Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rachunek = Suckage

This guy has to be the worst defenseman to ever play for the Rangers. How was his latest performance? Let's see:

A.Roughly a minute after the Rangers got the lead on Brendan Shanahan's PPG which I was told shouldn't have even counted (depending on the skate rule as the Leafs bench bitched about but the review said otherwise), Karel Rachunek struck again with a mistimed boarding penalty. Not long after, Alexei Ponikarovsky's centering feed went off the back of Aaron Ward's skate and in to tie it. This seems to happen a lot with this team at home. They get leads only to botch them quickly. Might explain the disgusting 10-15 record on home ice. No, I don't go by the new piece of crap NHL rules!

B.With the game hanging in the balance about halfway thru the final stanza, Rachunek decided to pinch and take a shot which had no chance of getting through traffic. Predictably, Leafs defenseman Ian White intercepted it and then found a streaking Mats Sundin in stride at the Ranger blueline. The Swedish Leaf captain then beat his countryman Henrik Lundqvist with a wicked wrister off the bar and in for his 20th of the season. That was enough for the Leafs to get the win and pull two points up on the Rangers for eighth in the East.

So what can be concluded aside from the fact Rachunek is god awful:

1.Jaromir Jagr and his linemates Michael Nylander and Martin Straka didn't show. Where was the leadership from No.68?

2.Outside of the third line (really the 2nd) of Ortmeyer, Cullen and Prucha, nobody established much. Hello coach! Playing Shanahan with Betts and Hossa isn't working. And if your top line isn't going, why not break it up and have someone play with Shanny to try to get the tying goal in such a crucial game?

3.Daniel Girardi, who played a great second game got 12:49 of ice-time. For some reason, he wasn't out there down the stretch as the coach shortened the bench. Mindboggling.

4.The club missed Michal Rozsival (knee sprain) badly.

5.Colton Orr suited up in Ryan Hollweg's place. To his credit, he was good in his 4:42 of ice throwing a couple of thunderous checks. But he didn't play enough to make an impact as Renney opted to doubleshift Shanahan in the third.

6.Toronto got six penalties including a couple of tacky ones. The Cullen holding call with over a minute left in the contest was in one word disgusting and typical of the Bettman new NHL. There was an article written the other day on yahoo about Bettman's 15-year anniversary. It was appropriately entitled "Happy Unhappy 15th Anniversary." Signaling all the moronic moves this dopey commish has made.

Here is the link:

Unhappy anniversary

We'll go over some of it tomorrow and why much of Dan Wetzel's article makes sense.

Interesting Stats

If you like stats, here's a couple of interesting ones coming from the NHL Today after last nite which involve two metro area teams:

There have been 26 last-minute, game-tying goals in 2006-07, four more than at this stage of the 2005-06 campaign. Clubs scoring such goals have been successful in carrying the momentum through the game's conclusion, posting a 17-0-9 record.

New Jersey Devils RW Brian Gionta leads the League with three last-minute, game-tying goals (at 19:22 in a 7-6 victory over Toronto, Oct. 12, at 19:48 in a 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville Oct. 19 and at 19:39 in a 4-3 victory over Philadelphia Jan. 20).

Not surprising that Gionta leads the league. He's clutch. As ESPN's John Buccigross says, "Clutch is everything in life." That sums up the Mighty Mite who I despise when our teams clash. Cause I know he's going to be in front getting one of those tips in front or finding a loose rebound.

And now for one Fishstick fans will be yelling and screaming over:

The Islanders led the Red Wings 3-0 in the third period but Detroit rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory at Nassau Coliseum. It was only the fifth time in Islanders history that they failed to win a home game in which they led by three-or-more goals in the third period. The other instances were a 6-6 tie against the North Stars in November 1980, a 7-6 loss to the Penguins in October 1991, a 5-5 tie versus Ottawa in October 1993 and a 3-3 tie with the Bruins in December 1995.

In the kind of race they're in, that hurts big time. Sure, they got at least a point for the third straight game since the Break. But it's not enough. Especially with the teams around them getting their act together. The Pens have been red hot lately and the Lightning continue to win. The Rangers take a two-game win streak into a huge clash against Toronto tonight. For whatever reason, the game begins at 7:30 instead of 7:00. We're not sure why. But it will be a big one between two Original Six clubs fighting for playoff positioning.

Don't forget to tune into our NY Hockey Report show tonight from 8:05-9 PM. It looks like Gary Harding will be flying solo at the start before I call in after the first period.

Check us out by going to:

Then go to the NY Hockey Report link and click to listen live. It should be a fun show. See ya'll later!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Devils Lose to Thrashers

Not much to divert from what Derek said. I only saw the third period, as my crazy swinging drinking teenage lifestyle (Read: Mock Trial) continued.

I'll agree, from what I saw, a fantastic game. I feel like the Devils proved they can keep themselves in a high-scoring game. Great goal by Madden in regularion, then Hossa in the Shootout.

A playoff series, particularly late-rounded, would be insane. Imagine Holik in the Swamp for a Conference Finals?

It'd probably go to the Devils in 6, but be a preamble to the Thrashers winning the Cup in 2008, similar to NJ's victory of the Lightning in 2003.

Devils Outshot By Thrashers In Exciting Affair

Alright. I'll echo the same thoughts everyone's favorite homer color analyst Chico Resch concluded as it neared the end of OT into the predictable shootout:

"One of the best games I've seen this year."
It was that kind of game between two evenly matched Eastern teams battling for that second seed in Phillips Arena. Rarely will you ever see the Devils in a wide open affair that's back and forth like the one tonight which they fell 5-4 to the Thrashers to tie each team for that second spot with 66 points apiece. Six behind Buffalo, who finally snapped their season worst three-game skid with a 7-1 explosion over the hapless Bruins. It featured a hat trick by recent All Star MVP Daniel Briere and also the key return of top defender Henrik Tallinder. Want to know the key to Buffalo? They improved to 17-1-1 with Tallinder in their lineup.

I'll be honest. I'd love to see these teams meet in a playoff series because I feel it would be a potential classic. Sure, their styles are very different. While the Swamp Rats play an airtight system reliant on discipline, the Thrashers like to open it up and use their speed. Maybe the clash in styles is what makes their games so much fun to watch. You can't say either has an advantage at this point.

What can be concluded is that the Devils can thank their shutdown line for the point they got. Trailing 4-3 in the third thanks to a Glen Metropolit power play tally, it was a smart play by the underrated Sergei Brylin which setup the tying goal. Catching the Thrashers in a line change, he utilized his speed to find a vacated John Madden at the goalmouth for a nifty redirection which tied it.

If you thought the action stopped there, wrong! This was back and forth with each team getting quality chances to take the lead. But both goalies were up to form to get it to OT. In it, the wild pace continued as each pressed for the 'W.' But it was the Devils who controlled it. If it was Hart hopeful Martin Brodeur's two stops in the final minute of regulation which got it to this point, it was Kari Lehtonen's big saves in the 5:00 session which forced a shootout.

In it, it was the Thrashers' skill which was the difference. First, Slava Kozlov, who always seems to score in these, nudged a backhand off the pad of Brodeur and just over the line. We're still trying to figure out how it went in. Down one, the Devils went to shootout ace Brian Gionta to tie it. And he came through with his patented backhand deke where Lehtonen left way too much room for him to tuck it in. Then Marian Hossa flat out made Brodeur look silly. It's not often the future Hall of Famer looks this bad. If you recall, it was Hossa's lesser skilled younger brother Marcel who beat him upstairs over the stickside. Well, older bro basically used the same move except making it look even easier. Pumping his leg and waiting for Brodeur to go down, he ripped it upstairs to give Atlanta the 2-1 lead. Super soph Zach Parise nearly tied it but his forehand backhand forehand toe drag move was repelled by a sliding Lehtonen pad. As Doc Emrick would say, "A remarkable stop." After the Atlanta ice got the better of Ilya Kovalchuk during a weak attempt which Brodeur ate up, the Devils turned to Madden. He previously was a perfect three-for-three. But tonight, the tying goalscorer's luck would run out as he ran out of real estate on his backhand attempt to give Atlanta the victory.

We'll leave it to Steve to further comment on this game.

So, while I was typing this entry, I noticed that the Islanders managed to blow a 3-0 third period lead to Detroit and then lose in OT on a ridiculous no-look backhand pass setup by Norris wonder Nicklas Lidstrom. Looking like Brian Leetch, he went through three Isles and then dealt the feed to a streaking Henrik Zetterberg, who buried it into a wide open net for the crushing winner in Nassau Coliseum. I'm sure our cohost Gary Harding will be displeased tomorrow night during our NY Hockey Report show. I'll be calling in live from The Garden at the Leafs-Rangers game. It should be interesting.

The Pens won yet again to pull two points ahead of the Rangers thanks to a 3-0 blanking of Florida. And the Lightning drove Flyer fans crazy in NHL Siberia by tying it late and then predictably beating them in a shootout 2-0. How predictable was it? Let's just say that I called Brad Richards' goal which was a cardinal copy of the one he beat Brodeur on a couple of weeks prior. And naturally, Flyer team captain Peter Forsberg tried his backhand with no success once again. God. Can he get any lamer? And so the Lightning and Pens are both tied with 56 points for sixth in the conference while the Rangers are eighth two behind. With their win in Carolina, Toronto pulled within two of the Rangers making tomorrow's contest a must win.

Devils Lose Discipline

So I tuned into some of the Devils-Thrashers game in time to see Ilya Kovalchuk score his second power play goal of the first with Scott Mellanby setting a perfect screen in front of Martin Brodeur. Of course, Brodeur wasn't too pleased about this. But Mellanby never touched him and just used his veteran smarts to distract the goalie from seeing the shot.

