Monday, March 22, 2010

Analysis Time: Just What Is With The NYRs? . . .

I was tempted, as I tried to sleep last night, to get out of bed and type all my crazy stream of consciousness thoughts on the NYRs out, but, sadly, I was not going to have a Jerry Maguire type moment last night, instead favoring whatever sleep I'd get.

Instead, you get, whichever of those thoughts made it through my unconscious sleep.


For those that don't follow me @NHTProductions on Twitter, I was at the game yesterday. No where near the most boring game I had the pleasure of attending on the road, but certainly not the best. Somehow, despite all logic going in the other direction, I thought that the Rangers would finally - finally! - come out fired up and ready to play the "Game Seven" they claimed it was going to be for them.

Oh how mistaken I was, and they were. They treated it nothing like a "Game Seven." They treated it nothing like a playoff game. Nothing like a game with urgency, which is what it simply needed to be.

I wasn't happy when Prospal took that boarding penalty. I wasn't surprised to see Bergeron the first guy to go flying in to try and take him down for it either. To me that just set off one after another of "really, why?" moments in yesterdays game. "Really, why?" do you not shoot on your powerplay? "Really, why?" do you not keep the puck in Boston's zone? "Really, why?" do you...oh you get the picture.

The scuffles were expected with the two teams vying for a common, shared goal as the worst of the playoff participants - which, honestly, is exactly what the 8th seed in the East is.

The good goaltending was expected - Hank has played the Bruins very well and 1-0 is just about as common a score with Boston as you've gotten in his tenure here; Rask had the first shutout of his career in Boston during an afternoon game versus the Rangers. (yeah, I was there for that one too). Honestly, to some degree I was disappointed Thomas was not getting the start. I love Timmy, but the Rangers stood more of a chance against him.

Of course the Rangers would only have stood more of a chance against him and in this game had they treated it like they should have. But yeah, we know how that rolled.

The parade of penalties, the missed opportunities, the skating around like it's the ice capades and NOT your "Game Seven." That already meant they had no chance.

The final result just proved what we all pretty much knew, or should have known.

This team, as presently constructed, is just not good enough.


Now, it can be argued that when this team opened their season 7-1 they exceeded their ability. But I can also argue, still, somehow (again - why?) that during the second half of the season, they have come in below their ability. Not far below, but below nonetheless.

What the Rangers have going for them, well, it isn't much. But we've seen worse teams do better with less parts than the Rangers DO have.

The Rangers - disagree with me if you will - have one of the best goalies in the league - when he wants to be. Hank is not perfect, and he gives up too many goals of the "seriously now?" variety. But, if the Rangers do not have this guy, they do not have 31 wins, 28 of which are the King's.

And the Rangers, the mediocre team they are, but mediocre with moments of promise, wasted him this year. We've seen them hang him out to dry before (last year's 2-1, 1-0 heart-breakers still fresh in mind) and we saw them do it again to him this campaign. The guy is only human. He cannot be expected to be perfect when the team in front of him is so far from it. His effort, his talent, and his heart were outright wasted at times this year. (I've said it before if you had to pick just one guy on this team that cares and is torn up when the team loses, I'm chosing #30 every single time.)

Also to some degree wasted was Marian Gaborik's season. And let's call it what it was (even 10 games short of it's finale) - stellar. A guy that no one could known for sure would stay healthy (although we prayed and hoped and lit candles for it), for the most part did. At game number 72, he has 37 goals. That is of the team's 186. That is around 20%.

Let's all just be very honest with ourselves here on two things.

1) If Hank and Gaborik were not on this team, the Rangers would be a serious contender in the Taylor Hall (or is it Taylor Seguin) sweepstakes. (Although you all know Glennie would draft the non-existent 5th Staal brother, right?).

2) If Gaborik were not as good as he was this season, the Rangers games in the first half would not have been anywhere near as entertaining. He brought this team to life with some of his "damn, did he really DO that?" goals, even when they probably shouldn't have been.


I was thinking last night there is probably very good reasons why this blog has gone dark during large stretches this year. I won't go into them all, but one of them definitely has to be that I have no answers, no suggestions, and nothing really concrete to talk about regarding my favorite team.

Last year, there was the ever present musical chairs game of healthy scratch, the still-unanswered debate of just why Tom Renney hated Petr Prucha, the glaring lack of team personality, and a clear case of a team quitting on a coach, to discuss over and over - and over! - again.

This year we have a team with very marginal offensive talent, a team with (at present, future notwithstanding) a very below marginal defense, a team with what appears to be the absolute inability to play with heart, drive, and desire, and a team with a coach that, contrary to all promises he ever made, apparently fails to give a crap.

How am I supposed to talk about that?

On the surface it makes sense. This team is not very talented. No one should argue that much. But...

How am I supposed to guess why the team is playing as heartless and lifeless as they are?

