Monday, November 29, 2010

Avery I named my dog after you

So, first of all, you should know that something big is in the works here, involving lots of numbers. Maybe not so big in terms of importance, but it's involving lots of arithmetic on my part. So stay tuned for that. But for now:

I'm putting a kibosh on complaining about lines, on account of we don't so much use lines anymore. Also, Avery's getting the ice time he deserves (13:57 tonight), and I like that. Some good games over break, tonight was not so good. But props go to Avery, who has been playing good hockey. I didn't name my dog after him (I don't own a dog), but this girl did:

Kevin DeLury of New York Rangers Blog is running a big campaign to write him in as an All-Star, which I strongly suggest you participating in. Go vote here or text "Sean Avery" to 81812. Anyway, I only bring it up because of Avery's response to it: "That's great. I will hopefully make the team, and I'll be the first player ever to get an instigator penalty at an NHL All-Star game. That'll be amazing, right?" I love this guy.

Credit also goes out to Brandon Dubinsky, who played a good game tonight, and to Michal Rozsival, who I think has looked in his couple of games back as good as he's looked in two seasons. I'm really glad to have him back.

That's all for Ranger talk tonight, so I wanna make a quick joke about how every time they say Preds goalie Pekka Rinne's full name, it sounds like something Vinnie Barbarino would call a classmate, and then it's time for another edition of Kovalwatch!!!! How have things been since we checked in with the most anticipated off-season athlete signing since 2010's LeBron James? Well, first of all, the Devils still find themselves just above the Oilers and Islanders, not quite at the bottom of the league (although if Edmonton and Long Island win their games-in-hand, Jersey finds themselves back in that #30 spot). At 8-14-2, the Devils are on pace to finish the season with 61.5 points, good enough for the bottom 3 spots in the league every season since the lockout. Hell, 61.5 would put the Devils in the 24th spot back in 1998-'99, the final season that games couldn't be worth 3 points, and there were only 27 teams.

Meanwhile, Ilya himself, whose contract, for those of you who are missing the point, is still 15 years for $100 million, is looking at 4-6-10, putting him on pace to finish the season with 18.2 goals and 27.3 assists. Other players with 4 goals and 6 assists? Blackhawks Jake Dowell ($1.05m/2yr) and Bryan Bickell ($1.625m/3yr), Tampa Bay's Sean Bergenheim ($0.7m/1yr), and Penguin Tyler Kennedy ($1.45m/2yr), among others. The only one whose contract comes anywhere near Kovalchuk's on the list is Zdeno Chara, who is tied for 7th in the league with a +12 rating. Ilya's rating? An abysmal -11.

Minus goddamn eleven. On pace to be worse than -50 for the season. This would be the worst +/- in the NHL since at least 1997-'98. The worst since then has been Rico Fata's -46 in 2003-'04, but does not have this data prior to '97-'98. So, quite possibly the worst in a good deal longer than that. Just a total detriment to his team. On pace for 45.6 points and -50.1. At $6.67 million. And this is his prime, no less.

See, guys? Even when you lose to the Penguins, there's always the Devils to look at. Things could be worse.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Worse than the Philly loss?

Man, oh man, does "Lightning 5, Rangers 3" not begin to do this game justice. It wasn't just the lack of goals, shots, or offense at all - we didn't even have any puck possession through two periods of this game. I apologize for ever, in the past, using phrases like "the opponents beat us to every puck and won every battle." Because it's always been something of an exaggeration - there has surely been some puck the Rangers found their way to. In two periods last night, the Rangers could not retain the puck. If it weren't so painful, part of me would want to watch these two periods over and over again, just because it's such a spectacular schooling. It's rare to see such complete denial of even puck possession for so long.

With that said, I again have to wonder about the penalty calling. Let's be clear: completely independently of the officiating, the Rangers still blow this game in a very big way. But I have to wonder if referees Rob Martell and Dean Morton didn't hear Lundqvist's complaints after the Pittsburgh game and maybe want to stick it to him a little bit. Lundqvist got run over all game, and the only time they bothered to call goalie interference, they also called a thoroughly disoriented diving penalty on Hank to cancel it out. I can justify the other bad calls last night by the usual NHL bullshit: if you only have one hand on your stick, and you make contact with any other player, it's "hooking," and so on. But there was no good goddamn reason for that diving call.

But, of course, the worst part was not the officiating, it was the Rangers not coming up big in front of the King. Lundqvist gave up 5 goals on 25 shots across two periods during which Mike Smith, across the ice, was perfect by making 7 saves. Hank needed a big game back, after resting a while as Biron looked good, especially given that Biron might be back in one of the next two. Instead, Lundqvist was protected neither by penalty-calls nor by offensive play from his team, who hung him out to dry for 40 minutes before finally skating around with the puck a little bit in the third.

