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Archive for April, 2009

I had that feeling, after the 3rd period in game 6 that the Rangers were going to finally show us the team we thought we had. And show us they did. They were all over the puck tonight, winning almost every board battle, controlling the puck in the offensive zone for minutes on end, clogging the neutral zone with a ferocious backcheck and forecheck, and playing superb D limiting the offensive chances against. However, in a game where I felt the Caps played well, but the Rangers played great, talent won out. The Caps have talent oozing out of every pore. They have an elite defenseman, 3 elite forwards, and perhaps an elite goalie who finally came up big against the Rangers when they actually generated quality chances against.

In almost every facet, they are better, and really that is what this all comes down to. The better team won. The more talented team won. Our team, which had a negative goal differential really had no business winning. Our team, which had the most putrid offense of any playoff team, really had no business winning. Our team, which was significantly outplayed in the first 6 games, shouldn’t have even gotten to this point. But they were here, and they gave us their best, and for that, I am thankful.

What I am not thankful for though, is that it took a do or die game for the Rangers to finally wake the fu** up and play this kind of John Tortorella hockey. THIS is what I expected, us controlling the puck, us not giving up large portions of the ice, and us generating chances. And I think there is a pretty big reason why we have not seen this kind of game till now….a complete and utter lack of leadership from this team.

Tom Renney was not right about a lot of things, and I really did not think he was a good coach at all, but he had his pulse on this team, and when he left, he took a shot at the leadership of this team, and in this series we saw why. Scott Gomez, terrible. Markus Naslund, terrible. Chris Drury, terrible. When your C and 2 A’s are probably the 3 worst players in the series, you will never win. You can’t win, it just defies all logic. Which is why we didn’t win folks, our best players weren’t our best players. Our best players, outside of Henrik, were consistently Dubinsky, Callahan, and Korpedo. You can’t have 3 kids who may form a nice line there, be your best players. These arent your big time players, these aren’t your big money players. They should play like this, AND have the leadership group be even better.

This team needs to beheaded. We have a tremendous base to work with in Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal, Korpedo, Girardi, and Lundqvist, we also have some superb talent that should be either NHL ready or almost NHL ready in Anisimov, Del Zotto, Sauer, Sanguinetti, and Grachev. This is the time to rebuild on the fly, you have a strong base, you have some talented kids, you have a coach that can win you a championship, and you have an elite goalie. Get rid of that dead weight, supplement it with legitimate offensive talent, and turn this ship around. It can be done, it should be done, and if Glen Sather really has an ounce of sense in his body, he will do it. Last season was not the time to get rid of Jagr, but he’s gone, and the only way to fix this team, is to dump the 7 million dollar 3rd liners we have, and fix this team in a 1-2 season turnaround, I think it can be done, and I will spell it out, in detail probably a week or two from now.

Have a great offseason everyone, I hope you enjoyed reading the blog, and remember, unlike the newspaper guys, and unlike most other blogs, this site remains very active during the offseason, I do player evals, long dissertation like writeups, and everything else Ranger related that I can even remotely think of. In some ways, the offseason is even more exciting that the regular season.

Just an idea of what is to come, I will have an offseason game plan in about a week or two, and then a draft preview a few weeks after that. Then we talk about free agents, and such. The season doesn’t end with this loss, in fact, it is just beginning.

Bring on the 2009-2010 New York Rangers.

After the first 2 periods of todays disaster, I was fully prepared to rip the shit out of this team for about 12 paragraphs. I was furious, there might have been burst blood vessels in my brain. And then, I saw a glimmer of hope, a ray of sunshine, something that actually made me do a double take at what I was watching. In that 3rd period…the Rangers actually played like I wanted them to play. They skated hard, they played in the offensive zone, they weren’t complete and utterly inept at making a pass. In short they were the complete opposite if what they were in those first 2 periods.

