I am still trying to figure out why I decided to participate in this. If you know me, then you know I will give you my no-nonsense take on anything to do with sports. Particularly the NHL (soon to be renamed the No Hitting League). Sorry Steve. Couldn't resist!
It's been a while since I actually sat down at the computer and wrote something worthwhile about sports. To be quite honest, I've been in a funk since covering the repeat champion Staten Island Yankees. I've only covered two Devils games and now have no time to get out to the arena due to helping out with Berkeley Carroll High School basketball. It's been a fun gig so far and actual money. Imagine that. Good god. Today, I ran into an old friend who was coaching the Staten Island Academy Girls Varsity team. We go back 10 years and I once worked for him in a similar capacity when he coached the Tottenville Boys team. P.S. I discovered just before that his former school hasn't won a game this year and has been blown out as much as the Knicks. Good! He got the shaft over a year ago. So justice is being served.
Anyway, you probably are thinking why am I even filling you in on this? Because maybe me and the old coach could be reunited at the JCC like old times. We'll see.
In any event, when it comes to this intro title, I may as well be discussing the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this year's Rangers. Can anyone honestly figure this team out? After winning five straight in which they only managed to allow six goals mostly due to great netminding by both Henrik Lundqvist and whipping boy Kevin Weekes, the Blueshirts had one of the worst weekends an NHL team could have- losing by a combined score of 15-3 at Toronto and then back home to the archrival Devils. Or as I like to call them the Satans!
Now it's one thing to not have it and lose 9-2 at the Air Canada Centre but quite another to get thoroughly embarrassed by a bitter rival on your own home ice the following night. A loss of discipline cost the Rangers big time last night as they allowed the Devils to connect three times out of five on the power play. That's like a week's worth for the offensively challenged team from New Jersey. (They also gave up six to a team that might be lucky to reach that total in the next three games). And in the same game, while the Blueshirts made their fans including myself feel eternally blue (no thanks to that vintage little Giant performance against the Eagles) with an awful 0-for on just as many PP opportunities, not only did they quit and force the home crowd to a quick exit reminiscent of what goes on in the Swamp. But also allowed the contingent of Devil supporters to turn MSG into their own adopted home. It is kind of ironic though that these fans who turn up in Manhattan are almost never found at their own abysmal arena which has morphed into a 24 hour construction site. I also found it funny that these "great fans" bragged about the "Let's Go Devils" chants with six or so minutes left with their team comfortably in front. Where were those chants earlier when the game was still close? Guess they feared another monumental Devils collapse or just weren't brave enough to pull it when the building was still full. That's what I'll never get about Devil fans.
So what's wrong with the Rangers? Well, the effort certainly hasn't been there the last two games. But also, they were lucky to beat Dallas before this weekend thanks to Lundqvist. What did he finish with? 43 or 44 saves? They are a weird team. But then again, you could say that for almost any of the four Atlantic teams who are separated by five or six points. The Devils looked like world beaters recently also winning five straight before coming down to earth with three consecutive losses before a strong response last night. So who wants this pathetic division? Stay tuned.
So today, the Rangers finally waived defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. Carrying his $2.75 million salary wasn't making much sense. But neither does basically placing the blame on the much maligned vet who worked hard to return early after such a tumultuous offseason which included taking part in the league drug and alcohol rehab program and recovering from offseason surgery. For the most part, the former Av who helped them win the Cup in 1996 acquitted himself well. He didn't take as many chances in Tom Renney's system and tried to make pairing with Karel "Poti II" Rachunek watchable. So when does Poti II stop cashing a paycheck? Nevermind.
With Ozolinsh out of the picture and Marek "Big Bird" Malik straining his groin and missing the final two periods last night, the Rangers recalled Thomas Pock from Hartford. The 25 year-old Pock who was once a Hobey Baker finalist has lingered for most of the season waiting for another chance to break into the lineup. Why Ranger management is so afraid to put him in is mindboggling. Is he really worse than what they got? The best D on the roster is Michal Rozsival. Malik gets bashed a lot but the team is actually worse without him. Recently, Fedor Tyutin and Aaron Ward have struggled. When an out of shape Darius Kasparaitis is outperforming most of your regulars, you know things are bad. And I like Kaspar but come on. Aside from that, the fans have grown tired of the predictable man-advantage where the pointmen never shoot and continue to overpass to Jaromir Jagr's right side allowing for opposing PK units to just overplay and leave the points vacated. Brendan Shanahan is given little space. The fans last night chanted, "Bring Back Leetch." And really, can the aging Leetch look out of place running the Blueshirts power play? At this point no. A move I have been against for seemingly ever now makes sense because the one thing No.2 can do is run a PP and take some pressure off Jagr, Shanahan, Martin Straka and Michael Nylander. So will it happen now that Ozo's salary is coming off the cap? We'll see.
With the dreaded Islanders coming in for the second match-up of the season tomorrow (a game I'll be at in 411), the team needs to show a pulse. Especially after getting shellacked this weekend and outclassed by those same Fishsticks two weeks prior 7-4 once again at MSG in the Viktor Kozlov career game (4 goals). It's hard to say what will happen. But it's another big game between two rivals in a division nobody wants. Will someone please step up already? Till tomorrow.