Sunday, January 31, 2010

Postgame Reactions - Rangers at Avalanche 1/31

Rangers 3, Avalanche 1
  • First of all, congratulations to Chad Johnson on his first career NHL victory.  He still has a lot of room to grow in controlling his rebounds, but he was good enough tonight and almost earned a shutout to boot.
  • Second, congratulations to Marian Gaborik on his 10th career hat trick, this one being of the natural variety.  For as much as he's been slumping lately, Gaborik's game was ON tonight.  His first goal was a thing of beauty, beating Craig Anderson to the far post with a wrister.  The second was courteousy of a pretty no look pass from Vinny Prospal after Marc Staal pinched to keep the play alive.  And the third was a breakaway tally, beating Anderson 5-hole, after a nice defensive play by Staal and head man pass from Prospal.
  • Marc Staal was stellar tonight, and showed that he still has more room to grow.  He was a defensive stalwart, pinched effectively to keep plays alive, and helped create offense.  The next step for him is to do this with more consistency.
  • Vinny Prospal had his best game in a long time, and certainly since coming back from his knee surgery.
  • Christopher Higgins was very solid again, but this may have been his last game in Rangers blue...more on that later.
  • An illustration of how tight this Eastern Conference race is, the Rangers just jumped from 12th place into a tie for 6th place with their win tonight.  On a games played tiebreaker, the Rangers currently sit officially in 8th position.
  • Overall, tonight was a team effort: team defense (good backchecking by forwards), great penalty kill (6-for-6), team effort for the full 60 minutes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Coyotes 1/30

Coyotes 3, Rangers 2
  • With tonight's final, the Rangers are guaranteed to finish January with a losing record.
  • Michael Del Zotto was brutal tonight.  He played just 3:04 in the first period, but was on the ice for all 3 goals against and is now a minus-18 on the season.
    • I've been writing it since the beginning of this blog...Del Zotto and Girardi should not be playing together.  DZ-Rozsival, Staal-Girardi.  They play that way sometimes, but it should be permanent.
  • The Rangers allowed far too many odd man rushes; completely inexcusable, especially since they weren't generating any offense.  I think they allowed more odd man rushes than they took shots on goal in the first period...unacceptable.
  • As I said after his first appearance, Chad Johnson is not an NHL goalie right now.  He's the best option we have in the system, but he's just not ready yet.  The third goal, a high slap shot through a couple of screens, was a tough one.  He needs to stop one of the first 2 though.
  • Christopher Higgins had one of his better games, but he still needs work on hitting the net with his shots.
  • Ryan Callahan...9 hits...WOW!
  • Marc Staal had a very strong game, and did a great job of going in deep and creating offense down the stretch as the Rangers tried for the tying goal.
  • Michal Rozsival was whistled for 3 penalties.  At least 2 of them looked very soft, including the final penalty of the game, where Prucha skated right into Rozsival's stick and did some Academy Award-worthy acting.  Stephane Auger has always been one of my least favorite officials, even before the Borrows incident, and it was clear why tonight.  Piss poor officiating.
My question for this team after tonight...what happened that they finally had energy in the third period?  The Rangers were a completely different team in the third, and even more so after they scored their first goal.  The Coyotes were lucky to hang on, but the Rangers put themselves in a bad position by playing a piss poor first period and mediocre second.  Hopefully the intensity they played with in the third will carry over to tomorrow night.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Hurricanes 1/27

    Hurricanes 5, Rangers 1
    • I don't know where else to start than this: This may have been Henrik Lundqvist's worst game of the season.  Eric Staal's eventual game-winner that came just 3:36 into the game was a terrible, terrible goal.  There's no other way of putting it.  The 4th goal wasn't much better.  The 1st and 3rd were nice deflections, and Hank had no chance at Staal's 2nd goal of the night (a one-timer blast to the top corner).
    • After going 10 straight games allowing 2 goals or less, Lundqvist has now allowed 3 or more in 3 straight games.  My guess is that either Chad Johnson or Matt Zaba will get the start in Colorado on Sunday night to give him a couple of days off.
    • Cam Ward was great in net tonight for the Hurricanes, and was very much deserving of the first star honors he received.
    • The second period was a solid period of hockey, save for the shift after the Rangers pulled the game back to within a goal.  It looked to me like Matt Gilroy blew the coverage on the 3rd Carolina goal.
    • Wade Redden was benched from that goal on, and I can't say I'm sure why.  His play didn't seem all that bad and it certainly wasn't his man who deflected the puck past Lundqvist.
    • Watching Marc Staal play against either of his brothers is always entertaining for me.  There are always extra shoves between brothers and they seem to all love playing against one another.
    • The past two games have revealed a not so good trend from last year of giving up goals on the shift immediately after a big goal.  Tuesday night, taking a quick penalty and giving up a quicker power play goal to let the Pens back into the game after taking a 2-1 lead.  Tonight, after closing to within a goal.
    • Artem Anisimov had his 2nd straight strong game after I wrote that he needed a night off.  I was wrong (and am quite happy about that).  He should never have a shift without Enver Lisin on his wing.
    • One rush in the third period pretty much summed up how things have going offensively for the Rangers of late: the puck jumped over Marian Gaborik's stick as he was attempting a wrist shot, then Vinny Prospal's stick broke as he attempted a slap shot following up.
    • Gaborik also had the puck jump over his stick as he was trying to fire home a rebound in front of Ward.
    • In person, Ryan Callahan's goal seemed to be one of the laziest deflections I had ever seen.  Now that I've had a chance to see a replay, Cally did a great job to fight off the defender and get his stick on the puck.
    • Ales Kotalik was absolutely brutal.  I can remember 1 decent shift for him in the game, but his passing was FAR off, his shooting was off, and his play was poor.  Can we have Erik Christensen back in the lineup? PLEASE?!?
    • Sean Avery was pretty much invisible tonight.  He threw his body around a bit while playing with Boyle and Voros, but he certainly wasn't anything close to an agitator.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Penguins 1/25

    Penguins 4, Rangers 2
    • Artem Anisimov...I was wrong.  I said he needed a day off, and it's a good thing he didn't get one since he provided all of the Rangers' scoring.  The best part for me was that he scored one goal using his stick handling skills and the 2nd goal by crashing the net.  He was also robbed by Fleury at least twice on very nice deflections in front.
    • John Tortorella did a lot of line juggling during the game, and I can't say I blame him.  When your team hasn't put a single puck in a net for 7 straight periods, you have to try something.  That said, I still don't understand the thought process between sending Erik Christensen to the press box.  For a team that's hurting on the scoreboard, sitting a guy who can cash in for the 5:36 that Brashear played makes no sense to me.  If Torts was set on benching Christensen, Ales Kotalik should have gotten the chance.
    • While I'm on personnel decisions, I still don't like the Girardi/Del Zotto pairing.  Girardi/Staal and Del Zotto/Rozsival seems much more effective.
    • Henrik Lundqvist had his worst night in a LONG time.  Both goals by Chris Conner (7g in 77 career games before tonight, called up from the AHL today) looked rather soft to me; and according to Stan Fischler, Hank admitted he blew it on the game-winner.
    • Without the benefit of replay, I didn't see the apparent slash that Marian Gaborik was called for (and led to the tying goal).  It seemed like a terrible call and I just had a feeling that the PEns would cash in on it.  The usually outstanding Rangers PK seems to have issues killing off penalties that appear to be bad calls.  That's something that needs to be fixed, and it's a 100% mental issue.
    • On the officiating...where to start?  I already mentioned the call on Gaborik that seemed to be a soft call to me, but to have Wade Redden essentially bear hugged away from the puck minutes later right in front of the referee and have no interference called is just mind boggling to me.  If there is a video being made to teach new officials what interference is, a clip of that play should be on it.  Also, there was one play in the third period when the puck so clearly hit the netting that all 10 players stopped playing, but it took 4 players staring at the referee for anyone to blow a whistle.
    • Marc Staal and Christopher Higgins both rebounded with strong showings.
    • What is there not to like about Ryan Callahan?  6 hits, 4 shots on goal, and the best backcheck I've seen all year in catching Orpik from behind on a shorthanded breakaway and taking the puck away before Orpik could get a shot off.  Now if only he could have netted one of those...

