Monday, March 31, 2008

Rangers vs. Penguins Preview

Tonight the New York Rangers (40-27-11) host the Pittsburgh Penguins (46-26-7) at MSG in the second game of their home-and-home. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.

- According to Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report same lineup as yesterday.

- The Rangers have scored just 18 goals in the last 10 games.

- Henrik Lundqvist has been in goal for all seven games against Pittsburgh this season, going 4-3-0 with a 2.00 GAA.

- The Rangers have won all three games against the Penguins at Madison Square Garden, outscoring them 13-4.

- Expect Marc-Andre Fluery back in net for the Penguins. my opinion (and I'm positive the opinion of many others), tonight is a must win. I'm not sure we can pull out four points in the final three games. Especially with two against the Islanders, who will pull out all the stops, and the finale against the Devils, who will be looking to save face by trying to win at least one game against us this year.

...I know the officiating was horrid last night but we have to be extra cautious tonight. We can't afford to spend another night killing penalties.

...unfortunately, Renney has decided not to re-unite the lines that work, so hopefully these new line combinations can find some chemistry tonight.

...the power play has actually cashed in these last two games. Let's hope it can continue tonight.

...I'll be there tonight, which probably isn't good thing since I'm 0-1-1 in the last two games I've been at despite the Rangers going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games at home, which includes the last regulation loss at home on February 7th against Anaheim.

What is Renney Smoking?

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report gives us this from Tom Renney this morning...

...look for the same lineup tonight as yesterday in Pittsburgh, and likely the same line combinations. That means no Sean Avery back with Jaromir Jagr and Brandon Dubinsky, a combination that seemed to have success before Scott Gomez’s injury.

“All of our lines have had success when they’re first put together,” Renney said when asked about it. “The ability to sustain that has been the trick.”

...has Renney not seen the sustained success of the four line combinations he's sent out since February 23rd. The team went 9-2-3 in those 14 games. I know he had to break them up three games ago due to the Betts and Gomez injuries. But Gomez has been back in the lineup the last two games, which means the top three lines should have been re-united. Instead, Renney his inexplicably stuck with these new line combinations. While the team is 1-1 in those two games, we have only scored 4 goals.

...and when have all of his line changes had success when they were first put together. At no point did Drury centering Jagr ever work.

...if the Rangers lose tonight and don't make the playoffs Renney has to be held responsible.

For more wisdom from Renney, Rangers On Demand has his morning press conference as well as player interviews...

...not sure why Valiquette is being interviewed. Maybe Renney is thinking about starting Vally tonight because he wants to keep him sharp for the playoffs.

Who Does Our Competition Play?

Steve Zipay at Blue Notes goes over the schedules of the teams fighting for the final playoff spots...

If Devs, with 93 points, can generate any scoring, they have the best shot to finish in fourth, playing the Isles, Boston. Philly and the Rangers. Two home, two road.

Philly has to play Jersey once and Pittsburgh twice; very tough, although if Pens have clinched first place by next Sunday when they close the season with the Flyers, guys might rest.....

Boston's banged up and faces Devs, Sens and then the Sabres, who likely will have been eliminated.

Washington has three at home against Carolina, Florida and Tampa. Looks like four points in there, maybe five.

...not sure why Zipay left out the Senators. Here is their schedule; Montreal, Toronto and then Boston. I would say they are only assured 2 points, which could leave them out in the cold. That last game against the Bruins could be huge.

Fighting for Our Playoff Lives

Larry Brooks at The New York Post reports...

"Now the final four games won't be about chasing a division or conference title.

Now the final week won't be about securing home-ice advantage.

Now the Rangers are in a fight to the finish to make the playoffs."

...after yesterday's devastating loss to Pittsburgh, we're fighting for our playoff lives. If all the other teams in the playoff race win out, we must gain four points in our last four games (Pittsburgh, Islanders (twice), Devils) to make the playoffs.

...tonight is the most important game of the season. This is the game we have in-hand on Philadelphia, Boston and Washington. If we win tonight, the playoffs are an almost certainty. But if we lose, panic city baby.

Crosby Rules

John Dellapina at The Daily News reports on Sidney Crosby getting the benefit of the doubt on penalties...

"Having been on the other side, when playing on Mario Lemieux's team often meant getting the benefit of the doubt, Jaromir Jagr will make no stink about the Crosby Rules now being in effect...

...The Penguins scored the game's pivotal goal late in the first period on a five-on-three power play awarded when Crosby's stick was whacked by the stick of Rangers penalty-killer Fredrik Sjostrom. The Rangers did not score the tying goal one minute into the third - nor did they get a power play - when Jagr couldn't tap a sitter into an unguarded net from behind Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury because he was being straight-jacketed by a hook from Pens defenseman Sergei Gonchar."

The Blueshirt Bulletin adds...

"So how much of a stretch is it for fans to make the leap to referees devoting that same level of attention to Sidney Darling, the NHL's prime marketing tool? When a referee looks right past Crosby's multiple cross-checks right in front of him to call a marginal Jagr hold across the ice, and then see Crosby cross-check again to ignite a post-whistle scrum and still leave him without penalty, what is a Ranger fan to think? When a referee watches Michal Rozsival and Eric Staal coming right at him in pursuit of a puck and sees Staal put his arm out to fend off Rozsival and Rozsival do the same, and he penalizes only Rozsival, what is a Ranger fan to think? When Martin Straka is picked off coming in for a puck without an arm being raised and then is sent off for another marginal hook because Staal took a dive as the puck went the other way, what is a Ranger fan to think?

When Petr Prucha off all people is called for roughing when landing a clean hit, but Scott Gomez can be hit freely from behind into the boards, what is a Ranger fan to think? When Jagr is interfered with from behind, hooked off a sure goal, interfered with again, with nary a call, but Sidney Darling throws his head back so artfully to draw a high-sticking call that never came near his face, and Sidney Darling draws a slashing penalty to his wrists while he is getting away with a hook, and the good folks at NBC turn a blind eye -- and even apologize to him for suggesting that he "sold" a call after he challenged them on it during the game! -- just what is a Ranger fan to think?"

