Carolina 3 Rangers 1

Well that lasted long. The fairly strong effort, or at least four points, the Rangers garnered against Atlanta going into the All-Star break was vanquished last night in a listless, undisciplined game. Despite scoring the first goal and showing some heart on a terrible hit to Gomez, the Rangers unraveled.

Even after some successful penalty killing, the Rangers could not extend their lead and continued to take poor penalties. Eventually, it bit them.

Henrik Lundqvist played well, but not spectacular. The Rangers special teams were better, but not great, and the defense continued to struggle.

Ranger fans must wrap their heads around this. The team is a better team with Marek Malik in the lineup, when he is playing well. He is better than Paul Mara and Jason Strudwick. Last night was a prime example of that.

Too often do both Rozsival and Mara lose their defensive positioning to warrant them being a constant defenseman. Yes, Rozsival has offensive upside, but then he should be with a strong defensive partner. Need I say Malik?

Mara has not shown the offensive upside nor the defensive discipline to warrant being a top six defenseman.

Nonetheless, the defense needs to be addressed from outside the organization.

As far as the offensive lines, Straka was a dissapointment last night, looking lost and without confidence. I was very high on this line with Drury and Prucha and Straka hasn't clicked on it just yet. If this is given time, I think it could be a successful line.

Gomez and Jagr continue to play better together so hopefully their play will lift the other line up. Also, Avery was a force last night until the penalties came into play.

Dubinsky continues to be the best forward for the Rangers and having him with Nigel Dawes and Brendan Shanahan should stick. Shanahan's lack of speed is compensated for while at the same time he draws attention away from the two young guns.

Time for the real Rangers to stand up, or at this point sit down and shut up...

NHL All-Star Review

After a thrilling Brian Leetch Night, (not for the game, just the ceremony) in which the Rangers triumphed in a shootout over Atlanta, it was time to give heed to the All-Star weekend.

I am usually a fan of the All-Star game because you get to hear the sounds of the game with the players mic'd, talk about what is going on around the league, and see some of the amazing individual skills that players have that is often lost with today's systematic NHL.

First was the skills competition.


I am all about change and said repeatedly that I would love for the NHL to adopt NBA-style versions of their All-Star weekend. To the NHL's credit, they tried to think outside of the box, but in essence all they did was confuse and dissapoint the viewer.

The obstacle course left every fan is disbelief. "What just happened?" The camera angles were awful, the players were rushed, and the skills weren't fun.

Then came the skating. Everything was so rushed that you couldn't understand what was going on. Where was the normal around the rink skating competition? Why are you making skating all about who gets off the line quicker? It was very poorly managed.

How about the first shootout? Pointless. So players are going in and shooting, but it was in such a frenzy of commercials and switching events that you couldn't focus on scoring, heck even the TV crew was confused.

I was however impressed with the YoungStars game, which Brandon Dubinsky was awarded MVP. That really should have been more focal. Two six-minute halves of running time and "backyard take-backs" really rushed a game that was far more entertaining than anything else.

I love the idea of shinny for the young guns, but give them some time to do it!

Finally, the second half of the skills competition. Better, but not great. They got back to the more traditional format and you saw some incredible rips by Zdeno Chara and Vincent Lecavalier. (By the way, that should be done with wood sticks like Al Iafrate had to use)

The last event was highly anticipated. I love the idea of a "slam-dunk" style of shootout. However, you need to give the players some opportunity to do this. You couldn't follow the scoring or why those players were going more than once, but every NHLer was afraid to try anything. Finally A.O. lit it up a bit, but the players were noticeably unprepared in what should have been the most fun.

Every All-Star should have gone in that event and it should have been allotted the most time. Plain and simple.

So with Saturday in the books, we come to Sunday.

A decent opening, it seemed like a filled house, while I could have done without the a-typical hockey performances (Lil' Jon, Usher, Ne-Yo: give it up for Hotlanta), it was not a terrible production by any means. I always like the mic's on the players and the NHL took advantage of that ability at the All-Star game.

The game was pretty good, particularly the third period, though Eric Staal should not have been the MVP.

All in all, I couldn't complain about the game except the jerseys were atrocious.

Next year the NHL has a lot to think about and the more it comes to terms with working in a more NBA-style approach, the more success it will have. Especially if they do it on true NATIONAL TV!

