Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blown Opportunity

Jaromir Jagr scored his 33rd goal of the season at 18:01 in the 1st periodBefore the big game last night, Tom Renney remarked that he hoped the Flyers would throw the kitchen sink at the Rangers. Well they threw the sink and every thing else, forty shots on goal, but it was a skate that did the Rangers in last night and a Ranger skate at that. Joni Pitkanen got the Flyers first goal on a shot headed straight for Lundqvist but for some reason Steve Rucchin stuck out his skate and redirected the shot past The Prince. That was at the 10:18 mark of the third period. It started a Flyer comeback that resulted in a 3-2 OT loss for the Rangers.

Give the Flyers credit though. They could have folded after Rucinsky's goal at 8:22 of the third period, off of beautiful passes by Jason Ward and Petr Sykora. But the Flyers kept coming and the Rangers tried to play rope-a-dope in the last ten minutes and it didn't work. Robert Esche, the Flyer goalie, made some good saves, 28, but the Rangers missed many scoring chances in the first period and their was one frustrating sequence where Jaromir Jagr hit the outside of the net on three consecutive shots. Jagr opened the scoring at 18:01 with a laser past Esche, which was his 33rd of the year.

The game was a Flyer dictated type of game. They played it without Forsberg, Kim Johnson, Eric Desjardins, Branko Radivojevic and of course Primeau, who is probably lost for the season. They out hit the Rangers 40-15.

So 40 shots and 40 hits, it's a wonder that they had to go to OT to beat the Rangers. It was only through the efforts of Lundqvist that the Rangers looked like they would pull it off. With the lack of an effective forecheck and a collapsing defense the outcome was almost inevitable.

Where do we go from here? The Rangers need some young blood in the lineup.
Thomas Pöck should be brought up from Hartford and phased into the starting lineup. Malik, who was slow to begin with, has slowed to a halt. Rozsival, while improving, still gives up the puck too many times. The entire defense suffers from the fact that there is no consistent forechecking. The first and second lines are perimeter type players. No one, with the possible exception of Prucha, on these two lines goes to the net. Ryan Hollweg should be playing every game. I hear the experts tell me that they need Marcel Hossa to develop. If they mean as a scorer than what is he doing on the fourth line?

The Rangers have three games in four days starting Wednesday. It's the Penguins and then at the Islanders and then at the Flyers. Next week it's the same routine, three in four, with home games against Ottawa and Toronto on Wednesday and Friday and the closeout before the Olympics at Toronto. This is probably as crucial a stretch that they will have all year. We will see what kind of bounce back they have in them.


Carnival of the NHL #18 - The Sawchuck Edition [Abel To Yzerman]

Sidearm Delivery
reports that Thomas Pöck is playing great down on the farm (why don't we have defensemen like that?):

Giroux tallies two as Pack rub out Rats, 5-4...Thomas Pöck had a goal and an assist for the Pack

Wolf Pack flatten Falcons, 6-3....All-Star defenseman Thomas Pöck recorded his third 4-point game of the season (1g, 3a)

Note: I know that it's Pöck with the funny "o" - but I don't know how to make my keyboard do that. So from here on he's Pock, my apologies.

Calling in sick at Sabre Rattling:
One of the things that solidified my decision for adopting the Buffalo Sabres as my own was that Lindy Ruff was the Head Coach. Ruff's overall demeanor, wry candor and his ability to dish out the perfect one-liner impressed the hell out of me.

GrampaPinHead looks at ESG (Even-Strength Goal) stats and comes to some conclusions:
There has been a lot of talk in HockeyTown lately of Even Strength Goals, or the lack thereof, and I decided to apply my own special case of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)...

Plan A: avoid playing 5 on 5 against Ottawa, NY Rangers.
avoid playing 4 on 4 against Buffalo, Dallas, & LA Kings
avoid playing Calgary, at all cost.
[courtesy Kuklas Korner]

Christy at Behind the Jersey in her Behind the Blog features:
the always opinionated Acid Queen at Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Bodychecks. She is a dedicated Carolina Hurricanes fan who always speaks her mind whether it's about Carolina bashers, happenings around the NHL, or Carolina's rise to the top of the NHL.

Petr Prucka
Update: It looks like Petr Prucka has a blog at LiveJournal:
I have spend time at friends places lately because... well, just because. So we talk some and I talk with Marcel and Aleš and decide things. Mostly that I should move out soon. That is not anything because of Jaromír, it is me. I realize all life I have other people do stuff for me and now is time to do it myself...

While not moving, I find out we can buy many things on internet! So I have a couch. Not here, they have to send it. It is leather and brown. Real nice. Aleš buy me a very large television. I was not to let him, but it is so nice. So big for watching hockey or Xbox. He say televisions are good company. I have never live alone before so I must think he is right.

He watch our game today, so I am glad it was good one. Thanks for vist, Aleš.

Marcel say maybe he can teach me to cook some? I hope he have stuff for if I burn places down.

I guess he's eligible to get added to our "Ranger Land" blog list. But, can you believe everything that's on the internet? Is this a case of Czech forgery?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Protect the Prince

Henrik Lundqvist 'The Prince'Lost in the destruction of the Penguins by the Rangers today was a small incident in the third period that may have gone unnoticed and certainly, from a Ranger viewpoint, went unpunished. At 9:30 of the third period Henrik Lundqvist went behind the net to play the puck. Colby Armstrong of the Penguins sped in to get the puck and in the process tripped up the Prince and skated to the near boards where a few Rangers surrounded him, and did nothing. Lundqvist came out of the nets to challenge Armstrong and super hero Sidney Crosby came over to jaw with Lundqvist.

While Armstrong got a two minute penalty not one Ranger layed a glove on him.
There was John Davidson yelling something about Lundqvist getting back in the nets before a penalty was called. Gimme a break JD. The score was 4-1 Rangers. The anchor of your team, the second MVP on the team (Jagr is #1) is put in jeopardy of a serious injury and no one did anything. I will be interested to see if Tom Renney has anything to say to his team about this. Let's understand one thing about this Ranger team. Jagr is the engine that drives this team, Lundqvist is the glue that holds them together. Either one goes down this year, this magical run is over.

The game was a laugher. Jaromir Jagr, sick as a dog, had two goals and an assist. He now has 75 points, 34 behind Jeanne Ratelle's Ranger record of 109 points. His power play goal, three on five, was scored from a point position. How about that! Right in the center he drove a slap shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who played a strange game. Fleury made a great save on Jagr in the first period which was 1-1 on Fleury's 13-14 saves. The second period he saved 14 of 16 but let in a softie by Rucinsky. The third period was too much of an onslaught as the Rangers poured 21 shots on goal. The Rangers outshot the Pens 51-14.

