Sunday, November 29, 2009

HNIC Wrap-Up ~ November 28, 2009. . .

Sorry these have been few and far between. Not my intention and as many people HNIC is an important part of Saturday night and one I gladly partake in when I am home.

So as to not jump back (at least not now) - I'll just move forward.

Yesterday's Inside Hockey had an interview with Rick Nash, his agent, coach Ken Hitchcock, and the GM of Columbus, Scott Howson. And a testament to a young player that truly gets what "team" means.

He took less money than he would have commanded on the open market to stay in Columbus. But he and his agent were on the same page. He wanted to stay in Columbus, he wanted to be a player the city - a city of no other professional teams - could rally around.

Any other teams he wanted to play for? He grew up a Maple Leafs fan, so he always wanted to wear the Maple Leaf.

"Luckily for me I grew up playing with the Marlies, so I already had that," Rick said.

Hitchcock was pleased and both he and Howson feel it helped bring other players to the team, after news was out that Rick had been locked up to a long term deal.

Hitchcock said Rick's signing became a feeling for the hockey community of "what's right with Columbus" rather than "what's wrong with Columbus."

The strongest testament again to Rick's team first attitude.

"At the end of the day Columbus is just too good of a city and I'm a loyal guy."

Good for him, and great for Columbus.

If you have 5 minutes, check it out here.

What Has Happened to the Rangers. . .?

We at NHTProductions have decided to take a break from the Five Things, because, well, essentially I'm not sure there are five points I can make about this team at this juncture. Instead, we'll try to see where this team got derailed.

Because, it's disheartening really - when you look at what the facts are presenting. Ignore the decline that was coming, for the moment. Look only back to Monday. A team that was in desperate need of a big effort got it. They scored, in bunches, and were able to do something a Rangers team has not done in quite a while - come back from a two goal deficit.

Their next effort was one of those play 'em close games, where the Rangers played much of it with only five defensemen, before going down to four during the final frame. A close affair, an unlucky goal allowed the tie, but they were able to hold down in OT and win in the shootout.

Friday night's game was the one where the car started to visibly shake. The alignment was off somehow. True, they were playing with (arguably) five young defensemen, including three rookies. But they were playing a Tampa team that has not looked super sharp in the early going. Vinny (oh poor Vinny) Lecavalier has not even looked like he realizes the season has started. And yet, super sophomore Stamkos breaks his four game scoreless streak against the NYRs, and notorious Rangers killer St. Louis pockets three assists, en route to a 5-1 drubbing. I'll be honest - that's not how I saw it playing out.

Last night's game, which I'll be honest, I watched in small intervals once the Penguins scored two quick to go up 3-1, was when car stopped shaking and the wheels fell off entirely. I feel bad for Valiquette, because unless he hasn't been "cheering" enough from the bench these last handful of games, he's really had no fault in this team going on their tailspin. Yet last night they dragged him right in.

The Rangers team had those five young defensemen and Rozsival. I'd be confident against them too. With no disrespect to the youth. Box score states that Staal and Sanguinetti were somehow able to be a +1 in this blech-fest.

Ignoring the defense themselves for a moment, what about defensive responsibility. Games that get totally out of control like this (remember, we've seen them from the other side, because that's pretty much what DID happen to Columbus in the Rangers super win last Monday and goodness knows the Rangers know how that feels) - I don't know what to think about them. I mean credit the fact that they were able to somehow score 3 goals, by defensemen ironically, but there is a major team disconnect that allows such bleeding to take place unchecked.

Again, as an isolated incident - a bad game, all teams have them - it's fine. But the second game in a row where your team is outscored so badly. Yet another game in a long line of disconnect games. That's disappointing. And that says more about this team than most of us want to admit.

I mean surely we don't want to take from the surface - and we can - that the reason the team has lost the last two games so glaringly is because Drury has returned and Redden is out of the lineup.

Surely we don't want to believe that as fact.

So it must be some other reason. Some other more plausible reason.

If I may hazzard a guess. This team, despite how close they are and how much more entertaining they were (at times) versus last year, is still not very good. Not very good at scoring. Not very good at keeping with a game plan - whatever it may be. Not very good at stopping the bleeding. Not very good at sticking up for one another (small incidents to the contrary aside).

And the players that were good last year (seemingly al year) - Callahan, Staal, Hank - have all struggled at times.

The players that were bad - Redden - have turned it around, if not to become good and certainly not great, but to become decent to steady.

Something weird is going on in Rangerland. Something very weird.

I thought I was dreading the Monday Columbus game after the non-effort versus Florida last weekend? Well, after this weekend's double dose of disappointment, I am really, REALLY not looking forward to the Penguins coming into the Garden tomorrow.

Not at all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Lightning Game...

Okay, I'm going to be honest here, part of me really wants to suspend the "Five Things" when the Rangers give up five goals and "play" as badly as they did. But we'll give it a go...

* The Rangers played a game last night. Seriously? Did someone tell them that?

* Tortorella called this the worst game of the season. I couldn't continue watching it with the interest I would if the Rangers were actually playing, so I'm not sure, but I'd have to think he was right.

* What a sad first NHL game for NJ native Bobby Sanguinetti. Although he played over 16 minutes, took a shot, and was only a -1 for all the damage, so I only mean sad for the sake of the result, not for his effort in it.