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Canadiens 1/23

    Canadiens 6, Rangers 0
    • After the first 8 minutes or so, watching this game was just as bad as watching the last 6-0 loss (to Philly).  This is now the 2nd time in as many weeks that the Rangers have been shut out in back to back games, and this one time it's far less excusable (not that it ever was to begin with).
    • Jaroslav Halak was excellent in net for the Habs tonight.  The Rangers had 3 point blank chances in the first 5 minutes, and Halak stood tall.  He also robbed Chris Drury on a one-timer from the left circle.  The most disappointing part of tonight for me: Halak is on the bench for my fantasy team today.
    • Pulling Henrik Lundqvist was the right move.  Not because of anything he did, but because the team was playing putrid defense in front of him.
    • Before everyone jumps on Michal Rozsival for letting Gomez get to the net on the opening tally, it was Drury who lost the draw clean to Gomez and then blew the coverage by following the puck instead of his man (as noted by Joe Micheletti on the broadcast).  Rozsival did the best job he could to go to the open man, but got there a split second too late.
    • Marian Gaborik failed to score a goal for the 3rd straight game and 8th time in 9 games.  He looked better and recorded 7 shots on goal, but couldn't find the twine.  He also missed a wide open net a few minutes into the game.
    • Michael Del Zotto had a horrid game.  Maybe it's time to call up someone from Hartford to give him a rest for a game.  I'm ok with rookie mistakes, but he's looked tired both mentally and physically in the past couple of games.
    • I thought Marc Staal rebounded from a terrible showing against the Flyers and was the best Ranger on the ice tonight.
    • Ales Kotalik should play on Monday night against the Penguins.  Artem Anisimov or Christopher Higgins should sit.  Anisimov has looked tired like Del Zotto in the past few games and could use a rest.
    • Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin should absolutely stay in the lineup.  Voros took a bad penalty night, but I like the passion he's been playing with.  
    • Plus, Voros got Marian Gaborik on Twitter.
    • Matt Zaba looked ok in his NHL debut.  There's no way to really judge it though, very similar to Chad Johnson's debut in the last 6-0 defeat.
    • The Rangers need to regroup and regroup fast.  Familiar foes Pittsburgh make and appearance at MSG on Monday night, and the fans are itching for something to cheer about (see also: goals, a win, and Sidney Crosby getting knocked on his butt).

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Flyers 1/21

    Flyers 2, Rangers 0
    • Paul Devorski has got to be one of the worst referees in the entire NHL.  First, for no interference call to go against Asham after he clearly bowled over Lundqvist is unacceptable.  Then, for Dubinsky to get 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for his shouting match with Carcillo--who didn't get the same--is asinine.  Especially after Carcillo cowardly went after Gaborik.  Officiating didn't decide this game, but I would be happy to never see Devorski in another Rangers game EVER  again.  You can ask anyone in section 403 how I react when I find out he's on the ice for a home game.  He's been one of the worst for a while, and nothing has changed.
    • The Rangers showed very little of the physical play that I felt opened up the scoring in the last 2 games.
    • I don't know why Marian Gaborik felt the need to drop the gloves with Carcillo.  (For those of you who think it was reactive, watch the video again.  Gabby dropped the gloves first.)  He has to show more discipline there and stay out of a 5 minute mini vacation.
    • I like that Wade Redden "accidentally" laid the body on Hartnell a few minutes later after the whistle had blown.  Say what you will about Wade, but he's been sticking up for his teammates more than anyone else in recent times.
    • Marc Staal had what was probably his worst game of the season.  He was beaten (twice) on the first goal, and the second went in off his skate in front.
    • Christopher Higgins...where to start?  First, HIT THE DAMN NET WITH A SHOT! it too much to ask?  Second, on the PK with 10 seconds left in the period CLEAR THE PUCK!@#$% His failure to do so led directly to the 2nd Flyers goal.
    • The NHL has to do something about these ridiculous slashing calls.  If you're gonna call slashing when a stick breaks, start calling it when there's a slash that's 5x harder but has a different end result since the elbow pad takes the punishment.  Personally, I think the slashing call for a broken stick should be eliminated.  This boils down to the root problem in NHL discipline--both on the ice and off--which is that oftentimes the punishment is due to the result, not the action and/or intent.
    • The Rangers did a terrible job of testing Ray Emery, who has been shaky of late in returning from an abdominal injury.  I don't care how many shots the score sheet counts, I counted 3 scoring chances for the Rangers.  I know Torts keeps track of this, and I'm interested to know how many he counted.
    • I hope that in 2 weeks we can say the same thing we said recently about the last loss to the Flyers, that it was an aberration along the way.  Either way, it makes no sense that the Rangers have folded twice in the past month, and both times against the Flyers.  This game looked a lot more like that 6-0 loss than the score sheet shows...and it wasn't fun to watch.
    • Henrik Lundqvist has now gone 10 straight games without allowing more than 2 goals.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Lightning 1/19

    Rangers 8, Lightning 2
    • 3 Stars: Marian Gaborik (4a), Vinny Prospal (1g, 1a), Brandon Dubinsky (1g, 1a, 1 fight).
    • I'm very tempted to write a ton tonight, but I'm going to resist that urge and keep it short and sweet.
    • 16 Rangers registered points tonight (6 had at least 2 points), each goal was scored by a different Ranger, every Ranger except Aaron Voros played over 10 minutes, and the team as a whole showed a superior battle level throughout the game.
    • Marian Gaborik tied a career high with 4 assists.
    • Aaron Voros scored his 1st goal of the season, fought twice, and drew a penalty by wisely refusing to fight Konopka in the third period.  He's earned an extended stay in the lineup.
    • After their recent scoreless stretch, the Rangers now have scored 2 or more goals in 5 straight periods.
    • I said it Sunday night and I'll say it again now: the only way I see Kotalik or Brashear re-appearing anytime soon is if Higgins sits.
    • The Lightning showed me very little tonight.  I expect Thursday night in Philly to be a bigger test for this team and their recently rediscovered scoring touch.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Canadiens 1/17

