Thursday, December 31, 2009

Future Winter Classic in NY/NJ?

Earlier this week, MSG's Game On! blog reported that some NJ officials have sent a letter to Gary Bettman requesting that next year's Winter Classic be held at the new Giants Stadium and feature the Rangers playing the Devils.

While I think this would be a lot of fun, no one should hold their breath on it happening.  In fact I would give it a 99% chance of not happening, and for a few reasons:

  1. I love the venue--the new stadium will be gorgeous and will fit upwards of 80,000 fans for football (more for hockey?).  However, there would have to be some serious NFL magic worked so that neither the Jets or Giants would have a home game in the last 2 weeks of the regular season or 1st week of the playoffs in order to allow enough time to get the rink set up and taken down.  Not only would the NFL scheduling gurus have to work some magic, but both the Jets and Giants would have to make some serious concessions in giving up a possible home playoff game and the revenue that comes with it.
  2. Back before the first Winter Classic in January 2008, there was a lot of discussion about an Islanders-Rangers showdown at the old Yankee Stadium.  Reports back then were that the NHL didn't want to have the focus come from just the NY market.  I don't necessarily agree with this, since coverage of the last 2 classics has been broad and I think that it's something hockey fans want to see no matter who's playing. That said...
  3. The Devils??  As of today, the Devils have had 20 home games and are 20th in the NHL in average attendance (21st if you base it on percent full).  They sold out their first 2 home games (opening night and 2 days later against the Rangers), but have crossed the 90% attendance mark just a handful of times since and sold out just 2 more games (Detroit and Pittsburgh).  If you put them in the Winter Classic, will more fans show up to see them? Sure...but they just don't have a broad enough appeal to secure a spot in the New Year's Day feature game, and it's really a shame for a franchise that's been arguably the second best in the league for the past 15 years.
If it were up to me, the 2011 Winter Classic would feature the Rangers taking on Alex Ovechkin the Washington Capitals at Giants Stadium (old or new).  It would have drawing power on TV and also to the stadium because the league would have one of its top teams (#1 in road attendance this season) coupled with one of its top players in Ovechkin.  

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Flyers 12/30

Flyers 6, Rangers 0

This postgame blog is going to look different than previous editions because there isn't much to say.  The Rangers were outskated, outhit, outplayed, outskilled, outpassed, out-(insert any word here).  Blair Betts (1g, 11-5 faceoffs) showed Glen Sather and John Tortorella why they shouldn't have let him go, Michael Leighton (22 svs) showed them why they should have claimed him when the Hurricanes placed him on waivers earlier this season, and Simon Gagne (3g, 1a) looked like he had never had the groin issues that he returned from just 10 days ago.  The Rangers were outshot 31-22, but those totals are misleading because the Rangers outshot the Flyers 12-2 in the 3rd period.  If you're looking for a bright spot out of the Rangers--and it's really hard to find one--it's that they took only 2 minor penalties, but you could argue it was a result of their lack of hard play overall.

One thing I feel the need to cover in this space is Chad Johnson's NHL debut, which came at the start of the 2nd period with the Rangers already trailing 3-0.  After looking lost on the first 2 shots he faced (1 goal, 1 post), Johnson seemed to really settle in.  He made 17 saves on 20 shots on goal overall and had 2 pucks hit the goalposts behind him.  There were a couple of very nice saves in that bunch, and I don't know that he had much of a chance on either of the other goals he allowed.  The first was during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Flyers and the other was on a partial breakaway created by a pretty pass to Gagne from Claude Giroux.  At the end of the day I don't foresee Johnson ever being a starter in the NHL, but he might be a capable backup eventually...I just don't think his time is now.

My only other thought on tonight's game is this: I think Michael Del Zotto played his worst game in a Rangers uniform tonight.  He looked soft in the defensive end and his passes didn't look like their normal crisp selves.  He struggled all-around and was minus-3 on the night.  The bright note in this is that Torts stuck with him throughout the night and he ended up leading the team in ice time with 23:02.