* Why does, with the exception of that game vs Tampa early last season when Voros fought him, Mike Smith always seem to look brilliant when I see him play. He's 4-4-4 in games played with a .892 Save % and 3.17 GAA, but yet when I see him, he's always looking sharp. Why is that?

* I think I expected they'd start Valiquette in Pittsburgh on Saturday BEFORE the game got away. Now I think they have to. I'm not saying Hank was the reason it went wrong last night, but...I think he needs a break with the back part of the home and home on Monday.

And a bonus question - with a Washington/Montreal game going as well tonight, how long do I give the Rangers before I turn the game off if it goes badly?

It's a good question. Hopefully the Rangers do their part and I won't need to answer it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Five Things on the Rangers/Panthers Game. . .

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Even though I caught up on some games (like the Calgary/Coyotes game that had more former Rangers than I could count - Prucha, Korpikoski, Sjostrom, Lundmark, and Dawes (GWG) and the Canucks/Kings tilt), I apparently didn't find myself time to update the blog. ;)

* Does anyone else remember last year's Thanksgiving Eve? (Well, alcohol may or may not have played a factor in that...) The Rangers played Tampa, they led the game late, gave up the tying goal with less than a minute to go to St. Louis, and then won in a shootout. Thankfully. This Thanksgiving Eve, the Rangers played Florida, led the game late, gave up the tying goal to Moore, and then won in a shootout. Thankfully. Only difference was 3-2 SHW a year ago, and a 2-1 SHW this year. If the Rangers beat Tampa Bay tonight in a shootout (as they did Thanksgiving Friday against Florida last year) we'll really see history repeating itself.

* Who is not thankful for P.A. Parenteau. The guy said he wanted to come up and stay up this time around and he's doing everything to be considering for that. Two deciding goals in the Rangers only two shootout appearances this season. Can't ask for more than that. And did you see Tortorella's grin after he scored? It was like, damn, this kid. He was right.

* Gaborik scored a goal, on the powerplay, for the Rangers? You don't say. No, honestly here. It was smart movement on the PP all around. And a very smart tip by Gaborik. Not that we should be surprised anymore with his talent. But we're happy to continue to see it displayed. The goal was Gaborik's league leading 19th and currently has him in a tie for points, at 33, with Thornton and Kopitar.

* It's always nice to see a player defend his teammate. Even nicer when it's someone you may not have expected. Matt Gilroy, seeing Prospal hit by the same player whose hit took out Redden early in the game, jumped in for his first career fight. He took 17 minutes in penalties, but the message was clear - don't mess with our guys. Great to see from the young guy. But why can't everybody be so willing to defend their own?

* Because it's Thanksgiving time and there isn't much else to talk about here, why not give a quick rundown of what or who I am most thankful for on the Rangers 2 months into the season:

- Gaborik, Gaborik, Gaborik. If there's a Rangers fan that is not thankful for this guy, I'd love to know it. He scores, sometimes the Rangers only goals. He PKs, even though we sometimes wish he wouldn't. He playmakes. He does it all and in a way that makes you think it's effortless. A priceless talent. Very thankful for him.

- Del Zotto and Gilroy. Again, I can not express to you, after years and years and years where the Rangers had no youth or no defensive anything, besides stopgaps, how wonderful it is to have two (really four) players that are OURS. Two players that are young, are ours, and are good. This isn't discounting Girardi and Staal (my favorite player how has struggled this year but has looked better as of late) but Del Zotto and Gilroy have hardly seemed to struggle to settle in. It's remarkable really. Just do the job and do it well. Del Zotto's offense is just icing on the cake. It's been a long time for something like that.

- Hank. I can't go through a thankful list without mentioning the goalie. No, he's not perfect. At some moments he's very pedestrian. But on a scale, overall, he's been able to do things other goalies have not. Play with as much consistency in his first years in the league as to be recognized as one of the best. Play with as much talent as necessary to keep what has been a very low scoring (after the Jagr years) and defensively challenged team in playoff contention. He may not be perfect. But take Hank out of the equation, this team has not been a playoff team for all four years. No way.

Enjoy the games this weekend!! Again, I think we can all agree to be thankful for the greatest game of all - hockey! I know I am.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Blue Jackets Game. . .

* Who were those guys and what did they do with the Rangers? You may think I'm being all "haha" but no, I'm serious. Who were those guys? I haven't seen them in. . . well, in a long time.

* Important not just that the Rangers scored 7 - count 'em 7 goals - last night, but important in who scored them. One, a recently struggling and seemingly unhappy Sean Avery, and two, defensemen Gilroy and Del Zotto - both who had been off the score sheet for much too long. For the Rangers to win, the defense has to contribute, not just in their own end, but with points as well. Not meaning to forget about Parenteau and Anisimov - both had career highs in points with 2 and 3 respectively. An important night for contributions all around. A real team effort. And Christopher Higgins didn't look too bad on the top line with Gaborik (2G, 2A) and Prospal, did he now?

* The fact that they won was almost a side story to how they won. And I don't even mean the 7 goals. Whatever Tortorella said - and even if he did indeed just say breathe, there's a lot more hockey left to play - that deserves credit. Credit him for knowing what to say to get the team to get back to playing a go-go-go game. And credit the players for actually looking alive and doing so. This was much needed and it had been much, MUCH, too long since they had played this way.