So let’s talk about those first 2 periods now that I eased into this a little with the “good news” on the night. Why were we so bad? Well, there are several reasons. The first, and most glaringly obvious, was that their heads weren’t in the game. Oh, their bodies were, I definitely think they tried, but their mental mistakes mounted time and time and time again. We had the puck, we turned it over, we had a pass, we decided not to make it, we had a chance to come back and give an outlet option, we decided to skate somewhere else. Just all over the place their brains were making wrong decisions. You can point to the double giveaways by Morris and Zherdev on the back breaking goal the Caps scored, or the penalty kill where Drury and Rozsival both failed to clear the puck. Now, if that were all that was wrong, maybe we could have survived, after all, we did manage to score a goal..or 3. But their were many other problems. First among them was Henrik Lundqvist again being pedestrian between the pipes, and a pedestrian Lundqvist will never help this group of losers get all that far. And next among the problems were the one on one board battles. We just couldn’t win many, if any of those all important battles. When you win those battles you keep the puck in their zone, or you get it out of your own, those are tide changing battles, you string together 2 or 3 board wins in a row and you have yourself a sustained offensive zone shift.

Well, that 3rd period the Rangers actually seemed to put it all together, they played a physical game (something sorely lacking in the first 2), they won those board battles, they played intelligently, they, in short, reversed all the trends that cost them this game. And you know what happened? The offensive chances against were kept to a bare minimum, and they managed to score a few goals. Heh, who woulda thunk it.

So there you have it, that 3rd period really saved me from what was surely to be a sleepless night. Now, I have at least the slimmest of hopes to get me through these next few days…and that will have to be good enough. Hopefully you have a little hope now as well.

Tuesday is do or die day, this is where we separate the men from the boys.

When it comes to hockey I live by a pretty simple mantra, and if you’ve been a visitor of this site for any length of time I am sure you know it by now. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. This series the New York Rangers have been utterly and completely dominated by the Washington Capitals. They should not be playing anything other than golf right now, but a superhuman effort by their goaltender gives them 2 more shots to end this series with a victory. The problem is for 5 straight games now, the Rangers have played like garbage. Granted, much of that is because of the sheer tidal wave of talent that the Caps throw at you, but a lot of it also has to do with smarts, and a complete and utter inability to sustain any sort of offensive zone attack.

This is compounded by the fact that Henrik Lundqvist was average today….an average Lundqvist is a massacre waiting to happen, and a massacre is what we got.

I’m not going to sit here and type up anything new here since this is a carbon copy of all 5 games this series. The Rangers were outplayed in every facet of the game by the opposition, and for the second time this series were unable to score a goal. I don’t care who is in net, if you can’t score, you can’t win. End of story. The difference, as mentioned before, was the average goaltending we got….and make no mistake about it, even if Henrik was “excellent” we still lose this game. Even if Henrik was God-like…we still lose this game. Because a team that can’t put any….ANY offensive zone pressure whatsoever, will not win games. It defies all logic that this team is still in it…and frankly, the law of probability may still win out, with the team that actually won the play, advancing, and the team that has been so ridiculously outplayed, going home to contemplate a disastrous summer with no cap space, terrible contracts, and holes all over the place….but that rainy day is still on the horizon, and the Rangers have a chance to pull out one of the most undeserved (sans Lundqvist) victories in Stanley Cup history with a win at the Garden on Sunday.

It’s incredibly humbling to really think about this series in a logical manner. Don’t look at who’s winning, don’t really pay attention to the games, just look at the statistics involved. Which team is getting more shots on goal? The Capitals by a wide margin. Which team is limiting the oppositions quality chances? The Capitals, by a wide margin. Which team’s penalty kill has given up the fewer goals? The Capitals once again. Which team’s power play has been effective? The Capitals, again. Which team has had control of the puck in the offensive zone? The Capitals, but at least a 3:1 margin. Which team had the home ice advantage going into the series? The Capitals. Which team was better at home? The Capitals. Which team was the only team in the East to have a negative goal differential coming into the playoffs? The Rangers.