Fast forward a couple of minutes later when the Devils were assessed a bench minor for abuse of officials probably for protesting a good noncall. There was team captain Patrik Elias having a lengthy discussion with the one of the officials before a faceoff. And I'm glad the guys at the production truck in Atlanta picked this up. The Devils entered as the most disciplined team in the league. At last check, it wasn't even close. So was it any surprise that when calls went against them, they were upset? Of course not. They're not used to being in the penalty box.

And apparently, whatever Elias said worked as they wound up getting the next three power plays in less than a 6:00 span. And would you believe they scored twice to tie it? Of course. They're the Devils. When they get the calls, they take advantage. That's why you got to be extremely smart when playing them. Any little hole and your lead is gone. Atlanta imploded against them last time too back at the Meadowlands in a 2-1 loss.

In any event, it changed the momentum of this 2nd place game in the East which now is 3-3. Zach Parise broke a drought and Niclas Havelid cameback to knot it. Now Colin White just lost his mind and took an unnecessary penalty late in this seesaw period which has had a little bit of everything.

It should be an interesting third.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Captain Ort Leads The Way

Alright, the headline probably has some people chuckling. But if you've watched the new and improved Jed Ortmeyer since he returned from a life threatening pulmonary embollism condition, then you can appreciate how well Ort is playing. He also was a ton of fun while mic'd up by Versus. Singing apparently is part of his daily routine.

As I noted on the Outside The Garden forum Jed has definitely improved offensively. There were a couple of recent games where he was getting more scoring chances and getting tough shots on net. Well tonight, the hard work paid off as he had a career best three points (all assists) in an impressive Rangers 6-1 rout of the Bruins up in Boston.

This was a very solid performance. The second straight game since the All Star break that you couldn't find anything to complain about. Even the power play connected when out of all players, Michael Nylander "went hard to the net and shot the puck," taking a hard check by Andrew Alberts to score his 16th goal late in the third, putting an exclamation point on the 'W.'

So, how good was Ortmeyer in this game along with linemates Matt Cullen and Petr Prucha? The trio was splendid following up a very effective game in NHL Siberia with an even more inspired one tonight which produced results:

Prucha-2 goals, 1 assist
Cullen-goal, 2 assists
Ortmeyer-3 assists

No, this isn't a misprint. They combined for nine points and were absolutely dominant. Btw those are your three stars. A miracle that Renney just might have found the right combo. Now if only he could find someone to play with Brendan Shanahan at even strength. Another day I guess.

The 28 year-old Omaha Nebraska native was the catalyst. His grunt work in the corners resulted in both of Prucha's tallies. And his hustle on the PK resulted in Cullen's shorthanded tally which gave the club a three goal lead after two periods.

The best part about the trio was they easily could've had another one in the third, which tells you how well they clicked.

Aside from that line, every other Ranger competed extremely hard. Team captain Jaromir Jagr might've been held off the scoresheet but he didn't take any shifts off.

A shorthanded Shanahan was rewarded with a phantom penalty shot in the middle of the third. Yes, it was a bad call as he did get a shot off which went wide. But hey, he needed a break and got it, by going to the backhand top shelf inside the bar against Hannu Toivonen or as my brother refers to him as Toivo Trash. It was Shanny's first ever penalty shot goal in four tries and put him back in the club lead with 25 goals this season (one better than Martin Straka).

Only drawback was Michal Rozsival left in the second and didn't return, forcing Renney to play five D in the third and mix up pairings. His status won't be known till tomorrow.

So, what else did I like about this game?

1.Daniel Girardi asserted himself well in his 2nd game logging 16:33 and finishing plus-one. Could the Rangers have a steal? He really has looked good. He doesn't do anything flashy but doesn't have to.

2.Marcel Hossa was on the puck most of the night and had some near misses on the PP in the first. He takes the body well and works hard. It's just a matter of finally getting rewarded.

3.Henrik Lundqvist had an easy night. Yeah, he made 29 saves but how many of them were tough? This felt like a Devil game where the D does the job and doesn't allow any real pointblank chances. He barely broke a sweat.

What we saw tonight was a desperate team playing very determined on the puck all night. That's how the Rangers must be if they want to qualify for their second consecutive postseason in this crazy Eastern race. The win was their second in a row and improved their record to 25-21-4, tying eighth seeded Tampa Bay with 54 points. By virtue of one less game played, they moved percentage points ahead.

And so, the club's next test comes against another competitor in Toronto when they return to MSG Wednesday night to host the 10th seeded Leafs (52 pts). The last time the two met, the Leafs spanked them 9-2 up in Air Canada Centre on December 16. So the Rangers definitely owe them some payback. If they come with the same team effort, they'll come out victorious. But they'll have to also deal with the Leafs' physicality. It will be a true test.

Callahan Scores Winner In AHL All Star Game: Congratulations to Hartford All Star Ryan Callahan on tallying the winning goal up in Toronto tonight for Planet USA in their 7-6 win over Canada during the AHL All Star Game. It's no secret that the Rochester native has flourished in his first season of pro leading the Wolf Pack with 29 goals. Hopefully, he'll get another opportunity later this year with the big club.

Canadiens Retire Dryden's No.29: Congrats are in order for Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, who finally had his No.29 retired by the Canadiens tonight, becoming the 12th Hab to have such a prestigous honor. The 59 year-old former Leafs' executive was one of the best goalies ever, leading Montreal to six Stanley Cups during the 1970's. Originally selected by the Bruins 14th overall in the 1964 NHL Amateur Draft, he opted to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree at Cornell University rather than turn pro and play for Boston. Due to his failure to report back in '64, the Bruins traded him to Montreal for Guy Allen and Paul Reid. Both never even became NHLers.

It was in the middle of 1971 that Dryden made his Canadiens' debut. How well did he perform? Only wound up leading them to the Cup and taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. Still not considered a rookie, he cameback the next season and won the Calder. It was during the 1972-73 season that he established himself as one of the league's best netminders by winning his first Vezina for best goalkeeper. It was the first of five Vezinas for Dryden as he went on to share the award four consecutive times from 1976-79 when he helped lead Montreal to four straight Cups before retiring at the tender age of 31. He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.

Just how remarkable was Dryden's seven-year career up in Montreal? In 397 regular season games, he was 225-57-61 with a 2.24 GAA. Even more impressive was the 46 shutouts posted, meaning he almost had as many career blankings as total losses. That is utterly unthinkable.

It should also be pointed out that after leading the Habs to their second Cup and taking home his first Vezina in 1973, Dryden held out during the 1973-74 season due to displeasure with the contract the team offered him. How many more wins and shutouts would he have been good for during that year off? Who knows. But he had a very brief but dominant career which makes him one of the best goalies to ever lace'em up. We'll leave where No.29 ranks up to debate.

Flames Reacquire Conroy: As noted by Rob earlier in his Islander weekly entry, center Craig Conroy is going back to Calgary. Three years removed from almost leading them to their second Cup, the former No.1 center was shipped to Alberta earlier today by the lottery bound Kings for ex-Ranger farmhand Jamie Lundmark, a 2007 fourth round pick and a 2008 second rounder. While it's true the Flames gave up two picks for the versatile Conroy, this is a solid deal for them. With C Daymond Langkow on pace for a career season and Matthew Lombardi also playing well at the pivot, Conroy provides some depth up the middle and maybe even a little more offensive balance. With Krisitan Huselius (21 goals) lighting it up en route to his own career season, getting the experienced Conroy makes sense. He can play in a scoring or checking role and is also reliable at winning faceoffs as well playing in any situation. It makes Calgary stronger as they push for another Stanley Cup appearance. The best part is they only lost the replaceable Lundmark off the roster. In 39 games, he had zero goals and four assists. Can you say nothing?

In reply to Rob's pointed statement that he'd begin doing Ranger entries if the Isles got Forsberg. If they gave up that package, I wouldn't blame ya. That's insane. The other rumor of Hill for Kotalik is interesting. While Hill has played well on the blueline, the Isles could use another offensive player up front. Kotalik certainly would fill that void.

What's Next for Isles?

The positive point of view is that the Islanders took 3 of 4 points from two tough teams. The negative point of view is that the Isles have to put in 110% effort to achieve that outcome. Just as they have gotten 3/4 points they could easily lose four out of the next five games, because, frankly, they are missing a few key pieces. Not to beat a dead horse, but this team is going nowhere without a solid second line center (some might say a solid first line center too!). They may hang around the eighth spot for awhile, but will eventually start to fade away. I've been a proponent of doing a deal now rather than Feb 27th and the rumor mill is starting to heat up.

Conroy going to the Flames today may open the floodgates for some substantive deals before the deadline. Islanders rumors include Forsberg to the Isles for a first rounder, Grebs, and Okposo. I will instantly start writing Rangers blogs if this goes down. Forsberg is like a BMW on the outside held together with rubber bands on the inside. You may go a few feet with no problem before it all comes apart.

Other rumors have Bates going to Carolina for Tanabe - (I'm not sure whom this helps but Bates has been better of late and Laviolette loves him from his days on LI) and Blake going to the Canes for Ladd or Hutchinson (No thanks on this too).

Rumor out of Buffalo has Ales Kotalik coming to LI for Sean Hill. I would do this deal if the Islanders were fading and no longer in the hunt for a playoff spot. Hill has played great but in terms of moves to better the club for the future, it makes sense.

Finally, the annual Fred Modin to the Islanders for who knows what is floating around as well. Modin is having a so-so year with much less points than in the TB days.

See ya later.

Hall of Fame goalie Worsley passes away At 77

Saturday, the NHL lost one of its Hall of Famers Gump Worsley. The former goalie who didn't wear a mask until his final season with the Minnesota North Stars in a brilliant 21-year career passed away at the age of 77 Friday at his home in Beloeil. He had suffered a heart attack last Monday.