* Del Zotto's goal was pretty. There's still something about a defenseman making a play like that that just makes you feel there is something right in the world.

* Speaking of special defensemen, think the Rangers will try to have Brian Leetch do TV work at all their games? He brought them luck, he helped them win. Heck he even was around for when the Sean Avery (2) and Marian Gaborik scored three goals in 111 seconds, the fastest three goals by the Rangers since Theo Fleury, Sandy McCarthy, and Brian Leetch himself did it back in 2001.

I am sure Hank didn't love the game and giving up four goals, but man. After not having seen so much as a sniff of goal scoring in what was weeks, feels like months, I'll take it. Every time. Columbus is not a bad team. They just couldn't stop the bleeding.

And if anyone knows how that goes, the Rangers are surely among them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Panthers Game. . .

This is going to be rough, because honestly, I'm not sure what to say that hasn't been said:

* If you missed it, the Rangers pre-game showed a great interview with Adam Graves and spokesperson for the NHLPA Goals and Dreams organization Rob Zamuner. Zamuner talked about visiting Bosnia, and how people would never realize how hockey has reached everywhere, even that war-torn corner of the world. Great stuff. Really great stuff. On NHTP favorite PJ Stock, his fellow spokesperson, he said:

"We were roommates in Boston. I'm glad he's gone and he's back home. We'll catch up with him tomorrow, but he was outstanding with the kids. Every tour needs a clown and he was ours."

* Speaking of...well. Anyone else surprised that Avery didn't get a goaltender interference penalty when he tangled with Vokoun last night. Not saying he either deserved it or didn't but, some restraint by the referee in not calling him for it. And some sarcasm by the author of this blog right there.

* Gaborik scored his 16th goal of the season which ties him with Alex Ovechkin for 2nd in the league, two behind Dany Heatley. Ho-hum, Gaborik scored again. Ho-hum, he's the only one that can. Seriously, what would the Rangers do without Gaborik? I argue they'd have won half as many games - at least.

* The Rangers took their patented second period nap in this game, but to me, they didn't look awake at all. Sure it wasn't the worst snoozefest of the year or recent past, but it was close. It's bad enough they are not winning, not scoring, but do they have to do it with such lifelessness? Callahan, once always a factor, has been a non-factor more than he's been one. Half the team seriously looks invisible. You ask me what any player did on the ice last night, save Gaby and Hank, and Prospal, and I really can't answer you.

* On that note, the Rangers team has too many passengers, not enough drivers. (Somehow I think I just referenced something from my college Leadership class - um, scary). They finally have a game changer again - thankfully- but they are wasting him by having almost every other person go idly by. No one was particularly bad in last night's game, but no one was particularly good either. And it's not good enough. The Rangers will continue to lose if they do not put forth a better effort. And that's what hurts the most. Yes, Captain-Fun is gone and Dubi is out, but how come Florida was able to win the game with three American Hockey League players in their lineup? The Rangers look like a disheveled and disinterested mess!

Someone, stop the bleeding - please!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Follow NHLPA Goals and Dreams 10 Countries in 10 Days Trip. . .

Goals and Dreams is a fantastic cause supported by the NHLPA and currently they are involved in a trip to 10 Countries in 10 Days to give away hockey equipment to continue to expand the sport of hockey.

Personal favorite PJ Stock and Rob Zamuner lead the group, and meet up with many former NHL players (and NYR players) along the way including Markus Naslund, Martin Straka, and Martin Ruchinsky.

Enjoy these clips and look for more here courtesy of the NHLPA.

Some of my favorites:

DAY ONE: (Naslund/Forsberg)

DAY ONE: (Naslund)

DAY TWO: (Tikkanen)

DAY FIVE: (Stock as Professional)

DAY FIVE: (Straka)

DAY SEVEN: (Stocker coaching kids)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Capitals Game. . .

Another game, another loss. Please don't tell me this is how the home stand is going to unfold.

* For the first 10-or-so minutes of this game, the Rangers were flying. They were go-go-going in the manner we envisioned Torts pushing them to go. They won battles, put pressure on, kept the puck in Washington's zone. As wonderful as it was to see, it was just as evident that it was so rare to see from this team as of late.

* At the Garden tonight they showed a really great clip montage of vintage Rangers clips meshed with current Rangers clips. Whoever thought of that - very good idea. You could tell many fans at the Garden were watching and saying, hmm, this is new, this is cool.

* In the 2nd period, the Rangers normal "nap" period, they actually pressed the puck. I'd guess they had no less than 6 takeaways. Which is something I hadn't noticed before, so I'm going to go with - this is something they don't normally do. Getting to those loose puck battles, standing up and taking the puck away from someone on the Capitals unexpectedly.

* Gaborik has a special something. It should have - and was - evident in every single game so far, it would seem, but yet tonight, with his two goals, it was incredibly obvious. If you are a goalie, you almost can't see his shot. He's that quick. But my favorite thing about Gaborik, a quarter into the season, is the way he is able to pick up a puck. A puck is coming to him, and he has one hand on the stick to pick it up, without any bit of effort, and he slides so easily into his motion of - making a play, a pass, a shot. The way he appears to be barely holding on to the hockey stick, and yet he can make such fluid motions. It's really something. It really is.

