers. Maybe we should bring up the Hartford goalie and put him opposite Bishop.

Nash and St.Louis are performing well. However, the players coming back from injuries: Stepan, Boyle, McDonagh have taken a while to return to form, and Boyle is out again as is Tanner. Also, the young players, Miller, Hayes, Fast and Duclair have not played to their potential. And why not? They are in the lineup, they are out of the lineup. They are recalled from Hartford, they are sent to Hartford. They play on different lines every night. They get short sifted. They spend too much time during the game sitting on the pine.

So it's win one, lose one. We are now at 11-9-4. We are inconsistent and with 25% of the season gone its getting late early. The players seem to be there. The talent seems to be there. Who knows? Maybe it's the coach that's not ready for prime time.