Small in stature, the five foot-seven Worsley debuted with the Rangers in 1952-53 winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. After spending his first 11 years on Broadway, the netminder was dealt to Montreal for Hall of Fame goalie Jacques Plante. It was in Montreal where Worsley shined the most, backstopping the Canadiens to four Stanley Cups in 1965, '66, '68 and '69. During that span, he won 29 of 36 playoff games.

He also went on to win two Vezinas in 1966 and 1968 for the game's best goalie. During his distinguished career, he finished with a record of 335-352-150 to go with a 2.88 goals against average (GAA) and 43 shutouts in 861 games. His postseason record was 40-26 with a 2.76 GAA and five shutouts.

The four-time All Star ('61, '62, '65, '72) concluded his brilliant career with Minnesota in 1973-74, wearing a mask for the first time in his final six games.

Worsley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Brett Hull

I saw what he said and pretty much had the same reaction. If the Rangers had a better D, I might agree. But when you look at some of Renney's line combos, it's basically begging to trade for a real No.2 center. The problem is Forsberg would cost a lot in terms of prospects and maybe picks. Considering all the injury history and the question marks surrounding his status this summer, it makes little sense to deal for him. I've said it before. But the solution must come from Hartford. Daniel Girardi was a start on the backline yesterday. What does AHL All Star and Pack leading scorer Ryan Callahan (29 goals encounting after a hat trick in an OT win last night) have to do get another shot?

So, if you're the Devils and you don't score a lot of goals, who scares you the most as a potential first round match-up?

A.Tampa Bay

Brett Hull is a Moron, Part 2

How about "Hully's" insinuation that Brendan Shanahan has been begging for a center all season (like Peter Forsberg)? Brendan Shanahan could use 4 or 5 defensemen before he could use a center. I'm all for Hull speaking his mind, but Ferraro or Clement needs to call him on it when he says something stupid. Peter Forsberg would NOT make the Rangers a Stanley Cup winner because playoff games are not won by a count of 7-6.

Otherwise, Emrick-Olczyk-McGuire got chemistry pretty quick eh? Paul Kukla agreed with me that they are already tops. JD who? The difference between Edzo and JD is that Edzo seems willing to argue with Pierre a little bit. This announcing team has now become quotable.

Eddie: "It's not about the stick, it's the guy holding the stick".
Pierre: "You're turning into your friend Mike Keenan".

Doc: "Datsyuk was unable to get by, must be the stick."

If NBC could add 5 or 6 more games to it's schedule, it could really run on all cyllinders. The program will not run for more than 3 weeks straight this season. These guys won't build chemistry if they don't see eachother. It's like when CBS has the MLB game of the week in the early 90's. They have to add some games. It's better than ABC, who never aired more than 5 in a season, but not quite what we need just yet.

Rangers at Boston on Versus on Monday at 7. Also available on Versus HD. Doc and Edzo calling it again? I sure hope so.

Paging The NHL

So as I was watching the third period of this not too thrilling Avs-Wings game (Detroit's dominating them making a 1-0 lead feel like 5-0), I stumbled across some more "great news." As it turned out, the league's 55th All Star Game took it on the chin last Wednesday. Just how bad was it? Compared to 2004 when they ran the game on a weekend, they dropped 76 percent. The most disturbing aspect:

While Wednesday's game was the most-watched cable show that night in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, it did not place among the top 20 cable shows in NHL markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington and Miami.

Anyone hear the alarms going off yet? Look. We all knew moving the game to a weeknight on a station (Versus, OLN or Nature and Pioneering) few could find was not a wise move. Especially when you consider their stiff competition in American Idol. I might be one of the few who don't watch it but many do just to hear what kind of criticism Simon will say. Or maybe they just watch for Paula Abdul?

I just don't see how this is positive for a league that has lost interest. They're trying to rebuild the game.'s not working! When diehard fans who go back 40 years admit that they didn't watch the NHL's marquee game, it's not a good sign. Part of the problem is it's become an exhibition with little passion showed. There's absolutely no intensity. But what can be done? Players don't want to get hurt in such a game which explains the lack of physicality.

I don't agree with taking an entire week off either. It kills the momentum. Three days is plenty of time to rest. In a league where there already are too many games with the playoffs extending into the summer heat of June, there's no reason for it. Personally, I feel they should cut down to either 76 or 72 games. But that will never happen. I also believe the regular season needs to finish a little earlier. This way they can have more of a big stage than getting overshadowed by the NBA. The postseason should be over by the end of May.

One of the big topics discussed by NBC studio host Bill Clement along with sidekicks Ray Ferraro and the controversial Brett Hull was the unbalanced schedule. The consensus was that they should ditch it because not every Western hockey fan will get to see the league's best young player Sidney Crosby. Ferraro went out of his way to trash the Northeast Board of Governors for voting to keep it the way it is, ending a three-year cycle next season. I am pretty mixed on this whole issue because I like rivalry games. And when you can play your divisional foes eight times, it puts more emphasis on it and could mean closer races although you'd never know it by how uncompetitive the Atlantic is. I also understand Ferraro and Hull's point about selling the game. If only there were a way to satisfy all parties. Maybe play divisional foes seven times a year instead of eight?

At present there are 82 games played. This is the breakdown:

vs division foes: 8 each totaling 32 games
rest of conference: 4 each totaling 40 games
2 divisions from other conf: 1 each totaling 10 games

The league dilemma is that one conference division won't see everyone. Of course, it's hard to fix this under the current format. When natural Original Six rivals such as Toronto and Chicago meet for the first time in almost five years, there's a problem. I think every Original Six should play each other every year. So how can it be possible under this format? It can't.

What would I do? Let's try something that could make everyone happy:

vs division foes: 7 each totaling 28 games
rest of conference: 4 each totaling 40 games

Total so far: 68 games

That leaves 14 for the opposing conference which wouldn't be bad. You'd get to play almost everyone. So at worst, you'd see a Crosby, Ovechin, Spezza, Brodeur, Hossa, Phaneuf, Kopitar, Thornton, Kiprusoff, Havlat from the other conference every two years.

Here's another option:

vs division foes: 8 each totaling 32 games
rest of conference: 3 each totaling 30 games

Total so far: 62 games

Who needs to see the other two divisions in your conference more than three times? Missing one Florida game isn't going to be too upsetting. The only problem I see is who gets the extra home game? One team will have 2 home games while the other gets only 1. And if it can be worked out to satisfy everyone, that leaves 20 games on the schedule meaning you would get to play everyone at least once in the other conference. But what would be the need for playing Games 78, 79, 80, 81 and 82? But there's no way they'd decrease to an odd amount of games (77). There wouldn't be a balance.

Dare we suggest Option 3:

vs division foes: 8 each totaling 32 games
rest of conference: 2 each totaling 20 games

Total so far: 52 games

This would leave 30 games against the other conference, meaning you'd get to play each team twice at home and on the road. It also would mean you play the other two divisions in your conference one at home and once on the road. The dilemma is fairly obvious. It would put a lot of wear and tear in regards to travel which was the main reason they made the switch to the unbalanced schedule in the first place. So what about using this formula and subtracting 10 games? That would total 72 games. Everyone would still see the other conference at least once. Use the extra five games to play one opposing conference division again. So let's try an example:

Rangers- played all 3 Western Conference divisions. They hosted the Central. So Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Columbus and St. Louis aren't happy cause they didn't see Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers play those other five in each city.

It would be a good way to create rivalries with the other conference because even if you only see these teams once the next year, it would add more intensity to those games.

So, can it be done in the future? I guess we'll have to wait another year.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Funny Video Time

Okay. So I can imagine Steve either doesn't feel like posting about how in the world the Devils lost at Florida or maybe he's out partying again. Get your groove on kid!

I'm not going to bother with too many details except for one thing. How the hell did Joel Kwiatkowski get the game winner? Sorry man. Well if I were in your shoes, I might have a few drinks after that too. All kidding aside, you can't win every night. And besides, you got the Atlantic wrapped up. So at worst, you're a 3 seed. But the way Buffalo's going, who knows?

Which makes me wonder what the heck is going on with the Sabres? They lost again this time to the Islanders in Uniondale, blowing a 3-2 lead and falling 5-3. Clearly, Lindy Ruff's bunch is going through a bad patch right now. And the defense has been weakened by the noticeable absence of the steady Henrik Tallinder. It's little coincidence that Buffalo is giving up more goals with him out. His presence is sorely missed. I know this streak is killing my Sabres buddy Brian out in Anaheim. Hang in there man.

Basically, all the bottom teams competing for the eighth seed won. So the Rangers were unable to pickup any ground.

And with it pretty much being a wasted night, I found a classic video on You Tube which amused me before. I think it's the perfect cure for Steve or any upset fan who needs a good laugh. I love comedy and I'm sure you'll love this classic mock video of "Barbie Girl" too. Here was a reaction from my Devil buddy Kraze before.

Kovy274Hart [11:35 PM]: no reaction?
KrAzE96 [11:35 PM]: wtf
KrAzE96 [11:35 PM]: is that
Kovy274Hart [11:35 PM]: this video is hilarious
KrAzE96 [11:35 PM]: lmao
Kovy274Hart [11:35 PM]: tell me something that right there was more exciting than either of our hockey teams' games
KrAzE96 [11:35 PM]: well at least your team didnt lose to the panthers

And with that, here is the hilarious video. I promise it's worth the watch:

Stone Hand Idiots = Win In Cheesesteak Town

How often can you say that the fourth line was the difference in a Ranger victory this season? Exactly. Crazy as it might sound, that's exactly what took place in Cheesesteak town this afternoon as the Blueshirts edged NHL Siberia Philadelphia 2-1, dealing them their ninth consecutive defeat. Man, when's the last time the Flyers were this dreadful? Nevermind.

