These past few days have just been up and down with rumors, most revolving around Columbus Blue Jackets’ superstar winger Rick Nash, with nobody seeming to know anything at all about what is really transpiring. But before all of that, we had a couple of big deals, the first being Jeff Carter dealt to Los Angeles by Columbus so he could be re-united with former drinking buddy, err…I mean, teammate from Philadelphia, Mike Richards. The return on the trade was defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick. With that, I would say both teams made out rather well. The Blue Jackets get some much-needed offense from the blue line, though Johnson’s defense is anything but solid (I guess you can say he’ll fit right in, then?) as he currently sits at a -12 on the season, and a -90 overall for his career. That’s scary to think about, considering the offense he has put up. Carter, meanwhile, will help a stagnant Kings’ offense, as he will personally be revitalized by playing with a big market team in a city full of night life. You can expect him and Richards to be the bash-brothers they were with the Flyers.
If you want to hear from John Tortorella his reason for why the New York Rangers lost in a dismal game against the Edmonton Oilers, 2-0 last night, you are going to have to take a rain-check. The head coach, who pulls the stunt of not wanting to talk to the media in a post game press conference a few times a year, coming with more regularity as the season progresses, is not helping his image any, one that is already tarnished because of the way his team has started. Though I suppose it was more mature than dropping F-bombs on Larry Brooks, a clunker like the Rangers had last night is one that comes with many questions, two of which included, “Why was Marian Gaborik playing on a line with Dubinsky and Anisimov?” and “How come Richards was centering Stepan and Callahan?”. I know Johnny Juggles has the compulsion to mix up his lines every two shifts, hindering any formulation of chemistry on his own, but is there much sense in putting the team’s best scorer with two players who can’t pass, and putting the team’s best passer with two players who couldn’t hit the ocean if they were standing on a boat?
Sometimes I can find explanations for questionable moves, but the switching of the team’s two best offensive players to lines with zero skill and hockey sense is mind-boggling. Gaborik and Richards have excelled together, so only on the Rangers are they the pair that is split apart. Tortorella is as much to blame for the sloppy play in all of these six games as anyone else. Has there been one game where the four lines he started with actually remained intact? The fact is, the Rangers have not yet had a game this season where they looked decent from start to finish, and had control of the puck for more than a few shifts in a row. The Rangers, who, thanks to overtime’s ridiculous loser’s point, can claim themselves to be a .500 team, have played two good periods in six games. Yes, you read that right; not two good games in six, two good periods. They played great in the third against Vancouver on Tuesday night, where they scored all four goals in their shutout victory over the Canucks, and they looked pretty good in the first against Calgary on Thursday, even though they left the period tied at two. The Rangers have been a dog chasing its tail in these six games, struggling to even get shots on goal.
The Rangers’ two off-season money-makers, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, have had an abysmal start, combining for a goal and three assists in twelve games. Callahan, newly sporting the Captain’s “C”, has been completely invisible, not throwing his body around and being physical, while Dubinsky has stood out for all the wrong reasons. Callahan is a shell of himself, for no apparent reason, and Dubinsky has played downright stupid hockey, which is worse than if he was just playing bad. Anisimov could be added to the list as well, but at least he isn’t making more than $4 million. Then comes Dubinsky’s mindless and undisciplined penalties, but at the risk of ranting even further, I will leave them alone.
As good as Lundqvist, McDonagh, Gaborik, Richards, and even Prust have looked, is as bad as everyone has been, save for Dan Girardi who is logging so many minutes on defense, he is probably going to pass out by January. There is all this talk about Staal and Sauer being out, but the Rangers would not have a different record even if they were in the lineup. Their problems have not been defense, they have been puck control and getting shots on goal. Callahan has been famous for missing the net, even when close by, but it seems to have rubbed off on everyone else, as shot after shot sailed wide past Nikolai Khabibulin last night, when the Rangers had their best chance of the game on a minute-long 5 on 3 in the second period. Then came Dubinsky with a glorious chance to tie the game, at that point, with the puck on his stick just inches away from the blue paint of the goal crease, and he elected to pass it over to Callahan instead, a play never coming to fruition, and no pucks being put on net. The Rangers looked so bad at times that when Lundqvist left his net and went to the bench in the third, I thought to myself that he must have quit and got tired of playing behind these pylons. Thank goodness it was no serious injury, and just a leg cramp, otherwise this season would have really been over.