A quick note...If you're home tomorrow night, you have 2 choices for Rangers hockey at 8pm: The Rangers take on Carolina on MSG.  Also, Rangers prospects Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Ryan Bourque, and the rest of Team USA will face Canada at the WJC and the game will be broadcast live on the NHL Network.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Notes from WJC - USA vs. Latvia 12/29

Chris Kreider (#20): Kreider used both his speed and size to help him record the first Team USA hat trick of this year's tournament.  His final tally came on a 3rd period penalty shot that he received after being hooked down on a breakaway.  On the penalty shot, he skated in and snapped a wrist shot over the blocker of the retreating Latvian goalie.  He also scored on the power play in each of the first 2 periods, both times receiving assists from  Jordan Schroeder and Stepan.  If you want to nit pick and look for a downside of Kreider's day, it was that he was the only USA player not on the ice for an even strength goal.

Derek Stepan (#21, C): Stepan continues to lead Team USA after posting a 4-point game, two 3rd period goals  at even strength to match his 2 power play assists.  He now has 8 points (3g, 5a) through 3 games.  The thing I really liked about Stepan today was that both of his goals were scored on rebounds as he followed the puck whenever it went to the net.  That ability to convert on rebounds and go to the "blue" should help him make the next step when that time comes.

Ryan Bourque (#17): Bourque picked up the primary assist on Jason Zucker's tally that put Team USA up 2-0 just under 10 minutes into the game.  He also made 2 trips to the penalty box and was off for slashing when Gvido Kauss scored the lone Latvia goal on a 2nd period 5-on-3 man advantage.  Just a few minutes later, he made the return trip after being whistled for hooking.

USA 12, Latvia 1:  As expected, Team USA dominated play throughout the contest...Latvian goalie Janis Kanins had a rough day, facing 62 shots and stopping 50 of them...Jason Zucker and Danny Kristo scored 2 goals apiece and Jordan Schroeder picked up 4 assists...Team USA has its remaining preliminary round matchup on Thursday evening at 8pm ET.  The game will be broadcast live on the NHL Network.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Good With the Bad

While the Rangers received some good news about their future from the World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan, they received bad news about their immediate future with word that Vinny Prospal will miss the next 10 days to 3 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee this morning.

The bad news is pretty bad for this Rangers team that already has enough issues scoring.  Prospal is currently the second leading scorer on the Roster behind Marian Gaborik, posting 8 goals to go along with 24 assists.  He's also one of the team's alternate captains, we suspect due to his strong work ethic that is visible every time he hits the ice.  I expect to see both Aaron Voros and Erik Christensen get chances in the lineup while Prospal is out.  Christensen will probably see more time than Voros since he has more puck skills and is very effective on faceoffs, but coupling Brian Boyle's bad play of late with Prospal's injury makes me believe that they could both crack the lineup on Wednesday night against the Flyers.  If the Rangers are going to survive this stretch while Prospal is out, it will be because the middle of the pack scorers are contributing on the scoresheet nightly (Callahan, Drury, Anisimov, Lisin, Avery, Christensen).

On the good news front, Rangers prospects had a good first weekend at the WJC, with all 4 attendees cracking the scoresheet.  Derek Stepan leads Team USA with 4 points (1g, 3a) and has won almost 60% of his faceoffs, this year's 1st round pick Chris Kreider has a goal and an assist and was named Player of the Game in the 3-0 USA victory over Switzerland, and Ryan Bourque has registered an assist.  It would be nice to see Bourque get more shots on net (he only has 2 throught he first 2 games), but he seemed to find his game a bit more in the 2nd game.

Roman Horak, the only non-American Rangers prospect at the WJC, picked up a breakaway goal in the Czech Republic's second game to put them up 3-0 on Finland.  The Finns stormed back in the 3rd period and won the game 4-3, putting Horak's Czech side in an 0-2 hole and making them a longshot to advance beyond the preliminary round.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Notes from WJC - USA vs. Switzerland 12/27

Chris Kreider (#20): Kreider had a nice deflection of Cam Fowler's point shot that ended up being the game-winner on a 2nd period power play.  He used his speed to backcheck very effectively and also to draw a 3rd period penalty by breaking into the offensive zone and getting tripped up.

Derek Stepan (#21, C): Stepan picked up the second assist on Kreider's power play goal by setting up Fowler for the one-timer.  He again played an effective all around game, and contributed at even strength, on the power play, and also on the PK.

Ryan Bourque (#17): Bourque had a much stronger game today than he did in yesterday's victory of Slovakia.  He skated better, handled the puck better, and chipped in the primary assist on Matt Donovan's 3rd period tally.  He also did a much better job of finding open space both with and without the puck, as well as backchecking.

