Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rangers Offseason Plans: RFAs & UFAs

For some teams the season continues for at least another four games, but the Rangers season is now over. On the one hand Ranger fans can't be too surprised that they were beaten in the first round by the Washington Capitals, as they were extreme underdogs in the series. But, at the same time, this is New York and you are expected to win all of the time. Unfortunately, Glen Sather did not build a team that was ready to make a run for the Stanley Cup this season. Maybe even more unfortunate is the fact that with some of the signings he's made in the past two years, he has severely hampered the chances of the Rangers posing a significant threat in the near future.

I know that this topic has been beaten like a dead horse, but it needs to be. The Rangers salary structure is severely demented. The Rangers who make the most money per season are not the team's best players. In the salary cap era, in order to be competitive you need to have your top players producing and get good production from your younger players while they are still on their entry level contracts. In the Rangers situation, their best players are the younger players who are making the least money. Although it's a good sign for the future of the Rangers, the fear has to be that because of other contracts that they are obligated to, they may not have the salary cap room to sign their younger players to the contracts that they are going to be asking for.

Next season captain Chris Drury is scheduled to make just over $8M, factor in Scott Gomez at another $8M and the Rangers are paying two centers the salary that an elite #1 center in the NHL gets. The problem is, neither Drury or Gomez are capable of being #1 line centers, essentially the Rangers have over $14M in cap room allocated to two players who are being paid at least $3M per season more than they are actually worth.

On the blue line things aren't much prettier with Wade Redden ($6.5M cap hit) and Michal Rozsival ($5M cap hit) getting paid much more than their play this season merited. In fact, Marc Staal ($0.82M cap hit) who is easily the team's best defenseman is by far the lowest paid blue liner on the team. The Rangers cap situation is so bad that unless they make some significant moves this offseason, players who are deserving of another season on Broadway probably won't be offered a new contract. Paul Mara, one of the true character guys on the team who is also the team's grittiest defenseman probably won't be re-signed.

I'm sure that Glen Sather would pull pretty much any possible deal to clear the contract of Wade Redden off of the books (he's under contract for 5 more seasons!) The same has to be said for Chris Drury (3 more seasons) in my opinion, because even though he's the team captain, he hasn't lived up to expectations ever since coming to New York. Getting rid of even one of the monstrous contracts would ease a little bit of the pressure off of the salary cap problem. I also think that even though Naslund only has one year left on his contract ($4M), he should be bought out this summer by Sather. Heck, it might even allow Sather to sign someone who can actually put the puck in the net!

Here's a look at the Rangers RFAs and UFAs and what I think Sather should do in each situation. I will be posting another article assessing possible UFAs that the Rangers should be targeting (players who aren't currently NYRs). Also, remember that the Rangers signed college Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy last week to a two year (one way) contract with a cap hit of $1.87M.

Restricted Free Agents:


Ryan Callahan - he made $600k this season, an absolute bargain (a real rarity in New York). He'll be one of the first guys that Sather re-signs this summer. He's a gritty winger who has shown that he can score at the NHL level and I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a consistent 30 goal scorer. I think that Sather should look to lock him up for at least 2-3 years and he should be able to get the deal done for less than $1.5M per season. Guaranteed to be back in 09-10

Brandon Dubinsky - Another guy that Sather will be on the phone with right away negotiating a new deal with. Dubinsky is a future Rangers captain in my opinion. He's mature beyond his years, willing to stick up for his teammates and a physical presence on the ice. Maybe not going to get much more than 20 goals per season but he brings so much to the table. Another guy who was paid only $635k last season and will be looking for a decent pay raise. Because Dubinsky didn't have a great season (goal wise) this might be a great bargaining chip in Sather's favor and he should try and sign Dubinsky to as long a deal as possible at a low price because I think that Dubisnky is only going to get better (especially under Tortorella) and when his numbers increase next season and the year after, so will his value. Looking for at least a three year deal and I think the Rangers could sign him for less than $2M per season. Guaranteed to be back in 09-10

Lauri Korpikoski - In my opinion the jury is still out on Korpikoski, he made almost $1M last season but wasn't given significant minutes, spending most of the season on the third and fourth lines. He's shown some flashes of having a goal-scoring touch but those flashes have been few & far between. He's a decent penalty killer and seems like a hard worker. Maybe Sather should see what kind of market there is for Korpikoski, because I don't know if he'll ever be a top-6 NHL forward and he's already going to be seeking over $1M per season. NY won't let him walk but they shouldn't be offering much more than the bare minimum that they have to in order to re-sign him and I wouldn't be offering more than a two year deal if I was Sather.

Corey Potter - Potter spent most of the season in Hartford but got a couple of call ups and saw limited action in the few games he did spend with the Rangers. He's only 25 so the Rangers will probably re-sign him for depth and keep him in Hartford. Then again with the large contracts that the Rangers have and the amount of players that the Rangers have to re-sign, Potter could be a cheap option as a 6th defenseman. The Rangers have a lot of prospects on the blue line, but I would expect Potter to remain Rangers property.

Fredrik Sjostrom - Sjostrom along with Betts formed the best penalty killing duo in the NHL this season. Sjostrom has unbelievable speed and is a really hard working player. Unfortunately he doesn't have much of a scoring touch. With the cap situation the way it is this could be a toss up. I'd like to see Sjostrom back because he puts his body on the line for the team every single shift but if he is asking for anymore than the $840k he made this season he won't fit in Sather's plans. Could be back on a one year deal for similar money, but not much more than he's making now.

Nikolai Zherdev - The first few weeks of the season this would've been a no-brainer. Zherdev has an unbelievable skill set and is one of the most gifted players in the NHL in terms of being able to stickhandle the puck. But, the problem with Zherdev is that often he can go unnoticed for long periods of time.... games at a time. He made $3.25M this past season and there's no way he comes back to New York if he's seeking similar money to his past contract. When the Rangers traded for Antropov this summer many reports were that it would be a decision between either Antropov (who is a UFA) or Zherdev, I still think that's the case - if I had a choice I'd take Antrpov in a heartbeat. He spent a lot of time in Tortorella's "dog house" down the stretch and disappeared in the playoffs. 50/50 chance of him being back in New York next season & if he does come back it has to be for less money.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Nikolai Antropov - As I said before I think that it's either Antropov or Zherdev and I'd prefer Antropov. The guy is huge, although that doesn't mean everything, for the Rangers it should be a significant factor because over the past decade one of their main problems has been size. Sometimes I wish he used his body a little more, but he still has the ability to use his strength and size to make plays with the puck. He made $2.1M last season, he'll be seeking a pay raise, but I think that if Sather can get a relatively short-term deal done for $3M or less then he should do it.

Mark Bell - Spent the end of the season in Hartford. I hope that for some reason the Rangers don't decide that Bell should be on the 4th line and choose to re-sign him and let Orr walk. I have no problem re-signing Bell so that he can play in Hartford and provide depth for the Rangers in case he's severely needed. But, I don't think that he's capable of playing 82 games in the NHL and being effective.