...I don't necessarily mind superstars getting the benefit of the doubt, but it has to go both ways. Jagr gets mugged on a gamely basis without a sniff of a penalty (although with our power play it wouldn't really matter). This is where I think Renney showing some emotion or possibly calling out the officials could help us out. By doing this, it could put tonight's game under the microscope and hopefully even the officiating out.

Gut Check Time

Yesterday the New York Rangers (40-27-11) were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins (46-26-7) 3-1. For a full recap go to Yahoo! Sports.

- Brandon Dubinsky scored his 14th goal of the season, and his first in 13 games. It was also his first power play goal of the season.

- Defenseman Fedor Tyutin had four of the team’s 17 blocked shots.

- Christian Backman earned an assist, and is now 1-4-5 in the last four games.

- Jaromir Jagr also had an assist, and he is 2-2-4 in the past four contests.

...thankfully I didn't watch a second of the game yesterday. From what I've read it looks like another great game by the officials (four power plays to eight!!!!) and for some reason despite Gomez being back from injury Renney hasn't put the lines back together.

...even the most ardent Renney supporter (I'm talking to you fleich14) can't make excuses for Renney switching up the three line combinations that catapulted us to a 13-2-5 run. Does Renney not like scoring? If these lines aren't re-united tonight Renney should be fired on the spot. I can forgive Renney for not having a fiery demeanor, but I can't for tinkering with the line-up when not needed.

...biggest game of the year tonight. I'll have a preview later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rangers vs. Penguins Preview

Today the New York Rangers (40-26-11) visit the Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-7) at Mellon Arena. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.

- Sidney Crosby has a goal and five assists and Evgeni Malkin has four goals this season against the Rangers.

- Henrik Lundqvist is 7-3-2 with a 1.88 GAA in his last 12 against the Penguins.

- Sean Avery has recorded three goals and two assists in three games against the Penguins this year.

- The Rangers have won four of six meetings this season. can a team be on a 13-2-5 run and still be fighting for their playoff lives? Doesn't anyone lose? Tonight Philly, Boston and the Capitals all won. How about a little help from the hockey gods? While we do have two games in hand on the Capitals we're only three points from being out of the playoffs. On the other hand we're also only three points out of the fourth spot. least we're playing well. One team that's got to be real worried is the Senators. They're playing some real bad hockey.

...these next two games against the Penguins should be a war. There can be no holding back at this point anything but maximum effort isn't going to get it done. If we go out and have two clunkers we could be in real trouble.

...the Rangers must take advantage of the Penguins one glaring weakness: their goaltending. We need to get pucks and players to the net as much as possible. We do that and we should be fine.

...I won't have time for pre-game notes, so check out The Rangers Report before the game for all the latest news.

Rangers Talk About Pens

Rangers On Demand has off day interviews from Ranger players on the Penguins...

...Renney says in his interview that Lundqvist will most likely start both games of the home and home with the Penguins. He better!!!

Avery's Phone Number Found in Hooker's Black Book

Jose Martinez and Tracy Connor at The Daily News report...

Rangers hockey star Sean Avery's name and private cell phone number are in the little black book of Manhattan madam Kristin Davis...

"This assertion is false and defamatory," Avery said. "I was never a client of Ms. Davis, nor of any prostitute."

Maison de L'Amour was the madam's midrange prostitution service, farming hookers out to Manhattan hotels for $500 dates. High-rollers went to her Wicked Models service, where prices started at about $1,200 and went upward of $3,900.

Some of the johns on the client list had notes next to their names with their credit card numbers, preferences or cancellations.

There was nothing next to Avery's name and number - just a note that the price was $500 cash.

...who cares? If Avery wants to get a hooker, good for him. He's not married, so what's the problem?

...the only reason it was a big deal with Gov. Spitzer was because of the hypocrisy involved and he was married. This is even more of a non-story than the MSG gay bashing article in the Times last week.

Rangers to Lean on Drury this Spring

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report writes on the importance of Chris Drury to the Rangers success...

"...if you want to question whether Drury is worth $7 million a season, that’s fair. That’s an obscene amount of money for someone who’s not quite a superstar.

But other than Henrik Lundqvist, there might not be a player the Rangers will rely on more than they will with Drury this spring. And there definitely isn’t a player who better embodies what this team wants to be about."

...while Drury hasn't put up the offensive numbers everyone was expecting, even though his numbers are right on par with his career average, he does all the little things that win tight games in the playoffs.

...if we're lucky enough to make the big dance this spring there is no other player on the Rangers I'm looking forward to watching than Drury.

Four Points Till Playoffs, Atlantic Title Within Reach

Jay Greenberg at The New York Post writes...

"But that (a playoff spot) could be wrapped up by Monday night at the Garden if the Rangers can sweep back-to-back games against the Penguins that start tomorrow in Pittsburgh. Ninety-five Rangers points will beat the maximum 94 that Washington, currently at 86 with four games remaining, still can obtain. And 10th-place Buffalo's maximum is 93.

For all practical purposes, a sweep of Pittsburgh is what the Rangers would need to keep any reasonable hopes alive of catching the Penguins for the Atlantic Division title and a top-two seed. Two regulation wins still would leave New York two points behind with three games remaining, while the Pens' last two are with Philadelphia."

Steve Zipay at Newsday adds...

"If the Caps lose Saturday or pick up a point, and the Rangers can pick up two points Sunday, they could clinch a playoff spot on Monday against the Penguins at Madison Square Garden...

...Without a sweep of the Penguins in regulation over the weekend, however, the Rangers seem destined to finish fourth, fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference." this point I'm not even thinking about seeding or an Atlantic Division title. Right now I'm just focused on getting into the playoffs.

