Weekly Contest

It's that time again, time for the Weekly Contest! Our first two weeks have been successful, but we're just getting started. This week, in addition to winning a guest column, there will also be a surprise Rangers-related prize to the winner. So here's the question:

Michal Nylander has 11 points this season and is a minus - four. Scott Gomez (3 points, -2) and Chris Drury (8 points, -1) have a combined 11 points. Were the Gomez and Drury signings a better or worse option that re-signing Nylander?

That's it! Give a good point and back it up and you could win a guest column here and a special Rangers surprise!

(NYTimes.com, Suzy Allman)

And the winner is...

Special K for this week's weekly contest! Special K will win a guest column this week explaining that the New York media is really to blame for the Rangers slow start. This is a solid point that many people forget. In New York, the media has to sensationalize so by giving unjust and unreasonable expectations in the preseason, they can either write about the Rangers demise and inability to reach that level (which has been the case) or the "I told ya' so" route. While Tom Cleary was the emotional choice with his words about Brian Leetch, (he knows the travesty I thought it was) Brian won't be coming back. Believe me, I asked and tried. The Dark Ranger, as always, had a unique look and went back as far as Mark Messier for setting the precedent of overpriced veterans.

The next contest will be announced tonight with a UNIQUE PRIZE!

Rangers 3 Lightning 1

It is much easier to write about wins rather than losses and last night was a prime example for why the Rangers have preached patience. Playing an old style (my personal favorite) of crash the net and take shots, the Rangers defeated the Lightning three to one in the third game of their homestand.

In a game filled with more posts than this blog, the Rangers were strong on the puck and made some nice passing plays but really focused on the basics: shoot the puck on the net and get the rebound. It's at least nice to know the sentiments I am currently teaching my youth hockey team are the same that the Rangers are finally starting to understand. Nigel Dawes continued his strong play within another early goal, a tip in from the point.

Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan both had strong games as did Chris Drury. Scott Gomez looked stronger, though he is still searching for his passing game. Marek Malik, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi all had stellar games while Paul Mara and Michal Rozsival continued to be less than impressive, though it never really hurt the Rangers. Fedor Tyutin had a bit of a tough game, but I guess that's allowed every once in a while and Henrik Lundqvist played well as usual but was finally allowed a little leeway.

The third and fourth liners were strong on the puck as well and really showed some nice promise. Petr Prucha is continuing to get chances and Brandon Dubinsky is playing with a lot of confidence. Ryan Hollweg is trying to expand his game beyond the physical and had a nice scoring opportunity that he nearly converted.

I said before the homestand that the Rangers could (and should) go 5 - 2 and that is still holding up. While I don't think this team is anywhere near full stride it's definitely the majority there.

Except, is that a good thing or bad thing?

(Yahoo! Sports, Bruce Bennett ,Getty Images)

Leafs 4 Rangers 1

Well that lasted long. Merely a day in between a nice win and a disappointing loss, the Rangers again find themselves in a hole. After a 2 - 0 win against the Devils, the Rangers stunk it up at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although goaltender Vesa Toskala played well, the Rangers have again failed to establish any sort of offensive pressure. This has put additional pressure on both the defense and Henrik Lundqvist.

In fact, their play was so bad it warranted Head Coach Tom Renney to cancel Sunday's day off and work intensively with his players, particularly the big guns on the power play.

I can't say that I am yet surprised or disappointed. There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out and while I may contest a lot of what Eklund at HockeyBuzz, he reaffirmed a point that I have claimed all season. Without a transition game and puck moving defenseman, this Rangers team is not going to be able to reach its full potential.

If I haven't said it enough, defense breeds offense.

Still there are positive signs. There has been some settling of the defense, though Michal Rozsival and Paul Mara continue to confuse me. There is a lot of decent puck movement and created opportunities.

However, there is only so far you can rest on opportunities without producing and the Rangers are nearing that point.

One consideration that hasn't been mentioned is that on most teams in the NHL, the top line is an "uber-line," something Stan Fischler and Al Trautwig alluded to on-air last week. The Rangers, using Marcel Hossa right now, do not have that. Their top line winger is not a first line player, he is barely a third line winger.

Should the Rangers use a stacked line of Shanahan, Gomez, and Jagr until Avery and Straka return?

You tell me...