Blair Betts - Rough ending to the season for Betts (broken orbital bone & concussion) and possibly has played his last game as a NYR. Along with Freddie Sjostrom he formed the NHL's best penalty killing unit - which has to work in his favor. Betts was also the team's best faceoff man. But, it appears that Artem Anisimov is ready to make a jump from the AHL to the NHL and if that's the case then Betts' job could be on the line. One of the main things working in Betts' favor is that last season's contract of $615k is relatively affordable for the contributions he makes. Sather will be watching how Betts progresses from that concussion he sustained in game 6 of the playoffs. Could be back in New York, but not a guarantee. I'd say there's a 70% chance of Betts returning.

Paul Mara - I have to admit I'm a Paul Mara fan, he had a very good season this year in New York. I think that he changed his style of play (becoming more aggressive) and as a result became a really valuable part of the Rangers blue line. Mara is a real team guy and always sticking up for his teammates. The Rangers don't have any physically intimidating blue liners, Mara might be the closest that they'll get to that. He made $1.95M last season and I think that he may have played himself into a few extra dollars with another team. The Rangers won't have the cap room to increase his salary and will likely try and groom one of their young defensive prospects who will be making less money to replace him. Don't see him re-signing but would like if he did.

Derek Morris - The bottom line is Morris won't be back. He wasn't a bad addition down the stretch but he did nothing in the playoffs. He was supposed to help the PP because he has a big shot, but that didn't work out as planned. On this Rangers team he's the 4th best defenseman at best and at $3.95M/season he is way too highly priced for the Rangers.

Colton Orr - The Rangers must bring back Orr. He is a top 3 fighter in the league and for those of you who think that it's no longer a part of the game (take a look back a few days ago when Brashear destroyed Betts...I have no doubt that doesn't happen with Orr on the ice). The Rangers are a small team, they will get run all season long unless they have someone who can actually fight. Adding another Voros type player who can't fight will not help. Orr has improved dramatically since coming to New York and is no longer a liability when he's out there on the ice. Not to mention, he rarely takes a minor penalty, which is something that most other NHL heavies do on a regular basis. Plus, the best thing about Orr is that he loves to fight. He made $550k last season and I see no reason why Sather shouldn't be able to get him back in Blue for another two seasons at $650k per year (or less).

Patrick Rissmiller - Won't be back next season, if in fact he is a UFA (several websites claim he's a UFA, others say that he signed a 3yr deal last summer). One of Sather's mistake signings from last summer, hopefully it was just a one year deal. If not, he'll just continue to play in the AHL.

Steve Valiquette (Update: Re-Signed 5/1/09) - Vally knows his role and is a very capable NHL backup goalie. He had a one year deal for $725k and Sather should be able to sign Valiquette to another deal with similar financial terms. It seems like Lundqvist and Valiquette have a good relationship, which is important. I see no reason why Valiquette wouldn't be back, unless Sather thinks there is a better option out there for similar money (this summer's top UFA goalies).

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NHL Announces Hart Trophy Nominees

According to TSN, the NHL today annouced the Hart Trophy nominees:
Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is in the running for a second consecutive Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.

A trio of Russians -- Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings -- were named as finalists for the award on Wednesday.

The winner is to be announced June 18 at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas.

Ovechkin led the league in goals this season with 56. He could become the first repeat winner of the Hart since Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.

Malkin has already won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring with 113 points, three more than Ovechkin.

Datsyuk is considered by many the league's most complete player. He was fourth in scoring with 97 points and was plus-34.

He is also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy as most gentlemanly player and the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward.

My 2nd Round Predictions of NHL Playoffs

Well I was 7 for 8 in the first round, let's see how accurate I am this time around. I am a lot less certain with these picks. In fact, I think that all of these matchups are so even that I could get all 4 predictions wrong. Also, all four series could end up going 7 games!

Boston Bruins
over Carolina in 6
Pittsburgh Penguins over Capitals in 6
Anaheim Ducks over Red Wings in 7
Vancouver Canucks over Chicago in 6



Link to TSN where I took the schedule from & did a little Photoshop work


If your looking for Stanley Cup Playoff Tickets then you should be checking out the following sites StubHub.com, TickCo Tickets, RazorGator and TicketsNow.

My First Round Predictions Revisited

I had a pretty successful first round, picking 7 of the 8 series winners. I wasn't too accurate with picking the games it would take in each series though.

East:

Boston (1) vs Montreal (8)
Prediction: Bruins in 5
Result: Right - Bruins in 4

Washington (2) vs. Rangers (7)
Prediction: Capitals in 6
Result: Right - Capitals in 7

Devils (3) vs. Carolina (6)
Prediction: Hurricanes in 6
Result: Right - Hurricanes in 7

Penguins (4) vs. Flyers (5)
Prediction: Penguins in 7
Result: Right - Penguins in 6

West:
San Jose (1) vs Anaheim (8)
Prediction: Sharks in 6 (maybe 7)
Result: Wrong - Ducks in 6

Detroit (2) vs Columbus (7)
Prediction:
Detroit in 6
Result: Right - Detroit in 4

Vancouver (3) vs. St.Louis (6)
Prediction: Canucks in 6
Result: Right - Canucks in 4

Chicago (4) vs. Calgary (5)
Prediction: Chicago in 5
Result: Right - Chicago in 6

NHL Playoffs Conference Semi-Final Schedule

Click the below image for a look at the 2009 NHL Playoff Conference Semi-Finals Schedule. Round two of the playoffs will see the Hurricanes take on the Bruins and the Capitals take on the Penguins in the Eastern Conference. Out West the Red Wings will play the Ducks and the Canucks will play Chicago.



Link to TSN where I took the schedule from & did a little Photoshop work


If your looking for Stanley Cup Playoff Tickets then you should be checking out the following sites StubHub.com, TickCo Tickets, RazorGator and TicketsNow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Caps Score Late & Devils Blow It

Devils blew it big time, allowing two goals in the final 80 seconds of their game to blow a 3-2 lead. In the other game 7 game tonight Sergei Fedorov scored with five minutes left to lead the Capitals over New York 2-1.

Conference Semi-Finals:
Bruins vs Carolina
Washington vs Penguins
Red Wings v Ducks
Chicago v Canucks

Round 2 Waits On Two More Games

Just two more games to be played to determine who will move on to the Conference Semi-Finals. Game 7 tonight in New Jersey where the Devils take on Carolina and also in Washington where the Capitals take on the Rangers.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Brashear Suspended 6 Games

According to Ranger Rants:
Donald Brashear, the Capitals enforcer, gets a six-game suspension for his actions against the Rangers in Game 6. Five are for his vicious forearm shiver to Blair Betts that broke the center's orbital bone and gave him a concussion and one was for his pre-game push with Colton Orr.
I still say that if Orr was in the lineup that the hit on Betts never happens. Not that Brashear is 'afraid' of Orr, but that's just the way that it is. Once Orr was scratched yesterday it was a given that Brasher was going to do something & not a single New York Ranger (other than Orr) has the ability to step up to him. I give props to Mara for jumping in but he did about all he could there. For those of you saying that the hit was a momentum changer and the reason why the Rangers lost. No, the Rangers lost yesterday because they were pathetic for the second straight game and third time in the series. When the Rangers actually show up to play, they have a chance to win, as evidence by three of the first four games. Onto game 7, where the Rangers will be without Blair Betts, the team's best faceoff man and best PKer - while the Caps are without Donald Brashear. Now, let's see if Orr is dressed & makes the Capitals pay. Or, (if I guess right) the Rangers see that Brashear is not playing so they scratch Orr again, dressing Voros & AHL call-up Anisimov instead.

