Saturday, October 31, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Wild Game. . .

This should be quick, because it looked not too much better - from my side at least - than Wednesday night's game versus the Isles.

* Why does it say about the Rangers team that in two back to back games the young guys called up for the first time all year net their first NHL goals? - Parenteau on Wednesday and Byers versus Minnesota last night. A case of effort and wanting to impress in their first views with the big club? A sign of how little offense there is elsewhere? Meanwhile, big props to Dane Byers for coming to play and scoring his first NHL. And he did it all with less than a half hour of prep time as he encountered travel problems getting to Minny. Glad he showed up - in both senses of the word.

* It's now sufficiently into the season and I have no compliants about Wade Redden. He is not perfect. He never was and never will be. His contract is the bane of this team and will be for the next four years beyond this. But his play on the Byers goal showed confidence that I do not think I saw from him once last season after he came back from Prague last year. Whatever he did - get in shape, get his head on straight - thank goodness for that. He deserves some credit for not being what many expected he'd be - the worst Rangers d-man.

* I really hate that Gaborik is out, because I love watching him play. But I am hating it more that his being out is showing the flaws of this team's construction (although maybe in the long run that is a good thing). A team cannot depend on one player. It simply won't work. So is Gaborik's being out showing just how clearly the talent level drops off after him? If so, that's a scary thought. As for Gaborik, it's quite clear he's a superstar in every sense. He makes his own dazzling moves, yes, but he makes the team around him better. Rangers fans are lucky to get to see two players of such talent play for their team in the last few years, first Jagr and now Gaborik.

* Anisimov may have had a slow start to the year, but he looks so much more poised in his puck carrying. And he's using his big body to move around guys, knock guys off the puck. It's wonderful to see.

* That was Minnesota's first win in regulation so far this season. Just stating the facts here. But take nothing away from them - they clearly came ready to play and to win, and that's what they did.

I'm almost afraid to see what Sunday will bring, but I hope the Rangers are able to put it together better. I really do.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Around the League: Some Early Season Surprises. . .

I know it's still early in the NHL season, but there were just some things that you couldn't have possibly predicted happening.

The Good:

-The Avalanche have opened up to a 10-1-2 record with 22 points and are leading the NHL. The Avalanche. Yes, that team from Colorado who went into the season with big goalie questions and in the wake of the retirement of staple and gentlemanly captain Joe Sakic. I believe someone said if you say you saw this coming - you are lying! I very readily admit I picked them to finish dead last in the West. But if they continue at this clip, they may bulk up enough points by Christmas to make that almost impossible. I mean anything can happen (see: quick start in the first place), but you'd have to admit the Avs have a lot to be proud of, the best of which is the play of young kids Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene. Craig Anderson deserves credit as well, but he's less of a shock to me. He was a solid goalie in Florida when called upon too.

-As of today (*pre-tonights games) and despite the blech performance last night on the Island, the Rangers lead the league in goals for, with 47. Read that again if you have to. The masters last season of 2-1, 1-0 wins or losses, they have scored enough goals in the early going to average 3.6 goals per game. Now, that won't last, especially if they turn out crap-fests like they did last night, but for a team that couldn't score, they are getting ice production from the expected in Gaborik, the surprises in Prospal and Kotalik, and the extreme feel-good-story of young d-man Michael Del Zotto. Trust me, losses are a lot easier to take if the team is at least scoring goals and not just letting them in. We've seen the alternative and I'll take losses by way of 6-4, 5-3, just about every time.

The Bad:

-Now I was not one of the people suggesting they'd be a playoff team, but no one could have expected the Maple Leafs would have been this bad out of the gate. Could they? It took them 9 games, but the Leafs finally won their first game of the campaign, 6-3 over Anaheim on Monday. They are 1-7-2 in their first 10. We all predicted they'd have a problem scoring and that they'd spent the majority of the off-season addressing their defensive concerns. Sadly Burke's mixture has not seemed to create anything workable at the moment. Yes, much blame can fall on Vesa Toskala, the once great San Jose backup, who sadly, cannot seem to stop a puck. (For the record, I do not understand what he is going through, but it's upsetting to watch. I really thought he had a chance to rebound this year and this start has to have wiped away any of what little confidence he had left). The other guy I sympathize with is Ron Wilson. Ron Wilson is a smart guy, a smart hockey man, and I feel for him being in this position of what seems like no win. Literally, no win. Komisarek, on the other side of the Habs/Leafs rivalry this season, has been trying everything he can and he can't seem to make a difference. Opening night I thought he endeared himself to the fans with his energy, although at times misguided, but ten games in, he may be wishing he never left the belle province. The good news is that Phil Kessel is coming. The bad news might not make much of a difference.

-In the tale of the second to last conference teams, Anaheim and Florida were both teams I had as being about equal to last year. On a last minute prediction whim, and for lack of other options, I put Florida in the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Were Chris Pronger and Jay Bouwmeester really that vital to their former teams? In Anaheim, both goalies have GAA's of over 3.00, and their supposed top guys of Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have not seemed to realize the season has in fact started yet. Niedermeyer, Selanne, and Koivu are a combined -18. As for the Panthers, both goalies have GAA's of well over 3.50, and Steven Reinprecht is leading their team in points with 5-2-7. Stephen Weiss is the only other guy on the team to have more than two goals; he has 3. And with injures a plenty, none looking worse than that to David Booth, I don't know where the help comes from.

The Feel-Good:

-I'm not going to sit here and say I'm either surprised or not surprised with the start the Phoenix Coyotes are having. They are 7-4-0 and have knocked off San Jose, Detroit, Columbus, and Pittsburgh on their way. That's been impressive. Very impressive. Perhaps more surprising than fans could have hoped for. And Ilya Bryzgalov, the other one time super Pacific division backup, is having a masterful start to the season. .917 save percentage and 1.97 GAA are his numbers. (Note, backup Jason Labarbera's are even better at .952 and 1.59). If we're being honest, that part surprised me a bit. Not because they are not capable, but because you just never know what you are going to get with goalies (see: Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, and Cam Ward - Canada's Team Canada perennials and hopefuls. The guys getting it done for them on the scoresheet are guys you need to be the leaders in every regard - Ed Jovonovski (4-6-10) and captain Shane Doan (3-7-10). Those not appearing on the scoresheet as much are still getting it done on shots, energy, and undeniable work ethic (Upshall, and Czechs - Hanzal, Vrbata, and Prucha). This team had the pieces to be good; I truly believed that. Their fast start is just making those outside of their fanbase take notice of a team that is playing some really good hockey and that deserves every bit of success it has.

Five Things About Rangers/Islanders. . .

* I didn't feel good about this game when the Islanders went up 1-0.

* The Rangers, correct me if I'm wrong, didn't have control of this game for one minute?

* The Islanders deserve all the credit for playing fast and hard against their rivals and making the plays necessary to win.

* Hank was apparently upset with Girardi on the gimme-goal the Isles scored. He was upset? Was there ANY defensive zone coverage tonight? Any at all?

* Congrats to P.A. Parenteau for his NHL first. At least someone on the NYR team remembered why they were on Long Island tonight.

Seriously, nothing much to say. I saw as much as one can see from a bar filled with angry, screaming Yankees fans. But...not a good enough effort. I realize the Islanders treat this like a Stanley Cup of sorts, but ...come on. First game against them for the season and that is the response? I realize there is no Gaborik but ...seriously is that what the NYRs become without him? Not the most I've watched of a game this year, but the most concerned I've been in the short season. Need a big effort and a big win next game.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yotes: Some Prucha Return Video Clips From Phoenix Broadcast. . .

