Saturday, April 22, 2006

I've been very very busy.....

If any of you guys or girls out there would like to write game reviews for Broadway Blue, just email me or leave a comment here. I found out over the last few games of the season that I could use some help in my writings here, it wouldn't be a full-time thing, just maybe 2 games a week or so. So for next season, I'd be really appreciative if anyone out there would want to write for my blog.

So anyway, how 'bout those Rangers? Talk about backing into the playoffs. I am disgusted with this team right now; it's like they can't do anything right. I've been having this bad feeling since the regular season ended about a first round embarrassment........hopefully I'm very wrong. The Devils have never beaten the Rangers in the playoffs, so I guess that bodes well. But Lundqvist needs to be on top of his game and in tip-top shape to steal some games from Brodeur and Co. Well, it's been 9 long years Ranger fans.......let's just enjoy some playoff hockey at Madison Square Garden! LET'S GO RANGERS!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

4/9/06 - Devils 3, Rangers 2

Goals: Blair Betts (8), Sandis Ozolinsh (6)
3 Stars: Jagr, Gomez, Gionta

This game had some playoff feel to it, but ultimately the Rangers fell short against the Devils. The game was pretty close until the third period, when the Rangers just seemingly stopped playing their game, laid back, and let the Devils overcome them. The 1st period saw some really rough play from the Rangers, setting the tone for the physical side of the game unlike the last matchup, which saw the Devils come right out of the gate hitting everything. Ryan Hollweg hit Sergei Brylin hard into the boards, bloodying him up and sending him to the locker room. He took a penalty for roughing, as did Jamie Langenbrunner for retaliatory actions. The Devils scored first and went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but the Rangers got things going in the 2nd period. Hollweg took a 5-minute charging major for a high hit, but the Rangers amazingly killed off all five minutes which saw their momentum surge. At 13:54, Jason Ward stopped a Devils clearing attempt with his glove and passed it up to Blair Betts, who scored to tie it up. Just minutes later, Sandis Ozolinsh got the lead for his team on the power play with a deflection off a pass from Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers missed a few chances in the 3rd period, with Fedor Tyutin being denied on a breakaway fresh out of the penalty box, and Martin Straka hitting the post with 12:00 to go. Scott Gomez was able to split the defense and tie the game up, and then Brian Gionta scored the game-winner not too long after that.

It was definitely a bitter pill to swallow for the Rangers, who seemed to have the slight edge more often than not over the course of the game. It's almost as if they just sat back in the 3rd period and let the Devils get right back in it. The Devils were playing the trap, as they usually do, and the Rangers would get into the zone for a potential offensive play, then turn the puck over when there are 2 or 3 men right there, therefore trapping 4 guys for a rush the other direction. Jagr was guilty of doing this as was most of our other forwards. There also was a lack of forechecking in the 3rd period, it's like the guys just stopped playing their own game, a game that had been successful and had gotten them the lead up until that 3rd period. The referees didn't help things any, either......letting elbows and tackles go, but calling the least littlest tug or hook into the midsection.

Ozolinsh and Jason Strudwick pretty much let Gomez walk right in on Kevin Weekes in the 3rd period for that tying goal, and that is just inexcusable. On the part of Ozolinsh, we just have to take the good with the bad. We got him to quarterback the power play and be an offensive defenseman who joins the rush, and we've gotten that. However, he's quite possibly even worse than Tom Poti when it comes to playing in his own zone. As far as Strudwick is concerned, he's a great guy to have in the locker room and maybe on the bench as a 7th D-man, but he really shouldn't have a place in the everyday lineup. But, once Darius Kasparaitis comes back we shouldn't have to worry about this problem anymore. One thing Strudwick has going for him is that he's better than Ozolinsh in the defensive aspect of the game. Fedor Tyutin took an elbow to the face and continued to play another solid game. He showed off his shot and his ability to hit people.

Weekes was definitely great in between the pipes again--it's so important to get Lundqvist this rest time to get him prepared fully for the playoffs. It looks like Lundqvist will sit again tonight against the Islanders. I'd feel much better about resting him if we already had the division locked up, but Weekes has been getting the job done so I feel fairly confident that he can go out and win us the game every night. He has given up some bad goals that have cost us games, but against the Devils he was pretty much helpless given our terrible defense in the 3rd period.

The forwards did their jobs again...Jarkko Immonen continues to impress everyone and that 2nd line as a whole is definitely getting the job done. The top line had a fairly quiet night, although the 3rd line came alive with Betts and Ward getting in on the scoring. The 4th line featuring Hollweg, Jed Ortmeyer, and Dominic Moore was great as well. Hollweg is just a flat-out hitting machine......the guy's unstoppable. I'm definitely glad to see this line picking up its game after a few bad ones.

With the very real possibility of facing the Devils in the first round of the playoffs exisiting, here's an interesting take on why we shouldn't be that afraid of them:

Something else to think about. What kind of depth do they have up front? I respect the Gomez line - hate the little fuckers, but respect them. What do the Devils have if that line is contained, not shut down, but contained (assuming home ice against them, what better way to contain them then matching up the Nylander line against them)? Last night, they were essentially playing a short bench - rolling 3 lines whereas Renney had no problem rolling all four of our lines. Also, with Hollweg, Orr, Orts, and Kaspar in the lineup, our club suddenly has the ability to wear down the opposition. And let's not minimize the worth of Rucchin, Ward, and Betts in this situation - IMO, they WILL constitute a strong defensive presence.

