2007/2008 Season


One game does not make a winning streak, never mind a turning point to s season.  However, the Rangers 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers is the first step in helping erase the sour taste of the team’s lost weekend against the Boston Bruins.  The Blueshirts must take the next step and finish off the second game of Thrashers mini-series on Brian Leetch Night.

One has to wonder if the retirement festivities will provide the team a lift or an excuse to go back to their half-hearted ways.  Not even Kreskin could answer that question.  But for night, all was right in the Madison Square Garden world.

Yes, the Thrashers are struggling as much – if not more than the Rangers and entered the front end of the back-to-back games with a three game losing streak that saw the Thrashers outscored 17-5.  Included in that misery was a 10-1 thrashing (pun intended) at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres – yet another team struggling to find their way.

On the other hand, it is the same Thrashers team that one week ago visited the Joe Louis Arena and skated out of Detroit with a 5-1 win over the Red Wings – an impressive victory given the fact Detroit is 19-4-2 at home this season.

Atlanta also enjoyed a trip through the Metropolitan area at the beginning of December when they took five out of a possible six points against the local teams.  Only an overtime loss to the Devils spoiled Atlanta’s perfect march north.

Also, don’t forget that this is the same Atlanta Thrasher team that took five straight regular season games from the Rangers prior to their 4-0 loss.

The Atlanta debate aside, the Rangers played with an urgency and a purpose that has not been seen since the Rangers November roll.  They remembered that hockey is a sixty minute/three period/three zone game.  They finally heeded the coaching staff’s call to get down and dirty and the results paid off.  The Rangers showed how effective they can be offensively when they actually work the forecheck, go to the net and shoot the puck.

Of course, there were a couple of bumps along the road.  Martin Straka passes up a scoring chance in the first period for a drop pass on a mini-breakaway and Scott Gomez passed up a scoring chance in the second period.  The Blueshirts still need to carry over the idea of causing traffic in front of the net on the power play

ON THE FLY

  1. While spinning the dials of the NHL’s center Ice package, I came across an in-between interview with former Rangers defenseman Randy Moller.  It seems that Moller has made NHL history by becoming one of, if not the first, NHL player to become a play-by-play announcer.  Moller had been the radio color analyst for the Panthers until this year.  Radio play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein replaced Dave Strader on television and Moller moved over to handle the play-by-play duties with former NHLer Bill Lindsay replacing him as color analyst.  In addition to his play-by-play duties, Moller is the Panthers’ Vice President of Broadcasting and Alumni and is the President of the Florida Panthers Alumni Association.
  2. John Dellapina of the “Daily News” has a great entry on his blog.  Dellapina lists his Top 10 Brian Leetch Moments.  It makes a great read.  You can view it at http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/rangers/.
  3. Adrian Dater of the “Denver Post” reported that the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs had scouts at last night’s Colorado Avalanche-Nashville Predators game.  Dater points out that the two Eastern Conference teams do not play either of the Western Conference teams.
  4. Marc Stall’s brother Jared will represent the Staal Family as a member of Team White in the 2008 Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game.  In addition, the youngest Staal brother will represent the Eastern Conference in the OHL All-Star Game in February.
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If E.T. came back down Earth today and surfed the Internet and various Ranger sites, the little fella would go back home under the impression that the Rangers HBO Line is the be all and end all as far as the Blueshirts problems – especially those of the offensive variety.  You almost get the feeling that Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr are Public Enemies Number one through three.

While Tom Renney does go overboard at times with their ice time, the bottom line is that they have been the most consistent line from the start of the season.

I think the problem stems with fans trying to treat the Rangers as a Fantasy hockey team where all four lines should be packed to the gills with 30 goal scorers.  In theory, this might be a good idea, but then again, someone thought New Coke was a good idea as well.  I can understand some of this thinking because team management has often taken this view with their careless spending on free agents in the past.

For years fans have been complaining the Rangers needed some muckers and grinders – the type of players who do the little dirty jobs the superstars can’t or don’t want to do.  Now that the Rangers have such line, fans are complaining because they can’t score goals.  Guess what – that is not their job.

The HBO Line’s primary job is to keep the other team off the scoreboard while creating some physical play that is sorely lacking from a majority of the Rangers forwards.  If they happen to score a goal – more power to them.

I know some fans are griping because of the inordinate amount of ice time they are getting at the expense of the Rangers third line – which now comprises Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky and Petr Prucha.  I think part of the problem is perception and part of the problem is terminology.