Torts reacted appropriately, chewing out various Rangers during the game for letting Bolts make residence in the King's crease, and calling out Gaborik after the game, saying, "He's supposed to be our best player. I looked at their best players, and they were pretty good tonight. I didn't see our best players." Also, props to Torts for not pulling Lundqvist, even though he almost did. The right thing to do was to let Hank battle on - it's not like any of the goals were his fault.

But, of course, I have some questions for John Tortorella also. Mostly, they center around Sean Avery. For a guy with a reputation for changing lines around all the time, Torts reacted to last night's disaster by swapping Callahan for Gaborik on the first and second lines, and double-shifting Gaborik in place of Boogaard on the fourth line (before, of course, benching Anisimov for some reason). Besides Anisimov and Boogaard, Avery was the Ranger with the least ice time.

But you know how I hate to make a big deal of outliers. Let's go back and look at some more numbers. Monday's tight 2-1 victory over the Flames: Boogaard 7:15; Avery 8:34; Next Ranger (Christensen) 10:13. Saturday's big 5-2 win over the Wild: Boogaard 5:28; Avery 8:12; Next Ranger (Anisimov) 12:29. The previous night's 5-1 loss to the Avs was much more balanced, but it featured Todd White (Boogaard being absent with a punching-too-much injury). Interesting.

Over the 4 games previous to these (before which we didn't really use the lineup we've had lately), 2 featured White instead of Boogaard, and the other two look the same as above. To sum up the numbers, over the last 8 games, the 5 that had Boogaard in them totaled some disappointing numbers: Boogaard with 29:38 of ice time, Avery with 43:13, and the next sparsest Ranger (who spanned across 4 different Rangers in these 5 games) with 52:21.

So, clearly, Boogaard gets the least ice time, Avery gets the next least, and then everyone else gets a mix. Can someone explain that to me? Win or lose, Avery consistently makes things happen on every shift. It's one thing when we're winning - "don't change a recipe for success" or whatever. But for it to not even occur to Torts to give Avery a little more time in last night's debacle concerns me. That shows me there's no confidence there. And the way Avery still plays night after night, even on a line with Christensen and Boogaard, that's just not right.

Anyway, last night sucked. The third period served only to make it look like a game: in final score, shots on goal, and penalty calls. It was never actually a game, and the third period didn't really change that. The only interesting thing to happen was when Avery went after Mattias Ohlund for a big hit on Erik Christensen. I turned to my father and asked if he thought Christensen would also consider that move a "cheap shot" (it looked remarkably similar to the Ladislav Smid incident). Ah, well. Good for Avery, and fuck Christensen. Let's shake last night off; Happy Thanksgiving; see you Friday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two losses later

So, we actually played what I thought was a pretty solid game against the B's. Lost 3-2 in what was a reasonably solid battle, good hockey from both sides, and we were the ones that came up short. I don't hate losing a game like this (unless it's to, like, the Devils), even though it's a loss.

As for the Avs last night, that was awful. Just awful. Looking forward to a quick chance to come back tonight against the Wild. Also, welcome back to Gaborik and Boogaard - we'll see how that goes.

Right now, I wanna talk some about personnel. In net, I wanna give a compliment to Marty Biron, who, without looking spectacular, has shouldered a whole lot of burden lately, and it's nice to have a backup who can be relied on like that. Woot. As for Hank, I think pulling him last night was more a move to give him reprieve so he can play fresh tonight than it was an indictment of his play. People were quick to get on him for his mediocre play, but he didn't really have a clear, easy shot on any of the three goals against him last night. He wasn't regal, but he wasn't awful. I tend to think in a European way about goaltender changes anyway: if a guy isn't feeling it, pull him out - no big deal.

On defense, gold stars go to Matt Gilroy and Mike Sauer, who have really stepped up and acted as a reasonably solid third pair since Michal Rozsival's been injured. Eminger is not the defenseman Rozsival has been this season, but he's played fairly well in some key minutes. What he lacks in talent, he's been making up by hitting people, which is a recipe I support.

On the other hand, Michael Del Zotto (why is half of our defense named Michael?) has been the defensive let-down I expected. Not that any Rangers played particularly well through the first half of last night's game, but all the glaring errors go to him. This is, in fact, the sophomore slump I anticipated, and I wouldn't blame Torts if Eminger's the one who stays on the second pair when Rozsival returns.