There's no doubt that if this club intends to make a run in the playoffs, that run will eventually end up going through the Devils. I'd rather take them on when we're at peak health, not after a grueling round or two.

And I'm sorry, but Lundqvist takes a back seat to no goaltender when the game is on the line.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

4/8/06 - Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (OT)

Goals: Jaromir Jagr (53), Michael Nylander (21, 22), Jarkko Immonen (2)
3 Stars: Jagr, Boyes, Nylander

The Bruins looked like they were going to own this one, jumping out to a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the 1st period. But, Jaromir Jagr (who else?) scored his record-breaking 53rd goal of the season at 13:35 of the period, cutting the deficit to 1. Jagr also used his puck handling skills to set up Michael Nylander's tying goal under 4 minutes into the 2nd period. He circled the net with the puck, holding off his defenders, then shot it and Nylander scooped up the rebound and put it past the goaltender. The Rangers were on the power play in the last minute of the 2nd period and Jarkko Immonen, playing in only his second NHL game, tipped Tom Poti's pass to the front into the net. The goal came only 6 seconds into the power play. But, the Bruins would tie it once again only a few minutes into the 3rd period, with Brad Boyes slipping a shot in between Kevin Weekes' arm and body. The game would stay like that, and get sent into overtime. However, Nylander scored his 2nd of the game only 40 seconds into overtime, lifting the Rangers to their 8th win in their last 12 games.

Now, I think Weekes played an average game. It's his third start in a row, and it's very possible he's gotten out of #1 shape, given his lack of playing time throughout most of the year. I'm not sure about starting him tonight in New Jersey, given this fact, but I'd much rather have Henrik Lundqvist get the extra rest. Every game remaining is important in sealing up the Atlantic Division, but having a healthy Lundqvist in the playoffs is much more important, in my eyes. I would be willing to give Weekes a break on the first two goals, but the third one was just brutal. But hey, he kept us in the game when we needed it......for that, I'm thankful. Just so happens that he didn't have to steal the game for us this time.

Blair Betts has just not been getting the job done out there.....he is hustling, no doubt about that. But he's not finishing the plays he should be finishing and just not playing well, overall. The sad thing is, it's him and Marcel Hossa who are bringing down the play of Jason Ward, the other winger on the 3rd line. Hossa has some of the worst hands I've ever seen for an NHL forward on the top three lines. I'll say it again--these guys don't get the job done on even strength, but THANK GOD for them on the penalty kill. The 4th line, on the other hand, continued to play a solid game. Ryan Hollweg throwing hits, Jed Ortmeyer blocking shots, and Dominic Moore actually setting up some offensive plays. Is it just me, or can none of these bottom-line guys hit an open net? Seems every time I see Ortmeyer or Moore taking a shot, it goes way wide or way up over the net into the glass. Overall, I don't see Ortmeyer, Betts, or Moore having much a future with this team. They are just lacking enough of the necessary skill to be regulars out there. I'm sure in the near future we'll see them replaced with the liked of Dwight Helminen, Ryan Callahan, etc. There' just too many other options in the system right now to have to settle for second-rate or third-rate players in those positions.

How great has that Petr Prucha - Jarkko Immonen - Petr Sykora line been? Immonen is no doubt NHL-ready, he seems to know what he's doing with the puck and the effort and hustle is all very much there. Prucha seems a bit off, he's giving it his all but is having trouble finishing up some golden opportunities. I'm surprised Sykora was able to survive this game; he took more elbows, shoves, and hooks than at any other time this season. And of course, none were actually called. As so goes a typical Ranger game. When Steve Rucchin comes back, you CANNOT put him in Immonen's place. It's so obvious that this line is clicking with Immo in there, moreso than when Rucchin was centering Prucha and Sykora. With Rucchin's return comes a 3rd or 4th liner losing a job. (coughHOSSAcough).....

Where's Darius Kasparaitis??!!! I'm missing him, as is the rest of the Ranger team, I'm sure. When a guy like Kasparaitis is out there, you worry just a little bit less about someone running you over on open ice. Fedor Tyutin played a great game in his own end, leading the transition at times. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jason Strudwick drop the gloves yesterday, if he doesn't do that this game most likely ends up being way uglier. I haven't mentioned Struckwick's name much in the recaps, but in Kasparaitis's absence he's had a spot to continuously play in, and he has indeed made the most of it. Don't misunderstand me here--I'm NOT comparing him to Kasparaitis in any way, but he'll do the trick until Darius is healthy. Poti had another good game, picking up two assists and playing more like the offensive defenseman he is supposed to be.

Thank God that Jagr has finally netted his 53rd--now the pressure that was obviously there can go away and the top line can continue their torrid play. The connection between Martin Straka, Jagr, and Nylander is just incredible. You have to keep them together, even though Prucha has looked awesome on the top line at times this season. I think now, with the addition of Immonen to the 2nd line, this team has two scary scoring threats in a row. Now that the pressure of the record is off, we can see Straka and Nylander start shooting in open lanes instead of trying to force Jagr the puck every single time.

