Monday, October 25, 2010

Five Things About Rangers/Bruins and Rangers/Devils (Games 6/7 - 2010/2011). . .

A little behind here, but I'm forgiven because the Rangers won both weekend games (and 3 in a row...), right?

Well, regardless, a combined 5 Things:

*Two pretty solid defensive efforts from the NYRs the last two games. And equally importantly - two pretty solid team efforts. Sticking up for one another. Skating. Passing. Puck support. You know, the good things.

*I was kinda surprised the Boston/Rangers game on Saturday was so nasty. Bruins/Rangers games since the lockout have been low scoring affairs (1-0, 2-1 shootout, the like; St. Patrick's Day Massacre of '07 notwithstanding). But this Saturday's game not only had goals (5 of 'em) but nasty stuff. I seriously do not remember as much of this in a long time. Sure, Boston didn't like it when Avery skated into Thomas with his characteristic "what," but Sjostrom took a punch to the face, and it was over...right? Who knows. Kinda made it fun to watch, though. So long as no one got hurt.

*Speaking of hurt. Accidents happen. It's a fast game. When Prust went down, bloody, and thrashing, that hurt to watch. Thank goodness he was okay. And kudos to him, coming back for Sunday's game, and playing a career high in time on ice. Good stuff.

*I know it should get old, Hank outdueling Brodeur. But you know, it doesn't. Why? Because for so long (re: too long, TOO long, embarassingly TOO long) the Devils owned the Rangers. I have no problem that the Rangers seemingly have control over the rivarly for the moment. It's kinda fair. Now, I still prefer a Rangers/Devils rivalry that is, indeed, a rivarly. Close games, intensity, fight from both teams. And, thankfully, these have remained so. I like six games a year, much better than the eight though. There is a such thing as too much of a good thing.

*Special teams. Hmm. Rangers scored a powerplay goal in each game. Allowed one in Boston. Held NJ scoreless yesterday. The bad: They are taking way too many penalties, and so far, their penalty kill has not been as essentially perfect as the last two years. The good: Their powerplay, even though it's not scoring, does not look as bad as it has in years past. They are moving the puck! Puck. Movement. Amazing, right? Also, getting some shots on net from the defense never hurt, now did it? They may just have the right idea. Now they just need to work on capitalizing on it.

A bonus video for you all. The lovely GWG against Boston from Marc Staal, who although taking too many silly penalties recently, still looks great with the "A" on his sweater:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Five Things About the Rangers/Leafs (Game 5 - 2010/2011). . .

Alright, and here we go:

*Yay for Marty Biron! Really happy for him. I had a hunch (expressed on Twitter) that it was right to start him in TO. Hank, for whatever reason, does not have his best games in Toronto - well, most of Canada - so why not give Biron the go. Not only did he win, he played well. And stopped what has been a hot Maple Leafs team. Good for him, - a really good guy. Congrats on his first win as a NYR.

*Ruslan Fedotenko led the Rangers with 5 shots on goal and got his first goal as a Ranger tonight. But, he had the right idea. The big thing is winning. And if more guys can produce on the goal sheet, the Rangers will do more of that winning thing.

*When Anisimov scored on the feed from Rozsival, and was right on the doorstep to do so, I asked myself - why is that so uncommon. Perfect scenario. Perfect looking goal. Kudos Anisimov for making it look smooth, but Rozsival has impressed in the small ways so far this year. Shots from the point. A few crafty passes. I think - maybe - he's finally back on track. Worth $5 million. No way. But a serviceable part of this team. He can be.

*Despite all the Avery/Komisarek/Gaborik/Armstrong talk going into tonight's game, the only true revenge would be to do exactly what they did - win. Win for themselves. Win for their team. And win to get themselves on track, and the Leafs off of whatever track of success they've been on. 2 points. Much needed.

*Kessel had 3 shots in over 20 minutes, and was a -1 on the night. Guess we can give some credit to Marc Staal for playing the shutdown role on him. Pretty effective job.