NHL Vezina Nominees

According to NHL.com:
Steve Mason, the brilliant young goalie of the Columbus Blue Jackets, could become only the fifth NHL player to win the Vezina and Calder trophies in the same year.

But he'll have to beat out the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom, and Tim Thomas, whose league-leading goals-against average was a driving force for the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins this season.

Mason could become only the fifth goalie to win the Calder and Vezina trophies in the same year, joining Ed Belfour, Tom Barrasso, Tony Esposito and Frankie Brimsek.

"I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about it," Mason said of being a Vezina finalist. "When you look back at the players who have done it, just to be nominated for one of these awards is a special honor. I'm just thinking about all the people who helped me along the way, my family, the players this season, the coaching staff and Blue Jackets' management. Without that support, none of this would have been possible.

"I've never been to Las Vegas and I'm excited to go and see what it's all about," Mason said. "I'll be going with my family and my girlfriend and hoping we come away winners, not losers."

The three Vezina Trophy finalists finished 1-2-3 in lowest goals-against average. Thomas allowed a mere 2.10 goals per game, while Mason was next at 2.29 and Backstrom third at 2.33. The goalies will be on hand for the 2009 NHL Awards, which will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18 on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Ed Belfour, breaking in with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1991, was the last rookie goalie to win the Vezina in the same year he won the Calder Trophy, which rewards the NHL rookie of the year. Buffalo Sabres goalie Tom Barrasso swept the awards in 1984.

Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito won both awards in 1970 and Frankie Brimsek, "Mr. Zero," won both for the Bruins in 1939.

The Vezina Trophy has been voted on by the NHL's general managers since 1981. Prior to that, it was awarded to the goalie(s) of the team that allowed the fewest goals in a season. The Montreal Canadiens donated the trophy in 1926, the year their former goaltender, Georges Vezina, died of tuberculosis, little more than a year after he collapsed during a game. Vezina had been the Canadiens only goalie from 1910-25 in both the NHL and its predecessor, the National Hockey Association. He won two Stanley Cups and allowed the fewest goals seven times.

Ironically, Vezina's successor, George Hainsworth won the Vezina in its first three seasons. Montreal's Bill Durnan and Philadelphia's Ron Hextall won the Vezina as rookies, but not the Calder.

Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante has won the most Vezina Trophies, seven, while Durnan and Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominic Hasek won six.

Dubi's 10 Minute Misconduct Was For Complaining About Bite!

Brandon Dubinsky needed to get a tetanus shot yesterday after the game according to Ranger Rants:

That was the revelation from Jim Schoenfeld, that Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn bit Brandon Dubinsky at 15:03 of the second period. Both received two minutes for roughing but Dubinsky also got two minutes for boarding Mike Green and a 10-minute misconduct.

Before being escorted off the ice, Dubinsky was skating around trying to get the referees to look at his arm, where, presumably, he had a bite mark.

Who the hell bites someone? If this is true then Morrisonn deserves a beat down (of a greater magnitude than the one Orr gave him two seasons ago). It's an absolute joke if that is why Dubinsky was handed the ten minute misconduct, obviously none of the refs would look at the bite mark.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tortorella Suspended!

This is friggin HUGE! Can you believe this crap? From the NHL website:
The National Hockey League announced Saturday that New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended for one game for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Washington Capitals on April 24 in Washington.

The incident occurred 6:33 into the third period.

Tortorella will miss the Rangers' game Sunday afternoon against Washington at Madison Square Garden.

"While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot -- and will not -- tolerate any physical contact with fans,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. "We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers' bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center.

"That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage.

"While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our fans in this manner. That is communicated before each season in a memo that is issued by the League to all of the management, coaches and players of every team.

"The Sept. 8, 2008, memo, entitled 'Supplementary Discipline Reminders for the 2008-09 Season,' included the following section regarding Contact With Fans:

Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane, club personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate, seek the assistance of police or security personnel at the arena. This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact, whether it be direct physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks and other equipment) or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of conduct may have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character, such conduct may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately lead to unforeseen consequences.

Accordingly, please be on notice that all Club personnel (management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water, will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.


The suspension was issued pursuant to the Commissioner's authority under Section 6.3(j)(1)(a) of the NHL Constitution.
According to Ranger Rants:

Got an e-mail today from a reader who said he was in the stands near that situation. According to the reader (and, remember, none of this is confirmed, verified, etc.), the whole thing was started by a Capitals fan who was cursing at Tortorella through the glass, including personal stuff about Tortorella's family. Tortorella, according to the e-mail, asked security to watch the heckler but, during a stoppage, the fan got some liquid on Tortorella through a separation in the glass. That's when Tortorella lost it and squirted liquid back and later threw a water bottle into the stands.

Again, that version is not confirmed but it does make some sense based on the video we saw last night.

That's what appeared to happen from all of the video footage that was shown on TV last night. But, I just watched a TSN video and they made it sound like Tortorella was being suspended mainly because he squirted water at the heckler first. Will this hurt the Rangers chances tomorrow? In my opinion the Rangers need to win this game or they are in major trouble going back to Washington for a 7th game!

Back To The Garden We Go

Rangers 0 - Capitals 4
Rangers Lead Series 3-2

Man when the Rangers stink, they really really stink! Last night's game had nothing at all to do with the Capitals playing well (I'll usually give the opponent credit for doing that) and everything to do with the Rangers playing an absolutely terrible hockey game. From the Chris Drury whiff at center ice leading to the Matt Bradley breakaway shorthanded goal, to the terrible goal allowed by Lundqvist, the Rangers were a team that seemed determined to lose. Besides Brandon Dubinsky the team had absolutely zero offensive creativity and their goose egg in the goals column proved that.

Back to the Garden tomorrow for Game 6 -- let's just hope the Rangers can clinch it there, because not many would fancy their chances of winning if this game went back to Washington for a game 7!





Series Schedule:


Game 1 Rangers win 4-3
Game 2 Rangers win 1-0
Game 3 Capitals win 4-0
Game 4 Rangers win 2-1
Game 5 Capitals win 4-0
Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on eBay, StubHub & RazorGator

Friday, April 24, 2009

Anyone Surprised This Guy Was Drafted By The Flyers?

According to CSN Philly:

Flyer prospect Ladislav Scurko has been accused of murdering a hockey referee over failure to repay a debt.

According to Slovak TV, the 23-year-old center, who was a sixth-round pick of the Flyers in 2004, has been charged with stabbing referee Marek Liptag 14 times.

Liptag’s decomposed body was reportedly dumped in a shallow grave in a forest where it was found. The killing is believed to have occurred months ago off a roadway near Kosice, Slovakia, according to newspaper reports.