Weekly Contest

The Rangers are disappointing, but the contest isn't. Both Tom Cleary and The Dark Ranger have some interesting views! There is still time before the winner is announced late tonight so leave a comment and win a guest column!

(AP Photo, on GameOn! Blog)

Rangers vs. Toronto 7 p.m.

The Rangers play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at 7 p.m. The Leafs, 4-4-3, are coming off a 5 - 2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Newcomer Jiri Tlusty had a strong first outing with two goals. Defenseman Bryan McCabe is questionable for tonight.

New York will go with the same roster as Thursday night:
Hossa - Gomez - Jagr
Shanahan - Drury - Prucha
Dawes - Dubinsky - Hollweg
Orr - Betts - Strudwick

Ryan Callahan, Martin Straka, and Sean Avery all remain out with injuries.

Henrik Lundqvist, two shutouts in his last three games, will start again and look to continue his strong play.

On a side note, Darius Kasparaitis has agreed to play in Russia and the Rangers will not contest his signing.

Weekly Contest

There's still time to get in on this week's weekly contest. Who's to blame for the Rangers slow start? Click the link on the right or comment below!

Rangers 2 Devils 0

The Rangers finally snapped their offensive drought with two goals by Nigel Dawes. While the big guns still aren't there yet, you can see the team starting to come together and it's just a matter of time. The power play continues to move the puck well without anything to show for it, but the penalty kill is strong. Tonight against Toronto is very possibly the next step towards building that momentum. With Henrik Lundqvist being rewarded for his efforts with a shutout, his mid-season form has kept the Rangers in each game and now perhaps the wins can start rolling.

A few other notes:

  • Marek Malik played well, as did Marc Staal. Both were a little inconsistent in the beginning , but have settled down nicely.
  • Michal Rozsival and Paul Mara, conversely, have continued to struggle and the pressing is now evident.
  • The Jaromir Jagr rumors that Eklund mentioned last week are false. I don't have evidence of this beyond common sense, but I just can't see it.
  • The Rangers continue to hold off on calling up anyone to fill in the extra roster spot. Perhaps a trade or Dave Scatchard?
More in a bit with tonight's pregame.

Daily Doings [Updated with spEKulation]

Update 12:52: Thomas Pock has cleared waivers and is reporting to Hartford. I am a bit surprised because I really thought that someone may take a chance on him given his salary.

Update 12:43: Eklund is reporting at Hockeybuzz that Jagr may be tradebait. As I responded on his post: No no and no. You lose a few games then trade your captain before a homestand? Can't see it. Still no word on Thomas Pock.

In continuing with yesterday's slew of activity here's some more. First off, I was given the privilege of doing a Q&A with the fine folks at Devils Daily. It's really a sharp and informative site and Jeremy Kenter asked a lot of great questions. Secondly, I will be posting weekly over at NHL Top Shelf, consider it sort of an all-around NHL weekly feature. My first was done on Sunday so go check it out. I added an article over at Outside The Garden about the upcoming home-stand, check out the link on the right.

We are again doing a weekly contest, check out the link on the right.

Now for some Rangers news. While Thomas Pock was waived yesterday, not sure yet if he passed through, nobody from Hartford was called up in his place. Intriguing.

With that in mind, the Rangers are then going to use Jason Strudwick as a forward tonight and Ryan Hollweg on the third line. I smell a trade coming...

More as it's available...

A Lot of News Today

Quite a lot of posts today and a lot to cover. In the meantime, a few last minute notes before I get ready to head home from work. Ryan Callahan is out with a sprained knee, grade 2, after the collision with Nigel Dawes last night. While he will not require surgery, he is being listed as out "indefinitely."

This injury may have prompted Thomas Pock being waived as it could clear room for a call-up to replace Callahan, particularly with Martin Straka out. The injury bug seems to have caught, which the Rangers haven't had to deal with too terribly in the past two seasons.

One note of solace: every team goes through highs and lows, winning streaks and losing streaks. Let the Rangers get the streak out of the way early and build for the rest of the season.


According to HockeyBuzz, Thomas Pock has been placed on waivers. There were rumors flying around about the Preds and Rangers talking as well as Avery and Montreal (not happening in my opinion). More to come...

Weekly Contest

This week, answer this question:

Who's to blame for the Rangers slow start?