There were some milestones today. Prucha scored his 25th goal and is the fourth rookie this year to get 25 goals. The Ranger record for rookie goals is 26 by Mike York in 1999-00 36 by Tony Granato in 1988-89. Lundqvist recorded his 21st victory putting him only eight behind Johnny Bower's and Jim Henry's 29 wins. It is clear that The Prince will hold the all time rookie goaltender winning record when this season is over. If you are like Beansy you will bet the house that the Prince's record will last a long long time. That is if the Rangers start protecting him with their bodies and fists, and not with their mouths. Remember though, this is the new NHL.

ICINGS: Hollweg was benched for Hossa. Why? Hollweg better be playing against the Flyers. Without Primeau and Forsberg the Flyers will be like a wounded Tiger fighting for his life. We will need toughness against the Flyers and on this Ranger team Hollweg is toughness. Forget the occasional goal we may get with Hossa. We need toughness and the HMO line, the Kamikaze Kids, need Hollweg.

Yes Virginia, NY Rangers fans are everywhere-
Broadway Blue: A New York Rangers Blog says:

The Rangers power play was anemic again, although Jagr's second goal was scored with the man-advantage. The annoying thing is, and the Garden crowd will back me up on this, the Rangers do not take every shooting opportunity given to them. It's pass, pass, pass, pass...

Crosby skates up and starts running his mouth to Lundqvist.....what right does he have doing that? The guy got tripped up and is responding to it, and Crosby comes over and talks smack? I hope to God that he gets flattened on Wednesday.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Beansy Revisits The New NHL

So there he was standing on the corner under the light, usual spot for horse players reading the form sheets. This is not a good time to interrupt a horse player. I learned that first hand, and a do mean hand, from my father. Believe me, first and foremost Beansy was a horse player. "How's it going?" I stammered. "Not bad," he responded. "With a little luck I could break even today." In horse player parlance, that is a good day, when you break even. As one horse player said to another, "I hope I break even today, I need the money."

I asked if he had seen any hockey games this year and he replied that he had not. "I wanted to go to Mark's game but they wanted 250 scungilli's to sit in the nose bleeds." The 'nose bleeds' are what we called the blue seats in the old days. "Do you know how many exacta's I can play with 250 scungilli's?" he asked, not really expecting an answer from a heretic like me. Told that he missed a great night, he looked skyward and said he really did miss a good night but it had nothing to do with hockey.

Leaping Lou FontinatoAsked about whether he had followed any games he replied that he had and noticed that the checking had picked up a bit. He was impressed with the hitting of Darius Kasparaitis the last few games which he said reminded him of "Leaping" Lou Fontinato, who played with the Rangers in the 50's and 60's. He had quite a run, and I do mean run, until he ran into Gordie Howe at the Garden one night. In a fairly one sided brawl Mr. Hockey did a number on Leaping Louie which kind of put an end to Louie's running days. But Beansy liked that kind of player as we all did. I mentioned to Beansy that Kaspy's hitting reminded me more of Bill Moe, who played for the Rangers from 1944-45 to 1948-49. Moe usually came in low, well below the knees, and it was beautiful watching the opponents doing cartwheels as they crashed to the ice.

I mentioned to Beansy that the Sabre coach, Lindy Ruff, complained that Kasparaitis put a dirty hit on his player, Tim Connolly, the Sabre's leading scoring. Ruff labeled Kasparaitis "a cheap shot artist." "Cheap shot artist?" bellowed Beansy, "that hypocrite! Where was he when Mike Grier ran Kasparaitis into the glass in Buffalo." Mike Grier ran Kasparaitis into the boards? "Hey!" said Beansy, "I read it in one of your columns." Sure enough, I went back to check and on November 23, 2005, The Ranger Pundit wrote:

"Mike Grier charged Kasparaitis into the boards and as Darius was skating off bleeding a Sabre punched him in the back of the head."

There was no outcry from Lindy Ruff then. I guess that was yesterday's news.

Grier went after Kasparaitis that night in Buffalo trying to goad him and did the same thing in the Garden. Maybe the next time we play them, one more game, in the Garden, we ought to bring Purinton back for one game just to challenge Grier. Does he still owe a ten game suspension? Listening to the phoney moans and complaints from Lindy Ruff is sickening. Kudos to Colin Campbell for calling the play what it was, a legitimate check. He even absolved Kasparaitis from the hit he put on Marshall of the Devils. Beansy was very happy with those calls by Colie, but he would still like to see more physical play from the Rangers. So would the 'nose bleeds,' Beansy, so would the 'nose bleeds.'

ICINGS: HockeyBird's feathers are also a little ruffled by Lindy Ruff:
Lindy Ruff can kiss my....

All he has done since Tuesday night's game is bitch and whine about Darius Kasparaitis' hit on Tim Connolly which put the Sabre out for an anticipated 6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Kaspar was NOT penalized on the play, and by all accounts the league is not taking any action against him.

I kind of hope the Rangers call up Peter Worrell for the March 27th game against the Sabres, just so he can deliver a thorough ass-whooping to anyone who even looks at a Ranger player cross-eyed. (Then I never want to see Worrell near a Ranger lockerroom again.)

Quotes from the Gutless Fish Market [Saber Rattling, Jan. 25, 2006]
Connolly Sent To IR - Sabres Angry [WGR Radio, Jan. 25, 2006]
Sabres' emotions front and center [Buffalo News, Jan. 26, 2006]

The local media was still talking about the Kaspy hit today and Jagr's cold. Is Jagr's cold(bronchitis) being aggravated because he's afraid to take any medicine that might run afoul of Olympic drug testing?

The New NHL [RP & Beansy, Oct. 27, 2005]

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Defense Abandons The Prince

It is a basic simple play for the defenseman to make. Scenario. It's early in the third period of a 1-1 game and Marek Malik has the puck deep in his own zone with a Sabre on his left and a Sabre in front of him. What to do?

    (A) Loft the puck into center ice.
    (B) Shoot the puck high off the near side glass and down the ice.
    (C) Pass the puck back to goalie Lundqvist, who would have known what to do with it.
    (D) None of the above.

And that (D) is exactly what Malik did. None of the basic plays. Instead he tried to make like Bobby Orr and skate his way out of this. Ales Kotalik picked off the puck and buried it against a surprised Lundqvist for the game winner.