3 more wins and the division is ours! Philadelphia lost to Toronto yesterday so the ball is completely in our court right now. It's our division to lose at this point in time. The Rangers have hit 100 points on the season for the first time since 1993-94. Jagr's goal yesterday broke a four-game drought for him. The Rangers swept the four games vs. the Bruins played this season.

Friday, April 07, 2006

4/6/06 - Rangers 3, Islanders 1

Goals: Jarkko Immonen (1), Martin Straka (20, 21)
3 Stars: Immonen, Weekes, Straka

It's so fun beating up on the hapless Islanders......almost too fun. Wait, that's not true. It could never be TOO much fun. The Rangers sure didn't do any beating in the 1st period; possibly playing their worst 20 minutes of hockey since the losing streak. The Islanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead and it would've been more had it not been for some spectacular saves by none other than Kevin Weekes. Tom Poti turned the puck over badly which led to Miroslav Satan's goal. Tom Renney then called a timeout and it seemed to do the trick, as the cameras caught Renney gesturing with his hands in the air and shaking his head. The Rangers managed only five shots during the 1st period and passed up three power play chances. The timeout seemed to pay off in the 2nd period, as Jarkko Immonen scored his first NHL goal before the 1:00 mark and Martin Straka scored his first of two goals in the final minute of the frame. It looked as if it was Jaromir Jagr's record-breaking 53rd of the season, but the replays showed the puck going in off an Islander skate and Jagr never touching it. Poti redeemed himself for his bad giveaway back in the 1st period, making an end-to-end rush in the 3rd period and getting DiPietro to go down to the ice, opening up an avenue for a backpass to Straka, who had an open net to put in his 2nd of the game. Weekes was brilliant in his second consecutive start, turning away 21 of 22 shots.

I'm loving this kid Immonen--granted it was only one game, but he got plenty of ice time being that he was playing on the 2nd line, and he made the most of it out there. I'd love to see him up with the big club for good this season, possibly replacing Steve Rucchin.....but I don't think Renney would do that. I'm sure he will play here until Rucchin is ready to skate again, but he will get sent back to Hartford after that. I just don't see Renney benching someone like Betts or Martin Rucinsky (when he comes back) in favor of Immonen. He'll get his playing time in down at Hartford and he'll be here next season for a full 82 games. He really looked great playing with linemates Petr Sykora and Petr Prucha; as Prucha got the primary assist on his goal. Great debut for the kid, and hopefully this is a sign of great things to come for years. A perfect scenario would be to put Rucchin down to the third line (where he will still be very effective) and sit Marcel Hossa.

I'm so proud of Weekes.....he's come up huge in tough spots and did what he was asked to do. Who cares if that one goal was a softee, he kept the Rangers in the game in the terrible 1st period. One area where he's had a tough time is breakaways; but he made some great toe saves and glove saves when a lone Islander dropped in on him. It was great again to hear the crowd at the Garden chanting his name, and the fact he was named the 2nd star will only improve his confidence. Like I've said before, we need this guy for the rest of the season and in the playoffs. Yes Henrik Lundqvist is one of the huge reasons we are where we are, but every good team needs a solid backup goaltender, if not only for situations just like this one. It's very possible that Lundqvist will end up playing one of the two games this weekend, as the Rangers play in Boston Saturday afternoon and the Devils at the Meadowlands Sunday night.

Jagr has yet to get his 53rd, although coming close tonight. It looks like he is pressing out there, and his teammates are trying to get him the puck whenever possible. It's ok to play that kind of game when you have the victory locked up and it's the closing minutes, but you just have to go out there and play a natural game on a daily basis. The goals will come when they come; you can't go out there and force the issue. Jagr and the other forwards looked totally flat in the 1st period, just not making the passes and failing to keep the puck in the zone. You have to get the puck deep and keep it there, and most important of all not give the puck up and create odd-man rushes. That's what was happening out there and if it weren't for the great play of the defensive unit and the goaltender, it would've been much worse than a 1-0 deficit. I'll say this though: Straka has been an unsung hero for the Rangers this season. He plays his game quietly and confidently, and he's got some awesome speed and puck handling skills. And he actually hit an open net tonight! Prucha, to me, has looked a bit tired, although he has 8 points in 11 games since his injury. His first game back he was right in the middle of seemingly every play, but he has since cooled a bit. I'm sure he's a bit worn down, given that he had to sit around and do virtually nothing for about a month after his injury. The 3rd line for the Rangers is just brutal right now, with Hossa being his usual self and Blair Betts not playing exceptionally well since his return. That, in turn, is bringing down Jason Ward's game. This line is only valuable on the ice for the penalty kill, where they are surprisingly effective.