The winner will be announced next Monday and will receive a guest column.

Penguins 1 Rangers 0

This wasn't as bad as it seems. Yes, the Rangers can't score right now, but they're close. A myriad of posts last night as well as a nice effort by Marc-Andre Fleury was the real difference in no goals and probably three any other night. In all honesty, this was the Rangers most complete game. Despite the bad penalties, and a couple softies, the Rangers kept a constant pressure on the Penguins and out-shot them nearly two to one.

The offense is gaining a rhythm, now they just need to finish. It seems as if Drury is destined next to Shanahan and Gomez next to Jagr. The bigger question will be who the other winger is. The power play is getting their shots, now they again just need to finish.

However, a constant struggling point has been the transition of defense to offense. Malik, Tyutin, Girardi, and Staal had nice games last night while Mara and Rozsival continue to struggle. I agree with the contest entrants that a deal needs to be made. Last night, Eklund posted a rumor that Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens was at the game, prompting a Habs/Rangers rumor.

While this probably has little merit, the two clubs are actually decent trade partners, with the Rangers having a nice core of rookies and the Habs some defensive depth.

I suspect that before the homestand gets too deep we see a move, but you never know. In the meantime, I can really see the Thursday game against the Devils being a strong one and perhaps a break out game.


Inferno's Guest Column

So I have been communicating with Steve over on NYRangersCast.com about various Rangers related stuff. Here is a message I sent him earlier that I though you guys might enjoy reading.

I wanted to talk for a second about why the Rangers are going to be a very good team. Want to know why?

Because of the Ottawa Senators.

Say wha?

Heres why. One thing that really caught my eye when watching the Senators and Rangers play, is that the Rangers game kind mirrors the Senators game in certain aspects. While the Senators tend to drop back and trap a lot more than the Rangers do, what they do VERY well is something Tom Renney has been preaching for 3 years, and something you saw them do last year down the stretch, and are already doing fairly well this year to start of the season. What I am talking about is “5 in the picture”. Its something the Senators do so damn effectively with, i hope you agree, a slightly less talented overall team than us. They effectively use their defenseman to sustain the offensive pressure, and use their forwards to provide defensive pressure. One hand feeds the other till you drive the opponents absolutely apeshit.

The problem the Rangers are having now seem to circulate on 3 different aspects, 2 of which are entirely correctable, and the third probably is as well.

  • 1)Key defenseman just arent holding their own weight. These 3 are Jason Strudwick (who should never lace up his skates for an AHL team leave alone the new york rangers), Paul Mara (I attribute this to a lack of confidence) and Marek Malik who has been talked about ad-nauseum
  • 2)A lack of chemistry between Jaromir Jagr, and everyone else not named Marcel Hossa. Right now Jagr is having trouble staying in synch with everyone else. I think the key to fixing him may be doing a lineup like this:
    Hossa Straka Jagr
    Drury Gomez Shanahan
    Prucha Dubinsky Callahan
    Hollweg Betts Orr

    And then slowly changing the lines till they get into a more conventional attack formation with Drury and Gomez as your first two centers. Yes, I know Drury was brought in to be a top 2 center, but sometimes you need to worry about what actually works, instead of what should work.
  • 3)Key players just arent finishing. I hate to sound like a kool-aid drinking ranger fan who just spouts off what the team is saying, but I happen to agree with them. I would be WAY more worried if they just werent getting any chances at all. The fact that they are getting chances, but arent burying them do not worry my whatsoever, so long as the team keeps 5 in the picture.
  • 2 and 3 should take care of themselves, but point 1 is a bit trickier. My solution is this, trade Malik. I know, not the most original idea, but its an idea worth exploring nonetheless. Honestly Malik has some value, and his salary is still pretty low and it is an expiring contract. I think if you look hard enough you may be able to bring a key piece back (perhaps an Adam Foote if a deal can be made on both sides that makes sense), or perhaps even someone elses reclamation project (an unpalatable one to most that I would do is for Nikolai Zherdev, whose speed would be insane along side a guy like Gomez). Getting rid of Malik may be addition by subtraction.

    So there you have it, I’m not worried about the Rangers because they preach what we already know works (5 in the picture–Ottawa), and the issues they have are correctable, and should be corrected just by playing more games together.

