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Nobody said it was going to be an easy fix.  Two games in two nights, both times the Rangers getting a slew of chances and clinging to a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd period, and both times the team stops playing and ends up falling apart like the leaves in November.  Tortorella has only been in the driver’s seat for three full days, with only one practice under them, so I don’t think any of this is a reflection on him or his staff.

But the reality of it is that he is asking them to play a completely different game (which he damn well should be doing).  For most of these guys, they have played a safe, defensive style of hockey for 3+ seasons, and to ask them to turn the switch in a span of 72 hours is, well, damn near impossible.  These guys couldn’t turn it on when they had the same coach, what makes us think they will be able to do it for a different guy?

It still boggles my mind that a team can play such solid hockey for 125 feet, then go south like a duck in winter when it matters most.  Both Gomez’s and Callahan’s missed chances tonight are inexcusable.  One of the first things you learn, or should learn, when playing youth hockey is that when you are in tight on the goaltender, you LIFT the pick high to put it in the net.  The chances of him reacting with his upper body as quick as he would with his legs is slim, and if he does, great for him.  These are simple things that should not elude professional hockey players.

You can give Renney a ton of credit for ingraining in his players the style of hockey that he wanted played.  He did it very well, because obviously its been quite a chore for Tortorella to shake these habits loose.  The Rangers always lacked that killer instinct with Tom Renney.  It seems to be the element that the new coach has to instill in his players.  On the bright side, this team has played better in their first two games under Tortorella than they have under Renney’s regime.  They are quicker, more hungry, and are getting more chances.  I don’t think its time to panic just yet, beacuse once it comes together (which is hopefully soon), this is going to be a very strong team.  And if it has to wait until next year, so be it.  At least these boys will know where they stand and what they are capable of.

NOTE: It appears that Brandon Dubinsky is going to be John Tortorella’s horse.  Its a beautiful thing, because I think he’s one of the few people on the team that can mentally and physically handle this new style.

And the Islanders have scored 4 goals against the Leafs in less than 60 minutes.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Anybody???

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Bleed Blue…everyone is doing it

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Tortorella telling everyone to “stay the #$%^ off the logo” gives me chills.  I’m a stickler for tradition, respect, and honor…you know, all those things the Rangers and Tom Renney pretended to practice the last couple seasons.  Even though they preached it ad nauseum in that ridiculous pre-game entrance video last season, I never felt that Renney really got the feeling of what it was like to play/coach in New York.  He WILL motivate these boys and make them have a sense of pride when pulling the Rangers jersey over their heads.  The fans “bleed blue”, and the players should be no different.

Maybe I’m looking a bit too much into it, but I think there’s something to be said about an American coming to coach hockey in New York.  Naturally, a Canadien coach’s roots are embedded in Canada.  With Tortorella, you have an American, born and bred in northeastern United States, who previously played and coached in New York.  The best analogy I can use is a college coach going to coach somewhere OTHER than his alma mater: no matter how successful he is, the ties and loyalty to his alma mater will always be there, and that’s not something you can just shake loose.

His first rule is only the beginning.  If he is as great as a motivator as we all hear he is, these players will never take a shift off.  They will realize the importance of playing in New York, for an Original Six team, in the World’s Most Famous Arena, because he will make them understand it.  The past few seasons, its been all talk.  Hopefully now, they will start to feel it as the fans and their coach does (finally)

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The last for a while…..

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Alright…after only retiring 2 numbers (Gilbert and Giacomin) in the franchises first 70+ years, they have retired 6 in the last five years.  All deserving in their own way, however.  With that said, its certainly going to be a while until we see another retired jersey get raised.  The only person on the current Rangers that could possibly be considered at this moment in time is probably Lundqvist, but all that can change in a heartbeat if ya know what I mean..