Malik mistake allows winning goalToo hard on Malik? After all this was just one moment in one game. But it wasn't one moment. He also turned the puck over to Maxim Afinogenov, with 49 seconds left in the first period, who came in alone on Lundqvist, who poke checked it away from Afinogerov to keep the score at 1-0 Sabres. Prior to that save The Prince made the save of the night by diving to his right and deflecting a shot by Daniel Paille that evoked probably the loudest roar of the night from the crowd. The Garden faithful stood up and gave The Prince a standing ovation.

The Buffalo Sabre's coach, Lindy Ruff commented:
"We (Buffalo) totally dominated the game. If it wasn't for their goaltending in the first period they should have been down 5-0."

Back to Malik.If you remember he gave the puck away in almost a similar circumstance against the Bruins, which resulted in a game tying goal for Boston. If Tom Poti had the kind of night that Marek Malik had last night, the boobirds would have booed him out of the Garden. In fact, Poti played one of the better games of the defense corps (I can read the comments now). I don't know how Buffalo stacks up with speed against the rest of the league, but last night against the Rangers they resembled 1950's Canadians. Then it dawned on me, they weren't the 50's Canadians, we were the post 1940 World War II Rangers.

The offense wasn't much better. We got 24 shots on goal. We were 1-5 on the power play. But the power play had no flow. The over passing continued. The tic-tac-toe pattern continued to ad nauseum. The opposition has no problem with this strategy. Very few shots, especially from the point. Ryan Miller, the Sabre goalie, stopped 23 of 24 shots. Most of the shots were non descript. I would be hard pressed to think of one outstanding save by Miller. Even Jagr's goal seemed to be one Miller should have stopped.

How bad was the offense in general and the power play in particular? Let's ask an expert:
"I think we should have performed better on the power play. That's the key today. I don't think we made it hard for him (Buffalo goalie, Miller). We should have gone harder to the net."
That expert is Henrik Lundqvist who had traffic in front of him, and on him all night.

In my previous post I mentioned that The Rangers would go as far as Lundqvist could carry them. I may have misspoke. The defense seems to be wearing down. Doesn't it make some sense to bring up a young good player like Thomas Pock and rotate him so the Malik's and Rozsival's get some time off. They need it. Pock would also be an asset on the power play as he is a natural point man. Isn't it about time to end the Martin Rucinsky experiment as the point man? Isn't it about time that Rucinsky sat a few games as a reminder that there is also defense and back checking in hockey? Perfect spot to get Marcel Hossa back into the lineup.

The Rangers lost a big game last night. They could have moved to within three points of the Flyers in the Atlantic Division and four points up on Buffalo for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are back to six points behind us for fifth place. I mention this because the Rangers, the Devils and the Sabres are right now locked in a battle for fourth, fifth and sixth place in the Eastern Conference and the chances of two of these teams locking horns with each other is very probable. Yes, the Rangers have made great strides. But why be satisfied with just making the playoffs when there is the big prize out there.

In the last four games that Lundqvist has played he has given up seven goals. One goal was slapped in the net by one of our defensemen (Rozsival). One was off of a defensemen's leg (Strudwick). The two in Boston were off of blatant giveaways by our defensemen and the giveaway by Malik against Buffalo. Five of the seven goals that The Prince has given up HIS TEAMMATES WERE LARGELY RESPONSIBLE. To recoin an old phrase, "With teammates like these, who needs opponents."

ICINGS: In my last article I mentioned that Lundqvist had played 40 games in Europe. I was slightly off. In the 2004-05 season Lundqvist played in 44 games, 33-8-3, with a 1.79 GAA. In 14 playoff games, 12-2, with a 1.05 GAA. In 2003-04 he played in 48 games with a 2.17 GAA. In 10 playoff games he had a 1.97 GAA. Playing for Sweden in the 2005 World Championship he was 6-3-0 with a 2.35 GAA. So you see, he is human. This is not your normal NHL rookie.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Prince Of All Princes

Henrik Lundqvist - 'The Prince'There is euphoria in Rangerland. Yes, the team played great and the power play, 1-5, clicked on a wrister by Petr Prucha, that looked like it may have surprised Martin Brodeur. Jaromir Jagr, off of a great save by Lundqvist on a shot by Scott Gomez, fed a beauty to Michael Nylander, coming off the bench, to beat Brodeur with the eventual game winner.

The penalty killers returned to form shutting out the Devils 0-6. The HMO (Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer) line with the return of charter member Ryan Hollweg were tough, disruptive and all over the puck all night long. Although the Rangers were outhit by the Devils 20-18, Hollweg and Prucha led the Rangers with three hits each. Although he lost a fight to Devil tough guy, Janssen, Hollweg played a tough and disciplined game.

The defense, playing one man short for 54:09 minutes was outstanding. The five defensemen took only one more penalty the rest of the game, a Malik holding penalty. Four of the five logged over 20 minutes of ice team each. Malik was tops with 26:32, Tyutun had 25:41, Poti at 23:40, Rozsival 22:30 and Strudwick at 15:41. They held the fort by staying at home, clearing the crease and keeping it smple. It worked to near perfection. The one goal for the Devils by Scotty Gomez was off a good rush and short of a miraculous save by Lundqvist could not have been prevented.

And then there was The Prince. I am running out of superlatives to say about this guy. After the game he was named by the NHL as the Defensive Player of the Week, the second time he has received that award. In three games against the Pens, Bruins and Devils he had a GAA of 1.62 and a save percentage of .946. His 20 wins are the highest for a Ranger rookie goalie since Mike Richter logged 21 wins in 1990-91. The Ranger's rookie goalie wins record of 29 is held by Johnny Bower, 1953-54, and Jim Henry, 1941-42. These marks are well within reach of The Prince. For the year his record is 20-6-5, 2.14 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Last night he was brilliant. His save against Patrik Elias in the waning seconds of the second period, as the Rangers were killing a five on three, was out of this world. Elias had deked a Ranger defender and came in on Lundqvist and tried to go over his glove after a fake and The Prince flicked it away with his glove hand as the period ended. His poke check of the puck in the third period from an oncharging Devil forward, coming out of the net, rather than wait for him to get to the puck was classic stick work. Without Lundqvist the Rangers lose this game and we spend the day writing about what a great game we played and how we could have won it. Now we are eight points up on the Devils rather than four.

The question now is how far can Henrik Lundqvist take these Rangers? Also, when does the fatigue factor come in? In Europe, Lundqvist played in 40 44 games last year. He has already been in 33 for the Rangers. Will it catch up to him or can he continue this torrid pace? Tomorrow the Rangers have another tough game against the Buffalo Sabres. This one is for fourth place. The Rangers are two points up but the Sabres have two games in hand. This is another big game that Lundqvist must play. Weekes does not seem to be ready to play these big games right now. Perhaps, the game Saturday against the Penguins would be the game to play Weekes. However, there is no doubt that Lundqvist is the man, the hot goalie, and play he must in all the big games and rest assured the Sabre game is another big game. In fact it looks like all the games are big games.