Back to Rangers later.

An Atlanta Review

The Rangers seemed to have a bit of a comeback game, winning 4 - 0 vs. Atlanta, but would anyone really consider them an elite force? Hardly. At the same time, two points is two points and the most important factor in all of this.

Henrik Lundqvist played well, but to me still looks as if he is overcompensating on his positioning and trying to do too much as opposed to his usual refined self. Hopefully the rest from the break as well as a solid performance tonight will help him recoup and come out strong for the second half.

I love the new line combinations and hope that Renney keeps them as is for a while. What is often overlooked is that Shanahan's age has shown this season. He is absolutely a heart and soul player and effective special teams guy, but with second line minutes you can see his play deteriorate. To allow him to mentor Dawes and Dubinsky while saving his energy with third line minutes is a great move.

This also allowed Prucha to get some much deserved second line minutes. At the same time Drury was united with Straka, whom he said he had the most chemistry with since training camp. All three lines seemed to click and it doesn't seem like the rookies are going anywhere.

In fact the rookies have been the story this season, creating all of the energy, a lot of the scoring, and really the only stellar defensive play.

However, let's not get too far over the rainbow. The Rangers still have a lot of work to do. It starts with the defensive zone. The veterans are faltering in their own zone way too much. Malik, Rozsival, and Mara have all done way too much in the way of trying to be fancy or making a dumb outlet pass instead of the smart play and this needs to be addressed.

Can anyone say trade?

Finally, the special teams have been far from special. Renney needs to maintain some consistency with the lines in order to foster some chemistry which will lead into more success on the power play. Addressing the defense will also help.

More later before Leetch night!

Game Notes: NYR v. Atlanta

After sweeping the Thrashers in last season's playoffs, Atlanta is riding a five game unbeaten streak against the Rangers. Given the poor play of the Rangers, Tom Renney has decided to shake up the lines:
Avery - Gomez - Jagr
Dawes - Dubinsky - Shanahan
Straka - Drury - Prucha
Hollweg - Betts - Orr

Malik - Rozsival
Tyutin - Girardi
Staal - Strudwick

It appears Renney read my post about finally sitting Mara.

In other news, the Maple Leafs fired G.M. J. Ferguson (a lot of periods there) and Martin Brodeur will not be attending the All - Star game. Does that mean...NOPE! Henrik was passed over by Tim Thomas.

Just to be clear:
The NHL feels that Brodeur, DiPietro, Vokoun, and Tim Thomas are all better than Lundqvist...

The Boston Massacre

Maybe that's a bit over the top, but at this point fans may be able to look back after the season and consider this home-and-home series with Boston either the floor to an amazing come back or the nail in the coffin.

There was no heart on the ice from the Rangers. No blood. No sweat. No tears. Just dumbfounded looks, stares, and overpaid men searching for meaning.

Yes there were some bright spots, as always, but when a team is mired in filth and inadequate play, you often search for a bright spot that, in all honesty, may not be that bright. While the likes of Petr Prucha, Brandon Dubinsky, and Nigel Dawes continue to be the only work horses, we are reminded as fans that money can't buy happiness. Money can't buy success. Money can't buy work ethic or dedication.

Were the expensive off-season acquisitions worthwhile? Of course, particularly in seeing what it has done to rival clubs. However, the Rangers have failed (repeatedly) to address the issue that has plagued them over the past three seasons: a lack of a stud defenseman.

I call it the "Brian Leetch Curse."

The Rangers have not had a power play quarterback or end-to-end defenseman since he left and while most Ranger fans could rest their laurels on the strong defensive play of their mediocre defenseman, that is no longer the case.

Clearly Marek Malik is not the only problem because Paul Mara made a stunning pass to his former team last night in his own zone that sealed the deal. With the Rangers playing well Michal Rozsival decided to deftly pass a giveaway in his own zone and the often stellar Marc Staal couldn't help him. How about three or four saves being made and no defensemen getting the rebound?

The sky is falling for the Rangers right now as they are drowning in a pool of their own inconsistency and thoughtless play. As I have preached for some time now, Renney needs to throw a chair, a trade needs to be made, and the line combinations must be allowed to render some consistency and chemistry.

It's time for a shakeup and if it doesn't happen soon, this season is all but lost.