Not So Fast

Karla Schuster at Newsday reports that New York City officials said they believe there is still a chance to rescue the troubled Pennsylvania Station project and get the Garden back on board...

"If the state, which controls the project, can quickly get its ballooning costs under control and make measurable progress in securing financing, MSG officials may be prevailed upon to reconsider their decision to renovate the existing arena."

...government spending is out of control on every level of government. Not sure I can see the state cutting costs. Having said that, I hope they're able to do it as this Ranger fan would love to see a new arena. And for all those who are against a new arena because of the tradition at MSG, if they can tear down Yankee Stadium they can tear down any arena or stadium.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Madison Square Garden Not Moving

Tom Topousis at The New York Post reports...

"Madison Square Garden isn't going anywhere.

Long-sought plans to relocate the sports and entertainment arena and build a grand train station in its place came to a halt yesterday when Cablevision, MSG's owner, announced it had pulled out of the project and would renovate instead."

...while I love everything about MSG, I wouldn't have minded a new stadium with all the modern amenities (Restaurants, interactive games, etc.) which other arenas have.

...hopefully the renovation will address some of those amenities.

Gomez the Great

Scott Gomez getting lots of press today..

...well deserved accolades for Gomez today, including The Daily News' John Dellapina echoing my sentiments of a signature game for Gomez...

"And Gomez had his first signature moment as a Ranger. Playing through painfully injured ribs, the former Devil set up two goals and threw his body around along with Drury and Brendan Shanahan during the entire final 1:27 when the Devils pulled Martin Brodeur for a sixth attacker."

Sights & Sounds

Rangers On Demand has these interviews and highlights from last nights 3-2 victory over the Devils...

Lucky 7

Last night the New York Rangers (40-26-11) defeated the New Jersey Devils (42-28-7) by a score of 3-2. For a full recap go to Yahoo! Sports.

- The Rangers went 2 for 3 on the Power Play

- Chris Drury's first of his season high three assists gave him 300 for his career.

- Scott Gomez recorded two assists in his return to the line-up

- Nigel Dawes' game winning goal was his fourth goal against New Jersey this year.

- Brendan Shanahan's goal tied him with Drury for the team lead with 23.

- Christian Backman's goal gives him four points in the last three games.

- Tom Renney is now tied with Herb Brooks for fifth on the Rangers’ all-time coaching wins list with 131 wins.

- The Rangers improved to 7-0-0 vs. the Devils this season. It is the first time in franchise history the Rangers have beaten a non-Original Six team seven times in a single season.

- Last night's win gave the Rangers their third consecutive 40-win season, their longest streak since they won 40 or more games in four consecutive seasons from 1970-74. would think after going 1 for their last 30 on the power play, the storyline this morning would be the Rangers scoring two power play goals last night. Nope. Scott Gomez stole the show. Whenever a high priced free agent comes to a team there's always a signature game when they finally become a part of the team. Last night was that game for Gomez. Less than a week removed from a rib injury that kept him out of Monday's game, Gomez was the best player on the ice last night. He had the puck on his stick from one end of the ice to the other. He was fiery on and off the ice and his play making ability was on full display. He wanted that win more than anyone else. No way the Rangers win without him in the lineup. Last night Scott Gomez officially became a New York Ranger.

...not only is Gomez great on the ice, he's great off as shown in his interview with John Gianone after the game. I almost fell off my chair when he told Gianone that the team's nickname for Dawes is "Black Magic" and then said "I'm sure you can figure out why we call him that." I got into the gay issue the other day, but I refuse to start a race riot today.

...speaking of Black Magic, another huge goal by Dawes against the Devils. I was waiting to read quotes from Brodeur shrugging off Dawes' skills this morning.

...since coming to the Rangers, Backman has twice tightroped the line of becoming the new Malik. The first, after he took his 6th penalty (or something like that) in his first two games as a Ranger and the MSG crowd starting to grumble, he scored the go ahead goal against the Flyers which helped lead to a 5-4 SO victory. Last night, Backman found himself in the same position after one of the worst giveaways I've ever seen. But once again, Backman redeemed himself with a huge game tying goal. Even with the giveaway, I thought Backman had another strong game posting a goal on three shots.

...not sure what it is about Brodeur being on the other end of the ice, but Lundqvist plays out of his mind against the Devils. The save he made in the second period on Langenbrunner was one of the best saves I've seen him make all year. And he didn't look weird making it.

...couple of days off before home-and-home with Pens.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rangers vs. Devils Preview: Slacker Edition

Tonight the New York Rangers (39-26-11) host the New Jersey Devils (42-27-7) at MSG. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.

...totally slacked on the preview today. I'll make up for it with an extra special recap.

Gomez Looks Good in Warmups

Steve Zipay of Blue Notes reports...

"No. 19 skated in the warmups, seems unhindered.

I'd guess he's in....

No word yet on who'll take a seat."

...great news!!!

The New York Rangers Blog Added to SportsBlogs

I'm always trying to find ways to expand my viewership and I'm happy to report that "The New York Rangers Blog" has been added to the sports website SportsBlogs. This should hopefully increase my exposure on the web. You can check out it out here.

Rangers Still Trying to Get Cherepanov Here

Over at The Blueshirts Blog, John Dellapina reports on rumors that Avangard-Omsk new GM Anatoly Bardin will be flying to New York on Sunday to speak with Jaromir Jagr about a return to the team. However, Dellapina feels Bardin will be in New York for another reason... is less difficult to believe that Bardin will meet with Glen Sather regarding another Omsk-Rangers player: Alexei Cherepanov...

Cherepanov’s New York-based agent Jay Grossman told the Daily News that he has no plans to meet with Bardin this weekend but that “we’ve had conversations about Cherepanov since the day the Rangers drafted him. That’s a fluid process.”

Asked about his assertion at the draft that an agreement was in place to enable Cherepanov to leave Omsk before his contract ended, Grossman said: “I did say that and that was accurate at the time.”