You like at the stats, you examine the game and not look at the result, and all you can think to yourself is….this series should be over. Not only should it be over, but the Capitals should have won every game by at least 3 or 4 goals. This series shouldn’t even be close. I mean, I am sitting here at 2 am and am completely flabbergasted that the Rangers are leading in this series. They have played 1 solid period of John Tortorella hockey THE ENTIRE SERIES…that was tonight during the first period. They have been anywhere from mediocre to terrible the rest of the time. They are making such poor decisions with the puck in the offensive zone it is ridiculous. And while they are definitely trying very hard in the defensive zone, they are conceding all of the ice leading up the defensive zone, a-la Tom Renney, which is leaving them playing defensive hockey the entire friggin night.

But, you have watched the games (probably). You have seen what I have seen. You know what is coming, so I will keep it brief. The only reason this isn’t a sweep right now is because of Henrik Lundqvist. Really, a goalie playing exceptional goal, would have this series at 1-3 heading into Washington. A goalie playing like a “brick wall” would have it 2-2. I am simply unable to come up with an adequate comparison to Lundqvist for having this series at 3-1. What do you think? Godlike? Inhuman? Holy f***ing s**it like? I mean…I don’t even know what to say. Henrik made 2 saves in particular that just made me shake my head while I was watching it, because I can’t believe anyone could stop those plays. The first was the glove save that he made on Semin that has been playing on all the sports shows out there. The second though, was a lot subtler that I don’t think I have seen any replays of. It came off of a point shot from Green…Green took the blast through a sea of players, the puck came in, somehow, and wasn’t deflected, Henrik was looking to his left, and then picked up the puck…I’m thinking, 3-4 feet in front of him, labeled bottom corner, and he kicked out his leg with speed I haven’t ever seen before, and kicked it away like it was nothing. That play just had my jaw on the floor, I mean, if you play hockey, you know those kind of saves are probably the hardest, shots you don’t have any idea are coming till the last second. That takes concentration and athleticism that I can’t even fathom to stop.

What makes me laugh even more is that some fans actually had the audacity to question Henrik, and whether he was a big game goalie, or calling him overrated. It just annoys me to all hell the stupidity of some fans when they say things like that. Folks…this isn’t a burden we have been saddled with. This is nothing short of a legendary player in the making on our team through the prime years of his career. When people tell me they think Henrik Lundqvist is one of the top 5 goalies in the league, and act like it’s a compliment, all I can do is stare at them in disbelief that they think there are 4 other goalies in this league who even come close to this level of skill. I can see the argument for Luongo, but really, no other goalie, to me, comes close, not even uncle whiner over in joizee.

I predicted the Rangers would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals pretty publicly all over the place, but really I felt it was because of our team, not because Henrik would play like this. I expected Henrik to be amazing…but there is amazing, and then there is what we all witnessed tonight.

Sheesh.

Halfsies – Capitals@Rangers Game 3 Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on April 21st, 2009

This is going to be super short. My DVR decided not to record the 2nd half of this game, for some reason I got the first period and a half, and then the last minute and a half, and nothing in between. That unfortunately does not give me enough of a sample size to make real observations, but to me, it looked like the Rangers were out of control, were very poor in recognizing the trailer, and didnt clog the lanes like they did in games 1 and 2. It seemed like the other team wanted it more, which should never happen.

Sorry, can’t say much else without actually watching the game.

Just A Heads Up…

Posted by inferno272 on April 20th, 2009

I won’t be able to watch tonight’s game till about 1:00 am, which means, depending on if the game goes to OT or not, it might be quite late before I will be finished. If the game goes on pretty late, I will do a post game wrap sometime tomorrow afternoon. If its a strict 60 minute one, I should be able to do it, depending on how exhausted I am.

Let’s Go Rangers!!!

It has been an extremely busy and tiring day for me, so this may be a little disjointed, especially since its 4am and I am falling asleep at my desk.