Rangers 2 Sabres 1

What a difference a day makes. I really had little interest in writing after the Pittsburgh game because, as I posted the day before, the Rangers have an outstanding game followed by an outstanding loss. Once that happened, I felt that my prediction should lend itself to either Vegas or at least a beer at home. So I patiently waited and decided that today would be a much better day to blog.

A nice win last night by the Rangers. The third line of Brandon Dubinsky, Petr Prucha, and Nigel Dawes (see Next Year's Second Line) did everything. From drawing power plays to scoring the lone two goals, this line proved that it deserves every bit of ice time it's getting and more.

The rookies really are the story of this Rangers team. The defense is led by them, the offense receives energy from them, and now they're scoring.

Another major component to last night was the return of Sean Avery. While he made a couple of rusty ill-advised passes and whiffed on a couple opportunities, you can sense his presence on the ice. This is something that has been missing for quite some time.

However, despite the well played game, the Rangers continue to take terrible and ill-timed penalties. Certainly there were some questionable calls last night, but the Rangers need better composure, particularly after they score. It seems as if every bit of success and momentum they have is stifled by a terrible penalty. Maybe putting the HBO line on after every goal is really counterproductive.

Henrik Lundqvist seems to be back to form, playing a stellar positional game last night. I am still concerned about the defense, particularly the Malik and Rozsival pairing. Both made way too many gaffs in their own end last night and it really has become burdensome.

The power play needs to be addressed. The Rangers continue to be hot and cold and the only remedy in my humble opinion is to bring in a presence on the blue line. Rozsival can't quarterback a power play and spends too much time waiting to pass to Jagr and it has become far too predictable.

If there is a move to be made for a defenseman Sather, make it!

Overall, if the Rangers can find a way to take 3 or 4 points in this weekend's home-at-home with Boston, they will be in decent shape heading into the All-Star break.

A couple other notes:
- Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky will play in the Young Guns All-Star Game.
- As of today, the entire Atlantic Division is in the playoffs, as discussed here earlier this year.

A Tale of Two Cities...well teams

I really didn't have the heart to write after the Philadelphia game. Thankfully I had a coaches meeting and missed the second and third only to find out that I really didn't need to watch it on TiVo. Everything about that game was discouraging from the coaching to the goaltending and everything in between. The Rangers just crumbled. Many said it was the end of days, and it could very well prove to be if the Rangers don't get back into the race here a bit.

Then came the 4 - 1 win at Montreal and I was further dejected. Why? Because every time this team has had a stroke of brilliance they have continued to disappoint and follow up great victories with outstanding losses.

Every fan has looked for a turning point game. The one game that will define the rest of the season, that will make the Rangers click, will have them getting on the path to the big show. Instead, they have faulted. They have tripped over their own skates and fumbled down the standings.

So do Ranger fans have anything to feel positive about? Sure. Lundqvist had a strong game after a couple off weeks. The top line continues to play well, particularly with the addition of Straka, and the rookies are all steadily improving. But every fan must be cautious.

Who knows which team will show up? Who knows which players will come out onto that ice surface? Do we want to see wins?

Of course, but at this point, it's time that this teams creates an identity and where Ranger fans could take solace in the past couple of seasons that even if the team didn't win, even if the Rangers were blown out, they worked their tails off and put forth a grand effort. When this team plays with that heart, their infinite talents are shown. If they decide that there are better things to do, then be prepared.

So until the Rangers show me that they can play with the kind of heart and urgency that will get them out of the situation they have built for themselves, it's all for naught. Who wants to see a couple great wins followed by a load of poor efforts?

In response to a couple questions that were asked for my opinions:

  • Yes I read the Cujo reports all over the place and feel there are two explanations: 1. That in case Lundqvist must leave to attend to his father, the Rangers don't trust the season on Valiquette or Montoya. 2. That Montoya is getting ready to be traded and Valiquette is going to be demoted to Hartford to mentor/split time with the goalies such as Wiikman or Holt.
  • As far as the Rangers continuously scouting the Blue Jackets, I just can't see who they're after. Sergei Federov would make no sense on this team, Adam Foote isn't likely to be traded according to reports, and David Vyborny wouldn't fit on Jagr's line anyway. I think that unless the Rangers are planning to move Petr Prucha, Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, or Greg Moore, there isn't any real room for a trade up front, particularly with Sean Avery coming back. I really think that the Rangers need help on defense and I almost want to believe the Kings' rumors with Rob Blake. I think he would be a decent fit on this team, help out with the power play so that Rozsival doesn't have to continue and be pressured, and it will allow the Rangers to move either Malik or Mara.
More later after tonight's game against a red-hot Penguins team.

