There has been a new feeling to the season here in Carolina. It is very reminiscent of a feeling 16 guys on his team have experienced once already.
The farther in to the season we are getting the more answers we are getting that alleviate any doubts we may have. We had three of our top forwards out due to injury (Cole, Ladd and Walker) but we had two AHL call ups that stepped in and filled the gaps that were missing for us. After a terribly disappointing loss to the Canadiens at home on the 26th, instead of pitying themselves and continuing the losing streak like we saw so many times in the 2006-2007 season, they took charge and destroyed the Islanders the next night 8-3.
The Canes have gone 7-2-3 in their first 12 games of the season sitting proudly atop the division with 17 points. So far, the are proving that 2005-2006 season wasn't just a fluke and that these "Redneck" hockey players are contenders.
The next month is very important for the Canes. With the exception of the Flyers games (on the 21st and 28th) they face their division the entire month (11 division games)
I've got to leave it at that for now, good luck to the boys as they take on their division in the coming up weeks!
Let's go Canes!
30 October 2007
There has been a new feeling to the season here in Carolina. It is very reminiscent of a feeling 16 guys on his team have experienced once already.
Goal scored by Katy at 12:55 PM
26 October 2007
There have been a few contract extensions handed out in the NHL recently, topping the list are the Los Angeles Kings, who signed forward Dustin Brown to a 6-year contract extension today.
The former 13th overall pick from the 2003 draft has 4 goals and 4 assists so far in 11 games with the Kings and has been a star on the rise ever since his definitive entry to the NHL in 2005-2006, putting up 14 and 17 goal seasons since then.
His points total have been on a uprise as well...from 28 to 46, and if his current pace continues, he will finish the season in the 70-point area.
Brown is poised to become a 30-40 goal scorer with huge upside, and he's a mainstay in Los Angeles for at least 6 more years.
All this at such a young age, the 22-year old Ithaca, New York native will turn 23 on November 4th.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi on "Brownie":
Dustin is an integral part of what we are building here with the Kings.
We like how he competes; we like his toughness; and we are very pleased with how his overall game has developed.
"An integral part" is not far off with guys like Mike Cammalleri (10 G, 3 A), sophomore sensation Anze Kopitar (4 G, 8 A) and star Alex Frolov (3 G, 7 A) all destined for superstardom (or at least come close to it).
On defence? They're well equiped with former Hurricanes prospect Jack Johnson (1 G, 1 A), veteran goldie Rob Blake (1 G, 4 A), the dangerous Lubomir Visnovsky (1 G, 7 A) to go along with new faces Brad Stuart (1 G, 2 A), Tom Preissing (0 G, 2 A) and another guy who's been around a while, Jaroslav Modry (0 G, 1 A).
On paper? They're awesome...but the defence has had its own problems this year totally a paltry -14 rating with Modry being the only blueliner in the plus column (+4).
Kings fans are calling for Rob Blake's head because of his shoddy defensive work and inconsistent performance on the attack...Stuart and Preissing are off to slow starts...Johnson is still adapting with Visnovsky and Modry leading the way.
The future is definitely bright in sunny LA, but can the Kings finally pull out of their misery with the younglings and big names picked up this offseason?
Their current 5-6 start could be better, but if you look at last year, it could be worse.
They have the talent, time to fully exploit it...look for the Kings to be serious contenders now or possibly in the near future
Draper stays in Detroit:
The Red Wings have retained former Selke winner Kris Draper, signing the 36-year old to a new 3-year contract that will pay him $1.6 million per season.
Kenny Holland calls Draper an essential part of the team's core:
Kris has been such an important part of this organization's success.
We are fortunate to have secured a player with his leadership qualities and work ethic for the next three seasons.
He has 5 assists to start the season and has put up double digits in goals for the past 4 campaigns.
Minnesota locks up Burns:
Brent Burns is only 22 but already a force on Minnesota's blueline.
The Wild locked him up to a 4-year contract worth about $14.2 million or an average payout of $3.55 million per season.
Minnesota's former 1st round pick is +6 this season and hopes to repeat the +16 rating he put up last year.
I like Doug Risebrough's reasoning when it comes to these big long deals being thrown around:
Long-term contracts are about projection now.
Not about what they'll make, but their ability to earn it and make things happen during the length of the contract.
Panthers sign Cullimore:
The Florida Panthers have reportedly signed defenceman Jassen Cullimore to a 1-year contract including a 2-week conditioning stint in the minors, likely to replace the injured Noah Welch as the team's 7-8 defenceman.
Markov to Russia:
The Danny Markov free-agent saga is officially over...the veteran signed a contract to play in Russia with Dynamo for the upcoming season and TSN reports that his deal includes an out clause that would allow him to come to North America and sign with another team next summer.
Markov was rumoured to be seeking between $2.5 and $3.5 million, but teams like the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders backed out because of salary cap constraints.
24 October 2007
No More Nomar—With Nomar Goles to Tally, Slats' Stats Man Goes Out ... Then Sather Says Let Seymour Goles Go In
Apparently Goles had been under a lot stress since the Rangers opening night’s 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Since that game, Goles was deeply concerned because the Rangers simply weren’t scoring many.
Having been shutout in two consecutive games, scoring only 8 goals in the last 7 games, and posting a league low 13 goals for the season, the only name the supposedly high-powered Rangers have been living up to is Nomar’s.
According to Goles, he felt personally responsible in some way. “It’s as though my name has put a curse on the whole team. I told Glen (Sather) on Sunday that the team might be better off not having me around. With my brother (who was an unemployed statistician) available and just as technically qualified as me, it seemed like a good idea to make a change,” said Goles.
On Tuesday night, apparently Sather agreed. Having watched Nomar Goles for the past two games, Sather said, “let Seymour Goles go in and hope that we start winning”. And with that, Nomar resigned and his brother, Seymour, immediately was in as the Rangers new statistician.
“It’s all for the best. I felt like the Maytag repairman for much of the season. Not having any work to perform is sometimes harder than having too much. I also took a lot of flack from what happened last week,” Nomar said.
Nomar was referring to having pronounced Brendan Shanahan’s goal scoring ability “dead” last Wednesday. The obituary entitled: R.I.P.—Shanahan’s Scoring Succumbs to Old Age After 19+ Seasons was published by the Hockey Humorist on October 17.
As to whether the new team statistician, Seymour Goles, might be willing to alter his brother’s findings on Shanny’s scoring ability, Seymour is uncommitted. “I’ll have my eye on Shanahan’s goal scoring, but I’ll have to see more,” said Seymour.
Meanwhile, Sather remains optimistic that this move will help the Rangers turn their disappointing season around. “Seymour Goles is a name that the whole team can rally around. It will be our new battle cry. Besides, at this point I’ll try just about anything,” said Sather.
Humorist’s Hindsight: Let’s hope that this same-day double play works out better than the last one Sather pulled. After signing both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury within hours of each other on July 1, the yearly $14+ Million dollar duo has combined to average barely over a half a point per game each (9 points in 16 combined games), while showing very little chemistry with their linemates.
I also find it quite interesting that both Nomar Goles and the Hockey Humorist received quite a bit of criticism over what was said in R.I.P.—Shanahan’s Scoring Succumbs to Old Age After 19+ Seasons.
Today, Larry Brooks of the New York Post and Dubi Silverstein of the Blueshirt Bulletin both expressed their concerns over whether Shanahan’s age is a factor in Shanny’s scoring decline. Here are the links: Post and Blueshirt Bulletin.
Brooks even quotes some of the same statistics that I used in several of my articles, such as the fact that Shanahan had only “scored six goals in 29 games before his Feb. 17 concussion” last year. Too many Ranger fans either seem to be unaware of these facts or are just ignoring them.
Although Shanahan’s scoring may have stopped, my pursuit of this subject matter will not.
22 October 2007
And the best part is, it was on Jose Theodore...sorry Mike and Avs fans, hehe.
Have a good day,
21 October 2007
The Minnesota Wild have been on a tear since the start of the 2007-2008 season.
A 3-1 win in St. Louis against the Blues last night pushed Minnesota's record to an outstanding and a little surpising 6-0-1, to lead the Western Conference.
Centres Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Eric Belanger and winger Brian Rolston are all tied for their team's lead in points with 7 heading into Sunday night's matchup against the Colorado Avalanche.
What's surprising about the absolutely Wild run?
Their team has only 17 goals scored in 7 games...the lowest among all division leaders in the NHL...but that isn't unexpected, as Jacques Lemaire's squad tends to focus more on the defensive side of things rather than potting goals in the other end despite having a guy like Marion Gaborik on their front (who is not doing so hot to start the year).