OH and speaking of Kessel. This is horrible, but it's really funny. I saw this floating around on Twitter. Down Goes Brown has some amazing stuff, and this is one of my favorites:

Leafs Delivering Tickets



Meanwhile, in Coyote land, Petr Prucha has been scratched two games in a row, bringing horrible visions of Tom Renney to mind, and making my twitter explode in dis-satifaction. Not good for his confidence. Hope this is not a pattern, or we'll see lovable ball of fire playing in Europe next year. :(

Has It Really Been Two Years. . .

I realized once I got back and ran around like crazy for a week or so, that I'd somehow missed this anniversary. I didn't hear as much about it this year as we all did last year, but I found this really nice write up I wanted to share on Alexei Cherepanov.

"It's been two years now, and I often wonder how he would have succeeded in the NHL. Would he be playing alongside Marian Gaborik? Maybe leading a line of his own? Would he have broken any offensive records for a rookie? These are all questions, unfortunately, we will never know the answer to. The two years ago seems like it was yesterday--- it is incredible how fast time flies."

MVP Gotham

Wanted to link back to some finds from two years ago.

Hard to believe it's been two years, and still hard to believe it happened at all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Five Things About the Rangers/Avalanche (Game 4 - 2010/2011). . .

Okay, much belated Five Things here. But we'll try to get some thoughts down here.

*Marc Staal was given the A, as voted by the coaches, at least in the absense of Vinny Prospal. I am obviously a big fan of this move. I think it shows good things to give this kind of confidence to the young guys, the important pieces of the team. And as proven by his contract, the team is buying into Marc as a key member of the team. Happy to see this, I hope he does well.

*How disheartening are Colorado's two goals in like 30 seconds? The Rangers didn't appear to play bad to start the game, but, they can't do that. Deflating. And that has just been the story for years with the Rangers. They have mental collapses at bad times. Hard to recover, especially when you aren't scoring goals...

*What happened to the goals? I mean, look, I get it. Gaborik is not there, but correct me if I'm wrong, Gaborik was not the main source of offense so far - this year. Last year - 20% of it! But this year, guys like Stepan, Fedotenko, etc. Now, granted, Stepan is young. It's not like he was going to score 3 goals every game. So he's forgiven. But I'd like to see that line and the Dubinsky/Anisimov/Callahan line spread some goals out between them. This team is not going to win if they don't score.

*The penalty kill has not been as good as it used to be. Can it really all be Drury's absence? I...don't think so. And not for not having faith that the Captain is good at that, but I just can't reach that far. Something else isn't right on the defensive side. And it shouldn't be Drury. He may be one of the top penalty killers, but as I've said before, so many have been able to do it, and do it effectively (and without breaking fingers). I'm going to watch closer next game and see what's up. No matter how pathetic the powerplay has been for years, the NYRs have had a very impressive penalty kill for years now. They can't afford, and I don't want, to see them getting away from that.

*Colorado is a good team. They were last year; I think they'll be again. Liles is having a great start to the year. And Stewart is becoming quite a player. (Glad I have him on fantasy. - As much as I hated his two goals for the sake of the game, I took them for my "other" team). Interesting to see where they net out, in the competitive Western Conference.

A few more random league thoughts tomorrow. I've been ignoring the league! Oh no!

But again, I'm really just realizing that hockey season has started. I love getting home from work and turning on XM radio and there's a game on. Any game. It's a great feeling. Hockey. I <3 it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

5 Things About Rangers/Leafs (Game 3 - 2010/2011). . .

Alright. The Rangers home opener came and went in style. What kind of style...not quite sure yet. Some thoughts...


*I know we've seen some dreadful periods in the past from the Blueshirts, especially in the second frame, but - damn - that must have been one of the all-time worst. Ron Wilson was right - the Leafs could have/should have scored a lot more the way the NYRs were skating.

