Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Looking Forward Again

It's been a while since a standings update. And I'm going to go traveling soon, and I don't know how much posting I'm gonna get to do, pretty much right up through the end of the regular season. I may have to miss games, which makes me SuperMegaUltraMiserable (SMUM). So I'd better get at least this one in now.

4. Philadelphia, 92 pts, 7 GR
5. Carolina, 91 pts, 5 GR
6. Pittsburgh, 90 pts, 6 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 89 pts, 5 GR
8. Montréal, 86 pts, 7 GR
9. Florida, 85 pts, 6 GR
10. Buffalo, 82 pts, 7 GR

Wow, in all this time, the ranking still hasn't shifted. Don't get comfortable or anything. Just sayin'. It's neat.

Oh Em Gee why am I still listing Buffalo? I think maybe 'cause it's more embarrassing for them if I keep listing them and they never climb? Lindy Ruff is a dick.

Our next game is Thursday night at 7, and it's on the road against the suddenly-hot 'Canes. Do the math: if we win it, we tie them. If they win it, they're 4 points ahead of us with 4 games left in the standings. I know it's not too likely at this point that they'll find themselves in 9th or 10th at season's end, but we need the points on them to keep ourselves out of those spots. And bear in mind how much better a position like 6th or 7th is than a position like 8th. Taking these points from the 'Canes is almost as important as winning them for ourselves. They will be a very hard team to beat right now. If we play the way we have over the last 2 games, we'll be in okay shape.

Also in action before and on that night:

Blackhawks at Montréal, tonight at 7:30 - Come on 'Hawks - you want home-ice advantage, and we could use a little breathing room. The Habs have 2 games-in-hand on us - if they win them both, we're actually in 8th (which is not only precariously close to 9th, it's also a Bruins draw (and therefore likely early exit) in the first round). This counts as one of them.

Senators at Florida, tonight at 7:30 - Remember a week ago, when everyone said "OH HEY THE SENATORS WON SOME GAMES NOW THEY WILL END UP IN 4TH AND WIN THE CUP"? Yeah, that's over. Go Sens.

Sabres at Atlanta, tomorrow night at 7:00 - Go Thrashers! Keep sticking nails in this already-obviously-sealed coffin!

Flyers at Toronto, tomorrow night at 7:30 - I wouldn't normally actually consider catching the Flyers at this point, even though it's only a 3-point difference, because of their 2 games-in-hand and their playing-of-worse-teams-than-we-are-in-the-homestretch. But, our last 2 games of the season each are a home-and-home against each other, so there are big points to be gained between us. Toronto could certainly make this sound a little more plausible if they stole 2 here.

Devils at Pittsburgh, tomorrow night at 7:30 - If I weren't so busy, I would go to this game. I hesitate to say I have a good feeling about any game involving the NHL's godforsaken wunderkind, but the Devils will want one badly against another division rival after we spanked them so badly last night. Come on, Marty!

Canadiens at Long Island, Thursday night at 7:00 - I hate when bubble teams get to play the Fish Sticks, because I hate when bubble teams get free points. You can hope for the Isles in this one, because "anything can happen blah blah blah," but I wouldn't get too excited.

That's it! Let's Go Rangers!

Too much fun

I am having too much fun reading about last night.

Jay Greenberg, whose entire piece is extremely enjoyable, sums up the goalie battle: "Brodeur leads Lundqvist three Stanley Cups to zero, 20 postseason series wins to two, 553 regular-season victories to 139, 101 shutouts to 13. Lundqvist, 3-0 winner last night, leads Brodeur 18-6-4 in all time head-to-head meetings -- regular and postseason combined." Incidentally, that regular-season record is 14-2-4.

Meanwhile, Larry Brooks, whose column is also worth reading (isn't everything worth reading after a game like this?), concentrated on the Oh yeah, there were also people on the ice not wearing #30 storyline, which admittedly is mostly the Sean Avery Sean Avery Sean Avery storyline. It sounds similarly exciting to the Lundqvist always beats Brodeur headline, only it reads more like Avery always beats the Devils: "The domination was complete from one end of the ice to the other. For 60 minutes at the Garden last night the Rangers owned the Devils, mind, body and soul. With Sean Avery wearing Blue, what else is new?"

Read both of these articles, and rejoice.

More thoughts on the Devils

So, without diving too deeply into the playoff picture, I want to establish that the Devils will definitely finish either 2nd or 3rd (probably 2nd, 'cause I imagine they will make up that point on the inconsistent Caps). We will end up anywhere between 4th and 9th, no one says we're even making the playoffs, but playing even odds puts us probably somewhere around 6th or 7th. This means it is entirely possible (though not necessarily the surest bet) that we will end up playing the Devils in the first round. I don't want to count on anything, from our perspective, but I want to throw a hypothetical situation out there - let's say we DO end up making the playoffs, and we draw the Devils.

What does Brent Sutter do?

Let me clarify: in Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils have the winningest regular season goaltender in NHL history. They have the man most responsible for the Devils winning any cups at all, let alone 3, and they might have the player most responsible for them even still having a franchise in New Jersey at all. Look, I hate Martin Brodeur significantly more than the next guy, but there's no denying that he is one of the best to ever play the game (although there is plenty of denying that he is the best ever, mostly using math - if someone wants to start paying me a salary to write this blog, maybe I'll find the time to write up the entry that does so). The point is, he's obviously got to be the starting goalie for the Devils in every possible situation - how could he not be?

Well. Hmm. In the 2007-2008 regular season, the Devils played the Rangers 8 times. The Rangers won the first 7, then lost the last game of the season (which did not affect the standings at all), in a shootout. Then they played us in the first round of the playoffs, which we won in 5 games, dropping only game 3, in overtime. This season, they played us 6 times (take a note, Bettman: this is strictly worse than playing us 8 times. I don't care about seeing Evgeni Nabokov any more than people in Los Angeles care about seeing Sidney Crosby. Schedule this better). Brodeur played the first two and the final one, all of which we won. During the other 3, he was out with an injury, and Clemmensen played all 3. The Devils won all 3.

So, obviously, Sutter starts Brodeur. Realistically speaking, there's nothing else he could, will, or should do. But - if it happens - you can't tell me Sutter and Marty won't be more than a little nervous about the situation.

Rangers 3, Devils 0

Attending a game like Saturday's was the perfect way to make me hate hockey. Fine, this is established. But if you asked me for my ideal regular season hockey game, if you wanted me to write down a description of the ideal game to get me excited about hockey, last night would more or less have been exactly it.

If you are a Ranger fan, and you did not see this game, then I'm sorry. The Rangers played a solid, end-to-end game from the start and didn't let up until the very end of the second and beginning of the third, when it was already 3-0. Even so, by about 5 minutes into the third, we were back in it, and we gave up no odd-man rushes or goals in that time.

Everyone was excellent, but particularly standing out were Sjostrom and Betts, who played out of their heads on both ends of the ice, Callahan and Dubinsky, whose offensive efforts are consistently exactly what I want to see, and of course Avery, who was always exactly where no Devil wanted him to be. Also, the longer we let Girardi play with Staal, the better he gets - he looked fan-goddamn-tastic last night.

As for the Avery-Brodeur mini-drama, Avery stood in Brodeur's crease a lot, Brodeur slashed and hooked him sometimes, and it got called never. The end. At the end of the day, Avery did his job, and Brodeur didn't. Avery drew Clarkson into a game misconduct and took the attention off of all his scorers while getting some great chances of his own (and ended up with 1 assist). Brodeur let 3 past him in 10:31. Avery wins. Again.

Goddamn it what a solid game. Lundqvist looked amazing, by the way. I loved the Vs. announcers, talking about him like his shutout wasn't as good as Prince Marty's performance in giving up 3. They used lines like "it wasn't much, but he made the big saves when he had to." That's what you say when a goalie wins a shootout after facing 18 shots. You know, like Brodeur always does. Last night, Lundqvist made 38 saves to earn that shutout. That's not "big saves when he had to," it's a really great performance. And a couple, as always, were robberies. Oh man, the sounds of the Garden last night healed me. When the chants of "Maaaaaartyyyyy...Maaaaaaartyyyyy" gave way to an excited "Hen-rik! Henrik!" as the seconds ticked down on the King's 3rd shutout of the season, I knew I could love hockey again.

Rangers in February: 3-6-4
Rangers in March: 8-4-1

Bring on the 'Canes, Bruins, Habs, and Flyers! Let's Go Rangers!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Penguins 4, Rangers 3

Ugh. This game made me hate hockey. No, this game made me hate the NHL. I am tired of this crap. Even the people in Mellon Arena with me knew that these were egregious calls. I'm torn on blogging about this game, because I hate to come out of a game and write about nothing but the officiating, but I can't talk about this game and not talk about the officiating. Lately, I've been watching a lot of hockey and calling the officiating bad. I don't mean "biased against the Rangers" when I say that, I just mean "obviously arbitrary." Games are generally officiated by people who know the rules but do not understand them, so terrible calls happen all over, some against us, some for us. We've come out on top due to these kinds of calls, and we've come out the losers sometimes, too.

Saturday was different. Saturday, after 10 minutes of sloppy play from the Rangers, we fought as hard as we could, played the best game we could play. So did the Pens (though they remembered to start when the game did). Then the officials obviously, embarrassingly took the game away. On multiple occasions. This shit ruins the sport, and I had to sit there and watch it happen. This is not to take anything away from the Penguins - they played a fantastic game through 60 minutes, and they could absolutely have won this, in regulation. But they didn't have to - the stripes handed it to them. We'll never know who should have won this game - I'm not necessarily claiming it's the Rangers. But I wish we could say for sure. I'd much rather have come out of this game saying "damn it, we got beat by a slightly better team again, I fucking hate these guys" than this. This ruins the sport.

We were penalized over the final 25 minutes of the game 7 times to their 2, and so many Penguin penalties were ignored in plain sight of the referees that I could not fucking handle.....aw hell, I can't even go into this. I'm so fucking disgusted. We played a good game!! Ugh. Fuck it. Here's Larry Brooks's article. Here's Michael Obernauer's. My dad made a list in a diatribe he launched at a Penguin fan friend of his this morning - I'm just gonna reprint his list here. It's as good as any I would make, but I don't have to suffer through making it. Ladies and gentlemen, my dad:

- Rangers forced to play with 4 for the 1st quarter of the 3rd on a terrible call against Orr. PLEASE watch the replay. It was a CLEAN HIT, from the side. The Pen, turned, and (taking a cue from Crosbaby, I guess), ducked and put himself into position for his face to hit the riser. Not a penalty at all, unless they want to turn the NHL into the Ice-Capades (which, I’m sure would suit Crosbaby just fine). And then they call it a Major, and Game Misconduct?! For what?!
You know – and they know - how much that scenario tires out a team, giving much more than just the 5-minute advantage to the Pens. The fact that they called a bogus 2-minute minor against the Pens right after that tells you that they knew they blew it, and this was their (weak) attempt at the standard "make-up call."