The Change of Days

For the past decade or so, fans have complained that because of so many free agent signings and trades, you have to root for the jersey, not the players because they are so often to leave. For instance, even great players like Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky were bounced around from team to team. Fans had a right to complain. You used to get behind the team and what the players meant to that team. That's why, for the Rangers at least, a player like Brian Leetch meant so much.

It was not merely for his skill, but the fact that he was home grown and could be rooted for in the same breath as the team. Similarly with Ranger-lifer Mike Richter. Their names were synonymous with the team. Then changes began happening and you didn't know who these Rangers were.

Eric Lindros, Shane Churla, Eric Lacroix, Petr Popovic, Jan Hlavac... ring a bell?

Players in the NHL were moving like hot cakes and fans were not only seeing a lack of results, but a lack of commitment by the team to foster the Ranger identity. This was going on for many teams in the league. Then came the issue of salaries. The Rangers, Flyers, Red Wings, and Maple Leafs would offer outlandish contracts to subpar players and the league was divided.

Come the lockout.

After feverish negotiations and sacrifices of an entire season, the NHL established a salary cap that has brooded more parity than ever before. The expense: trades and short term contracts.

So what are people complaining about nowadays? The lack of trades and player movement.

It seems a bit hypocritical that the league is moving, at least in terms of growing players with one team, towards the past and fans still aren't happy. For Anaheim GM Brian Burke to come out last month with a plan to induce more trades, many fans were ecstatic. After all, look how much money Eklund makes with Hockeybuzz.

This makes you wonder, do fans appreciate a player such as Mike Richards or Rick DiPietro (signed to long term deals) staying with their team, or hifalutin trades? Or is the average fans just never happy.

I am as guilty as anyone for buying into trade talk and rumors. While I may not believe most of what I read, I get a certain entertainment in reading about them. At the same point, I would love to see Petr Prucha, Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, etc. remain Rangers for life. They have established identities with the franchise and fan-base.

The NHL is moving toward the days of Eddie Giacomin, Rod Gilbert, Jean Beliveau, etc. Teams are growing players for their franchise, not the short term.

Fans now must decide: do you want to see a team of long term players or crazy trades that build headlines?

Tampa Bay 5 Rangers 3

Four losses in a row. One point out of a possible eight. In the words of rapper Ludacris, "an anotha' one. An anotha' one." These posts are becoming tiresome and repetitive, much like the Rangers.

To play awful for two periods, at home, against the 29th ranked team is unacceptable. Despite injuries, there are no excuses anymore. At some point, it has to become about the ... points!

While the Jagr - Drury - Gomez combination played well offensively, they had a couple opportunities that they simply didn't capitalize on and then, even worse, they didn't back check!

Head Coach Tom Renney seems to have dropped the ball a bit with the line combinations as well. Once he knew that Brendan Shanahan was ready to go, Drury should have been moved to the second line making the combinations look like this:
Prucha/Dawes/Hossa - Gomez - Jagr
Prucha/Dawes/Hossa - Drury - Shanahan
Prucha/Dawes/Hossa - Dubinsky - Moore
Hollweg - Betts - Orr

You keep the chemistry of Gomez/Jagr and Drury/Shanahan and don't disrupt the fourth line. The only line that changes drastically is the third line and Dubinsky has been so strong that I'm sure he would have adapted.

On the ice, there is a lot of poor passing, a lot of lack of positioning, and really just a poor transition when Gomez or Dubinsky isn't on the ice. This team needs a role player, somebody to step up, lead the team, and show effort. Even the goaltending at this point hasn't stood out.

Now is also a good time to discuss the defense. Rozsival and Mara were considerably lost in their own zone last night, more than usual. Is this really better than having Malik in the lineup? Have we forgotten that he is a strong +/- player, despite what you take that statistic for, and is solid in his own zone? What does he lack that Mara brings to the table? Enough of this experiment, let's shore up the defense, let Mara go, and start focusing on the team plan for defense that was effective for a while.

