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Archive for April, 2008

Sean Avery was rushed to St. Vincent’s Medical Center after the team’s game 3 loss and was diagnosed with a lacerated spleen. Avery’s spleen was not removed and he isn’t expected to need surgery, but he will most likely remain hospitalized for the next few days.

Avery will be out for the rest of this season, but is expected to make a full recovery.

You can read the SI article here.  ESPN article here.

Update, 3:00 PM: Initial reports from the Daily News that said Avery had gone into cardiac arrest and was unconscious are being denied by the Rangers, who say he “walked into the hospital” and was never in a life-threatening situation.

Personally, I want to add that we here at 5-hole.com wish Sean all the best in his recovery and we hope to see him in Broadway blue next year.

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Only 2 teams in NHL history have come back to win a best-of-7 series after being down 0-3. It happened in 1942, when the Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in the finals, and again in 1975, when the New York Islanders came back against the Penguins.

1942 and 1975 are 33 years apart, which just so happens to be the number of years between 1975 and 2008…

Maybe the Rangers have hockey karma on their side?

Sure doesn’t feel like it.

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I have to admit I completely underestimated the Penguins before this series. I look back at my series preview and I can’t believe I gave the edge to the Rangers offense. I let the flashy shot totals from the regular season get to my head. What I didn’t take into account was which team was going to capitalize on their scoring chances.

These Penguins certainly know how to put the puck into the net, scoring on 5 out of 17 shots in this game. You can’t fault Lundqvist. His save percentage looks terrible on paper, but not one of those goals was his fault. He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t bad either.

How did the Penguins score 5 goals? It’s as simple as this: The Penguins offense was faster than the Rangers defense with and without the puck. The Rangers defense was burned several times, and frequently coughed up the puck throughout the game.

In the 2nd period, the Rangers seemed to have stolen the momentum after tying the game at 3 and keeping possession deep in the Penguins zone for well over a minute and a half. Then, Ryan Hollweg took a braindead momentum killing boarding penalty.  The Penguins power play, which was absolutely killer, capitalized to make it 4-3. The Pens only had 2 power play chances, but scored on both. (The Rangers went 0 for 5).

So where do the Rangers go from here? The series isn’t technically over, but really, it is.

I’d be surprised if the Rangers can even pull out a win in game 4.

Game notes: I’m not sure what happened to Drury, but he’s definitely hurt. After missing most of the 2nd period, he came back in the 3rd but wasn’t taking faceoffs. (Avery skated at center with Drury on the wing). Blair Betts might be seriously hurt after blocking a slapshot. Renney tried a number of different line combinations, but none of them seemed to work. I really don’t like seeing Brendan Shanahan on the 4th line. Gomez and Avery did not generate any scoring chances with Sjostrom on their line. If Renney was going to keep Shanny on the 4th line, why wouldn’t he dress Prucha instead of Hollweg?? I just don’t get it. I’d really like to see someone, anyone, other than Hollweg after that braindead momentum killing boarding penalty.

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This is an obvious statement, but the Rangers have to win this game tonight. If they get the series back to 2-1, they are still alive. 3-0 is a different story.

You won’t see me quote a basketball coach too often in a hockey blog, but Doc Rivers had a great quote last night after the Celtics lost game 4. He said, “I could hear them in the locker room, saying ‘hey, guys we’re going back home, it’s going to be okay.’ I told them, ‘You have to go make it okay.’ We have to go make it okay.”

Since falling into the 0-2 hole, the Rangers have all been saying that they were still in this series because they were heading home to MSG. I just hope they remember that nothing magical happens when you take your home ice that suddenly makes you play better. The team is going to have to earn these wins. Playing at MSG with 18,000 fans at your back is going to help, but nothing is automatic.

A few game notes:

Remember that lineup shuffle from yesterday? Scratch that. Petr Prucha will be scratched in favor of Ryan Hollweg, which presumably means that Shanahan will skate in his usual spot with Gomez and Avery. Strudwick will also be scratched, which means the fans at MSG will see plenty of Christian Backman tonight. Renney said that Paul Mara will probably see some time on the power play unit, so we got that right.

Despite Therrien’s comments yesterday that suggest otherwise, the Rangers feel they have done very little this series to make it hard for Marc-Andre Fleury to see the puck. Renney’s reaction to hearing Therrien’s comments: “Really?” The Rangers beat up on Martin Brodeur in round 1 by putting bodies in front for screens and deflections. Look for a return to that form tonight at MSG.

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Ok, so that’s not an exact quote. But in all seriousness, the Penguins coach just won’t stop complaining. Earlier in the series he was complaining about the Rangers raising the issue of Sidney Crosby’s alleged diving. Yesterday, Therrien felt the need to complain about the Rangers getting too close to Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He said:

“They tried to put pressure on Marc-Andre, they tried to get in the crease, and we discussed it with the referees; they’re not supposed to stand there and if there’s a goal, it’s not a goal. . . . It’s tough to give penalties if they’re really close to the crease, but if Fleury’s in the crease and he can’t play the puck, it’s no goal. This is what the referees told us. . . . I noticed what Shanahan did. Guys with experience, they try to find that line, and I addressed it with the referees. They were saying that they were going to pay attention, there’s no doubt, you can’t obstruct the goalies.”

