Monday, April 20, 2009

Ovechkin Watches Rangers Morning Skate

During the Rangers morning skate, Ovechkin came out and took a seat on the bench. Several veterans on the Rangers said it was slightly unusual. Ovechkin was then tapped on the shoulder by a Caps' PR staffer and offered a seat in the stands. He declined and abruptly left. It turns out John Tortorella had apparently asked Ovechkin to vacate the bench.

Did Ovechkin think by taking a seat in the morning skate he can throw the Rangers off their game? Or maybe he wasn't thinking at all. Not a smart move by AO as he just pissed off John Tortorella and that is the last NHL coach you want to upset in the playoffs. Expect Torts to be fired up for tonight's game!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lundqvist, Rangers Stifle Caps in Game 2

Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers shut out the Washington Capitals 1-o in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. Lundqvist was the difference in this game as he stopped all 35 shots he faced. He was calm throughout the game not giving the Capitals any rebounds.

The Rangers defense was also great blocking 29 shots and forcing the Capitals to the outside throughout the game. They spent most of their time in the defensive zone but did not give Washington many high quality scoring chances.

Ryan Callahan scored the only goal of the game on a 2 on 1 with Markus Naslund. Naslund put a perfect pass underneath Washington's defenseman's stick that left Callahan 1 on 1 with Varlamov who sniped the puck top shelf over the goalie's glove.

After the Rangers scored, Washington pressured the Rangers throughout the game but looked nervous and frustrated. Washington looked out of rhythm in the offensive zone partly because the Rangers did not allow Washington to crash the net.

The Rangers will need to improve their power-play that went 0-5. The puck movement was slow and the players did not have much jump with the man advantage. For this power-play to succeed against the Capitals, the players must keep their feet moving and move the puck quicker and generate more scoring chances. This series is not over and could turn around quickly if the Rangers do not improve their power play.

The difference so far in this series is Henrik Lundqvist and believe it or not the Rangers ability to score timely goals. The Rangers return home for Game 3 on Monday night to the Garden Faithful that will be rocking and ready to go.

Game Highlights

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lundqvist, Rangers Steal Game One

The captainless New York Rangers rallied behind Lundqvist's spectacular preformance and stole game one right from the hands of Ovechkin and company. Lundqvist stopped 32 of 35 saves and did not give the Capitals any rebounds. The Rangers special teams played a major role in game oneand were far better than Washington's special teams.

The Rangers penalty kill was outstanding going 5 for 7 against Washington's power play that was ranked 2nd overall this year. Blair Betts and Marc Stall paved the way blocking 5 shots each. Lundqvist smothered everything in front of him and did not give the Capitals many second chances.

Torts' troops managed their shifts well after goals especially when Washington opened the scoring in the second period. About a minute Washington scored, Gomez rushed the puck up ice with authority, avoided Mike Green who collided with Sean Avery at the blue line and wrist one by Theodore. That goal silenced the Verizon Center and set the tone for the rest of the game.

The power-play was effective going 2 for 4 in game one. The Rangers scored back to back power play goals by Markus Naslund and Nik Antropov. These two power-play goals helped take pressure off the team for the rest of the game. They were calm in all three zones and didn't show signs of panic especially in the offensive zone. Ahh what wonders the power play can do for a team.

Though the Rangers did not play their best game, they battled hard and scored timely goals that playoff teams are supposed to do. The Rangers best players were their best players tonight. Gomez contributed with a goal and 2 assists, while Naslund and Antropov each had a power-play goal and an assist. Second year pro Brandon Dubinsky scored the game winning goal with about 8 minutes left in the game by undressing Washington defenseman Schultz and wristing the puck over Theodore's shoulder.

Tortorella made a vital move early in the second period that saw Redden and Rozsival match up against Ovechkin's line instead of Staal and Girardi. Torts stated the young defensemen were nervous and decided to use Redden and Rozsival instead. My concern is whether or not Redden and Rozsival can stay with Ovechkin's line if indeed Torts decides to continue to match lines.

Ryan Callahan was one of the best Rangers on the ice by using his speed to forecheck and force Washington to move the puck quicker than they would like to. He finished the game with seven hits and hit two posts. Moving forward he must be a factor for the Rangers to win this series.