Back in a bit...

Catching Up After Canada

After a scintillating Canadian road trip, I needed time to express my joy and pleasure about how well the Rangers have been playing so I took a blogging break for the weekend. OK, so sarcasm maybe is more difficult to portray online than I thought. Nonetheless, the Rangers got one point on this trip in which they really didn't earn any.

So, rather than writing another postgame blog about the same complications and short comings of the Blueshirts, I chose to enjoy my birthday weekend and leave it until Monday to go over a few items.

First, the roster changes.

Marek Malik was scratched, again, as was Ryan Callahan. I missed the pregame show and didn't catch what was wrong with Callahan, though I believe it was either illness or injury, but nothing serious. Malik apparently stormed out of the locker room when hearing he was a scratch. I think it's finally time to bite the bullet here. He's unhappy, the fans are unhappy, and it's just bad all around.

Next on the agenda is the refereeing. I am tired of all of the officiating talk. Yes, it is inconsistent. Yes, Colton Orr and Ryan Hollweg are unjustly crucified for their reputation. However, there has to be some responsibility. Hollweg did NOT need to make that hit from behind in the third period against Edmonton. Plain and simple. Was the penalty too much? Yes. But there is NO need for him to be making those boneheaded plays and every referee in the league is going to call that 100% of the time.

If Renney is going to use the fourth line so much, Hollweg and Orr have to start being smarter with their physical play. They are intimidating, hard working, and can shut down the other teams' offense, but none of that matters if they are taking poor penalties at inopportune times.

This leads us to ... discipline.

I have commented here about the lack of fire in the Rangers' bellies all season, that there is nobody, except perhaps Avery, who is showing enough heart. So what do the Rangers do? Start to show some heart and emotion, but at the expense of discipline. How do we know this? The Hollweg play. The Straka play. The Jagr play.

If you didn't catch the game, I alluded to the Hollweg hit earlier, Straka questionably hooked an Oiler while Jagr just ripped a player down in OT. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. If this is the emotion we are going to see, than you might as well go back to being lax Rangers because your penalty killing is not up to snub and you can't afford to take dumb useless penalties.

Enough of the negative however. On to the positive! Henrik Lundqvist had a strong rebound game, which will help him leading into the All Star break. The line of Brandon Dubinsky, Callahan, and Petr Prucha have brought a lot of energy and opportunities. In fact, you can make a strong case that the line has been the strongest over the past week.

The Rangers have a tough schedule ahead with Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Montreal , and Philly all on the agenda. This is at the same a great time to get on a role because each team is beatable, but it will require the discipline that has lacked recently.

On a couple side notes:

  • I will be helping out The Dark Ranger with some of my fellow bloggers, so check his site. He will guesting here as well, given the necessity to keep the Rangers in check and me still needing to work.
  • Inferno, over at Rangers' Review, asked where my mid-season report card was and I failed to mention that it is posted at Outside the Garden. Check the link on the top right.
  • The Game Log, or glog, I did against Vancouver got some good reviews so we will be doing it more frequently. Check in and I'll give some advance notice, the next one should be Thursday night.
  • Had a nice conversation last night with the Isles Blogger at a mandated dinner function for the girlfriend . Despite our disdain for each other's teams, it actually is pretty interesting what the Icelanders are doing for their bloggers and his site is definitely worth a read since he is very well informed.
Back to work for now, but as always, more to come...

FINAL: Vancouver 3 Rangers 0

A lot to discuss that I will leave until the morning, but a few notes to consider going forward.

  • Can the Rangers rebound against Edmonton? Yes. But will they is the real question.
  • Where is the sacrifice? The Rangers need to do something to shake up the chemistry, ala Sean Avery last season. Who is the lamb? Callahan, Prucha, Straka? Something needs to be addressed.
  • Officiating: I am not citing biased, but I am citing reputations and inconsistencies. If the NHL allows the officiating to become like the NFL, MLB, or NBA where refs are dictating the games, the hope for the sport is lost. Refs also need to grow up and start looking beyond the name on the back of the jerseys for penalties.
  • Special teams: The Rangers need to address this on both ends. How do you fix it?
I had fun tonight, hopefully some of the insights were helpful. See ya'll in the morning!

