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Archive for September, 2008

Break On Though – Rangers@SC Bern Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 30th, 2008

Sorry for the lateness in getting this up, I have had a few things on my plate to take care of today. Usually you like to preface a single thought or a single paragraph. Today I want to preface this entire post. Yes, I recognize that today’s win was against a team that is far inferior to the New York Rangers in terms of talent. Yes, I recognize that today’s win was marred (in my opinion) by some HORRENDOUS officiating, clearly in the Rangers favor (at least 1/3rd of the calls were just bogus). Yes, I recognize that for the vast majority of this game, it was too close to call.

While acknowledging all of those things, I would like to point out that the Rangers did not dress Henrik Lundqvist, Markus Naslund, Marc Staal, Paul Mara or Nigel Dawes. So that is also a little telling considering the importance of those players to this team. To me though there were a few things that really stood out to me. First and foremost, I really did not see much of a difference between this game and either of the games against Ottawa or Tampa Bay. They looked very similar, at least the way I remember them. The Rangers dominating play for huge stretches of time, the Rangers unable to score more than 2 goals (for at least 2 periods today), and the opposition getting few quality chances against. The difference today, I think, were 2 fold. First and foremost, after being completely unable to even buy a goal, after the start of the 3rd period things just started to “click”. Shots started to go in. There was only 1 play where I can say the goalie should have had it, or at least should have had a better play on it, and that was the Brandon Dubinsky highlight reel first goal where he faked the players right out of their boots and backhanded it into an empty net. The goalie should have rotated much quicker, and over committed to the shot far too early, falling prey to a fake that, while it was beautiful, probably wouldn’t work against most NHL goalies to that extent. Other than that the Rangers goals looked pretty legit to me. Shots just inside the crossbar, shots deflected, 5 on 3′s, perfect passes, etc.

The other major difference was goaltending. Finally the Rangers can look at their goalkeeper and say, this guy played a heck of a game. Big Vally was superb today, finally playing like he did for the bulk of last year. He was strong up high, down low, and flashed his very good glove hand repeatedly. Vally kept us in this game while the Rangers offense struggled to finally break out of the shell that has encapsulated them all preseason. A shell that has seen them out and out DOMINATE their opponents to near humiliating levels, with absolutely nothing to show for it but loss after loss after loss. The flip side to this equation is that finally the oppositions goaltending didn’t look like Patrick Roy in the prime of his career. It seemed like last week every game the other teams goalie looked like they were a generational goalie out there stopping some pretty crazy shots.

These are 2 huge steps for this team, both of which are within their control and are helped dramatically by the breakout of the offense, and the goaltending today. Never discount the power of positive thinking. That’s why teams can sometimes get ridiculously hot, or equally ridiculously cold during the course of a year while still putting out the same lineup night after night. Confidence is huge, if the Rangers lost todays game while continuing to dominate every facet of the game, it could have been a monstrous blow to this team, perhaps leading to a hole they would never dig themselves out of. Am I being a bit over dramatic here? Perhaps, but I know I for one would be humiliated if I were on the Rangers if I was part of a team that lost to SC Bern of all teams.

The other 2 huge positives that came out of todays win was the obvious chemistry between Gomez and Drury, and even moreso between Dubinsky and Zherdev. The pairs looked good, but disinterested in their final preseason game back home in New York against the Devils. Today they looked fine and quite interested. Drury netting himself a nice goal that initially looked to be Gomez’s, and both getting high quality shots with Petr Prucha on the other side. Unfortunately I am not sure the exact stats here because nowhere can I find a scorecard that lists who picked up assists definitively, but as far as I can remember that is the only official scoring those 2 had. Dubinsky and Zherdev combined for at least 2 goals and an assist, with Zherdev picking up another assist on the Drury goal. I think Zherdev may have also picked up an assist on Dubinskys first goal being the one to tip the puck up to him, but I am not positive. The funny thing is, those 2 could have easily combined for another 2 goals, with Zherdev setting up Dubinsky for 2 point blank high quality shots with gorgeous feeds. I have a feeling Dubinsky is going to love playing with a guy like Zherdev. Yes, he screws up a lot while trying to be too fancy, but you know what? I LOVE it. He is creative, he is young, and he brings something we haven’t had in a long while, unpredictability. It would not surprise me at all if the combination of Dubinsky and Zherdev end up being this teams top line after all is said and done this season, they have looked that impressive.

There were also 2 huge standouts as well that we haven’t even touched on yet. Both players picked up a goal and an assist, with Korpikoski picking up an assist on Potters goal, and Potter picking up an assist on Korpikoskis goal. Those 2 look like they belong on this team. At this point, it shouldn’t be a question of whether they make the team or not, it should be a question of, who doesn’t make it because of their performances, which leads us to…

Petr Prucha. A guy I continue to staunchly support, did manage to pick himself up a goal today on a slight deflection of a Dmitri Kalinin shot, however he continued to miss on shot after shot after shot. The kid is working his tail off, getting himself into prime scoring places, but somehow, unfathomably, has been unable to bury a goal on one of his shots. I have a feeling that Prucha might be playing himself out of the starting lineup thanks to this unfortunate bad luck black hole he seems to be stuck in. I hope I am wrong, but right now, I don’t see Prucha making this team, at least not unless we are willing to lose at least one of Sjostrom or Fritsche on waivers.

That’s it for today folks, see you tomorrow when the Rangers played Mettalurg. Adios!