Tortorella is going to live and die by this team because these are the players he wanted. Six games in is a little too early to call for the axe, but if they are still playing like this in December, I think Glen Sather will have to be on the lookout for a new coaching staff (is Mike Keenan still wandering around MSG?). This is a team without chemistry or control. Maybe we did overreact after the third game of the season, but then we also over-celebrated after the two wins that followed. An actual good game has been elusive for the Blueshirts here, and they better figure it out before their home opener on Thursday (still one more chance in Winnipeg tomorrow night), or else they will get the usual Broadway treatment: cheers during the introductions, and boos during the first intermission.
I am really looking forward to that new show on MSG called Beginnings, where they will profile a different player in each episode, telling us about their life. I am most curious to see who Ryan Callahan’s first hockey coaches were when he was little, you know, the guys that were supposed to teach him how to actually hit the net with his shots.
The New York Rangers are on a road trip from hell. First they traveled more than 11,000 miles to Europe, through Scandinavian countries for exhibition matches, and now back to the United States, where they played one game on Long Island, and are now gearing up for yet another road trip, 3,000 miles to western Canada, to play four games against Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, before finally returning to back New York for their home opener against Toronto. This schedule, made so because of the prolonged renovation underway at Madison Square Garden, and the NHL’s fascination with having the Blueshirts travel to Europe what seems like every season, left the team exhausted for their first two games in Sweden, which they dropped to the Kings and Ducks respectively, in overtime, last weekend. With the way they played, they were lucky to have even gotten the two points. Lundqvist kept the Rangers in both games, while Gaborik and Richards were excellent together. Unfortunately, the list ends there in regards to players who actually impressed.
The Rangers could have blamed those two losses on any number of factors, which also included not having enough time to get in team practices, and playing four exhibition games on large-size hockey rinks. John Tortorella even exclaimed, “We can’t wait to get the hell out of here,” upon completion of last Saturday’s loss to Anaheim. Before last night’s game against the Islanders, he told the press that, “The season starts tonight.” If that is the case, than both starts to the season were disasters. With an entire week off to rest up, practice regularly, and prepare, the Rangers were flat once again, plagued by the same thing that dragged them down in Stockholm: penalties. The Rangers were shorthanded eight times last night, the Islanders cashing in on two of those chances. The most glaring of these undisciplined penalties came at the most inopportune time, with less than five minutes remaining, and the Rangers trailing 3-2. Marian Gaborik took the most obvious hooking penalty, one reminiscent of a pre-lockout defenseman trying to manhandle an opponent. I yelled at the TV, watching incredulously. This is the most undisciplined team I have ever seen in my life, I thought to myself. After eight last night, eight against Anaheim, and five against Los Angeles, this is not rust we are seeing, but an epidemic of laziness and stupidity.
The announcers on MSG last night mentioned just before the game that Tortorella preached better discipline to the team, and then Brandon Dubinsky takes a tripping penalty a little more than a minute in. Dubinsky, whose play has been less than lackluster all throughout the preseason and these first three games, clearly looks lost and devoid of hockey sense, and has managed to have taken 20 minutes in penalties thus far. Never being a big fan of his I-Play-Good-When-I-Want-To style of play, I wonder what will have to be done to wake him up, as with the money he is being paid, he needs to either start scoring or Sather has to start looking for a new team for the egotistical “power forward”. He is the prototypical third line center being paid second line money, who has a head the size of a superstar—not really the recipe for success, is it now?
People have also blamed these losses on the injuries to defense, because of Sauer’s recent shoulder injury and Staal’s long-term concussion problems. Aside from normal nerves and a bit of shakiness in the first two games, the Rangers young defense really has not been the issue. Would I kill to have those two guys back? Of course, but I don’t see the Rangers having any wins even with them in the lineup, with the way the offense has looked so far, and the amount of penalties that have added up.