Third Period Notes: NYR 0 VAN 3

  • The fans agree with me on four - - HOW COULD I FORGET SERGEI ZUBOV!? Very, very stupid.
  • Apparently this is a family event on all accounts.
  • Smart cover up by Valiquette as the HBO line starts once again.
  • Straka give away, calm save by Valiquette.
  • Vancouver hasn't lost a game this season when leading into the third period, 18 - 0 . Jagr hits the post!
  • Nice play by Daniel Sedin and another save by Valiquette.
  • Bad penalty by Hossa. Offensive zone. Terrible. That's a good way to stay in the lineup. Holding at 2:18.
  • Nice play by Avery on the penalty kill. Drury and Avery need to establish some better chemistry.
  • Equally nice play by Straka in the closing moments of the penalty kill.
  • Mara loses the Vancouver forward Jaffray and it's nearly a breakaway.
  • Continued nice effort by the HBO line. Strange penalty call...
  • That's the Colton Orr penalty? Oh my. That might be up there with the worst calls of all time. Joe Michelletti is fired up.
  • Note to all young skaters: Don't accidentally knock skates while standing. Good job NHL officiating.
  • Another great play on the penalty kill by Avery.
  • Rob Schick is fortunate the Rangers didn't let a goal up on the power play.
  • Nice little flurry of action by the first line, but no solid shots.
  • Midway through the period and it's getting to that time...
  • Hossa missed another shot and a penalty for high sticking on...
  • has the score listed as a 1 - 0 final. Spooky.
  • Another terrible penalty by Hossa. High sticking at 11:00.
  • Strong play along the boards by the Rangers on the penalty kill.
  • Great saves by Valiquette with 6 minutes remaining.
  • 5:10 left and it's getting tense. The Rangers have had shots and opportunities, but keep shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. Note to Renney : Sit Hossa the rest of the game.
  • A nice RANGERS SUCK! Chant ringing throughout the crowd.
  • 3:25 remaining and the Rangers can't break the offensive blue line.
  • 2 on 1 with the Sedin twins when Tyutin pinched and the Rangers are down 2 - 0 .
  • Girardi waited too long to commit. Another bad loss seems impending for the Rangers.
  • Malik takes a lazy penalty right after, all but sealing this game.
  • Gomez's point streak seems finished and the Rangers are now down 3 - 0 and the wheels have fallen off this car wreck.
  • Ugly finish to this game. Really disappointing effort. Bad goaltending. Bad officiating. Bad offense. Bad defense. Perhaps bad is too strong, but ineffective and inconsistent needs to be in there.
  • While Joe and Sam are saying the Rangers have been the better team, I simply disagree. They played a defensive road game, yes. But just because they kept it close doesn't mean it was strong hockey. Luongo wasn't really tested and this is twice now that the Rangers haven't tested an elite goalie.
  • FINAL 3 - 0 Vancouver.
  • Final Notes: Rangers outshot Vancouver 27 to 19. The Rangers took four penalties in the third period showing a total lack of discipline. Poor effort down the stretch. New York needs a shake up. A catalyst. Similar to Sean Avery's acquisition last season, the Rangers can't afford to let this continue and remain inconsistent. More in a bit...

