Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rangers In La La Land

Rangers go for bike rideI warned you after the Coyotes game not to get too excited over beating the worst team in the league. I know the drive-by media got excited and Tom Renney said the Rangers were on a mission. Some mission. Maybe they should have gone on a novena. Novenas go for nine days. But it is going to take more than a novena to get this team back on track with this defense. The Rangers gave the puck away nineteen times. While Jagr was the chief culprit with four, Rozsival and Malik were up there with three each. And they are usually standing right in front of Lundqvist when they give it away. Oh No Ozolinsh gave the puck away two times but his mere presence was noted by his ineffectiveness. He was supposed to be a power play specialist but Renney, in his infinite wisdom, gave him all of 4:36 of ice time on the PP while Rozsival got 8:17 and Straka got 9:36 all on the point. Pray tell me, what is Straka doing on the point on the power play? The Rangers were 0-9 on the PP. They were 0-5 in the third period with a chance to get back in the game. They were 0-2 on the 5 on 3.

The offense wasn't much better. Thank goodness for Brendan Shanahan. He did everything. He scored the only goal, got seven shots on goal and played on the PK, which killed 5 of 6 chances. Shanahan is truly Ole Man River, he justs keeps rolling along. Colton Orr got his usual 3:47 of ice time. Why even dress him? Why isn't Nigel Dawes in on a regular basis? Marcel Hossa was useless again. He got 9:00 of ice time and pitched another perfect game. No shots, no goals but got more ice time than Orr and Hollweg and only a few seconds less than Jason Ward and Petr Prucha. Straka and Nylander logged well over twenty minutes each, mostly skating in circles and depriving the younger guys of less ice and game time. For all their ice time, Straka got one shot and Nylander had three. But there are beautiful figure eights on the Staples Center ice.

Where are the young guys? Thomas Pock sits on the bench. Why? Nigel Dawes gets spotted when he isn't sitting on the bench. Why? Jarkko Immonen is in Hartford. Why? Ivan Baranka is in Hartford. Why? Why are players like Malik, Ozolinsh, Hossa still playing? Why do Rozsival, Straka and Nylander get so much ice time while Prucha and Hollweg get minimal time? The answers to these questions lie somewhere in the upper portions of Tom Renney's brain. This is a team that is going in the wrong direction and Tom Renney doesn't have the smarts or a clue on how to turn it around. You still think Brian Leetch is too old for this team?

ICINGS: The Rangers did not have an early skate in LA, but they did go out and have a bike ride. Maybe instead of having a skate in Anaheim they should go to Disneyland and and ride around in its "a small world, after all". Isn't it getting close to the time where Sather trades for an aging vet and gives away a young prospect who comes back to haunt us. See Mattias Norstrom, now Captain, of the LA Kings.

October 31, 2006
Daily News
Kings clobber Henrik, Rangers,
Kings roll over lifeless Rangers
NY Post
Court Jesters Kings Expose Rangers as Road Fools

October 30, 2006
Daily News
Hollweg Living His Dream
NY Post
Rougher Rangers
Hollweg's Game Has Developed For Rangers

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rangers Warm Up

Before you get too excited about last nights rout of Phoenix, 7-3, remember that the Coyotes are quite possibly the worst team in the league. Also remember that the Rangers gave Phoenix two goals, one on Jagr's horrendous turnover, and the other on the reenactment of the parting of the Red Sea by Rozsival and Ozolinsh. The Rangers skated quite freely against Phoenix, but despite being out manned due to injuries, the Coyotes out hit the Rangers 17-8. Would you believe that only two defensemen racked up any hits on the Rangers. Aaron Ward and Fedor Tyutin split four hits between them.

The Lady Byngers, known as the Rangers, and piloted by their chief softie, Tom Renney, played their usual tic-tac-toe, perimeter type hockey which plays well against the have nots, but will be tested against San Jose and Anahiem on Wednesday and Thursday. Renney dressed Colton Orr instead of sticking with rookie Nigel Dawes. Why? Orr got all of 4:14 of ice time and while I don't have the largest TV available I didn't see anything that he brought to the game. Hollweg's time was dropped to 5:52 and he did make the most of it challenging tough guy Nick Boynton in that rarity of all rarities in the new NHL, a fight. Marcel Hossa got 7:52 of ice time and spent most of it skating in circles. He pitched a perfect game. No shots on goal. No hits. No blocked shots. Why is he playing and Jarkko Immonen in Hartford?