    And the winner is...

    Inferno! Though the responses were similar, in that all agree a MAJOR trade needs to occur, his came the closest to practicality with the addition of Brent Seabrook from Chicago. While I don't necessarily agree that he will help, it is more plausible.

    The other responses were well thoughtout, though somewhat flawed. Pete had a great scenario, though it is incredibly unlikely that the Rangers could acquire Dion Phaneuf, Mike Keenan doesn't like us that much.

    HockeyViper87 had a lot of similar ideas to Inferno, though there wasn't much explained as to how to acquire those players. Additionally, as far as re-signing our FA's, I think it may be time to completely overhaul as opposed to continue and mess around with the Rozsivals and Maras of the world.

    So Inferno is up here for a guest column and our new contest will be announced tonight!

    Additional Notes:
    Martin Straka is out 4 - 5 weeks, not much the Rangers can do here beyond putting Hossa and Dawes in. The practice lines yesterday were interesting:

    I am a huge Prucha fan so this works for me, though I can't help but wonder what Callahan would do in that spot. One other discussion point, what to do with Dave Scatchard. Could he fill a role here?

    More later...

    Bruins 1 Rangers 0 (SO)

    A bit of a late recap, but weekends lend themselves to that. The Rangers fell 1 - 0 to the Bruins in a shootout on Saturday afternoon, dropping their losing streak to five in the past six games. While this is still NOT time for panic mode, certain things are shaping up.

    As we have maintained throughout the early part of this season, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding. His goals-against-average (GAA) is 2.14 despite having little defensive support and certainly no offensive support. If he continues this pace, the Rangers will be dangerous when this all finally comes together.

    The Rangers penalty-killing has also begun to come around, stopping all of the Bruins' eight powerplay attempts. However, the converse of this is that the Rangers are taking far too many penalties. Granted, the refereeing has been inconsistent throughout the entire league thus far, they are still taking too many. This keeps the top players on the bench and doesn't allow the offense any rhythm or ability to develop chemistry.

    Which leads us to the powerplay. A direct product of chemistry, the Rangers are beginning to show signs of confidence though they are still forcing passes and missing the net on open opportunities. This well improve as the offense does.

    During this time of struggle, many fans are calling for Head Coach Tom Renney's head. I couldn't disagree more. Do I think he has tinkered too much with the lines? Yes. At the same time, however, he needed time to see what really worked. Intriguingly enough, the Rangers are in a similar predicament as prior to the '05-'06 season, no true third line center and lacking a defenseman. This is not Renney's fault.

    The schedule has also contributed to the lack of consistency and chemistry. New to this year, the NHL's current scheduling doesn't allow for the usual "game every other day" system as in year's past. To this point, there are teams who have only played five games or those who have played 10+. For example, the Rangers played back-to-back games last week, but were then off for four days. That also makes chemistry difficult.

    Despite all of this, the Rangers need to work harder and it's going to take one BIG period to get the offense going. The injury to Martin Straka, broken finger, is not going to help, but will force Renney to keep certain lines intact. Don't throw in the towel yet because I still feel it's going to get good.

    The Rangers next game is tomorrow night against Atlantic division rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Not an easy task. Pre-game notes when they're available.

    Fix The Defense Contest

    Only two readers have posted thus far, but there is still time. Add your thoughts on the comment section below or click the link on the right side. Winner announced tonight.

    (photo from Yahoo!Sports, AP/Michael Dwyer)

    Rangers at Bruins, 4 p.m. [Updated with Lines]

    Update 3:15: Here are tonights lines. As expected Malik is back.
    Dawes - Gomez - Jagr
    Straka - Drury - Shanahan
    Callahan - Dubinsky - Prucha
    Orr - Betts - Hollweg

    Malik - Rozsival
    Tyutin - Girardi
    Staal - Mara

    No pre-game practice updates yet, but expect the lines to be the same tonight as against Atlanta, with the exception of possibly Marek Malik. Boston has been playing well and they are getting good goaltending from Tim Thomas, despite their off-season acquisition of Manny Fernandez. Their offense hasn't quite been up to par, but the defense has played well.

    Expect a lot from this game. Though it is only game 7, after the melee of the third period on Thursday night, this could be the turning point. If it isn't the Rangers are going to have a problem.


