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Archive for March, 2008

The Rangers play the Flyers for the eighth and final time this season tonight at the Garden. The game starts at 7:30 and is on ESPN OLN Vs. Good thing I’ll be there!

Here’s what the lines will look like:
Straka-Dubinsky-Jagr
Shanahan-Avery-Dawes
Callahan-Drury-Prucha
Sjostrom-Hollweg-Orr

D is the same and Henrik Lundqvist gets the nod.

Scott Gomez is Day-to-Day with bruised ribs.

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Petr is very excited to be playing a gamePrucha that is. According to Sam Weinman, Petr Prucha was skating with Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan. That would put Martin Straka on the first line with Brandon Dubinsky and Jaromir Jagr. No word who will center the second line. My guess is Sean Avery.

In related news, our sister Melissa is extremely happy.

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After starting the game without the services of the injured Blair Betts, the Rangers quickly lost another Center when Scott Gomez hit a rut in the ice and crashed into the boards early in the first period. Early reports were that he had broken 2 ribs, but reports from Steve Zipay, Sam Weinman, and John Dellapina say that Gomez has no broken bones and may in fact play on Tuesday. No word yet on what the plan is if Gomez won’t be able to play.

So the Rangers lost in a shootout. Frankly, I’m amazed the game actually made it to a shootout. The Rangers looked lost for the first two periods and were kept in the game by Stephen Valiquette. It wasn’t until the Flyers scored in the third period to make it 2-0 that the Rangers suddenly realized they needed to, as Marc would say, “flip the switch.” And as the Flyers fans, content with their team’s two-goal lead, began a chant of, “Rangers suck,” the Rangers suddenly turned it on.

Sidebar: There are many things that are chanted at hockey games. But there are very few that will anger the Hockey Gods. One of the chants that I feel is a big no-no is to chant that the other team sucks. I’ve been to many Rangers games and I’ve heard it twice. Both times, it’s come back to bite us, hard. Once against the Devils (Rangers up 1-0 then lost 2-1) and once against the Flyers (Rangers up 2-0 then lost 3-2).

Now, the Flyers fans were chanting, “Rangers suck!” and suddenly, the Rangers had tied the game at 2-2. The Flyers ended up scoring again but then Jaromir Jagr, of all people, threw the puck towards the net from an off angle and–OH MY GOD!— it deflected into the net off of a Flyer!

So what is the lesson that the Rangers have to take from this game?

  1. Get bodies in front of the net! This screens the goalie and sets up deflections.
  2. Take shots on said net. You’re not gonna score unless you shoot. (duh)
  3. Pounce on rebounds. If you’ve completed steps 1 and 2, step 3 should present itself and lead to goals!

Honestly, I can’t be disappointed that the Rangers only got one point from this game. The way they played, they really didn’t deserve any. Hopefully they feel the presure on Tuesday and pick it up against the Flyers in the rematch at MSG.

***

Notes: Christian Backman had an assist on all three goals last night. This was Stephen Valiquette’s first start since February 10 against the Capitals in Washington.

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With Henrik Lundqvist in need of some rest, backup backstop Stephen Valiquette will start tonight against the Flyers. I say this is a good move considering the Flyers have yet to solve the Rangers backup goaltender. In 3 games against the Flyers this season, Valiquette has a GAA of 0.36 and SV% of .986.

With Blair Betts out for the next two to three weeks, we might see the the 4th line get even less time then they have been. This is bad news for the Fredrik Sjostrom although we might see Renney inject him into the lineup in other places throughout the game.

Martin Biron, whom the Rangers have had some trouble against, will start tonight for the Flyers.

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Now that’s the Chris Drury we’ve all been waiting for.

Clutch. Goal. 3rd period. — Let’s see if he can keep some of that magic for a playoff run.

And Nigel Dawes is turning into a shootout ace in the hole. That might prove to be useful down the stretch.

All in all, it was a huge win for the Rangers. More than that, to score a late goal and ensure at least a point in the game, the Rangers kept hope alive for an Atlantic Division title. Check out the standings here.

By the way, the Rangers are 17-6-1 vs. the Atlantic Division and 38-19-7 against the entire Eastern Conference.  Why are they a middling team then?  They have a 1-7-2 record vs. the Western Conference.  Ouch.  My very high-level analysis:  this bodes well for the playoffs, at least until they have to play a West team…

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How about a hand for Marek Malik?! Maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but his return to the lineup coincided with the Rangers recent 13-game streak, which ended shortly after he left the lineup with an injury. Last night, with Malik back in the lineup, the Rangers returned to their winning ways. There are certainly other factors at work, but despite being the least popular Ranger since Bobby Holik, the big D-man who won’t hit anybody has been a big-time contributor.

Did anyone else have flashbacks to the Tampa Bay game when Ty Conklin robbed the Rangers of an empty-net goal in the 1st period?

Tonight the Rangers take on the Devils, who they have beaten in all 5 of the previous meetings this season. The Devils will be playing without Patrik Elias tonight, which has to be good news for the Rangers defense. The official game preview can be found here.

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I’d really love to see Ryan Hollweg back in the lineup. I’d have him take Orr’s place. With Hollweg on the 4th line instead of Orr, I feel it makes the line an actual threat to score a goal once (maybe twice) in a while. By swapping Orr for Hollweg, you make that line much faster.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the 4th line go out and think to myself, “The crowd is back in it, the Rangers are back in this, the momentum has swung back to our side.” And I say it’s because you don’t see Hollweg flying around the ice making the opposition pay for touching the puck. Sure he takes a couple penalties but I’d be willing to turn a blind eye on that (unless the other team scores of course) just to see some God damned ENERGY!

Speaking of energy, where the hell is Petr Prucha when you need him? When I watch the line of Straka-Drury-Callahan on the ice, I see a line that has the potential to succeed but then I hear Sam and Joe go on about how they all want the other to score. It’s not all three of them. It’s just Straka! Petr may be only a buck 85 but he’ll play his little heart out no matter what. We saw him play on a line earlier in the season with dubi and cally. They clicked. If you put him back with one of them and add Drury into the mix (who can really play with anyone) That line, I feel, will succeed.

Slats needs to think long and hard about re-signing Martin Straka for next season. I mean, how does a player go from scoring 29 goals and 41 assists in one season to scoring a measly 12 goals and 20 assists in the next? To even match last year’s pace, he’d have to score 12 goals and 15 more assists in the final ten games. And that’s assuming that he’s gonna play all of those games. If his arm and shoulder are giving him trouble when it comes to shooting, he needs to realize that if he’s not going to shoot, and he can’t even put up more than 20 assists he shouldn’t be playing, let alone playing the point on the PP.

What Martin and Glen and even Tom have to realize is that their decisions are possibly hurting this team. So what they have to keep in mind over the remainder of the season and beyond is this:

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