Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yotes: A Second Life In The Desert. . .

Prucha is merely one of a handful of guys seeing new life in the desert for the Coyotes since trade deadline day, but he is most certainly the player we, as Rangers fans and devote fans of the Ranger departed, are most happy to see succeed.

Last night's telecast of the Stars/Coyotes game on Versus began and ended with discussion on our Petr Prucha. The final notes being one of dramatic fashion.

But before we get there, let's start, as we should, at the beginning.

Dave Strader (Phoenix) and Daryl Reaugh (Dallas) had the call of the game, so that meant perhaps more introspective on Phoenix than may usually happen in a Versus telecast. (Note: Keith Jones in studio said it was a perfect time to get "reaquainted" with the Coyotes; a team you can bet he hasn't watched all that much unless they were on VS in the fall).

Dave and Daryl focused on three Phoenix players to start the game - Scottie Upshall (3-4-7), Matthew Lombardi (5-4-9), and Petr Prucha (1-5-6). Those are their point totals in their 12 games with the Coyotes since trade deadline. That's 9 goals, 22 points, and a combined +3.

Now, those who have been watching the Coyotes from back East - and I am not alone - know that this line, although together for perhaps games three through maybe six of that span, have not played non-stop together. BUT, they have almost always, and from the beginning, looked very much in sync.

The announcing team credits that to the fact that they "play the right way, the way that Wayne Gretzky wants the entire roster to play. They compete hard for pucks and are gritty in the offensive zone."

Tonight Phoenix's uncontested top line played no differently.

Upshall scored two goals, both assisted by Lombardi and Prucha, and both in a similar tic-tac-toe fashion. One a nice passing play in close and the second coming into the zone with Lombardi dropping the puck back for Upshall to take the blast from the point.

Prucha was a main topic of conversation for Daryl and Dave. Here are some highlights.

Daryl: "This is one area where Petr Prucha can help the Coyotes. His rookie season with New York, he was dynamic on the powerplay. Obviously [he] has faded in that department and out of favor in New York. But his second life [is] here in the desert."

Dave: "He played a lot of that season with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. When I asked him about scoring the 30 goals, he said, well, you know, it was a lot easier playing with those guys."

This has always been a hotly contested battle between Prucha supporters and, well, let's just say those that say he was lucky in who he played with. But I hold true, and goodness knows if I had time I'd review the video tapes I have floating around, to prove my point, but he did not always play with Jagr, certainly not when Nylander and Straka were Jagr's linemates for the majority of that season.

Now Prucha may have scored his powerplay goals with benefit of Jagr, as did many other guys in this league. But he played five on five with guys like Steve Rucchin, Marty Ruchinsky, Petr Sykora. Those are nice players, but Petr paved his own path, make no mistake. It was not without his own talent and effort that he got to 30 goals in this league.

Daryl: "Good little play by Petr Prucha on that faceoff. He won the draw and then made himself available for the tip in after. Remember back in his rookie year. He was right in the conversation with Crosby and company, scoring goals at similar rates. And then he fell out of favor in New York and could never work his way back up the ladder to be a regular guy with the Rangers."

Dave: "He basically told the New York media that he wasn't very good at English. I did and interview with him last week and he's a wonderful young man with a sense of humor. His English is far better than he would lead you to believe. He just explained to me the biggest problem for a lot of guys like him is being properly understood or understanding the exact question they're being asked. He's always worried about being taken out of context."

Daryl: "You can speak on the ice. You don't need any language down there and he's getting every opportunity here. He's looked good tonight."

As the game went on, they kept coming back to the top line, calling Prucha "relentless," and saying how its the tenacity of the entire line that makes them tick.

Look, we as fans of Prucha don't need to be told how fantastic he is. We know. We always knew. But it provides insane pleasure for me to hear other people say it.

It was too long in New York between hearing wonderful things about Petr Prucha. His determination and good attitude were never in question and continually lauded by media and teammates alike. But what about the fact that he is a legit and talented hockey player. That got lost, as so much else sometimes does in New York.

But back to the game for a minute.

Dallas, a team desperately trying to make the playoffs, although time nor points are in their favor, continued to come on hard especially in the late stages of the game. They scored first, and Phoenix scored twice to take the lead after one. The teams traded powerplay goals, and both took a few too many penalties. Phoenix appeared to collapse late, causing a 5-3 lead to evaporate and force the game into OT.

Where none other than Petr Prucha stepped on ice for some four on three action, after Dallas was called for a trip in the extra frame.

It took only 53 seconds into overtime when our favorite departed got in a good position after the faceoff, crept up close to the net, and scored the Coyotes first overtime winner of the season.

And the first overtime winner of his career.

Let's watch it again (and again...and again...) :)

For post game interviews, including a short one with a happily, smiling Prucha:

Gretzky said, "The three of them play the game the way the game should be played."

We as fans can't help but nod in agreement.

Here are all game highlights, as Enver Lisin also notched two goals and an assist in the total team effort:

Lastly an official write-up from Coyotes.com:

Petr Prucha: "It's a great feeling."

Petr Prucha is playing hockey again - a game he loves. As fans of his we have to love and embrace that. He's got to be at his happiest when he's playing a game he loves. And playing the game with more poise and confidence than I have seen him play in years.

As much as we all hate to admit it, this resurgence we are seeing - it sadly could not have happened in current day New York, the way things are now.

Instead it had to happen under a different sky, for the color of another team. A second life in the desert, perhaps.

He may be further away, and that's a painful reality, but if anything can help bridge the gap of 3000 miles, it's the joy of seeing our favorite player smile again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Avery Versus The World. . .

Got back from the Rangers/Devils game a little while ago. And I must say, that was certainly an exciting evening. It lived up to the hype, although perhaps not for the reasons most of us originally thought.

For it wasn't Avery and Brodeur.

It was Avery and Clarkson. Avery and, umm, Holik, Shanahan, Zajac, White, Langenbrunner, Rupp. . .need me to continue?

It seemed Avery was more in the heads of the Devils players than they were in his. And that is where Sean has been effective against them and where he can be effective against them going forward.

If I were New Jersey, for that reason alone, I would not want to face New York in the playoffs.

Sean can provide a decided edge. He did again tonight.

If there was a moment that disappointed me it was during the Clarkson/Avery scuffle, and not for Sean. I was not disappointed in Sean. I was disappointed with the refs, I guess much in the same way many Rangers fans have been upset for a while now.

There is no denying that Sean Avery is being looked at differently while he's on the ice by the officials.

No doubt in my mind.

If the media, the other coaches, the other players, if they are all looking at him differently, what makes us think the referees are going to be any different.

The problem with that - the officials are supposed to be impartial. It's their job. But I guess we really don't have to go into a long and drawn out conversation on the overall state of officiating in the league now do we?

But it disapointed me. And if it continues, which I am afraid it might, it will continue to disappoint me.

Sean Avery did all that was asked of him and I personally think has done a very, very good job of holding himself in check since his return to the league earlier this month.

Does that mean he's been a perfect angel?

Please, I wouldn't recognize or want Sean Avery on my team if he were that.

But he's done nothing to warrant any major retribution. AND, he has not gotten the benefit of any calls when something is done to him. And it's the latter that is most disturbing. It is a blatant slap in the face to Sean, and his team. And it takes credibility away from a league that sometimes walks a very fine line in that departmnet already.

If Sean does something warranting a penalty - send him to the box. He'll go. But if someone does something to Sean - they should be sent on that same path. Anything less, is a detriment to the sport of hockey.

Oh, wait, you've heard that one before.

Players that physically hurt their brothers in this league are given endless chances and infinite patience, sometimes to the degree that almost that confounds understanding.

And yet a guy that did nothing, really, except draw some negative attention to a minor moment of bad judgement and make himself look like a moron in the process - he has done the unforgiveable. He can't catch a break.

That is a shame.

And an embarassment.

I think we all as Rangers fans have one plea - let Sean be viewed the same as any player in this league. Let that endless and infinite patience fall on someone that has and can do good for this league on the ice and in the press. Let him play.

Putting him in this no-win situation is just asking for him to eventually snap. Not this year, but if it continues. Maybe that's what they all want. For the great voice to be right. That Avery is not a player in this league and that he's nothing more than a side show to it.

I hope with all I have that they don't get that wish, if that is what they are trying so desperately to do, and I hope that Sean Avery has the will inside him to withstand all that is unfairly being thrown at him.

The league has a lot of villians to contend with. Like it or not, Sean Avery is not one of them.

Other game notes:

Larry Brooks was quoted in today's NY Post as saying:

"But to believe that Avery-Brodeur is somehow just a sideshow is missing the point, which, quite simply, is that Avery the Ranger is as singularly responsible for tilting the rivalry Manhattan's way as anyone since Mark Messier."

I will agree, to the extent that he is one of the two people. Applaud Sean Avery for being a MAJOR reason that New York has once again become a respectible rival to the Devils once again. For he is. He truly, truly is. And not for the antics, if you will. But because he is, and I continue to believe in this, a legit hockey player.

BUT...in applauding Avery, I don't think we should forget about the other guy, Henrik Lundqvist. Including tonight Hank is 14-5-4 versus New Jersey and 14-2-4 against Brodeur. (*I want to confirm those numbers*). And he has an incredible GAA too.

That is domination right there. And - and! - he did it last year when it counted. In the playoffs.

So as much as the world wants to focus on Avery and his play against New Jersey - again, rightfully so - do not lose track of the fact that Hank himself plays masterfully against New Jersey and deserves applause as well.

It is so nice after being on the bad side of a one sided rivalry for seven years, to finally be on an upswing.

Kudos Avery. Kudos Hank.