Worrisome Trends – Devils@Rangers Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 27th, 2008

So, basically for the entire preseason I have been saying the Rangers are making 1 or 2 extra passes killing glorious scoring opportunities, and that their goaltending has been terrible. Sadly this negative trend continued this afternoon against the Devils at Madison Square Garden. Despite picking up the first goal for the Rangers, Markus Naslund has continued his hyper unselfish play to the detriment of the team. Look Markus, I get it, believe me, I do. You are a new player coming to a new team with some good players, you don’t want to appear as a selfish “me first” player. However your continual overpassing is getting to the point where it is a detriment to us out there. You were brought in here for 2 simple reasons. 1, you have the speed to keep up with this new attack game we are implementing, and 2, you have a wicked wrist shot. For f***s sake USE IT!!!

Henrik Lundqvist was terrible out there today as well. He let in 4 goals, all of them on low shots where he was unable to either get down in time, or to cover his 5 hole. This is antithetical to Henriks game. He has always been strong down low, particularly closing the 5 hole quickly. Today he was a second or 2 slow in getting those areas covered. This seriously scares me because of the reports of Henrik having knee issues. If he was getting beat up high, you could just write it off as a butterfly goalie getting beat in the areas he is obviously weak at. Hopefully against SC Bern he looks better, because right now, that is 2 consecutive starts for Henrik where he has just looked putrid, particularly down low. I get that it’s preseason, but we also have to get that this is Henrik, if there is any chance he is hurt, you might as well start printing the John Tavares jerseys right now.

Regarding the line pairs that Tom Renney used, I actually thought they looked pretty good out there. I thought Dubinsky and Zherdev, after some initial miscommunication, looked quite good out there, particularly on Zherdev’s short handed goal, and on one 2 on 2 rush where they did 2 consecutive criss-crosses to try to disrupt the defense (it didn’t work, but it was a nice try.) Also the Naslund – Gomez – Drury trio did generate a few scoring chances, including one where Drury had an easy chance on a rebound of his own shot to get the Rangers back into it, where he shot it just wide left.

The saddest part about all this though is that the combination of Callahan and Korpikoski, which had about 3 shifts out there, was unable to show their stuff for an entire game. Korpedo, inexcusably was thrown out of a play that wasn’t even a penalty, let alone a major which deserved a game misconduct. When Chico the uber Devil homer even says it’s a terrible call, you know the refs missed one. Korpedo did have a few superb shifts in a row before being thrown out. I truly hope Tom Renney sees that as a positive. There is no reason for Korpedo to not make this team. He is literally the exact type of player that would fit in perfect with Tom Renneys style of hockey. Defense first, speed to burn, and a whole truck load of untapped offensive potential.

Wade Redden is also trying his hardest to convince the fans out there that he is Marek Malik, not Wade Redden. Again he was caught flat footed on a play, and again he missed a wide open net with a chance to get the Rangers back into the game. It’s probably nothing, I still believe in this guy more than anyone else out there (I’ve always been a huge Redden fan, always will be), but I just hope Wade gets his act together sooner rather than later. Rangers fans can be fickle as hell, even if you turn things around for a while, the slightest screw up, once they have targeted you, will lead to the shower of boos again. I hope he realizes that.

Finally the other standout in my personal opinion was Colton Orr. It is clear the guy has tried a ton to become more than just a goon. He can now skate at a level at least 10% faster than Shanahan was last year, and he is showing something he has never shown before, hockey sense. Is he a regular everyday player? Honestly I’m not sure, I think it will be tough with so many people deserving of roster spots. However he has definitely made a huge case for himself to be just that.

We have a few days off here, but unfortunately I have hockey games of my own on Sunday and Monday night, I will try to get to Part 4 of my season preview after one of those games, if I get time.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone.

Groundhog Day – Lightning@Rangers Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 26th, 2008

Ever seen the movie Groundhog day with Bill Murray? You remember the flick, the one where the guy kept living the same day over and over and over again? Well this preseason seems like a groundhog day kind of event. 4 straight game in 4 straight days, all essentially 1 goal losses (not counting empty netters), 3 of which you can say the Rangers out and out dominated the opponents only to lose.

Again though, like I have been stressing all preseason long, the results are unimportant, it’s the individual performances that need to be examined. So keeping with that theme let’s talk about tonights game. It featured the Rangers A B C D team. With only Petr Prucha, Dan Girardi, Dimitri Kalinin, Wade Redden, Ryan Callahan and Aaron Voros as locks to make the team barring a trade. These aren’t game changing forwards by any stretch of the imagination here folks. Despite having this rag-tag group of forwards out there, there were a lot of positives to talk about.

Lauri Korpikoski, Corey Potter and P.A. Parenteau continued their superb preseason play, with Korpedo standing out in particular for his beautiful individual effort goal, and setting up Prucha for a tap in which he flubbed. Korpikoski, in my eyes, looks like a lock to make this club. But then again, I am not Tom Renney, so God knows how he will play this one out. Parenteau also flubbed a gimme goal when Prucha gave him the puck for a tap in and he missed wide on the wrong side by about 3 feet. But still he set up many good shots, had many good shots himself and looked very much like he belonged. Right now it would be hard to rationalize cutting either of these guys, unfortunately the salary cap is what it is. Corey Potter also had a fantastic game, but he did have 1 bad play which for some reason is escaping me, but I do recall during the game making a mental note to comment on something dumb he did (I don’t take physical notes while I watch, it’s too distracting to me). It may have been the penalty he took, but I actually think it was just a terrible turnover in his own zone.

