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

Archive for March, 2012

Rangers vs. Minnesota Wild, 3/27

Game notes time. Enjoy them.

Pregame:

  • This seems like a game that guys could fall asleep for since Minnesota blows (their record since they somehow led the NHL on Dec. 12: 11-27-7), but that isn’t going to happen. Gaborik is back for the 2nd time since he left the Wild, and Stepan and McD (and maybe Bickel? I don’t remember) both grew up in Minnesota and will probably have a ton of friends and family there. They’re all going to be at their best.
  • Henrik is due for a shutout and return to form. Playing one of the worst offensive teams in hockey is a good place to start.

1st Period:

  • Considering how bad the Wild team is, the fans are amazing. I know it’s the state of hockey and all, but to sell out games and stay dedicated like they have regardless of having crappy teams is just impressive. I genuinely hope they become more competitive starting next year.
  • Cal Clutterbuck has a badass name and is an even better hitter. Step and Cally had a couple big hits too. This game could get chippy if the hard hitting keeps up.
  • John Mitchell looks like he’s been skating harder all over the ice the last few games. If he keeps it up, he’s an awesome 3rd liner: big, strong guy with some decent scoring pop.
  • DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BOO MARIAN GABORIK? DO YOU SEE? A penalty that will lead to a most likely harmless power play.
  • Dubinsky is doing exactly what he needs to do whether he’s slumping or not: getting to the net and making life miserable for defensemen and goalies alike. He may not get pretty points there, but he’ll take the ugly ones.
  • Regarding that Staal mishandling of the puck and Heatley semi-breakaway: why does this seem like it’s happening so much recently? The D can’t control a puck, falls over, scoring chance ensues. I’m not amused.
  • Encouraging PP sign: quick puck and player movement. That’s how you get production.
  • Did Minnesota just take a Too Many Men penalty while simultaneously giving up an odd-man rush? That’s impressive, but in a bad way.

2nd Period:

  • Nice to see even the fine people of Minnesota have to deal with Dubstep at their games now too. Good work, America.
  • Did he just score with a between-the-legs shot?
  • No. But good job by Minny to take advantage of a stick-less Cally on that PP.
  • Wow, I totally forgot Gaborik went after DiPietro and Heatley in that 2000 draft. Mike Milbury’s shitty-ness as a GM has had like a 15 year effect. It’s like a nuclear winter of horrible personnel decisions.
  • Considering how quick on the whistle these refs have been all game, sort of surprised at the no-call on Bickel’s shove to the back.
  • I’ve touched on this before, but you don’t want your 3rd line to be your best line.
  • Haha suck it Wild fans. Must be nice to let go of a guy who would score over 100 goals in the next 3 seasons, and possibly 2 of them at 40+. Shrewd.
  • It’s insane how hard it is to beat Henrik when there’s no traffic and he’s square to the shooter. So focused, and so quick.
  • This is why I shouldn’t say things. But good for Mikku Koivu, he’s a vastly underrated player. It’s like watching Henrik Zetterberg on a bad team.
  • I constantly forget that Stepan and Del Zotto are only 21. This sort of blows my mind.

3rd Period:

  • Pens lost to the Islanders, which means this win means even more for the Blueshirts. Don’t think they aren’t checking the scoreboard before this period starts.
  • Hagelin has kind of disappeared recently. Maybe he’s banged up, but he’s not even a fraction as noticeable as he was a couple weeks ago.
  • I like Stralman. If he gets going before the playoffs, the Rangers have him and DZ as 2 solid offensive d-men who aren’t a liability in their own zone, and that’s one of the most important assets any team can have for the playoffs.
  • 2 assists for McD tonight, and great finish from Feds. No mistake about that put away.
  • The momentum hasn’t been theirs for much of the period, but I like the Rangers’ energy going into the last few minutes. Good speed and physicality, no let-up at all.
  • I would kill for a Gabby empty-netter. It’d be so satisfying.
  • This has Tortorella time-out written all over it. UPDATE: yup, he’s really smart with his time-outs.

The neutral zone and d-zone pressure from the Rangers to close the game out was great to see. It’s how they played earlier this year when they just choked teams out slowly over 60 minutes, and they need to get back to doing it consistently.

3-2. Hank for President, Herman Cain for VP, and great games from McD and Gabby. Go Rangers, see you Thursday.

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Rangers vs. Red Wings, 3/21

Abandon all hope, ye who like strong research and sensible analogies. Time for some game thoughts.