How am I supposed to guess why the team that has everything (and yet nothing) to lose is still playing like they are 20 games ahead and can coast into the post-season?

And how, seriously, am I supposed to explain Tortorella's behavior? His departure from the scream and yell, go-go-go, "safe is death" mantra he was once known for?!


Seriously now - how?!


I don't get this team. I don't. I've made it clear I 'like' them (as individual players) better than last year. But that 'like' only gets you so far.

I don't get how a team that seriously - despite all odds stacked against it because again it isn't really THAT good - could be so close to the playoffs and do nothing to prove to the casual or the diehard fan that they, indeed, are genuinely trying to get there.

Tell me they've looked desperate? Tell me they've gone all out? Tell me they've "done all the right things" like they keep saying they have? There is no way they have looked like that. I don't get how or why, unless...

They are not trying to win.

I don't get how a coach that has never once hesitated to be looked at as a crazy man because he yells and screams and fights - suddenly looks like a man that has turned complacent, doesn't yell, and - if he does - only to tell someone they aren't being "engaged" enough when he the coach, in reality, looks anything but himself! Tell me how that makes sense? He's not acting like the John Tortorella I knew. He is not acting like the John Tortorella this team needed, and wanted, and expected. This just does not make any logical sense, unless...

He is not being allowed to coach how he wants to coach.

Now, I'm not sure I believe either of those - the "not trying to win" or the "not being allowed to." But what else can you say?

And THAT is probably a big reason why I haven't blogged more. Because, seriously, what can you say to - that. How do you answer - that.


Look, without getting too far into what is already probably a really long blog entry, I don't know what has happened.

There are some guys who you can't blame because they are NHL newbies and not everyone is going to become an elite powerplay quarterback in his first year (and now the world knows just how good Drew Doughty really is). So I'm not going to throw Gilroy and Del Zotto (and Anisimov for that matter) under the Rangers road bus here.

Just like I won't throw Hank, just like I won't throw Gaborik. Those are the two most blameless players the Rangers have.

But the overall and collective lack of effort by this team is what is the most inexcusable. And that falls on EVERYONE.

That is what I will take with me this season. They could have been better. Surely, any team is better when they apply themselves.

And if they are truly trying and applying themselves - oh gosh help us as Rangers fans.


Ten games left, and a marginal chance for a miracle. A miracle that would have to be caused to two other teams monumental collapses.

Funny, I picked Boston to finish 1st - 1st! - in the East. Their injuries, and man have they had injuries to key guys, took a lot of that chance away from them. Atlanta, I picked to finish out the playoffs, by a mile. As Boston lost players to injuries, Atlanta played goalie roulette and lost their franchise player to New Jersey.

And yet both of those teams are still in the hunt. Both of those teams have been able to overcome so much more - injuries and losing their best players.

The Rangers, mathmatically, are not eliminated. But we know in their hearts they are done. If they weren't done after the St. Louis game last Thursday, they were done after the non-show versus Boston yesterday.

We have to face reality.

The Rangers, not for nothing, really haven't had to overcome anything of major consequence. Gaborik out for a handful of games? That was the worst of it all?

That tells you right there how ill-equipt this team is, was, and truly is. They faced no real adversity. And they still came up empty in the end.


Rangers fan I am, and Rangers fan I'll remain. But this has not been a memorable season for the Blueshirts. I'll write more as their season closes down, and maybe have a moment of clarity, a moment where the answers come to me.

Eh, who am I kidding. There are no answers for this team. Just more and more questions that will probably never, ever be answered.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thoughts on the Rangers and Coyotes. . .

Too much to type on Twitter right now, so the blog lives for a night.

Tonight was the first night, for sure, that I thought the Rangers were done. Over. Finished. Kaput.

No lack of credit to St. Louis, but there was no reason, to me, the Rangers couldn't have gotten it done. And had they come out big after Drury's criticism of the team's "maturity" level after Tuesday's Habs diabacle, I thought maybe - maybe! - they'd have a shot.

But they didn't.

Hank looked shaky. The team failed to score 5 on 3. The team scored 3 goals and did not win. And after they scored their 3rd goal to tie, they gave up the go-ahead goal less than 2 minutes later.

Sound familiar?

A tale too often told at the Garden.

And one fans just do not want to hear, see, live.

And yet, they do. We do. I did.

I don't know what to say to it. Hank has kept the Rangers in games they should not have been. But tonight, he wasn't sharp.

The Rangers woes are the same they've had most of the season, save a few games. They can't score when they should. They can't hold a lead (or in this case tie). Their defense is pedestrian, at times.

I want this team to make the playoffs, surely. But they HAVE to win. They HAVE to do something about it. They CAN'T LOSE their way to the playoffs. They don't have that LUXURY this year.

So the NYRs wait until Sunday when they face off against the team they are trying to displace - Boston.

A very, very interesting and IMPORTANT matchup Sunday has turned out to be.