On the redemption end of things Dan Fritsche and Patrick Rissmiller had much better games, Fritsche in particular. He had a goal, and threw the body around liberally, and was noticeable on most shifts, unlike in previous games. Rissmiller also had a few good plays as well, but still doesn’t look near good enough to force a spot in my eyes. Nedved has also looked pretty good in these preseason games, but not nearly good enough for me to want him anywhere near this team.

The veterans looked pretty good as well. I felt Dan Girardi and Wade Redden looked strong (though on the message boards it seems to vary considerably from person to person on how they did). They played well in their own zone, didn’t make any major mistakes I could think of, and got their shots on net. Petr Prucha on the other hand had an absolutely fantastic game, except for one thing. He couldn’t finish. He was all over the place, all over the puck, aggressive in and out of traffic. Except, again, he couldn’t finish. On top of that, people couldn’t finish his passes either. It’s getting ridiculous at this point. I believe in this kid. While I am not so sure he has a place on this team, I do think he is a much better player than the numbers are playing out. Kalinin looked pretty good as well, pinching in a few times, and making a superb read to break up an odd man rush to head long a 2 on 0 with Prucha and Parenteau (only to see Parenteau miss a wide open net).

Dale Weise also had an active game. He had a few chances at point blank rebounds but kept shooting them into pads, and he threw the body when the opportunity arised. Ryan Callahan had a superb game from start to finish, disrupting the oppositions attack, getting good shots on goal, driving the net, pretty much playing the Ryan Callahan kind of game.

The real sour spot, in my opinion, was Valliquette. I thought he had a terrible game. He gave up 3 goals, 2 of which were just terrible, terrible plays. A wrap around that was about as slow developing as a thought in Sarah Palins head, and a backhand by Martin St. Louis from a terrible angle with way too much of the goal to shoot at. He should have been right at the post, and he should have been upright, not down. Both of those goals were incredibly soft. The Rangers have done a superb job this preseason of limiting chances against, their goaltending has been terrible to say the least. This starts with Lundqvist against the Devils, and filters all the way on through with the possible exception of Mika Wiikman who has looked pretty strong.

Expect some cuts to be made tomorrow, probably in the neighborhood of 5-10 players.

See you all on Saturday, enjoy the debate tomorrow!

For the 3rd time in 4 games the Rangers lost 3-2. However unlike the previous 2 games the Rangers looked decidedly worse than the opposition. In the previous 2 games you could definitely point to a lot of positives, headlined by the Rangers playing really well only to lose in a close game to a team sporting it’s entire roster. This cannot be used tonight. First and foremost the Rangers were sporting a lineup about equal in strength to what the Devils put out there. Secondly the Rangers did not play well, but just the opposite they looked quite terrible out there for the majority of the game.

I know everyone is going to point to Petr Nedved and his goal and assist looked good out there, but I have to be honest, I thought he had quite a poor game. I think this is one of those rare cases where you can’t just look at the stat sheet to gauge how a player did. Yes, he scored a goal, but it was a flukey play that happened to flutter in, and the assist he had was a nice play, but the goal that went in was a knuckler, hardly what you would call a legit goal. Don’t get me wrong, the ugly, flukey goals are just as important as the pretty ones, but to me, in this case, they don’t do enough to nullify what was a poor game by Petr. He had a horrific turnover which directly led to a goal against (on a flukey play helped by a puck bouncing off the ref) in which he simply lost control of the puck and skated a stride and a half before he realized it, at which point it was too late and the Devils broke the other way in an odd man rush. He also didn’t generate much in the way of offense, registering the single shot on goal, and didn’t do much in the way defensively either. All in all, I wasn’t impressed enough to put him in the lineup over Lauri Korpikoski or P.A. Parenteau, both of whom have looked better than Nedved in my opinion.

Continuing with the negative theme of this discussion, you start at the top and work your way all the way to the bottom sans Fahey. The top line of Dawes, Drury and Prucha looked completely out of sorts, generating 5 very weak shots on goal, none of which even came close to challenging either Uncle Daddy or Clemmensen. I think it’s high time to end this experiment Tom, they just dont look big enough to compete as a line. I think you need to put some size on that line. Perhaps shift Zherdev down, Prucha down, and Callahan to the first line. I don’t honestly know, but there just isn’t enough speed between the 3 of them to counteract the lack of size. They are easily pushed off the puck, and their passes are not quick or concise. However you want to do it, I think it’s safe to say this may be the least effective of the big 3 lines we will be sporting.

Greg Moore had an absolutely invisible game, and this was not a “positive” invisible either. I actually had to double check he was playing when someone commented on how bad he was playing over on one of the message boards. I’ve been rooting for the kid to take Blair Betts’ spot, but he is clearly not ready for the NHL. I would send him down immediately to start working in Hartford for this coming year. Brodie Dupont, a kid I have been eagerly anticipating in this years training camp, has also done nothing noteworthy to talk about. He’s been a lot like Artem Anisimov, in that he seems so focused in not screwing up that he isn’t taking full advantage of what he can do out there. I think of anything the Rangers management has said over the past few years, nothing is clearer than they are willing to live with mistakes as long as they are decisive ones. If you are trying to make a play, and do so with passion and play it hard, they will live with it if you screw up, so don’t be afraid to fail. The other prospect we have playing here, Dale Weise, looked ok. Nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible either. He looked like a kid, who tried hard, but needs some more seasoning before he is ready. There is some potential there, perhaps a Ryan Callahan clone.

