Friday, April 30, 2010

Keep Your Heads Up, Coyotes. . .

So the season that was successful, ground-breaking, and franchise record
setting, came to a not-so-happy ending for the 2009-2010 Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday night.

So what.

Woah, now, don't confuse the passive attitude with non-interest or disrespect. It's

Rather I don't want in any way to disrespect the team for all they did this season. To focus on the end and not the journey, in this case, would take away from all they accomplished. (And, man, did they accomplish a lot!)

Look, we'd all be in a much better state of mind if the Yotes powerplay didn't go dry in 5 out of 7 games, if regular season Lee Stempniak didn't forget how to score in the playoffs, and if Shane Doan didn't get so seriously hurt.

But...that's not the way it rolled. Sometimes all good intentions and better teams just don't get you there.

I think the Coyotes played well, and on many nights, as well as they could have. Games 5 and 7 didn't follow that mold. Many people thought they'd go down in 4 or 5 games.

Instead a squad of young, mostly inexperienced players took the two time
consequtive Western Conference champs to 7 games.

Hell, I thought the Coyotes would win in 6 games. Felt very confident in fact. Sometimes the good, and perhaps the better, teams fall.

Just ask Washington.


Anyway, think of the positives of the playoffs.

Shane Doan got back there. True it was only for 2+ games and he was severely injured. But think back to game 1. When he was told to have fun before game 1 he said, "don't worry I will," with his trademark, glorious Doan-ish smile.

Keith Yandle took a big step towards joining the next ranks of breakout defensemen in the league. His game 1 performance was dominant. The only bad news, he won't be a silent weapon much longer. He's too good.

Matthew Lombardi and Martin Hanzal stepped up in the faceoff circle. Vital parts of this team. Hanzal, in fact, had a masterful performance, even in games the Coyotes did not play well. Guy is sometimes a little penalty prone, but he is young and learning.

Ilya Bryzgalov may not have had his best games at all moments but the guy
carried the team as best he could when the once steady, well-disciplined
defense in front of him fell. He will only grow from this. He's too good a goalie to not get the chance to experience more playoffs and improve in big games.

And Petr Prucha, the oft-scratched, rarely counted upon in do-or-die situations in the past (well, at least in New York), had the best night in his young playoff career in Game 3. A key assist on his tempo-setting first shift, a goal that undressed 6-time Norris winner Nick Lidstrom, and a well deserved first star of the game honor. All on a nationally televised game. And when their captain was injured, it was #16 that skated with Lombardi and Woltek Wolski. Think someone has gotten
their confidence back?

Anyway, I think we should focus on that. Not the powerless powerplay, not the
defensive lapses, not the things we can't control. (And that seemingly the team could not control either).

They got a taste now. They will be hungrier next year. Get the nerves out of their system now, and work to fix what they can - like the powerplay. This team will be in good shape. I'm confident.

And the cool thing about it all. They did get there. It may not have been MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, but it was mission accomplished.

A team no one thought would even contend - did. And they did all of their fans proud - the fans that have supported for years, the fans in Phoenix, and the fans from afar. They did us proud.

So bravo to them. And thank you. I don't think we'll ever forget this season in the desert. It was truly something to marvel at and there are no words to describe how happy I was and satisfied I am to have been one of the many taking their journey with them.

Thank you, 2009-2010 Phoenix Coyotes. We'll see you next season.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2010 Playoffs - Second Round Predictions. . .

Predictions, Short and Sweet, and Here We Go...

BOS/PHI - Boston in 6. (I think Philly had a nice run, but I think the Bruins are peaking now, and have the goaltending. No disrespect to Boucher though; he's one of the ones that got them there. But where the Flyers matched up against NJ well, they may not have that luxury against Boston).

MTL/PITT- Pittsburgh in 6. (I'm saying this, and hoping against hope that I am wrong, wrong, wrong. Go Jaro!!)

SJS/DET - Detroit in 7. (Same deal. I hate to think the Coyotes woke a sleeping giant in Detroit, but they may have. Both have at times questionable goaltending, Nabokov because of brain cramps and Howard because of youth. But often when Detroit makes it out of a vulnerable first round situation, they sail all the way through, no matter who is in net. I have more confidence in Detroit sailing to the Final, even over Pittsburgh.)