Second Period Notes: NYR 0 VAN 1

  • Great trivia question. Off the top of my head, Alexei Kovalev, Trevor Linden...
  • HBO Line starts again.
  • Rangers have been lights out on faceoffs this season, particularly the last two weeks.
  • Vancouver goal - Ryan Kesler. Bad goal by Valiquette. Reminiscent of Lundqvist's final goal against last night. Two minutes in.
  • Vancouver 19 - 4 when they score first this season.
  • Nice shot by Staal, too bad Rozsival took an hour to get it to him. Gomez penalty after Kesler goaded him. Bill McCreary doesn't like violence.
  • Betts misses the open net, but makes a beautiful play and draws a penalty. He had a lot more time to put it in the net than he realized. 4:41 penalty to Krajicek, four on four for about forty seconds. Say that three times fast...
  • Pam Andersen is in the house. Why is she in Vancouver? Silicone hardens in the cold.
  • Rangers power play for a minute-fifteen.
  • Lots of passing and no shooting. Finally Prucha gets a shot wide.
  • Rangers were getting a power play after Dubinsky and Prucha had a strong play to the net. Then a major scrum ensued. Who jumps in first? Jaromir Jagr!
  • Back to the trivia question - - is Martin Gelinas still playing? Bret Hedican is.
  • Mike Weaver penalty at 6:48 for Vancouver.
  • Jagr dictating the power play, but shoots into Miller. Prucha tripped up, no penalty.
  • Puck loose in the slot, nobody looks at it for three seconds. Rangers 0/3 on the power play.
  • Rangers out-shooting the 'Nucks 16 - 7 midway through the game.
  • Trivia Question FINAL ANSWER - FOUR!
  • Rangers four minute power play when Dan Girardi is high sticked at 11:18 by Kesler.
  • Big open ice hit on Brandon Dubinsky by Matt Cooke. Ugly start to the power play. Gomez shot into the chest of Luongo.
  • Tyutin giveaway on the blueline as the first two minutes is expiring.
  • A few shots by Drury and Gomez, but no real quality scoring chances.
  • Prucha is playing with considerably more confidence.
  • Rangers can't get to the net cleanly.
  • Mara and Jagr miscommunication. Thirty seconds left in the power play. Nothing to even build on.
  • Rangers 0/5 (like last night) on the power play.
  • Great play by Malik. He is deceptive in the offensive zone.
  • Roughing penalty on Ryan Hollweg. What a waste. The Rangers could have built on the P.P. instead, they are still losing and now have to penalty kill.
  • Good penalty kill. Didn't let Vancouver set up at all. Valiquette had to make one save.
  • Renney continues to roll 4 lines. Good idea on back to back nights. Girardi still out with injury.
  • SHOTS: NYR - 12/Total - 21, VAN - 4 /9
  • POWERPLAYS - NYR - 0/5 (double minor), VAN - 0/4
  • NOTES: Bad goal by Valiquette, but a decent period. The power play has become burdensome. The Rangers need to be quicker and harder to the net. Not enough pressure down low. Strong defense by Vancouver clogging up the shooting lanes.

First Period Notes: NYR 0 VAN 0

  • Just saw that the Rangers haven't won in British Columbia in ten years. Strange statistic. The "HBO" line to start.
  • Hollweg has a lot of fans today. So he gets into a fight and it was not one of his better showings. A mere four seconds into the game...
  • Nice suit by Renney.
  • A last-minute change by NYR. Callahan on the second line, not Prucha as earlier reported.
  • Avery getting booed in any arena now. Malik loses an easy puck on the line.
  • A much slower pace than last night.
  • Vancouver has had all the puck control nearly 5:00 minutes in.
  • Almost gave up a 2 on 1 when Rozsival got caught. Staal did a nice job breaking it up.
  • Nice hit by Girardi just after the 5:00 minute mark.
  • Prucha makes a great play twice and Hossa messes it up twice. First time, he's flat footed and loses it. The second time, he goes way over the net.
  • Drury and Rozsival 2 on 1. Big shot, nice save by Luongo. Good follow up shift by the first line.
  • Vancouver is playing their fourth line against the Rangers' top line. Does that take home ice last change out of play?
  • A couple nice saves by Valiquette.
  • Malik penalty for holding near the midway point of the period.
  • Good penalty kill. Decent shot by Straka on the short handed break away. It seems that the Rangers think shooting on Luongo is the most effective instead of deking. Good play by Jagr to draw a penalty.
  • Rangers power play unable to set up after the first 45 seconds. Gomez has been stopped a couple times.
  • Terrible Mara giveaway just before 4 minutes remaining. When will he learn?
  • Pace settled down and it's fairly back and forth.
  • Interesting Renney commentary by Rosen and Michelletti. He learned while coaching in Vancouver how pro's need to be treated. A.k.a : prima donnas.
  • Nice job back-checking by the Captain. Then, he knocked the net off. Michelletti thought he got away with one, Rosen disagrees. Personally, if Jagr's back there, that's shocking enough.
  • Great chance for Staal, but he whiffed.
  • Rangers 0/1 PP , Vancouver 0/1 PP
  • SHOTS: NYR - 9 , VAN - 5
  • Notes: Vancouver opened strong early, but Rangers held strong. No real momentum either way at this point. A couple nice offensive opportunities both way. A real road game for the Rangers at this point. The Rangers defense needs to tighten up.