    What are you thinking for the game? Comment below!

    Pucks Prediction: Rangers win 3 - 1, scoring from Petr Prucha, Jaromir Jagr, and Chris Drury.

    Pucks on Broadway Contest

    Let's try a little something that came to me while reading over at HockeyBuzz. For me, the biggest fault of the Rangers over the past three seasons has been failing to address the defense. While youth has been infused successfully, the Rangers haven't been able to acquire a dominant defenseman. This season, the lack of a truly strong defense has been the major reason for their inability to win. While the mediocre Rangers defensemen ,such as Michal Rozsival, have been playing above expectation, they are now settling back down to earth and it's showing.

    So here is the contest:

    The Rangers have about $1.5 million in salary cap space. YOU FIX THE DEFENSE. Whether through trade, free agents, or the farm system, the person who comes up with the most feasible and effective way to upgrade the defense gets a complimentary post on Pucks On Broadway.

    Just leave your response on the comment section below and let's have some fun. The winner will be announced on Monday night.

    Atlanta 5 Rangers 3

    My favorite artist Dave Matthews may have characterized this best, "so much to say..." The referees let it get out of control. A desperate Atlanta team gooned it up with the best of the bush leaguers. The Rangers again failed to put together a full 60-minute effort. Again. The Rangers defense collapsed again and left countless Thrashers in front. Garnet Exelby played a completely dirty game and his hit on Petr Prucha should be reviewed by the league. If fans dare boo Marek Malik again and continue to ignore the ignorance and lax manner of Michal Rozsival and Paul Mara, I may lose it.

    However, the Rangers did show some resilience by hanging tough toward the end and sticking up for themselves and more importantly each other. The power play seems to be coming around and Brendan Shanahan broke his goalless drought. Dan Girardi also had his first NHL goal while Scott Gomez added another. Henrik Lundqvist continues to be the top goaltender in the league making some of the most spectacular saves imaginable, but continuing to be left out to dry by a confused and mediocre defense.

    So what's left? Well a lot to discuss, but in reality the Rangers continue to lose. While the rookies, including Nigel Dawes and a decent performance by Thomas Pock, continue to impress and be some of the best players on the ice, the Rangers are still lacking chemistry. Glen Sather said before the game that he sees a bunch of players skating by themselves, not as a 5-man unit and I couldn't agree more.

    That will take time.

    However, the defense is really the only area that hasn't been addressed in the past three seasons, with the exceptions of mistake-laden Aaron Ward, Sandis Ozolinsh, and Karel Rachunek. When is a player brought in to shake it up and stabilize the defense? Many people are commenting on the lack of offense, but in reality offense is bred from strong defense. How can a forward be confident moving forward if the defense can't get him the puck or have to worry about constantly back-checking.

    My final notion comes in the most disturbing thing that was illustrated tonight: a total lack of commitment to every shift. At least two of the goals occurred because a Ranger didn't skate hard or play to the whistle. For instance, Rozsival gave up on the play on the power play when he first gave the puck away then Chris Drury lost control in the neutral zone. Lundqvist made an exceptional save, but Rozsival coasted lazily back and missed the opportunity to help with the rebound. This is not heart. This is not true blue. This is not being a New York Ranger.

    Malik Scratched vs. Atlanta

    The fans finally got what they wanted. Marek Malik will be a scratch tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers for the first time in his tenure as a New York Ranger. In five games this season, Malik has three points, is even in +/- and eight penalty minutes.

    He has become the whipping boy of the Garden fans for most of last season and all of this season. Personally, I don't think this is a good idea, but I'm in the minority about Malik. Additionally, Thomas Pock will dress in his spot.

    For the conspiracy theorists, don't be surprised if Malik is actually being moved, which led to his benching.

    The projected lines:
    Dawes - Gomez - Jagr
    Prucha - Drury - Callahan
    Straka - Betts - Shanahan
    Orr - Dubinsky - Hollweg

    Pock - Rozsival
    Tyutin - Girardi
    Staal - Mara

    I like the fact that Prucha and Callahan have moved up. I still think Mara is underperforming, but we'll see tonight. More after work...

    The McCabe Question

    I wanted to put this up yesterday, but didn't have a chance. Given our defensive inabilities and lack of a power play quarterback, it dawned on me to give another look at the league's defensive corps to see who is trade bait.