Scurko, who is Slovakian, played briefly for former Flyer general manager Russ Farwell in Seattle.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the club was withholding comment until more information was known.

And Then There Were 13....


NHL Names Norris Finalists

The NHL yesterday named its three finalists for the Norris Trophy. Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Mike Green of the Washington Capitals and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings are the finalists for the Norris Trophy, the awarded given for the NHL’s best defenseman during the regular season.

Lidstrom has won the trophy six of the last seven seasons, the only year in that time period that he didn't win was in 2003-04 when Scott Niedermayer won it. Neither Chara or Green have won the award before.

I would be shocked if Lidstrom won this season because I think that although he had a good season, that Chara and Green were phenominal. Green, known more as an offensive defenseman finished the season with 31 goals (despite playing in only 68 games). He also set an NHL record when he scored in eight consecutive games, setting the NHL record for most consecutive games with a goal by a defenceman. The former record was set by Mike O'Connell in the 1983–84 NHL season. Chara on the other hand is an all-around player, he has the size (6-9) and both the skills offensively to kill you (hardest slap shot in the NHL) and defefensively to shut you down. He is the Captain of the Boston Bruins who had a great season.

In my opinion either Green or Chara will get the Norris Trophy, as they both had great seasons.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lundqvist Puts on Show: NY One Win Away

Rangers 2 - Capitals 1
Rangers Lead Series 3-1

It's this simple for the Rangers, win one of the next three games and progress to the next round. The Rangers however will try on Friday to advance to the next round as quickly as possible when they head back to Washington for Game 5.

Henrik Lundqvist had his best game of the playoffs tonight, which is saying a lot considering he was great in the first three games. Paul Mara scored off a deflection in the first period and Chris Drury scored what turned out to be the game winning goal early in the second period. Ovechkin finally got into the goal column when he unleashed a wicked shot that got past Lundqvist, but thankfully that ended up being the only shot that got past Lundqvist.

If the Rangers do win this round against the Capitals, their opponent in the next round will be Boston, who completed their sweep of Montreal tonight. [Link]




Series Schedule:


Game 1 Rangers win 4-3
Game 2 Rangers win 1-0
Game 3 Capitals win 4-0
Game 4 Rangers win 2-1
Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on StubHub & RazorGator

NHL Rookie of the Year Finalists Named

According to TSN:

Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason and Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg are the finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, the league announced Wednesday.

Versteeg, a fifth-round choice (134th overall) of the Boston Bruins in 2004, led all rookies with 31 assists while finishing second to Ryan with 53 points. The 22-year-old from Lethbridge, Alta., added a rookie-best four short-handed goals.

"Bobby Ryan and Mason, those are two pretty special players and to be loaded into a class with those guys, it's a huge compliment for myself," Versteeg said Wednesday from Calgary, where the Blackhawks were facing the Flames in a Western Conference quarter-final series.

"I was a bit surprised. It caught me off guard. This year, I've always known I could help offensively and I was put in some situations to succeed and just tried to do my best with that."

Ryan, the second pick in the 2005 draft, recorded 31 goals and 57 points -- both tops among first-year players -- in just 64 games with the Ducks. The 22-year-old from Cherry Hill, N.J., earned rookie-of-the-month honours in January with 11 goals and five assists in 14 games.

Ryan played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack.

Mason, taken in the third round (69th overall) by the Blue Jackets in 2006, led the NHL with 10 shutouts and ranked second with a 2.29 goals-against average. The 20-year-old from Oakville, Ont., lifted the Blue Jackets to the first playoff appearance in franchise history.

The trophy will be handed out June 18 during the NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

As much as I appreciate what Bobby Ryan and Kris Versteeg did this season, I think that Steve Mason is going to win this in a landslide. I see Ryan as the runner-up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Umberger Starting To Make This a Habit

Tonight against the Wings:


Right away it brought back the memories of that hit a few seasons back in the playoffs when Brian Campbell destroyed Umberger:

Caps Come Alive: Series Now 2-1

Rangers 0 - Capitals 4
Rangers Lead Series 2-1



Series Schedule:

Game 1 Rangers win 4-3
Game 2 Rangers win 1-0
Game 3 Capitals win 4-0
Game 4 Wed. April 22, 7pm et on VERSUS @ Rangers
Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on StubHub & RazorGator

Monday, April 20, 2009

NHL's Double Standard

Is there a double standard in the NHL? Well, it's always talked about by the fans and the NHL is always quick to shoot it down and say how ridiculous that is. But, with video evidence like this, it's hard to understand what their reasoning behind some of their calls (or lack of) are. It's one thing if you make a call or don't make a call during a live game, because everything happens so fast. But, in this day and age with all of the video technology out there, the NHL watches these plays hundreds of times in frame by frame, slowed down speed. That is why I have a problem with some of the discrepancies between suspending a player or not suspending a player when they commit the exact same offense. I will never be able to understand how Daniel Carcillo of the Flyers got a one game suspension earlier in the first round for doing this:



But, no punishment for Mike Cammalleri for doing this?


Can someone please explain to me how the NHL can suspend one player for doing pretty much the exact same play that another guy goes unpunished for?

Best Hit of First Round...So Far

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rangers Sign Hobey Baker Winner Matt Gilroy


According to ESPN, the Rangers made a big free agent signing today:

Boston University free agent defenseman Matt Gilroy has signed a multiyear contract with the New York Rangers.

The contract is worth $3.5 million for two years, sources told ESPN's John Buccigross.

Gilroy's decision Friday to sign with the Rangers caps a full week for the 24-year-old native of North Bellmore, N.Y. One week ago, he was named the Hobey Baker Award winner as the best U.S. college hockey player.

The BU captain isn't eligible to join the Rangers on their current playoff run. He will attend the club's late summer training camp with an eye on making their 2009-10 NHL roster.

Read more about the signing at Ranger Rants, the NY Post and a Ranger fan's analysis over at The Manic Ranger.

We'll have to wait and see what the exact contract terms are because although all reports I've read have specified that it's a two year deal, some initial reports (such as ESPN's above) report that the deal is worth $3.5M while others are saying that it could be as much as $5M.

Ranger Rants also has a list of the young Ranger defensive prospects "in addition to Long Island's Gilroy, New Jersey's Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto, both first-round picks and Mike Sauer and Corey Potter, both who had brief stints with the Rangers this season". The future looks good for the Rangers on the blue line. Now, if only they could clear that disastrous contract of Wade Redden's off the books!

Update: It's a 2 year contract for $3.5M per CapGeek.com

Bruins Fan Steals Kovalev's Stick During Game!



Also found these images posted @ Hockey-Fights.com:



In the second image you can clearly see that the fan got the stick!