VAN/CHI - Vancouver in 7 (Season was pretty even this year. My reasoning in Round 1 - I'm not going against the Sedins right now. And I'm not changing my answer now. Even though I knew the Hawks had a test w/the Preds, they found themselves lacking some offensive power at times. Maybe this is Vancouver's year).

And just because I write it, does not mean I want it, folks. I'm rooting Boston, Montreal, San Jose, and...actually I don't mind either the Hawks or the Canucks. Hawks would be a bigger story (USA wise) if they went all the way though, but I still have a soft-spot for the Canucks of old.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Speaking of Petr Prucha. . .

He nets an assist on the franchise record quickest goal in playoff history 29 seconds in, plays on fire all night, and, oh yeah, scores the game winning goal - as the Coyotes beat Detroit in Game 3 of their best of 7 series. He was named #1 Star of the Game!


Here are some photos. And a link to a great article on Get the Hankies out. (Again, not Lundqvist here).

"I finally have my spot in the lineup," said Prucha, who had 30 goals for New York in 2005-06 and 22 the following season before falling out of favor with the coaching staff. "It's always good to feel that you're important for the team and you can make something on the ice. I feel great."

"That was huge," Prucha said. "First shift, we had a 1-0 lead so we calmed down a little bit and took the momentum from them. We just kept going."

"That line, they compete hard, they do good things with the puck," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "When they chip in with some goals, that's really a bonus. They play against top players all the time. They're a group that really works well together."

"He's been a very good player for us all year," Tippett said. "I thought the last couple of weeks of the (regular) season and the first three games of the playoffs, he's been very good. Great work ethic. He's relentless on the puck, and that's what we need from that whole group."

"It's great for our confidence," Prucha said. "They stole one game from us in our house, and now we were able to do it in their house and we still have one more opportunity to do it one more time."

Confidence, right? All about a little confidence. =) *Oh and you are always a Star to us, Pete!

Go Yotes Go!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

P.S. The Line on Petr Prucha. . .

**I wanted to mention this in the other blog, but I forgot.**

Since he was, reason beyond all reasons, why I have followed the Coyotes for the last 14 months, and since I know many feel the same, here is the 2009-2010 line on #16:

79 Games Played
- Ties career high set in 2006-2007 season

13 Goals

- Ties his total from the last two NHL seasons and his most since 2006-2007(22)

9 Assists
- The fewest he's ever had in any NHL season. Previous low was 2007-2008 (10)

22 Points
- His most since 2006-2007 season (40)

23 PIM
- 1 major (fight against Comrie) and 9 minors. Not bad for a guy that draws more than he takes.

128 Shots

- Best season since 2006-2007 (136 - also his career high)

10.2 Shooting %
- Highest since 2006-2007 (16.2). This is big because it boosted his career total back up to 14.2; it also means he's shooting more, thankfully.

4 Powerplay Goals

2 Powerplay Assists

- Ties career high, reached in both 2005-2006 and 2006-2007

14:02 Average TOI
- Career highest with exception of 19 games played with Phoenix in 2008-2009

His Career line is now:

Games Played: 335
Goals: 78
Assists: 67
Points: 145
Plus/Minus: -4
PIM: 129
Shots: 550
Shooting%: 14.2
PPG: 31
PPA: 22
GWG: 8

What this means? I'm going to write more on our favorite later. Let the numbers speak for themselves for now. ;)

Why To Root For Phoenix/Coyotes Preview. . .

Phoenix Coyotes Preview!

Okay, as if it hasn't been alluded to enough on twitter and here - the
Coyotes are a great story.

An outstanding story.

A phenomenal story.

Ask anyone - okay almost anyone - to predict this team would have the year
they did. And they'd be lying if they said they knew.

This is a small rundown of what they did.

107 points(4th)
50 Wins (4th)
29 home wins (Tied for 3rd in league with Chicago, behind Washington and Vancouver)
9 game winning streak - tying a franchise record
36-3-3 record when scoring 1st goal (amazing!)

Best of the Best:
Goals - Vrbata (24)
Points - Doan (55)
Assists - Doan (37)

42 wins (3rd)
8 shutouts(2nd)
2.29 GAA(6th)
.920 Save% (T-8th)

107 points. (They had 79 last year!)

Good for 4th in the league behind Washington, San Jose, and Chicago. (Last year - they were 25th!)