Haha, I really enjoyed watching Poti play tonight, after that 1st period. His end-to-end rush is a prime example of why he's so frustrating to watch on a nightly basis. He has awesome puck-handling skills and a sweet shot, but not much hockey sense to go with it. But, he's an enigma at times, you'll see him out there waiting and waiting to make a decision with the puck, and then the next night he'll make a rush all by himself and score a goal. He'll refrain from hitting someone when they need to be hit, and it'll lead to a goal.....and then the next night, he bodyslams Jason Blake in front of the net. He's just so inconsistent, and that's what makes it so darn frustrating. I feel great cheering him after a nice play, and then a few minutes later I wonder why he's even on this team. But, with the exception of Poti, the Rangers' defense was great in the 1st period. When the forwards would give the puck away and allow an Islanders rush, the defense was right there to break up the play. Darius Kasparaitis was out again, but was not as missed as he was in the Philadelphia game because the Islanders don't exactly have many heavy hitters. Fedor Tyutin took a big hit against the boards tonight but had some chances to return the favor and played another solid game overall.

The chants last night at MSG were priceless......"DP PHONE HOME", "SEASON'S OVER", and of course the chants of "MVP" for Jagr. DiPietro's antics in the crease made this game even more fun to watch--the guy took 8 penalty minutes in the game! He handles the puck way too much (you'd think he was a defenseman) and if somebody steps in front of him he takes their legs out from under them. He's way too cocky and doesn't have the game to back it all up. He loses his temper too easily and takes penalties for it. I've been seeing this for the last few years, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. Yeah, we have the better young goaltender.

The Rangers are now 5 points up on the Flyers for the division lead, with Philadelphia playing tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

4/4/06 - Rangers 3, Flyers 2 (SO)

Goals: Michael Nylander (20), Martin Straka (19)
3 Stars: Esche, Nylander, Weekes


We all pretty much knew it was gonna happen this season (finally) but last night it was made official. The New York Rangers will be playing in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But, the spot in which they finish is still up in the air. The game last night sure was a good one, with the Rangers jumping out to the early lead on Michael Nylander's 20th goal at 6:29 of the first frame. The Flyers would jump out to a 2-1 lead by the middle of the 2nd period, and it looked like Kevin Weekes would be booed out of Madison Square Garden. He stood up to the test though and made some incredible stops in the 3rd period, diving across the net and stopping a shorthanded breakaway. Martin Straka managed to even things up at 5:34 so it remained tied through the bulk of the 3rd period. Once the Rangers made it to OT, a playoff spot was clinched as they only needed one point to do it. But, one point is not enough when you're looking to win the division against a hungry Flyers team. There were some close plays in OT but this thing was gonna go the distance. Weekes made all the stops he needed in the shootout and the Rangers won on Petr Sykora's goal, in which he switched up his usual SO move by wristing the puck hard on the forehand instead of his usual backhand move to the top corner. The crowd was going nuts and rightfully so; we all have waited a long time to see playoff hockey at The Garden.

This was the type of game we're going to see in the playoffs, no matter which team is our opposition. There were hard hits and many scoring chances. The goalies at both ends were great and except for a few suspect plays in the 2nd period, Weekes looked to be at his best in the entire season so far. The Rangers came out in the 3rd with high intensity that I would've liked to have seen them play with the entire game. Had Robert Esche not stood on his head at times (he absolutely robbed Jaromir Jagr at least three times) the Rangers most likely would've had this game in the bag from the beginning, even with their so-so 2nd period. Everyone seemed to step it up in the 3rd.

Jagr has yet to break the Rangers goal record (he's stuck at 52) but maybe he'll do it at the Garden against the Islanders tomorrow night. That would certainly feel good for everyone. Well, not Islander fans. Although Jagr hasn't been scoring, his line has certainly been producing and continuing their awesome passing. It's not like Jagr isn't getting the opportunities; Straka and Nylander make some pretty passes and some of the offensive rushes up-ice are a joy to watch. But, I don't need to go on about this because this is what these guys have been doing all year long and we are where we are because of it. But boy oh boy, I was a bit worried when Straka took that monster hit from Gauthier. He went flying into the boards hitting the back of his head, and looked like his neck might've been hurting but never even missed a shift. That hit was by far the hardest I've seen in hockey. One other thing I've been wondering on the topic of Jagr--he seems to be real bad on breakaways and in shootouts. The guy can score through any amount of traffic, in front of any goaltender, in front of any defensive pairing......yet he stinks it up when he's all alone with the puck. I know it sounds funny to take out your best player when it comes time for the shootout, but if I were Tom Renney I'd be putting Petr Prucha in there instead of Jagr. Prucha didn't do much in the game last night, as a matter of fact the 2nd line as a whole were surprisingly quiet, but Sykora did what he needed to do in the shootout. I do think Steve Rucchin is holding that line back a bit, being with two absolute snipers in Sykora and Prucha, but there's nothing that can be done about that right now. Though I would be willing to see someone like Jason Ward center that line for a few shifts, to see what happens. In all honesty though, Rucchin has been valuable when it comes to faceoffs and at times on the penalty kill. He's just a bit slow for the mixture of his linemates. He will prove his worth come playoff time, I'm positive.