But perhaps the player I was most disappointed with in this game was Dan Fritsche. I can honestly say, this kid has no business being on the Rangers opening day lineup. If he makes the team over P.A. Parenteau or Lauri Korpikoski, it will be a travesty. Fritsche was conspicuously always a second too late on the play, and it wasn’t for a lack of foot speed. He would show up just as a pass was leaving a lane he was getting into, he would pursue where the puck was, rather than where it is or where it will go. He looked to lack hockey sense in other words. Perhaps I am being a bit brutal, but that is just how I feel. I honestly can not say I saw a single positive thing worth mentioning about him thus far. Which is a crying shame since I had him penciled in on the 3rd line with Dubinsky, but right now, that looks to be a huge mistake potentially.

Patrick Rissmiller has basically played himself out of contention as well. Missing the net on a breakaway, and doing absolutely nothing to stand out as well. He’s a 4th liner for sure, the problem is, the Rangers have so many guys capable of playing on the 3rd line, that the 2 wingers on the 4th line will both likely be 3rd line quality. Rissmiller made a pretty big mistake signing with the Rangers in my personal opinion. Anyone who knows the strength of this organization, knows it is in having tons of 3rd line capable wingers in Hartford. Rissmiller has done nothing to separate himself from the pack of 4th liners to move into the pack of 3rd liners. In an offseason where Colton Orr has made huge strides in improving his game, Rissmiller looks to have simply stayed the same.

Defensively I can say this was easily the worst game of Marc Staals professional career. Thankfully it was in a preseason game. He continually misplayed players, pucks, and the body. Honestly, it looked like he was playing with the flu, he looked off in every aspect of his game. Rozsival was a little bit better, but not anything worth mentioning. Perhaps it was just an off game, but I am still eager to see a pairing of Staal and Redden with Rozsival and Girardi. Call me crazy, but I think those pairings make more sense, handedness be damned.

On the positive side of things it would be tough not to be impressed with the play of Brian Fahey. The youngster from the Chicago Wolves came as advertised, a puck moving defenseman with superb vision. His defensive skills are also underrated. He looked strikingly similar to Corey Potter from last night, but I felt Potter was a bit better with the speed in which he executed his plays. Vladimir Denisov also looked pretty good to me in his own zone, taking the body liberally, although he did take a bad penalty, and shows little to no offensive upside (a real killer in this organization with the way it is heading).

In goal Henrik Lundqvist gave up a goal on a 5 on 3 on what looked like a very saveable shot. He also gave up a terrible stuff in goal in the second period as well. Antoine LaFleur was ok I guess, but the goal he gave up was just terrible (and it ended up being the game winner) in which he simply flubbed a very easy save only to have the rebound wacked in behind him. This is looking like a real waste of a 2nd round draft pick.

I don’t mean to be so damn negative here today, but this is really how I saw tonights game. Furthermore with tomorrow being the last game of the 4 straight preseason matchups, I think tonight is a good time to start making some cuts. I personally would cut Rissmiller, Fritsche, Denisov, Moore, LaFleur, Zabba, Dupont and Jamtin. I would consider Nedved, Jessiman, Byers, Sanguinetti, Del Zotto, Anisimov, Fahey and Weise as guys worth playing one more game before sending them down/over. I would consider taking all of Wiikman, Pock, Potter, Korpikoski, and Parenteau, on the trip to Russia to play in the exhibition games after the final game against Tampa, as they have looked the most NHL ready of everyone here at camp.

Ok guys, the home stretch is upon us, see you tomorrow!

Embracing Positivity – Rangers@Tampa Bay Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 24th, 2008

It’s funny, last night we won, and all I could do was focus on the negative feelings I had about being force-fed Voros, and tonight we lost, and all I could think about was all the positives I saw out there. Paging Mr. Backwards, your car is double parked. I think the big thing to recognize here is the Rangers have played 3 preseason games so far this year, and in each of the games about 1/2 of their expected opening night roster was nowhere to be found, and in 2 of the 3 games the opposition played nearly their entire opening night roster. Let’s not forget that folks, it’s important to recognize. Tonight we were missing Drury, Prucha, Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal, Rozsival, Lundqvist, Mara, Fritsche and Voros. That’s basically your entire 2nd and 3rd line, your starting goalie, and 1/2 your defense.

Why do I bring up this blatantly obvious fact? As a prelude to why I was so happy. 3 game, and in each of them we can say without a doubt, we were the better team by and large. The mistakes were there for sure, but if you look at the games as a whole, we badly outplayed the opposition in all 3 games, tonight outshooting the super-offensive Lightning a staggering 40-18. This is after outshooting the Senators 38-22 and 36-19 in back to back games. Again, recognize this is with nearly 1/2 the team not playing, and with the opposition putting out nearly complete teams in 2 of the 3 games.

Wow.