USA 3, Switzerland 0:  17-year old USA goalie Jack Campbell was the best player on the ice this afternoon, making many difficult saves and almost single handedly staving off a Swiss upset in posting a 22 save shutout...The Swiss looked much fresher than Team USA in the first period.  Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz's game--46 saves on 49 shots--was as good as, if not better than, Campbell's showing.  His performance probably kept the score from being closer to 10-0.

Remaining USA opening round schedule:
Tuesday, December 29     USA vs. Latvia               4pm
Thursday, December 31    USA vs. Canada             8pm

--Both games will be televised on NHL Network

Notes from World Junior Championships - USA vs. Slovakia 12/26:

Pre-game notes: Rangers draft picks Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan took the ice last night for the first game in their quest for gold on Team USA at the WJC in Saskatoon.  Stepan was named the team captain and also centers one of USA's top lines and its top power play unit.  He, Bourque, and Kreider each skate on different lines, but Kreider also sees time on the top PP unit with Stepan.  Luke Walker, who the Rangers brought to the Traverse City prospect tournament in September on a tryout but is currently an unsigned free agent, skates on the 4th line.

WJC TV Schedule (all games on NHL Network):
Sunday, December 27       USA vs. Switzerland      4pm
                                          Czech Rep. vs. Finland   6pm
Tuesday, December 29     USA vs. Latvia               4pm
Thursday, December 31    USA vs. Canada             8pm
(Note: This schedule is only for games involving Rangers prospects.)

click below to read more on the play of the Rangers prospects

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Islanders 12/26

Final Score: Islanders 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
  • Brandon Dubinsky played an outstanding game.  Not only did he score both Ranger goals, but he went 12-4 in the faceoff circle and was effective all over the ice.  He also registered 5 shots on goal, 2 hits, and a plus-1.
  • Sean Avery did a good job of being Sean Avery.  That said, the penalty he took for goalie interference was just dumb.  That's one of those penalties Torts has to just hate.
  • When I saw just a single referee on the ice to start the game and heard that it was Steve Walkom I began to wonder if this was going to look like a Rangers-Isles game from the 90s, with lots of scraps and what is now called interference.  Fortunately...or maybe wasn't.
  • Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal were each a team-worst minus-2.  It's gonna be hard for the Rangers to win when that happens...
  • Prospal's pass to Girardi that set up the first Isles goal was a tough one that took a bad hop on Girardi.  On that goal, what a pass by Kyle Okposo.
  • Michal Rozsival posted 2 more assists and was plus-1.  He now has 5 assists and is a plus-5 in the past 5 games.  Despite the 2 assists, Rozsival's game regressed a bit tonight.  That said, I still don't understand why people boo the guy when his assists are announced...seems a lot like punishing good to me.  (I plan to write further on this in coming weeks.)
  • Enver Lisin's game regressed a bit as well, but I still thought he had a decent game in limited time.
  • See my previous post on Brian Boyle.  I don't remember seeing him on the ice again after his STUPID delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass unnecessarily on a delayed penalty.  Hey, at least he was 2-2 on faceoffs, right?
  • Chris Drury had another effective game even though he didn't put one in the net.  He did get the primary assist on Dubinsky's first goal though.
  • Did I mention how bad Brian Boyle was?  3:01 of ice time...Tortorella agrees.
  • On the game-winner in OT, the puck made an unfortunate (for the Rangers) deflection off Staal's skate.  No deflection, do goal...that's a tough one.
  • I'm watching NHL on the Fly (on NHL Network) as I write this.  They just played the highlights from this game, and I feel bad for whoever had to listen to John Giannone call this game.  His voice is brutal and it seems like you can see the gears spinning in his head on the screen in front of you.

That's all for now.  I have the USA-Slovakia game from the World Junior Championships on my DVR and intend to watch it tomorrow and blog on it.  Also, congratulations to another Rangers prospect, Roman Horak, on being named to the Czech WJC team.  Horak, a center, was the Rangers' 4th round selection this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Panthers 12/23

This post comes with a disclaimer:  I am a season ticket holder and I sit in section 403 (about even with the goal line at the end where the Rangers defend twice).  That said, the reactions that will follow this disclaimer are based on what I saw live and a little bit of looking at the box score.

