Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Fun

Look who's wrong about something again! Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit's fatso!!!!

Why would you even consider complaining about this? How is this a good idea? Who comes down on the side of concussions? Don't suspend offenders because having too many suspensions is bad for the sport. Holy shit, who feels the need to go to the media in the preseason and speak out against suspending headhunters? He likens it to the fucking foot in the crease rule?

One of these things is not like the other
One of these things ends people's careers
Can you tell which one is not like the other

Colin Campbell is still spineless


Edit: The only thing I'd add, which I believe Brooks pointed out in a previous piece, is that precedent has been set not only by the NHL (we talked yesterday about the Avery suspension for saying "sloppy seconds"). On April 13, 2011, L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant called an NBA official a "fucking faggot." Despite being one of the league's superstars, the next day, Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA. A month and a half later, Chicago Bull Joakim Noah yelled "Fuck you, faggot" at a fan - and was fined $50,000 by the league.

Note that, unlike the fines handed out by the NFL to Joey Porter, or by MLB to Ozzie Guillen (both for using the same word), both of these NBA instances were yelled in the heat of the moment, during a game, and were corroborated only by word of mouth and lip-readers. In other words, exactly the same situation the NHL is using to justify their lack of punishment.

When Bill Plaschke yells that all the fighting is why people consider hockey a "fringe sport," it's because he's an idiot. But shit like this? Joke league.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yesterday was a crazy day

So much shit went down! Wow! Check it out!

At 1:30, they officially announced the Winter Classic, Rangers-Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In addition to the things everybody already knew, that the Winter Classic will be officially happening (on January 2 at 1:00 PM) and that HBO will be doing a 24/7 series about the two teams leading up to the game (starting December 14 at 10:00 PM), we also learned that they will be doing an alumni game again this year. The game will be December 31, and the prospect of seeing old Rangers play hockey again might actually be enough to get me to spend New Years Eve in Goddamn Philadelphia. This isn't exactly Pens-Caps: there are more than like 3 notable alumni total between these two teams.

The other exciting thing about the announcement was Glen Sather's performance. It was pretty heroic. Here, watch it:

Niiiiiice. Oh, and they'll be using this logo.

Then, last night, after NHL Network went back on its original plan to cover the Rangers-Flyers preseason game live at 7, it went ahead and showed us a slightly abbreviated replay at 11. So, I got to watch some hockey! We lost 5-3 including an empty-netter, but it's silly to talk about overall performance in a preseason game with that many penalties. So let's talk specifics.

As I had guessed, almost every forward that can be considered "on the bubble" was in last night: Avery, Christensen, Weise, Zuccarello, Deveaux, Mitchell, Bourque, Hagelin, and Thuresson all played. This leaves out only Kris Newbury, among forwards at camp who are not considered to be in the "locked" 11 forward spots on the opening night roster. At the end of the night, I expected Deveaux and Bourque to be the two final cuts before the European trip. Turns out, it was Deveaux and Thuresson, which surprises me, but not a lot.

Bourque is clearly not ready to play at the NHL level yet. He was mostly a non-factor. Thuresson scored a goal, which was nice, and held his own with the puck a few times. Hagelin was able to make a couple of cute moves here and there, but didn't wow. Still, he probably looked most NHL-ready of the trio. The reports on Weise and Zuccarello are unchanged: Weise did his 6'2" job and punched a guy, while being otherwise competent. Zuccarello made some really nice passes down low, one of which led to a Ranger goal, but is still a little short for a Storm Trooper.

As for the two guys I hadn't seen before, Deveaux was decent, and Mitchell was impressive. Some reports say that Mitchell was likely the 19th forward, the one that "earned his way to Europe," and I'm not surprised. Dude was strong on the puck and spent a good deal of time in front of the net. Based solely on last night's game, if Avery doesn't get the 12th forward spot, I'd give it to Mitchell.

Speaking of Avery, I feel like he won round two of Avery v. Christensen: Roster Battle 2k11. It's almost comical to watch how often an opposing team member skates past Christensen and all of a sudden Mr. Softie doesn't have the puck anymore. He supposedly makes up for his inability to keep the puck by having a great wrist shot, but last night all he did was hit Bryzgalov squarely in the P a few times. Holy possession time, Batman: he is a piece of shit.

Avery, on the other hand, did almost everything right. First of all, the Rangers first (and only even-strength) goal came entirely from his hard work, down in the trenches, keeping the puck away from like 3 different Flyers. Dude does not lose the puck, ever; it is great.