    We had done this over the summer and outlined a handful of teams that would be potential partners in acquiring a defenseman, but nothing to this point has panned out. However, while watching the Toronto versus Buffalo game the other night, I reconsidered the seemingly untouchable Bryan McCabe.

    While he put the game-winning goal into his own net, his apparent connection with the fans have gone the way of Marek Malik. Then I thought, hey I see a connection. While McCabe has lost favor with the Toronto fans, he still has a lot of value as a power play quarterback. So what would it take, hypothetically, to bring him in?

    McCabe started his career with the Islanders and he still has ties to the Long Island and New York area. Would it work financially?

    According to NhlNumbers.com, McCabe's contract affects the salary cap at $5.75 million. To come up with that off the Rangers' current roster, you could trade Malik, $2.5 million, Paul Mara, $3 million, and the Rangers would absorb the additional $250,000, but would that be enough?

    Unfortunately, McCabe still has a lot of value as a top-line defenseman and is going to require a lot in return. While Malik and Mara may do it, it is possible that the Rangers might need to throw in Al Montoya. That again begs the question, is it worth it?

    I think you do. McCabe is under contract for another four years and the Rangers need a power play presence at the point, which they haven't had since the days of Brian Leetch. Henrik Lundqvist has shown that he is able to handle the load thus far and is really the long-term goaltender making Montoya near expendable.

    Could it happen? Perhaps, but the bigger question: Do you give up Malik, Mara, and Montoya for McCabe?
    (photo from USA Today, by Nathan Denette)

    Something To Consider

    Over the past week, I have spoken with a few fans and a couple friends about a very unpopular possibility. However, being one for the unpopular, I thought I would share it with you. Given Brendan Shanahan's age and fairly apparent lack of speed when compared to the likes of Jason Spezza and co., would it be worthwhile to move him onto the third line?

    Stop the rioting.

    In fact, today at practice Head Coach Tom Renney fooled with that idea and played the lines as follows:
    Strudwick (because of Hossa's healing) - Gomez - Jagr
    Prucha - Drury - Callahan
    Straka - Scatchard (filling in for Dubinsky) - Shanahan
    Hollweg - Betts - Orr

    I truly think this is a worthwhile test against Atlanta on Thursday. Prucha and Callahan have played well and given quite a bit of energy. Their abilities to work the corners and Drury's knack for the net could really be lethal. Additionally, it allows Shanahan and Straka a slower pace to perform at. When Sean Avery returns to the lineup this will need to be revisited, but for now let the young guns get the spot.

    More later...

    Weekend Recap

    Finally have a few minutes here to go over the past two games.
    Rangers 3 Capitals 1
    The Rangers win on Friday night was exceptional change from the previous games. The passing was smooth and calculated, the defense had minimized any blunders and the breakout was much better. It made fans really wonder if the chemistry hump had finally be overcome.

    The big story however was the powerplay, previously o-for15, scored all three goals including a controversial no-goal by Petr Prucha. Scott Gomez also scored his first goal as a Ranger getting that monkey off his back. Overall it was a strong effort and should have carried over into Saturday's match-up against Ottawa. Henrik Lundqvist again was strong.

    Senators 3 Rangers 1
    The comfort that Ranger fans felt on Friday, dissipated quickly on Saturday. Ottawa came out flying out-shooting the Rangers more than 2-1 for the first two periods. The only reason the Rangers were tied at 0 after one and in the game at all was once again Lundqvist who consistently stood on his head. The Rangers took several dumb penalties and eventually the Senators capitalized scoring 3 goals in about 2 minutes. The defense fell back and clearly could not compete with the speedy Ottawa forwards. The Rangers offense had several opportunities, but missed the net on several key situations.

    The third period was encouraging where the Rangers were the better team, had an outstanding 5-on-3 and out-shot the Senators. However, the stellar goaltending of Martin Gerber made it impossible to score. The need for a defenseman is becoming more and more evident. Paul Mara and Michal Rozsival played incredibly poorly. While fans continue to boo Marek Malik, these two have truly played below NHL standard and that is unacceptable for the top paid defenseman.

    More to come...