Lemaire and the fans can thank veteran 'tender Nicklas Backstrom for their league low 9 goals against to start the year; the 29-year old Finn has posted phenomenal numbers in his first season as the undisputed number one after the Wild parted ways with Manny Fernandez this summer with 4 of the team's 6 wins, a 1.38 average and a 0.945 SPCT% that are amongst the top 3 in each respective category.
And to add insult to injury for opposing teams, the Wild lead the league in home shutouts with 2 (both from Backstrom) to go along with 3 straight home wins and are the only team in the NHL that have yet to lose a game in regulation on home ice.
They tied the Detroit Red Wings for home victories in 2006-2007 with an astonishing 29.
The new guy in Minny, centre Eric Belanger, says the team has the city's fans to thank for their recent success at home:
"You have the Canadian cities that are pretty loud, but after that, this is top-five in the league for sure."
Belanger has clicked well with linemates Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston, all are tied for the team lead in points.
But one can wonder how much longer the Wild can hold back Josh Harding from taking over as the number one goalie for the team after several succesful seasons in Houston and Minnesota.
Things are looking bright for Minnesota in goal, especially with Backstrom holding the fort with his bulletproof numbers and Josh Harding pressing for playing time with a convincing 37-save shutout effort against the defending Stanley Cup Champs Ducks in his season debut one week ago.
Petr Kalus, highly-touted scoring prospect acquired from the Bruins in the Manny Fernandez deal, did not make the club out of training camp and has been melting away with the team's minor-league club Aeros in the AHL.
Kalus has yet to show why the Bruins and then Wild were so hot about his scoring potential, after potting 4 goals in only 9 games with Boston last season.
But don't forget Minnesota's fast start to the previous campaign did not last, and one can only hope that it will for the sake of hockey and its great fans in Midwestern Minnesota.
No matter which way you look at it, the Wild seem poised for great things...now only if Marion Gaborik would wake up and do what we think he could do best for a team that is goal-hungry in a city waiting for the rise from mediocrity too long.
20 October 2007
BOSTON—Despite a much improved team effort, strong defensive play and another stellar performance by goaltender, Henrik Lundquist, the Rangers never got the bounce they needed (and deserved) while losing 1-0 in a shootout to the Boston Bruins.
Ordinarily the story of 1-0 shootout would be that neither goalie, Lundquist or Manny Fernandez, allowed a goal during regulation or overtime. Or perhaps it would be about the game-winning shootout goal scored by Bruins forward, Phil Kessel. However, this was no ordinary game—thanks to the maintenance crew at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Either the Garden maintenance crew never found out about the time change for today’s hockey game (from 7 pm to 4 pm) or they donated their services all day to the Boston Red Sox in preparation for night’s playoff game at Fenway Park.
Regardless of the reason, when the referee and players were ready for the drop of the puck at 4 pm, the Garden ice certainly was not. All game long (for both teams) the puck hopped, skipped, rolled and bounced over sticks, skates and everything else. In fact, during the waning seconds of regulation time, one bizarre ricochet off the boards went right through the Boston goal-mouth and nearly deflected off Fernandez into the net.
Icy gravel would have provided a better playing surface than that cold, chippy concoction of crap on which the Rangers and Bruins were forced to skate. The puck, which wouldn’t sit down or cooperate for anyone, acted like a stubborn, untrained dog who needed a good smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.
To put this issue in its proper perspective, today’s ice in Boston was equal or worse than the most horrid ice conditions I’ve ever witnessed at Madison Square Garden. Given that I’ve been a Rangers fan since the early 1970’s, this is an indication of how outrageous and insulting it was to watch today’s game.
Adding injury to insult, Rangers forward, Martin Straka, received an unfortunate break after bravely blocking two blasts off the big stick of Bruins defenseman, Zdeno Chara. According to the Rangers team-owned (or NHL owned—depending on who wins the lawsuit) website, Straka broke a finger on his right hand.
This is especially bad news for a struggling Rangers team that is already playing without injured forwards, Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa, and who have scored a league low 13 goals.
Despite Straka’s injury, the Rangers outplayed Boston for most of the game. After holding the Bruins at bay through three first period Boston power plays, the Blueshirts outshot the Bruins 22 to 10 the rest of the way.
This game was certainly close enough that under normal ice conditions, it is very possible the Rangers might have lost anyway. On the other hand, the Rangers might have prevailed and picked up both very-needed points. It’s a shame that a fair outcome hit a bad patch of Boston ice and hopped out of everyone’s collective reach.
With the talent-laden Pittsburgh Penguins up next for the Rangers, it will take bounces and breaks of another kind to prevent the Blueshirts from falling three games under NHL .500 this early in the season.
Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist - http://hockeyhumorist.blogspot.com/
18 October 2007
ATLANTA—Bottom-feeding Atlanta was the latest team to “kick the crap” out of the Rangers … and boy did it stink!
Bolstered by boisterous Blueland* boosters, the Thrashers thoroughly throttled the Rangers throughout tonight’s tilt. The game’s final score of 5-3 was no indication of how one-sided it was for 50 minutes.
Although one could say that Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundquist, was good enough to keep the Rangers in the game early, it is a moot point because the Rangers didn’t bother to show up for the game at all.
Before the Rangers finally exerted themselves midway through the third period, Atlanta had already built an insurmountable 4-0 lead on goals by Pascal Dupruis, Slava Koslov, Todd White and Bryan Little. Marian Hossa later added the fifth Thrasher goal.
Third period goals by Dan Girardi, Brendan Shanahan** and Scott Gomez would have given the Rangers a respectable result, if they hadn’t just lost to an Atlanta team who came into the game with a record of 0-6-0 and a league worst 4.50 goals against average.
In reality the Rangers play dropped another level, going from the gutter to the sewer.
In trying to direct blame at specific Ranger players, the human body unfortunately doesn’t have enough fingers (or toes) to accomplish the task. But one player who simply cannot escape my finger’s poke is Rangers defenseman, Thomas Pock.
Pock, perpetually posing as a practice pylon, proved to be the perfect replacement for much-maligned, Marek Malik. Although Pock had his share of giveaways (with at least one egregious offender), he probably didn’t quite match Malik’s nightly quota. This, however, was only because Pock was too busy watching Thrashers skate around him all night, while letting other Thrashers plant themselves in front of the net as goals were being scored.
Overall, Pock had a minus 2 rating for the evening and was on the ice for 3 of Atlanta’s 5 goals.
Even the three late Ranger power play goals weren’t much consolation for the Blueshirts special teams, because the Rangers managed to give up 2 power play goals and a short-handed goal themselves.
This chemistry experiment is quickly turning into a dismal failure, while mad professors, Tom Renney and Glen Sather, desperately continue their search for the missing combination of ingredients. Should they fail to find the winning formula, the Rangers laboratory will soon be boarded-up and declared a disaster area by New York governor, Eliot Spitzer.
*Blueland is the nickname for Atlanta’s home rink, Philips Arena.
Humorist’s Hindsight: **That was no misprint—Brendan Shanahan actually scored a goal. This just goes to show you that even an old, broken clock is right twice a day. Now should Shanny net another 25 or 30 goals this season, I will be happy to issue a public apology over my last post entitled: R.I.P.—Shanahan’s Scoring Succumbs to Old Age After 19+ Seasons.
Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist - http://hockeyhumorist.blogspot.com/
17 October 2007
NEW YORK—Brendan Shanahan’s goal scoring ability has died after more than 19 highly successful seasons in the NHL.
The attending statistician, Nomar Goles, pronounced Shanahan’s scoring “dead” after a final but futile effort to resuscitate it during the waning moments of the Rangers 3-1 defeat to Ottawa last Saturday.
“Mr. Shanahan’s goal scoring ability had been in a steady state of decline for nearly a year now,” said Goles.
In his final 38 regular season games of 2006-2007, Shanahan scored only 7 goals on 154 shots—a shooting percentage of 4.5%. In this season’s first 5 games, Shanahan has scored 0 goals on 32 shots, including a goalless 13 shot performance against Ottawa on his “goal scoring deathbed” last Saturday.
“At the end, his vital statistics showed no signs of life,” said Goles.
Goles was also quick to point out that Shanahan’s concussion from last year was not a contributing factor to his scoring demise. According to Goles, in the 29 games preceding the concussion Shanahan had only scored 6 goals on 116 shots—a shooting percentage of 5.2%.
