Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Isles Sink Rangers in "Short" Order


Lundqvist: His sharpness wasted by the Rangers awful effort on the PP
The Fourth Line: 0-0-0 but solid performance nonetheless

Michal Rozsival: Earned $60,975.61 setting up two Islanders goals.

The Rangers brought their lunch pails early getting pucks deep and going to work. The game was a bit sleepy early on but slowly the Rangers' attack got going. Hustle and hard work earned them their chances but unfortunately they weren't able to cash in on any of them.

The fourth line has been one of the Rangers' best lately. Good for them, but that probably also means we should all be afraid, very, very afraid. No, honestly, they've been great at even strength and Betts and Sjostrom have been outstanding on the kill.

[Via Yahoo!]

The good guys seemed to have the puck almost the entire period. They launched shot after shot toward Joey MacDonald but were denied each time.

In total he stopped 18 Rangers attempts -- probably another eight or ten were fired wide -- none better than the head-high glove save he made on Michal Rozsival's blast.

But this is still a guy with 17 NHL games of experience to his credit before this season being made to look like the second coming of Patrick Roy uhh.. well, at least Patrick Lalime circa 2002-03. [I knew there was some type of Patrick involved.]

[PL: Not gonna lie, don't really appreciate your snide little comment.]
[Via BBC]

Even with his clutch performance, the Rangers had this team on the ropes -- one that played and went to overtime the night before -- and should have stuck the dagger in sometime during the frame.

Instead, they failed on their second power play opportunity and left the door wide open for some sort of nauseating conclusion. I'm just waiting at this point for the odd carom or awful turnover that gift-wraps this game for the visitors.

It didn't take long for the nauseating moment. The Rangers earn an early man advantage but clearly should have declined.

[No, thanks.]

The Pepto Bismol Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion, Upset Stomach, Diarrhea Player of the Game goes to Michal Rozsival manning the point on the power play.

He gets beat along the outside by Nate Thompson, a former sixth-rounder no one's heard of, who ends up making a terrific play to bat the puck out of the air and into the net after the initial bid.

On the next power play Rozsival -- already demoted to the 2nd unit for his earlier misadventure -- tries to force a pass back to Mara at the other point that's picked off by Richard Park.

Those, kids, are the league-leading 4th and 5th shorties given up by the Rangers.

Rozsival looks like the scapegoat here-- which he kind of is as that pass was all sorts of awful -- but the real bad guy here is the atrocious Rangers powerplay, now 29th in the NHL.

[Rozsival is making at least $500 bucks just skating away dejectedly]

If it could have scored Saturday, the Rangers likely coast to a 3-0 win over the Leafs instead of being embarassed in the third. 

If it could have come through for just one goal here tonight, the Islanders' collective will could have been broken. Instead the Rangers are exposed for what they are -- a flawed team -- and they throw away another two points that should've been in the bag.

The power play is stagnant and predictable. Forwards are flying out to pressure the points -- knowing the Ranger point men are gun-shy -- and they're forcing the Rangers to cough it up.

If someone had the ability to back off those forwards with a heavy point shot and great passing ability when the lane isn't there -- Wade Redden, are you still alive? We miss you at Rangers games -- the power play could be a lot more effective.  

As it stands I'm going to keep using this picture until it no longer applies to how I feel after Rangers games:

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Uhh.. Can We Have a Do-Over?

Penalties aside, early on the boys were playing the kind of game we'd want to see:

No turnovers, little to no carelessness with the puck and a fair amount of hard work. They weren't dominating offensively as a handful of penalties kept them from really generating on that end, but they led 1-0 after one nonetheless.

[Ryan Callahan's wrister finds the back of the Toronto net via Toronto Sun]

Then they played the kind of game we expect to see:

They were sloppy with the puck and started getting hemmed in a bit. A shift by the fourth line helped right the ship, though.

Ranger beat writers probably had 75% of their stories written before the Leafs took some liberties with the game's plot line.

Accolades were likely already typed up for the fourth line that started sluggishly -- Sjostrom taking a penalty in the first -- but recovered, putting in hard-working shift after hard-working shift. 

The trio, which won all sorts of battles and races for loose pucks, eventually broke through when Blair Betts scored the Blueshirts' second goal.

More praise for Steven Valiquette's stellar understudy job was probably scrawled on notepads and hammered out on computer keys. 

He had stopped twenty-nine shots and looked destined for another big win -- not to mention shutout -- in his own backyard.

The game looked securely in control for your heroes. This game might even have been a model to point to on how to get certain things done Tom Renney's way.

Then the re-write began.

The Leafs suddenly got to all the loose pucks. They started beating Valiquette like the Shooter-Tutor of their youth. They fired seven shots on goal in a span of 5:21, five of which beat Valley. 

Five. Goals. In. Five. Minutes.  Ugh.

Valiquette could have should have had at least two of the shots -- Jason Blake's low deflection and probably the first Mitchell tally. But he stopped almost nothing in that frantic five minutes and the Rangers had two standings points yoinked right out of their pockets.

I'm not even sure how to explain how this one went down, but I do know this:

The Rangers are going to lose games.  They're going to blow leads.  They're also going to learn lessons if they intend to go anywhere this year and into this spring.  

