Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I wish...more than anything...more than the moon...

So, John Tortorella was talking about how blaming Lundqvist for giving in a softie when we were up 2-1 in Toronto is missing the unbelievably shitty hockey team for the trees, even though the trees are basically all that stands between the shitty team and 15th place.

Now that's imagery.

Anyway, Torts said "He's the least of our worries. He was pissed. I just love his fire. I love his fire. I wish..." and then trailed off and started a whole new sentence.

That's awesome. That's the best fucking summary of our season Torts has been able to provide to date. "Lundqvist is fantastic, and I sure wish about a trazhillion other things came anywhere close to him." I love that our coach's inability to ever actually name a problem with the team has finally come to a head in a completely accurate description of our team's problems, like so many 16-year-old Twilight fans whose parents just don't understand them: "I wish...well...anything was different!!!"

Look, Boston and Atlanta both lost last night. And, despite giving up an embarrassing goal (has no one realized that it was Wade "still getting 18:08 of ice time a night, while Gilroy stays scratched" Redden's job to get in the way of that puck?) and then losing to the Leafs in OT, we've gained 5 of 6 points in our last 3. And so somehow, if we can beat the goddamn Islanders again tonight, we actually have a shot in the dark here:

6. Philadelphia - 82, 6 GR
7. Montréal - 82, 6 GR
8. Boston - 80, 7 GR
9. Atlanta - 78, 6 GR

Also, other than one game against the Sabres, our remaining schedule is entirely teams beneath us followed by a home-and-home against the Flyers to end the season. Meanwhile, the Bruins and Thrashers each have to play the Devils once and the Caps twice, the Thrashers also have to play the Pens, and the Canadiens and Flyers play each other. So, we have reason to believe we can make up ground on those teams ahead of us, if only we'd win some fucking games.

You know, so we can win the right to lose to the Caps in 4 straight in the first round.

You'd think keeping a sports blog would afford me new things to say every once in a while, especially during the season. Why do I feel like there's nothing new to say about these guys?

Games to watch tonight, other than ours: Bruins-Devils and Thrashers-Leafs. If you feel like flipping around to see what a team that cares about defending its playoff chances looks like.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And the award for worst pun ever printed goes to...

The New York Post's own Larry Brooks, for referring to the Rangers tanking season resulting in a high draft pick as "turning a Sow's [sic] year into a silk purse."

1. Do not write an article advising that the team you cover should drop games to get a higher draft pick. Do not ever advise this as a strategy, or even imply that it is a positive thing to do. Do not do this. This is terrible. Certainly do not write a year's worth of articles about how the team should grow some pride and then write an article like that.

2. Turning a sow's year into a silk purse? Fucking...really? This is awful. You have added exactly one letter to an existing phrase, and you've really not created any interesting turns of phrase by doing it. What's the metaphor here, exactly? Our season was a piggy season, which can be turned into a silk purse the same way that same pig's ear can? This is an awful pun.

3. Why the shits did you capitalize "Sow"?

Aaaanyway, the Rangers beat the shit out of the Islanders last night, 5-0. Callahan played despite crashing into a behemoth named Zdeno over the weekend, and looked pretty okay. Prospal played his best game since his surgery, and Gaborik his best since the Olympics. Avery looked fucking fantastic, and I really, really like what I've been seeing from Brandon Prust. Dubinsky also had his best game in weeks. All helped Lundqvist deliver his third shutout of the season, and Torts had the good sense to reward his forwards with some ice time parity, with Gaborik, Drury, Callahan, Dubinsky, Prospal, and Avery all falling between 16:08 and 20:56.

So, all in all, this was a great night for the Rangers. I'd be excited, if any of it mattered. Not that I'm whiny about our place in the standings (five points and a game-in-hand out of contention): we deserve it. More that I'm thoroughly unconvinced that I will see the same team tonight in Newark. I have no reason to believe I won't see a less potent Gaborik, a less engaged Prospal and Dubinsky, and an early 3 goals against instead of for. I have no reason to believe that won't be followed by Torts panicking and giving his favorite three forwards of the night 12 minutes in the third. And so on.

9 games to go.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How we lost to the West

"It's a crowded bus there." That was Tortorella's reaction to the idea of pointing fingers at one or a couple of Rangers following Tuesday night's collapse to the Habs. Certainly, it was a crowded travel bus of Rangers to blame for last night's loss to the Blues, and while it was a more entertaining game to watch, and we showed more life, it ended with the same 0 points gained, 1 game gone.