“This was just a matter of age finally catching up to a great former goal scorer,” Goles said somberly.
Shanahan’s scoring is survived by 627 regular season NHL goals and 58 NHL playoff goals. No final arrangements have been announced.
Humorist’s Hindsight: I want to make it crystal clear that the obituary (above) was figuratively referring to the “goal scoring ability” of Brendan Shanahan. It was not in any way meant to be a literal obituary for the man, Shanahan, who is physically alive and healthy.
Furthermore, I admire Shanahan as a person and still in some ways as a player. He is not only a class act, but also a great leader in the locker room, a hard working player, and a formerly great goal scorer. I wish him a long, healthy and happy life after his playing days are over.
As a Rangers fan, however, I’m hoping that his playing days are over ASAP. As the statistics prove, his goal scoring ability (at least in the regular season) has virtually disappeared since December 9, 2006.
Also, since he has been on Broadway, Shanahan has showed no chemistry with Jagr, Prucha, Gomez, or Drury—thus ruining most lines on which he’s played. Because he also can’t score on the power play and nobody is scoring goals on defections or rebounds off his power play shot, he has no business being on either power play unit.
Shanahan’s outrageously inflated salary this season of $5.3 million is a cap crippling calamity, whose effects will be felt both this season and next. With a little luck, maybe Shanny has been talking with Chuck (Charles Schwab) about structuring a “Retirement Plan for Old Man Shanahan”. And if Shanahan is the team-first person that he claims to be, then he will implement that retirement plan before his bonus sets in, because that course of action is truly in the best interest of the team.
Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist - http://hockeyhumorist.blogspot.com/
16 October 2007
Lost in all the noise of the Avalanche bouncing back from a horrible loss to the Blues by beating Columbus 5-1, of Joe Sakic bagging a hat trick, of Peter Budaj and Pascal Leclaire putting on clinics at both ends of the ice, of Rick Nash displaying the skills of the rapidly disappearing power forward genre, was ANOTHER flagrant use of the stick. In the waning moments of the third period, with Colorado in control, the role-players and depth guys for the Avs were seeing increased ice-time, including some unlikely PP time for some. Columbus blueliner Duvie Westcott was dry-humping Avs forward Wyatt Smith to the left of Leclaire well behind the play when Scott "Captain Caveman" Parker skated over to do some policing as the refs were apparently enjoying the snuff film on ice. Before Parker has time to utter any catchy one-liners he gets cross-checked in the face by Westcott. Parker was bloodied by the cheap shot, but didn't go down. He then proceeded to have an Incredible Hulk-like rage-fest. Thankfully, all-around good guy and humanitarian Ian Laperriere stepped in to prevent Parker from ending Westcott.
Westcott got 2 plus 10, Parker got 2 for apparently bleeding too much. Now, I know that it was a preventive measure to keep things from getting out of hand, and I commend the refs. A few seconds later, Columbus "tough-guy" Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (6'-2", 211 lbs) decides that with Parker off the ice he has free reign to prove his manhood. He takes a run at, and then attempts to rough up, Jaroslav Hlinka (5'-10, 185 lbs). Hlinka has great hands, but I doubt they've ever been balled up in fists in his entire life. The play further enraged Parker who had to be restrained again by teammates to prevent him from leaving the box. Tollefsen and Parker both get the gate in order to avoid incident, and the game ends shortly thereafter.
Now, anybody reading the NHL propaganda would believe that they want to protect players and keep these kind of flagrant cross-checks and stick-work out of the game, right? I mean, didn't' they just hand down lengthy suspensions for Downie and Boulerice? Therefore, a lengthy suspension for Westcott would be forthcoming, right? Wrong. No discussion immediately after the game or in the ensuing three days has indicated any meaningful penalty for Westcott's dangerous act. Instead, he gets the proverbial wrist-slap of a $1000 US fine. That'll teach him!
I have several problems with this, and none of them stem from my unabashed man-love for the Avs.
- The league has effectively taken the stand that Parker is not as important as Dean McAmmond or Ryan Kessler, who also were victims of vicious cross-checks and dangerous blows to the head this season. As I've noted elsewhere, conspiracy theorists will point to this as another example of the NHL attempting to weed-out enforcers and tough-guys.
- Since the only difference between the Kessler, McAmmond, and Parker hits was that Parker didn't go down in a heap on the ice due to the hit, whether the league meant to or not, they are implying that suspensions will only be handed out if damage is done. This inadvertently encourages diving in my opinion. Following the old Gordan Bombay tactic of "Take the hit, act hurt, get indignant." Not a good direction for the league.
- The Avalanche broadcasters were reveling in the look of bat-crap crazy rage that Parker had following the incident. They were talking about Parker "taking notes" for the next game against Columbus. Having been on the receiving end of misplaced "revenge" just a few years ago with the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, I expected them to be better than that.
- Tollefsen is leading the running for "Wuss-of-the-Year" for backing down from a fight with Parker earlier in the period and then showing his manhood against Hlinka. Tollefsen if first-class all the way...
- I foresee lengthy suspensions for somebody following what will likely be ugly incidents that occur in the next Avs-BJ's tilt. Proper league action to address the first incident (the Westcott cross-check) would have prevented that, but the NHL has again missed the boat. This will INVARIABLY lead to more of the stellar, unbiased press coverage from the media that the league seems to not be able to keep away from.
- To the best of my knowledge, Westcott has not sent a thank-you note to Lappy thanking him for saving his life. You figure a nice Hallmark at the least since Duvie would have likely required a closed casket if Lappy hadn't stepped in. How rude...
All-in-all, the lack of any cohesive disciplinary action by the NHL has again shown the league office's inconsistent application of the rules of the league. Don't they understand that the ACTION should warrant punishment just as much as, if not more than, the result? That is the only way that stuff like this will be weeded out of the game.
15 October 2007
Jaro Spacek has started hot. He has three goals to start the season and has looked every bit the player the Sabres thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent last year. The question is, why now?
I believe it is the simple fact that he is finally being allowed to play the role he was brought to Buffalo to fill. Lindy Ruff is a great coach, but even great coaches have their unique ways of doing things. One of Lindy's trademarks is leaning on his veterans and being generally uncomfortable with newcomers. Last year when Spacek struggled a bit early it seemed that Ruff quickly turned the page and went to his security blanket that was Teppo. Furthermore, the power play last year was dominated by shooters and the puck movement wasn't always crisp. Spacek, who is more of a shooter than a distributor seemed out of synch from the start. Unable to fill the role of PP QB he was a forgotten man on the unit by mid-season.
It is no coincidence that the powerplay is far better with Tim Connolly manning the left side halfwall. Teams genuinely fear Connolly's abilities. Though Briere and Drury are fine players neither is Connolly's equal on the power play when it comes to quarterbacking the play and distributing the puck. His reemergence has allowed Spacek and Brian Campbell to return to the roles of point man blasters that they both thrived in two seasons ago. Another bonus is the willingness of Thomas Vanek and Paul Gaustad to park in front of the net. Neither Drury or Briere seemed particularly comfortable in or were built for that area.
I expect you will continue to see Spacek thrive in his enhanced role and with the larger ice time. He is a horse and hopefully will add a larger physical presence defensively as well.
News and Notes:
- Sorry for the lag in posting. for some reason I cannot access the site at certain times of the day and that along with extended trips to Chicago and Atlanta have hampered me.
- Rumours abound that the Sabres may sign C Randy Robitaille. RDS is reporting that it is between Buffalo and Ottawa for the former Islander. It would seem he would be looked at to fill the 3rd or 4th center role in Buffalo if he signs.
- Jocelyn Thibault has yet to play for the Sabres. I expect he will get a start during one of the midweek games coming up.
14 October 2007
NEW YORK — In one of the oddest reported occurrences of spontaneous human combustion, 19* men simultaneously blew up in front of over 18,000 horrified witnesses.
Although the entire explosive event took less than a minute, one scientist, who happened to be on hand, had a handle on how it happened.
“Whenever you combine very potent and efficient Canadian firepower with MSG ice, sloppy defensive play and too many new player combinations, there is always a small chance of having this kind of freakish result,” said Korean chemical engineer, Yu B. Sik.
Fortunately, since the fireworks finished so fast, the fire department never had to be called. Although Ranger head coach, Tom Renney, was unavailable for comment, Brendan Shanahan took “a shot” at giving the players’ explanation for the Manhattan Meltdown. Unfortunately, like all of his other shots this year, Shanahan was off target with his comments—missing the microphone by a good two feet.
