Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekend Update (UPDATED)

Here's some Olympic news and Rangers news:
  • In case you've been hiding under a rock, Team USA made its way into the gold medal game by defeating Switzerland and Finland.  They will take on the favored Canadian team, who they earlier upset 5-3 in round robin play.  The game takes place at 3pm ET tomorrow (Sunday), and will be broadcast live on NBC.
    • In case you need something else to do while watching the game, my friend north of the border has provided this wonderful mini-game.
  • Canada beat Slovakia in last night's semifinal game.  It was a tight 3-2 finish after Canada took a 3-0 lead in the third period.  Frankly, Canada was lucky to get out of this one; Pavol Demitra missed a wide open net in the waning seconds.
    • More important news out of this game (for Rangers fans) is that Marian Gaborik did not play in the third period.  There has been no official word on what ailed him, but most speculation has been centered around a groin issue.  This would be bad new for the Rangers' hopes this season, but might be just what Glen Sather needs to become a seller and get some young talent or draft picks to build around at the trade deadline.
  • The Dallas Stars placed backup netminder Alex Auld on re-entry waivers yesterday, almost immediately after he cleared waivers and was assigned to their AHL affiliate.  Auld became expendable for the Stars when they acquired Kari Lehtonen to split time with Marty Turco.  I would be very surprised if the Rangers didn't make a waiver claim on Auld.  He has a $1 million contract that ends this season and, if they claimed him on re-entry waivers, the Rangers would only be responsible for $500k of that pro-rated.  According to, that means the Rangers would be on the hook for a whopping cap hit of $114,000 through the end of the season.
  • Steve Zipay is reporting that the Rangers have indeed claimed Alex Auld on re-entry waivers.  This likely means the end for Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba with the big club this season.
  • Multiple reports out of Vancouver are now saying that Marian Gaborik still may play tonight in the bronze medal game between Slovakia and Finland.  That game is at 10pm ET on MSNBC.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best Names in the NHL

I was inspired by one of John Buccigross' posts on earlier in the season to look at great names around the league.  He looked at the top 5 names in the league, so I'm going to do it a little differently.  I went down the roster for each of the league's 30 teams and have picked the best name on each team.  Here goes nothing:

Anaheim Ducks - Kyle Chipchura.  I seriously considered giving the nod to Saku Koivu, but I've always liked Chipchura's name (even when he was a Canadien).

Atlanta Thrashers - Evander Kane.  He should be a great world leader with a name like that.  Vyacheslav (Slava) Kozlov nearly got the nod for having the best first name in the history of hockey, and Johnny Oduya also received some consideration.

Boston Bruins - Tuuka Rask.  Easiest choice in the league.  No one else on the roster comes close.

Buffalo Sabres - Jochen Hecht.  From the easiest to one of the hardest, and not for good reasons.  There is a real lack of name talent on this roster.  Jason Pominville is the only one who comes close.

Calgary Flames - Eric Nystrom.  Jewish kid from Long Island with a Swedish name.  Miikka Kiprusoff was an overwhelming favorite, but Nystrom came out of nowhere for the win.

Carolina Hurricanes - Tuomo Ruutu.  The NY Yankees of names, and Ruutu bats cleanup. (You thought I could pick against a guy named Tuomo? COME ON!)  Also receiving votes: Rod Brind'Amour, Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, Tom Kostopoulos, and Stephane Yelle.

Chicago Blackhawks - Dustin Byfuglien.  Nicklas Hjalmarsson was edged out in a photo finish.  Hard to ignore him with a name lack that and the hits he delivers on the Chicago blue line.

Colorado Avalanche - Brandon Yip.  His name is an accurate description of his play, which is why he ended up on my fantasy team.  Wojtek Wolski also received consideration.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Fedor Tyutin.  Great name and a great guy.  Wish he was still on the Rangers...for his world class name and his staunch defense.

Dallas Stars - Kari Lehtonen and Jere Lehtinen.  Have to agree with Bucci that Brunnstrom is a top name, but it's hard to ignore teammates whose names are both great hockey names and are homonyms.

Detroit Red Wings - Valtteri Filppula.  Niklas Kronwall is an outstanding name for a blue liner with heavy hits, but Filppula is an outstanding name.  Period.

