Archive for November, 2010

New York Rangers Quarter Report Cards

Since the season is now a little past quarter of the way done I decided its time to take the Rangers back to school and give them their first quarter report cards.

Artem Anisimov
Games Played: 23
Goals: 7
Assists: 8
Points: 15

Grade: A-

 

Comments: Anisimov is having a solid sophomore campaign and he has been really successful with his new linemates, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. This trio is the only line that hasn’t been juggled by coach John Tortorella because of their success. Anisimov helped offensively while Marian Gaborik was out of the lineup with a dislocated shoulder. Anisimov will look to continue on his great start and hopefully become a top-line center for the Rangers.

Sean Avery
Games Played: 23
Goals: 1
Assists: 8
Points: 9
Grade: D-

Comments: I’m not sure why Rangers fans still love this guy so much, it truly baffles me. Avery has become less and less effective over the past few years and he is more of a pain to his own team than anything else.  He’s a bad teammate, and he’s a bad hockey player, do I really need to say more?


Martin Biron
Games Started: 7
Record: 5-2-0
Goals Against Average: 2.15
Save Percentage: .917%
Grade: A-

Comments: Biron had a rough season last year as a member of the New York Islanders but the Rangers knew all along that they wanted him to be the backup for Henrik Lundqvist. Biron has been great in net and other than a beating by the Thrashers in October he has really looked good in every game. Biron is providing stability for the Rangers in-goal since Henrik Lundqvist has been shaky this season.

Derek Boogaard
Games Played: 18
Goals: 1
Assists: 1
Points: 2
Penalty Minutes: 33

Grade: D-

Comments:
He scored his first goal in over four years….thats about the only positive thing Boogaard has done all season. Boogaard is getting paid $1.65 million a year to fight and he has done that but he isn’t worth the green that he receives, he’s also been a healthy scratch a few time already this season.


Brian Boyle
Games Played: 23
Goals: 10
Assists: 1
Points: 11
Grade: B+


Comments:
If someone would have told me that at the quarter mark of the season that Brian Boyle would have just as many goals as Alex Ovechkin I might have died from laughing so hard, but here we are and its a reality. I’m not trying to make fun of Brian Boyle, I like the guy, but he’s not the goal scoring type although he has always been a player that had the potential to do some great things. He’s on pace to score 30 goals, any Rangers fan will take that from Boyle.

Ryan Callahan
Games Played: 22
Goals: 5
Assists: 12
Points: 17
Grade: A-

Comments:
Heart and soul player, future captain, the only name that can come to mind is Ryan Callahan. This guy has always flirted with becoming a good offensive player and this year. You can combine that with his hitting ability and willingness to block shots and you’re getting someone who is becoming a complete player.

Erik Christensen:
Games Played: 22
Goals: 3
Assists: 5
Points: 8
Grade: C+ 

Comments: Christensen was a waiver pickup last season and he was very helpful for the Rangers coming down the stretch. He re-signed with the Rangers and has been solid so far this season. He isn’t a big offensive contributor and he’s okay on defense and he can win face-offs. Nothing spectacular but a good third or fourth line center.

Michael Del Zotto
Games Played: 23
Goals: 2
Assists: 5
Points: 7
Grade: C-

Comments: Del Zotto had a great rookie season but so far he has looked lost in his second season. He has been okay offensively but his defense has been very poor and at times he looks like he’s still a rookie out there. The Rangers need him to return to the form he was in last season.
 

Brandon Dubinsky
Games Played: 23
Goals: 12
Assists: 7
Points: 19
Grade: A


Comments:
To put it plain and simple, Brandon Dubinsky has been the best forward on the Rangers. After a few years of getting 40 points and not really showing signs of breaking out he has finally broken out and has been having himself a great season. He is the most consistent player the Rangers have and they will look for him to improve on his already impressive numbers.