The Rangers will live or die with the Prince. Making the playoffs for the Rangers is very probable. Going deep into the playoffs will be more difficult and going all the way to the promised land, The Stanley Cup, is almost insurmountable. I use the word almost because with The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, anything is possible.

ICINGS: Lundqvist ranks third in the NHL in GAA and save percentage. His save percentage is only .003 behind Manny Fernandez's leading .930.

Is there a blogger out there who would like to adopt the New York Islanders? Suprisingly there are currently no blogs listed for the New York Islanders. These other NHL Hockey teams are also looking for a blog they can call home: Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

The Hockey Blogosphere - A complete listing of hockey blogs [James Mirtle]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Prince Saves Listless Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist stops Bruins in shootoutThe Rangers must have been looking ahead to this homestand coming up. Tonight it will be the Devils, followed by Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh again. How else to explain their listless play at Boston last night. Playing against two inferior teams, the Bruins and the Pens in Pittsburgh, the Rangers have put together a two game streak that was solely due to the goal tending of Henrik Lundqvist and the sloppiness of their opponents. Unless they pick up their game they will be embarrassed tonight at the Garden against the Devils.

The Rangers two goals, Ward and Sykora, were caused by the Bruins twice passing the puck onto the stick of Michael Nylander, in the Bruins zone. He fed Ward for the first goal. Then Sykora put in a rebound of Nieminen's shot, off of a feed by Nylander, to give the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead. But the Rangers would not allow Boston's giveaways to go unreciprocated. They gave them back. First a Malik giveaway along the boards led to a stuff in by Marco Sturm and then a tripping penalty by Malik. There's that man again, coming 15 seconds after a too many men on the ice penalty against the Rangers, put the Blueshirts down two men. Brad Stuart fired a slap shot from the point to tie the game.

The Rangers won in the shootout when Jagr and Petr Sykora scored to beat Boston who got one shootout goal from Patrice Bergeron. It was a six round shootout where Tom Renney admitted he failed to realize Petr Sykora was on the bench. Tom better have all his wits for tonight otherwise Lou Lamoriello will chew him up real good tonight.

The Prince won the game. He made 27 saves in the game and was 5-6 in the shootout. He is now 19-6-5. That's forty three points out of a possible 60 points. That's a winning percentage of 72%. Not bad. That's the good news.

The power play has died and hopefully gone to heaven. The PP was 0-5 and is now 3-41. But that's OK Tom, leave it alone. It will fix itself by osmosis. No changes of personnel - the same guys playing tic-tac-toe. At least try it with Jaromir Jagr on the point. Speaking of the point and point men, Thomas Pock was sent back to Hartford. Thomas Pock, with the exceptions of Tyutin and Kasparaitis, is as good a defenseman that the Rangers have. I thought this was a rebuilding year. Isn't rebuilding about playing good, young players?

Rangers need a big game from Jagr tonight plus a tight, penalty free game from the defense. The penalty killers were 4-5 last night. The unit has slipped dramatically since the loss of Blair Betts. We also mourn the benching of Ryan Hollweg. The Rangers had only 13 hits last night and that was not a good or lucky number.

ICINGS: FYI - in the new NHL wooden hockey sticks are "practically extinct" (just like the Rangers PP). From the Morning Sentinel:

Wooden sticks are practically extinct in the professional game as well. Among NHLers, Boston Bruins defenseman Brad Stuart and Vancouver Canucks captain Marcus Naslund are among the few who still use wood.

Composite sticks -- made of, among other things, kevlar and graphite -- were introduced in the early 1990s, with composite shafts taking the place of aluminum shafts. Most recently, one-piece composites have been introduced, with an eye toward lighter and more durable sticks.

With the improvements in sticks, prices have skyrocketed. While wooden sticks still retail for as little as $19, composite sticks can cost as much as $225.

[courtesy Kukla's Korner]

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Prince and The Prucha

You expect me to get excited about Michal Rozsival's game winning goal? Get excited and forget that he slapped a goal in for Pittsburgh over a fallen Lundqvist? Forget that he is constantly out of position and gives the puck away consistently? Forget it.

This is a game that the Rangers were lucky to win against a horrible hockey team. The Rangers have been terrible on this road trip. Sure we won the game last night, but I have news for Tom Renney and his struggling team right now. They need a wake up call. On the horizon are the improving Bruins, the red hot Devils and the consistently good Buffalo Sabres.

The Prince should have had a shutout.
The first goal by the Penguins' Sidney Crosby came off the leg of Jason Strudwick after a great save by Lundqvist which he kicked out off of Strudwick. Petr Prucha continued his strong play with two back handed goals giving him 23 goals on the year. He also had an assist.

With three tough games in four nights Tom Renney should go with Lundqvist in goal for all three games. The Devils are now six points behind us for fifth place and now is the time for the Rangers to make a statement. He had a decent rest, four days, and looked very sharp last night. These are the games when you need your best in there.

Speaking of the best, it is time to get Ryan Hollweg back in the lineup. If Renney insists on playing Hossa give Rucinsky a rest. He looks like he needs it. The top line looks moribund with him. Yes, Jagr got two assists but the spark seems to be missing. We need Hollweg's body checks and forechecking.

In that vein, the injury to Blair Betts has also hurt the team. He is the top faceoff man on the team and have you noticed how the penalty killing has gone south since his absence from the lineup? Darius Kasparaitis should return and that should be a big help. However, I would keep Thomas Pock in the lineup and move Jason Strudwick up to forward, as a backup, in case Kaspy gets injured again.

Big three games coming up. With only 35 games to go it is time for the team to regroup and make a statement.

ICINGS: Alexander Ovechkin's falling-backward, over-the-head, twisting goal Monday in Phoenix is being called "one of the greatest plays" in the history of the NHL. Here is the video link. The Washington Post also did a frame-by-frame breakdown on how he did it. If someone can figure out how to turn that into a poster a'la Bobby Orr then it might qualify.
[via Off Wing Opinion]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Road To Futility

Kevin WeekesPrepping for this road trip had to be encouraging for the Rangers. After beating Edmonton at MSG, in OT, on Mark's night the Ranger were 4-0-3 in their last seven ringing up 11 out of a possible 14 points. The Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Penguins and Bruins were coming up on the road and it would be realistic to think we could take three out of four with the only loss to the Red Wings. Right? Wrong.

