Leading up to tonight's game against New Jersey, Rangers forward Sean Avery refused to delve into last seasons saga between he and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
We all remember the infamous stick waiving incident that occured with Avery and Brodeur in the playoffs last year, which ultimately resulted in NHL Commish Gary Bettman to create the "Avery Rule", which was effective immediately following the game.
The incident led to Avery calling Brodeur a "fatso", followed by the Devils net minder refusing to shake Avery's hand after the Rangers had won the 5 game playoff series over New Jersey. A rivalry, in addition to the pre-existing Ranger/Devil rivalry, was born.
However, what's most important to Avery at this point in time is winning, and it seems as if Rangers head coach John Tortorella is noticing the change in mind set and attitude.
"I think Sean is smart enough to understand what this game means to us. Obviously, the Devils are in but they’re looking to get to some other spot. We’re trying to get in. That overrides everything."
"This is about discipline, concentrating," Tortorella added. "This is about trying to get two points. Worrying about the other stuff, the shenanigans as the league goes through [the stretch run], it can’t happen."
The Rangers are coming off disappointing back-to-back losses, and are seeing their grip on the 7th place seed in the post season race get looser by the day. The 8th place Canadiens are only a point behind the Blueshirts now, and the 9th place Panthers trail by only two points.
New Jersey has also struggled recently, losing their last four in a row, and winning will be the first and only priority on their end as well. Although the Devils have clinched a post-season birth, they will look to end the regular season with momentum to carry them into the playoffs.
The Rangers on the other hand, will need to scratch and claw their way into a locked playoff spot. The team has six games left to play, all of which are against playoff contenders.
The Canadiens also have a game in hand.
In order to win, The Rangers will need Avery at his best. When effective, he becomes one of the team's most effective offensive weapons.
Tonight will be the first test of Avery and the Rangers moxie, when they face Martin Brodeur's first-place Devils at the Garden, in what should become an intense contest.
Props to anyone who knows where that lyric came from.
I know the younger Pucks has been serving all of you here, but I thought I'd pop in with a few notes. Jason will be back this afternoon with the quick recap of the Rangers victory Tuesday night against Minnesota and a preview of tonight's contest against Atlanta.
Now, onto hockey talk.
The Rangers are playing with more pace, but with increasingly more defensive gaffs. While this is to be expected under this system, it begs the question of whether it is the right choice for championship contention.
If you look at the past couple Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, and Carolina Hurricanes, their victories were built around defense and goaltending.
Not to say that they weren't offensive teams, but their success started from the back and worked it's way out. Players like Nik Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, etc. were relied on to keep the opposing forwards at bay while J.S. Giguere and Chris Osgood took care of the easy saves and the occasional tough ones.
This is how former Rangers Head Coach Tom Renney approached his philosophy: defense wins championships.
In the modern era, this is a proven recipe for success.
Now, I am not proclaiming that the current system can't work. Current Head Coach John Tortorella showed that it can be successful when he took the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004 and won.
The Edmonton Oilers were notorious for this style.
Yet, this group of Rangers forwards are not Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Vinny Lecavalier, or Martin St. Louis.
That's where the disconnect comes in. No fault of Tortorella's, but this team isn't necessarily built for this system. Yes, as professional athletes they are doing it and having some success, but can that be sustained?
I am still skeptical.
Bottom line, it's a fun system to watch that keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, that edge is also used for the 2-on-1 breaks and breakaways the other way as well.
In other exciting news, I am a featured Contributing Writer this month in the March issue of Blueshirt Bulletin. For those of you who don't subscribe or haven't seen it, check it out.
Also, tonight at BlueshirtBulletin.com, I will be hosting a LIVE GAME BLOG. Stop by and drop a line or two as the Rangers take on the suddenly resurgent Atlanta Thrashers.
As always, more to come...
Errant Pucks: (A new feature with musings, rumblings and tidbits)
The Three Horsemen: Last night I attended a Steiner Sports event featuring Mike Richter, Mark Messier, and Brian Leetch. The trio looked good and in their retirement have grown incredibly funny and witty (especially when jostling each other)
Orr Not: Was anybody else bothered by Colton Orr's fight against Owen Nolan. Obviously Nolan gave Orr an unfair shot, but his crazy reaction was a bit much. I love a good fight as much as the next guy, but it was a bit too much given Nolan's age.
Speaking of Fighting: Nobody asked me, but fighting has a place in the game and should not be tampered with. Both Messier and Leetch agree...
After coming off an impressive win over the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden on Saturday, the Rangers came up short against the streaking Ottawa Senators last night.
Ottawa beat the Rangers 2-1, in what was a sluggish game for both sides, in my opinion.