The 3rd and 4th lines were yet again impressive for the Rangers. Ryan Hollweg was involved in a scrap and Ward was hitting everything like Fedor Tyutin was. Dominic Moore had a great game and has been looking better and better every time out there. He drew at least 3 penalties and had the Rangers power play been clicking like it was a week ago, this game would've ended in regulation without a doubt. Colton Orr was out with the flu, so that meant we got treated to a Marcel Hossa show. No comment on that. I'm sure you all know by now how I feel on the subject of Hossa. The performance of the bottom lines should be attributed to the much-deserved four day break; without that I don't think we'd have seen as much energy from those guys.

Darius Kasparaitis was out of the lineup again, and you could definitely tell we missed him. Gauthier was hitting everything in blue, right off the opening faceoff and we had nobody to retaliate. Kasparaitis is our big hit guy and he left a big hole out there. BUT, I should say that Tyutin stepped up and was throwing some hits. He played his best game in the last month or two out there, and he needs to keep that up. We're seeing his full potential; that being a big hitter who has a heck of a shot when he actually uses it. It's a good thing we didn't see as much traffic in front of the net as we've been seeing lately, otherwise Kasparaitis's absence might've really hurt us.

How about that man Kevin Weekes? His big problem this season is playing at home; it seems like the fans are disappointed when Henrik Lundqvist isn't playing and don't seem to get behind Weekes from the beginning. Well tonight they showed their appreciation by chanting his name and erupted in loud cheers after his many big saves in the 3rd and through the shootout. It was great to see and made me feel really good that the crowd was giving him the recognition that he deserved and it no doubt boosted his confidence more. He stepped up to the challenge of filling some big shoes in possibly the most important game in the last 9 years for the Rangers. I'm not sure who will be playing against the Islanders tomorrow, it was mentioned in the paper that Lundqvist will practice and possibly will return......but I'm not sure I'd rush him in this situation. We do need him healthy for the playoffs so all the rest he gets now will only do him good. And once we wrap up our spot (wherever it may be) Lundqvist should get some more rest until the playoffs start. Wow, it sure sounds weird talking about the playoffs starting and not discussing what we're doing with our draft picks. Haha......

Here is something I found on a message board I post at that I thought was worth putting in this entry. It just about sums things up perfectly:
"I believe we can make some noise. WHY NOT US? With Jagr, the NHL's offensive MVP, and Lundqvist, who deserve the Vezina and has proven he can handle big time pressure, we can be dangerous. Don't EVER underestimate what a team who wants to win badly for EACH OTHER can do. Straka would go through a wall for Jagr. We saw it in the Olympics. Malik would as well. Prucha? He would wreck someone twice his size for his roommate. Nylander? He has Jagr to thank for a career season. Rozsival? He has Jagr to thank for his ~+40 season. Tyutin looks up to Kaspar like he's a father figure. This team has a DESIRE TO WIN FOR EACH OTHER....that's why we've seen them play so hard, that's why we've seen so many special things happen this year. And NO COACH (Keenan in 94) can interfere with that."
Thanks to Gresch from for that little piece. It is 100% dead-on. These guys will kill for each other. They stand up for each other like no other Ranger team has before (at least since I've been following hockey regularly). This is what it takes for a team to win it all. Now, I'm not gonna go crazy and start predicting wins involving the C-word, but hey, you never know. We were picked to finish DEAD-LAST in the NHL, remember? Oh, how sweet it is. No group of fans deserves this more than us Ranger fans--to all the guys and girls who've stuck with this team through the HELL of the last 8-9 years.....let's all enjoy this to its fullest. Rangers fans are the best fans in hockey and let's all make The Garden a tough place to play for our opposition. Let the Rangers know that we're here and we believe in them completely. Why not us?

The Rangers are 4-1-2 against Philadelphia this season and earned the first home win for either team...Jagr continues to lead the NHL with 115 points...he earned 12 shots overall in the game, tying a career best...Weekes finished up with 21 saves...he earned his first home victory since November 19th...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Henrik Lundqvist slightly injured....

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was slightly injured in practice Monday morning, straining a hip flexor mildly. He is listed as day-to-day and probably will not end up starting tomorrow night vs. Philadelphia. Al Montoya is being called up to possibly back up Kevin Weekes, if Lundvist is unable to.

Better that this happens now instead of when we're in the midst of the playoffs. The injury itself isn't bad at all, but I'm just worried about tomorrow night's game. If Lundqvist can't go at all, I don't really know how Weekes will do against Philadelphia. On paper it doesn't seem like it will turn out well, but you never know what will happen. Hopefully it works out and the Rangers wrap up the division with a win tomorrow night. If Weekes does start he needs to step it up and play the game of his life. The team needs him to succeed for the rest of the season and the playoffs, for instances just like this. He's integral.

3/30/06 - Senators 4, Rangers 1

Goals: Fedor Tyutin (6)

3 Stars: Heatley, Alfredsson, Meszaros

Ok, I did not see much of this game at all and I had a very very busy weekend, so this entry will be a bit abbreviated. I will post up the game recap from Yahoo! Sports and add my sincerest apologies for the neglect of this game review. It will not happen again.

OTTAWA (AP) -- The Ottawa Senators found a way to overcome the absence of three top defensemen -- and keep NHL-scoring leader Jaromir Jagr in check.

