Sunday, January 31, 2010

Different year, same late-game chokes

While I knew what type of recap this was going to be after the Devils' unconscionable 3-2 loss to the Kings this afternoon, it's hard to really figure out precisely where to start with this disaster of a game. I guess I'll start with I'm glad I wasn't there this time. I had four different tickets for today's game after all, my own two seats which I sold long ago to a friend's friend and her husband plus two other free tickets after the Lightningate fiasco which I gave to a cash-strapped friend so he could take his dad. Normally I don't bother with weekend games anyway (unless someone's going with me or it's a big rivalry game) since there is usually an hour layover for me between the final horn and the train at Broad Street. So I sat this one out.

Maybe some other people involved in the game should have sat as well! Starting with Martin Brodeur - yes, I know he's Mr. Vezina, plays every game, greatest goalie in the world yadda yadda yadda. Can he freaking sit one or two lousy games before the Olympics now?! After a Carolina Game 7-like choke in the final minute and forty-six seconds?! The only difference between that game and this one really is that the tying goal was the one where Marty gave up a softee - in this case to Wayne Simmonds on a floater from the side of the net, again around the armpit area. Plus of course the Carolina one was a season-ender, this one just seems to portend the upcoming ignominious end of a the Mets it's becoming same crap, different year.

Even worse than Brodeur this afternoon was Mike Mottau - again! What is it going to take for Jacques Lemaire to even castigate him, much less reduce his icetime?! I realize he's become a favorite son much like Jay Pandolfo (and I'll get to HIM and that dopey checking line in a minute), but how many miscues and brain farts can one player make before he's made accountable??? Especially considering unlike with Pando, Mottau's not on a prohibitive contract. We're not stuck with him past this year. Yet, if you have a certain amount of time in the league apparently you're allowed mistakes from here to kingdom com but if you're a rookie like Nicklas Bergfors, banish him to the fourth line for not scoring in a few games!

Just today alone, Mottau's blind turnover with just twenty-nine seconds remaining in the second period led to the first Kings goal by Michal Handzus. Then he takes a dumb penalty early in the third period that the Devils have to kill off. And finally on the Kings' last-minute power play (more on that later too) he and Colin White were predictably stuck in molasses while the Kings circled the puck around to Drew Doughty, whose rocket went through everyone in front incluing Brodeur with just twenty-eight seconds remaining in regulation!

Somewhat fittingly, it was the Lemaire old, slow checking line special that was on the ice for the first two goals as well. Pando, the equally as slow and offensively inept Rob Niedermayer and the flavor of the week at RW (right now it's Patrick Davis, who fits right in with limited offensive skill despite his goal two nights ago) all get around fifteen minutes a night against the other team's best players. If it wasn't so maddening, it would be comical just how many two-on-ones and quality scoring chances Pando and Nieds blow on a nightly basis. Today alone that number was at least two or three.

Of course we could say the same about Pando and John Madden the last couple years, but we were supposed to be rid of the checking line last year under Brent Sutter - who's thankfully screwing up Calgary now with his brother - and we were supposed to be rid of it this year too. Guess again. And if Lemaire doesn't get it through his thick skull that an old, slow checking line just is not going to work then we won't be successful at all when it counts, no matter whether the Devils somehow hang on to win this division over the Penguins. I've said it once, I'll say it a hundred times but all my ranting isn't going to do any good on this matter sadly. Lemaire is who he is and that's not going to change based on anything I say.

And while I don't always believe in hockey karma, particularly after the Canes got rewarded for tanking the last game of the regular season last year, maybe it came back to bite us in the rear end tonight during the third period. After Johnny Oduya (who otherwise had his best game of the year amazingly enough) dove to give us a late power play - which predictably we didn't convert on - a late dive compelled the refs to make an equally bad call on Andy Greene with just a minute remaining in the game. Unlike the offensively challenged Devils though, the Kings did come through on their ill-gotten power play and good for them.

When you blow consecutive two-goal leads in three nights you don't deserve to win. Especially when you're playing a team that's won six in a row on the road, just played in Boston the afternoon before and should have been absolutely gassed. Particuarly when you're going to make the same mindless mistakes on and off the ice over and over and over again. Granted, the Kings are a very good young team, I don't want to take anything away from them. But this is a game that should have been won and choking in the clutch has been a problem for this team since 2007-08. Plus the window's closing on this team given Brodeur's age, Patrik Elias's increasing fragility and a declining defense. Who would have ever thought of my three teams the JETS would be in the best shape going forward?!

The only good news, if you want to call it that - is if this game doesn't finally get the message through to Lemaire and Lou Lamoriello who are both stuck in a pre-lockout mentality of checking line, playing Brodeur every game and leaning on vets until they break down - then nothing really will. No matter what mediocre defenseman we bring in at the trade deadline or fourth-line forward. And we'll be headed for another crash and burn come April, though it's hard to see how we could top the last two years in terms of embarassment (a sweep? That's the only cliff we haven't fallen off of yet), this team will probably find a way.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Forfeit

Just when you think they can't possibly sink any lower, the skating dead men that are the Rangers do giving up three goals to the Coyotes in a humiliating first which saw the anti-Rangers skate circles around them. Of course, two more first goals for players named Mikkel Boedker and Sami Lepisto. Outshot 10-4 with odd-man rush after odd-man rush featuring Tinmen falling down. Outplayed severely. Hell. A pee wee team could muster a better effort.

I get that Henrik's sick and Ocho Cinco's in but come on. That was so sad. Shane Doan got it started surprising the poor backup thru the wickets off a turnover. Just 46 seconds later, Boedker finished off a great play by vet Robert Lang who record his 700th NHL point. Less than seven minutes later, Lepisto had all day to fire a pea by a screened Johnson for his first goal in 61 career games.

There just aren't enough words for how uncompetitive they are right now. Everyone needs to go including the coach who's lost the team. I want them to keep losing because that's the only prayer we got of the miracle. While our sadsack bunch give nothing, you got the reverse in the Hurricanes who just went ahead of the best team in the league and now doubled their lead in 26 seconds with hardworking Matt Cullen scoring. Think we couldn't use him now? Another great move by The Genius who believes we're "still in it!!!!!!" In what?!?!?!?!?!! La La Land? And he probably also believes in the tooth fairy.

Watch Paul Maurice's guys get back in the race while the Boo-shirts continue to embarrass the logo. Next time, Just Forfeit!

Devils get straight Z's in a 5-4 OT win

When I saw a full moon driving towards the train station around five thirty-ish last night, I should have known right then I was in for a wild night. Indeed, it worked out that way - between bizarre coaching decisions, a strange goalie pull, offense galore followed by a late meltdown and finally a wacky OT finish. And that doesn't even include my post-game misadventures...but I'll leave that for last.

At least last night's game had the desired result in the end for me and the rest of the home crowd as Travis Zajac's power play goal in the final minute of overtime gave the Devils a 5-4 win they should have had locked up minutes before after blowing a two-goal lead in the final five minutes of regulation. So last night the team didn't get straight A's in terms of execution...more like straight Z's, as in the line of Zajac, Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus at right wing. That line (created just last night) got four of the game's five goals in just two periods of action and the OT power play. Why only two periods? Well, I'll get to that rant in a minute.

I knew I should have taken a picture of the full moon last night but couldn't do it while driving and forgot about it by the time I got to the South Orange train station. So I had to get a random picture off the internet because I was compelled to use one, since last night was just that weird. Immediately I noticed Jacques Lemaire put together an interesting line combination to start when Zubrus was announced as the starting right wing with Parise and Zajac. Also, he scratched Nicklas Bergfors for the first time. Though the scratch was probably deserved given Bergfors' poor play of late, playing Rod Pelley isn't going to help any either unless the action called for a fighter not named Andrew Peters (there were no fisticuffs last night).
Early on was the first indication we would be in for fireworks, though not in a good way as the Leafs got a goal with their fourth line of Jamal Mayers, Wayne Primeau and Colton Orr on the ice. Mayers got the primary assist on Carl Gunnarsson's first-ever NHL goal at 6:11. Admittedly I did a double-take when I saw Gunnarsson led his team in icetime last night. So who, exactly is Gunnarsson? A 23-year old Swedish defenseman who was a former seventh round pick but apparently gets first-round like icetime sixteen games into his NHL career. Just from that game alone, he should be playing in the Olympics over (gak) Johnny Oduya, who would wind up with a -3 last night in another dreadful game.

Fortunately it would only take fifty-nine more seconds for Parise and Zubrus to announce their presence. Zubrus corralled a missed shot from Parise, then turned around and found the winger in front for an easy tap-in goal, Zach's 24th of the season. At 13:40 that line would combine for another goal, with Zubrus's quick pass in front finding Parise for a wrist shot in front of Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson giving Zach his second of the night, to go along with Zubrus and Zajac's second assists respectively. Lemaire's decisions to give Parise yesterday off from practice and put Zubrus on his right wing were paying immediate dividends.
Despite several glorious opportunities, Parise wouldn't get the hat trick last night as Gustavsson denied him a number of times late in the first period and early in the second, but Zach wasn't done making an impact on the game. Almost midway through the second period his line scored their third goal of the night when Zajac found Zubrus on a two-on-one and this time Zubrus put in himself for just his third goal of the season at 9:22. As good as Zajac and Parise are though, I have to give the big guy credit. I haven't always been a fan of Zubrus and maybe he's right when he modestly told Stan Fischler that anyone could have success playing with those two but he himself had his second-best game as a Devil last night (only behind his four-goal outburst against Tampa Bay), showing offensive skill that we need to see more of.
About a minute later and through no fault of his own, Gustavsson got pulled. I understand maybe you want to give him some rest considering the Leafs also play tonight (what a concept, a team actually using two goaltenders!) but that seemed like a random time to pull the goaltender. Gustavsson couldn't be faulted on the goals, the Leafs were still in the game at 3-1 down and he didn't get pulled immediately after the Zubrus goal, instead Ron Wilson waited for the TV timeout to do it. Of course, coaches can always fall back on the ol' 'change the momentum' card.