* Such a disappointing loss tonight. Really. You have your guy - let's face it, your ONLY guy, score two goals, to keep you in a game that perhaps, you shouldn't have been in, and you manage to lose the tie with less than five minutes to go. Very depressing. They didn't play badly, but they didn't play well enough to win.

The Rangers have three days off before Florida comes to the Garden on Saturday. We'll see how they rebound. I don't even know what to expect to expect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Mystery of Sean Avery. . .

First of all I feel pretty badly that I've been so busy trying to watch all the
Rangers and Coyotes games, in addition to my real job and trying to have a life - an other than hockey life ;) - that the blog is much darker than it was to start last season or that I'd like it to be.

Perhaps part of that is how much more there was to talk about
last year - with the record sertting start, to the dismal decline, to the
boring play, to the lack of personality of the players.

Actually, now that I'm listing things, this is sounding a lot like last year on the surface.

Well, with personality that is.

Anyway if you read this blog you know I don't do the Xs and Os thing. There are so many more bloggers that do this and do this well. So instead what you get from me is creative rambling.

Why you haven't gotten that thus far is because - ignoring time constraints that is - I honestly have no more answers than the rest of you.

Which brings us to a topic I can ramble readily about -

Reader Luke mentioned it in the comments here on NHTP. Carp on Rangers Report mentioned it after the Vancouver game two weeks ago. It was a Milbury, McLean, Hrudey conversation on HNIC two Saturday's ago . And Larry Brooks finally out right wrote about it in today's NY Post.

The topic at hand, you ask.

Just what the heck is up with Sean Avery?

First let's break down all the possible things that can be causing Sean Avery to be the anti-Sean Avery.

- He's still playing hurt and either playing through it or not being honest about it.

- He is playing timid because Tortorella has pressured him to do that.

- He is playing timid because he is afraid he can't be the real Sean Avery without punishment from referees.

- He has something personal going on and doesn't have his head in the game.


Now, let's analyze:

Option ONE -

None of us can speak to. I have no more information than you. I
would only hope that if he were injured he'd man up, say so, and take the time to get healthy.

Option TWO -

Tortorella seemed to deny this by his CBC comments and in the Brooks'
article today.

Tortorella got on HNIC when the Rangers were up in Toronto and said that he and Avery had a good relationship and were on the same page.

In Brook's article Tortorella is quoted:

"It's very important for the club for Sean to show his personality," Tortorella told The Post. "I think there are a lot of people around the club and who follow the club who think that the coaching staff is holding Sean back from being who he is.

"That is not the case. I want and we want Sean to be who he is. And he knows that, I guarantee you that he knows that. We've talked to Sean. It's not only the coaches. Everyone in the organization has told Sean that he needs to show his personality out there."

So it would seem, and we would hope, that this is the case.

Option THREE -

When Sean came back last March and started his second stint with the Rangers few could deny he got some unfair treatment by the referees. Things that were very marginal got called because they were committed by #16 in blue, not because they were actually cut and dry penalties.

That isn't to say that Sean didn't earn any of his own penalties or that he was always a target, but it's hard to say he wasn't treated differently. Whether you agree or disagree that he did (or that he deserved it) will probably tell which side of the Sean Avery line you fall on.

The culmination of this "situation" happened in the Rangers first round playoff series versus the Capitals. After a game of four penalties, two of them marginal, in game 3, and 2 penalties in the closing minutes of game 4, Tortorella did the thing everyone wondered if he'd do - he benched Sean Avery for game 5. The Rangers slept through most of Avery's suspended game, and Sean returned a quiet man in Game 6. Sean's best game of the playoffs, and perhaps his renewed Ranger career, came in Game 7, where he skated on the Rangers best line and looked fantastic.

But since the season started and Sean returned from injury (he missed the Rangers first four games of the season), he has not looked at all like the Sean we've known. He had six points in his first 7 games (4 wins and 3 losses in that order), and has had no points in his last 8.

As for penalties, he was called for none in his first 4 games back. He's taken 19 penalty minutes in his 15 games, but that included a five minute fighting major versus NJ on October 22nd.

Surely doesn't appear that he's been getting called as much as he was - although one boarding call was pretty absurd - but that doesn't mean he still isn't playing scared. The league has painted him as a villian. Chances are he still remembers that.

Option FOUR -

- Is Sean distracted? As much as he loved playing in New York, is he over it? Is he over hockey? Is his mind on something else?

Again, only he can answer this but this is the one option I'll be very disappointed in knowing is the right one. Not everyone gets second chances, in the city and for the team they love. Sean is not evil and he doesn't deserve all the crap he endures - at least I don't believe he does - but he owes it to me, and all the others who support him, to be trying with all he has, every single night.



Now, we may never be able to truly answer the question and pick an option, but I can say this much.

For Sean to be effective he needs to be aggressive. Smart but aggressive. I haven't
seen that yet from him this year. He's played too safe, definitely too safe. And when he's trying to please other people, rather than be himself, he is just not right.