Some fans see a slight because they believe the third line should get more ice time than the fourth line.  The problem is they believe the Dubinsky line is the third line while the Betts line is the fourth line.  Just wishing does not necessarily make it so.

Whether you like it or not, the Rangers do not have a set “third line” and “fourth line”.  In games like the 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Betts line is going to see more ice time because they are the more defensive line – and thus become the third line for the evening.  If the Rangers were losing 2-1, then it would make more sense that the Dubinsky line would get more ice time.

The problem arises when Renney continues to run four lines late into games when the Rangers are trailing.  More often than not, Renney needs to shorten his rotation late in games when the Rangers trail.  However, even this should not be an ironclad rule depending on the flow game and the effectiveness of the Dubinsky and Betts lines.

One thing that fans do not take into account is how special teams plat affects the amount of time players get.  Blair Betts is going to see more ice time than Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes because he kills penalties.

Does this mean the Rangers should not look to add some offense to HBO Line?  Come next season, it is possible that Greg Moore or another rookie might push Hollweg out of the regular rotation.  It is even conceivable that this type of move might happen before the end of the season depending on what President/GM Glen Sather does as we get closer to the NHL trade deadline.

For the time being, fans should cut the HBO Line a little slack.  They are doing the exact job they are supposed to be doing.  If the rest of the team were doing followed the HBO Line’s lead, the Rangers would not be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – they would be in a battle for the top spot in the Conference.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets might not have any big name players available via trade, but that is not stopping the New York Rangers from heavily scouting the Jackets. Even if they did have big name players who might be available, Rangers president/GM Glen Sather needs to pull off another “under-the-radar” type deal – like he did last year when he acquired Sean Avery from the Los Angeles Kings.

Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch has been writing about Rangers scouts who have been scouting the Blue Jackets rather religiously. On January 15 Portzline said sources told him that Columbus had three scouts at the Rangers-Penguins game, including their Bob Strumm, their head of professional scouting. Portzline also offered that the Jackets had scouted the Penguins-Nashville Predators game over the weekend.

While there have been rumors about the Rangers interest in David Vyborny, Portzline shifted focus to thee other forwards: Jason Chimera, Dan Fritsche and Manny Malhotra. While I have long been a fan and a mark for Malhotra, I can’t see Sather bringing Malhotra back to New York. Fritsche is still only 22, and while has been slow to develop, I can’t see Columbus being that interested in trading him.

That leaves Chimera and he would fit the mold of an Avery type acquisition. Even more telling, he fits the mold of Sather type acquisition. Slats drafted the Edmonton native in the fifth round (#121) of the 1997 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-2 and 206 pound Chimera is only 28-years-old and is the final year of a reasonable $1 million contract.

Chimera is an extremely fast skater who uses his speed and size to power his strong forechecking game. He is good at both ends of the ice and is a good penalty killer. While he won’t score a lot of goals, he is like Avery in the respect that they tend to come in bunches. His lack of offensive is the one thing that has kept him from elevating his game to that next level. However, he is a solid fit for the Rangers based on his skating, forechecking and penalty killing abilities.

The question becomes who do the Rangers trade? Portzline mentioned Brandon Dubinsky’s name. If that is the type of player Columbus GM Scott Howson is looking for – then he needn’t bother returning Sather’s calls. If the Blue Jackets were willing to settle for Greg Moore then I think the Rangers would be willing to listen.

While Moore is a nice player, the Rangers do have other players in their system who can replace him. If the Rangers were to acquire Chimera, they would have some insurance in case Avery leaves as an UFA. While Chimera doesn’t bring the physical aspect that Avery does, he does have intangibles that would help the Rangers replace Avery.

The Rangers could expand the deal by looking into acquiring Adam Foote in the deal. The veteran blue liner is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4.6 million. While the Rangers salary cap space is limited, remember that Foote’s deal would be prorated. Of course, Columbus would have to take Marek Malik or Paul Mara back in the deal in order to create a salary slot for Foote. The Rangers could use a veteran defensive presence on the back line to help youngsters Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Fedor Tyutin.

UPDATE (Wednesday-1/16/08): Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch writes on the paper’s blog that the Blue Jackets are interested in Fedor Tyutin. He writes that the Rangers are not interested in moving him, but have made similar moves with young defensemen in the past (e.g. Mark Tinordi and Mattias Norstrom). Reed also writes that the Jackets are interested in Penguins forward Erik Christenson.

