Talking about the Rangers, unless I decide to talk about something else

Archive for December, 2011

Taking a Date to a Ranger Game

One fun fact to know about me: I’m not a guy that goes on many dates. Or at least what I consider dates, anyway. I don’t like to go get dinner or something with a person I don’t know, because that tends to feel like an interview and I am terrified of things going horribly wrong. Also, because there’s about a 200 percent chance it would end up looking something like this:

When I’ve had a girlfriend and gone out to do something with her, it’s not something I consider a date because I’m already comfortable with the person and it doesn’t feel stressful. So, when I went on a date to the game against Tampa last Thursday, it was relatively out of character. But I had a few observations about being on a date at a game that I thought I’d share.

Cons –

1. Focusing on Your Date, Not the Game: I get deeply focused when I watch Ranger games. I don’t like watching them at bars because I just ignore people that want to talk to me and stare with uncomfortable intensity. Which, I suppose, is better than normal when I just get hammered and make people uncomfortable with off-color jokes, but not by much. Anyway, when you bring a date to a Ranger game, you’re forced to make the game your secondary focus by a pretty large margin. It’s a weird sensation to be at a game and miss important things (I didn’t see Artie’s rifle celebration) because you’re spending energy focusing on a story you care about far less then what’s happening on the ice, but it’s what you have to do for things not to go down the shitter. Ladies, I’m still single.

2. Paying For 2 People to Drink Booze: Beer at MSG really isn’t that bad. If you break down the numbers, a 24 oz. Bud Light is $9. Essentially you’re paying $4.50 for a beer, which is pretty good by NYC standards. HOWEVAH, when your date orders a double vodka and soda before and after the first period, then gets a regular one, you are in the hole an extra $45-$50. Being a nearly broke dude in my young 20’s, this blows quite a bit.

3. Trying to Not Look Like a Maniac: When I go to a game I stand up for breakaways and big saves, I yell “Potvin Sucks” every time, I sing the goal song, etc. On a date, any of these things will make you look like a total weirdo and thus you must not do any of them. Since I’m used to acting this way at games, it takes a decent amount of conscious effort to not do a single one of those things. It was weird.

Pros –

1. Easy Indicator of the Girl’s Interest: Pretty quickly, you’ll figure out where you stand. For the most part, girls do not give a shit about hockey. If she’s asking you to explain the game and genuinely trying to show interest, she’s basically showing interest in you via something you are passionate about. That or you are having a horrible conversation but frankly you should know if that’s happening anyway and if you don’t you’re probably screwed. In the bad way.

2. Seems Like You Really Put in Thought: As someone who’s wildly socially unaware at almost all times, trying to figure out a thoughtful thing to do on a date is something that I blow balls at. Bringing a date to a Ranger game is a good idea because there’s great crowd energy, something is always going on, and you and your date are pretty much only going to be talking with each other the whole time. This is all perfect for a date setting, and your date will in all likelihood appreciate it and think it’s something you planned out elaborately when you most certainly did not.

3. If Everything Goes Horribly Awry, At Least There’s a Game to Watch: Worst case scenario, you and your date don’t get along, it becomes clear nothing’s going to happen, she’s a terrible racist, whatever. That may be going poorly, and things may be a little awkward, but hey. At least there’s a hockey game to watch. Could be worse.

In conclusion, I recommend it. It was fun and went well, and I got to get moderately drunk without being stared at with shame by my family members. My date went well even if the game itself didn’t. Give it a shot fellas.

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The Rangers vs. Neutral Zone Pressure

For a few years, the thing the Rangers have had an impossible time dealing with is pressure from the opponents in the neutral zone. It’s infuriating to watch; the team battles so hard and seeing them unable to create chances no matter what they do is somewhat perplexing. There is a reason this happens to the Rangers more so than it does to elite teams (i.e. Red Wings, Pens, Vancouver): aggressive pressure in the neutral zone.

If you’ve watched enough games, you know it the second you see it. First, they get bottled up near the red line and try to dump the puck and get possession on an aggressive forecheck. Teams that apply neutral zone pressure, however, tend to play such strong team defense that they can clog the neutral zone and essentially have a d-man back playing free safety to easily corral the puck and start a break-out before the Rangers can get into the zone to chase the puck down (A good example of this is when Tampa’s in a good rhythm and effectively executing their 1-3-1; the last d-man back plays that free safety role).

Basically, this type of pressure is a relative of the dreaded trap that pretty much every team uses in one way or another. It’s been around forever and there are always methods to beat it. The problem is that the 2 main methods used to beat this trap are methods the Rangers struggle to execute, each for a different reason.

1: Skate Through the Pressure – Right now, there’s really only one guy on the team who’s capable of this, and it’s Gaborik. He’s insane. Somehow he can consistently find a few feet of space between multiple defenders and slither through to get off a shot. Richards has plenty of skill and skates well, but he’s less of a carry-the-puck-to-space type of player and more of a work-for-possession-and-find-soft-spots-on-the-ice guy. Step doesn’t quite have the speed, nor does Artie, Dubi has the speed but he’s in a funk and his skill level isn’t that high, Cally doesn’t quite have the skill level and it’s not his game, and the only remaining elite skater on the roster is McDonagh who’s still developing the offensive part of his game. I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but this situation is exactly where the Rangers miss Scott Gomez. Fine, a guy like Scott Gomez: great ice vision, awesome speed, and moves around on the ice like a waterbug on adderall. If the Rangers can only rely on Gaborik to skate through D like this, teams can key in on him and stop him, thus leaving them with no players who can skate through a trap consistently. The other option:

2: Quick Passing to the Open Space – It’s fundamental in any sport: if a second man comes over to pressure you when you have possession, it means someone else is open. When a team increases pressure on a single player with the puck, a few quick passes can get the puck to that empty real estate and then into the zone. Obviously, this is far easier on paper than it is in reality; NHL players are incredibly fast on their skates and great at consistently blocking passing lanes, and when executed properly the trap takes away a forechecker’s space before he has time to make a decision and consequently turns the puck over. Elite passing teams tend to have one thing in common: ridiculous skill level throughout the line-up. Announcers refer to these teams as playing a “puck-possession style,” but really that’s just saying their offensive intelligence and skill level is much higher than everyone else’s. I suppose they don’t say that because it would sound incredibly dumb on TV. But the teams that can consistently beat this pressure (best examples: Every Red Wings team since like 1994, the cup year Blackhawks) just have a high skill level, great chemistry, and innate hockey sense that can’t be taught. Now, the Rangers this year are a smart group, their chemistry is improving (Dubi aside), and their skill level is higher than it has been in the past. Even so, they are only an above-average team skill-wise. Outside of Gabby-Artie-Step, all of their lines have a grind it out with hard work mentality. This isn’t a bad thing, and it works well with the strong team D they play, but lacking that skill level is what leaves them vulnerable to fall into a funk on offense against trapping teams.

This isn’t a guarantee for playoff failure or anything like that. It’s going to be a major weakness, but every team has one. You can’t ask for perfection. Hopefully, come playoff time, the Rangers can wear teams down enough physically that they don’t have enough gas in the tank to execute a trap as well as normal and thus become vulnerable. But as the team goes forward it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if they start to figure out how to beat the trap regularly.

Wasn’t this fun? This is literally the longest thing I’ve ever written without a dick joke, and I can’t help myself.

Q: What’s green, slimy, and smells like bacon?
A: Kermit the Frog’s finger.

I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

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