Monday, January 30, 2012

Rangers Roll Continues into Second Half While Improved Devils are Broke

The second half of the NHL season is underway and it looks as if the New York Rangers will not be going away any time soon on their roll towards the playoffs as one of the top seeds.

The Rangers had a NHL betting record of 31-12-1-3 and had one of the stingiest defenses in hockey as they ranked 2nd in goals against. The Broadway Blueshirts defense has long been the strength of the team led by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s 22-14-5 record with a 1.87 goals against average and 5 shutouts. Martin Biron had a 1.71 goals against average in a most helpful backup role with a 9-2-2 record and 2 shutouts.

The big surprise and improvement for the Rangers has been their offense, which was borderline anemic for the past few seasons and the reason that they could not be considered a true contender. The Rangers are ranked 11th in the NHL for goal scoring and were led by right wing Marian Gaborik’s 25 goals with 14 assists. Fellow right winger Ryan Callahan had 17 goals and 19 assists while center Brad Richards had 16 goals and 17 assists.

The Rangers were equally effective at home and on the road as they were 15-5-0-2 at Madison Square Garden while going 16-7-1-1 away from home. The Rangers were on a great pace heading into the All Star Break with 7 wins in 10 games.

Another surprise team in the Rangers Atlantic Division has been the New Jersey Devils as they are roaring back into playoff contention after their stunning collapse last year. The Devils were 26-19-1-2 and in the thick of the Eastern Conference race. The big problem facing New Jersey is money as the National Hockey League is looking to loan them cash just to get through the season while owner Jeffery Vanderbeek will look for what was called a “long term financial solution.”

The financial situation is so bad for New Jersey that they are considering a trade of captain Zach Parise in order to cut payroll. New Jersey would be looking to get draft picks in return for Parise. The Devils are looking at a season loss of $20 million and desperately need to make the playoffs to cut that amount down. New Jersey entered the second half of the season in 7th place with the top 8 teams in the Eastern Conference qualifying for the post season.

* Guest Post

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Video: Richard Zednik Avoids Death Again As Roof Collapses

If you remember back, Zednik had his throat cut by a skate during an NHL game a few years ago.

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NYR Blogger Round Table: Trade Deadline Edition

We did a blogger roundtable on Puck Central once before and I've taken part in these on other websites. I figured what better time than now to get a sense of how the NYR bloggers feel as we get close to the annual NHL trade deadline (2/27/12).

I decided to bring in the bloggers who are in my opinion among the best in the Rangers blogosphere: The NYR Blog, Blue Seat Blogs (represented by Dave and "The Suit"), Scotty Hockey and Blue Line Station.

If you're Glen Sather, who do you try and acquire ahead of the Trade Deadline? (Try and name at least one player by name, you can also add the generic "sniper," "stay at home dman", etc. if you choose)

Blue Line Station: I think the obvious answer is a top-six left winger. Right now we have solid options such as Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Hagelin but the addition of one more top-6 guy could be the difference between winning one playoff round and making the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, the market isn't too strong, but I see Ryan Smyth, Tuomo Ruutu, and Bobby Ryan as perhaps the three top choices who could realistically be moved.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): I think the Rangers should stay the course and avoid the over-bidding that is likely to take place at the deadline. Maybe we can acquire a depth forward, prospect, or pick in exchange for a Wolski, or a MZA, or one of our spare defensemen if possible. I'd focus on acquiring a player who comes from a team that plays a similar system (i.e. 2-1-2 forecheck, dump & chase, etc). I'm tired of guys like Frolov, Wolski, EC, etc, who have no desire to forecheck or backcheck, and then we wonder why they don't fit our team concept. If we can't make a big deal. 

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): Tough question to answer, but the need for a top six LW has been there all season. Bobby Ryan has been the name that has been tossed around a lot, and the Ducks/Rangers make decent trading partners when it comes to team needs and team surpluses. I think Ray Whitney is a more likely target though.

The NYR Blog: Shane Doan is a player who could help the Rangers down the stretch and into the playoffs. While Doan doesn't have a load of second season experience, I think his veteran leadership on and off the ice would be very beneficial to the Rangers. He can also still put the puck in the net as his 14 goals would be 4th on the Rangers, while his three power play goals would tie him with Brad Richards for third on the Blueshirts. I also don't think it would cost more than a few picks and maybe a mid-level prospect which is what veteran rental players have gone for in the recent past (see Mark Recchi to Boston in 2010). Doan is in the final year of his contract that will pay him $4.55 million this season. So if he wants to stay with the Coyotes (as has been reported) he can try a run at the Stanley Cup with the Rangers then re-sign with Phoenix in the off-season.

A true power play quarterback is needed as well, but would cost too much in my opinion.