The Devils complained about the Rangers crashing the net on Brodeur, and the response from the Rangers (and the refs) was “That’s hockey.” They aren’t breaking any rules, and last time I checked it was still okay to screen the goalie (at least if your back is to him). The Shanahan play in the 1st period that Therrien referred to looked to me like a pretty standard screen in front of the goalie. But Therrien said he spoke to the refs between the 1st and 2nd periods about it and they assured him that if the Rangers were interfering with Fleury during a goal, it would be disallowed.

If the Penguins had their way, the NHL would go back to the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs where virtually every goal was reviewed to see if 1 inch of a player’s skate was in the crease.

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On the front lines, Petr Prucha and Brendan Shanahan switched spots, meaning Prucha skated on the 2nd line with Scott Gomez and Sean Avery, while Shanny skated on the 4th line with Blair Betts and Fred Sjostrom.  The Rangers used this lineup in the last game of the regular season against the Devils.

On D, Jason Strudwick skated in place of Christian Backman, and Paul Mara looks to be the D-man who will take over Backman’s duties playing point on the power play.

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Despite being down 2-0 in the series, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is feeling optimistic.  Here’s the exact quote:

“It feels like the difference between these two teams is not that big. It could be one bounce that’s the difference. . . . We should go back to New York and put more pressure on them. I think they looked a little better than they are.  I know we can put more pressure on them. We’re going to do that in New York and we’re going to get the win.”

The obvious parallel here is with Mark Messier’s 1994 game 6 guarantee.  This is different, but the truth is that the goalie has more of an impact on the game than any one skater.  So, if Henrik is feeling confident, then I’m feeling confident.

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Folks, the Rangers were still in this one until the start of the third period. They looked dead right from the start of the third. They couldn’t get the puck deep and when they actually kept the puck in the Penguins’ zone, they couldn’t get shots through to the net.

Then there’s the Power Play. The Rangers went 0 for 6 with 9 shots. So that’s a shot and a half per PP. The Penguins went 1 for 5 with 15 shots (almost half of their total). That’s 3 per.

The Penguins’ Power Play is just S-C-A-R-Y. It’s so much different than the Rangers’ PP. They just keep feeding the puck to the point for the quick, low slapshot and wait for the rebounds. Why can’t the Rangers do this? The second line (Gomez-Drury-Shanny) seems to be trying but just can’t get it done. Jagr’s line is just wasting time looking for the perfect shot. It’s just terrible. GO TO THE FRONT OF THE NET! STOP CUTTING BEHIND THE NET! YOU’RE NOT GONNA SCORE A GOAL FROM BEHIND THE NET!

Anyone notice who wasn’t on the ice when the Penguins scored their only Power Play goal? It was the guy in the box who was off for a questionable call that could have gone to either player. Chris Drury.

Chris Drury is the best penalty killer on the Rangers right now. How many times do you see him breaking up the other team’s power play and clearing the puck? Lots of times, that’s how many.

I’m kind of pissed off right now. If Marc has any thoughts he’ll add them later.

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Here are some choice notes from the first period:

  • Penguins are flying out of the gate getting the first 8 shots
  • Rangers balance it out with a PP
  • Drury-Betts-Callahan best line half way through
  • Gomez centering Sjostrom and Prucha for a shift
  • Drury is still the man; great on the 4-on-3 Penalty Kill
  • Jagr tells Crosby to stand up and stop falling down after Tyutin threw him down
  • NBC has replayed Tyutin’s interference penalty on Crosby about 5 times since it happened about 10 minutes ago. No one was arguing it.  But 3 of the 4 commentators seem to think someone is.  Surprisingly, Millbury is the only one not getting involved.
  • Lots of former Rangers and Penguins playing in this series
    • On the Rangers now:
      • Jaromir Jagr
      • Martin Straka
      • Michal Rozsival
    • On the Penguins now:
      • Petr Sykora
      • Adam Hall
      • Pascal Dupuis
  • Avery gets away with a slash on the hand of Crosby.
  • All of the Penalties that have been called so far have been the right call.
  • As expected, Penguins fans have been taunting Jagr throughout the game.

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I mentioned it yesterday, and now it has been confirmed. Petr Prucha will see his first game action of the playoffs this season. Here’s what Coach Tom Renney had to say:

“Petr is really, really hungry. . . . I see it in his eyes and he has had some success against Pittsburgh. I liked his game against them. He’s done a good job. He’s worked hard. He’s got a good touch. I like the second and third effort in his game and because usually beyond that, there’s a result with good consequence. . . . It gives us a little more quickness, a little more speed.”

Prucha will take Colton Orr’s place in the lineup.

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