    Pregame Notes

    A few notes courtesy of Steve Zipay. First, Paul Mara will skate alongside Marc Staal tonight with Thomas Pock and Jason Strudwick sitting. I like this move as it will hopefully boost the powerplay with Mara on the point. Next, despite being injured, Marcel Hossa will play again on the top line with Captain Jagr and Martin Straka. Petr Prucha had filled that spot will Hossa rested and I was looking forward to seeing that in a game. I maintain that Prucha is much better than his third line status. Everything else will remain the same as against the Islanders.

    In other news, the NHL Store opened today in midtown Manhattan. Eklund has some photos over on HockeyBuzz. Additionally, Cablevision will officially launch the NHL Network on October 18th, channel 401.

    More later...

    Islanders 2 Rangers 1

    No real spectacles this time, but the Islanders got the better of the Rangers last night behind a stellar goaltending performance by Rick DiPietro. Unfortunately, my controversial trends of the first part of this season have once again held true. While the defense hasn't allowed more than 2 goals yet, due in large part to the incredible acrobatics of Henrik Lundqvist, there is still a lack of rhythm. Additionally, the breakout has yet to be there.

    One major issue that continues to plague the Rangers is this Pee-Wee style of passing. You expect children to mess around going behind their backs, trying to feed through slots, and blindly throwing the pucks, but not NHLers. The Rangers have not been able to establish that and how that habit can creep into a professionals game is bewildering.

    This extends into the lack of power play production as the Rangers have yet to capitalize with a man advantage. The poor passing combined with an overall lack of chemistry and point presence leaves the Rangers terribly exposed.

    I have no problem with creativity, but never at the expense of fundamentals. Once the Rangers can get back to a systematic approach as they have used in the past two seasons, they will succeed.

    A few other notes:

    • Centerman Dave Scatchard , formerly of the Islanders and Coyotes, signed a tryout deal with the Rangers and practiced with them today. Could Brandon Dubinsky's days be numbered?
    • Another split Ranger/Islander crowd last night and sold out the morning of.
    • The Islanders apparently have their own salute to the fans. While this is distasteful and infuriating, I will save that rant for Outside The Garden tomorrow.
    I'm finishing working on the remaining pages of Blueshirt Bulletin and it's quite an issue! Don't miss this one. You can subscribe here.

    Notes to Consider

    Not an official pre-game report just yet, but here is the latest on tomorrow's Rangers vs. Islanders matchup. First, Marcel Hossa will be playing along the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez while Martin Straka is dropped to the second line. Here is how it is playing out:
    Hossa - Drury - Jagr
    Straka - Gomez - Shanahan
    Prucha - Dubinsky/Betts - Callahan
    Orr - Dubinsky/Betts - Hollweg

    Additionally, Paul Mara is a likely scratch again as Marc Staal skated with Jason Strudwick today and Head Coach Tom Renney said he is leaning that way.

    A few debating points:

    • Has Marcel outstayed his welcome? He is being touted at this point as a streaky forward with good penalty-killing sense. Couldn't Nigel Dawes do that? However, is it possible Hossa is merely being kept around to try and lure his brother?
    • Shanahan hasn't played well enough to really warrant second line time, should he be moved to the third line? Moving a quicker player such as Callahan into that role would make it a much more dangerous line.
    • The Rangers highest paid defenseman in Mara is working his way out of Broadway. What is the solution and could any of the trade rumors be true?
    More to come...

    Senators 2 Rangers 0

    Well this won't be the year the Rangers challenge for the NHL lossless streak or an undefeated schedule. Yet, that shouldn't be as much of a concern as the defense.

    Anytime new players and arrangements are brought into a system, there is going to be a period for adjustment and chemistry. While the Rangers are experiencing this now, there are some disconcerting issues that are continuing since the preseason. As discussed in our prior post, the trends of a lack of defensive responsibility and positioning was evident again against the Senators.

    Marc Staal has yet to find chemistry with a defensive partner and this has resulted in goals against already. Similarly, the usual stellar defensive pairing of Michal Rozsival and Marek Malik have really struggled in their own end.

    This has forced the offense to try and compensate and in turn getting caught out of position leaving the opposing point players wide open. Perhaps it is a lack of communication or just too early in the season to expect chemistry, but the goals against have been embarassing to this point.