Scotty Hockey: If Shea Weber is on the block, get him. Not as fond of Ryan Suter but Weber is certainly worthwhile - he'd solve the power play woes with his rocket of a slapper and help take defensive pressure off the hurt Staal and Sauer. You just have to wonder how insane the cost would be

Ray Whitney would be an incredible addition with his scoring ability and experience and is my top target. If the Wizard can't be had, Vinny Prospal might help the power play a bit and won't hurt the room at all. Then again, Sammy PĂ„hlsson might be the better target on the BJs. Sure he doesn't add any scoring but Sammy played alongside Hank with Frolunda and Team Sweden and has a Cup to his credit. He would be a definite upgrade over Mitchell and Boyle, as would be our old friend Dominic Moore - should Stevie Y be silly and not want to re-sign him.

While I love the thought of Teemu Selanne as a Ranger, with the World Championships in Finland I don't see him accepting a trade away from Anaheim. My bet is that he stays in SoCal. Either he helps the Ducks make the playoffs or he accepts his NHL end and seals his career in his home country before an adoring crowd.

What NYR (if any) do you consider untouchable?

Blue Line Station: I think, technically speaking, there is no such thing as "untouchable." There is no player on the team I would refrain from trading if it tangibly benefited the team. Realistically speaking, though, Lundqvist, Staal, Callahan, Richards, Gaborik, Girardi, and maybe McDonagh are the players whom I see as 99% likely to stay.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): Hmmm "untouchable" is a pretty ethereal term...but gun to my head, I don't consider anyone other than Lundqvist and maybe Callahan as someone who should definitely retire a Ranger.

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): Everyone is available for the right price and the right return. There is no such thing as an "untouchable" in this business...barring no movement clauses of course.

The NYR Blog: All of the young core. The Rangers are building something special and any disruption to the current blueprint would be detrimental to the long term success of this team.

Scotty Hockey:  Cally, Step, Hagelin, Hank, Girardi and McD.

What NYR do you try and ship out? (I guess I expect everyone here to say EC lol)

Blue Line Station: Ideally, the Rangers would be able to move Wolski. His contract is not at all worth it and I don't see any reason to believe he will be a contributing member of the team. Getting rid of his cap space to open up room for a potential addition would be nice, and anything we got in return would be a bonus. Getting rid of Avery and Christensen wouldn't hurt, either. Other than that, there are players I'd be willing to move for an upgrade but nobody I'm hoping to see go. It says a lot about the state of this team that the only players whose departure in itself would be welcome are healthy scratches or in the minors.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): Similar to my first point. If we can get a depth forward, b-level prospect, or mid-round pick for either Wolski, Mats Zuccarello Aasen, Stralman, Bickel, or Eminger, then I am all for it. Dubinsky is a guy people will probably bring up, but I wouldn't trade him just yet. Let him get his value higher.

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): Well, guys like Christensen and Wolski are the "expected" responses here, but they aren't really moveable unless it's via demotion to the AHL, as no one wants them. In regards to trades, I'd expect a surplus prospect to be moved for a rental, someone like Valentenko perhaps.

The NYR Blog: Wojtek Wolski is a guy I'd like to see moved from a personnel and financial perspective. Unfortunately, his $3.8 million contract that I'd like to see come off the books, is the exact reason he will be almost impossible to move. Although we've seen Sather turn Scott Gomez and his horrific contract into Ryan McDonagh so you never know.

Scotty Hockey:  Wolski, Christensen, Boyle and Anisimov - all four are soft players who could not contribute in a tough, grinding seven game series. While Dubi has not been playing his best puck, that is the very reason he is worth hanging on to. Still think he can be a big time power forward if he ever gets his head right.

Is there any particular player on the rumor block that you don't want the Rangers to acquire?

Blue Line Station: Ales Hemsky. He is not an upgrade over Gaborik or Callahan and would not fit into this team's identity at all. He doesn't score enough to make his irrelevance defensively and physically acceptable and being healthy is a struggle in itself for him. I have no interest in giving up assets for him.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): Pretty much all of them at this point haha. The national media doesn't see the intricacies that makes this team successful like deep forechecking, hits for turnovers, being defensively responsible, etc. I haven't seen any rumors linking us to guys of this nature other than Bobby Ryan who will cost us too much.

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): Shane Doan, only for the cost though. He would cost an arm and a leg, and there's no guarantee that he would be here long term. The Rangers are close, and Doan is a superb player and would make a fine addition, but I don't think he puts the Rangers on the level of the Bruins by himself.

The NYR Blog: Shea Weber. I know he's the obvious answer to all the Rangers power play woes. But could you imagine what he'd cost? Assuming McD or Del Zotto, a top prospect (Miller?) and a first round pick. Not to mention the difficulties the Rangers will have finding room for his $7.5 million salary.

Scotty Hockey: Shelden Souray and his shot are interesting but he has been remarkably healthy to date so that is unlikely to last and just five of his 17 points came on power plays. Ales Hemsky is soft, damaged goods and Tuomo Ruutu is not worth it, if only to ensure his brother Jarkko never comes to MSG ever again.