However, the bottom line is we got two points. We should pickup another two against the Kings, who seem to be as bad as the Coyotes. The test will come against San Jose and Anahiem. Renney keeps talking about making moves especially on defense, and the talk centers around Kasparaitis being waived or moved. Why? Is Kaspy any worse than Malik? Than Ozolinsh? Than 'give away' Rozsival? It all points to politics my friends.

What happened to the youth movement?


Daily News - Jagr & Co. Take Desert By Storm
NY Post- Rangers In 7th Heaven
Newsday - So Far, Prucha Has Been Unable To Repeat Rookie Success
Associated Press - Straka And Rangers Overwhelm Coyotes
Hartford Courant - Carwford Stops Pack

NY Rangers Fan Poll at (newyorkrangers.com)

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the Rangers' overall performance in the win over Phoenix?

Current Results:

10 -- 18.6%
9 -- 29.15%
8 -- 37.44%
6-7 -- 11.92%
5 or lower -- 2.9%
Total Votes: 1242 (Oct. 30)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where's The Passion?

After the game Jaromir Jagr stated that last night's Florida game was not a fun game to play. I have news for Jagr, it was less fun watching. Don't be fooled by the fact that the Rangers out shot the Panthers 37-24. Jagr again, "We got a lot of shots-not many chances." Shots on goal are about the most meaningless stat in the NHL. You want to look at stats, how about this one. Giveaways. The Rangers gave up the puck 27 times and the Panthers gave it up 11. Its a wonder the game was that close. Two of the giveaways were beauts. Rozsival put one on the stick of Juraj Kolnik for the game winning third goal for Florida. Rachunek tried to go up the middle through the legs of a Panther and it led to a goal by Greg Campbell.

Michal Rozsival and Marek Malik, Abbott & Costello of hockey, with all due respect to the famous comedians, gave the puck away three times each. In fact Malik had the perfect game. No shots, no hits and would you believe a plus one. Another stat that should go out the window or be revised. Malik got a plus on Straka's goal. he passed the puck to Aaron Ward in the defensive zone and Ward sprung Straka loose. But watching Rozsival and Malik flounder and fall behind and lacking any physical presence one wonders when Tom Renney is going to do something. But what is Renney going to do. His best defenseman Thomas Pock is permanently assigned to the bench.

Renney is now touting Sandis Ozolinsh as his saviour. Huh? Karel Rachunek is another enigma. He also had no hits and gave the puck away twice. It is true that playofs are determined in the off season with smart acquisitions. You all know how I feel about the Rangers not signing Brendan Witt and Jason Arnott. And why did we let Petr Sykora go? Besides our weak defense we are the only so called contending team that lacks a big time center.

The Rangers seemed passionless in letting Florida win its first road game. The Panthers were 1-2 on th PP and are first in the league with a 25.5%. The Rangers were 1-6 and are 11th in the NHL with a 18.9%. On the opposite end the Panthers are number 15 in PK's with a 82.7% and the Rangers are 22nd with a 79%. Whats wrong here?

Last year the Rangers strength was Jagr, Lundqvist and the HMO line. Jagr, while tied for 2nd in points and tied for 1st in assists has only two goals and is well off last years record pace. However, he is hurting as his shots lack the zip of old. Will he get better? Will the shoulder heal fully? Lets hope so. Lundqvist who was electric has fallen off the charts in goalie categories. His GAA is at 3.58 which places him 32nd on the goalie list. His save % is .878 which puts him 34th on the list. Is it the sophomore jinx? Has he fully recovered from last years physical problems? Is he a one year wonder?

The HMO line was an integral part of the Rangers success. Dominic Moore was traded to Pittsburgh via Nashville for Adam Hall. Hall has had a tough time finding his niche with the limited ice time he is getting. Jed Ortmeyer will be out at least until December and maybe longer. He is sorely missed. That leaves Ryan Hollweg. Hollweg was centering between Hall and Hossa. That line dished out four hits with the hit man, Hollweg, getting four and the two getting a deuce each. Ryan Hollweg is a better Designated Hitter than Jason Giambi. But the HMO line brought the passion. There is no passion on this team. The Panthers roamed freely, hit often, sometimes illegally and there was no retaliation from the Rangers. Hell, the Rangers never retaliate. There was a shot taken after the buzzer of the second period and all there was were words. We do not have enough hard nose Canadian type players. We need a Chris Nilan, Nick Fotiu, a Sandy McCarthy! Hit the road Jack.........