That's what they have to do.  Learn something from this five-minute-long mistake and go back to winning hockey games with sound, defensive play.

Let's see what kind of houseguests the Islanders make for on Tuesday.


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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Zherdev's Zesty Backhander Zings Thrashers

Another game, another fairly sluggish start and more of the lax puck management that caused them problems in the first period on Long Island.

They let the Thrashers jump out to a 1-0 lead before Markus Naslund zipped a wrister past Kari Lehtonen at 12:35. 

So, they continued the recent trend of a sleepy open followed by an awakening team doing enough to snuff out a lesser one.  Even so, there are some big positives to pull from the game.

Naslund was again a factor--for the fifth game in a row--as he was able to create in the offensive end for himself and for Chris Drury.

Most impressive of all, however, was the artistry of of Nik Zherdev.  

The kid played extremely well defensively.  His full-on sprint and dive to deny Slava Kozlov a breakaway was simply beautiful and he also swiped the puck before roofing a nasty backhander to tie the game at two.  His speed and skill helped create Dan Girardi's game-winner as well.  

Is there anyone out there still not convinced about the trade that brought Zherdev to Broadway?  I think even Fedor Tyutin would say the Rangers got a steal.  Awesome.

[Via ESPN]

Nikolai Zherdev 1-1-2 | +2 Filthy is the only word that comes to mind
Dan Girardi 1-0-1 | +1 20:58 TOI; 2 hits
Markus Naslund 1-0-1 | +1

Partially because I don't have a lot more to offer up on this game and partially because he reeks of greatness, another video clip of Nik Zherdev doing this thing:

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Friday, October 31, 2008

"Dom"-inating Shift

Dominic Moore turned in the shift of his life in the third period of yesterday's Devils-Leafs game. He and his fourth-string linemates kept the puck in the Devils end for a full minute. About a quarter-mile of skating, twenty changes in direction, four DM shot attempts and a whole lot of awesome later, Jamal Mayers punched home a rebound of a Moore shot and tied the game with just under 11 minutes to go.

[Impressive. Most Impressive.]

The goal marked the second time of the game that the Leafs were able to overcome a deficit and tie the game up. They rallied for three straight goals after the Devils went up by a pair only to allow the Devils two more. Goals were going in left and right and bouncing off just about anything they possibly could in front of the net.

As a Ranger fan, there's always something special about all those pucks ending up behind Martin Brodeur.

This monster of a shift by Mayers-Moore-Hollweg wrestled the game's momentum away from the Devils and the Leafs were able to carry it shift-to-shift. They went back on the attack and drew a penalty.

Sure enough, 35 seconds later, Ponikarovski beats Brodeur with a wrister from the top of the circle.

The disgusted sigh that the  ever-impartial Chico Resch let out while describing the replay says it all.

The Devils answered right back. Martin fired a hard, low shot that Zubrus deflected. The tip seemed to throw off Toskala and Parise roofed the rebound like the disappointing last hit in a sandlot game of baseball that carried into the mean, crotchety old neighbor's yard never to be seen again. I don't know what that means, but I'm still pissed that guy has all my tennis balls. Give them back!

I was watching the right game here, right? Ten goals is about two and a half weeks worth of Devils games. That was great.

The Shootout comes up and, it must be Christmas, two more goals get by Martin Brodeur, including a nifty one by Nik Hagman who skated in on Brodeur backwards part of the way [almost a la Martin St. Louis] and backhanded the puck home.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Drive home safely several dozen fans in attendance at the Rock.

Hats off to former Blueshirt Dominic "Don't Make Puns Using My Name Into Titles" Moore.

[DM: I hate you]

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Debate That Won't Go Away

There was recently an article over at The Manic Ranger Fan that tore into Sidney Crosby and proclaimed Alex Ovechkin the hands-down choice as the NHL's best player. I don't quite agree.

To argue that Alex Ovechkin is unquestionably the better hockey player doesn't really make a lot of sense. They offer different things.

[Via The Baltimore Sun]

Alex is a far more exciting player most of the time and will always have more natural goal-scoring ability than Sidney.

Though, if you think Crosby lacks in exciting moments, this highlight I saw in person might change some opinions:

It certainly proves that Ovie’s not the only one who can create some magic.

Crosby's firy personality rarely shines through in front of the cameras and instead comes out in four- and five-letter bursts of expletives. With his more extroverted personality, A.O. will always be the more entertaining of the two off the ice as his TV spots and summer of speeding past the White House make clear:

Ovie Commercial:

Interview Picked up by Puck Daddy:
Who in your team is known as crazy driver? About whom are the legends made?

The legends are made about Semin and me! I normally try to drive carefully. Only once, because I was late to the team's training, I accelerated to 165 miles per hour. You can convert yourself how much it is in kilometers. And the flying ended, the police stopped me near White House.

Did you get a fine?

I've exceeded the speed limit in more than three times, for that in the United States a fine is not enough. They take your license and put you in jail. But I was lucky. The police recognized me and let me go. I gave them 10 tickets that I had with me to the Washington Capitals game.