*Speaking of the Leafs, I was tempted to tweet last night: So, someone told the Leafs they could play hockey - brilliant! (Or something along those lines). The Leafs, to me, in the last handful of years, were this big team. Literally, as in big. Tall, forceful, but doing very little with either. Last night, I saw that big, tall team - do something. Skate, pass, and play as a team in a way I haven't in about 8 years. Good stuff. Not for the NYRs and for the rest of the East, if it keeps up, but we all had to figure Burke had a plan. Maybe this is the year it finally takes shape a little more.

*So I spent the days leading up to the Rangers home opener dreading Drury on the first line with Gaborik. - Guess I really didn't need to worry too much about that, huh? Horrible. I like Drury the person, so I hate that he fought to come back only to go right back out, for what may be double the time. But, I can't lie, I hate that 20% of last year's goals went out of the game with him in Gaborik. Horrible. I hope they both recover quickly - Gaborik super quickly. I can't remember walking out of a home opener feeling so disappointed in a long time.

*Without two players, the fact that the Rangers made it a game in the 3rd period was a credit to them, if a small credit. Doesn't make up for sleepwalking through the second. Doesn't make up for the stupid mistakes. Toronto may be a good team, but...anyway. Credit for the night goes to Brian Boyle - a marvelous effort for him and another example (like half of Toronto) of guys who are big/tall and can learn to use their size. So happy for him that he is. Vital for his place on the team, but a guy we like to cheer for in our own right. Number two on this list of credit - Sean Avery. Not a perfect game from Sean, surely, but one of the more visible Rangers for sure. He's got to keep this momentum up. He's too important, especially now with all the injuries depleting the team.

*Finally a question. Where did the offense go? The team leading in offense in the league going in, mustered what, like, 9 shots through two periods? If Boyle didn't have an offensive show for the ages, and the Rangers come back in the 3rd to make it a more respectible total and - quite honestly - steal a point, that may have just been one of the worst offensive efforts I've seen in a while. True, Toronto may have a goalie right now in Giguere, but he wasn't tested. I'd say nearly enough, but I mean at all. The Rangers are not defensively strong enough to win 2-1, 1-0 games anymore. They are going to have to win the 6-3, 5-2 way. But to do that, you need to score goals. Simple as that.

Alright, another game come and gone. Rangers look middle of the road right now. I'll be curious to see how they do Monday against the Avs, and in facing Toronto two more times real soon on the schedule. They have some pieces, and I still do really like this team - but last night was not endearing. I'm not going to lie and pretend in any way that it was.

Monday, October 11, 2010

5 Things About Rangers/Islanders (Game 2 - 2010/2011). . .

Welcome back! =)

Before I get to any of the Coyotes/Prague stuff (which I will) just wanted to start with some comments on today's NYRs game. I was not able to see Saturdays. Sounded like a fantastic game. And as upset I couldn't see Stepan's amazing performance live - simply thrilled for the kid. He has been impressive and this is only the beginning. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, there was a game on the Island today. I just finished watching in its entirety, hence the delay.


* Again, I didn't see Game 1 of the season, but both Callahan and Dubinsky looked much improved to me in today's game. Untimely penalties aside, of course. These two players need to be two of the team's most important. I saw almost indifferent play (indifference, Callahan? I know, I didn't think it possible either), from both in most of the pre-season that I saw. Glad to see they've stepped up a bit. Everyone else was doing so and proving themselves; these staples to the team had no choice but to do the same.

* I thought the team, for the majority of the game, passed well. After so many years of watching a collection of epic lack of connective passes, this team has a good sense of where their teammates are, and I'm liking what I'm seeing. We all know Gaborik can stickhandle with the best of them, but how nice to see, for example, the connection formed between Stepan, Avery, and Fedotenko. Three guys in serious question going into camp about where they stood. Three guys that in the pre-season and today's game that I feel really good about. Stepan needs some form of stability because he's a rookie. Avery needs some form of stability because, well, he's Avery. Good things all around.