Standing out tonight were Scotty Gomez and Nikolai Zherdev, each for drastically different reasons. Tonight I saw the Scott Gomez of the beginning of last season. A guy trying to do way too much with the puck, and not realizing that sometimes it’s ok to slow up to wait for a better play. Often times Gomez would skate into a pack of 4 opposing players, and turn the puck over for a rush against. NHL.com has the stat at 2 giveaways, but I counted 3 in the second period alone, so I know that is just flat out wrong. Zherdev on the other hand, while he continued to overhandle the puck, and flubbed a few passes, still looked superb to me. Combining his ability to dangle with the best of them, with a surprising work ethic and feistiness one generally never sees from a superstar offensive russian, certainly not in the preseason anyway. Zherdev threw at least one big hit at Martin St. Louis (though again NHL.com surprisingly shows 0 hits), and also was pushing back rather than turning the other cheek as most of our superstars have seemed to do over the years. Unfortunately the trio of Naslund, Gomez and Zherdev continued their maddening overpassing of the puck. Their passing, while beautiful, and absolutely lethal in picking apart the defense, always seemed to have just 1 pass too many. Which is, in this case, backed up by the stats of having 7 shots between the 3 of them (granted Girardi and Redden had 12 shots themselves, and always seemed to be playing with the top line). The fact of the matter is, those 3 created enough chances to have 7 shots A PIECE rather than 7 shots collectively. Naslund in particular was maddening in his overpassing. The guy has a hell of a quick release, he needs to be more selfish. I think this is the new team shyness most players suffer through in their first year on a new team. Where they don’t want to seem selfish, but instead hurt the team with overpassing. Hopefully he will get over it, and quick.

Another standout was Michael Del Zotto, a guy I absolutely trashed when the Rangers picked him. He certainly has looked NHL capable, but I for one still do not think keeping him with the club makes any kind of long term sense. Let him truly dominate in the OHL, maybe next year, if he forces his way up, you relent, but give him a taste, make him extra hungry, and let him dominate down in the lower levels. He is only 18 years old, and appears to be a true gem. Don’t screw this up by wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

Truth be told, the most impressive prospect so far through these 3 games has been Corey Potter, who right now would be my pick to be Paul Mara’s partner. Potter has looked superb in his own zone, and fantastic with his passing ability. Kalinin was fine today, but Potter was better. This is really turning into an interesting horse race for the final 2 defensive spots (3rd pairing with Mara, and 7th defenseman). Id say right now Kalinin is behind Pock and Potter, which is really incredible if you ask me. Both Pock and Potter have looked quite good, while Kalinin has been Malikesque in looking great, average, and terrible, often on the same shift.

Lauri Korpikoski also had a superb game playing a 2-way game, but throwing his body around, and also generating some offense. About on par with Korpedo has been PA Parenteau, who oozes offensive talent, but whose defensive awareness has really raised my eyebrows. I think Parenteau is also suffering from Naslunds disease though, he looks to want to pass the puck way too much when he has some good scoring chances. Dane Byers and Hugh Jessiman looked superb as bash brothers playing on different lines. They both threw the body liberally, both crashed the net, and Byers used his physicality to draw a double minor from Ryan Malone who did not look good at all in this game. I would say Dane Byers has impressed me about as much, if not more in this game than Voros has in his 2. This does not mean in any way that I think Byers should be given a spot over Voros. All I am saying is, they both look about the same, (though I would say Byers has impressed me more with his balance and physicality) so don’t pencil Voros in just yet.

Freddy Sjostrom had a good game as well, registering 8 shots on goal, including a goal off of a nice feed from PA Parenteau. I think he still is in jeopardy of losing his job, but it is far less critical today than it was yesterday.

Right now Blair Betts and his offensive ineptitude has really stood out to me more so than anything. On a team where everyone is looking to crash the net and shoot, or pass. Betts still looks to dump the puck in and change rather than crash the net. On the few chances he actually did have, he badly handled the puck and was unable to register a shot on goal despite having at least 2 chances within 10 feet of the goal. I would say Betts is probably quite scared right now because Korpikoski looks like he could handle 4th line duty with Sjostrom and Voros/Byers just fine. Remember, Korpedo played a lot of center last year, and is versatile enough to play anywhere, and he kills penalties as well, don’t forget that.

On the defensive end Wade Redden and Dan Girardi looked about 90% great with 10% of putrid mixed in there. The putrid was on one goal where they both were terrible in their defensive positioning. First Redden gets caught flat footed yet again, and then Girardi fails to pick up his man on the rebound chance. But outside of that, I felt both were superb out there. They got involved in the offense, they generated a goal for Girardi with an assist going to Redden, and they had the aforementioned 12 shots on goal between the 2 of them. Also Redden showed his superb first pass by springing someone for a breakaway, I want to say it was Sjostrom, but it could have been Korpikoski or Parenteau, frankly I forgot, so all I can say is, it was a terrific pass by Redden, even though it didn’t end up as a goal.

Bobby Sanguinetti looked very good as well in this game, making no big mistakes, and taking the body when it was given to him. He looked a little more settled down and assertive out there. He and Del Zotto look fantastic on the power play, this is the future of this organization for sure. Staal, Del Zotto, and Sanguinetti are going to be the Rangers big three for the next 15 years, mark it down now.

Finally in goal, Wiikman was fine out there, even though he gave up 3 goals. There was nothing he could really do on any of them. 2 of them were absolute bullets on the Power Play, and another was a rebound after he made a superb initial save bailing out Redden on the previously mentioned blunder. Valliquette was strong as well with not many difficult shots to stop, and not any bad plays to mention. I think it is obvious that Wiikman is the more talented goalie between the 2 of them, but I think the Rangers will ride out Valliquette this year, and pass the torch of backup goalie to Wiikman next year (barring injury). This allows Zaba to get enough games in him to take the torch as Hartfords #1 next season.

See you tomorrow for the game against the Devils everyone.