- Girardi with the puck at his own goal line, killing a penalty. Pen forechecks, he mises the puck, his stickblade gets caught in Girardi’s skate, yanking him down. Ref, watching the play, is 8 feet away, calls nothing.

- Drury, at blue line without puck, gets run into by Pen & bumped away from the play. Continuation of same play, Antropov is skating in same area, bumps into same Pen, Pen falls down. Ref, watching entire thing from 6 feet away, calls Antropov for Interference.

- Fleury handles puck outside trapezoid while being forechecked by Dubinsky. This is an "automatic", just like shooting the puck over the glass in your own end. Ref is there, watching from about 10 feet away. No call. Not only did the replay clearly show this should have been a penalty, but my son [Ed. Note: That's me!] was sitting up behind the goal, and he (and the Pens fans surrounding him *) saw ample white ice between the trapezoid and the puck while it was on Fleury’s stick.

- Antropov skating with the puck from blue line to red line, Pen forechecks from behind, knocks Antoprov’s skates out from under him (without touching the puck), Antropov falls & loses the puck. No other players nearby, ref is watching from 15 feet away. No call.

- Fleury covers up, a few players scrumming around the net. Some pushing & shoving. 5 seconds after it stops, Malkin – who was not involved - skates in from the faceoff circle, comes up behind Callahan, & lays a 2-hand with-stick crosscheck across Callahan’s lower back, dropping him to the ice. Refs see this, glide in & hold them apart (while Callahan gets up), no call.

Goddamn it. I have no idea how to get ready for tonight's game, fearing this kind of treatment. As Brooks said, "The Rangers' 4-3 defeat to the Penguins here yesterday afternoon was painful, but the unequal treatment under the law...received from the refereeing tandem of Dave Jackson and Steve Kozari raises questions far more profound than whether the Blueshirts will qualify for the playoffs."

Let's Go Justice?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thrashers 5, Rangers 4

Dignity and respect. These are the things John Tortorella wants to bring to this New York Rangers team. Everyone talked about how he was going to "hold veterans accountable," how he was going to "play fast, offensive hockey," how he was going to "light a fire under his team." But those aren't what Torts wanted to emphasize. Torts didn't come in talking about how important it was to play defense by playing offense, though that is the system he teaches, to great effect. He didn't come in talking about how these guys were going to have to feel responsible for their mistakes, though they do, far more than they ever did under Renney.

Torts came in with a message, believe it or not, of good feelings and pride. He talked about reforming some confidence, and he made it clear that no one was to step on our logo in the dressing room. The logo represents the team, and the team is something to be respected. You should feel honored to be a part of this club, and you should feel responsible for representing it. At the end of the day, Torts felt that this is where all of our troubles came from, and that this was what we needed to work on most: the rest we already had - it would come out from that.

It has not taken long for him to be proven right. With 8 games left in the season going into last night, the Rangers produced an effort so lacking in passion and pride that none of the other stuff mattered. And the other stuff was there, too. We scored enough goals (4), we scored enough PPG (2) (although that still only makes us 2 for 10, in a game that astoundingly featured 17 minor penalties), we were reasonably physical (at least, bodies were hitting other bodies) a lot, but it never seemed like we gave a shit about it. It was a lazy first period, sure, but it was also a lazy second, in which we went up 4-1 before giving up the second with 21 seconds left. It was exemplified by Antropov's "would-make-Don-Cherry-proud" "meh" face upon scoring our second goal. We just couldn't get our shit together to care about this game, and we paid for it.

Again, Obernauer's Daily News article wraps things up nicely:
As it happened, Valiquette wound up asking perhaps the only question that really mattered: "Where is our killer instinct when we're playing someone lower in the standings?" It was nowhere to be found last night, certainly not during three 5-on-3s, including one with the score 4-3 in the third period after Kovalchuk took his customary foolish run at Sean Avery that gave the Rangers their chance to take all the momentum back.
Exactly. Where was the killer instinct in this game? How do you give up a 4-1 lead to the 27th team in a league of 30 with 20:21 left to play, at this stage of the season, with points this critical?

Is there a positive takeaway? Always, if you look hard enough. Last night's comes in the form of "at least the coach gets it," which is admittedly becoming a tired argument of mine, but one I'm gonna stick with nonetheless, at least for now. I have taken the liberty of filling in the blanks that were censored by the Daily News and now provide for you the entirety, start-to-finish, with no cuts, of John Tortorella's press conference after last night's game:

[Some reporter asks a question to the effect of "Did you think the team could have played better?"]
"Yeah, I thought we sucked. Right on through the game. I think we're fortunate enough to get a point. We're very fortunate to get that."
[Some reporter asks a question to the effect of "What did you discuss in the locker room after the game?"]
"You know what? I don't give a shit what the guys talked about, I really don't care what the guys talked about. We sucked."

I love our new coach.

One more thing. Sorry to drag this entry on, and I really hate to do this, but as much as I have loved Larry Brooks throughout the years, he really needs to just suck a dick and calm down lately. This reeks. That article actually smells bad. We have 7 games left in our season. Our Jekyll-and-Hyde routine has brought us back and forth between "fighting for home ice" and "fighting for a playoff spot" over and over through the last few weeks, and this is only our new coach's 14th game with the team. There were 17 penalties in the game, in which we took a 4-1 lead before losing 5-4 in a shootout, thanks too a lackadaisical performance on our part and a fantastic one on the part of one of hockey's finest, Ilya Kovalchuk. Brooks, are you telling me that you couldn't find anything else to write about?

No, we barely get a game summary here, because that would get in the way of complaining about the head coach again. We get an entire piece about how unprofessional it was that Torts gave such a short, uninformative press conference. Brooks opens by complaining about Tortorella not choosing Zherdev on the shootout, which is a typical sportswriter move: rather than saying anything about the men the coaches did pick, single out one guy they didn't and talk about how great he is; conclude that the coaches are wrong. He then proceeds to rattle off a few more nondescript "coaching" complaints before whining that Torts didn't give a full press conference, giving a quick game summary, and bringing it all back home with "Torts needs anger management classes."

Really? Really? He didn't lash out and hurt someone. He didn't jump out on the ice and deck Drury when he made his 4th "what the hell am I doing with this puck?" maneuver. He just refused to give you a full breakdown of his coaching thoughts on this one particular night.

Here's the deal, Lar'. Can I call you Lar'? Here's the deal, Lar': we don't want to read about how you think the coach is doing at giving press conferences. We don't want to read your opinions on how he treats the press. We want to read about how you think he's handling our hockey team. I get that you're still pissed off he snubbed you in Tampa. I don't want to keep reading about how you think he's snubbing you. Get over it. He's the head coach of the team you are payed to cover for a living, and despite your bitterness over one press conference 2 years ago, he's doing a pretty good job of it. You were kinda a dick to him, good for you. He was a bigger dick to you, good for him. Now get over it and do your job.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I hate the Penguins

Fuck the fucking Penguins. Okay? Fuck them. Everyone listen up. Yes, the Penguins changed coaches and started playing well. Great. So did we. Their record of 13-2-3 under the new guy sounds impressive. But everyone shut the hell up. Listen. Yes I'm pissed they beat the Flames last night. But fucking look, okay? We are 2 points behind them in the standings with a game-in-hand (that game is tonight, against the lowly Thrashers). If we win, we're exactly tied in the standings. Look, here's the point:

Under Tortorella, we are 8-3-1, outscoring our opponents 38-29. Under Bylsma, the Pens are 13-2-3, outscoring their opponents 64-47. That means we've put up 17 points in 12 games, an average of 1.4 pts/game, while they've put up 29 in 18, an average of 1.6 pts/game. We're winning each game by an average of 3.2-2.4, while they're winning by an average of 3.6-2.6. That's not actually a very big difference. Let me put this another way.

The Pens have played 18 games with their new coach. If we continued at our current pace through 18 hypothetical games with Torts, we would be looking at 26 points in those games, only 3 points fewer than the Pens. What's more, we would have scored only 7 goals fewer than the Pens (57), while giving up 3 fewer (44).

That's not a substantial fucking difference! And we're doing it all without having two of the top 3 scorers in the NHL! In conclusion, the Pens aren't very fucking special. Thanks, math.

Oh, also last night, the Sabres beat the Panthers, and the Hurricanes beat the Senators, both in regulation. Shrinkin' it back down:

4. Philadelphia, 90 pts, 10 GR
5. Carolina, 89 pts, 6 GR
6. Pittsburgh, 88 pts, 7 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 86 pts, 8 GR
8. Montréal, 83 pts, 9 GR
9. Florida, 81 pts, 8 GR
10. Buffalo, 78 pts, 9 GR

We play the Thrashers tonight at 7, and had better damn win. This should be an easy 2, and as long as we don't approach it as such, it should be. This gets "must-win" status. Wake-Up Call: it's the last "easy" game on our schedule. After this, it's all Eastern Conference, all bubble teams or higher: Pens, Devils, 'Canes, Bruins, Canadiens, and Flyers twice. So yeah. We need the points wherever we can get them. Let's Go Rangers!

Two other games of import tonight. At 7:00, the Cats are in Philly. I'm officially going to say go Panthers, because I'd like to believe that 3 points and a game-in-hand is enough of a cushion on a sliding team that's 1-4-3 in their last 8, while 4 points and a game-in-hand might still be a surmountable distance over which to catch a team against whom we finish the season with a home-and-home. Always looking up, not down. Go Florida. Plus their broadcasts always look like the multimedia department of a high school made them in the late 90s. So, they get points for that.

At 7:30, the Lightning are in Montréal. Sure, the Bolts aren't good, but neither are the Habs lately (in fact, their records are right around the same over the last month), and if the Lightning could steal one for us, that would be neat.

That's all I got! Hockey hockey hockey!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tonight and the Standings

Have you heard my new band, Two-night and the Stand-ins?

Sorry. That was dumb. I've kinda got a headache. Let's blame that.