How The Matchups Look After One



East:
Boston/Montreal - Boston lead series 1-0
Rangers/Capitals - Rangers lead series 1-0
Devils/Carolina - Devils lead series 1-0
Penguins/Flyers - Penguins lead series 1-0


West:
Sharks/Ducks - Anaheim lead series 1-0
Detroit/Columbus - Detroit lead series 1-0
Vancouver/St.Louis - Vancouver lead series 1-0
Chicago/Calgary - Chicago lead series 1-0

Alexander Ovechkin To Be Profiled on ESPN’s E:60

According to a media release by ESPN:

ESPN's award-winning primetime newsmagazine E:60 will profile National Hockey League star Alexander Ovechkin in the episode airing Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. ET. The program, which launched in October 2007, combines investigative reporting, in-depth profiles of intriguing sports personalities and features on emerging star athletes. These stories are presented in a fresh and innovative format that incorporates producer/correspondent meetings.

Ovechkin is electrifying, eccentric and a highlight reel waiting to explode. The reigning MVP, Ovechkin has taken the NHL by storm since bursting onto the scene in 2005. With his hot shot and even hotter persona, the Washington Capitals left winger is already being mentioned as a potential all-time great player.

E:60’s Rachel Nichols has an all access pass inside the life of this megawatt hockey god who is equal parts everyman, equal parts rock star. In this revealing portrait, viewers see what makes Ovie run 100 miles per hour on and off the ice: his unabashed joy and enthusiasm, his love of fast cars, his simmering rivalry with the other name on the NHL’s marquee, Sidney Crosby, his hell bent for leather style of play that leaves defensemen swiveling their heads, and his burning desire to turn the nation’s capital into a hockey mad city.

The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, NBA star LeBron James, Caps owner Ted Leonsis and iconic hockey commentator Don Cherry are among the voices in the feature.



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rangers Win Game 1 in The Capital

Rangers 4 - Capitals 3 [Boxscore]
Rangers Lead Series 1-0

The Rangers went into the Nation's capital and came away with a huge win. The win was huge because not only did they take the first game of the series away from home, but the Rangers won the game despite the fact that they gave up three goals. New York also won the game without Captain Invisible (Drury) who really was invisible tonight, opting to sit out for game one after coming out for the pre-game skate (more on that later).

It was a great all around team effort, and honestly when they blew a 3-1 lead I thought that the Rangers had blown their shot at taking the series lead. Ovechkin was good (13 shots!) but he didn't get a goal (he was in on a few of the goals though). Despite giving up 3 goals, Lundqvist made several awesome saves. The game winning goal came off the stick of Brandon Dubinsky who completly undressed Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz before firing it past Jose Theodore.

The Rangers also got goals from Antropov, Gomez and Naslund. Not only did the Rangers score four goals, but two of them came on the power play.

As for Chris Drury, I really have to wonder what is possibly wrong with him. He was able to participate in a full practice yesterday and come out for the pre-game skate. If you are the Captain, you don't miss a playoff game unless there is something seriously wrong. I don't know what is wrong with Drury or how serious that injury of his is, but I'm definitely thinking that it must be more serious than the Rangers or letting on. Or, well...after a Rangers victory I'd rather not start questioning Drury's decision not to play.

As I already said, a huge win for the Rangers tonight in Washington. A big game on Saturday afternoon again at the Verizon Center, but worst case scenario the Rangers come back to the Garden on Monday night for what will be a crazy atmosphere at MSG with the series tied at one. Let's hope they come back up two games!



Series Schedule:

Game 1 Rangers win 4-3
Game 2 Sat. April 18, 1pm et on NBC Rangers @ Capitals
Game 3 Mon. April 20, 7pm et on VERSUS Capitals @ Rangers
Game 4 Wed. April 22, 7pm et on VERSUS @ Rangers
*Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on StubHub & RazorGator

MacTavish Fired By Oilers...Renney Next Coach?

According to TSN:
After eight seasons behind the Edmonton Oilers' bench and three straight seasons without a playoff berth, Craig MacTavish has been relieved of his duties as head coach.

Ranger Rants is already speculating that Tom Renney may be the next in line for the Oilers coaching job. He's a good man and deserves another shot somewhere.

Rangers vs Capitals: Playoff Preview




Series Headlines:
  • Uncertainty regarding whether or not Chris Drury will play in the 1st game. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if he's not on the ice in Washington tomorrow night. [Link]

  • The Capitals know that they face a completly different team than the one that they beat three out of four times during the regular season. The two teams haven't played since the Rangers made major moves at the trade deadline by bringing in Avery, Antropov and Morris. The Rangers have also undergone a coaching change since the last time the two teams played. [Link]

  • Stan Fischler's take on how the Rangers can beat the Capitals. [Link]

  • This playoff series will only intensify the rivalry that has developed between Marc Staal and Alexander Ovechkin. [Link]

  • A few Capitals will be dying their hair red (at least putting in streaks) for the playoffs. [Link]

  • Barry Melrose & E.J. Hradek analyze the Rangers/Capitals series. Melrose & Hradek pick the Caps in 6. [Video]

  • This Caps blog has been focusing on individual Rangers, so far they've looked at Avery, Antropov, Betts, Callahan, Dubinksy & Staal. [Link]

Key Players:

Alexander Ovechkin
In my opinion AO is the most dynamic forward in the NHL who can change the outcome of a game by himself. Ranger fans remember that miserable game in December when the Rangers blew a 4-0 first period lead to lose to the Capitals. It was Ovechkin who carried the rest of the Capitals on his back and he put on a show at MSG that was unbelievable. He takes at least 7 shots a game, so when he has the puck, at all times the Rangers must be in position to block the shot or clear away a rebound. Stop Ovechkin and the Rangers win the series, it's that simple. The thing is, it really isn't that simple, it's almost impossible. Limiting Ovechkin to one point a night would be considered a success.

Henrik Lundqvist
If the Rangers are to get past the Caps then Lundqvist will need to be at the top of his game, every game. He is one of the elite goalies in the NHL, it's now that he needs to show all of the experts who have chosen the Capitals to run away with this series why. He has a lot of pressure on him because he knows that if he allows any more than three goals past him in a game that the Rangers chances of winning because of their lack of offense are slim to none.

Jose Theodore
Goaltending is easily the Capitals biggest flaw. The Capitals play a wide open game that often leads to many scoring chances against. As much as the Rangers have struggled offensively all season, this could really help them get some confidence. If Theodore is as inconsistent as he's been in the past couple of seasons then the Capitals aren't going very far, not even past the first round.

Marc Staal
Marc Staal has developed very quickly into the Rangers best defensman. He'll be looked upon to try and stop Ovechkin as much as possible, he'll probably be on the ice against AO as much as possible. This has developed into a real rivalry this season with both guys going out of their way to deliver hits on each other, this series will only intensify that rivalry.

Sean Avery
The Rangers have something that the Capitals don't have, the "Avery" factor. He gets all of the attention that he does because of his antics after the whistle and because of the things that he does/says to rile up the opponent. Often, this allows Avery to fly right under the radar and actually help the Rangers on the scoresheet. Avery is a very fast skater and has a very quick wrist shot that he can fire while in full stride coming down the wing. But, let's be honest, the Avery sideshow is not only entertaining it is often very influential in the outcome of the game. Last year in the playoffs we saw two different scenarios; against Atlanta he was the focus of their attention and the Rangers easily won that series in four, but against the Penguins they did a pretty good job of ignoring Avery and the Pens won that series. Will Avery be able to get under Ovechkin's skin? Will he draw more penalties than he takes? One things for sure, he'll be on top of Theodore all series long and that's where the Rangers need him to be.