Anyway, from start to finish the Rangers were the better team. But you'd never know it by the score. That's because they had trouble finishing in this tilt. They came out very strong and even had five power plays in the opening period but failed to capitalize. Despite better puck movement and more shots, they couldn't beat Robert Esche. Though Brendan Shanahan (2 posts) and Jaromir Jagr (1 post) came close, the Rangers had nothing to show after one despite outshooting the Flyers 17-4.

The good news for them was that they got off to a quick start in the second thanks to a nifty Jagr redirect of a Karel Rachunek shot less than a minute in putting them ahead. It was his second consecutive game with a goal as he also tallied the lone Ranger goal in a 3-1 loss to Atlanta last Saturday.

But the lead didn't last long. Less than three minutes later, Flyer defenseman Joni Pitkanen tied it on a delayed penalty. It was started by the much talked about Peter Forsberg, who whipped a perfect diagonal pass to Mike Knuble, who in one motion passed across for a cutting Pitkanen, who then buried it past Henrik Lundqvist at 3:24. It was the only offense the Flyers would get on a day which saw them register just 18 shots due to an improved Ranger team effort.

After the Flyers tied it, the second kind of dragged. The Flyers had their best sustained effort late in the stanza but couldn't really get the kind of shots they needed to take the lead. Some of them never made it to the net due to the Ranger D and others were just repelled by Lundqvist with nobody getting to rebounds due once again to the Rangers actually doing their jobs. Amazing, huh?

Even though it was kind of boring, there was some physical play which at least helped. All game, Ryan Hollweg was agitating the Flyers. In fact, I'd say this was one of his best games as he drew two power plays just by throwing a couple of hits and then drawing a retaliatory penalty from rookie Ryan Potulny and later a Flyer bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. But in the second, the Flyers had the better hits and that's when they played well. But all they could muster were six shots, totaling 10 for the first two periods.

The combination of being hungry and not being too excited about the end of the period convinced me to go make a strawberry omelette and listen to the beginning of the third via ESPN Radio with Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney calling the action. It worked in surprising fashion as a rare occurrence then happened. No. Shanahan didn't score at even strength. No. Petr Prucha didn't hit the back of the net. And no. Hollweg didn't register a point but actually was out there when the go-ahead goal happened. So he had something to do with it. Somehow, Jason Krog was able to trickle a backhand in front past Esche to give the Rangers the lead at 3:49. As Albert noted, it was only his second goal of the season and first as a Ranger. In fact, it was his first in 17 games since scoring a goal for Atlanta in his first game of the season back on November 24th last year. Amazing what happens when he's utilized as a fourth line pivot instead of as a "2nd line solution."

I'm still amazed that his goal was the difference in this game. Hey. Even Adam Hall who was back after three healthy scratches picked up an assist. Truthfully, that fourth line was effective today and even got enough ice-time. All three got at least 10 minutes as Coach Tom Renney rolled his lines. Got to love Krog's postgame assessment of their contribution:

"We just got the puck deep and did two or three cycles. Adam (Hall) threw it across the crease and I was just there banging it and it found its way in. We managed to get an ugly one...I'm sure our line is not looked upon to score too much. It's always nice to contribute whenever you can."

Yeah, it was ugly. And I remarked to my brother that that's probably the only way they could put one in. But it still counted.

So how was the rest of the period? Honestly, it was pretty boring as the Rangers actually reminded me of that other metropolitan rival that makes its living playing a perfect system infuriating opponents in the process. Yes, Steve. It was that kind of third period. The good news for the Broadway Blues is that they won to pull their record to 24-21-4 and temporarily tie Pittsburgh for the final playoff spot. The Pens have two games at hand and play later tonight at Phoenix.

I was also informed by Outside The Garden poster 51tyutin that Jagr indeed scored according to Swedish telecasts in the same period when his shot rang off the inside bar and back out. It did kind of make a funny sound. Nobody picked it up. Fortunately, it didn't prove costly. Speaking of Jagr, the Ranger team captain played one of his most inspired games of the season. Looking fresher after the week off, the 34 year-old former Hart winner was much better in all facets today. Skating like he cared and looking stronger and even backchecking, No.68 was all over the ice. There was even a shift late in the game when the moody Czech gave opposing star Forsberg the Jay Pandolfo treatment as MSG's Sam Rosen noted. Yes, he actually stayed with Forsberg during the shift until he went to the bench. It was quite impressive. This is the kind of play the Rangers will need from their team leader. The past couple of days, he admitted to the local press that he had to carry this club on his back. Well, Jaromir, today was a good start. Keep it up!

Here was Jagr after the win:

"For us it was a huge game. It doesn't matter if you win 1-0 or 6-5. We need to win a lot of games to make the playoffs."
The performance also earned high praise from Renney:

"He (Jagr) was great. He battled every inch of ice tonight. He certainly was the leader that we need at this point in time. I thought he played a terrific game amongst others. I don't know that there's a player we can single out tonight that didn't show up."

This was a solid game for the Rangers to build on. In particular, the third line of Jed Ortmeyer, Matt Cullen and Petr Prucha was good. They played with energy, recovered loose pucks in the Flyers zone and generated chances. I still don't think Prucha should be with them but they certainly deserve another look. Ort btw was the most impressive player on the line. He just seems to be gaining more confidence offensively and is taking more shots which is nice to see.

This also was 22 year-old rookie defenseman Daniel Girardi's NHL debut. The recent Hartford call-up who replaced waived veteran Darius Kasparaitis didn't look too bad in his first game. Paired with Fedor Tyutin, the righty D played a shade underneath 12 minutes and was steady for the most part. He was forced to take a penalty when the pair had a mix up leaving a Flyer open in front late in the first. But it was one of those good penalties. The only other problem he had was a change he made in the third where the Flyers quickly countered and almost got a good chance. But a hustling Aaron Ward got on in time to break up the play. Girardi will learn from that.

Notes: Jagr's 19th goal of the season was his 610th of his career, tying Bobby Hull for 13th on the all-time NHL list. ... After not practicing yesterday due to a stomach virus, LW Martin Straka was able to suit up in place of healthy scratch Jason Ward and logged 18:06 of ice-time and registered one shot. Still though, it was his diligent backchecking on one shift late while protecting the lead which forced the Forsberg line to change. Also healthy scratches were team enforcer Colton Orr and defenseman Thomas Pock. ... Making 17 saves, Lundqvist became the first Ranger netminder since Mike Richter to post back-to-back 20 win seasons. ... Rangers improved to 14-11-1 on the road as compared to 10-10-3 at home. ... With an assist, Forsberg notched his 602nd helper of his career to tie Kirk Muller for 68th on the NHL list. ... Flyer defenseman Randy Jones left the third period with a separated right shoulder. ... Esche finished with 33 saves in a losing effort. ... It was the Flyers' 10th consecutive loss on home ice. Their last win came back on November 24 against Columbus.

Devils in Florida

The Devils take on the enigmatic Florida Panthers tonight after that 2-0 win over the Lightning, didn't see much because of a party. I apologize Derek, I know we hockey nerds aren't supposed to have lives ;-).

I say the Devils will have a big win tonight against Olli and the Cats. Maybe a break-out game for a guy like Travis Zajac.

3 on NBC tomorrow. Colorado-Detroit is somehow airing on Channel 4. Really? With Philly-Atlanta on too? I guess the Flyers are that bad. Anyway, for Center Icers, Doc, Edzo and Pierre have COL-DET, Strader, Hayward and Micheletti have Dallas at Anaheim, and Cuthbert, McNab and Pang have Philthy-Atlanta.

Devils Off To Quick Start After Break

Well, it didn't take long for the Devils to continue their recent hot play. I believe they were something like 9-1-2 in their last 12 entering the All Star break. Predictably, that trend continued as they shutout the Lightning in Tampa 2-0.

Admittedly, I didn't catch much of this game as I was preoccupied with Jamal Crawford's 52 point performance which included 16 straight makes along with Serena Williams' destruction of Maria Sharapova for the Australian Open. If you saw it, you know how much of a mismatch it was. It's detailed as part of my other blog in which I provided a recap to appear later on NY Sportsday:

In regards to the Devil game, as it turned out, I didn't miss much. On the strength of a Brian Gionta goal (team-leading 22nd), the Devils used their usual team formula of stifling defense and Martin Brodeur's goaltending to pickup their 30th victory of the season giving the Atlantic Division leaders 65 points. Combined with Buffalo's 3-2 loss at Columbus, the Devils only trail the Sabres by five points for the conference lead. Remember when Buffalo had an insurmountable double digit lead? It's gone. And the Devils do boast a game at hand. What this will come down to is those three big match-ups the teams will play over the final portion of the season. I believe the Devils host the Sabres in about 10 days. I might try to get out to that one if my schedule permits. That should be a really exciting race where the two teams might also do battle with Western powers Nashville and Anaheim for the President's Trophy.

Brodeur made 28 saves for his league best ninth shutout of the season. I heard that he made one big glove stop of a Vaclav Prospal shot with about 4:00 left. Was that the only decent chance Tampa had? I'll leave that for Steve to answer later if he wants.

With that in mind, I have two schools of thought on the Devils right now. This team has scored the second fewest goals in the East. Only NHL Siberia Philadelphia is worse. What exactly that means I don't know. But if you're even the most diehard Satans' fan, you might be a little concerned about the offense. There have been past Devil teams who used this grind it out formula to perfection in the regular season producing division titles and 100+ points only to fizzle out in the playoffs due to you guessed it:

1.Not scoring enough goals
2.Running into a hot goalie

That's all it will take for Claude Julien's club to fail. Can it happen? Absolutely. When you look at the Devils' goal differential (128 GF, 111 GA for +17), they're playing a lot of tight games. That can take its toll. It also puts a great deal of pressure on everyone to execute the gameplan. One mistake and things can turn around quickly. Come playoff time, most teams tighten up and try to play the same mistake free hockey. But in this new NHL, there is a wrinkle to just playing team D. And that's playing an aggressive forechecking game utilizing team speed. Carolina did it last year. I believe the teams that attack the most will get rewarded. You can't always win every game 1-0 or 2-1. There are going to be some games where the Devils will need to open it up and finish.