This is the best season in franchise history!!

Read that again.

Their record against those teams, for those curious. Washington - 1 loss. San Jose - 2 wins, 1 loss, and 3 shootout losses. Chicago - 3 wins, 1 loss. (By the way, each of those three losses was by 2 goals.)

Not half bad.


If you haven't had the pleasure of watching them play, this is how they do it.

Solid goaltending. Defensive zone pressure. Unparalleled puck support.
Scoring from defense, scoring from an unlikely source of players. A team
concept. A true team support system.

In short, and since 1994, the most complete team I've had the pleasure of

The coolest part? They play so well so often. They are that good. Even cooler? When they aren't playing good enough - they don't need to be told. They know it, and they work to correct it.

Refreshing isn't it?

There are no superstars here. There doesn't need to be. They have an arguable candidate for best captain in the league, a Vezina worthy goalie, and a guy who is all but assured of the Jack Adams as coach.

But they have something else. Something perhaps intangible. This us-against-the-world. This pack mentality. This if you score I am as happy for you as if it had been me deal. A true sense of team. Of having everyone's back. Of the greater good of the team.

I figure I watched in full around 60 games, but part of around 78 this season. So I
feel I know this team well enough to speak to them.

The reasons I think they can and will beat Detroit are:

1) They never give up. This team has been down 2, 3, 4 goals and they've come back. And its not as if this was once or twice in October. All season. They can never be counted out.

2) There is always someone to step up. When Upshall went down, Vrbata
stepped up. When he slowed down, Lombardi picked up his game. When scoring slowed overall again, Lee Stempniak showed the world their is life beyond Toronto. This team may not have scored the most goals, but they've had the most balanced scoring in what they've had. True getting it done the team way.

Look, is playing Detroit my favorite matchup for the Coyotes? No. But not my least favorite. That would have been Vancouver. As good as the Coyotes have been Vancouver has made them look not as good on given nights. But Detroit is still Detroit, I'm not so blind to see that.

However, I really feel people easily dismissing this team are looking at how great Detroit has been (and still is) and forgetting just how good the Coyotes are.

And yes, the Coyotes have not done this - this playoffs thing - as a team. But I think the most important thing is that their heads be in the right place. I trust Shane Doan. I trust Adrian Aucoin. I trust Dave Tippett. I trust these guys will help keep the younger guys in check.

One game does not a series make.

I think Detroit will get a game or two in there. It may even be tonight because it may just be "TOO MUCH" for the Coyotes in Game 1 with the crazy home crowd and the first White Out in way too long.

But the other thing I alluded to about the Coyotes. If they make mistakes tonight, they will come out a better team for it on Friday night for Game Two.


Coyotes fans, enjoy and embrace. Your team is phenomenal and I've loved being able to root for them on this journey! Rangers fans, when you are done rooting against New Jersey (or Philly), Pittsburgh, etc, root for the Coyotes! They are the feel good story of the year.

One last thing and then we'll drop the puck. Why not the Coyotes?! Even if you don't think they have ANY chance of beating Detroit....has this team not obliterated everything almost every person thought of them THIS ENTIRE YEAR!?

Why not them?!

Why not the Coyotes?!

Join the Pack! ~ Go Coyotes!

Let the playoffs begin!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round One

**Wrote these yesterday. Decided I will not tweek them today. Tempted but, what the hell. Going to go with my first instincts. Why? Cause that did so well the first time... ;)**

Okay - without all the fuss because, quite frankly, I am too tired to do
more than that right now.


WASH/MTL - Washington in 6. (I think Halak can steal a game or two if he is on, but don't think the Caps will go home in Round 1)

NJ/PHI - Philly in 7. (Believe it or not, I will be rooting for Philly in this one. I don't know if they have enough to beat NJ but I had to pick an upset somewhere so, well, this is it)

BUF/BOS - Buffalo in 5. (I admire the Bruins recent play and if Rask can get hot, this is a whole different series. Meanwhile unless he stumbles, its Miller's moment to shine. He will be motivated).

PIT/OTT - Pittsburgh in 5. (And I will hate every minute of it.).


SJS/COL - San Jose in 4. (Allow for an off game for the Sharks, maybe, but I'm picking the sweep to come here. Colorado has trailed off much recently so I'm not sure it's fair to expect much more. San Jose likes to stumble, but unless they out and out crash, they will make it to RD 2).