NY Times
Rangers' Worst Enemy Is Their Own Defense
Daily News
NY Post
Jagr's Shoulder Hurting Rangers
Journal News
Local Player Has Special Night In Win Over Rangers
Tripped Again By Poor 'D'
Defensemen Ozolinsh, Pock Waiting In The Wings

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lundqvist Saves Rangers, Again

Last year it was the dynamic duo of Jagr and Lundqvist that carried the Rangers until the dramatic slump. This year it looks like Shanahan and Lundqvist, at least until Jagr regains the strength he needs in his injured shoulder. There were a lot of good things that happened to the Rangers last night. The rookie Nigel Dawes scored his first goal of the year. Renney shuffled the lines and they all played spirited. Brendan Shanahan scored another goal, his eight, and scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Rangers the win. And Marek Malik was benched, though for the wrong reason.

Despite not scoring any goals, Jagr did rack up two assists and registered five shots on goal. Air Canada Centre officials gave the Rangers star number one, Nylander, and star number three, Brendan Shanahan. They were wrong, Star number one was Henrik Lundqvist. Yes he was quite ordinary in the first two periods, 17 saves on twenty shots. However when the chips were down and the game was on the line, Henrik Lundqvist was The Prince.

In the third period the Rangers deserted Lundqvist. They also decided not to go on the offense. The Leafs outshot the Rangers 16-4 in the third period and 2-0 in OT. The shootout was all Lundqvist again as he stopped Mats Sundin, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Darcy Tucker, who notched his 6th and 7th goals of the season earlier. Brendon Shanahan scored the game winner after failures by Jagr and Nylander. Nylander's,line with his two new linemates, Nigel Dawes and Jason Ward, racked up five points. However it was Nylanders giveaway that led to Jeff O'Neill's tying goal with three minutes to go in the game. Speaking of giveaways Michal Rozsival racked up a game high of four. Thank goodness the dentist removed Malik from the game.

Lundqvist was the main man though. He is now stopped 16 of 16 shots in shootouts. There are only three other goalies who have not have goals scored against them but none of them have more than three shots against them. Overall he stopped 34 of 38 shots. He doesn't seem to be there yet but he was impressive in the 3rd period, OT and the shootout.

ICINGS: The win was Lundqvist's first in Toronto. Jagr got nailed a couple of times and naturally no one responded. Will it take an injury before someone retaliates? Marty McSorley. where are you when we need you?

NY Times/AP
Shanahan Lifts Rangers In A Shootout
Daily News
Shanny Saves Day
NY Post
Owner Sits Pretty As Flyers Go Down Tubes
Grade for 'D': Probably a D
Shanahan: Shootout Winner
Ozolinsh back after knee, head rehab
Hartford Courant
Pack's Offense Still Sputtering

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Malaise Continues

Nashville wins 3-0The Ranger early season slide continued last night with a 3-0 loss to the Predators of Nashville. The Rangers put 38 shots on goal but I would be hard pressed to remember one outstanding save that Tomas Vokoun made. Most of the Ranger shots were taken from the perimeter, where else, and very rarely did the Rangers put someone in front of Vokoun as a screen or for a deflection. Jason Arnott put one by Lundqvist that should have been stopped and the other two goals were due to the ineptness of Marek Malik and his partner in crime Michal Rozsival. While the Rangers outhit Nashville 21-20 Rozsival and Malik had no hits. Renney gave Malik a vote of confidence, "Marek's reach is his biggest asset, not his foot speed." And you old timers thought that Abbott and Costello were funny.

What was interesting to me was watching Jon Arnott skating across the ice creating havoc and turnovers while Matt Cullen had a very pedestrian game. Why you may ask, do I bring up that comparison? I bring it up because the 'drain trust' decided that Matt Cullen would be a better fit for the Rangers than Jon Arnott. Jon Arnott cost about $2 million more than Cullen. Jon Arnott wanted to be a first line center and that is why he signed with Nashville. Who would you rather have on your team as number one center? Jon Arnott, who goes straight to the net with or without the puck, or Michael Nylander who does pirouettes when he gets the puck? Michael Nylander got 24:34 of ice time last night, and most of it was going around doing figure eights. Nylander had 8:50 of ice time on the PP with one whole shot on goal. His buddy, Martin Straka got 23:57 of ice time, 10:21 of PP time, and he got all of two shots on goal.The power play was 0-8, and 0-3 on five on three's which totalled 3:18 of power play time.