The thing that struck me about this last game was that, unlike the first game, it wasn’t a 1 man show, it was a cooperative marvel of a performance. The Rangers put on a defensive clinic….well, as much as can be accomplished playing against a team with that kind of firepower, limiting the Capitals high scoring players to outside shots, few to no odd man rushes, and little to nothing in the way of rebound chances. And when they weren’t perfect, Henrik Lundqvist was there to clean up all the garbage.

That is what you need on the road, take the crowd out of it by limiting the quality chances and the “ooh” and “ahh” moments for them to cheer about, and instead keep everything to the outside, and preferably in the oppositions zone.

What I liked about this “defensive” performance was that it was the way in which we attacked the puck in the offensive and neutral zones that enabled us to have this result. This wasn’t a collapse, 1-4, hold on for dear life defensive game. This was a, pressure the puck at every single opportunity, don’t let the opposition gain a head of steam by conceding any territory whatsoever. When a play wasn’t there, we sent it in deep and made them come the whole length of the ice with a forechecker in their face at every major junction. That is a winning recipe, especially when you have you know who between the pipes.

In a rather smart move Boudreau decided to put in his rookie goalie Varlamov to try and save this series, and while it didnt exactly work, Varlamov was superb. I want to stress that unlike 99.99% of the people out there, I really do think putting the kid in was the smart move. Here’s why. The way I look at it is, if you commit to putting Theodore in for game 2, there are only a few possible outcomes. Theodore is going to be awful, give up a ton of goals, and you are going to put Varlamov in anyway, except this time with a huge defecit. Or you stick with Theodore he performs adequately enough, wins, or loses the game, and then you are 100% locked into playing him for the rest of the series because only a total retard would play a rookie goaltender at Madison Square Garden in what would have been a 100% must win game for the Capitals. If you are of the belief that Three-or-more isn’t going to be the goalie to get the Caps deep into the playoffs, then you want the rookie to play his first game at home, where the crowd is behind him, and Boudreau can use the last change to protect him as much as possible. From a tactical position, playing Varlamov here made perfect sense…and it almost worked.

Almost though, doesn’t count in hockey, and the Rangers were able to pick up a monstrous win which puts them up 2 games with 3 of the next 4 games being played at Madison Square Garden. If the Rangers can’t close it out with those odds, then we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs to being with.

Has there ever been a worse goaltended game than what Theodore did tonight? The Rangers had no pressure, so few good offensive chances, and he gave up softie, after softie, after softie. Only the Dubinsky goal would I call a legit one, and thats one you want your goalie to bail you out of after being so freaking awful the entire game. But, as was expected the goaltending was the story in this game. The Capitals team absolutely dominated the Rangers, the first period was an old fashioned schooling by the home team. But Henrik Lundqvist was just….unbelievable. He was playing out of his mind, and while Theodore had to make no saves of consequence (while giving up 2 posts) Henrik was facing a non stop barrage of high quality chances and he was bailing out his team. He held us in it long enough for the Rangers secret weapon (Theodore) to steal us a win.

I can’t stress enough how much we didn’t deserve this win tonight, but I also can’t stress enough how proud I am for the guys gutting out this win. They weren’t good, but they played well enough to win. They held on for dear life, and only trailed once in the game. They gave away a 2 goal lead, and still won it in regulation against an out of this world offensive team.

Guys, we beat the 3rd best home team in the entire National Hockey League, in their barn, in the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just think about that for a few minutes.

…..

Ok, thought about it enough?

Good.

The amazing thing here was that the Rangers somehow managed to overcome their own stupidity in winning this game. Markus Naslund almost single handedly tried to give the win away (despite his goal). He took 3…unbelievably lazy penalties, and cost his team at least 1 PP goal (I can’t remember if they scored on another, but I think not). But amazingly the Rangers PK came up big at the big points in the game, and while statistically they weren’t good (killed 5 of 7 I believe…that’s only 71%) they were huge when it counted.

Give a ton of credit to Sean Avery, the guy must be reading my blog. He stayed away from Ovechkin and when straight after Mike Green. That my friends, shows hockey intelligence that many agitators do not have. That’s what separates Avery from your typical trash talker.