Lastly, Naslund, in what I saw of him, looked like a much more determined man tonight. It might be a flash in the pan, but it's something to keep an eye on going forward as the season closes out.

Around the League:

Just have to mention this. On my way home I listeded to a bit of Coyotes/Stars and in the first intermission they did a 'Hot Stove Report" of sorts. Now, Dave Strader was on Versus with the Dallas Stars guy, so Darren Pang jumped to Dallas TV. This was the Coyotes radio broadcast team; forgive me for missing names here. The whole segment began and ended with the song "love the one you're with." (Kinda a play on the fact that so many regular broadcast partners were in different places tonight). Anyway, a question is asked and answered by [fill in the blank.]. The announcer then goes, "okay, Panger, you got sloppy seconds."

Yes, you read me right. On air, professional broadcasters used the term that almost had Sean Avery banned from this very league!

Now I am not stupid (at least I try very hard not to be). Granted Avery's context was different and his connotation might have very well been of the negative variety. But who has not - seriously, folks - used the term like the broadcasters did above?

Because, in all honesty here - which I do preach at NHTP - my first thought any time I hear sloppy seconds, and this includes the time Avery said it, is not anything sexual or negative.

I'm thinking the guys above, they probably were not thinking along those lines either.If we are being truly honest here.

Yotes/Stars Notes:

Kudos from the broadcast crew (whose names I will find tomorrow) for the reunited Prucha-Lombardi-Upshall line that combined for a goal - (Just checked the score) - 2 goals so far on the night. It seems the three boys can play in almost any combination with their teammates and they all bring that energy and tenaciousness. That's the word I am going to use to describe the Coyotes in my three weeks watching them. Tenacious. On the puck, on the boards. Tenacious. They might not score a lot(although they are againt Tobias Stephan tonight) yet, but they are punishing other teams with their work ethic and consistent pressure. The goals, I believe, will come. And they did tonight. 5-3 in the 3rd.

**Thanks for reading. Goodnight folks.**

On edit: Prucha just got game winning goal in OT! More tomorrow. :) But to see the jump in his step. Well, well deserved.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Around the League: When You Need A Laugh, Watch These After Hours Clips. . .

Well no, I didn't watch the Flames/Wild game, as previously mentioned. (In former Ranger's land, Jamie Lundmark got a goal and an assist for the Flames, and #2 Star honors, in case you are curious.)

But...meanwhile that didn't stop me from staying up late and watching After Hours.

And I have to readily admit that I have not laughed that hard at After Hours in a while. (Well not including when they re-showed the clip of Alex Burrows doing his Marc Crawford impression during Ryan Kesler’s interview a few weeks back. That was classic!)

Eric Nystrom, son of Islanders great Bobby Nystrom, was their guest and he was hilarious to watch. In general just a good interview. Down to Earth, self-depreciating. Talked well of his father, and hopes he gets to see some of the success his father had back in the day.

The uncontested best part of last night, however, was when they made him watch a video clip of himself. Apparently when in Quad City Eric did an on-ice strip tease imitating the famous scene from Slap Shot. He said he's seen it hundreds of times and he hope's that was the last (and that his grandmother who was watching in BC was not too embarassed!!). But that won't stop us from showing it just one more time.

For your viewing pleasure here is Eric Nystrom:

Oh and in case you feel cheated, here is the whole Alex Burrows interview on After Hours from October. Move the time to 1:00 to hear the Marc Crawford impression. “Burrr, what you were thinking?”

Seriously, folks, when you need a laugh, I'd find it hard to believe these things won't make you smile.


Yotes: My Game Of The Night. . .

Coyotes @ Sharks:

Tonight I’m getting what lately has seemed like a rare chance to watch the late game on Saturday night. Why Sharks/Coyotes? Sure, the other late game (Wild/Flames) has more playoff ramifications, but this matchup has our favorite departed Ranger.

Easy call for me.

To start the game, I'll relate - again - the kind (and true) words shared between Dave Strader and Darren Pang:

Strader: "The evaluation and experimentation continues for Wayne Gretzky. He's found a couple of tandems including Martin Hanzal and Petr Prucha that are working well together."

Pang: "He's really got to like the chemistry that is going on right now. (Team is 3-1-1 in their last five games). Last game he had to go to the tandem again, Martin Hanzal and Petr Prucha (both of Czech Republic). Petr Prucha is the ideal player. The kind of guy that Wayne Gretzky raves about. Low maintenance. A guy that will take a hit to make a play. He loves the game of hockey and obviously he's the guy that will do it on both ends of the ice. They've been a really nice tandem for the last couple of games."

For clarification:

"Ideal hockey player."

"Wayne Gretzky raves about."

"Loves the game of hockey."

"On both ends of the ice."

If you are going to impress anyone in this league, why not let it be the greatest goal scorer in its history, no?

And isn't it still more refreshing for these announcers to be sure to mention - repeatedly I admit - these confidence boosting statements. They obviously believe strongly in what they are saying if they keep taking the time to mention it. What’s more, in game, they keep saying things like "smart play" and "tenacious backcheck" when referring to Prucha.

As for the game, the first period was a wide-open style that we rarely get the pleasure of seeing in the East, at least not in New York. Teams got only 8 shots a piece and no goals were scored, but it was a quick - literally quick - period to see.

In the second, things got more intense. San Jose came out much stronger, and got a lot more pressure on Ilya Bryzgalov - 15 shots. Both teams scored two goals - three from unlikely sources (Kurt Sauer - 1st of season for Yotes; Jody Shelley -2nd on season and Tom Cavanaugh - 1st career, for the Sharks) to make it a 2-2 game at the end of the 2nd frame.

Credit the Coyotes for not backing off to the increased physicality and pressure from the Sharks. People might not think they have anything to play for right now. But they get to play spoiler to teams in the West for one. And more importantly for their own benefit, they are playing to show the coach what they can do. Trying to create tandems, as mentioned above, so that when it comes time for free agency and training camp next fall, they are remembered and wanted as important parts of this team. Lastly, of course, is pride. This was a team that, until the All-Star break was sitting in the middle of the playoff pack. It might not have worked out the way they wanted to but I still believe – as I did to start the season – that they can and will be a team to contend with in the West.

The third period further confirmed that I chose a good game to watch. Even though the Sharks ended up winning on a powerplay goal by Pavelski, it was a fun, pretty even battle throughout.

And the highlight was a "great, great" shift by Prucha, Winnik, and Hanzal where they kept the best line on San Jose "hemmed in" their own zone for 1:25. It was just a sick shift, total domination by the Coyotes. (In some way, reminiscent of the way the Rangers in December were able to control San Jose in the late stages of the game, with constant pressure).

Anyway, decision well made.

Interesting Stat. . .

Somewhere in the game, Dave Strader pointed out some interesting league facts. The following players are the only players in the league with 30+ goals, 70+ points, and a + rating. They are:

Zach Parise
Patrick Marleau
Patrik Elias
Jeff Carter
Alex Ovechkin
Rick Nash
Evgeni Malkin
Pavel Datsyuk

And all those + players, they are all +11 or more. I found that kind of interesting.

**Author's Note: Two former Rangers - Nigel Dawes and Al Montoya - were interviewed during the game. Apparently Montoya has been promised to see some action in the seasons final games. And apparently Bryzgalov didn't believe he was Cuban.**

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Many Questions With Fewer Answers. . .

I am actually a little bit at a loss for words on this one. Usually, at least in the majority of the short John Tortorella era here in New York, the Rangers bounce back after a bad showing and have a much better game with a better result the next time around.

Well perhaps the game was a bit better than the game of disgust in Atlanta on Thursday, in that they were able to keep coming back to tie a better team rather than give up three goals to a worse team, but the result was no better. Worse, in fact, in that the Rangers did not gain even a point.

The common trend: getting into serious penalty trouble. I used to joke for years, even before this blog existed, that if the Rangers were going to take so many penalties, they should learn to be the best penalty killing team in the league. The whole practice makes perfect mentality.


This never meant that they should aim to achieve or fail to correct being a team that is penalized so much. Having a top two penalty kill in the league is nice, but that doesn't mean that the Rangers should parade to the penalty box every single game. And yet, most nights, that's exactly what they do.

Disheartening. That's what this game was.

I was skimming some clips from Bathgate/Howell night - who knows why because goodness knows that was an uninspired game to say the least - and Al Trautwig was on with Dave Maloney between periods saying that he couldn't understand the Rangers lack of urgency. He said, after the previous night's game in Buffalo, he'd think the Rangers would look at the standings and realize this is getting close, we better feel some desperation and play like it.

Well it didn't happen that night.

And it didn't happen today.

I always get tired of the post game interviews where players are talking about looking ahead and making changes for the better, but at this time of year, it's rather infuriating. There are only so many games in a season. And this team has had the same problems throughout, especially in getting energized for important games.

Sure, there may be some players playing with more a sense of urgency than others, but overall this team should be playing their hearts out to gain every point possible. They need to be.

And yet, I don't see it. I just don't. Which probably has lead me to the conclusion - again - that they are not capable of it. That no matter whether it was Renney or Tortorella trying to get this team to play, that they, they themselves, just do not have that killer instinct necessary to compete with the other teams in this conference right now.

That may sound pessimistic - and it is - and it may seem unneccessarily harsh - but it has to be. This team - and anyone who doesn't realize this is probably lying to themselves; players very much included - is simply running out of time to gain points. The time for having pass-me-by games like this one should have ended a long time ago.

That's my honest assessment.

You can think whatever you want regarding the officials and what affect they may or may not have had on the game, but the fact remains, in Pittsburgh, against Pittburgh, away against Atlanta, at home versus Ottawa - wherever - this team has taken enough penalties on its own - no help from the officials needed.