Also disturbing to me last night was the lack of rookies on the Rangers. One rookie, Nigel Dawes, played nine shifts for all of 6:47 of ice time. Most of the time was in the first period where he got three shots on goal and then disappeared for most of the game. Why bring this up? Remember during the free agency period the 'drain trust' declared that they will not sign too many free agents because they wanted to give the youngsters a chance. Dawes will soon be demoted to Hartford as will Thomas Pock when "Oh No" Ozolinsh returns. Renney announced that OH NO will be ready to go against Toronto. He brought it up as good news. Who will "Oh No" replace? Malik? No way. Look for Karel Rachunek to be the one. Why? With Pock out Rachunek is the closest thing to a rookie defenseman the Rangers have. With that move the Rangers, with minor exceptions, will be back to the team that ended last year. You know how that turned out.

: Under the heading of things are back to normal. The Rangers raised ticket prices quietly without any formal notification. They also removed the 'Thank You Fans' that was on the ice. Add to that the fact that this year they have dropped all pretense of playing rookies and that they should look back at the disasters that befell them prior to the lockout. I wonder what the experts were thinking when they predicted that the Rangers would win the Cup this year?

October 19, 2006
NY Times - The Rangers' Newest Problem Is Offensive
Daily News - Rangers Sing Sad Song
NY Post - Garden Goose Egg
Journal News - Rangers Uninspired In Loss To Predators
Newsday - Rangers Shut Out By Predators

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Prince Of Broadway Is Back

Is The Prince a star or what? He is a star, and just like the Broadway stars who love their encores and hate to leave the stage, The Prince responded last night. When announced as the number one star he slowly skated across the ice and threw his stick to the crowd. His stick. The crowd loved it. He then slowly skated back and threw a puck to the crowd on the other side and he loved every minute of it. And why not.

He dazzled the crowd all night and befuddled the Devils who fired 36 shots on him and only saw two go in. And the crowd roared his name, Hen-reek, Hen-reek. Forget that dumb article in the NY Post that states the crowd calls him Hank. The crowd knows his name, Hen-reek! With a much improved defense in front of him, Lundqvist was simply outstanding and besides lifting his team he also lifted the crowd which was kind of apprehensive coming off of three straight losses.

While Renney put rookie Nigel Dawes in the lineup, he only got 3:54 of ice time. But a more subtle move by Renney was making the tandem of Aaron Ward and Fedor Tyutin the number one defensive pair. They both got over twenty two minutes of ice time, the most of any defenseman. He also used them as the number one unit on the penalty kill. He still put Rozsival on the PP along with Martin Straka. But this PP unit was only used once as the Rangers were 1-1 on the power play, scored by Shanahan, who else.

The new Ranger penalty kill lineup worked well shutting out the Devils 7-7. The unit has now given up 9 goals in 44 chances which comes to 80%. Not too bad considering the bad start. Jason Ward scored the Rangers first shorthanded goal of the season for the Rangers. Here too Renney changed the combinations pairing Jason Ward with Blair Betts as the number one unit with Cullen and Shanahan on the number two. Cullen however, assisted on Jason Ward's shorthander, on a half line change.

Besides Lundqvist the biggest story was the hitting. Perhaps inspired by the return of Kaspy, who had three hits, the Rangers outhit the Devils 36-16. Ryan Hollweg, getting increased ice time, 11:51, dished out 6 hits. Eat your heart out A-Rod. Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen had 4 hits each. Jason Ward and Tyutin had three and even Rozsival joined the hit parade with three. All in all a good nights work and there are seven more to go with the Devils. Too bad the loudmouth Devil fans behind me left after the second period. Anyhow, for one night Renney was a genius again.

ICINGS: Shanahan is now only three goals behind Dino Ciccarelli for thirteenth place on the all time goal scorers. Jaromir Jagr got only an assist but put on a dazzling display of forechecking and puck control in the last couple of minutes. He is getting close to exploding soon. Shanahan was the number two star and Jason Ward was star number three. Now let's get on a roll and win a few in a row.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rock Bottom?