Are the Rangers now close to being a Cup contender? If so, is it time to offload some prospects/young players for veterans for the Cup run?

Blue Line Station: I don't know how anyone can claim we aren't close to being a contender. We're one of the top teams in the NHL points wise and that's despite missing some key players for extended periods of time. Nobody in particular seems to be playing over his head so I don't see much reason to believe our success thus far is a fluke and everyone seems to be on the same page and buying into Torts' system. I would be willing to move some draft picks and prospects but it would have to be in the right move. I have absolutely no interest in moving Chris Kreder and it would take an incredibly high caliber player for me to consider moving Dylan Mclrath, Tim Erixon, or JT Miller.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): In my opinion our window is just opening. I wouldn't trade youth for veterans at this point. Maybe next season, or 2014 depending on how Kreider, Thomas, & Miller are progressing.

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): They are close, and if they can acquire a long term piece for a run in the next 1-3 years, then they should do so. Using the Bobby Ryan example, he is a guy I would unload Kreider for. Kreider at his peak projects to be a player in the Ryan mold. When you have the opportunity to trade the potential for the proven, you have to pull the trigger.

The NYR Blog: Calm down there Dolan. No need to jinx the team by talking Stanley Cup. I'm not ready to deal prospects such as Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath or J.T. Miller no matter how close they are, but I'd be ok if they needed to trade away the pint sized sniper Christian Thomas, who I'm not quite convinced can succeed in the NHL.

Scotty Hockey:  I don't believe that the Blueshirts are as close as the majority does at this moment, I feel their record belies the many issues. If the current lineup plays to their potential and plays consistently then perhaps they could make waves in the playoffs but nothing so far this season has provided evidence that either are possible. Still, a deal or two could help. While I wouldn't deal prospects like Kreider or Miller, I'd consider draft picks.

Looking around the NHL is there one particular team you think will be a huge buyer, a huge seller?

Blue Line Station: I think the Rangers, Canucks, Sharks, and Flyers are the obvious buyers and the Blackhawks, Red Wings, and Blues could very well be involved as well. And I believe the Flames have deluded themselves into thinking they should be buyers. The Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, and Ducks are the clear sellers at this point.

Blue Seat Blogs (The Suit): The Sabres (who are spent to the cap & awful) should be unloading certain players. The Ducks, Flames, Canes & the Blue Jackets would be smart to sell high on some players as well. I think most teams in the hunt could be making some swaps, but I could see Ottawa making a splash or the Wild, since they are in the fight, have Cap space, and aren't overly frugal.

Blue Seat Blogs (Dave): If the Coyotes fall out of the playoff race, they are the team that can benefit from a fire sale. Doan, Langkow, Whitney, Rozsival, and Aucoin should generate a significant return.

As for buyers, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Bruins will be big time buyers. They know they are the best, but there is always room for improvement. They have a ton of cap space both at the deadline and heading into next season, so they may want to bring in a piece or two for depth purposes.

Of course, if the Rangers continue on their 116 point pace, they could be big time buyers too...perhaps by adding a top six LW and a good offensive defenseman?

The NYR Blog: With the Penguins most likely losing Crosby for another Spring I can see them trying to possibly acquire Jerome Iginla or Bobby Ryan to fill in the gap. Wouldn't be shocked to see Flyers land Weber or Ryan Suter. As far as a huge seller, I'd go with Anaheim. They're a mess and could get great returns for players such as Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry to begin a rebuild.

Scotty Hockey: Huge? I don't think anyone can do huge in this salary cap era -especially with a lockout looming this summer. But that very lockout is the reason why some teams will be willing to move some big contracts. Weber and Zach Parise certainly see new addresses on February 27th so it will certainly be an interesting afternoon.

I appreciate the response from all of the bloggers that I reached out to. It's always a pleasure. Let's Go Rangers!

If you are on twitter I suggest that you follow each of these great New York Rangers bloggers.
@TheNYRBlog, @BlueLineStation, @BlueSeatBlogs, @ScottyHockey, @TheHockeySuit and if you aren't already following me I'm on there @PuckCentral

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NHL Rule Book Time, Why Callahan's Goal Was A Goal

Anyone watching tonight's Rangers game saw Ryan Callahan awarded a goal late in the third period when he was hooked down by Martin Erat and the puck never went into the net. I personally have known it's been a rule for a long time but never actually saw that call made during a live game that I was watching.

If you are interested in what the exact rule here, well here it is straight from the NHL rule book:
25.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone on, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team (see 26.3 Infractions – When Goalkeeper is Off the Ice, below).

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Video: When The Gentlemanly Handshake At End Of Game Turns Violent

Nothing major to be honest. I'm actually surprised that we don't see this a lot more often than we do.

The best part is the player from North Dakota who decided to shove the Minnesota player is none other than a guy named, Ben Blood.

H/T to Hockey-Fights, originally posted on NESN

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