Period 1:

  • Another softie given up by Hank. Analogy: I have a cough right now. For a couple days I figured it’d take care of itself, but it’s been about a week and now I think I need a doctor to take care of it. For a bit, I knew Hank was going to get back to being goalie Jesus sometime soon. Now I’m becoming concerned his issues are mental and that he might not return to dominant form. I know a doctor can fix me, but I’m not sure there’s anything to fix Hank’s sub-par play. (Note: I wrote this after the semi-soft 1st goal, and Hank promptly made a nasty breakaway save on Filppula. My counter-argument: Yeah, but still.)
  • Pierre McGuire to Torts: “COACH DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM MAY NOT HAVE THE SAME LEVEL OF EMOTION TONIGHT AGAINST A TEAM YOU PLAY ONCE EVERY 2 YEARS AS THEY DID AGAINST ONE OF YOUR 3 BIGGEST RIVALS WHEN THE GAME STARTED WITH A 6-MAN BRAWL AND A 1ST MINUTE GOAL????” Great question. He’s the worst.
  • Tim Erixon looks really, really bad. By my count, 2 shifts total and a disastrous play on each. For a dude who people praise for high hockey IQ, this is surprising in a bad way. I’m going to blame it on nerves. He needs to calm down and play smart or he’ll be sitting for the rest of the night.
  • I’m going insane with the Rangers making these god-awful neutral zone and d-zone passes. Torts must be having 3-4 aneurysms per game at this point.
  • Brad Richards: not bad.

Period 2:

  • Awesome pass from Zuccarello on a rush; he’s had a really good game so far and has been pretty impressive since his call-up. I hope his NHL career works out.
  • Detroit’s PP: 1 for its last 32. Turns out losing Datsyuk and Lidstrom for a long time isn’t good for a team’s PP.
  • Just realized: there’s at least 5 Swedish Olympians between these 2 teams, probably 7 all in all (Hank, Hagelin, Lidstrom, Kronwall, Zetterberg, maybe Hagelin, and Holmstrom if he doesn’t retire by then).
  • Del Zotto’s wrist shot blows. He needs to stop, and I don’t know how he can argue that he should continue taking it. “Coach, I can’t stop taking my wrister! It may be weak, but it’s also wildly inaccurate! You gotta let me play my game!”

Period 3:

  • Pierre: “GUYS, SMART POSITIONING AND NOT GIVING UP TERRIBLE REBOUNDS ARE IMPORTANT TO SOLID GOALTENDING.” No kidding. Pierre McGuire talking during a hockey game is equivalent to randomly cutting to the dude’s face in a porno. Just ruins everything.
  • Brian Boyle, by the looks of it, will not be scoring 20 goals in a season ever again. Good player, but that was such an aberration of a season.
  • Pierre: “GUYS DO YOU THINK THE GOLD MEDAL WINNING COACH OF TEAM CANADA WILL BE BACK COACHING TEAM CANADA IN LESS THAN 2 YEARS AT THE OLYMPICS???? ALSO I THINK 2 OF THE 3 BEST AMERICAN DEFENSEMEN WILL BE ON TEAM USA!!!!” Is there someone out there just dying for Pierre’s take on things? I bet there is, and I bet he’s the same person that thinks NFL pregame studio shows are really insightful and “Two and a Half Men” is priceless comedy.
  • Main issue with the Rangers PP: less about lack of puck movement, much more about lack of player movement. Guys almost exclusively move when they have the puck, and no movement off the puck means less quality scoring chances. It’s simple, I’m sure they know it, and they need to get it fixed.
  • Beautiful play by Marc Staal to break up a 2 on 1. He’s almost all the way back, which is great news.
  • Del Zotto is playing really, really poorly right now. Not much else to say.
  • The Rangers coaches tell their players to never make blind passes to the slot. How about they say something about blindly shooting it around the boards in the offensive zone as well? Similar possibility of a giveaway with less possibility of a strong result. Just eat the puck in the corner if you have to.
  • Callahan nearly just scored his best goal of the year, and Conklin’s save on the next shot was most certainly his best of the year.
  • What a block by Girardi. Ballsy, and deflected it enough to tip it off the crossbar.
  • Datsyuk is hurt and all, but he’s so scary. He had like 3 ridiculous keep-ins along the blue line, and now whenever he gets the puck I’m convinced the Wings are going to score.

Overtime:

  • Hank has looked phenomenal since that 1st goal. I hope he keeps this going.
  • Stepan didn’t even pretend he was going to shoot on that odd man rush. He’s got a good wrist shot, he needs to use it or make goalies worry that he might.
  • CALLAHAN FUCK YEAH WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BIRTHDAY BOY IS GONNA GET DRUNK
  • HAHA NET CAM YOU SUCK
  • Sweet, sweet victory.

Nice to see Hank play great after I criticized him immediately, and Del Zotto get the game winning assist after I said he was playing a brutal game. The moral of the story is I’m always right.

2-1 OT win. Great game, and, once again, the Rangers are on a win streak.

That Brawl at the Start of Rangers vs. Devils

When I saw what lineup the Devils were starting with last night, it was pretty clear DeBoer was calling out Torts. Since my brain is just a weird place, my reaction can be described no better than in this picture:

I’m not sure whether this makes Torts the Jules in this situation, but it I’m pretty sure DeBoer is Brett. And judging by the blood on his face, I think that makes Ryan Carter the Marvin here. I get to be Winston Wolf, because this is my blog and I make the rules. Every introduction I’ve ever written has been exactly this genius.