They say that sometime you need to hit rock bottom before you rebound your way to the top. Let's hope that for the Rangers sake rock bottom was last night in snowy Buffalo. It's hard to keep writing this but last night was the worst performance of the season. But I said that about the last game and then I said it about the previous game. You know what? I was right on all three games. But we have to hope that last night truly was it because the Devils come in tomorrow night and they and Martin Brodeur are playing quite well. Master magician Lou Lamierello has wiggled out of the salary cap problem and all systems are go in Devil land.

The Rangers are picking up where they left off at the end last year after a promising start. While their offense is clicking, 21 goals, their defense is crumbling allowing 23 goals. The 21 goals are tied for the third highest in the NHL. The 23 goals given up are tied with Phoenix for the worst in the NHL. Both numbers will be under attack against the disciplined Devils. But back to last night, it was a disaster.

The Rangers never allowed more than six goals all of last year. Last night it seemed that the Sabres scoring would never stop. And it wasn't just the scoring, it was the whole game. It was complete domination by the Sabres. The hits were 16-9 Sabres but it looked like 61-9. Jagr was hit often and dumped a few times and no one retaliated. Colton Orr tried to stir things up by fighting Andrew Peters but it was too little too late.

Ranger defensemen were often out of position usually getting caught high chasing a Sabre leaving the goal area unprotected. Kevin Weekes maybe could have cleared a few pucks sooner but for the most part he was left alone and at the mercy of the Sabres. Pock and Rachunek were both minus 3 but no defenseman distinguished himself. Look for Renney to use Pock's minus numbers as an excuse to put Kaspy back in there and Pock to sit. Still think Brian Leetch is too old to play for this team?

The Rangers are among the leaders in the early scoring races. Jagr is tied for first in the scoring race with 10 points, and leads in assists with 8. Shanahan is tied for first in goals with 6, and tied for 5th in scoring with 8. Nylander is tied for third in scoring with 9, and is second in assists with 7. All this means nothing as the Ranger slide looks ominously like last years season ending collapse. Can Renney stop this? He'd better or there will be more turmoil at the Garden than there was last year with the Knicks. Let's hope we hit the bottom last night.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Getting Old And Cranky

I must be getting old and cranky. Last nights game was awful. The fans got cheated out of a hockey game. What they saw was a scrum between a young reckless team and an old careless team. While the Penguins played their youth the Rangers sat theirs. Tom Renney, philosopher extraordinarius, sat Nigel Dawes in favor of Colton Orr and preceded to give Orr all of 2:41 of ice time. Ryan Hollweg got all of 4:48 of ice time and you wonder why we are not tough and get belted around. I don't believe Sidney Crosby was touched once while Jagr was hit often, especially by his nemesis Jarkko Ruutu. Needless to say no Ranger retaliated. How could they, the hitters were sitting on the bench.

Half of the game was played by special teams. Nine of the eighteen penalties were hooking penalties, the lazy man's penalty. There were five tripping penalties, three interference calls and one high sticking, Ruutu on Jagr. We the fans who sat there in a half empty Garden, got screwed and deserve a refund. It wasn't hockey. The new NHL has turned into The European Federation of Politically Correct Skaters. The game ended on an appropriate note. A hooking penalty by Jagr behind the goal in the offensive end that resulted in Crosby's game winning goal.

We outhit the Penguins 20-18 but our hits were compiled by seven players. Our top defensive pair of Rozsival and Malik, Renney's answer to Abbott and Costello, had a combined total of no hits and three giveaways. And that was the good news. The 'veteran' heavy Ranger team gave the puck away 11 times, the 'rookie' loaded Penguins gave the puck away 4 times. What happened to the youth movement for the Rangers? Still think Brian Leetch is too old to play for this team?

During the off season the drain trust of Ranger management said that they were going to keep spots open for rookies to make the team, so they weren't going to overload on free agents. But let's think about that. Would not have Brendan Witt made a better choice than Aaron Ward? Would not have Jason Arnott been better than Matt Cullen? Maybe a little more expensive but the Rangers do have cap room? Hindsight you say? No way. I have been preaching this all through the free agency period. We have a short sighted management group and an unimaginative head coach. But Renney absolved himself. "We were encouraging the right things on the bench, naturally". Really? Like continuing to put Rozsival and Straka on the point.

One frightening thought is that Lundqvist looks human. I suggested yesterday that it was time to put Weekes in to give The Prince an early season rest. Now it looks like Weekes may go against Buffalo and that is also scary. Last year Renney was lucky. He rode the coattails of Jagr and Lundqvist until both got hurt and the team collapsed. Renney had no thought then how to fix the problem and he doesn't have one now. Nothing has changed. We need super seasons from Jagr and Lundqvist to be successful.