Sure, they have guys such as Gionta, team captain Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner and super soph Zach Parise who can do that. But it will all depend on one thing. If they're playing from behind. This team is one of the best frontrunners in the sport. Give them a lead and it's like a death trap. They can milk the clock and wait for one of those turnovers in the neutral zone and pounce. But if you put them behind, the game becomes more difficult. It's not like the Devils can't muster up the attack. When behind, they become a lot more aggressive and even will pinch their D. They have proven that late in games, they can rally to tie them and force overtime. So they are very resilient.

Which brings me to my second school of thought. All these one-goal lowscoring games could benefit them this Spring. They have so much experience winning games such as last night's that it might be an advantage in the playoffs. Plus the core is still intact and knows what it takes to win. Which leaves me to conclude two things regarding this team:

1.Either they're going to reach the Cup Finals
2.Or get bounced in the first round

It could depend on who they face. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Interesting Stuff

As the league restarts tonight after almost a week off to celebrate the 55th All Star Game in Dallas, one of Versus' novel ideas which made the game fun to watch was their interactive goalie mic. As I noted the other night, hearing Marty Turco make some funny remarks while play was going on was great stuff.

Both myself and Sports Fan Mag's Greg Wyshynski agreed that the concept should be used more during regular season games. Imagine hearing what a netminder had to say after being run into or after giving up a goal they feel they should've stopped, etc. Wyshynski had an article which went into more detail about why it should be looked into along with some other All Star Game commentary:

It's a great read. And like Greg, one of the things I couldn't understand while I was doing my show was what the hell Chuck Norris was doing on my TV while play was going on. Who cares about whatever new lame show he has debuting. Remember when Conan used to show those silly lines from Walker, Texas Ranger? Point being the former Missing In Action star is more washed up than Jeremy Roenick!

As good as the goalie mics and rail cam were, there were still some things which boggled my mind. Like during the Skills Competition when they failed to put up a freaking clock while the Fastest Skater was taking place. Why not? I mean it shouldn't be that freaking hard. Instead, viewers just watched and had to determine if Patrick Marleau was beaten out by Andy McDonald. This from the same network which has those silly popup promo ads which go across the bottom of the screen while play is going on.

Also, I know they love to show different looks as these guys make their individual moves. But at one point, a camera switched to the other end of the ice where nothing was going on. Meaning they actually missed a couple of shots. That's inexcusable.

I also thought the postgame wrap sucked. Who was it again? Bill Clement, Brian Engblom, Keith Jones and special guest Mark Messier. Did I miss anyone Steve? Anyway, they spoke for about 2-3 minutes and then signed off the air for whatever nature and valley program they had coming up which has nothing to do with hockey. How nice. What. They couldn't have stayed a little longer? Good god. Everyone thought the NHL moving from the Total Sports and Entertainment Network would be so great. Turns out it isn't. Even when it's supposed to be the centerpiece, it's crapped on.

Makes you really wonder wtf is going on.

And while we're back in hockey mode, so I see the Rangers put defenseman Darius Kasparaitis on waivers. He cleared yesterday. His $2.9 million salary must've factored in as well as the conclusion that he just didn't have much left. In a shocker, they recalled 22 year-old defenseman Daniel Girardi. The question is will he make his NHL debut tomorrow in Philly. And if he does, who will be scratched? Thomas Pock? It's just typical. Everyone knows the odd man out should be the worst defenseman to ever lace up the skates as a Blueshirt, Karel Rachunek. But will the coach actually do it? Of course not.

Now keep in mind also that Renney and staff took in Pack practices all week. And here is a disturbing quote from him about why nobody else was recalled courtesy of an article NY SportsDay's own Joe McDonald wrote:

“And it was a worthwhile trip. We're content with any number of people down there -- there are some kids there in a position to play here and help us. But at this point in time the numbers don't allow that to happen. We have to make some type of provision for that to happen. Whether or not we're able to do that should we choose to, that remains to be seen.”

Typical. They'd rather stick with what they have because of the salaries commited than take a chance of one of their offensively challenged bit forwards having to pass thru waivers. Who has more upside people? Jason Krog or Nigel Dawes? Marcel Hossa or Ryan Callahan? Ryan Hollweg or Dane Byers? Jason Ward or Jarkko Immonen? It's not that these guys don't try hard. They do. But on a team that clearly relies too much on their top four forwards, don't they need to try some other guys out and see if they can actually improve the offensive balance? And that's just what is so frustrating about this team. They are afraid of their shadows. Other teams have guts. I really am at a loss for words.

Hope ya'll enjoy the first batch of games tonight as the stretch drive begins!

Thank You Paul!

Thanks to Paul Kukla for plugging the blog on

Thursday, January 25, 2007

NY Hockey Report All Star Archive

Last night's show featured myself along with cohost Gary Harding and a "special guest" who's become a familiar lightning rod on our show. Can anyone say violins?

In all seriousness, it was a good show in which we brokedown the 55th NHL All Star Game which took place at American Airlines Center in Dallas. We tried to keep up with the goals in the West's 12-9 victory. The action was fast and furious as I mentioned in my previous All Star post. If the league was looking for good entertainment value, they got it. Along with the running dialogue between Dallas netminder Marty Turco and commentators Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk, it made for a fun watch. Btw...based on Turco's third period of work, I'd have given him the MVP over Eastern choice Daniel Briere. But maybe it would've been viewed as a hometown favoritism. Oh well.

In any event, also part of our show in the second segment was special guest Bob Gallerstein, who is in his second season as the New Jersey Devils PA announcer. The broadcasting extraordinaire detailed his background with us and was a solid interview.

Also covered in this show were our Midseason Awards along with some other wacky stuff .

There are a couple of options for catching last night's show archive.

If you want the podcast, it's here:

If you would rather listen to the streaming archive via Windows Media Player, it's here:

If you are interested in subscribing courtesy of iTunes, please go here:

We appreciate your support of the show and hope to always hear back from you on what can be done better. What would you like to see? More guests? A caller segment? More crazy production? My Tom Poti All Star campaign voice becoming a regular part of the show?

Want to find out what's coming up? Just check out out site:

Hope you puck fans have enjoyed the break! I know I did.

Devils First Half Review

This'll be a report on ONLY players who've appeared in 15 or more games. Sorry, Clemmy and Dan LaCouture.

1. Martin Brodeur (G)
THE STATS: 46 GP, 29-13-4, 2.01 GAA, .928 Save Pct., 8 Shutouts
THE FACTS: An absolute renissance season for Marty. He IS The Devils this year. Any other goalie, and we are nowhere near 1st place in the Division, and probably not in the playoff picture. Destined to play 70 once again, hell, maybe even 80. He might be able to do it. If he is, and still has energy for the postseason, we will contend for the Cup again.

2. Patrik Elias (LW)
THE STATS: 47 GP, 16 Goals, 28 Assists, 44 Points, -3, 18:21 per Game
THE FACTS: Patrik's transition to captain of the team has been uneasy at times, but his desire to lead this club has been admirable, and the players definitely seem to have an unspoken respect for #26. His offensive play also seemed to struggle in the early going, but has picked up big time of late, and could reach 90 Points at season's end if he keeps playing this well.

3. Brian Gionta (RW)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 21 Goals, 17 Assists, 38 Points, -2, 19:16 per Game.
THE FACTS: Brian just continues to score goals. It hasn't been at the pace it was last season, but he'll net at least 35 and maybe 40 by year's end. Success has not turned Gio into any different a player, as he still goes all out on ever shift.

4. Scott Gomez (C)
THE STATS: 40 GP, 9 Goals, 27 Assists, 36 Points, +6, 18:38 Per Game.
THE FACTS: Scott has been considered by many to be a disappointment, but the last 10 or so games, he's started shooting more and has been rewarded with some higher stats lately.

5. Zach Parise (C)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 17 Goals, 19 Assists, 36 Points, +2, 17:09 Per Game.
THE FACTS: Everyone expected improvement from THE ZACH, but he has been absolutely unbelievable, with a great first half capped with an MVP award at the NHL YoungStars Game in Dallas.

6. Jamie Langenbrunner (RW)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 16 Goals, 16 Assists, 32 Points, -2, 18:40 Per Game.
THE FACTS: He's tapered off his torrent pace as of late, but Jamie Langenbrunner remains worth the investment we made on him in the offseason. The guy does nothing but score goals at the most important spot possible.

7. Brian Rafalski (D)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 2 Goals, 29 Assists, 31 Points, +2, 25:44 Per Game.
THE FACTS: I've been hard on Raffy this season, but he's logged key minutes and somehow come out half of the season a plus player. Sometimes he's been uncharacteristically out of position, but his offensive input remains absolutely invaluable.

8. Sergei Brylin (LW)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 10 Goals, 15 Assists, 25 Points, -2, 17:32 Per Game.
THE FACTS: No one expected Sarge to have this kinda season. He has flourished offensively under Julien, and most forwards don't expect that when they get moved to the Madden line. He remains one of the most irreplaceable players in hockey. He is a guy you want a championship team.

9. Travis Zajac (C)
THE STATS: 46 GP, 8 Goals, 15 Assists, 23 Points, +3, 15:33 Per Game.
THE FACTS: Having a much better rookie season than Zach Parise did, and look what he's flourished into. Zajac will be a great asset for the future, he's shown that he can play with the big boys and chip in offensively, as well as play some "D".