And so I ask, is it time to start worrying? It may be only three games, but the Rangers, aside from Gaborik (2 goals) and Richards (1 goal, 2 assists), have been offensively challenged. Its not even the fact that they are not scoring, but they look terrible at times. The penalties have a lot to do with that, because a team cannot develop flow when they spend nearly an entire period’s worth of playing time in the penalty box. Though there is no “reffing” conspiracy against the Rangers as some fans may tell you, there were a few calls last night that were atrocious, including a delay of game call to Brian Boyle when the puck was still moving, and a goaltender interference penalty on Callahan, who had no way to avoid hitting the goalie. That aside, the cat is out of the bag regarding the Rangers. Word is, they are undisciplined and will take stupid penalties, so you know the referees are going to watch them even closer now.
Discipline is not something a team can learn, or hopefully, re-learn overnight. This is something scarier than if the Rangers were shutout in these three games. Lundqvist has been brilliant, and is the only reason why these losses are not blowouts. But what happens when he gets a night off or has a clunker himself? Will the team just implode? Under normal circumstances, a team would welcome a four game road trip, to get out west and get away from everything; it could be a chance to refocus. But the Rangers have been on the road for about a month now, and due to their first three games, this trip is going to be anything but fun. The Canucks have always been tough opponents, and the Flames and young Oilers team will be very tough to beat. The other foe on the swing, the Jets, are still looking for their first win—will it come against New York?
The Rangers need to win two of these four games, what could be an early season-saver. Be it as it may, only mid-October, but if the Rangers drop all four games or only win one, the hole dug will be even deeper. To the people who are not alarmed, John Davidson used to say, “The points you get in October are the points you don’t need in April”. If the Rangers keep losing, playoff chances will diminish, and it does not matter what time of the season it is. At 0-1-2, the Rangers could easily be 0-3-0, so you can imagine what a poor trip out west could mean—the future is really not too bright. With the Penguins and Flyers bound to have good seasons, and the Devils and Islanders set to surprise, we may be looking at the worst team in the Atlantic this season, without a quick turnaround.
Other than a stay at home defenseman, the New York Rangers will be looking to add a number one center at this season’s trade deadline. There are three names that come to mind with who the Rangers could acquire, two of which should be very familiar with you by now, if you have been following the online rumor mills; Brad Richards on Dallas or Paul Stastny on Colorado seem to be Glen Sather’s top targets, while the Rangers should not rule out winger Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers as a possibility, because let us remember, Sather only trades with familiar teams. But first, let’s take a look at the dilemma facing the Rangers, and that is which ever center they acquire will be set up for disaster.
It is not easy to succeed in New York, we all know that, but with such a testy and skeptical fan base of late, maybe the Rangers should just wait until the summer to make their move. We cannot forget Scott Gomez, who the Rangers traded two summers ago, to Montreal, a move which allowed the Rangers to afford signing Marian Gaborik. In Gomez’s first season as a Ranger, he scored 16 goals and put up 54 assists for 70 points. First line center numbers, wouldn’t you say? What did the fan base do? Booed. The next season, Gomez struggled and scored less, but still scored higher than his career average with 58 points. What did fans do then? Booed even louder. Granted, his contract was anything but appealing, but still, Gomez did exactly what he had been doing his whole career, but because Rangers fans cannot get it through their heads that players do not automatically score three times their career average after signing here, whoever the Rangers get will be doomed to fail, regardless of how they play. That said, here are the Rangers three most likely options for center:
Brad Richards (UFA after this season, 2010/11 salary: $7.8 million)
We all know that the Rangers want to bring Richards aboard, just like we all know there have been trade talks between the two teams. Because Dallas seems to want half the Rangers farm system in exchange for a player that we know is not going to sign there next season, talks were stalled. However, if the Rangers properly call their bluff, they can have him for cheap. I would offer Christensen, Gilroy, Grachev, and a 2nd round pick: take it or leave it. Gilroy is expendable, Grachev has not impressed, and Christensen needs a psychiatrist, so I would say the Rangers win that deal. Richards is the only center that can come to this team and spark right off the bat, because he is a star (he may even be able to jump-start Gaborik). As long as his concussion is not a serious issue, I think the Rangers will find a way to acquire him. Don’t be fooled, the Rangers will find a way to manage their cap space and rob Dallas.