What is going on with Kasparaitis? Renney says he is not ready yet, he must pass some tests. Did Renney put Malik through the same tests? When Kaspy comes back it will be Pock who sits, not Malik. Then we will have a team that has no rookies on it and with minor exceptions, the same as last year. Yes, Shanahan is a great player, but he cannot carry a team. Jagr can. Lundqvist can. Right now they are both struggling and when these two struggle, the Rangers struggle, and there is nothing in Tom Renney's makeup or bag of tricks to save this season. Its getting late early.

ICINGS: A nice tribute to Corey Lidle before the National Anthem. It was very tasteful and sincere and the crowd was very respectful. Nice touch. Lets pray for Corey his wife, son and parents. God bless.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Broadway Bunglers

Apparently the pressure on the Rangers to become the first Ranger team to win the first three games of the season, since 1989, was too much for them to handle. They folded like accordions last night and fell 4-2 to the Flyers. The Rangers played their second consecutive sloppy game but this time paid for it. The Rangers and Renney have to correct this ship now or there will be serious ramifications for them in the Atlantic Division. Lets face it, the Devils and Flyers will be very tough this year and both Pittsburgh and the Islanders are much improved.

Tom Renney gave his usual tough Rennyesqe speech about not showing up, not playing their all and everything falling apart. Did Tom include himself in this? Probably not. But let me ask you Tom, why was Martin Straka on the point on the PP for 8:50 minutes? Michal Rozsival was on the ice for 8:03 of power play time. Straka has no shot and Roszival has trouble controlling the puck. The official scorer credited him with one giveaway. What game was he watching? The Rangers were 1-8 on the PP. They are now 1-17 on the season.

Brendan Shanahan scored the PP goal, got an assist on Pock's goal and was voted number three star. The real star for the Rangers was Thomas Pock who made a great block on the play that he scored a great goal. What was Renney's comment about Pock. "He's certainly proactive". Wow, what an endorsement. Renney was so impressed with Pock that he gave him all of 12:58 of ice time, including all of 33 seconds on the PP. Remember kiddies, at Hartford, Pock was a PP specialist. Pock was a plus one, the only Ranger defenseman in the plus area.

Rozsival clocked 29:01 of ice time and was a minus two. Malik logged 19:36 and was also a minus two. In fact through the whole game Malik looked befuddled. Lurch like. The fastest Malik skated all night is when he skated off the blue line prior to the conclusion of the National Anthem. Kasparaitis will probably return soon, possibly against the Penguins, but you know who will sit when he returns. Thomas Pock. You still think that Brian Leetch is too old to play for the Rangers, especially on the power play?

With the Penguins coming in Thursday the other interesting plot will be to see if Renney finally goes with Kevin Weekes in goal. Lundqvist gave up a couple of softies last night but he still is the man but may need an early season rest. With two tough games against Buffalo, on the road, and the Devils at home, it may be the right moment to give The Prince a rest.

What needs a kick is the power play unit. Granted, Jagr is still recovering from his shoulder injury and is not 100%. Put him on the point where it will be tougher to double up and his pin point passing to forwards like Shanahan, Prucha, Nylander and yes Straka, down low, might generate some offense. But I don't think it will happen.

ICINGS: A wonderful man with the word, JAGRMEISTER, across his shirt bolted up out of the blue last night to give my Grandson, Nicholas, the broken stick of Simon Gagne, patched of course. We met him after the game and he greeted Nicholas again. What a wonderful gesture. So Nicholas now has Gagne's stick and Nylander's jersey. Not bad for a seven year old. When I was seven the only thing I got from the Rangers was agita. In fact 69 years later I am still getting it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

But Its Early In The Season........

In a sloppily played game, Mario Lemieux would call it garage hockey, the Rangers won the gunfight on Broad Street on a shootout goal by the oft maligned Marcel Hossa. Hossa for once had the right idea. After watching twelve shooters before him try an assortment of dekes and shots he went through the five hole on Antero Nittymaki to give the Rangers their second straight win going into a Garden rematch with the Flyers on Tuesday. I'm not a fan of the shootout as you know but it did bring out a wonderful duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Nittymaki.

The win was the Rangers first two game opening season win streak since 2000-01. While that was great there were problems that arose that we won't mention because the season is just underway.