But if we are going to talk about today's referring, and it does seem necessary to do so to a certain extent, it has been disappointing me for almost as long as I have been a fan.

I will forever remember in the mid-to-late 90s going to a game versus Detroit at the Garden where the puck was floating somewhere around the blue line in Detroit's zone. Nedved went to get it at the same time Hasek left his net to do the same. So at the blueline Hasek slammed into Nedved and they called a penalty on Nedved for interference. I looked and my father, not understanding. But I quickly got it, if not that day, then in the years to come.

A team like Detroit was going to get calls versus a bad team in New York. When the Rangers finally got good again in the mid-2000s, I saw the Rangers get similar bounces against bad teams. And now, since the dawning of Sidney Crosby's NHL, the Rangers have been on many short side of calls both in Pittsburgh and at the Garden versus the Pens. It is disgusting and it just speaks to the horrific state of NHL officiating. Which makes me sad because it's a sport that we all love and respect and when faced with that reality, it is hard to respect all that goes on.

In regards to the Colton Orr penalty, I was shocked, but not surprised. A five minute major for interference and a game misconduct. The call was absurd. The fact that they'd choose to call it was not. A bloody Eaton, and Orr was the guy that hit him. That's all you really have to know.

If anyone confirm this for me, I'd appreciate it. Did Colton Orr not receive a five minute major and a game misconduct when he put his arms up in accidentally colliding with Matt Cullen in the middle of last season. Originally no call was made but they conferred and made the call. A good guy in Cullen - and he is - broke his nose and that's all they needed to see. I was there and to me it was a perfectly accidental open ice incident that ended badly. Carolina has never forgotten it though.

Interesting that I found out, in the post game today, that it was a linesman - a linesman - that made the call against Orr in today's game in Pittsburgh.

But I have another one for you. Can someone refresh my aging memory at who in a Rangers game within the last two weeks at the Garden took a five minute major for high-sticking? There's another call you'll never see. A two minute minor, a four minute double minor - sure. But a five minute major for high sticking?

What the refs pull out of their helmets will continue to astound. What is unacceptable is that nothing is done by the league to prevent it from happening again.

Did the Orr penalty change the outcome of the game today? In my opinion, the Rangers were undisciplined enough on their own and Paul Mara, with his eye swollen shut, should have been back home in New York icing it rather than playing in this game, but really, who am I to judge?

Tortorella, post game, said he hoped for nothing else except that the referees let the teams decide the outcome of the games, and that, in regard to Avery, that the calls on him be fair.

We can, all of us, only ask that much.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Side To The Other. . .

Short and sweet (or not so) tonight folks.

I listened to about five minutes of the first period on the radio and heard, as 1050 cut in and out on my drive, the plethora of penalties being taken by the Thrashers and the Rangers. After another "too many men" penalty, Dave Maloney went on his rant of how the Rangers weren't executing and if they didn't excute something Tortorella was going to execute one of them between the first and second periods.

It's on nights like this I am especially glad there is college basketball.

I'll be honest, in saying that after the play went silent in the lengthy goal or no goal review, I turned off the radio. I watched college basketball for most of the rest of the night when I got home, and checked the Rangers/Atlanta score from time to time.

The basketball game ended in time for me to "half" watch the last eight or so minutes of the game, on and off, and then, consequently, the overtime and the shootout.

I didn't really see any of the goals first hand, so I am not going to comment. I am in no place to.

But I will comment on the post-game interviews. I saw Valiquette's and Drury's.

Valiquette has been and continues to give the most thoughtful introspective to his own performance and the games he plays in. Thoughtful really is the word, and not in the 'oh you're so nice' kind of way, but in the 'I really understand the game' kind of way. And he pointed out the incredibly obvious fact that the one point the Rangers gained could be huge, either in a positive way or a disappointing way.

A concept that so few of the other members of this team would dare to admit.

Remember Drury after the pre-Christmas Alex Ovechkin-fest game? The one point they gained that night might prove to be the one point that pushed the team to home ice advantage in the playoffs.

Why is it that only the backup goalie seems to understand that it could also go the other way - the WORST way - in being the one point that keeps them OUT of the playoffs entirely.

Drury gave another barely audible post game interview where he - yet again - said they needed to let the game go.

Interesting to note, when John Giannone asked him why the team was so slow to start the period, Drury, said, "the third?"

Giannone said, "no, the first."

Comforting to know that both periods were played so badly that he could not even distinguish which slow start the interviewer meant.

I mean, there are only three periods in most hockey games.

Even more comforting. Drury later said it was a really good question and he didn't know the answer.

Personally I think the Rangers are running out of time - if they haven't already - for answering those questions.

The same questions that have been lingering all season long. . .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All You Need To Know. . .

"I was ticked off at myself for two days for not fighting against Ottawa," Sean Avery said. "I went home after the game and made some calls to some people while asking myself why I'd played that way. I missed an opportunity on Sunday to help the team and I told myself I wasn't going to let it happen again. So when I had the chance, I went. It was the right time."

So apparently the difference between a boring 2-1 loss against Ottawa on Sunday and a slightly less boring 2-1 win against Minnesota on Tuesday begins and ends with Sean Avery.

If Sean shows up to play, the team follows. That's what I'm getting out of it. And as much as I admire that from Sean, it makes me question - for about the hundreth time this year - the character of most of the rest of the players on this team.

That's why Sean works here. Why he worked and why he will work.

But seriously, look at what Sean said. He was mad at himself. He went home and thought about it. Even better? He admitted, to the media, that what he did was not good enough and that it was not going to hapepn again.

Now how many times during the Tom Renney regime was I looking for anyone to admit that they played a bad game, anyone to get angry and make that anger visible?

Thank you Sean Avery.

And it was funny. Right before he set up Gomez for that goal - and a sweet goal it was - the fans were saying, let's go Avery, let's get something going. I looked down at him holding the puck on the 33rd street side and I actually believed he would, indeed, get something going.

And he did.

He has an attitude too few possess, a determination that can be seen and felt, and a charisma - the good kind - that makes everyone want to follow.

The game may have been on the boring side, but the point - the two points - remain. The Rangers won yesterday because their biggest part - arguably - wasn't going to let them lose.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yotes: Prucha Nets 1st. . .

Well it finally happened. Petr Prucha netted his first goal tonight...as a Coyote.

Not - as Terry Mercury incorrectly mentioned just a half an hour ago on XM204 Ice Cap - his first of the season.

He mentioned in the wake of Phoenix's 6-2 loss to Anaheim, that Prucha had just scored his 1st goal of the season and that if - if - Phoenix were to make the playoffs next year, they'd need a lot more production from Petr Prucha.

I have nothing wrong with people making mistakes. Goodness knows this blog has provided many examples of it. I just don't like when people make sweeping generalities without first knowing the facts.

Prucha scored, in limited games and ice time, four goals as a Ranger this season. That makes tonight's goal his first - as a Coyote. And fifth on the season.

I LOVE the Ice Cap guys; next to Hockey This Morning,it's my favorite show on XM. So it's nothing personal. Even though Mercury was a fill in for Jamie Shalley tonight. I will not play favorites. I just didn't like that not only was he incorrect in his reporting, but he used his incorrect fact to try to make a point about why the Phoenix team wasn't doing so well this year.

Sure, Petr Prucha affected the Coyotes downfall, from midtown Manhattan.

Can't this guy get a break from anyone?

And just who gave Terry Mercury Tom Renney's cell phone number, anyway.


Now that I've gotten the jokes out of my system, here is the video of his Petr Prucha's 1st goal - as a Coyote.

Have I clarified enough? ;)

It was, let me say, quite a nice goal.

(Note, I am including the full game recap, because I can't get 'just' the goal right now. Sounds like Prucha had a few decent chances tonight. I haven't watched the game yet, as I was at the Garden tonight.)

And since tonight at NHTP, we are talking only about my favorite departed Ranger, here is one of the good quotes from Darren Pang from Tuesday's game against San Jose. Prucha was put on a line with Martin Hanzal for the game to try to get something from their "Czech familiarity."

"Both guys are really good on the defensive side of the puck and they will see a lot of Joe Thornton in this game. When you look at Petr Prucha, if you are unaware of him, he's a player that, only three years ago, scored 30 goals in the National Hockey League, so he can finish. His goal production has dropped, but he's tenacious on the puck, strong in the corners. He takes a hit and he gets up. He plays a very disciplined game. He doesn't get out of sorts if he gets banged around a little bit. That's what I like about Petr Prucha. And I think he's really familiarizing himself with the Phoenix fans and with his locker room."

Even though I haven't spent nearly as much as I would like to watching and soaking up all of the Phoenix games, from day one Darren Pang has said nothing but wonderful things about Petr. His attitude, work ethic, and style of play. I find it hard to believe if those things stay the same, that he will not be a fan favorite in Phoenix if he stays in the desert.

I also, of course, find it hard to believe that those things we love about Prucha will not stay the same.

Heart, spirit, loyalty, skill.

That was and will remain the Petr Prucha trademark.

Rangers/Sabres Wrap, My Steven McDonald Vote, and Around the League. . .

To start, a quick wrap of last night's affair at the Garden.

I felt, and many would agree, it was a must win game for Buffalo. They couldn't afford to fall too far in the standings, especially with how close everything has been. Only the top teams have assurance of making the playoffs. For everyone else, it's another season of claw and grab.

The Rangers didn't let that happen. With their fourth win in a row at MSG, they hit a season high. They came on strong to start, and despite owning a 4-1 lead at one point, made it interesting towards the end. But, good teams, they say, find a way to win in the end.

Since the Rangers started scoring four goals or more (7 out of the last 11 games), their win totals have gone up, not at all surprisingly. It is still, weeks into Tortorella's regime, surprising me to see what a completely different team we have been blessed with.