So, if I had to take a guess, I'd say it's option number three we are looking at. For some reason Sean is playing scared, and not being who he can be, who he needs to be. Now, perhaps he is scared Tortorella will not support him if he goes too far in the other direction, afraid he'll be called for too many penalties (a very real risk), and he just doesn't know how to balance that fear.

Sean also, it seems, hasn't had the opportunity to work through it all that much. In the loss in Montreal, he'd have his season high ice time of 18:45. His season low - a mere 5:56 in Edmonton on November 5th. The less effective he is, the less he'll play, as per Tortorella.

However, this was a guy that "potentially" was coming into the season to play with Gaborik and Dubinsky. That may have been tried in the ever-changing switcharoos, but it didn't last.

Sean, when he's been in NY, has played best when he's playing first or second line minutes, with guys of speed and/or talent.

Sean's greatest assets are his skating, his ability to get the puck to where it needs to be, and his work around the back of the net as a setup guy. I haven't seen these things in enough abundancy this year. I fear in addition to whatever fear it is he has, that his lack of production may also be a result of who he is playing with.

I felt, I think rightly so, that Sean could get 15-20 goals this year. But if and only IF he is playing with the right players. But it seems no one on New York that isn't Gaborik, Prospal or Kotalik is the right players - for scoring that is. Not sure where that leaves Sean.


The bottom line is that Sean needs to be the player he can be. He really does. One, for himself, two, for the team, and three, to prove some of his critics wrong. He can't fix everything that's happened. No one expects him to. But if Sean is every able to make the best of his second chance, it's by being a good teammate, and an effective teammate.

It was pointed out, by Milbury in fact, that Sean looked disinterested. Well a disinterested Sean is essentially a useless Sean. He needs to be involved. The Rangers need him to be involved.

Larry Brook's in today's article said,

"This Avery might even get Gary Bettman's seal of approval."

If that doesn't tell you just how far off the right path Sean is, I don't know what will.

What I want, what the team NEEDS, is to have the REAL Sean Avery here, in New York playing for the Rangers. What I want, what the team NEEDS, is to see Sean Avery smiling again.

Even though you never know exactly what he's smiling about, Sean Avery is just so much more likeable when he's smiling, no?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Senators Game. . .

* I tried to watch the Rangers defensemen more closely. Thought Redden had a good start to the game in terms of offensive movement. Chipping the puck, a few nice little passes, smart plays at the blue line and neutral zone. As the game went on, he had a few more. This is the most composed I've seen him in a while AND he was in Ottawa. Interesting.

* In case you were late getting back for the 3rd period, MSG announced that Prospal's shorthanded goal was the ONLY shorthanded goal of his career. Kinda seems hard to believe, but I don't know how much PK time he had in Tampa, I'll be honest. And as much as I have to hold my breath everytime Gaborik is on the ice down a man, this is a benefit of having him there - the chance to get some offense. The Rangers used to get a lot of shorties when the Czechmates like Dvorak and Nedved were on PK duty.

* This team has serious offensive problems. They can't seem to buy a goal. Earlier in the season the Rangers had a bunch of scoring from defensemen which made their totals look better (they were leading the league in goals scored for a whlie) but it seems everyone has stopped scoring at once. Except for...well, the guys that always do - Gaborik and Prospal. Them and whomever is called up for the game from Hartford.

* Can someone tell me where the team that was supposed to go-go-go went to? I know the Rangers usually take a winter nap in November or December, but there is little excuse when this team doesn't hit, doesn't skate, and doesn't play with some level of tenacity. I find it hard to believe Tortorella is happy with the effort in that regard. As a fan, I'm not happy with the way they've regressed.

* One sign these aren't last year's Rangers - it's almost American Thanksgiving and this was their first shootout game. Congrats to P.A. Parenteau for getting the deciding goal in the skills contest, in front of his family and friends. Good for him and he (and Hank) stole the Rangers two points tonight.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Five Things About the Thrashers/Rangers Game. . .

Another game, another loss. 2 in a row for the Blueshirts. =(

* The Rangers giving up the two very, very quick goals to Atlanta (like, oops, blink, they scored again, goals) reminded me of last year. It really did. Never a good thing. Good teams need to know how to focus and stop the bleeding.

* Gaborik's goal was - nice. I wasn't even sure who shot it at first, but given the reaction and the fact that it, umm, went in the net, you had to be 90% sure who it was. Guy has a special talent. Shame the Rangers don't have 4 more of him.

* Props to Cally for sticking up for himself after that hit. I don't know much of Zach Bogosian, probably due to his being injured last year and playing for, umm, Atlanta, but they had a nice little tangle. If no one else is going to do the dirty work, I'm happy Cally did it himself. (A little like Doan, although immediate in reaction). He had a fired up game, Cally did. I thought to myself, he looks better than he has in recent games. I noticed him more. Drury absense = better Cally?

* During a TV time out, Boyle stood with referee Kerry Fraser and talked for quite a bit, getting an explaination of his tripping penalty. Sometimes you catch it and sometimes you don't, but this was a lengthy conversation. At first glace, which is all I really had, it looked relatively harmless, but you are responsible for your skate, no?

* Rangers scored 3, which was a big plus over these one goal showings, but still fell apart at the wrong times. A few bad penalties. A second period nap. And they couldn't rebound. Disappointing, because even though Hedberg often beats the Rangers, this game probably was a should have won game.