The power play was 0-6 and is now 0-9 in two games. How could it be better with Martin Stracka and Michal Rozsival playing the points on the power play? You still think that Brian Leetch is too old for this team? Of course we do have young Thomas Pock who is very good on the point but when Kaspy comes back Pock will sit. But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

The Flyers, Peter Forsberg, ran Henrik Lundqvist into the net and while he got a two minute penalty no one on the Rangers went after him. With Malik and Rozsival on defense who was going to go after Forsberg? Maybe they thought it was two old friends getting together. This will go on all year as word gets around. We can't afford to lose the Prince. But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

Lundquist faced 39 shots and made 35 saves opposed to Nittymaki who was 26-30. The defense keeps sagging and didn't go out to get the shooters. They didn't put their bodies on Flyers bodies. The Flyers outhit us 14-11. Forsberg was their leader with 3 and Aaron Ward led the Rangers with 4. We have the least toughest defense in the Eastern Conference. We need Kaspy back and Tyutin to step up. But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

Did I say sloppy? The Flyers gave up the puck 12 times and the Rangers gave it up 9 times. There was no cohesion. To Renney's credit he did mix up the lines a bit but it was usually just for one shift. When in doubt he went to the old reliables. Shanahan got 25 minutes of ice time, Jagr got almost 23 and Ryan Hollweg got 5 minutes. Nothing changed from last year. But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

As stated Marcel Hossa scored the game winner in the shootout. Renney is hoping that Hossa starts playing big and lives up to his brother's potential. How can he do that when he got 9:24 of ice time and 7:17 of it was on the penalty kill unit? But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

Finally the Prince. Yes he gave up four goals but he shut the Flyers down from 18:30 of the second period through the the end of the overtime. And he was 13 for 13 in the shootout. He brought sanity to the game. He is our franchise player who must be protected at all costs. Without him the Rangers are dead. So who is going to protect him? Mark my words, the Flyers will be running him Tuesday night. Who will stand up and protect him? But it's early in the season so let's not complain about it.

ICINGS: The penalty kill unit slipped a bit giving up 2 goals in 9 attempts. For two games they are 15-17 in kills. Good performance but we are taking too many penalties. Of the 8 Ranger-Flyer games last year three ended in OT and one ended in a shootout.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sweet Caroline-A Night To Remember

What a night! The Rangers won their first home opener since October 10, 1985. Jaromir Jagr brought the house down when he skated out in the pregame announcement as the 24th Ranger Captain. He then bought the house by scoring a goal 29 seconds into the game. In the most auspices debut of a hired gunslinger Brendan Shanahan scored two goals reaching the exalted 600 goals for his career, placing him 15th on the all time goal scoring list. Jagr is breathing hard right on Shanny's back with 592 goals. But there is more.

After Shanahan scored his 600th career goal Jagr retrieved the puck and held it for Shanahan. Shanahan was the number one star and Jagr number two and Lundqvist was number three. However there is no doubt whose team this is. Its Jaromir Jagr's team and the goal he scored electrified the crowd and it was all Rangers after that. Look for another MVP type year from Jagr if he stays healthy. The Rangers struggled against the Caps last year winning 5-4 and in the famous shootout 3-2, at the Garden. At the Verizon Center in Washington the Rangers lost 3-2 and were blown out 5-1.

Blair Betts scored the second and go ahead goal ably assisted on a beautiful pass from Adam Hall. Nigel Dawes in 8:30 of ice time did not embarrass himself. He took two shots which missed the net but otherwise played a strong two way game. Dawes is built like a fireplug at 5'8" and 192 pounds. Thomas Pock, replaced the not quite ready Darius Kasparaitis and played very well. He logged 14:43 of ice time, moved the puck well and blocked three shots.

Henrik Lundqvist was The Prince again. He made 25 saves and gave a mini clinic in the third period. Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless and got no shots on goal in the third period. Prucha and Shanahan also played tough with Prucha standing up Ovechkin at the blue line with a solid check and Shanahan nailed Dainius Zubris sending the winger off in pain. How about that!

What kind of a night was it? Well, Tom Renney got a standing ovation when he was announced. Maybe Glen Sather should have been announced. Maybe, but that would be pushing it. While the power play was 0-3, the penalty kill was 8-8. How good a night was it? Even Dancing Larry had a couple of new moves. Great!