As important as hilarity is to me, though, the fact remains that Alex will never be as complete a player as No.87.

Crosby plays solid defense and can kill penalties.

He is one of the top three in the league at making artful setups for teammates. Only Joe Thornton and Marian Hossa rival his passing ability.

The majority of Ovechkin's assists are pucks that rebound off the goalie's pillows.

Sid is incredibly strong on the puck. That part of his game is very underrated. Ovechkin wins in the physicality department by a hefty margin, but Crosby's no pushover. Literally. Watch defensemen try to knock him off the puck. It doesn't happen too often.

If we want to compare the stats, Seth at Empty Netters already put them together. One of his readers created a comparison between the two and Evgeni Malkin.

He couldn't come to a conclusion, but he did say if you want a certain type of a player choose Crosby, if you want another, choose Ovechkin and if you want a player with elements of both take Malkin. I'd agree. They're the top three players, but the order you'd arrange them depends on your team's needs.

He also extrapolated their stats into full-season averages:

If you want to go on simple production, Crosby wins out on a points-per-game basis. And I also feel he wins out in most of the areas I mentioned above. Alex dominates on goals scored, but if he’s not scoring goals, what is he doing? Crosby on the other hand scores, sets up his teammates to do the same and is a solid, two-way player.

Don't get me wrong, I love them both. They both truly deserve the label of “great.” That word gets tossed around too much, but for these guys it’s accurate.

If the Rangers won that fateful lottery and took Crosby first overall, there'd be a lot of Rangers fans singing a different tune.

There's no way to say definitively that one guy's better than the other, but I know which of the two I'd want on my team through a Cup run. There's no question of that.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just Imagine When They Start Playing Well...

The Rangers had one of their worst periods of the season in the first frame Monday night on the Island. The official stats sheet says the Rangers only turned the puck over 10 times all game but I'm pretty sure I counted that many cough-ups in the first alone.

Only luck and Lundqvist—and a lack of finish from the fishsticks—got them to the first intermission without facing a huge deficit.

If the contest was indeed a trap game, the Rangers did their best Wile E. Coyote impersonation and stomped all over the thing until they just about fell into the hole themselves.

[Meep! Meep!]

Renney's words from the after the Stars game applied in the first period and I'm sure will apply time and time again as the season progresses:

We were stupid. It's not a case of one guy trying to beat four. You have to share the workload up the ice. Eight, ten, twelve foot passes [and] get pucks in behind. [You] get on top of that. Then you're able to get on the hunt.

Without those concepts in mind and without far better puck management, the Blueshirts can play some pretty terrible hockey.

The Rangers started making more intelligent plays with the puck--mostly--and took over in the second half of the game with Renneyisms like that likely being whispered into their ears at the bench. When they play smart, look out. The only problem is they only do that about 20-30 minutes a game.

I've said Drury and Naslund were coming out of the fog. They delivered more proof tonight. Now with Scotty buzzing along--as he has been for weeks--Drury and Naslund simmering up, and Henrik Lundqvist delivering Vezina-worthy performances night in and night out, the Rangers are starting to look more legitimate..ish.

That being said, he goaltending will probably cool down at some point--at least for some amount of time--and the scoring isn't exactly dependable yet. They just need to play a more intelligent game.

It also wouldn't kill them to pop in an instructional video on faceoffs. Outside of Scott Gomez, they were awful at the faceoff dots last night. If they want to play a puck possession game, someone should tell them, it helps if you have the puck.

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Shanahan Makes It Official

That Brendan Shanahan would no longer be a New York Ranger has been a foregone conclusion for quite some time now. For those Shanny fans who had still been holding out hope, the last embers of that flame were snuffed out today.

Shanahan told Larry Brooks at the New York Post that his wait for a cap space-creating move by Glen Sather is over:

The 39-year-old unsigned right wing who'd been advised for months by GM Glen Sather to "sit tight" in anticipation of both a roster spot and salary-cap space opening up to create an avenue for his return to Broadway, Shanahan is no longer doing so.

Nearly four months after becoming a free agent, Shanahan is putting himself onto the open market.

"I've told Rick [Curran] that I can no longer wait and that it's time to move on," Shanahan, referring to his agent, told The Post this afternoon. "Until now, Rick has been under instructions to tell inquiring teams that my focus was on re-signing with the Rangers, and that I was not accepting any other offers.

"That has changed."

Like I said when the Rangers season ended last spring, Brendan was a solid Ranger--as his 52-56-108 over the prior two seasons attests to--and he did so for a bargain-basement price of about $4m a season. Needless to say, he was well worth the cash.

That being said, his productivity dipped with age and injuries and the time had come for Brendan and the Rangers to move on.

That part of the decision I have no problem with. Leaving the guy on hold for the entire summer and a full month of the season, that's another story. If he was a real part of plan, Glen Sather's gotta get the moves done and open up a roster spot.

If he never was, then Jesus, let the guy know. Not for nothing but the guy only has so much left in the tank pushing 40-years-old. Didn't he do enough to merit an answer one way or the other?

Well, in any case, best of luck to Shanny. Someone will make a pretty wise signing in picking him up and another fan base will attach itself to a lovable legend.


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