Who wants a real blog entry? I do! Special events aside. I want a real blog entry on the Rangers. So, coming this weekend. Something more than "Five Things" - something deeper on the red, white, and blue. Looking forward to it.

I just hope I keep my word. ;)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Congratulations To My Favorite Player on the Eve of His HHOF Induction. . .

My favorite hockey player is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. My favorite player - ever.

I don't think many of us - I certainly didn't - knew just how blessed we were to get to watch someone like him play, night in, night out. How his style of play, his work ethic, his quiet demeanor, would so deeply affect the team while he was on it and make us all, over five and a half years after his departure, still long for those days as if they were yesterday.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm talking about Brian Leetch, my favorite player. Arguably - and yes, a very, very good argument can be made - the best Rangers player. Ever.

If he's not the best player ever to don the red, white, and blue, surely he's among the best. No one dare argue that.

The man of relatively few words off of it, Leetch never failed to make every statement while on the ice. The way he was able to lead a rush and get back, effortlessly, flawlessly - you just don't see that anymore. I get a odd sense of bittersweet joy when I remember it even today. Joy because he was simply that good, and bittersweet because he couldn't play forever.

Speaking of joys, I truly consider it one of my greatest joys that I was a Rangers fan and able to watch someone of Leetch's, in ways unparalleled, talent play for my favorite team. Players like him do not come along every day. If you are a Rangers fan, until recent seasons perhaps, you were still waiting for a decent to semi-good defensemen, let alone one that could be described as great, spectacular, marquee, and yes, homegrown.

For I would have loved Brian Leetch if he were from any country. I seriously would have. But it gave me satisfaction to know that Brian was both mine, as a Rangers fan, and mine, as an American. It was a great source of pride. Someone that it can be argued was one of the best defensemen to ever play in the game - from any country - and he was born in Texas, and raised in the New England area.

The American roots would be intertwined with him forever, for more than just two reasons, but never for more than these two.

- Brian Leetch was the first American born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. I would imagine he will not be the only American to ever win the award, but 15 years later, he is still the only one.

- Brian Leetch captained the greatest American hockey team to come together in our lifetime. I still get chills thinking about the 1996 World Cup. I've seen exciting hockey, but I certainly have not seen as exciting hockey played on an international stage. Certainly not with the Americans coming out on top. What a series. And Leetch was very much a part of that.

When looking back on Brian's remarkable career - and remarkable doesn't even begin to do justice to the guy so often overlooked because while he was graceful and smooth, he wasn't flashy - the only disappointment I can name is that it didn't end in New York. If anyone - anyone - deserved to retire a Ranger, it was Brian Leetch. He's not over it, understandably, and we can't go back, but as much as the disappointment is there, I think it's now been buried far enough. Buried under all the wonderful memories of the player that Brian was, and the person he still is.

I could probably go on about Brian Leetch forever, but instead I think I'll let his former teammate, Mike Richter, speak for me, just this once.

"There's only going to be one Brian Leetch," said Richter. "He was not just great, he was unique in the way he was great. You know what? I really miss watching him play."

So do I, Ricky. So do I.

Congratulations, Brian Leetch, and thank you.

#2 Forever.

Five Things About the Rangers/Flames Game. . .

Alright, admittedly, I did not see much of this game apart from the 3rd period. I apologize, but I think I used the Rangers west coast trip as a much needed break time. As much as we all love the game, we do all need a break from time to time, realize it or not at the time. It's been a busy start to the year on a work/personal level, and trying to keep up with two teams has been hard at times. So worth it, but difficult. So another fractured group of random thoughts...

* Some called this Rangers game one of the best efforts of the season. I sure hope so. Injuries to Dubinsky and Drury in addition to an already ailing Brashear, will cause more substitutions to be made. Here's hoping whoever is called up has as good of games as Parenteau and Byers had in their call up games.

* Former Ranger Nigel Dawes got 3 - count-em, 3 - assists against his former club. I haven't seen as much of Calgary as I'd have liked to, and usually do, but Nigel seems to be playing pretty well for them. Remember, even though Renney called him a playmaker, I still hold true to the fact that he's got a better shot. He can be a goal scorer if he doesn't forget how to shoot on the net.

* There's been talk of why someone didn't stick up for Drury after the hit by Glencross. That reminds me of when Zherdev got his nose broken in the "chew-toy" game in Dallas back in February, and pretty much everyone stood idly by, except for one (it may have been Dubinsky). If we thought there'd have been a lot of players on this team that would have played the role, perhaps we were mistaken. Although two of those that may have probably had good reason not to. Byers, coming off his one game suspension, and Avery, just probably treading very carefully so as to not breathe on anyone wrong given what happened last time he was Calgary.

* As much as we don't like to see Hank injured, it's nice to have Valiquette come in and play two strong games in back to backs. Even though the Rangers only got one win in three games, you'd have to say that minus the injuries, this Western swing looked miles better than last time they made the trip, no?

* Long break for the Rangers could be a good chance to rest some tired bodies. I'll be curious to see how they respond against a team in Atlanta that is better than I thought they'd be. I can just see that young goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopping 40 shots against us. If the Rangers were to get their season high and shoot 40 times, that is.