Edmonton Oilers - Nikolai Khabibulin.  Few nicknames have been better than the Bulin Wall, and that helped eek out the victory over Lubomir Visnovsky.

Florida Panthers - Kamil Kreps.  I think he should have a cafe somewhere.  Nothing else.

Los Angeles Kings - Jonathan Quick.  Simple yet deadly.  Cat-like.  Andrei Loktionov was little competition for Quick and his glove hand.

Minnesota Wild - Cal Clutterbuck.  Clutterbuck ran away from the field on this one.  Also rans were Antti Miettinen and Guillaume Latendresse.

Montreal Canadiens - Roman Hamrlik.  He hits like a hammer...or at least used to before he got old.

Nashville Predators - Jordin Tootoo.  Best name for a tough guy in the league right now.  It was VERY hard to leave Pekka Rinne off, but Tootoo had more determination.

New Jersey Devils - Pierre-Luc Latourneau Leblond.  PL3 beat out Edmonton's Jeff Drouin-Deslauries in the longest name competition, and Jamie Langenbrunner was no competition on the home front.

New York Islanders - Matt Moulson.  A hockey player named after Canadian beer?  Match made in heaven.  Sad for Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, and Jesse Joenssu that they had no shot.

New York Rangers - Enver Lisin.  It's easy for me to envision John Tortorella yelling at the young Russian winger, "Don't you Enver Lisin?!?!"  Olli Jokinen (for being Finnish) and Vaclav Prospal (for having a name that sounds like Vaclav Havel) finished on the podium as well.

Ottawa Senators - Anton Volchenkov.  He just sounds like a monster...and he beat out Tuomo Ruutu's big brother, Jarkko.

Philadelphia Flyers - Kimmo Timonen.  A real lack of name talent here.  Only Ian Laperriere even made it onto the ballot with Timmonen.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Ruslan Fedotenko.  A Canadian friend of mine fought for Marc-Andre Fleury here, but there was no way I could pick a goalie who's called 'Flowers'.

San Jose Sharks - Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  His teammates call him Pickles.  That's reason enough for him to get the win over Niclas Wallin and Devin Setoguchi.

St. Louis Blues - Keith Tkachuk.  1st Round KO...over the entire team.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Zenon Konopka.  Late bloomer, but quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Toronto Maple Leafs - Dion Phaneuf.  Strong defensive corp with Francois Beauchemin and Garnet Exelby, but Phaneuf is the winner.

Vancouver Canucks - Darcy Hordichuk.  There's just something about names that end in -chuk.  they're made for hockey.  Pesky fighter Rick Rypien finished a close 2nd in voting.

Washington Capitals - Mike Knuble.  For a team so deep with talent, they really lack any semblance of name talent.  They actually have more name failures, like Alex Semin, than worthy competitors.

Olympic Updates and some other news

First things first:  I plan to write a few blogs during the next week and a half, some on the Rangers and some on hockey in general.  Look for the first one later tonight.

Olympic News and Notes
  • Team USA is now 2-0 after their 6-1 win over Norway this afternoon.  Chris Drury scored the eventual game winner in the first period, jamming home a Ryan Callahan rebound.  Drury has been one of the most consistent players for the American squad over its first 2 games, and the goal was the first of his Olympic career.  Their next game is at 7:45pm ET Sunday against Team Canada (MSNBC).
  • Team Slovakia is 0-1 after losing to 3-1 to the Czechs late last night.  Some guy named Jagr scored the game-winner for the Czech side.  Marian Gaborik scored the lone goal for his team despite the expectation that he wouldn't be able to play.  They take the ice again later tonight against the Russian team.  That game can be seen on 12am ET tonight (CNBC).
  • Team Finland is 1-0 after beating Belarus 5-1 yesterday afternoon.  Olli Jokinen scored the first goal for the Finns...on the power play.  They return to action against Germany at 9pm ET tomorrow (MSNBC).
  • Team Sweden is 1-0, with Henrik Lundqvist posting a 21 save shutout over the Germans yesterday. they take the ice again tomorrow at noon ET against Belarus (MSNBC). 
  • To see the full preliminary schedule, with times and TV listings, check here.
Rangers News and Notes
  • Steven Valiquette did indeed clear waivers, allowing the Rangers to play both Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba in Hartford during the Olympic break.
  • Steve Zipay has 4 different posts on individual players today.  
    • PA Parenteau is close to returning from his concussion, but all signs point to him signing elsewhere in the offseason.  That's unfortunate...I like him and think he can help the Rangers if given the chance.
    • Bobby Sanguinetti is skating, but still not ready to return from his high ankle sprain. 
    • Evgeny Grachev is frustrated with his results so far this season, but thinks it's probably just a bump in the road.  Let's hope that's the case, but he's at least saying the right things.
    • Ilkka Heikkinen doesn't think he'll get a one-way contract in the NHL, so he sees himself back in Europe next year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Lightning 2/14