Last night the Thrashers matched the Canadiens goal-for-goal twice before the latter erupted for 4 consecutive and ended up winning 6-3. Fine, whatever. Again, I'm OK with bubble teams gaining their points against inferior teams. As long as we can, too. We'll see the same Atlanta tomorrow night.

Standings (numbers keep changing, rankings keep not)!

4. Philadelphia, 90 pts, 10 GR
5. Carolina, 87 pts, 7 GR
6. Pittsburgh, 86 pts, 8 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 86 pts, 8 GR
8. Montréal, 83 pts, 9 GR
9. Florida, 81 pts, 9 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 10 GR
11. Toronto, 75 pts, 8 GR
12. Ottawa, 74 pts, 10 GR

Yeah, it's a standings party. Do I realistically think I care about all these teams? No. But honestly, despite a 1-game lead, Buffalo has a worse chance of making it at this point than Ottawa. So if I include one, I have to include the other. Also, they're both in action against other bubble teams tonight. So, here's the full picture. Given that we're 10 points ahead of 10th right now, I could probably stand to start ignoring everyone down there. But if Ottawa's gonna keep making it interesting, it's good to keep tabs. Besides, if we keep winning, we don't have to care regardless. So, tonight:

Florida at Buffalo, 7:00 - I guess go Sabres, for the reasons we keep using - if their season really is over, let's keep Florida from creeping back over the line. A Buffalo win keeps more distance between "playoffs" and "not," and since we're in the former, that's good for us.

Ottawa at Carolina, 7:00 - Same idea? Even on Ottawa's incredible hot streak, they're gonna have a hard time getting in, and I'd rather see them use said current hotness to beat out our current rivals as long as they have it. Let them lose to other people and beat the team that we're 1 point behind with 1 game-in-hand. A Penguin fan friend of mine and I kinda decided we'd root for the Sens and Sabres tonight, and I think it's the right call. As usual, no overtimes please.

Calgary at Pittsburgh, 7:30 - This is one where the Pens really don't need these two points. The Flames are a very good team, though they're significantly better in Calgary than they are on the road. The Pens have way more on the line tonight than they do, though they'd like to grow their cushion over the Canucks from 3 to 5 and get more comfy as the division leaders. They already have 90 points on the season, and are a good enough team to beat the Pens. But they have to actually do it, and the Pens just keep fucking winning. Also, come on: Dion Phaneuf has the best name in hockey. Go Flames!

Rangers 2, Wild 1

Okay, so, there are two different meritorious perspectives on last night's game. The important thing is that we won. We played a solid, physical game, and we earned the two big points. We unquestionably played a better hockey game than either of our two over the weekend. We pressed deep, we punched people in the face a lot, etc. We won, at home, grabbing points we needed to stay out of the "anyone's game" category of bubble teams and in the "has a good shot" category.

So why might I be unhappy? Torts came in with a goal-scoring mindset. The Rangers under Renney won a lot of 2-1 games, and I get nervous when we win 2-1 games. When I get nervous, I do research (I think), which I what I did last night. I discovered some interesting facts (including: math is still fun):

Since Torts took over, we have played 730 minutes of hockey. If we discount our February 28 6-1 rout of Colorado, of the remaining 670:00, we have held the lead for 312:46, or just under half the time. However, we have only held the lead by more than a goal for 72:18, just about a tenth of the time.

They showed a statistic on Vs. last night (in between moments of being completely terrible at broadcasting a hockey game) that stated that, under Tortorella, we have scored first in 11 of 12 games (the only exception being when the 'Canes shut us out). I found that very exciting. Last night, I looked a little deeper:

Sure we've scored first in 11 of 12 under Torts. But in 9 of those 11, we gave up the next goal to go back to a 1-1 tie. We did so an average of 15:30 after scoring. More prominently, I looked at our March record thus far. In 9 games in March, we have scored first in 8, and we have given it right back in 7 of those 8, a depressing average of 10 minutes and 46 seconds later. The exception is Buffalo, over whom we had a 2-0 lead for all of 27 seconds before they cut it back to 2-1.

So, that puts the "big scoring" thing in some perspective. However, I'm not here to depress you - these statistics are (somewhat deliberately) misleading. The point isn't so much "we're not actually good at scoring goals" as it is "the 'scoring first' statistic isn't as meaningful as you'd like it to be." After all, it's not like we're not scoring goals - under Tortorella, we have outscored our opponents by an aggregate 38-29. That's not so bad. I just hope you understand why I'm at least a little nervous about just winning 2-1 - I've had a rough season.

That said, last night was a bit of a special case in and of itself. The Wild are, of course, coached by the infamously boring Jacques Lemaire, the crown prince of the trap. They manufacture boring hockey games. The Wild are as defensive a team as it is possible to be. They are #2 in the league in penalty killing at 87.1%, behind only us at 87.5%. They are #3 in the league in total goals allowed, at 178, behind only the Sharks at 176 and the Bruins at 171. And yet, they are ranked 21st in the league overall, with only 76 points on 73 games. What does this tell you?

It tells you that they're boring. They thrive on low-scoring games. They create low-scoring games. And in the face of this terrible, terrible brand of hockey, the very-recently-vanilla Rangers managed to create a little excitement (starting with Avery punching a dude), be patient, and secure the win. Why can we feel good about it? Because we can feel like the team gets it. The coach gets it. In a post-game interview, he described the game as "Awful to watch. I thought it was an awful game to watch. But we found a way to get a win."

If that's Torts's perspective on it, then I'm still happy. 86 points. 8 games to go. Let's Go Rangers!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senators 2, Rangers 1

Oh wow I have SO MUCH WORK TO DO, and the game's in 45 minutes, and I'm still at work doing SO MUCH. Okay, fine, the quick summary.

We played the same game we did against the Sabres, but even less exciting. I told you it wasn't enough. We lost because of it. No surprises. Sam and Joe went back to their "OH WOWZ THE OPPOSING GOALIE WAS SO GOOD" tricks, which is terrible. Alex Auld was fine, and we couldn't put more than one past him. We again won faceoffs and puck battles but couldn't figure out what to do from there. We again squandered power plays. Et cetera. We deserved to lose, and we did. Fine, I'm over it - everyone has bad weekends. We're just...running out of time to have them, so let's recover and win three big this week: tonight against the Wild, Thursday against the Thrashers, and Saturday, in Pittsburgh (I'll be there).

Rozsival got hurt. He's out 7-10 days. That is the end of how much I care about this fact. Michael Obernauer's Daily News article opens with:

The bad news is, the Rangers will have to do without Michal Rozsival for a little while. The good news is, they found out Monday that it will only be a little while - seven-to-10 days.

Wait, strike that, reverse it.

We're replacing him with a 21-year-old kid named Michael Sauer, who will be wearing (the original) LT's 56. He has 6 G, 16 G, 35 PIM in 59 games for the Wolf Pack this season, and Schoenfeld picked him because he got over some injury quickly or something. Whatever, he's not Rozsival, woo.

Last night, the Flyers beat the Devils, and the 'Canes beat the Panthers, in OT, so everything that could possibly have gone wrong did.


4. Philadelphia, 90 pts, 10 GR
6. Carolina, 87 pts, 7 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 86 pts, 8 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 84 pts, 9 GR
8. Montréal, 81 pts, 10 GR
9. Florida, 81 pts, 9 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 10 GR

At this point, the Sens are only a game behind the Sabres, and no way am I adding them to the list, so the Sabres are about to go. I'm leaving them on right now 'cause I'm too busy to make a decision.

Only other game of note tonight (ours is at 7) is Thrashers at Montréal at 7:30. Ugh. Bad time for a bad team to play a team right behind us. Please go Thrashers.

We'd better win this one. If we lose this one, those big wins from last week really seem to stop mattering. The Wild are desperate to get above their dashed line tonight. We need this win. That means we need to come out as if we need this win. We'll see what happens. Let's Go Rangers!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Standings Update

Even quicker:

The Caps couldn't beat the 'Canes (etc.), but the Maple Leafs won in Montréal, and the Blue Jackets won in Florida. Then, today, the Flyers won in Pittsburgh. All in regulation. Overall, not bad. Standings before our game tonight:

4. Philadelphia, 88 pts, 11 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 86 pts, 8 GR
6. Carolina, 85 pts, 8 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 84 pts, 10 GR
8. Montréal, 81 pts, 10 GR
9. Florida, 80 pts, 10 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 10 GR

In conclusion, Let's Go Rangers!

Rangers 5, Sabres 3

The good news is that we got the two points, and the Sabres left the building to chants of "Season's Over!" The bad news is that we played one of the worse overall games since we recently started playing good overall games. We played an unpleasant amount of time in our own end, and while we weren't necessarily losing puck battles along the boards, we certainly made a few too many bad defensive decisions, and once they were set up in our zone, we didn't press the issue and find our way back out nearly quick enough. Put another way, this effort would likely not have been enough to beat the Bruins, Predators, Flyers, or Canadiens in those games. But we played a solid game in terms of effort and standing up for each other, so we were the kind of team I like to see. I'd write more, but we're on again in 15 minutes, so I'm cutting this short.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One more quick thought, not about the Rangers

This was a very exciting week in hockey, as you may know. Martin Brodeur won his 552nd game to become the all-time winningest goaltender in NHL history. Alex Ovechkin, now league-leader in goals by 9, scored his 50th of the season. Evgeni Malkin, now league-leader in points by 10, surged ahead with 5 points in a single game, passing the 100-point mark for his second consecutive season.

There's a regular poll on every page of NHL.com weekly, asking the public who their "Fan Fav" is (clearly "Fav" is short for "Fave," which is in turn short for "Favorite"). It lists 3 players and their big accomplishments for the week, then asks fans to vote for their favorite.

The three listed this week are:

-Martin Brodeur ("Three games, three wins, one shutout and an NHL career record for most victories. Not a bad week.")
-Sidney Crosby ("NHL's No. 2 scorer had two goals and eight points for red-hot Penguins.")
-Roberto Luongo ("Won all three games, allowing just four goals and posting his 44th shutout for surging Canucks.")

Hmm, that's weird. Ovie's 50th didn't make the list. Also, Malkin scored 5 points in a single game and now has 102 on the season, breaking 100, but they chose to highlight Crosby, at 92 points on the season, instead. That's really weird. How remarkably arbitrary and not-at-all-obvious.