Up front, I recommend a change for tonight: switch Avery and Fedotenko. I like the switch of Christensen and Stepan (one step closer to Hartford, Erik. I love to say I told you so, so: I told you so). Now, I'm not suggesting that Fedo, who has played good hockey for us, deserves a demotion to the fourth line. But right now, of Prust, Avery, and Fedo, one of them needs to go down (unless we teach one of them to play center). I've liked the Avery - Boyle - Prust line the few times we've seen it this season, and I still maintain that Avery deserves more ice time than he's getting right now. He looks solid almost every shift he's out there, and I think he makes things happen if he gets more time out there, especially if it's more time that he's opposite Prust (or Fedo) instead of White or Boogaard. Then see what Fedotenko, Christensen, and Boogaard can do. Can't hurt, right?

Stop writing, Aaron. You've said all you had to say, and you're just gonna reiterate it. Your 3 readers get it. Shut up and click "Publish."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I need an editor

That last post was unreasonably long. This one contains a few small notes:

1) Tortorella's response to the ridiculous officiating last night was to tell everyone, twice, not to ask him about the officiating. He went on to talk about how proud he was of the team for coming together and battling back last night.

2) Lundqvist apparently admits that he threw his stick near the end of the game to express to the officials just how bad he thought they were. He expected the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that he got from it. Is it OK if that makes me like him more?

3) Check this out. It's 3-1, Sharks over Kings. The Kings score, but the goal judge doesn't call it, the puck bounces out, and the play continues. They will review it at the next stoppage. Before play stops, the Sharks (maybe) score, but the puck bounces out, and play continues. They will review that, if necessary, at the next stoppage. The next stoppage comes...because the Sharks score! This one stays in the net and play stops. 4-1 Sharks. Only they go back and review, and the first Kings goal counted. So...3-2 Sharks. Awesome.

4) KOVALWATCH! It's November 16. The 5-11-2 Devils are not currently a league worst, having pulled a point ahead of both the Oilers and the Islanders, though they've also played more games than either of those teams. However, none of those 5 wins have come at the Rock, making the Devils the only NHL team to somehow still not have won at home yet this season! Alternate Captain Kovalchuk ($100m/15yr) has 4 goals and 5 assists in that time, putting him exactly on par with Erik Cole ($5.8m/2yr), Mark Letestu ($1m/2yr), Valtteri Filppula ($15m/5yr), and Nikolai Kulemin ($4.7m/2yr). The Devils have three more chances to win at home this month, versus the Capitals, the Flames, and the Flyers. So, let's go those three guys!

That was the best!

I think I like the new arena.

There are so many places I could start. Let's talk about the abysmal first period, in which the return of the King was clearly all that kept us in it. We were outshot 12-5 over the course of that period, and with all due respect to Biron, I'm not sure we would have had a scoreless game after one with him in net. It wasn't so much a spectacular save here and there (those came in the third) as it was a solid effort that came out of us spending almost the entire period in front of him. As Torts put it, "No disrespect to Edmonton, but [the Pens] are a much better team than Edmonton, and we looked like we were playing Edmonton in the first period. We couldn't play that way."

Other than Callahan fighting Mike Comrie (awesome), there wasn't a ton of excitement generated by the Blueshirts in the first. On top of the coincidental majors that obviously came from that fight, there were 4 other penalties called in the first: a pair of coincidental roughings to Del Zotto and Evgeni Malkin early on, and a pair of coincidental unsportsmanlikes to Avery and Matt Cooke (which I think should have gone to Del Zotto and Arron Asham, who were actually the instigators on the play in question, but the officials saw Avery and Cooke on the ice, so they assumed it must have been them).

In the second period, we spend a good deal more time in the Pens' end. I still felt like we were outplayed for a lot of it, but we battled back and got our chances, one of which found its way to the back of the net, off the stick of Erik Christensen (whom I proudly gave the evil eye pregame after learning about his comments yesterday). Hooray! 1-0 Rangers!

Oops. It wasn't supposed to happen like that. The Pens were supposed to be winning. What can we do about this?

That...was the floating voice of the NHL. I heard it on the wind, after Christensen scored. And so, in came the officiating brigade. A handful of really weak calls against the Rangers closed out this game, coupled with really embarrassing non-calls for the Penguins, including two really inexcusable misses: Crosby skating through Lundqvist's crease and taking his legs out from under him (the play was up at the blue line, going in the other direction); and - well, what do you know, Crosby again - slashing Girardi while on the power play. I know, I know: you come here for the numbers, not the words. OK, here you go:

Christensen scored almost exactly halfway through the game, at 10:16 of the second. In the 30:16 of hockey preceding the goal, the Rangers were shorthanded for 2:00, and the teams were at even strength for the remaining 28:16. Following the goal, in 33:22, the Rangers were shorthanded for 10:00, and at even strength for the remaining 23:22. For the first time in over 3 seasons, the Rangers did not find one second of power play time. And yes, that includes a double minor for high-sticking against Staal, and an unsportsmanlike for Hank breaking his stick. But it also includes some really soft calls, like a hook on Gaborik and a hold on Callahan. As usual, as the game got closer and closer to its end, with the Rangers holding onto their narrow lead, the calls got worse and worse: the Rangers were shorthanded for 5:53 of the final ten minutes of the third period (that's 59%).