After basically giving the game to Detroit on Saturday the Rangers looked even worse against the Blue Jackets last night in a game that quite honestly looked like they were not ready to play. This was especially true of Kevin Weekes who was completely baffled on the first goal by Jason Chimera. Chimera actually seemed to lose the puck as it went between Weekes legs who for some reason was protecting the net, with half his body outside of the goal, if you could imagine that. Of course, Tom Poti was no help as he lay face down on the ice sliding toward the goal mouth. The Blue Jackets would then score two more, a total of three goals, in less than five minutes as the Ranger defense watched and did very little. Malik and Rozsival were particularly ineffective in stopping the Columbus rushes.

The Rangers benched Ryan Hollweg for Marcel Hossa, who responded with two goals and Dominic Moore bounced back with three assists. However, the Rangers, without Hollweg and Kasparaitis, were outhit 17-9 and for the second night in a row had no flow at all to their game. It's good to see Hossa getting a shot to bring some punch to the lineup but benching Hollweg takes too much away from the checking game. Play Hossa but also play Hollweg. Since Nieminen is playing quite well right now, sit either Rucinsky or Rucchin for a while. Rucinsky seems to be having a problem skating back on defense and a rest might send him a message. Rucchin has slowed a bit, and could use a rest, having come off of a foot injury that may not have healed completely.

Renney has a dilemma at the goalie position right now. Without a doubt Lundqvist is the number one. The problem is that Weekes some how cannot adapt to the backup roll. He can't sit out too long, he seems to lose his concentration, and more important, his confidence seems to be waning. I don't know if he is eligible to be sent to Hartford for a week of games to get in shape but that might be an option. Lundqvist just can't play all the games and with the Olympics coming up The Prince will be one tired goalie come playoff time. What the Rangers need is another Glenn Healy who played for the Rangers, four seasons: 1994-1997, and played in 113 games and wound up with a 40-44-18 record, and always seemed to be ready whenever he was called on.

ICINGS: The Rangers have lost four straight in Columbus. What is it with these Western Conference teams? Larry Brooks, in the New York Post, reports that Glen Sather offered Tom Poti to Boston for Brian Leetch back in December. No comment back from Boston. Thomas Pock, despite getting burned on Rick Nash's game winning goal played a good game with over 13 minutes of ice time.

The best (and worst) goalies in the shootout and On Shootouts [James Mirtle]

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Motown Meltdown

Darius Kasparaitis collided with Dominic Moore during the pregame warmups and sprained his right knee and sat out one of the biggest games of the year as the Rangers lost to the Red Wings 4-3. That was Dominic Moore's biggest hit of the night. Dominic Moore and his line mates, the HMO line, the Kamikaze Kids, did not have a good night. Sure, Jed Ortmeyer scored a goal with 2:26 remainuing to bring the Rangers within one, but the HMO line combined for only two hits, three if you count the one Moore put on Kasparaitis. The Rangers were outhit 24-18 and that is more telling than them being outshot 36-24. The Rangers have not won a game in Detroit since January 30, 1999.

The Rangers saw their seven consecutive game point streak (4-0-3) come to an end. They gave up too many odd man rushes as the forechecking game seem to disappear. The Rangers can use the excuse, Tom Renney didn't, that without Kasparaitis the defense had a lot of pressure on them and were forced to put in extra shifts. That's fine. What were the forwards excuse? With the exception of Ville Nieminen, who took another bad penalty that led to Lang's goal, there was no pressure from the forwards. Nieminen had four hits, played an aggressive game and was instrumental in Nylander's tying goal at the end of the second period. The Red Wings claimed that Nieminen had interfered with goalie Manny Legace but there was a review and the goal stood.

Henrik Lundqvist played a strong game for the Rangers and was done in by two rebounds, one on Lang and the killer on Brendan Shanahan. At 5:48 of the third period, Shanahan put in a rebound of his own shot as he stood in front of the goal and Marek Malik, who had just decked Chris Chellios, failed to check Shanahan and lost the battle for the puck. Putting his body on Shanahan's body would have prevented the go ahead goal. Lundqvist made 32 saves on 36 shots. Legace was 21-24 for the Red Wings. The Rangers were outshot by the Red Wings 27-13 in the final two periods. That was more a reflection of the offense than the defense. There was very little sustained offense by the Rangers.

Thomas Pock will be brought up to replace Darius Kasparaitis and may help a moribund power play that went 0-3 and is in a 2-30 funk. Petr Sykora hasn't helped the PP and putting Martin Rucinsky on the point hasn't helped the power play.

Would you think putting Jaromir Jagr at the point where his shots would come from the center rather that the side, might help the power play? We shall never know as we watch the predictable tic-tac-toe power play that ensures that every player on the ice touches the puck at least three times before a shot is taken.

Jagr had another goal and an assist. He now has twenty nine goals and one more would give him his 14th consecutive season with 30 goals or more. Mike Gartner holds the NHL record of 15 consecutive seasons with 30 goals or more. Jagr now has a league leading 69 points, forty points shy of Jean Ratelle's Ranger record 109 points (46-63) set in 1971-72. Not bad for a guy who most GM's predicted at the beginning of the season, "would not be interested".

ICINGS: Nice recap of the game from both Red Wings and Rangers viewpoints at Behind the Jersey.

Friday, January 13, 2006

"And The Tears Flowed Like Wine"

Number 11 - Mark Messier - goes up in the raftersBack in the nineteen forties The Stan Kenton Orchestra had a big hit with a tune called, "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine". Kenton had a nineteen piece band and a cute, blond haired jazz singer named June Christy who sang the tune.

Last night at The Garden Mark Messier had a nineteen piece family, from Mom and Dad, fiancee, three children and an assortment of nieces and nephews that was better than any orchestra. In addition, Messier had Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve belt out a tune called, "Now and Again" that brought the entire Garden to tears. "And The Tears Flowed Like Wine." Mike Richter put it in context when he remarked that the event was being "sponsored by Kleenex."

This was a tribute to the legend, Mark Messier. However, it was equally a tribute to an event, the winning of the 1993-94 Stanley Cup. It was a tribute to the members of that memorable team. It was a tribute to the Garden and its people and all it stands for and most important it was a tribute to the fans, then and now.

It was probably, next to the winning Cup night, the most memorable event in the history of Madison Square Garden. Hey, my wife, Maryann, for the first time in her life watched a sporting event on TV, from the opening ceremony to Jaromir Jagr's OT goal winner. Her first comment to me when I got home was, "they cheated us out of a goal, that was no offside."