Ray Emery made 24 saves, and Chris Neil, Patrick Eaves, Dany Heatley and Peter Schaefer scored in Ottawa's 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

The Eastern Conference-leading Senators played without defensive partners Zdeno Chara (hand) and Chris Phillips (knee), and Wade Redden missed the game to travel to Saskatchewan on Thursday to be with his ailing mother.

"I asked a couple of guys if they could meet a challenge and they responded," coach Bryan Murray said. "It was a team hockey game, a team effort. A lot of people did a real fine job. That's what hockey is."

Fedor Tyutin had the lone goal for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves.

Ottawa finished 3-for-9 with the man advantage, while New York was 0-for-6.

"It's tough to take so many penalties," Lundqvist said. "I thought 5-on-5 we played pretty well and got some scoring chances. They just played smart and seemed to wait for our penalties. They have a great power play."

Jagr, who had four assists Wednesday night in a 5-1 road victory over the New York Islanders to break Jean Ratelle's franchise scoring record, assisted on Tyutin's goal to push his NHL-leading scoring total to 114. Jagr also has an NHL-leading 52 goals, tied with Adam Graves for the team record.

In Chara's absence, Andrej Mezsaros was given the challenge of shutting down Jagr.

"This was a big opportunity for me to show the coach I can play 30 minutes if need be," said Meszaros, who played 29:55. "My focus was to keep Jagr in check and not letting him score any goals. I think I had a pretty good game."

Jagr said he rarely pays attention to who is or isn't on the ice and admitted he was feeling under the weather due to a cold.

"When I play games I don't really care. Everyone is replaceable," Jagr said. "I just tried to help the team."

With the loss, the Rangers remained four points ahead of second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division race. The division winner is in position to get the No. 3 seed in the conference and the loser is expected to open against Buffalo in the 4-5 series.

"We worked, we tried things, but collectively we weren't on the same page," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "They really need a break, but I'm not making excuses."

Neil scored his 16th goal of the season on a two-man advantage early in the first period, and Eaves made it 2-0 with his 16th on another two-man advantage at the 13-minute mark. New York countered less than a minute later on Tyutin's backhander.

Heatley added his 43rd goal of the season on another power play in the second, and Schaefer scored his 19th in the third.

"Special teams are big," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "That's how you're going to win games down the stretch."


The Senators also were without RW Martin Havlat (shoulder, out until April 10) C Mike Fisher (ankle, out indefinitely) and G Dominik Hasek (adductor muscle, out indefinitely). Defenseman Brad Norton was recalled from Binghamton ... New York was without LW Martin Rucinsky (broken finger, out four weeks), while LW Marcel Hossa and C Alexandre Giroux were healthy scratches.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

3/29/06-Rangers 5, Islanders 1

Goals: Petr Prucha (29), Martin Straka (16, 17, 18), Blair Betts (7)

3 Stars: Rozsival, Jagr, Straka

Well Ranger fans, this one sure was fun! An old-fashioned beatdown of the fishsticks in their own house! Are we sure that this game wasn't played in the city, though? There were chants of "MVP, MVP, MVP" when Jagr touched the puck and the old favorite "POTVIN SUCKS". There had to be 75% Ranger fans and 25% Islander fans in the building tonight. Oh, onto the recap.

Jaromir Jagr moved past Jean Ratelle for sole possession of the single-season points record on the Rangers, setting up Petr Prucha's power play goal at 7:23 of the 1st period. Martin Straka scored his first two goals at 8:53 and 13:59 of the opening frame. He completed the trifecta at 12:14 of the 2nd period, on a goal that looked for a second like it would end up being Jagr's record-setting 53rd. But, Straka was standing in front of Rick DiPietro and Jagr's wrister from the high slot deflected off his leg. Henrik Lundqvist came oh so close to a shutout, with a cheap goal scored by Alexei Yashin with only 3 seconds to go in the 2nd period. Other than that, he made some spectacular saves and yet was not worked too hard, throughout the whole game. With tonight's victory, Lundqvist has 30 on the season and owns the record for most wins by a rookie goalie for the Rangers.

Just another completely dominating game by Jagr......he's a force to be reckoned with out there. There's actually nothing more I can say in addition to what I've been saying all season--words cannot describe how valuable he is out there and the immediate respect he brings this team. He's superhuman out on the ice. He was in on 4 out of the 5 goals the Rangers scored tonight, always there with the perfect feed to his teammates. This guy owns the Hart Trophy right now.

While Lundqvist didn't get worked nearly as hard as some points this season, he was there making the saves when he needed to be. He laid down flat on his back on top of the stray puck as it was on its way to dribbling over the goal line, who knows how the game ends up if that one goes in. We're seeing pre-Olympic hockey from Lundqvist and the rest of the Rangers; apparently Henke has re-claimed his mental state and physical state that has been eluding him the last few games. But hey, everyone's entitled to a slump now and again, right? Make no mistake; this man will lead this team to the promised land, along with that other guy......ya know, the guy that plays wing on the top line. Forgot his name.