A few minutes later, dirtbag-in-training Tom Sestito hit Mike Sauer into the boards, from behind. No call. Sauer left the game with a shoulder sprain and will be back in a week. The next thing I heard (over Steve Coates's mic between the benches) was a voice yelling at Sestito to slow down and pay attention, or he was gonna injure somebody. Turns out that voice was Sean Avery's. The next shift, Avery is out there starting trouble with Wayne Simmonds.

A few minutes later, sure enough, Sestito once again goes after a Ranger from behind into the boards. This time, it's Deveaux (not his best night ever), and it's way worse. It leads to a brawl, a game misconduct for Sestito, and almost certainly a suspension from Shanahan today. The Flyers' broadcast brilliantly explained to us that "Avery starting with Simmonds" was where the whole thing started, but hey - that's what you get when you watch the Flyers' broadcast.

Avery did take an unfortunate Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty in the second, which I'd be more apt to judge if I had been able to see it. I saw Simmonds punch Avery in the back of the head, into the glass (no call), and I saw the two of them skate away. I heard the Flyers broadcasters talk a whole bunch about what a drain Avery was on his team, upon the penalty being called a few seconds later. But, because they were too busy talking about it, they didn't bother to ever show us the actual play, so I don't know what happened there.

Avery ended up leaving the game for a reason Torts can't get too upset about: he blocked a shot. Avery went down hard and stayed there for a bit before limping off to the locker room. The good news is apparently his foot is not broken, and he will be fine. It also led to my favorite Flyers broadcast moment of the night, in which they showed Simmonds hitting Avery in the upper body on the previous shift, then immediately showed Avery leaving for the locker room after the blocked shot, and bragged about how Simmonds hit Avery so hard, he had to go to the locker room. My friends, it takes a serious brand of homerism to spin "blocked a shot with his foot and had to limp off to the locker room" into "got hit so hard by our guy 2 shifts ago that he had to leave just now to cry about it," but the Flyers broadcast team is capable of such homerism. And, really, shouldn't we respect those who excel in any field?

On defense, I'm starting to get concerned. While the Staal situation remains as it was (he didn't fly to Europe today, but still could by the end of the week), we had a brief scare with Sauer getting hurt on like his second shift and not returning. Fortunately, he, too, has nothing broken - it's a sprain that will keep him out a week. With him out last night, though, there was a big opportunity for Del Zotto, Erixon, or long-shot Stu Bickel to step up and fill a gap (the other two spots were held admirably by Girardi and McDonagh). And unfortunately, none of them did.

Erixon's ability to make the puck move well on a power play was not tested much last night, with Torts instead opting to test his defensive responsibility at the NHL level (this is smart - I'd hate to bring up yet another young defensemen who's supposed to improve the power play and can't play defense). And, as it turns out, Erixon had some problems. He was caught out of position, he lost the puck a lot, et cetera. Look, I know he's 20. Nothing against the guy. But last night, he didn't look totally ready to play defense in the NHL.

Meanwhile, Del Zotto looked bigger than he did last season, but didn't really look any better on defense. This is a huge disappointment, as he had the opportunity to make a real impact, and he didn't. Oh, and after watching a whole hockey game, I know no more about Stu Bickel than I did yesterday. That doesn't say much for the kid.

One last crazy thing that happened yesterday: Wayne Simmonds called Avery a faggot! Yeah, classy, right? Simmonds, predictably, responded to the media by saying something like "hey, he's Avery, he says shit too sometimes." After some digging, Flyers blogs seem to be pinning it on a clip overheard early in the game. After Sestito threw his (first) uncalled-for intent-to-injure hit-from-behind, Avery yelled at the Flyers bench. It sounded to me like, "You know, I kinda wanna fucking kill Giroux tonight. After -- this guy right here [indicating Sestito]? Get him under control, or we'll fucking kill Giroux."

That right there? That's exactly what he should be saying. This schmuck targeted out guy's head? You keep that punk under control, or we'll go after your guys! I imagine that even most Flyers fans have to see the difference between that quote and Simmonds calling Avery a faggot. Especially less than a week after Simmonds himself, who is black, was targeted by some horribly racist fans in Ontario, who threw a banana on the ice when Simmonds was making a shootout attempt.

