Friday, January 30, 2015

Rangers Can't Beat Eastern Biggies

Maybe we should have stayed out West. We beat every team in the Pacific, except Arizona, who is coming up. Maybe we could negotiate a transfer of sorts. We go left coast and they send us the LA Clippers for our NBA team. After all LA has two NBA teams, New York has none. Go to the Pacific and we would be in second place in the Pacific, twelve games behind Anaheim, who we have already beaten.

It's plain and simple. Outside of Pittsburgh, we aren't doing too good with the top teams in the East. We are 0-3 with Tampa Bay and the Islanders, 0-2 against Montreal with Carey Price in the nets. We beat them 5-0 at MSG but Price was resting then. Another cause for concern is that the Boston Bruins are coming out of hibernation and we are 0-1 against them.

These teams have a commonality which is lacking in our Rangers. Young, big and fast across their lineup. Their fourth lines out play our third and sometimes second line. Plus, these teams play 60 minutes a game, a habit that has not yet formed on the Rangers. The same pattern follows on the defense. Our defense is good. Staal, McDonagh and Girardi are as good a trio the NHL has. However, we lack a D-man who can deliver teeth chattering hits.

Goaltending? We have a great goalie. In fact he is so good he takes the blame for losses that the rest of the team was responsible for. Take last night. Sure he should have had Max Pacioretty's shot, but was it necessary to berate himself as the cause of the loss. The Rangers didn't score. The last game vs Islanders they scored one goal  and that with 8 seconds left in the game. What were the other 18 guys doing? You don't score, you can't win. Lundqvist has bailed the Rangers out of many a game. Do you think it's time the team bailed him out?

After the game the usual tripe about we need to do ..............! How about at least one guy saying it wasn't Henrik's fault. You know. We win together, we lose together. Maybe we need changes. We do need a big moose that can center the number two line and put up some hits and numbers. Rumors have it we are looking to bolster the defense. The defense is fine. Only Tampa Bay has given up less goals in the NHL.  Get a big, good center man.

So it's Carolina, Florida and Boston coming up. Florida is six points behind us for the last playoff spot. It would be nice if we bounced back with a mini-streak. It's hard to believe. We go 16-4 and we are fighting for our playoff lives. Wouldn't San Diego look good this time of the year?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Now Blueshirts?

The Rangers romped into Nassau Coliseum on a 16-3-0 tear, looking like Cup contenders and limped out with a 4-1 pasting looking like a team in the fight of their lives for a playoff spot. Somewhere in between are the real Rangers. At least I'm hoping that.

However, one thing is obviously clear right now. The Rangers can not beat the Islanders. Three games, two at MSG and one on LI have all produced Ranger losses. Not close either: 6-3, 3-0 and 4-1. Game, set, match. So what gives? Well the Islanders are young, big and fast, and have all four lines. The Rangers have a mixture of those three attributes, but not enough to make four solid lines. They are now dickering with putting Dominic Moore on the third line with Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak. That would put Kevin Hayes to center Jesper Fast and Tanner Glass. Wow!

Losing to the Islanders is not a mere aberration. Another team built like the Islanders, Tampa Bay also has a 3-0 record against the Rangers. Two teams have accounted for almost half the Ranger losses. If the season ended now we would play the Red Wings in the playoff. However, Boston, who is rolling right now is only a point behind us. If they pass us we finish eight and get the Islanders. But this could be a moot point if we fail to make the playoffs.

Tonight is another toughie, Le Habs, Montreal. They are only two points out of first in the Atlantic. They are also fast, though not as young and big as the Islanders. However, they have Carey Price, a great goalie who usually gives us fits. Should be quite a tussle and let's see what we have left in the tank after the Islanders drained it.

ICINGS: The T/Birds lost to Smithtown, the top team in the league, 5-2. Like the Rangers, the T/Birds have problems with the top teams.