The Blueshirt's performance on the ice was dull and bland last night. It was a disappointing showing, especially considering how dominant they seemed the night before, and in the last couple of weeks for that matter.
The Rangers got off to a nice start after Sen's goalie Alex Auld, whose never lost to the Rangers in regulation, misplayed a puck behind the net that resulted in a Brandon Dubinsky goal, his first in 24 games.
After taking the lead, the level of play gradually dwindled until the end of the first period, when the Rangers had registered an unimpressive 6 shots on goal.
Although the Rangers were consistently winning face-offs (Drury didn't lose one), there were too many open-ice turnovers to build significant momentum. The biggest turnover of all, was caused by an unlikely candidate in Scott Gomez, who tried dropping a pass off behind him that was picked off by Mike Fisher in the third period.
Fisher took the puck down into the Rangers defensive zone where it wound up on Ryan Shannon's stick, and then over Henrik Lundqvist's shoulder to break the 1-1 tie only a couple of minutes into the period.
"I thought the game was sloppy, by both teams," Tortorella said. "It was one of those games where you're about to make a play, you can't get it done. You try to make a pass, it's picked off. You turn the puck over when you should be making an easy play. By both teams, I thought."
The Rangers dialed up the intensity on offense after going down 2-1, but were never able to find more then a couple of legitimate scoring opportunities. That part of their game just wasn't there last night.
Call it tired legs after playing the day before, call it unlucky, or call it Sean Avery having too much fun on a Saturday night in Manhattan, like Boomer Esiason did this morning on the FAN.
Regardless, the loss last night was a disappointment.
Unfortunately, the Broadway Blues were unable to gain ground on the teams seeded in front of them, but the Rangers are still sitting nicely in seventh place of the post season race. The team is 7-3 in their last 10 games, and still playing great hockey compared to what we saw a month ago.
They will look to rebound from this defeat immediately tomorrow night against the Minnesota Wild.
Center Paul Crowder, of the University of Anchorage Seawolves, has signed a contract with the New York Rangers.
A British Columbia forward, Crowder is 24 and was 14-19-33 in 35 games this year for the University of Anchorage Seawolves. He's 6-3, 202, a right-hand shot, and will likely be assigned to Hartford.
I like his size and offensive prowess, although at 24 I wonder what has taken him so long to get to this level. Newsday's Steve Zipay believes he could be a "late bloomer". We'll see what kind of progress he can make with his game in Hartford.
Yesterday afternoon the Broadway Blues beat up on the Flyers en route to a 4-1 victory at MSG. In a game that was broadcasted nationally on NBC, the Rangers bounced back from a loss to Philadelphia the previous day, splitting this weekend's home-and-home.
The story of the weekend, undoubtedly, was the return to form of our beloved Sean Avery.
Avery scored two power play goals on Sunday, his third and fourth goals registered in the last three games.
"I think it probably has to do with my mind-set and where my head is more than anything," Avery said. "We talked about it after the first couple of games, how I was just nervous and kind of playing a little too hard. So I was just trying to slow it down and think about the plays and where they are going to end up."
Perhaps even more beneficial then his offensive output, it was clear that Avery, and his instigating and agitating, completely threw Philadelphia off their mark.
"I think his probation period is over and now he's back up to his old antics," Philly coach John Stevens said. "And we got sucked in, to be quite honest with you. We gave ourselves no chance to win."
Often seen barking in the ears of players like Jeff Green and Mike Richards, Avery helped to keep the Flyers on edge and in the box, where they earned 24 penalty minutes on the day.
"They took way too many penalties to win this game," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves for his 31st win.
As I'm sure I can speak for the majority of Rangers fans, it's great to see Avery becoming more and more comfortable out on the ice. He is playing with a certain swagger now that seemed to be missing from his game when he was first called up from Hartford.
This was a solid bounce back from a disappointing loss to the rival Flyers, and the Rangers are now tied for 6th in what is becoming and incredibly tight race to the Eastern Conference post season.
The Blueshirts will receive a compensatory pick in June's entry draft, resulting from the death of former prospect Alexei Cheraponov.
Though it is unclear whether Article 8.3 (b) of the CBA must be amended to accommodate this specific circumstance, the Blueshirts now stand to receive the 17th pick of this year's second round following Glen Sather's presentation yesterday at the NHL GMs meetings in Naples, Fla.
The Rangers beat the Islanders 4-2 in what was a slightly uncomfortable win last night at the Coliseum.
Dan and I went to the game with our father, and while it was a nice win for the Blueshirts, it wasn't without struggle either. The pesky Islanders just would not go away.
