Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rangers fans losing confidence

It's understandable that even die-hard Ranger fans are questioning just how good their team is. It's understandable to think that it's time to pack it in for the season, make some changes and look forward to next year. It's also understandable to think of where the Rangers were last season at this time and think that they have a shot to do big things.

At this time last year, the Rangers came off the all-star break to lose two games in a row. Then came the Sean Avery trade and the Rangers went on to make a playoff push that no one thought was possible. They made the playoffs, swept the Trashers and put up a fight against the mighty Buffalo Sabres. If this reminds us of anything, it's that we're not out of the picture yet. We're far from it in fact.

Is there another Sean Avery out there that will motivate us and be the missing cog to out inconsistant and frustrating machine? Probably not. Does the team have what it takes to make the playoffs and have a good showing this year? Probably, but only if everyone gets on the same page.

Marek Malik won't be traded for a top four defenseman. Marcel Hossa won't net the Rangers a Marian Hossa. In order to get someone of that caliber, the farm system will have to go. Glen Sather said that he is looking around for a top-line centerman for the Rangers. The reasoning? To take pressure off of Chris Drury and move him back to the wing, where he was super successful with the Colorado Avalanche. I've read today the names Mats Sundin, David Vybourny and Peter Forsberg as possibilities. Forsberg will cost us only money, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but Sundin and Vybourny will cost us some combination of Bobby Sanguinetti, Alexi Cherepanov, first or second round draft picks, Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Al Montoya and some similar prospects. Is that the road Ranger fans want to go down for three months of Sundin scoring goals? My vote is no.

Whatever the Rangers do between now and the end of February will have no impact on tonight's game. The Rangers take on Philadelphia in what is probably going to be an emotional and physical game. Some line combinations may change as these were the lines for practice:

Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Avery - Dubinsky - Shanahan
Dawes - Drury - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Couple of surprises here too. Stephen Valiquette gets the start, which gives Henrik Lundqvist the Devils tomorrow night and Montreal on Sunday. Valiquette has played well in Philly so the move makes sense. Malik is also in the lineup in place of Paul Mara tonight. The big man needs to see the ice to either be effective or be showcased. With the game being against the Flyers, having Strudwick in there should things get chippy is an asset that Renney didn't want to lose.

Game time is 7pm again tonight. The Rangers need to get points out of these games against Atlantic Division opponents. I'll check in again later.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rangers disappoint in Carolina, locals all lose

This wasn't quite the way the Rangers wanted to start the final stretch following the All-Star Break. What started out promising when Brendan Shanahan tallied for his first point in nine contests 62 seconds in evolved into another exasperating night for this underachieving bunch.

Welcome to the 2007-08 edition of the Blueshirts. Where they get your hopes up only to dash them away making you flashback to dreadful memories from a decade prior. Where it doesn't matter who the names are on the jersey because they sure are trying their best to hit the golf course a lot earlier than expected.

If I sound like a broken record, as a fave Nirvana song once said, "All Apologies."

What else could this team do
They don't have a god damn clue

What else should Renney try
Bench the stonehands fourth line

Why don't you try doing what I just did? It's rather easy if you apply yourself to that classic tune.

A 3-1 defeat on the road in Carolina isn't that surprising. I think what's most disappointing is that once again, this team didn't convert their chances. Oh. They generated plenty playing a solid opening 20 but the key sequence was a four-on-two rush in which defenseman Fedor Tyutin missed the net leading directly to a Canes' odd-man rush and tying marker from suddenly revived Russian Sergei Samsonov. He outwaited Henrik Lundqvist and went to the backhand flipping it past the Ranger netminder.

Another critical Blueshirt mistake led to the deciding tally. Martin Straka's errant pass was stolen by Carolina team captain Rod Brind'Amour. The smart two-way pivot walked in and beat Lundqvist on a two-on-zero break deking to the backhand.

The Rangers had some quality opportunities to tie it late in the second thanks to a strong shift by Scott Gomez, Sean Avery and Jaromir Jagr. However, superior goaltending from former 2006 Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward allowed the Canes to escape with their one-goal lead intact thru 40.

Remarkably, Renney's beloved fourth line helped seal their fate when they got caught up ice. When defenseman Dan Girardi stepped up and turned the puck over at the Carolina blueline, they turned it into another odd-man break. This time the recipient was fourth liner Trevor Letowski who took a pass and deked to the forehand to make it three unanswered Canes' goals.

After that, the Rangers seemed to give up resigned to their fate.

I threw in the towel too and went upstairs opting to listen to Dave Maloney rip this sadsack team to shreds.

Can anything save the Rangers?

I felt this one short Avery quote summed it up quite well:

"I wish I had some answers, but I don't really."

Neither do I.

It wasn't a good night for the other two locals either as the Devils fell at home for the second straight time 4-2 to the Sidney Crosby-less Pens. Ryan Malone tallied twice and ex-Devil Petr Sykora notched two assists as the Pens got the last three on Brent Sutter's club a la Montreal before the break. Wonder if he'll put them through drills again? Mike Rupp somehow hit the back of the net twice. You aren't winning many nights when he's your only offense.

The Isles meanwhile went down to the conference-leading Sens 5-2. Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza each had a goal and a helper while Sean Bergenheim and Bryan Berard tallied for the Fishsticks.

The Flyers were 3-2 OT winners as the sizzling Scott Hartnell stayed hot getting the deciding marker.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rangers back in action tonight

The Rangers open up the rest of the season tonight against the surging Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Not much will be different for the Blueshirts when they enter the game tonight as, unlike last year, there were no moves made over the break.

Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Gomez all joined the team this afternoon after taking part in the All-Star weekend festivities. Dubinsky was named the MVP for the young stars game, recording two goals. Just more confidence builders for this young kid.

The lineup tonight will be the same as on Thursday night, with Marek Malik being a healthy scratch and Marcel Hossa still sitting with the world's longest case of back spasms. Henrik Lundqvist returns to the net, and might be called upon for double duty later on in the week when the Rangers take on Philadelphia and New Jersey on back to back days, both on the road and both games that the Rangers would really like to win.

If anything breaks between now and 7 pm I'll be sure to report it. If not, enjoy the game and I'll check in tonight or tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rangers' second half begins on Tuesday

Sitting here watching the Eastern All-Stars enjoy a big first period lead got me thinking about the New York Rangers and what they need to finally live up to their potential for the second half of the season. Feel free to add in your own thoughts and ideas or agree or disagree as well.

1- Shoot the puck. Then shoot it some more.
- Biggest culprits here are Chris Drury and Martin Straka. There's a reason that Drury is making $7 million a year for the Rangers and it's not to just win faceoffs. He has a knack for finding the back of the net, and he needs to start shooting more to show us that. Straka is a great playmaker and seems to be making everyone that he plays with better, but when he shoots, he scores. It would add another weapon to the Rangers repetoir if he shot just a little more. Michal Rozsival needs to not be afraid of a booming point shot as well.

2 - More bodies in front of the net.
- When Petr Prucha is on the ice, he can be found around the net. Don't get me wrong, that's great, but Prucha is 175 pounds and gets knocked around. Rotate in and out of the crease. Sean Avery is there on the powerplay, but lets get Brendan Shanahan, Drury, Orr and even some defensemen skating through causing havok on the netminder. Paul Mara or Fedor Tyutin pinching in and screening a goalie might work if it's not done often.

3 - Accept that Jaromir Jagr is no longer the force he used to be
- Sure he's still good and will undoubtedly score more goals this season, but he's not going to have 40 goals a season anymore. The offense is not going to flow through him like it used to. Make it go through Prucha, Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky.

4 - Stop with the stupid, lazy penalties.
- Jagr is most guilty of it, as are Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa. You just don't see Prucha, Dawes, Shanahan and Gomez in the penalty box.

5 - Play much more physical.
- Take the body, especially at the blueline. The defense is physical with Dan Girardi and Tyutin, and Marc Staal is looking better and better, but Mara and Rozsival need to step in and crunch someone. Bring back the hip check. Make the other team pay for camping out in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Not everyone has to be Avery or Ryan Hollweg, but it would be nice to see Jagr, Straka, Shanahan and Drury start taking the body more as well.