But the rankness of the calls was really compounded by the non-calls in the other direction: taken alone, the calls were just kinda bad news, but when looking at the things the Penguins weren't called for, one has no choice but to cry shenanigans. As Lundqvist put it after the game, "I'd like to see the penalty record the last five years in Pittsburgh. We're shorthanded so many times in Pittsburgh, and it's definitely not our fault." I make take Hank up on that, if I get the chance later.

Brooks, in the article I liked to above, says "The Rangers don't want to get a reputation as whiners, but last night was a joke, both on calls made against the team as well as those not made against the Penguins." I, too, don't want to sound like a whiner, and I tend to refrain from blaming officials for games, knowing we have to battle back as a team even when calls are awful. So why go on and on about the refs last night? Because it didn't fucking matter. Because we did battle back as a team. We killed every Penguin power play, including the one late in the 3rd wherein Callahan was in the box and Girardi was off with what looked to me like some kind of minor arm problem.

After the second period, I said "We can't win this game 1-0." As the bad calls kept pouring in, I started muttering to myself, in my seat at not-the-Igloo, like some kind of crazy person, "I've seen this movie before. I know exactly how it goes. Don't let this happen. This movie sucks. Show me a different movie." et cetera. And then on the heels of killing off Callahan's phantom-hold, there it was: a 1-1 game, with Pens fans screaming all around me. And 27 seconds later, 2-1. Everyone screaming. Me, pouting: "I've seen it too many times. This movie fucking sucks." And after Lundqvist stood on his head all night, making a handful of saves I still don't understand, all of CONSOL is taunting him, chanting his name. "Luuuuund-qviiiiist. Luuuuuund-qviiiiiist." I fucking hate this movie.

You know, there's not a ton of difference between this year's officials and last year's officials. Or between this year's Crosby brigade and last. You know what's new this year? We don't stop battling. And so, 27 seconds into Lundqvist's deserved unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for breaking his stick in frustration (and for sending the shaft down the ice toward an official, which was equally deserved), Dubinsky made a really pretty move around Alex Goligoski and fed Staal in front. And the next thing I knew, I was up on my feet, surrounded by an abyss of angry silence, screaming, "Fluuuuuuuu-eryyyyyyyyy! Fluuuuuuu-eryyyyyyyy!" And it was a tie game again.

Well, we all know what happened next. With a minute and a half left in overtime, Dubinsky and Callahan came down the ice and...well, just watch it. The whole video. Twice, at least.

Yes. Yes to life, and yes to hockey, and yes to everything. It's worth noting that Callahan is the one who netted that last one. That's worth noting because, along with his assist on Staal's tying goal, and his fight with Comrie in the first, Callahan earned himself a Gordie Howe Hat Trick last night. And that's awesome. This game was just the best. The Pens' offensive onslaught, the officiating disaster, and none of it mattered. We kept fighting, and 2 teams' 4 goals in 6:09 later, we came out on top. Yes, yes, and fuck yes.

Before I go, I hope you'll indulge me for a Special Rant, on the topic of Penguin fans.

As an obsessive Ranger fan outside of New York, I tend to travel to a lot of away games to see my boys. Yes, I'll catch a game or two at the Garden each season, but I'll also see three in Pittsburgh, as well as the occasional trip to Jersey, or DC, or Toronto, and so on. I've seen NHL games in 12 different arenas, most of them Ranger games. So I'm in an uncommon position, in that I am regularly a big fan of the visiting team, wherever I go. As such, I'm never looking to start a fight. I always come in respectful, cheer for opposing players that I like, and so on. I don't mean to be talking about how I'm great, but as a regular visiting fan, I am always careful to be appropriate wherever I go. I will cheer loud and long for the Rangers, but I'm not one of these guys who calls out other fans around me: they're there to enjoy the game, just like me.

Which is why I have all this pent-up aggression that I need to get out here on the blog: these fans are terrible! Maybe last night was a specifically bad set of circumstances, but by God with this fan base's knowledge of hockey you couldn't run a skate rental shop. First of all, even when they're getting every officiating break in the book, they want more. We were lucky enough to bring a friend, who is just now learning the sport (this was his second game ever), and at one point, some Pen fan screamed out "Why wasn't that interference?" at such an incorrect play that even our near-hockey-virgin friend was able to answer (under his breath, of course) "Oh, I know this one! Because the puck was right there!"