Paul Stastny (Current contract: four more years, cap hit $6.6 million)
Because of the amount of money and years on his contract, I think the Rangers would stay away. There was a rumor last week that the Rangers wanted Stastny and Liles, but plans fell through. The Rangers would have had to add more than $10 million in salary with that deal, so I would say it is either one or the other. While Stastny is an upgrade over every center the Rangers have, because of his age, he would command a lot more in terms of youth (probably what Dallas wanted originally); I would not even know what to propose, even if just for fun—it’s a tricky situation.
Winger Option: Ales Hemsky (Current contract: one more year, cap hit $5 million)
Let me start off by saying that the only reason I even mention him is because I need a third player to throw in this preview, and because Sather has ties to the Oilers and loves reclamation projects. Hemsky is a walking injury who has never played a full season (he’s been in the league since 2002) and is coming off a year where he played only 22 games. Granted, he has been decent in his last few seasons, in regards to points-per-game, but would you really want him on a line with Gaborik? The Rangers would have to bring back Tie Domi for protection and hire an on-ice maid to sweep away the glass and bone chips. Hemsky would be fresh meat the minute he donned a jersey, and fans would never let him hear the end of it. But there is a bright side, he and Gaborik could keep each other company in the hospital.
Honorable mention: Keith Tkachuk
Just for nostalgia’s sake, what would a deadline be without a Tkachuk rumor?
All in all, the next two days should be a lot of fun, with the deadline coming at 3pm on Monday. You will notice I have made no predictions this year, just suggestions, because my accuracy rating usually comes in at about 10%, religiously every season. I do not see the Rangers just standing pat, even if it is the right thing to do. Sather is working on something big, it is just a matter of it falling through or not.
Sorry for such a boring, generic title, but I’m running low on New York Post back page cheese this morning. I also apologize for having to bring back the Marian Gaborik milk carton, which was actually quite popular a few weeks ago, but now, it is just angering, especially when you consider he had no shots on goal in last night’s debacle against the New Jersey Devils. I had created it in the midst of one of Gaborik’s (many) funks this current season, after which, he scored four goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 19, prompting me to put a giant “FOUND” stamp over the front of the carton. But once again, Marian the Magnificent has disappeared after a hat trick, something he has done three times this season.
When I say “disappear” or “struggles” I am only referring to the goal scoring department, because he has a decent number of assists, but the Rangers aren’t paying him for assists, and they are not helping the team to win. The fact that he has more of them than goals this season only shows how deeply he has truly struggled. Yes, he missed some time early in the season, which could account for him being thrown off his stride, but he has been back for quite some time now, and for a player that never had a decent center for his entire career, he cannot blame this subpar campaign on that, because with a career winger as his center last year, he still found a way to put up 42 goals.
In 46 games this season, he has only 17 goals, but 10 of those goals have come in only three games: the hat tricks against the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders, and the four goal performance recently against the Maple Leafs. That leaves him with an eye-opening seven goals in 43 games. Is that superstar material? Each time he has looked to bust out of a slump, he has fallen right back in. He had zero goals before his first hat trick, then went the next eight after it scoring only two. His second hat trick would break the mini-stretch of games, but in the 19 games following that, he would score only three goals. His four goal game against the Leafs at last seemed to be the end of this stagnant season, but it only proved to equate to his previous two outbursts, as he has two goals in twelve games since.
The New York Rangers need to do something, anything, to get this team back to where they were playing earlier. The team was expected to lack consistency, because of the amount of youth, but Marian Gaborik is no youngster, he should not be having this problem, or at least, not as drastically as he has been. If the New York Rangers cannot get Brad Richards from Dallas, something I really believe they will not be doing before free agency, then they must trade Marian Gaborik, it is that simple. He has not even looked good during his slumps—sometimes players will play well but just catch bad breaks—but he has not shown that explosive speed (or “powerful stride” as Joe Micheletti would call it) nor has he shown that devastating wrist shot except once or twice, when it was something we were used to seeing on a regular basis last year.