Its nice to have all these retired jerseys though.  As an Original Six team, I always thought it was pretty strange that they only had 2 retired numbers.  Seemed that a lot of tradition was being pushed to the back-burner.  It certainly brings a lot of pride back to the fan-base and the retired players to have seen and played with these Ranger greats.  And if the current Rangers need to keep trying to find ways to motivate themselves (which we know has been like pulling teeth this season), seeing these numbers being honored should give them something to strive for.

Also, is there anything better than looking at “old-time hockey” players today?  There is something about the way these guys talk and the way these guys look that just sets them apart from any demographic of professional athletes.  Not only do they have an incredible amount of respect and knowledge of the game, but they share all that in their stories.  And they wear their stories on their faces, most noticeable by the scars that fill them.  You can tell the game was played with immeasurable amount of passion, devotion, and love…something that is void in professional sports todays.

Besides, some of these mustaches these guys have are just plain awesome…..

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In-Game Thoughts: Rangers vs. Blues

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In her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying”, Swiss-born psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains the Five Stages of Dying.  The Kubler-Ross Model describes five stages in which people deal with grief and tragedy.  They are, in order, as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  While this model applies to people with terminal illness, I feel that it can be applied to your favorite sports teams.  Because the truth is, we live through our teams.  Players and coaches have become so easy to access that we feel as if we know them on a first-name basis.  If you are as upset and distraught as I am over your beloved Blueshirts, consider what stage you may be in, because the Tom Renney Era is apparently on life-support this week.  Personally, I feel as if I’m in “depression”, because I don’t think anything can save this team at this point, so why bother trying anything.  Pretty dramatic yes, but this group has given me no reason to think otherwise….

UPDATE 7:22pm- Very strong start for the Rangers.  They have applied pressure in the offensive zone and controlled the puck when they have recovered it.  Sad part about it is that they really haven’t gotten too many quality scoring opportunities.  Nice to see them come out strong though after yesterday’s debacle.

UPDATE 7:45pm- No score after one.  Pretty strong period for the Rangers.  A start they certainly needed on the road in the midst of a big skid.  Still having difficulties finishing off the opportunities they get.

UPDATE 7:50pm- Versus is doing a piece on the firing of Michel Therrien.  Less than a year ago, he led this team to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Meanwhile, Tom Renney has had 3+ seasons to fix a power-play and he still can’t do it.  I’m really starting to believe that James Dolan hasn’t watched a game this season and Glen Sather is Cyberdyne Systems Model T-101 and has been sent from the future by Lou Lamoriello to ensure that the Rangers never prosper ever again.  Either that or that Isaiah Thomas’ “special reassignment” was to try and run the Rangers while Sather smokes his cigar on a deserted beach somewhere, which is becoming more believable by the minute.

UPDATE 8:01pm- Rangers power-play.  Those screams you hear are me…

UPDATE 8:04pm- Hank, I love ya pal, but since the puck is going to hit you in the head, it obviously isn’t going in the net, SO JUST LET IT GO!!! That’s twice tonight and we aren’t even halfway through.  Shots like that can pile up over time.  Just ask Mike Richter.  I can’t recall any reporter ever questioning as to why he does that either…I’d like to know his reasoning.

UPDATE 8:19pm- Aaron Voros doesn’t bring a whole lot to this team anymore.  Not only has his fighting become un-original because it always follows a Colton Orr fight, but he manages to take all the positive momentum that Orr generated and completely waste it by getting his ass handed to him.

UPDATE 8:22pm- Blues 1, Rangers 0.  And the negative momentum previously discussed reared its ugly head.  Hank gets beat on a long shot off the draw by Carlo Colaiacovo.  I still maintain that an NHL goalie should never get beat on any shot higher than the top of the faceoff circle that isn’t screened.  But thats the price you pay for being a butterfly goalie trying to stop long, high shots.  Either way, the Rangers need to respond quickly in order to avoid getting mentally removed from this game.

UPDATE 8:28pm- That makes it three times Lundqvist has deflected the puck with his head. I swear you can’t make this stuff up.