Amazingly, despite the horrific happenstance, all 19* players survived and are expected to be in the lineup Thursday against Atlanta.
*I gave backup goalie, Stephen Valiquette, an exemption because he didn’t play. However, this is only an honorary exemption, because had Valiquette been in net, things might have gotten worse yet.
Humorist’s Hindsight: Let’s face it. Even if the Rangers hadn’t self-imploded by giving up 3 goals in that minute of misery, they had no chance against the vastly superior Senators. Ottawa was so clearly the better team in every phase of the game. This includes being bigger, faster, more skilled, quicker to the puck, more physical, having a better transition game, etc.
At this point Ottawa is like a well-oiled, fine-tuned industrial machine, while the Rangers are like a rich kid’s rendition of an out-of-sync gadget thrown together for a science class project. It seems hard to believe that in the next 6 months the Rangers are going to be able to catch up with their Canadian counterparts.
It also doesn’t help that the Rangers have next to nothing left in the salary cap kitty (sorry tdr) with which to purchase any meaningful machine parts before the trade deadline.
At the moment, I can only think of 2 funny aspects to the Rangers slow start to the season:
1) That anyone could have seriously believed the Rangers were Stanley Cup contenders, given that they will almost certainly have to get past Ottawa in the playoffs, and
2) That Glen Sather shelled out over $5 million to Brendan Shanahan this season, believing that he was still a formidable goal scorer—despite all the contrary evidence over Shanahan’s last 38 regular season games of 2006-2007. Details of Shanahan's "sinking ship of a scoring shot" from last season are found in the middle of this August 3rd article.
With 5 more goalless games to start this season, Shanny’s Fanny is going to get an “old” fashioned, verbal butt kicking by the Hockey Humorist in posts that will appear sometime before Thursday’s game in Atlanta.Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist - http://hockeyhumorist.blogspot.com/
Often, even if your team has ammassed the cream of the crop of superstars on their roster, it may not be enough to win in a new and tough NHL era.
It might be really early, and I know you cannot blame a goalie for how he performs on most nights, but let's take a look at how some goalies are faring around the league almost 2 weeks into the new campaign.
The prized pickup of Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. this offseason from down in Sunny San Jose currently leads all goaltenders with 18 goals allowed in only 4 games, complimented by a 4.48 GAA and a paltry .878 SPCT%.
With 3 wins so far this year, the Lightning have all the offence they need with Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards to compensate for their lack of a solid starter between the pipes.
The Lightning lost a game last night 6-4 to their counterpart Florida Panthers and you could argue that TB's goaltending is back to its old habits again.
After three strong consecutive performances by Johan Holmqvist in the team's first 3 wins; the Swedish sophomore let 4 goals on 15 shots go right through his body against the Panthers yesterday evening with all of them being considered in your blogger's eyes quite soft.
He was replaced by Marc Denis, originally sought for the starting role 2 summers ago (but that didn't work out either) and nothing out of the ordinary or remotely solid came of him in his 7 shot stint besides one weak goal that killed the momentum Tampa Bay had going after scoring four unanswered goals on Tomas Vokoun that period.
Manny Fernandez was supposed to be the answer for the Boston Bruins in goal, but Tim Thomas is showing why he should be the number one for the B's.
Two ordinary outings and 10 goals against have people wondering if Fernandez can get back to his previous form from 2 seasons ago with the Wild, the same season which he stole the starter's job from Dwayne Roloson.
Until he decides to play like his salary dictates, the Bruins have all the time in the world to watch Tim Thomas shine for them.
A 1.48 goals against average and a .957 SPCT% puts Thomas in the top 3 in each of those categories to start the season; and I see no reason why Fernandez and his 5.00 GAA should park their butts in Boston's crease as long as the Bear is playing like a superstar.
2 games and 11 goals later, the former first round draft choice Bernier is on the bench again and could end up in Manchester pretty soon.
Jason LaBarbera hasn't been any better the rookie Bernier with no wins and a .827 SPCT% to get his NHL career back on track.
Olaf Kolzig, Cam Ward, Nikolai Khabibulin, Manny Legace, Martin Biron and Cristobal Huet are carrying their teams with solid performances night-in and night-out.
Yours truly is a goaltender as well, and is only giving his two cents on this subject...things can change, it's only a few games, but here's how it's looking so far...
Two nights later they took on the previously undefeated Senators. After both teams testing the water and basically just scrambling to get something going, Erik Cole opened up the scoring for the Canes. 6 minutes into the 3rd and the Canes go up 4-1. With less than 5 minutes left to go the Canes defense seemed to back off and slow down. This was answered with two quick goals by Mike Fisher and Joe Corvo of the Sens. When the Sens pulled Gerber to get the extra attacker on the ice, the Canes sealed their win when Eric Staal scored the EN goal. Final score 5-3...the Senators, no longer undefeated.
Although the had won 2/2 of their Canadian roadtrip this last game vs the Habs was probably most important. 2 points we need aside, this game would be a good indicator of the consistency that the Canes lacked last season which resulted in the Canes watching the playoffs from their couches at home. The first 10 minutes of the 1st period were incredibly scary to watch as a fan. The Habs came out roaring to go for their home opener and the Canes looked like this was all of theirs first NHL game ever. Ward let's in an early goal only a minute into it. Slowly the momentum swung back to the Canes as Stillman gets an ugly garbage goal late in the third. Matt Cullen was the only tally in the 2nd. And after much struggling to control the puck in the third, our Chad LaRose gets his first EN goal with 15 seconds to go. Canes win 3-1.
The Canes now stand at 4-1-1; a huge difference from how the 06-07 season started. Ward currently stands high up on most stats list with a record of 4-0-1 (John Grahame took the loss in DC) and .942 save percentage after just over 300 minutes of ice time.
The Canes now get a break until a Friday/Saturday back to back in Pennsylvania.
Let's Go Canes!
Goal scored by Katy at 10:14 AM
12 October 2007
29-year old enforcer Jesse Boulerice has been suspended 25 games by the National Hockey League for his striking hit on Canucks forward Ryan Kesler's face last night in Vancouver.
The suspension bodes nicely with prospect Steve Downie's out of training camp on Ottawa's Dean McCammond (he got 20 games).
But as for Boulerice, he's in and out.
Signed October 3rd as a free-agent to a 1-year contract, Boulerice was expected to assure a depth role on the Flyers checking lines this season.
But one week and two days into his Flyers tenure, the Plattsburgh, New York native gets slapped with the longest single-season ban in NHL history.
Jesse Boulerice, PHI October 2007, 25 games
Marty McSorley, BOS Februaru 2000, 23 games
Gordie Dwyer, TAM September 2000, 23 games
Dale Hunter, WAS May 1992, 21 games
Steve Downie, PHI September 2007, 20 games
Todd Bertuzzi, VAN February 2004, 20 games
Tom Lysiak, CHI October 1983, 20 games
Brad May, PHO November 2000, 20 games
"This was more than a careless and reckless play," Colin Campbell said. "It was senseless."
Paul Holmgren expected nothing less than that from Campbell on this situation.
"Is 25 the worst?" he said. "It's pretty close to what I expected."
Boulerice isn't new to massive suspensions, in fact, he was suspended one entire year in 1998 by the Ontario Hockey League for his newfound fondness for "stick-swinging", something Habs fans can remember Alexander Perezhogin for during his short-lived Bulldogs stay
The following year, now in the American Hockey League, Boulerice didn't get the nod to play until mid-November, when he was ruled "eligible" to return to action.
He will be eligilbe to be reinstated to the Flyers active roster December 13th against the Montreal Canadiens; but one can wonder if he'll ever suit up for the Flyguys ever again.
It's unlikely, in my opinion, that Boulerice gets a second chance for his infraction and if anything he'll salt the rest of the season down on the farm with the Flyers' AHL affiliate Phantoms.
It's not as if he was ever good or effective in his role to begin with.
10 October 2007
Some random Ranger thoughts while waiting for the first of 8 regular season installments of the Ranger-Islander rivalry:
Relax, Ranger Fans
I understand that last season's second round playoff appearance combined with the free-agent signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez created high-expectations for the 2007-08 season. But, it seems some Ranger fans expected their team to roll through the schedule like the 1970's Soviet national team. There's no doubt the Rangers are a good team, but it's going to take a little time for Drury and Gomez to get acclimated to their new teammates. I fully expect this team to get better as the season goes along, and should play its best hockey at the most important time.