CHI/NASH - Chicago in 7. (Pekke Rinne could make this interesting, and I
think this will be a better than expected series, but go with the Hawks. Is
this their year?)

VAN/LAK - Van in 5. (I like both these teams, with a slight edge to the Kings - because how cool is it they are back! But if I'm a betting person, I'm not going against anyone named Sedin right now. Sorry).

PHX/DET - Phoenix in 6. (The matchup I will be watching the closest for sure. You can never count Detroit out of anything, until they prove otherwise, so they get a game or two in there, but there is no way that I believe all the good solid goaltending, defensive stinginess, team attitude and support that got them there, won't push the Coyotes right on to the next round.)

Enjoy Round One everybody!! =)

Rangers Season End Rambling - Part 1:

Even though I said it'd be delayed, here is the first of what we can assume will be many rambling thoughts on the NYRs and their now over 2009-2010 season:

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

A handful of home games ago, I stopped and took note of who I wanted on the team next season, even before all of the late season push had gotten underway. I viewed at it "in an ideal world" of no contracts, no ties, just who I 100% wanted:

Del Zotto

Not a bad team, really. Short 3 defensemen (gosh help us) and a line. But still...

(And please no one take offense that Dubinsky is absent from the above. I'm going on what I felt at the moment so in fairness I will not change now. Stones down, please ;) )

Voros and Boyle were borderline players to me as in I like what you did (Voros does deserve praise for being such a good teammate and stepping in during the 11th hour when needed. No hard feelings) and I'd keep you, but I'd rather fill those places with younger players, if we are being honest.

Eriksson was a nice complement.

And Jokinen, well, he was as useless as everyone in Florida, Phoenix, and Calgary could have told us.

However, if we step out of fantasy land and into the land of realistically speaking, the NYRs most likely are stuck with Drury, Redden, and Rozsival. So that changes the whole landscape.

And takes the fun out of my little game...


The season that passed and the way it ended. Want some initial thoughts? Sure. Okay.

The New York Rangers were only half a team when it counted. Only less than
half a team all year.

I want to reward the guys that did show up for this team. The ones that got
it. The ones you felt contributed.


Keep those that made strides or got it done before. Cally, Dubinsky, Del Zotto.

And try to not blow up the rest. Maybe they don't need a full rehaul. Maybe
they just need to retool one or two things.

But can they?

Age old question. Drury is going into year 4 of 5. Redden, year 3 of 6.
Rozsi year 3 of 5.

And still, I don't know how you combat that. And as much as you can never blame
them for accepting Fisher Price Glen's contracts and as much as you can't
forgive them for not performing anywhere half of what those contracts are
worth, where exactly is the middle ground? When do you cut the ties?

And I ask that more of R&R than Captain Mumbles, because let's face it.
Although Drury is worth one third of his contract, he's the most non-pc for
Torts to part with and the quickest to go away contract wise. I can live with one of
three and its his that they can best do the same.

But two years ago the hockey experts and I said R&R's contracts would
cripple the NYRs for years to come.

How is that any less true two years later?

I'm not saying two moves would make this team a contendor. I'm saying two
more moves would better prove just how far away they really are or aren't.

A real defensemen besides Staal. A real secondary or support scoring player
behind Gaborik.

These are no less important than they were two years ago. In fact, they are
drastically more important.

The teams around the NYRs are getting better, not worse. The Rangers saw
relative mediocrity get them into the playoffs in the past and within one
shootout win of it this year.

That won't be the case next year. We can lie to ourselves. They can lie to
themselves, but really now... Even if they did, how far would they go?


I liked this team better, surely. I loved that they didn't trade the farm
on draft day. I love that shedding Kotalik and Higgins got us Prust! I
really do.

And as much as it sucked to go out when they did, I wasn't torn up.
Dissapointed yes. As much as they play for the chance, we root for the same

And it didn't happen.

But to say it wasn't something we were legitimately expecting would be ludicrous.

Meanwhile. It may be a good thing. Too easy to sneak in at game 82 and
ignore games 10 through 70. Its not my job to analyze what went wrong,
thankfully, but I hope to goodness someone uses this time off to do so.

Players. Coaches. Management.

As much as I would have liked those 4 extra games to cheer for, I would
like this even more.