10. John Madden (C)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 6 Goals, 13 Assists, 19 Points, -5, 18:38 Per Game
THE FACTS: Madden always comes to work with a purpose, and he always performs his tasks with flying colors. Jagr, Crosby, Ovechkin and others have all left the swamp dazed and confused this year because of John Madden and Jay Pandolfo

11. Paul Martin (D)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 1 Goal, 15 Assists, 16 Points, -7, 25:40 Per Game
THE FACTS: When Colin White went down, Martin stepped up and finally played the game the Devils think he's capable of. Until then, however, he has been putrid, looking less-than-solid in back and rarely contributing offensively.

12. Jay Pandolfo (LW)
THE STATS: 48 GP, 6 Goals, 9 Assists, 15 Points, -4, 18:09 Per Game
THE FACTS: See John Madden FACTS, just substitue Jay's name and add SELKE TROPHY WINNER to it.

13. Brad Lukowich (D)
THE STATS: 41 GP, 2 Goals, 5 Assists, 7 Points, +4, 20:00 Per Game
THE FACTS: I'm not as high and praise-filled with Lukoil as everyone else is. I think , like most of the Devs "D", he didn't step up until Whitey went down, but hes been very good as of late.

14. Johnny Oduya (D)
THE STATS: 42 GP, 1 Goal, 4 Assists, 5 Points, -2, 19:41 Per Game
THE FACTS: An absolute revelation, on Brian Rafalski-proportions. He has been this team's best defenseman when he has been in the lineup, all-around.

15. Mike Rupp/Jim Dowd/Eric Rasmussen/Cam Janssen (4th Line)
THE FACTS: They play on the fourth line, they play sparringly, and bad things rarely happen when they're out there. 'Nuff said.

16. Colin White
THE STATS: 40 GP, 0 Goals, 4 Assists, 4 Points, -7, 22:45 Per Game
THE FACTS: Poor Whitey's looked clueless out there at times. Frankly, I think he was overpaid this Summer, and he's been out-of-position and flat out out-of-place in every game he's been in.

17. David Hale
THE STATS: 29 GP, 0 Goals, 1 Assist, 1 Point, +3, 10:07 Per Game
THE FACTS: Hale plays 10 minutes a game? I could've sworn it was more like 3. Anyway, Hale hasn't been totally useless when out there, and he's a plus player, so you can't say much more than "He warms the bench quite well".

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

West 12 East 9

It was kind of predictable that the 55th NHL All Star Game was a wide open shootout with no defense to be found. It was during our NY Hockey Report show that I laughed at how Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray backed in allowing a free path to the net for Western sniper Teemu Selanne.

That's the kind of fast paced game it was. Lots of skating, free wheeling and skill was on display. The goalies were left to fend for themselves.

Still though, from what we saw, it looked like a lot of fun to watch. The thing I enjoyed the most was the nifty goalie mic they had on Stars netminder Marty Turco during the final period. It was an interactive mic where he could hear the Versus team of Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk and communicate with them throughout while play was going on. It was a bundle of laughs. One time when he was scored on, the former University of Michigan product told Ottawa's Dany Heatley to "Get out of here. Go celebrate somewhere else." How could a fan not love that? It's seeing the game within the game.

I particularly also liked when the East came in 2-on-1 and Marian Hossa setup Zdeno Chara on the doorstep for their second goal of the period just out of the reach of Turco's outstretched stack of the pads. Afterwards, he admitted to the guys that "I should have had it," going on to add that he correctly anticipated the pass but just missed getting there.

This was really cool to see a goalie provide such info. Imagine if they added that for a few regular season network telecasts. Aside from that, just listening to Turco's back and forth dialogue with Emrick was classic. He really seemed to be enjoying himself and even made some tough stops right after some plays developed. It was kind of ironic that after Martin Havlat scored to put it out of reach, the chatty netminder informed the guys that he needed to give up one more goal to get the victory. Fast forward to a Souray rush and blast which made it 11-9, ensuring him of that win, stopping 12 of 15.

Of course, what would it be without a funny bounce providing a comical conclusion? With Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf rocketed a clear off the boards that the puck took a weird hop and went directly into the vacated net 180 feet away.

In a losing effort, Buffalo's Daniel Briere was chosen as Game MVP. He picked up the first goal of the night and later added four assists for a game best five points. While he shined, top vote getter Sidney Crosby didn't manage to get on the scoresheet in his first All Star appearance. Kind of weird considering there were so many goals scored which left the 19 year-old to remark:

"There were 21 goals, you think I would have had one. I guess it wasn't meant to be. I had a few chances, it just didn't work out."

Maybe in future years, the wiz kid will get his chance to dominate. I'm sure it made my cohost Gary Harding's night that he was not only without a point but tied for a game worst minus-five. Somewhere Mr. Harding is laughing. He disdains Crosby with a passion.

Meanwhile, 2005-06 Calder winner Alexander Ovechkin scored his first career goal in the big game. But it wasn't his night to shine either.

Elder statesman Joe Sakic registered four assists in his 12th appearance to surpass Mark Messier's record of 14, lifting his total to 16. He now trails just Wayne Gretzky (25 pts) and Mario Lemieux (23) for the all-time lead in points. It just goes to show how brilliant a career the former 2001 Hart winner has had. Sure, he's played mostly in the shadows of No.99 and No.66 as well as Messier, Steve Yzerman and even Jaromir Jagr. But Sakic is one of the greatest players of our time. The best part about the original Nordiques' 1987 15th overall pick is that he's played his entire 19-year career with the Nords/Avalanche franchise. Already having led them to two Stanley Cups, the classy 37 year-old shows no signs of slowing down. He leads the revamped Avs in goals (20), assists (32), points (52, power play goals (10) and power play points (23). He's proven once again how valuable he is. The future Hall of Famer is six goals away from 600, needs 53 assists to reach 1000 and is 59 points shy of 1600. Amazing stuff from an very gifted player. Congrats in advance Joe!

For the locals, it was a fairly quiet night on the stat sheet. Martin Brodeur was victimized for six goals on 16 shots in a second period Western onslaught. Hey. He is human and it's an exhibition. But I was remarking to Greg of Sports Fan Magazine before that he looked fat in that new Reebok "form fitting jersey." It left us both to wonder how the three-time Cup winner, soon to be three-time Vezina winner and gold medallist could make some of the athletic stops he does. It's one of life's wonders.

Teammate Brian Rafalski notched two assists in defeat. Meanwhile, in his debut All Star contest, the Isles' Jason Blake also collected a pair of helpers. The lone Ranger representative and East team captain Brendan Shanahan was kept off the scoresheet.

Among the standouts included first-time All Star Yanic Perreault. All the overlooked 'Yotes center did was score twice and finish plus-five. Rick Nash had a couple of goals and assists for a four point outburst as did Brian Rolston. Martin Havlat added two goals and a helper.

In a losing effort, Boston's Zdeno Chara tallied twice but didn't become the first defenseman to record a hat trick in the celebrated game. Marian Hossa finished with four assists and Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists.

The only goalie who allowed less than three goals out of the six was Huet, who allowed just two get by him in the third on 10 shots.

Here are lots of pics from the game courtesy of yahoo:

55th NHL All Star Game Set For Tonight

We're about 10 minutes away from the festivities in Dallas at American Airlines Center. The 55th NHL All Star Game promises to be exciting and will feature some of the game's brightest young stars including Cold FX recipient and league-leading scorer Sidney Crosby, who was presented the award about an hour ago by Mark Messier himself. Crosby leads the NHL with 72 points and will attempt to become the youngest scoring champion ever at the tender age of 19.

Along with Sid the Kid will be rating Calder winner Alexander Ovechkin, who also is having an outstanding second season with 29 goals and 65 points for the Capitals. It should be interesting to see AO also teamed up with Daniel Briere, who he had separate incidents with back in December. How will they coexist?

Nine-time All Star Martin Brodeur will get the chance to shine in net in either the second or third period as Buffalo's Ryan Miller was tabbed the starter. Brodeur is one of the elder statesmen and is having maybe his best season for the Devils. Teammate Brian Rafalski will also be on the backline. Always underrated, the veteran American is one of the big reasons New Jersey continues its run atop the Atlantic.

Eight-time All Star Brendan Shanahan will be representing the Rangers and will captain the Eastern squad. Just turned 38, will he have any magic left in those hands which have connected for 622 career goals including 24 this season, tying teammate Martin Straka for the club lead.

Meanwhile, 33 year-old Minnesota native Jason Blake will get his first chance as an All Star representing the Islanders. He paces them in goals (24), points (43) and power play goals (12). It should be very exciting for the hard working player and hopefully rewarding.

Meanwhile out West, super sophomore Dion Phaneuf will be a tower of strength on the blueline. Already an elite defenseman, watch for him to one-time one of those lethal blasts and challenge the Eastern netminders.

It should be a fun time in Big D.

Congrats to the Devils' Zach Parise on taking home MVP honors of the Young Stars Game last night, posting six points (2-4-6) in the East's 9-8 win as they held on over the West. Anze Kopitar also had two goals and three assists for the West while Phil Kessel netted a hat trick.

Time for my show to start. See ya'll later.

Check us out at from 8:05-9 PM.

Enjoy the game!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rangers Fail To Make Grade At Break

At the beginning of the season, expectations were up for Tom Renney's club. They were even the trendy pick to break the Devils' and Flyers' Atlantic Division dominance over the last decade. Some even went as far as to take them to the Cup finals. Boy, do they look silly now. For the record, I had them finishing second to New Jersey and fifth in the East, falling to the Senators in the first round. That can still happen but Renney's club has some work to do just to get there.

Here are our grades at the All Star break:


1.Jaromir Jagr (18-42-60 in 48 GP)- B-

Analysis: While he hasn't been 100 percent, the captain hasn't led this team the way he can taking way too many lazy penalties in the process. Even with solid numbers, he's capable of more. Will the week off help?