And, for perspective's sake, let me once again remind you that when Sean Avery was asked, by a reporter, in a locker room, about being in Calgary (home of Dion Phaneuf, who had started dating Avery's ex-girlfriend, the unassailably attractive Elisha Cuthbert), Avery responded "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight." As a result, that very same night, Avery was suspended indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the league or the game of hockey." The suspension ended up being 6 games, plus a mandatory anger management evaluation, and his team (the Dallas Stars) refused to ever play him again.

In conclusion: the Rangers are in Prague now, fuck the Flyers, the regular season starts in 10 days, Avery's great, and I'm spending New Years in Philly.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First round of cuts

As promised, after last night's 4-3 victory over the sorta-Devils, the Rangers made their first round of roster cuts, and as promised, it was a huge set of cuts. Unlike last year, when people seemed to trickle out a dozen at a time, it looks like Torts and the rest of the staff really want to pare down to the people who deserve serious looks. As such, 28 of the 63 players the Rangers had in camp were cut this morning. Here's who got cut. An * next to a player's name means he was returned to his junior squad - everyone else was returned to the Whale. (Source)

Forwards: Chad Kolarik, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Tommy Grant, Shane McColgan*, J.T. Miller*, Christian Thomas*, Jordan Hickmott, Tayler Jordan, Kale Kerbashian, Chris McKelvie, Matt Rust, Michael St. Croix*, Scott Tanski, Kelsey Tessier, Jason Wilson, Andrew Yogan*
Defensemen: Tomas Kundratek, Samuel Noreau*, Pavel Valentenko, Lee Baldwin, Collin Bowman, Peter Ceresnak*, Sam Klassen, Jyri Niemi, Jared Nightingale
Goalies: Chad Johnson, Jason Missiaen, Cam Talbot

A few things that struck me: up front, recent acquisitions Andre Deveaux and John Mitchell are apparently both playing well enough to warrant further consideration. Of the crew of kids everyone was talking about (Hagelin, Bourque, Thomas, Grant, McColgan), only Hagelin and Bourque are sticking around, and joining them is dark horse Andreas Thuresson. Meanwhile, Chad Kolarik, who was called up for a 4-game stretch last January (1 assist, 4 shots, 2 PIM, -1 in that stretch) didn't make the cut. On defense, interesting that Pavel Valentenko (who was once considered as exciting a prospect as McDonagh, and who had a reportedly terrible game last night) was sent home, while the much-less-often-praised Stu Bickel stuck around. Also interesting that McIlrath ("The Undertaker") earned an apparent plane ride to the Czech Republic. Finally, in net, I think it's at least a little notable that Johnson, the go-to callup last season, isn't coming along, while Stajcer, the Traverse City starter, is. Perhaps Johnson is the regular callup because the team is less interested in his development, while they like to let Talbot and Stajcer play. Or perhaps I'm overthinking it.

So, the Rangers cut 16 of 37 forwards, 9 of 20 defensemen, and 3 of 6 goalies cut. Which leaves 35 players in camp: 21 forwards, 11 defensemen, and 3 goalies. If you'll recall, the current plan is to bring 19 forwards, 11 defensemen, and 3 goalies to Europe, a trip that happens sometime soon after Monday night's game against the Flyers (the Rangers' first game in Europe is Thursday afternoon, in Prague against HC Sparta, and they'll be out there through the second game of the regular season, against the Ducks in Stockholm on Yom Kippur (October 8)). It sounds like we're mostly set for our initial European roster, but that two more forwards will be cut after Monday night's Flyers game. If I had to guess, I'd say anyone on that bubble will be in the lineup that night. That likely includes Bourque, Deveaux, Newbury, and Thuresson? Possibly also Hagelin, Mitchell, and Weise? Who knows?

And so, if you'll allow me to upgrade a few "other kids" to "notable prospects," here's who we've got left in camp:

Forwards (21)
Rangers you saw last season (14)
Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Kris Newbury, Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Dale Weise, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello

Summer Acquisitions (4)
Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp

Notable Prospects (3)
Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, Andreas Thuresson

Defensemen (11)
Rangers you saw last season (6)
Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, Marc Staal

Summer Acquisitions (1)
Brendan Bell

Notable Prospects (4)
Stu Bickel, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath, Blake Parlett

Goalies (3)
Rangers you saw last season (2)
Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist

Notable Prospects (1)
Scott Stajcer

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let the rampant speculation begin

Today, we've got a few things to guess wildly about between now and the next time we gain any small bit of semi-information.