Game 2
@ Washington
Saturday 1 p.m.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Drury Skates at Optional, Likely to Play

Captain Chris Drury was on the ice for about five minutes at this morning's very optional skate testing out his injury. Their were seven skaters on the ice plus backup goalie Steve Valiquette. The only top six forwards on the ice today were Avery and Drury. Tortorella called Drury a game-time decision, but he is likely to be in the lineup tonight.

For the Capitals, Tom Poti (groin) was listed as a game-time decision but he will also probably be in the lineup tonight. The Status of Capitals forwards Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon is uncertain.

The lineups for tonight's game are



















How the Rangers Can Win the Series

Their are several keys to winning this series against the Capitals. It starts in goal with Henrik Lundqvist. If he can elevate his game, he is one of the best goalies in the league. Washington is still a young team will get frustrated and tighten their grip on their sticks if they struggle to score goals. Remember, all the pressure is on Washington to win this series. Their is not a doubt in my mind that Hank will have to steal at least 2 games to win this series.

The penalty kill will have to be near perfect against Washington's power play that is ranked 2nd in the league. Shutting the power play down can turn the tide in the series and force Washington to panic.

Managing the shift after a goal is vital against the Caps as they can score goals in bunches. The Rangers can not give the Caps any momentum after they score. Win the faceoff, get the puck deep, and cycle the puck.

If somehow this dreadful power play can wake up, the Rangers will be fine. The Capitals' penalty killing until is ranked 1 7th in the league with a 80.6 efficiency. Timely power play goals can turn the series around and give confidence to Ranger forwards that desperately need it. This can also take some pressure away from the 5 on 5 game.

Stall and Girardi must make life miserable on Ovechkin. If they can hit him with every opportunity and not give him any open ice, this series may not last long. Ovechkin is the engine of this offensive, therefore the engine must be shut down!

Avery must be effective in this series and score a couple of big goals as he did against Brodeur last series. He MUST get in the heads of the forwards as Claude Lemieux and Esa Tikkanen have down for so many years.

Torterella will have to find a way to wake Nik Zherdev up. Once he gets on a hot streak, he is very hard to stop. The Rangers need him to contribute offensively especially on the power play.

The young forwards Dubinsky, Korpikoski, and Callahan must be factors. In the first round series last year against New Jersey, both Dubinsky and Callahan scored timely goals and caused havoc for New Jersey's defense.

Lastly, Gomez and Drury must be at the top of their game. The playoffs are what fans remember and these two must live up to their contracts. You wanted 7 million a year now show me what its worth!

First Round Schedule

GAME 1: @Washington, Wed. 4/15, 7 p.m.
GAME 2: @Washington, Sat. 4/18, 1 p.m.
GAME 3: @N.Y. Rangers, Mon. 4/20, 7 p.m.
GAME 4: @N.Y. Rangers, Wed. 4/22, 7 p.m.
*GAME 5: @Washington, Fri. 4/24, 7 p.m.
*GAME 6: @N.Y. Rangers, Sun. 4/26, 2 p.m.
*GAME 7: @Washington, Tue. 4/28, TBD
* if necessary; all times Eastern

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rangers Win, Clinch Playoff Birth

The New York Rangers have clinched their 4th straight playoff birth with a 2-1 over the Flyers at the Garden. Lundqvist was sensational in net making 37 saves and Callahan continued his scoring streak scoring the eventual game winning goal and adding an assist. "Already I was looking forward to this game, the great atmosphere, last home game before the playoffs, playing Philly," said Lundqvist.

The Rangers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead 52 seconds into the game with a goal by Marcus Naslund. There was a scramble in front of Biron and Naslund kept digging for the puck and eventually it found the back of the net. Relentless efforts like this will be needed to win in the playoffs.

Later in the first, the Callahan, Drury, Naslund line was at it again as Callahan deflected Morris' shot into the net. This line was very effective in the offensive and defensive zone. Callahan has been excellent lately with relentless forecheck and taking the body on every shift. He will be a key player for the Rangers during this Cup run.

In the second period, Daniel Briere scored the only goal on the power play for the Flyers. The Flyers pressured the Rangers for good portions of the second and third period. They had several high quality chances to tie the game but Lundqvist was the difference in this game. He made a spectacular glove save on a wide open Carcillo stretching from one post to the other.