    Rangers 6, Canadiens 2
    • Is there any better way to shake a scoring slump than with a 6 goal outburst against a team that you're fighting with for a playoff spot?
    • Three Stars: Ryan Callahan (2g, 2a), Brandon Dubinsky (2g, 1a), and Marian Gaborik (1g, 2a).
    • This was the most passion and physical fire I've seen from this team all season.  Wade Redden deserves a lot of credit after standing up for Erik Christensen.  First, after Christensen took a high, late hit from Benoit Pouliot, Redden was the Ranger who approached Pouliot.  After Pouliot returned from his penalty, Redden managed to find him during a post-whistle scuffle and the two dropped the gloves.  From my vantage point in the 400s it even looked like Redden won the fight, landing some solid shots.  Here's video of the fight.
      • Later, Christensen stood up to Scott Gomez on behalf of Dubinsky, who took a shot between the legs from Gomez after the whistle.
      • Enver Lisin stood up for himself after being interfered with by Tomas Plekanec.
    • The Rangers did a much better job at 2 very important things tonight: clearing the zone and getting traffic in front of the opposition's net.
    • The top line of Prospal-Dubinsky-Gaborik seems to be clicking again.  It's only 1 game so consider it cautious optimism, but I'm pretty sure we'll see them together Tuesday night against the Lightning.
    • Redden had a strong game on defense to accompany his feisty play.
    • Dubinsky had a strong 2-way game and excelled in the faceoff circle, winning 12 of 15 draws.  He also showed unselfishness in setting up Gaborik for the team's 5th goal instead of shooting for a hat trick of his own.
    • This game was a great illustration of why Ryan Callahan is on Team USA for the Olympics.  He scored goals on the power play and at even strength, and added assists short handed and at even strength.  Really, his play to get the puck out of the zone and around the defenseman completely set up Dubinsky's shorthanded goal.
    • Chris Drury was very good on the power play point.  He took shots when the lane was there, and did an outstanding job of keeping the puck in the zone at least 3 times tonight.
    • Michael Del Zotto had his best defensive game in recent memory, and did a great job of forcing Gomez around the net on a third period 2-on-1.
    • The second period was one of the team's best all season.  On top of the 3 goals scored, they limited the Habs to 2 shots.  In fact, I think the Rangers limited the Habs to 2 shots for the 30 minutes or so following their 2nd goal.
    • Speaking of that 2nd goal, it looked an awful lot to me like Brian Gionta knocked it into the net with a high stick.  I just saw the replay of it on TV, and I still think they got the call wrong.
    • From my vantage point I thought Pouliot deserved more than 2 minutes for his high, late hit on Christensen.  It seemed very late and clearly directed at Christensen's head.
    • Henrik Lundqvist appeared to be sporting a brand new mask.  If new mask = 6 goals for the Rangers, I think he should have a new mask every night.  He can surely afford it with his contract!
    • The last time Lundqvist allowed more than 2 goals in a game was that forgettable outing agains the Flyers on 12/30.  It's now been 8 straight games allowing less than 3 goals for Hank.
    • Sean Avery saw most of his time with the 4th line tonight, and had a good scrap with Josh Gorges.  It was the best I've ever seen Avery fight.
    • The only way I see a spot for Brashear or Kotalik in this lineup is if Higgins takes a seat.  Everyone else played themselves into a spot in my eyes.
    • The Rangers now have three 10-goal scorers on the year: Gaborik (29), Callahan (12), and Dubinsky (10).
    • One other thing...I didn't quite understand the reason behind booing Gomez.  He clearly used to be a Ranger, but it wasn't like he asked to be traded or left via free agency.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Blues 1/16

    Blues 4, Rangers 1
    • Enver Lisin MUST stay in the lineup.  He was the best Ranger on the ice all night, skating hard and creating chances.  I thought he should have drawn a tripping call on his partial breakaway, and he drew one on his next shift after hitting the crossbar.
    • Marian Gaborik has definitely hit a rough patch, and not just offensively.  After blowing coverage on the game-winner Thursday night against Ottawa, his turnover led to the game-winner tonight.  He also had a glorious chance and was stoned by Mason.
    • The Blues have the best forecheck I've seen all year.  I hope Torts uses it as an example of how to effectively--and consistently--forecheck.
    • Chad Johnson was ok.  I still don't see him as an NHL caliber goalie yet, but he seems to be the best in-house option the Rangers have.
    • The D pair of Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto has to end.  They were minus-2 together tonight, and the defensive pairs seem to be so much more in sync when Staal is with Girardi and Del Zotto is with Rozsival.
    • The power play was brutal, and there's no other way to put it.  I think the Blues had more shots on Rangers power plays than the Rangers did.  Unaccepatable.
    • Hockey 101:  Clear the zone...seriously, do it!
    • BREAKING NEWS: The Rangers scored a goal!  Now they need to work on increasing that number again.
    • Brian Boyle was the one who found the back of the net--ok maybe not the back, but the puck found its way completely across the goal line--and Aaron Voros got the lone assist.
    • If I was coaching this team:  Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin both play again tomorrow night.  Kotalik rejoins the lineup in place of Higgins.
    • In all fairness, the Blues played a solid defensive game and Chris Mason was strong in net.
    • It was good to see JD on MSG (or whatever you want to call it) again, and great to hear he's doing well.  It makes me miss hearing and seeing him next to Sam that much more though.
    • The box score says the Rangers had 27 hits to the Blues' 23.  I don't know what game the statistician was watching, because the Blues were hitting everything in sight.  They might have had 23 hits in the third period.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Senators 1/14

    Senators 2, Rangers 0
    • There is no other way to say it other than this: BAD LOSS.
    • The Rangers were outworked for 60 minutes tonight.  When they did gain control of the puck long enough to set something up offensively, there wasn't enough traffic going to the net.  They made a team that had lost 5 straight, all by at least 3 goals, look really good.  The same team was missing 3 of its top forwards (Alfredsson, Spezza, Michalek) and its top netminder (Leclaire) due to injury.  
    • The Senators wanted it much more than the Rangers did tonight and it was clear from the opening drop of the puck.  They won more battles for the puck than any team should in 60 minutes.
    • There were a few bright spots for the Blueshirts tonight...
      • The Rangers were 44-19 on faceoffs.  Drury won 19 of 24 and Christensen won 10 of 13.
      • They managed to stay out of the penalty box again, having to kill off just 1 Ottawa power play.
      • Dan Girardi continued his strong defensive play, and chipped in 4 shots to go along with his 5 hits.
    • Christensen and Higgins were both demoted from their respective lines in the third period.  You have to think that Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin are both going to get at least 1 game each this weekend, if for no other reason than they will both fight for the puck and drive to the net.
    • Henrik Lundqvist has been razor sharp recently.  He had 1 lapse tonight and it was unfortunately at a rather inopportune time.  If the puck had been cleared (as it should have been at least twice), Lundqvist probably records his second shutout in as many games.
    • I had a feeling that Kovalev would play a role in the outcome of this game.  He turns it on every time he plays at the Garden.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    The Day After

    Now that I've had some time to digest what I saw last night at Madison Square Garden and see some highlights of that game and others last night, I have to write a little bit more on the game and some other league-wide news.

    First, on the game:
    • That was more than the most entertaining game of the season.  The only game in recent memory that I've seen live or on the tube that was as entertaining from start to finish was the Ovechkin-Crosby hat trick game in last year's playoffs.
    • This game had the most shots of any double shutout ever...BY FAR.  The previous record was 75, set in 1968 and tied in 2006. (credit to NHL on the Fly)
    • Both goalies set career highs for saves in a single game.  It was also the most shots Brodeur had ever faced in a single game.  (Elias Sports Bureau)
    • I don't know how I forgot to mention this last night, but Brandon Dubinsky had another outstanding game playing on the wing.  I don't see any reason for him to move back to center this season unless there's an injury.
    • Also, in general I liked the officiating last night.  There was lots of end to end action without whistles, and I think close to 10 minutes in the first period without one.  However, I thought the call on Christensen was weak, especially after a period and a half of calling nothing either way.
    • The Rangers now have points in 12 of their last 13 games.  The only blemish on their record was that forgettable 6-0 loss to the Flyers.  They've allowed an average of 1.77 goals per game over that span (1.42 if you take out that game) and are 8-1-4 (20 pts).
    • I turned to the person sitting next to me last night and said, "Does anyone want to argue that a 0-0 game can't be more exciting than a 7-5 game?"  No contest in this one...0-0 won by first round KO.  This game was an instant classic and I just wish it was on MSG so I could watch it on Rangers in 60 today.