2.Martin Straka (24-32-56 in 48 GP)- A

Analysis: He's been the most consistent player night in and night out. A superb skater who never takes a shift off. Underrated backchecker. He leads the club in game winners with 5 and has been in the box just 22 minutes. Deserved to be an All Star.

3.Michael Nylander (15-38-53 in 45 GP)- B

Analysis: The playmaking pivot does his job well setting up linemates Jagr and Straka. The only flaw in his game is his reluctance to shoot when he's got wide open looks which drives fans nuts. If he improved that, there would be nothing to criticize.

4.Brendan Shanahan (24-22-46 in 48 GP)- B+

Analysis: The just turned 38 year-old future Hall of Famer has been everything advertised. Has played more minutes than in Motown and shown an ability to play in any situation. Leads the club with 12 power play goals. He's struggled to score at even strength but it's not his fault that the Rangers failed to address a No.2 center. They need to find the right combo for Shanny to rediscover his touch. Has been a much more vocal leader than Jagr.

5.Matt Cullen (9-11-20 in 46 GP) - C

Analysis: The former Cane tries extremely hard but is just not a second line pivot which explains why Renney has shifted him all over the place in an attempt to find the right mix. He's disappointed so far. Seems to miss the net a quite deal and has problems getting the puck out. But also, he has not been given a chance to play the right point on the PP, a place he flourished in Carolina. It's just another baffling move by Renney, who did the same thing to Petr Sykora. How's Sykora doing in Edmonton coach? Enough said!

6.Petr Prucha (10-9-19 in 46 GP) - C

Analysis: While it's true the second-year Czech has had a sophomore jinx, he hasn't been given enough trust from the coach who gave him lots of time with Jagr last year on the top PP unit. He can't play fourth line. He does have talent but the coach has screwed up. It's true he hasn't hit the net enough this year and has too often been taken off the puck. He must play 2nd or 3rd line to have success and needs more PP time. Crazy as it sounds, he can still finish with 20-plus goals. The Rangers need him to get hot.

7.Adam Hall (4-7-11 in 45 GP) - D

Analysis: Amazingly, the 26 year-old has become the odd man out after being acquired for the hardworking Dominic Moore last summer. Too often, he struggled to distinguish himself and couldn't finish. But him being scratched is on Renney as well. Did you know that just over half his points have come via the man-advantage including three of his four goals? Hello McFly! That's what he can do. He scored 10 in Nashville last year. I'd retry him with Betts. Sitting him makes no sense for a 31 year-old vet. Just typical.

8.Jason Ward (4-6-10 in 45 GP) - C+

Analysis: Has been a bit of a disappointment after promising first year on Broadway. But he is gritty and tries hard. He can kill penalties and has played out of position at times cause of Renney's reluctance to keep Jarkko Immonen up as the fourth center. He needs to play consistent minutes and can provide energy. Can anyone figure out why he was the odd man out after helping spark the Rangers in a heated comeback before falling short to Ottawa?

9.Blair Betts (6-1-7 in 48 GP) - B+

Analysis: The underrated soon to be 27 year-old Alberta native plays his role well. Always brings solid energy each game and is a decent skater with better hands as at least half of his goals suggest. Reliable penalty killer who can create shorthanded opportunities through share hustle. Was justly rewarded for play with a two-year extension. Only gripe is the lack of assists but that's not really his job. Maybe if you surrounded him with consistent linemates, that part would develop.

10.Marcel Hossa (2-3-5 in 46 GP) - C

Analysis: For all his scoring woes, the Slovakian does play hard. Has improved defensively and is a solid penalty killer. Is one of the best forecheckers on this team which doesn't say much for his teammates. He has ability. Either try him on a scoring line or just recall Nigel Dawes and see what the kid can do.

11.Jarkko Immonen (1-3-4 in 11 GP) - Incomplete

Analysis The 25 year-old Finn didn't look out of place in his first recall. When placed with Cullen and Shanahan he provided a spark. Then Cullen went down and Renney never tried that combo again. Huh? He can win draws, is reliable in his end and goes to the net. But somehow, there's no place for that here. It reminds me of that silly slogan they came up with after landing the great Bobby Holik. "Hockey's Different Here!" It sure is.

12.Jed Ortmeyer (1-2-3 in 8 GP) - A

Analysis: Despite missing the first 40 games with a life threatening pulsonary embollism condition, the gritty 28 year-old from Omaha Nebraska has already demonstrated in just eight games why he's such a fan favorite. Has worked really hard thus far and played role well. Seems to have improved a little offensively. This guy is the epitome of what a Ranger should be on and off the ice. Has a little captain in him.

13.Brad Isbister (1-0-1 in 2 GP) - Incomplete

Analysis: Was recalled from Hartford and did exactly what the coach wanted driving to the net and scoring a goal in a win and playing hard. So how did the vet get rewarded? With a demotion. Man. Some things are hard to explain.

14.Nigel Dawes (1-0-1 in 8 GP) - Incomplete

Analysis: It's hard to grade the promising 21 year-old rookie when he is hardly given a chance. He had an impressive preseason and started on the third line but didn't get enough ice-time to make a difference. The only instance he saw enough was when Renney tried him with Nylander and Ward in Toronto. And what happened? He notched his first NHL goal and played well. If only the coach had stuck it out before dwindling his minutes to almost zilch. He's recovered well at Hartford and has tallied 16 points the past 14 games. The kid deserves a real shot. Will he get it?

15.Ryan Callahan (0-0-0 in 2 GP) - Incomplete

Analysis: For what it's worth, the Rochester native didn't look out of place in his few shifts playing fourth line. The former 2004 fourth round pick has flourished down in the 'A' in his first pro season, pacing the Wolf Pack with 26 goals and 39 points. He also leads the club with 13 power play goals and also has recorded two shorthanded goals, ranking second to Dwight Helminen. While it is his first year, the 21 year-old has made an impression, opening some eyes.

16.Colton Orr (62 PIM in 27 GP) - C+

Analysis: On a team which possesses little toughness, he's been the only player to hold opponents accountable when they take liberties with the club's stars. He's shown some guts taking on some big boys and done fairly well. But clearly, he's strictly a role player who should only be used in certain games.

17.Jason Krog (0-0-0 in 3 GP) - Incomplete

Analysis: It's still hard to say if this 31 year-old waiver pickup from Atlanta is just taking up a spot. Sure, he plays the game gritty and is another center which is badly needed. But is he logging too many minutes as an out of place second line pivot when his career screams third liner at best? Maybe the coach can explain this one.

18.Ryan Hollweg (76 PIM in 48 GP) - C+

Analysis: This guy works his butt off every shift and provides energy with physicality. He's got to be up there in the hits department. Just ask all the players who have been decked by mostly clean checks by a more mature player. The silly penalties have declined but it's hard to believe he plays every game when he hasn't contributed offensively. It's not like he's a poor skater either. So should his role be changed so the team can get more offense? We think so. This is a good team guy though and someone who fans love because he's a gamer.


1.Michal Rozsival (5-19-24 in 48 GP) - B

Analysis: In his second-year as a Ranger, the 28 year-old Czech is on pace for new career highs in goals and points. He's been the only reliable offense from the blueline and has been more involved than last season. But he's not a top defender, which he's being asked to be by logging the most minutes back there. Lately, his game has suffered because of it. If only the team wasn't built so poorly on the backline so he could play a less taxing role as a No.3.

2.Marek Malik (0-11-11 in 40 GP) - B-

Analysis: A very unpopular player due to the big man's positional play and penchant for lazy penalties, the D partner of Rozsival is more important than people realize. Not coincidentally, the team struggled without him and really hasn't been in synch the past month. Now, he's been tried with Aaron Ward which makes little sense. He is what he is. A steady puckmover who works well with Rozsival but won't play as physical as his size.

3.Fedor Tyutin (2-9-11 in 48 GP) - C

Analysis: The second-year Russian has been very unsteady so far this season. There are times where he shows promise by delivering thunderous hip checks and there are frustrating moments where he fails to take his man resulting in a goal against. He has so much more ability. It's just a matter of confidence and becoming more consistent.

4.Aaron Ward (3-9-12 in 47 GP) - C

Analysis: The warrior who helped Carolina win their first Cup has played through injuries this season. But he was far more effective along with Tyutin the first six weeks. Since then, it's been a struggle. Maybe the week off will help him get healthier.

5.Karel Rachunek (2-12-14 in 44 GP) - C-

Analysis: If the puckmoving defenseman was supplying more offense, his minus-12 rating wouldn't be so bad. But he is just very weak in his end and puts even more pressure on whoever pairs with him. The ex-Sen has made ex-Ranger Tom Poti look like Bobby Orr. Poti btw has played decently for the Islanders while Rachunek has struggled.

6.Darius Kasparaitis (2-2-4 in 24 GP) - C

Analysis: The 34 year-old veteran has been up and down all season. In and out of Renney's doghouse due to not coming into camp in better shape, Kaspar has looked alright at times and brutal at others. He's a dinosaur due to his lack of mobility. Sure, he can hit but if he isn't in position, it's bad news. At this point, he should be an extra defenseman who can spell someone.

7.Thomas Pock (1-1-2 in 18 GP) - C

Analysis: The 25 year-old Austrian has finally gotten back in Renney's good graces. Lately, he's replaced Kasparaitis in the lineup and even gotten a chance to team with Rozsival and get some power play time. There's little question the puckmoving D has offensive potential. It's all about getting results. But in his end, he's a liability. So it's hard to say what his future is.