Monday, January 26, 2015

All-Star Fiasco

I have never been a fan of All-Star games. In hockey, don't hit. In basketball, no defense. In football, no blitzing. Baseball may be the only one to get it right, but the game is too long. Last night the score was 17-12 with a Team Toews beating a Team Foligno. How's those apples? Do you know where your favorite player was playing? Regular season team mates were on opposite sides.

17-12. How would you like to be a goalie. Islander goalie Jaroslav Halak, who gave up four goals on ten shots said, "it was a fun weekend." The bars must have been hopping. John Tavares became the sixth player in All Star history to score four goals. The game was a glorified shootout.

Rick Nash, scored two goals and was booed by the "hometown fans." Imagine getting booed in an All Star game in your own home town. The game was played for one purpose only, TV revenue. They should change the format.

How about an All-Star game with the previous Cup Champs meeting a collection of college All-Stars? That used to happen in the NFL. The winner of the NFL Championship used to play a collection of college players all ready to join the NFL the following season. It would stir up interest in college hockey and give the fans a glimpse of the future stars of the NHL. What a boost to hockey in the USA.

We are bracing for a strong N'Eastern in the New York metro area. It says here that the Ranger-Islander game scheduled for tomorrow should be postponed. The area is going to be loaded with trucks attempting to clean up the mess, the roads will be clogged and we don't need people scrambling in icy, messy roads to get to a hockey game. Postpone the game.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rangers Avoid The Trap

It was the classic trap game. A high flying team, the Rangers, winners of 15 of 18, against a team struggling to stay relevant, tied for 12th in the playoff race. Add to that a goalie, Craig Anderson, who gives the Rangers fits, and you had the making of a Ranger loss. Almost, but not quite.

The Rangers on a goal by Kevin Hayes, 6th, took the lead in the second period, but the Senators wiped it out with two goals in just 63 seconds, took the lead and control of the game. That lasted til the 2:42 mark of the third when Kreider tied it with his 10th on a beautiful duo of passes from St. Louis and Staal. The winner, in OT, was scored by Hagelin, 9th, off a beautiful feed by Stepan.

The goalies were good in this Swedish dual. Lundqvist, now 23-9-3, made 33 saves. Anderson, 12-11-7, made 32 saves. Anderson came into the game with a 6-0-0 and a 1.1 GAA against the Rangers. So all the elements were there for a loss by the Rangers but this team has shown a grittiness and toughness that carries them through.

The Rangers are now a point behind  the Pens for second place in the Metro. They are 5 points behind the Islanders who they play next Tuesday on the Island. The Rangers have two games in hand on the Islanders and one game on the Pens. The Caps are one game behind the Rangers and the Rangers have two games in hand.

So let the games resume.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Are The Rangers Back?

It was baffling watching the Rangers crumble against the Isles and B's, being shutout both games. Wasn't so hot against the Blue Jackets but at least it was a win. This afternoon it was different, it was like 13 out of 14, it was like the five game winning streak. The big players played up to their big roles. The rest of the cast was solid.

Rick Nash and Derek Stepan each had two goals and Nash was a plus three, as were Zuccarello and Brassard. The defense was strong as Klein continues to surprise and contribute. And Lundqvist was good again, making 34 saves in besting two Penguin goalies. Yes two Penguin goalies. Old nemeses, Mark-Andre Fleurry was chased after 25:19, giving up four goals. Backup Thomas Greiss played 34:26 and gave up a goal.

The Rangers are back in the hunt. They are two points behind second place Pittsburgh and five behind the Islanders with games in hand.  They have Ottawa at the Garden on Tuesday, then it's the All Star game at Columbus. Do you think Rick Nash. who might be the NHL's leading goal scorer, will get booed by the Columbus fans? I never understood fans booing ex-players.

Stepan has returned with a vengeance and Nash is on a tear. St. Louis is solid. Now if Kreider, Zuccs and JT Millet get going we might have a very surprising year here. The Rangers have played three games in three and a half days and have won two of them. Not bad.  Keep it going Rangers.