6 - Play for 60 minutes.
- If you don't want to commit to a 60 minute game every other day, clean out your locker. Show up for every period and give it your best. The second period no longer should be referred as "the bad period" and the team shouldn't come alive with just 15 minutes left to play.

Anything to add? Anything you just don't agree with? Let me know. Enjoy the rest of this all star game. I'll be on frequently from now until Tuesday so I will talk to everyone again soon.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rangers scrape by Thrashers on Leetch night

It took a shootout, but the Rangers survived the Atlanta Thrashers last night. Following the hour and a half long ceremony, the Rangers came out flat and unimpressive. They managed to get out of the first period with a 0-0 tie, but 45 second into the second period Marion Hossa made it 1-0 on a soft goal let in by Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers slowly picked up their game and about halfway through the third period, Michal Rozsival was able to capitalize on a nice passing play by the third line, mainly Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes. The score remained tied up through the rest of the third and all of overtime, even with the Rangers controlling much of the play. Brendan Shanahan converted the only shootout attempt and Lundqvist made two saves before Hossa missed the net on the final shot, giving the Rangers a 2-1 win.

While it was disappointing to see the Rangers come out unmotivated in a Garden just waiting to explode, it was good to see them slowly improve their play. A team better than the Thrashers, however, would have made the Rangers pay for coming out so slowly. A team like Ottawa, Detroit or even the Devils or Islanders may have been able to pop two or three goals in and bury the Rangers. The Rangers survived though, and will be able to take the next four days to rest up and prepare for Carolina next Tuesday.

One thing that did look evident last night was that there seemed to be some decent chemistry up and down the lineup. The defense was pretty good, the top line looks pretty decent with Sean Avery taking Marty Straka's place and Dubinsky and Dawes continue to impress. Chris Drury is starting to get more opportunities as well, which is good news for the Rangers.

On the Marek Malik front, word is that he refused to shake the hand of Tom Renney after being told that he would be a scratch last night. Renney took it personally and sent Malik out of the building for the night. He said that Malik's matter would be handled internally, and that big number 8 is still on the roster.

You have to wonder if the Rangers can pull anything off to get Malik someplace where he would be happier. Maybe packaging him with a kid could net us something. Artem Anisimov has been playing well, and could be a good NHL centerman. Problem is, we have Scott Gomez, Drury, Dubinsky and Blair Betts on our lines. Avery, Petr Prucha, Straka and Ryan Hollweg also all have experience at center, and we have some other good young players in the system. Maybe he could make a deal a little sweeter and Malik can be off our hands. It wouldn't be the end of the world for us, even if he pulls a Marc Savard and starts recording 96 points a season for a team that finishes last in their division.

I'll keep everyone informed about any Ranger happenings over the break and I'll weigh in with some All-Star stuff as I'll almost certainly be checking out the game. Enjoy the break.

Leetch symbolizes what a true Ranger is all about

I knew that we were in for a truly special night at Madison Square Garden. If you were priviledged enough to be witness to that special retirement ceremony of all-time Ranger great Brian Leetch's No.2 to the rafters joining the likes of Rod Gilbert (No.7), Ed Giacomin (No.1), Mike Richter (No.35) and Mark Messier (No.11), then you know how unbelievable it really was.

I am not going to go on and on about it because our outstanding blogger Lenny did a very nice job summing up what this classy former defenseman is all about. If you needed proof, just watching how eloquently Leetch spoke about the history of the franchise with Ron Greschner on hand crediting him for how he developed to the recognition of former GM Craig Patrick for having the confidence to draft him to the praise of his teammates and the role the "Ranger Faithful" played in the team achieving their greatest success in winning the Stanley Cup which included a postseason for the ages by No.2 (11-23-34, +19 in 23 GP) in becoming the only American to win the Conn Smythe.

Still, the biggest highlight had to be Brian making the surprise announcement that good buddy and Ranger fan favorite Adam Graves' No.9 will be retired at some point next year for his outstanding work on and off the ice during a 10-year career as a Blueshirt.

On his own special night where legends such as Harry Howell and Brad Park were on hand for the ceremony and banner retirement, here was the franchise leader in so many categories putting himself aside for a teammate honoring and surprising a guy who had no idea what was about to happen.

I said, 'If you want me to do it, I'd love to it,"' the former 11-time All-Star, Calder recipient and two-time Norris winner flashed back to the Associated Press.

"The only thought that came to my mind was how humble I felt," an emotional Graves admitted. "Wearing that jersey was gift enough. Having this opportunity, I'm lucky."

"That kind of made me calm because I knew I had that to come and it was going to be exciting," a sporty Leetch pointed out. "I knew Adam was going to be blown away."

"I was foggy. I had no idea," Graves added. "It caught me off guard and I was like, 'Go back there, it's your night."'

What else would you expect from a player who was drafted in the first round 22 years prior ninth overall out of Boston College who went on to play 1,129 games as a Ranger in 17 career seasons (1988-2004) pacing the Original Six franchise with 741 assists, second to Gilbert in scoring with 981 points. And of course, tops among New York Ranger blueliners in goals (240) and points (981).

If you wanted to know how he felt about the fans, just listening to him mention how he was only on the wrong side of the bench once as a visiting Boston Bruin- then pointing out and thanking those fans for "getting him through the night when he wasn't on the right side."

The place went wild as it did most of this special night. From the loud chants of "Bri----an Leeettccch" to "Leeeettttttttch," "Messs-----ierrr" and "Adaa-----mmm Gravvvvvesss," it was about as perfect as it could get.

Even former Ranger enforcers Tie Domi and Darren Langdon joined the fun presenting him with a Harley Davidson motorcycle featuring a leather jacket and helmet in honor of "Leetch's wild side."

We'll just have to take Ranger emcee and broadcaster Sam Rosen's word for it.

One of the things I also really appreciated was how generous Leetch and the Ranger organization with Richter presenting him with a check for $25,000 to the John J. Murray Foundation for his former close buddy who died tragically during the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

Sometimes, it really does make you appreciate what you got. It can be very humbling and that certainly was the case over six years ago remarkably. God bless Murray's family.

"I was not that nervous, not that scared of what I was going to say," Leetch finally said of the great night which New Yorkers will remember for quite some time.
"I was just really enjoying it and I was not sure I was going to be able to do that."

No.2 will always be No.1 in our H-E-A-R-T-S.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Special night for a special player

Brian Leetch has been an idol of mine since I started following hockey. I was able to witness his greatness through the 1994 Stanley Cup run and was able to share in the heartache of him being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for draft picks and Maxim Kondratiev in 2004. Tonight's ceremony did a fantastic job of capturing those moments and recognized a fantastic player.

I think what really showed what Brian Leetch is really about was, while thanking several people and teammates, he paused to make an announcement. The announcement he read was that Adam Graves will have his number nine jersey raised to the rafters next year. On a night dedicated to him, Brian Leetch passed some limelight off to a fellow teammate and friend. It was nicely done, and wonderful to see.

From hall of famers Ed Giacomin, Rod Gilbert and Mark Messier to Jeff Beukeboom, Adam Graves and Mike Richter, and even Tie Domi and Darren Langdon, the ceremony was great. Sam Rosen did another fantastic job MCing. John Davidson and Craig Patrick were in attendance and both the Garden and the WAMU Theater were packed. Great all around night.

I'll have a new post in the morning or late tonight about the game, but so far it has been an uninspired effort by the Rangers after one period of play and no score. No word on Marek Malik either, although Spector Trade Rumors has a potential deal with Colorado or Carolina reported. Enjoy the rest of the game.

No Malik for Brian Leetch Night

Already looking at a little easier of a task tonight with Ilya Kovalchuck in the press box, the Rangers will have Marek Malik somewhere other than the ice as well for tonight's rematch with Atlanta. Even though the fleet-footed defenseman had picked up his game over the last three game since being reinserted into the lineup, Malik was absent from morning skate this morning. To make things even more odd, none of his equipment was in his locker either. A few pictures and a practice jersey was all that remained. Tom Renney answered the questions of where everyone's favorite defenseman was with "it's an internal matter," but made sure to point out that he was still a Ranger.