 

Steve Eminger
Games Played: 21
Goals: 1
Assists: 1
Points: 2
Grade: D

Comments: I have no idea why Eminger is still on the team, he’s a mess out there on most nights. He isn’t going to contribute on offense but his defense has been bad. He can throw the body around which is nice but, much like the rest of the Rangers defense, he is out of position a lot but I guess he has gotten a little better since the beginning of the season but, what do you call getting a little better than atrocious? 
 

Ruslan Fedotenko
Games Played: 23
Goals: 4
Assists: 7
Points: 11
Grade: B-

Comments:
Fedotenko was a late signing but he has been a nice addition to the Rangers lineup. He appears a bit snake bitten at times but he doesn’t give up and he has been getting a lot of chances, expect him to cash in on more of his opportunities as the season moves along.

Alex Frolov
Games Played: 23
Goals: 5
Assists: 6
Points: 11
Grade: C-

Comments: Alex has been anything but great so far this season. When the season opened up, a lot of people thought that Rangers had a nice combo with Frolov and Gaborik but with Gaborik getting hurt early in the season and being out of the lineup it seemed like he took Frolov with him. Frolov has been playing better since Gaborik came back but he just doesn’t seem comfortable. The chances are there for Frolov but either he misses the net, shoots it back into the goalie, or he doesn’t get enough on the shot.

Marian Gaborik
Games Played: 11
Goals: 4
Assists: 6
Points: 10
Grade: B-

Comments: Gaborik has been doing well since he came back from his shoulder injury but his numbers are a bit deceiving since he had a hat-trick against the Oilers so his numbers look a little better than they really are. Gaborik may still be feeling discomfort in his shoulder, but it’s only a matter of time before Gaborik starts lighting the lamp on a nightly basis.

Matt Gilroy
Games Played: 16
Goals: 0
Assists: 3
Points: 3
Grade: D-

Comments: Gilroy is having another rough season, the former Hobey Baker award winner is having a tough time adjusting to the NHL. But at the age of 26, he is running out of time to get adjusted. Gilroy’s contract expires at the end of the season so if things don’t change he may have to look for a new home which won’t be easy to do.

Dan Girardi
Games Played: 23
Goals: 2
Assists: 11
Points: 13

Comments: Girardi has been the Rangers best defenseman so far this season both offensively and defensively. He leads the Rangers in blocked shots and he is the main reason why the Rangers lead the league in blocked shots as team. Girardi got a big contract extension this off-season and he has earned every single penny, not too bad for a guy who was an undrafted free agent.

Henrik Lundqvist
Games Played: 16
Record: 7-8-1
Goal Against Average: 2.90
Save Percentage: .910%
Grade: C

Comments: Oh boy, its tough to see Lundqvist struggling early on in the season. The guy who has been the backbone of the Rangers for the last 5 years and he is now turning to his team to help get him out of this slump, the only problem is the team hasn’t answered the call. Lundqvist is too good and too competitive to stay down for much longer, once he gets going it’s going to be lights out for the Rangers opponents.

Brandon Prust:
Games Played: 23
Goals: 0
Assists: 6
Points: 6
Grade: B

Comments: Prust has been the spark plug that he was last season. The guy doesn’t give up and he isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. Prust is a fan favorite in New York and for good reasons, he’s been great.

Michael Sauer
Games Played: 17
Goals: 0
Assists: 3
Points: 3
Grade: C+

Comments: Sauer has had a rough transition from the AHL to the NHL but he is starting to get the hang of playing defense in the NHL. Sauer will continue to grow and learn as the season goes on.

Marc Staal
Games Played: 23
Goals: 3
Assists: 3
Points: 6
Grade: C

Comments: Talk about the most overrated player on the team, Staal is not as good as everyone claims. The only good defensive plays he makes are right after he turns the puck over and too many times he has been caught pinching in the offensive zone which leads to odd man rushes the other way. Staal needs to be more responsible in the defensive zone and not worry about scoring goals.

Derek Stepan
Games Played: 23
Goals: 5
Assists: 8
Points: 13
Grade: B-

Comments: Stepan has come back to earth after getting a hat-trick in his first NHL game. He has still been pretty good considering as he is second in rookie scoring behind only Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes. Stepan is still learning and before you know it he will be a valuable weapon for the Rangers.