But who could the Rangers trade him to? Not only must a team be interested, but they must have the cap space to be able to take him, if they can’t send a star player back the other way. If the Rangers package Gaborik with another player, than perhaps a trade for Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings would not be out of the question. The Kings were rumored to have a heavy interest in Gaborik during the off-season, and if you were to add Gaborik to a very good lineup that already has a budding young star in Anze Kopitar, the team could take off, if a change of scenery would actually do him any good. I am not so sure if the Kings would trade away their captain, but then again, crazier things have happened.
If it was up to me, I would trade him for just some draft picks and a top prospect or two, but that could really set the Rangers back further as they would have no superstar in the franchise, either proven or potential, unless they want to wait for free agency, a term that should make all of us cringe. Perhaps the Rangers can even try to trade for Brad Richardson on Los Angeles, because his name looks similar to the coveted star they seek (I’m only kidding).
The Rangers need to do something here because this is not a slump Gaborik is in. He looks disinterested, which usually marks the end of one’s tenure with a particular organization. John Tortorella can only change the lines so many times before he must realize that nothing can be done to jump-start him. It was reported on NHL.Com a few weeks ago that “Sather would listen to offers for Gaborik”. Well, let’s see if he becomes a little more serious and starts talking trade, because if they don’t act soon, this team will be out of the playoff picture before you know it.
According to ESPN, the New York Rangers are one of six teams that have been asked by the NHL to take part in the annual Premiere Games in Europe, an event that began in 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks faced off against the Los Angeles Kings in London, England. It was so successful that the Rangers and Tampa Lightning played each other the following season in Prague, Czech Republic. The NHL is going to continue with these games for the foreseeable future as they serve as free exposure for the league, and also to showcase to the up-and-coming European players that it is their league they should play for, and not the KHL.
That said, this news is just preliminary, according to ESPN as nothing has been finalized. I did not like the idea of the Rangers starting the season in Europe last time, and even though they won both games against the Lightning, it leaves a longer lasting effect on the team than the standings after game two in the season. The traveling oversees and getting used to time zones combined with an irregular preseason that consists of games played in both America and Europe causes players to sometimes not correctly get into their preseason rhythm.
I really hope the Rangers will decline this invitation because their season and development of prospects is more important than the NHL’s fascination with Europe. The article does mention that the Rangers may not be able to play at MSG early next season anyway because of renovations, but I would much rather have this team go the entire month of October on the road than take part in this gimmick.
The other teams included are the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. I’m really surprised to not see Pittsburgh on that list since the world should behold the glory of Sidney Crosby.
As crazy and rambunctious as last night’s game between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders in the opening match of the home-and-home was, tonight was as equally subdued and controlled as a game could get, especially in comparison with such a performance the night before. Both teams would have plenty of chances, and there would be some good hitting, and of course, a fight, but the two teams only mustered up a grand total of 38 shots combined, and the Rangers were able to shutout the Islanders by a score of 2-0.
- First Period: This game would get off to a much quicker pace, though there were far less shots, compared to last night. The Islanders quickly went into what Sam Rosen referred to as a neutral zone trap, although I would hesitate to be that drastic. Nevertheless, it was effective in keeping the Rangers from generating offense, while it zapped their own offense as well. It would take the Islanders nearly fifteen minutes to register their first shot on goal, and the Rangers would exit after twenty minutes with a 6-3 advantage in shots, in what would be a scoreless first period. It is notable to mention a borderline blindside hit that Ryan Callahan made on Franz Nielson. He tried to hit him with his shoulder but ended up getting him on the side of the head with his elbow. Jesse Joensuu would quickly rush over and fight Callahan who held his own against a much bigger player. Callahan would be assessed an elbowing penalty, while Joensuu would get a minor for instigating, as well as a rarely called unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for instigating a fight while wearing a visor. The Rangers would not be able to capitalize on the powerplay then, or later in the period when some shaky officiating ensued. Jon Sim was called for goaltender interference when he was clearly knocked into Henrik Lundqvist by Steve Eminger. This call was on the heels of another questionable one, when Sean Avery recieved a minor for roughing, and then a ten minute misconduct when he questioned the call, though the replay showed he did not say much.