UPDATE 8:32pm- Rangers 1, Blues 1.  Blueshirts use a strong penalty kill to regain some momentum and even the score at a goal apiece.  That’s another one for Korpikoski, who has scored 3 goals in his last 4 games.  Him and Callahan have become quite the duo and are one of the few bright spots on this team lately.

UPDATE 9:30pm- FINAL: Blues 2, Rangers 1.  Doesn’t matter who is in your net.  If you can’t score goals in this league, you cannot win.  And when the Rangers need the big goals, they do not have players to turn to to go get them.  They used to have Shanny and Jagr, guys who can put a team on their back and put one in when needed.  They definitely put forth the effort tonight though, which is at least reassuring.  But now they find themselves losing to teams that they should normally beat.  Very puzzling to me that a team with the experience of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury (say what you want…these guys have won in this league) can be so shell-shocked that they can’t recover.  Wednesday’s game against the Isles should be very interesting.  You can throw the records out the window when these teams plays, and the Islanders always seem to be a “blood in the water” type team when they play the Rangers, meaning that if you’re not on your game, they can exploit you.  Part of that is because of all their injuries they are forced to play young guys, who are trying to make a name for themself.  Perhaps a game against their arch-rival is what this team needs though.

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I have been calmly sitting here watching the Rangers-Flyers game and didn’t plan on writing anything on the blog today.  But after watching Mike Richards (2003 NHL draft anyone?) fly up the center of the ice and score on a SHORTHANDED, 5-ON-3 BREAKAWAY, I JUST CAN’T CONTAIN MYSELF ANY LONGER.  Absolutely no excuse to let a penalty killer get behind the blue-liners (Roszival and Drury being the culprits), and split them no less and go down unchallenged on the goaltender.

To follow things up, Gagne had ANOTHER SHORTHANDED BREAKAWAY CHANCE, only to be taken down on a play that should’ve resulted in a power-play for the Flyers.  How this bum Pelino still has his friggin job after the listlessness that this power-play has endured over 3+ seasons is beyond my comprehension.  And its not like nobody knows who is running this power-play.  It has been well-publicized that Mike Pelino is in control of the power-play unit.  That makes matters worse to me.

And since I’ve started writing this, which has probably only been about 3-4 minutes of gametime, the Flyers have scored twice and Lundqvist has gotten pulled, and Valiquette just let up another one (wasn’t his fault: five Rangers standing still).  They have scored 3 goals on 3 shots.  And I can hear chants that sound like “Fire Renney”.  The NBC commentators are ripping the Rangers apart at every possible opportunity.  As Pierre McGuire has stated, there seems to be quicksand on the ice and its games like these that get your coach fired.  They are completely this year’s version of the Ottawa Senators.  I have been a huge “Sean Avery for this team” advocate since day 1, but they are so screwed up beyond repair that Avery may just not be worth it.

This is what the lineup should look like and these lines should just be rotated and no one else should see playing time.  They would probably never win a game, but at least this team would have no absence of heart:

Sjostrom-Betts-Orr and Zherdev-Callahan-Prucha for the offense.  Girardi-Staal and Mara-Reitz on defense.  Those are the guys that play the hardest out of everyone, and at this point, that’s all I want to see

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The New York Rangers Mount Rushmore

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John Buccigross of ESPN manufactured a list of all 32 NHL franchises and their theoretical Mount Rushmores.  Below is his excerpt on the Rangers:

New York Rangers

The team: Ed Giacomin, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier and Mike Richter.The theory: This was another tough one. The Rangers don’t have a long line of hockey legends to choose from. Messier and Leetch were the easy ones. Giacomin is a Hall of Famer with only 266 career wins. He was a beloved Ranger. Goaltenders had so much personality in Giacomin’s era because of the smaller equipment, no masks, then the smaller masks, and because of the robotic goaltending many goalies employ today. Goalies were more artistic in Giacomin’s era. Today, it is more of a science. That is why Tim Thomas is so popular in Boston. He plays more like goalies of the past, more with his heart than his head.