I’ll get this out of the way: I don’t really care for fights like the one that started off Monday’s game against the Devils. In concept, at least. I think fights really should be a part of the game only when used to make a player answer for a dirty play (like jumping on a guy for running your team’s goalie), or in extreme cases to give your team some extra motivation (think Vinny Lecavalier fighting Jarome Iginla in the 2004 cup).

Having said that, oh man that was so heavy metal. There were too many fights at once for the main camera to see it. Play was delayed for like 10 minutes so they could clear bloody ice shavings off the ice surface. It got the crowd going and the teams going enough that it felt more like a playoff game than any other game the Rangers have played this year.

A lot has been made of Torts and Pete DeBoer exchanging unkind words about starting line-ups with fighters at each other’s arenas, but it’s pretty clear that they’re both in the wrong. Torts did it in Jersey then acted indignant when DeBoer did the same thing. DeBoer did the exact same thing last night and less than 3 hours after doing it acted righteously indignant about Torts doing it weeks ago. It was childish, and kind of makes both teams and coaches look shitty.

Also, the Devils have some tough dudes, but why in the name of Allah would Pete DeBoer want to start a game against the Rangers that way? There’s no way it accomplishes anything except guaranteeing a more physically brutal game, and that pretty clearly favors the Rangers style of play. I understand the desire, but it is a coach’s job to put emotion aside and do what gives your team the best chance to win. In the end it was a bad choice by DeBoer that led to a win that clinched the Rangers a playoff spot and hopefully ends their recent slump.

Holy F**k: the Top Line Tonight

It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen the Rangers have a line just dominate a game like the Richards-Gaborik-Hagelin combo did tonight. Obviously there have been more impressive individual displays from players, i.e. Jagr and Gaborik each too many times to count, but the top line tonight was just 2 steps ahead of the Canes for the entire 60 minutes.

They combined for 15 shots; the Rangers had 29. They had all 4 of the Rangers goals, and have had combined to score 7 of the team’s last 8 goals. Every time they had possession of the puck, they looked terrifying and the Canes looked like they just could not keep up. These stats do not count the post Gaborik hit, the near miss Gaborik had that Zucc accidentally deflected, and Richards putting one just over the crossbar. In summation: they were really, really good.

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Sean Avery Retired

 

WE HAD A GOOD RUN SEAN.

No we didn’t. Today, Avery officially retired. This ends the era of the only chant (“AVE-RY”) that bothered me more than “SHOOT THE PUCK,” and also the end of the career of by far the most overrated Ranger since the lockout. I have 2 thoughts:

1. Good. He couldn’t turn without looking like he was going to fall over, and he took about 25 minutes to beat Jimmy Fallon in a shooting contest. His talent vs. attention-received ratio was Tebow-esque, only if Tebow was a world famous asshole.

2. I haven’t gotten a chance to use this video yet, so this is happening right now.

Recap 3/11: Rangers vs. Isles

OT wins are just the best. The tension is palpable, the energy of the fans and players peaks, and the emotional release after an OT goal is amongst the most satisfying feelings a fan can get.

Getting 2 points tonight was necessary; the Penguins are close to catching up to the Rangers for the division lead and they’re about to get Mr. Crosby back in the lineup. Beating their neighbor and rival in a game where the bounces weren’t going there way will go a long way towards ending this slump.

Consider how they got this win: Hank was sub-par, a lot of unlucky bounces, and the Isles capitalized on their chances. But the big guys produced when it mattered, and up and down the lineup guys just did their jobs perfectly. Broadway Brad Richards had 2 quality goals and set up the winning goal, scored by Gaborik on a snipe that made my pants start to fit funny. Brian Boyle scored on a tip and screened Nabakov on a Richards goal.

Gaborik,What a snipe. JustĀ  keep doing what you do. Gabby was doing Gabby stuff and it worked. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4aYyXgP14g&feature=player_embedd

If Richards starts to produce at a high levels then the team can really get going for the playoffs. If the team starts to play smart defense again and the forwards start putting the puck in the net, we’ll be ready for playoff hockey. Really, I just want the playoffs to be here now.

It’s time for a winning streak, and what better time than now?

Signs of a Slump

Over the past few years with the Rangers, the clearest indicator of a slump is when the 3rd line is the most effective line on the team for several games in a row. Really, the best way to know the team has been playing poorly is when you hear Sam Rosen say the 3rd line has been the team’s best line.

The common misconception amongst Rangers’ fans when this happens is that the 3rd liners deserve to have a bigger role on the team because they’re more noticeable than the top-6 forwards. When a team’s 3rd line forwards are guys who have produced points in their career but accepted roles as defensive forwards (think Jordan Staal or Franz Nielsen) for the sake of the team, the idea of giving that type of player more minutes makes sense. When a team’s 3rd line forwards are guys like the Rangers have had the last few years, it’s a bad idea at best.

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