      Other NHL news:
      • Marian Gaborik is on a little scoring skid and Patrick Marleau has taken over the season goals lead, scoring his 30th and 31st goals last night.  Sidney Crosby has 29 and Gaborik is 3rd with 28 goals on the season, but only 2 in his last 9 games.
      • In case you missed it, Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows accused referee Stephane Auger of threatening to "get [him] back" for a 5-minute major call in the last Canucks game Auger officiated that was later rescinded by the league (video).  There is video footage from the pregame skake showing the two talking, though you obviously can't tell what was being said, but the third period interference call that Auger made on Burrows was one of the worst calls I've seen all year, and the earlier diving call wasn't much better.  The NHL fined Burrows $2,500 for his comments and found no need to punish Auger after investigating the incident.  I've never liked Auger, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was true, but TSN's Bob McKenzie had a very interesting and insightful take on this.  It's not short, but it's well worth the read.  UPDATE: McKenzie's follow up, after the investigation.  An even better read.
      • In another dicey situation from last Thursday, FSN Pittsburgh sent replays to the Toronto replay room for review of a shorthanded no-goal call on the Flyers' Simon Gagne.  Problem is, they just happened to forget to send the one replay (overhead) that showed the puck clearly across the line.  It's easy to blame who they blamed (the producer who's been suspended), but I'm wondering why the NHL didn't request the overhead view before ruling.  They had to know it existed...isn't there a direct overhead shot of every goal in the league???
      • All of the Kovalchuk chatter around the league is starting to amuse me.  A few things:
        • He's not coming to New York.  The Rangers don't have cap room and have no way to create it.
        • He's not going to the KHL.  This Zherdev goal should be taken as a barometer of the level of play in the KHL.  Zherdev wouldn't have been allowed anywhere near the goal if he tried that in the NHL.
        • $10-11m per season for a guy who doesn't backcheck with any degree of thanks!  Someone will probably pay it, and they'll get some highlight reel goals out of him, but it's still hard to ignore his defensive deficiencies.  He has 50 points this season and still has managed to be in the red in the plus/minus column...that's hard to do.  (Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis are the only others out of the 11 50-point players, and all but 1 of the rest are better than plus-10).
        • The front runners are reported to be Chicago and LA, but my guess is LA.  They have plenty of cap room and he fits their system much better.  Plus, he'd look really nice next to Anze Kopitar.
      • Curtis Joseph hung 'em up officially yesterday.  CuJo retires as #4 on the all-time wins list and #1 on the all-time loss list.  He's a sure thing for the Hall of Fame; they should start making the plaque now.

        Tuesday, January 12, 2010

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Devils 1/12

        Devils 1, Rangers 0 (SO)
        • WOW! What a game!  96 combined shots, no goals, 4 penalties, 58 hits, and entertaining for 65 full minutes of play!  This was the most entertaining game of the season in my eyes.
        • Games like tonight make me hate the shootout.  Neither team, and really neither goalie, deserved to lose this was fit to be a tie.
        • The shot that did end up in the net was a wicked one by Elias.
        • Chris Drury...anyone want to argue that he shouldn't be on the Olympic team after his performance tonight?  He played the full 2 minutes of the 5-on-3/4-on-3 after Dubinsky and Christensen were whistled on the same play.  He also put on an absolute clinic in the faceoff circle, winning 11 of 15.
        • Marc Staal and Dan Girardi shut down the Devils' top line.  Staal led all players with 27:31 of ice time and must have poke checked the puck away from Devils attackers at least 5 times.
        • Vinny Prospal looked like he hadn't missed any time at all; not bad for a guy who had a torn meniscus and missed 7 games.
        • Who is this guy posing as Brian Boyle?  7 hits, 4 shots on goal, a breakaway, 2-0 on faceoffs in just 7:58?!?  Maybe he needs to play against the Devils every night...
        • Ryan Callahan was very involved tonight too...5 shots, 6 hits, and killed off most of the 5-on-3 with Drury.
        • Overall, this was a great effort from the Rangers.  If they play at even 75% of this in every game, they're going to pile up the points down the stretch.

        Saturday, January 9, 2010

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Bruins 1/9

        Rangers 3, Bruins 1

        • This was the 2nd straight very strong defensive performance from the Rangers, and they seemed to build on their strong play from Thursday night in Atlanta.  All six defensemen played very well, took the body, and didn't give the Bruins much room to work with.  The forwards also had a strong back checking game today.
        • The first period was sloppy by both teams and the Rangers were lucky to come out of it with the lead.  Del Zotto's moves on the goal and Lundqvist's poise on the penalty shot provided for the 1-0 margin.
        • The second period was probably the 2nd best period I've seen the Rangers play this season (first period vs. Ducks was best).  They outshot the Bruins 21-3 in that frame, and the puck seemed to spend at least the entire 2nd half of the period in the Bruins end.  The 21 shots in a period were a season-high for the Rangers.  Overall, the Rangers outshot the Bruins 34-30, but that number was skewed by the Bruins' 16-6 third period advantage.
        • As a team the Rangers took only 2 minor penalties (3 if you count the penalty shot), and 2 of them looked like proficient acting jobs by Bruins forwards.  Also, they have yet to allow a power play goal in 2010.
        • The power play still looked dreadful in the first period, but improved a lot after that.  There was more movement, and they did a better job of keeping possession.
        • Brandon Dubinsky (1st), Henrik Lundqvist (2nd), and Erik Christensen (3rd) were the 3 stars of the game, and they all deserved it.
        • Dubinsky factored in on all 3 goals, posting 2 assists and the eventual game winning goal.
        • Lundqvist was very sharp in turning away 29 Boston shots, including 15 in the third period and Marco Sturm's first period penalty shot.  The only blunder was with less than 4 minutes to go in the game.
        • Christensen continued his strong play with a very nice assist on Dubinsky's game winner and a rocket of a wrist shot for the insurance goal in the 3rd.  He also had 3 other shots on goal and was credited with 4 hits.  He now has 7 points (3g, 4a) and is plus-7 in 6 games since Prospal has been out.  If it was up to me, he would stay in the top 6 forwards when Prospal returns.
        • Michael Del Zotto took advantage of last year's Norris and Vezina winners on his first period beauty.  He took the puck and skated around Chara, then drove to the net with the puck and got Thomas to open up the 5-hole before sliding the puck into the net.  Del Zotto was also especially strong in his own end today.
        • Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Michal Rozsival all continued their strong play.  Girardi in particular blocked 4 shots and was credited with 4 hits.  Staal led the team with over 25 minutes of ice time.
        • Chris Drury had another strong game and earned all of his 19:10 of ice time.  He was also 13-9 in the faceoff circle.
        • The fourth line of Lisin-Boyle-Brashear played very well and was rewarded with almost 10 minutes of ice time.
        • Sean Avery drew a roughing penalty in the second period during a post-whistle scuffle.  He had an otherwise quiet game.
        • The next game is Tuesday night when the Rangers host the Devils at 7pm.  In case you missed it, there was a lighting issue last night in Newark and the Devils-Lightning game was suspend with about 9 minutes left in the second period.  The rest of that game will be played tomorrow, so both teams should be pretty fresh for Tuesday's contest.