Maybe Glen Sather is on the verge of pulling off a trade, and the last two games were really a showcase for other teams. I bashed Malik as much as the next guy, but was and still am fully aware that he could be a decent defenseman. In a faster league, however, it is hard for him to keep up. Unable to clutch, grab, hold and take down the oncoming offensemen has hurt Malik's game. He will undoubtedly be suffering the Tom Poti syndrome should he be dealt, and upon returning will be met with choruses of boo's at the Garden whenever he touches the ice.

Should Malik really be done as a Ranger, we'll need to call someone up or acquire another defender. Thomas Pock has played in 39 games with the Wolfpack, registering six goals, 15 assists and a plus-6 rating to go along with 30 penalty minutes. He would have to clear re-entry waivers, but he should be looked at as a platoon partner for Jason Strudwick. Other than that, the only other defenseman that may be ready may be Andrew Hutchinson, who has 33 points in 40 games with the Pack and is +12 on the year. I believe he has to clear re-entry waivers as well, but I could be mistaken.

I'll be on often today, updating everyone on Malik sightings, passing on Brian Leetch news and covering the game. Until later...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kovalchuck suspended for tomorrow's rematch

Ilya Kovalchuck won't be on the ice when the Rangers celebrate Brian Leetch night at the Garden tomorrow night. The league handed down a one game suspension to Atlanta's main goal scorer for his hit on Michal Rozsival in the first period last night.

This obviously is good news for the Rangers, who will now only have to focus on shutting down Marian Hossa and getting pucks past Kari Lehtonen or Johan Hedberg, both are no small feat.

Ceremonies for Brian Leetch night for those of us who don't have tickets will begin at 6:30. I'm interested to know how that viewing party and actual ceremony at MSG goes. If anyone that reads this website goes, leave a comment on one of the entries tomorrow, or leave a comment asking for my email address if you want to actually write a blog entry. I'd be more than happy to put up a guest poster, and I'm sure Derek and everyone else here at BoNY won't mind either.

Talk to you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In game Ranger update

End of game - Solid three period, 60 minute effort by the New York Rangers. Jaromir Jagr added a goal from Fedor Tyutin and Scott Gomez to make it 4-0. Tyutin had three assists, jagr had a goal and two assists and looked great, and the new lines looked stellar. They were tight defensively also, allowing only 14 shots. Henrik Lundqvist didn't have to be overly good, but he was good enough to get his seventh shutout of the season, the first Ranger to do that since a pretty good Ed Giacomin did it in 1970-71. Good game all around, let's just hope that this isn't only a one game thing. We're back in action on Thursday for Brian Leetch night. Until then...

End of 2nd Period - After two periods of play, the Rangers now have a 3-0 lead. Martin Straka scored a shorthanded, unassisted goal off of a terrible line change by the Thrashers. They miss Kovalchuk up front, as I still don't think they have recorded double digit shots. Brad Larson looked pretty banged up after a collision with Mark Recchi as well. The second period is usually the Rangers' worst period of the game, and that period wasn't so bad. The power play is the only thing that looks bad. Actually, it looked downright awful in that period. There has to be some kind of jolt to go through both units. They looked fine in the first period, but the second period was spent waiting to see if Atlanta would score shorthanded more than if the Rangers were going to stretch the lead. See you after the third.

I figured I'd keep you updated on the Ranger game with some of my thoughts and happenings. I figured after the bashing Tom Renney gave them yesterday, that the Rangers would come out hot. Here's what the first period looked like:

It took 16 minutes for the Thrashers to get a shot on goal. In that span, the Rangers tallied two goals, 12 shots and had a mini-fight. Colton Orr and Eric Boulton dropped the gloves, Sean Avery scored from Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez and then Brandon Dubinsky scored a highlight reel goal from Jagr and Fedor Tyutin.

As we speak, one of the league's best players made another stupid decision. Ilya Kovalchuk is a marquee player, but as evident from the playoffs last year, he can be dirty. Just now he left his skates and hit a defenseless Michal Roszival from behind into the boards. The hit could have been given with a clean shoulder, but Kovalchuk went over the line. He was thrown out and the Rangers will have a three minute power play at the beginning of the second period. Colton Orr took a roughing penalty by going after Kovalchuk, negating two minutes. Bad move by Kovalchuk and the way this game is going so far, the Thrashers were going to need all the help they could get. The league should look into it as well. I like Kovalchuk, but it was dirty, unnecessary and left Roszival bloodied and hurt. Back after the second.

Random thoughts

Since I'm not able to go to tonight's Thrashing of the Rangers (yeah that's what I said), I figured what better time than now to give you the hockey fan some of my total randomness. In no particular order:

1.When is the NHL going to stop allowing their star players to walk all over them? No. We're not talking about Gary Bettman's new CBA with a rising cap where teams are panicking and signing their own players to ridiculously long contracts. What I am referring to is the latest news about the upcoming All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Why should a star player such as Martin Brodeur be allowed to miss a game which is for the fans? You think he's going to miss any upcoming starts between tonight in Philadelphia when he does what he usually does to them and Sunday?!?!?!?!?! It is an absolute joke that the league doesn't step in and do the right thing by the fans who want to see the league's marquee stars lace'em up in a fun-filled skills competition.

Unless you're out with an excuse (injury, family crisis, health issue), it should be your obligation to take part in the All-Star Game. Especially if your own fans voted you in as a starter. Brodeur is still the best netminder in the conference and plenty of people want to see him. Even now as the three-time Vezina and Cup winner gets older, the Montreal native is still one of the NHL's biggest stars. Someone who is marketable and treats fans and writers alike with nothing but class. No.30 should be in net for that first period in Atlanta. No if's, and's or buts.

That also means you Roberto Luongo! The fans deserve to see the Vancouver netminder at the opposite end of the rink against Marty. The fact that the two league's top goalies were elected and won't participate for unknown reasons looks bad. They're what this game should be about.

This goes for any player who is elected. Unfortunately, the league already lost their most identifiable star in Sidney Crosby due to a high ankle sprain which appears will keep the 2006-07 Hart winner out at least six weeks. And losing one of the bright young stars out West in Paul Stastny due to injury doesn't help much. Neither does one of the game's best players in Henrik Zetterberg for no other apparent reason than wanting to rest due to recurring back spasms.

If the league wants to be taken seriously, put out the best players for this game and make it a priority. The encouraging news is at least Evgeni Malkin replaced Crosby and Tim Thomas is now in place of Brodeur. The surprising Boston No.1 goalie certainly was worthy of making it.

On the other side, Corey Perry and Mike Ribeiro will get to take part. They certainly both belong. Scott Niedermayer was also tabbed probably as a league selection due to his veteran status. He certainly hasn't disappointed since returning to the defending champion Ducks posting 11 points in 17 games and helping lead his team to the top of the Pacific.

2.Hell or high water, Tom Renney has to go. His message clearly isn't getting through anymore to the underachieving Blueshirts. There's little effort. No discipline. And zero accountability. The affable coach is good at analyzing the team's problems. The problem is he never punishes his best players and that's not a good recipe for success. This team is severely lacking and has become softer than a box of Twinkies.

If the Ranger organization wants to save their season, they must bring in a tough cop. Pat Burns would be perfect. So too would John Tortorella if he ever gets fired down in Tampa. It's more likely that Jim Schoenfeld takes over if the Rangers don't get a win tonight or on Brian Leetch night against Atlanta.

3.Speaking of which, how is it possible that the Rangers host the Thrashers twice in a row??? What are the schedule makers doing? If it were a traditional home-and-home like the games against the Bruins, that would make more sense. Give both fanbases a chance to see a rivalry formulate.

4.Rookie Nicklas Backstrom continues to play extremely well on the resurgent Caps who now are over .500 and just three points behind first place Carolina and the eighth seeded Islanders. The former 2006 Caps' fourth overall selection became the first rookie in league history to record back-to-back four assist games. He assisted on four Washington goals in a come from behind 6-5 shootout win over Pittsburgh last night. With nine goals and a team-leading 31 helpers, his 40 points place him second to only Chicago rookie forward Patrick Kane, who has 45 points (12-33-45).

Backstrom's strong play along with NHL-leading goalscorer Alexander Ovechkin (38 goals), the reemergence of Alexander Semin (5 goals in last four contests) and Mike Green (14-16-30; 14 pts in last 10 GP) have Bruce Boudreau's Caps thinking playoffs.