The fourth Ranger was a tough call. I asked a big Rangers fan here at ESPN, and he said Rod Gilbert. I can respect that, but I think Richter also was artistic and so much fun to watch. The save on Pavel Bure’s shot during the Stanley Cup finals was iconic. So was winning the Cup. I like Mike.

Pretty right on if you ask me.  Eddie Giacomin and Mike Richter belong on this list for practically the same reasons.  Eddie was obviously way before my time, but my parents both used to have season tickets for the Rangers during his tenure, and I’ve never heard them speak more highly of a player during that time (especially my mother).  They always tell me the story of when Eddie was traded to Detroit and then the following night he started for the Red Wings on the Garden ice.  My father always told me he never saw a crowd like the one he saw that night.  The fans basically turned on the Rangers and rooted for the Red Wings all night…speaks volumes about how they felt about the guy in the other net.  Mike Richter was equally beloved in New York.  The Rangers all-time leader in wins was never a physically imposing figure between the pipes, but no one matched his athleticism and his heart.  He played the game until he could no longer physically do it, and he played it the right way.  The Rangers do not come close to winning that Stanley Cup in 1994 without the services of Mike Richter.

When you stack him up agains the other greats of his position , Brian Leetch is probably the greatest Ranger of all-time.  A Calder Trophy winner, Two-time Norris Trophy recipient, the first American born Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, a Stanley Cup Champion, and a Two-Time Olympian (including a Silver Medal finish in 2002 and a member of the USA Hockey Hall of Fame), there are few players in hockey history as decorated as #2.  Born and bred a Ranger, Leetch was a great leader, albeit a quiet one.  While known mostly for his offensive skills (includiing a 102-point season in 91-92), many Rangers always stated he was one of the most under-appreciated shutdown defenders during his prime.  The Rangers record holder in almost every major defensive category, Brian Leetch headlines the Rangers Mount Rushmore.

And lastly, the Captain.  While not born and bred a Ranger the way the others were, you cannot undervalue the importance of Messier to this franchise.  I’ll never forget the story when Messier first arrived in New York and an unnamed player on the team threw his jersey on the locker room floor after a practice/game and Messier told him to pick it up; that the jersey was a banner and a symbol of the team, and should never just be thrown around like it was a towel (or something to that degree).  When a player comes in and changes the dynamic of a losing/cursed franchised the way Messier did, its hard to argue giving him this nod.  He also remains only one of two New York sports icons who have guaranteed victory in a big game and actually followed through, along with none other than Broadway Joe himself.

So with that said, what is your Rangers Mount Rushmore?  Is it any different from the one John Buccigross set up?  Post your feedback in the comments section….

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In-Game Thoughts: Rangers and Caps

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The Rangers and Capitals couldn’t be more opposite at this point in the season.  The Caps have a legitimate superstar, an identity, and a city that is 100% behind them; everything the Rangers are lacking after all this time.  But as always, winning cures everything, and if the Rangers can put forth a great effort, maybe they can turn this around.

UPDATE 7:12pm- An excellent fight between the game’s two best fighters, Colton Orr and Donald Brashear, was quickly followed by a fight between Aaron Voros and Matt Bradley.  It seems like that Orr and Voros may have been told to engage in a scrap early on, probably to get the crowd on their side and inject some life into the building.  We’ll see how the team and fans respond….

UPDATE 7:23pm- Rangers 1, Caps 0.  Beautiful goal by Cally on a set-up from Korpo.  The Rangers have played solid up to this point and capitalized on a great opportunity (for once).  Collectively, the fans and players have responded well to the early action.

UPDATE 7:30pm- Rangers 1, Caps 1.  Easy rebound goal for the Caps.  It is inexplicable for a team to give up the lead so quickly all the time the way the Rangers do.  Whether its complacency or lack of focus, they always seem to let up when in a postion to tighten their grip.  On top of that, three Rangers were surrounding the net on the tying goal and Fleischmann was STILL wide open for the easy rebound.  Big-time head scratcher there….