It's amazing what a system - the right system - can do.

Hank has not been perfect, at times far from it, but in the new system he hasn't had to be. I see the visible relief on his face.

Gomez's game has improved and his gaffs that used to be a constant, are now much more infrequent.

Antropov has done nothing but impress me. I am not sure if it's a release from being in a new city, but this guy has, so far, done everything and more in his short tenure with the Rangers. A big guy that was very much needed. It's amazing. Add one guy that's 6'6" and the rest of the team doesn't look so small anymore.

Or perhaps that's just because they are no longer playing like it.

Drury was finally able to score a goal against his former team, and now leads the Rangers with 9 powerplay goals.

Staal, who impressed me from day one of the season and had less than a handful of off games this year, is looking like a marvel. I got such insane pleasure out of watching him join the rush last night. It made me think that it was possible for the Rangers to have a real honest to goodness two-way defenseman again. A guy who was superb in his own end, but who could contribute offensively. If early indications are correct, he can be that guy.

The team is fun to watch again. No, they are not perfect, and there are still going to be major problems - both financially and on ice - in the months and seasons to come. But it felt great going into this weekend to be so excited for not one, but two, games at the Garden.

Thanks for giving us our team back, for the time being at least.

My Extra Effort Award Winner:

Ryan Callahan.

Not for the two goals last night, on his 24th birthday. Not at all.

But for the fact that he is one of perhaps only three - three - players on this team to have played the game with the same exact attitude and energy - the right attitude and the right energy - since game one this season. If this guy took a night off, I didn't see it. Whether he scored goals - and he now has 19 on the season, up over 10 from his career high - or made plays, he was always in the game. He was the first person to set the tone with a big hit. He'd scrap with someone if necessary.

His linemates may have been switched around constantly, and he may have played on every line this season, but his attitude and work ethic never wavered. He is a great team guy and someone I always noticed and respected on this team.

Why him? Why Extra Effort?

I'm still, and I alluded to this before, holding true to the true meaning of Extra Effort in my mind. The guy that went ABOVE AND BEYOND the call of duty.

To me, the highest paid, or the best players, should be the best players. You expect that from them. That is a given. Granted the two have not been connected very much this year on the Rangers - the best and the highest paid - but let's not go there.

My point is, I don't look at the Extra Effort Award winner as a Team MVP award. I don't think that was the original intention. People are allowed to vote for whomever they want, and they should, but I personally don't see it that way.

I think of it as an award for the guy that does what is NOT expected of him. The guy that steps up and does good for the team in all capacities. Sticking up for teammates. Creating energy and enthusiasm from the fans. And being a good and responsible player.

He doesn't have to be your leading goal scorer. In fact, he probably shouldn't be. He's just the guy taking everything he has and making you take notice.

That's why guys like Adam Graves, Sandy McCarthy, and Jed Ortmeyer won the award. They did more than what was expected from them. They were guys giving extra, and giving it all the time.

Ryan Callahan is very much in that same mold. He's a really solid hockey player and has come up with career totals this year, but no one expected him to be that guy. The goals - those are nice, but those are a bonus. No one is asking Ryan Callahan to score 19 goals.

That happened as a result of his never say no attitude for going to the net, going to the corners, being in the right spot, and playing with his head up.

The Rangers have a few more guys as of late that are playing with energy and enthusiams, joy for a game we all love. But Ryan Callahan did that each and every game, even in the very, very bad ones.

Ryan Callahan for Extra Effort. The guy truly has gone above and beyond.

Around the League:

Forgive me that I'm still not getting around to the Coyotes quotes that I promised earlier in the week. It's been another busy one. They will come eventually.

In other Saturday action, THE game to watch was Montreal/Toronto. Granted, I did not watch because I was at the Garden, but I got the score update and when it was 3-0 Toronto, I took a breath and thought about those in Montreal.

Here's my personal opinion. As a hockey fan and a fan of all that is great in hockey, I would surely have loved to see the Montreal Canadiens make the playoffs, in this, their 100th season. I know all of Montreal wanted the same thing.

But, as was the case when Montreal played Boston in the opening round of last year's playoffs, I was forced to face reality. Whoever the better team is, they should be the team moving forward. It doesn't always work that way - I honestly think Boston was the better team in that series - but most of the time the water levels out.

If Montreal does not make the playoffs this year, it is because they just weren't good enough. It will be a shame for their fans and for the city, but it has to be that way.

I've listen to debates rage on the Team990 and on HNIC for months now, about everything from a lack of passion, the necessity for franchophone coaches, incidents of inpropriety with those with mob connections to the never ending saga of Alex Kovalev. I've listened to it all.

My personal advice. If the Habs make the playoffs, fine. But if they do not, everyone in that organization needs to take a gut check. Granted, the team stands to be a different team anyway next fall because of free agency and contract expirations, but whoever is left has to take that time. That time to see what pieces belong, those that are not needed, and what they want from this team.

Do they want to be a team that has to have a franchophone coach and players from Quebec, even if another coach or another player is better? Do they want a team that has leaders that the players can emulate, as PJ Stock brought up on Friday's show?

They are the Montreal Canadiens. They should want to be the best hockey team in the league. With players who understand that. A key group of leaders, but more importantly, a group of guys who take TRUE pride in the sweater. A group of guys that even if they are not the best, will take every effort night in and night out to be the best, so that even the fans can say, yes, they gave their all.

True, in Montreal, the city where the team is disected by each and every person in the media and on the streets, such things are hard. But all the more reason for the management - whoever that may be going forward - to make sure they have the right group of players in that locker room. The right mix with the right attitude. If ever a player on a team needed a rock solid attitude to do their jobs it is for that team, in that city.

I am not sure what quite changed with Montreal from last year to this. I thought they would be among the best in the east. They don't have too many more games to figure it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where Are They Now: Jamie Lundmark. . .

In his most recent call-up from Quad City, one former Ranger is making his mark. That was especially true again last night against the Stars.

Jamie Lundmark had a "beautiful goal" and teammate Michael Cammalleri said, "He set the tone for us early, showed what he's willing to do for this club and what kind of guy he is. And that's big for us."

"He came to play," said coach Mike Keenan.

Never known as a tough guy, Lundmark even dropped the gloves with Dallas agitator, Steve Ott, during the match.

As for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick that he just missed, Cammalleri added, ""I wish I'd have got him an assist somewhere along the line, because he deserved it."

I'm glad to hear Jamie has done well this year when he's been called up. Calgary is a stacked team right now, in good position, so to know that at these important moments he's helping chip in important goals, that's a fantastic way for him to get noticed and be remembered by the coaches and his teammates.

This morning on Hockey This Morning, Scott Laughlin said that he's always happy when players that were drafted high and might not get a good start early in the league, find their way and show some of the potential they once had.

I agree. Lundmark never really worked here in the disappointment of that final season pre-lockout. But...when the Rangers had to pick who to keep betweeen Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark, it was mentioned they chose Lundmark because he had a better attitude and was more a team guy. (If anyone else wants to take the lead on doing a Where Are They Now: Pavel Brendl, please feel free).

But as for attitude, it goes to show that sometimes that really does matter. I hope he continues to do well.

Article in it's entirety here:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Around the League: Tip of the Helmet, Rangers, and More. . .

Before going on to talk about the Rangers, in brief, I will take a little while to share my thoughts on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur's noteworthy accomplishment last night.

Bill Clement was on XM204 with Rossi and Phil this afternoon and he actually gave me the perfect starting point for whatever it was I thought I was going to write.

He said he feels that Marty, in direct difference to any other goalie that has made remarkable contributions to the game or holds records of significance, is a person that everyone, regardless of what team they root for, genuinely likes.

He said some members of Sawchuks own team hated him. He said Patrick Roy was a hated man in Detroit. But, he said, he couldn't imagine anyone in any arena last night not being happy for Marty Brodeur because he was such a great guy.

Phil agreed.

Rossi did not.

Not that Marty's not a good guy, mind you. I'm sure he is. But Rossi said he didn't think the people at Madison Square Garden liked Marty.

I, as a Rangers fan, definitely agree.

There is a great tragedy that comes with being a hockey fan of a particular team. You will never, no matter how truly great they are, give one of the games great players all the adoration and respect they deserve if they happen to suit up for your least favorite team.

As a Rangers fan, there are a few rivals to contend with. The Flyers of the 70s, the Islanders of the 80s, the Devils of the 90s. And, to be honest, the team I hate losing to now more than ever is the Penguins, so it can be argued they are the rival of the late 00s. The Rangers certainly do not lack for rivals.

And there are few other fans in this league, unless they are from Montreal and adored Brodeur for his hometown roots, unless they just happened to be a goalie worshiper and he was "their" guy, or unless they are fans of the Devils, that would have seen more of Marty Brodeur than Rangers fans.

Trust me.

He has been there at our best moments (1994, 1997, 2008) and our worst moments (1997 through 2004; and again in 2006). Through it all, that has been THE guy in goal. Six times a year or eight times a year. Four intense playoff rounds. He was the guy, is the guy, and will continue to be the guy.

I frankly cannot picture the Devils without Martin Brodeur. As much as Devils fans will be sad when he retires, Rangers fans will be left with a sense of utter disillusionment; a sense of - well what now.

Having one of the best goaltenders in the history of the game in your face so often makes him seem more human than he should, I guess. I mean, the guy is hands down fantastic and dominated your team into embarassment for an eight year stretch and yet, he's really just Marty.

When he's not Maaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrtttttttttttyyyyyyyyyyy that is. ;)

His greatness, because of the rivalry, is lost on many of us Rangers fans. We can't see the greatness because we are caught up in everything else. The hatred of the rivalry, the joshing with the opposing fans. The utter thrill when he DOESN'T perform up to his great standards. That's when we, as Rangers fans, get a break.