5.Now that John Ferguson, Jr.'s finally been giving his walking papers in Toronto, when does the Original Six franchise realize their problems are a lot more than just one executive???

6.Can anyone think of any good reason how Mats Sundin was passed over for the East?

7.If he gets the Bruins in the playoffs despite no Patrice Bergeron and other regulars out, does former Devil coach Claude Julien win the Jack Adams?

8.Tomas Vokoun's a good goalie but he's not better than Florida captain Olli Jokinen.

9.Remember when Bill Guerin was a bad move for the Islanders? How's that turning out?

10.Speaking of which, Dainius Zubrus: 47 games, seven goals. He's still got another five years left on his deal in New Jersey. Somehow, the Devils are still winning games. Brodeur and first-year coach Brent Sutter are the biggest reasons why.

Massive line overhaul for tonight's Ranger game

The Rangers kick off a two game series against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at 7pm. Both games will be played at home for the Rangers, who badly need the four points. In order to achieve that, Tom Renney has changed three of the four lines.

Avery - Gomez - Jagr
Dawes - Dubinsky - Shanahan
Straka - Drury - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

These lines do look good on paper, and I'm curious as to how they will work out. Sean Avery is a playmaker who will provide some physicality to the first line, be able to retreat on defense and feed Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez. Maybe a grinder is what the top line needs.

Brandon Dubinsky gets moved up to the second line and is kept with Nigel Dawes. Him and Dawes seem to have developed some chemistry, which is nice to see. Both of them will also be able to feed Brendan Shanahan to get the shot off.

Chris Drury being paired with Martin Straka also makes sense to me. Straka can feed Drury who can hopefully start scoring 7 million dollars worth of goals. Petr Prucha adds to the speed and can finish and pass as well.

The fourth line remains the same, and rightfully so. The defense is changed a little also though.

Tyutin - Girardi
Roszival - Malik
Strudwick - Staal

Both Marek Malik and Jason Strudwick in the game makes me a little nervous. Besides the god awful giveaway at the end of Sunday's game, Paul Mara has been playing much better of late. Maybe it's an eye opener for him, and he'll come back better. Maybe Glen Sather can try to move him or Malik at the deadline and bring in someone of equal talent that may click with Marc Staal or Michal Roszival.

Should be interesting to see how these lines work out. I'll weigh in later on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rangers in bad shape after weekend sweep

The New York Rangers dropped another game on Sunday to the same Boston Bruins that beat them 24 hours earlier. The only difference with Sunday's loss was that the Rangers didn't pick up a point in the standings.

Lackluster play and inability to get pucks past Tim Thomas translated into a 3-1 loss for the home team. Brandon Dubinsky scored the lone goal for the Blueshirts, with under a minute to play. Henrik Lundqvist looked a little shakey at times, and the offense stuggled getting anything going. The defense looked a little better, with Marek Malik back on the bench in favor of Jason Strudwick.

The big story after the game was that Tom Renney was openly upset with the team's play, something that hasn't been seen all season. Brendan Shanahan was non-existant in the team's last 20 minutes of play, being sat down to rest his various injuries.

Renney has stated that while he is disappointed in the team's play, he feels that the players on the team now are the players that he will win with. I have to agree. It's hard to imagine a team with Scott Gomez, Martin Straka, Jaromir Jagr, Shanahan, Chris Drury, Petr Prucha and Sean Avery not putting pucks in the net. If I were head coach of the Rangers, I would shake some things up, maybe to look like this:

The top line seems to be going now that Straka is healthy again, so leave that line alone. The second line is the line that's struggling. For whatever reason, Drury has not hit his stride yet in New York. Maybe playing with Shanahan has made him feel like he has to dish the puck off more rather than shoot it. Brandon Dubinsky's play of late has been stellar. Bump him up during his hot play and let him center Shanahan and Avery. Move Drury down to the third line and let him add some defense to a line that is mediocre defensively. Prucha and Dawes will benefit with Drury at the center, possibly creating more scoring opportunities. Fourth line remains the same as well. So to sum it up in a pretty little chart:

Straka - Gomez - Jagr

Shanahan - Dubinsky - Avery

Dawes - Drury - Prucha

Orr - Betts - Hollweg

The only thing I don't like about this scenario is that it is breaking up a line that seems to have found some chemistry in Dawes, Dubinsky and Prucha. One thing being thrown around is to move Drury back over to wing, but he has been our best faceoff man recently. If he were to move to wing, Avery would probably shift back to center, and he is not as good in the circle as Drury.

One thing that is evident is our need for another solid defenseman. Jason Strudwick and Marek Malik rotating isn't so bad, but it isn't ideal. I don't have any surefire solutions, and the only name that comes to mind is the expensive Mathieu Schneider. He will undoubtedly cost us in players and in salary, but would be great to have on the back line. Maybe we can find a solid d-man in someone no one would imagine. The top four are fine, and Paul Mara paired with a mediocre player isn't bad. I just want someone extremely defensive.

We will see what happens with this team in the coming weeks. Tomorrow and Thursday we take on another team that we should beat easily, if we show up. Atlanta is a good team, but not nearly as good as we have the potential to be. I'll check in with an update mid-day or early evening.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Malkin dominates Canadiens

The game of hockey isn't always about statistics. Sometimes, it's about great players elevating their games to lead their team to victory.

Precisely the type of quality game Pens' star forward Evgeni Malkin had in their 2-0 road shutout of the Canadiens on Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC). Without top star Sidney Crosby (ankle sprain), the 21 year-old Russian who won the Calder last season dominated the action in all facets. He might not have lit up the scoreboard in his team's bounceback victory to pull in front of the idle Devils for the Atlantic Division lead but the former 2004 first overall selection controlled the play in all three zones.

He also had a couple of tremendous plays which started in his own end and almost led to goals if not for some splendid goaltending by Montreal's Cristobal Huet. The first such play took place in the opening stanza when Malkin took a puck and then worked a give-and-go with Petr Sykora before going around Andrei Markov and flipping a backhand saucer pass to a cutting Sergei Gonchar. But a sprawling Huet thwarted the chance.

Even though the Pens didn't score on the play, the breathtaking end-to-end rush was replayed a few times on the HNIC feed as the broadcasters gushed.

On another shift, Malkin threaded the needle from his own blueline to string Sykora for a breakaway. Only two unreal Huet stops kept the puck out.

This was the kind of plays you'd expect from a player as physically gifted as the 21 year-old Malkin. However, it was his defensive prowess which helped seal the victory for his team.

With the desperate Habs pulling Huet for an extra attacker and under 60 ticks left, Malkin made two great defensive reads. First, he broke up a pass at center ice to interrupt a Montreal rush. The second play, he outraced a Canadien to a Sykora pass gliding by before flipping a backhand into a vacated net with 12.4 seconds remaining.

On a night when backup goalie Dany Sabourin was splendid in swatting aside all 31 Montreal shots for a shutout giving Ty Conklin the night off, it was Malkin who was his team's best player. Or as the 'casters noted, "Best player on the ice all game."

A night before when his linemate went down, he promised to step up. Malkin shifted back to his natural position of center logging big minutes (22:57 TOI) and didn't miss a beat. This was a statement game by a very talented player.

One who will continue to assume the leadership role with Sid The Kid out.

Rangers fall to Bruins in SO

It took 65 minutes and a shootout, but the Boston Bruins won this afternoon in Boston, 3-2. The game wasn't very offensive minded, saw few big hits and had plenty of weak penalties. All in all, let's hope tomorrow's rematch back in New York is a little more exciting.

Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr scored in regulation for the Rangers and Chuck Kobesew tallied twice for the B's. Phil Kessel and Zdeno Chara scored in the shootout, Chara's in the form of a slapshot from about 15 feet out in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist stopped 25 shots in regulation time, while Tim Thomas stopped 36 shots.

This was the first half of a weekend back to back, home and home matchup between the two teams. Tomorrow's matinee is on NBC, as they look to bring back the NHL game of the week. This is good news for the league, as several people may be tuning into NBC early to catch some early NFL shows, and could catch the tail end of a hockey game. The national exposure will be good, but we will undoubtedly be forced to sit through seemingly endless numbers of Tag body spray commercials, and play by play will not be done by Sam Rosen and Joe Michelletti.