This lack of awareness is extended beyond just a silly penalty call bias. My favorite moment was after Lundqvist's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which was being served by Avery, when everyone around me started getting on Sean Avery's case, because they saw him in the box. It reminded me of a moment in Atlanta a few years back, when the Thrashers scored on a soft shot from the point, and the entire arena started chanting "Luuuuuund-qviiiiiist," despite Stephen Valiquette being in goal. Everyone was getting on Avery because they read somewhere that they were supposed to, even though the call was on Lundqvist. Just a total lack of awareness of the game.

And, finally, I'm bitter, because I am nothing but nice to these people, and I smile and nod when they say incredibly stupid things about the game, and then I get called an asshole anyway, just because my team won. On my way out of the seats: "Go back to New York, you asshole!" Really? So, that I replied to: "Actually, I've lived in Pittsburgh for a decade, I just can't stand your hockey team. But thanks for being so friendly - you're doing a great job of representing our city. It was nice to meet you."

Look, I really do love the city of Pittsburgh. And I am friends with a number of Penguin fans, some of whom even know what the hell they're talking about when it comes to hockey. But a lot of these Penguin fans need to get a fucking clue. The exemplar, for me, was when some guy behind me yelled just before the phantom-hook on Gaborik, "Come on, that'd be holding in the NFL!" Not only did he get even the phantom-call wrong, but I've always said this about Penguin fans: they really know their football.

Thanks for the indulgence. Anyway, I love to see what I saw last night, and I'd love to see us bring it back home to play the Bruins tomorrow. This has the workings of a pretty good hockey team, and it's been a while since I've been able to honestly say I'm just excited about the team. Let's go Rangers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So much to talk about

FIRST! The usual apology for gaps in posting: some crazy changes are going on at work right now. Everything is great, but it's been a bit busy for me to post as regularly as I used to. I'm hoping that I'll be able to continue this blog once this transition period is over (even though I've lost one of my two regular readers to law school), but I may have to move on to only posting in the evenings or something. We'll see.

WITH THAT OUT OF THE WAY! Yesterday afternoon might have been the most fun I've had watching a hockey game in a long time. Yes, as my insecure Pens fan friend reminds me, it was only the Oilers. And yet: 8-2? After coming close in but ultimately dropping 3 of 4 (to admittedly good hockey teams) and then taking until overtime to beat the lowly Sabres in overtime (despite an obvious regulation game-winner being inexcusably waved off), we needed a game like Saturday afternoon, where everything went right. Gaborik used his second game back to administer a clinic that ended in a hat trick, and even Frolov found himself making a couple of good plays (and, unrelatedly, netting a pair for himself). Up until recently, he was #1 on my list of Blueshirt liabilities, with absolutely no offensive production to make up for his defensive vacancy.

Boogaard is starting to earn his keep (notwithstanding that game-tying shot from the point against the Caps last week), by banging bodies around in addition to fighting. He's not the reason the Rangers are finally being seen as a tough team, but he helps. Speaking of being a tough team, remember that time old-time hockey came back to the Garden yesterday afternoon? How about 84 minutes plus 4 game misconducts handed out at 11:18 of the third. Man, that was fun. For those of you who missed it, here's a great way to spend 7 and a half minutes:

Oh, and let's put this whole "Avery sucker-punch" thing to bed, shall we? Perhaps Avery didn't follow "The Code," because he dropped his gloves and went right in for a punch. But Smid faced off against him, wanted to fight, and dropped his gloves, too. Avery just got his punch in faster. It may not be how the league's classiest pugilists conduct business, but it's a far cry from hitting a guy in the back of the head, or blind-siding someone who's body is limp, or sucker-punching someone in the nuts when a teammate already has him in a headlock, or any of the other actual cheap shots we see all the time.

This is classic "Avery Outrage," wherein Sean Avery is involved in something, so everyone tells the story of why he's the dirtbag. Where, I wonder, is the identical outrage over Theo Peckham reaching off ice into the hallway to punch Avery after the latter was already on his way to the locker room? That's not a cheap shot, but Avery is a dirtbag for not giving Smid, who instigated the fight initially and was facing Avery at the time, a few seconds to get his gloves off cleanly? Sorry, you don't get to start a fight and then cry foul just because the other guy is #16.

