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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’

I guess you could call this a Season Preview but we’ll just call it the Game Preview. Also, today is my birthday!

Back on October 5, 2005, the New York Rangers played a game for the first time in over a year. The NHL was finally back after a lock-out that led to the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.

It had been 8 years since the Rangers had last made the playoffs–when they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals–and the idea that the Rangers were going to end the drought was ludicrous. That year, almost every “expert” had picked the Rangers to finish 30th in the NHL.

Honestly, did you have much faith in that team? Look at the lineup they sported for the 2005-2006 season opener against the Flyers:

Rucinsky-Nylander-Jagr
Straka-Ruccin-Hossa
Moore-Betts-Ward
Hollweg-Lundmark-Ortmeyer

Rozsival-Malik
Poti-Strudwick
Tyutin-Kasparaitis

Weekes
Lundqvist

Admit it. You looked at that team and thought, “We’re screwed!” But Slats was keeping his word; the Rangers were rebuilding. We couldn’t expect greatness in the first year. Honestly, I would have been content no matter what happened that season. But what happened that year stunned everybody.

The Rangers sat in first place in the Atlantic Division until the very last day of the season when they were passed by both the Devils and the Flyers. More importantly, for the first time since 1997, the Rangers had made the playoffs and Jaromir Jagr broke the Rangers single season records for both goals (54) and points (123).

Now fast forward to this season. The Rangers come into the game with a 2-0-0 record with two wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning last weekend in Prague.

Here is the line up that the Rangers sported for the first two games of the season:

Naslund-Gomez-Drury
Dawes-Dubinsky-Zherdev
Prucha-Korpikoski-Callahan
Voros-Betts-Orr

Rozsival-Redden
Girardi-Kalinin
Staal-Mara

Lundqvist
Valiquette

Only two, yes two, players from the 2005 opening night roster are still on the team. Only one of them actually played in that game! Petr Prucha was called up from Hartford soon after the start of the season and stayed up for most of it. But still that is only 3 players that remain from the October 5, 2005 to October 4, 2008. Speaking of Petr Prucha, of all the players currently on the roster, he has the most games played and most goals scored as a Ranger.

Looking ahead to this season, the Rangers are a younger, faster, more offensive minded team that can still shut things down when needed. The problem is that almost every offseason move the Rangers made is counting on the player playing better because of a change in scenery. So far, Naslund and Redden have scored goals. Zherdev has shown how wonderfully he can control the puck but has not finished. He does have the potential to set up many goals for Brandon Dubinsky. I really hope Zherdev doesn’t end up like Matt Cullen did with the Rangers.

There were some questions heading into this season about Dubinsky. Would he have the dreaded sophomore slump? Would he be able to produce without Jagr on his wing? We’re only 2 games into the season, but Dubinsky doesn’t look like he’s going to hit the proverbial wall any time soon. He was arguably the best player on the Rangers throughout the Preseason and has skated very well with new linemate Nikolai Zherdev.

Some other young players that must prove themselves are Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, and believe it or not, Petr Prucha. Dawes and Callahan will most likely thrive in a faster and more offensive minded environment. As will Prucha who is scratched for tonights game. But Tom Renney has to give Prucha more ice time. At least some more time on the Power Play.

As for any predictions, I think the Rangers will fight for control of the Atlantic with the Penguins for the majority of the Season. They will probably end up finishing in second place in the division which is good enough for 4th or 5th in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight, the Rangers will hold their true home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks. This team made a big splash in the free agency market by signing Brian Campbell to an 8 year contract for about $56.8 million. They also improved in goal with the addition of Cristobal Huet. This team is young and looking to prove themselves. They were very close to making the playoffs last season and you can be sure that New Captain Jonathan Toews and Sophomore Patrick Kane will skate circles around our defense at least once.

Hopefully the Rangers can find their scoring and break out against Huet who they have been fairly good against in recent memory.

I will be at the game and I might snap some pictures. I’ll post them later tonight if I can along with the recap.

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I just really want the Penguins to lose.