Big helmet-tip to Amy Jo over at YotesGurl for these clips. Tell me the first one doesn't make you cry, the second one doesn't make you laugh!

How do you not cheer for the little guy with the big heart?!

There's a phrase that goes something like, mourn not to long that he is gone, but rejoice forever that he was.

Rejoice in that NY had Prucha for 4 wonderful years. And mourn not, because the kid is where he can be happy once again.

"Ex-Ranger Revitalized in Phoenix" - By Larry Brooks/NY Post

This article literally made me shed a tear so it was worth posting here again in its entirety. Can't thank Larry enough for taking the time to write this story for such a deserving guy. Brooks knows a lot about Rangers hockey, more than so many others that are around the team. He wasn't fooled by what happened here. Thankfully for all of us, the Petr Prucha story did not end, it just got a new location to continue. Great article. Simply great.

Ex-Ranger revitalized in Phoenix
Last Updated: 3:34 AM, October 27, 2009
Posted: 3:18 AM, October 27, 2009

Ten games into the season including last night's match at the Garden against the Rangers, and not one time has the Coyotes' Petr Prucha been a healthy scratch.

"Finally!" Prucha exclaimed before the match, accompanied by a trademark smile as big as the desert. "It's good again."

Prucha, who burst onto the Broadway scene in 2005-06 with a 30-goal rookie season, and captivated the Garden crowd with his frenetic style and relentless work ethic, had that smile wiped off his face last season. Tom Renney made Prucha a healthy scratch in 27 of the Rangers' first 38 games and in 36 of the 61 he coached before he was replaced on Feb. 25 by John Tortorella.

"It's unbelievable; it's the best feeling," said Prucha, who played in three games for Tortorella before being sent to the Coyotes at the trade deadline with Nigel Dawes in a rental deal for Derek Morris. "I can't complain about anything."

Prucha never complained as a Ranger. He just wasn't given much opportunity to play. He followed his rookie season with a 22-goal sophomore campaign despite being removed from the power play, but then scored seven goals in limited time in 2007-08 before getting four goals in 28 games with the Blueshirts last year.

"I would say that I lost a lot of my game here," Prucha said. "Even when I got in the lineup, I wasn't allowed to do what I like to do.

"They just wanted me to chip it in and chip it out. Now I can make plays again. I'm just trying to get it back to where it was, but I feel much more comfortable and much more confident with the puck."

Prucha scored in his final game as a Ranger, Feb. 28 at the Garden against Colorado, but Tortorella had determined the club needed to go in a different direction.

"I only had him for about a week, so I really don't know him well, but Petr is such an easy guy to like and root for because he plays so hard," Tortorella said. "The thing that hurts him is that he's on the small side.

"He's a good kid. I wish him the best. I pull for him because of the way he plays."
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Prucha, who went into last night's match with three points (2-1) and a plus-two rating, said that he didn't view Tortorella's hiring as a fresh start. But it's clear that's how he regards Phoenix.

"I wasn't thinking it was a new start, only that I was going to do whatever it took to stay in the lineup, but then I got traded almost right away," he said. "Now, I feel so much better about hockey."

Still, the 27-year-old, who played an important role on the 2005-06 team that ended the Rangers' seven-year playoff drought, remembers his Broadway tenure with nothing but fondness.

"Older players always tell you that this is the place to be and that this is the place to play hockey," he said while standing in the Garden corridor between locker rooms. "I'm happy I got the chance to play here.

"It was perfect, but then I wasn't getting the chance to play, so it was time for me to go. That part of my life is behind me and I have a new life in front of me.

"I want one more season like my first one here."

Five Things About the Rangers/Yotes Game. . .

With a confused mind and a heavy heart, you get....

* How great for Enver Lisin to get a goal and an assist versus his former team? Good for him for gaining the trust of Torts and being, let's say, much better than in his first handful of games. Guy has a good personality and has gotten some insurance goals for NY. Happy for him to have that moment.

* Important win for the NYRs, any way you slice it. Could not have been good to lose 4 in a row - no matter how many NYR supporters had mixed emotions as their adoptive desert dogs rolled into the Garden tonight. (And yes, I am very much among them.) They needed to get back to what made them good, and I think they made strides in that effort tonight. Have a few games coming up that are very win-able. They need to keep the streak going.

* Another night where Prospal, Kotalik, and Gaborik continued to prove their worth. We knew the potential for Gaborik, but I am happy with the production of Kotalik and Prospal. Even better? They seem to be so happy when they score, when their teammates score. It's a good thing to have a team you feel good about.

* Del Zotto - two more assists. It's too early to even really legitimately contemplate, but the guy is getting serious league recognition for being the offensive-go-to-guy on defense. A brilliant thing, one I don't think we, as fans of the NYR, thought we'd be seeing again so soon. Great story. So proud of such a talented young kid.

* As much as we (me, me, me) wanted Prucha's return to the Garden to be an amazing, unforgettable one, it wasn't much to speak about. During warmups, he tossed some pucks to his fans. He got his very much and always fondly remembered "Pruuuuuus." And he hustled. There is not a game I remember where the little pepperpot did not go-go-go. I wish he scored a goal. Hell, I wish he scored 14 goals. It didn't happen. But it's important that my adoptive Coyote team, like my favorite NYR team, gets back to what got them there in the first place -good neutral zone play, with minimal turnovers. And rock solid goaltending. Here's hoping they do well against Columbus in 2 nights. As much as I looked forward to tonight and wanted the best, I am just as happy it is behind us and I can root for my favorite team, and my favorite team to root for again. It's too hard having them both interconnect.

Til Wednesday...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why We Root For The Phoenix Coyotes. . .

In anticipation for my favorite team battling my favorite team to root for tomorrow night from the World's Most Famous, I thought I'd take a few minutes to break down just why it's so easy to root for that lovable team from the desert - the Phoenix Coyotes.

To clarify, as much as we'd all love to think that I only started wishing well for the Coyotes when the little pepperpot and my favorite player - Petr Prucha - was traded there last March, that is simply not the case. I'd like to reference my Western Conference Predicitons from last October, where I said:

Coyotes - The desert dogs. Hmm. I really like their chances at being one of those bottom three surprise teams to squeeze into the playoffs. They almost did it last year and I was rooting for them, trust me. I think having Ilya Bryzgalov for a full year in nets might make the difference. He is a premiere goalie when he's needed to be, and I see him really making a difference for this young team. Shane Doan quietly had a big numbers year last year. And never count out Ed Jovanovski to help on the power play. Peter Mueller had an impressive rookie campaign as well. Honestly, I think things are looking brighter in Phoenix and perhaps, bright enough to bring the maroon and white into the promised second season. Out of the could-be-there, these might be my favorites.

So, even long before Prucha started donning maroon and white, I wanted this team to succeed. And why not. What would anyone have against this team?

No one would wish what happened during the tail end of last season, this summer, and the continued ongoing struggles on anybody.

Over the summer, you don't know where you are going to be laying your head come the fall.

If you work on the organizational side, there's the very real fear that the team, your job, is not going to exist in a few months.

If you are a free-agent, do you want to stay there, do you want to go play there?

If you've been there all your career - do you know what you are going home to? Where home is even going to be?

And if you are a fan - is your team going to be there tomorrow? The team you love and root for? Or are they going to go the way of the Nordiques, the Whalers, the ....Jets?

Nope, I don't wish that on anyone, but that's exactly what the fans, players, and members of the Coyotes organization had to endure and in many ways they still very much do.