Rangers 5, Lightning 2
  • This game had an entirely different feel than the last time the Bolts were in town, when the Rangers dominated for 60 minutes and won 8-2.  In this one, the first period may have been the most boring period of hockey I’ve seen all season.  10 minutes into the game (if I’m remembering correctly), shots were 3-2 in favor of Tampa.  Both teams looked like they were still hitting the snooze button, and the Lightning managed to put 2 pucks past Lundqvist for a 2-0 lead.
  • The second period was entirely different, as the Rangers woke up and dominated play for most of the frame.  In particular, the first line of Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen, and Ryan Callahan was buzzing.
    • Christensen, the game’s 1st star, finished with 2 goals (and nearly a 3rd as he rang one off the post) on 2 shots, an assist, and a +3 rating.
    • Prospal, the game’s 3rd star, finished with a goal and an assist, as well as a +3 rating.
    • Callahan, though he didn’t factor onto the scoresheet, was able to use his body and awareness to create space and energy for his linemates.
  • Marc Staal was also +3 and got the primary assist on Prospal’s tally by kicking the puck out of a scramble in front of Mike Smith and right onto Prospal’s stick.
  • Sean Avery made the most of his penalty shot opportunity, getting Smith to go down before going all the way to his left and roofing it for the Rangers’ first tally.
  • Chris Drury used his instincts to intercept an outlet pass and fire the puck into the empty net to cap off the scoring.
  • Corey Potter looked much better today than he did against the Predators on Wednesday night.  He played over 15 minutes and didn’t look out of place, even getting physically involved.
  • Although Jody Shelley--wearing #45--only played 2:51 in his Rangers debut, you have to like what you saw from him in making sure Zenon Konopka knew it was not ok that he hit Lundqvist’s glove after the whistle.
  • There have been a lot of rumors out there surrounding Brandon Dubinsky and the possibility of a trade, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him go for a decent return.  Today, as is often the case, Dubinsky tried making one too many moves or held the puck one second too long throughout the game.
  • Michal Rozsival played another very good game, and kept Marty St. Louis off the board by using his body against the small winger.
  • Dan Girardi and Staal play so well together, especially on the penalty kill.  They just seem to know where each other are and they do a good job of helping each other clear the puck.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Morning News and Notes

  • Donald Brashear has been assigned to Hartford, where he'll likely spend the Olympic break earning some of his salary.  I still expect the Rangers to either find a transfer deal that will send him to Europe or pass him through re-entry waivers at some point after the Olympic roster freeze.  As reported by Andrew Gross yesterday, Brashear's cap hit will come off the books for as long as he's in Hartford, but will stay on next year unless he's traded or transferred overseas.
  • Corey Potter has been recalled from Hartford once again.  This time it's obviously due to the injury to Michael Del Zotto.  Based on what I saw on the postgame show last night, I have to think Del Zotto will miss tomorrow afternoon's game at MSG against the Lightning.  Thankfully, he'll have 2 weeks to recover.
  • Newest Ranger Jody Shelley is expected to be on the ice at practice today and will likely play tomorrow.
  • My guess on tomorrow's lineup:  
    • Potter in, Del Zotto out
    • Lisin in, Gaborik out
    • Shelley in, Voros out
  • Ex-Ranger (this is becoming a theme this week) Jaromir Jagr carried the flag for the Czech Republic at last night's Vancouver Opening Ceremony.
  • Ex-Ranger (see) Jamie Lundmark was claimed by the Maple Leafs on waivers from the Flames.
  • The Rangers placed Steven Valiquette on re-entry waivers today.  This move is VERY puzzling.  If another team claims him, the Rangers will be on the hook for half of his remaining salary, further handcuffing them to the cap ceiling.  Also, he hasn't played in a game since allowing 2 goals on 9 shots in under 10 minutes on January 29th.  He .also reportedly broke a finger in that game and has not dressed for another game since.  The only possible explanation for this is that the Rangers want Matt Zaba and Chad Johnson to both play in Hartford during the Olympic break, but are required to have 2 goalies on their active NHL roster.
  • Andrew Gross is reporting that Tortorella has ruled both Del Zotto and Gaborik out for tomorrow afternoon's game.  It will be interesting to see how much Gaborik plays in the Olympics now.