Lundqvist off to Fast Start
The good news for the Rangers is that King Henrik seems to have picked up where he left off last year, and has kept his team in both games this season. His teammates took advantage with a four-goal rally in the season-opener against Florida, but they were unable to break through against Martin Gerber on Saturday.
The Rangers must find a way to maintain their level of toughness, energy and abrasiveness during the four-week absence of the NHL's most hated player, Sean Avery. Avery suffered a separated shoulder on a tough and clean (despite all the nonsensical hysterics from Stan Fischler) hit from Ottawa tough-guy Chris Neil.You may not like Avery (chances are, if you're not a Ranger fan, you don't), but his addition to the roster last season brought the Rangers the necessary intangibles the team had been missing as it aimlessly wandered through the first two-thirds of the 06-07 season. Now that he will be lost for the next month, the Rangers must not revert to their pre-Avery form.
Jovo Not Coming to NY
Not that we should take anything Eklund reports seriously, but everyone needs to stop talking about any trade of Ed Jovanovski to the Rangers. In his blog today, John Dellapina of the NY Daily News explains why this makes no sense:
Do not, under any circumstances, consider this a precedent. Because I have no intention of spending time and space on this blog shooting down ridiculous rumors - I already have a full-time job, thank you.
But as so many of you have asked about "reports" that Ed Jovanovski is headed to the Rangers, I'll make an exception.
This makes no sense on so many different levels it's difficult to know where to start. But let's start with some simple math:
• The Rangers currently have $51.3 million committed to salary and bonuses this season. That is OVER the team salary cap of $50.3 million and is only permitted because $2.8 million of that is bonus money that Brendan Shanahan will get after playing a few more games that falls under a very specific classification of bonuses. The Rangers will be charged next season for whatever amount over this year's cap that Shanahan's bonus money puts them.
Take away Shanahan's bonus money and the Rangers have $48.5 million committed for this season -- or $1.8 million of cap room.
Ed Jovanovski has four years and a total of $25.5 million left on his whopping contract for an annual cap hit of almost $6.5 million. In order to trade for Jovanovski, the Rangers would have to shed nearly $5 million to make room (Jagr for Jovo, anyone?)
• Of course, all this presupposes that the Rangers want Jovanovski and that he'd want to come here -- because he's got a no-trade clause and just built a house in the Phoenix area and doesn't want to move. Fact is, the Rangers have no interest in paying $6.5 million per season to any defenseman not named Niedermayer or Lidstrom or maybe Pronger. With $7 million per committed to forwards Scott Gomez and Chris Drury for the next five to seven years and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist due to sign an extension for more than $6 million per in January, how can the Rangers ice four lines and three D pairs if they shell out $6.5 million more to a defenseman who isn't a Norris Trophy type?
Other than all that, it's a good rumor. After all, didn't Don Maloney recently work for the Rangers? That's enough reason to believe a deal is about to get done. Isn't it?
Goal scored by Norman Rochefort at 4:45 PM
08 October 2007
Close, but no dice.
Gritty prediction: The Habs will get their revenge in the final game of the season, with both teams inching for the final playoff spot, against the Leafs in Montreal and earn the 8th seed.
Hey loyal readers and hockey fans!
I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I can assure you the wait and the drought for hockey is now over, the season is about a week old and it's to no one's surprise that fans all around the nation are going crazy.
Well, I went crazy a few days before the Ducks and Kings dropped the puck in the UK, crazy making up predictions for the coming season.
Yes, I also know that the season's started and I'm a little late, but hey, who really cares except the people who insist over useless details?
Feel free to speak your mind or bash me to your heart's content.
- New York Rangers
- Ottawa Senators
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Buffalo Sabres
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Montreal Canadiens
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Florida Panthers
- New Jersey Devils
- Washington Capitals
- Boston Bruins
- Atlanta Thrashers
- New York Islanders
- Detroit Red Wings
- San Jose Sharks
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- Calgary Flames
- Anaheim Ducks
- Vancouver Canucks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Minnesota Wild
- Nashville Predators
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- St. Louis Blues
- Edmonton Oilers
- Phoenix Coyotes
- Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Team Leaders (PTS):
Bruins -- Savard
Canadiens -- Koivu
Capitals -- Ovechkin
Devils -- Parise
Flyers -- Briere
Hurricanes -- Staal
Islanders -- Comrie
Lightning -- St. Louis
Maple Leafs -- Blake
Panthers -- Jokinen
Penguins -- Crosby
Rangers -- Jagr
Sabres -- Roy
Senators -- Alfredsson
Thrashers -- Hossa
Western Team Leaders (PTS):
Avalanche -- Sakic
Blackhawks -- Ruutu
Blue Jackets -- Nash
Blues -- Kariya, P.
Canucks -- Sedin (pick one)
Coyotes -- Doan
Ducks -- McDonald
Flames -- Igingla
Kings -- Frolov
Oilers -- Hemsky
Predators -- Dumont
Red Wings -- Datsyuk
Sharks -- Thornton
Stars -- Morrow
Wild -- Gaborik
(P.S. -- look for a redesign soon!)
I've been missing in action this season but I've gotten the insane urge to uptalk my boys... maybe I'm hoping that if I get to it first then it won't sting so bad when everyone starts trashing us. :)
First off, I must say that Coyotes fans are never satisfied (except myself, of course). The Phoenix Coyotes had zero creativity in the front office last year and the fans wasted no time in letting them know. Now that they are trying something new with the fuzzy French snowman (yes, I said fuzzy snowman) commercials, the new video and music selection at games and the billboards and posters splashed all around our fair city, all anyone can do is bitch.
"It's too loud." "The language isn't family friendly." "The strobes irritate me." "The commercials are stupid."
Get over it, guys. You can either have an uptempo Linkin Park song in the opening video or you can have Britney Spears. I think I'm one of the minority that loves the new way of doing things. The songs get me pumped up and while the strobe lights through the ENTIRE game might be pushing the envelope, how else are they expected to get our dead crowd excited?
Now that that's off my chest, I can turn to the real reason for the post - the game itself. In our first game we played the Blues and we beat 'em in every way shape and form. Sorry Blues fans but you know it's true. We outskated, outshot and outplayed your team. We were chipper and feisty and we wanted the win BAD, so we did what we were supposed to do and we went out and TOOK it.
Unfortunately, the luck/skill didn't spill over to our next game vs. the Bruins. The first peiod was completely owned by Boston and it didn't get a whole lot better the rest of the game. We ended up losing (albeit not by much) and the fans were pissed. My question is why? We knew from the beginning that this year was going to be atrocious but because we won that first game everyone's hopes leapt into the air only to crash back around their feet when they realized that no, this isn't an overnight project.
We lost Zbynek Michalek for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand the day before the season began and we're still missing tough-guy Josh Gratton with his broken finger. Us Coyotes sure have a way of immobilizing ourselves. Anyone who thought that Zbynek was a waste of space before this better take a good look around, watch the rest of the d-men scramble around to fill the spot left by the little Czech.
It's a fun season so far (2 games deep is early to call it, I know). I'm looking forward to more losing because then at least my boys will learn what not to do. Get all that junk out of the way now so that when it comes time to put it all on the table they're not afraid to do what they're supposed to.
Well, the Avalanche have played three games of the long 82-game season and a few things are noteworthy to this point. A couple of these items are blatantly obvious, others...not so much. I'll hit the highs and lows real quick, to give a snapshot of the Avs at the 3.66% point of the season.
The first item up for your consideration is Paul Stastny. East Coasters (specifically those who voted for Malkin in last year's Calder race) may not have been aware of his built-for-the-new-NHL skill set, but after three games in the dreaded slump-inducing sophomore season, he leads the league in points after a hat trick on opening night, followed by a 5-point explosion against the Pacific juggernaut San Jose Sharks. The gap-toothed wonder has scored his gems in a variety of ways: in-stride entering the offensive zone, down-low on the PP, backdoor give-and-goes, etc. He's also dishing out the assists, especially on Sakic's first goal of the season. He's set a torrid pace for himself, but even if he comes back down to Earth a little, he's still going to put up great numbers this season.
Point #2: Jaroslav Hlinka, or the missing H-link as I like to call him. With Turgeon going down last season the Avs lacked a genuine playmaker for the second or third lines. Not anymore. Super-Scout Milan Hejduk brought this guy to the attention of management after two stellar seasons in Europe. So far, at $600,000, he's a steal. He dishes pucks like Oprah dishes advice. He's unselfish and has some of the prettiest passes I've seen in a while.