The season has started, of course, and they can focus on the statistics of on-ice performance, but the underlying problems and fear don't go away just because it's not front page league news anymore.

Try to imagine it, if you will. As a New York Rangers fan, I'll admit, it's hard. It's no secret the league doesn't like the Rangers (and no, not talking about a conspiracy here, but rather Bettman's hatred for the way the Rangers don't want to play by the lets-all-do-things-the-same-way rules).

But despite that, there's never been one moment in my entire hockey life where I didn't feel 100% certain that I'd have my favorite team around to root for - the next season, 10 seasons from now, 60 years from now.

Teams like the Rangers - baring anything totally beyond comprehension, they are here to stay. Original Six teams with rich history and fans than span generations. Traditions from decades of another lifetime. The Rangers were always here. They always, it seems, will be here.

Other fans of other teams are not so lucky. I think some people, in their ignorance or bliss, fail to realize that. They jest about the relative lack of fans in Phoenix/Glendale, but they are simply unable to put themselves in the shoes of the fans that do exist. The fans that are simply not sure what the future will bring.

I can certainly sympathize. And I know I am not alone. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have my favorite team around.

The Coyotes have been in Phoenix for 14 years. 14. That's longer than some of us may have even been fans of our own teams, I'm sure.

But that's not why we root for them. Not exactly. And again, no, it's not for #16.

It's something the players have alluded to. It's something they realize as the great truth.

They, as players, can only control one thing. How they play the game on the ice. They can control their work ethic, their attitude, their conditioning, and the way they do their job.

No, they cannot control every goal scored for or against, every win or every loss. But they can go out there and know they are all fighting for the same thing. The same goal. Winning. Playoffs. Giving the fans that do exist and that do love the team, giving them something to cheer about.

And the 2009-2010 Phoenix Coyotes are doing that in spades. Their best start since the 2000-2001 season. 6-3 on the season, and a recent 4 game winning streak - they are playing strong and playing where it counts.

A 3-0 win in Pittsburgh against the defending Stanley Cup champions got some league attention, for sure, but it's been the consistent work ethic and never-say-done attitude that has propelled the Coyotes to such an impressive start.

An attitude by a GM who said, we're not just keeping warm bodies here, we're showing everyone we have what it takes and we are playing to win.

An attitude from a new coach that has something to prove and whose style of play may just be the perfect remedy for this team.

An attitude by a goalie once heralded the best of backups who needs desperately to be the guy to stand behind a sometimes low scoring team.

An attitude of a captain who has never said a bad word, is the perfect role model for both young and old teammates, and who deserves success perhaps more than any other.

An attitude, that is shared, seemingly, by every person that dons that sweater.

For many reasons they came to Phoenix, but for one reason they are standing together.

What better story than this team proving to everyone that picked them to finish 30 of 30, to everyone that never gave them any chance to be a decent team, let alone a
good team, that they are better than most peopled wanted to give them credit for.

What better story would there be, I ask, than this team doing well. Than this team controlling the ONE thing they can control.

That's why we root for the Coyotes. I know that's why I do.

Five Things About the Rangers/Habs Game. . .

A day late, but what can you do ;)

* Had the pleasure of watching this game CBC style and it was a pleasure - a distinct pleasure. Listening to Bob Cole makes me feel this weird sense of nostalgia, as if I were reliving all the cold but happy Saturday nights I spent watching Hockey Night in Canada with my family growing up. Except for the one overlying fact that it never happened. I never had the chance growing up in the greater NY area to watch what all our neighbors in the great white north did. But Saturday night made me feel that lucky.

* As unhappy I was that the Habs scored and won, I couldn't have been happier that it was Mike Cammalleri scoring the hat trick. Why? Do I have him on my fantasy team? Hardly. I'm glad it was Cammo because that means it was not Gomez. Just imagine if it were him scoring the hat trick against his former team. [Pause]. I'll now give you thirty seconds to get that dirty image out of your minds.

* Speaking of Sco-Go, he was Greg Millen's intermission guest and he, apparently, is playing the same interview game he did when he was in New York. When asked if he felt a sense of connection with Brian Gionta because of their years together in NJ, Gomez said something along the lines of, "well it works, because we talk out there; like I'm sure you and your wife talk." Sigh. Some things never change. Note - the camera did not show Millen during this, so we cannot be sure whether he finds Gomez as amusing as John Giannone did.

* The game was a good game to watch, despite the end result. The pace was quick, there was plenty of goal scoring which I love. It was all you could hope for in that respect. The unfortunate part was that the Rangers, in giving up so many goals, have seemed to get away from the defensive steadiness that got them to as good a start as they had. The cohesiveness has slipped and while the game against NJ was more solid than the crap-fest against San Jose, they are still a lacking team. I'll be curious how they are able to respond against a Coyotes team that can strangle their opponents - with speed like Montreal has, and a tenacious system of shutting down the neutral zone.

* Every time Ales Kotalik scores I feel a small sense of relief. I know it's early in the season, too early to say it was a good/bad/indifferent move, but it's a relief to see a guy that hasn't gotten away from what made him successful on other teams. Usually guys find a way to come to NY and get away from what made them good. He hasn't so far. He has been a nice surprise. As for Vinny Prospal. He's been a nice player as well, for sure. But I felt way more confident in Vinny coming here. A guy who had played for Tortorella before so will not at all be shocked by his expectations. A guy that played his best hockey (honestly guys, this is a player that with the exception of last year has had very to very, very productive years in the last bunch of seasons. I heard the name Prospal and I thought, he can play with almost anyone). And so far, he has lived up to all expectations and more.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yotes: And Prucha Ties It. . .

Apparently another gutsy play but the good guy -

Five Things About the Rangers/Devils Game. . .

Okay, on we go...

* As much as it pains me to see Marian Gaborik on the penalty kill, it gives me an odd sense of pleasure to see him clear the puck and draw the respect of the crowd. It's a rare "superstar" that takes every aspect of the game so seriously and that doesn't act like he's "better" than anyone. I appreciate him for all he does. Even if I bit off all my nails tonight watching it.

* Rozsival drew cheers from the crowd twice - count 'em, twice - tonight for making 1) a good defensive play and 2) laying a check on the opponent, both rarities for the defensemen. Come on now, though, seriously - who at the start of season would have thought it'd be Rozsival and not Redden drawing the ire from the Garden crowd on most nights? Not me, that's for sure!

* Despite the end result - which makes me slightly ill, I must admit - I thought it was a game of good pace, back and forth. The Rangers were sloppy and the Devils owned them at many junctures, getting in deep, getting to loose pucks, and embarassing some of the defense. But, yet, the game was not a total disappointment to me. Maybe I'll think differently later in the morning.

* How cool was it that Michael Del Zotto - the 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto - was the first person going over to Brian Rolston - when there was some contact on Hank after a play? What a refreshing thing to see. Redden wouldn't drop the gloves during last year's Avs/Rangers hate fest, but the 19-year-old super rookie is the first to come to his goalie's defense. I love this kid!

* The Rangers have now lost 2 games in a row, which would mean nothing, except for their strong start and the fact that it seems odd given that start. (What, you ask, they are human after all?) They cannot afford, in my mind, to let it go to three, this weekend in Montreal. They need a big game, to fire on all cylinders, and to do what got them started right in the first place - high-tempo play, strong defensive contributions, strong 3rd periods, and movement on the powerplay. The Rangers need to make a statement Saturday, because, let's be honest here - I am not sure who exactly I am going to be rooting most for on Monday. The Rangers to win, or Prucha and the Coyotes to show the Rangers they are legit. As of Thursday - it's still a toss-up. We'll see how I feel come Monday.