  • I don't think I need to even acknowledge this, but Henrik Lundqvist has been playing out of his mind.  He made at least 3 highlight reel saves that I can remember.
  • Florida's power play has excellent movement.  I don't remember seeing a single player stand still for longer than 2 seconds during any one of their power plays.  John Tortorella should use this as an example to improve the Rangers' PP unit further.
  • The PK unit for the Rangers did a great job once again, but they have to get better at clearing the zone.
  • I thought Enver Lisin played his best game as a Ranger.  Torts seemed to agree and rewarded Lisin with 13:05 of ice time, his most since the Rangers' last home win.  His foot seems to have healed fully and his speed is a great asset.  Drury's tying goal was completely set up by Lisin's speed negating the icing and finding the captain with a beautiful pass.  He even drew a penalty and was heavily involved in 2 scrums.
  • Follow up to my earlier post on Brian Boyle: I thought he played a decent game.  He was credited with 2 hits, but won only 1 of the 4 faceoffs he took.
  • Wade Redden had a solid game.  He had 1 shot on goal, 3 hits (only Callahan and Gilroy had more), and did an outstanding job breaking up a 2-on-1 when the game was still tied.
  • It's great to see Vinny Prospal rewarded for his hard work.  Since I've been at every home game this season, I always appreciate his visible work ethic on EVERY shift.
  • Michal Rozsival had another solid game.  I don't know what Torts did, but it worked!
  • Chris Drury too...that 4th line demotion last week is continuing to bear its fruit.  Drury was named the game's 3rd star and deservingly so.
Congratulations are in order for Henrik Lundqvist, who is now alone at #5 on the Rangers career wins list.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

an update on tonight's lineup and some exciting news for the future

As reported by Andrew Gross on Ranger Rants, Brian Boyle returns to the lineup tonight after leaving Saturday's game in Philadelphia with a tweaked back.  Gross had also reported that Boyle was visibly uncomfortable after yesterday's skate.  It seems to me that the Rangers are rushing him back into the lineup and it doesn't make much sense to me.

You see, as a center (and a penalty killer), an important job of his is to win faceoffs.  However, he seems to be sadly lacking in this department.  In his 34 regular season games as a Ranger, Boyle has won greater than 50% of his faceoffs just 5 times (14.7% of the time).  And worse, only one of those occurrences came after the Rangers ended their 7-game winning streak on October 17, their 8th game of the season.  So doing some quick math, he's won greater than 50% of his faceoffs taken just once in the past 26 games.  Most players would get sent to the AHL (a la Gilroy), or at least shifted to a wing position...but not Boyle.

What makes this the most puzzling to me is that Erik Christensen, now 7 games removed from waivers, is once again a healthy scratch.  In the faceoff department Christensen is 25-20 (55.5%) since being picked up off of waivers from Anaheim, while Boyle is 5-9 (35.7%) during that same stretch.  Christensen also brings with him a highly lauded wrist shot, and one of the best career shootout records of any NHL player.  In fact, his 55% success rate in the skills competition trumps that of purported shootout wiz Ales Kotalik's 52% success rate, according to  It seems that the only thing Boyle brings is about 6" in height over the 6'1" Christensen, and it's not like either of them uses their body extensively.

What does this all mean?  It could mean nothing, but if it were up to me Erik Christensen would be in the lineup and Brian Boyle would be watching from the press box.

Some very exciting news out of USA Hockey today.  Rangers prospects Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan have all been named to the 2010 World Junior Championships team.  Kreider and Bourque were the Rangers' first and third round picks respectively in this past June's NHL Entry Draft, and Stepan was last year's second-round pick for the Blueshirts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scheduling, Scheduling, Scheduling

So I know I said this was going to be a Rangers blog, but something caught my eye this morning that I couldn't refuse talking about.  In E.J. Hradek's post on yesterday, he mentioned that the Los Angeles Kings won't play again until December 26th.  So I did some quick research.

Not only do the Kings not hit the ice for anything that counts until this upcoming Saturday, but they haven't played in a game since LAST Thursday (December 17th).  That's EIGHT (8) full days off between games.  But it gets better...

Before their 8 day sabbatical, the Kings had a swing of 3 games in 4 nights and 6 games in 9 nights.  AND after their Winter Solstice break, the Kings will play another 4 games in 6 nights.  WOW!

Welcome to The Rambling Ranger!

Welcome everyone, and thanks for checking out the Rambling Ranger!  Since this is a new project, posts will start to appear regularly sometime in late December (or at the latest during the Winter Classic).

--Joe (nyr351)