Look, I'm a Rangers fan. I will always hope they figure it out and find a way. I just think the chances got a lot slimmer tonight. I just don't feel there is any magic left. Sadly.


Which brings me to - the Phoenix Coyotes.

I know some people probably have no idea why I am so happy for this team. Although to me it's very clear. My favorite player got exiled there. Exiled to a team that had an uncertain future. But a team that, we have seen, is a very VERY VERY very legitimate team.

And as much as I root for his team because it is HIS team, I have grown to love this team. I think I respect Shane Doan more than almost anybody in this entire league. I think Bryzgalov got over-shadowed in Anaheim and finally - finally! - has been given his own true chance - and lived up! I think it's BRILLIANT - (and feels like it was done once, once, upon a time in New York. Cough 2005-2006) in New York?) - to have a plethora of Czechs on your team.

I also think they are a true example of a team. They never quit. They can be down 4-0, 3-0, 4-2 late in the game, and they keep going. They believe they can, and very often, they can. They rally around one another, in defeat, and in glory. They have unlikely heroes - like Aucoin and Korpikoski in the shootout, Lee Stempniak - the guy who just joined the team at deadline and has contributed significantly to their offense after it.

They do not score a ton - they score as a team. They display amazing puck support in a pack mentality way, and they make up for one another's errors. They have one of the most defensively strong games I've ever seen - and yet they are anything BUT boring.

Sure, the Coyotes have lost games 4-0, 3-0, but those are the extreme minority. They've shown they can win in almost every way - tonight's come from behind 4-3 SH win, as an example.

This team is 33-3-2 when they score first. (Read that again please). 33-3-2. Anyone in any phase, stream of life, wishes they had that type of consistency.

The Coyotes do.

And I'm proud of them.

I am a Rangers fan, promised in my heart years ago, and I will not relent.

BUT, I have never, ever, been the person that cannot hope, want, wish, and enjoy good for other teams. And if there is any team that I get to do that for - it's that team in the desert.

The team that since one Pete Prucha got traded last March, I followed more closely. The team that I followed even when he didn't play. The team that has now stopped being made up of Vernon Fiddler, Taylor Pyatt, Radim Vrbata, and NOW, to me, is made up of Fiddy!, Py-Py, and Vrby!

I do love this team. If Pete does not remail after next year (although I hope with all my heart he does, because they love and appreciate him) - I care for this team and know more about this team and its players that ANY team I've followed during the last 16 years save the Rangers. And the NYRs have left a lot of room for following other teams, especially come playoff time. This is the closest I've ever gotten to another "love."

Again, take nothing from New York. I'll love them forever. But loving the Coyotes too - means I get to feel more of that passion. And I need that. I love and appreciate that.

Tonight, the Coyotes set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44. Congratulations to them. A team that I, even despite the love, didn't think had it in them, even though I hoped and (biasedly) felt they maybe did. They are amazing, and wonderful, and I am proud to have followed them 99% of the time since March of 2009.

Bandwagon? It's been said.

Us Prucha fans jumped on before their was such a thing.

And we love #16.

But we LOVE them all! All those in maroon and white. All those in the desert. We support...and we believe.


P.S. 1 - Why - Why? - does it seem all these young college basketball athletes get it. Get the fleeting joy, the startling defeat, more than the hockey professionals. The joy, the sorrow, on their faces. That is what I love about sports. I miss the innocence. I really do.

P.S. 2 - I am sincerely and with extreme regret, sorry this blog has been so dark. I won't make promises for this season. I've been very busy, and very distracted. But...I am sorry. And I hope - hope! - going forward into the summer and next year, that it will be regularly updated once again. Who knows? Way things look, it may be an unofficial Coyotes board come playoff time! ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tums & Tylenol (Part 1) and Player Appreciation Day. . .

First of all, if you want to share a favorite moment for the Rangers, the Coyotes, a favorite player, or whatever, head over to the 2nd Annual Appreciate Your Players Day forum over at Some Like It Blue.

Just a fun little way to say good things about your team and your favorite players, before your team (and your favorite player) may look different after your GM is done with them!

;) Oh Sather, Sather and his Fisher Price calculator will be having fun tomorrow.

Not too much stupid fun, I hope.


Anyway, the TRUE Tums & Tylenol Day is July 1st, but the secondary T&T Day, thanks to who the Rangers GM is and the fact that we know all too well that fact, remains Trade Deadline Day.

As much as we hope the damage will be minimal, we have to fear.

As much as I'm fine if they do nothing, you have to fear they will.

As much as you think there are untouchables (Hank, Staal, Cally), you just fear in the back of your mind that Sather will crumble under the excitement of the day.

Can I get another sigh.


I'm going to be very busy tomorrow at work, but I've cleared time leading up to 3pm to be by my computer, so I can keep an eye and an ear out for news on one of hockey's most exciting days.

But keep the Tums & Tylenol close - just in case.

I know I will...