The game. Yes the Rangers won in OT 5-4. You have to love this team. They played sloppy and their special teams were awful. The penalty killers gave up 2 goals in five attempts. Their power play was a dismal 1-10 and gave up two shorthanded goals. Rucchin gave the Rangers an early lead but by 10:47 of the second period the Rangers were down 3-1. Instead of panicking and going to one of the scoring lines Renney put the HMO line on and they restored some semblance of order with their checking and passion. Less than six minutes later Tyutin had a power play goal to bring the Rangers within one and about two minutes later Petr Sykora tied it up.

Sykora now has two goals and four points in two games and seems to have revitalized the offense. Prucha put the Rangers ahead on a beautiful backhand around defenseman Jason Smyth and the refs gave the tying goal back to the Oilers by not calling goalie interference on Ethan Moreau. The officiating was bad all night. Was Bettman taking notes?

Rangers gather at cener iceJaromir Jagr's OT goal 14 seconds into OT on a beautiful play by Michal Rozsival (did I really say that) was the exclamation point on a great night. It was the passing of the baton from the old leader, The Legend, to the new leader, Jaromir Jagr. You somehow knew that he would get into this act. Despite an assist on Tyutin's goal Jagr had played a quiet game, but he was lurking there and ready to strike and strike he did. He then called his team to center ice where they gathered and raised their sticks up high to salute the fans. He may not be the official captain but he most certainly is their leader.

ICINGS: The win was the Ranger's third straight after a minor bump in the road. This was the Rangers seventh consecutive game with at least one point. The crowd booed when Messier mentioned Jim Dolan and then Glen Sather. I am not a fan of either but there is a time and a place for booing. Last night was neither the time nor the place.

Captain Exits
Messier Honored, Rangers Move On [Inside Hockey]
Rangers Who Wore #11 Before Messier [NY Rangers]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Old Faithful

In his news conference yesterday Mark Messier alluded to the fact that he referred to the Ranger fans as "The Faithful" and how they were going to respond in a big game. One thing we the Ranger fans, the faithful, always knew was that Mark Messier, Old Faithful, would always show up. If you have been to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming you can watch Old Faithful, a geyser, erupt every hour and spew off its steam. It's a natural phenomenon and it never misses an eruption.

We, the faithful, always knew that Mark would never miss a beat, never take a night off and never mail it in. That was a given. Because despite all the accolades about his accomplishments the bottom line was that Mark Messier showed up every night and played to the best of his ability that night. He brought his hardhat and his lunchpail.

There is very little I can say about Mark Messier that hasn't been said by more profound writers than me. Mark Messier was the ultimate team player in a team sport. He has always been about winning and not piling up stats. There was only one player who played more games than Mark and that was the great and ageless Gordie Howe. Mark was without doubt the greatest Captain in the history of sports. You think of the great Captains and they all seemed to reside in the New York Area. Lou Gehrig, Pee Wee Reese, Willis Reed and lately Derek Jeter. Is it any wonder that the Rangers are going without a Captain now and are using three alternates?

Maybe tonight Mark Messier will make the dramatic gesture and bestow the Captaincy of the Rangers onto the broad and great shoulders of Jaromir Jagr.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sykora Leads The Comeback Kids

The crowd was stunned. Thirty eight seconds apart in the first period the Calgary Flames scored two goals against their Prince and it looked like a long night for the Rangers. Two shots from the blueline, one by top rookie Dion Phaneuf off of Marek Malik and the other by Rhett Warrener off of a Chuck Kobasew screen and lo and behold our heroes were down 2-0 after the first. Were they to blow another statement game? Was the Prince's mystique about to be shattered? There were even some scattering of boos. This was not one of the Rangers stellar periods of hockey this year.

But at 4:30 of the second period it all came to a screeching halt. That was when the Prince stood tall and stopped Jarome Iginla on his doorstep to keep the game in hand. Thirty three seconds later Straka on a pass from Sykora cut the margin to one by ripping one past goalie Mikka Kiprusoff. Sykora wasn't finished yet. Copying a page out of The Dominic Moore book on how to score goals behind the net, Sykora banked a shot off of Dion Phaneuf to tie the game. Minnesota Fats would have loved that shot.

Then it all changed. The Kamikaze Kids took over and bodies were put upon bodies. The Rangers were credited with 29 hits, three each by Niemenen and Prucha and four each by Kasparaitis, Ortmeyer and Hollweg. Hollweg got his four hits in less than nine minutes of ice time. He would have had more but the Calgary players got rid of the puck quickly when this human cannonball got near them.

The winning goal came off of a rush down the side by Ville Nieminen, who played another outstanding game, fanning on his original shot he put a pass into the goalmouth where it was easily tucked in by Jason Ward. Dominic Moore then scored an empty netter with 38 seconds remaining and the Rangers had a big victory.

The last two periods of hockey were about as good as any the Rangers have played this year. They limited the Flames to only twenty one shots on goal and the addition of Sykora give the Rangers two solid scoring lines. The defense was solid. There were 'only' ten giveaways and wonder of wonders Michal Rozsival had none and Marek Malik had only one. Good job guys.

Henrik Lundqvist was our Prince again. Despite having two goals scored against him rather quickly he made 19 saves in the game and finished with a flourish with some outstanding saves. His presence in the nets seems to breed more confidence in the rest of the team. They know the last line of defense is as solid as it comes and you could see it last night as the level went up after each shift. Lundqvist was voted the third star and the peasants cheered. Straka was number two star and Petr Sykora on his triumphant return to the New York Area was voted the number one star. Big win against a big team.


The Battle of Alberta puzzles over - Of Wins and Two-Goal Leads...

No matter how you slice it, that's freakin' terrible....I just can't believe that there's any explanation besides fluke for why the Flames have a better record in games where they take a 1-goal lead (but no more) than in games where they take a 2-goal lead (but no more).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kondratiev goes- Sykora comes

Petr SykoraThe Rangers announced tonight that they traded young, 22 years old defenseman, Maxim Kondratiev to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for 29 year old sniper Petr Sykora and the return of the fourth round pick for 2007 that was awarded the Mighty Ducks in the Rucchin trade.

On paper the deal looks like a steal for the Rangers. It adds another offensive weapon to the Rangers who so far have been relying heavily on Jaromir Jagr. But the deal is also a reminder of deals past that acquired such 'sure shots' as Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury and Pavel Bure and we know how those deals turned out.

Sykora's highlight years were 1999-00, 2000-01 and 2002-03. He was a member of the Devils Stanley Cup Champs in 1999-00 scoring 25 goals in the regular season and nine goals plus 8 assists in the playoffs. The next year he helped lead the Devils to the finals with his best overall season scoring 35 goals and 81 points and capping that with his best playoff performance of 10 goals and 22 points in 25 playoff games. In the 2002-03 season he scored 34 goals and 59 points in helping the Ducks get into the Cup finals. So far this year in 34 games he has 7 goals and 20 points. In his NHL career he has played in 642 games and has 209 goals and 272 assists for 481 points.