First off, the kinda-Rangers' 2-1 OT loss to the kinda-Devils last night. Reportedly, round one of the great Avery-Christensen roster spot battle went to Avery. While Torts praised the Avery-Mitchell-Miller line as "our most effective line, at least as far as offensive pressure," Christensen a the much less promising critique from the coach, "not much was happening there." Of course, as Torts went on to say, you don't want to "get too down or too high on a guy after the first game." Still, if game one was a battle between these two guys at all, it went to Avery, and that's not bad news.

I feel like it's worth pointing out my father's opinion, which is that Christensen is being badly misused: he's not smart enough to be a center, but could be a very effective right wing (he played center last night, between Hagelin and Thomas). While I fundamentally agree that Christensen could do much better things than he currently does if given a low-pressure "shut up and shoot" role, and while there really is something to the argument that we're fine on grit, and what we need is scoring talent (which sways toward Christensen and away from Avery), I just can't get past the fact that I don't like him very much.

Moving on, we can also invent unsubstantial theories about the meaning behind the lineup for tomorrow night's preseason matchup, also against the Devils, back at the Rock. Here's who's playing in that game:

Forwards: Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Kris Newbury, Derek Stepan, Dale Weise, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Carl Hagelin

Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, Brendan Bell, Tim Erixon, Pavel Valentenko

Goalies: Martin Biron, Chad Johnson

We can form theories here about why Eminger isn't getting a second-straight look like DZ, Bell, and Erixon are - they can be anywhere from "because he's a lock for a spot" to "because he's not being given serious consideration for a spot." We can read into Weise and Hagelin getting second-straight looks while Miller, Mitchell, and Thomas didn't. We can wonder if it means Wolski-Richards-Gaborik is pretty much set in stone at this point. And so on.

It's also worth remembering that after this game, the first big round of camp roster cuts will be made. So it's probably at least worth speculating that guys like Kelsey Tessier and Stu Bickel, who didn't make the roster in either preseason game, are probably going home soon.

Ooh! We can make uninformed guesses about various reported injuries, too! Brad Richards and Mike Sauer both playing tomorrow is probably good news about them. As for Staal, he didn't practice again today, but apparently that's because he had a pre-scheduled session with his specialist, which was deemed more important. Which is totally valid! Unless it's a coverup. So that's totally something we can bullshit about!

Finally, here's a really fun one to guess things about. Remember that the Rangers both end the preseason (against HC Sparta, Frolunda, HC Slovan, and EV Zug) and start the regular season (against the Kings and the Ducks) in Europe this year. In fact, after tomorrow night's game, they only have 1 more preseason game (Monday in Philly) before flying out. So, they'll have to take much more than their final roster with them to Europe to finish out training camp and the preseason.

Yesterday, Tortorella announced that the team was planning on taking 18 forwards, 10 defensemen, and 3 goalies with them to Europe. However, today, he announced that a 19th forward "earned his way" onto the trip. So, that must have been someone from last night's game; we can guess who that is! He also said he'd take an 11th defenseman, but that's as insurance for the Staal injury, not because someone earned it. So we can start to guess who those 18+1, 10+1, and 3 players are!

Isn't the preseason fun?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preseason starts tomorrow

Or, as Rick Carpiniello of the Lower Hudson Journal's Rangers Report put it, "One More Day 'til a Hockey Game."

Apparently the first roster cuts from training camp, which Steve Zipay reports will be "major," will occur either Friday night or Saturday morning, after the Rangers have played their first two preseason games (both against the Devils, tomorrow night in Albany and Friday night at the Rock). So, we'll look for that.

Meanwhile, while the lines haven't been announced (and will likely be pretty fluid), here's the lineup for tomorrow night's game:

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Dale Weise, Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell, Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, Shane McColgan, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas

Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Brendan Bell, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot

A lot more big-name players in this lineup than I expected, which is exciting (it'd be more exciting if I could see the game). I like that Lundqvist is getting an early warmup (he'd previously said he'd probably play 3 to 3.5 preseason games, and I like starting early). It also seems like a real opportunity for some of the more lauded kids (Hagelin, Thomas, Erixon) to play with the big boys. If I were pressed to read way too much into this lineup, I'd say it's an early tell as to which kids are gonna get more serious consideration for this roster, since they're the ones the staff is gonna want to see a lot of. Putting them out there with people like Dubinsky and Girardi is the best way to see what they're made of at the NHL level.