If you still don't get it, I'll do the very easy research for you. Alphabetically:
Martin Pierre Brodeur was born in Montréal, QC, Canada
Sidney Patrick Crosby was born in Cole Harbour, NS, Canada
Roberto Luongo was born in Montréal, QC, Canada
Evgeni Vladimirovich Malkin was born in Magnitogorsk, RSFSR, USSR (now Russia)
Alexander Mikhaylovich Ovechkin was born in Moscow, RSFSR, USSR (now Russia)


And so on

Everything last night went as expected: the superior teams all won. The Islanders kept it interesting for a while, but the 'Canes had a late surge (and a late-second-period really-that-wasn't-goalie-interference-we-swear) to come back and win 5-4, and so everything is as expected:

4. Philadelphia, 86 pts, 12 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 86 pts, 9 GR
6. Carolina, 83 pts, 9 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 82 pts, 11 GR
8. Montréal, 81 pts, 11 GR
9. Florida, 80 pts, 11 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 11 GR

Nothing wrong with that. We can only win our games. And we have 2 of 'em this weekend, both against theoretically inferior teams. Tonight at 7:00, we play the Sabres, and tomorrow night at 7:00, we play the Senators. Both at the Garden. These definitely count as "must-win" games. All the other teams in our position have been, as I've noted, beating the teams they should be beating. To drop these at home would be terrible for us. If you look at the standings, we're in 7th, but with our two games-in-hand, we're tied for 5th, 3 points ahead of 7th. These count as those two games-in-hand. Beating Buffalo would give us the added bonus of sticking them, considering the Canadiens' game-in-hand, 7 points out of the playoffs with 10 games left. As a team that really isn't all that comfortably far from 8th ourselves, this would help us breathe a little easier.

In our most recent stretch, we proved that we can come up and win big in the big games. Now, we need to prove that we've gotten over our other usual folly: sitting back when we think we can. The Sabres, given the situation I just described, are desperate for two points and will be playing like it. Ottawa has been having a very good stretch of playing spoiler lately, 7-1-0 in their last 8, including wins over the Pens and Canadiens and 2 over the Sabres. If we do the Old New York Ranger thing of sitting back and thinking these games will be easy, we will lose them both. It's up to Torts to make sure that doesn't happen.

There's a lot of other around-the-conference action this weekend, too. Each of the 7 teams in 4th-10th is in action once (we are the only ones in action more than that, playing twice). Unlike last night's games, these have a lot of real opportunity for the right teams to lose. This is for all you scoreboard-watchers out there (that's how you're supposed to address your audience on blogs, even blogs that aren't actually read, right? "All you...out there"?):

Maple Leafs at Montréal, 7:00 tonight - The Canadiens have been slipping lately, and this could be an excellent opportunity for Toronto to put some space between us and their "no-really-OUR-city-is-the-capital-of-hockey" rivals.

Capitals at Carolina, 7:00 tonight - Come on, Ovechkin. I just wrote a whole fake letter about how you're so great. Do it for me. With games-in-hand, Carolina's actually in 9th, not 6th, and this is another great opportunity to find space between us and them.

Blue Jackets at Florida, 7:00 tonight - Yes yes yes. Put all these together, and Montréal, Carolina, Florida, and Buffalo all have meaningful chances to lose tonight. I know we're supposed to be looking up, but it would be really nice to look down and not see immediate fear of a playoff spot disappearing. The Jackets are starting to get comfortable with the idea of their first-ever playoff run, but could use another handful of wins to get really cozy. How can you not root for Rick Nash, Steve Mason, and those boys?

Flyers at Pittsburgh, 12:30 tomorrow - Oh god fuck this game. The two teams hovering barely above us battle it out. Root against overtime. I can't mathematically pick a team I'd rather have win, though my instincts tell me we should root for Philly, because with games-in-hand, they're slightly ahead, but I can pick a team I despise more and would therefore rather have lose. Fuck the Pens.

And of course, our two games. Big weekend for the Eastern Conference bubble. Let's Go Rangers!

Friday, March 20, 2009

On open letter, re: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby

Dear NHL, PHWA, the sports media, et cetera,

Kindly shove something up your asses and start giving a shit about hockey, the actual fucking sport, you unreasonable motherfuckers. Put another way: stop being racists. Here's the deal:

If two players on the same team are very high scorers, and one of them is scoring higher than the other, the media story probably shouldn't be about when the guy in second is finally going to catch the guy in first.

If when one star player is out for a while, and another steps up and leads the team to countless victories in his stead, the media story probably shouldn't be about how interesting it was from the guy that sat out's perspective.

Scoring 50 goals in a season is an accomplishment. If someone does that, the lead story the next day should probably be about the accomplishment, not about how Don Cherry (fabulous dresser and insane person) and friends don't like it.

If one guy celebrates vigorously any time anyone on his team scores, and another guy looks down on those celebrations and barely notices when anyone other than himself scores, it's not the first guy that's classless.

Giving a public interview saying that you don't like the excitement of another star player (which you were fine with when you were the only star anyone ever talked about) is classless.

Having your teammates tell you about a little celebration to do when you hit a milestone, hitting that milestone, and spending 5 or so seconds performing that celebration isn't classless. It's having fun, with your team.

Skating around behind a guy who is already fighting someone else on your team in order to lean over and punch him in the balls a few times is classless.

Enjoying, and therefore celebrating, hockey, as a team sport, will never be classless. Using your whole body and standing up for yourself and your team will never be classless.

Whining at referees and diving to draw penalties will always be classless. Expecting special treatment and thinking you're the single most important person in the game, and by extension on your own team, will always be classless.

Oh, and one more thing that's always classless: Picking the North American over the European, just because of his nationality, to be the "face of the NHL," whether their names are Yzerman and Federov, Thornton and Jagr, or Crosby and Ovechkin.

A whole boatload of people who wanted to be excited about Ovechkin's 50th goal, because it's generally exciting hockey, without the stories being full of more of this bullshit
courtesy of:

Another quick standings update

The good news is that after Montréal scored first, Ottawa tied it 51 seconds later and never looked back. The bad news is that the Maple Leafs couldn't similarly hold off the Panthers. Overall, I'm actually okay with this - two bubble teams were playing opponents 10 points their inferior, out of the running for the season, and we went 1-1-0. I'll take it. Standings again stay in the same order, with numerical changes.

4. Philadelphia, 84 pts, 13 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 84 pts, 10 GR
6. NEW YORK RANGERS, 82 pts, 11 GR
7. Montréal, 81 pts, 11 GR
8. Carolina, 81 pts, 10 GR
9. Florida, 80 pts, 11 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 12 GR

See how Buffalo is slowly fading away? Their 2 games-in-hand over 8th are now looking pretty vital, since winning them both still puts them a point behind, while the Panthers, with their win last night, have a win in their game-in-hand putting them in the playoffs again.

Tonight, we have 3 games of interest, and our prospects are not good for any of them.

First of all, at 7:00, the Islanders are in Carolina. Jesus, if Carolina can't get their shit together to beat this embarrassment of a hockey team, at home, to scrape themselves off the bottom of the playoff bin, I can't say as they deserve a playoff run. Expect 2 points gained for the 'Canes here, but Let's Go Isles anyway.

At 7:30, the Kings are in Pittsburgh. This is like the Isles-'Canes game, but both teams are slightly better than their 7:00 counterparts. It would be a huge boon for us if the Kings can come into Pittsburgh and beat the Pens on home ice, but it doesn't seem terribly likely. I hate the idea of the Pens, infuriatingly 11-1-3 since former LA King Dan Bylsma took the helm, sitting at 86 points more than I can possibly convey in words, and my prayers are really with Bylsma's former team tonight. I'm trying to get comfortable with the Pens winning again, and it just isn't working, so I'm gonna try denial for a while and see how that goes.

Also at 7:30, Flyers in Buffalo. Yeah, that game. Obviously, priority one is no overtimes. With that out of the way, I really think I'm backing Buffalo here. I still don't think they're making it, and I'd love the Flyers to drop an easy two to make it easier for us to catch them. There are some caveats to that, of course: the obvious one is that if Buffalo loses, and then we beat them tomorrow night, they really are out of the running, which makes it that much more likely that we'll make it. More pressing on my mind, however, is that if the Sabres and Pens both win tonight, the Pens find themselves in 4th, with the Flyers in 5th. Gross. Also, if the Flyers lose a couple, and the Rangers AND Pens keep winning, we could see a round 1 playoff series of Rangers-Pens, with the Pens having home ice advantage. The Igloo is cursed for us, and I don't like that. Also, I live in Pittsburgh. I don't want the playoffs this year to once again leave me contemplating offing myself. Seriously, Fuck Sidney Crosby!

Realistically, though, the Flyers ought to win this game. Might as well concentrate on the positives - we'd have the chance to deliver Lindy Ruff a finishing blow tomorrow night. As usual, we can only win our own games. And if any of the 3 lesser teams in these games could step up for us tonight, all the better. Our eyes should be on tomorrow night - let the scoreboards do what they will.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Getting this out of the way

Here's your state-of-the-conference update. It looks much the same as last night, but here it is anyway.

Last night, the Hurricanes beat the Devils 4-2. This is why I was rooting for the Blackhawks two nights ago. Not because I hate Brodeur (though I do) - as I said, he was GONNA get that record anyway. I was rooting for the 'Hawks because, had they won, the Devils would have played Brodeur and well last night. Instead, coming off of that big victory the night before, they played Weekes and badly, and let Carolina come at them. Fine. As usual, the Devils piss me off. 2 points for the 'Canes, who remain in 8th with them.

4. Philadelphia, 84 pts, 13 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 84 pts, 10 GR
6. NEW YORK RANGERS, 82 pts, 11 GR
7. Montréal, 81 pts, 12 GR
8. Carolina, 81 pts, 10 GR
9. Florida, 78 pts, 12 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 12 GR

Tonight, at 7:30, there are two games that matter. Each features a 70-ish-point Eastern team playing an 80-ish-point Eastern team. The Senators play host to the Canadiens, and the Leafs go into Florida. Maybe Ottawa can keep doing us favors. Maybe the Cats can drop one. Maybe not. It would sure be nice. Anyway, those are the games to watch tonight.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Last night was good for other reasons as well, despite the point we granted Montréal for a job well-done. The Penguins beat a Kovalchuk-less, Lehtonen-less Atlanta - this victory gets classified as "not worrisome." They won by a lot, over a terrible team. All these bubble teams are gonna pick up points here and there, and I'm not worried about the Pens being able to beat a team like this. This is exactly the kind of place I'm comfortable with the Pens gaining their points. When they beat Boston, I was pissed.