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A Look at the Frontrunners for the NHL Awards

By Eric Bancker

The NHL Awards aren’t handed out  until June but with the All-Star Game voting underway it seems like the debate has started for who is going to walk home with what hardware for their mantel. Here’s a look at a few awards and who may be winning them come June.

Hart Trophy: awarded annually to the “player adjudged most valuable to his team” in the National Hockey League.

Winner: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Games Played: 22
Goals: 21
Assists: 17
Points: 38
Powerplay Goals: 10
Shots: 87

When you talk about the best players in the NHL two names come to mind, Ovechkin and Crosby, but now there is a new player in the discussion and that guy is Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos has looked amazing early on and he looks like he’s only getting better. There is also talk that Stamkos may flirt with one of the most elite clubs in NHL history, the 50 goals in 50 games club. Only five players in NHL history have accomplished this, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Mike Bossy, “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull. Regardless of whether Stamkos reaches the 50 goals in 50 games plateau he is in perfect position to bring home the Hart Trophy.

Dark Horse: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Games Played: 22
Goals: 8
Assists: 21
Points: 29
Powerplay Points: 15

If there is anyone that can take the Hart Trophy away from Stamkos it may be his teammate and linemate, Martin St. Louis. St. Louis is most responsible for Stamkos success as he has really helped him to grow. St. Louis is on pace for about 107-108 points, which would be a career high for him. He is one of the most underrated players in the NHL but I don’t think anyone will be able to overlook him this year.

Calder Trophy:  award given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia Flyers
Games Played: 17
Record: 12-3-1
Goals Against Average: 2.21
Save Percentage: .925%

It’s only November but Bobrovsky is already becoming one of the best goalies in the NHL. The Flyers have spent the last decade looking for a goalie to take them to that next level and early on “Bob” is looking like the guy to do it. Flyers fans were excited to have Michael Leighton back as their starter after a strong playoff run last year that saw them make the Stanley Cup, but an injury has led to Bobrovsky stealing the show and stealing Leighton’s job.

Runner-up: Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Games Played: 21
Goals: 6
Assists: 11
Points: 17
Shots: 53

Skinner was surprise draft pick, the Hurricanes took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft and he has repaid them nicely. Skinner leads all rookies in points and he has really grown into a good player for the Hurricanes. equipped with speed and a good shot it seems like the youngest player in the NHL isn’t showing his age to this point.

Vezina Trophy: awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position”.

Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Games Played: 14
Record: 11-1-1
Goals Against Average: 1.46
Save Percentage: .955%

Tim Thomas’ career is like a rollercoaster for Bruins fans. In 2008-2009, he was the best goalie in the NHL and he captured the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his career. Last season he lost his job to Tuukka Rask and he just didn’t look like the same goalie as he had a sub- .500 record. Now this season it seems like Thomas is back and he is playing better than ever. Leading the league in goals against average and save percentage and there isn’t a better goalie in the game right now.

Runner-up: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Games Played: 21
Record: 13-7-1
Goals Against Average: 2.00
Save Percentage: .933
Shutouts: 4

I never thought that Carey “Swiss Cheese Glove Hand” Price would be mentioned as a Vezina Trophy nominee at any point of the season. All the comparisons to Patrick Roy were too much for him over the past three years and he has crumbled under the pressure of the Montreal fans. He was under even more pressure this season when the team shipped off Jaroslav Halak, who was the main force behind the Canadiens playoff run, leaving Price as the lone man in net but he has answered the call, for once.


Rangers Cool Off the Flames in 2-1 Victory

 By Eric Bancker

The Rangers and the Flames got together at Madison Square Garden for their only matchup of this year, but with the way this game was played you would think they were division rivals. There was tons of hits, fights, and brawls going down at the Garden but Martin Biron lead the way as the Rangers were able to stay cool and extinguish the Flames.