Fun Fact: If Pavelec's place of birth in Kladno, Czech Republic sounds familiar, it's because it's the same as Jaromir Jagr's.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Oilers Game. . .

(Note, didn't see the whole game tonight, so these will be really simple, random thoughts. What? You always get simple, random thoughts here? Hmmmm. I try.)

* Christopher Higgins follows up his first goal of the season on Tuesday with his second goal of the season in the very next game. Is this just a breathing the Western Canadian air thing, or will he bring it back to the States with him next week?

* Three, count-em, three power play goals on the night. How refreshing the powerplay is working again. How refreshing to see guys like Gaborik, Prospal, Kotalik, and Del Zotto on it. I still have nightmares from last year sometimes, so the reminder that those days are over is nice.

* As much as part of me loathes the man for what he did in his final season here, Tom Renney will get a moment of thanks from me for what he did in the years previous. Yes, Jagr and Hank carried that team, but Renney was the right coach for the team coming out of the lockout. It's just a shame that no one seemed to realize any sooner last year, that such was no longer the case.

* Anyone shocked that Renney and Jagr want to potentially re-unite the perfect relationship they shared in New York in Edmonton next season? Jagr was the dominating force he could be when healthy and Renney stood back and let him do it. If we are so lucky, it will be great to see Jagr return to the league, because yes, he is good enough. More than good enough. As for Renney, I'm kinda pretty happy the Rangers only play Edmonton once a year, for his sake, and ours.

* I was just going to comment last game on how Callahan was really having a slow start to the season and to add to Carp's thoughts (at Rangers Report, #2) where he asked where he had been, noting relative invisibility, when along Callahan comes and scores a pretty goal. This guy doesn't need to score (although after a 20+ goal campaign last year, we were all expecting him to do that more), but he needs to be effective in other ways. Goodness knows he always hustles and hits, but I have to question whether "Captain Fun" is dragging him down a bit.

Important win for the NYRs. A win in Calgary on Saturday would really help make the Rangers (and me) feel good before a 4 day hiatus. We'll see how that goes...

Five Things About the Rangers/Canucks Game. . .

I know this is days late (and dollars short surely) but...

* I know it was only 4 games in betwen there, but I can't believe the Rangers haven't won in Vancouver since October 11, 1997. That may as well have been another lifetime ago.

* How long a lifetime ago, you ask? That was Messier's first game versus the NYRs after the Vancouver exodus. And that night also marked the last regular season hat trick (#50) of the Great One's career. See, lifetime ago.

* I hate to say, but the melee that occurred early in the third It was fun to see that sense of old time hockey which is rare. Ironic it all happened during a line change, but that made it even more exciting. Sad that this was the most exciting part of the game, but the Rangers did not do their part to help that.

* The Rangers undiscplined play and lack of goal scoring continued. The end of the game proved that. They had a chance to really use the melee as a jumping-off point, and they chose to self-combust instead. Again.

* A shame it was in a loss, but congrats to Christopher Higgins for goal #1 as a New York Ranger!

Monday, November 2, 2009

HNIC Wrap-Up ~ October 31, 2009. . .

Again, belated, so apologies for that. Lots of hockey this Saturday night.

Hockey Tonight's Inside Hockey talked about goal masks, something very important this weekend for more than a few reasons, but something I've always had a unique interest in. (Childhood favorite - Stephane Fiset's "ice blocks.") They're just fun to look at.

The end of Inside Hockey showcases this guy who does over 80 masks a year, some commissioned by NHL players. During the show, he shared one for Carey Price. For Rememberance Day, it showcases poppies, pinning a wreath, the Canadian flag, and the poem Flander's field. Looks amazing. Even better, Carey Price, when he's done, will auction it off for money to help wounded soldiers. Find out more at


On After Hours, the guest to speak of (no disrespect to Steve Yzerman, Red Wings great, that is) was Rene Bourque.

Before Saturday night, the only thing I knew about Rene Bourque was that he was the player whose neck was sliced open by Nik Zherdev's skate blade, when Rene was with Chicago, and Nik was a Blue Jacket.

Thanks to segments like After Hours, I now know a lot more about Bourque, and can think of some good things instead of remembering what was probably the most horrible time in his life and one he'd rather forget.

It didn't take long for Rene to have hosts Scott Oake and Kevin Weekes laughing. Literally, at one point they had a hard time continuing. Some of his more clever moments:

After being shown an image of his report card from youth hockey camp, with average marks in some categories, and signed by Ron Sutter, he said, "maybe the Sutter family had a late night the night before."

That had them laughing. For a while.

The next was when Kevin Weekes called him "Mr.-Everything" and said the only thing he hadn't seen Rene do was wear the Harvy the Hound costume. Rene's response:

"Maybe tomorrow night."

Some other tidbits:

He grew up with sisters, one of them a twin, so he said he never had to fight for clothes or bathroom time.

He heard about Goals and Dreams through the NHLPA and wanted to participate. Gave out 50 sets of hockey equipment to kids in his hometown of Lac Li Biche, Alberta.

"It was like Christmas for them; it was very rewarding."


