Monday, December 1, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors, Baby. . .

Let's skip over yesterday's game for a moment. I know the Rangers want to.

I was listening to XM204 and Inside Hockey yesterday morning before the game. And the basic chatter was that the Rangers and Bruins were the top point getters in the East. That NJ was holding on despite not having Brodeur. And that once the Capitals and the Penguins got some players back, they'd be much stronger.

They then go on to say that the only team they think are doing it with "smoke and mirrors" at this point in the season are. . . .The New York Rangers.

Honestly. Tell me you disagree?

It's actually a perfect analogy. The Rangers are at 17-8-2, which seems like a really nice record. Boston and NY both have 36 points. The only team with more in the league are the San Jose Sharks, with 41. The Rangers essentially lead the East. And yet they are probably one of the most flawed teams in the entire league. Their powerplay is nothing short of atrocious. Their five on five play is not great. Their physical play is nonexistent. Their defense is downright embarrassing at times. The only thing that has kept them afloat is their penalty killing (2nd in league) and their goaltender - league leading 15 wins for Hank Lundqvist and five shootout wins (remember, Valiquette got the shootout win versus Toronto in mid-October).

If that is not a magical act of smoke and mirrors I'm not sure what is.

This is not news. At least not to me. This isn't the first time I've mentioned the team this way and it won't be the last. They are fundamentally flawed. These flaws have been hidden very well behind a very good record, a record that has undoubtedly been bloated by the shootout. If the Rangers did not win 6 shootouts, they'd only have 11 wins. Now perhaps they win some of those, but the point remains - that record is very much bloated by the extra wins. And the shootout has been VERY good to the Rangers. Very good.

So I came back from the game yesterday and then ended up getting on another Petr Prucha rant. I know, I know. Pointless, been there, done that. But I'm beginning to wonder if this kid, who even though at 26 is really just a kid, has any idea what's really going on. At 26 he should. But lest we forget, this is a kid who relied heavily on Jagr, Straka and co, to be there for him because he didn't really have the grasp on the language or the experience in the league. And there is a lot of politics involved in sports. Obviously. Perhaps he just really doesn't know what's going on. And how badly he has been misused. Maybe he doesn't. Which makes me both sad and angry. I mostly alternate between those two emotions when thinking about his time in NY.

Think about it. Apparently Jim Schoenfeld, Sather and Renney met to discuss his "situation" on Saturday. And now, Prucha and his agent are meeting with those in charge today. And people asked, why his agent? Perhaps he is balking at the conditioning assignment. To which I say, I think it's about time his agent gets involved. This kid maybe doesn't even know how much he is being taken advantage of here. If he were American or Canadian, he could call one of his four dozen friends who play hockey or he knew in juniors or in college, and he could be like, "be honest with me, am I getting screwed?" And people would tell him. Who is Petr going to talk to, besides calling Jagr in Omsk? He may have Slovak or Czech friends in New York. I know he hangs out with that Victoria's Secret model from time to time. But something tells me she might not be able to tell him what is going on behind closed hockey doors.

Maybe it's beyond overdue that his agent get involved and help get this kid to where he can be. I think it's selfish that if they aren't going to use him, the don't move him. And honestly, after yesterday's debacle and the "smoke and mirrors" show that has been playing on Broadway this entire year, how can they really think things are A-OK and not want to get some different players in there. To say that the other "interchangeable" parts playing right now are leaps and bounds better that Prucha is just false. His actions have not directly caused a goal against this year. How many other players making more money than he is, can say that???

I'm curious. Is the ownership group blind to how bad this team is playing? Or as long as they are winning, it doesn't really matter, right. It's a joke though, because the winning cannot last forever. Look at yesterday.

Credit Craig Anderson and Florida for stepping up and playing well. But the Rangers did themselves in. No excuses. It was a loss a long time coming. Will there be changes? Can there be changes? I am almost scared for this week's games versus Pittsburgh and Montreal. A long, cold December ahead.

Around the League:

Congrats to Mike Modo Modano for scoring his 1300th NHL point, as he got the game winning goal for the Stars yesterday.

Random Thought:

This didn't really fit in above. But....I seem to remember a fraction between the Czechs and the other players when the team went out on their dreadful West Coast trip a year ago. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I remember after Malik had gotten in the doghouse for not shaking Renney's hand after a Rangers win (Malik had been scratched a few games prior), that the team was going out to dinner on that West Coast trip and everyone went but Malik, Prucha and one other player - Jagr, perhaps? And everyone else went with Shanahan to the team dinner. And I remember thinking at the time, jeeze, Prucha, if there is a line, might not want to stand on the side with Marek Malik, even if he is your countryman.

And now, a year later, I wonder. Was that enough to anger Renney? Sather? Both?

I'm grasping at straws, people, I know.

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