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Penguins 2/12

Rangers 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
  • First things first: Michal Rozsival...can we stop booing him now?  He played an outstanding game all-around.  OUTSTANDING.  He spent over 21 minutes on the ice, played physically and made smart plays with the puck, and his play set up Olli Jokinen's game-winner in overtime.
    • I found it a joke that the announcers were expecting a third man in/game misconduct to be called on Rozsival after he tried pulling Matt Cooke off of Chris Drury once they were both already down and Cooke was continuing to throw punches.  If that had happened I would have been livid, and I get the feeling that he would have been too.  He was simply doing the linesmen's job by stopping Cooke from being his normal dirty self (remember that hit on Anisimov from earlier in the season?).  The real question that came out of that scrap for me:  In a year where linesmen have been quick to jump in and stop fights while the player are still on their feet many times, where the heck were they when Cooke was raining down punches on Drury while they were both down?!?
  • Big points for Drury tonight.  He backed up his play after Cooke (oh the irony) apparently thought that his clean hit was dirty.  He also drove hard to the net all night, and showed me the consistent effort that I was looking for after Wednesday night's loss.
  • I thought that Cooke's hit on Matt Gilroy about a minute later was--no surprise here--dirty.  It was clearly from behind, and not one of those where Gilroy turned his back to an oncoming forecheck.  Cooke also seemed to skate right through Gilroy.  DIRTY.
  • Seeing Michael Del Zotto go down like that was scary.  His postgame comments shed even more light on it...he needed 50 stitches on his left side and was lucky the outcome wasn't worse after he lost the fight with Malkin's skate.
  • Marc Staal played over 28 minutes just a day after overcoming a stomach bug.  Why has he not been signed to a long term contract extension yet? I would sign him for 7 years at about $3m per season.
  • Olli Jokinen had his best game as a Ranger.  He scored the game winner, was credited with an assist on Dubinsky's goal, and was active all over the ice all night, especially in the offensive zone.
  • Brandon Prust impressed me a lot last night.  He seems to have very good hockey sense, but lacks any decent shot.  If someone can teach him to shoot, I think he can score 15-20 goals a year.
  • Henrik Lundqvist was very good when he had to be, although I think he wants that first goal back.  He wasn't very happy when Crosby beat him 5-hole.
  • Vinny Prospal.  Can Slats make a good signing for a change and sign him for another year immediately...please?  He goes all out on every shift and his enthusiasm is infectious.
  • I heard someone mention it during the game, but Ryan Callahan knows when he has to step up.  He stepped up into Marian Gaborik's spot after Gaborik left the game and was effective depite failing to score.  He had good battles in front of the net on the power play, and added energy throughout the game as always.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pre-Deadline Deadline Day

The real NHL trade deadline is March 3rd, but with the Olympic break there is a roster freeze from today at 3pm ET until March 1st.  So expect a lot of movement before 3pm, since this is sort of a mini trade deadline itself.  Keep checking back, and I will update this post with all of the trades as they happen.

Last night: Ex-Ranger Dominic Moore is now a Canadien.  Florida gets a 2nd round pick in 2011.

10:43am:  Ex-Ranger Matt Cullen has been traded to the Senators.  Hurricanes receive D Alexandre Picard and a 2nd round pick. (Bob McKenzie)  Picard is 24 and will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the season.  Cullen is in the last year of a 4-year deal he signed with the Rangers and will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) July 1.