Forcefeeding – Senators@Rangers Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 23rd, 2008

Ok, so I waited a few hours to write this article, in large part thanks to an argument I have been having over on the HFBoards. Despite watching a team look superb defensively, despite watching a top line show definite signs of chemistry and extreme creativity, all I could think about was how aggravated I was with MSG Network, and their constant need to forcefeed me (and you) Aaron Voros. It seems pretty obvious to this blogger that the management of the Rangers is trying desperately to sell Voros to us as the next Avery. “Youre going to love this guy” is a phrase Joe Micheletti and the other group of announcers uttered probably about a dozen times in the past 72 hours.

Look, why don’t you guys let us figure out what players we will and will not like ok? Don’t insult me with this blatant attempt to create a new fan favorite and instead let me figure out just how much I like the guy. Speaking of which, how much DO I like the guy? Truth be told, in the small sample size I have seen, not all that much. People seem to talk about the guy like he is the second coming of Todd Bertuzzi, going to the front of the net to grab garbage goals, and fighting big names to stick up for his teammates. Really? Is that what you guys saw? What I saw was a large guy who was perfectly willing to go to the front of the net, but constantly (and I can’t stress the word constantly enough) was knocked down (ie, lost a battle), and who was perfectly willing to battle down low for pucks, but again, was constantly knocked down (ie, lost a battle) in his attempt. He had 1 play where I was semi-impressed, the nice semi-touch pass to Nedved for his goal. It was a nice play, sure, but was it something remarkable?

Maybe, it’s just me, but willingness to go to the net shouldn’t be something you laud, it should be something you expect. Just because the Rangers organization has been filled with perpetually perimeter big men, doesn’t mean you need to be happy when a borderline AHL player is willing to do so. Remember folks, Voros is a 27 year old player with a grand total of 55 NHL games in his pocket. That says to me this is a guy who was a tweener (a player who has a tough time making the NHL, but is clearly too good for the AHL) and finally got a chance with a low depth team, and sorta stuck. The guy played 55 games and had 14 points, often times running shotgun with one of the most talented players in the universe, Marian Gaborik. I am supposed to be impressed with that? Seriously?

There is a player already within the Rangers organization who has better balance than Voros, who fights at least as well, if not better, who makes his living in front of the net, who has really nice hands for a big guy, who is a power forward, who protects his teammates, who has outperformed Voros at every level he has played in, and is 5 years younger. Who am I talking about? One Dane Byers. A kid who has never been given a legitimate shot to stick with the big club. In fact the signing of Voros, to me, is a slap in the face of Byers. Why on earth would you bring in an older Byers clone when you already have him in the lineup? The argument was made that perhaps the Rangers feel that Byers can develop into more of a player given big time minutes in Hartford. Perhaps this is true, and if it is, then I applaud the organization, but if it isn’t then I have to seriously question what the hell management is thinking.

Look, all I am saying is that all this forcefeeding of Voros down our throat, while completely ignoring the fact that a comparable player is already here, and quite possibly NHL ready, really ticks me off.

On to the actual game. The Rangers, playing basically Ottawas farm team, really looked strong. While offensively they generated a ton of shots (38) they actually could have generated quite a bit more. They overpassed (didn’t we get rid of the euros?!) quite a bit when they had legit point blank scoring chances, but the culprits were not the usual suspects as I noticed Dubinsky, Nedved and Naslund all forcing one pass too many, when generally they are considered shooters rather than passers. The first line showed some pretty impressive passing skills as they often used their speed and creativity to create 3 on 2′s all over the ice moving the puck with breathless precision to tear apart the Ottawa defense. Unfortunately all that passing led to a grand total of zero goals, but hey, it’s the preseason, give them time.

Brandon Dubinsky once again had a superb game, notching an assist (2 goals, 1 assist in 2 preseason games for those of you keeping score), and hitting a post on the same shift. Dubinskys linemate, Dan Fritsche, was not impressive at all. In fact I would say he took a step back in my opinion of him. I anticipated…more. Just more activity, more noticeability, more of everything. On the flip side, I was very happy with the performances of P.A. Parenteau, and Lauri Korpikoski, Parenteau was active all over the ice, so much so that I had to quickly look up who the heck #39 was to make sure I mentioned him. Korpedo on the other hand was superb defensively, as I would expect, and got himself a goal by (*gasp!*) going to the front of the net and deflecting a shot.

On the defensive end, as a team the Rangers were superb, limiting the Senators to 22 shots on goal, only 2 or 3 of which were even remotely challenging. They gave up 1 goal on an epic defensive breakdown. First Dan Girardi pinched and missed, then Wade Redden was caught flat footed trying to defend a 2 on 1 break and tried a last minute stick check only to completely pull himself out of the play and lead to a 2 on 0 against a defenseless Matt Zaba (who looked a little shaky, quite a few times bobbling easy saves, I suspect nerves). Dimitri Kalinin and Bobby Sanguinetti did not have great games either, often times mishandling passes, losing control of the puck, or passing to the wrong side of a player. Don’t read too much into Sanguinetti’s game as he was destined for Hartford no matter what. Kalinin on the other hand may just have been rusty, but by all accounts, this has been his modus operandi for a while now.

The power play looked superb, though it didn’t score any goals to show for their effort. There was some superb passing and movement though, which is a great sign of things to come. As they start working on sustained game plans, I am sure they will net their share of goals. It was also a bit hard to judge conclusively since many times non power play players, like Colton Orr, got some power play time.