UPDATE 7:41pm- Caps 2, Rangers 1.  Another rebound goal for the Caps.  What makes me scratch my head even more is that not three but ALL FIVE Rangers were packed in front of the net, and they popped in another rebound.  My sister brought up a good point: don’t the Rangers kind of remind you of the Mighty Ducks…not when they won the state title and the world championship, but when they were District 5 and wore football helmets and newspapers as shinpads?  Just because of the way they fall around and let up cheesy goals.  Something to think about…

UPDATE 8:05- Alex Ovechkin is simply amazing.  While he hasn’t contributed a ton offensively (yet), he has had two thunderous hits in the last 5 minutes of play in this game.  The fact that he can be shut down offensively for the majority of the game and still dominate with physical play shows you just how versatile he can really be.  And when he does have the puck on his stick, he doesn’t care who or what is in his way or where he is on the ice: he is shooting the puck to score every single time.  Anybody who says Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world is a fool and is blind to how great this guy really is.  He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played: with heart, talent, emotion, and leadership.  Thought I needed to share that.

UPDATE 8:12pm- Rangers 2, Caps 2.  Another nice goal from the Korpo-Cally connection.  Easily have been the best two players on the ice for the Rangers tonight.  Drury, Gomez, Redden, and Roszival continue to be lifeless pods in hockey skates….

UPDATE 8:21pm- Caps 3, Rangers 2.  Ovechkin finally makes a play, using his great vision to set up Mike Green with a snap-shot from the point, beating Lundqvist high.  Mike Green ties the record for consective games with a goal by a defenseman with 7, bringing his total to 20 for the year.  That is more than any Rangers forward has scored this season.  And in the 2004 NHL draft, the Rangers selected Al Montoya #6 overall, while the Caps picked up Green at #29 overall.  While its difficult to say the Rangers should have picked up Green at that spot, its just another example of how the Rangers choose to evaluate talent.

UPDATE 8:24pm- Rangers 3, Caps 3.  Great effort by Nigel Dawes, who must have given Markus Naslund some advice on how to score goals.  If you can’t beat them straight up, just slide into the net and hope for the best (remember Dawes sliding into Fatso last season?).  Nice to see the Rangers responding for once.  The next five minutes of this game are critical; they need to establish offensive pressure and keep the Caps backed up, as well as tighten up defensively.  The first team to 5 goals is going to win this game

UPDATE 8:29pm- Normally I wouldn’t take the time out to comment on a penalty, but the latest call on Dubinsky just kind of shows you how pansied (if thats even a word) the NHL has become.  Cally was able to respond though with an excellent short-handed opportunity, drawing a penalty in the process.  Nice to see the refs though maybe even it up after a really questionable call.

UPDATE 8:35pm- Rangers 4, Caps 3.  Hard to believe I’m actually watching a Rangers game with all this scoring going on.  A blast by Paul Mara gives the Blueshirts the lead.  For how long this will last, who knows.  Its comforting to see them play with some guts.  Perhaps Sean Avery is already making a difference?  Okay, I’m totally stretching that one….

UPDATE 8:39pm- Rangers 4, Caps 4.  Mike Green strikes again, beating Lundqvist clean up high again.  I’m of the opinion that an NHL goaltender should be able to stop any clear shot from outside the top of the circles.  Just a credit to Green’s ability.  The Rangers were also extremely lazy during the line-change and got caught running around in the defensive zone.  It’s all tied up going into the 3rd period.  If you are a hockey fan, this is an extremely fun game to watch.  If you bleed blue, I know you are as nervous as I am…..

UPDATE 9:02pm- Two comments on penalties in less than an hour.  Poti got called for diving…what sweet justice.  Now all they gotta do is call it on Crosby and we will make some progress

UPDATE 9:11pm- Another Rangers power-play.  I’ve noticed that Wade Redden and Michael Roszival are still on the top unit.  Anybody else pick that up?