Next up? The Duke is back. Adding credence to the suspicion that he played at least a portion of last season on a bum wheel, Hejduk is zipping around the ice, shooting, passing, breaking up plays... He's lighting the lamp and improving the play of everybody around him. He's on the ice in all three situations (even, PK, and PP), which shows tremendous versatility. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict him to finish the season with the highest points among the Avs.
The D has looked better than last year. Sure they let the Stars back in it on opening night, and the PK got lit up in Nashville, but as a whole, the D-corp. is better positionally and seem to be more physical with the addition of Hannan and a healty Leopold. Finger played well against the Sharks and may permanently displace Skrastins with a few more good games like that.
The forwards are another story altogether. According to my source (my wife, who watched the Preds game while I was at pick-up hockey), the 4-goal shellacking from the Preds was a result of the same backdoor play over and over. That means some of the forwards are running around when they should be sticking to their man or playing their spot on the ice. This was in evidence on the last goal of the game against the Sharks. Unless Budaj is expected to spontaneously clone himself (ala James Madrox), there is little-to-no chance he can make a save when a guy is camped out, eating a Snickers bar, on the far side of the crease with nary an Av in shouting distance. The defensive positioning/responsibility of the forward core has to improve or this weak link will be exposed as the season progresses.
Budaj has looked good so far. His positioning is sound, he's shrugged off the loss in Nashville with an excellent game against the Sharks, and contrary to some detractors, I think his rebound control has been pretty good. He had a weird bounce off of the right leg against the Sharks, but if you go back and watch that game, he swallowed up a ton of shots, may of them with heavy traffic in front of him. Budaj appears quick and balanced, not trying to do too much, which means he may have some renewed confidence in the D-corp. in front of him.
Finally, faceoffs HAVE to improve. As a team, the Avs are atrocious. Hopefully, this is a focus in practice during the long layoff between games 3 and 4, but Richardson and his slightly above average faceoff skills can't get healthy quick enough.
I don't want to sound like another "Everything-is-rosy," gushing fanboy, but I like the Avs chances this year. They have issues, but from having watched just about every team so far this season, everybody has things to work on. Overall, a good start to the season against three teams that are expected to be playoff teams this year. I'm looking forward to games 4-82+ with the still-intact, renewed hope of a new season.
Goal scored by Mike at MHH at 1:37 PM
05 October 2007
And it has begun.
The 41st season in Philadelphia Flyers history began last night with a clutch 3-2 victory over the Western Conference powerhouse Calgary Flames. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous going into the game. Our preseason ended with a sketchy 3-5 record, and there was still some chemistry issues that were being addressed in practice. Not to mention - we were facing Kipper and Iginla in our first game. Can you say "test?"
Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic about the moves that Paul Holmgren made in the off-season, but having at least 9 new players in your roster can make for some lofty confusion on the ice. Fortunately for the Fly-guys, last night's game lacked the issues fans and media alike were half-anticipating.
The game featured impressive performances from Danny Briere (first goal and game winning goal), Simon Gagne (2 assists), and Mike Knuble (1 PP goal, 1 assist). Aside from the first line point-getters, Mike Richards and the understated Braydon Coburn had especially strong games. Richards' forechecking game was determined, high in energy, and consistent. He played a ton of minutes (19:10) and seemed to make something happen every time he stepped out. Coburn's game didn't involve any points, but holy-defensive-positioning Batman - this guy was just great when it came to being responsible on the ice. He's often overlooked when he doesn't put up any points, but I can honestly say that he looked like one of the most confident defensemen on the ice.
In other Flyers/NHL news, I had a chance to chat with former Flyer defenseman Chris Therien last night before the game. I've been trying to find out what's going on with free agent LW John LeClair since he was released in November 2006 from the Penguins roster. Knowing that Therien and LeClair are good friends from "back in the day," I figured this was my best chance to find out what the deal is - is he retired? retiring? planning on a comeback? seeking a contract? Whatever I could find out, I was happy with.
When asked about LeClair's status, Therien told me to "consider him retired...He's had a tremendous career and [now has the chance to] ride off into the sunset." I couldn't have said it better myself, Chris. Although, what I wouldn't give to see him play one more game in the NHL.
Here's to John LeClair, his extraordinary career (even though it's not officially over), and a new beginning for the Flyers in the 2007-08 season.
That didn't take long, did it?
When the Rangers signed Chris Drury this summer, Ranger fans, who were crushed by his game-tying (series ending) goal with 7.7 seconds left in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, anticipated that they would get to be on the long end of Drury's heroics in the clutch.
Nearly midway through the third period of his first game as a Ranger, the anticipation on Broadway was replaced by an eruption of joy. Less than two minutes after Petr Prucha tied the score at 2-2, Rangers’ Captain Jaromir Jagr threw a blind backhand on net and Florida Panthers Goalie Tomas Vokoun left a juicy rebound in front of his net that ended up on Drury's stick. The 30-year old center wasted no time in roofing a shot just under the crossbar, giving the Rangers the lead for good in a 5-2 rout of the Panthers.
Opening night at the World's Most Famous Arena got off to a dazzling start as former Ranger and future Hall of Famer, Brian Leetch returned to MSG to drop the ceremonial first puck. Leetch was introduced to a thunderous Garden ovation as Ranger fans showed their appreciation to the Greatest Ranger of all-time by chanting his name.
While Leetch, and other members of the dragon-slaying 1993-94 Rangers, will always have a special place in the hearts of the Garden faithful, the 2007-08 Rangers got off to a fast start of their own. Just like last season, the Rangers scored a goal on their first shot of the season. A year ago, it was Captain Jagr against the Caps. This year, Michal Rozsival (+4 on the evening) scored just 39 seconds into the game to put the Rangers on the board first.
The party atmosphere didn't last, however, as the Rangers seemed intent on making the perfect pass, playing right into the hands of the trapping Panthers. The Rangers would muster only four more shots the rest of the period, and another paltry four during the second period.
The Panthers took advantage of Rangers’ mistakes and took a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Brett McLean and Nathan Horton, and held a 21-9 shot advantage after the first 40 minutes.
The Rangers, booed off the ice after a lackluster first two periods, were kept in the game by the usual solid work in goal by Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves en route to his first win of the year.
King Henrik's play kept the Rangers in striking distance in the third period. And, strike they did, peppering a helpless (and hapless)Vokoun with 16 shots in a dominating four-goal third period.
Prucha opened the scoring in the third stanza by taking a nifty feed from much-maligned defenseman Marek Malik (3 assists and a +3) and snapping a wrister under Vokoun's left arm.
Twelve seconds after Drury (goal, 2 assists, +3 and a team-high 4 shots) gave the Rangers the lead, promising rookie Ryan Callahan intercepted an attempted break-out pass, made a great move and buried a wrist shot under the crossbar and just inside the far post to provide the home team with some insurance.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the Rangers’ opening night triumph, Martin Straka closed out the scoring by converting a Malik rebound.
There were plenty of positives and negatives to take away from this opening game of the season.
On the positive side, the Straka-Drury-Jagr line combined for 6 points and a +9 rating.
Prucha and Callahan not only each tallied goals, they consistently had hard-working energetic shifts.
And, the defense played well, including a solid performance from Marc Staal in his NHL debut.
As for the minus side of the ledger, the Avery-Gomez-Shanahan line generated virtually no offense, mustering a grand total of 3 shots the entire night. It's only the first game, and they need time to mesh, but Tom Renney may need to do some more tinkering, if this line doesn't start to click.
The Rangers spent much of the first two periods playing uninspired, unintelligent hockey. The good news is they still managed to get a win. The bad news is that playing that poorly and still winning often leads to complacency. Hopefully, this team has enough veteran leadership to recognize the 60-minute effort needs to vastly improve.
And, while we're dealing with the negatives from last night, could Ranger fans at least wait for the puck to drop before booing Marek Malik? Look, he's never going to make anyone forget Brian Leetch or even Alexander Karpovtsev, but he's not Stephane Quintal or Igor Ulanov, either. What is the point of booing a guy during the opening night player introductions?
Oh, and one other thing about senseless displays of ignorance from some in the crowd, the "we want the cup" chants need to be tabled for a while. It's the first game of the year. Everyone take a breath and enjoy the season.
As for what took place on the ice, there were plenty of things to like, but none more than Chris Drury immediately showing Ranger fans his knack for the big moment.
After the game, Drury was asked about his history of coming up big when it matters most. He said, "same answer I always give. Right place at the right time."