...too concerned about the Rangers making the playoffs this year to worry about Cherepanov. But I figured I should pass this along.

Gomez Game Time Decision

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report writes...

So Scott Gomez took part in the morning skate and left the ice with most of the regulars—all indications that the team’s leading scorer will be back in the lineup tonight against the Devils.

But according to Gomez and Tom Renney, that decision hasn’t been made—or at least it’s not ready for public consumption.

“It’ll be a game-time decision. I’ll take warm-ups and go from there,” Gomez said. “Like I said, it’s up to the coaches. But if I can go, I can go. You don’t want to sit out at this time of the year.”

...hoping that the Rangers aren't rushing Gomez back too soon. The last thing we need is for Gomez to re-injure himself and be out for an extended period of time. Especially if we make the playoffs.

...Weinman's blog post also has information on Jagr possibly playing for the Russian elite league team from Omsk next year.

Rangers On Demand has interviews with Tom Renney and Scott Gomez on the injury as well as video of Gomez at practice this morning...

Scott Gomez interview (video starts with an interview of Dubinsky)

Staying On Task

With all the articles on the power play, Scott Gomez' injury and Brodeur's comments, reminds us there's a big game tonight...

"By the way, there's one simple thing the beat writers forgot to mention today: this game is really important, standings-wise. If the Blueshirts can get their two points from this game, they'd once again be serious about competing for the top spot in the Conference. A loss tonight will surely stick them in the bottom half of the playoff picture. So in light of that, it won't hurt to root against Pittsbugh (#2 in Conferece, vs. Islanders tonight), Boston (#8 in Conference, vs. Toronto tonight) and Washington (#9 in Conference, at Tampa Bay tonight) this evening."

...I've got my Ranger jersey, Islanders hat, Maple Leaf pennant and Lighning underwear ready to go tonight.

Brodeur: Lundqvist is Weird

Larry Brooks at The New York Post reports on Martin Brodeur's comments regarding Henrik Lundqvist in a January 14, 2008 edition of Sports Illustrated...

"Imagine Henrik Lundqvist's surprise upon discovering that Martin Brodeur had been quoted as saying of the Rangers' goaltender, "The way he plays is not something I like too much. Lundqvist is weird."

...a rather bemused Lundqvist told The Post yesterday. "Does he think my style is weird? I don't think I have a weird style. Does he think that I'm weird as person? I don't think I'm weird. I don't know what to say."

Brooks also reports this from the SI article...

In the SI article, Brodeur is described as being miffed that Lundqvist did not acknowledge him at last year's NHL awards ceremony in Toronto when both were nominees for the Vezina that the New Jersey netminder captured for the third time.

"Of course I was a little surprised to hear he was insulted. I mean, it takes two to say hello, doesn't it?"

...what I find weird is that this is only coming out now when the comments were made in January. I guess no one reads SI anymore.

...regarding the comments. I'm assuming Brodeur was talking about Lundqvist's goaltending style (which I don't find weird at all) and Brooks is trying to make a bigger deal out of it then it really is. Which is par for the course for him.

It's the Power Play Stupid

John Dellapina at The Daily News writes...

"...with Gomez and his ability to transport the puck from behind his own net into the attacking zone sidelined for at least a second straight game, look for the latest desperate attempt by the Rangers to come up with any combination of players that might make the power play click...

...the Rangers spent much of their practice working out the same two power-play forward combinations that displayed at least a glimmer of hope Tuesday night against the Flyers.

The latest wrinkles intended to turn a hopeful 0-for-4 in that 2-1 overtime loss into a meaningful power-play goal or two?"

...why are Prucha and Callahan not even being discussed? The problem with the power play is that we don't provide any traffic in front of the goal. We probably only have three or four players willing to do that and Prucha and Callahan are two of them.

...the other problem on the power play is our lack of shooting which Dellapina addresses when he says this about Jagr, "his mere presence hypnotizes Rozsival into passing up every shot attempt..." Classic line by Dellapina.

Sam Weinman at The Journal News adds...

"One argument says the team needs to mix up its personnel. Another says the personnel has already been tinkered with too much and units haven't been afforded the chance to develop any chemistry...

...At least the one area everyone agrees on is that the Rangers' power play needs to produce more shots on goal, which has been a knock against the team even before this season. Players like defenseman Michal Rozsival and Jaromir Jagr say their reluctance to shoot at times has to do with a fear of a shot being blocked and an opponent earning an odd-man rush as a result. But as Shanahan said, as long as a shot can get through, it's still worth taking."

...I'm assuming at this point the lack of scoring on the power play has to be in their heads. They need to take a deep breath and shoot the puck Barry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rangers React To Struggling Power Play

Rangers On Demand has off-day interviews on the struggling power play and the upcoming game against the Devils...

...I love Rangers On Demand. These are interviews you never get to see on local sportscasts or on Sportscenter. It gives the Ranger fan a nice insight into what the players are thinking without being filtered through the media.

Gomez Update & More Line Juggling

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report writes...

On Gomez...

"As I write this, Scott Gomez is testing out his bruised ribs by going through a series of sprints administered by Perry Pearn.

Gomez looks good, if not entirely happy. His stride doesn’t appear to be hindered, and he’s even been able to get off a series of shots...

...Gomez didn’t have much to report afterward , saying it felt good to be back on the ice but that he didn’t know about tomorrow."

...hopefully Pearn does a better job getting Gomez ready to play than he does our power play.

On lineup changes...

"...With Michal Rozsival back skating today and likely for tomorrow, Renney had Rozsival back with Christian Backman on one (power play) unit, and Paul Mara with Dan Girardi on the other. This might finally mean that Fedor Tyutin, who has been a weak link on the man-advantage for some time now, won’t be there against the Devils.

There was also a switch to the line combinations. If Gomez doesn’t play, look for Nigel Dawes to skate with Chris Drury and Petr Prucha, while Ryan Callahan moves up to the left side with Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan.