ICINGS: The T/Birds are also on a roll. They picked up two wins this week over Hudson Valley, 5-3, and East Islip, 4-2. The team now has won four of five and is in playoff contention. The defense and Nicholas have been solid.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rangers "Step" It Up

So maybe I was wrong. So maybe with this fragile team a player like Derek Stepan does make a big difference and his absence from the lineup hurts. Tonight he had two big assists, one a classic lead pass to a streaking Chris Kreider for what was eventually the game winner. Earlier, he had an assist on Marc Staal's goal which snapped a Ranger drought of over seven periods. Staal had a strong come back game, perhaps in lieu of him signing up on a new six year deal.

As usual in a game as big as this, Lundqvist came up huge, making 35 saves in winning his 21st of the season. He had to be good, the other guy, the Blue Jacket goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, was almost as good. It was a classic dual in goal and the Rangers needed it to snap their slump and head to Pittsburgh in a better mood.

For the Rangers it was a great win after two bad losses. The three stars for me were Lundqvist, Stepan and Bobrovsky. For the Rangers the D-men, Staal, McDonagh, Girardi and Klein were excellent. Klein had a goal disallowed for a high stick and was quite active including a fight. But the entire team played excellent defense.

Of course let's not forget the contribution of Tanner Glass. A big fight that helped ignite the Rangers. And the ever present Kevin Klein now on the TV screen in an interview. This guy is the greatest bargain basement acquisition in Manhattan since we stole it from the Indians.

But the key, the catalyst, was Derek Stepan. His presence seems to have a calming effect on the team, especially the forwards. Our penalty kill stymied the number two power play team. Great win. Now to bed with a calming sleep. We scored, finally, and we won. Now on to Pittsburgh.

Good night folks!

Rangers Blanked Again!

It's not a time to panic but it is a time to reassess where the Rangers are and where they need to be. It's also a time to ponder what they need to make a run to the Cup. The last two games showed the Rangers not big enough and not tough enough against two big, tough teams. For the second night the Rangers were held scoreless. Their last goal was an empty netter by Nash against San Jose.

Last night was a little better than against the Islanders, not by much, but a little better. At least we fought them. Kreider was a little better getting involved and even dropping the gloves. Kreider, Stempniak, St. Louis and Nash all had golden opportunities but failed. Maybe it will click against Columbus. I hope so.

The Rangers D spent a lot of time chasing people rather than playing their positions leaving Cam Talbot, who made 29 saves, defenseless. For the second game in a row there was little or no fore checking, the Rangers got 30 shots on goal. Tuukka Rask was good, improved to 19-10-6. Perhaps reacting to the news that a new 6 year contract will soon be offered, Marc Staal played a poor game. It happens.

Now the onus shifts to Columbus and the other unrestricted free agents, St. Louis, Zuccarello, Stempniak and Hunwick. The first two are keepers the last two optional. First things first. Let's score a goal and let's win a game. It's hard to believe that Stepan's absence could cause a scoring drought but it shows how fragile a team we have.

Tonight it's Columbus. Forget the past, concentrate on the present.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Isles Dominate Rangers

There is no other way to put it. Except for a brief unlucky period in the first when we hit the post three times it was all Islanders. Maybe that would have changed it. Maybe. If Stepan had not gotten slashed and become useless it might have been different. Maybe. But it was complete domination by the Islanders. They out shot us 44-27, they outhit us 28-25, they blocked more shots, 23-16 and won more face offs 32-27. At the end of the game their small contingent was out shouting our large contingent. Actually our crowd was silent, stunned.

It was as if someone had turned off a switch. It was like one of those sci-fi movies where different bodies take over for the actual people. Where were these terrors that cost me three nights of sleep last week in the California sweep? Where was the high flying, well oiled machine that rang up 13 wins in 14 games? There was nothing of that.

Fore checking was non-existent. We had trouble getting through the neutral zone. We mishandled the puck, the defense was not sharp and the goaltending was, to be kind, sub par. The battle of New York, the coach called it a New York classic, was a one sided affair that stamped the Islanders as a force in the Metro and a contender for the Cup.