- Second Period: The intensity of play would increase and the pace would speed up in the second. The two teams would trade chances and then Sim was once again called for goaltender interference. The Rangers passed the puck back and forth for the majority of the powerplay, and just when it looked like they would fail again, Marc Staal (4) would come through with a slapshot from the point that found its way over the shoulder of Dwayne Roloson and through a maze of players standing in front. Derek Stepan continues his excellent all-around play and work as point-man on the powerplay, with an assist on the goal; Dubinsky would get the secondary. Three minutes later, Sim would again come close to Lundqvist, and was soon after crosschecked by Dubinsky into the boards. He did this right in front of the referee, and was assessed a penalty, but Sim would go to the box for the third time, for diving. Later in the period, the game would open up on an Islanders powerplay, when the two teams each had glorious opportunities on odd-man rushes. Dubinsky would ring one off the crossbar on a three-on-one, while the Islanders would be stopped by Lundqvist on a two-on-one. The Rangers would end up hitting iron twice in the period.
- Third Period: Really nothing noteworthy would happen in the third period until late, when Roloson was given a penalty for tripping Avery. The play would be more calm as the Islanders attempted to press. The Rangers would do a good job in keeping them to the outside, and with three seconds remaining, Brian Boyle (11) sealed the deal with an empty net goal, on assists from Dubinsky and Callahan. The final shot total would be a minuscule 21 for the Rangers and only 17 for the Islanders. This was a very important game for Lundqvist, who really did not have to work that hard to earn his fourth shutout of the season.
The Rangers really were able to have a good bounce back game after a sloppy win on Long Island last night. Tonight’s performance was not perfect by any stretch of the word, but it was more tame and controlled compared to last night. The defense for both teams came through with plenty of blocked shots.
Sean Avery continued to play well, and get under the skin of opponents. However, tonight, he was not able to stay out of the penalty box and ended up with 14 penalty minutes. Meanwhile Jon Sim continues to pretend he is even a shadow of an agitator, as the player who has been on eight teams in twelve seasons bumped into Lundqvist on several occasions.
All hope has now been lost on Alex Frolov, who was invisible yet again. He has not recorded a point in his last six games and only has one goal (his only point) since he “breakout” game against the Edmonton Oilers on November 14th, a stretch of ten games. Frolov has landed himself a spot on the fourth line, and the next stop will be as a healthy scratch. The Rangers can be thankful that he is only signed to a one year deal, and no development of youth is being impeded by his presence on the big club. His only noticeable moment tonight was a glaring giveaway in the third period.
I must also say that I was very impressed with Pat LaFontaine, who was this game’s in-studio analyst. He was very composed and intelligent and has a good on-camera personality. I really wish the Rangers would finally choose someone instead of having a different guest every week. Personally, I liked Butch Goring last season, but LaFontaine would be a pretty good replacement.
Finally, I must mention a conversation that took place between my mom and I, who overheard the game: “Are they playing in Las Vegas?” she asked. Surprised by the question, I responded, “No” and just looked at her. She then said, “They keep saying Lake Como.” I just had to sigh and reply, “No, there’s a player on the Islanders whose name is Blake Comeau.” Ah, the trials and tribulations of having a n0n-hockey fan in the family…
It’s a shame that the blame for this disastrous season of New Jersey Devils hockey will rest on the shoulders of a man who once was a fan favorite as a player for this team, one who scored nearly 350 goals while wearing the red, white, and black [and green]. John Maclean is in his first year as a head coach in the NHL, and he is finding out that games are not like the AHL, where it’s okay if the team loses, as long as the players learned something along the way. In the NHL, the big show, games are about winning—something the Devils have done only five times out of 20, and only once on home ice.
The blame can really be thrown in any direction: an aging Brodeur, a shoddy defense, an injury plagued start to the season, or perhaps even a cancerous acquisition in Ilya Kovalchuk, but nevertheless, it is John Maclean who will take the blame, for even though you can use any one of these aforementioned excuses, this team should not be this bad. They have not even been bad, that has been an understatement. Devils teams of the past who were based on 95% defense and 5% offense still found a way to average more than two goals a game, something that the Devils have not even come close to. They have scored a minuscule 36 goals in 20 games—it’s a miracle they have even won five games with that number. In return, they have also given up 65 goals, an amount that does not lead the league, but might as well since it is so disproportionate to their amount of goals scored.