This game got nasty early on, and all it really took was a suspect hit from the Rangers, Michael Sauer on Stefan Meyer of the Flames. Sauer hit Meyer from behind and got a two-minute minor for boarding on what was potentially a very dangerous play. Tom Kostopoulos, who was recently acquired by the Flames, didn’t take to kindly to the hit on his teammate and this triggered a brawl behind the net which saw Kostopoulos taking a two-minute minor for roughing and wiping out the chance for the Flames to go on the powerplay. From that point on, Sauer was a marked man. Once both Kostopoulos and Sauer got out of the box it took little time for the two of them to get into a scrap which landed them right back in the penalty box. Later on in the period Meyer decided to exact his revenge and also got into it with Sauer, giving Sauer two fighting majors on the night.

Once the dust settled there was still a hockey game to be played and the Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Brian Boyle scored his 9th goal of the season. Boyle came into the season with 12 career goals in 107 career games but he has been on fire this season and his on pace to score 30 goals. Flames captain, Jarome Iginla, showed why he has scored at least 28 goals per season since the 1998-1999 season as he also scored his 9th of the season to tie the game 1-1. Just a side note, who would have thought Boyle would have just as many goals as Iginla at the quarter mark of the season? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The Rangers continued to get offense from unexpected sources as Dan Giradi scored on the powerplay to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead and that’s how the game would end. Girardi now has 13 points on the season which ties him with Duncan Keith, Chris Pronger, and Mike Green. Two of those defenseman, Green and Keith, were nominated for the Norris Trophy last year with Keith winning it so Girardi is in nice company right now.

Biron made 31 saves and really stepped in nicely for the inconsistent Henrik Lundqvist, improving his record to 5-2-0 on the young season. “Mar-ty!” chants were pouring down from the crowd as they showed their appreciation for Biron’s strong performance in net as he seems to have become a fan favorite. Biron has been the backup that the Rangers have been looking for over the past few years. Last season was rough for Biron, going 9-14-4 with a 3.27 goals against average. He has rebounded nicely and has helped the Rangers as they are now only five points out of the Eastern Conference top seed which is held by their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will now go on the road and take on the Lightning, Panthers, and Predators. Michael Rozsival should be back in uniform as he seems to be healthy and ready to go. Chris Drury is also skating but he is not able to hold a stick at this point in time.

Just as I mentioned before, this game was very physical and got nasty at times. This was realized in the 3rd period when Rangers defenseman, Marc Staal absolutely destroyed Matt Stajan of the Flames. Stajan struggled to get up at first but he did find his way to the bench and then the locker room. Staal hit Stajan from the front, not from the side which would have been against the rules. Staal’s hit was clean and there shouldn’t be any suspension coming down for his actions but with how crooked Colin Campbell is, you never know. I’ll leave the Staal hit below as well as a hit that is considered to be dirty in the NHL to show a comparison. The second clip is the Penguins, Matt Cooke, when he hit Marc Savard and was not suspended by the league, which is absurd seeing has Savard is still not right from this hit


Rangers Look to Rebound Tonight Against the Devils

By Eric Bancker

The Rangers are coming off a poor performance last night as they fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. The Rangers found themselves in penalty trouble and just got beat down by the red-hot Flyers.

Now the Rangers come into Newark to face a familiar foe in the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have had an awful start to the season. After everything they went through to acquire superstar sniper, Ilya Kovalchuk, I’m sure they were expecting better results. They are the worst team in the NHL in scoring and they are third worst in goals against and also boast the fourth worst record in the NHL at 4-9-1. They are also 0-4-1 in their own building this year.