As things go in hockey sometimes, the Leafs did score next though it was the most unlikely goal you could imagine with Mark Fraser making a bad decision to pinch and leaving Orr on a breakaway, and the big guy beat Martin Brodeur with a soft wrist shot just under the armpit - seriously - looking either like Bobby Orr or Eric Staal (who beat Brodeur memorably in that same area on the other side of his body last spring). Colton Orr's embarassing goal at 14:41 pulled the Leafs to within 3-2 but adding to the intrigue of last night's game, the Devils would respond with their own rookie getting his first-ever NHL goal. And Patrick Davis earned it at 17:19, playing on a line with the offensive black holes known as Jay Pandolfo and Rob Niedermayer. Colin White's slapshot got blocked, hit off of Niedermayer's skate and bounced to Davis in the slot, and the young winger put it past new Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala to restore the Devils' two-goal cushion.
Up two goals against the crud of the Leafs, the second-worst team in the conference you would think the third period would be a time to add on and put the game away. But nooooooo, not only did Lemaire do something he swore he wouldn't by falling back into the 1-2-2 in the third period, but he made an even more unconscionable decision by moving Zubrus off the Parise-Zajac line. Granted, it's normally not a downgrade to put Jamie Langenbrunner back with those two and reunite ZZPops, but Lemaire compounded breaking up a scorching hot line by putting Zubrus with the fourth line. To quote an oldie but a goodie...'You cannot be serious!!!' At first I thought this was to reduce Zubrus's icetime in his third game back off of IR but it turns out Zubrus played 20+ minutes anyway and took a regular shift.
Lemaire's explanation was odd too, saying the fourth line needed help and that's why he moved Zubrus there. Well geez either bench the fourth frigging line with a lead in the third period or put some other veteran along with them...don't break up a line that was flat-out dominating last night! Those defensive decisions and defensive miscues on the ice led to a late third-period meltdown somewhat reminiscent of Game 7 last year. With just 5:01 left in the game, Bryce Salvador's turnover behind the net led to a quick unassisted Alexei Ponikarovsky goal, cutting the Devils' lead to one.
While the Leafs only got seven shots in the third period, clearly they were the only team interested in attacking, as ZZ Pops looked out of sync and the rest of the lines had no hope of creating any offense, even against a bad goaltender in Toskala. Finally came a moment several minutes in the making when Matt Stajan stunned the crowd, tying the game with just ninety-one seconds left off a rebound goal in front after the centerman slipped behind the ill-fated Oduya (who was clearly on Mars last night) to corral the puck.
Toronto almost applied the coup de grace in overtime, with only some good Brodeur saves keeping the Devils from their most embarassing defeat of the season. Even worse, it seemed like Lemaire was playing for the shootout as he sent out Pandolfo and Niedermayer on two different four-on-four shifts in the first two minutes of overtime! And they predictably got hemmed in their end for a minute on the latter shift before finally clearing the puck and giving way to Parise and Zajac who shifted the momentum, when Parise's pass found an open Zajac, who would be hauled down by Luke Schenn, creating just the fourth power play of the game (two for each team) with just 68 seconds remaining.
After a timeout by Lemaire to diagram a play and draw out the tension even more, the Devils' power play came out with four forwards (including the straight Z's, reunited at last) and passed the puck around for seconds - minutes it seemed to me - before finally Parise fed Zajac in front and the centerman fired a one-timer home with only 41 seconds left in the overtime for Zajac's fifteenth goal of the season. Everyone on the ice had a hand in the winning goal, with Brian Rolston also coming up with a secondary assist and Zubrus providing the screen in front of Toskala.
Then came the postgame, after which I had a few minutes to get out to the bus. I stopped in the little coffee shop along the way and in the midst of taking stuff out of my jacket pockets and putting them into my pants pockets and vice-versa I unwittingly left my camera on one of the side tables there. Unfortunately I didn't realize this until after I got on the bus, so after running to catch the bus in the first place I had to run back to the coffee place after the first stop to retrieve my camera. I still thought I would make the 9:44 bus back to Broad Street (with the next one being at 10:01) but I either missed it or the bus was late.
Whatever the case I wound up running after a bus I thought was mine but wasn't, so being flustered and out of luck at this point I decided to walk back the mile plus to Broad Street in freezing cold weather. At least I did make the 10:08 train back but man, it took till about the time I got home for me to warm up. I guess it was a fitting conclusion to a bizarre night but thank goodness I went through all this nonsense after a win!
BoNY Three Stars:
  1. Zach Parise (two goals, two assists, +2 and 9 SOG in 20:41)
  2. Danius Zubrus (goal, two assists, +2 in 20:37)
  3. Alexei Ponikarovsky (goal, assist)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nothing sweet about Candy Canes for Islanders

So much for turning it around in Raleigh. Instead, Scott Gordon's Islanders dropped a third straight against the suddenly resurgent Candy Canes by a count of 4-1. There was nothing sweet about this one as they managed to fall behind by two and never recovered.

You give a team, no matter where they are in the standings, the type of chances we gave them, you’re not going to win games,” disappointed lone scorer Matt Moulson said after netting his 20th to break Cam Ward's shutout bid with 4:31 left. “They’re a team that’s hot. We knew that and we came out pretty sluggish.
Coming off a home blowout loss at the hands of the Caps with a chance to push ahead of the idle Rangers into playoff position, instead the Islanders allowed sizzling new Carolina captain Eric Staal to keep it going when he netted his third in 24 hours versus New York teams. In their 5-1 blowout of the Rangers, he tallied twice. This time, the franchise center came out of the corner and steered home his own rebound converting on the power play at 9:19. Brandon Sutter and ex-Ranger Matt Cullen added assists.

It didn't take long for the Hurricanes to extend the lead when the aforementioned Cullen got to a loose puck and fired a quick wrister from the right circle through a maze past Rick DiPietro 2:53 later. A battle tested player who could be on the way out, Cullen's turned it up this month with points in six of his last seven including his 10th goal and a helper last night. He's up to a dozen points (2-10-12) in January. Dating back to Dec.26, almost half (2-14-16) his season total 34 points have come over that period. The 33 year-old vet is versatile and can help someone. Might the center starved Devils be interested?

After being outscored by two and outshot 12-9, the Isles mustered little in a second that featured a combined eight shots with just three from the visitors- making life easy for Ward. In fact, an acrobatic DiPietro save kept it competitive. His teammates finally turned it up in the third outshooting Carolina 15-5. However, they remained stymied when Andrew Alberts went off for hooking. With an opportunity to get right back in it, the Isles were victimized by fourth liner Stephane Yelle for a crushing shorthanded goal just 21 seconds following the penalty. Mark Streit got caught pinching, allowing Pat Dwyer to push the puck out to Yelle who then skated down the left wing before wisely using Islander captain Doug Weight as a screen from the left circle. His first goal in 28 games went between Weight's legs past DiPietro's right glove to the goalie's chagrin. Not a good goal to give up.

Down three, Moulson hit 20 when Frans Nielsen slipped a pass to him for a quick shot to finally beat Ward. A nice reward for a camp steal who's wound up as the club's top finisher three ahead of rookie John Tavares. His 33 points are tied with JT91 for second behind Kyle Okposo's 36. Where would they be without him? Unfortunately, that was as close as they got with Staal finding Jussi Jokinen for an empty netter with 45 ticks left, sealing it.

Hillen Out 6-8 Weeks With Broken Jaw: As has been known the past couple of days stemming from a scary moment when defenseman Jack Hillen took an Alexander Ovechkin shot right to the chin, he's out six to eight weeks with a broken jaw. It looked a lot worse with the puck appearing to strike his mouth bloodying him. Islanders team medics quickly got to the ice to treat him and help him off the ice as a stunned Ovechkin watched with his head down Tuesday.

Signed as a free agent a couple of years ago, the just turned 24 year-old from Minnesota has evolved into a solid player under Gordon. After getting into 40 games and posting a goal and five assists last year, he'd become a regular on the blueline contributing two goals and career highs in assists (14), points (16), penalty minutes (36), power play points (5) and games (49). Already minus Radek Martinek (done for season) and Brendan Witt (IR), it's just one more obstacle the Islanders will have to overcome. Yesterday's recall Dustin Kohn played 12 minutes finishing minus-one.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Matt Moulson, NYI (20th of season, 3 SOG, +1 in 19 shifts-13:46)
2nd Star-Eric Staal, Car (PPG/assist, 2 SOG, 7-7 draws, +1 in 19:15)
1st Star-Matt Cullen, Car (GW/assist, 5 SOG, 4-5 draws, +1 in 19:21)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Islanders and Candy Canes on now

The Islanders need a win to jump over the Rangers and back into the playoff mix. It's only like 1,000 eight teams separated by a point. They battle the Candy Canes, who are fresh off a 5-1 trouncing of the Booshirts. The Isles need to get back on track. Especially off the 7-2 home drubbing at the hands of the red hot Caps and the Devil disappointment. We'll see if they can silence Eric Staal.