Regarding some of the other prospects, Anisimov, Fahey, Weise, etc. There is nothing really to report. They looked ok. I wanted a lot more from Anisimov. I don’t think he’s quite ready, which we have known for some time now, but it probably should have sunk in after that performance. Weise has drawn rave reviews by the Rangers management, even getting himself a nice contract recently, but I wasn’t all that impressed. Again, these are kids, so let’s not overreact here, they are what they are, I am just letting you guys know what I thought.

Finally we have Nikolai Zherdev. A guy whom I was thrilled to get on this team. After watching this game, I am more sure than ever that this kid is going to be a star here. First let’s start with the negatives. Yes, quite a few times he was lazy, and didn’t skate very hard, he seemed particularly slow in changing lines, he also tried to be super fancy out there on every shift, often times coughing the puck up leading to the opposition rushing the other way. But the positives, to me, far outweighed the negatives. The creativity led to some really pretty passing plays which led to some good chances by that top line. The kid also hustled back to break up a 2 on 1 against when the Rangers were on the power play. He also won a 1 on 4 battle to end the game and keep the Senators pinned in their zone (remember this was a 2-1 game, if this was a regular season game situation, that would be really impressive, so much so that even Larry Brooks might say something positive) for basically the entire final 15 seconds. He also threw at least 2 relatively big hits (not bone crackers or anything, but hits that knocked guys down) and looked more than willing to play in all 3 zones.

All in all, it was a very encouraging game, but should be tempered with the quality of the opposition. We looked good, but weren’t facing an NHL squad by and large. But on the flip side of that argument, half of our team was also not an NHL squad, so that is a good sign as well.

On a personal note, I have no idea when I will get to Part 4 of my review. With 4 consecutive games, I won’t have the time to do so now. Hopefully right after that I will get to it. See you all tomorrow!

No More Live Blogs…

Posted by inferno272 on September 22nd, 2008

I’ve done it a few times, and, while it’s interesting, I don’t think I will keep doing it. It’s almost pointless to do so since unless you are watching the play, it just looks like random excerpts from a play by play readout. In fact I don’t think I will be doing between period writeup anymore either. Instead I will focus on doing lengthier post game wraps.

No Season Preview Video

Posted by inferno272 on September 22nd, 2008

Instead of writing part 4 of my season preview, I wanted to drop some bad news on you guys. I won’t be able to do my season preview video for the Rangers. You can all write Gary Bettman a nasty letter for it. NHL.com has done something to prevent the capturing of video from their server. Unfortunately that is the sole source of video I have for the Rangers. Without that, I have no way of grabbing video, which means I have no media to use in the video.

It’s a shame, I had a kickass song all ready to go, and a good way of doing it.

If anyone can figure out a way to bypass the NHL’s countermeasures, feel free to hit me up on the HFboards or the ECSF boards (links on right), otherwise, I am unable to proceed :(

Rangers@Senators Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on September 20th, 2008

For the first preseason game of the year, the Rangers, sporting by and large 3rd and 4th liners in the NHL, and people who have never played in the NHL in their lives, held up fairly strongly. They did so against a nearly complete Ottawa team who were playing without notables Volchenkov as well as captain Alfredsson. Truth be told, outside of a miserable first period, in which Stephen Valiquette looked like he was still playing golf, the Rangers pretty much owned the play. Several players looked quite good, while several players left a lot to be desired. The latter includes Moore, Rissmiller, Fahey, Sjostrom, Rozsival and Colton Orr. I felt Byers, Prucha, Drury, Dawes and Voros all played good to very good games. The real stand outs were Michael Del Zotto, who didn’t look that out of place (and yes, this is the same pick I have been killing since the day we made it), Marc Staal (who was steady as ever, while showing some willingness to play the offensive game), Ryan Callahan (who threw his body around liberally and was in the middle of every play, and all over the puck on either side of the rink), Mika Wiikman (who pitched a shutout after coming in for Vally), and by far and away Brandon Dubinsky.

There was no player on the ice, for either team, who was more impressive than Dubinsky. Not Heatley, not Spezza, not the 7+ million dollar Drury. Nobody. Brandon was all over the place, throwing hits, going end to end, playing solid defense, being active on each and every shift. He was the entire Rangers offense, scoring both goals, nearly netting 1 more, and nearly set up Dawes for the game tying goal with about 2 minutes to go in the game. The one negative might have been Dubinsky trying to do too much at times out there. A few times he attempted to go through several players only to turn the puck over, or receive a big hit. He needs to be careful about that, and uses his linemates a little more. Those are things that come with time though, and this kid has a LONG career in front of him playing for the Rangers.

The flip side of the coin though was the power play, which was absolutely horrendous. The Rangers had a minimum of 9 power play chances, and only scored the 1 goal where Dubinsky basically single handedly willed the power play to a goal by splitting 2 defenseman and wristing a laser over Gerber on the stick side. The power play looked absolutely inept, often times never even gaining entry into the zone, with turnovers in the neutral zone, and in their own zone as well. One would think though, the team missing their 5 best players, including likely their entire first power play unit sans Rozsival, would be the difference. We shall see on Monday.

One thing is glaringly obvious though after watching tonights game. Brandon Dubinsky has no place on the 3rd line for this team. He is far too good to be playing 15-17 minutes a night, he needs to be out there 20-23 minutes each and every game. Personally I would be interested in seeing a setup like this:

Drury – Gomez – Dawes
Naslund – Dubinsky – Zherdev
Fritsche – Korpikoski – Callahan
Sjostrom – Betts – Voros/Orr
Voros/Orr

Yes, I know Petr Prucha is nowhere to be seen on this lineup. Unfortunately another thing became kind of clear to me as well, we have far too many midgets on this team. Prucha is the odd man out because of his contract, and penchant for being demolished once a game. I stand firmly though that we need to get EQUAL value for him if we are going to trade him.