The Rangers are now 6-5-1 and are tied with Pittsburgh for second place in the Atlantic Division. The offense has been strong for the Rangers but the defense on the other hand has been a disaster, especially the penalty kill. They will be looking to get back on the winning track against the struggling Devils

Injuries:

Usually when you talk Rangers-Devils hockey two names are brought up instantly, Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur. These games are all about these two goaltenders, low scoring affairs with flashy goaltending is the standard for Rangers-Devils hockey. Henrik Lundqvist has been a Devil killer since he came into the league in 05-06. His record currently stands at 19-7-5 with a 1.89 goals against average, the Rangers put their faith in Lundqvist to beat the Devils and he does it time in and time out. Rangers head coach, John Tortorella had this to say about Lundqvist’s success against the Devils, “I’m playing Hank against New Jersey,” said Tortorella at the morning skate Friday. “I don’t care if it’s four games in four nights, Hank’s playing against Jersey.”

Brodeur on the other hand has a record of 42-24-15-5 with a 2.10 goals against average, he has been a thorn in the Rangers side ever since he stepped on to the ice in 1991. Now Brodeur will not be able to play in this game tonight due to a sore elbow so the great goaltending matchup that everyone loves won’t be here. Now the Rangers, as well as their fans, may feel better not having to face Brodeur but there is still one problem…the Devils signed Ranger killer, Johan Hedberg this off-season. Hedberg has a record of 11-4-2 with a 2.12 goals against average, so the Rangers don’t get much of a break here.

The Rangers have had their own mash unit this season. Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, and Chris Drury have all been out for the past few weeks with injuries and Ryan Callahan can now be added to the list. The Rangers top scorer will not dress tonight as he is “too sore” to play, Callahan plays hard and his bound to get banged up but he is a really tough guy so if he can’t play then there is something really bothering him. Alex Frolov, who seems to be suffering from a case of  Chris Higgins syndrome, will most likely take his place on the top line tonight. Frolov has only two goals and five points in 12 games so far this season but being paired with red-hot forwards, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky may help him breakthrough.

Rangers may also be without winger Ruslan Fedotenko was elbowed in the head by the wonderful, Daniel Carcillo in last night’s game. He seems to be ready to go but if he can’t then the Rangers will go with 11 forwards and seven defenseman. Todd White will also be back in the lineup tonight as well to help fill in with all the injuries to the Rangers forward corps.

Prediction:

Even with all their injuries the Rangers should still be able to beat the Devils and that’s because of one person, Henrik Lundqvist. When the Rangers need him he delivers and even if the Rangers forwards and defenseman were swapped with a pee-wee hockey team, sometimes they look like they are, the Rangers would still have a chance to win this game. Lundqvist is just that good.

Rangers win 2-1


Dubinsky Leads the Rangers to a Victory Over Defending Stanley Cup Champions

By Eric Bancker

The Rangers were aware coming into last nights game that the Chicago Blackhawks posed a great test for them as the defending Stanley Cup Champions made their way to Madison Square Garden. The also knew that a win could send a message to the rest of the league to prove that they were the real deal. The Rangers were able to pass the test with flying colors as they were able to withstand the late charge by the Blackhawks as they improved to 6-4-1 on the season.

The Rangers have been able to establish themselves as a tough defensive team this season. The Rangers now lead the NHL in both hits and blocked shots with 327 hits and 223 blocked shots on the season. They had 35 hits last night and 33 blocked shots in front of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers seem to always have their sticks and their bodies in the passing lanes or the shooting lanes causing tons of blocked shots and errant passes.

Brandon Dubinsky continued his great start as he netted two goals last night to bring his season total to seven in eleven games. The Rangers top line was on fire once again last night as Callahan and Anisimov tallied two assists a piece. Erik Christensen added his second goal of the season, which turned out to be the game-winner, 28 seconds after Patrick Kane had tied it at two with his fourth goal of the season.

Henrik Lundqvist was once again strong on this night as he has been all season. Lundqvist made 33 saves and improved his record in his career against the Blackhawks to 4-0-2. Lundqvist made key stops late in the game to preserve the Rangers one goal lead. The only real blunder on Lundqvist’s part last night was the goal that he gave up to Patrick Kane. Kane was at a sharp angle and just threw the puck at the net, Lundqvist was hugging the post and it somehow made its way through his pads and into the back of the net. The Rangers were able to respond though as they picked up the slack for their netminder. Brandon Prust  commented on Lundqvist’s blunder and the Rangers response after the game, “I think we owe Hank a couple still,” Prust said with a laugh. “He saves our butts a lot, and that’s why he’s the best in the league. So it’s good to get one for him.”