Tweet Heard Round The World:

BattleOfNewYork can't believe I'm saying this but Go Islanders

Live by the sword, die by the sabre

Since the shootout has been instituted in the wake of the 2004-05 lockout, the Devils have been arguably the most successful team in it. With legendary goalie Martin Brodeur adapting well to the skills competition and scoring aces like Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner that hasn't changed this year. One of the few goaltenders that's had close to Brodeur's success in the shootout plays for Buffalo however, and Ryan Miller made an emphatic case towards winning Team USA's starting job by making 39 saves in 65 minutes of hockey, then two more in the skills competition against the aformentioned Parise and Langenbrunner to give a tired Buffalo team a 2-1 win.

Unfortunately for me the shootout (and five-minute overtime) was about all I saw of the game last night, as I was playing a game of dodgeball of all things during it - and personally doing about as well as the Devils' offense of late, though my team did win. From what it sounds like, at least the Devils played much better last night defensively and territorially with a 40-31 shot advantage over a Sabres team just getting back from a brutal seven-game trip out West. Not satisfied with being in the division lead still, Lindy Ruff changed things up benching two starting defensemen last night. Maybe we should try benching a couple of forwards sometime, though it's not as if we have a lot to replace them with.

Obviously you have to take last night's failure to score with a grain of salt, for Miller is putting together a Vezina-worthy season and shined in a potential Olympic matchup with Brodeur, the likely starter for Team Canada. And on the bright side, at least Brian Rolston finally earned a few sawbucks of his $5 million salary last night with a goal, a typical slapshot up the wing at 14:51 of the second period. Even more astonishingly, Johnny Oduya (and his $3.5 million salary) got the assist on Rolston's sixteenth goal of the year, just Oduya's third point in 37 games this season - which barely puts him ahead of goaltender Brodeur.

Of course the Devils had to come from behind again after Adam Mair's deflection of a Derek Roy shot beat Brodeur at 14:14 of the first period, a twenty minutes that the Devils otherwise dominated with a 15-9 edge in shots. Strangely there were only two minor penalties called in the entire game, with one being a delay of game by the Sabres in the first period and the other a supposedly contreversial goalie interference call on Langenbrunner in the third. Neither team's power play cashed in and I believe we still remain one for the decade on the man advantage.

Hopefully that'll change tomorrow night when I'll be in attendance (just my third game this month as things have worked out) to see the first of our three games against the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs in eight days. While I won't go so far as to say we should get five points in this mini-playoff series I will say if we can't score offensively against the Leafs' wonderful goalies - Vesa Toskala and the summer sensation Jonas Gustavsson - then we're not going to score against anyone until reinforcements arrive, one way or another.

What did change last night was our shootout success, which usually consists of either Parise or Langenbrunner - or both - scoring and Brodeur slamming the door shut. However, the only door slamming shut in Buffalo was the one in front of Miller's crease as he stonewalled the two Devils' aces, while Brodeur had an ill-fated attempt at a pokecheck against Jochen Hecht and looked bad allowing an easy goal there. While Brodeur is often successful at this maneuver, against an average (to be kind) offensive player isn't the time to try it unless you're absolutely sure he's not looking up. When Jason Pominville beat Brodeur clean in the third round, it was time to turn out the lights on last night's contest.

Notes: Danius Zubrus played his second game in a row off of IR so hopefully we're out of the woods there. Patrik Elias has resumed off-ice activities and allegedly Paul Martin and David Clarkson are close to skating as well. Illka Pikkaranen wasn't claimed by any NHL team so rather than assign him to the AHL, the Devils will let him play for a Russian KHL team the rest of this season. Oh well, at least he managed one fluke goal before returning to obscurity.

BoNY Three Stars:

  1. Ryan Miller (39/40 saves, shootout win)
  2. Adam Mair (goal, +1)
  3. Brian Rolston (goal, +1)

One more for good measure

Just got done watching this debacle. There aren't enough four letter words to describe it. The Canes easily could've put up 10. You know. There's a lot to be said for how hard Paul Maurice's club competes despite playing for nothing but pride. Giving Eric Staal the 'C' was an easy choice. But you watch how hard that team competes and it boggles the mind because we're getting zip from too many guys. No wonder they've exasperated so many fans.

I love the Rangers and always will. But it really drives me crazy when a select number of players aren't giving close to maximum effort. Ally's giveaway for a clear cut shorthanded chance was pathetic. That's what he does in his first game back? Good God. Is anyone home? Seriously.

I am so sick of the damn charity-fest with Dolan's Garden. I love charity as much as anyone. Helping troubled kids, etc is great. But they care so much more about that damn Garden Of Dreams than the teams that play. What about WINNING??? When does that ever matter with this owner? It's such a joke. Between that, the stick kids and the greedy Casino Night even if for a good cause, F it! That's how the diehards feel. They can suck it.

Before I totally lose it, I'll leave ya with this telling quote from Cam Ward, who made every big save unlike our goalie. I know. I am not killing him. This team just doesn't support him. But a couple of those goals were brutal. This is from a Conn Smythe winner who backstopped a good team (not great) to Lord Stanley:

This just goes to show the character that we have. It has not been an easy season. We’re one of the last-place teams in the league, but guys continue to come to the rink and are willing to work hard to try to better ourselves.

That's from the 29th overall team that earned points 40 and 41 while our team remains at 55, somehow in eighth 14 better despite players tuning out the coach. I'll leave it for you to discuss. How sad.

How low can they go?

Losing to the NHL-centric Cindy Pens is one thing. But getting completely annihilated by the 29th overall Candy Canes is quite another. How to explain a 5-1 loss, completing a perfect two-game homestand by doing what else...losing by a combined score of 9-3. If you're keeping track, it's now four consecutive losses. Here are some numbers for the most embarrassing Ranger roster since pre-lockout:

-4 losses in row
-shutout twice
-outscored 17-3
-0-13 PP
-7 defeats in last 9 (2-6-1)
-blanked 4 times
-permitted 4-or-more in 4 of last 7
-in the 4 losses outscored 19-4

Read it and weep or laugh. And yet, with a 24-23-7 record with 55 points, they're still in eighth for the playoffs, ahead of the Habs who were shutout by Tampa. PLAY---OFFS?!?!?!?!?! Paging Jim Mora! Well, look at the bright side. They now hit the road for three and can't torment the disgusted Garden Faithful. Pretty soon, they'll be handing out puke bags.

But come on! This ain't so bad. It's not the end of the world. Jazzy Jim is still insulting "real fans" while kissing the royal asses of lame corporate stench who wouldn't know the difference between a hockey puck and a burnt to a crisp burger. Second class citizens in our own building. Glad we didn't go. Just hearing the disbelief in non-company man Dave Maloney headed back from BK was enough to tune out. Well, at least I made a nice chicken dinner with blueberry marmalade sauce as the score went from 3 to 5-1.Cally scored. That's it. Also see Lundqvist is back to giving up his softie. Poor guy can only take so much.

Good for the Caniacs. They showed and followed up a blowout win of the equally putrid B's with another stellar performance. Kudos to the white hot Eric Staal, who continued his torrid play tallying twice as did Sergei Samsonov. Yes. Two goals to the former Calder winner. When was the last time he was relevant? Remember when he was supposed to be great? Even lowly Pat Dwyer managed to redirect a Joni Pitkanen shot 3:11 in. And then Staal scored on the next shift 25 seconds later!

You just can't make this stuff up. I also saw Callahan cut it to 2-1 only to see/watch Samsonov restore the two-goal lead 41 ticks later. Holy ******* ****! At least Tinman, who got victimized, went back into Tort's doghouse. Well, Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen each had a helper in MSG returns. Can you imagine what was said on the bench? And Conn Cam made 37 stops against our offensive juggernaut.

Ally returned in place of Huggy Bear to go minus-two in 17 shifts. Why? I have no idea. Redden btw got nine shifts totaling 7:13 of ice. $6.5 million just don't get ya much these days. J-Bo is doing the same thing under Brent "Benedict" Sutter in fading Calgary, who lost again this time in the gimmick. Naturally, Flame scouts have been at our games trying to pawn off Dion Phaneuf. He of 12 assists. Washed up already before 25??? Elisha Cuthbert just may have destroyed two careers within a year. I like ya Elisha but please stay away from the rest of our players. We suck bad enough.

So, what else is there to say? The poor BC kids who were blown out in hoops tried harder. That's cause they aren't getting paid and still have H-E-A-R-T. Our circus clowns are all Tinmen who should be sponsored by the Wizard Of Oz. I'll take the cowardly Lion over any of them. Dorothy and Toto could do a better job running the team. And somehow by some huge f---d conspiracy, the Cuban cigar smoking son of a gun keeps his job.

Here's a date to remember:

Day: Sunday
Date: March 7, 2010
Where: Outside 1 Penn Plaza
Event: Fire Sather Rally

This better be a lot more organized than that awful one versus the Avs during the Dark Ages. What a farce that was. For more info, here ya go:


BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Cam Ward, Car (37 saves incl.21/22 in 2nd)
2nd Star-Sergei Samsonov, Car (2 goals, 3 SOG, +2 in 13:56)
1st Star-Eric Staal, Car (2 goals incl.PPG, 3 SOG in 18:45)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 anyone home?