Now it's back on the road. The Bruins, Blue Jackets and Pens. Time to reestablish our game. Time to get back to basics. Time for another three game sweep on the road. Time to think about what lies ahead of them in the long run. The Islanders are a team to be reckoned with. There are still three games to be played between the two teams and the good news is they are at the Island.

Time to rebound, regroup and get back to basics. No time to panic. Time to rise and shine.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

How Sweep It Is!

The Rangers did the unthinkable, the improbable, they went west for the second time in two months and for the second time they lost nary a thing. They followed up last months Western Canada sweep with an even more impressive performance. They went to LaLa Land and beat Anaheim, at that time the best in the NHL, they beat the LA Kings, the defending Cup Champs and they beat San Jose, number two in the Pacific, Dan Boyle's old team.

What a trip and what a game last night. Chris Kreider was the early star, Nash the late star and the overall star was the King, Henrik Lundqvist. Kreider made a big play to open the scoring. The Rangers lost the faceoff deep in the Sharks end, but Kreider stole the puck, made a one handed pass to St. Louis, who gave the Rangers a one goal lead. Later Kreider, in front of the net, put in a rebound off of a shot by Kevin Klein, the under rated All Star.

After the Sharks pulled to within one, Nash scored an empty netter, his 26th, to put the game away. But it was no ordinary empty netter. He fought off a couple of Sharks to put in a beauty to seal the win. Lundqvist, snubbed by the All Stars was brilliant. The win was his 20th of the year. He has won 20 games in his first ten seasons. No other goalie in NHL history has done that. Let me repeat that. No other goalie in NHL history has won 20 games or more in his first ten seasons. I think we should nominate Lundqvist for Mayor 0f New York City.

The win was the fifth straight for the Rangers and the 13th out of 14 for the surging Rangers. Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in ten of the last eleven games. However, the entire team is clicking. Look at the fourth line as an example. Dominic Moore, centering JT Miller and Lee Stempniak, has become a force. The defense? Kevin Klein is arguably the best fifth defenseman in the history of the NHL. The guy is great. What a trade. What a steal. OK, Stealth, enjoy the plaudits, wake up and sign Staal.

Can't sit on our laurels. The Islanders are showing up Tuesday and would you believe they are in first place. They are 5 points in font of us but we have four games in hand. The top four teams in the Metro are pulling away from the pack and it should be quite a ride to the end. It says here that if we stay healthy we will be at or near the top by year's end. This time the Cup.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Rangers Corral Kings

It wasn't exactly the shootout at the OK Corral but it was close. Call it redemption at the Staples Center. The Kings started out like it was going to blow the Rangers out of the rink with two quick first period goals to take a 2-0 lead. Boyle, the star of the game, got one back on the power play. The second period was all Rangers.

Old gunslinger Kevin Klein, with the Rangers causing havoc in front of the net,  tied it with one of his patented blasts and then Stempniak on a great individual play and then St. Louis on a power play which suddenly has become quite potent. So it was 4-2 going into the third. Williams brought the Kings within one with 4:03 to go in the third period but the Rangers with Cam Talbot in the nets, with 28 saves, held on for the win. A power play with :34.9 seconds to go added drama. But, Talbot and the Rangers were up to the task.

The win was the 12th out of 13 for the Rangers and they are steamrolling through the West. Next up is San Jose. Think about it. A three game sweep through Western Canada and now a potential sweep of California of three of the best teams in the NHL. Something special might be brewing here.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Rangers Making A Statement

The Rangers are rolling, make that steam rolling through the NHL, with their 11th win in their past 12 games, a 4-1 beating of the top team in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks. The Rangers were impressive. Their defense was solid, the goal tending great and the offense timely. Goal scorers were Brassard, Nash, Zuccarello and an empty netter by Dominic Moore. Nash continued his hot streak and Zuccarello ended an eight game drought.