The effort was close to being all there today, but the potential to be better is still there. The defense looked slow and out matched on several different occasions today. Maybe a minor move to bring in a little more competition than Jason Strudwick should be looked into. Maybe take a chance on Duvie Westcott, if only for another body, or bring up someone like David Liffiton or Ivan Baranka. Either way, the defense was better with Marc Staal playing with Michal Roszival, but with Marek Malik in the lineup, there's no way I'd like to see him playing with either Paul Mara or one of Fedor Tyutin or Dan Girardi.

As was seen today, Brendan Shanahan didn't receive any kind of penalty from the league regarding his cross check at the end of the Buffalo game. I thought it could have, and should have been a penalty, but that's it. There was no intent to injure, and it wasn't done on purpose. It was reckless and a minor penalty was all that was warrented.

Tomorrow will be busy for me as I have the Rangers at 12:30 and then the Giants vs the Packers. I also have to pack up to head back to school on Monday, so chances are good that I may not make it onto the computer until Monday night for a recap. I'll check in and update with anything pressing or if I have a free few minutes. Enjoy the hockey games, go Giants and cross your fingers for a San Diego upset. Until Monday...

Devs lose again, Pens lose game and Crosby plus a random thought

I didn't see a lot of it but the Devils managed to lose at home to the Panthers. That's like the Knicks losing to the Harlem Globetrotters. Even though if you've followed the Knicks at all, it actually could happen. But the Devs losing another bad Florida team who didn't even start All-Star netminder Tomas Vokoun is inexcusable.

That might also be why frustrated first-year coach Brent Sutter came away shaking his head after his first place club blew a one-goal lead after two periods by permitting a couple of Panther goals in a 1:17 span. It was the first time in 2007-08 his team lost after holding a lead after 40 minutes were played.

It happened when ex-Ranger Radek Dvorak notched his fifth off a loose rebound in front just 2:28 into the final stanza to tie it. Another solid shift by Florida generated David Booth's deciding tally 77 seconds later. Off a productive cycle, the second-year forward was positioned perfectly in front when a Ruslan Salei right point shot caromed off the back boards to him for his 13th.

The two quick goals were enough thanks to a 31 save effort from Anderson who stopped all seven Devil third period shots in notching only his second win in six starts this season. That included a key stop on the pesky Brian Gionta from about 15 feet out with about two and a half to go.

From there, the Panthers did a solid job outworking the normally gritty Devils by winning the puck battles along the boards. They didn't allow a quality NHL club to generate the kind of chances they needed late to force overtime.

It all added up to a career milestone for veteran coach Jacques Martin who became the 10th coach to win his 500th NHL game behind the bench. Congrats go out to him. The 500 are the second most on the active list with only former Ranger (current Calgary) coach Mike Keenan having more.

"I've been very fortunate to work in this league, the best league in the world and to have some good players to coach," a pleased Martin expressed to the Associated Press afterwards.

"Everybody was working hard tonight and it was good to see a turn for the better," Anderson said of the comeback win. "It's good to go against a future Hall of Famer, play head-to-head with him and get the win."

Not surprisingly, the classy Brodeur took time out to praise his counterpart.

"After not playing many games, he made some big saves," the future Hall of Famer pointed out. "This was a real bad loss for us. Up 1-0 in your building, you have to find a way to squeak it out."

As FSNY color analyst Chico Resch always says, it certainly wasn't Marty's fault. In fact, this was one of the best games he's played this season making several acrobatic highlight reel saves. Just ask Florida's Richard Zednik, who was robbed point blank by a sprawling Brodeur at least three times in the first two stanzas.

It's hard to say what was better. Brodeur's unreal stop on Zednik during the first with an open net where he somehow kicked out the puck with his legs at the last split second. Or was it the two-save sequence in the second where he denied the struggling Panther once in front on a backhand and then somehow like a cat made an amazing left glove save as the crowd stirred ripping the puck away like a cat.

Amazing stuff from one of the all-time greats.

Judge for yourself:

Brodeur amazing in defeat

He might've been on the losing side in finishing with 25 saves but he's never played better.

The Devs' only offense came from resurgent second-year pivot Travis Zajac, who found a Jamie Langenbrunner rebound for his fifth goal in the last seven 70 seconds into the second.

The problem right now for New Jersey is that leading scorer Zach Parise has gone dry. As usual, the 23 year-old kid's effort is there as he helped setup Zajac's goal and got a few chances himself. The North Dakota product just isn't burying his opportunities. He's now 0-for-8 in 2008 with his last goal coming in a 5-2 road defeat to the Islanders on Dec.29.

If you go back further though, Parise's goalscoring struggles are pretty evident. Since a two-goal four point night in a come from behind 4-3 home win over Boston, he's lit the lamp only twice in the last 18 contests.

That's just not enough from the Devs' best threat around the net. Especially with normally reliable veteran forwards John Madden and Jay Pandolfo shelved due to injuries.

Sooner or later, you figure the law of averages will catch up and Parise will get some breaks because he certainly works hard enough. When they do, the Devils will be tougher to deal with in a pivotal stretch which sees them have 14 of the next 17 at The Prudential Center.

The good news for the Devs was they didn't lose any ground in the division because the Pens were shutout by the Lightning 3-0 at home. Sidney Crosby left the game with a sprained ankle suffered in the first and previously unbeaten Ty Conklin was finally solved for three with ex-enforcer Andre Roy out of all people tallying once and setting up two other Bolts' goals.

Pittsburgh's record is 0-2-2 without Sid the Kid. They're obviously not going to have the 2006-07 Hart recipient for a while. So, this is a huge loss.

"Sid is a big part of that team," Vincent Lecavalier said after being held off the scoresheet and remaining in a three-way tie for the league lead in scoring with Crosby and Atlanta sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. "For them to win, someone else is going to have to lead, and I think (Evgeni) Malkin is going to have to do that."

"Right now, since we lost our leader and our captain, I'm going to try my best and raise my game," the second-year Russian star admitted after being kept off the scoresheet. "I'm going to try to do a little more."

Malkin is the Pens' second leading scorer with 52 points. He had been pretty hot lately with 12 goals and three helpers in the last 12 games before last night. The Pens will need the 2006-07 Calder winner to continue to step up.

The impact of Crosby's injury won't only be felt by his teammates but by the league as well due to the fact the All-Star Game is around the corner scheduled for Atlanta on January 27.

That's just great. The game's most popular player who easily was the leading vote getter seems certain to be unable to participate. Well, maybe that frees up a spot for his teammate Malkin, who should be going anyway.

The most important thing here is that No.87 recovers quickly in time to help his team get into the postseason for a second consecutive year. The last thing the league needs is a Pittsburgh second half collapse. Having the most marketable star player in the playoffs is very important. Especially for the game in the U.S. It would also help if rookie Patrick Kane somehow led a second half surge by Original Six Chicago. They won their second game in a row in a shootout over the Avs after a long winless streak.

And now for one final random thought on WFAN Devils' radio play-by-play man Matt Loughlin. I like Matty a lot and have even worked with him when he was a studio host between intermissions. A role which suited the likeable studio anchor well. The Matt and The Maven segments were classic. Even if you hated the Devs, you watched to see what they would say. Steve Cangialosi is boring.

They need Loughlin back between periods because to be perfectly frank, he's brutal to listen to calling these games. You can almost never tell what's happening. If a goal's about to be scored or if it's a save. There's almost no way to distinguish.

It's not Matt's fault because he's an employee of the Devils and tries his best to make the games exciting. And because of his awkward style, it's at the very least an interesting listen. Half the time I find myself chuckling at some of his calls.

He's just not a natural play-by-play announcer. This falls on the Devil organization. For whatever reason only known to GM Lou Lamoriello, John Hennessey was let go a couple of years ago. I don't really know what was wrong with the former River Rats' playcaller but he definitely wasn't as confusing as Loughlin.

Right now, the Devils have the worst radio broadcast in the entire league. It's flat out embarrassing that this is what airs on WFAN in New York. Do the hockey fans a big favor and put Loughlin back with Stan Fischler and find a real broadcaster.