I will be fine, watching other hockey. Teams like the Coyotes who jumped
from 25th to 4th (and 4th in pts) in the league.

Say it can't be done? They are proof that if you build a team of the right players who buy into the right system of the right coach - yes you can.

Seriously, you can.

I guess as much as we would all have liked to think so, the NYRs were just
not that close.

And won't be.

Not yet.

I do hope that someday - someday soon - the NYRs will give us the promise that
is possible for them too.

Because, it feels damn good to be a Rangers fan sometimes. Friday night was an example of that.

I hope next year we get to feel more of THAT!

2009-2010 Analysis of Predictions. . .

**Like every single thing I planned to do this year on the blog, this is one more thing that I'd have liked to get to spend more time on, or do better on, in general. Alas, this is what you get. Cause playoffs start tomorrow!**

Okay, here comes one of my favorite times of the hockey calendar. Not just the start of playoffs - yay! - but a time to reflect on just how horribly wrong - or surprisingly accurate - my predictions were from the start of the season. Without further ado we bring you first the Western Conference:

1) San Jose
2) Detroit
3) Vancouver
4) Anaheim
5) Chicago
6) Calgary
7) St. Louis
8) Edmonton

How It Rolled:
1 San Jose
2 Chicago
3 Vancouver
4 Phoenix
5 Nashville
6 Detroit
7 Los Angeles
8 Colorado

Overall 4/8

What Made Me Look Good:

- Picked Vancouver to win their division, and they did. Probably one of the only things I can brag about in the West. Or period this year. And, yes, it's the twins team now. Injury to Daniel or not, Henrik has made leaps and bounds and now is getting much more full on league recognition for being one of the best, period.

- "I may be alone in this, but I do not see how Bouwmeester makes this team THAT much better. He improves the defense, but even though he was lauded as the best thing out there, he's never proven to me that he's anything beyond the most boring intermission interview next to "Captain Mumbles" (Chris Drury)"

I can't take pride in much, so I'll take pride in this. In this season, Bouwmeester has 3 goals. Damn, even Wade Redden has 2 goals! Wade's also - how, we do not know - a +8. Jay-Bo ended the season a -4. So for $100,000 less, Redden is...a steal. (Kidding, kidding).


- San Jose - "Who's to say what will happen after, but I expect them to be one of the best in the West in the regular season;" My other correct position pick here. Of course the question is always, but where to go from here?

Why I Suck At This -

- I not only thought Edmonton would be better, I thought they'd be a playoff team. Wrong. Wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.

- Colorado "In fact, my only thought, as previously mentioned, is that I feel strongly that Colorado will end up last in the conference for a second year in a row.But anything can happen, right?"

How wrong I was about Colorado. I picked them to finish 30th of 30 teams. They have secured themselves a playoff berth. Congrats to them. Very impressive group of young players there.

- Ducks - "This team is stacked. I see no reason why they won't be at the top of the conference." haha, haha. Ha. Yeah, sadly I'm happy (minus Hiller, and Koivu, and Selanne) this team gets a break. Time for the other southern cali team to get some playoff love.

-PHX - "But I am just not sure that they are able to overcome all the emotional and on-ice difficulties." Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And never so happy to be wrong.! ;)

- Nashville - "but if I had to guess, this is not a year they make the playoffs or come as close as they had been." - Pekke Rinne solved all doubts. They can win on defense.

And now, the Eastern Conference:

1) Boston
2) Washington
3) Philadelphia
4) Pittsburgh
5) Carolina
6) New Jersey
7) Rangers
8) Florida

How it Rolled:
1) Washington
2) New Jersey
3) Buffalo
4) Pittsburgh
5) Ottawa
6) Boston
7) Philadelphia
8) Montreal

Okay, I think based on the general suckiness of this, I will do one more year (2010-2011) and if I suck this badly again...I give up the prediction game. (maybe...) Horrific. Disgusting. And this is the conference I predicted 6-8 in last year. Now I'm down to 5 of 8, which sounds better than it really is, if I'm being honest with myself.

What Made Me Look Good:

"Until someone can prove to me that Carey Price is the real deal, I will still think them stupid for wasting a perfectly better and perfectly willing goalie in Jaroslav Halak."