We battled back hard in the first after giving up a very early goal to a St. Louis team that is itself trying to scrape back into its own conference's playoff picture, and we ended the first 2-1, outshooting them 11-4. Despite myself (and my frequent flipping to the Boston-Pittsburgh game wondering why Matt Cooke was still breathing), I was actually excited by it. Prust won a great fight against a much bigger Brad Winchester, Gaborik had finally put one in, we had scored late in a period, and we were outplaying them at both ends of the ice.

But, of course, when the period ended, we came back a different team. It wasn't as extreme as our debacle from Tuesday, but it looked like the Blues were always just half a step faster than we were, everywhere. Eventually, they made us pay twice, the second of which actually looked like it was one Lundqvist should have stopped. By the end of the second, the Blues had scored 3 goals on 10 shots.

See? Crowded bus.

As if to take any blame off the shoulders of the King, the Rangers opened the third period with a gift of a 5-on-3: within 45 seconds of each other, two different Blues shot the puck over the boards for a delay of game penalty. The Rangers, apparently figuring their units don't really have any chemistry to begin with, went with a five-forward PP unit (Jokinen, Prospal, Drury, Callahan, Gaborik) that proceeded to play the most infuriating game of "keep-away" since your older brothers stole your He-Man action figure (it came with Battle Cat!). 4 men went with the "only Gaborik may shoot" plan, while Gaborik himself chose "Gaborik may not shoot" as the defining strategy. We totaled one shot on the 1:17 5-on-3, which Joe Micheletti called "the worst 5 on 3 [he has] seen all season."

In the interest of making absolutely every Ranger seem equivalent, it was Wade Redden that scored a goal (his second of the season, first in 58 games) to tie the game at 3. I made the mistake of getting excited. 1:13 later, Paul Kariya scored his 400th career goal after outstripping Ryan Callahan down the ice. Don't be too concerned: Cally's not entirely to blame. Newest Ranger Jody Shelley, in a move science's top minds have yet to understand, seemed to drop the puck at center ice, not notice a Blue (Backes, I think?) 10 feet behind him, and go skating off to the bench for a change, leaving the Blue (let's call him Backes) with the puck and a bunch of open ice in front of him. He skated ahead and got the puck to whomever got it to Kariya. Callahan, coming off the bench in the change, didn't have the time to get up a full head of steam, and Kariya beat him and then Hank for the last goal of the game.

And Matt Cooke is still alive. Bad night for hockey.

You don't really want a standings update, do you? Fine. First, let me tell you why, if we make the playoffs, we're losing to the Caps in the first round again. Currently in seventh place is Montréal. They are 7 points ahead of us, and we each have 11 games remaining. Do you really think we're making up 7 points on a team in 11 games? Meanwhile, barring a bold act of nature or terrorism, the Caps are coming in first, winning the Presidents' Trophy, and absolutely not losing in the first round. So, all this talk of "making the playoffs" is really only a fight for our right to lose very quickly to Washington.

So, how are our chances at 8th?

8. Boston - 74, 12 GR
9. Atlanta - 71, 12 GR
10. RANGERS - 71, 11 GR

And then, a few points behind us, are Tampa, Florida, the Islanders, and the 'Canes. So, like, I'm not saying that these last two losses that we could have won have definitely taken us out of the playoff picture. Of course not. But, like, it's very easy to see our relevance disappearing over the course of this week.

Coming up, we play the Bruins (yes, those same ones that are up in 8th place) on Sunday afternoon. They'll be very hungry after last night's loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Shitballs (do you like that name? I made it up just now, using wit). Again, I don't wanna be the kind of guy who uses phrases like "THIS IS OUR SEASON!!1", but does anyone really believe that after losing on Sunday, we'll somehow make up the 5-points-and-a-game by which Boston will then lead us, in the 10 games we will then have left?

And does it matter, since, as established, all we'll be fighting for is the right to lose to the Caps?

I guess it could be worse. Of the top six teams in the East right now, I hate the Caps the least. Better they be on top by this much than the Pens, Sabres, Devils, Flyers, or Senators.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You might find this interesting

Wow, I'm back like a fucking phoenix, burning bright as all hell in my return.

Or something.

Anyway, today, my cousin was looking at the NHL standings and asked me why it is that the bubble in the West is so much higher than the bubble in the East. And it's true. In the East right now, the Devils would have home ice advantage even if they had only 80 points, while in the West, Detroit's 80 puts them in the bottom playoff spot. Glancing at the standings, it's hard to figure out why you need so many more points to be competitive in the West. So I took a dive into why. If you think math is boring, skip this whole post.