I still wouldn't go so far as to say he's hated though. He's not hated by me, I'll make that clear. I will not hate a player because he's good. And he is certainly that and more. But I never liked him. And it was more because he appeared - despite what I hear and what other people say of him - to have an attitude. And I know for a fact that the year the Devils finally beat the Rangers in a playoff round - that was like another Stanley Cup for him, more important than all that followed. He also, and maybe it's just against New York, always seemed to not give credit when one of our guys beat him cleanly. A nice move in the shootout and Marty was saying the shooter didn't mean to do that, and he got lucky. So for me to say I liked him, would be a lie. I preach honesty here at Natural Hat Trick. So I won't lie.

I'll be honest. I do not think Rangers fans were doing backflips last night. I don't think think they like him.

But as the record creeped up, and I made a few mentions of kudos here to Marty at NHTP, I admitted what needed to be said. He has been, during most of the time I've watched him, the greatest goalie of his generation, next to Patrick Roy.

Now, after last night, he is - numerically - the winningest goalie in the history of the league. If he was always one of the best, last night might have pushed him over the edge. That, though, will remain a debate for as long as hockey is played.

He deserves nothing less than a giant tip of the helmet for what he did last night. And a sincere round of applause for what he has done and what that means for our great game.

Rangers fan or not, I am a hockey fan, and something like that commands respect. And for that, he has mine.

Bill and the guys on Home Ice went onto list names of goalies currently playing and where they were in relation to Brodeur's numbers, and who, if any could catch him, and how much they'd have to win to catch him.

I think that's pointless. I don't think anyone we have heard of now will ever beat Brodeur's record. It would take not only a fantastic goalie, but circumstances beyond what we can imagine now.

Brodeur played his whole career for one team. Started young. Was good young. Played for a team that was a defensive powerhouse for a decade. And a league powerhouse for just as long. And he, luckily, saw his first major injury of his career - this year. Not many will be that lucky. Many greater goalies, perhaps, will play for worse teams, get an untimely injury, or come into the league at the wrong time.

I really respect how Marty is saying he is going to pad his totals more, so that when someone does catch him, it will be more of a challenge.

Because he is saying - in essense - that someone will catch him. Someday.

And yes, someday, perhaps, someone will. Someone we have yet to hear of. Someone who probably hasn't been born yet. Perhaps someday someone will pass him.


Records, they said, are made to be broken.

But on this day and for the long, long foreseeable future, the record holder is Martin Brodeur.

I tip my helmet to you Marty for the great things he has done for our game. Congratulations.

Rangers/The Short Stuff:

Circumstances prevented me from watching the game last night, and despite the night, not ones involving beer. I did, however, listen on radio until I was able to get home and watch the shootout on TV. It sounded like one of the best games of the season, as people have expressed. I LOVE back and forth hockey. And while the get a goal, give one up, routine can get old, I think that's a refreshing change of pace from get four goal lead, blow four goal lead, no?

Important game and very imporant work from some key people. Antropov was interviewed after the game. Apparently coaches told him to shoot more. He has looked like has a very, very nice shot. So I concur. Shoot big man, shoot.

And Hank, a man who I saw literally crumbling at the seems earlier this year during the dark days, has looked as refreshed and as changed a man as I have seen yet in his recent interviews. I've watched 95% of his interviews since he came into the league. I had never seen him as uncomfortable as he was during those dark days. It's a pleasure to now see his eyes crinkle in happiness. Not tense in frustration. Or wary in relief. But happy and confident that he is playing well, he can play better, but that the team around him is playing again so that the margin doesn't have to be so ackingly thin.

Good stuff. Big weekend ahead. I hope the new, fun attitude continues.


I plan to finish watching some of the game I missed in my exhaustion last night, but I will share two facts.

One, Darren Pang was on a Prucha praising streak again last night. :) I'll type up what he said when I have more time later in the week or this weekend. Worth hearing for Prucha fans. And not shocking. Somewhat shocking, the little big man saw more time on the penalty kill than the powerplay. This provides me with such a sense of joy, I cannot tell you. A young player - yes still young - getting opportunities he was not given and never would have been given. Maybe he'll be the team's best penalty killer. In New York, we never would have known.

Two, Dmitri Kalinin made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and got in position to score his first as a Coyote. Come on now, who would have thought Kalinin would be the first of the three departed Rangers to score in burgandy and white? Maybe it was the desert air.

Oh one more, while I'm at it. Saturday at Jobing.com Arena is 80s night. 80s music and fans invited to dress the part.

Tell me that would ever happen in New York.

Only in the desert. . .

**I woke up this morning and looked at the New York Post. Martin Brodeur was on the back cover. This surprised me, not because he did not deserve it - he totally deserves it - but because I don't remember a hockey moment on the backpages since Messier's jersey retirement. I may be wrong, but it's been a long while. And certainly a longer time for something a hockey player did - in game. Not since perhaps Mark passed Gordie Howe in points in November of 2003. As deserving as Marty is to get the back cover - and he is - it just reminded me what a shame it is that it happens so infreqently in our city.**

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yotes: Getting to Know Petr Prucha [UPDATED]. . .

How ironic that this interview was given just a short time before his departure from New York, and that it was posted yesterday? Okay, perhaps just ironic to me, but it was a pleasant surprise for me when I found it today.

As promised, here is the Getting to Know Petr Prucha interview with comments where necessary:

Status: Phoenix Coyotes right winger (interview was done prior to trade from the Rangers).

HT: 6-ft-0 WT: 175 pounds

DOB: Sept. 14, 1982 In: Chrudim, Czech Republic

Hockey Inspirations: "It used to be Pavel Bure, when he used to play he was amazing. I remember I saw his performance in the Olympic Games when he scored five goals. It was unbelievable what he did there, so, it was him."

**A lot of what Pavel Bure did was unbelivable. It's truly a shame he couldn't stay with the Rangers longer."**

First Hockey Memory: "I remember when I was playing on the rink where there was no roof. It was like my first experience where you go through pre-school hockey or something like that, I don't know how you guys call it…No roof. It wasn't even a building, it was only the rink (age 5)."

Hobbies/Leisure Activities: "For sure I like playing other sports like tennis, soccer or whatever's good for getting in shape during the summer. So, stuff like that. I like to travel."

**Remind me to share a thought on Pete and soccer at some point during the doldrums of summer when hockey is over and we are bored!**

Nicknames: "Nothing special. Just 'Pruchs.' "

**Or Proochie as Shane Doan apparently called him. ;)**

Favorite Movie: "Old School."

Last Book Read: "Twilight."

**Guess Kels is going to be reading herself some Twilight. Also suppose it was translated into like 100 languages. I'm getting images of his teammates joking with him over this. If they haven't already. :)**

Favorite TV Show: "Friends."

**One of my favorites as well. Wonder who his favorite character is.**

Musical Tastes: "I like U2."

First Job: "Cleaning windshields of cars in a gas station."

First Car: "Skoda (red)."

Current Car: "Mercedes (silver)."

Favorite Uniforms: "Rangers."

Pre-game Feeling: "Just clearing my head totally. Don't think about anything, just be focused."

Favorite Meal: "Dumplings with strawberries."

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: "Vanilla with chocolate sauce."

**Better than just plain vanilla. He can join Steven Stamkos and I for vanilla ice cream anytime. :)**

Greatest Sports Moment: "That's lots of things. I would start with winning the championship in Czech. Then winning the world championship (2005). And my first game for the New York Rangers (2005); my first NHL goal. Stuff like that."

Most Painful Moment: "Every time you lose it's painful. So all losses I ever had (laughs)."

**See that right there. That's the right attitude.**

Closest Hockey Friend(s): "My whole team."

**From the mouth of a truly good teammate.**

Funniest Player Encountered: "'Gomer' (Scott Gomez)."

Toughest Competitors: "'Orrsie' (Colton Orr)."

Funny Hockey Memory: "I tell you, when I was back in the Czech Republic in the league I had a breakaway, well it wasn't a breakaway, but I was waiting for a pass from behind. And I had turned back and the goalie came in front of me and laid down and I tried to jump over him and I couldn't make it so he hit me in the legs and I made a whole flip. So it was pretty funny, because I wasn't injured…If I would have got injured I wouldn't laugh about it. It was awesome."

**Thank goodness he wasn't injured. Guy is honestly like a freakin' bouncing ball.**

Favorite Players To Watch: "(Pavel) Datsyuk. I like Marian Hossa, too. (Nikolai) Zherdev, too, is pretty nice to watch on the ice. I like those guys who can handle the puck really well."

**So master stickhandlers Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival and Dmitri Kalinin didn't make the cut. Hmmm....**

Last Vacation: "Miami."

**I believe Korpikoski and his girlfriend spent the All-Star break there, as did a few members of the team. Guess he was among them.**

Strangest Game: "I remember, well, I didn't play that game, but I remember that game we were up 5-0 and we lost in overtime (to Montreal). It was pretty hard to even watch it. It was a strange game because it never happened in my life. Other than that, when we lost the game in Buffalo in the playoffs. Last seconds, we were up 1-0 and they tied the game with seven seconds left and we lost in OT. Very painful.”

**Oh yes, it was painful. And I remember feeling grateful that Petr wasn't part of it.**

People Qualities Most Admired: "Be fair to people. Be honest. Be funny. Don't make a big deal about if somebody is making fun of you. Just be cool all the time."

**And this is when we find we can love him more than we loved him, if possible.

Honesty. Fairness. Sense of humor. Self-depreciation. Whoever taught this kids the lessons of life, they did a great job.**

Sunday, March 15, 2009

He Belongs In Blue. . .