Not bad for a first game though. The Rangers will be paper thin next game as well outside of their first line, but it should be an interesting game nevertheless.

I will try to do my Season Preview – Part 4 writeup sometime tomorrow after my game, probably around 2 or 3 am.

Rangers @ Senators Live Blog

Posted by inferno272 on September 20th, 2008

-As usual, older posts at the top, newer posts at the bottom. Rangers are sending their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and…well, 5th liners out there, with only 50% of their projected opening night defense. The Senators have almost their entire opening day lineup out there. Rangers probably won’t win this one, and if they do, it’ll be a very surprising win indeed.

-I almost feel like crying. Hockeys back baby! YAHHOOOO!!!!

-Rissmiller looks like he should be sitting in a spaceship abducting people.

-Ahhhh, Shoenfeld behind the bench instead of Renney. Too bad we can’t have this every game.

-Ottawa throwing the body like crazy, Voros and Mara both flattened on the same shift.

-Heatley with a blast, beats Vally cleanly. Can’t have Heatley wide open in his office.

-Callahan gets away with an elbow, glad to see hes involved with the physicality.

-Byers throwing the body consistently. This game is really uptempo and PHYSICAL.

-Wow, Dawes just blows by Prucha on the backcheck, it was a small little play, but you saw some explosiveness from Dawes in his skating stride there.

-Del Zotto to the box, looks like a good call at first glance.

-Rangers get a whistle right back, to me it looked like he just fell over, not much contact.

-Staal has been carrying the puck in with authority several times. Rangers take another penalty, thats 3 so far in the first, and were not even halfway done with the period.

-LOL, another penalty, this time to the Senators. Sheesh, a whistle every 70 seconds or so.

-Del Zotto takes down Foligno with the body. Superb play.

-Wow, yet another penalty, this time its the Senators. Wow.

-Things are getting heated out there. Hockey is back baby.

-Pruchas looked very good. Just as I say that, Rozsival loses the puck, and Spezza gets a shorty. 2-0 Sens.

-Ottawa takes yet another penalty.

-Buahahahah, guess what? Another penalty. Rangers go on a long 5 on 3. Let’s hope they cash in.

-Man, the 5 on 3 looks worse than last year if anything (so far).

-Another penalty on Ottawa. Theyve had like 6 Power Plays this period, and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Not even many shots.

-Prucha with a bad turnover, Rangers get called for a penalty. This game is going to take a ton of time with all these penalties being called.

-Ottawa, when they arent killing penalties, are just dominating this game.

-Well, my thoughts on the first period are pretty easy. Rangers have a far less talented group of players out there, and it’s definitely showing. When they are on the power play, it looks like they are playing even strength, when they are at even strength, it looks like they are down a man, and when they are killing a penalty, it looks like they are down 2 men. Don’t read too much into it, Rangers have about half their roster against basically the entire Senators team.

-Second period set to start.

-Well, you know hockey is back when Prucha gets plastered with an open ice hit.

-Ottawa goes up 3-0. Vally has to stop that one. Terrible goal.

-Rangers go back on the PP, im sure Ottawa will score another shorty before we score a PP goal.

-Dane Byers gets plastered.

-Dubi Dubi DOO! Dubinsky gets the Rangers off the schnied!

-Senators go on the PK again. I think its 2 minutes for sneezing.

-Dawes, Prucha and Drury with a really nice shift there on the PP. Prucha sets up Mara for a point blanker that he doesnt score on.

-Rangers go on the PK. Theyve had some good shift though before that. Theyve looked much stronger on the puck, and quicker to transition into the offensive zone.

-Reffing has been PUTRID today. Yes, its been putrid in our favor, but it that doesnt make it any less putrid.

-Vally out, Wiikman in. Vally was not very good. He was mediocre. Beaten 4 times, one of the shots hitting the post.

-Rangers back on the PK.

-Ottawa takes another penalty. This is crazy.

-Penalty on Orr, this is something like 17 or 18 penalties so far through 2 periods between the 2 teams.

-Well, that second period was way different than the first, Rangers looked much better, setting up plays, getting men to the net, funneling the puck there, getting rushes. They looked much better. But, they still only scored the 1 goal on a beautiful play by Dubinsky splitting 2 players with a burst of speed and wristing one top shelf. Other than that they really have nothing else to show for themselves. I think if both teams had their full lineups out there, Rangers would be up by the same score we have here (3-1) rather than the other way around. Ottawa did have quite a few gorgeous passing plays out there though that really raised my eyebrows.

-Rangers about to be 2 men down.

-Rangers back to the sin bin. Dubi has been trying to do way too much by himself in this period.

-Dane Byers absolutely flattens someone.

-MSG having technical difficulties. Its been like that for a few years now, they need to have a much higher quality of broadcast, this is getting ridiculous.

-Rangers shorthanded again.

-DUUUUBBBIIII!!!! Shorty, GREAT play by Cally to break up the play and get the puck to Dubi. Rangers back in it.

-Dawes to the sin bin for goalie interference. Rangers were oh so close to tying it up. Dubinsky absolutely taking the game over.

-Game over, Rangers lose 3-2. But I thought we played SUPERBLY after a terrible first period.

-Live blog is over, Ill do a post game wrap in a bit.