In other news, Sean Avery had better have a great game tomorrow night. With Wolski reportedly making magic on the top line with Richards and Gaborik, Avery probably loses what I thought was his best spot on the roster. Christensen apparently had an unremarkable camp until today, when he scored 2 goals in scrimmage. (Him? Inconsistent? Weeeeeeird.) If Wolski earns the top left wing spot, the top 6 starting forwards are clearly he, Richards and Gaborik, followed by Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Callahan. That leaves the bottom 6 spots, of which three are all but guaranteed to Boyle, Prust, and Stepan, with a 4th and 5th likely Fedotenko's and Rupp's to lose. That puts Christensen solidly on a healthy list of people Avery will have to outplay to earn the final regular roster spot.

Fortunately, there's a reason Scotty Hockey unrelentingly calls Christensen "Mr. Softie the Backstabber." Despite his apparent scoring talent, Christensen is eminently outplayable. Still, anything can happen, and that roster spot could easily go to Carl Hagelin or Mats Zuccarello or Christian Thomas or something, too. It's all up in the air. That's what makes it fun, right?

Here's the point: Someone please make Marc Staal's head get better.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Training Camp Roster: It Begins

(Hey Blogger, I'm switching back to the old interface 'cause there's a lot of information in this post. I tried to tell you that in your "why did you switch back to the old interface?" survey, but - hilariously - there was a Google Forms error.)

Well, training camp started this morning. I'll summarize the reports for you: Torts's training camp has a reputation for being very hard because it is very hard. Everyone basically agrees. Groups of players skate back and forth a lot really fast, and they won't see a puck today at all. Sean Avery, again, is just a pinnacle of manhood and handles these better than most of the rest of them. He still won't make the nightly lineup, which will make me very angry, later. For now, let's talk about who's in camp.

63 players made training camp this year, and the Rangers will go through a series of cuts over the next few weeks until camp is down to a maximum of 23 by opening night. The camp itself, along with the preseason games (which start on Wednesday), will be the staff's opportunity to determine who stays and who goes. So, for lack of real hockey to watch, let's spend our time tracking who's in camp.

Forwards (37)
Rangers you saw last season (15)
Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Chad Kolarik, Kris Newbury, Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Dale Weise, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello

Summer acquisitions (4)
Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp

Notable Prospects (7)
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Ryan Bourque, Tommy Grant, Carl Hagelin, Shane McColgan, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas

Other Kids (11)
Jordan Hickmott, Tayler Jordan, Kale Kerbashian, Chris McKelvie, Matt Rust, Michael St. Croix, Scott Tanski, Kelsey Tessier, Andreas Thuresson, Jason Wilson, Andrew Yogan

Defensemen (20)
Rangers you saw last season (6)
Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, Marc Staal

Summer Acquisitions (1)
Brendan Bell

Notable Prospects (6)
Tim Erixon, Tomas Kundratek, Dylan McIlrath, Samuel Noreau, Blake Parlett, Pavel Valentenko

Other Kids (7)
Lee Baldwin, Stu Bickel, Collin Bowman, Peter Ceresnak, Sam Klassen, Jyri Niemi, Jared Nightingale

Goalies (6)
Rangers you saw last season (3)
Martin Biron, Chad Johnson, Henrik Lundqvist

Notable Prospects (3)
Jason Missiaen, Scott Stajcer, Cam Talbot

So, there you are: 63 potential New York Rangers. The first round of camp cuts will probably come after the weekend, but that's just me guessing. Everyone says this is going to be the most interesting, competitive Rangers training camp in years. Of course, they say that every year.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Traverse City ends; Training Camp begins

And the Buffalo Sabres are your 2011 Traverse City Prospects Tournament champions.  Their first year ever doing the tournament, too!  Eh, so it goes.  It was fun to watch hockey, and these kids have a lot going for them.  Went down 2-0 in the first, came back to tie it and went into the third tied 2-2, then gave up 3 goals in the third.  Honestly, I think the kids played a decent third period, just had some bad breaks.  2nd place at Traverse City is nothing to be sad about.

What I actually came here to say was that J.T. Miller and Carl Hagelin, both of whom I called out yesterday as being not particularly impressive, bounced back with very good games last night.  Miller was much more of a presence than he was in the Carolina game, and Hagelin showed much more of that speed that I had read about but not seen.  So, good for both of them.