Their goaltending, which has always been their one, true consistency, is in shambles. Martin Brodeur has been injured twice now, including this recent spell that will have him out the next two weeks. His stats this season are 4-10-1 with a goals against average of 2.74. I could jump on the wagon and say Brodeur was never that good to begin with, his numbers a product of a trap defense that had him facing only 20 shots a night, but for now, I will leave that alone as more attention does not need to be brought upon it from someone who is not a Devil’s fan—they can now see it for themselves. What does Brodeur have left to play for, exactly? He has three Stanley Cups, four Vezina’s, and almost every single goaltending record in the book. The drive towards those records reflected a player only playing for personal statistics found on the back of a hockey card, and not playing for his team, something that is so evident when looking at the amount of games he would play during the course of the season, an amount leaving him so tired that his team would be bounced out of the first round of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. But that’s okay, he’s still the winningest goaltender in history. Keep telling yourself that, Marty.
Johan Hedburg, the Devil’s backup whose signing was praised as the next best thing since sliced bread, has been atrocious this season. His record is only 1-2-1, but his GAA is a bloated 4.53, and the Devils look like they will now be relying on call-up Mike McKenna to hold down the fort until Marty the Magnificent can make his gallant return. With no amazing prospects in the farm system, aside from Jeff Frazee who is said to be solid, the Devils are empty in the goaltending department, and should consider drafting one this season with their first round pick. But they will have to choose wisely, because one of the picks will be taken away by the NHL as punishment for the Kovalchuk fiasco.
As for Ilya Kovalchuk, I already said previously that the Devils had 27 games last season to see what he would bring, in terms of putting extra fans in the seats and developing chemistry. What they got was a point per game player, but nothing outstanding. He continued to be his same old self, being lazy on defense and pretending to not know what backchecking is. The truth is, to write about Ilya Kovalchuk would be cause for a separate article as his season has been a microcosm of the Devils: all promise, and all fail. Remember during the preseason when the Kovalchuk-Zajac-Parise line was tearing it up and scoring two goals a game? Remember when The Hockey News picked the Devils to finish in fifth? Parise’s injury cannot be why this season has gone by the wayside. Kovalchuk is a six-time 40 goal scorer—you don’t score 342 goals before reaching age 28 by being terrible. No, the blame will rest on the shoulders of coach John Maclean, who has not been able to motivate this team.
It is worthy of mention that last night, as the Devils were having yet another loss handed to them, Maclean could be standing on the bench with his arms crossed and shaking his head, the obvious frustration strewn all over his face. But unfortunately, shaking your head does not translate into anger with your players. I am not one to advocate a coach having a conniption, but if there is a team in the league that needs such a wake up call, it would be the Devils. Had it not been for the New York Islanders losing twelve in a row, and the Edmonton Oilers stuck in the middle of a rebuild-and-learn season, the Devils would be occupying last place all by themselves. But still, this team is not so bad that they should be playing like this.
Jacques Lemaire coached this team to their best regular season in franchise history last year, winning 48 games. What thanks does he get? He was booed out-of-town because fans were sick of defensive hockey. “Give us run and gun!” they said, begging Old Lou for an offensive minded coach, and this preseason, fans got their wish when the Maclean-lead Devils were tearing through opponents on the score sheet. But when the regular season started, that all went away. The team did have the offensive tools in Parise, Kovalchuk, Zajac, Elias, Rolston, and Arnott, but the defense was just not there to protect the team’s 38-year-old goaltender. The goals against mounted while the goals for went down, to compensate for the lost defense. Maclean is now left there with no options to go to. He cannot spark his superstar, because Kovalchuk is now in one of his frustrated moods, and he cannot wait for Parise to return, because it will be too late.