Okay I admit it, now the losing's starting to bother me. Or specifically the team's compete level which has been totally non existent tonight in Ottawa as they're behind 3-0 and about to let Brian Elliott (yes, really) shut them out. This is one game I really thought they'd compete more considering they actually had two days off beforehand and had won two of three games prior. While I supported Jacques Lemaire's decision not to crack the whip after their wonderful performance in Long Island last week and you really can't with the number of games this team's played this month, they need at least a stern talking to at this point. The schedule shouldn't be an issue when you have two days off beforehand and know you have to show up considering on deck is a trip to Buffalo in less than twenty-four hours.

That said, what is annoying me even more than all that at this point is Lemaire himself. I admit it, I wasn't a fan of his hiring because I saw nothing during his tenure in Minnesota that suggested he'd changed his pre-lockout approach and adapted to the new NHL. Early on though with the team going great guns and young guys getting quality minutes I was saying, hey maybe he really did adapt after all and his issues in Minnesota were caused by lack of talent instead of stubborness. Clearly I was mistaken. He's had the same problems with this team that he did with the '96-98 teams that dissapointed.

For one, the overplaying of a washed-up checker (and the overall use of a no-talent checking line at the expense of players who can actually contribute at both ends). Then it was Bobby Carpenter, now it's Jay Pandolfo. I thought maybe this organization had learned from the Brent Sutter debacle last year - well the one on-ice - when he had a checking line older then dirt but the only difference this year is John Madden's been replaced by Rob Niedermayer, who doesn't even win faceoffs or compete as much as Madden. Lemaire's response if you challenge him on the checking line, well Pittsburgh and Detroit use one. Difference being both actually use two-way players on their checking line, and it's not at the expense of their other talented players.

Not to mention the whole Andrew Peters disaster, why this guy is allowed to continue to screw up is beyond me. He can't play hockey, and can't even keep his jersey long enough to fight which is supposedly why we got him to start with. Mark Fraser isn't doing much these days, why not let him fight? He's had plenty of experience at it in Lowell. Or call up some hungry youngster who'll actually provide energy in that role. During his last tenure Lemaire infamously benched Patrik Elias for the immortal Scott Daniels, I can see him pulling something similar only this time with Peters over Nicklas Bergfors - who granted has been bad lately but maybe part of that is the coach roasting him over every little thing while Mike Mottau can basically cause a goal against him every night and never get castigated. Or Johnny Oduya and Brian Rolston can steal money and never a peep out of the coach about either one of them.

Yet all these issues are periphery to my main sticking point - the ridiculous overplaying of Martin Brodeur. Early in the season it seemed like that wasn't going to be an issue either as Yann Danis looked good in two wins early in the season. Then late November in Dallas, Danis got pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period. Though the goals weren't really his fault it seemed like something changed and the coach once again became afraid to ever use the backup. Since that day, Brodeur has started thirty - yes thirty! - consecutive games and is now starting to show the strain as evidenced by his own up and down performances since New Year's.

Nevermind that Danis actually picked up a win in relief of Brodeur in Atlanta and played good periods in his other appearances (Danis has actually come in for Marty four times within a short time span...I guess one period qualifies as enough rest in Lemaire's book), gotta throw #30 out come hell or high water and no doubt he'll be in net again tomorrow at Buffalo. This is a team that even now has a cushion as far as games in hand over the Penguins for the division, not to mention they got off so good early in the season there's never been any reason to worry about even making the playoffs! Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war though. Obsessing over first place and home-ice is going to cost us again in April as we lose to another inferior team and Brodeur has a 2.5-3.2 GAA and sub .900 save percentage.

I thought Lemaire would have to adapt to win, and clearly the team itself has some issues. That might be the subject of my next blog after the expected raping in Buffalo tomorrow night. But let's be honest, the team will be a lot better once all the hands get back on deck (as if we can actually ice a full roster before someone else goes down). Particuarly Elias and Paul Martin, who can't get back fast enough now that the clock's struck midnight on Andy Greene and with Mottau and Oduya flat-out stinking. However, first place and all the points we get between now and April 11 are going to mean absolutely nothing if this coach - who I still adore in spite of my frustrations with him - does not adapt.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ranger Frustration

Rather than bore you with a preview of tonight's latest catastrophe versus the Cindy Pens, I'm just going to supply a Tweet on what's wrong:

the biggest problem with the #NYR is all they care about is self-promotion

Just listen to Joe Micheletti. A buffoon who actually tried to allude to the Habs' 5-goal comeback. As if our joke of a team had a prayer. There's an old saying. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

Before I leave, here's one more from a close Tweep equally frustrated:


@BattleOfNewYork yup so they dont care about the on ice product cause all they care about is $$$ and the team can suck forever

And one more from close friend The Mouth:

that blueshirts united is a disgrace. NYR has a fan club. that fans run & donate their time to. They just threw them under the bus for $$$

Okposo becoming Islander leader

In hockey, leadership is vital to a team's success. Just about every team has a captain who's expected to lead by example not just on the ice but in the locker room as well. Especially when things aren't going your way.

Judging from the Rangers' performance last night, it's easy to conclude that Chris Drury didn't make a difference. If one were to look at the inconsistencies of the club on Broadway, it points to no leadership. Even if the roster was poorly constructed, that's not an excuse. Your most proven players must step up.

While one New York team continues to look lost, the other that resides off the Meadowbrook doesn't seem to have that problem. Seasoned vets such as team captain Doug Weight, Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton and Trent Hunter have done a respectable job keeping the rebuilding club focused. Picked by many including us to finish near the bottom, these Islanders are defying the odds by not only improving with prize rookie John Tavares but moving ahead of schedule, competing for the postseason.

In what's an unpredictable East even with Saturday's disappointment against the Devils, Scott Gordon's club is tied for 10th with fading Boston (5-1 losers to Carolina)- trailing the Flyers (lost to Pens 2-1), Rangers and Canadiens by a point. They have exactly 30 games remaining in this hectic Olympic year. With a 23-21-8 record good for 54 points, the Islanders are seven points away from matching last season's league worst total. They've done it by outworking opponents and getting contributions from everyone. Without Dwayne Roloson, they wouldn't be in this position. One of Garth Snow's wisest choices last summer with camp gem Matt Moulson (team best 19 goals) an unsung hero.

A key player who struggled in the first half is resurgent Kyle Okposo. The third year power wing who the club took seventh overall in 2006 is evolving into an Isles' leader. Still just 21, the St. Paul Minnesota native is wise beyond his years, fully grasping what it's all about. Following a dismal first period against the Devils in which his team trailed by one, he criticized their effort feeling they didn't come to play. Perhaps the club scoring leader (11-24-35) let teammates know about it because they certainly responded, connecting twice on a major, including a goal and a helper from KO, demonstrating that he can back up the words.

Unfortunately, the Islanders were a bit unlucky with Zach Parise's centering feed deflecting off Freddy Meyer past a helpless Rick DiPietro for the first Devil shot spanning 20-plus minutes. On a night in which they also hit four posts, the club simply couldn't recover from the bad break with their opponents likely getting a stern talking to from Jacques Lemaire. The Atlantic leaders responded by dominating the third in shots (11-3) and scoring twice, including Bryce Salvador's seeing eye decider that may have caromed off rookie Kyle Palmieri. The more aggressive team completely neutralized the Isles' forecheck, forcing turnovers.

Not surprisingly, Okposo and 'mates expressed frustration, alluding to the non-aggression which cost them a valuable two points in an ever changing race where every point matters. To a man, they'd probably say it was winnable. Good teams don't give a ton of credit to opponents no matter how good they are. Something which was evident in the Isles' case.

"We didn’t match their intensity in the first period,” Okposo acknowledged. “In the third period, we just didn’t have it. That was the game right there.
We didn’t get our forecheck established and we weren’t putting as much pressure on their (defense) in the offense zone,” DiPietro lamented backing up Okposo. “We got away from it in the third and need to learn from our mistakes.
Part of the issue was the Devils, who were fortunate to be tied entering the critical stanza. They did a masterful job taking away the middle of the ice while taking the play to the Isles, who were sloppy forcing passes into the teeth of the D. Thus allowing the guys in white, red and black to dictate and come out on top. Gordon was disappointed that they got away from the plan. 

We didn’t push the pace to allow ourselves the opportunity to win the game,” the second-year man pointed out. “We played the game not to lose.

As we already noted in yesterday's piece, Gordon's scrappy bunch play hard lunch pail hockey based on their speed and grit. When on, they're capable of putting together superb efforts like the 4-0 shutout of the same Devs a week ago. His players have all bought in. Boasting young pieces Tavares, Okposo and improving soph Josh Bailey, the club has a bright future.

"Our scouting staff has done a good job of finding character," Gordon told NY Post columnist Jay Greenberg. "We don't have a bad apple on our team.

"Tavares and Bailey are mature kids at 19 and 20. I couldn't compare myself at what I was like at 19 to what Tavares is. We haven't come close to seeing what Okposo can do offensively, but even when he was not scoring, he was one of our most important players for what he brings every night."