Tonight is another big test as the Rangers take on the LA Kings, defending Stanley Cup Champions with a chance at revenge. In reality, one can never truly get revenge after losing the Cup, but it would be satisfying to say the least. While the Rangers are hot, they are only in fourth place in the Metro behind the Caps, Isles and the Pens. It looks like a four team dogfight down to the finish in the Metro.

JT Miller continued his strong play with two assists, Nash is on fire, Zuccs is waking up, the defense is solid as a rock and Lundqvist is in mid season form. The team on ice is rolling. The team off ice is stagnate. Staal needs to be resigned, now. The Stealth has to come out of his mid season slumber and sign this guy and don't lose him to the Hurricanes. Sign Staal now.

ICINGS: The T/Birds mini streak ended with a thud. a 7-1 loss to Ward Melville, the number one team in the league. The T/Birds had a 1-0 lead after one but couldn't hold W/M the rest of the way. The T/Birs are now 6-8-1.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Go West Young Men

Well the Rangers have  finished the JV portion of their schedule having a romper room win over the hapless Sabres, 6-1. The Sabres aren't the most hapless, that honor goes to Carolina and Edmonton. But they are close. Thirteen Rangers had points with six different goal scores. Nash got his 24th and Dan Boyle and Jesper Fast got their thirds. It was a good scrimmage and now it's time to head West and meet the big boys and find out what we are made of.

The Rangers will first meet Anaheim, top point getter in the whole NHL. Then it's the defending Cup champs, LA Kings, second in the Pacific, and finally San Jose, tied for third, fourth and fifth in the Pacific. The Rangers, winners of eleven out of twelve, are rolling. Three out of three would be heaven, two out of three good, anything else, unacceptable.

The power play was awesome. 3-4. Brassard, Kreider and Nash scored in less than four minutes in the first period, as Buffalo self destructed. It won't come that easy against the Western posses but it was a good sendoff. The coach came up with a new wrinkle on JT Miller and Stempniak. He put them on the same line, the fourth. Explain to me how Miller gets ice time on the second power play unit and regular time on the fourth line? This coach may blow it yet.

So, it's the biggest test of the young season. The Rangers are playing well, Lundqvist is on his A game and the pressure is on the coach not to blow it. Will he be the brash Marshal who charges into the fray or the timid Sheriff who lays back in ambush? Stay tuned for another exciting episode of The Young Guns Go West.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year!

The Rangers ended 2014 on a festive note. In fact it was a party as eight players joined in the scoring in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, their ninth win in the last ten games. The Rangers had taken a 3-0 lead in what looked like a rout but they allowed the Panthers to fight back to 3-2 before breaking it open in the third. McDonagh, Kreider and St. Louis all had a goal and an assist and Brassard and Dominic Moore were the other scorers.

Montoya, the former Ranger, was the Panther goalie, but he gave up too many soft rebounds and was over matched. The win moved the Rangers into third place, one point ahead of the Washington Caps, who play the Chicago Blackhawks in today's Winter Classic.

The Rangers, 20-11-4, have 44 points and are seven points behind the Pens and Isles who are tied for first in the Metro with 51 points. It looks like a four team dogfight for the top three positions in the Metro. The Hayes brothers were on ice together for the first time in their careers. Chris for the Rangers and Jimmy for the Panthers. Jimmy scored his 11th goal of the year and Chris, who has five goals this year, was scoreless.

Also, in a mild reversal of form, JT Miler got 13:25 of ice time and Lee Stempniak dropped to 10:44. Still no power play time for Kevin Klein. So coming into 2015 the Rangers seemed to be poised for a run. Most of the injuries and irritants are out of the way. I say most, because a big irritant still festering is the unsigned Marc Staal. I brought this up in October and here we have January of the New Year and the best over all D-man on the team is unsigned. Will someone wake up The Stealth to get him to sign Staal. Then he can hibernate for the rest of the winter.

Meanwhile. Happy New Year to one and all out there in Rangerland and hockeyland. Have a healthy, happy and prosperous New New Year. May all your disappointments be two minutes and all your joys hat tricks.