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Just when you though the New York Rangers couldn’t get any worse, they manage to sink to lower depths.  Apparently, the team did not heed coach Tom Renney’s warnings of how time slipping away and the need for more defensive play.  Granted there were some bad goals allowed and some weird bounces that did not go the Rangers way, but the way the Rangers just stopped competing is a major concern.

Losing is one thing, but playing listless and almost disinterested hockey is another.

As expected, fans were once again quick to get the daggers out for Renney’s head.  Maybe he has lost the team.  I wish it were only that simple a fix.  The Rangers are now a team that appears rudderless, and it goes beyond just coaching.  Players who were expected to carry this team are not doing so.

Henrik Lundqvist’s poor play of late can be attributed to the health problems his father has been having, but the King has had an on-again/off-again season from the outset.

Jaromir Jagr has pouted since Michael Nylander has left and his indifferent play at times has shown.

Chris Drury, who was brought in with the promise of big plays in big plays, has not lived up to that billing.

Sean Avery, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka have been struggling with health concerns for better part of the season

The team’s most consistent line has been the HBO line of Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr – and if that doesn’t speak volumes about what is wrong with this team than nothing ever will.

Outside of the HBO Line, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are the only two other players who have played at or above their expected level.

Frankly, there are 20 or so players who need to look deep within themselves and come to the same conclusion that Renney did following the Flyers debacle.  The following quote comes from the “Journal News” January 10, 2008 blog entry of Sam Weinman.

“‘The games are starting to diminish. They start to fade away pretty fast,’ Tom Renney said. ‘So we can not sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. I’m not happy with our play. I’m not happy with the way we’ve been unable to deal with this. But clearly I’ve got to do a better job, too. It’s time for me to step up. What we’ve got to do is recognize this is a situation that is staring us right in the face. Our season is probably somewhere in the next couple of weeks.’”

So far President/GM Glen Sather has resisted the urge to try and trade the Rangers out of their doldrums.  However, it might be time for him to do a little fine tuning.  Normally, I am the type of person who wants to make trades for the sake of making trades but it appears the team needs a spark.

As we near the NHL trade deadline, the rumor wires are beginning to heat up.  Chris Kuc of the “Chicago Tribune” writes that Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon is close to making a deal for a defenseman.  Jeremy Rutherford of the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” writes the same thing about the Blues.

Is it possible the answer to the Rangers problems could lie with a couple of former Ranger employees in St. Louis?

Would John Davidson and Larry Pleau be interested one of the Rangers UFA blueliners: Marek Malik or Paul Mara?

Rutherford reports that St. Louis is facing the prospect of losing Barret Jackman and/or Bryce Salvador as UFA at the end of the season.  Would the Blues be willing to engage in a swap of UFA defensemen?  The other alternative, according to Rutherford, is to deal Christian Backman who was one more season at $3.4 million.

Sather can’t afford to take on additional salary for next year given all of the decisions he will have to make in regards to the Rangers corps of UFAs.  However, Jackman (at $2.2 million) does fit – especially if Malik or Mara went west.

Jackman is an ideal fit for the rangers.  The former Calder Trophy winner packs an aggressive and physical style of play into his 6-foot and 213 pound body.  Jackman will be only 27 comes March so he still has some room to develop if the Rangers were interested in re-signing him.  Jackman’s best attribute is that he is a leader – something the Rangers blue line can use.  The one negative on him is that he does have a history of injuries and has just recovered from a concussion.

The problem with making this type of deal is that St. Louis is going to require something besides Malik or Mara to sweeten the deal.  The question is should the Rangers trade off one of their prospects in order to acquire Jackman.  The Rangers do have some depth in Hartford – especially among their forwards.  It is a matter of deciding whether or not it would be worth moving a Nigel Dawes or a Greg Moore in order to get rid of a Malik in order to acquire a Jackman.

On The Fly 1: Congratulations are in order for Scott Gomez who was named as the Rangers representative to the NHL All-Star game.

On The Fly 2: Former Rangers center Dominic Moore was placed on waivers by the Minnesota Wild and was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Perhaps Tuesday’s question should have been, “Can a hockey team win any game, never mind a big game, by playing only 25 minutes of hockey?”

Of course, the answer was a resounding “No!” given the Rangers 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. How bad was that game? It has taken me two days just gather my thoughts and write them up.

A spin across the Internet shows that calls for Tom Renney’s job have been kicked up a couple of notches – as to be expected. It seems like any time the Rangers lose a game, there are calls for Renney’s head. With that said, Renney did not have a good game against Tampa Bay.