The Home and Home:

I was lucky to attend both games of the home and home between the Flyers and Rangers this weekend. Luckier certainly it would seem to see today's game, as the entire Rangers team actually showed up to this one, but lucky nonetheless.

Without stepping too much into yesterday's game which was, at best, a half effort, where defensive irresponsibility abounded (just what, by the way, was Derek Morris doing on the Richards goal. If you watch the replay, there is a 2 to 2.5 second span of time where Morris stands in front of Hank staring at Richards allowing him to take not one, but two shots uncontested. I'm not saying it stops the goal, but you look foolish not trying to a) poke the puck away or b) go after the damn man), a good start with a nice goal by Antropov was allowed to waste away, and Avery was one of a handful of players that showed up ready to go.

In yesterday's game, the Flyers looked the bigger and the better team, hands down. And Biron had one of those games that make me think he's a legit goalie in this league. (He impressed me a lot in last year's playoffs, but I've more often than not given him more credit than others, even when he played behind Miller in Buffalo).

The highlight of yesterday's game for me came in the stands where the little boy sitting next to my friends and I at one point stopped, looked at my friend, and said in this quiet voice, "you are cheering for the Rangers?" He paused, "They suck." Our immediate reaction was tearful laughter. He just said it so adorably, and frankly, he did have a point. As my friend pointed out the Rangers couldn't seem to string more than one pass together at a time. I, sadly, was forced to tell her this was not a new thing.

Moving onto the bigger and better things of today's game and the point of this post.

Sean Avery is made for Manhattan. Made in the mold of and effective in this uniform. I will not go so far as to say there is a perfect athlete or a perfect player, but if there was ever a player where you said, he can only work there, that is his perfect match, that's Sean Avery and New York.

Granted, half of it might be because he, after having been here and been happy here, had this thought in the back of his mind all along that this is where he belonged and if he wasn't here, he wasn't going to be happy, effective Sean. Which on some level you can't even blame him for. We can all name athletes that just played better in one location over another in their careers.

(Although I'll pause for a moment and say, again, he did nothing on the ice in Dallas that was ineffective or selfish. Unfortunately it just never worked. Perhaps had Marty Turco started the season like he ended the last one, or the rest of the team scored a few more goals, it wouldn't have been a point to talk about at all. As it was...well you know the story. The experiment in Dallas failed, yes. But to say Sean Avery was the only thing that affected that team would be an injustice. I stand by that still).

So Sean comes back to the place he has proven he can play, and play he does. Whatever the connection is between the two, it has been a sight to see. From the first game back on Long Island, to his sixth game in Blue today, Sean has been one of the best players, if not THE best player in each game. He's scored goals in three consequtive games, including two on the powerplay today.

In the Rangers worst game of the stretch on the scoreboard, arguably Monday in Carolina, Sean was still one of the better players. (Blameless Valiquette was certainly the other).

In the Rangers best game of the stretch, arguably today, he did essentially everything right. He got himself in position to score two nice, clean goals. He agitated in a way that got the other team off their game. Minus having Richards skate around trying to rip his head off - no, you didn't miss that when the cameras cut away, as they did when Coburn tried to behead Antropov, ironically - it was reminiscent of the best games played two years ago in the playoffs when Avery so incited the Atlanta team that their best players lost focus of their priorities and made it a Sean Avery show.

That's exactly what happened today. We saw yesterday how good Philadelphia is. I don't see how they are not a better team than the Rangers are, in more than a few ways. And yet, today it was a completely different story and a completely different ending than yesterday.

Why? Because not only was Sean Avery, again, the best player. He made the rest of his team better today too.

It is a precious thing to have a player in any sport that makes the players around him better. And Sean Avery does that.

Goalies can carry teams, but they rarely make the team around them play better. At least not in the way I am implying.

Players, usually of the superstar nature - as we saw day in, day out, with Jaromir Jagr - can make those around them better.

Sean, certainly not a superstar in the way we know them, has that gift too. For two distinct and separate reasons.

For one, he's a legit player. He can skate better than just about anyone on the team. And I don't mean fast, although he is arguably one of the fastest as well. He's powerful. In his strides, in his direction, in his push. He gets to open ice to get to pucks. He puts pucks in great places. He works behind the net better than many I've seen. And he gets himself into great places to score. All these things work in sequence and make his linemates and his teammates around him better.

We've all seen the way Gomez has responded to playing with Avery. And Gomez couldn't play well with anyone, it seemed, for the longest time. As much as Gomez is a playmaker and his teammates can see the benefits from that, Avery is just as much able to make plays for his teammates. He really is. It seems no matter who he has played with, he makes the whole line look better.

And make no mistake, he is a smarter player than most will give him credit for. He really, really is.

The second reason is one of my personal opinion. Those may agree or disagree, but I think there is, at best, some level of truth to it.

Surely, not everyone on this team loved Sean Avery or wanted him back. They might, and I mean this nicely, not view this stick of dynamite, as welcomed on their nice, little, calm team. They might, perhaps, view him as less of a hockey player because he is not, was not, and will never be, just another quiet kid from Ontario who plays the game typical or stand up.

That's not Sean.

So I suspect, for that reason, and just because he is who he is, that he without even asking them to do so, pushes his teammates to be better BECAUSE they don't want him to be the one that stands out. And I mean stands out in a GOOD way.

The Rangers this year have lacked effort. Lacked cohesiveness. Lacked backbone. Lacked drive and, with the exception of a few, lacked the ability to make us believe they cared when they won and cared when they lost. They were many more times to count, shadows of themselves, skating lifelessly, moving tiredly, and bored in both action and explaination.

Now how would it look if Sean Avery cared more than everyone else (minus the goalies) on this team? How would it look if he tried the hardest? Skated the hardest? Shot the most? Scored the most? How would that look really?

On a team with Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, Avery would never be that guy.

On a team without marquee superstars and legendary leaders like those men that command respect, Sean Avery could easily be that guy.

I mean no disrespect towards my favorite team in saying that, but the fact remains that after painful losses this team looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. Hell, often during the painful losses they'd already look that way.

Sean is one of those players that is incapable of looking like he doesn't try and he doesn't care. Even if he or the result is not perfect. That's just not the way he works.

So I'm of the believe that some players - not all, but some - have been and will continue to respond with better efforts on ice. Not just because Sean may directly make them play better, but because they are being pushed by something inside that he tugs at, something that makes them want to play better than they have been. Even if only to save some of their own sense of pride.

Harsh? Perhaps. But regardless of whether I am the only one that feels that way or not, I think more people than not will agree that the Rangers since Sean Avery's arrival have been anything but vanilla, anything but indifferent, and four times out of the six games, a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

The Rangers might not get to the playoffs because of reasons both in and beyond their control.

But they will not miss the playoffs for a lack of effort from Sean Avery.

Avery simply belongs in blue.

Around the League


In the desert on Saturday night, one more than a handful of guys made their home debut. I didn't watch all the game because I was exhausted, but in what I saw, they continued to look in sync. They can't seem to score, unfortunately, and with 18 shots they didn't really go out of their way to test Pekka Rinne. But they are trying. The game was scoreless for just about half. And Nashville, a team fighting for it's playoff life, finally got a goal to break the stalemate. The second one was an empty netter.

In the "Watch Your Gum Tom" moment of the night, Petr Prucha again saw time on the penalty kill. That's right, folks. The man that couldn't even crack the lineup in New York is playing every role imaginably for Gretzky's team in Phoenix. Powerplay time and 2:11 on the PK, where he looked good.

Perhaps it is the weight of tension lifted from his shoulders, but I am seeing a confident and better player emerge, even in this short time. I do not mean to imply that he did not look good in his limited opportunities this year, but it became clear to me last night that Prucha looks much more confident in all aspects of his game. Skating with the puck, passing, positioning. Everything. And I think that's due not only to more ice time, but what is quite obviously a genuine sense of trust. A trust that he is being looked at and taken care of, and being used in situations where he was not previously given a chance. His confidence shows more with each passing game, even if the results are not there yet. And as fans of him, we can all be happy to see him playing that way again.

I know I am.

Lastly, I was expecting the home Phoenix broadcast, but I actually enjoyed what I saw of Nashville's tandem. They weren't biased. And it was, minus a few corny moments, a clean and pleasant broadcast.

Brodeur Watch

Yes, as most of us would have bet on if we were of the betting kind, Marty Brodeur went into Montreal, his hometown, and won the game versus the Habs, tying him with Patrick Roy for all time wins by a goalie.

Not as expected was the standing ovation for the goalie, especially considering the dire state of their own beloved team right now.

That makes it all the more classy.

Where Are They Now. . .?:

I unfortunately don't have time to realy do the Where Are They Now segment in full form right now. Perhaps next year I'll find the most effective way to do modify it. For now, I'll only show the surprising or substantial ones.

The surprise of the last week, one time Ranger Jamie Lundmark, still up from Tri-City, on Thursday night scored not one, but two, goals (3,4)in Calgary's 6-5 shootout win over the Flames.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yotes: Some Words From Our Departed Ranger. . .

“It's great to be in an organization where you feel that they really want you to be [there] and they want you to play,” said Prucha, contrasting recent history in New York with Maloney’s show of faith. “It's a totally different feeling when you actually feel that they want you to be on the ice.”

Those are the first words I've heard on the subject of his departure from my favorite departed Ranger.

It makes you a little numb, but it's supposed to. I often thought, even probably said here, that I wondered the whole time Prucha was being scratched, just how much he understood about what was going on and how much got lost on him because there still might be a little bit of a language barrier. Or how much he didn't want to see what was really going on because he was so devoted to the team, and was such a genuine good guy and hard worker.