So, my first guess was that the West has more evenly matched talent, thus sending more games into overtime (and in the NHL, you get points for losing if you drag it out for long enough). But as it turns out, the Western Conference has only 115 total points from overtime losses, to the East's 126. So that's not it.

It could be due in part to a shifted schedule, so the West has played more games than the East. But, again, no - the East has actually played 2 more games (1039 to the West's 1037). So, we look deeper: does the West actually have more points than the East?

Partly, yes. The West's teams total 1147 points on the season so far; the East's, 1130. So there's a 17-point difference. That's significant. The only other reasonable explanation, then, is that the West is just far better in inter-conference play than the East. Inter-conference play, as you know, has increased since a few seasons ago, because Gary Bettman decided that what Kings fans really needed to get back into the sport was more Crosby. In fact, we're right about that: the Western Conference appears to be 143-81-27 against the East. That would certainly well account for the disparity.

However, is that actually all we're seeing here? Their conference only has 17 more points, total, than ours. That doesn't seem like enough to explain the huge disparity in the middle we're seeing. For that, we need to find another explanation. Let's take a look at the outliers.

In the East, the Capitals are sitting at the top of the conference with a Herculean 103 points. Their closest runner up, Bettman's Pens, sit 16 points below, at 87. Meanwhile, the Western Conference-leading Sharks have 96 points, only 2 ahead of the 'Hawks's 94. At the bottom, the Oilers sit at a 49-point total that somehow makes me feel better about the Rangers, a full 18 points behind the 14th-place Blue Jackets, while the East's bottom-dwellers, the Leafs, are only 4 points behind the 64-point 'Canes.

What's the point? These outliers drive the middles of their conferences. "It's only one team," my cousin protested, but it makes a big difference. Think about how many extra points the Oilers are leaving up for grabs, and think about how many the Caps are taking away.

To confirm this theory, I added up the point totals of the second through fourteenth place teams in each conference, leaving out first and last in each. This paints a much more extreme difference: places 2 through 14 in the West total 1002 points, while the identical ranks in the East total only 967: a 35-point difference.

Thus, the disparity can be blamed partly on the West outperforming the East in inter-conference matchups and partly on the Caps being so statistically unreasonably good and the Oilers correspondingly bad. Neat, huh?

I mean, maybe you think it's neat. Sorry if you don't. I'll try not to turn this into a math blog, oh miniscule audience.

Don Cherry is right for a long time, then very quickly wrong

Check this out. Don Cherry goes on a huge tirade against Matt Cooke, saying it's horrid and embarrassing for the NHL that he didn't get suspended. He's right on, saying it's open season because the NHL did nothing, and saying in the old days, this would never have happened, et cetera and so on. It's worth watching, 'cause he does all the yelling so I don't have to.

Then, the capper of the bit is "you've got to [do something about these headshots] now, because what happens is: next year, someone does it to Crosby."

Yeah. That's why we have to do something. Not because it's ruining the sport, or because of the countless people, most recently Marc Savard, whose playing careers have been halted or permanently altered, but because next season, it might happen to Sidney Crosby, the only hockey player who matters ever about anything.

Anyway, to play the Sean Avery card one more time (should I rename the blog?), put things in perspective. Avery waves his stick around 15 feet from Brodeur, the NHL rewrites the rule book overnight. Avery makes a comment to a reporter impugning his ex-girlfriend's honor, he gets indefinitely suspended from the NHL. This hit:

gets nothing. The NHL and the GMs have various meetings through months to discuss the idea of possibly rewriting the rules to maybe include something specific. This doesn't have the overnight urgency of rewriting the rules, Avery waving a stick to distract Brodeur does. This doesn't have the impact of deserving any suspension at all, but a comment to a reporter gets an indefinite one.

Oh, and remind me why we have to rewrite the rule book at all. As Ron McLean points out on Coach's Corner above (when he's allowed to speak), the following is NHL Rule 21.1, "Match Penalty":

A match penalty involves the suspension of a player or goalkeeper for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately.

A match penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner.

A match penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.

Oh, hey! We have a rule that says you throw a guy out for trying to injure a person. Let's start there! Cooke didn't even get a fucking penalty for his hit. Sounds to me like the solution isn't new rules, it's better fucking referees.