It's for the best. Matt is just overmatched.

Friday, January 18, 2008

First-Year All-Star DiPietro carrying Islanders

Maybe Mike Milbury was right. The former Islander GM now TSN analyst was frequently referred to as "Mad Mike" for his crazy penchant for blockbuster trades while he was on Long Island.
The biggest move had to be the selection of goaltender Rick DiPietro first overall back in 2000- making the former BU standout the first ever netminder to be taken that high.
At the time, Milbury had another No.1 franchise goalie which led to second guessing on why he went for DiPietro when Roberto Luongo was still there. That same day, he shipped Luongo to the Panthers along with Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Not one of his finest hours.
The thinking was that DiPietro was a much better stickhandling goalie than Luongo, who turned into a great puckstopper and one of the game's elite goalies. Had Milbury not taken the cocky kid from Massachusetts who Fishstick fans refer to as "Di-Pi" after big saves, he could've selected either Dany Heatley or Marian Gaborik changing the entire look of the franchise.
You can always look back and say, 'What if.' It's much easier to do that than to notice how well DiPietro is playing today. Now 26, he's carrying his team to victories- frequently turning aside a lot of rubber in stoning opponents who leave the rink baffled at how they couldn't beat the first-year All-Star.
The latest victim was his favorite opponent in first place division rival New Jersey. After standing on his head to the tune of 37 saves including turning aside 15 of 16 in a busy final stanza, DiPietro was not surpringly selected the game's No.1 Star in their 3-1 road win at The Rock Wednesday. Against a quality opponent, he improved to 4-0 this season while his team made it a perfect five-for-five with backup Wade Dubielewicz doing his part in their prior win at Nassau Coliseum when DiPi was out.
On a team which doesn't score a ton (112 GF, 2.43 Avg in 46 GP) and whose D isn't lights out by any stretch, DiPietro usually is asked to be his team's best player. He sees better than 28 shots-per-night. Despite his team giving up 14 more goals than they've scored, their 23-18-5 record for 51 points under second-year coach Ted Nolan has them sitting seventh in a crowded East only four behind the Devils and Pens.
The biggest reason is DiPi. Both teammates and opponents are taking notice.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist, does it?" explained Devils left wing Patrik Elias to the Associated Press of his team's recent struggles against the Isles after being robbed point blank by a DiPietro glove in the second period. "They are playing well against us. They are playing well against Philly and us.
Those are big points to lose. We had our opportunities to get back in the game, but it's still disappointing to lose. Their goaltender played awesome tonight."
The biggest stops came on Devil captain Jamie Langenbrunner with under six minutes left and Dainius Zubrus with less than 90 seconds to go before teammate Bill Guerin sealed the victory with an empty netter- his second of the night.
"There were a couple of pucks whacked away and I was able to get my glove up on it," DiPietro admitted later of the Zubrus quality chance within 10 feet.
It was easy to see why the Islanders won. Something Nolan referred to pointing to the man "between the goalposts."
"Tonight, Ricky saved us a couple of points," Islander captain Guerin pointed out.
"I thought we played a solid game, but when they turned it up and got good scoring opportunities, Ricky was there. He saved at least four goals I can think over. He kept us in it. He's been doing it all year for us."
As he's been all season for this gritty resilient bunch who want to shock the hockey world by making the postseason for a second straight year when nobody gave them a realistic chance after leading scorer Jason Blake (signed w/Leafs) and Ryan Smyth (Avs) left for richer pastures.
The Islanders have taken eight of the first nine against the Devils (5-0-0) and Rangers (3-1-0)-turning the Battle of New York into a one team show because of No.39 who will get his opportunity to shine in Atlanta less than two weeks away. He's the first Islander goalie to become an All-Star in 30 years since Hall of Famer Billy Smith in 1978. Not bad company. We'll bet Fishstick fans are hoping for similar results.
Every night, he gives his team a chance to win. He's faced 30-or-more shots a jaw dropping 19 times posting a respectable 9-6-4 record with a 2.60 GAA and an outstanding .927 save percentage.
His big saves are what keeps the Fishsticks in these type of pressure games. If they're to continue winning, it will once again fall on the broad shoulders of their franchise netminder. It took a few years but it looks like Milbury's mad gamble is finally paying off.
You won't find many complaints on Long Island.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rangers play like they should, earn much needed win

The Rangers played a 60 minute hockey game last night for the first time in a pretty long time. Facing off against a Buffalo Sabre team that is mired in their own slump, the Rangers came away with a much needed two points.

It was a solid effort up and down the lineup last night. Henrik Lundqvist had to be sharp and was for most of the night, Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan looked like their injuries are close be being fully healed and the defense looked sharp again, even Marek Malik.

The top line has really clicked since Martin Straka returned. While they were held off the scoresheet, they created some decent chances and really moved and controlled the puck well for most of the game. The second line looked good behind a determined looking Sean Avery also. All of the offense came from the third line, though. Brandon Dubinsky scored the first goal from Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes on a nice passing play, and the Prucha added a deflection goal off Paul Mara's shot and Dubinsky's faceoff win. Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to put one past Lundqvist.

With chemistry finally looking like it is kicking in, the Rangers' goal of 96 points should be easily attainable. They sit in last place in the Atlantic Division with 49 points, but are only a three game winning streak out of first. With 35 games to play, 24 wins isn't out of the question.

One thing of note to watch today is if the league does anything about a late third period cross check by Shanahan. He cross checked Clarke McArthur into the goal post in the closing minute, which resulted in an injury to McArthur and a public tirade by Lindy Ruff. The check was unnecessary and reckless, as Shanahan himself has said, but in his long, illustrious career Shanahan has never attempted to purposely injure another player. A fine if anything is all he should get, as the league is reviewing it today.

The Rangers are off now until a weekend home and home against the Bruins. I'll keep you updated on anything that happens between now and then.

There really is No Battle of NY anymore!

So if the Islanders could play the Rangers and the Devils and no one else, the NHL could just wrap up the cup and send it to Long Island. The Islander defeated the Devils last night for the fifth time this year. Yes I said the fith time. Bill Guerin solved Marty Brodeur twice and Mike Sillinger added another goal as the Islanders pull out yet another win 3-2 at The Rock.

The Islanders have defeated the Devils 5 times this season and the Rangers 3 times. That makes them 8-1 against them both. Now lets put this in perspective here, these are the Islanders. You know, that crappy team from Long Island with the worst arena in the entire NHL. The team that everyone always makes fun of, the team that everyone picks to come in last, and yes the team with Garth Snow as GM. But this scrappy bunch of players may not make the playoffs this season, while hockey will continue in Manhattan and Jersey, but to tell you the truth, Jersey should be ashamed of themselves. Or maybe you guys in Jersey should give Rick Dipietro a little more credit.

Like I said before, if the Islanders could play the Rangers and Devils all year around, just send the cup this way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rangers rallying the troops against Buffalo

All hands will be on deck when the Rangers take on the Sabres at 7pm on MSG2 tonight. Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery and Jaromir Jagr are all ready to go and will look to snap out of a skid that has made them losers in six of the last seven games.

Marcel Hossa, Greg Moore and Jason Strudwick will all be healthy scratches tonight. The first, third and fourth lines will all remain the same as the last two games, as will the defensive pairings. The second line will be Chris Drury centering Avery and Shanahan as it was before the two went down to injury. Henrik Lundqvist will also remain between the pipes.

Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal were both named to the Young Stars game, so congratulations to both of them.

Buffalo has been less than stellar so far this year, and may not have fully recovered after losing both of their top players to the free agent market in the offseason. The biggest test will be getting pucks past Ryan Miller. With the Rangers lacking in offense all season, they need to follow the same formula they tried in Pittsburgh of just firing pucks in on net and then follow up hard. With Avery back in the lineup, there will be more traffic in front I'm sure, but more players need to want to get their hands dirty around the crease.

I won't be back until tomorrow, so enjoy the game.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Let's just look forward for now

No use going back to dwell on yet another 40 minute effort by the New York Rangers. It would be better to just look forward to tomorrow's game at home against the Buffalo Sabres. (I wrote yesterday that the Rangers were continuing a homestand against the Penguins, which was incorrect. My bad.)