Goal scored by Norman Rochefort at 1:47 PM
04 October 2007
The last time the Rangers took the Garden ice in a meaningful game, their impressive playoff surge was officially ended by a superior Buffalo Sabres team in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Of course, the series really ended two days earlier, when Chris Drury picked up a loose puck in front of Henrik Lundqvist and deposited it in the net behind King Henrik to tie Game 5 with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. The Sabres went on to win that game in OT, before coming to Manhattan to finish the job.
When the Florida Panthers visit the World's Most Famous Arena tonight to open the 2007-08 season, the feeling of despair and loss from Game 6 will be replaced by a level of excitement and anticipation the Garden Faithful have not had in more than a decade. And, the same man who stuck a dagger in the collective hearts of Ranger fans in the spring will be one of the main reasons for the renewed sense optimism on Broadway.
When last season ended, it was clear the Rangers had a gaping hole down the middle. Michael Nylander did an admirable job centering the Rangers' top line, but beyond that, the Rangers were lacking both quality and depth at the pivot.
Glen Sather tried to address the problem in the summer of 2006 by paying third-line center Matt Cullen to be a second-line center. Cullen is a good team guy, a hard worker and a terrific skater, but he did not have the playmaking ability to help Brendan Shanahan flourish.
As July approached, there were two top quality free agent centers about to hit the market, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. The conventional wisdom was that the Rangers would re-sign Nylander and then attempt to sign either Drury or Gomez. After taking a low-key approach to free agency during the first two summers following the lockout, Glen Sather's approach in 2007 was anything but conventional.
When the dust settled on a frantic opening day of Free Agency, Sather had bagged both Drury and Gomez. So much for a lack of quality at center. These signings, of course, meant the departure of Nylander, as well as Cullen, who became a salary cap casualty and was traded back to Carolina later in the summer.
The Rangers were clearly big winners this summer. The question now is if that will translate into on-ice wins during the fall and winter, and most importantly, next spring.Rangers bashers were quick to point out the Blueshirts have tried the high-priced free agent approach before, and it was a spectacular flop. Others have charged the Rangers are simply trying to buy the Stanley Cup.
Let's dismiss the second notion right off the bat. Repeat after me: You can NOT buy a championship in a league with a hard salary cap. It just can't be done. If you root for a team whose owner isn't spending enough money or isn't putting a quality product on the ice, stop blaming the Rangers and the players and Gary Bettman (there are so many other things to blame on Bettman). Blame your owner. You may not believe this, but just trust me; the owner of your team will not have to clip coupons to afford a better roster. He won't even have to give up his country club membership. And, as an added bonus, a good team might generate more revenue (amazing how that works), thus offsetting the cost of adding talent.
Now that we've established that it's impossible to buy a cup in the salary cap era, let's tackle the wisdom of Sather's July 1 approach. Most of the league, particularly fans of teams whose owners cry poverty and claim they just can't keep up with the big city bullies, would love to see this be a repeat of Neil Smith's summer of '99 train wreck, or Glen Sather's 2001 Island of Misfit Toys disaster. As much as I hate to disappoint you (actually, I really don't hate disappointing you at all), the 2006-2007 version of the Broadway Blueshirts is not the Same Old Ranger$.
If you don't believe me, here are four reasons why the Gomez and Drury signings will not sink the Rangers as other high-priced moves have in the past:
1.) Age, health and Pedigree. Scott Gomez is 27 years old and Chris Drury is 30. They are both in the prime of their careers and played key roles on Championship teams. The veterans brought in by Smith and Sather in past years were all 31 and older, with the exception of Eric Lindros and Pavel Bure, both of whom were only available because of major health risks. Neither Gomes nor Drury has a history of drug and alcohol abuse (Theo Fleury), debilitating concussions (Lindros), torn knee ligaments (Bure) or blindness (Bryan Berrard), which immediately makes them a better bet than previous Ranger high-priced acquisitions. In the past, Broadway was a place for free agents to get one last pay check before calling it quits. Gomez and Drury have plenty of quality years left and they are both winners.
2.) Strong Foundation. In both ‘99 and ‘01, the Rangers were coming off seasons in which they failed to make the playoffs. They then attempted to add high-priced players, who were past their prime and had character and injury issues, to an already old and unsuccessful team. I'm not sure why they had to try it twice to decide it wasn't a formula for success. Fortunately, this isn't the case in 2007. Sather fought off the urge to come right out of the lockout and build the best team money could buy. Instead, he targeted players who worked hard and meshed well with Jaromir Jagr, and who would fit reasonably under the salary cap. He didn't repeat the mistakes of the past by filling every roster spot with a veteran player. This allowed several young players to properly develop and earn spots on the big club, providing the team with an energy level and work ethic sorely lacking during the dark years. The Rangers average age in 99-00 and 01-02 was 30. This year, their average age is 27. Since the lockout, he Rangers not only were able to build a system and identity, they were able to have the right blend of young and veteran players. Most importantly, they have built a foundation for success, by making it back to the playoffs in 05-06 and advancing in 06-07. Gomez and Drury were not targeted to be a starting point. They were brought here to be the final pieces.
3.) Coaching. Admittedly, Tom Renney has made some decisions the past two seasons that are baffling. Like continuing to put Michael Rozsival on the same side of the ice as Jaromir Jagr on the power play, when everyone knows he's always going to just pass to Jagr, and continuing to give ice time to Marcel Hossa. But, the mere fact that the Rangers have played a system the past two seasons, rather than just spending every shift aimlessly skating in five different directions, makes him a significant upgrade over predecessors Glen Sather, Bryan Trottier (who got the job, because Sather liked his penmanship. I really wish I was joking.) and Ron Low. Under Renney, the Rangers have developed a work ethic and accountability up and down the roster. The players skate hard, are responsible in their own zone, forecheck and backcheck (including Jagr). I know this sounds like pretty basic stuff, but anyone who regularly watched the Rangers from 98-05 knows this is a big deal. Renney is not brilliant tactically, but he does get the most out of his players. He has the respect of every player in that room, and they all play hard for him, something that rarely happened under previous coaches.
4.) Goaltending. This is the most important factor. Mike Richter is the greatest American-born Goaltender of all-time, and he should go to the Hockey Hall of Fame. But, by the late 90's, Richter was plagued by injuries and failed by his teammates. He was no longer the indomitable force who backstopped the Rangers to a cup in 1994 and stood on his head to win the 1996 World Cup and single-handedly carried the Rangers to the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals. Knee injuries and concussions put the Rangers’ fate in the hands of unprepared kids like Dan Blackburn and overwhelmed journeymen like Kirk McLean and Mike Dunham. It really didn't matter how much money the Rangers spent on skaters, they didn't have what it took between the pipes to get it done. During King Henrik's Reign, that is no longer an issue. Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers down the stretch last year and throughout the playoffs, earning his second Vezina trophy nomination in as many years. While The King got off to a slow start last year, mostly due to the likes of Darius Kasparitis and Sandis Ozolinsh on the blue line, he picked up his game when his team needed him the most. He proved during the 2006 Olympics and the 2007 playoffs that he has the talent and the makeup to stand tall in big games. Before deciding on any team's chances to contend for a cup, you must ask yourself one question: Do they have a goalie capable of getting hot enough to steal games for two months in the spring? When you ask that question about the Rangers, thanks to King Henrik, the answer is a resounding YES.
So, will the Rangers win the Stanley Cup? It's always tough to make predictions in October, but they certainly have the horses. By signing Gomez and Drury, the Rangers not only significantly strengthened a glaring weakness, they also chipped away at conference rivals New Jersey and Buffalo (who also lost Daniel Briere to Philly).
The Rangers are not without questions.
Will Renney be able to find the right line combinations? The "obvious" idea of putting Gomez with Jagr and Drury with Shanahan didn't produce results in the preseason, so Renney is flipping them. Nylander fit very well with Jagr, and it is key that either Drury or Gomez find a way to jell with the Captain. If the top two lines fail to click early, the Rangers could get off to a slow start, and all the expectations will turn into early-season pressure.
How will Gomez and Drury handle the pressure of playing on the big stage? They've both been in plenty of big games, and have flourished in the spotlight. This shouldn't be an issue.
Will the kids be ready? It is critical for the Rangers that Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan build off of last season's success and not take a step back. It will also be important for Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal to prove they belong on Brodway.
Will King Henrik's contract situation become a season-long issue? It won't be an issue early in the year, because nothing can be done until January 1. But, the longer into the new year it takes for both sides to reach an agreement on a contract extension, the more potential it has to be a distraction. I have a feeling the Rangers will get a long-term deal with Lundqvist done in plenty of time for the drive to the playoffs.