The Rangers seems to be playing well as a team and they seem to be doing all of the right things to get victories as they now have won five out of their last seven games. The Rangers will play again on Thursday as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers who have picked their game up lately so the Rangers will need to rest up before heading into Philly because they are in for a physical game. Nothing says hate like Philadelphia and New York so it should be a great game, expect Derek Boogaard to be back in the lineup because ever since July 1st we have heard about the potential for a fight between ex-Ranger, Jody Shelley and “The Boogeyman”.


No Gaborik, No Problem for the Rangers

By Eric Bancker

The Rangers season seemed to be doomed right from their home-opener this year. The New York Rangers superstar forward, Marian Gaborik, went down opening night in Madison Square Garden with a separated shoulder and was figured to be out for a month or potentially longer. The Rangers knew that they would need their young core to pick up the slack but that seemed to be a tall task since Gaborik accounted for about 1/5 of the Rangers goals last year. So far the young guys have stepped up and the Rangers find themselves in a good position early on in the season.

Since Gaborik’s injury the Rangers are 4-3-1, the overtime loss is from the night Gaborik got hurt. Now that record may not be anything great but without a former 40 goal-scorer in your lineup it shows that the Rangers can survive until he is 100% and ready to come back. The Rangers have leaned heavily on their top line of Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, and Brandon Dubinsky. The trio has combined for 12 goals and 27 total points, the Rangers have scored 31 goals so far this season so their importance can’t even be measured at this point.

The Rangers are averaging 3.10 goals a game, after last year where they only averaged 2.70 goals a game. This of course caused them to miss the playoffs for the first time since the lockout and this was with all of their players healthy. The Rangers are currently missing Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, and Chris Drury who last year were responsible for 34% of the Rangers goals. The Rangers are only two points behind the division leaders, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins who are currently tied with 13 points.

The one concern for Rangers fans with this strong start is that they do this sort of thing every single season. They start hot in the first 10 games and then they can’t score for the next 60 games and then get hot the last 12 games of the season. Brandon Dubinsky had 8 points in the first 10 games of last season and had 10 points in the first 10 games of the 2008-2009 season. Dubinsky finished 2008-2009 with 41 points and finished last season with 44 points. It appears that if history tells us anything it’s that the Rangers are set to fall apart once again and their strong start will be wiped away by 3-4 months of half-hearted hockey.

If the Rangers are to continue their strong play then they will not only need to keep their offense going but the defense needs to get better. The Rangers are giving up an average of 3.00 goals a game. There is practically no separation for the amount of goals they score per game and the amount they give up per game. The defense has been bad and as usual they have left Henrik Lundqvist out to dry on many occasions. The two games that really stood out this season was the 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers and Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers started backup goalie, Martin Biron, against the Thrashers and the Rangers defense as well as Biron fell apart quickly. The Rangers were down 5-2 at one point in the game and fought back to come within one goal of tieing the game when Atlanta finished them off with an empty-net goal. The Rangers really lost a heartbreaker on Friday after a hard-fought effort but the defense looked bad and Henrik Lundqvist played a great game in net but he wasn’t able to keep the Rangers alive as Jeff Skinner scored the go ahead goal with about 4:00 left in the 3rd period. The Rangers gave up a bunch of odd-man rushes and they were surrendering too many high percentage shots to the other team. The Rangers have put together shot blocking clinics in many games throughout the season. They need to get back to this style of play if they are to succeed.

The Rangers are at home tonight against the defending Stanley Cup Champions,  the Chicago Blackhawks. The Rangers are coming off a shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs so the Rangers have a ton of confidence coming back home. They are 1-3-1 at MSG this year and the Rangers will look to turn that around as well as send a message to the rest of the NHL if they can beat the Blackhawks who are without their superstar forward Marian Hossa.