The point is: other than these Pens' two and the point we gave the Canadiens, our other enemies stayed quiet last night. The Senators beat the Sabres 4-2 (the Sabres are still in my consideration, but at this point it's pretty much just so we can keep watching them fall), and the Caps blanked the Cats by 3 (Capitals, thank you. I'm sorry I yelled). Hell, the Red Wings even beat the Flyers 3-2. (Hey, Penguins. Detroit is Hockeytown. This "Pittsburgh is Hockeytahn" campaign is so inaccurate and assuming as to be offensive. You lost last season. Remember using a lot of firepower and no real defense in tearing through three subpar Eastern Conference teams before getting your asses handed to you in the finals? If Pittsburgh is Hockeytahn then Arizona is Football-land.) Sorry, I've derailed. The point is: even the Flyers lost. Which means it's time for me to stop pussy-footing around. I imagine Torts screaming at me to man up and allow myself to want greatness, to always look up instead of down. And in Torts I trust. So, let's take a look at those standings:

4. Philadelphia, 84 pts, 13 GR
5. Pittsburgh, 84 pts, 10 GR
6. NEW YORK RANGERS, 82 pts, 11 GR
7. Montréal, 81 pts, 12 GR
8. Carolina, 79 pts, 11 GR
9. Florida, 78 pts, 12 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 12 GR

The Devils are in Carolina tonight at 7:00, in the only game tonight that affects these teams. As usual, I hate rooting for the Devils, so I won't be watching, but Go Devils nonetheless. Oh God even typing that hurts.

Rangers 4, Canadiens 3

Yes, yes, and fuck yes! This...this was good news. Now, if you look at nothing but the final results, I can understand why you might think I'm a nutcase. "We played a mediocre, sliding team right near us in the standings, kept giving up the lead, and squeaked by by being good at shootouts" is the type of thing you might say to me, in that situation. That summary sure does make it sound like Old New York Rangers. But, you would be grossly misinformed: the New New York Rangers are winning the battle for the New York Rangers' collective soul (Ohhhhhhhhhhh, heaven let your light shine down).

The Old New York Rangers would have gotten these results by getting a couple of flukey goals from the point or off of weird caroms, giving up the lead on lazy backskating plays, and forcing Lundqvist to bail them out yet again. The New New York Rangers got these results by never relenting, driving hard to the net all the time. Even after giving up three one-goal leads in regulation (and, I guess, two more in the shootout), including the third one on a really "soft goal" (Hank's words, not mine) with 5 minutes left in the game. This team battled hard for every puck and stayed in the Montréal zone for the majority of the game, regardless of circumstance, outshooting them 16-5 in the third (despite a score of 2-2 through that period) after pulling even with them in shots in each of the first two.

Scott "probably shoulda' been the captain, or co-captain with Drury, but they never ask me" Gomez summarized the success for me best: "We didn't lose focus. We took two leads in the third, they came back, and there was no panic. Three minutes left, the coach said, 'Don't sit back, you better go. We're going after this win.' That was the mind-set. Even when they came back, Torts was saying, 'There's no holding back.'"

Bingo. Arguably, this was even better than winning big against a team. Because it showed us that Torts's system is working. Drive hard, all the time. Play defense by playing offense. Don't sit back. You're gonna give up a few odd-man rushes, trust your goalie. And as it turns out, even when your goalie DOES bungle a shot, you fight back anyway. This shootout victory with lots of leads lost wasn't won by our goalie, it was won by an oppressive offense.

As a firm believer in credit where credit is due, I want to show you Larry Brooks's article from today. It hits on almost all of the salient points from this game, including the egregious oversights of Referee Bill McCreary's overseeing.

Finally, the personnel worth mentioning - two up front, two in the back:
Nik Antropov has won me over. I spent a week or whatever talking about how his bigness was so far enough, but he was going to need to be more. In our 4-2 loss to the Flyers on Saturday, you may remember that he opened the scoring by actually out-skating Simon Gagne: moving from behind him all the way to in front of him, with the puck. He's increased from there, and last night he was the powerhouse that Sather clearly wanted us to believe he would be. He was on every puck, and once he has the puck, it is very hard to make him stop having it, what with the built-like-a-Chevy thing. Can he sustain it? It certainly seems to be a period of improvement, rather than a blip. I guess we'll see.
Ryan Callahan was a beast and a half. He made about a million gorgeous moves with the puck, and he got to it by pressing everywhere. If he had half a chance at a puck, he was there trying for it. It's all about winning the little battles for the puck, and he won them.
Dan Girardi is slowly becoming a fantastic defenseman. Putting him on the pair with Staal (I said this in October, I am right about everything) has been the best thing for the kid, and he's had the chance to really start to develop. He made some of the best choices last night that I've ever seen him make. On a defensive squad that most often over the season has begged the reaction "Why was he standing THERE?", Girardi last night kept being exactly where he needed to be. I am excited.
Derek Morris, as the text message I got about him last night put it, is "meh." Mind you, when your "Solid Six" contains Michael Rozsival, "meh" isn't so bad. By the end of last night's game, he was starting to make some smart choices, but he certainly hasn't emerged as the defensive leader we handed out 3 starting skaters for. I'm still giving him time. But this was clearly a trade deadline day acquisition, giving up future talent for a present need. We have 11 games left in the regular season. How much more time should I give him?

I don't want to end this on a "meh" note about Morris. The Rangers are playing their best hockey of the season, and as Brooks mentioned, now's a pretty good time for it. The game last night was an important one, not just for the (admittedly huge) two points, but also because it showed me a team that does not get discouraged when it loses the lead - that keeps taking the fight to the opponent until the end. I only saw about 5 minutes of the Old New York Rangers last night, in the first 5 minutes of the game. From there on, the New New York Rangers came through. Remember that "season-defining stretch"? 3-1-0, outscoring our opponents by an aggregate 16-8. I'm not saying I'm confident yet, but you can absolutely move me up to "cautiously optimistic." Let's Go Rangers!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More defining moments

Tonight, we play in Montréal at 7:30. This, you'll recall, is the final game of the stretch my father referred to as "season-defining." So far, we're 2-1-0 in that stretch. 3-1 is a better definition of a season than 2-2 is. You've seen the standings. You know why this is big. Winning puts us at the top of the bubble, losing puts us back near that dreaded dashed line (ooooooooooh). But seriously, this is another game against an in-bubble team. The Canadiens, meanwhile, are a team a lot of us are starting to smell blood around. Since firing Carbonneau, they have gained 3 points in 6 games without winning in regulation. This is an opportunity to strike while they're faltering and gain some very important points against some very nearby competition (again, see the current standings 3 posts ago).

In "unimportant storylines people are writing about because they need to write about something" news, Lundqvist hasn't done well in Montréal lately. That's a dumb thing about which to write a story. Relatedly, I'm depressed by how much this blog seems to come down on Larry Brooks, who I really do like. And hey, I guess you have to write about bullshit sometimes, when you write to pay the rent. The point is: that's a dumb article.

More importantly, notice that tonight is our last game until the weekend. That gives the other bubble teams the rest of the week to start making up points on us. This is part of that whole "you need to get points in the games-in-hand for them to matter" thing. If we don't pick up the 2 tonight, and other bubble teams win a lot this week, our recent feel-good success will stop feeling quite so good again. As my father is so fond of saying, "Of course, I'll start to really feel good if they can do this for more than one game in a row..."

Also tonight, at 7:00, is a game the Rangers don't actually care about, but that I'll mention anyway - Blackhawks in New Jersey. Tonight, barring miracles, Martin Brodeur will pass Patrick Roy and become the winningest goalie in NHL history. I threw up a little in my mouth when I said that. I'm not watching this game, but I feel obligated to mention it for a sentence. I'm, of course, rooting for the Blackhawks, but not just on general principle (at this point, Brodeur is obviously going to get this record soon, I'd rather spend that energy blogging about why Roy was still a better goalie, which I may do at some point later in life) - if he fails, he gets another chance against Carolina tomorrow night, and I'd like to see the desire to win that record help us out there. But realistically, he's going to make some modicum of numerical history tonight, so, there you have it. Moving on.

Every game that matters tonight is at 7:30:

Sabres in Ottawa - If the Sens do us a favor here tonight, then the Sabres move on to face the Flyers Friday night. If that game goes as it ought to (not that I necessarily want it to), we could be poised, on 3 days' rest, to put the final nail in the coffin of a tired Buffalo team. I know, I'm getting ahead of myself. But still - an Ottawa win at home can't hurt.

Thrashers in Pittsburgh - Oof. This sucks. Thrashers are playing without Kovalchuk AND Lehtonen tonight, while Malkin seems to be healthy enough to suit up for the Pens. I appreciate the Thrashers' current 6-game streak, and I'd LOVE to see them pull this off for us, but...we might have to bite the bullet on this one. Even so, as you've heard me say before, stranger things have happened.

Capitals in Florida - The Caps need to get their shit together. The Panthers are 2 points behind us with a game in hand, and this game would be a great one for them to lose, against #3 in the conference, as opposed to, for example, Thursday, when they play Toronto. I'd like to get invested in this game, since it has every reason to go well for us, but the Caps keep breaking my heart. Please, guys? You have the best player in hockey!

Flyers in Detroit - I know, we're not thinking about the Flyers yet. I talked about this game before. Just keeping it on the rader.

Let's Go Rangers!

The Grate One

Okay, absolutely everything that everyone says about Sean Avery is wrong, and it's pissing me off. Today, we look at the 3 types of wrong thing people say about Sean Avery, and then we take a quick moment to clarify what is actually true about him.

Asinine Idea 1: Sean Avery has no real offensive ability! They only keep him around to be a pest!
I'm starting with the easy ones. Avery scores. That's easy. In his first season with us, he scored 20 points in 29 games. In his whole first run with us, he scored 53 points in 86 games. Since his return this time around, he's scored 5 points in 6 games. Sure, he's not a 50-goal scorer, but he sure seems to be a 50-point scorer. That's hardly insignificant. I'm not gonna play that whole "record with him and without him" card everyone plays - that's stupid. But it's also stupid to claim that Avery does not have a very positive impact on the team. This particular Asinine Idea also sometimes takes the form of the condescending "he'll be good if he sticks to playing hockey." This comment comes from someone with a very short memory: the thing Avery is best at is continuing to play his game while getting other people off of theirs. "Sticking to his game" isn't the "New Sean Avery," it's everything that made the original Sean Avery so great.