        Thursday, January 7, 2010

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Thrashers 1/7

        Thrasher 2, Rangers 1 (SO)
        • Chad Johnson really deserved better.  He played better than anyone could have imagined--even stopped Ilya Kovalchuk in the shootout--and got no offensive support.  He got the support on defense for sure, but a loss of any kind to this Thrashers team that had lost 9 straight should be considered unacceptable.  Right after I typed this, Ryan Callahan is said pretty much the same exact thing in his interview.
        • Enver Lisin scored the only goal for the Rangers by driving hard to the net and deflecting a beautiful pass from Marc Staal. Chad Johnson got the other assist.
        • Chad Johnson's final line: 31 saves, 1 assist, 1 goal allowed, .969 save percentage.  Chad, welcome to the big club, you'll likely get the nod a few more times before April.
        • Enver Lisin--remember, the guy who scored a second period goal--played less than every other player tonight.  I don't get it.
        • I like Michael Del Zotto as much as the next guy, but choosing him 5th in the shootout?  Did Torts think this was another rookie draft?  A short list of some of the players who could have shot at that point instead: Avery, Anisimov, Lisin, Dubinsky, Drury, Gilroy.  I don't see the logic in having MDZ shoot there, especially needing to score to keep it going.
        • Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival had an outstanding defensive game, combining to keep Kovalchuk at bay (1 SOG, -1) and helping keep Johnson calm.  Staal also did a great job rushing the puck up ice to create the Rangers goal.
        • Ryan Callahan had a great game--even made a save--but he committed a not so great turnover that led to the Thrashers goal. You have to get that one over the red line, even if you ice it and have to take a timeout.
        • Chris Drury was credited with 7 blocked shots tonight.  I think the real number was closer to 10, but his defensive play was outstanding (14-9 on faceoffs didn't hurt either).
        • Erik Christensen made another outstanding play when he used his body to shield the puck from Afinigenov before putting a perfect pass on Gaborik's stick for one of the best Rangers scoring chances of the night.
        • I like the D pairings much better when Staal and Girardi play together and Del Zotto plays with Rozsival.
        • The Rangers are now 2-6 in games that go past 60 minutes.  They also have points in 10 of their last 11 games and 5 straight.
        • 2009 1st round pick Chris Kreider and his BC Eagles play against BU at Fenway tomorrow night.  The game will be broadcast live on NHL Network at 7:30pm.
        • The next Rangers game is at 1pm Saturday in Boston on MSG.

        News of the Day

        A few things to note in today's news:
        • Vinny Prospal skated today for the first time since his knee surgery.  This is good new for the Rangers, but I don't think we'll see him back in the lineup until next week (Tuesday at MSG vs. the Devils?).
        • Andrew Gross reports that the Yankee Bowl is all but set for December 30th, 2010.  That's the bowl game set to feature the 3rd place Big East football team taking on the 7th place Big 12 team.  I think this is a big miscalculation on the part of the Yankees: they could have bit the bullet for a year on a bowl game that no one cares about (or even moved it earlier to December 20th or so) and have been all but guaranteed the Winter Classic.  Instead, they get a bowl game that no one cares about.  It seems like New York's last chance at the Winter Classic for 2010 is now CitiField.
        • All reports out of Atlanta are that Chad Johnson is going to make his first NHL start tonight against the struggling Thrashers, who have lost 9 straight (3 after regulation).  In fact, the Thrashers haven't won a game in regulation since November 30th, and they're 4-11-3 since that game (including a shootout win at MSG).  Johnson was shaky in his first appearance with the Rangers, but who wasn't shaky in that horrid game against the Flyers?
        • In case you missed it, Sean Avery's postgame interview (thanks @cathybytes) after his 4-point performance against his former club, which happens to also pay 1/2 of his salary (Thanks Brett Hull!).

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Stars 1/6

        Rangers 5, Stars 2
        • Welcome back, Sean Avery!  What a night for Avery...he started by tying the game early on a slapper over Turco's shoulder, then went on to record the primary assist on the next 3 Rangers goals, all while annoying the heck out of the Stars (at points it seemed like they were collectively more focused on killing #16 than beating the Rangers).
        • Avery also had what I'm calling the quote of the year in his postgame interview when asked what was different about this game, he simply stated, "I was getting paid by 2 teams."  Classic!  Here's the video from his interview. (Thanks @cathybytes)
        • Henrik Lundqvist is looking like The King about that silly stick save he made on Jamie Benn in the second period?!? WOW!  The only 2 pucks that got by him tonight were deflected.
        • Can we all agree that Erik Christensen has earned a regular spot on this team?  4-game point streak since taking Vinny Prospal's spot and another strong game tonight.
        • Michal Rozsival had 2 more assists tonight (8 in the last 10 games), and was the only Ranger not named Avery to record more than 1 point...just sayin'.
        • Dan Girardi is an absolute warrior and I hope Glen Sather locks him up for another 2-4 years at about $1.5-2m per.  He blocked a team-high 4 shots tonight in a team-high 23:09, was plus-3, had 2 hits and 2 takeaways. I'm not sure about this, but I don't think he's missed a game since he was called up from Hartford 3 seasons ago...that's 240 consecutive games and he's only 25.
        • Donald Brashear was flat out robbed of his first goal as a Ranger by Marty Turco tonight.
        • With his empty netter, Ryan Callahan is officially the 2nd 10-goal scorer on the Rangers this season.  Callahan also had a strong game on the PK, along with Chris Drury.  The PK went 6 for 6 tonight.
        • Ales Kotalik has improved his play at even strength of late, and done so with consistency.
        • Brandon Dubinsky had another strong game playing left wing.  Torts should keep him there for the long haul.
        • Tomorrow (Thursday) night's game at Atlanta will be on MSG+

        Tuesday, January 5, 2010

        WJC Final: USA vs. Canada - Live Blog

        Countless scouting eyes will be looking on tonight as surprise finalists Team USA take on hosts and tournament favorites Canada for World Junior Championships gold tonight.  Despite how that last sentence reads, USA had Canada on the brink of defeat just 5 nights ago in the preliminary round.  It took a third period comeback and later a shootout for Canada to take down the Americans for first place in Group A and a bye into the semifinals.  USA was forced to take the scenic route, taking care of Finland in the quarterfinals and upsetting defending silver medalists Sweden in the semifinals.

        Check out the IIHF preview here, and I'll be back at gametime (8pm ET) with another live blog.  If you want to watch at home, the NHL Network will have live coverage and the Rangers prospects in the game all play on Team USA: Derek Stepan (C, #21), Chris Kreider (#20), and Ryan Bourque (#17).

        First Period
        0:00 - Mike Lee in net for the 3rd consecutive game.  Jake Allen between the pipes for Canada.  Derek Stepan in the pregame interview: "A good night for me is 5 or 6 hits."  And he just happens to have 12 points in the tournament to lead Team USA.  I love to hear this as a Rangers fan.  Stepan wins the opening faceoff.

        1:15 - Ryan Bourque with a great opening shift, using his speed and body to create pressure, a turnover, and a 3-on-2 rush.

        2:40 - Tyler Johnson is a bit slow on the backcheck for USA and it leads to a Luke Adam goal.  Jordan Caron gets the lone assist.

        7:55 - Team USA has been very sloppy in their own end, and that will have to change soon or Canada is going to put a couple more goals on the board and make this really tough for USA.

        10:08 - Johnson tries to redeem himself as he beats 2 Canadian defenders to the puck for a partial breakaway, but he loses an edge and goes hard into the boards instead.

        13:54 - Chris Kreider skates into the zoneand rips a wrist shot into the far top corner. Assists to Palmieri and Jenks. 1-1

        14:32 - Ryan Bourque fights off 2 Canadian forwards in front of the USA bench, gets the puck to Jordan Schroeder who comes in 2-on-1 and puts another wrist shot past Allen.  Bourque and Donovan get the assists.  2-1 USA

        16:03 - Canada survives a rough stretch, then takes advantage of more poor backchecking by USA and Greg Nemisz puts the puck behind Lee for the tie.  Assists to Kadri and Hall.