UPDATE 9:21pm- The Rangers have been the most consistent penalty killing team all season.  Not only can they run out a penalty when they’re a man-down, but they’re even better at it when they’re a man up!  A 5-on-3, followed by almost a full 3 minutes with a man-up and not one quality scoring opportunity.  It’s hard to believe that one unit, in professional hockey no less, can be so inept for an entire season.  And how Marc Staal has seen nearly zero power-play time is mind-boggling….

UPDATE 9:42PM- Time for the shootout. A predictably back and forth OT session.  Lundqvist really made some keys saves when he had to.  As previously stated, first team to 5 is gonna win this game.

UPDATE 9:49PM- Rangers 5, Caps 4.  What a finish!!! A great stage was set between Ovechkin and Lundqvist with the game on the line, with Alexander the Great beating King Henrik through the five-hole.  Callahan then gets a well-deserved bounce on the ensuing shot (#1 star of the game in my opinion).  Then after a great display of moves and hands, Lundqvist makes a great, patient save on Brooks Laich to put the game away.  A truly great effort from the Rangers tonight, stopping the bleeding with a huge home victory.  Hopefully the Rangers can use this to get on a bit of a roll.  The next few practices and off-ice work will be key for the Rangers, as the coaching staff has to work extremely hard to keep them focused and motivated.  A very solid win tonight though.  Certainly the type of game this team needed

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So today is the day Sean Avery presumably clears waivers and will be assigned to an AHL affiliate of some sort.  As you all know, the Wolfpack seem to be the front (and only) runners to pick-up the agitator, which will begin the chain of events that may ultimately end in #16 returning to the Big Club.  While my colleague David is mainly opposed to this, I could not be more in favor of this move.  My man-crush for Sean Avery and his legend aside, it is a necessary move for THIS team THIS season.  Here’s how it could work, and here’s why it has to work:

1. There have been few cold-hard undeniable facts for these Rangers in the post-lockout era.  These include (but are not limited to): a) Henrik Lundqvist being a top-5 goaltender in the league b) Tom Renney sacrificing offense for defense 99% of the time c) the Rangers are a better team with Sean Avery in their lineup.  The statistics do not lie: with Avery in the lineup, the Rangers are 51-23-16.  Without him, they are 8-10-3, not to mention the Rangers missing that extra “something.”  Just watch a game this season and you will know what I’m talking about.

2.  The Rangers do not have to resign all those players previously mentioned.  If this season has proved anything, its that the majority of Rangers are expendable (Scott Gomez and Chris Drury trade rumors anyone).  The only members of the group previously mentioned that must be re-signed are Big Z, Dubie, Staal, and Girardi.  While I like Dawes, Korpo, and Cally, you can find another other young player in the farm-system to come in and play their role.

3.  The Rangers would only be on the take for half of Avery’s salary, roughly $2 million per year.  When you consider this is only a minor raise from what he was initially getting with the Rangers and a cut from what they wanted to give him in the offseason, its an acceptable number.  If the Rangers choose to re-negotiate his contract, either for less years or less money, they have a distinct negotiating advantage.  Not many teams will take Avery at this point, and he probably realizes that and history shows this can be a productive marriage.  Put whatever clauses and incentives you want into the contract.  They will have the upper-hand in any contract talk they engage in.  So saving money against the cap won’t necessarily be that difficult.  They can also unload either Redden or Roszival in this deal.  While their contracts are long and fat, that’s the price you must pay for giving top-tier money for 2 players that are obviously not top-tier and bring very little to the team.  Those contracts are going to haunt the Rangers one way or another; better haunt them in an effort to make the team genuinely better.  Also, the salary cap will predictably go up, so the value of Avery’s cap hit will be decreased.