Series Schedule:

Game 1 Wed. April 15, 7pm et on MSG Rangers @ Capitals
Game 2 Sat. April 18, 1pm et on NBC Rangers @ Capitals
Game 3 Mon. April 20, 7pm et on VERSUS Capitals @ Rangers
Game 4 Wed. April 22, 7pm et on VERSUS @ Rangers
*Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on StubHub & RazorGator

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

Boston (1) vs Montreal (8)
I understand that it's the playoffs and this is a big time rivalry and the Canadiens have had the Bruins number in the past, but I don't see the Bruins losing this series. I have trouble seeing this one go any further than five games. This has the possibility of being the only sweep of the first round. Plus, it doesn't help that Tim Thomas has been phenominal this season, while Carey Price has struggled big time. Prediction: Bruins in 5

Washington (2) vs. Rangers (7)
For this series I'll have a more details preview tomorrow before the game. For now I'll say that my heart says Rangers in 7 but my brain says Capitals in 6.

Devils (3) vs. Carolina (6)
Carolina looks very similar to the team that won the Cup a few seasons ago. Cam Ward has been one of the hottest goalies down the stretch and Staal and Brind'Amour have gotten much, much better in the final month. It's always hard to rule out the Devils, especially when they have Brodeur as their last line of defense. Six weeks ago the Devils were my favorite to win the East based on the way they were playing. But, that streak they were on has turned sour and coming into the home stretch the Devils looked bad. If they can regain that form then they'll win the series but if they play like they did down the strecth then the home ice advantage won't even help them knock off the Canes. Prediction: Hurricanes in 6

Penguins (4) vs. Flyers (5)
The Flyers blew their chance to have home ice advantage in the first round by losing to the Rangers in the last game of the season....that could really come back to bite them in the ass! The Penguins were 4-2 in the season series and I can see this series going the same way. The Flyers are another team with a hot/cold goalie in Biron and we'll have to wait and see which Marty Biron shows up. The Penguins have some serious scoring threats up front led by Crosby and Malkin but the Flyers may have more depth at forward, they are one of only two teams with four 30 goal scorers. Not to mention, Jeff Carter who was the second-leading goal scorer this season in the NHL. Prediction: Penguins in 7

2009 NHL Draft Lottery

According to TSN, the Islanders have won the draft lottery and will select first overall this summer at the NHL Draft.

The order of selection for the first 14 drafting positions in the first round, only, of the 2009 Entry Draft is as follows:

1. New York Islanders
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Colorado Avalanche
4. Atlanta Thrashers
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. Phoenix Coyotes
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Dallas Stars
9. Ottawa Senators
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. Nashville Predators
12. Minnesota Wild
13. Buffalo Sabres
14. Florida Panthers

The remaining drafting positions will be determined at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL Western Conference Playoff Predictions

San Jose (1) vs Anaheim (8)
From the very beginning of the season San Jose have been my Stanley Cup pick and I think that their 1st round matchup against the Ducks may be their biggest hurdle. Both teams are built fairly similar with a big group of forwards, some really skilled scorers and good goalies. The Ducks made a lot of moves at the deadline that made them look like sellers, but here they are in the first round with a legit shot at pulling what many would call an upset. But, I think that the Sharks are too strong all around to not win this series. They have the better goalie in Nabokov and their offense is just as if not more potent than the Ducks. The one area were the Ducks probably have an advantage is on the blue line where they have Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, but Dan Boyle & Rob Blake aren't too shabby either. Prediction: Sharks in 6 (maybe 7).

Detroit (2) vs Columbus (7)
I don't think that Columbus will be favored by any of the experts and it's obvious why - it's their first ever playoff appearance and they have the luck of playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round. Don't forget that Blue Jackets were 2-3-1 vs. Detroit this season. Detroit are clearly superior offensively, but the Blue Jackets are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. If rookie goaltender Steve Mason can continue to play the way he has all season for Columbus then the Blue Jackets have a clear advantage there over Detorit who haven't gotten consistent goaltending all season. In the end, I think that the team with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa & Lidstrom will prevail. Prediction: Detroit in 6

Vancouver (3) vs. St.Louis (6)
St.Louis battled hard to finish the season and many thought that they weren't even going to make the playoffs, nevermind climb to 6th in the West. The teams split the season series two games a piece. However, the Canucks are one of the better teams in the West and I just can't see the Blues beating Vancouver - especially if Roberto Luongo is on his game. Neither team has much silverware on their roster, not one Canuck has a Stanley Cup ring, while only two players on the Blues roster do (Hinote, McDonald). Prediction: Canucks in 6

Chicago (4) vs. Calgary (5)
This is the one series in the West that in my opinion could easily go either way (depiste the fact that Chicago won all four games this season) and could be determined by who gets the better goaltending. Kiprusoff has started a ton of games, while Khabibulin has been really hot down the stretch. Calgray added some weapons at the deadline but I still fancy the Blackhawks in this one - they have the talent up front and between the pipes to take the series. Despite the fact that this one could eaisly go either way, I think that this will be the quickest series in the West, either way. The one player in the series besides the goaltenders who could really steal the show is the Flames' Jarome Iginla. Prediction: Chicago in 5

Monday, April 13, 2009

Round 1: Rangers vs Capitals Playoff Schedule

Game 1 Wed. April 15, 7pm et on MSG Rangers @ Capitals
Game 2 Sat. April 18, 1pm et on NBC Rangers @ Capitals
Game 3 Mon. April 20, 7pm et on VERSUS Capitals @ Rangers
Game 4 Wed. April 22, 7pm et on VERSUS @ Rangers
*Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Not sure about the rest of you NYR fans, but I sure hate watching "my" team on a national broadcast, I'd much rather listen to the analysis & commentating brought to the table by Rosen and Michaletti.

Here's a network by network look at what channel to find the first round games for every series. [>Link]

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on eBay, StubHub & RazorGator

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday: Rangers Headlines

  • The Rangers will start the 2009 NHL Playoffs off in Washington against the Capitals. The Alexander Ovechkin led Capitals were 3-1 against the Rangers this season. Including that miserable game two days before Christmas when the Rangers blew a 4-0 lead against the Capitals and Ovechkin had two goals. [Link]
  • John Tortorella not happy with the Rangers "shit practice!" [Link]

  • With one last regular season game today that doesn't mean anything to the Rangers (as far as the standings go), I wonder if Lundqvist will get the evening off. There are some who will say that Valiquette should get the start because he's had success against Philly in the past and also because the last thing the Rangers need is to have Lundqvist injured right before the playoffs in a game that doesn't mean much. Others will say that Lundqvist needs to be kept sharp for the Capitals. In my opinion giving Lundqvist the night off would be a wise decision but either way I won't really care (unless he gets injured! - knock on wood).