The Flyers have improved, the Penguins get better every day, Ottawa is still the team to beat, Buffalo still has plenty of young talent and the Devils are still the Devils. It will not be easy for the Rangers to make it out of the East. But, the Flyers and Pens are not quite ready yet and the Devils and Sabres lost too many players. Barring a serious injury to Jagr or Lundqvist, the Eastern Conference in 2008 should come down to the Rangers and Ottawa. The two teams should be evenly matched, but if my life was on the line, I'd take King Henrik over Ray Emery in a big series.
The disappointing feeling that hung over MSG in May will be replaced by a Garden party in June. And, at some point during the playoff run, Chris Drury will have that moment when he rises up to make the difference between winning and losing. And, not a single Ranger fan who had his heart broken in Game 5, will be the least bit surprised.
Goal scored by Norman Rochefort at 9:49 AM
It's time for a new season and here is a brief preview of the roster the Sabres will take into the new season and my predictions for the 2007-2008 season.
On the Farm:
No matter how you feel about the Sabres off-season losses. The hope for this campaign all begins and ends right here, with Ryan Miller. This team is undoubtedly Miller's now. He is the leader and seems poised for greatness and I fully expect him to fulfill that promise. I am looking for a Vezina-winning possible MVP season out of Ryan.
Thibault was shaky in the pre-season, but I am not overly concerned with that. I think he will prove to be a solid addition to the club and hold his own. Adam Dennis was hot and cold in Rochester. an unorthodox goalie he has some ability but i doubt he will amount to more than a solid backup at the NHL level. If the Sabres run into injuries they will have to pursue the trade route to fill the hole.
On the farm:
The Sabres bring back an extremely solid defensive corps. The loss of Teppo Numminen to heart surgery is a blow, but it does open a roster spot for Nathan Paetsch who was very good in extensive duty last year. Look to see lots of ice time for super shutdown tandem Lydman and Tallinder. Tallinder could be a darkhorse Norris Trophy candidate if he can avoid the big injury. Brian Campbell is in a contract year and is coming off an all-star campaign. I expect big things from him as well as a better showing on the power play. Dmitri Kalinin and Jaro Spacek struggled at times last year, but I feel that the loss of Numminen may actually help them as it will put them in more positions that suite their skills. I think Spacek will actually jump into Numminens role and be very sucessful. Kalinin will have a relatively short leash this year and may find his way off the roster if he struggles again. it appears Andrei Sekera will easily be the first call up and I would not be surprised if he was a regular by mid-season.
Funk, Gragnani, Card and Mike Weber lead an good group off youngsters that could make an impact in years to come. Funk has added significant muscle and looked far more comfortable in camp this year than last. Gragnani is an impressive talent and could earn a surprise call-up especially if the Sabres struggle offensively from the back end.
Max Afinigenov, Jason Pominville, Ales Kotalik, Andrew Peters
Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, Clarke Macarthur
Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht, Adam Mair, Dan Paille, Mike Ryan
On The Farm:
Marek Zagrapan, Mark Mancari, Dylan Hunter, Pat Kaleta
No doubt about it, the Sabres took some serious hits with the losses of Danny Briere, Chris Drury and Danius Zubrus in the off-season. Fortunately, the Sabres might have been the one team that could afford to absorb those types off losses. Tim Connolly appears healthy and poised to make a big impact and Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek justified their new contracts with monster contracts. The only truly new faces in the lineup this season appear to be gritty winger Dan Paille, mike Ryan and Clarke Macarthur. This team should have little trouble scoring. The key will be whether or not the youngsters can step into the roles filled by Drury and Briere.
Marek Zagrapan and Pat Kaleta seem to be the only real forwards likely to see significant time in Buffalo this year. The overall depth in terms of NHL ready players took a hit with the losses, but the Sabres prospect pool is far from shallow.
All members of the coaching and management staff return so that is of some comfort. I fully expect Lindy Ruff to be a candidate for coach of the year. Darcy Regier has alot of flexibility this season and has the team poised to be able to swing a big deal if a player to their liking comes available.
Predicition: I will be in the firm minority here, but I believe the Sabres have all the tools for another cup run. I predict first in the Notheast and second overall behind Pittsburgh in the Conference. I see the Sabres playing San Jose for the cup and bringing Buffalo home its first Stanley Cup.
02 October 2007
I'm back for my first full season on the BBeR, hoping to give some solid insight around the league.
I'll start simple, by posting my predictions for the upcoming season.
I decided last year, that it's not worth going through the trouble of discussing why I predict what I do, because in actuality there is no real science to doing this. No one will completely agree with everything anyone says. I'll just put a quick comment next to each team.
1- Ottawa Senators -- best team in a weaker division.
2- Florida Panthers -- last year's team looked like they're getting it together
3- New York Rangers -- spending money shouldn't hurt them this time around. Sather does it his way.
4- Pittsburgh Penguins -- not worse, but an ultra-competitive division may leave them stagnant in the standings.
5- Carolina Hurricanes -- got hit with injuries hard last season, and a healthy team should bounce back.
6- Philadelphia Flyers -- looked a lot better towards the end of the season, but they will take some time to gel.
7- Tampa Bay Lightning -- still a solid team, but lack of depth will still be a concern.
8 - Buffalo Sabres -- lost a lot in the offseason, but don't forget who they still have.
9 - Toronto Maple Leafs -- Still just miss, but as long as the pipeline develops, will rise to the top again.
10 - Atlanta Thrashers -- did nothing while almost everyone else got better.
11 - New Jersey Devils -- transitioning team forced to watch off-season happenings.
12- Washington Capitals -- improving team, but still a lot to prove.
13 - New York Islanders -- mediocre team that went for it all in one year when they shouldn't have.
14 - Boston Bruins -- a team that has to prove they can get it right. A poor season will lead to another front office house cleaning
15- Montreal Canadiens -- I just don't see much good this year.
1- Detroit Red Wings -- once again, strong team in a weakened division
2- San Jose Sharks -- the talent has always been there
3- Calgary Flames -- most people are critical of Keenan, but he and this team will be good for each other
4- Anaheim Ducks -- might be a Cup hangover, but should be in full gear for the playoffs
5- Vancouver Canucks -- Luongo is back of course, the team will go where he can take them.
6- Columbus Blue Jackets -- my surprise in the west, Ken Hitchcock will have this team playing hard, and playing to win
7- Colorado Avalanche -- up only two spots from last year, but it's a testamant of the division they're in and they're an improved team.
8- Minnesota Wild -- 4 teams from the Northwest? The Wild are a team that is built for the playoffs, the problem will be getting there.
9- Los Angeles Kings -- kills me to have them just miss, but they will take solace in the fact that the team is not that far away.
10- St. Louis Blues -- still transitioning, but the future isn't far away
11 - Nashville Predators -- not sure how you improve when you lose great players
12 - Dallas Stars -- were good enough to make the dance last year, but didn't keep pace. Still won't score.
13 - Chicago Blackhawks -- still not ready to make noise. Not yet.
14 - Edmonton Oilers -- I just don't see a mix of players that can compete consistently at this level.
15 - Phoenix Coyotes -- a new regime in the desert, it will take some time.
01 October 2007
Congrats to Jared Boll and Kris Russell who have made it into the big show. According to Aaron Portzline they will be in the line-up Friday night for opening night. I am excited beyond belief for these guys. While, I haven't been able to make it up for any of the camps or watch any of the pre-season games I have heard nothing but amazing things about them. While neither of them is a top line center (Russell is defense and Boll is a winger) I feel their contributions will be just what we need. Portzline also has the opening night line ups...well what he thinks they're going to be. And here we have it:
F2 = Chimera, Novotny, Zherdev
F3 = Modin, Peca, Brule
F4 = Fritsche, Malhotra, Boll
"That experiment failed. I didn't feel comfortable playing center, and, at times, didn't know what to do with the puck." He went on to say that he wouldn't want to play center again, that he much prefers the right wing."And, here's what he feels about fans and the press talking all that smack about him.
"I don't mind. I admit my mistakes and when I don't play well. After all, criticism is what news and fans are there for."Well Zherdev why don't you listen to us. Start showing us that you give two craps about us. Show us the player you can be...the player we expected you to be. I hope you have changed...please show us that...you owe it to us...and hell you're getting paid a lot of money and you're just not producing buddy.
Also, if you're going to the game on Friday...be ready for the KABOOM!!!!!!!
© 2007 Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
All Rights Reserved. The content of this blog is the sole opinion of these bloggers and does not represent an opinion of any kind of a professional NHL hockey team mentioned.