It was unsettling to see him stand by his plan to match the fourth line against the Lightning’s top line – something that Renney does not always do. While he does try to get favorable matchups (just like any other coach), he does not normally adhere to such a rigid flow of line matching. One could understand and explain this decision if the Rangers were winning or even tied. But as the rangers fell behind and their lackluster play continued, Renney continued his line matching.

The one thing that needs to be separated from this discussion is all of the criticism the fourth line has gotten. Yes, I know the HBO line of Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr do not inspire stories of offensive grandeur and that the line is a minus-25; however, they have also bee the only line to play at a consistent level all season long. It is funny how critics will trot out their poor plus/.minus numbers to condemn them, but conveniently ignore plus/minus in any discussion of Marek Malik. Sorry fans, but you can’t have it both ways.

Yes, Renney deserves blame for the loss to the Lightning – but so does the rest of the team. There is enough accountability, or lack thereof, to go around. I don’t care if Isiah Thomas or the worst coach you could conjure up was behind the bench Tuesday night; there was no excuse for the Rangers to lose that game.

Tampa Bay was a team begging to be beaten. They were 0-5-2 in their last seven games and were just finishing up a four game road trip to start the New Year. In addition, they were playing a rookie netminder making only his eight NHL appearance – and given his shaky start – Karri Ramo was not going to last the full 60 minutes.

Following that goal, the Rangers did not pick up their play until the closing minutes of the second period when Scott Gomez’s power play goal cut the deficit to 4-2. This is where the blame has to be shared between Renney/coaching staff and the players. At a time when they had a struggling team and a rookie goalie ripe to be taken, the Blueshirts not only eased off the throttle, but they coasted for almost two periods.

The Rangers need to focus on the closing minutes of the second period and the entire third period for the type of intensity they need to bring night-in and night-out and period-in and period-out.

On The Fly 1: Congratulations to Nigel Dawes for being named to the Canadian Team and Greg Moore for being named to the PlanetUSA Team for the AHL’s All-Star game to be held in Binghamton on January 28. Dawes’ and Moore’s participation is up in the air depending on where they will be playing in a couple of weeks. Given the I-95/i-91 shuttle, it is very possible Dawes and/or Moore will be reassigned to the Wolf Pack by that time.

On the Fly 2: With the Philadelphia Flyers invading Madison Square Garden tonight, it will be Ranger fans first look at the most infamous rookie in hockey this side of Ogie Oglethorpe. Steve Downie is expected to be in the lineup after dodging a suspension bullet in only his fourth NHL game. Downie was called in on the carpet by Colin Campbell following the rookie’s cheap shot punch thrown at Toronto’s Jason Blake during an altercation. Downie landed punched Blake in his left eye as the Maple Leaf was being held back by an official. While Campbell did issue a warning, he did not hit the rookie with his second suspension of the season. As we all remember, Downie received a 20-game suspension for his hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond during a pre-season game.

On the Fly 3: You have to wonder if The Clueless One (aka Colin Campbell) would have been as lenient with a Sean Avery or Ryan Hollweg if they had punched Jason Blake. Do you get the feeling that the Rangers might need an old fashioned Broadway Blues-Broad Street Bullies barnburner to cure what ails them?

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Can a hockey game in early January be classified as a big game?

It is if you are the New York Rangers and you are facing the Tampa Bay Lightning and you are coming off a three game Western Canada swing that saw the Blueshirts post only one point. The Blueshirts need to shake off the clichéd, yet inevitable, curse of the first game back from a road trip.

It is if you are facing the prospect of playing that game, and more, without two of your veteran leaders: Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahan. Straka is expected to miss at least two games due to a concussion he suffered in the overtime loss at Edmonton. Shanahan is listed as day-to-day after suffering a knee “contusion: in a collision with the Oilers Dustin Penner. That is a pretty steep price to pay for one point.

It is if you are hitting a favorable stretch of your schedule where you play seven of your next nine games at Madison Square Garden. The first of these games comes against a Lightning team that has given up an NHL worst 144 goals against that is expected to start rookie netminder Karri Ramo. The Rangers, who are continuing their morphing into “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”, must find their offense, and in a hurry. Hollywood’s central casting has provided the perfect villains for the Rangers revival.

It is if you are hockey team that is still looking for its first power play goal of the New Year as the Blueshirts inconsistent power play maintains its (in)consistency.

It is if you are looking to establish some type of stamp on a team that is only 5-8-3 in their last 16 games. If the Rangers are going to kick start the second half of their season, there is no better time, no better place and no better team to do it against than the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team that has only won three road games all year and have not won since December 20 (0-5-2).