I liked the lines tonight, of course I don't need to mention the top line because we all know it's deadly, especially against the terrible defensive game the Islanders were playing all night. The top two lines for the Rangers completely owned the Islanders, slapping them around the ice every chance they got. Straka should be re-signed for next season, without a doubt. Sure, he misses an open net occasionally, but as he showed tonight with the hat trick, he can get the job done. The 3rd and 4th lines for the Rangers were absolutely incredible, for the second game in a row. Ryan Hollweg was back in the lineup after his suspension, and Colton Orr played his second game in a row, and rightfully so. Orr has played himself back into the lineup on a regular basis, if you ask me. He changed the tune of the game against the Sabres, and he didn't let up tonight. He fought Eric Godard only about 4 minutes into the 1st period, and came away victorious. He was throwing hits all night and fought again later on in the game. He was earning more ice time as the game went on, and was even involved scoring chances at times. He is developing into quite a hockey player thanks to the coaching staff, and we were all wondering why he was used so sparingly earlier in the season......well, I think it was because he just wasn't ready to play somewhat regularly. He's more than ready now, though. I'd pick him over Marcel Hossa ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Orr can do so much more with 5-6 minutes of ice a night than Hossa could ever do. The open-ice hits, the fighting.....just incredible. What a steal by Sather and Co.

Back to the rest of the energy guys, Jed Ortmeyer had a second great game in a row, including his play on the penalty kill. Blair Betts scored a goal (shocker, I know) and Dominic Moore showed us why he has a place on this team. The Orr - Betts - Jason Ward line was awesome all night. Overall a great great night for the 3rd/4th line guys. Just goes to show you how far role players will take a team. Without our grinders this team is not in 1st place.

Ahh, the Rangers defense. After a few, shall I say, less-than-stellar performances the D corps looked to be in top shape tonight. Just the fact that they were playing keep-away with the puck at times, and let nothing get by down low. There were some incredible displays of backchecking and poke-checks to break up potential breakaways and centering passes. Tom Poti and Sandis Ozolinsh had a great night, with a few instances that saw Poti actually taking the body and getting the puck away. Ozolinsh nearly had a goal on a pretty play that saw him and Michal Nylander, along with Jagr, break up ice. Jagr's pass was right on the money but Ozo ended up hitting the post. Again I say, there's no questioning Ozolinsh's offensive's his defensive aspect that raises question marks. But him and Poti have shown they're improving in that area. Darius Kasparaitis made a triumphant return to the lineup tonight, as well. I've stated before how much the Rangers missed having him out on the ice, and everyone looked more comfortable now that he came back. He was being his usual pesky self, trying to draw penalties and throwing huge hits. Jason Strudwick played in favor of Fedor Tyutin who was a healthy scratch. I agree with Tom Renney's thinking here; first of all, Tyutin had played every single game up until tonight including all those games in the Olympics. He was due for a break and most likely the biggest reason why he's looked so bad out there is because of fatigue. The night off will do him good. There was a blurb in a news article this morning about Renney platooning his players, and handing out healthy scratches to keep everyone in top shape. This is a very good idea and Tyutin turned out to be the first one to get a break. Hopefully Renney will keep with the plan. Marek Malik took a hard knee-on-knee hit that looked pretty scary but he ended up returning to the ice. Michal Rozsival played another one of his best games out there, just adding to the success of the Rangers' D. He's played well enough to deserve another contract.

Jagr extended his points streak to 10 games, with 9 goals and 12 assists over the span...this was the sixth of eight meetings between these two teams this season, with the Rangers winning the last four...Lundqvist is now 30-10-9 on the season...the lead is now 4 points over the Flyers for the Division lead...the Rangers will face Eastern Conference leaders Ottawa tomorrow night...

3/27/06 - Rangers 5, Sabres 4 (SO)

Goals: Martin Straka (15), Sandis Ozolinsh (5), Petr Sykora (22), Jaromir Jagr (52)

3 Stars: Rucchin, Lundqvist, Jagr

This was the third straight shootout the Rangers went to, and they finally won. The Sabres jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st period on Briere's man-advantage goal but then fairly quickly the Rangers gained a 2-1 lead. Martin Straka scored on the power play and then only 2:20 later, Sandis Ozolinsh tallied one. The lead would be short-lived, however, with Dumont tying it for the Sabres only 1:55 into the 2nd period. From then on, it looked as if the Rangers were well on their way to a 3rd straight loss when Pominville and Briere made it 4-2 Buffalo. After that horrible display in the 2nd period, the coaching staff had enough of Kevin Weekes and we saw Henrik Lundqvist lead the team out onto the ice for the 3rd period. The Rangers got right to work; with Petr Sykora, Jaromir Jagr, and Lundqvist pushing the Rangers to victory. At 3:19, Sykora scored a power play goal with help from Jagr to cut the deficit to 4-3. Jagr then tied the game with a little under ten minutes remaining, and at the same time gaining a tie for the Rangers single season record in goals and points. Lundqvist was excellent once he came into the game; he managed to pick up his 29th victory of the season which ties a Rangers record for rookies. He stopped five shots in the 3rd period, three more in overtime, and didn't allow a single goal in the shootout. The Rangers had more than a few attempts to break the tie at the end of regulation and to win it in overtime. The Sabres got called for three penalties in a six minute span and then only 34 seconds into OT. Jagr recorded five shots in the final 25 minutes of play, and looked like he would win it in OT during the power play when all the Rangers were doing was feeding him the puck at the right circle. Sykora scored his 4th shootout goal in 6 attempts, and that was all the Rangers needed to break the short losing streak and climb back into 1st place.