  • All other Eastern Conference matchups determined. [Link]

Rangers playoff tickets on eBay, StubHub & RazorGator

I'll have a playoff preview up within the next day or so - with all of my predictions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Detroit Signs Franzen To 11 Year Contract!

Detroit signed forward Johan Franzen to an 11-year deal Saturday, keeping him off the free agent market and retaining talent that helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.
[Link]

It's rumored to average out to be around $3.9M per season of a cap hit. I understood the really long contract for Zetterberg, but 11 years for Franzen seems extremely long to me. Yes, he's had a good year and a half in Detroit, but he's 29 years old and didn't produce much at all during his first two NHL seasons. Wonder how much the deal was for. Certainly made the deal longer to lower the average cap hit per season. Maybe that was what they needed to do in order to sign both Franzen and Marian Hossa.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Funny Flames Youtube Video

$100 to Play in the NHL?... Satan's Back & more!

  • Pretty cool story last night for a Flyer who was making his debut in the NHL. The Rangers announcers touched on the subject a few times during the game, but the exact details weren't clear. Due to salary cap issues Philly was forced to sign David Sloane right out of college. Sloane became the first Philadelphia-born player ever to play for the Flyers. Skating on the same ice surface with guys with multi-million dollar contracts such as Danny Briere ($10M), Wade Redden ($6.5M) - Sloane was paid a measley $100! Hell, it's every hockey player's dream to play in the NHL...but that is pretty crazy stuff! [Link]

  • According to the Boston Globe, next year's "Winter Classic" will be in Boston at Fenway. [Link]

  • Sakic's season is over - is his career over? [Link]

  • Miroslav Satan is back in the NHL as he cleared re-entry waivers. [Link]

  • The Rangers gave out their annual team awards. Team MVP is Wade Redden...just kidding! Henrik Lundqvist was voted the team MVP for the 3rd straight season - what a shocker! [Link]

  • The NJ Devils clinched the Atlantic Division title last night by beating the Senators. [Link]

  • The only division now that is still up for grabs is the Northwest Division out West, where Vancouver & Calgary are still in a tight battle. It looks like whoever wins that division will be playing the Blue Jackets and whoever finishes second will play Chicago.[Link]

  • Mike Milbury is critical of Marian Gaborik and honestly I've got to agree with him. [Link]

  • This may not be the NHL save of the year, but it's certainly up there - especially considering the timing of the save and the importance of the game. [Link]

2009 NHL Playoffs Commercial

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Only 2 Playoff Spots Up For Grabs

Rangers Clinch Playoff Spot!

Rangers 2 - Flyers 1

The Rangers are in the NHL playoffs for the fourth straight season after beating the Flyers tonight at the Garden. It turns out that the Rangers would've gotten in tonight even if they hadn't won because the Thrashers beat the Florida Panthers tonight in regulation to eliminate them from postseason contention.

Henrik Lundqvist had one of his best games of the season in route to the 2-1 win tonight. He also made one of his best saves of the season when he robbed Daniel Carcillo who had a point blank one timer denied in the third period to keep the game at 2-1.

The Rangers got goals in the first period from Markus Naslund (just 52 seconds in) and what turned out to be the game-winner, a deflection by Ryan Callahan. Daniel Briere scored for the Flyers in the second period on the power play to make it a one goal game, but that is how it remained until the final buzzer.

Rangers play the Flyers in Philly on Easter Sunday with both teams guaranteed playoff spots, now they just have to determine where they will be seeded.

Rangers playoff tickets on eBay, StubHub & RazorGator

Flyers (43-25-11) at Rangers (41-30-9)


MSG - 7pm ET

This is it Rangers fans, one win in either of the next two games and the Rangers clinch a playoff spot. Why wait till Sunday? Let's get it done tonight on home ice and make Sunday's game mean nothing more than trying to pass Montreal for 7th in the East.

The Flyers have already clinched, but you know that they'll be doing their best to knock the Rangers out of playoff contention. Going into Philly on Easter Sunday needing a win won't be fun, so the Rangers need to come out firing on all cylinders tonight. Lundqvist needs to be at his best again and Chris Drury needs to be the captain that we saw on Tuesday against Montreal.

What to watch for:
The Rangers power play has been abysmal all season long. Meanwhile the Flyers lead the league with 16 short-handed goals (haven't given up a single SHG all season!) Remember that 3 on 5 short-handed goal that Mike Richards scored against the Rangers earlier this season? Yeah, it makes me cringe to! The Rangers power play needs to not only try and score tonight, they need to make sure that the Flyers' penalty killers don't.

The Dubinksy/Richards battle - everytime these two are on the ice together they try their best to throw the body around. They've already had a few fights in their short careers against each other, I don't expect that tonight, but both players always show their animousity towards each other.

Sean Avery - expect Avery to be Avery! At least that's what we hope for. He hasn't scored in 10 games but when the Rangers played the Flyers last and won 4-1, Avery scored two of those goals. I expect him to get back on the score sheet tonight.

Who on the Flyers to watch out for:
As I already said the Flyers Penalty Kill is extremely dangerous; especially Richards (7 SHGs), Gagne and Carter (each with 4 SHGs).

Jeff Carter is having a phenominal break out year - he has 44 goals (2nd in the league to Ovechkin) and has 80 points. Mike Richards also is having a very good season, with 30 goals and 78 points.

Marty Biron is a very hot & cold goalie (let's hope we see the cold Biron tonight).

Fights?
Hey - it's a Rangers/Flyers game so the chances of a fight are pretty damn good. But, with the Rangers concentrating on getting the win and Philly determined to finish ahead of the Penguins (who are just 2 points behind them), both teams may stay out of the box. In an intense game with serious playoff implications, anything is possible. Riley Cote, the Flyers tough guy is out for the season after injuring his finger in a fight, so Colton Orr probably won't find a dance partner tonight.

As mentioned before Dubinsky & Richards is always a possibility - getting Richards off the ice for 5 minutes is definitely something that would favor the Rangers.

With Sean Avery buzzing around the ice, you never know when things could get out of control. You know that Richards and him have a history and trade deadline Daniel Carcillo is another guy willing to drop the gloves.

Prediction:
I'm going to go with the same prediction that I had Tuesday against Montreal, the Rangers with a 4-2 win.


Related reads:
Update from today's practice [Link]
ESPN's game preview [Link]
SNY Rangers with a breakdown of the NYR headlines [Link]
NY Post: Rangers Know Win = Playoffs [Link]

Columbus Make Playoffs For 1st Time In Their History


Well, the Blue Jackets needed a point last night to guarantee themselves a spot in this year's NHL playoffs. How fitting it was that captain Rick Nash got the goal that tied Chicago and sent the game to OT. The Blue Jackets went on to win in the shootout, but it was Nash's game tying goal that clinched the needed point to get in the playoffs. Congratulations to the Blue Jackets and their fans - it took them a while but they will finally get a taste of the playoffs!

The fans sure are happy over at Light the Lamp, as they should be!

The Cannon has a game recap and a video tribute to Blue Jackets owner John McConnell, a fan favorite, who past away last year and unfortunately didn't get to see his franchise make the playoffs.