I thought the Rangers could have played better in the second and especially in the third period. The Flyers easily stormed through the neutral zone and sustained pressure in the offensive zone. At some points, it seemed the Rangers were happy just getting the puck out of the zone and making a change. They couldn't sustain enough pressure in the offensive zone as the Flyers were pressing being down by one goal. But at the end of the day, the Rangers defense was better than the Flyers offense. The defense will have to win a lot of games in the playoffs for this team to go deep.

The Rangers final game of the season will be in Philadelphia on Sunday at 5 p.m. This game is vital because it will determine which position the Rangers will finish. Winning the last three games of the season gives the team confidence and momentum heading into the playoffs.

If the Rangers win or Montreal looses, the Rangers will play Washington in the first round. If the Rangers loose and Montreal wins, the Rangers will play Boston in the first round. Who would you rather play?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Captain Clutch Powers Rangers to 3-1 Win

On a night when Ryan Callahan received the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, it was Chris Drury's two goals that led the Rangers to their most important victory of the season. Finally, someone took charge of this team. Finally, this team dominated a game and made a statement that they are not going down without a fight. The Rangers were aggressive on the forecheck throughout the game and caused havoc in front of Carey Price, which led to all three Ranger goals. Henrik Lundqvist was solid in net stopping 24 shots and Drury's line along with defensemen Staal and Girardi shut down the Canadiens' top line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, and Alex Tanguay.

In the first period, the Rangers started off slow by taking a couple of penalties. Once they killed the penalties, they elevated their game. Callahan and Drury's aggressive forecheck caused Mike Komisarek to turnover the puck, which led to Drury sniping the puck short side over Price's shoulder for the game's first goal. But before the period was over, the Rangers couldn't clear the puck from the crease and Montreal answered with a goal by Mathieu Dandenault.

The Rangers came out flying in the second period. The controlled the period from start to finish. Terrific individual efforts by Avery and Antropov helped the Rangers take the lead. Carey Price went to play the puck behind the net and it was Avery who flew in the deflect the pass. The puck then squirted to the front of the net and Antropov dove on his stomach and used his long reach to put the puck into an empty net. Be aggressive and forecheck and you will be rewarded!

Before the period was over, Drury struck again on a turnover caused by the relentless Ryan Callahan. Without a stick, he was able to keep the puck alive along the boards long enough for Drury to come and take the puck. Drury then sent a pass across to Naslund, drove to the net and deflected the pass from Naslund into the back of net. The Rangers ended the period with 15 shots and only allowing four.

In the third period, no goals were scored but the Rangers continued to attack and have puck control. Avery came close to make it a 4-1 game, but Komisarek blocked Avery's shot from going into the unprotected net.

The line of Avery, Gomez, and Antropov was very effective and cycled the puck well throughout the game. Antropov's size gave Montreal problems all night. Korpikoski played well controlling the puck down low in the offensive zone. Not many Canadien defensemen were able to knock him off the puck. Drury and Naslund had jump to their game and Ryan Callahan had yet another effective night collecting two assists and now has 13 points in his last 13 games.

The Rangers are currently one point behind Montreal for seventh place. They host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night and have the chance to clinch their 4th straight playoff birth. My only question going forward is How many games can the Rangers win without scoring on the power play? We will find out.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Win Win Win!

With three games left to play and their playoff hopes dwindling, The New York Rangers MUST win tonight's home game against a hot Montreal team. Defenseman Andrei Markov, who is the leading scorer for the Canadiens, and Mathieu Schneider were injured in Saturday's 6-2 win over Toronto and will not be in the lineup for the rest of the regular season. The Rangers have no excuses to not win this game, as they will have their crowd behind them.

They just need to take it one game at a time. Focus on tonight's game and win the hockey game. They must come out of the gate with intensity and send a message to Montreal. In order to win tonight, they need to be very aggressive on the puck, shoot as often as possible, create traffic in front of Montreal's net, and score on the power-play. The Ranger's best players MUST be the best players on the ice for the Rangers to win. It's that simple.

I'd really like to see Torts move up Korpikoski with Dubinsky and Zherdev and put Sjostrom back with Betts and Orr. I think Korpikoski would mesh well with Dubinsky and Zherdev and would thrive with a bit more ice time.

Keys to the Game

1. Henrik Lundqvist

2. Power Play

3. Captains Drury and Gomez

Injury Report- Forward Nik Antropov's knee injury isn't serious and he will likely be in the lineup tonight.