Meanwhile, hockey really is booting up quickly here.  With the Traverse City tourney ending yesterday, official training camp starts tomorrow.  Though most of the Rangers have already been skating at the practice facility by now, tomorrow starts Torts's official training regimen.  Sometime soon, we'll see an official roster of something on the order of 60 players who are at camp, and that'll be the group that the roster is eventually made of.  Torts will try various combinations at camp and in the 7 preseason games that will come between next Wednesday and October 3.  Throughout this process, the roster will be trimmed a few players at a time until it is down to the opening night roster, in time for the Rangers' season opener October 7.

I'll try to keep this thing updated, as I did last season, with all the new roster announcements as they come in.  Holy shit you guys, hockey's starting!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Traverse City

...which is apparently pronounced "TRA-verse," not "tra-VERSE."  So, an anonymous tipster (my father) read my complaints about not being able to see any of these games and told me that he caught part of one on the NHL Network the other day.  So, I did some very complex investigation to the tune of visiting a website or two for about three minutes.  Turns out that not only is MSG Network badass enough to broadcast all the Ranger games at the tournament, they're also the only network badass enough to do so (or, really, to even notice that it's going on).  This leaves NHL Network two choices: pick up the Rangers feed for all these Traverse City games, or don't, and don't show any of the tournament at all.  So, NHL Network has is broadcasting every Ranger game of the tournament.  And here I was, bitching about not watching hockey, instead of just cold watching some hockey.

So, I watched the Rangers' prospects lose to the Canes' 4-3 in the second overtime yesterday.  (Overtime at this tournament is 4 minutes of 4-on-4, then 4 minutes of 3-on-3, all sudden death.  Following that, a 5-man shootout.)  It was fun!  Real people (granted, they all looked 12 years old, but real nonetheless) in real NHL jerseys playing real hockey!  The season is coming!  It's worth noting that because I watched NHL Network's rebroadcast, at 7:00 (the game was at 3), they cut out large swaths of the 3rd period to make it fit in a 2-hour broadcast.  So, with that caveat, here were my 1-game unenlightened first impressions.

Up front, I really liked a lot of the first line.  Left wing Tommy Grant (who was apparently acquired as an undrafted free agent back in March) struck me as a guy who knows where he's supposed to be.  He kept being right in front of the crease creating traffic on offense, and he kept getting back to his position in time to go the other way.  He also found himself in the right place on the penalty kill a few times.  A 6'2" forward who crashes the net and is defensively responsible?  Yes, please.

Right wing Christian Thomas (whom you'll recall from last year's training camps - he was our 2010 2nd-round pick) was one of the two real stars of the night, for me (the other was Erixon).  He's really fast - with the puck, not just on his feet - and he made a lot of good-looking passes.  Yeah, I know that's fool's gold in a kids' game, but still - shift after shift he kept making smart, pretty plays.  Thomas playing opposite Grant made an ideal tandem of wingers, but Thomas stood out more as the forward with the best shot of making the big squad (based on me watching one game).

The other standout forward for me wasn't Grant and Thomas's center, it was the third-line center, some guy named Jonathan Audy-Marchessault.  He's not not under contract to the Rangers, but he's in the system, on a 2-way contract with the Whale and the ECHL's Greenville Road Warriors, which was only signed 3 months ago - he was an undrafted free agent (source in French).  I noticed him early in the game as a good 2-way player, a smart forward with real defensive responsibility, but as the game progressed he also made a number of clever offensive plays and kept the puck on his stick a little more than you expected him to.  I liked this kid a lot.

Other forwards worth mentioning: first-line center Shane McColgan (our 5th-round pick this year) got a lot of Zuccarello-esque praise for being good at his job despite being very small.  Meh!  2nd-line left wing Carl Hagelin (I mentioned him a couple of months ago when talking about potential cap hits added to the team this season; he was drafted in the 6th round back in 2007) made a few nifty moves throughout the night (though he wasn't nearly as dynamic as Grant, Thomas, and Audy-Marchessault).  Finally, this year's first-round pick, J.T. Miller, played second-line right wing and was not particularly remarkable.