Even when he's not scoring, KO always gives an honest effort utilizing his size and speed to wreak havoc. If lack of production cost him a spot on Team USA with Brian Burke opting to go with experience in Drury, it wasn't from taking shifts off. True enough. He hasn't untapped his full potential but already is a solid two-way player who plays big minutes for Gordon, including a PK fixture. It was that attention to detail which led to Blake Comeau's shorthanded goal in a hard fought 3-2 overtime road win over the Blueshirts. Fittingly, No.21 won it late off some nice work from Bailey. On the kind of game the coach wants to play, he noted:

"They can all move the puck. I want our team to be so good on the forecheck we don't have to play a lot of defense."
It doesn't hurt to have Okposo, who is relentless on the forecheck and strong on the boards always finishing checks. If we were to toss a little kudos their bitter rival's way, the closest is Ryan Callahan, who ranks in the top three in hits. While he's not credited with many, the younger Islander forward more often than not comes out with the puck leading to more attack time. Something needed to play such an up-tempo style. Both are similar players but only one was a No.1 pick. With all due respect to the Rangers' heart and soul, KO possesses more skill as evidenced by his 35 points to Cally's 27 (12-15-27). Ironically, he's on Team USA and should comprise a checking line and PK teamed with Drury and possibly captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Had Okposo made it, we may have seen a Devil, Islander and Ranger all on the same line. Maybe next time.

Instead, Okposo- who's been on a good run since that Dec.26 victory tallying 12 points (6-6-12 in 14 GP) including more than half his 11 markers- will continue playing the rugged game which will make him a pain in the butt to play against for quite a while. No doubt he'll keep improving maybe even one day becoming the Islanders' captain. Don't doubt it for a second.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Devils overcome rocky second to win on Long Island

Okay I admit it, I didn't have a good feeling about this game. Not when the Isles had spanked us three straight times going back to last season in Nassau by four goals each time and with them having a six-game winning streak at home overall. Especially with a banged-up offense that's scored eleven goals in its last eight games. My angst was added to when word came down that Martin Brodeur would be making his 28th consecutive start because supposedly Yann Danis had the most ill-timed stomach bug in history just as it looked like he was about to get his first start in two months.

Partly due to all that, I avoided watching the first period and instead saw a little Jets special on CBS from 7-8 but every time I flipped to the Devil broadcast during commercial Steve and Chico were praising the team's effort and judging by the 13-5 shot total it did look like they came ready to play, unlike five days ago. Jamie Langenbrunner scored the only goal of the period at 5:52 after assists from Travis Zajac and Bryce Salvador for the captain's 14th of the year.

So much to my consternation when I did start watching the game in the second period, the Devils were playing on the tune of being outshot 14-1! Granted the Isles had the benefit of seven minutes of power plays (though even that included a shorthanded breakaway from Dean McAmmond where he somehow missed the net) and the Devils got a tough break with Colin White's five minute major penalty for boarding, though it was probably the right call. There was no real malicious intent but it had to be called because it was a shove from behind into the boards and drew blood.

Still, I was hopping mad over how bad the Devils were looking and it did look like the Isles were ready to shame us again when they scored twice on the five-minute power play. Especially when Kyle Okposo scored just nineteen seconds into the long man advantage at 9:34. Okposo's goal caused a normally mild-mannered Jacques Lemaire to go ballistic on the bench, using a certain four-letter word twice. I thought I saw him mouth 'Wake the **** up!' towards his team but as it turned out it was toward the refs who missed an obvious hook on Salvador moments before the goal.

At least the Devils didn't totally cave in, despite having to play four and a half defensemen the rest of the game (Mark Fraser and his sub-ten minutes per night basically count as a half at this point), though Jack Hillen gave the Isles the lead at 11:36. Things were going so badly for the Devils, the Isles' power play actually lasted longer than five minutes as there was nobody in the box to come out once it ended. I'm not sure what the rule is on that though I assumed someone had to take White's place in the box, but nobody did.

Just when I was about to go ballistic over the Devils being outshot 14-0 (never mind the PP's, where was the offense the other eleven minutes of even-strength hockey?) they got a late power play in the second period. And finally, a shot on net...when a Zach Parise pass bounced off of Freddy Meyer's skate and boom, past Rick DiPietro tying the game and ending the Devils' power play drought all with one lucky play. Linemates Zajac and Langenbrunner got the assists on Parise's 22nd goal, which came with just thirty-two seconds left in the period. Thanks to the horseshoe up our rear ends, we still had momentum despite only being tied and badly outplayed.
Perhaps that goal did have a lot to do with what happened in the third period, as the Devils dominated from the outset by outshooting the Isles 13-3 and finally came the second break we needed, when a shot by Salvador went through a crowd and beat DiPietro at 13:11 for the gritty defenseman's third goal of the year. Rob Niedermayer got the lone assist with a big faceoff win, as the Devils took a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Part of the reason for our domination I felt was that Lemaire played the kids more in the third period. Nicklas Bergfors and Vladimir Zharkov - among others - had some very good shifts, though overall the icetime was pretty much in line with the norm it just seemed like he did lean on the younger legs (finally) more in the third. I also thought Lemaire managed the last two minutes very well with Nieds and Jay Pandolfo getting the last even-strength shift and then the Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner line being out when the Isles had an empty net to finish it off. Which Parise did with his second of the night at 19:14 to sew up a big 4-2 Devils victory.

Notes: In case you're keeping track of our infinite roster moves at home, Illka Pikkaranen was put on waivers, likely ending his brief Devils career. His claim to fame came during the summer when Lou Lamoriello was hyping up a mysterious overseas signing. Well, they can't all work out like Brian Rafalski. And Rod Pelley was put on IR, though whether he's become the new Pierre Luc-Letourneau Leblond and come up with imaginary injuries to increase our roster size isn't clear.

BoNY Three Stars:

  1. Bryce Salvador (goal, assist, +2 in 24:02)
  2. Zach Parise (two goals, +2)
  3. Jamie Langenbrunner (goal, assist, +2)

Big difference between two teams

It's easy for us to hate the Islanders because that's in our blood. Potvin Sucks! Islanders/Rangers is a great rivalry that brings out plenty of passion on both sides. It's what Battle of New York stands for. Two bitter rivals since the Islanders' inception in 1972 where the intensity spills over into the stands. Sometimes albeit irrationally. The games take on a whole different meaning. With all due respect to the Devils who are in a battle with the Long Island club, there's only one true rival for our club.

Hint: It's the one who's wearing the nice traditional dark blue and orange jerseys. What separates them from the Rangers is how hard they compete daily under the leadership of Scott Gordon, who should be in the mix for the Jack Adams if they get in the playoffs. He has done a magnificent job, getting his cohesive group to believe. Just a look at how organized that power play was, converting not once but twice on Colin White's major tells the story. Scary to say but they easily could've had four on it against one of the league's better defensive teams. Such quick passing and actual battles being won in the trenches to keep plays alive. Hungry players putting on their hard hats getting dirty.

When has our power play ever been like that? There in lies a big part of the problem, explaining why there's such a big difference between these two teams. One fights for every inch of ice, sacrificing all the time as evidenced by not allowing the Devils one shot in 20 minutes before Zach Parise got a lucky bounce right off Freddy Meyer to tie it, ending New Jersey's decade PP drought. Kyle Okposo- who tied the game and assisted on Jack Hillen's PPG- felt his team didn't come to play in the first which the Devs led on captain Jamie Langenbrunner's early tally. Imagine any Ranger saying that. So, they came out gangbusters outplaying the Devils by a wide margin. Sure. They're tied as they begin the third due to a tough break. But do you think it will stop them from giving everything ounce to earn victory, moving past a lifeless Ranger club down 5-zip in Montreal on HNIC no less?

Hell no! Because that club cares which can't always be said for the pathetic guys wearing the white, red and blue jerseys tonight. Too often, that's been the case. So, we might loathe the Islanders but it sure is a lot easier to respect them. They care!

Great take on our pansies

Look. Anyone with a pulse who roots for our beloved team knows how vanilla they are. Sadly, what went down the other night in Filthy was predictable. That toddler Daniel Carcillo could get away with such a bush league move speaks volumes. What if the Great Gabby had been seriously hurt? Reggie Dunlop's rolling over in his grave. Where are The Hansons these days? We need 'em along with Fulton Reed and Dean Portman pronto.

Sad to say but fellow Ranger blogger Scotty Hockey's right. As disgusting as it was, Carcillo was wise to do it because he knew he could get away with it. This was something close Devil The Program buddy Chris Wassel warned about when we signed Marian Gaborik. Who's going to ride shotgun? As much character as he has, you can't stick Aaron Voros out there on our top line. And while Sean Avery beat Carcillo in the fight later where at least the Grade A punk had his visor off unlike clown Scott Hartnell, it was much too late. Besides, we were already down in an important game 1-0. But the way the Flyers played standing up at their blueline and being physical, the score may as well have been 10-zip. Simply put. They weren't tying it.

I said it a while back. But this is the most embarrassing roster that's worn the Ranger logo in years. Even some of the sadsack teams during the Dark Ages mixed it up. Even if we had jokers like Sandy The Sniper and an insane Theo. Where's the beef? Even Marc Staal's been a disappointment in that critical area. Granted. He's only in Year 3 playing a tough position. But I wish Staalsie would play with the same edge he did last year. At least then opponents would have to keep their heads up. How many times have we seen Henrik bowled over without any response? It's just path------etic!