And don't tell me we need a rule to mandate suspensions. I guarantee there's no rule in the rulebook mandating an indefinite suspension for saying "sloppy seconds" to a reporter. But the league figured out how to call one anyway. They can fucking well figure out how to call this one, too. It may not fit their narrative, but it sure would save some people's careers. I guess it all depends where your priorities are. We don't need better laws, we need better, less arbitrary enforcement.

This league is fucking insane.

Am I missing something...

or was I not missing anything this whole time? It sure was great to get back into the swing of things, watching the same lifeless mistake-prone Rangers I'd forgotten so quickly make the same lifeless mistakes that got us into this "outside, looking in" position.

No one (besides the goalie, of course) was good. Well, Sean "3 of our last 4 goals" Avery was pretty good. Actually, he was probably our best forward. I like Avery-Christensen-Drury as a third line. I like the idea of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan as a second line, though it was completely underwhelming last night. Callahan got in people's faces, as did Dubi, but neither really did anything else, and Anisimov certainly did nothing at all. If he were a better hockey player than he is (like, the one he's supposed to be, according to all the sportswriters), that could be a fun line to watch. As it is: nothing happened.

The first line was awful. Prospal hasn't been the same since his knee surgery, and he's devolved back into a total non-factor. Shame, 'cause he had the kind of play style we could really use right now. Jokinen and Gaborik, our "stars," simply don't seem to work well together. I dunno if it's a mental thing or what, but they just aren't hitting each other with any passes or communicating about anything. It's bad news. As such, this line was totally useless.

Now, give the Habs some credit for that. What they lacked in offensive power (for which we compensated by lying down flat defensively), they made up for in containing Gaborik whenever they could. That said, it worked beautifully. If all the other team has to do is "stick out some good defenders whenever one guy is on the ice," we are probably not doing our jobs. Gaborik is great, but he's no Alex Ovechkin. It is possible to stop him by concentrating absolutely all of your efforts on him. That shouldn't be a successful strategy. But it is when every pass you attempt goes right to a Canadien, and every shot you take goes hard, high, and 8 feet wide, so it ricochets right out of the zone.

To complement the rare, tender filet of languid offense, the Rangers provide a glass of finely aged, light, insubstantial defense. We were just fucking awful. Once again, we were badly outshot (this time 35-20, including 27-11 through two and 18-5 in the second), beaten to every puck (even the ones on our own sticks), and just generally left Lundqvist out to dry (what else is new?).

Rozsival alternates between making a good play and making a bad one. Del Zotto has stopped having enough offensive production to make up for his inexperienced, weak defense. Gilroy hasn't been a factor since he played for Boston University. Redden consistently surprises me by reaching the next level of suck. Maybe it's just that I've been away for so long, but holy shit. How does this guy have a job, anywhere?

Anyway, same old shit. Don't hesitate to go on that vacation you're planning in the middle of April. There's not gonna be, like, hockey to get in the way.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Oh! Hi, I didn't see you there...

Right, so, I went away for, like, ever. There was business to be conducted, in sunny San Francisco, where the sun shines and the East Coast games start at 4PM. I'd like to tell you a lot has happened, but it hasn't really, and to be honest, I have missed every game so far since the Olympic break, with the exception of the OT loss to the Pens. In that stretch, we beat Ottawa 4-1, then lost 4 in a row, giving up 142 shots in those 4 games, before winning 2 in a row: what my father told me were a terrible game against a terrible team in Atlanta and an amazing game against the Flyers. I did see the Dubinsky-Richards fight, though, and Oh Fuck Yes was that sweet.

But the point is: I didn't really see any of these games, so I'm not really qualified to talk about them. I intend to watch the rest. We've got 13 more of them before the end of the season, and we're currently one point and one game-in-hand behind eighth-place Boston. We're five (5) points behind seventh-place Montréal, but we have a game-in-hand on them. The point being: the bubble is looking a little less bubbly than it has in years past. Playoff hopes are not as bright as one would like.

That said, 8 of those 13 games are against teams within six points of us, above or below, in the East. So, there's a case to be made that, if we put together a good season-closing effort, we can absolutely squeak into the playoffs. For what that's worth. That season-closing effort would start tonight at 7:30 when Montréal visits New York. To put things in perspective, a win tonight would give us only our third 3-game winning streak of the season (unless you count the streak that spans the Olympic break): we won the 7 in a row in our first 8, and we won 4 in a row in December. Other than that, we haven't won more than 2 in a row all season.