4.  The Rangers are vanilla.  As evidenced on Friday night, nobody respects this team.  You can do whatever you wish to them, and will pay virtually no consequences.  Say what you want about Avery in the locker room, but he always came to his teammate’s defense on the ice, and as an opponent, you probably always thought twice about engaging in something with one of the Rangers for plain-old fear of what Avery might say or do to you.  And if he has made the progress in his rehab everybody says he’s making, he will learn to channel his tactics in a productive manner.  He has also hopefully learn from the past mistakes he made in NY.

5.  Avery has skills.  He has better than average speed, a quick release, is tough and gritty, and can throw off a opposing team’s star player on any given night (see Brodeur, Martin; Kovalchuk, Ilya).  Enough of this Aaron Voros “poor-man’s Sean Avery” garbage and just go get the real thing.  He also puts it on the line every single night, evidenced by playing the majority of a playoff game with a lacerated spleen.  I work in medicine, and that is something that can kill you.

6. Fans (myself immensely included) love this guy.  Since the lockout, you can count on one hand the number of players that get their name chanted during a game at the Garden: Henrik, Shanny, whoever is getting their jersey retired that year, and Avery.  Maybe I’m missing a name here or there, but you get my drift.


Tom Renney is no Herb Brooks…

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For reasons unbeknownst to myself and others, I have not been able to access this blog for quite sometime.  And after last night’s 10-2 debacle, it seems that divine intervention has allowed me to return, to talk about the hideousness that occurred in the Lone Star State.

The honest to god’s truth is that over the course of an 82 game season, you are going to have a collapse such as this at some point.  Around this time last season, it was the blown 5-goal lead in Montreal.  The year prior, a 7-game losing streak plagued the Rangers during the winter months.  But the context in which this atrocity to hockey occurred sets the new standard for the Blueshirt collapse.  If you go back to the third period of the Rangers-Pens game on January 28th, the Blueshirts have been outscored a total of 18-4 (insert expletive here).  This includes a lackluster effort against the conference’s top team, the Boston Bruins.  If you cannot get hyped up enough to play the top team in the conference, what can ya get hyped up for?  That was followed by an essential no-show for almost a whole 60-minutes against one of the conference’s worst teams, the Atlanta Thrashers, on Adam Graves night no less.  And if it wasn’t for Markus Naslund’s miraculous goal with 11 seconds left, the Rangers would have had their 2nd 1-0 shutout in a row.  If you cannot get hyped up enough to play one of the worst teams in the conference on the night one of the most honorable players in your franchise’s history has his jersey retired, what can ya get hyped up for?

To make issues more alarming, Tom Renney does his best Herb Brooks impression by skating the Rangers into the ice in the practice that follows the Atlanta.  Now I am all for corporal punishment in the world of sports.  I think coaches must send those types of messages to their mostly overpaid, under-achieving, prima donna athletes (does not apply to everyone).  But for the Rangers to respond to that message in a way they did last night tells me one thing….

Tom Renney has lost this team.  These guys can say whatever they want in front of the camera, but to not just come out flat, but to be embarassed in front of the entire NHL speaks volumes to the trust and faith these players have in their coach.  If he cannot turn this thing around in the following week, some drastic measures must be taken to ensure the Blueshirts do not become the laughing stock of the league.  Call that previous statement a little dramatic, but I’m pretty sure opposing teams do not see the Rangers as a legitimate threat and in turn, do not respect them (a Sean Avery post is coming soon).  That to me is inexcusable in itself.

Monday’s game against the Devils has become the most important game in Tom Renney’s tenure as a coach.  When you consider that it is a game against their biggest rival, on their home-ice (a place they have dominated since it opened), who is in first place, on national television (Versus is national right?), in the midst of an imminent implosion, there is no game bigger than this.  Rumblings have begun in regards to Renney keeping his job, and if the Rangers do not respond as a team, it will become obvious that they have lost faith Renney.  When you know your coach might on the cusp of losing his job and you want him to stay, you play your heart out for him (see Week 17: Jets vs. Dolphins).  We will know Monday night how the Rangers truly feel about Tom Renney.