As flawed as this club is and what he has to deal with, it's amazing to think that The King has allowed two or fewer in 10 consecutive starts. With what exactly? There are no crease clearers. And hardly enough grit to make a difference. What the Flyers did was show the book on how to shutdown the Blueshirts. Which speaks to how out to lunch Slats is. But hey. He and Jazzy Jim are buddy buddy. So, he'll continue to steal money until a stroke or something. I know. Bad. But it can't be helped.

Speaking of strong takes on our beloved pansies, The Rodent had a great one yesterday. A few gems:

No Ilya frikkin' anything was gonna change what went down today. Look at that spectacle again and tell me Vincent Lecavalier is gonna solve that vacuum of aggression on that bench.

Give me a few less Enver Lisins and a few more Sean Bergenheims or Ben Eagers to put the fear of god into the opposition rearguard.

The Flyers were pounding, pounding, pounding and the Rangers failed to respond. Ryan Callahan finished an early check in Period 1 and then your heroes pussilatingly pussiated the rest of the way, shying from checks, absorbing punishment without reciprocating.

If this is the first round of the playoffs, the good guys are four and out.

This lineup is composed of pussies! who never finish their checks unless they wear 24

What part of that do you not understand?

Why wasn't Boyle finishing checks and initiating contact?

What about the pussiest pussy of them all, Michal Roszival whose size is utterly useless because he is such a wuss?

It's an illusion. Until this locker room is purged of this purrthetic pacivity, they're going nowhere.

Where was Chris Drury leading by example? When... tell me when he stood up to anyone wearing pumpkin and white?

He didn't. He didn't because he is a pussy who doesn't want to muss his coif.

It's the wussiful showing that's so embarrassing to MSG cognoscenti.

It's the wussiful display that portends ouster in the early rounds for this crew.

Couldn't have said it any better myself. The Rodent's one of the best NYR bloggers. Period. And quite entertaining. He's also a huge Petr Prucha backer. Has anyone noticed how he's doing on the surprising 'Yotes? Part of a good third line that injects energy. For as much as he got shafted by Renney here, one thing about Pruuuuuu is he never backed down from anyone. Always getting involved in scrums and throwing players away. The way it's supposed to be done. Now, you have cool bloggers like close Tweep Yotesgurl singing his praises with riveting posts such as "Playoff Prucha Point."

Speaking of Tweeps, a classic one from Ranger buddy Somelikeitblue on former Ranger Paul Mara, who's out for tonight's game in Montreal:

Somelikeitblue So sad Paul Mara's not in tonight! =( He wouldn't have let Gaborik get his faced punched in.

Both Pru and Mara wore the Ranger jersey with pride. Something few manage these days. It speaks to a losing culture that's going nowhere. That's why they should sell. It's high time they make necessary changes moving forward. Will logic prevail or will it fall on dead air?

Powerless offense dooms Devils again

While the Devils' shutout against the Panthers Wednesday took some of the pressure off by halting a losing streak, clearly the offensive woes still need some work and it showed again last night at the Rock, as New Jersey went down 3-1 to the Canadiens. Other than Zach Parise's breakaway goal in the first period and Mark Fraser's beatdown of Matt D'Agostini early in the third, there wasn't much for the sellout crowd to cheer about last night. Unless you were one of the thousands of visiting Hab fans - who took over entire sections in the mezzanine, the seats that seem to have the hardest time selling for us most nights.

Admittedly the back-and-forth with the Habs fans is more fun and not as mean-spirited as it can get with other teams' fanbases. Montreal's appeal across North America even drew three visiting Bruins fans, who sat in the row behind me. Other random fan sightings included a Stephane Quintal jersey (hopefully the guy didn't actually pay money for it) and a Boston College Brian Gionta jersey in 209. Well okay the latter isn't random since I know her and figured she would be there last night, but it's as good a way as any to lead into Gionta's return which was surprising on a number of levels.

First of all when the starting lineup was announced, Gionta got razzed about as badly as anyone and there were no divided loyalties like there were with Scott Clemmensen a while back. Then again, Clemmensen did well for us last year while Gionta's goal total declined each of the last four seasons after his team-record 48 in 2005-06, and clearly Devil fans weren't high on Gionta when he was still wearing the uniform so why should I have been surprised he got a chilly reception last night?

Still, I was to a degree. You gotta figure effort and class count for something, and Gionta was one of the few Devils still remaining from their 2003 Stanley Cup winners. Plus you could hardly fault him for taking Bob Gainey's insane contract offer. And though he's slowed down lately, Nicklas Bergfors seems more than capable of filling in Gionta's shoes, at least offensively so it's not like his departure left us in the lurch. Of course Scott Gomez got his requisite boos and jeering, as he might possibly be the only player in the league to somehow have three fanbases on his back to that extent, including his current team's.

Things got off to a weird start, as the group who sang the national anthems made O Canada! seem like a Christmas carol, and didn't do much better with the US anthem. Even the goalie sucks chant in 208-209 got off to a rocky start, as it got started with 'Hey Price, you suck!'...apparently someone didn't realize Jarsolav Halak was in goal last night for Montreal and has in fact been the main guy lately. Of course that got corrected later on, but it wouldn't be the last crowd snafu of the night.

After our power play continued its zero for the decade 'slump' (o for its last 23 after last night to be exact), the Devils caught a break when Jamie Langenbrunner found a streaking Parise wide open past center ice and he started this game the way he ended the teams' last tilt in Montreal, with a breakaway goal - though this one wasn't actually in shootout mode it might as well have been. Parise's goal at 5:16 was his 21st of the year with assists from the captain and Mike Mottau. Little did I realize that would be the only goal of the night.

Though the Devils led and looked the better team early, Montreal took control midway through the first and swarmed our embattled defense, breaking through at 16:10 when Gomez found a wide open Benoit Pouliot in the slot for the tying goal. Given the two teams' last confrontation at the Rock, the run-and-gun nature of the latter first period and early second was a little surprising and it didn't favor the offensively challenged Devils as Halak would make 31 saves in the game, but most weren't off of high-quality offensive chances.

As those of you who read this blog on a fairly consistent basis know, I love the 208-209 section on most nights, even when they're nonsensical they're lively and get the people around them into the game more than any t-shirt throwing guy merc (thankfully Cameron's a thing of the past, as NJay does that now). That said, they do annoy me at times with their anti-Jets stuff, which usually is confined to a 'J-E-T-S...suck, suck, suck'.

Last night however they did an elaborate knockoff of 'Let's Go Devils', only substituting Colts for Devils. Give me a C! Give me an O!...etc, etc. It made for a two and a half minute production that made me roll my eyes. If you hate the Jets that's fine, don't go out of your way to annoy half your fellow fans at a hockey game just because you people are bitter Giant, Dolphin and Cowboy backers who can't stand the attention the Jets are finally getting. Perhaps fittingly just as they were finishing the Let's Go Cooolts part of the chant, the Canadiens scored the lead goal when the immortal Mathieu Darche tipped in a Gionta slapshot at 4:35 of the second period. As I told one of the ringleaders of the chant after the period, just goes to show thou shalt not diss the Jets in the tri-state area!

After Darche's goal, there really was little action the rest of the second period as the Habs went into full trap mode, while the Devils' power play was inept for the second (and mercifully final) time of the night. Even Fraser's fight early in the third did little to change the momentum although the Devils did dominate in terms of shots, they still couldn't take advantage of their scoring chances. Early in the period I was beside myself when Jay Pandolfo and Rob Niedermayer went out for a shift just after the Parise line won a faceoff in the Habs' end, wondering where the other offensive players were.

That's pretty much when it hit me - we really don't have any proven offensive players right now besides the Parise, Langs and Travis Zajac trio. Not when Brian Rolston's in one of his elongated dissapearances or when Bergfors is either hitting the rookie wall or showing the effects of being jerked around by Jacques Lemaire, depending on which fan you ask. Of course having an entire line of second and third-line forwards on the shelf doesn't help, including Patrik Elias. Especially when Niedermayer's your second-line center and the immortal Dean McAmmond is the third-line center. How long can this go on?

Not to mention the defensive issues recently and missing Paul Martin, who's not only the team's best defenseman but also Johnny Oduya's personal pacifier. I was one of the few people who said this when Oduya was playing well the latter part of 2007-08 and all of last season, he mysteriously became a good defenseman the minute he got paired with Martin and wasn't all that great beforehand. Without Martin for much of this season, Oduya's been awful - injury or no injury.

Those defensive woes showed on the Canadiens' goal at 11:53 of the third, which basically put the game away when Darche forced Bryce Salvador into a turnover, then started a tic-tac-toe passing play with Andrei Markov and finally a wide-open Mike Cammalleri in front, and the Habs' star winger beat Brodeur with a quick wrister from the slot that he had no chance on to give them their 3-1 margin of victory.

BoNY Three Stars:
  1. Jaroslav Halak (31/32 saves)
  2. Matt Darche (goal, assist, +2)
  3. Zach Parise (goal, +1)

Friday, January 22, 2010

John Tortorella vs Larry Brooks Part Deux

As was referenced in our recap, John Tortorella and Larry Brooks renewed their rivalry during the MSG postgame in which after the coach gave credit to the Flyers and trashed the game for "no honor anymore," he told LB he wasn't taking questions from him.