Oh, and I'm talking to you, Erik Christensen. You told reporters you thought it was a sucker-punch? Fucking really? Do you think you're playing good enough hockey to throw a teammate under the bus? Even if that teammate weren't one of the most consistent Ranger forwards since the lockout (which is more than can be said for you), that is fucking unacceptable! Even if your appraisal of the situation were at all accurate, I'd be hard-pressed to accept that kind of intra-team callout from anyone not named Ryan, Brandon, Marian, or Henrik. Seriously, fuck you, Erik Christensen. Remember that the Rangers are succeeding right now because of coming together as a team and defending each other. You think shit like this is gonna endear you to anyone? Think this'll urge Prust or Boogaard to come to your aid next time Dan Carcillo or Matt Cooke sends an actual sucker-punch toward your skull? Also remember: when Prospal and Drury come back, they're gonna have to replace someone. Your 7 points on the season aren't compelling enough on their own. Don't be a dickhead.

Anyway, all said and done, that brawl ended up incurring the following penalties: Avery got 2 for roughing in the first place. Avery and Smid each got 5 for fighting and a 10-minute "we don't want to deal with you anymore today" misconduct. Prust and Zack Stortini each got 5 for fighting and a game misconduct for fighting once a fight had already started (thus making it a brawl). Boyle and Theo Peckham, like Prust and Stortini, each got 5 for fighting and a game misconduct for fighting once a fight had already started. Peckham also got an additional 2 for roughing and an additional 10, presumably for going after Avery after he'd left the ice. Dubinsky and Colin Fraser each got a 10-minute misconduct for their little "over-the-bench" thing. Generally, I think that was pretty well-called - actually, the whole game was pretty well-called. Despite a momentous pile of penalty minutes (skewed by a momentous pile of fights), the refs generally let them all play the game. So that's nice.

MOVING ON! After that very exciting rout yesterday afternoon, the Rangers are coming to visit me in Pittsburgh tonight. After missing two games with the flu, Lundqvist will be back in net tonight, despite still not feeling 100%. I'm happy about it. In Biron's two wins over the last two games, he came up big occasionally, but also looked soft now and then, and I'm happy to see Hank return to his throne for tonight's match against these goddamn Pittsburgh Forwards. Plus, I'd feel silly wearing a Lundqvist jersey to the Arena with Biron in net.

In other lineup news, after yesterday's battle, Derek Boogaard is hilariously out with a hand injury (presumably from all of the punching his hand was tasked with yesterday). Todd White, who once again cleared waivers recently and then stayed with the team, will be taking his place.

OH AND ALSO! Everyone go check out the new New York Rangers Blog, now part of the Bloguin network (congratulations to Kevin DeLury). Same great timely info, new set of sponsors. Sweet!

AND FINALLY! Colon Campbell would be in a lot of trouble right now, if he were ever held accountable for anything he did! So, basically, nothing has changed. Puck Daddy, as usual, has a pretty good summary of what went down, but basically: former NHL official Dean Warren brought a case against the NHL, claiming wrongful termination of employment. As part of the suit, some emails were released, some of which cast Campbell in a very negative light. Campbell talks about trying to get some officials who penalized his son (whom, you'll recall, is an NHL center) fired, and frequently refers to a strong distaste for Marc Savard - generally, things the neutral head disciplinarian shouldn't be saying.

The outrage goes on and on, but the question is: does this matter? I tend to agree with Puck Daddy here: we are always talking about the disciplinary problems with the league, and how no one is accountable to anyone else in their Good Ole Boys' Club, so nothing changes. Is this actually different? Yes, it's hard evidence of specific bias, but hard video evidence of a pattern completely unacceptable calls has existed for some time, and it never actually matters - there is no punishment for this stuff because Campbell and Bettman are held accountable to nobody. So, will anything actually come of this? In all likelihood, this will be a set of obviously damning evidence that Colon Campbell is clearly biased, childish, and unfit to lead so much as a hockey-themed community parade, and then he will continue to serve as the NHL's Director of Hockey Operations. Because, honestly, why wouldn't he?

THAT'S ALL I'VE GOT FOR NOW! In less than two hours, I'll be heading over to the ironically-sponsored CONSOL Energy Center, the NHL's first ever LEED-certified arena. I'm excited to take some of yesterday afternoon's energy into tonight, and show the Penguins that our Mellon Arena woes died with the building. LET'S GO RANGERS!

Friday, November 5, 2010

That was the worst!

Nothing good happened last night.

The Rangers, as the hype reminded us, traveled into the belly of the beast last night, America's worst civilized city, where everyone is mean. The city where Santa Claus is booed, babies drink Miller Lite, and projectile vomit is used as a form of assault. And, like so many visitors to Philly, we got our asses handed to us.