        19:21 - Alex Pietrangelo hits Jeremy Morin from behind in response to John Carlson's clean hit on Hall.  That means the 2nd power play for Team USA and more importantly a 10 minute misconduct for Pietrangelo, one of their top defensemen.  Team Canada is already shorthanded on the blueline since Travis Hamonic is out with a separated shoulder.

        First Intermission - Neither team can be happy with the way they played for the first 20 minutes, so I guess it's fitting that we're tied heading to the second period.  Team USA will have 1:21 remaining on their power play when the period begins and Pietrangelo will have 11:21 left in the box.  Kreider and Bourque both had strong periods for USA, while Stepan seemed to start slow again.

        Second Period
        1:03 - John Carlson rips a slapshot from the point low to Allen's right for a power play goal.  Palmieri did a nice job with the screen, not allowing Allen to see the puck.  Assists to Kristo and McRae.

        3:56 - A seemingly harmless shot hits Lee, pops up into the air, then falls into the net.  Hall gets credit, with the assist to Adam.  Jack Campbell comes off the bench to replace Lee.

        11:55 - The sides traded penalty kills and Campbell has looked very strong since coming on in relief.  Pietrangelo is back from his misconduct for Canada.

        16:32 - USA has been having a lot of trouble clearing their zone again.  They seem to go through stretches during every period where they just can't get the puck out of their defensive zone.

        17:46 - On successive shifts Ryan Bourque goes down to a knee to block a slapshot while looking the shooter in the eye, then takes a huge hit along the board in the offensive zone to make a pass setting up a scoring chance.

        Second Intermission - Team USA should consider themselves lucky to get out of that period still tied.  Canada had the better of the play for the good part of the last 15 minutes, as Team USA couldn't clear the puck on a few occasions.  Jack Campbell must have ice water running through his veins because he's been stellar since coming in for a shaky Mike Lee.

        Third Period
        4:12 - Stepan feeds D'Amigo on a 2-on-1 rush and Jerry D'Amigo does the rest.

        6:23 - D'Amigo flips the puck in, but Allen bobbles it and Stepan is there to pick up the loose puck.  He dekes to his backhand and buries it for a 5-3 USA lead.  Allen has now given way to Martin Jones in the Canadian net.

        8:35 - Team USA is buzzing now...clearing their zone, forcing Canadian turnovers, and dictating play.

        14:45 - Campbell gives the puck away behind his own net, but recovers to make a nice save and maintain the 2 goal lead.

        17:11 - Jordan Eberle cashes in on the power play after Palmieri is sent off for charging as he was pushed by Ellis.  Assists to Hall and Pietrangelo.

        18:25 - Eberle scores again to tie the game after Team USA couldn't clear the zone for a good minute and a half.  Assists to Kadri and Ellis.

        20:00 - Tied at 5...going to overtime.

        0:00 - OT is 4-on-4 and teams need to make the longer change, like the 2nd period.  Sudden death period...shootout if tied.

        1:27 - Bourque finds his way into the slot and lets go a wrister that Jones stops.

        4:31 - John Carlson skates the puck all the way to the top of the circle on a 3-on-1 rush and fires a wrist shot past Jones low short side.  John Ramage gets the assist.  USA upsets Canada for the Gold Medal!!

        Postgame notes: Derek Stepan is named player of the game for USA.  Top 3 players of the tournament for USA: Tyler Johnson, Derek Stepan, and Jerry D'Amigo.  Derek Stepan finished as the tournament leader with 14 points (4g, 10a).  Jack Campbell deserved consideration for player of the game honors.  He was lights out from the second he replaced Mike Lee, and this game probably doesn't make it to OT if not for his stellar play.

        Rangers prospects: All 3 Rangers prospects played major roles in USA's gold medal winning performance tonight...

        Derek Stepan seems to have a knack for turning it on in the third period.  He was almost invisible offensively for 2 periods tonight and then picked up a goal and an assist in the third.  For the tournament, 6 of his 14 points came in third periods.

        Chris Kreider had an all around great game,creating opportunities with his speed as always.  He was active physically and did a good job on the other side of the puck tonight to go along with his goal.  He and Stepan were the forwards on the ice for the game-winner.

        Ryan Bourque was one of the best USA players on the ice for the second game in a row.  He was buzzing on the forecheck, and used a great individual effort to set up Schroeder's first period goal.  He gave his all on every shift and it showed.

        Monday, January 4, 2010

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Bruins 1/4

        Rangers 3, Bruins 2

        • So apparently Christopher Higgins CAN (and did) hit the side of a barn...but only if practically he's touching it already.
        • If you caught the postgame interview with Higgins on Versus, you may have noticed that he didn't even know who he scored on.  He thinks he beat an Olympic goalie (Time Thomas)...maybe we shouldn't tell him it was actually a 22-year-old Finnish rookie with a cool name (Tuuka Rask).
        • Erik Christensen again showed why he should continue to see ice time as a top 6 forward, even after Vinny Prospal comes back from his knee surgery.  I was sitting with a Bruins fan tonight who was quite impressed with the move he put on Rask to score...I agree.
        • Marian Gaborik seemed to have an off night, although he did put 6 pucks on net.
        • I thought Ales Kotalik had another effective game at even strength, and put his rocket of a slapper to work in picking up his 7th goal of the season.
        • Donald Brashear was for the most part effective in his 5+ minutes of ice time.  He got a pair of good shots on Rask and tried to engage Byron bitz, who declined.
        • Brandon Dubinsky had another strong game on the left wing, picking up a pair of assists and having Rask keep him from scoring a goal or 2.
        • Michal Rozsival had a strong defensive game and did a great job to deny Marc Savard of a shot on his partial breakaway without taking a penalty.  He was whistled in the 3rd period for tripping, but it looked a lot like a dive to me (and the Bruins fans sitting to my left). 
        • Henrik Lundqvist was sharp, and likely would have pitched a shut out save for a couple of late defensive breakdowns.
        • Ryan Callahan had a very strong game tonight, especially on the PK.  At one point he spent 10-15 shorthanded seconds with the puck in the Bruins zone, while 4 Bruins tried to take it away from him.  He probably could have even drawn a holding the stick or hooking penalty on the play, but nothing was called.
        • Tuuka Rask leads all NHL goalies this season with a 0.935 save percentage...and the Rangers beat him.  This was a very solid win for this team.

        Sunday, January 3, 2010

        Live Blog - WJC Semifinal: USA vs. Sweden

        Team USA takes on its second Scandinavian country in as many nights tonight when they play Sweden at 9pm ET in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the World Junior Championship semifinals.  Live blog starting at game time, with a postgame wrap-up at the bottom.

        First Period
        0:00 - After his 42 save performance last night, Mike Lee is in goal for USA again tonight.  Derek Stepan wins the opening faceoff.

        1:24 - USA out to a quick lead as Kyle Palmieri pokes a free puck from behind the net into the slot and Tyler Johnson roofs it.  Palmieri gets the only assist although McRae forced the turnover with a big hit.

        2:25 - Kreider forces a turnover that leads to another quick USA scoring chance.  Markstrom makes a couple of nice saves for Sweden.

        7:16 - USA goes on the game's first power play as a Swedish skater is sent off for hooking.

        13:35 - Scramble in front of the USA net...a couple of nice saves by Lee, but even more that didn't make it to him.