Or am I?

**Not the plan but there was and will be a two week hiatus of My Game of the Week. This no-Sunday schedule really put a hitch in my plan, I'll be honest. Somewhere along the line in the long season, I'm sure it'll even out, but unfortunately I've been much too busy this early going. Hope everyone else is having more chance to see the other games than I am. Some fun stuff going on in the league, that's for sure. Some crazy stuff too. Gosh, I love hockey!**

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Five Things About The Rangers/Sharks Game. . .

Thought I'd try a new way to try to get some thoughts down about each Rangers game, in the shortest form possible. =) Here goes. . .

* Gaborik's point streak comes to an end at 8 games to start the season as a new Ranger. I was pulling for him. But the streak was very impressive and he is still mighty impressive in all he does. Simply amazing to watch. As much as I many times over feared them signing him, after Gomez was taken off their hands, this was a risk they just had to take. When healthy, there are simply not much better. And it is a treat for Rangers fans to see.

* The Rangers finally lost one after 7 in a row. A spoiled seven in a row. And not spoiled like apples, but spoiled in that the Rangers last few were not as strong as their first few. It was simply bound to happen. Disappointing, because who doesn't like to make history. But I said this last year and I mean it no less now - if they need to lose to have them correct what is wrong with their game - it is worth it at this early stage in the game. Very worth it.

* Del Zotto continues to impress me, and Rangers fans everywhere, I'm sure. How does it feel to see a young, Rangers defensemen score goals for this team? Goals when they count. And to play so smart offensively. We will never see another Brian Leetch. But, watching Michael Del Zotto feels as close as we are going to get in a long, long time.

* Not sure why the Rangers played Valiquette here. Not going to say he was the reason they lost although I'm sure he'd like a goal or two (or all) of them back. But if I was going to play him at all in the recent stretch, it would have been Saturday in Toronto, for reasons I'm sure you can name. You have to play Hank against Jersey, but Hank has done well against San Jose. Not sure why you make that move. But, considering the entire team looked like they played 3 second periods, I'm not sure the difference it would have really made in the end.

* I loved that Jed Ortmeyer scored tonight. Ignoring my attachment to the Coyotes and all things Prucha for the moment, Jed was a Ranger first and Jed was the ONLY thing to cheer about for a while - namely during the 03-04 season. His attitude and spunk was so vital to the fans during that time and he was a big favorite of mine. They loved and appreciated it and all he brought to the game, every single night. Ignoring the Rangers, and save Prucha doing well in Phoenix, nothing makes me happier than the fact that Jed is playing NHL hockey again. He deserves it so much and I could not help but smile at him tonight. You can have talent, but you simply can't teach heart.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HNIC Wrap-Up ~ October 17, 2009. . .

In the pre-game to HNIC, PJ, Milbury, Hrudey, McLean talk with former Habs coach Guy Carbonneau.

Carbonneau mentioned his relationship with former Hab Alex Kovalev was better than the media/city let on. They used to golf together on off days. And the two day break he was asked to take? Purely to rest his mind. Not personal at all.

PJ said the Habs top big/small line of Gomez/Cammalleri/Gionta is getting pushed out of plays because of their size and that both Ottawa and the Canadiens are suffering from defensive breakdowns and no offense from the backend.

On the New York Rangers, Milbury - yes, that Milbury - praised the Rangers for actually having a first line again. Said Dubinsky could be a bonafide star in this league, said Prospal was a nice surprise, and that Gaborik was ...well Gaborik. Said this enabled Drury to go down to the #2 line where he they can mix and match between Callahan, Higgins, Avery, whomever.

The group spoke about camp "Torture-ella" and how it made such a big difference, because the team was in shape and were having great third periods. Hrudey credited the new Tortorella in-shape motto and system of play, for helping make Wade Redden better this season so far.

Elliotte Friedman interviewed Tortorella who admitted Redden was in "terrible" shape last year when he took over as coach. And said that the biggest difference was Wade being in such good shape this year. Said he wasn't "chasing the game" like he was last year.

He also, for the record, said he and Avery had a good relationship and were on the same page.

For the sake of the team, let's hope so.


HNIC does such a great job with Inside Hockey and this week is no different with the story of Scott Walker.

Scott asked out his wife 20 years ago, with a free dinner coupon for being player of the game, and they have never been apart since.

During the playoff series with Boston, where he scored the game winning goal in overtime, his first ever playoff goal, he was going through personal turmoil.

The day that he punched out former Bruin (and now teammate Aaron Ward) was the day he found out his wife had cervical cancer.

Kinda puts that in perspective a little more, doesn't it?

He and Aaron Ward have put the incident behind them. His wife is now healthy.

She urges women to never miss their annual appointments, something I myself must encourage. You just never know.


My DirecTV turned off After Hours once the Wild/Canucks game was over, so I had to play catchup today. I was not thrilled with that - pretty angry, in fact - but since it was 12:30 I decided to read a book and not make what I'm sure would have been an angry phone call.

Brent Burns was their first guess. I haven't caught up with him since the Inside HOckey segment they alluded to, from 2 years ago, and apparently his then girlfiend Susan, is now his wife, and he still has around 100 animals in his home. Mostly lizard/snake type animals, which makes my skin crawl, but he still has four Siberian Huskies, which makes me smile.

Sykora and Havlat, the new Czechs, have apparently been bugging him to come see.

All I have to say is WHAT an understanding wife he has!!


Later on Kevin Bieska, a Bowling Green graduate, says he and Willie Mitchell constantly argue who is smarter on finance. Bieksa gives the nod to himself.

"I don't think we have the smartest team in the league," he continues. And then he points out Hordicuk and Burrows as examples of needing financial advice.


And on the funny side, he fought one time Ranger Fedor Federov when he at a pub w/players from the Manitoba Moose, and was so nervous he was going to be cut before he even played w/the team. Guess he didn't have to be nervous. Burke liked him and signed him immediately.


And lastly, a new After Hours Feature: Tips from Weekes' Beauty Bag.

This week: Use facewash and facial cleanser. Guys, girls, everyone!

Til next week...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your First Place New York Rangers. . .?

I know, I know. Kinda weird huh?

I mean as much as everyone said this team would be bad. Or not good. Or well, not great...I never believed it.

I am not saying I thought they'd be good. As much as I'm not saying they are going to remain as good as they are.

But to not take into account the good or potential for good - Gaborik, Prospal, etc - or the porential to surprise - Del Zotto and Gilroy - was a big mistake by many people.

True, predictions are just that - throwing a random assumption/feeling into the air (or blog universe) and treating it as something to base fact on.

And it's not.

The Rangers are impressive in the early going. It took them two games to seemingly improve the league's most dismal powerplay.

It took them two games to score more than 2 goals.

They are a force to be recognized, if not reckoned with. And they deserve some recognition.

Not because it will always be rosy on Broadway (Rozsival or otherwise), but because they are, baring what we cannot see at the moment, going to be better than many people thought.

Want proof?

Wade Redden went into tonight's game as a +4. Wade Redden! The same Redden who had a 3 point night on Monday.

Del Zotto is leading the league for first year players. The guy we weren't even sure'd be playing?

Gaborik is owning the game, the Garden, and the third period.

Cheer Rangers fans. Because we are fan enough to know anything can happen, to know nothing is perfect. But cheer because, for the first time in a long time, winning feels really, really good!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not Standing Back - Rangers/Ducks Wrap-Up. . .