Some things to keep an eye on for the next 24 hours:

-- Brendan Shanahan skated today at practice, and deemed himself ready for tomorrow's game. Whether Tom Renney shares that feeling or not remains to be seen, and he will be a game-time decision tomorrow.

-- Sean Avery also skated today. He shot some pucks and took some bumps. He also said he was ready to play tomorrow, but Renney has also said that he is a game-time decision tomorrow.

-- While the re-entry to the lineup would undoubtedly create a log-jam on normal days, there may be one person coming out tomorrow. That person may be Jaromir Jagr. Renney said that Captain Jagr was really banged up from a couple of hits and blocking a shot (really? Jagr blocked a shot?) and may also be a game-time decision tomorrow. He was seen limping around the locker room today, and did not skate at all during practice.

So with Shanahan and Avery going in, Greg Moore is certain to be coming out. The second person coming out is more of a question mark. Nigel Dawes has been good enough to stay, but whether Renney thinks so is another story. Marcel Hossa would be the other candidate to ride the pine to make room for the others.

Tomorrow's game also marks the first time that Chris Drury plays his former team. Should be interesting to see how he takes it. Back tomorrow before the game.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Malkin 3 Jagr 1 Conklin > Lundqvist

If this looks like some sort of complex mathematics formula, then yeah. Chances are it probably is.

Translation: Malkin scores three goals while Jagr scores only one. Ty Conklin makes clutch stops setting a new career high with 43 saves while Henrik Lundqvist allows cruddy rebounds like Malkin's winner which "Franchise goalies" aren't supposed to give up.

Not that we're pinning this all on King Henrik who's Dad is still sick which can't be helping his concentration. His team failed to show for the first 20 and paid the price because when you face a hot goalie who's as unconscious as Conklin is now, you're not coming back from three down. Especially against him, Sid the Kid, Malkin and that team which looked a heck of a lot more organized than the Booshirts did.

Who cares if Jagr scored his fourth power play goal to break up the shutout midway through the third? Did anyone actually believe they'd get anything else by Conklin AKA the new Dominator (well at least for now anyway).


The last word of course intentional because the way he's not produced on the PP, they'll be warming up the golf clubs at least two months earlier than anyone at 2 Penn Plaza expected.

I've lost faith. This team just doesn't inspire much now.

37 games remaining. Will they wake up before it's too late?!?!?!?!?!

Let them prove me wrong. Does anybody think this team even if they make it will do anything substantial this Spring? Not as long as No.68 is wearing the 'C.'

I take back the Cup prediction. I must've been on something.

P.S. How is Malkin not on the All-Star team? This business of representing every team is a joke. We're talking about a meaningless exhibition. That means the fans in Atlanta should get to see all the game's brightest and best stars. Malkin is one of the best young players in the league and he won't be there because the league has to make every team feel good. Bull shit.

I'm done.

Freaking pathetic

The lack of effort in the first period by this team was pathetic. The Pens have improved quite a bit since the last time the Rangers played them. Hence, their 8-0-1 mark entering play needing a win to tie the Devils for a share of the division lead.

However, with the Blueshirts coming off a solid 4-1 home win over the Canadiens which was their first of 2008, you would've expected them to come out with a little more fire. There was just nothing! It was embarrassing. That's one word to describe this team. Does anyone see it drastically changing when Sean Avery returns? I got news for ya. He's not Superman and this isn't last year.

I have my doubts. There's zero consistency. Just look how easy the Pens' three goals were. First one, Evgeni Malkin comes off the wall and nobody covers for Marek Malik as the second-year Russian snaps one past Henrik Lundqvist.

The second goal, Sidney Crosby breezes past Martin Straka and two D and then the great Henrik allows an awful rebound which an unchecked Malkin is allowed to stuff home for his second of the night. I think it was Marc Staal and Daniel Girardi who watched.

So, the Pens score two quick ones. Take a timeout. Right? Not Tom Renney! He's lost it. Instead, let's wait for this undisciplined team to take two straight penalties leading to a bomb of a one-timer from Sergei Gonchar off a 5-on-3. Oh. And the best part was the Pens wasted no time. Just like our great PP which passes and passes and passes...You'll be seeing pucks overpassed in your nightmares if you root for the Rangers.

Still no timeout. Well, at least Colton Orr stood in there against the league's toughest enforcer Georges Laraque on the game's opening shift.

That was it. When Malik, who is the slowest skating defenseman on the team is the only blueliner skating with any purpose, you got issues.

This team is in serious trouble. Especially when Ted Nolan continues to squeeze whatever he can out of a hungrier Islander team which somehow got three points in Calgary and Vancouver and also beat Ottawa last night to stay a couple of points ahead of the Blueshirts for eighth with less games played.

When does the Ranger organization take notice? When do we hear anything from Glen Sather? I'm waiting.

Rangers look to build on last game against Penguins

The Rangers continue their homestand tonight at 7pm against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game can be seen on Vs. The Rangers will need to continue and build upon the great play that got them a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadians on Saturday night. Pittsburgh is 9-1-1 since their last game against New York, which New York won, and has gotten stellar play from surprise fill-in goaltender Ty Conklin.

The Rangers have played the Penguins well over the last couple of seasons, but tonight will still be a test. Sean Avery isn't expected to be in the lineup, and Brendan Shanahan is questionable. A second line of Chris Drury, Marcel Hossa and Brendan Shanahan could be effective against the top line of Pittsburgh, as they can be defensive and yet still hammer the puck at the net. Conklin has stopped at least 35 shots on goal in five of his last seven games, so getting the puck at the net and crashing hard will be key.

John Dellapina of the Daily News has a good article online and in the paper today on the whole Marek Malik situation and why it just blew over. It's a good read so head over to read it.

There is also a chance that the Rangers will be playing an outdoor game next season in Yankee Stadium. It's a good idea, I just don't want to see every team doing it. Same with playing overseas games. If it happens too much, it will start to lose the luster and excitement that a once a year event creates.

I'll be away from the computer until just before game time, so I probably won't be able to check in with line combos and whatnot. Expect the same lineup on Saturday, and if Shanny is back expect Greg Moore to sit and possibly be sent down. Enjoy the game.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rangers finally snap skid

The Rangers broke out the offensive power that everyone knows they have last night as they ended their five game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadians. Martin Straka, Chris Drury, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes recorded the goals, and Henrik Lundqvist was ten minutes shy of the shutout.

This is the kind of game that the Broadway Blueshirts are capable of playing any night of the week. They game a hard fought 60 minutes and everyone up and down the lineup looked comfortable, even everyone's favorite Marek Malik.

Not much else to report. Ryan Callahan scored a goal in his first game back in Hartford and Sean Avery is getting close to returning. Brendan Shanahan should be ready to go for tomorrow's game against the Penguins. Greg Moore will likely be the scratch tomorrow and Marcel Hossa could find himself on the bench when Avery returns.

I may not be around until late tomorrow. It's my birthday and I may do some celebrating. I will record the game and weigh in on Tuesday though. Plans could change if there is a massive snowstorm, which is possible. Enjoy the football games today. Giants vs Cowboys at 4:30 should be some excellent football to watch.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back from a new device

It's hard to think about a time where computers weren't always on and somewhere within reach of me to pick up. After going an unbearable three days without a computer, I have finally found a unit to my liking and am now back in action.

Like myself, the Rangers are back in action against the Canadians as I type this. Brendan Shanahan is scratched and MSG's favorite target of boo's, Marek Malik, is back in the lineup. Marty Straka is also back in the lineup for the Rangers and is really skating. Here is the lineup as we approach the second intermission:

Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Hossa - Drury - Moore
Prucha - Dubinsky - Dawes
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Malik - Roszival
Staal - Girardi
Tyutin - Mara

The lineup shakeup has worked so far, as the Rangers are enjoying a 4-0 lead. Straka had the first goal from Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury scored from Marcel Hossa (as I cursed that line combination I might add), Petr Prucha got the third from Nigel Dawes, and Dawes just added a fourth goal at the end of the period on a delayed penalty, assisted by Prucha.

Coming off of an abysmal performance against Philadelphia, the Rangers need a game like this. The have this potential that they are not reaching, and this could be the jumpstart that they need. Henrik Lundqvist has been solid in net, hopefully building up his confidence.