* Speaking of Avery. I was on twitter earlier and desperately wanting to see the link everyone was posting. I just now watched after the game was over. Look. I never loved what Avery did two years ago. It was certainly not necessary and certainly distasteful. But I was clear in defending the fact that he is not a criminal, not a villian - any more than the anyone else in this league - and that his suspension was in my opinion both excessive and unnecesssary and certainly having to do more with who he was than what he did. I still don't doubt that. So we take Wisniewski. Crude - yes. Unnecessary - probably. Worth six games - no. Worth anger management - certainly no. But, for the league to do nothing would be wrong. If Avery's remarks were crude, hurtful to Dion Phaneuf and his girlfriend, and unbecoming an NHL player, how can the NHL disciplinarians look at what happened today and say that Wisniewski's actions were not a) crude and b) unbecoming an NHL player. To me that's clear as day. So I'll be very curious how this shakes out. The NHL has already looked foolish in their a) suspending Avery so harshly in the first place and b) being so biasedly unwelcoming in his return to the NHL later that season. If they make no example of this, they pretty much prove what we already know - do what you want in this league, just as long as your name isn't Sean Avery.

* A shame that the Rangers took those untimely penalties late in the third that allowed the game to get away. And a shame that it was Marc Staal, arguably the Rangers best 5-3 penalty killer (next to Hank) that was in the box for the high-sticking call. Still doubting how valuable he is? I'm not saying the Islanders don't score on the PP there, but I'm kind betting they don't score twice.

* Speaking of the defense, how beautiful is it to see the shots coming from the point, like evidenced in Girardi's and Del Zotto's goal. The Rangers have the guys that can do this (Staal hit a post in the game, and Rozsival has been known to hit the net from time to, well, time). They have to do it. I see this team being more offensive than last year, but it has to come from the defense. The NYRs started last season getting those contributions, and then it disappeared for most of the year. It can't happen. Look at successful teams, and know, it can't happen.

What can I say - I like this team. I - for the first time in a what seems like a really, really long time - like pretty much every person on this team. So far they've looked good, shown good work ethic, quickness to the puck. I like it - a lot. I like them - a lot.

But, point is, let's not get ahead of ourselves. One, because two games never does a season make. Obviously. And two, because, for the last two years the Rangers, too, have started the season well - amazingly well. And, then proceeded to stumble and flounder and go up/down, up/down, up/getting the picture here...? So, it's early. It's still early.

More on the NYRs when I get around to watching Saturday's game on Tivo, or when the league makes a comment on today's gesture of the moment. And more sometime this week/weekend on Yotes as promised.

=) Happy Hockey season everyone!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010-2011 Eastern AND Western Predictions. . .

Alright, for the first time ever, I may just be quick and to the point. No time to think, no time to write, but I have a rule - you have to predict finished standings before the season officially starts and since I won't be here later this week - well, I think you get where I am going with this...

Eastern Predictions:
1) Washington
2) Pittsburgh
3) Buffalo
4) Ottawa
5) New Jersey
6) Boston
7) Flyers
8) Rangers
9) Tampa Bay
10) Montreal
11) Carolina
12) Atlanta
13) Toronto
14) Florida
15) Islanders

Western Predictions:
2)San Jose
6)Los Angeles
8)St. Louis
9) Nashville
15) Edmonton

(Note: Only the top 8 count per conference for official purposes. But hell, if I ever were to get them right, like I'd argue?).

For the record - really wasn't sure I'd make NYRs a playoff team - but I feel so much better about them than I did a few weeks ago, so what the heck...;)

And who knows, maybe my doing this on the fly will mean I'm better than usual with this? Eh, or not.

Coming before the Rangers and Coyotes home openers - previews of those teams and what I'm looking forward to around the league in this 2010-2011 season!

**Natural Hat Trick Productions will be out of blog-o-sphere for a week. And looking forward to some great hockey when I return! Everyone enjoy! Hockey is FINALLY here!!!**