We actually started off playing a pretty solid offensive game, getting outshot badly (8-2 in the first) but spending a great deal of time in the Flyers' end. Unfortunately, the "not actually getting scoring chances" thing continued throughout, and the "time spent in the Philly zone" thing didn't. After Dubinsky made it 1-0 early in the second, the Flyers started scoring and didn't stop.

The four consecutive Flyer goals that were the only other goal lights we'd see were actually a nice sample platter of everything that went wrong last night. Like the four sons of Passover fame, each of these four goals represents some aspect of the whole abomination that was last night's game. Their first goal came off a gorgeous pass from Claude Giroux, through like 400 Rangers, right onto the tape of Mike Richards's stick, 2 feet in front of Lundqvist. The Rangers were somewhat at fault for crowding Giroux and leaving Richards alone, but you also have to be impressed by that pass. The Flyers, when they weren't committing felonies, played a solid hockey game.

The second goal came entirely at the fault of the officials, Marc Joannette and Justin St. Pierre, who failed to call a blatant hook on the newly bald Scott Hartnell behind the Ranger net. Hartnell pulled Michael Del Zotto off the puck, which trickled right onto the stick of Blair Betts (remember him?), who put it home. These I could write a paper or two about this game. It would probably cite this article at least once. But here's the list off the top of my head:

--Halfway through the first period, Staal comes in for a perfectly clean hit on Zherdev (I think it was Zherdev). At the last minute, Zherdev turns his head so he's facing the boards on impact. So it magically becomes "boarding." Flyers announcers proceed to explain what a smart play Zherdev made by turning his head, knowing it was too late for Staal to change what he was doing. So how is that a penalty?
--The aforementioned non-call on the hook that led directly to the Flyers' second goal.
--Halfway through the second, Jody Shelley (remember him, too?) elbows Boogaard. No call. As Boogard is turning around, his stick touches Shelley's side. Really, that's all it was. Go find a video of it. 2 minutes on Boogaard for "hooking." Not even fucking close. While waiting for the delayed penalty to be called, Shelley punched Boogaard in the back of the head. No call. Net result: Flyers PP.
--The one everyone is talking about: Carcillo's completely uncalled, completely uncalled-for headshot on Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedo's got his head down, Carcillo leaves his feet and elbows him in the head, sending him down to the ice. Textbook headshot. Not only was there no misconduct, there was no penalty whatsoever! When Fedotenko asked about it, Joannette helpfully replied "don't duck." Go read the whole Puck Daddy article I just linked you to - Wyshynski will give you the unbiased account.

And many more. Those are the highlights. Go watch this game for exactly what is wrong with the NHL. Fuck the NHL for not caring enough to fix this - when there's no accountability, shit like this will keep happening. This time, Fedotenko didn't get injured. So, now what - Carcillo gets a 1-game suspension, which doesn't affect the outcome of the actual game he was in (where in he got NO PENALTIES for the incident), and then he comes back and does it again. This is on Colon Campbell to fix. Full stop.

The third Flyer goal came on the third problem of the night for the Rangers: it was a soft goal let in by the King. Nikolai Zherdev (remember him, too, too?) just kinda shoved a bad angle shot at Lundqvist, who stopped it with his body before it kept traveling up, over his shoulder, and into the net. Hank just cold didn't have a great game last night. To co-opt and mangle a phrase I am pretty sure I read in some Larry Brooks column last season: Lundqvist was not blameless but not to be blamed. On a night where nothing else was going right, he could certainly have looked sharper and kept us in it longer. But it probably wouldn't have mattered.

Which brings us to the icing on last night's shit-cake: the Rangers kinda sucked. Pronger's slapshot in the third period, the only goal for either team that didn't occur in the second, went through a screen of a couple of Flyers who notably did not find their asses knocked to the ice before it made its way to the twine. Yes, there were awful, awful calls. And yes, the Rangers did sometime stand up for each other physically. Of note, after Carcillo's Headshotenko, Boogaard went after him. Carcillo (who, it is very important to remember, is a fucking pussy) skated the hell away from the 6'7", 265-lb. punching machine, like a fucking pussy. So, Prust said "OK, I'll do it" and proceeded to destroy Carcillo in the most one-sided fight on ice since Sidney Crosby vs. Boris Valabik's nutsack. So that was fun.

But as gratifying as that was (extremely), it wasn't the full physical response we needed. It was like the Rangers just couldn't finish their jobs last night. When we were in front of Bobbaryshnikov's net, we got cleared all the way to the ice. When they were in the King's court, they got shoved aside and stayed standing. Even when we spent a long time in their zone, or had extended PP time, we couldn't figure out how to put the puck on net. We just looked shitty. We should have followed the old "if you're gonna do the time, you might as well do the crime" philosophy and started running people over in the middle of the second, when the game was close and it was clear that Joannette and St. Pierre were planning on casting lots for the night. The message we sent physically was "Carcillo's a fucking pussy, but you guys can get away with this shit anyway," when it could have been "you cannot do this."