Full game recap from The Columbus Dispatch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rangers Playoff Tickets, Ads on Glass & More!

  • A funny look at Larry Brooks and his ability to call it as he sees it. [Link] (Thanks for the link Tim)

  • Rangers playoff tickets on eBay. [Link]
  • Anyone else notice the advertisments last night on the glass during the Rangers/Montreal game? I did, but to be honest, it didn't bother me at all. I don't want ads on jerseys though! [Link]

  • Rangers report made reference to Paul Mara looking like Paul Bunyan today - something that I've been thinking about all season! [Link]

  • Rangers prospect Evgeny Grachev won this year's OHL rookie of the year. [Link]

  • An update from after today's Rangers practice. [Link]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2 Points Will Clinch A Playoff Berth

Rangers 3 - Montreal 1

The Rangers were able to stay in the game through the first ten minutes even though Montreal was the better team. The rest of the game was pretty much all New York and the Rangers were able to leave MSG tonight with two points in regulation. A win for Montreal would've clinched a playoff spot, instead the win leaves New York needing only two points total out of the two remaining games against the Flyers. That's because Florida was beaten tonight by the Flyers 2-1.

Earlier today in the Rangers/Montreal Preview I predicted that the Rangers would win, I was correct about the result, not correct in the prediction (I said 4-2). I was completly wrong in one of my predictions:
Don't expect Captain Invisible to do much - he's found a way to make it through 85% of the season without being effective or inspirational - don't expect that to change tonight in a "must win game!"
It's always a good thing when you criticize a player on your team and then they make you eat your words. Well, tonight Chris Drury made me eat my words. He scored two goals, the first of the game and then the goal to make it 3-1.

Antropov scored the Rangers other goal, the game winner on a really gutsy play. He dove head first into an area where many players wouldn't put their foot, in order to bat a loose puck into an empty net.

Henrik Lundqvist made the good saves when he had to (2nd Star of the game) and when he couldn't make the save, on at least two occasions the posts bailed him out.

Game Recap from Rangers website. [Link]

And The Steven McDonald Awards Goes To....

Ryan Callahan

Steven McDonald is a New York Police Department detective who was shot on July 12, 1986. The shooting left him quadriplegic. He is the most seriously injured New York City Police officer to survive his injuries.

The New York Rangers established the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in his honor following the 1987-88 season. Detective McDonald personally presents a Ranger with a trophy and a $25,000 check (in the player's name) made out to the Steven McDonald Foundation.

Winner Season
Ryan Callahan 2008-09
Brandon Dubinsky 2007-08
Jed Ortmeyer 2006-07
Henrik Lundqvist 2005-06
Jed Ortmeyer 2003-04
Matthew Barnaby 2002-03
Sandy McCarthy 2001-02
Sandy McCarthy 2000-01
Adam Graves 1999-00
Adam Graves 1998-99
Wayne Gretzky 1997-98
Brian Leetch 1996-97
Mark Messier 1995-96
Mark Messier 1994-95
Adam Graves 1993-94
Adam Graves 1992-93
Adam Graves 1991-92
Jan Erixon 1990-91
John Vanbiesbrouck and Kelly Kisio 1989-90
Tony Granato 1988-89
Jan Erixon 1987-88

Montreal (41-28-10) at Rangers (40-30-9)



Well here we are again, the same position it seems like the Rangers are in every single season, struggling in the last few games of the season just to clinch a playoff berth. Currently the Rangers are tied for 8th in the East with Florida and trail Montreal by 3 points going into tonight's game. The Rangers have the advantage over Florida of holding the tie breaker for wins with three games left, but that could easily change in the next few days. The Rangers play Montreal tonight and Philly Thursday night (both at MSG) and then travel to Philly on Easter Sunday to finish off their regular season. If the Rangers can grab all six points up for grabs this week, then they clinch a playoff spot, being the pessimistic Ranger fan that I am, I think it's going to be a lot more difficult than that.

I've been holding off down the stretch of claiming this as a "must win game!" But, tonight I think this game against Montreal is just that. Anything less than two points against Montreal tonight will be a severe blow to the Rangers' post-season hopes. The Flyers will really have a say in who gets the final playoff spot in the East, because not only are they playing the Rangers twice to end the regular season but they are playing the Panthers tonight. [Link] Of course tonight we'll be scoreboard watching, but if the Rangers don't handle their own business then you can forget about expecting other teams to help you out.

The Rangers head into tonight's game having lost four of their past five games. However, looking at it from a different perspective, the Rangers are 6-1-0 on home ice since losing to 2-1 to Florida Panthers on Feb. 26.

After being dealt bad news yesterday that they will be without Mathieur Schneider (out for playoffs) & Andrei Markov for the rest of the regular season, Montreal were beaten by their rivals from Ottawa. [Link] Losing your best defensemen is never a good thing when you're battling for a playoff spot, losing two of the top offensive defensemen on the team could be disasterous. Although the Habs may get into the playoffs, it'll take a lot for them to win a round.

Yesterday, Nik Antropov was listed as being possible for tonight's game. Today he's been upgraded (at least by the Rangers beat writers), as being likely. [Link]

It's a guarantee (bar some unforeseen circumstances) that Henrik Lundqvist will be in net for the Rangers. According to RDS (French), Carey Price will get the start for the Habs.

What the Montreal media is saying. [Link]

Tonight's expected NYR lines as per Ranger Rants:
Avery-Gomez-Antropov
Markus Naslund-Chris Drury-Ryan Callahan
Fredrik Sjostrom-Brandon Dubinsky-Nikolai Zherdev
Lauri Korpikoski-Blair Betts-Colton Orr

What to watch for:
Early on I would hope that the Rangers come out hard because the Garden should be rockin'. Knowing that a playoff position is at stake, there are no excuses for a slow start. If the power play doesn't convert on one of the first few chances, expect the boo-birds to make their appearance. Also, watching for the end of the game, if Montreal is winning I'll expect the "Fire Sather!" chants to really pick up steam.

I'll also have my eyes on Antropov, although he's likely to play, let's see how effective he is and if he's really playing at 100%.

Also, a continuation of the Komisarek/Avery battle should be fun.

What not to expect:
1) Don't expect Laraque to drop the gloves with Orr, it's obvious that Laraque hates fighting.
2) Don't expect Captain Invisible to do much - he's found a way to make it through 85% of the season without being effective or inspirational - don't expect that to change tonight in a "must win game!"
3) Don't expect Wade Redden to play as well as he did against Boston on Saturday. History tells us that Redden has about 1 good game out of every 20 or so he plays. So, maybe if NY makes it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (fingers crossed), Redden will have another decent game.

Prediction:
I've got to say that I hope that in a "must win game" that the Rangers will come out, battle hard and do what is necessary to get the two points - even if it takes the shootout.

Rangers 4 - Montreal 2 (hoping that NY can win in regulation).

If you want to go to any playoff games (hoping NYR clinch):
Start looking now for playoff tickets -- before it's sold out and prices get out of control. Stubhub and RazorGator are probably your best bets.


Original Image Locations:
Avery
Dubinksy