11:35am: The Flyers have signed a 2-year extension with ex-Ranger Blair Betts for a total of $1.4 million. (SNYRB)  For the record, this blog isn't intended to be just about ex-Rangers today...that's just how things have been going so far.

12:05pm: Ottawa Sun reporting that Jonathan Cheechoo is on waivers.  He has 1 more year left at $3 million and is 29.  His 14 points in 61 games since being acquired in the Dany Heatley deal don't help his chances for another move.

12:14pm: Bob McKenzie confirms Cheechoo report.  Also on waivers: Ex-Ranger Jamie Lundmark of the Flames and Brad May of the Red Wings.  No surprise, but Donald Brashear has cleared waivers.

3:20pm: Wild trade ex-Ranger D Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy (their 1st round pick this past year) to the Blackhawks for D Cam Barker. (Darren Dreger)  Johnsson will be a UFA after the season, so this move frees up cap space for the Hawks to keep more of their young talent around.

3:20pm: Rangers have acquired enforcer Jody Shelley from the Sharks for a draft pick.  Check back fro updates, but this one is really puzzling. (Darren Dreger)

3:50pm: Bob McKenzie confirming that the pick is the Rangers' 6th rounder in 2011.  If Shelley re-signs in NY, it becomes a 5th round pick. That's not giving up a whole lot, but it's still a puzzling move.  Do the Rangers really need a tough(er) guy to play 4:52 a night?  I would think they would be after someone who might score more than 3 goals in a season (his career high) or someone younger than 34.  Just sayin...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday Night Recap and Miscellany

Predators 2, Rangers 1
  •  I trekked into the city last night to take in the game.  Why?  Because I'm a hockey fan and that's what we do...a little (or a lotta) snow wasn't gonna stop me.  Since the place was empty, I took a seat in section 102 instead of my usual perch in 403.
    • The one thing about this that made an impression on me is that you can really appreciate how fast the game is when you're that close.  Otherwise I prefer my usual seat because I get to see the play develop a bit more.
  • I thought the Rangers put forth a solid effort at both ends of the ice.  There were obviously some bumps in the road, but overall I thought they played well enough to win.
    • As has been the norm of late, they couldn't finish on some top notch chances and let a bad penalty do them in.  The hooking call on Del Zotto was brutal, and the unsportsmanlike conduct add on was just adding insult to injury in my eyes.
  • In an interesting twist, Tortorella dressed 7 D-men with Corey Potter up from Hartford.  Andrew Gross had reported that the Rangers had a blueliner who they thought might not have been able to play last night.  Judging on ice time and today's report from practice, my guess is that Marc Staal may be fighting the flu.  His 18:31 of ice time was one of his lowest totals of the season, with all of the other lows coming in blowouts.
    • Potter looked decent, but seemed to have a tendency to hold onto the puck too long or attempt skating it out through non-existent holes.
  • Henrik Lundvist was sharp again and was certainly deserving of the 3rd star honors he received.
  • Chris Drury REALLY wants to win.  I could see it in his extra effort during the waning minutes of the third period.  This makes me wonder why the effort isn't consistent from him...
  • The Rangers gave the reported 13,000 or so fans who weathered the snow 25% off all concessions last night.  Even though I didn't take advantage of this, it was a surprise to me and was appreciated.  I guess it's just odd to me that MSG is showing that they appreciate the fans.
Other News and Notes from the Rangers and around the NHL
  • TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting that the Rangers have placed Donald Brashear on waivers.  He'll clear waivers and I think that 2 things are possible:
    • He'll report to Hartford and the Rangers will put him on re-entry waivers in hopes that a team will pick him up for half price (or what many would argue is market price).  This way, the Rangers are only on the hook for $700k of Brashear's contract next season.
    • OR, they'll work out a situation where Brashear will play in the KHL on some sort of transfer agreement.  There were rumblings earlier in the season that he had considered playing in Russia, and his Russian teammates confirmed that he had CDs to teach himself Russian.
  • The Washington Capitals finally lost a game last night when the Canadiens beat the 6-5 in OT.  They had won 14 straight, just 3 shy of the NHL record 17-game winning streak by the 1992-93 Penguins.  The last time the Caps lost in regulation was January 12th, when they fell 7-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Alex Ovechkin has had 15 goals and 17 assists, good for 32 points over that time.  TO illustrate how ridiculous that is, the Edmonton Oilers only scored 23 goals as a team over the same time frame.
  • Random officiating tidbit from  Linseman Mike Galloway worked at MSG last night for the first time in his eight-year career.  Special because Galloway has now worked in every NHL arena, and 2 arenas that aren't in the league anymore.
  • NBC is blowing hockey coverage...again.  You think it's a no brainer for them to broadcast the USA-Canada mens hockey game in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics.  Not only because it's a game with major implications, but because it would help promote know, the sport that they have the national broadcast contract for.  Well, you're WRONG!  The game will not be broadcast live on NBC because there is a VERY important event on at the same dancing.  Not pairs skating, the one that SOME people care, ice dancing, the one that approximately 38 people care about (there are 19 couples in the competition...thanks Wikipedia!).
  • Today is the current Madison Square Garden's 42nd birthday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Postgame Reactions - Rangers vs. Devils 2/6