The reason for the standoff had to do with a piece Brooks wrote dissing Wade Redden, who fought in a recent win. While LB claimed it was funny, Tort didn't think it was a laughing matter because it disrespected one of his players. During the incident, he asked Brooks if he'd ever fought to which he uttered yes. Then, Tortorella followed with a school diss and kept answering other reporters before MSG exited to chuckles from Bill Pidto and Brian Leetch.

Who's side am I on? Obviously the coach's because he has every right to defend one of his players, showing honor. Brooks was bitter and couldn't let go trying to egg him on. To Tort's credit, he handled it well without violating his "Own Rule" by this hypocritical league.

To think that there's still 31 games left in this wild season.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One for Grade A punks

Forget the fact the Rangers were blanked 2-zip against the hated Flyers. And as grating as it is, I don't care that we've been shutout two times in a row by that pile of dirt team for the first time since 1999. When actual hockey was played, the more physical team was simply better, earning the two points.

The latest installment of this classic Patrick Division rivalry wasn't about that unfortunately. But rather Grade A punks like Daniel Carcillo who had the audacity to pick on our superstar Marian Gaborik. Just listening to Dave Maloney chew out Dan Girardi on ESPN Radio was enough to incense me. He was absolutely dead on calling out Girardi for not stepping in for Gaborik, who actually had had a fight before back in 2008 against ironically current Flyer Ian Laperriere. Go figure. It was just appalling listening to Maloney trash Girardi because it typified how soft this team is. How could you allow a garbage player like Carcillo to start throwing punches at our meal ticket??? Especially after play had stopped.

There are a zillion tweets from furious NYR Tweeps who cannot believe this happened. Tonight, we feature snowkitten35 for her excellent insight on this embarrassment:

@tsnjamesduthie that's bcz Carcillo is a punk but WORSE than him was Dan Girardi ALLOWING Carcillo to "fight" Gabby, he should've stepped in.

Anyone associated with hockey knows you don't let an opponent mess with your star player. Not only did Girardi allow this but risked seeing his teammate seriously injured by a resident clown who violated The Code. It'd be one thing to take on Jarome Iginla, who can handle himself as good as anybody. But quite another to force a fight with a superstar who isn't known for his fists. Make no mistake. This was a gutless move by a Grade A punk who doesn't belong on the ice.

Haters talk about how Sean Avery should be elsewhere but at least he'll challenge guys who can handle themselves and not just throw punches for no reason. Kudos to Sean for stepping in for Gabby later in the second and doing well against Carcillo in an even fight where he got the takedown. Aves also lost to another clown Scott Hartnell, who took exception to a clean hit and got off three rights- two of which landed knocking Sean down. I hate Hartnell but at least he can play the game a little. Aaron Voros also fought Arron Asham three seconds into the third.

Good on at least two of our players for standing up. Too bad it didn't help on the scoreboard where the Flyers on goals by rookie James Van Riemsdyk (putback off break-in) and captain Mike Richards (PPG w/2.5 ticks left in 2nd off Marc Staal's skate) made it stand up, getting shaky Ray Emery a routine shutout. Credit the hosts for playing an aggressive, physical defensive game where they simply didn't allow the Blueshirts to get one single scoring chance. Sorry Voros. But you're not Gaborik, who was in the box seven minutes, including one of those slash's where the weakass composite stick snaps in half like it came from KB Toys. Yeah. I know it went out here at our Mall. Toys R Us. Same difference.

Gabby, Prosp and Dubi were a non-factor, even getting split up by a furious John Tortorella, who apparently had at it with favorite target Larry Brooks. All clean btw. Suck it Bettman! I didn't see it. We'll get the video up ASAP. I love Tort's fire and he's absolutely right. Tonight, hockey lost. What Carcillo did was childish. Did you see him in that penalty box? He was like a kindergartener. How is he allowed to play? He needs a serious beatdown and a lot of therapy. Oh. I'm just sure the NHL will treat him the way they treated our EZ Target. This league can go screw themselves.

Anyway, I probably wouldn't have broken up our top line because it still gave them their best chance of any comeback. Even if it wasn't happening. Chris Pronger was a beast and Richards the best player. Gotta agree with Brian Leetch on our team not engaging Richards. Wouldn't it have been wiser to see if they could get him to take a penalty? Oh well. All moot.

I'll finish this post by using a Tweet I made off the insanity:

BattleOfNewYork: this is the angriest I've felt after a #NYR loss Daniel Carcillo is a Grade A punk

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Sean Avery, NYR (2 fights-10 PIM, -1 in 11:20)

2nd Star-Chris Pronger, Phi (assist, +1 in 27:06)

1st Star-Mike Richards, Phi (PPG, 6 SOG in 19:46)

Brodeur and fresh legs end Devils' losing streak

After Monday afternoon's 4-0 loss to the Islanders where the Devils played as badly as they had all season, coach Jacques Lemaire could have went one of two ways - either acknowledged the taxing schedule and give his team a rest or cracked the whip and let them know this kind of an effort won't be tolerated. In a way he did both, as he gave the team Tuesday off then after the team went through another bleh practice Wednesday, he sent them home. Also, forwards Nick Palmieri and Patrick Davis were called up from Lowell, replacing not only the injured Patrik Elias but also Vladimir Zharkov and Rod Pelley, who missed the game with allegedly minor injuries.

While both rookies injected enthusiasm, Martin Brodeur just kept on rolling in his 27th consecutive start, making 22 saves and recording his seventh shutout of the season in a 2-0 win. Despite a 25-13 edge in shots in the first two periods it took them nearly that long to get one past Tomas Vokoun, and when it came it was one of the young guns - Palmieri - who started the play upice playing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. Palmieri made the most of his 12:43 of icetime with five shots on goal, but on this play he found Parise who then passed to Zajac, and Zajac proceeded to beat Vokoun between the legs for his 14th goal of the season at 18:49 of the 2nd. Palmieri had two goals in the Lowell-Hartford game I went to a couple of weeks back so he was on my radar but it's one thing to do it in the AHL, another to have an impact for the Devils.

This won't be much of a recap, since I missed my second straight game - Monday because of work, last night because of a prior engagement with friends, but it doesn't sound like I missed too much action really. Still, I'm glad the Devils went back to their roots for last night and shored up a defense that had been increasingly erratic over the last few weeks. Even if the power play is still 0-for-the decade. Few penalties were called though, three on us and just one on Florida, and the last one of ours was a biggie as Jamie Langenbrunner went to the box with just 83 seconds left, giving the Panthers a virtual 6-on-4 with the net empty. However, the Devils held serve and even tacked onto their lead as the horn blew when Dean McAmmond had a shorthanded empty-netter, with assists from Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene.

Though the Devils played better all around last night, they were playing an offensively challenged team and need to find more goals against better teams coming up. Brian Gionta makes his return to New Jersey tomorrow, along with the notorious Scott Gomez, who's now achieved an improbable feat of being booed by two fanbases in the NY-NJ area. Less than 24 hours after facing Montreal, the Devils return to the scene of the Long Island massacre on Saturday.
Another area of concern is that the Devils only rolled three lines last night, since Illka Pikkaranen and Pierre Luc-Letourneau Leblond have both been awful lately and got less than three minutes of icetime each while Nicklas Bergfors has apparently wound up back in the doghouse with under ten minutes of icetime. With the schedule the way it is, it would be nice to play all four lines again, and maybe that'll happen once Danius Zubrus returns, supposedly early next week.
BoNY Three Stars:
  1. Travis Zajac (goal, +2 and 11/15 in faceoffs)
  2. Martin Brodeur (22 saves, SHO)
  3. Nick Palmieri (assist, +1 with 5 SOG in 12:43)

Is he Right?

The biggest topic making the rounds is what Canucks' forward Alex Burrows accused referee Stephane Auger of last week following Vancouver's loss to Nashville.

It's been well documented that a discussion took place between the two prior to the game with Auger supposedly referencing a prior instance in which Burrows embellished to draw a major, making him look bad and would get back at the Vancouver pest. That he was penalized twice in the deciding stanza, including for diving and phantom interference which led to Shea Weber's winner makes it the case that much more intriguing. Not surprisingly with just four seconds to spare, a furious Burrows drew an additional unsportsmanlike and misconduct, totaling 16 penalty minutes- all in the final 20 minutes.

Odd. Was it merely a strange coincidence or did Auger really cross the line, violating the code of conduct expected of sports officials? Even a week later with the NHL fining Burrows $2,500 while not disciplining Auger yet, there are still many lingering questions. Why only $2,500 for a player who made such a strong accusation? How come the league remains more quiet than a mouse? Is it too much for Gary Bettman and League VP Of No Objectivity Colin Campbell to discuss this serious manner further? Or are they plain chicken? If only Marty McFly were running things. Come to think of it. We could use Reggie Hammond. This league needs a new sheriff as badly as the Chargers need a new coach. One already signed an extension while the other is not going anywhere.

I'm no expert and don't pretend to be. I just don't feel Burrows would make all of it up. Of course, the powers to be want to sweep it under the rug and pretend things are honky dory. This ain't going away anytime soon. One of my good Tweeps HockeyJoeGM had an interesting tweet:

Of course Bettman is satisfied with the Burrows investigation. It ended immediately a ref was lauded and a player was thrown under the bus.