Anyway, I'm back. I'm going to go try to remember who all these guys are. And maybe later today I'll post a rant about how fucking insane it is that Matt Cooke didn't get suspended but Alex Ovechkin did. This league is fucked.

Oh, yeah: Let's Go Rangers!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More trades for the Wolfpack!

We picked up Anders Eriksson, a fucking 35-year-old defenseman who's been bouncing around from league to league for his entire career, in exchange for sending fifth-string goalie Miika Wiikman and a 2011 seventh-round draft pick to...you guessed it...Phoenix.

Oh boy!


And as we say in the Garden Faithful, boring is better than unassailably moronic.


3:00 is getting closer....

Mathieu Schneider

No, he's not a Ranger. But he's a Coyote now, too! One more ex-Ranger in Phoenix!


We traded AHLers with the Red Wings, Jordan Owens for Kris Newbury. No idea what this means, no time to research, but knowing the way these two organizations are run, we probably got screwed.

...TOO quiet...

Anyone else feel like this silence is somewhat ominous?

Lisin and Voros

...both cleared waivers. Welcome to the 'Pack, guys.

Good Point

NY Rangers Blog puts the situation in an appropriately depressing light: remember exactly a year ago, when we traded Dmitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes, and Petr Prucha all for Derek Morris? Exactly a year later, smarter GMs have determined that Derek Morris's total worth is exactly one 2011 fourth-round pick.

You do that math.


And the list of ex-Rangers on the Coyotes continues to climb, as Derek Morris makes his way from Boston back to Phoenix whence he came (for something as yet unspecified). The question remaining on my mind: why does anyone care about Derek Morris??

Voros and Lisin

Okay, apparently we also placed Voros and Lisin on waivers last night. Lisin I'm glad about, he's been useless since we sent Korpikoski to Phoenix for him. The results of that move are now officially in: failure. I'm sad to see Voros go. I loved how he played every night he played. However, for whatever reason, Torts didn't make those nights terribly often. He was in the lineup mostly because Brashear was super-shit, and we hadn't picked up a replacement yet. With the acquisitions of Prust and the more questionable Shelley, it's easy to see Voros wasn't gonna get the ice time. That's sad, but if it's the case, it's better to see his million-dollar salary get absorbed by Hartford, giving us a little more cap room.

Hoo boy here we go again

Happy one-year anniversary to this blog, by which I mean: Happy Trade Deadline Day!

Gonna be a bit of a weird one for me, as I'm out in San Fran on business (yes, it's 6:45 AM here), but I'll try to keep as on top of things as I can. Start paying me to do this, and I'll update as frequently as you like.

So far, we've had some pre-Deadline Day moves of note: the Pens pulled Ponikarovsky from Toronto for a question mark named Luca Caputi and a mediocre Stanley Cup winner, Martin Skoula. They also got Jordan Leopold for one second-round pick. I feel like they won both of those deals. Also, Chris Chelios signed with the "please someone figure out how we can stay in" Atlanta Thrashers, and he is three years younger than my mom. No offense to my mother, who would sooner read the complete works of Ayn Rand than this, or any, hockey-related material - I'm not saying she's objectively old, but she's not exactly NHL material.

Matt D'Agostini is a Blue now, for young winger-I've-never-heard-of Aaron Palushaj. Plenty for both teams to be hopeful/bitter about there. Andy Sutton joins, and probably surpasses, Jordan Leopold on the list of defensemen we apparently could have acquired for one second-round pick, but didn't. He's now a Senator.

Not on board with that list? Sutton's a $3 million cap hit, Leopold is half that, both contracts expire at the end of this season. For one second-round pick, which we'd use poorly and then trade away the results in a season anyway. If you wanna talk about rebuilding, and you should, consider this: how much better would Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, and Staal be playing right now if their veteran example were the huge, physical Andy Sutton instead of Wade Redden?

Right now, all is quiet, with light rumors circulating around Dennis Seidenberg and Tomas Vokoun. As for the Rangers, word on the street is that Sather "is interested in a top six forward and a solid defenseman." Yeah, no shit. Some people are talking about Gilroy for the Predators' Daniel Hamhuis. Okay, sure? Hamhuis is 27, and is apparently actually a physical defenseman. Not gonna think too much about this right now, it's way too early in rumor phase.

Oh, and Sheldon Souray will apparently probably get traded to someone today as well.

Everybody hold on to something...