With Rozsival and Mara back healthy, Marek Malik skated today with Jason Strudwick, which doesn’t bode well for tomorrow."

...while I'm not excited with more line changes, I'm hopeful that the Callahan-Avery-Shanahan line can rekindle some of the magic they had during the stretch run last year.

...if no further injuries occur to our defense, last night might have been the last time we see Malik in the lineup. Especially with the improved play of Backman.

Post Game Reaction

Rangers On Demand has post game reaction...

Jagr Down on Renney's Line Juggling

In today's New York Post, Larry Brooks has Jaromir Jagr's reaction to Tom Renney deciding to juggle all four the lines instead of bringing someone up from Hartford...

"Maybe we should have called someone up from the minors, I don't know," said Jagr. "Asking guys to play out of position…but that's the coach's call."

...I understand that there are injuries, but I don't understand why Renney would decide to break-up every line. I don't necessarily agree with Jagr that calling someone up would have been the answer, but I know that juggling all four lines wasn't.

Avery Owns Up

Larry Brooks at The New York Post has these quotes...

"It was just a [bleeping] bonehead play that cost us the game," Avery told The Post. "I let my team down. What else is there to say? It's pretty easy to see."

"We made two mistakes, primarily both by me," said Avery. "That's the difference in the game."

Lynn Zinser describes the two mistakes in The New York Times...

"With one intercepted pass in overtime, however, Avery watched all his work unravel. He tried to make a pass across the ice to a teammate and instead sent the puck right to the stick of Flyers center Mike Richards, who raced up ice and flipped a shot over Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for a 2-1 overtime victory...

...Brière was responsible for that (tying the game), finishing a give-and-go play with forward Vaclav Prospal with 12:28 left in the third. On that play, Avery found himself out of position after winning a face-off from Brière...

...Those two plays spelled the difference between 2 points and 1, between a team celebrating a jolt in momentum and a team grinding its teeth over another loss."

...I don't think I need to get into it. Two bad plays, let's move on.

Avery Bad Ending

Last night the New York Rangers (39-26-11) were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers (39-28-10) 2-1 in OT. For a full recap go to Yahoo! Sports.

- Jaromir Jagr's first period goal gave him 20 goals for the 17th straight season. It was also Jagr’s 641st goal, which broke a 12th-place tie with Dave Andreychuk on the NHL career list, and his 1,591st point moved him ahead of Phil Esposito for ninth.

- The Flyers scored both goals 4 on 4.

- Sean Avery and Marek Malik combined for a -4.

- Martin Biron made 31 saves in the victory. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 23.

- The Rangers power play went 0-4 and are now 0 for their last 18 and 1 for their last 30.

...despite losing another crucial point to the Flyers, I've decided to be a glass half full guy today instead of a half empty one.

...ok, terrible give away by Avery in OT especially after losing his man (Briere) on the tying goal in the third period. But he's been too good for the Rangers during his tenure to kill him for a bad night. Especially when he's playing out of position.

...sure the Flyers pulled to within a point of us (we have a game in-hand) and Boston to within three, but Buffalo, Florida and Toronto all lost last night virtually eliminating them from playoff contention. Only Washington was able to win last night and they're still five points behind us and we have a game in hand. Plus we're only two points behind the fourth place Devils and fifth place Senators.

...despite being without two of our top four centers and our supposed number one defenseman we were still able to come away with a point.

...two players I have to point out that had outstanding games were Backman and Prucha. Since coming to the Rangers I hadn't seen Backman that sure with the puck in the defensive zone and so physical. Looks like all he needed was a little confidence. Prucha looked like a crazed animal that had been caged for too long. Despite not registering a shot on goal he was all over the ice, hitting anything in site and even got into a scrap with Hartnell.

...alright I have to bring in one negative. The power play. Another o'fer. In one goal games the power play makes all the difference and right now its losing us games. I didn't think it was possible to go 1 for 30 (and that 1 was on a 5 on 3). If in the lineup Thursday, Prucha needs to be on one of the power play units. three games vs. Devils, @Penguins, vs. Penguins. I'd be happy getting three out of six points.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Renney: Prucha To See Power Play Time Tonight

In his pre-game interview, Tom Renney says depending on how tonight's game goes, we could see Petr Prucha on the power play. See Renney's interview on Rangers On Demand.

Rangers On Demand also has a recap of this morning's practice from Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney as well as pre-game interviews from Henrik Lundqvist, Petr Prucha, Ryan Callahan and Nigel Dawes.

...great to hear that Renney is keeping his options open for tonight. While Prucha has lost his scoring touch this year I still think he can be effective on the power play.

...I hope to provide more Rangers On Demand links from now on.

More Trouble for Rangers Power Play

Over at The Blueshirt Bulletin, Dubi reports on the Flyers improved penalty killing...

"And if there is any truth to the Flyers' self-assessment that their mini-revival is the result of improved penalty killing, the Rangers are in trouble. That's because their power play was last seen stalled along the Cross Bronx Expressway, and you know what happens when you're stalled along the Cross Bronx Expressway -- you get quickly demolished.

Let's break down the numbers: The Rangers' power play, which has struggled all season, is on an 0-for-14 schneid and is 1-for-26 in the last eight games. The Flyers' penalty killing has allowed just three goals in their last 44 times short (7%) over their last ten games. With Scott Gomez, the Rangers' best playmaker, out of action, there is no cause to expect any change in either pattern. On the flip side, the Rangers have allowed a power play goal in four of their last six games (4-for-28, 14%), while the Flyers have are 4-for-15 over the course of their current three-game win streak."

...and Renney doesn't want to put Prucha on the power play. Unbelievable!!!

Rangers vs. Flyers Preview

Tonight the New York Rangers (39-26-10) host the Philadelphia Flyers (38-28-10) at MSG. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.

- Scott Gomez and Michal Rozsival are out with injuries

- Paul Mara and Petr Prucha return to the lineup.