I've been touting Halak for years. It only took most of the season and past Olympic break for some fans in MTL to see that the guy wasn't a joke. And this IS NOT a knock on Shane Doan's cousin here.

Caps "I believe they'll be where they were last year, on top of the division and at the top of the conference." I know, I know. No one saw this one coming!

Why I Suck At This:

Boston "Do they even miss Kessel?" Yeah, okay. I know we'll never be able to say for sure how Boston would have done had Thomas had a better year and Savard not had so many injuries, but I guess we can say, yes, Kessel did mean something more to this team than I thought.

And for the Rangers. . .

"The Rangers are a better team with the coach they now have - with his go-go-go attitude and his hatred for anything less than 100% effort. This team may finally come to know what accountability means."

I can stop there right?

(More Rangers analysis on the way, as promised.)

So overall, a crappy follow-up in year two to predictions. (And I apologize because I would love to have taken a deeper look at just who improved/declined and by how much, as well as answer some key questions. Unfortunately, as this year proved, not enough time in the day). But predictions are just that. There is no perfect system. One less injury? One better road trip? The league is so close that may just be the difference between in and out, and 9th and 14th. To be honest.

We'll see how I year!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rambling Postponed. . .

Okay, time constraints may just prevent me from writing the Rangers final thoughts I had planned on last night. But by the end of the week, I will get some thoughts on here.

Also, promised, and more time sensitive - review of regular season predictions and new predictions for playoffs.

As I just mentioned on Twitter, I did actually write my playoff predictions. I will just wait until tomorrow.

Sit tight, Rangers fans. Take a day, two, five, to decompress. We'll have an, well, an entire summer to think, discuss, re-hash, and re-hash - again - this team and what exactly went wrong in the 2009-2010 season.

To be continued. . .

The Pre-Amble. . .

Look, I am not going to make any gracious and over-the-moon gestures here. The NYRs are not in the playoffs because for, well, umm, 2/3rds of the season they did not seem to care, work hard enough to make us believe they cared, get the job done.


The NYRs of the last 10 games. The team that went 7-2-1 in their last 10. Those guys I will salute, tip my beer to.

It probably wouldn't be so miserable - and it is - if they just faded into obscurity. But...they fought. They fought, they clawed, they tried. They had heart, on some level, perhaps, for the first time all year. They had...something.

And that does count.

As much as losing the playoffs on day 82 counts.

More than losing on day 1, or day 50, I guess.

So, to the NYRs who I know gave their heart and soul, their 100%, I salute you. I hope you are back next year.

I'll leave it at that, for now. And do the post-mortem on the NYRs, the embarassing re-hashing of the playoff predictions, and some go-fight-win words for our adoptive maroon and white brothers in the desert tomorrow.

Until then. Thank you NYRs for the ride. When we signed on for loyalty for life, we never said it would be easy. It isn't. But thanks for making us something. Maybe someday it will all come together the right way. Until then...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Extra Effort. . . ?

Well, to start, since I wrote the last post following the Boston game, the Blueshirts have gone 5-0-1 and garnered 9 of the last 10 available points. They've done it with grit, they've done it with tenacity, and they've done it with heart.

For that I give them a hearty bravo.

And, of course, a small chastizing for not having started doing that - playing hard, coming from behind, winning! - 10 games prior. You know, so we wouldn't be watching our team, with four games remaining, and seriously having no idea whether or not they'll make the playoffs.

As much as it's in the NYRs hands to win - and win out - it's in the hands of the others surrounding them - Philly, Boston, Atlanta. The Rangers must win, but two of the above must falter as well.

I won't say it's over til it is and they can very much still make the playoffs - they can - but it's been fun to watch them over these last week of games. It really has.

A shame it wasn't sooner, but...again...what can we say?


Which brings me to The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, the annual award as voted by the fans for the player that goes "above and beyond the call of duty."

Normally, almost ever year in fact, I have a clear cut favorite, a "that's my guy," a "he's the one."

This year, I am in a quandry. I come up with two answers.

a) No one

b) A bunch of someones.

Last year, Ryan Callahan exemplified the award and he deservedly won it. My rational was explained here.

He gave his all, every night, but more importantly, it was not expected of him. Who was Ryan Callahan? I mean sure he was great, the fans loved him, but he was not the guy anyone expected to be "that guy" going into the year. But he was, when all was said and done, the ONLY guy it seemed, that showed up and gave 100% every single game.