Maxim Kondratiev was picked up in the deal that sent Brian Leetch to Toronto. He played 29 games for the Rangers with one goal and two assists. He seemed to be improving with each passing game but the Ranger coaching staff never showed the same patience for this young prospect that they have with sub standard defensemen like Tom Poti and Michal Rozsival.

Poti is with the Rangers for life. He is Glen Sather's boy. Drafted by Glen in Edmonton and after Glen left Edmunton the Oiler fans booed Poti out of town. Sather then sent Mike York to Edmunton for Poti. Maybe Glen will move to another franchise and take Poti with him.

But the fix is in on Poti. The boys in the booth constantly extol every little thing Poti does into outstanding achievements. But there is hope. The last game at the Garden Poti's name was substituted for Potvin. I know this annoys Tom Renney, but so be it. Sitting Lundqvist in big games doesn't bother Renney but booing Poti bothers him. AAh, I love ranting on this blog.

ICINGS: Speaking of Theo Fleury, Inside Hockey reported he was packing the fans into games for the Coors Belfast Giants of the British Elite League. The Irish love Theo and Sportsnet reported he is doing rather well. He's cleaned up and has said he wouldn't mind finishing off his career in the NHL. Hopefully, the man from Oxbow with a substance abuse problem can straighten out his life by playing for an Irish team sponsored by a American beer company. Could he come back to the NHL?

Match Report Coors Belfast Giants:

Much to the delight of the packed arena, the home fans showed their pleasure at Fleury’s arrival with more noise and Canadian flag waving than has been seen since Canada beat team USA in the Olympic finals!

Fleury certainly lived up to his reputation as he scored on not only his first shift on the ice but his first touch of the puck.

Finding Peace in the Land of Giants [WinnipegFreePress.com]

The Prince Reigns-One game Too Late

'The Prince' - Henrik Lundqvist shuts-out PanthersAnd the peasants cheered and cheered and cheered. Their Prince was back in the game. And the Prince responded. He seemed determined. Determined to please his faithful fans. Determined to help his teammates and determined to prove once and for all to his skittish and rambling coach that he is the number one goalie, that he is in essence, The Man. He should be playing in the big games. He should have been in the nets against the Flyers, against the Senators. Renney uttered some nonsense about having to prove that the Rangers could win the Eastern Conference. Tom, you gave away two points against the Flyers. You can't get that game back. You win by going with your best, not with your gut. And you should have to explain why one day after stating, "I will go with the hot goalie", you go with the not so hot goalie.

The Rangers, as a whole, came back to their roots. The formula worked. Jaromir Jagr scored two goals. Petr Prucha continued his magical ride with his 20th goal of the season. The penalty killers where perfect 5-5, and what more can be said about The Prince that hasn't been said by every one in hockey except his coach who babbles in riddles.

The bottom line is that Henrik Lundqvist is the number one goalie on the Rangers and should play in all the big games. In save percentages Lundqvist's .929 is third behind Fernandez's .932 and Hasek's .930. His GAA of 2.06 is fourth behind Fernandez's 1.98, Hasek's 2.04 and Manny Legace's 2.04. How is that for a close race? Imagine a goalie with a record like that sitting out big games against Ottawa and Philadelphia? Lundqvist made 38 saves against the Panthers in recording his second shutout, both against the Panthers. Weekes stopped 19 of 23 shots against the Flyers.

The Rangers defensemen in front of Lundqvist were sloppy. Malik was horribly undressed on one play and Michal Rozsival's overall carelessness with the puck was reason enough for him to be sitting out for a while. Lundqvist turned aside Rostislav Olesz on a short handed breakaway and then stopped both Nathan Horton and Joe Nieuwendyk on his doorstep after Ranger giveaways. And the peasants cheered and roared his name. Hen-Rik! Hen-Rik! Hen-Rik! The number one goaltender on the team in everyone's mind but the babbling coach.

ICINGS: Ville Niemenen played his finest game of the year. It was an Esa Tikkanen type of game. He was annoying, bothered the goalie and scored a goal. He seems to have gotten the message even though he took a lazy hooking penalty in the first period. Blair Betts tore his MCL early in the first period and will be out for a while. Tough loss for the penalty kill and for faceoffs where he is the only Ranger over 50% on faceoffs. Also a fierce checker and part of the Kamikaze Kids. He will be missed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Renney Fails The Test

Tom Renney said before the matchup that the Rangers must bring their A Plus game against the Flyers tonight. Let me ask a stupid question. When you want an A Plus game why don't you put your A Plus team on the ice? And that includes the A Plus goalie. This is the second big statement type of game that Renney has blown by his choice of goalies. This was a huge game for the Rangers. They needed their best players to perform. And they did for most of the game. Jagr was superb with two of the most beautiful passes you will every see. Straka came up big with two goals, and Prucha got his 19th goal of the season. Even Ryan Hollweg was outstanding leading the team with four hits and mixing it up with Flyer defenseman Ben Eager and sending a message to the Flyers that these Rangers are different from Ranger past teams.

So what went wrong? Why did the Rangers lose tonight to the Flyers? Why? Because Tom Renney again left The Prince out against the Flyers. Renney left Lundqvist out against the Senators until it was to late. Tonight there was no recovery. The Prince sat the whole night.

Make no mistake, Tom Renney lost this game tonight. After the game Renney made some inane comment about maybe we are not quite there yet. How does he know? His best team was not on the ice tonight. Given Lundqvist's record, 2.19 GAA, it is conceivable to believe that the Rangers would have won this game 3-1. Kim Johnsson's Bobby Orr type rush up the ice to score the tying goal probably was unstoppable. The rest stoppable, especially the OT game winner. In fairness to Weekes, Michal Rozsival, as the defenseman, was invisible as Simon Gagne skated right through him to score the game winner. But the shot should have been stopped. Weekes made 19 saves on 23 shots, a performance that is not likely to improve his .892 save percentage. Lundqvist's save percentage is .925.

Tonight, Tom Renney let the fans down and more importantly his own players. He didn't like Weekes getting booed. He doesn't like Poti getting booed. Look at their performances Tom, should we cheer them? Tom Poti put in another mediocre game. The duo of Marek Malik and Michal Rozsival are lethal, to our goaltenders. I love Malik. His shootout goal will live forever in my mind. He is slow and along with Rozsival they turn over the puck too many times. I could live with Malik but I cannot continue to live with the combo of Malik and Rozsival. What are Tom Renney and his coaching staff looking at? We brought up Thomas Pock and he has sat for two games. He moves the puck, he is excellent on the power play and he is a solid defenseman. Out side of Tyutin what other defenseman can you say that about? You don't like the booing Tom? Stay tuned. If you keep making the wrong calls on the goalies I can assure you that you will be next to be booed.