Lastly, while he said he doesn't like to think about it, he watched the clip of the Zherdev incident with the guys. And he was gracious enough to speak about it. He lost over a liter of blood, and didn't realize at first how dangerous the injury was. He was in hostpial for 5 days, and the doctors, he said, looked like they almost didn't know what to do because it's such a rare injury. He was very close to losing his life, but thankfully, thanks to the medical staff and doctors, he survived. Still has a visible scar on his neck, a reminder for the rest of his life of how close it came to ending.

Overall, a very funny, humble interview with the guy who is leading the Calgary Flames in scoring so far this season. A guy to root for, that's for sure. I'm now going to.

Oh and lest you feel cheated, in another installment of "Tips from the WEEKES' Beauty Bag" - Weeke's urged guys to bring cologne, and girls to bring perfume for after the game. You don't want to smell "like hockey," he says.

Kinda wonderfing how far this segment will go. I didn't get to write up on last week (not too much doing although there was a short Nigel Dawes interview) but Weekes' tip for 10/24 was to use shower gel.

Guess we'll see. Gotta love Weeksie, though.

My Game of the Week ~ Leafs/Canadiens 10/31/09. . .

A little belated and a little shorter than ususal, but wanted to make sure to share some of the moments between the two rivals playing their first game against one another since opening night. In case you missed:

- No, it wasn't for Halloween, but the Habs wore the barber pole jerseys (made known in 1912-1913) in continuing to celebrate their centennial. They hadn't worn them since the Superbowl game versus Boston that had them lose not only the game but Robert Lang, Josh Gorges, and Guillaume Latendresse during the 60 minutes. Lang's was the most painful- as a strong part of the team, he left with what may have been a potentially career ending cut to his Achilles tendon. Would they provide better luck on this night?

- I don't care what anyone says, those jerseys are pretty damn distracting. What I noticed this time that I did not notice as much the last time is the gloves. Even they are distracting, that orangy/mustardy/yellowy color. Look, I understand and I thnk it's a bold statement to go back to vintage jerseys. But that is a BOLD statement.

- One of the best lines of this: Thinking it was movie night for the Habs and how the guys were dressed up as George Clooney in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?"

- Grabovski, because the Habs just love Mikeal, and Komisarek, because Mike will not be forgiven for going to the other side of the proud rivalry, were both booed often and heavily every time they touched the puck.

- Luke Schenn (awe, Luke Schenn), suffering from a bit of a sophomore slump, called fellow former Kelowna Rocket's player Shea Weber to get some advice. Shea's advice: focus on the physicality of the game. If you continue to make checks, play the body, use your size, the rest of your game will come back. I just think it's refreshing that he feels comfortable reaching out to one of his own teammates. Shows a sense of maturity beyond his years.

- "Hell just froze over. The Maple Leafs scored." - the broadcaster announced when the Leafs found the back of the net.

- When Komisarek took a penalty, that he seemed unsure he took, at the end of the first, he left the rink, not wanting to get booed more than necessary in the penalty box.

- Halak had an impressive run during the Leafs 5-3 powerplay.

- Former teammate, Latendresse hit Komisarek behind the net, to rousing cheers from the Belle Centre faithful.

- After the 3rd goal, the Leaf's Beauchemin was so angry he just went right after Michael Cammalleri. A scrum ensued.

- "Face washing and candy kisses" abound. They love each other guys!

- Toskala made an impressive save as former Rangers' Mara set up Gomez on an odd-man rush.

- As fans serenaded the Leafs with "na na na na - sayyy, goodbye" - the Leafs scored to start mounting the comeback. Have to hold that song until you are up by more than 2 goals. Seriously.

- The Leafs come back to tie at 4-4, but former Ranger Gomez gets the deciding goal in the shootout.

Overall, I love watching the Habs/Leafs - always did. But even more so now because it appears some of the true rare times that the Leafs look like they are really putting it all together. Toskala has to take blame for the bad goals - he let in a bad one to Metropolit - but on many other occassions he gets little to no help. The expected powerhouse of defense in Toronto just isn't working. The Leafs powerplay has good movement, and scored 2 of 7 times. The held Montreal scoreless on their man advantage.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Five Things About the Rangers/Bruins Game. . .

* The Rangers, miraculously some may say, put together as close to a 60 minute effort as they have in the last week plus, and finally came up with a very important win.

* Is it just me, or with the random exception of the 7-0 St. Patrick's Day Massacre of a few years back, most Rangers/Bruins games end in a 1-0 score, one way or another?

* Redden made another good play in front of his own net to steal the puck away, and got cheered - at the Garden. Props to him for keeping his head in the game and doing the simple things. Wade doesn't need to be flashy, he just needs to make simple plays to get the job done.

* I blinked for a second and didn't see who scored the Rangers goal. I probably didn't need three guesses to figure out who it was, now did I?

* Part of me wanted to see Gaborik not play (not because I don't love seeing him play, people) to see if the Rangers could still put together a real effort and win without him. Now, still, I'm really not sure if it was Gaborik injecting life into this team, or them really putting the pieces back together. Either way, I'll take the win. This losing thing was getting old.

Western Canadian trip coming up. We all know these have been nothing easy for the Rangers in the recent past. Should be interesting. Truth be told, they better keep it interesting - if it's 11:45 and they are not playing well, it's going to be that much easier to turn off the TV and just go to bed...