    On the other hand, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been exceptional and really the only reason the Rangers have been in the first two games. The forward pairings are getting better acquainted, but are far from where they should be.

    Aside from the game, forward Sean Avery is out four weeks with a separated shoulder stemming from a vicious hit by Chris Neal. Unfortunately, the league may have listed Ryan Hollweg as a potential goon, but have somehow left out Chris Simon and Chris Neal.

    The Rangers next game is at the Island against the Islanders at 7 p.m. on Versus.

    On a side note, the NHL Network will launch locally on Cablevision by the end of the month and has also signed an agreement to offer the Center Ice package.

    Rangers 5 Panthers 2

    If last night was any indication as to how the season is going to be, we're going to need a lot of therapy and Tums. Despite pulling out the victory, the Rangers showed a lot of dangerous trends (look on Outside The Garden later for an in-depth look at these trends). A few notes:
    Not So Good:

    • Even though the forwards looked exceptional offensively, certain things really stood out. First off was the porous defense, this was evident during the preseason, but even worse with a speedy Florida team. The pairing of Marc Staal and Paul Mara was terrible in the defensive zone even though they showed some nice offensive upside.
    • As the defense collapsed and was out of position so were the forwards. At many points you had nearly five Rangers below the face off circles leaving the Florida points wide open. Granted some of this is from inexperience together, but it is something that needs to be addressed.
    • As the team collapsed there was no ability to break out and very often the Rangers gave the puck away in their own end or turned it over in the neutral zone. While Marek Malik had a strong game and silenced some boo-birds, he is the only one capable of a breakout pass and that's scary.
    • What happened to Marcel Hossa?
    • Still no shooting on the power play.
    • A lot of blind and forced passing overall. See preseason.
    The Very Good:
    • Henrik Lundqvist absolutely stood on his head and if it weren't for him and Florida's inability to finish, the Rangers could have been down nearly five goals in the second period.
    • The pairing of Fedor Tyutin and Dan Girardi was solid and will become the Rangers best pairing by mid-season. Tyutin was strong on the puck and Girardi directed traffic and even saw some power play time.
    • Scott Gomez added some nice speed through the neutral zone and Chris Drury has a real knack for the north-south game.
    • Petr Prucha and Ryan Callahan look strong and like they will be big scorers in the near future.

    On a side note, I am looking for a photographer from the games. Unfortunately, my seats don't lend themselves to good in-game photos so if anyone has game photos to post or would like to take photos, I will have a photos section in each post so email me to the left.

    Tonight's the Night...

    After a much drawn out and anticipated off-season, the Rangers take the ice tonight at Madison Square Garden for their home opener against the Florida Panthers. Last season, the two teams split the four game series.

    The Rangers are expected to play the following lines tonight:
    Straka - Drury - Jagr
    Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
    Callahan - Dubinsky - Prucha
    Hollweg - Betts - Hossa

    Malik - Rozsival
    Tyutin - Girardi
    Staal - Mara

    Lundqvist in net

    More to come...
    (photo from FansInTheStands.com)

    Final Roster

    The speculation is finally over and in all honesty, it shook out just as everybody suspected. Nigel Dawes, Artem Anisimov, and Al Montoya were all re-assigned to Hartford yesterday leaving a total of 23, the roster maximum.

    While this really wasn't a surprise it does assure that both Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal will be making the opening night roster on Thursday. What is unique is that the Rangers currently have eight defensemen. This isn't necessarily uncommon, look at Boston over the past two seasons, but it does appear interesting.

    Yesterday there were some swirling rumors about a Phoenix deal with the Rangers and of course everyone again jumped on the Ed Jovanovski band wagon. Personally, I'd prefer Derek Morris. Regardless, keeping eight defensemen actually gives some merit to a potential trade as we have speculated for weeks.

    Perhaps it is a minor transaction, that's always possible, with Thomas Pock moving. Many fans are wary to let go of Pock though I think this camp really confirmed that with the likes of Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Sauer in the mix for the next couple years, Pock really doesn't have a place on this team. Yet, with his manageable salary and prospective top six potential, he does have trade value. To package him with Montoya plus one of our top six defensemen, you could really bring in a nice defensive asset.

    Let the speculation begin, but as of right now, the countdown is on! Thursday begins the season!
    (photo from Hartford Wolf Pack website, by Chris Rutsch)