I guess he saw more than we knew. And again, we'll never know the whole story. I don't think Prucha will ever say more than he did above. He's probably too good for that as well. Yet another reason we can admire him.

Prucha was a healthy scratch thirty-six times this year, while Dawes sat out twelve. The Rangers even tried to send Petr to the AHL – the trip between New York and Hartford something Dawes became quite accustomed to last season – but Prucha refused the conditioning assignment.

The bold move got him back into the lineup and likely made a trade inevitable.

So apparently many were right on this too. His bravest move, a move many admired him for, probably was one of the final that sent him packing.

Oh but to get to see that goal, to see he and his teammates exhuberant celebration, and to hear the crowds cheers as the Garden shook that night - I'm not sure I'd take it back.

I doubt he would either.

In the 25 games he managed to crack Tom Renney’s lineup, Prucha averaged just over 12 minutes of ice time. When Renney was ousted for John Tortorella, his time got a slight bump and there was a faint glimmer of hope that things might work out in New York.

“Actually the system we started playing [had] more forechecking and I felt more comfortable in that [style],” says Prucha. “I was getting more ice time than before. Obviously, I was playing.

“So I was like, 'Maybe I'm going to stay.' But it didn't happen.”

It seems that Prucha felt the same range of emotions we did in his week under John Tortorella. He was being used more effectively, finally getting ice time. And contributing. I mean Tortorella didn't know him from most of the rest of the team, so when he was traded and he said of Pete: 'we tried to get him in to score goals and I think he scored one,' I didn't take it personally. I mean, sure, the entire team only scored two goals in the two games before they broke out in that six goal game versus the Avalanche, but hey, Pete got one of those goals. And it was a big goal from a big guy with a big heart.

That's really all we need to know.

In three games under Wayne Gretzky, he’s skated more than 18 minutes a contest, alongside some of Phoenix’ top scorers.

When someone’s confidence is bruised and battered, mending it can prove challenging and time-consuming.

Or, it could take just a few strides in new colors.

Prucha has yet to score for his new team, but he has three assists in five games since joining the Coyotes. His most recent came tonight against New Jersey. (See below). The team, meanwhile, has only scored nine goals during that span. Prucha is seeing first line minutes with young, fast goal scorers like Upshall and Lombardi. He's averaging over 18 minutes of ice a game in his five games.

He immediately did all the good things we love him for. Hit, defend, skate to the puck, chip and make plays. He's fallen into step well with his new team.

Those who know him, again, are not suprised.

What Rangers fans are losing is more than goals and assists will illustrate, though. These are two honest, humble and hard-working kids who the faithful have cheered until hoarse from the very start – with good reason.

That support didn’t go unnoticed.

“It was unbelievable,” says Prucha. “I can't thank them enough. Every time I went back into the lineup in the Garden they were cheering for me. It was awesome. It helped me a lot to stay in shape when I wasn't playing.

“Huge thanks to them and I'm going to miss them, but there wasn't a spot in the lineup for me.

“It wasn't my choice but I had to go.”

This is the part that gets me a little choked up, admittedly. Yet another example of a person we feel the dire need to take the time to thank, and he's thanking us instead.

He may never score 30 gaols again, even though in the right situation I think he will. He may not win league awards. Yet fans of New York LOVED him and it is during moments where they rewarded the most deserving players - like Prucha - with cheers that I am most proud to be a fan of this team. They saw the whole picture. They got what he meant, what he did, and what he stood for. Those same people were sad to see him go away.

Huge thanks to them and I'm going to miss them. . .

But from his own mouth, please know, he will miss us too.

**Many many thanks to Michael Smith at Maxhockey.com for this amazing article, which you can read in its entirety here. Thanks too to "Dan" who posted on Ranger Report this link. I'm so glad I had the chance to see this article.**

Michael's article makes me happy and it makes me sad. It's the bittersweet reality of what we lost and how much we gained, of what we had the chance to experience and of what we'll get to experience still.

It won't be here, and it won't be New York, but we'll get the chance again to enjoy watching a young player we love get to play our favorite game. It's funny. If this were even ten years ago, it wouldn't be the same. There was no such thing as Centre Ice. Even the Internet was not as common place. We'd have to search a lot harder to find out how our favorite player was doing. Now, thankfully, in this technological world, I'm lucky enough to still see every game he plays. And of that I am so grateful.

This article also makes me sad because I realized over the last few days that Petr Prucha, although a favorite and certainly in his own category in my mind, is just another example of a young, hard-working fan favorite that got sent away from the New York Rangers. Manny Malhotra. Mike York. Jed Ortmeyer. Those are a handful of guys that got it too. They weren't, minus York during his FLY line days, master scorers or high point producers. They were the guys doing the little things that amounted to big things. The guys the fans appreciated. The guys the fans cheered.

Manny Malhotra - the guy that took over for Adam Graves in being the last guy off the ice, ensuring his teammates were safe.

Mike York - the small kid with a scoring touch, who was one of three Rangers to be top five in scoring in the whole league, in the fall of 2001.

Jed Ortmeyer - a master shot blocker and a guy that, during a time when not much inspired in the 2003-2004 season, drew admiration from the Garden crowd for his effort and class.

Petr Prucha - the little big man who would hit people twice his size, sacrifice his body in being the first to defend a teammate, and the guy serenaded by Garden fans for just being himself and doing what came naturally.

Four young men.

Four home grown Rangers, three drafted, one not (Ortmeyer).

Four guys that I was very sad to see leave and still greatly miss.

I love the Rangers and I always will. But it is at some moments like these were I am forced to admit that this team, for all its great moments and great players, is not the type of team that will grow with youth. Not the type of team that will keep a player because he is beloved by the fans.

They are, at times, the type of team that will trade away those players for a pipe dream or for a rental player. Trade them because they'd seemingly rather have a team of mostly overpaid, inconsistent, unpassionate players, than a team full of kids who'd give everything for the jersey of the team that drafted them, and in doing so, entertain and be admired.

It is in the moments that such thoughts become reality that I am truly sad.

Yes, I do still love the Rangers. I always will. But it is for those reasons that I have, do, and will continue to have favorite players on other teams. I have, do, and will follow their careers and wish them well in every professional and personal regard.

I may be loyal to a team, but I am loyal to my players too.

They will all be remembered.

Footnote: Pete's assist versus NJ:

A Win In Music City. . .

Not a perfect symphony for the Rangers, but two points very much needed after coming away empty three nights ago in Carolina.

I didn't see every part of the game's first two periods; I was going back and forth between the NJ/Coyotes game. So I can't speak to everything. And what I saw to start, honestly, was very sloppy. A lot of penalties and some laziness to boot.

As the game got into the later stages, the Rangers thankfully woke up and righted themselves. Big goals from some key contributors and overall good play from Avery, Callahan, Gomez, Staal. That's now 4 games in their last 5 that the Rangers have scored four or more goals (Colorado - 6, Islanders - 4, Boston -4, Carolina - 0, Nashville - 4). Very important to see them rebound in that manner both after being shutout and after the season they've had overall.

And as for Sean Avery, he played an effective game from my eyes. Getting to the net, making nice passes from behind the net, and getting the puck to the net; all things that have been lacking this year from this team. He's not going to be perfect, no, and he's not the master solution, but I still believe that with him on the ice and Tortorella on the bench the Rangers stand a better chance at making the playoffs than they do without.

Of course, it might not be up to them. Surely they have to play their part, but a few things may stand in their way. Time. Other teams. The Rangers might have temporarily ended up back in the playoff standings, but it's going to be an up and down, in and out battle. And they did it to themselves with their two month break in the middle of the season that they couldn't afford to take.

Also of concern, the plethora of penalties they took. With this team, it's almost never one and done. They always go to the box in bunches. And it was the return - a first in the Post-Renney era - of the two man men penalty.

I'm also going to take a moment to say that I am not sure why Naslund's play has regressed so. He led this team in goals, essentially all season, and if Antropov didn't join this team, he still would. BUT, besides finding the net from time to time and scoring important goals late, he has not looked steady in the last month or two. In fact, where he used to be more vocal and more mobile in the beginning of the season, I'm now seeing a player that looks tired and ineffective. Not at every moment, but certainly more often. Perhaps a mid-season break for a game or two might have helped. Or perhaps it truly is not 2002 anymore, for Naslund or for me.

Overall, good win, and a very important one heading into a home and home set with the Flyers this weekend. It's not going to get easier. Every night is a must win.

One last thing. Congratulations to Henrik Lundqvist for becoming the first goaltender in NHL history - NHL history - to have 30 win seasons in his first four years in the league.

Yes it may have been aided by the shootout wins. Yes things certainly have changed over the history of the league. But goodness knows it wasn't as if he was aided with perfect defensive teams for the last four years. I repeat and hold true that he's kept this team in more games than he's kept them out of. Big Kudos to Hank. Very, very impressive stuff.

Some Thoughts On Colton Orr. . .

In light of all this recent talk of fighting and whether or not it has a place in this league, I started to think about our own fighter, Colton Orr.

He'll never be my favorite Ranger, but he's one of the guys I respect the most on this team. That hasn't changed, despite the ups and downs this team has taken over the years. Why do I respect him so? Two reasons really.

One, he knows what his role is. He is a fighter. He is a guy that creates energy through his fists. He's not going to win a Lady Byng. He doesn't want to.

Two, he has accepted the changes of this league and made a personal commitment to improving other aspects of his game, such as skating and puck handling. When a guy off Jaromir Jagr's credentials has said he's noticed a difference in you and worked to help you along in your own efforts, that tells me all I need to know.

While I haven't agreed that he has needed to be in the lineup in every single game - and perhaps I still don't at times - he has been a solid contributor to this team this year.

Yes, you heard me.