- Martin Biron and Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal tonight.

- The Rangers are 5-1-1 versus the Flyers this year.

- The Rangers are 6-0-1 in their last seven home games, including a 5-4 shootout win over the Flyers on March 2.

...with a win tonight and an Ottawa loss the Rangers will move into the fifth spot. However if they lose in regulation they will fall into a sixth place tie with the Flyers. Ottawa plays Buffalo tonight so we might actually want the Senators to win.

...with the Gomez and Rozsival injuries, we're going to need some players to step-up tonight. Namely, Mara and Prucha. Still puzzled by Renney not putting Prucha on the power play tonight, but my feeling is if the power play struggles early we'll see Prucha.

...I'm pretty sure Valiquette played his last game of the season on Friday night, so it should be Lundqvist from here on in. Unless we've locked up a seeding before the end of the season.

...the Flyers surprised me on Friday night by coming out very conservative instead of physical, so I'm not sure what to expect tonight. They might stick with what worked or throw a curve ball and come out blazing.

...crowd should be in a frenzy tonight, so hopefully the team can feed off of the energy and roll over the Flyers.

Mara In, Rozsival Injured and Prucha Not On Power Play

Sam Weiman at The Rangers Report writes...

"The better news for Mara: he makes his return to the lineup tonight after missing a month because of facial injuries sustained Feb. 23 in Buffalo.

Of course, don’t start celebrating yet. Mara is back in only because Michal Rozsival is out with what Tom Renney is calling an “upper leg strain.” The coach wasn’t overly concerned about his No. 1 defenseman, who tweaked his leg a few days ago and re-aggravated it again yesterday. It sounds like his absence may only be limited to tonight...Look for him (Mara) to start the game with Marek Malik, while Christian Backman will stay with Marc Staal...

...Mara will also take Rozsival’s place alongside Backman on the power play. The new power play configurations have that pairing with the first line of Martin Straka, Jaromir Jagr, and Brandon Dubinsky. On the other power play, Brendan Shanahan will be with Chris Drury and Sean Avery, along with Fedor Tyutin and Dan Girardi. Petr Prucha is back in the lineup tonight, but is not expected to see any power play time."

...good to see Mara back. Hopefully he'll actually shoot the puck on the power play, unlike the guy he's replacing.

...why in the world is Prucha not on the power play tonight? I don't care how many games he's missed. The power play is horrid and Prucha needs to be on it immediately. This seems like an easy decision. I guess not.

Ranger Insider: Playoff Senarios

In Steve Zipay's Ranger Insider he gives an in-depth report on how the Rangers matchup against either the Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators or New Jersey Devils...

Here's a brief overview:

The key for me: If the Rangers' power play can click, they should win in six.

Can the Sens score enough to make up for the situation between the pipes? Perhaps not. Will the Rangers score enough to offset the Senators? Here's where the added punch of X-factors Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Nigel Dawes could be a factor.

The main story line would be veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur against rising star Lundqvist, who has been on the winning side in the first six games this season, a Rangers' record against their cross-river rivals.

...a few weeks ago I was begging to play the Hurricanes in the first round, but they have been just as hot as the Rangers lately (8-2-0 in their last 10) so I'm not too sure I want to play them right now.

...truthfully, we have enough talent on this team to beat anyone in the East, so I don't care who we play as long as we get in.

Newspaper Round-Up

Below are links to today's local newspaper stories on the Rangers. The articles focus on the Gomez injury, Petr Prucha and line-up changes...

New York Post - Gomez injury

Daily News - Line-up Change

Newsday - Prucha and Line-up Change

The Rangers Report - Gomez injury

Patrick Roy's Son in Brawl

Quiet morning in Rangerland. Not sure why, there's a big game tonight. But I found this awesome video of Patrick Roy's son (also a goalie) losing his mind during a brawl in a junior hockey game. Patrick is actually the head coach of the team... that's a brawl.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blue Jackets To Look Into Trade for Gomez This Summer?

Aaron Portzline at The Columbus Dispatch reports...

"Rampant leaguewide speculation has the Jackets making a draft-day run at San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau, but it's possible -- even likely -- that Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson will check on the availability of others, including Daniel Briere of Philadelphia, Patrick Elias of New Jersey, Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers.

Those latter three clubs could be looking for roster and payroll flexibility..."

...with a number of players (Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, Rozsival, Malik and Mara) on the last year of their contracts the Rangers should have enough payroll flexibility to keep Gomez, while still being able to upgrade. Plus, if the Rangers decide not to re-sign any our free agent forwards this off-season there is no way they would trade away another veteran forward in Gomez.

...unless of course the Blue Jackets are willing to trade us Rick Nash and Ron Hainsey.

...although if the Rangers collapse and don't make the playoffs or get eliminated in the first round, they could decide to go in a different direction next year.

NHL Six Pack: Rangers vs. Philly

Mike G. Morreale at analyses six big contests highlighted in this week’s NHL Six-Pack that could drastically change the complexion of the conference standings, including tomorrow's Rangers, Flyers game...

Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS) – The Flyers have been forced to play with a playoff-like intensity since the beginning of March. The club has six games remaining, all Atlantic Division opponents, including this final clash with the sixth-seeded Rangers in Manhattan. Flyers coach John Stevens said: "If you look around the League, there are division games for everybody the rest of the way. This is going to make for some great hockey the last couple of weeks of the regular season and I think (our) team is going to have to win four or five to get in, just by the way things are shaping up.’’ Of their remaining games, the Flyers have two matches each against the Devils and Penguins and another against the Islanders. The Rangers, who hold a 5-1-1 lead in the series this season, might be without their leading scorer, Scott Gomez, who is day-to-day after suffering bruised ribs Friday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Flyers. Petr Prucha replaced Gomez on a line with Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan during Saturday’s practice.

...while this is a big game for both teams, in my opinion its a bigger game for the Flyers. The Rangers better expect them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.