Driving home from the railroad I listened to WFAN and ESPN radio. The hosts, along with some callers were concerned that the Ranger penalty killers gave up 3 goals in five chances. They wanted to know what happened? The last time I checked, the penalty kill unit is made up of five people, four skaters and a goalie. A goalie folks! The goalie is an important part of the penalty kill.

Tonight, The Goalie was sitting on the bench. This was about the time back in the 90's when the Captain went up to the coach and made certain suggestions and they were heeded. I even remember one time when the Captain went to the GM and got rid of the coach. We haven't reached that point here but we are nearing the point where the players are going to realize who is the main man in goal.

Tom, the Rangers have a chance to be something special this year. We have a shot at the playoffs and we have a shot to do a lot of damage to some of the top tier teams. Don't blow it Tom. Give us that chance. Get The Prince back in the nets and make sure he plays in all the 'statement' type games. The fans want him, the players need him and his record justifies his playing.

ICINGS: Donald Brashear after every whistle when he was on the ice made sure he bumped into a Ranger, sticked him, glared at him and all the old Broad Street Bully stuff. This 'hockey player' has played in 37 games this year with one goal 2 assists and 47 minutes in penalties. Stupid me, I thought this had gone away in the new NHL. And JD tells us how now he is a complete hockey player. C'mon JD there is no chance that he will stick you. Needless to say the refs missed all that but somehow concocted a tripping penalty on Fedor Tyutin for hitting the puck on Gagne's stick, which led to Flyer goal number three. Anyone else for going back to one referee?

update: No surprise here - Ranger Land is universally PO'd with Renney for playing Weekes instead of Lundqvist.

The Blueshirt Bulletin:

for the second time in the past couple of weeks, Renney chose to go with Weekes, clearly the lesser netminder, when facing the top two teams in the league. And he paid the price with a pair of losses.

The timing in this game was particularly unfortunate because Lundqvist was coming off three good games in a row, was without question the hot goalie. It was unfortunate as well because the rest of the team played well in front of Weekes until his bad goals deflated them in the latter half of the second period.

The Hockey Rodent:
This was not the first time that head coach Tom Renney has played Kevin Weekes after the Swede turned in a stellar performance the game before. Nor did Weekes deliver that time, either....And just 48 hours after the coach told the world he would ride the hot hand, he does exactly the opposite - perhaps to fool Ken Hitchcock in some act of gamesmanship. Now who's the fool?

Blueshirts on Broadway:
For the life of me I cannot understand the Rangers organization. Henrik Lundqvist should be their #1 goal tender, and that is who should be in the net in huge games like this one. Tonight could have made the difference for the Rangers and in such an important game I can’t believe they would make this move.

Alright. I'm not going to kill you-know-who for doing you-know-what in last night's important Rangers-Flyers game. Allow me to take the moral high-ground here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rangers Miss The Point!

This post is late due to the Orange Bowl last night. Watching two seventyish (great age group) coaches slug it out was a lot of fun. Unfortunately two inept place kickers kept the game going longer than expected, or needed. The Florida State kicker, Gary Cismesia, not only missed two field goal attempts but also blew an extra point. In hindsight, that was the game winner and the miss caused the OT's. Kevin Kelly, the Penn State kicker, also missed two field goal attempts, in OT, but in a twist of fate, was awarded the game ball by his team mates. He is a freshman and maybe they figure they will need him next year. Not if he continues to kick like he did last night. Penn State finished with a 11-1 record and is certainly a lock as the number three team in the country. Great comeback from last year's 4-7 and it was poetic justice to see Joe Paterno picked as coach of the year.

Now speaking of ineptness, how else to describe the Rangers offense last night. Yes, John Grahame, the Tampa Bay goalie made 36 saves, but the Rangers offense had very little flow to it and a couple of breakaways went amiss with weak shots or no shots at all. Jaromir Jagr looked out of sync. He also looked annoyed. Perhaps taking two early penalties threw him off. Maybe it was the beautiful pass he fed to Michael Nylander, who missed an open net shot when he failed to control the puck. Whatever it was Jagr didn't seem quite himself last night. Earlier in the evening it was announced that he was named NHL player of the month for December. But to quote the boys in the booth, "five on five remains a bugaboo for the Rangers." The power play was 0-6 continuing its slide into mediocrity. Are you sure that Jagr shouldn't be on the point on the power play?

The Prince, Lunqvist, played well for the Rangers making some excellent saves. He stopped nineteen shots. He was awarded the number two star of the game but didn't make an appearance on the ice to be acknowledged. He also looked annoyed skating off. Perhaps he wondered why Prucha or Strudwick didn't even attempt to put a finger on Vaclav Prospel as he tried not once, not twice but three times to jam the puck into the net.

Thomas Pock was brought up from Hartford, and as the Rangers often do, they scratched him. Pock is an excellent defenseman with strong offensive skills who would be excellent on the power play. But he sat while Poti and Rozsival continue to unimpress despite the cheering from the booth.

While we continue to talk about rebuilding isn't it time we brought up Jarkko Immonen from Hartford and sat Steve Rucchin? The second line which has Prucha and Rucinsky needs a lift and some young blood. Rucchin is playing hurt so why leave him in there? Dominic Moore took a couple of his shifts last night, so what's the point. Get Immonen up. In 33 games he has 10 goals and 13 assists.

Renney's announcement that he will go with the hot goalie is nothing more than an acknowledgement that The Prince has been the better goalie, especially in the Garden, and overall is 14-5-5. Renney passed up a chance to see how far the Rangers have advanced by not playing Lundqvist against Ottawa, but tomorrow night The Prince must be in the nets against the high flying Flyers.

ICINGS: The Rangers are 2-4-2 in their last ten. Not good. They are one of five teams in the Eastern Conference with 50 or more points. The Canadians and Thrashers are tied for the last playoff spot with 42 points, so it is getting tight. The Devils are in tenth place with 39 points. Its not easy channel surfing between the Rangers and the Orange Bowl, but it was fun.

Boltsmag's take on the game last night:

If Ranger fans want to say this game was stolen from them — they can and can easily provide evidence (especially on Nylander’s breakaway in OT).

If Lightning fans want to complain about Referee treatment because Bobby Taylor barked about the Refs during the telecast - save it. A call is a call, you still got to play it through.

If Lightning fans wan to say John Grahame played hist best game between the pipes all year tonight, I’ll have to back you up on that…

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