No, he didn't score a ton more goals for all the stick handling he's worked on. And, no, he hasn't set up Blair Betts to be the next marquee scoring center either. (Although for the record, Colton Orr's 4 assists and 5 points are both career highs for the winger.)

But at the same time, he has not held his teammates back. He plays on the only Rangers line that was not subject to change after change after change after change after change as the rest of the lines endured this season. That's a measure of compatibility and consistency. They are the Rangers most consistent line, by far. Like that line or not, they have been effective. They don't score, but they aren't expected to. Goodness knows I was on Blair Betts earlier in the season because I wanted a fourth line center that could score and help his teammates score, thinking the fourth line would get a significantly healthier amount of goals this year.

But what we all failed to predict - myself at the top of this list because I predicted the opposite - is that the team itself would not even match last year's pathetic goal totals. (I'm not looking at the stats here, but I know they were down on last year's totals, at least up until Renney's departure). But that's not really the point here.

The point is that the fourth line, our fourth line, is probably one of the better in the league, even if only that they know what their roles are, and they've filled those roles nine times out of 10 this year, I'd say.

Back to Colton Orr for a minute. Want something to turn over in your brain for a minute or two?

I cannot, for the life of me, think of the last time that Colton Orr took a penalty that was NOT a fighting major. Or, a penalty that was not in conjunction with fighting, like roughing, 10 minute misconduct, game misconduct.

When was the last time Orr took a slashing penalty? Or a hooking penalty? Or a holding penalty? Or a cross-checking penalty?

You get where I am going with this. I can't be positive that it hasn't happened. Hell, I'm sure it has. But I am just pointing out that 99.9% of Orr's penalties are of the five minute version. Where he does not put his team down a man and where, at the most, he takes himself out of the game for a 5 or 10 minute stretch.

You may argue, he doesn't get enough ice time to take more penalties.

So, hmm, that's why guys like Naslund and Gomez and Drury and Redden and Rozsival take more penalties? Because they get significantly more ice time.

Umm, sure, okay, alright.

It can't possibly be that certain guys are just more disciplined than others. Or even better at their roles on this team?

Okay, fine. If that's the case, I guess we'll agree to disagree.

Bottom line, I am in Colton's corner. I'd like him to be able to have more ice time and contribute more offensively, but I'd like every single member of the team to do that.

So, as long as Colton does not allow the timing of his fighting to put the team in jeopardy going forward, I'm perfectly happy to let him keep doing what he's doing.

For as long as the league allows him to.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yotes: From Detroit. . .

Okay, so I actually had time to sit through my first "new" Coyotes game as they played Detroit on the road tonight.

I thought it was played at a good clip. Detroit seems a little off from their dominance, but I know they've been battling some injuries. Heck, even Chelios got in the game for his first in a half dozen.

Overall, for the fact that Phoenix is both a new and young team, and still putting the pieces together, I thought they played a powerhouse like Detroit very well. They didn't take a penalty until the middle of the third period, which unfortunately for them, the Red Wings capitalized on.

But, the Coyotes scored themselves to force the tie and the game into overtime. Detroit would score towards the end to get the extra point.

I'll point out a few things in regards our departed Ranger. He got top line minutes again, playing with Matthew Lombardi. He started the game with a check. And when countryman Zbynek Michalek got checked into the boards on an icing, who was the first guy to come in to make sure his teammate was taken care of?

Yeah, he did that too. Not at all surprising to those who know him.

I didn't appreciate Detroit's announcers speculation when discussing Prucha's diminished goals in recent years. They said he had 7 goals last year and that perhaps the Rangers had lost patience with them.

Wayne Gretzky might not have more patience for that, they said.

Some players need to be traded to realize what they are doing wrong.

Perhaps Don Maloney played the "change of scenery" angle.

So yeah, I didn't appreciate what they were saying, but that is probably how outsiders will view the situation, so I can't blame them for it.

I'm just hoping, as many of us surely are, that he proves them all wrong. That his diminishing numbers were due overall to circumstances beyond his control and perhaps, at least during 2007-2008, a little injury bad luck as well.

And that he proves us right, of course.

So Prucha played 27 shifts for 20:33 of TOI.

Wow. Somewhere in Western Canada, Tom Renney just swallowed his gum!

He was also - hold onto that gum, Tom - on the ice for the end of the third with a tie game, and - wait for it - on the ice in overtime, for what is definitely the first time all year.

Again, small details, but I am guessing Wayne Gretzky has liked what he has seen so far from his new winger.

Overall, a nice change of pace for me. As I have never been a fan of Detroit, I can honestly say that pre-Prucha, I would not have watched a Red Wings/Coyotes game, this close to playoffs, with so many other games going on tonight with bigger meaning.

But post-Prucha, I gladly would, and I gladly did.

Late Add-Ons:

For some reason I couldn't post the other day, but here is Pete's assist on Upshall's goal back on Sunday on Long Island:

A question for anyone who might know. I checked the Phoenix roster, and since I hadn't keep track of them, minus Shane Doan, and a random look now and then, I was surprised to see that there wasn't a player assigned #25.

So does that mean Prucha took #16 willingly? Or given that Dawes was #14, Lombardi #15, and Prucha #16, are they just throwing numbers in sequential order at them?

He wore #73 in Czech Republic, no?

I mean 16 is a nice number, and both numbers 2+5 and 1+6 equal 7, so that's nice too. I'm just curious.

And Where Are They Now/Tonight's Edition:

Team Player Action Note
New Jersey Brendan Shanahan PP Assist
Montreal Mathieu Schneider 2 Assists
Florida Radek Dvorak Assist
Minnesota Kim Johnsson Assist

A Double Wrap and The Irony Of It All. . .

Many apologies for the lack of posts in the last few days. Lots of stuff going on. Perhaps next week will allow me to get back to a normal rhythm, I hope.

In the meantime, a few quick thoughts on the last two games.

Sunday versus Boston:

This was, without a doubt, one of the more entertaining games the Rangers had played all season. If not the most exciting. A quick pace from the beginning, it didn't look like the Blueshirts we'd seen most of the season skating around Garden ice. If this were a month ago, those guys would have been passively gliding along. Now, thanks to a new system, they were flying.

I'll take that all game, any game, regardless the result.

As it happened, the Rangers opened up a nice lead, and then let the Bruins tie in the third. A timely goal by Nik Zherdev (and yes, he's had a few) put the Rangers ahead for good.

It might have ended up being closer in the end than they may have wanted, but you know what, against a team that is on most nights much better than they are, I think the Rangers gladly take it. Their effort was the difference.

As for the familiar face in Rangers blue, Sean Avery helped remind the fans why we liked him so much the first time around. Hitting, moving the puck, and skating. I noticed, more than once, just how good a skater he really is. Perhaps in all the drama I forgot the fact, but he's a legit talent. He accelerated to get to open pucks, put other pucks in perfect positions for teammates, and wasn't afraid to shoot. So really, the perfect model of the way the New Rangers should be on the ice.

Dust is shaken. We'll have to see where it settles, but the dust is definitely shaken from Sean.

As for the other new guys, I am holding out judgement on Morris, because I haven't seen enough yet, but I thought Antropov looked very good on Sunday. A few times, as he was carrying the puck, he held up with such strength (again, obvious considering the guy is built like a house) and didn't lose a second of his stride.

I thought, somewhat sadly, many other of the Rangers small forwards would have definitely tumbled over.

But I also noticed Antropov has a nice shot. I hope he continues to use it.

Overall, I would think most fans left Sunday's game with a feeling of happiness and renewal. Three wins in a row. Four or more goals scored in those three games. The world was good.

Carolina on Monday:

Well the world wasn't quite as good Monday as the Rangers somehow forgot how to score again. But that is going to happen and Cam Ward seemed much more confident than the last time the Rangers faced him.

Actually, though, I liked the game. Thought they played well. Thought Valiquette, as he so often does, stood on his head to help them out. Both goals were not his fault, especially the first.

If there were two moments I was annoyed, it was on those two goals against. And not at Valiquettte.

On goal number one, Vali made an awesome save with the blade of his stick along the ice. Amazing. But he's taken out of the play, understandably so. Where was the rest of his team? Not one guy could have scooped up the puck and cleared it, or gotten coverage on the Carolina player so they didn't have a open lane and a free net to shoot at? That got me.

And on goal number two, Brind'Amour's on the powerplay, I see the puck go in behind a screened Vali, and I realize it's Redden that's screening him, just standing there with no man, no where near a man in fact, when the Rangers are down one.

Well down one man, and thanks to that, two goals.

I usually don't like to pick apart moments in games and who did what right and wrong in that regard; I'm much more comfortable talking in generalities. BUT, when Vali plays as well as he did, and I think he certainly did, you look to the two goals that went in. And both didn't sit right with me. You may have your own opinion surely, but you just heard mine.

At least the pace of the game was good, even if they couldn't score. Well score a goal that counted at least.

Credit Carolina for coming with a good effort and keeping with it. They deserved it.

You know what was refreshing though. I heard some interviews on XM radio driving in, because on Versus they don't do a team post-game. And in the clip Tortorella was admitting the other team played harder and that the Rangers didn't match their speed.

I'm sorry, even though they lost, I'll take that honesty over the "we played a good road game" crap any day.

Around the League:

In Montreal, Coach Guy Carbonneau was fired by the Habs early yesterday evening. The irony of ironies, I listened to Team 990 from about 10:30 to 1:30 yesterday and the topic that Tony and Randy (in for PJ) kept talking about was, if the Habs had lost Sunday, would Guy have been fired today.

Little did we all know.

Stay tuned for Where Are They Now and a Coyotes update later tonight. I am going to be home so I should get to actually sit down and watch a full game uninterrupted for the first time so far since the trade. I am looking forward to it.