        16:01 - Ryan Bourque drives to the slot from the right point and creates a great scoring chance for himself, but shoots high.

        19:45 - Bourque just created another great scoring chance, sending a dangerous pass across the crease, but no one was there to finish.

        20:00 - WOW!  Chris Kreider just showed off his speed again, and I think this was the fastest I've seen him.  He skated in hard alone on the forecheck, poked the puck away from one defenseman, and almost got to the far corner before the second Swedish defenseman.

        First Intermission: A decent overall period by the American side, but they were getting outworked by the Swedes for the middle portion of the period.  For coming into this game as the underdog, you have to be happy with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.  NHL Network had a nice feature on Ryan Bourque during the intermission, with him talking about having his father as his coach when he was younger and Patrick Roy as his Junior coach now.  He said he used to butt heads with his dad a lot because he was "an immature kid" but that he realized that he should probably listen to his Hall of Fame father Ray.

        Second Period
        0:25 - Stepan completely undresses a Swedish defenseman but is stopped by Markstrom.  He drew a penalty on the play by driving hard to the net with the puck.

        4:45 - Bourque just made a great defensive read to block a high percentage shot.  As the color commentator just said: "Bourque has been the best player on the ice for USA for a period and change now."

        4:17 - Sweden ties the game after Lander skates a rebound around Lee and fires it home.  Assists to Rodin and Andersson.

        7:29 - Jan Erixon's son Tim gets whistled for interfering with Jerry D'Amigo.  Sweden has the best penalty kill in the tournament and it's clear why...they don't give anyone time to set up and they make it hard to get into the zone.  Back at even strength now.

        7:31 - Bourque takes a rare faceoff, pokes it forward, then draws a tripping call while trying to retrieve it.

        10:24 - Huge rebound save by Markstrom robs USA of a 2-1 lead.  Announcers just compared him to Lundqvist.

        12:17 - Lander pots his 2nd rebound goal for Sweden.  Stepan was beaten to the net by Rodin on the original shot.  Assists to Rodin and Silfverberg.

        15:06 - Skating 4-on-4 D'Amigo skates in on a 2-on-1 with Kreider, elects to shoot and it pays off.  Assist to Carlson.

        16:32 - Stepan takes the first USA penalty of the night by flipping the puck over the glass.

        0:00 - Markstrom sprung Sweden on a 3-on-1 break during their power play, but Cam fowler did a great job breaking it up and not allowing a shot.

        Second Intermission: 2-2 after 40 minutes.  Despite Sweden having the better of the play in both periods,Team USA is hanging in there and has found a way to lead the Swedes 26-19 in shots on goal.  Something tells me that if USA wants to win this game, they're going to have to cash in on one of their power play attempts...they're currently 0-for 4.

        Third Period
        0:39 - D'Amigo loses the puck a center ice then takes a late elbow to the head and stays down briefly.  Johansson gets sent off for a 5 minute major.  USA needs to put one on the board here.

        5:37 - Sweden kills off the major penalty and picks up a power play of their own as Silfverberg is slashed on a shorthanded breakaway.

        7:07 - Stepan and Bourque have a good penalty killing shift and create 2 shorthanded scoring chances, but don't get any shots on net.

        9:24 - Another good shift by Ryan Bourque getting open on a 3-on-3 rush up the ice, and creating energy for Team USA behind the net.

        12:34 - The puck comes to John Carlson at the right point and he decides to let a slapshot rip and it pays off as it gets past Markstrom as Kreider created some distraction in front.  Goal is unassisted.

        13:48 - Bourque takes a delay of game penalty after finding a lose puck in front of Lee and flipping it over the glass.

        14:15 - Another strong PK shift by Stepan, who creates a turnover and a scoring chance.

        15:28 - D'Amigo with another goal, this time shorthanded.  Stepan did a great job of stealing the puck from the Swedish defender at the point and skated it into the Swedish zone before coaxing the lone defender down to his belly and finding D'Amigo in the slot on the 2-on-1...and the announcers laud praise on Stepan again.  "That's a great play by Stepan on the 2-on-1.  That's something you expect to see out of an NHL player.  Boy, is that 2nd round pick by the NY Rangers looking good."

        17:55 - ANOTHER strong shift by Bourque, getting in hard on the forecheck, stealing the puck away, and getting a bad angle shot on net.  Markstrom leaves Sweden's net for an extra attacker.

        19:07 - Hard forecheck by Kreider frees up the puck and AJ Jenks puts it in the empty net.  Kreider gets the lone assist.  5-2 USA

        USA 5, Sweden 2: Team USA gets what it wanted...guaranteed hardware and a rematch with Canada on Tuesday in the Gold Medal Game.  Jerry D'Amigo was named USA Player of the Game with his 2 goal performance.  I agree with D'Amigo's assessment in his postgame interview: "It was tough We were slow in the first two periods, but we found a way to get it done."

        Rangers prospects: Bourque, Kreider, and Stepan all had good games again for Team USA.  In my opinion, this was Bourque's best game of the tournament so far.  He created energy all around and was especially effective on the forecheck and penalty kill.  Stepan was strong away from the puck, created a few good scoring chances for himself, and did a great job setting up D'Amigo for the goal that effectively put the game away at 4-2.  Kreider again used his speed as his biggest weapon, getting good pressure on the forecheck and creating chances for his teammates, as well as going to the front of the net and creating distractions in front of Markstrom.

        Gold Medal Game: USA takes on Canada at 8pm ET Tuesday night for the Gold Medal.  The game will be shown live on the NHL Network.

        Saturday, January 2, 2010

        Live Blog - WJC Quarterfinal: USA vs. Finland

        First Period
        0:00 - Mike Lee starting in net for USA...he's been the weaker of the 2 netminders in my opinion.

        2:14 - Kyle Palmieri scores on a rush to put USA up 1-0.  Assists to McRae and Schroeder.

        5:44 - Strong backcheck by Chris Kreider to break up a Finland odd man rush.

        6:33 - PPG by Matt Donovan puts USA up 2-0.  Kreider had set up in the slot and drew the attention of 2 Finnish defenders allowing Donovan to sneak in from the point and tap home a cross-ice pass.  Finns were down a man for a Too Many Men call.  Assists to Schroeder and Stepan.  Schroeder just tied Jeremy Roenick for the all-time lead in points for USA in junior play with 25.

        20:00 - USA controlled play for most of the period, but goes into the intermission up 2-0 and tied 7-7 in shots.  Ryan Bourque had a strong shift with Palmieri and Schroeder to end the period.  Kreider has been doing a good job of using his size and speed to create room in the corners so far tonight.  Stepan continuing his poise on the puck.

        Second Period
        2:15 - USA controlling play, but not spending a whole lot of time in the Finnish zone.

        4:40 - Hard forecheck by Chris Kreider creates a scoring chance for USA, but Morin is stopped in front.

        9:37 - Derek Stepan finishes a good hard check on a Finnish blueliner, who stays down and later goes off to the locker room.

        10:48 - On consecutive plays, Bourque and Kreider both do a good job of creating some offense in the zone for USA.  Then Kreider is stopped on a wraparound.

        12:51 - Danny Kristo drives to the net from the half boards, then dishes to Jerry D'Amigo who lifts it over the Finnish goalie. 3-0 USA.

        15:17 - Eero Elo gets Finland on the board by following his shot to the net and putting the rebound over Lee's shoulder.  Assists to Kivisto and Lujonen.

        19:35 - Ryan Bourque heads to the penalty box for tripping.  He skated to the front of his own net to defend, but clearly took down the Finnish attacker.

        update - Stepan was given the 2nd assist on D'Amigo's goal.  That gives him 11 points for the tournament, which leads all players.