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In-Game Thoughts: Rangers vs. Ducks

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After seeing endless clips of the same speech by recently inaugurated President Barack Obama, its finally time to watch some hockey.  Due to prior committments, Dave and myself will be splitting this game-thread.

Maybe President Obama can issue an executive order to make Sidney Crosby shut his yapper…thoughts?

Update 7:15pm: First few minutes were pretty vanilla until both teams finally woke up and exchanged some good chances with both goalies looking pretty sharp; an early sign that this game could end 1-0 or 2-1.  If that’s the case I would give a slight advantage to the Blueshirts, given King Henrik’s track record at MSG.  Then again, the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl so track records don’t mean a whole lot

Update 7:27pm (Goal): Rangers 1, Ducks 0.  An absolute blast by Markus Naslund after the puck trickled out to the slot.  The unit continuously got shots to the net and were hard to the puck wherever it went, leading to the turnover that led to the open shot.  You have to wonder where  this has been all season, as the Ducks looked completely flustered by the Rangers attack. 

Update 7:31 (Goal): Rangers 1, Ducks 1.  Ducks get a power-play goal after Aaron Voros took a tripping penalty just seconds after the Naslund goal.  Both power-plays were very opportunistic, with the Ducks eventually scoring off after several rebounds.  Its obvious that both teams have to play more disciplined.  This game will ultimately be decided by which All-Star netminder is going to play better

Update 7:43: End of period, Rangers 1 Ducks 1.  Overall, a real nice pace to the game, with plenty of hitting and opportunities on both sides.  Rangers are going to have to continue their solid forecheck and create turnovers by pressuring the Anaheim D.  It could be one of those games where a bounce this way or that way could determine the outcome.

Update 8:02: Rangers called for yet another too-many-men penalty.  I can’t remember a team getting so many of these penalties in a single season.  Either the Rangers have been really trying to push their line-changes and get a jump on the other team, or this is just a consistent lack of concentration.  Whichever it may be, it really is a silly penalty to commit. 

Update 8:04 (Goal): Rangers 2, Ducks 1.  So obviously the Rangers were just looking to go down a man so they can bury a short-handed goal.  A heads-up play by Roszival to dump it off the far boards and an even more heads-up play by Frederik Sjostrom to keep working and get to the loose puck and put a shot through.

Here’s where I hand the rest of the game thread off to Dave.  Apologies for any holes in the game.  I know some of you are waiting with bated breathe for the next update…

Update 8:53: And here I am. Sorry for the break in the coverage, but when dinner with Pops calls, you don’t turn down free italian. And as I write this, Cally breaks out into a fight with Moen. Gotta give Cally credit, he doesn’t back down from anyone.

Update 9:00: Wow. Nice punch to the back of the head by Getzlaf. They really are undisciplined. Big PP right now. And Hiller just robbed Dawes.

Update 9:03: Voros in front of the net is good for the PP. I’m surprised Renney doesn’t do that more often (when Voros is in the lineup). That penalty was just incidental contact, really nothing to complain about there.

Update 9:08: Blair Betts is probably the single most under appreciated Ranger. His contract expires and he will be a UFA at the end of the season. It would be a very big mistake to not resign him.

Update 9:11: I don’t know if I agree with that call. But that’s Voros’ 3rd penalty this game. That’s just not good hockey. As effective as he is in front, that’s too much of a liability.

Update 9:17: Another PP goal for the Rangers! I think hell just froze over! Gomez gets the goal from Naslund and Zherdev. This PP has been great this game. 3-2 Rangers.

Update 9:26: Has Sam even mentioned Fritsche during the game?

Update 9:30: And Betts really deserved that goal. He played a fantastic game, and he gets the shortie. He is a one man penalty killing crew. 4-2 Rangers, all coming with special teams. The Rangers will win this game. What a way to come back after a poor showing in Pittsburgh. What a way to head into the All-Star Break.

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