So, another day, another win at the World's Most Famous.

I can get used to this!

They aren't perfect, and it's still early, yes, but it's nice for the Rangers to start a season well AND to look exciting doing it.

We all remember last year's remarkable start...and the boredom that followed. Let's all hope that such a scenario does not repeat itself this year, even though I don't think it will.

The powerplay looks better, even when it doesn't score. The defense, even though they are young, are moving the puck and getting involved.

Did you see Staal go WAY out of Renney-position to attack the puck carrier and keep the puck in the offensive zone for his teammates?

That sort of thing just would not have flown under the "quite honestly" guy.

But Tortorella encourages the young d-men - Staal, Del Zotto, Gilroy - to be offensive and be involved. And I love every minute of it.

Even Redden appears to have transformed, although slightly it may be, this season.

Gaborik continues to make the 3rd period his own.

Callahan continues to hit everything in sight.

The team continues to win. And win in a way you are happy for them to win. By not standing back.

Such a relief.

And big props, by the way, to Valiquette. It's no secret here at NHTP - I like him a great deal. To those who say he is not good enough to be a full fledged NHL starter, perhaps because of that game in Dallas or the one versus Toronto where he let in like five goals. I argue that it is games like these were I feel when he has a team in front of him, a team that will not collapse and play dead, that he can and will be fine. Maybe he'll never be a starter. Maybe not. But we really don't know how he'd react if given the opportunity. No one does. So I'm just super happy for him when he plays and get the chance to grab a win for the boys. And a shutout, to boot. Good for him. I find it hard not to cheer for him.

Tonight also marked Avery's return to the ice. I swear, Prucha, Hank, and this guy, are the only players in recent memory that have had their names chanted at the Garden with such intensity.

All Avery had to do was hop over the boards onto the ice and he's being greated with chants of Avery, Avery, Avery.

Say what you will. I'm glad he's back. If there is one place he can play and be effective, I'm glad it's here.

Remember the record when #16 is in the lineup?

Now 62-26-17 and counting.

HNIC Wrap-Up ~ October 10, 2009. . .

This will be shorter than usual, because my watching the 9 o'clock game prevented me from watching an entire HNIC game, but we'll focus on what really matters, won't we?


I adore Kevin Weekes and I can already tell he will be much better than Marc Crawford in the hot seat next to Scott Oake. No offense to Crawford - the coach only dogs can hear - and best of luck to him in Dallas, took him more than half the year to feel half way comfortable. Weekes already seems like he's been doing this for years.

And their first guest of the evening was...

Scott Sco-Go Gomez. Which made me smile. Scott looked uncomfortable after the loss and the interview began pretty awkwardly.

While Oake didn't want to call the NY years a bust - even though I really think we should - he tried to get Gomez to talk about it.

And what was Gomez's real reason for last year's mediocrity?

He actually said it was injuries. He's like, I'm not making excuses, but...

I'm sorry. If that is the case he was injured, fine. Maybe he was. But it was his attitude that drove me crazy and what apparently Tortorella found unacceptable.

Yes, a hip-groin-leg-arm-neck-back injury can make you a less efficient player, but Scott, does it cause those "vacuous" passes to no one?

And how about those late nights of partying? Those for the injury?

Yeah, sorry, not going to buy that one.


The interview got better though. Gomez can still, at his best, provide a good interview. He talked about how it's odd being recognized on the street because he's never had that. And that when all is said and done - as careers do not last forever - how it'll be amazing to say he was a Canadien, considering the history of the franchise and those that have gone before.

I really hope he realizes that. I know if I were blessed enough to be a professional hockey player, I'd have certainly wanted that. I don't think that's why I am a Rangers fan, but it certainly gives me a sense of pride. Knowing that this team was around in the 1920s and that this team, barring something none of us can imagine, will still be around in another 100 years.

But back to Sco-go:

*In talking about his injury during the lockout where he was told his pelvis was broken, he said it was not so serious and got blown out of proportion. His answer, "I was on the dance floor a week later."

*New teammate Michael Cammalleri said that Gomez can't stay on the phone for more than 30 seconds but can text for hours. Gomez said jokingly that Cammo just hasn't realized he doesn't have anything to say to HIM. He also said he likes to work on his spelling, hence wanting to text more.

*But the BEST part of the convo and the part that did make me smile was when Scott Oake asked about how he, Gionta, and Cammalleri like being referred to as the Smurfs. Gomez said that was new to him but that:

"We're in the gym, trying to grow. Hanging on the chin bar for hours.

If there is a growth fairy, we are putting money under our pillows.

Maybe next interview I'll be 6'1"

As much as I like to rag on Gomez, I do it because it's fun not because I really wish badly for him. I mean I'd be silly to wish him supreme success after his attitude, partying, er...Injuries...kept him from being effective here even though he was the highest paid player. But I'd be a bad person to wish him failure in Montreal.

I'll just reiterate - I will love to hear him defend bad games, and love it even more when he's trying to do it in French.


Moving on the the next guest, we have Mr. Hilary Duff - Mike Comrie.

Now, I never really had an opinion on Comrie either way, but after this interview I must say I do.

He gave really thoughtful responses to the questions - really thoughtful - and was not afraid to laugh at himself, talk about the tough stuff. And I admire him for that.

For the record, he mentioned a false rumor. I know about the contract holdouts. I'm guessing he was silently referring to the Salo incident. There are some things we'll just never know the truth to. (This wasn't the first, it isn't the last).

He talked about his mother dying from cancer when he was 10, about his father's furniture business, about growing up in Edmonton. A lot about what it is like to return and wondering if the fans will be supportive after how he left last time.

Hated and loved in his home province, that is the story of Mike Comrie.

But the interview wasn't all serious.

On of the funnier parts was how Weekes talked about his man purse or murse and how he carried it around in the lockeroom - his "bag of beauty" if you will. And how everyone made fun of him for it until they needed something for a date or to meet someone - to step up their game after the game.

Comrie for the record said he has never and will never have a man purse. He doesn't even wash his face, he just washes with soap.

And this guy is dating Hilary Duff. That made me smile.


Oh but speaking of Hilary Duff. Apparently Comrie couldn't do a movie premiere, so Kevin Weekes stepped in instead.

No, not really. But that's what the good folks at HNIC photoshopped it to look like.

Love it!

*not sure how long it'll stay active on the site, but if you'd like to watch in all it's glory - here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Game of the Week ~ Blue Jackets/Coyotes. . .

You may have wondered why it was Saturday and there had not been a "My Game of the Week" post, but...come seriously cannot be surprised that this, the highly talked about homecoming of the Phoenix Coyotes team, would be my game of the week.

Not that I wouldn't have been watching anyway, but all this meant is that I was not flicking to other games. (Note to self: scheduling MGOTW on a Saturday will not be a normal thing - too many other games went unseen today).

Anyway - here you have the random thoughts of the night as they were jotted down by NHTP. Please note, this was the Columbus broadcast of the game on Fox Sports.

*Columbus team was very complimentary of Phoenix, Shane Doan, and Peter Mueller. Said they were not getting enough credit for what has been a very good start.

*Because of the Columbus broadcast, I did not get to see the opening intros, sadly. They did however say the building was "electric" and it was great to see the Coyotes using their situation as a rallying cry.

*The anthem was one of the best renditions of the American national anthem I have heard in a while. Very moving.