8.Sandis Ozolinsh (0-3-3 in 21 GP) - C

Analysis: Give the 34 year-old former All Star credit for working hard during last summer to rehab both on and off the ice and adapt to Renney's system. At first, he was playing well in his end and making Renney's crazy pairing with Rachunek look okay. But he wasn't able to sustain it. In the final year of his contract making $2.75 million, he might be a trade candidate at the deadline. But who's going to take the risk?


1.Henrik Lundqvist (19-15-2, 2.83 GAA, .903 Save Pct, 1 SO in 37 GP) - C

Analysis: The King has comeback to earth in his second year. There are games where he shows flashes of brilliance, reminding fans of his share talent. But then there are games where he inexplicably lets in untimely goals and seems to lose concentration making us wonder if the 24 year-old is spending a little too much time in the New York night life. He needs to be more consistent for this team to have a chance when play resumes.

2.Kevin Weekes (4-6-2, 3.39 GAA, .879 Save Pct in 14 GP) - D

Analysis: The 31 year-old Toronto native has always been a true professional and seems to have a solid relationship with Lundqvist. But lately, he had hardly been used enough by Renney, which explains the lack of sharpness in net. Try explaining it to fans who unfairly loathe the guy and blame him whenever something goes wrong. It's not all his fault. He's the kind of goalie who needs to be played more. Repetition makes him sharper. If he's going to be played so sparingly, it's time for the Rangers to consider moving him and recalling former 2004 number one pick Al Montoya. There's got to be a team out there who could use a netminder capable of starting.

Coach Tom Renney (23-21-4 record, 50 points, 2nd Atlantic, 9th East) - D

Analysis: He is a very honest and respectable coach who understands what's wrong with his Jekyll and Hyde club but has done a poor job of attempting to fix it. Too often this season, he has juggled lines not giving most combos a chance to jell. Aside from the top Euro unit, there's no consistency. How can a team which had higher goals be expected to win when more than halfway through, there's little team chemistry in the coach's lines? How can they win when their pass first power play continues to be brutal even driving Shanahan to take it to task? Are they practicing it enough? Part of the problem is Renney has been dealt a tough situation and is almost forced to play vets over kids due to salary commitments. But even when he's had kids up as documented throughout this article, the affable bench leader has failed to give them enough time for them to flourish. Currently, the Rangers are two under .500 in the new NHL treading water. If things don't improve soon, it might be time for a change.

Mid Point Islanders Report Card

Now that we are slightly past the 1/2 way point, let's take a quick look at how the Isles have done as a team and individually.

If you told me before the season started that the Isles would be one point out of a playoff spot in mid January, I'd have been ecstatic. But after their great start, I'm a bit disappointed in where they are now. So which team is the real Islanders? Well, I think it comes down to Yashin, Yashin, and more Yashin. When he plays like he did through November, until his injury, the team was in the zone. But the post injury Alexei is the 2002-2006 version. And what is apparent is that the team is really a one line team. Without Yashin at his best, the Isles are probably not going to make the playoffs as currently constituted. So here are the grades:

Ted Nolan: B

Some may argue that he earned an 'A', but I'm starting to see some traits of which I'm not fond. Mainly the unwillingness to crack down on the team when they put in a poor performance. I've heard quotes from him after games such as (paraphrasing) "hey, we had 45 shots, you can't argue with the effort". Umm, yeah, you can, when the team didn't get dirty in front of the net and spent the last two periods throwing shots at the goalie from the blue line. No wonder the players all love him. The only consequence for lack of effort is a period on the bench. That said, Nolan is far better than Stirling, but not that much better than Shaw, really.


The $60 million dollar man shows flashes of brilliance and then flashes of mediocrity. Stay in the #@$%@#& net and stop passing to the other team. Stop going down so quickly, and stop giving up rebounds so readily.

Mike Dunham: B-

Started off strong, has been below average lately in a tough role coming off the bench.

Alexei Yashin: B

Was an 'A' in November and a 'C' since the injury. I can't figure the guy out, but if I am Wang, I buy him out this summer.

Jason Blake: A

The heart and soul of this team. Puts the puck in the net, gives it all he has got each night. Give him a new contract already!

Mike Sillinger: A

Scoring at a good pace and seemingly wins every faceoff.

Miro Satan: B-

He's just not himself this year. Looks malaised. Could the Buffalo fans have been right about him? I hope not.

Viktor Kozlov: B-

Looks like a world beater in some games, is comatose for the next five. A total enigma.

Randy Robitaille: D

We had better spend the York money on someone good.

Tom Poti: B+

Poti is having a solid season. Rushes the puck fairly well. Solid D, albeit a minus 6.

Chris Simon: F

Is he really on the team? Has done virtually nothing with his stick or fists. Slow as S#@%.

Sean Hill: A

Grit, toughness, and solid D.

Trent Hunter: D

He gets an 'A' for effort, but that doesn't cut it anymore. Would be a great addition to a top tier team's 4th line.

Radek Martinek: A

Excellent all round season. Great D, moves the puck well. Just needs to stay healthy.

Andy Hilbert: B

Not bad, but not good. At least he sweats out there.

Richard Park: B

See Andy Hilbert

Aaron Asham: B+

The numbers look weak for Asham, but does a lot of intangible stuff in the corners, etc. If he shot the puck more, would be a 25 goal scorer.

Brenden Witt: A+

What can I say about Witt? Covers the other teams' best players and shuts them down; hits, scraps, gets in the face of the opponent. Arguably the Isles MVP.

Sean Bates: F

Sorry Batesey, but it's time to hit the putting green buddy. You've slowed to a crawl and you are not doing much of anything.

Fred Meyer: C

See Randy Robitaille above and sub Zhitnik for York.

Bruno Gervais: B+

The kid gets better each night. Has a great future.

Chris Campoli: B

Also improving, but at a slower rate than Gervais. I'm a bit worried that Camps will be trade bait at the deadline.

Eric Boguniecki: F

Please don't ever bring him up again - I've seen better junior college players.

Jeff Tambellini: INC

Blake Comeau: INC

Franz Nielsen: INC, but was very impressed with his game during his short stint.

The problem as I see it is the Isles are full of players that would nicely compliment top tier teams but are not good enough to take the Isles to the next level. I would try and getv a second line scorer and offensive D-man now, but without giving away too many kids. If these moves don't pan out, I would clean house of the lesser valuable vets and bring up, Nilsson, Nielsen, Tambs, and Noke.

Let's see how it shakes out!!

Brooks On Point

As I watched an entertaining three set Aussie Open quarterfinal between American Serena Williams and Israeli Shahar Peer on ESPN2, I glanced at the New York Post reading all the postgame stuff on Peyton Manning's great comeback victory over the rival Patriots in an AFC championship game which will go down as a classic. Hey. That's definitely one of the best playoff games I've seen. So you have to just tip your cap.

But what caught my eye the most in today's Post was what else but an on point column on the Rangers from the controversial Larry Brooks. In it, he went on to many of the same points I made to Joe McDonald during last week's epic battle on our NY Hockey Report. That it's time for the organization to wake up already and get some of these prospects up from Hartford.

As I sit here and put together my thoughts, fresh in my memory bank is that while I was producing our All Star special show for this Wednesday night which you might not want to miss, the big player who was a big part of my argument Nigel Dawes has continued to play very well for the Pack. Since December 29, he has scored eight goals and picked up eight assists for 16 points in the last 14 contests. The soon to be 22 year-old from Manitoba should not be in the AHL anymore. After scoring 35 goals and 67 points last year, he's proving that he's polished enough to shift into a permanent NHL role. The only thing keeping him down there is the Rangers' reluctance to shed some of their payroll which is filled with vets who have secure jobs.

Why should those jobs continue to be secure when not enough production is coming? It's little secret that the bottom half of Coach Tom Renney's forwards have not gotten it done putting far too much pressure on the Big Four of Jagr, Straka, Shanahan and Nylander. You just can't win that way. How bad is it? The sparingly used Petr Prucha is still the fifth best scorer up front. Despite being in Renney's dog house, the much maligned second-year Czech has 10 goals and nine assists. It doesn't exactly say much for free agent pickup Matt Cullen or the now scratched Adam Hall (Dominic Moore anyone) for 31 year-old "solution" Jason Krog. Somewhere Fishstick fans are laughing.

The only players who have for the most part been acceptable on the support lines are Blair Betts and Jed Ortmeyer. Both always bring a solid work ethic to the table. So it's no shock that they would be doing their part. That leaves room for a hungry kid from Hartford to come up and make an impression. Something the coach and organization refuse to try. Are they so cheap that they won't sacrifice one of those "valuable vets" who don't score enough as is? Or just blind? You decide.

This week, Renney and staff will continue to take in Pack practices. Something needs to register in his head in order to get the attention of not only the GM but his underachieving team which officially returns to work Friday in preparation for a must win matinee at Philly the following day.

Too often in the past with this regime, they've tried to gun their way out by buying players or sacrificing some kids in the process to get into the postseason. The problem with this strategy is that as they should already know, you can't buy chemistry. For whatever reason, it reminds me of a classic line from 48 Hours where Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) remarks to Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) the following after Hammond gets out of jail:

"Class isn't something you buy. Look at you, you've got on a 500-dollar suit and you're still a low-life." And Hammond replies with, "Yeah, but I look good."

It's the same thing here. The Rangers could go the old route and add Peter Forsberg for the predictable package of Petr Prucha, Brandon Dubinsky and Ivan Baranka. But it won't necessarily mean they'll be better or a playoff lock.

In many ways this is a lot like the previous seven seasons before last year where you knew the team wasn't good enough and would fall short. This team shows me very little. They need a different plan if they want to save their season. Giving a Dawes, a Ryan Callahan, a Dane Byers or even a Daniel Girardi some real time wouldn't hurt. Much like former President Bill Clinton said when he ran against Bush in '92, "It's time for a change."

Brooks gets it. Will McDonald this Wednesday? Stay tuned.

The Puck Stops Here


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