Vancouver Preview and Game Log

Going to do a game log tonight, for the first time since college! A few pregame notes:
- Shanny out with some wear and tear, Prucha to play on second line.
- Valiquette in, a good move. Despite so many people upset, let him get the rest now while he is going to need to play most of the games in the second half. Plus, if you lose points to the West it's not as bad as to your own conference.

We'll have an on-going game log here, so stay tuned...

Calgary 4 Rangers 3

The Rangers got what they deserved all around. Why , you ask, did they deserve to lose? Simple. When you play disheartened, stupid, careless hockey, you don't deserve to win.

The only Blueshirt that deserves credit last night is Brandon Dubinsky, despite Calgary's high powered offense, the rookie played exceptionally well and scored a late goal to give the Rangers hope.

Even "The King" was dethroned last night as goalie Henrik Lundqvist was not up to par with his usual stellar self. Combine that with a flat-footed defense and untimely penalties, and it had a very Minnesota feel to it.

The Rangers never really controlled play. At the end of the second, they had some momentum, but both Jaromir Jagr and Marcel Hossa shot back into the goaltender instead of on the short side. Result: Rangers still behind.

Then, their power play went ice cold. No opportunities were taken advantage of and the penalty kill essentially allowed Jarome Iginla and Kristian Huselius to walk around as they pleased.

It's interesting that when the Rangers play a quick and well-transitioned team, that they lose their positioning and are often not skating. What does that mean? It means the Rangers are slower than they should be and with that in mind, keeping strong defensive positioning is the only way to combat that. Instead, the Rangers fold and look like chickens with their heads way off.

Despite all of this, they still kept it close. This is a bright spot going into Vancouver tonight. No matter how poorly they played, they didn't lose by much and gave themselves a chance to win in the end.

It's been a while since Lundqvist has had a standout game that he purely stole. I spoke about this a while back and while he played strong, he hasn't faced many shots. (Trust me, I have him on my Fantasy and I know) So his goals against have gone up, but shots against has gone down. The King needs to pull it together a bit, particularly against these fast teams.
Petr Prucha is expected back in the lineup tonight. More as it's available...
(Photo from Yahoo! Images by Larry MacDougal/ AP Photo)

Final Notes on the NHL Winter Classic and Rangers Canada Trip Preview

A long winded title, but worth addressing both nonetheless. Yesterday's NHL Winter Classic, which Pittsburgh won in the shootout 2 - 1, was a lot of fun to watch for the fact that it was snowing and the players had to deal with the elements. However, if this is how the NHL is going to market it's product, it needs to think again.

Yes, the most marketable player in the NHL won the game. But the pace of the game was awful. Players couldn't go full speed because of the wind and snow, as well as the debris on the ice, and you are therefore taking a marketable part of the game out of it. Similarly, though there was some hitting, players can't hit as hard when it's that cold. I don't care what the argument.

The structure of the format was wrong as well. So much time was taken for ice scrapings and repair that the whole event dragged on for an un-Godly amount of time. If the ice was so bad, then don't play on it. Then to have the Zambonis come out so often? How much time can you waste?

Finally, stopping midway through the third and overtime, while fair, killed the flow of the most important points in the game. If you're going to switch, wait until a whistle. There was an opportunity 47 seconds before the ten-minute mark to stop play and switch and it would have made no difference. Similarly to overtime. Why build up speed and emotion just to stop it midway?

Other than that, it was fun to watch.

Onto Rangers news. This will be a telling test for the Rangers against some strong Canadian opponents. Tonight against Calgary will most likely be the toughest as Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius, and Mikka Kipprusoff will provide formidable opponents.

Tomorrow, the Rangers face the 'Nucks in what will be a difficult, but certainly winnable contest. The Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo will be a tough match, but Vancouver certainly lacks the depth that the Rangers have.

Finally, the Rangers conclude this swing on Saturday against the Oilers. This should be the most winnable of the trip. They have suffered injury issues and goaltending problems all season.

I'm looking forward to the goaltending matchups over the Canada trip because you will see the three best goalies face off.

Assuming the line combinations remain the same, Scott Gomez will be looking for a point in his 13th consecutive game, a career-high.

Right now, no roster changes or moves to report. The team flew out early and no practice reports are in just yet.

(Photo from Yahoo! Images, by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)