*When I saw Prucha on the bench I did in fact scream. It's a weird relationship we have with athletes, through the glow of TV or the space of an arena. And having a favorite athlete is something even more difficult to describe. I was devastated he was hurt and wanted so badly for him to be able to be a part of this. There is such a personal connection to some players and, for me, Prucha is one of those you can't help but want to cheer for. It was a big sigh of relief when he threw a hit and completed his shift.

*Phoenix, they say, has more leadership on D this season, with a sprinkling of young talent up front. The average age of the Coyotes is now 28. Maloney has done a good job to make the team more well rounded and slightly older.

*Among tonight's scratches, former Ranger Lauri Korpikoski. "Good little player, guy will fit right into the system here with Dave Tippet. Good speed."

*Upshall absolutely nailed Tyutin with a hit that brought the crowd up.

*The All-Czech line for the Yotes tonight was Prucha, Lang, and Vrbata. They talked about the "glorious opportunities" they had Wednesday in Pittsburgh. They have "good puck control and they love to score goals." Yes, they do!

*I'm not sure if Mikeal has changed the pronunciation of his name but all night it has been Bod-i-ker to the Columbus group.

*Tonight was the 3rd home opener Columbus participated in. San Jose, Vancouver and now Phoenix. Ken Hitchcock called it "the third circus."

*Easy goal for Rick Nash on a tic-tac-toe play. He has made a good career of playing against this Coyotes team. (Just remember than goal in January of 2008 that made highlight reels!)

*Stat #1 - Most Road Goals in 2008-2009. Nash/Parise/Vanek all had 23. Eric Staal and Ovechkin had 22.

*Winnik and Fiddler were so close on a short handed chance. Fiddler then got high sticked. "Fiddler went down like he was shot." "Went down like there was a sniper up here in the press box." "A Fiddler in Nashville. How beautiful is that." hehe

*I realize I still like Columbus and will root for them to do well. But it is just plain odd to not see Manny Malhotra on this team. I still don't get that one.

*Columbus liked the Phoenix situation to a "soap opera that has now gone the other way." They said - again - Maloney has done so much to get some positives here by piecing together players.

*Kristian Huselius favorites - Athlete: Roger Federer, Vacation Spot: Paradise Island, Food: Filet Mignon

*Fiddler took down Nash after a faceoff. Nash continued yapping at Vernon from the bench.

*Okay, if anyone can explain the girls in red feathered outfits on the ice during the intermission, I'd be much obliged.

*If you can believe it, 7 years ago today Rick Nash scored his first NHL goal. They showed an interview clip of him. He wanted to stay in Columbus because he loves the city, the organization, and he felt "unfinished business." Wants the fans to get to experience more of playoff hockey. He really wants to be "the leader to lead it."

*Nash also said he thinks it's good to have more young players be captains in the league because the league is so young and he feels it may be easier for young kids to talk to a younger captain, and that it's easier for him, as a young captain, to relate. I hadn't really thought about it that way at all. Interesting take.

*Stat #2 - Highest +/- since 2007-2008 season. Pavel Datsyuk +74, Nicklas Lidstrom +72, Duncan Keith +64, Jan Hejda +48, Johnny Oduya +46. They said how Hejda is underappreciated in the league. That may be true but personally I'm still trying to figure out how Johnny freakin' Oduya is on this list!

*I don't know if the PHX team is nervous but they are not looking insync. Their powerplay (they had tons on the night and even 5-3 time) is better than it shows tonight.

*Prucha tap tap taps his stick to the ice to try to trick the Columbus player into giving up the puck. I've seen him do it before. Didn't work, but it's a clever try.

*"Jackets are all over them like a wounded Coyote right now." Umm, yeah...

*83% of texters to the Columbus broadcast think Rick Nash will score more than 40 goals this year. I am not going to bet against him for that.

*Garon has been THE difference in this game, especially on the PK. He has made so many saves, some very good. The best one, "a game saver" on Martin Hanzal while the Coyotes were shorthanded. "Gotta be good to be lucky." Garon was both tonight.

*Adrian Aucoin breaks his stick in anger after Umberger is able to put in the empty netter to seal the game.

*Garon stopped 36 shots and got a shutout in his debut with Columbus.

*The announcing team called this the first win over Phoenix in 2 seasons. Which confused me because maybe they didn't win last year, but that game between these two teams where Nash had THAT goal I was talking about - Columbus did win that game and that was January of 08. So...?

*Although the real 3 stars of the game were Garon/Brzgalov/Nash, the Columbus broadcast gave Upshall the 3rd star for "heart and soul" and bringing "a lot of energy to the team."

Overall thoughts - the game was hyped. I heard the atmosphere was electric. Unfortunately that did not come across on TV. It was a good broadcast, but there was nothing special. It was very slow moving for me. A lot of that had to do with Garon and the Blue Jackets completely taking the energy from the Phoenix team. And that happens. There was nothing much more the Coyotes could do in terms of taking shots - again 36 on the night. You'd like to think one or two would have gone in, but Garon was just a wall tonight.

I wanted better for them, but games like that happen. You run into hot goalies. Either way, a night spent watching hockey is never a night I regret.

Go Yotes!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yotes: Prucha In Pittsburgh. . .

Well if you thought you knew what was going to happen when the Penguins went into Pittsburgh tonight - think again.

The Coyotes put together a gutsy full team effort and took advantage of a penalty plagued Penguins team to win 3-0 over the defending champs.

Pens announcers on radio and TV kept praising the Coyotes fight, saying they were a complete team, giving the Penguins no time and space to do anything.

The highlight of the night and my early "Goal of the Year" favorite was from a very familiar face. In case you missed, this is what you would have heard:

"Shot taken by Vrbata. The rebound - they score! Petr Prucha scores from his BACK, as he's able to poke it past Brent Johnson to make it 2 to nothing.

Isn't that what Petr Prucha brings you? We've seen it when he was a member of the New York Rangers. Maybe he's not feisty. Sometimes he is and he has been, but he's got great hands.

On the first goal, he was the screen and the second goal he is lying on his kneesand he's able to keep track of the puck as he's knocked down, intertwined with Mark Eaton in front of the cage. Even though he was hog tied, he got it up over the glove of Brent Johnson. It's 2-0 on two powerplay goals by the Coyotes. What a goal!"

"So Petr Prucha is on the board for the first time with the Coyotes this season. That's his 6th goal in 29 games against the Penguins. Doesn't sound like much but I bet if you look he has more goals against Pittsburgh than any other team. He really loves playing against the Penguins.

And maybe the Rangers knew that. They would even plug him into the lineup against Pittsburgh even after he'd been scratched for a several games before that.

Petr Prucha has given the Coyotes a 2-0 lead."

And later on:

"You don't want those two on a 2 on 1. Vrbata and Prucha. They are two of the most talented players on this hockey team. Nice move by Prucha to move it from forehand to backhand."

Ignore the Prucha gushing - okay, don't. relish in it! you know I will! - this was a complete team effort but a team that is not getting enough credit.

I'm thrilled anytime they win. But even more when they win like that. And against the Penguins - a team that under Bylsma has only lost once on home ice. Until tonight that is.

Take them seriously folks. The Penguins are going to.

And the Penguins announcers warned that Phoenix is "making a little bit more noise than people expected."

Damn straight they are.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ESPN's Kings Random - The Trade of Wayne Gretzky. . .

If you get the opportunity to watch this 30 in 30 special featuring Wayne Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles, do so.

It takes about 10 minutes to get into the film, but it is very much worth the wait. In short, this is the most I feel like I ever truly understood what happened back then, back in a time before I even knew what professional hockey was.