Asinine Idea 2: Sean Avery is a dirty goon who doesn't belong in the league!
Okay, someone watch a hockey game, sometime, ever, before writing about hockey. Chris Simon was a dirty goon who didn't belong in the league. Jarkko Ruutu is a dirty goon who doesn't belong in the league. Avery is annoying as hell, and he got suspended for saying the phrase "sloppy seconds" to a reporter. When you leap at a guy 3 feet from the boards to try to knock is face into the glass, when you try to collide with a dude's knee, when you check a guy a few seconds after the whistle when he's not looking and his body is relaxed, when you skate around behind someone engaged with someone else to hit him in the back and then skate away before he can turn and face you - that's when you're a dirty player. When you hit people gutlessly and with intent to injure. That's not Sean.

Asinine Idea 3: Sean Avery (will/has already) save(d) our season!
Yes, even Ranger fans can be wrong sometimes (just not as often as, say, Islander fans). You will hear this claim most often in conjunction with the statistics I refused to use to refute Asinine Idea 1 (since picking up Avery for the first time, we're 55-25-16 with him in the lineup, 40-34-11 without him). Our season is not necessarily saved, and if it is, it was not all the work of one man. This, ironically, employs a little of what I'll call the "Brodeur Principle," whereby statistics are irresponsibly used to pin the success of an entire team on a single person, making that person look better than he is, even if he is very good at his job.

Reality: Sean Avery is a very good hockey player who reminds me a lot of Esa Tikkanen. He brings energy when the team needs it, is always in someone's face or crease, and keeps his stick on the ice to score goals. This particular Rangers team was flat and small, and we brought on size and energy, in the collective form of Nik Antropov, Sean Avery, and John Tortorella. I am very happy to have Avery as a part of this squad, because he helps fill that need. So far, it's working. He is very good at getting in people's faces and then making plays when they're busy being pissed off. The end.

Vote Girardi or the terrorists win

A lot happened this weekend, and there's a lot I won't get around to, but I want to make sure to touch on Dan Girardi's fight. Just over halfway through the first period on Sunday, Flyers captain Mike Richards took a run at Nik Zherdev and hit him hard, away from the puck. Girardi - yes, Dan Girardi - went after him. Dropped the gloves with him and fought. It was awesome. It really felt like a hockey player standing up one of his guys. It wasn't this "staged fighting" stuff the NHL is wasting its time talking about now - it was a real fight. Girardi gets an A+.

In addition to my compliments, Girardi also got 17 minutes' worth of penalties. A 5 for fighting to match Richards's (of course), a 2 for instigating (an interesting choice, possibly valid, since he did start it - but it makes you wonder: if the NHL gives extra penalties to "staged" fights where two guys agree to go at it, AND they give extra penalties to the guy who starts it - which fighting DO they approve, exactly?), and a 10-minute misconduct (completely off-the-wall, I guess it's because he fought the captain, so, therefore it's worse, or something?).

But the real point is that regardless of the penalties, Girardi did a good thing. And more importantly, the coach knows it:

"I thought in that situation, in back-to-back games (against) Philly, a team maybe we'll see in the playoffs, I thought it was a good thing. I think that's what Danny's thinking about. I don't like seeing good, hard-hitting hockey have to be addressed with a fight, especially come playoff time. You can't be in that box for no reason. Sometimes being a tough team is a team willing to take a check to make a play, especially at this time of the year...But in that situation, where we're at, and trying to come together as a team, I like what he did."

Now, I'm not saying Renney would have come out against what Girardi did, or benched him for it, but I doubt he would have publicly approved like this. This is the kind of mentality a team needs. Good for Torts, good for Girardi, good for us.

The lay of the land

I should really start blogging on weekends, too. This is too much to take.

Last night, nothing important happened. I mean, the Thrashers won their sixth straight, beating the I-told-you-these-guys-were-in-total-freefall Capitals by the are-you-sure-you're-reading-that-right score of 5-1, which led to me having a dream in which the Thrashers won so many in a row that we had to start including them in talks about the bubble, and they became another team that could knock the Rangers out of the playoffs......

but, the point is: nothing that actually matters to the Rangers' playoff chances happened.

I'm easing myself into the myriad topics I actually want to talk about here, very few of which I will actually end up covering by the end of the day, due to my having a job that isn't to write this terrible thing, so let's start with a quick bubble-standings update, after the weekend's games.

Saturday, we and the Canadiens lost in regulation, and the Pens, Sabres, Panthers, and 'Canes all lost in shootouts. Sunday, we and the Pens won, and the other 4 were inactive. Yesterday, as I mentioned, we were all resting. Incidentally, does the NHL hate Mondays? Is this a trend? 2-game Mondays, 12-game Tuesdays? Whatever. The point is: The Canadiens picked up nothing in 1 game, the Sabres, Panthers, and 'Canes each picked up 1 in 1 game, we picked up 2 in 2 games, and the Pens infuriatingly picked up 3 in 2 games. Here's where that leaves us, as of this afternoon:

5. Pittsburgh, 82 pts, 11 GR
6. Montréal, 80 pts, 13 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS, 80 pts, 12 GR
8. Carolina, 79 pts, 11 GR
9. Florida, 78 pts, 13 GR
10. Buffalo, 76 pts, 13 GR

I'll get into tonight's games a little later, but there are two thoughts about these standings that I want to leave you with first:

1) I am still not putting the Flyers on the chart yet, because we have enough problems without worrying about home ice, and they're still pretty out-of-reach, when you consider games-in-hand: they are sitting on 84 points, with 14 games remaining. But, as some kind of saying probably goes, you need to actually get points out of those games-in-hand for them to matter. With the Flyers in Detroit tonight, the standings really could keep shifting in such a way that they'll need to be included in this. And Torts does keep telling us to look up, not down. Not yet, though - one thing at a time.

2) This is all bullshit. I feel like I've been posting these standings for long enough now that I need to throw out that disclaimer. There are different reasons you could be looking at these standings, and I feel obligated to steer you from the wrong ones. The actual summary of the standings is: There are 10-15 games left in the season, and 5th through 10th are all within a few points of each other. That's what matters. If you're worrying about which side of that dashed line we fall on on a given day in this stretch, you're doing it wrong.

I post these for two reasons. One is to give you an overall picture of where we're standing, why each game is so important, and which other teams' games are also important. The other is because I'm a crazy fucking geek, and putting together numbers like this appeals to me on a very raw level. So, the point is: read these standings for those reasons. If you find yourself thinking anything like "oh crap, yesterday we were in 8th and then we didn't play last night and now we're in 9th," chill. This has been your "how you are supposed to think" lesson for the day. Thanks for tuning in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rangers 4, Flyers 1

Sunday was better. Sunday, mostly the same Rangers showed up. Mostly the same Rangers led the way. And we got a lot more power play opportunities. Avery did what he does, but better. And we scored 3 PP goals. Honestly, aside from slightly different officiating, and a little more luck, there was only one Ranger who played radically different in the 4-1 victory than he did in the 4-2 loss: Wade Redden. He played a solid game of defense in this game. And we won 4-1.

I'm not saying the first game was Redden's fault, and I'm CERTAINLY not saying the second game was. But, if you compare game to game, against the same team, most Rangers played about equivalently. Zherdev did some pretty things but made some mistakes. Antropov was big (and therefore effective). Naslund didn't seem to matter. Gomez and Drury remembered to do their jobs. Staal was the best player on the team not named Henrik. Avery annoyed the piss out of everyone and then turned around and scored goals while they were whining in the penalty box about how unfair it was that a big meaniehead was allowed to play with them. Rozsival was unacceptable. Lundqvist was fantastic. Et cetera, et cetera, for both games.

Except Redden, who was awful Saturday and solid Sunday. Now, again, I don't wanna put our entire season on one dude. But I said to my girlfriend just before we opened the season, "I don't wanna oversimplify, but basically if Redden is amazing, our season will be amazing. If he's average, it will be average. If he's terrible, so will we be. He was brought on to be the defensive difference-maker, but we are paying so much for him that if he is another hole, we will be bad." Now, I'm not saying I'm always right. But I'm always right. The team is coming together, slowly, but it needs to keep coming together, and I can't help but feeling like everyone else's role is pretty much set in that. Avery will be leading the charge, Rozsival will be taking away from it, and Lundqvist will be a shining star. And I feel like Redden is enough to tip the scales in either direction.

Who knows? It's a weird thing to come out of this weekend writing primarily about Wade Redden. But all the "real" sportswriters keep talking about Sean Avery, so I guess I'm allowed to talk about someone else.

Flyers 4, Rangers 2

Back-blogging, because instead of blogging about Saturday afternoon's game, I spent the rest of Saturday watching more hockey.

Despite how angry I was during this game, there were positive takeaways. Watching the Rangers is starting to feel more and more like watching an epic battle for a character's soul, wondering whether Siegfried or Nightmare will eventually come through...

Sorry. The point is, you no longer wonder which Ranger team is going to show up for the game, you wonder which Rangers are going to pull the team to their side for that shift, shift by shift, all game. We had a lot of very inspiring shifts. Biron was spectacular, and we just couldn't get enough by him. We had players who didn't give up right through the end.

On the other hand, the "fantastic opposing goalie, got a lot of shots in, couldn't get any by him" argument sounds like a month-ago Rangers report. And we had shifts where players like Redden and Roszival swayed the momentum, to terrible. I'm inclined to believe putting them on the same pair is better - that way we have 1 shitty pair and 2 good pairs, rather than someone shitty on the ice for 2/3 of the time.

On the other hand, these shots weren't just one-and-dones from the point, there was a lot of sustained pressure a lot of the time.

On the other hand, there were 5-minute stretches where it WAS all one-and-dones and nothing interesting happened.

On the other hand....et cetera.

Basically, there are a lot of positive takeaways from this game, but not enough to convince me that we're solid. We are slowly improving. And if we're not gonna pick up 2, at least no one else did either on Saturday. 4 bubble teams picked up 1 each, the other 2 (us and Montréal) didn't get any. Rangers squeak by, losing in regulation to a better team with a decent-but-not-great effort. Next stop: Sunday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This weekend

Oh man I am WAY too busy at work to be posting this right now. Fine. Weekend. We play the Flyers in Philly tomorrow at 1, and then back at the Garden Sunday at 12:30. I would really like those games to make this game into some kind of streak. Then I could even reasonably call this a "surge" without being full of shit. But it's going to be hard, the Flyers have consistently been very good all season. Remember when I said the Carolina game was going to be much harder than the Boston game? And then it was? Well, these are, too. And they're getting pretty vital. If there are pre-playoff playoffs, this home-and-home is they. I can't stress this enough, so I won't try. We've been getting better and better. We need another similar growth in skill between yesterday and tomorrow. That's not impossible. But it has to happen.