It is if you are Nigel Dawes and Greg Moore – two players who see significant ice time if Straka and Shanahan are unable to go tonight. Tonight’s game is the best chance for these two youngsters to make a name for themselves and show the Rangers organization that they deserve to stay and play in the NHL. Even if Shanahan does play, both youngsters might see action if Sean Avery is unable to go. According to Larry Brooks in today’s “NY Post”, the feisty LW is suffering from a sore hand he got in the, yup you guessed it, Edmonton game.

The game is important for Henrik Lundqvist as news of his father’s health problems surfaced this week. The King needs to show his personal problems are behind and that he backs to his Vezina Trophy form.

UPDATE: According to Sam Weinman of the “Journal News”, the Rangers task at hand in this big game has turned even more difficult. Sean Avery has a “contusion” on his right hand (the one that was not operated on) and has been placed on the Injured Reserve List as of Saturday night. The injury occurred in the Rangers win over Montreal prior to their trip to Western Canada and Avery, ever the earrior, played through it. He will be out at least a week but possibly longer if the swelling is slow to subside.

It seems that Brendan Shanahan might miss tonight’s game. Weinman reported that Shanny skated prior to the Rangers practice and he will give the old college try in warmups. As a precaution, the Rangers have recalled Pierre Parenteau from Hartford.

Just when you thought things could not get worse, it also seems that Greg Moore will not play tonight. No, he did not hop back on the shuttle to Hartford. Instead, Moore missed practice today with the flu and is questionable for tonight. Depending on how the walking wounded do between now and the opening face off, it is possible disgruntled defenseman Marek Malik will have to be in the lineup with Jason Strudwick moving up front to play forward.

Weinman offered some possible line combinations depending on how the lineup shakes out. Moore has been playing with Parenteau and Nigel Dawes in Hartford so it is possible that line could be reunited in the Garden if Moore plays. Weinman writes that if Moore does play, coach Tom Renney might put all of his eggs in one basket and move Chris Drury up with Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr. If that is the case, that would leave Marcel Hossa, Brandon Dubinsky and Petr Prucha as the third line backed up by the HBO Line of Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr – not exactly the steallar type of lineup a team wants on the ice in a big game.

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Hockey sure is a strange game.  We often talk of momentum being a key of a team.  If one were a believer in the momentum theory, then the Rangers-Hurricanes should have been a blowout given the Rangers two big wins over the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators and the Hurricanes 8-1 pasting they absorbed at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.

While it wasn’t a “blowout”, there were some ill winds blowing at the Garden as Carolina shutout the Blueshirts 4-0.  So much for momentum.  I guess hockey is like baseball where momentum is as good as your next day’s pitcher.  In hockey’s, and the Rangers’, case momentum is as good as your next game.

You know things are going badly when your most consistent line is Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr.  The HBO Line played with a spark and a passion that just wasn’t there for the rest of the forwards and defensemen.

All night long all you heard San Rosen say was, “Rangers shot, wide” or “Rangers shot, blocked”.  It is kind of hard to get any momentum when you are having problems getting the puck on goal – especially against a team that has been struggling all season long with their defensive play.

These games happen.  The objective is to string together a lengthy stretch of games in between the clunkers.  The problem is the Rangers only put two games between the Hurricanes clunker and the Dallas stars’ stinker on November 25.

It seems that the team has paid a price as Tom Renney put them through the type of practice that would make Herb Brooks smile.  The day after the Carolina loss, Renney put the team through their toughest practice yet.  While the coach might use the excuse of the Rangers having a couple of days off before their next game, it is no coincidence that it happened right after a lackluster loss at home.

When the Rangers get back to action, they won’t have any time to rue their effort against the Hurricanes because they play three games in the space of four days.  After facing the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, the Rangers head down south the next night to take on the Atlanta Thrashers before returning home against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

It will be interesting to see if Renney turns to Stephen Valiquette in one of the back-to-back games this week.  Renney might want to prevent another poor performance by starting Valiquette against Toronto – hoping that his team will elevate their play in front of the backup netminder.  On the other hand, Renney might want to start Henrik Lundqvist against the Leafs in the easier of the two games.  However, the Rangers owe the Thrashers a little revenge after Atlanta defeated the Blueshirts in GM Donnie Waddell’s first game behind the bench after firing Coach Bob Hartley.