Is he right? I'm no fan of Bettman Inc. I never bought the whole crap about the lockout just being about the salary cap. Not with owners fattening pockets. This league is full of deception. However, we don't really know what went down at GM Motor Place on Jan.11. Only two people know the whole truth. Burrows and Auger. I can't definitely conclude anything other than it's just the latest sample of substandard officiating. In this instance, was there a motive? I don't really know. The league has mishandled it. Yet another reason to throw your arms up in the air.

Nothing doing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Late Arrival That Became 'LaLame'

It is 5:00pm here in Southern California and I had purchased tickets to see the Buffalo Sabres play at the Honda Center against the Anaheim Ducks. I have a 18 mile ride home and then a 20 minute ride to the arena...piece of cake?

Think again.

Heavy rain and some floods soaked the Long Beach area causing the commute from hell home. And I got home at 640pm, quickly put on jeans and the Sabres jersey, and proceeded to the Honda Center.

I was monitoring the game on the Blackberry as I took the I-5 South to Anaheim.

1-0 Ducks as I exit onto Katella Ave heading to the Honda Center.
2-0 Ducks, entering parking area, great...
3-0 Ducks, parked and walking to the arena...I say 'are you serious?!'
4-0 Ducks, as my wife and I get something to eat, and then I say 'Nah, not hungry'

I look at the screen and who do I see laying on his pack after allowing another goal...well well, what a surprise, it was none other then Patrick Lalime! I then said 'ready to go home now?"

Well after I saw Ryan Miller come into the game with a look on his face as if 'Thanks Lalime for the off-night' I figured hey lets sit and watch the rest of the game. And Miller kept the Sabres in the game after 1, still down 4-0.

The Sabres cam out strong in the 2nd period, scoring 2 goals in 51 seconds to make the score 4-2. Then at the 6"13 mark, Steve Montador made a 'teary' eyed return to Anaheim by notching his 3rd goal of the season to make it 4-3, and the Ducks fans were stunned and I was suddenly feeling it. Then soon after that, Tomas Vanek had a breakaway and was stoned by Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who despite giving up 4 goals, played a solid game for the Ducks.

As the 3rd period started, the Sabres were buzzing, and even Ducks fans next to me had a feeling the Sabres would tie the game. Then with about 6 minutes to go, Jason Pominville inexplicably passed the puck in the middle of the ice in his own zone right to Troy Brodie (who? exactly!) and he beat Miller clean to give the Ducks a 5-3 lead. But give the Sabres credit, as they kept fighting to the end, and Jochen Hecht scored late for the Sabres to make it 5-4, but there was just not enough time to pull off a great comeback.

As the stars of the game were announced I could not stop wondering: Why not give Patrick Lalime the 1st star for the Ducks? It would have been a perfect fit!

The Buffalo Sabres still sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, and head up north a bit to play the Los Angeles Kings Thursday Night at the Staples Center, a game which I will also attend live.

Let's hope the traffic and Lalime, take a back seat.

Fourteen goals in two games

Say it with me slow-----lll-------yyy. The Rangers scored:


over two games!!!!!

Please keep repeating until it sinks in. In two consecutive games, our gang that couldn't shoot straight has finished, finished and finished. Granted. It came at the expense of a pair of suspect defensive clubs in this topsy turvy conference that changes daily. First, they lit the lamp for six unanswered in a 6-2 victory over Les Canadiens. Another game we sold. Given our luck evidenced by the fact that nobody could recall the last time we saw a Ranger win, what transpired tonight was miraculous. They scored 88888888!!!!!!!!

Okay. So the Bolts were running on fumes, still hungover from their win over the Candy Canes the night before. But c'mon! C'mpuckin on! This was bananas. The eight goals were the highest they'd scored since January 2001 during the Dark Ages. That Justin even knew Jeff Toms recorded a hat trick playing with Lindros and Fleury speaks to his insanity. The most I could remember were seven in a St. Patty's Day Massacre of the Bruins during Cally's rookie year. A great memory as our team swept the Kovalchuk/Hossa Thrashers with Marcel outperforming big bro. Hey. We had Buffalo on the ropes before Renney erred. Ah. Didn't they also roast Hotlanta for 7 in Game Three? Good times.

Getting back to this eight goal eruption, meaning the Rangers have scored a month's worth in two consecutive wins, this was about as perfect a dismantling as humanly possible. It was Devil-esque. Hell. Hasan is probably a little envious considering how tough Tampa played them. That's about the only edge we have along with team doctors. Sorry. Couldn't resist. :-P In all seriousness, it's nice to see Tort Reform pay off. Even if it was far from a sellout. Are you listening Jazzy Jim? It was just great to get back on the winning track. Honestly had doubts that we'd ever witness another home win. Haha. Here were the highlights:

-Aaron Voros (yes) stood in there against PIM leader Zenon Konopka and did well 10 seconds in really setting the tone. He had a memorable night later drawing an instigator on Konopka and then scoring on it. A just reward for a great team guy who's not played a whole lot. When he has, he's contributed much more than Huggy Bear. Voros also battled Ryan Malone even having his name chanted. Seri---ous---ly! You deserved it. If anyone wants to follow him, please do so on Twitter. He got plenty of love including from us.

-Sixteen different Rangers recorded a point. Even the rejuvenated Tinman, who notched a helper two days removed from his second fight in Ranger Blue.

-For a second straight game since being reunited, Dubi, Prosp and Great Gabby dominated combining for eight points (2-6-8), plus-nine along with Dubi hammering Jeff Halpern. Gaborik matched a career high with four assists, eclipsing 60 points. He's now up to 61 (29-32-61) or three better than the leading Ranger scorer(s) [Gomez/Zherdev] all last year. So explosive. Before Sunday, Gaborik had just three points this month but in the last two, he has seven (1-6-7). Hope that trend continues Thursday at Philly. In the duh moment of the night, MSG radio announcer Kenny Albert actually asked Prospal what the reason for their line's success was. Hell-o! They played together with similar results earlier this season. Holy cow!

-Prospal had a sweet finish versus his ex-team off a nifty Gabby set up, going backhand deke. He nearly pulled it off again later when he had Antero Niittymaki dead to rights but hit the right post. Just how lethal was our transition? Had they not hit posts and Niitty not prevented a couple of others before getting the hook, they easily could've reached a cool dozen. Also speaking to how inept the Lightning were.

-After an otherwise invisible Vinny Lecavalier banked one in off Henrik to cut it to 2-1, a quick response by the captain Dru, who rebounded home a Cally shot to score for a second straight game only 73 seconds later. Sticking the Team USA PK tandem together with Christy was smart. So was shifting Avery to the fourth line turning it into a crash line with Boyle and Voros, who both were strong. Seems Tort has finally come to his senses, balancing out things with Artie working with a revitalized Enver Lisin and Higgs. Since being reinserted, all Lisin's done is work, work and work, finally getting rewarded with his sixth from Higgins and Matt Gilroy, who jumped up contributing two helpers. Even Higgins finished for just the second time at MSG, putting the cherry on top late.

-Marc Staal had another stellar performance, contributing defensively and offensively, finishing his career best fifth while adding his career best 13th assist for you guessed it. Eighteen points. Also a career high in Year Three with still 32 games left. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention how well he works with Rozy, who looks much more comfortable. He's played better for a while, blocking shots while moving the puck effectively and getting involved offensively. All cause there's less pressure on him.

-Up two in the second, Dan Girardi's right point shot eluded Niitty to match his jersey No.5, ending a long 31-game drought. That it came unscreened from way out should tell you how under siege the poor Tampa netminder was, permitting five on 20 shots before 2008 fifth rounder Dustin Tokarski replaced him faring no better (3 GA on 11 shots). It's awfully hard to win when you don't compete.

-Our club's not known to be tough but the past two games (both convincing wins), they've fought five times. Even when the gloves haven't been dropped, our guys are finally standing up for each other as evidenced by Lisin getting in Maxim Lapierre's face Sunday. A refreshing change for the better!

-Not to sound like a broken record but between all this good stuff, Henrik again was solid, needing just 21 saves after coming off light work (19) the other day. He still made some timely stops before we put it out of reach. That's now nine in a row of two goals-or-less dating back to a New Year's Eve 2-1 triumph at Raleigh. In eight starts this month, The King's 5-1-2 with a miniscule 1.48 GAA, 947 save percentage plus the memorable 0-0 shutout duel with MB30 in a shootout defeat. Not too shabby. How dominant has he been? Lundqvist's now up to 22 wins with a 2.26 GAA and on pace for a career best save percentage (.925). If he continues this upswing, it's going to be hard not to include him in the Vezina talk. Once impossible. Still, with Miller Time, Bryzgalov, Marty, Kipper and fantastic frosh Jimmy Howard, it's going to be awfully tough.

-He had only one assist following a career high four points (2-2-4) but Cally was everywhere. He and Dubi couldn't be stopped, generating shorthanded chance after shorthanded chance. This American duo is quickly becoming one to watch.

-Hey Ally. Keep trying to figure out why you're out of the lineup. Stay in the press box!

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Brandon Dubinsky, NYR (G, A, fight = Gordie Howe Hat Trick, +3 in 25 shifts-18:36)
2nd Star-Enver Lisin, NYR (6th goal of season, 3 hits, 2 takeaways, +1 in 18 shifts-12:58)
1st Star-Aaron Voros, NYR (1st goal of season, 2 fights, major penalty drawn in 13 shifts-8:08)

The Puck Stops Here


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