If the Devils want any hope at salvaging this season, they will need to fire John Maclean. When they get healthy, they are just one large winning streak away from coming close to contention, and then one more from surmounting the deficit they have created. It may sound crazy, but the Devils are not done yet—every season we sit back and say that this is the year they miss the playoffs, and every year they make it. This season we said nothing, and look at what has happened. The Devils are one team that can still salvage this season, but they will need a new coach. There are not many options out there, but I can think of one that absolutely makes sense, and that is Bob Hartley. The ex-Avalanche and Thrashers head coach has Stanley Cup experience, has coached Kovalchuk in the past, and most importantly, plays a defense-first style. Devils fans may shudder at that phrase “defense-first”, but look at where it got you: three Stanley Cups and the top of the league’s respectability (before angering the league with the Kovalchuk situation).
For a while I thought about not even doing a post-game recap for tonight’s game. After all, if they didn’t show up, why should I? Nevertheless, I decided to show a little bit more effort than the New York Rangers did in tonight’s horrible and downright lackluster showing against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. I really feel bad for those who have to get up early tomorrow, who stayed up late to watch this disgusting effort.
Though the Rangers were technically tied with the Avalanche for the entire first period, they were never really in this game. They struggled to get simple shots through, let alone create scoring chances. They seemed to be three steps behind Colorado for the whole evening, and looked like they were skating through mud. With the game scoreless heading into the second, David Jones would score for the Avalanche just over a minute in.
From there on out, the “avalanche” of goals came crashing down on the Rangers. Kevin Porter scored six minutes after that, followed by Matt Duchene with just less than eight minutes remaining in the middle period. The third goal would prompt Tortorella to pull Lundqvist and replace him with Martin Biron, who would not fare much better. But Lundqvist was downright awful tonight, as each of the three goals he allowed on 16 shots were questionable, with two of them able to be considered soft.
The Avalanche would then add two more against Biron, one more in the second by Kevin Shattenkirk, a native of New York, and then one by Daniel Winnik in the third. The Rangers would erase Craig Anderson’s shutout with a meaningless goal six minutes into the final frame, when Derek Stepan snapped his 19 game goal scoring drought. He has now put up points in three out of his last four games, and was borderline their best player tonight, though no one stood out in a positive way.
As Brian Monzo said on Twitter, this was just one of those games when you just scratch your head. The Rangers were not just bad, they were awful. There was no flow to their game, and Anderson really only had to make one or two difficult stops the entire night. The Avalanche, meanwhile, did not look too amazing, but due to the fact that the Rangers were skating in circles, it made them look great. Not trying to take anything away from them, that’s just how bad the Rangers were tonight.
The powerplay was also disgraceful, as they went 0-5 and did not generate any scoring chances. I cannot even recall seeing a quality shot on goal during the ten minutes of man advantage time they had. The Rangers are a team that continues to play very streaky—some nights they look amazing, other nights they look like this. Perhaps they could have done without that 8-2 win over the Oilers last Sunday, as that got an awful lot of people excited.
This recap was kind of brief tonight, but there really is nothing left to say. The Rangers need to take a long, hard look at themselves and get their acts together, namely Del Zotto, who was on the ice for all four Colorado goals in the second period. This was both the team’s and his worst game of the season tonight. The Rangers will be in Minnesota tomorrow night to face the Wild in an important bounce-back game. If I were them, I would start Biron over Prince Lundqvist; the team seems to rally better around him.
Despite the furor directed at Sean Avery for his so-called sucker punch of Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers yesterday afternoon, the NHL has decided to take no action against him, a decision that is the right one, and a bit surprising. If this truly was a sucker punch, you can be sure the league would have given Avery a suspension, or at least a fine. Being that nothing is being done, it appears the heads of discipline at the league office felt it was a clean fight.
Personally, as I summed up today, I did not feel it was a sucker punch, although I did think it was a bit cheap. Nevertheless, the league made the right call here, as Smid went looking for trouble and found it rather quickly, as he was down on the ice after one punch.
In fact, the only disciplinary action taken because of this affair was to fine Brandon Dubinsky, who was punching an Oiler (that appeared to be Colin Fraser) while standing on the bench. This is the right move as well, as player cannot engage in contact with an opponent if not on the ice. What the league did get wrong, though, was to not fine any member of the Oilers for this brawl. The Oilers were the team that initiated the entire thing, when Ryan Whitney and Theo Peckham skated over to Avery as he was being led off the ice. Had they not made an approach, perhaps this entire thing could have been avoided.