        Third Period
        1:45 - Kreider helps kill off the end of Bourque's minor by chipping the puck down ice.  A minute later he uses his speed to chase down a dump in and get it to Morin.  Kreider then drives to the net, takes a feed and buries it high glove side. 4-1 USA.  Assists to Morin and Jenks.

        2:54 - Bourque lays a huge open ice hit on a Finnish attacker.

        5:07 - Sloppy play in the defensive zone by Team USA, but Lee makes a couple of nice saves to maintain the 3 goal lead.

        8:43 - The announcers just described the past few minutes as "sort of like ping pong in the neutral zone with not much puck possession.  Team USA has gotten away from their game a bit."  Seconds later, Lee makes the save of the game after a Finish forward was left alone in the slot.

        14:31 - Lee lets a shot slip through him and Iiro Pakarinen slams it home.  4-2 USA.  the Finns look to have gained a step in the past 2 minutes.  Assists to Ikonen and Sointu

        15:47 - Palmieri sent off for goalie interference after bowling over Finland's goalie.  This is going to be a huge PK for team USA in terms of control of the game.

        18:25 - Timeout finland.  USA killed off the entire 2 minutes as Lee made a few more big saves.  Finnish goalie on the bench in favor of an extra skater.

        19:07 - Jerry D'Amigo makes a heads up play to block a shot at the point, chase the puck down and put it into the empty net.  Goal is unassisted.

        19:16 - Danny Kristo skates in and puts another one in the net.  Assists to Schroeder and Carlson.  With the assist, Schroeder is now the all-time leader in points for USA.

        USA 6, Finland 2: Big win tonight for Team USA despite playing far from their best hockey.  They have a quick turnaround, as they'll take on Sweden tomorrow night at 9pm ET in the semifinals.  The winner of that game will play the winner of Canada and Switzerland, who used a 3rd periot comeback and overtime winner to upset Russia in the other quarterfinal.  Mike Lee came up big in net, making 42 saves on 44 Finland shots, and was deservingly named USA's Player of the Game.  It's really nice to see some of the USA players singing along as the national anthem is played postgame.

        Rangers prospects: Kreider again had a very strong game and is tied with Danny Kristo for the team lead in goals with 5.  He's had a very strong tournament thus far and I can't help but to be excited about the idea of him wearing a Rangers jersey in a couple of years.  I was much more impressed with Ryan Bourque than Derek Stepan in this looked to me like Stepan came out a bit flat tonight, but I'll look for him to rebound with a strong game tomorrow night.  Bourque played a more physical game and did a good job at both ends of the ice.

        Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Hurricanes 1/2

        Hurricanes 2, Rangers 1 (OT)

        • Christopher Higgins could not hit a parked car with a puck if he was inside of it.
        • Christopher Higgins could'nt hit the side of a barn with a grenade launcher if he was standing next to it.
        • You get the point...I just don't understand how Higgins continues to see the amount of ice time he's been getting recently (20:21 tonight, including 2:51 on the PP) while Avery (11:22), Lisin (4:03), and Anisimov (12:02) continue to play well in limited time.  I especially don't understand it after Higgins took 2 bad penalties in the first period today.
        • Speaking of Enver Lisin...did you see that move he made to create a shooting lane for himself before getting flat out robbed by Cam Ward?!?  That's why Glen Sather gave up Lauri Korpikoski for him.
        • Cam Ward played an excellent game and was deserving as the game's #1 star, but the Rangers hit the post 5 times that I counted from my seat and should have put at least 1 of those in the back of the net.  As Torts said in his post-game press conference, this game should not have gone to OT.
        • Erik Christensen really looks like he fits in well with Dubinsky and Gaborik.  He played almost 20 minutes, picked up an assist on Gaborik's goal, and got 1 shot of his own on goal.
        • I thought Ales Kotalik had as solid a game as he's had in a loooong time (all season?), especially at even strength.  I still think he needs to get himself open more and go back to letting a few slappers rip from the point on every PP.
        • I'm happy I can say this...Brian Boyle had a solid game and earned every bit of his 9+ minutes of ice time.  He even got 4 shots on net.
        • Dan Girardi has looked good over the past few games, and I like the pairings much better when he plays with Staal and Del Zotto skates with Rozsival.

        Friday, January 1, 2010

        The Goalie Shuffle

        As first reported on Twitter by Laurie Carr of Beyond the Blueshirts, Chad Johnson has been sent back to Hartford and Matt Zaba has been recalled to serve as Henrik Lundqvist's backup for tomorrow's game against the Hurricanes.  I agree with this move completely...Johnson needs to get some real game minutes under his belt if he hopes to really serve as an NHL backup and get a few starts with the Rangers.  As I mentioned after watching his 2 periods of work on Wednesday night, I think he has a future as a backup but I don't think he's ready now.

        Notes from WJC - USA vs. Canada 12/31

        Canada 5, USA 4 (SO)

        Due to the New Year's Eve festivities, I was not able to see all of what was a phenomenal game from all I've heard.  I do have a few reactions from the coverage I was able to catch...

        Chris Kreider drew his second penalty shot in as many games by using his size and speed to make a Canadian defenseman look like a statue in the slot.  He was tripped down after creating a partial breakaway, but failed to convert on the penalty shot this time as the Canadian netminder forced his shot wide.  Derek Stepan continues to impress me with his poise on the puck and his leadership.  He did a good job defensively, effectively moved the puck up ice, and uses his size and sense well.  After Jordan Schroeder was stopped to end the shootout and the game, the first thing Stepan did was talk to USA goalie Jack Campbell and try to lift his spirits.  The more I watch him play, the more I can't wait to see him wearing a Blueshirt!  Ryan Bourque seemed to continue skating better and did a good job defensively in the efforts I saw.

        Team USA returns to action to face Finland in the quarterfinals on Saturday (1/2) at 9pm ET.  the game will be broadcast live on the NHL Network.  The winner of that game will face Sweden at 9pm Sunday in the semifinal round.

        5 Rangers named Olympians

        Now that all of the rosters for the Olympic hockey teams have been named, congratulations to the Rangers player (and all players) who made the cut.  I'll take a look at the 5 players in the organization who will be playing in Vancouver as well as a few who were candidates but won't be making the trip.  first, the Rangers players who are on Olympic rosters:

        • USA - Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury
        • Slovakia - Marian Gaborik
        • Sweden - Henrik Lundqvist
        • Switzerland - Andreas Ambühl (Wolfpack)
        Gaborik and Lundqvist were shoe-ins, but the other 3 had to wait to find out if they had made their respective teams.  Ryan Callahan probably played his way onto the team over the past year and a half.  He plays all out on every shift and earned the 'A' from Tortorella for a reason...obviously good things in the eyes of Team USA GM Brian Burke.  Drury is an interesting case, just because of how much his offensive production has dipped over the past 2 years.  I think he makes this team for his defensive zone faceoff prowess and his ability to kill penalties.  He won't be expected to score much on this team, and maybe that will let him take some pressure off himself and improve his play before coming back to the Rangers after the Olympic break.

        With a limited Swiss talent pool, the selection of Ambühl probably makes sense.  When he signed with the Rangers in May, he was billed as a Swiss version of Sean Avery and he scored at almost a point per game clip in Switzerland last year.  However, he's failed to translate his game to the AHL so far, posting just 1 goal and 4 assists in 33 games this season.

        Click below to read about a few Rangers who were candidates and didn't make the cut, as well as some general Olympic team notes.