Gretzky tries to explain what hockey means to the city of Edmonton. He likens it to how people feel about hockey during the two weeks it appears in the Olympics and then says that is the way it is 12 months a year in Edmonton.

Something that many of us, as Americans, can only dream about.

I encourage you to watch the special, but in case you don't or can't:

*Gretzky is not the most well-spoken man in the world. I've known this for years, but it's odd seeing an entire special surrounding him. He's awkward at times, perhaps a true indication of the kid of somewhat humble roots born in Ontario. Doesn't take away from his greatness, but in some way it does make him a little more human.

*I never knew how much conversations went into the trade. Gretzky had been talking to the owner of the LA Kings for weeks about the components of the trade. One day Pocklington, the Oilers owner, called when Gretzky was in the office and said maybe it was the best thing Gretzky leave. When they hung up, Gretzky said, "I'm an LA King."

*The docu-film gives the impression that Wayne was okay with the trade because he didn't understand why they would want to trade him. Thus, he felt he needed to go.

*He was asked up until the moment that "I promised Mess I wouldn't do this" press conference if he wanted to change his mind. He said no, cried on the podium, and couldn't continue his speech.

*Glen Sather, smiling and happy in old Edmonton videos, was dead-set against the move. Said he wouldn't trade an entire organization for Wayne, let alone draft picks, money, and players. Said he'd threaten to resign, but it was literally too late.

*Gretzy's wedding to actress Janet Jones was often the "reason" some people thought he want to LA. It had nothing to do with it. The coverage of Gretzky's wedding however was just unbelievable. You get just a small glimpse into just how deep the relationship between player and city truly ran.

*After the trade, the trade that was talked about on every news station, the Kings sold 5,000 season tickets in a week, many by people that said they'd never seen a hockey game.

*Clips were shown of Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, the late John Candy, in the stands of the Forum and shaking hands with Wayne in the locker room.

*After Gretzky's departure, Edmonton would win one more Cup, in 1990. Wayne would win the Hart Trophy in his first year with Los Angeles, his last time winning the award.

*Gretzky didn't understand at the time why Edmonton needed to do what he did. He does now. He doesn't regret his decision.

Truly a rare look into the greatest athlete our sport has ever known.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In A Game You May or May Not Have Seen. . .

This game brought out emotion in me for two reasons.

One, because it showed a lot of resiliency by the boys in blue. They started off like their legs were still at whatever bar they celebrated at on Saturday night (just guessing there) but ended up rebounding to put together a pretty tenacious effort against their cross river rivals.

That was such a relief to see. The pressure on the puck, the pace of the game. By the end, it was fantastic. By the end the Rangers had won, 3-2 the final.

Our #30 is now 15-2-4 against their #30, for those into stats. =)

And kudos to Tortorella for not being afraid to take a time out less than 2 minutes into the game. Everyone needed to be woken up - even Staal who usually looks sharper, looked feeble in the early going.

Luckily they did and the lucky fans were treated to a great game. A game where Del Zotto got a smart goal on the powerplay (the Rangers had two PP markers on the night) and other rookie Matt Gilroy got his first NHL goal against the future Hall of Famer Brodeur. And the game winner!

Loved it. Seriously loved it.

But as much as I loved it, I couldn't help but be sad for the fans that didn't get to see it.

While I completely agree with DirecTV not wanting to pay outrageous sums for a network that shows shark chasing, bull riding, and x-treme fighting in addition to hockey, I'm still upset that there seems to be no solution to the problem.

I was one of the lucky ones in that I got to watch the game. But my family didn't. I know many of my friends didn't.

Sure, there are more important things in life than hockey. Of course we all know that.

But how great was it to see Gilroy's 1st goal? How great was it to see him smile during the intermission interview? How great was it to see Marty sweat out yet another loss to Henrik Lundqvist?

It's just a shame that so many didn't get the chance.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Playing Catch-up on the Rangers and Yotes and More. . .

*Author's note. Things are still pretty busy and even though I still got to watch some hockey these last few days =) - I was still caught out of computer range for a few days. I hope that'll be temorary, but if there's not as many updates as I'd like to make, that's why.*

So the Rangers opened their season! To a strange pre-game presentation that included Blue Man Group (to which I said ?????) and no player introductions, which I had the following to say about.

Simply it was very Tortorella. Very much how I'd expect him to want this team to be. No names. The name on the front being more important than the name on the back, and all. As much as I always look forward to those pre-game player intros, I didn't mind them playing up the whole one team united angle, if that's what they were aiming for.

The game was good. It wasn't without it's moments, but what game isn't. Del Zotto's gaol was the cherry on top. The fans went nuts for this kid and it was great to see.

Dubinsky appears to be getting showered with boos and not only Doos by the fans, which I guess to some degree is understandable. I'd never deny that considering he was the ONLY guy who could play with Jagr after Nylander was shown the door, that he was one of the most valuable players here, and I know he is worth more than some of the other players on this team (to remain nameless) and that he knows it to, which is why I can't disagree with him on his holding out. It's a players decision and I would never argue for or against, that's all I am going to say.

Except that I don't care what he did as long as he keeps scoring goals. This team needs that!

The powerplay movement has looked better. I mean, truthfully, I'm not going to be so dumb as to say that the powerplay can't possibly be any worse than the previous year - been there, done that, see 08-09 NYRs - but can I just say what a relief it is not to see Gomez, Drury, Naslund, Rozsival, and Redden come over the boards each and every freakin' time.


Hank looked brilliant at times last night. Which he'll need to be that and more at times to get the Rangers through the rough patches.

Overall, thought it was a good effort and a good team win.


Which brings us to the Coyotes and Kings who opened up their season in Los Angeles. The Kings looked kinda flat and Quick looked rather pedestrian in nets, but damn those Coyotes were flying.

To quote the Kings broadcast team:

"Phoenix is a very fast team. They are going to move the puck around because they skate so well...Phoenix's forwards can absolutely fly."

"Everyone in the NHL can skate, but the Coyotes, they have a speed on their team that is so effective."

"The Coyotes have come to play tonight; that much is obvious."

And it was obvious to me. Maybe, just maybe, they really can use all the horrible drama that has been happening as a springboard to becoming one of the most unified teams in the league.

Boy, would I love to see that!

They got off to a good start last night, being relentless with their puck pursuit.

The pepperpot - Prucha - was hitting like, well, like only he can. Good energy from him and the team tonight. Noticed two things in particular about his game.

One was on a play around 7:40 into the 2nd when he was passed the puck and dodged through what looked like at least two Kings to take a sweeping shot on net. Not really sure how it stayed out but the important thing is his continuation to keep control of the puck and to take the shot. Anything can happen.

And it did on Vrbata's goal, where the Czechs teamed up for some magic. Pete's first point of the season. Smiling I'm sure.

I certainly was.

Around the League:

The big questions/thoughts on my mind.

Umm, Vancouver, two big losses in a row. What happened to the Stanley Cup parade?

Florida looked pretty good overseas, no?

Will this Versus thing get figured out soon? I know a few Rangers fans who are not going to be happy missing the Rangers/Devils game tomorrow?

Ray Emery - legit?

Alex Ovechkin - something to prove? Yikes!

For the First Time In a Long Time. . .

Previewing the Rangers:

I am excited for this team. I don't know what to truly expect from them, but I'm excited for it. I don't think they'll be as bad as many have said. Now I don't think they'll be perfect. Too much room for improvement, perhaps a need for some growing pains. But, I don't see how a team that made the playoffs four years out of the lockout (one of only 2 Eastern teams to do so) suddenly will get so horrible.