Rangers 3, Devils 1
  • Three Stars: #3 Marian Gaborik (1g), #2 Ryan Callahan (gwg, 1a), #1 Henrik Lundqvist (41 svs)
  • Henrik Lundqvist played his best game of the season tonight.  His rebound control was excellent, and his glove hand was even better.  He had at least 4 or 5 memorable glove saves in this game, including one where he committed highway robbery on Mike Mottau in the third period.
  • What is there not to like about Ryan Callahan??  Here's the line on him tonight...gorgeous pass to Gaborik that resulted in the game's first goal (on the power play), hard work to create a turnover by Kovalchuk in the offensive zone and fire the puck past Brodeur, 5 shots, 4 hits, 2 blocked shots, 22:22 of ice time (team-leading 4:32 shorthanded).
  • Jokinen seems to be starting to click with Dubinsky and Callahan.  There was one point in the third period where they spent 20 to 30 seconds just cycling the puck int he Devils end and created a few chances.
  • Marian Gaborik scored his 13th power play goal of the season.  He's now tied for the league lead in that category with Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay, 4th in total goals, and 6th in points.
  • The much maligned Rangers defense corps played an outstanding game tonight, save for a few minutes in the third period.  Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Michal Rozsival were especially steady and deserve a lot of credit for shutting down Kovalchuk and Parise.  Girardi in particular was all over Kovalchuk all night, and tackled Parise to keep him away from his netminder during the dwindling minutes of the game.
  • Michael Del Zotto didn't get an assist on Callahan's eventual game-winner, but he certainly deserved one.  After an absolutely horrible pinch earlier in the game, he pinched effectively to keep the puck deep in the Devils' end, then got it to Callahan behind the net.
  • Great job by Sean Avery to get under Kovalchuk's skin with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game and take him off the ice for the remainder of the game.
  • Something random that I noticed during the game...the guys who clean the ice during TV timeouts were wearing Callahan, Drury, Gaborik, and Lundvist national team t-shirts instead of their normal warmups tonight.  Each of the 3 forwards scored and Lundvist played out of his mind.  Maybe they should keep wearing those t-shirts...
  • You have to love the toughness that Brandon Prust brings to this team.  He was widely touted as a throw-in with Jokinen in the trade, but he's doing his share of the contributing too.  His 2 fights against a much larger Andrew Peters tonight showed just how tough he is, and he added his first point as a Ranger tonight with an assist on Drury's goal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Postgame Reactions - Rangers at Kings 2/2