Huge win, I’ll take it. If the Rangers can win game 2. this series is over. Let’s hope they can.

Breaking It Down (Part 2)…

Posted by inferno272 on April 15th, 2009


(2) Capitals VS (7) Rangers
Category
Edge
Comments
Offense
This is the first of two no contests in comparing these 2 teams. Washington has a far, far, far superior offense to ours. In fact their top 4 scoring players have an average of nearly 30 points more than the highest scoring Ranger, who by the way, wasn’t even a Ranger for most of this season. Ouch. The Washington Capitals have more firepower in their top line than we have in our entire organization. On the Rangers end, we have substantial balance, with all 6 defenseman capable of getting involved offensively without a hitch. The Capitals have the amazing Mike Green back there though, who probably is better offensively than our entire blueline corps combined.
Defense
Although the Capitals have Mike Green, they really don’t have all that much beyond him. They are incredibly thin back there (though they won’t be once John Carlson moves up, but that’s for another day) with their defenseman being big and strong, but not mobile at all. Tom Poti is the lone other player even remotely capable of jumping up in the play, but all the Rangers need to do is coat their jerseys with a thin layer of peanut butter to nullify him. The Capitals other 5 defenseman averaged about 12 points a piece for the rest of the season (which is remarkable considering how potent their offense is, you would think those stats are probably bloated considering all they have to do is pass the puck up once to AO and let him run wild. The Rangers on the other hand have all 6 defenseman with more points than any of the bottom 5 defenders on the Capitals, and 5 of our 6 defenseman (Staal being the odd man out) have at least 20 points. Which is remarkable for the opposite reason because of how incredibly poor our offense has been for the bulk of this season. Defensively Marc Staal alone is better than all the Capitals defenseman combined. They don’t have a single guy capable of shutting your best players down, and instead rely on the forwards maintaining control of the puck rather than the defense defending the puck. If we can keep the puck in their zone, great things will happen, because they stink defensively.

Goaltending

This probably has all the makings of an incredible showing by Jose Theodore. I say that because he has almost no expectations whatsoever on his shoulders. People just assume hes going to stink up the joint and that Henrik is going to be stellar. With that said, you still have to assume Henrik will outplay Jose, just because he is better, period. With that said, the pressure Lundqvist is going to be under will probably be on a whole other level compared to what pressure Theodore is under. Don’t be surprised if Theodore has better stats after the series than Henrik.
Coaching
Good coaching matchup in this one, but I am going to give the edge to my boy Torts. Love the guy, love his fire, love his style, and I think hes far more adaptive than Boudreau, who seems to be very 1 dimensional (offense, offense and more offense).

This one seems to have a lot of possibilities. And by that I mean it could easily be a sweep for either team, it could easily go 7, or anywhere in between. If Theodore has a meltdown and Lundvist is stellar, Rangers can sweep. If Theodore plays great, then it may not matter what Lundqvist does. If AO and company go ballistic, it may not matter, if the Rangers power play finally starts to score, the goaltending matchup may not matter. Lots of things can happen in this one, but to me, this series will come down to 1 player. Sean Avery. I think he is the X factor here. The Caps do not have an Avery, they have a Brashear, but he’s no Avery. Avery needs to be smart about who he targets. If I am Torts I tell Avery to avoid going after Ovechkin, but instead focus on Semin, Backstrom and Green. I think if the Rangers can get into the heads of the supporting cast of the Capitals, it may be just enough to make the superhero efforts of Ovechkin moot. On the flip side, I think if Avery goes after Ovechkin, he may actually make Ovechkin play better, because that is his modus operendi. The guy plays better when he gets angry, and like Bruce Banner, we don’t like him when he’s angry. Because the Rangers have the edge in goal, and because the Rangers have the ultimate X factor in Sean Avery, I am going with the Rangers winning it in 6.

Pick: Rangers in 6