...nothing would be sweeter for Rangers fans than a victory against the Flyers seriously compromising their playoff aspirations. As far as the Ranger's playoff aspirations, they need seven points to officially clinch a spot.

Drury, Briere Find Comfort Zone

At, Scott Burnside reports on Chris Drury and Daniel Briere finding their game after a season of struggles...

"Ask a foster kid what it's like going into a new home," Rangers coach Tom Renney said when asked about the challenges in integrating a new player, even an elite player like Drury or Briere...

...In his 25 games prior to Friday's loss, Drury was plus-11 and chipped in 11 goals and seven assists. He'll still end up well shy of last season's career-best 37 goals (he has 23 with seven games left), but as far as the Rangers are concerned, those numbers are irrelevant given what he is capable of in the playoffs...

...while Drury's offensive numbers weren't there for more than half the season, his grittiness, ability to win a faceoff or block a shot have never been missing. And now that his clutch goal scoring is making a more frequent appearance, he is performing as advertised.

Gomez Injury Brings Line Changes

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report writes...

"...Gomez’s absence will mean a return to the lineup for Petr Prucha, who has been out for the last 16 games. The left wing will take Marty Straka’s place with Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, while Straka is reunited with Jaromir Jagr and Brandon Dubinsky. This also means Sean Avery will move to center between Brendan Shanahan and Nigel Dawes...

...Another player eligible to return is Paul Mara, who Tom Renney said was now fit enough to play but likely won’t. As of last week it sounded like Mara would step in for Christian Backman as soon as he was ready. But Backman may have bought himself at least a little more time with his three-assist effort on Friday."

...with the way the first line has been playing I'm not so excited to see them split up. I'd much rather see Straka center the second line, leaving the first line intact.

...I have to agree with Weinman that Backman probably bought himself a couple of more games with his third period play on Friday. If Backman continues his improved play, I'm not sure where Mara fits in.

Small in Stature, Big on Talent

Lynn Zinser at The New York Times gives this profile on Nigel Dawes...

"...To see Dawes among his teammates off the ice, he looks like the neighborhood kid who wandered onto the team. To go with small stature, he brings a quiet, amiable personality, the guy never heard above the din in the locker room. He is 23, and even this late in the season is still a bit thrilled to see his nameplate over a stall in the Rangers’ locker room....

...With him in the lineup, the Rangers now have him available for shootouts, where he has made his biggest contribution. Renney inserted him in the shootout lineup in February, and he scored the winning goal twice. He has a variety of moves, honed over his years in juniors..."

...nice to see the Times is actually writing articles about the action on the ice again.

Power Play Boost

Jay Greenberg at The New York Post reports on Petr Prucha possibly giving the Rangers power play a boost if he plays tomorrow night...

"...Essentially, when Brendan Shanahan signed up, Prucha's power play time disappeared, like his quick release and excellent touch. If that was our imagination that the kid could find the net, then the Garden was suffering mass hysteria. Last season, despite only a smattering of time with the man advantage, Prucha scored 22 goals, but still has lost his lineup place to rookie Ryan Callahan...

...Renney does not need to debate it, just has to utilize it, which doesn't seem to involve any rocket science with the power play fizzling on the launching pad almost nightly for the same coach who used Prucha significantly two seasons ago..."

...with the way the power play has been performing (1 for their last 24), Prucha could provide a needed lift. Prucha had 16 power play goals his rookie season in 05-06. I don't think we've scored 16 as a team this year.

...should be interesting if Prucha plays well and scores a power play goal. Does Renney stick with Prucha when Gomez comes back? Who would sit?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

No Broken Bones for Gomez

Sam Weinman at The Rangers Report writes...

After being examined by the team’s medical staff today, Scott Gomez was told he has no broken bones, and will not miss an extended period of time.

The center is listed as day-to-day, which means Tuesday night against Flyers is an outside possibility.

“If I can play, I’m going to play,” said Gomez, who obviously didn’t skate today. “That’s the way it is. At this time of year you want to go.”

...this is obviously great news for Gomez and the Rangers. The Rangers would have been in real trouble (especially in the playoffs), if Gomez would have missed an extended period of time.

...if Gomez is out for Tuesday's rematch with the Flyers expect Prucha to finally return to the lineup.

Lots of Good, Lots of Bad

Last night the New York Rangers (39-26-10) lost to the Philadelphia Flyers (37-28-10) by a score of 4-3 in a shootout. For a full recap go to Yahoo! Sports.

- With the shootout win the Flyers improved to 2-5 in shootouts this year.

- The Rangers have now participated in a shootout in 6 of their last 10 games, going 4-2.

- Marek Malik scored his second goal of the season.

- Christian Backman had three assists in the third period. He hadn't registered a single assist in his previous 10 games and two periods with the Rangers.

- Jaromir Jagr's two points (1g, 1a) tied him with Phil Esposito for ninth place on the career points list at 1,590.

- The Rangers went 0-3 on the power play and are now 1 for their last 27. to the good and bad of last night:

...Good: despite losing two of our four centers we were able to comeback from third period deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. Bad: Couldn't beat a Flyer team in the shootout that was 1-5 on the season.

...Good: Valiquette played another solid game against the Flyers, making numerous saves to keep us in the game. Bad: He looked like a complete sieve in the shootout.

...Good: despite all the misfortune (including another horrific night of officiating) we were able to pick up a point. Bad: We gave an extra point to the Flyers moving them within four points of us.

...OK, I'm out of good. Now just bad. The Gomez injury doesn't sound good right now as John Dellapina of The Daily News reports in his story today that the preliminarily diagnosed is two broken ribs. That's got to be 3-4 weeks minimum. Might not see him back until second round of the playoffs.

....with Gomez and Betts injured, I'd still like to see Renney stick with what he's got. For now, keep Hollweg at center on the fourth line and move either Straka or Callahan up to center the 2nd line and insert Prucha on the third. Easy right.