ICINGS: This is the 80th year of Ranger hockey in the NHL. Contrary to rumors I was not there when they dropped the first puck. Jaromir Jagr holds his spot on the blue line after the National Anthem and then makes the sign of the cross. Marek Malik, who doesn't move too fast during the game, dons his helmet and skates toward his own goal before the Anthem is finished. C'mon Marek wait another 10 seconds before skating away and respect the Anthem.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Prince Of Broadway

Try to get a copy of today's New York Post (10/5/06) or go online to Newyorkpost.com and read a wonderful column about Henrik Lundqvist and how much he loves New York. The article is written by gossip columnist Cindy Adams who trekked up to the Ranger training camp in Westchester County. Cindy is the widow of the late comedian Joey Adams. Joey was the emcee of the famed Friar's Club Celebrity Roast. You remember the Dean Martin roasts. Those were church socials compared to the Friars.

Lundqvist opens tonight against the Washington Capitals and their all everything Alexander Ovechkin. The Rangers also will have rookie Nigel Dawes in the lineup. Dawes had an excellent camp and it is hoped he gets more than 4-5 minutes of ice time. He should be on the line with Cullen at center and Jason Ward at the other wing.

The big line for the Rangers will be Nylander centering Jagr and Shanahan. Renney's reasoning is that Shanahan will be protecting Jagr. So that is the Rangers answer to the toughness question. A thirty seven year old sniper will be riding shotgun all night. Oh well.

But the story tonight will be Henrik Lundqvist, the Prince of Broadway. Yes Jagr is probably the best player in the game right now but the Blueshirts will only go as far as Lundqvist will take them. He has risen to star status in New York. Think about this for a second. There are fewer Ranger fans than Yankees, Mets or Knicks fans in this city. Sure, Jeter is in the paper all the time, but an all page column by the Queen of New York, Cindy Adams, that is something special. The Prince is a celebrity.

The game should go a long way in telling us whether Lundqvist has recovered from last years maladies. Washington, with Ovechkin, will be a test for Lundqvist. With the Rangers defense expect anywhere from 30-40 shots from the Capitals. The Prince will be there as will his loyal subjects cheering him on.

Long live the Prince!

Lang levande painsen!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Road To The Cup-The Coach

Tom RenneyThe Ranger Pundit does not subscribe to the theory making the rounds in New York sports circles that the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup. I do feel that they will have a shot at it with some key additions. Those additions would relate to the area of toughness, either with a clear the crease type defenseman or a crash the net no nonsense forward. They were available in the free agency market but the brain trust opted for finesse over brawn again. Can they win the Cup? Not with this group. I still see Cam Janssen running roughshod over the Rangers. Remember he put Marek Malik out with a shoulder injury in the last regular season encounter. Legal hit sure, but he went out of his way to put a hit on a body. Outside of Ryan Hollwe, who on the Rangers will go out of his way to put a hit on a body. Cam Janssen played 47 games with the Devils last year and had a grand total of zero points and 91 penalty minutes. He was equally as effective in the playoffs. In nine games he had , yep you guessed it, zero points and 26 penalty minutes.

I do believe we can make the Conference finals but I do not think we are tough enough to get by Buffalo or Ottawa. What also bothers me in our quest is the coaching. Yes Renney had a good year going 44-26-12. But was it Renney, or the dynamic duo of Jagr and Lundqvist? The Rangers sputtered after the Olympics and lost the last six games of the season plus four in the playoffs. You all know that. What did Renney do to change the downward spiral? Nothing. There were no call ups, no benchings. There was a load of talent in Hartford that maybe, just maybe, they may have provided a spark.

What Renney does have going for him is a happy locker room, a strong leader in Jagr and some able and talented coaching assistants in Perry Pearn, Mike Pelino and goalie coach Benoit Allaire. Allaire is the behind the scenes coach who prior to joining the Rangers was successful with such goalies as Nikolai Khabibulin, Sean Burke, Brian Boucher and a host of young goalies all of whom improved under Allaire's tutelage.

The Rangers have improved with their additions but a move away from the perimeter, tic, tac, toe game toward a more aggressive go to the net game would go a long way toward bringing that elusive Cup to New York. Jagr kind of admitted that the other day after playing with Shanahan. The line didn't really click except on the power play. He likes to go to the net said Jagr of Shanahan. Good for Shanahan. Unfortunately the way the Rangers are constructed there will be too few who rush the net.

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