On the back six (is that a real thing I'm allowed to call the defense?  The back six?), let's all throw a parade for a kid named Tim Erixon.  I mentioned him in that same post about possible additions, and man is he ever one.  Early this summer, Sather made yet another one of his increasingly frequent smart prospect moves when he traded away dead-end prospect Roman Horak and two 2nd-round picks to the Flames, in exchange for a 5th-rounder and Erixon.  This is one of the reasons we only had one pick between #15 and #106 overall this year.  Erixon is another solid young defenseman with a real chance to make the team: he made smart, quick moves at the point on the power play, showed a real ability to keep the puck when by all rights he should have lost it, was in the right position every time I noticed, and put up a lot of PK time.  All while he had to spend some time covering for his defensive partner, who was out of position sometimes.  Oh, and he plays forever.  I don't think the dude came off the ice for the last 5 minutes of the game or the first 3 shifts of overtime.  Major minutes.  If yesterday's game was any indication, Erixon should have the best chance of any of these guys to make the team.

I also want to call out giant child Samuel Noreau.  This dude is 6'5" and was born after The Pixies broke up.  What the fuck.  Noreau was drafted this year just two picks after McColgan, and while Gordie Clark talked about how he was a project and the team needed to work on his 2-way responsibility, I just loved everything the guy did.  He's huge.  If he wasn't defending our crease then he was taking up space in theirs.  His stick is longer than a 5k.  I like him, I want him in the system, I can't wait to see how big he is when he hits puberty.

Dylan McIlrath (you remember him - last year's first-rounder, nickname "the Undertaker" or something) was named the Captain of this squad, and you could see why - he defended his teammates constantly, and was often in Canes' faces.  Unfortunately, this didn't always mean he was defending the puck - in fact, at one point in the first, Jared Staal (yes, there's another fucking Staal) hit Ranger winger Jordan Hickmott late.  McIlrath skated right over and got in his face for it, which was great.  He also left his position wide open right in the slot, which led to a Carolina goal.  But still, it's great to see these guys defending each other like that after only being on a team together for a week.

Other players worth noting: defensemen Jyri Niemi (part of last year's camp as well, acquired the previous May from the Islanders for a 6th-rounder) and Collin Bowman (totally non-roster, invited to camp a week ago) both made defensive mistakes and did very little to make up for them.  I know, it's only one game, but I notice what I notice.  Finally, goaltender Jason Missiaen has an unspellable last name.  He, with every one of his vowels, was signed as a free agent back in March (he had originally been drafted by the Canadiens in 2008, but went unsigned and became a free agent).  He looked pretty good!  I know it's just a prospects game, but the dude had to make a lot of saves last night, and more than a couple of them were hard saves to make!  So, a gold star for the kid who has raised the bar for diphthongs everywhere.

Tonight at 7:00, the Rangers' prospects will play the Sabres' for the 2011 Traverse City Tournament championship.  And, as it turns out, I'll be watching it!  Let's Go Rangers' prospects!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Correction no one cares about

Technically, Callahan is the 26th captain in Rangers' history, not the 27th.  Because Mark Messier was captain twice.


According to Andrew Gross, it's Callahan, with Staal and Richards getting the As.  CAPTAIN CALLAHAN WOO.  Man, I miss hockey.

Woah! Blogger got weird

Feelings on the new blogger interface: NOT AWESOME

Here's the point: 9 days until the preseason starts! At which point I still won't be able to watch any games, because I can't just subscribe to a damn channel, because TV is still stuck in the past. But still: 9 days! And some news, today, too!

Later today, the Rangers will be announcing their new captain and alternate captains for the 2011-2012. Callahan -- oops, I mean, whoever they select -- will be the 27th captain in New York Rangers history. But seriously, it's got to be Callahan, right? With one A going to Staal, I imagine, because he's the one who wore it last season. The other one goes to Dubinsky? Possibly Richards if not Dubinsky? I'd give it to Lundqvist, but I know you're not supposed to do that for vague and unsubstantial reasons.

In other news, Traverse City has been going on this week. I wish I could have seen any of the games, but again, TV doesn't know it's the future yet. But apparently it's been going well: the Rangers' prospects are 2-0 so far, beating the Blues' 5-2 on Saturday and the Stars' 6-2 yesterday. Today is a day off at the tournament, tomorrow they play the Canes' prospects to round out the "regular season," and then the tournament's "playoffs" are on Wednesday. Names we should be paying attention to, apparently, are Dylan McIlrath, Ryan Bourque, Tim Erixon, and Blake Parlett. So, there that is. Let's Go Ranger Prospects!