Well, even Ryan Callahan couldn't live up to his own billing this season. I love the guy. Think the Rangers are a better team for having him. I hope he stays a life-long Ranger.

But Ryan Callahan doesn't even make my cut.


I will again go back to the days when the Award was given to the Jed Ortmeyers, the Sandy McCarthys, the Matthew Barnabys. The guys that weren't the highest paid, the guys that didn't play the most minutes, but the guys that got the job done, did the little things, and did them humbly, with the team in mind.

I've always had a very specific vision of this, and that's why, oftentimes, one player just jumps out at me.

This year, not so. I mentioned in my Ryan Callahan epic of last year, that I didn't think this award was for the highest paid or for the team MVP. Sometimes it works that way. Maybe when Lundqvist won it in 06 he was our MVP (next to Jagr of course). And maybe on last year's at times disaster ridden teams, Cally was our MVP. I can accept both of those.

But I hesitate to do the same this year. Instead, I'll give you a handful of guys, and see where we go from there.

Lundqvist, to some degree, has gone above and beyond his expectations for himself and that we have of him. More-so, at times, than even last year, he's had to carry this team. Go further than we thought he could. Further than we should expect. For that, I'm okay if he gets the award. He should be one of our best players, yes. But we are spoiled rotten by how he's kept the Rangers in this playoff race at all. No Hank - no chance.

Gaborik, in any normal sense, would not have my vote for this award. He's paid the most money and we had amazing expectations of him. But did we? I'd consider Marian Gaborik for this award not based on the fact that he is the second half of our MVP tandem (Hank the other), but because with his injury-riddled past - who could have legitimately seen this happening? A 41-goal season? Only a relative few man games lost to injury? A stretch for much of the season where he scored what seemed like 50 percent of the teams goals? (In actuality, he's got 41 of the teams 210 - so 20%). Even though we knew he potentially could, and hoped against hope that he would, can we honestly say that we knew this would happen? I can't.

Prospal, even though he has trailed off as the season has gone on, has been perhaps the biggest surprise. I know he only got paltry $$ because he knew Tortorella, had no other offers at the moment, and, perhaps, understood that thanks to Fisher Price Glen the NYRs simply had no more to give, but he has been the biggest steal the Rangers have. He's one goal shy of 20, is second on the team in points with 56, and is a plus 10. And those smiles after someone scores. I can believe, for a while, he was the only true veteran leader these kids were looking up to. Having been around, having won a Cup, having been a positive person to be around. The Rangers are much better for having Prospal. If he's stay (sadly for the again paltry $$ they'd be sure to give him) I'd love to have him in blue next season.

I'm not sure if anyone else would give a vote to the guy I'm going to talk about next, but I would. (And did).

Erik Christensen. Erik Christensen may have just blown up anyone's expectations of him when the Rangers claimed him off the waiver wire in early December. Why? Because I don't think anyone had ANY expectations for this kid. I heard of him, saw him play sparingly, but I sure didn't. I didn't think he'd be the guy that could play with Gaborik. I didn't think he could be the guy winning faceoffs. I didn't think he could be the guy making those sweet moves (goal on Brodeur, set-up to Drury on goal on Brodeur). Heck, right there alone we should love him - he plays well against Brodeur! Kidding aside though, to me, Erik Christensen may just be the best true example of "above and beyond." The guy may have made it clear he had to try hard because this was, perhaps, his last shot. But he didn't let the pressure get to him. Not on the ice, or off of it. For putting aside those pretty moves for a minute, the top reason I respect Erik Christensen? He tells it like it is. Not the "we did what we had to do, things just didn't go our way," variety to often spun in the NYR lockerroom. But real, to-the-core honest assessment. Of himself and of the team. I may have thought nothing of him coming onto this team, but once he was on it, I think he has cemented himself as a valuable asset and someone who clearly gets what it means to "Be a Ranger!"

And there you have it, my (one-less-than) handful of players who I can see winning the award, for very different reasons. If I have to cast my vote here, I pick Erik Christensen, for getting back to what I felt the award was truly about. But any of these guys are very deserving.

Ah, it's been a weird year in Rangerland. I love this team when they play the way I know they can. I hate that they wait so long to do it.

Four more games to go. Where the team will end up...they have to win to find out.