Enjoy the third period. I'll be back later or tomorrow with an update.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A few updates

Lately, I've been pretty busy with work. However, I did get out to the Garden last night for that dreadful showing by the Deadshirts.

Flat out pathetic. How in the world could they play so miserably when fourth line stone hand member Ryan Hollweg recorded his first career NHL two-goal game?

The game turned on a Chris Drury throwing the stick penalty near the conclusion of the first. When the Flyers tied it, you just knew what to expect. The latest awful goal slumping netminder Henrik Lundqvist allowed to Scott Hartnell from a sharp angle took the wind out of their sails.

Maybe it's that type of inconsistent goaltending from Lundqvist which hurt his All-Star chances as he was passed over for Islander goalie Rick DiPietro and Florida's Tomas Vokoun.

Somehow, Tim Thomas didn't make it. That's what happens when you have to have every team represented. What a stupid process.

In any event, the Blueshirts (soon to be renamed Booshirts) managed to allow Hartnell to score three consecutive goals for a hat trick. I can at least say that I wasn't in the building for that as I did the only logical thing. I left when it was still 3-2 after watching this heartless bunch do absolutely zilch on another power play. I only needed to see about 45 seconds before heading to the exits for Gerry Cosby's.

That's how bad it's gotten with this team. So, when does the organization get their collective heads out of their asses and make changes? It's painfully obvious that Tom Renney's message and silly defensive system isn't getting through. He's holding the team back. However, the affable coach is only part of the issue. The bigger one involves Michal "I never shoot" Rozsival and butt buddy Jaromir Jagr. Would somebody please tell Rozy that it's okay to shoot more and pass to other teammates rather than his Czech buddy?!?!?!?!?!

I've had it up to here with both. Just get them out of here. Seriously, this team will never win anything with these guys. Ship every Czech out except Petr Prucha.

I'm so tired of the wussy Euro-style. This East-West stuff just doesn't work. How many times can we see these guys pass up glorious chances going wide and away from the net in circles??? Welcome to the Broadway version of Ice Capades! I thought the days of Valeri "The Ballerina" Kamensky were over. Apparently I was wrong.

I also don't want to hear all the injury excuses. The Devils had injuries and overcame them like all good teams do. Every team loses players. Save me the Sean Avery and Martin Straka x-factors. If that's what they need, then they're already done and should just make their offseason plans.

Another thing. To all those obnoxious drunken Ranger fans who cheer every time Marek Malik is scratched, how's that working out? Can't blame No.8 anymore for the lack of D and inconsistencies. Jason Strudwick is a hard worker with character but he's nothing more than an extra defenseman. This business of him playing every night over Malik is moronic.

Also, how in the hell is Nigel Dawes on the third line? He had better chemistry with Drury and Brendan Shanahan. What the heck did Greg Moore do to deserve the nod? I'd love to hear that explanation.

There's a lot wrong with this team. And I don't really know how it gets fixed. Does anyone think they're beating the Canadiens tonight? Or winning at red hot Pittsburgh where Ty Conklin has morphed into Dominik Hasek?

I'm going to AC later today. If I had a chance to bet, I'd bet against the Rangers right now. That's how down I am.

Can they turn it around? I no longer know cause I've seen this disgusting act before. It's like being in the real life version of Back To The Future and going into the time machine.

At least the Devils and Islanders play hard for their coaches and get results. I wish I knew the answer.

P.S. That Alexander Ovechkin NHL record 13-year $124 million deal is sick. Wow. Talk about commitment! I think the Caps had to do it for the good of the franchise. Otherwise, how would they survive? They don't even draw much to begin with. Their team has played much better since the coaching chance and AO is one of the top five players in the league. His 32 goals ranked second coming into the night. I'm sure Jarome Iginla passed him during the Islander game.

Ovechkin is just 14 shy of last year's total and already has 130 goals during his brief NHL career. The guy is awesome. Is it too many years for the 22-year old Russian superstar? Probably. But I also see the rationale as explained above.

Would anyone ever have believed some of the crazy long-term deals we're now seeing become more the norm during the lockout? Positive or negative? What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rangers show up late, lose again

My apologies on a late post. Truth is, about 12 hours ago I was in the middle of a post and my computer crashed. I have yet to get it going again and it's looking like I may be computer-less for a few days. This is just a temporary solution. Any suggestions for a new laptop?

Anyways, back to the Rangers. If the team that played the final 25 minutes of the game showed up every night, we would be better than Ottawa. I'm tired of saying that though. The first 35 minutes of the game was an abysmal performance. There was little heart and even less effort. It was kind of like they were expecting much less from the underachieving Lightning. No excuses. Come out and play hard for 60 minutes or we should trade for people that will.

I'm glad that Nigel Dawes and Greg Moore are back with the big club. P.A. Parenteau has been returned to Hartford. Tom Renney's use of them yesterday was extremely questionable though. 9:44 of ice time for Greg Moore and 10:12 for Nigel Dawes. Sure, that would cut it if we had four healthy lines, but with the second line not doing anything, the fourth line unable to score and the top line working on chemistry, there is no reason why that third line couldn't be out there for 15 minutes or so. Chris Drury logged 23+ minutes of ice time, which cannot be expected from any forward day in and day out.

Steve Zipay asks if the Blueshirts are working on a deal now that there are numerous injuries, Sean Avery and Martin Straka being out indefinitely at this point. One name he mentioned was Jason Chimera, but what would we be giving up? Obviously, we cannot trade Marek Malik and a struggling Ryan Callahan or Marcel Hossa for Ilya Kovalchuk, so any trade would mean parting with Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, Greg Moore or Al Montoya.

Three games remain before the All-Star break. It will be a welcomed break, if only for the several days off to get healthy. Let's look at righting this ship before then.

I can't guarantee being able to get on to get a post out tomorrow, but I'll try. I should hopefully be set with a new computer in the next week or so, but am having trouble deciding on what I want. I'm open to suggestions. I'll be back from the new device sometime really soon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Time for change

I wish I had more time to say what I want here but I have a Hard Hits Special NFL Playoff show coming up at the top of the hour including a preview of the first ever Giants-Cowboys postseason match-up in the Divisional Round.

Maybe it's for the best because the other New York team who wears those same Giant colors is anything but these days.

The latest embarrassing loss to the East's worst Tampa Bay- I don't care if they cut it from 4-1 to 4-3 and had nine zillion chances to tie late- it's just another reason to feel if you're a Blueshirt supporter.

Screw all the injury excuses!!!!! I don't care and will be damned if any Ranger fan uses that for why this team can't consistently play close to 60 minutes of hockey and remains an underachiving bunch which could actually miss the playoffs.

This team needs to seriously consider making a change with the coach. I have had it up to here with Tom Renney. His insistence of rolling four lines late in this game cost his team any realistic chance to tie it.

Why with your bench short as is would you send out the stonehands fourth line which has a grand total of two goals at even strength when there's only 4+ minutes to go?!?!?!?!?!?!

Can anyone out there answer that?

With that, I'm done. Renney must go! This team just won't get the results the organization's looking for until they get someone in who's not afraid to pull punches.

Maybe I'll have more after.

Renney is a nice guy but not the right fit for this team. It's time to fire him and save the season from a humiliation.

Who's with me?

Rangers vs Lightning

Update: Shanahan is in tonight. He wasn't supposed to be but he is. Parenteau is the scratch. The below lines are useless, and I have no idea what they will be. Drury with Shanahan and Prucha sounds like a safe bet, with Dawes with Gomez and Jagr and Moore with Dubinsky and Hossa. That's just a guess though.

Just under 30 minutes from now, the Rangers begin a homestand, starting with facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With all of the hooplah that I reported before, it looks like we have some solid line combinations for the game.


Tyutin - Girardi
Staal - Rozsival
Mara - Strudwick

Marek Malik will be a healthy scratch and even though Brendan Shanahan is skating pre-game warmups right now, he has been ruled out for tonight. He should be ready to go for Thursday night's tilt against Philadelphia. Martin Straka's concussion is a minor one, but he will miss some time. About a week is the timetable for Straka. Sean Avery is on the IR, meaning he will miss a minimum of a week as well. Enjoy the game.

The Puck Stops Here


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