...the Rangers are supposed to announce more on Gomez' injury later today. I'll have more as soon as its available.

...oh, I almost forgot. Did Brian Leetch steal Backman's uniform between the second and third period last night? The guy actually looked like a playmaker. We need more of that from him especially on the power play. Speaking of the power know what, its not even worth criticizing at this point.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Betts Out Two to Three Weeks

Sam Weinman at The Ranger Report writes...

"Blair Betts is not only out tonight, but for the next two to three weeks after undergoing minor foot surgery at the New York Hospital for Joint Disease.", earlier today they said it was a bunion. Now its joint disease. Talk about a misdiagnosis.

...not too often do you say this about an injury to a fourth line center, but this is a huge blow. With Betts going down we are losing our best shot blocker and penalty killer.

"Tom Renney said he first wants to see how Ryan Hollweg fares tonight...

...There is also the option of dropping Martin Straka down to center in the near future and slipping in Prucha in Straka’s old spot on the third line. That would be a more likely option if not for the fact that Straka alongside Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan has recently been showing signs of life. Callahan and Sean Avery also have experience playing center, but the same concerns about disrupting chemistry apply."

...I have too agree with Renney giving Hollweg a chance tonight. I'd rather disrupt the chemistry on the fourth line rather than the whole team.

...if Hollweg's a train wreck, then I wouldn't mind seeing, as Weinman suggests, Straka centering the fourth line with Prucha filling in on the third line. Plus we could then insert Prucha on one of our power play units.

Rangers vs. Flyers Preview

Tonight the New York Rangers (39-26-9) visit the Philadelphia Flyers (36-28-10) at the Wakovia Center. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.

- The Rangers have won 11 of their last 12 games in Philadelphia, and are 6-0-1 there since a loss on April 15, 2006.

- Valiquette has two career shutouts. Both versus the Flyers this year in Philadelphia.

- Tonight the Rangers will be trying to reach 40 wins in three straight seasons for the first time since a four-year run from 1970-74.

- Martin Biron will be in goal for the Flyers tonight. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.97 GAA against the Rangers in three starts since coming over in a trade from Buffalo in February 2007.

...the key tonight will be the power play. If we can score some power play goals, we can limit the Flyers physical play and run them out of the building.

...I've got nothing else, so I'll post a recap after the game.

Vally in Goal, Hollweg Returns

Steve Zipay at Blue Notes reports...

"Having shut out the Flyers twice this season and relieved Henrik Lundqvist in another win, Stephen Valiquette will be in the net tonight here at Wachovia Center.

And in another lineup change, this one forced by injury, Ryan Hollweg---after being scratched for eight games---will center the fourth line because Blair Betts was left back in New York for treatment of what coach Tom Renney described as a "foot issue", but is believed to be a problem with a toe bunion."

....figured we see Valiquette in goal tonight. His numbers against Philly this year (3-0, 0.32 GAA and .986 save percentage) are just too good to ignore.

...Betts' injury hurts us on two fronts tonight: 1) Hollweg is back in the lineup and 2) We're without our best penalty killer.

...would liked to have seen Prucha somehow inserted into the lineup ahead of Hollweg, but with Philly expected to come out very physical Hollweg is probably to the better option.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With It

Katie Thomas at The New York Times reports on the difficult time gay Ranger fans have at MSG...

"...As (Larry) Goodman’s routine is broadcast on the giant monitors above the ice, a familiar chant picks up momentum. “Ho-mo Lar-ry!” the crowd shouts. “Ho-mo Lar-ry!”

The chant is one example of what several gay hockey fans describe as a toxic atmosphere during Rangers games and that Madison Square Garden, which owns the team, is not doing nearly enough to address their concerns...

...Hockey has a loyal fan base within New York’s gay community, including the members of the New York Gay Hockey Association, which oversees 5 teams and claims 150 members. Many gay Rangers fans grew up attending games with their families and say they make a distinction between raucous tradition and comments that single out a specific group...

...(Christine C.) Quinn, the City Council speaker, said even if some gay hockey fans were not bothered by the comments, the Rangers needed to take a more aggressive role in setting an inclusive tone. She said the public announcements and extra security guards represented progress but did not go far enough..." me if you're a Ranger fan I'm with you, no matter your sexuality, race or religion. Anyone who is going out of their way to demean a fellow Ranger fan should be thrown out of the Garden on his ear.

...on the other hand, as one of the gay Ranger fans being interviewed said regarding the "Ho-mo Lar-ry" chants, I think the gay community has to take some of it with a grain of salt. People are ignorant and there's no malice towards the gay community behind those chants. But I do agree the Garden could do more to curb that behavior.

Rangers Ranked #5 By ESPN

With wins against the Penguins and Devils this week, has ranked the Rangers #5 this week in their power rankings, up from #7 last week...

#5 New York Rangers - The Rangers pick up big back-to-back wins against the Penguins and Devils, giving them another jump this week. And Chris Drury's tying goal versus NJ is more proof of how the forward just turns the "clutch" on this time of year.

...haven't seen the Rangers in the "Top 5" of a power ranking since the beginning of December. I didn't think they deserved it then, because of their lack of scoring and reliance on Lundqvist, but now I definately feel they're a "Top 5" team in the league.

Lundqvist or Valiquette?

John Dellapina at The Daily News writes...

"The franchise goaltender finally is on a roll after three months of roller-coaster play. But the backup has claimed partial ownership of Friday night's opponent.

So what does Tom Renney do? Does he continue to ride Henrik Lundqvist's increasingly hot hand at least until a playoff berth is mathematically assured? Or does he let Lundqvist cool his heels for one night so that Steve Valiquette can try to extend his recent mastery of the Philadelphia Flyers?

The answer should come sometime around 11 a.m. today..." vote is for Valiquette. He absolutely owns the Flyers. Plus it gives Lundqvist one last rest before the stretch run and (hopefully) the playoffs.