And so, at the end of the day, while neither the King's day in peasant clothing nor the confused couple of awful officials did us any favors, 'twas once again the Rangers who killed themselves. Ugh. Here's to forgetting last night ever happened.

In that vein, the good news is that we get right back on the horse tonight, with an opportunity to kick the Devils while they're down! Notably absent from tonight's matchup with minor injuries: Ryan Callahan and Martin Brodeur, both of whom are somewhat banged up but should return to their respective lineups shortly. I'm very disappointed about both of those things, but they don't make me too much less thirsty for blood tonight. Fuck the Devils; Let's Go Rangers!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quick fun: I hate the Devils

Most bloggers say "Sorry I haven't posted in a while." I say "I have this job that sometimes asks me to do lots of stuff but also pays me; I'll post more regularly when you start paying me." I still have lots to do at work, but I wanted to post a quick one here, not about the Rangers so much as the Devils. In the Sporting News's otherwise vanilla (yet somewhat gratifying) report on the Devils' 3-1 loss to the Kings Saturday night, we learn the following from the 100-million-dollar man himself, Ilya "$325,000/goal*" Kovalchuk:

The Kings are one of the teams that tried to sign me, and the [recruiting] trip was more for my wife, because she'd never been in L.A., and she wanted to go see it. So we went. But there's no point in talking about it anymore because I'm proud to be with the New Jersey Devils.

As the Internet says, "Wait, what?" Kovalchuk had all those contract discussions with the Kings...because his wife wanted to visit LA? Look, I'll admit: when I was fresh out of college, I got flown out to Seattle to interview Microsoft, and while I took the interview seriously (despite not being all that sure I actually wanted to work for them), I took a little advantage: I spent the night touring the city, and since they were reimbursing my dinner, I got myself a steak. I'm not gonna knock taking a little advantage of a potential employer like that.

But Kovalchuk was already a multi-million dollar athelete, you see. Let's not forget that he made $32 million over his last 5-year contract, before signing the now-famous 15-year deal. He made $7.5 million last season. Do you think that if his wife wanted to see L.A. in the off-season, he maybe could have taken less than the entire goddamn off-season to sign a contract, by talking only to the team he was serious about, and then used some of his massive-and-poised-to-become-moreso bank account to just fly them out for a goddamn vacation?

Fuck these guys. Wanna feel better about it? Here is a brief set of instructions designed to help you do so. I won't even give you a link; I want you to experience the joy of going through the motions here.

1. Go to
2. Click the "Standings" tab in the navigation bar.
3. Click the "League" tab just above the standings.
4. Scroll allllll the way down to the bottom, to team number 30.

See, wasn't that fun? The Devils (who are probably somewhat less quick these days to accuse the Rangers of overpaying for star power, undermining the actual quality of their team) are 3-8-1, for 7 points in 12 games. This league-worst record is also the worst start in franchise history, and makes the Devils one of only two teams (Sabres) winless at home so far this season.

Their goal differential is an impressively low -19, worst in the league by 6 goals. That means they are outscored by an average 1.58 goals per game. That is atrocious. If you don't understand how atrocious that is, for reference, last season's Edmonton Oilers finished with a league-worst goal differential of -70, or -0.854 goals per game. The season before that, the Islanders finished with -78, -0.95 goals per game. I know it's a relatively small sample size (14.6% of the season), but the Devils are on track to end the season with a goal differential of -129.83, the worst NHL goal differential since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers, who ended up being outscored by 143 goals in going 14-57-11 on the season (the Devils themselves are on track to finish this season with 47.8 points).

And no. I don't feel bad rubbing that in. This is fun as hell. Yes, I have defended them in the past, and I think the NHL went way too far in fining them and taking away picks. But goddamn does that ever not stop it from being fun as hell to watch them keep losing. Congratulations, guys: you won Kovalchukapalooza. Keep the dream alive.

Fuck the Devils.

*$325,000/goal rate is approximate, and based on math. Kovalchuk has lit the lamp 3 times so far this season, across 12 Devils games (he only played in 11, being benched for one because his $100 million contract couldn't inspire his ass to get to practice on time). So, that means he's good for a goal every 4 games, or 20.5 goals per season. This puts him on track to score 307.5 goals throughout his 15-year deal with the Devils, a rate of $305,203.25 per goal, assuming he stays healthy, never gets injured, and plays full seasons through his 43rd birthday.