Meanwhile, a million other games are happening. All 5 other bubble teams are in action tomorrow, too (none against each other), and the Pens play again Sunday. Specifically:

Senators at Penguins, 3:00
Thrashers at Sabres, 7:00
Devils at Canadiens, 7:00
Hurricanes at Capitals, 7:00
Lightning at Panthers, 7:00

Bruins at Penguins, 3:00

Wow, I could watch 12 hours of hockey this weekend.

Hopefully, we can at least count on the Bruins (who will use their shitty play of the weekend on the Islanders Saturday) and Devils (Marty looking to tie Roy's all-time win record), and possibly count on the Capitals (if they get their shit together - who knows with that team). Then we'll be looking for help from the East's 12 through 14 spots. But hell, we got some help from number 15 last night, and "anything can happen in the New NHL," right??

Hah. Well. As I said yesterday, stranger things have happened. All 3 of them should be way closer games than Isles-Canadiens should have been, so there's always hope.

Most importantly, of course, are our two games. Let's concentrate on those and see how the cards fall out.

Let's Go Rangers!

I just thought of something

This home-and-home that I keep referring to as the big question mark of our season? The one that I keep saying is a huge deal, that we have to come in big and get points? The one against the Flyers?

It's against the Flyers.

The Flyers, who have been out of my standings picture for a while now, because they are a few points up and have so many games in hand.

Well, specifically, they have 82 points, with 16 games remaining.

If we're talking about the idea of beating them twice this weekend....they may find their way back onto our charts.

I know, I know. One thing at a time. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's finish celebrating yesterday.

Speaking of last night's results...

Hooray for hockey! I don't know where to begin. My (less happy than I) Pens fan friend and I spent 4 hours watching 5 games on 2 TVs last night. End result: Hooray for hockey!

In the Panthers-Sabres game, I said I think I want the Sabres to win, but I'm happy as long as it doesn't go into overtime. The Sabres won in regulation. Sure, that keeps them in the bubble for now, but they're still at its bottom, and time is running out, and I'm willing to spot them 2 points against the Panthers, if it means the Cats don't get them. And they're welcome to lose tomorrow to the Thrashers ;)

In the Penguins-Jackets game, the Jackets went up 3-0, and were still up 3-0 with 12 minutes left in the game. Then, they did what non-championship teams do, and the Pens did what the Pens always do, and in a span of 3:25, it was 3-3. That's a point I'm kinda pissed about, because I really hate the Penguins, and come on! You're up 3-zip with 12 minutes of hockey left to play! Just...play the game! But, the Jackets win it in the SO, so the Pens' winning streak snaps, and they only take 1 point out of the night. Fine.

In the Islanders-Canadiens game, I'm not really gonna care too much that the Isles were up 2-1 with 14 minutes left, then killed off a full 2-minute 5-on-3, and then 2 minutes later gave up the tying goal. The Isles came back and won it in overtime anyway, and this is tantamount to robbery. Fish Sticks do us a favor. Canadiens gain 1.

Finally, in the game I watched the least of, the Stars went up 3-1 and finished off Carolina 3-2. I don't have a ton to say about it, cause I didn't watch it a ton, but I'm sure it was as good as I expected it to be, because I'm right about everything. Thank you Dallas.

So, IF we were to discount the Sabres from contention (which, you'll note, I'm not), the 5 remaining teams in the bubble were all in action last night. We're the only one that came away with 2 points. And, as I mentioned yesterday, that means all the games-in-hand math stays the same. We just...move up. Of course, losing to the Flyers this weekend would still put us in a terrible place. But we'll worry about that later. No one in the East is in action tonight. Lundqvist sets his NHL record. We're 4-1 in our last 5. Today, we feel good.

Your reward:

5. Montréal - 80 pts, 14 GR
6. Pittsburgh - 79 pts, 13 GR
7. NEW YORK RANGERS - 78 pts, 14 GR
8. Carolina - 78 pts, 12 GR
9. Florida - 77 pts, 14 GR
10. Buffalo - 75 pts, 14 GR

Rangers 4, Predators 2

The jury's still out, but last night's results are in. I'll get to the "sigh of relief" standings picture later, first, we need to talk about *us*. We came out hard, scored early, then fell a little back, gave up two on a bad penalty and a bad turnover from two top forwards, and went back to the locker room down 2-1, feeling like the game was already over.

Sound familiar?

Ah, but there's a new Sheriff in town. And he doesn't put up with that kind of self-pity. We don't know what he said to them in that locker room between periods, but we know that when they came back out, Zherdev (responsible for the aforementioned bad turnover) did not touch ice again, and the Rangers went back to dominating. We scored 2 more that period and a capper in the third to bring home another well-earned, much-needed 2 points. All we know is what Gomez said: "Torts let us know that it's unacceptable...It has been a while since I've heard a speech like that. We were playing too timid. Nashville had the 2-1 lead and we thought it was over. He let us know what it is going to be like from now on. He lit into all of us. We were feeling sorry for ourselves and he spotted that right away. He called us out. I thought we responded well."

Again, the game was a showcase of Old Rangers and New Rangers. This time, New Rangers were around for around 45 of the 60 minutes, and won out. Let's hope this is a trend in that direction. Let's hope that every game, we go a little farther in that direction. Last week, we were good enough to beat the Islanders and the Avs, good enough to take advantage of a shitty backup goalie. Earlier, we weren't good enough to beat the surging 'Canes, but last night, we were good enough to beat the Predators, although we probably weren't quite good enough to beat the Flyers. This weekend, we'll have to be. I think we can be. It will be a pretty big litmus test.

But today, we can take a deep breath and celebrate. Last night was an excellent night for hockey.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Around the NHL

OK, so the previous post is the one that really matters for tonight, but as you know, the standings are a quagmire, and there are always other NHL games waiting to make our lives worse. Here are the relevant standings as of this afternoon:

5. Montréal, 79 pts, 15 GR
6. Pittsburgh, 78 pts, 14 GR
7. Carolina, 78 pts, 13 GR
8. Florida, 77 pts, 15 GR
9. NEW YORK RANGERS, 76 pts, 15 GR
10. Buffalo, 73 pts, 15 GR

Yeeeeah. There will be movement tonight. Let's hope it's positive for us. Besides our visit to the home of Country Music Television, there's a lot of relevant action around the conference tonight:

Panthers at Buffalo, 7:00
Penguins at Columbus, 7:00
Islanders at Montréal, 7:30
Hurricanes at Dallas, 8:30

You did that math right. All 6 teams in this picture are in action tonight. Interestingly, but unimportantly, that means everyone will have the same number of games in hand on each other tomorrow afternoon as they do right now.

The Blue Jackets are trying to stay on top of the Western bubble and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They have a lot to prove. The Penguins....have to lose again eventually, right? Come on!! Rick Nash!! Antoine Vermette!! R.J. Umberger!! Come on!!!

The Islanders...yeah. Well. I guess stranger things have happened.

'Canes-Stars is going to be a great hockey game. If our boys weren't in action tonight, I'd probably stay home and watch this one. Both teams are, if such a thing can be said to exist, in the middles of their respective bubbles. Both teams are capable of playing great hockey but also have yet to comfortably establish themselves. Both have totally respectable probable future hall-of-famers who don't have that many more runs left in them. I'm rooting for the team with Henrik Lundqvist's twin brother on it.

And, of course, in Panthers-Sabres, we have another "please-don't-go-to-overtime" situation. I know that conventional wisdom and previous patterns would lead you to believe that I'm going for the Cats in this one. After all, I've been looking for the Sabres to drop a couple and drop out, and I've said that in cases like these you root for the guys that are higher up, so the lower guys can stay low and we can top them. However, I have this feeling that Buffalo's not gonna make it anyway, and if they can take a couple of points from Florida on their way down, I'm certainly not complaning. So, I think I'd be happy if the Sabres won this one. Really, though, as usual, I'm rooting for whoever is winning with 10 minutes left in the third.

Let's Go Rangers! (and Jackets, and Islanders (ew), and Stars...)

Believe in me as I believe in you.....Toniiiiiiiiiiight.....Toniiiiight Tooonight....

The Nashville Predators, our hosts at 8:00 this evening, are also what the media has taken to calling a "bubble team." They're sitting in 8th, 3 points from 6th, 4 points minus a game-in-hand from 13th. Despite having lost their last two, they won 6 in a row before that, yet another bubble team that has all of a sudden been playing great hockey for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Plus, they have a roster containing an incomprehensible-for-New-Yorkers 8 defensemen, which meaninglessly includes Ranger-you-don't-remember Greg de Vries. Thus ends my knowledge of the Nashville Predators.

But as Torts teaches us, it's not about the opponent, it's about us. Where are we as a team, regal stomach problems aside? There are two equally viable schools of thought on the matter. One says that the Rangers did the best they could to shake things up late, but for a largely vanilla team this was not enough. With the additions of a new coach and some big personnel (Antropov) and personalities (Avery), we surged forward to win a handful against a bad Avalanche, a pathetic Islanders, and an inexplicably bush-league Manny Fernandez, while showing our true, old-school colors by being unable to even find the twine once against a Carolina team who is *actually* surging into the playoffs.

The other school of thought says that the Rangers made big important moves to dramatically change the face of the club, we're still getting our footing down, and we have nowhere to go but up. Before Carolina, we had scored 14 goals in 3 games, and losing one, especially to a team playing as well as Carolina has been playing lately, doesn't ruin that.

I'm not sure either school has it exactly right, but if we ARE that massively-improved team with nowhere to go but up, we only have 15 games left in which to prove that. It starts tonight, in Music City, USA, at 8:00. My dad (always right etc.) e-mailed me this afternoon: "Our season will be determined in the next 6 days." In those 6 days, we play in Nashville tonight, have a home-and-home against the Flyers over the weekend, and then play in Montréal Tuesday night. That would be 4 of these final 15. 8 points up for grabs, against good, playoff-bound teams that are playing hard right now. Now is where those proving grounds begin. Let's Go Rangers!