Kings 2, Rangers 1
  • 5 forwards for a 5-on-4 advantage backfired pretty mightily.  I have a feeling Torts won't be trying that again soon, but Chris Drury HAS TO back check harder.  He glided in as Kopitar skated in and beat Lundqvist and it sure looked like he would've caught Kopitar if he had back checked harder.
  • Henrik Lundqvist had a stellar game in his return from the flu.  He was seeing the puck well, putting rebounds in the corners, and was beaten on 2 shots that were essentially partial breakaways.
  • Marc Staal had a very strong game, but got caught up ice on Ryan Smyth's eventual game-winner and was a step behind the play.
  • I liked what I saw from Olli Jokinen in his Rangers debut.  He's a much better skater than I thought and I think with a few practices he can blend in well.
  • I also liked the little I got to see from Brandon Prust.  He even almost scored in the third period.  I'm quite unclear as to what he did to earn himself 17 minutes in penalties for a fight as opposed to the customary 5.
  • Marian Gaborik scored 4 of the Rangers' 5 goals on the 3-game road trip.  Not to sound redundant, but others are going to have to chip in if this team wants to win with any degree of consistency.
  • This was a very solid defensive game on both ends, but the Kings were clearly the more physical defensive team.
  • The Rangers need to do a better job of getting through the neutral zone.  Ryan Callahan mentioned in his post-game interview that the Kings were shutting them down in the neutral zone, but good teams get through that.  It seems to me that their tendency is to move backwards every time before moving forward, but Gaborik's goal was a product of Wade Redden pushing the puck up instead of back.
  • Speaking of the goal, very nice move by Erik Christensen to get the puck into the zone and find Gaborik streaking to the net.
  • Christensen should see time on the top line Thursday night with Jokinen centering the second line.  My guess would be Dubinsky and Callahan on the wings.
  • I also think Enver Lisin will make a return to the lineup with either Aaron Voros or Brandon Prust taking the night off.  Likely Voros.
  • Michal Rozsival quietly had another very good game.  I know a lot of people have been calling for him to be shipped out or down to Hartford, but if either one of those is going to happen there needs to be a very solid blue liner coming in to replace him.
  • On the contrary, I think Wade Redden has a future in Hartford ahead of him.  Outside of his assist, he had a pretty forgettable game.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Little Trade That Could

At 12:58am early this morning, the trade that's been talked about since Saturday was finally completed with the Rangers and the Calgary Flames.  This trade was moving along like that famous little engine, "I think I can, I think I can," for 2-plus days before being officially consummated by GMs Glen Sather and Darryl Sutter.  So, here's how the trade reads now that all is said and done...

Rangers receive:
          C      Olli Jokinen
          RW  Brandon Prust

Flames receive:
          RW  Ales Kotalik
          LW  Christopher Higgins

First, here's a little background on what the Rangers gained in the deal...

Jokinen is a 31-year-old centerman who will play for Finland in the Olympics and is known for his size (6'3" 215 lbs.) and scoring touch.  He was originally drafted by the LA Kings with the 3rd overall pick in the 1997 draft, and has spent time with the Kings, Islanders, Panthers, Coyotes, and Flames.  He's had 4 seasons of 30 goals or more--all while playing with the Florida Panthers--and scored 29 times in 76 games last year with the Flames and Phoenix Coyotes.  Jokinen immediately becomes the team's 3rd highest scorer on the year with his 11 goals and 24 assists so far, and will reportedly jump right in as the top line center between Prospal and Gaborik tonight.  He will wear number 12.

Prust is a 25-year-old forward who is known for using his hands in different ways than Jokinen.  He's 2nd in the NHL this season with 18 fights.  He was originally picked in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft by the Flames.  He's a bit small at 5'11" 195 lbs. but has his record this year at 7-5-6, most of it while fighting against much larger opponents.  Prust won't be expected to chip in much offensively, as his 1 goal this season ties his career high (set last season).  However, this is his first time playing full time in the NHL and he was able to score 10 goals and 27 assists while racking up 248 PIMs during his last AHL season in 2007-08.  He will wear number 8.

Breaking down the exchange...

The Rangers gave up 2 players who they acquired over the summer, with Kotalik arriving via a 3-year/$9 million free agent signing and Higgins coming as part of the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal.  Higgins is earning $2.25 million this year and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.  Higgins clearly struggled to score in his short tenure here--as has been very well documented on this blog--and Kotalik has struggled to find the net pretty much since the Rangers ended their 7-game winning streak in October.  Though Higgins wasn't scoring, he often played well off the puck.  The same could not be said about Kotalik, who was worse away from the puck than he was with it.  I can't say that the Rangers really gave up much here.

In return, they got 2 players who will become free agents at the end of this season.  Prust earns $500,000 and Jokinen $5.25 million.  They also get someone who can be a legitimate #1 center and also provide some toughness, along with a player in Prust who puts it all on the line every night and will also stand up for his teammates.  Best case scenario, Jokinen returns to his previous Eastern Conference form and provides a much needed offensive spark to this team, and Prust brings energy, wins some fights, and chips in the odd point.  Worst case scenario, they both flop with the Blueshirts and walk away when their deals expire.