While the score ended at 4-2, the Isles outplayed the Rangers in two of the most important statistical categories, hits and shots. Besides the stats, it seemed like the Islanders had just as many, if not more scoring opportunities as the Rangers, but struggled to capitalize.
The Rangers looked terrible in the defensive zone. They seemed helpless at times, and I found myself constantly holding my breath as the holes in the defense grew larger and the Islanders scoring chances multiplied. I'd imagine this will become a trend under Tortorella's high octane offensive attack.
To quote my father, "Tortorella would rather rely on an All-Star calibur goalie like Lundqvist to make more saves, if it means scoring more goals down the other end; completely opposite of Renney's mentality."
I couldn't agree more, and this theory seemed to work to perfection last night.
The Rangers forecheck was aggressive, and the offense found it's way into several high-quality scoring opportunities. Unlike the Isles, they were able to capitalize on those chances.
Two of the Ranger's goals were on power plays, one was on a 3 v. 1, and the other a clean-up in front of the net. Besides the goals, there were a handful of shots that rang off the posts as well. Zherdev, Gomez, Dubinsky, and Drury accounted for the scoring on the night.
As for the much-anticipated return of Sean Avery, although putting together a solid game in the end he seemed very timid to me. This is to be expected for a guy who hasn't seen NHL ice in several months.
The Islanders made it their priority to rough Avery up every single time he was out there. Unfortunately for Avery, they pulled this act off with flying colors. I followed his play very closely last night, and every single time he was near the puck an opponent was there to hit him. Unlike the Avery of old, he didn't retaliate once. Perhaps, Avery knew thats exactly what the Islanders wanted him to do.
It wasn't until the third period that #16 looked comfortable and confident on the ice. He had a few nice hits, handled the puck well, and even set up a couple of scoring opportunities. His first game back in the NHL after the "sloppy seconds" ordeal, Avery just needs some time to shake the rust off.
I believe we'll see the '07/'08 instigator back in no time.
A solid effort overall from the Blueshirts last night, and a good road win over their bitter cross-town rivals.
As the trade deadline dwindled down to it's final minutes, the New York Rangers sent Peter Prucha, Nigel Dawes, and Dimitri Kalinin to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for veteran defenseman Derek Morris.
Morris has registered 12 points in 57 games this season.
The Rangers also acquired center Nik Antropov from the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for a second round draft pick, as well as a conditional draft pick.
Antropov has 21 goals and 25 assists already this season.
Updates to follow soon...
In an attempt to free up some salary cap space, the Rangers placed Aaron Voros on waivers this afternoon.
After getting off to a hot start this season, Voros hasn't done much of anything the last couple of months.
Although I liked Voros' gritty style of play, he just wasn't producing for the Rangers, and so his departure isn't too shocking.
For more on this and a number of other NHL player moves leading up to tomorrow night's trade deadline, click HERE
Word out of TSN Canada right now is that the New York Rangers have claimed winger Sean Avery on re-entry waivers this afternoon.
Rangers' general manager Glen Sather sees Avery as a boost to a struggling Rangers squad and believes that his coach and new acquisition will be able to co-exist.
''He doesn't have the history with Sean that we do,'' Sather said on a conference call last week. ''Over time, you learn to love him, just like I do.''
The Rangers will be responsible for paying half of Avery's remaining contract with the Dallas Stars.
Although this move has been expected for some time, it is not known at this point whether or not Avery will suit up against the Islanders Thursday night.
More to come...
Good evening everyone.
TSN is reporting that the Dallas Stars placed Sean Avery, who has been playing for the Ranger's affiliate in Hartford, on re-entry waivers Monday afternoon.
At the same time, the Rangers sent recently acquired winger Mark Bell to the Wolfpack.
The move to relegate Bell to the minors is believed to be in order to make room on the roster to sign Avery once he clears waivers. Bell was probably just a back up plan.
While the potential move is definitely controversial, I think it can only make the Rangers a better team. During Avery's last stint in New York he was effective; he brings a lot of toughness to the ice, and has a celebrated ability to throw opponents off their game (go ask Martin Brodeur). This is perhaps Avery's best attribute as a hockey player, but he also provides an offensive boost, which the Rangers could certainly use.
Best of all, Avery was well liked by Rangers fans, including myself. His most productive season in the NHL thus far has been with New York, and the hope is that he can fit back into this team and thrive in John Tortorella's aggressive style of play. After having a rough divorce with Dallas, I believe Avery will be happy to return to New York and get his career back on track.
Unless a team lower in the standings swoops in to sign Avery, which is not expected to happen, the expectation is that he'll be ready to suit up for Thursday night's game against the Islanders at the Coliseum.
More on this to come, and check out TSN for other news.