The NHL finally gets a Stanley Cup Finals between two major teams that non hockey fans might actually watch.

I hope Niklas Kronwall does this to a couple penguins.

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The Philadelphia Flyers showed they were still very much alive last night when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 to stave off elimination. The Penguins now lead the series 3-1. The Flyers scored three goals in the first period to jump out to a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Things got pretty interesting in the last few minutes thought. The Flyers were out to prove that they aren’t going away easy. After Hatcher basically beat the crap out of Malone (the refs stopped the fight before the overmatched Malone got seriously injured), the Flyers’ best player (Mike Richards) told Sidney Crosby to shut up. With his fists.

For any fellow Rangers fans that aren’t sure who Mike Richards is, just think of Brandon Dubinsky in about 1-2 seasons. Also throw in the ability to fight well.

I wonder if the Flyers have possibly gotten into the Penguins heads. Don’t forget, this is the same exact thing that happened in the second round to the Rangers. They were down 3-0 and kicked some ass in game 4. The game ended with a couple slewfoots and a few scrums too. Maybe the Rangers were getting into the Penguins’ heads! The series headed back to Pittsburgh and we all know how it ended up.

I think the Flyers have a better chance to bring this series back to Philly than the Rangers had to bring it back to the Garden one round ago. Throw in the fact that the Flyers are getting back their two top defensemen (Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn) for game 5 and things are looking pretty good for the Flyers.

***

I think Marc and I are gonna hold off on wrapping up the Rangers’ season and playoffs until after the Stanley Cup has been won. We aren’t sure how we want to do it (team as a whole or player by player by coach). Regardless, we will be posting news and opinion throughout the offseason so keep checking the site for updates.

Also, if you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, criticism, or work for the Rangers (or the NHL) and want to help us out with an interview please don’t hesitate to email us at 5holeblog@gmail.com.

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Here are the video highlights.

P.S.  I love Canada.  ESPN should show highlights like these.  ESPN should also buy the rights to broadcast NHL games.

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Starting next season, the NHL will revert back to the system used before the lockout.  Each team will play the other four teams in their division six times (3 home games and 3 road games) and play the other 10 teams in their conference four times (2 home games and 2 road games).  The remaining 18 games will be played against the teams in the other conference.  That ensures that each team will play every other team in the league at least one time during the regular season.

Beginning with the 2005-2006 season, the NHL started using a new schedule structure.  The new system had each team play 2 additional games against the other four teams in their division (four home games, four road games).  They still played four games against the ten teams in the other two divisions in their conference (2 home games and 2 road games).  The remaining 10 games were played against ten teams from the other conference (5 at home against one division, 5 on the road against another division).  Teams did not play the 5 teams in the third division of the other conference.  The interconference matchups rotated every season and after 3 seasons, every team had played every team in the other conference both at home and on the road once.

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Well now that my beloved Rangers are hitting the links, I have to decide which team I want to see win the Stanley Cup.

Eric, you’re going to root for an Eastern Conference team, right?

Nope! I was pulling for the Flyers to beat the Canadiens because, let’s face it, I don’t like the Canadiens or their fans. They can be a little… pompous. I also wanted the Flyers to win so that they would play the Rangers and we could get some revenge for booting us from the playoffs in 1997. But now that the Rangers are out and the Penguins are in, do you actually think I’m gonna root for our 2 division rivals?

I guess you have a point there. So now how do you decide between the Red Wings and the Stars?

It’s pretty simple. I just don’t like the Red Wings. At all. I was happy that Osgood and Hasek had amazing seasons. They helped me to second place in my fantasy hockey league (damn you, Marc!). But honestly, they are like the Duke basketball team of the NHL. Unless you are affiliated with them in some way, you don’t like Duke. The reason I actually root for Duke is that Marc went there. That, and the Drexel Dragons suck. Seriously though, they labeled themselves “Hockeytown.” Hockeytown? That’s like the Cowboys being labeled “America’s team.”
So I will be rooting for the Dallas Stars to win the Cup this year. Mostly because Henrik’s twin brother Joel is on the Stars. But also because of the reasons above.

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