If I were Renney, I think I would roll the dice and start Valiquette at home and save The King for the rematch in Atlanta.  After all, Valiquette played well in beating Toronto in a shootout in his first appearance of the season during the Hall of Fame weekend in early November.

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The old adage says that you can’t win them all – unless you are the New York islanders playing the New York Rangers.  The Blueshirts cousins’ from Long Island have won all three meeting this season – each of them one-goal games.  The Islanders raised their record in one-goal games to 8-3 while the Rangers’ record in one-goal games is 4-5.

It is most interesting and, for Ranger fans, most disconcerting the way the Islanders manager to raise their level of play when they face the Rangers.  It seems that the Islanders continue to carry a chip on their shoulders whenever they face the Rangers.

In a deeper sense, the Rangers-Islanders matchup parallels that of boxing.  It is often said that styles make up classic boxing matches and in this case the Islanders style (as well as they chip on their shoulders) gives the Rangers fits.  The Isles aggressive forecheck and attention to detail is proving to be the bane of the Rangers’ existence.

“We allowed them to play their game,” Brendan Shanahan told Steve Zipay of Newsday.  “I don’t think the smarts were there tonight.  We were all on our own page…You watch us, it’s a bunch of guys skating in circles.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Rangers power play continues to misfire at the most inopportune times.  The Blueshirts continue to overpass on the power play looking for the perfect shot rather than station a forward in front and look to cause some confusion in front of the net.  Considering the fact the Rangers last five goals have been scored by defensemen, perhaps Tom Renney should put five blueliners on the power play!

Their perimeter play on the power play is also a problem at times at even strength.  Far too many times Ranger forwards are willing to pull up, or curl, once they hit the blue rather than drive to the net, shoot the puck or even work the puck deep into the offensive zone.  In turn, this allows an opponent an easier clearing attempt or counterattack while limiting the Rangers ability to forecheck.

Last night showed the down side of Sean Avery’s game.  He is like the little girl with the curls – when he is good he is good, but when he is bad he is bad.  Avery’s impact on the Rangers lineup is beyond reproach.  However, last night we saw a glimpse of the “detriment” that Glen Sather and the Rangers argued during their arbitration case against Avery.  His eight minutes in penalties (including a double minor) hurt the team.  Avery has to walk that fine line between stirring the pot and taking bad penalties.

One Ranger who better have his head on a swivel is Marcel Hossa.  Last night he was caught out of position on both Rangers goals.  With Ryan Callahan and Martin Straka getting closer to returning, it is going to be more and more difficult for Renney to find a place for Hossa in the lineup.  With the Rangers committed to playing solid defense, the need is for an offensive forward as opposed to a defensive forward – especially if said defensive forward is going to get caught napping.

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The Rangers-Bruins game on Saturday, October 20, has been moved up to a 4pm start time due to Game 6 of the ALCS tilt between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.  Given the way the Rangers sleepwalked through the Thrashers game in Atlanta, I hope someone reminds them that game time has been moved up.

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With Marcel Hossa still ailing and not able to practice, the New York Rangers have recalled Nigel Dawes from the Hartford Wolf Pack. In addition, the Wolf Pack have signed C/RW Dave Scatchard to a PTO contract. You see the terms PTO and ATO towards the end of the season in the AHL. In respect to an ATO, NHL teams use those to take a look at Junior and Collegiate prospects they don’t want to sign to NHL or AHL contracts – for various reasons. For example, Bobby Sanguinetti signed an ATO with Hartford in April 2006. The PTO term deals with professional players.

Here is the explanation from the AHL’s official site:

SPC = Standard players’ contract (also known as an “AHL contract”)
PTO = Professional try-out contract
ATO = Amateur try-out contract

AHL players not signed to one of these three contracts are on NHL contracts and assigned to their respective AHL clubs by their parent team.

In other words, the Rangers have bought time before making a decision on Scatchard and they give the veteran a chance to get his ice legs back.

Things are not going to get any easier when they travel to face the winless Atlanta Thrashers. It wasn’t going to bad enough that the Thrashers will be looking for revenge and their first win of the 2007/2008 season, they will also being playing under a new coach – albeit an interim one. Atlanta has fired head coach Bob Hartley and GM Donnie Waddell will coach the team until a permanent replacement for Hartley can be named. The Thrashers are dead last in the NHL in goals for and only Los Angeles and Toronto have allowed more goals than the Thrashers.

Quite obviously Hartley’s firing will start up the cascade of blog entries from fans calling on Rangers President/GM Glen Sather to fire Tom Renney and hire Hartley.

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