Look, they lost a lot of players, and yes, some are going to be missed, certainly, but I think the trade-offs were ones worth making.

And I'm not talking about Gomez here. Although, if I was, I'd say it was the BEST gamble worth taking to unload that salary and get in return all the potential good that Gaborik can bring. Totally worth it.

But we're not just talking about him. We're talking about finally, and perhaps for the first time in my entire tenure as a fan, seeing so many young Rangers - Rangers through and through - getting a chance to play on this team.

Guys that weren't brought here at the end of careers, old and past their prime.

Guys that weren't other team's experiments that went wrong or other team's lost superstars.

Look at our team, right now.

These are, for the most part, our guys. OUR guys.

And no matter what that means for point totals, league standings or playoff berths, that feels damn good. It really does.

Newbies on defense: Del Zotto and Gilroy.

A still young Marc Staal.





For the first time in a long time, there seems to be a core. And the above players - the ones that have been there and the ones that are brand new - they seem to get it. They really seem to get it.

Add in a guy that can seemingly only play in New York - Sean Avery - and we have a team that I am certainly more proud of than those in years past.

Guys that will play for the sweater. Guys that want to be here. Want to make the plays necessary to win - for the team.

And under a Tortorella system of go-go-go and accountability and team unity - I see more to cheer about than I have in a long time.

Will there be speed bumps? Absolutely. Look, this team is not a scoring machine, although I hope they'll score more. They are young and porous on defense. They are still laden with 3 super contracts. They are banking their success primarily on two fragile players.

Oh, and they have still not scored a power play goal. Yet.

But, I will cheer. As a fan, I will cheer for them.

And for the first time in a long time, it feels really good to do so.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Game of the Week ~ Canadiens/Maple Leafs. . .

In what hopes to be a weekly segment here, NHTProductions will take a look at a particular NHL game that may be hyped up, may not be, but either way - the one for whatever particular reason I choose to watch and blog about. =)

From the second the schedule came out, I knew I'd be spending my night on October 1st watching one of the greatest rivalries in sports - Montreal and Toronto.

So I rushed home, tried to dodge any distractions, grabbed a Canadian (the beverage, not a literal citizen of our sister nation), and sat back to watch the game.

Yep, beer, Canadian hockey, singing the anthem - just like a good....American. . .?

Well. . .just like a true hockey fan.

Anyway, here is a mish-mosh of what happened and random thoughts you won't get anywhere else (seriously, let me know if other people spend time blogging about this!)

* The pregame ceremony, having six former Canadian hockey players for the ceremonial faceoff, was typical Toronto class. Not overstated, just simple and classy.

*Healy, with his old yet new position in broadcasting, has the following to say about new Habs coach Jacques Martin. For those of you that don't know and haven't seen, "he will bore the country in both languages." LOL!

*Cliff Fletcher, the I'm-sure-very-nice-man who often gets poked fun at here on NHTP, looked awake as he walked into the ACC. But just in case, yes, Cliff, the hockey season has started. And, please remember, your team is the one in the white.

*1:51 into the game, Orr and Laraques go at it. Orr goes right for Laraques, but Georges get the upper hand and takes down Orr with force. Orr, takes his helmet off, and skates away smiling. I still love it and him.

*Around 5 1/2 minutes in, Martin goes to the BIG/small line of Gomez, Cammalleri, and Gionta. This prompts "another turnover by Gomez." (Note, throught the 2nd I'd noticed no less than 4 such trangressions.)

*Komisarek's first phone message after signing w/the Leafs was from Habs GM Bob Gainey. He said if there was ever anything Mike needed, to let him know, but that from this moment on, they were going to - essentially - go after his butt!

*Komisarek loses some credit with us for listing Scott Stevens as his favorite player, but...we forgive him. For now.

*Already a leader, Luke Schenn (LUKE SCHENN!) supports teammate Rosehill on his fight with Travis Moen. Note, Leafs radio on XM predicted 3 fights in tonight's game. Only 2 so far.

*Gomez gets high-sticked by Komisarek. Gionta scores the first goal of the season for the Habs on the PP off the faceoff.

*Just when it seems the Habs have taken over the game, the Leafs come back to tie as Alexei Ponikarovski pots the pill.

*Mara is praised for reading the play so well, by shooting the puck off net when there wasn't a lane.

*During Coach's Corner, Don-less Cherry talks about how important it is to stand up for your teammates, and how more people than a young Luke Schenn need to do so for the Leafs this season.

*Gomez has another "vacuous" pass to no one.

*Kostitsyn (the older and only) and Komisarek share no love. And both go to the box.

*For the Canadiens, Lappy (Lapierre), D'Agostini, and Latendresse are the most impressive line so far.

*There was a Perry Pearn sighting on the bench, during a Paul Mara penalty. I reminded myself he was no longer part of NY's powerplay, and I was okay again. Scary!

*The Leafs are skating faster, passing quicker, and shooting harder than I thought they would. Stralberg, in his 1st game, is the one who is impressing early.

*During 2nd intermission, they show some Mats Sundin clips. Glen Healy says he is no doubt a Hall of Famer. And makes a point of saying how he had "no ego" and how he felt "everyone mattered," from the guys on the ice to the guys who picked up the towels. He called him one of his favorite teammates ever. And said that even though Leafs fans may disagree, that he was the "best Maple Leaf ever." High praise of a guy I've always liked and admired by a guy I truly like and admire.

*In the 3rd, Gomez bowls over Toskala. Gomez for goalie interference after some consultation. And Komisarek in the box for what ensued after.

*Leafs coach Ron Wilson wants to stress pride of the tradition of the franchise. He gave the players a quiz on Maple Leafs history which they apparently did pretty well on. As the radio pointed out earlier, Ace Bailey was the first number retired - in ANY sport.

*Komisarek gets cheered wildly on his way to the penalty box for fighting Moen. Ron Wilson told Mike before the season not to try to win the fans over in one night. But the look on his face and response of the crowd - he is already an important member of the blue and white.

*On the ensuing powerplay, Matt Stajan scores his 2nd of the game to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead. "A confident looking powerplay" for the Leafs.

*Andrei Markov leaves the ice with the help of a teammate. Not good news for the Habs or fantasy owners everywhere. Apparently he had to be "lifted" into the Habs training room.

*Komisarek, being too aggressive, takes a late penalty, putting the Habs on the powerplay, where Glen Metropolit scores with about four minutes to go.

*Voskala makes a series of impressive saves on the Gionta/Gomez/Cammalleri line with just over 2 minutes left in the game.

*Going to overtime. And we wouldn't have it any other way...!

*Cammalleri puts the pressure on and Georges wins the game in OT. Fini.

Overall impressions:

What an amazing rivalry this is. It always is, but on opening night, where the fans in the audience sang the anthem, it just felt even more special. A mix of new faces in new places - especially on Les Habitants, it is the beginning of what should be an incredibly intense season for these two teams.

I also must clarify one small thing. I am not wishing for Gomez to fail in Montreal, but I am not wishing for him to succeed either. I hope for his sake he takes it seriously, but the less things go his way, the more fun conversations I get to listen to on Montreal radio every day. I do have my priorities.

Bottom line. I love hockey. I love the teams with rich history and both Montreal and Toronto have that. I will root for Cammalleri and Mara, as well as Schenn and Orr. It'll be a fun year.

I'm just excited it's started. It's the greatest, simply the greatest time of the year.