Jagr was dominant once again--he scored his 52nd goal of the season which ties the Rangers single-season record. When Sam Rosen made the call of "52 GOALS FOR JAROMIR JAGR!!" it seemed like just yesterday he was saying that with Adam Graves' name in there. The team was getting the puck to him every chance they got, especially on the power play in OT. When a player dominates the game like he has been doing lately, it is just simply a joy to watch and his play can ignite a flat team, which although hasn't exactly worked (with the SO losses lately) but maybe after this game, the team will wake up and start following his example. As I've stated before, his play has caused the opposition to swarm him and double team him almost all the time. This opens up the ice for his linemates and instantly creates offensive chances.

Petr Prucha was once again playing with Jagr, as did Sykora. Tom Renney switched up the lines quite a bit to try and get things going with a different feel. Prucha continued to provide the spark that he had before his injury, even getting up and throwing a few jabs in defense of Jagr getting knocked down. It's like he's completely fearless, given his small stature and yet his willingness to throw the body and stand up for his teammates is always there. Colton Orr got another start and impressed me greatly. In my opinion, he's done nothing but meet expectations for the Rangers in all his times in the lineup. He hasn't impaired the team by taking bad penalties or making bad giveaways. He's actually a guy that can drop the gloves yet play smart hockey at the same time. Ryan Hollweg's 3 game suspension is over, so it's possible we'll see him in place of Orr tonight or the next game. However, I think Orr is the one that deserves another start and it's Hollweg who needs to sit, maybe then he'll realize how dumb his hit was in the Philadelphia game. Orr is to be much thanked for his wakeup of this team at the end of the 2nd period--he kept us going with huge bodychecks and set the tone for the re-emergance of the team for the rest of the game. Michael Nylander has been great centering the top line, but boy did he almost give away the game (literally) with only about a minute left by just leaving the puck up at the blueline.....Buffalo almost scored a shorthanded goal against, and would've gotten down the ice if it weren't for some timely defense. The energy line(s) for the Rangers seemed to have woken up finally, as Jed Ortmeyer and Dom Moore looked like their old selves out there and Orr was an injection of energy and hard work into the Blair Betts line.

This game probably should've been won in regulation, but the Rangers didn't decide to turn on their game until the 3rd period. Of course, Lundqvist had a lot to do with that. If this wasn't an example of how much better the team plays in front of him and how much their confidence is raised by him being in net, I don't know what is. Marcel Hossa played on the 2nd line but of course, failed to reap the benefits of the huge chance. He was invisible out there this game and I've decided that he's just too much of an enigma. One day he's there scoring two goals and showing his defensive abilities, and then the next game he's out there giving the puck away and/or not backchecking at all. But, I doubt anything will happen; he will continue to be put in the lineup at least semi-regularly. The coaching staff likes him too much and has made too much of a commitment to him to just push him aside.

Weekes just didn't have it tonight. Now, he wasn't the greatest in the game against Florida, but his weak five-hole coverage is what lost that game and shootout, not so much his overall play. Well, this game it was because of his overall play. I'm sort of mixed about the whole fact of Weekes starting to begin with. Granted, Lundqvist can use all the rest he can get right now because he's our go-to guy in the playoffs, but we need him to win us the division first. Unfortunately, we can't rely on Weekes to go out there against a top team in the conference and manage to get us a win. He had a stretch a few months back where he looked excellent and looked like he had improved his game, but now we are back to where we started. And I really feel bad for the guy, looking at him sitting at the end of the bench during the 3rd period. He's an awesome guy to have in the lockerroom; a consummate professional and great teammate, but he just can't be depended on in a big situation when our #1 guy needs some rest. And that's unfortunate. Hopefully, this game was a sign of things to come regarding Lundqvist; Renney has said he's been sharper than he has been, and it's quite obvious that he hasn't been playing to his full ability. But, with the way he looked in this game after he came in, I think we now have the old Lundqvist back again.

Ozolinsh has really been bad defensively, making bad passes and just not providing the coverage down low. However, I am still going to say that he was a good pickup because he has improved our power play and is seemingly always jumping up into the offense. That pairing along with Tom Poti has been ok, but at least one of them needs to play defense every once in awhile. Fedor Tyutin played badly yet again and may have earned himself a healthy scratch in tonight's game on Long Island. Darius Kasparaitis skated with the team before the game but ended up missing his fourth straight. However, he is expected to play tonight. The Rangers managed to win a game for the first time without Kasparaitis in the lineup, but it's nothing but great news that he's coming back. Maybe Tyutin will start picking up his act now that his friend is playing with him again.

The Rangers have sole possession of 1st place by 2 points...the power play was 2 for 10, and the penalty kill was 2 for 4...Jagr now has 52 goals and 109 points, which leads the NHL...Lundqvist finished with 8 saves over the 3rd period and OT...