In summary... this deal is a win-win for the Rangers.  They pick up a pair of players who can potentially help in areas where help is needed, including team toughness.  More importantly, they now have $3 million coming off the books at the end of this season that was previously tied up in yet another under-performing free agent acquisition.  That space will be much-needed with Marc Staal, amongst others, due to hit free agency on July 1.  There's no scenario under which I can see this trade being bad for the Rangers.  Glen Sather has proven to be a trade wizard over the past 8 months, now if only he could not be so putrid in free agency.  Great job on this one, Glen!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kotalik Sent Packing?

The Rangers sent summer acquisition Ales Kotalik packing today.  They reportedly had a trade in place, but experienced some complications and instead sent Kotalik home to prepare for his next move.  That's the official word out of the Rangers organization.

However, TSN's Darren Dreger (he who breaks news on all NHL personnel happenings) is reporting via Twitter that the Rangers and Flames are set to announce a trade.  According to Dreger, the proposed deal would send Kotalik and Christopher Higgins to the Flames in exchange for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.  More recently Dreger tweeted that the Flames appear to be holding up the trade at this point, but he isn't sure why.

Since we're not plugged into the situation, all we can do is break down the trade that has been discussed.  If  the deal does indeed go down as told by Dreger, the Rangers will receive the Olli Jokinen, the NHL's version of Stephon Marbury--a veteran scorer who had never been to the postseason until last year--and Brandon Prust, a smaller (5'11" 195 lbs.) tough guy who will chip in a point here (1g, 4a so far this season) or there and will stand up for his teammates.  Both are set to be unrestricted free agents after the season.  In an odd twist to this story, Prust was traded to Phoenix at the deadline last year in the deal that sent Jokinen to the Flames, only to later be traded back to the Flames in the summer for Jim Vandermeer.

Going to Calgary would be Higgins, who has struggled to score since arriving on Broadway and will be a free agent this summer.  Also, Kotalik would take his rocket slap shot, inconsistent even strength play, and 2 more years at $3m per year back to Alberta (he spent part of last season in Edmonton).  If this trade goes through as proposed it will be another win for Glen Sather in the trade department, even if it's only to fix another bad foray into free agency.

UPDATE: Larry Brooks is currently reporting that the complication from yesterday was that the trade originally included a Rangers D going to Calgary, but they made a late request for Higgins to be included instead.

UPDATE 8:12am: According to Sportsnet, the hold up is on Kotalik's end.  Apparently he has a limited no trade clause that identifies 3 teams he can not be traded to without first agreeing to the deal...and Calgary is one of the 3 teams.

2 things: First, why wouldn't Sather ask Kotalik about this before he put a deal together?  Also, why did Kotalik get ANY form of no trade clause to begin with??  Wasn't the $3m per year for 3 years enough to get him to sign?...a huge win for Sather may just have turned into a huge disaster.

More on this as it develops...

UPDATE 7:05pm Monday: Darren Dreger is now reporting that the deal is very much in play and could be finalized tonight after the Flames-Flyers game.

There were varied reports throughout the day, with everything from the Flames wanting Jokinen for tonight's game to Kotalik not waiving his NTC to the Flames demanding that Ryan Callahan be in the deal instead of Higgins.  To be clear, the Rangers will definitely not trade Ryan Callahan for a rental (and possibly not at all).  The more I hear about this, the more it seems like the Flames just wanted Jokinen for tonight's game...weird things coming out of Team Sutter in Calgary.

UPDATE 12:42am Tuesday: Bob McKenzie of TSN just reported via Twitter that the trade call is going on right now with the Rangers, Flames, and the league office.  Should be finalized shortly and is as talked about yesterday: Kotalik/Higgins for Jokinen/Prust.

UPDATE 12:59am Tuesday: Courteousy of Bob McKenzie once again: "From @DarrenDreger: Trade call is over. Done deal."

I'll have more on this tomorrow, including a deeper breakdown of the deal and its implications.  Goodnight.