As an addendum, in lineup news, it seems that today Torts was shaking things up somewhat at practice. Avery moved up to Gomez's left (See? The media was right, Torts will never give him an honest chance.... Take a note, NHL. Now it's your turn to stop calling penalties on him like he's on probation), which I assume means Naslund skated with Drury and Antropov, and Dubinsky moved down to the Korpikoski line, as opposed to leaving Dubi where he was and moving Naslund down to the third line, but what do I know? Torts also broke up what I will as neutrally as possible call the shitty defensive pair and matched them with the Mara-Morris pair, putting Rozsival with Mara and Redden with Morris, leaving the actually-good Staal-Girardi pair intact. Will they skate like that tonight? We'll find out in 3 and a half hours.

Sometimes I wonder why anybody reads this (if anybody does, in fact, read this). Then I remember that people are getting paid to write shit like this, and all of a sudden this blog doesn't seem so bad.

King Henrik of New York

First, Henrik Lundqvist's organs news. The word on the street is that he's really probably on his way to mostly maybe getting over this completely debilitating stomach bug he seems to have contracted. (As recently as Sunday, he was on an IV to replenish fluids 'cause he couldn't eat.) Perhaps. At any rate, he's playing tonight, and he and Torts both seem to be taking my patented "whatever, shut up, it's fine" approach to his sickness. If I can't trust Torts and Henrik, who can I trust? I'm sure he's fine. Also, Jay Greenberg, in the Post, called him the "No-Burger King," and that is so terrible that it borders on journalistic irresponsibility.

In "goalies poised to set NHL records" news... King Henrik is one win away from something no goalie in NHL history has ever done: win at least 30 games in each of his first 4 NHL seasons. No goalie has ever done that, ever.

Why, who did you think I meant?

I need to stop watching hockey

I got home with 10 minutes left in the Hurricanes game, with the Hawks up 2-1 at home. I watched. Both teams were playing decent, not great, hockey. Carolina looked increasingly desperate, and, as with all such games, the last few minutes were spent with the Blackhawks playing prevent and the 'Canes playing hard. Then, with 1:03 to go, Toews took a Center Ice hooking penalty. And I started to panic a little. Then, with about 30 seconds left, the Blackhawks had dealt with an onslaught, and some Hawk had the puck on his stick in front of his own net....and fell down. It was like all of a sudden this amateur hour thing happened, and for about 5 seconds, Hawks were fanning on the puck, skating right through it, and falling down. Culminating, of course, in the 'Canes getting the puck back and tying it at 19:33 of the third.

Yes, yes, the overtime was very very exciting. Fantastic goaltending on both ends of the ice. And in the 4th round of the shootout, Chicago did something it hasn't been great at lately - they won at home. And they denied Carolina their second point.

But I was 27 seconds from happier.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No one loves us

Of course, the fucking Penguins ruin fucking everything, with their refusal to lose AND their refusal to win without a skills competition. I hate the Penguins. I am so angry.

I don't have a ton to say. I watched Watchmen last night instead of hockey. Then I went out to rant about the movie and look at scores. Then I needed to drink EVEN MORE. The Canadiens won 4-3. The Pens won by that same score, in a shootout, leaving the Cats a point as well. The only good news is that the Flyers remembered to beat the Sabres, who I'm hoping lose 1 or 2 more so I can stop putting them on our list of competitors.

Here are the standings now. Ugh. I hate Sidney Crosby so much.

5. Montréal, 79 pts, 15 GR
6. Pittsburgh, 78 pts, 14 GR
7. Florida, 77 pts, 15 GR
8. Carolina, 77 pts, 14 GR
9. NEW YORK RANGERS, 76 pts, 15 GR
10. Buffalo, 73 pts, 15 GR

Tonight, Carolina plays in Chicago at 8:30. The Blackhawks have been quietly staying out of trouble this season, like our Flyers: not fantastic enough to be talked about like the Red Wings and Sharks, not floundering enough to be on the bubble like the egregious 9 teams in the West competing for the bottom 4, not intriguing enough to have made big trade deadline day moves...they fired their coach this season, sure, but that was SO LONG AGO and besides now all the cool kids are doing it. IF they can beat the 'Canes tonight, then the 8-spot will only be 1 point out of reach, while we'd have 2 games-in-hand on it. I don't hate those odds. But...I think you know what I think is actually gonna be the outcome of this game.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Daily Standings Update Now! And....

5. Montréal - 77 pts, 16 GR
6. Carolina - 77 pts, 14 GR
7. Florida - 76 pts, 16 GR
8. Pittsburgh - 76 pts, 15 GR
9. NEW YORK RANGERS - 76 pts, 15 GR
10. Buffalo - 73 pts, 16 GR

Tight damn group. Tonight, the Sabres are in Philly, the Oilers are in Montréal, and the Panthers are in Pittsburgh.

Sabres - Flyers: While it's tempting to consider 4th place currently attainable (with Philadelphia at 80 points), the Flyers still have 18 games remaining, which, if you count them as wins, put them a full 10 points ahead of us with 15 games to go. The Sabres, meanwhile, are approaching dangerously close to dropping too far from this 6-team race to be considered contenders. If the Sabres win tonight, they're only 1 point behind us, and the Flyers are still effectively out of reach. If the Flyers win, they're slightly more out of reach, and the Sabres start to fall out of contention. One or two more losses in a row could really ruin their chances: the Flyers are a better team, and let's hope that actually matters for once.

Oilers-Canadiens: Prospects do not look good. The Oilers are sitting on their own, Western Conference bubble, 1 game from 6th, 2 games from 13th. But the Canadiens, as you may have heard, joined the Cool Kids' Coach-Canning Club yesterday and fired Guy Carbonneau, who will be replaced by their GM Bob Gainey (how pissed would we have been if the Rangers had done THIS when Renney got canned?). I think they're gonna be playing a little bit more desperately, and and at this time of year, that matters. That said, maybe Gainey will be terrible, or maybe they'll just drop their first one with him. We could use the help. Go Oilers!

Panthers-Penguins: Ugh. Could this game end in maybe a natural disaster or something? The most important thing is that this game not go into overtime, thus wielding a ridiculous third point in the standings (are you listening, Gary Bettman? This policy is STUPID). From there, if the Penguins win, we technically stay in 9th, and if the Panthers win, we technically rise to 8th. That's dumb, but true. More importantly, this is the time of the season where we want whoever's at the bottom to stay down. Since the Panthers are technically a little ahead of the Penguins, we technically want the Panthers to win. This is mostly a case of being faster than the slowest guy running from the bear. Also, fuck Sidney Crosby, seriously. But really, I'm rooting for whoever's winning with 10 minutes left in the 3rd.

Hurricanes 3, Rangers 0


For the first time all season, the Rangers are out of the Top 8. Now, before we go too deeply into feeling bad about our seasons, and therefore about our entire existences as fans, let me say that I am unprepared to claim that these are the old Rangers. Mostly. Generally speaking, they pushed more, forechecked more, drove to the puck more. Mostly. It is worth pointing out that the entire speed of the game was dictated by exemplary officiating. This game was a perfect example of how Colon Campbell and the "New NHL" are ruining hockey. 10 minors were called in the first 33 minutes, including 2 hookings, 3 holdings, and an interference - ticky-tack bullshit. When the game started, I had that feeling in my stomach like it was a playoff game. But the excitement wore off pretty quickly thanks to the men in stripes. Both sides, mind you. The Rangers weren't roped or anything. The 'Canes got it just as bad (except, of course, for the 2 (up from our usual 1) "but it says 'Avery' on his back" calls). It just felt like any time anything got too exciting for a minute or two, they called a penalty to slow it down.

So, absolutely the Rangers were victims of that. But, so were the Hurricanes. And they put 3 biscuits past a stellar Steve Valiquette anyway. And we couldn't put ANY past Cam Ward. It's not that we didn't get a lot of shots on him, it's just that after driving hard for the beginning of the game, we were slow to our rebounds, and we didn't get a lot of quality chances. We also made some big mistakes, attempting far too many cross-ice passes, and embarrassingly often pushing the puck right out to a Hurricane.

As Larry Brooks said, "Now is the preceding paragraph one that could have been lifted from a game report from the middle of February, or what?"

Last night was a montage, if you will. A Rangers retrospective. We came out solid and strong and fast. When we went down 1-0, we sat back for a few minutes, but then Sean Avery came out of the penalty box with 3 or 4 vengeances, and all of a sudden we were back in it. But by the time we had let 3 PP opportunities come and go (and a 4th be interrupted by another Sean Avery Phantom Penalty (Avery's response to whether or not the stripes are giving him unfair treatment was a simple "Yep."), and Rod "This is the second NHL team with which I have played 600 games" Brind'Amour scored on a rocket from the point on a PP, we collapsed. Then, I *did* start to see the old Rangers. Mostly. We were *faster* than the old Rangers. But we weren't any smarter. We still put the puck in stupid places. We still panicked. And Torts switched up the lines. But to his "not-Renney" credit, at least he didn't just keep switching them every shift, and at least he couldn't use Renney's other go-to panic plan (bench Prucha).

And as with all good stories of intrigue, involving conflict (Rangers vs. Canes), character development (Rangers vs. Rangers), and a common evil (Players vs. Refs), there were foils. And if Sean Avery is the face of the New New York Rangers, then surely the face of the Old New York Rangers is Michal Rozsival. He was inexcusable. Well before it was 1-0, I was screaming at my TV (an embarrassment when you watch hockey alone, but more of an embarrassment when you watch it with one other person, especially if he's a Pens fan) about how he doesn't know what to do with the puck. Then he made that terrible move where he had the puck, by himself, in the 'Canes zone, and stood with it until he found 2 approaching Hurricanes to pass it to. That led to the shot that sent Valley sprawling, and left the puck in the crease, with Rozsival himself. Before he could get his stick to the ice, a 'Cane had time to come in from 5 feet out to seal the deal. These, you must realize, were two in a long series of him just not knowing what to do with the puck, including twice that he was all alone with the puck 6 feet from Cam Ward and just stood there thinking for a while until the play was almost dead. They just happen to be the two that led to the first goal.

Again, I'm not blaming Michal Rozsival for the loss: it was a team effort. But just as Avery, while not being singlehandedly responsible for the excited energy we sometimes see from the whole team, is often the catalyst and the best example of it, Rozsival, while not responsible in solo for this creaming, certainly carries more of the blame than anyone else, and is certainly the current poster boy for the outwitted, outplayed, outlasted Renney-gades.

Torts, sit him Thursday, bring up Corey Potter. What's the worst that could happen?