The Bobby Holik Award for Big, Lumbering, Useless Oaf That Contributes Nothing To The Team: Brian Boyle
A perennial whipping boy of The Garden Faithful, Boyle has brought new meaning to the word “useless” with three goals in 47 games this season. He would likely be a healthy scratch or AHL regular for any other organization, but with the Rangers and head coach John Tortorella he’s a first-liner who occasionally leads the forwards in ice time. And the worst part is that this is just the first year of a three-year deal he signed over the summer. Don’t be surprised to see Torts ride him and Rupp in playoff games like he did Jody Shelley and Prust in the final game of the 2009-10 season in Philly.
The Marcel Hossa-Jozef Balej Award for Overrated Finesse Eastern European Player Who Should Never Crack The Starting Lineup: Wojtek Wolski
If it were not for Boyle he easily could have won both these awards, but instead Wojtek takes home this distinguished prize. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, check out Wojtek’s Twitter feed and take note of how he tries to pretend he’s part of the team. It’s quite humorous, really.
The Mike Gartner Award for Fan Favorite Most Likely To Be Traded At The Trade Deadline: Brandon Dubinsky
It’s hard saying goodbye to a homegrown talent, especially when that player exerts maximum effort on a nightly basis, but in the case of Dubie, he’s ripe to be traded come early March. Maybe the four-year, $16.8 million contract he signed in July has been weighing on him, but Dubie has been a shell of the guy who saw his goal and point total increase each of the past three seasons. In reality, at best, he’s a 60-point guy. Yes, he has a smokin’ hot fiancee and is the creator of #ForTheBoys, but if the right deal comes along, Dubie is prime to be on the move.
The Joe Namath/Willis Reed/Mark Messier/Derek Jeter (Dry Heaving)/Eli Manning (BARF.) Award for Will Still Be Cheered In Public Even If He Commits a Double Murder As Long As He Wins A Championship: Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik has gone from great regular season goalie to elite regular season goalie this year. In my mind he’s the front-runner to win the Vezina and with his ability to make both men and women lose their train of thought when his crystal clear blue eyes and strong, toned…whoa, come on the television screen, he has easily become the most universally liked Ranger since the 1993-94 season. With that said, if he wants his number in the rafters and to never have to pay for a meal in New York City again, he needs to win a Stanley Cup. And while he has been a master of the regular season, the playoffs have been a challenge. Sure he’s had his moments (Game 3 vs. Sabres in ’07; Game 4 vs. Caps in ’09), but The King has yet to steal a playoff series like all great goalies do. This is by far the best Rangers team he has played on so it will be interesting to see how that effects Henrik’s play come springtime.
Are you kidding me? I understand the Rangers have provided us with little reason to question their play being the top team in the NHL. But really, are you kidding me? No one expected the Blueshirts to win every single game, and it was only a matter of time before they were handed a loss, but to play this poorly? To play this lethargic? It’s one thing to lose a hockey game, but to not show up is an entirely different issue.
Maybe it is not fair to evaluate the Rangers after tonight’s performance considering the overwhelming success they have had throughout the season, but despite being the top team in the league in points, I can confidently say it is points only that we are the best in. We have made tremendous progress in just one year, but you would be a fool to think we are serious contenders for the Cup. Would Boston ever play a game like that on their home ice? Of course not. Even Philly would never deliver such an embarrassing performance. (Perhaps the goalie, but not the team.) Anyway, here are some thoughts on tonight’s game:
Brad Richards. Did he switch numbers tonight? For the highest-paid player in the NHL he was no where to be found as he was obviously doing his best Where’s Waldo impression.
When Brian Boyle leads all 12 forwards in ice time with a whopping 19:56 you know you have a serious problem. I think this statistic alone provides enough reason for me to jump out my window right now. It’s about 13 feet high.
Our power play is simply atrocious. I’m not sure what can help fix our man-advantage or even improve it for that matter. I do know that Brad Richards is certainly not the answer. And I also know that playing Del Zotto over 6 minutes out of a possible 8 of PP time is probably not the best solution either. I would rather be forced to participate in government appointed community service or perform manual labor than sit on my couch and watch another NYR power play. After an 0-4 tonight and 1-753 prior to tonight, I can safely say I will change the channel next time the refs award the Rangers a power play.
For once, I had no quarrels with John Torterella’s latest rendition of musical chairs. After a decent first period, the second period became an absolute disgrace. It certainly was not the Rangers hockey I have been accustomed to expect over the past few months. The anemic play of the Rangers prompted Torts to flip-flop our lines with hopes that someone would wake the f*ck up. No one did.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Senators came into the Garden and jumped on the lifeless Rangers. They played an overall sound hockey game, clogging the neutral zone which prevented the Rangers from ever really getting anything going offensively while simultaneously silencing the Garden crowd.
After a horrific Arty turnover, Girardi inexplicably allowed Spezza to carry the puck from the blue line all the way to edge of the faceoff circle resulting in a wrist shot from Spezza that beat Lundy. Because Girardi is borderline flawless in the defensive end and rarely makes mistakes I’ll let this one slide. This goal would prove to be all that Ottawa would need.
It’s great that we had Mike Rupp in tonight. I haven’t the slightest idea what Ranger Nation would do if we didn’t have ol Rupper. Better yet, what would Torts do?
Dubinsky’s absence definitely hurt. His presence could of provided at least some of the spark that we tremendously lacked.
Does anyone else find it humorous that Torterella thought Michael Del Zotto should have been mentioned for the All-Star game?
Next up is Toronto Saturday night. Should prove to be a very difficult two points which is why botching tonight’s game makes our potential upcoming skid that much more painful. I understand it is never good to dwell on one game, but with exactly half of the season remaining, the Rangers showed tonight that tremendous work remains if they are to be a serious contender for Lord Stanley come the spring. Every point becomes critical down the stretch and they can’t continue to have these mental lapses. If the Rangers are going to lose a hockey game, do it the right way, not the way we saw tonight.
The Rangers front office entered this summer with one goal. No, it was not to alienate and embarrass Sean Avery, but to land the top free agent center available in Brad Richards. They wanted Richards because of his familiarity with Tortorella’s system, his ability to run the power play, but most importantly the expectation that he would be the top line pivot that would complement Marian Gaborik. The Slovakian sniper’s goal total dropped from 42 to 22, from his first to second season in New York. It was clear that Gaborik was struggling and it was assumed by everybody that he needed an elite veteran center like Richards to get him back on track.
But it is clear now that the problem with Gaborik last season had very little to do with who his linemates were, but more to do with his health and mindset. Playing in Minnesota throughout the early part of his career, Gaborik never played with elite centers, but always posted top caliber numbers. In his first season as a Ranger, Gaborik played predominantly with Erik Christensen and still managed to put up 86 points. If you have learned anything from this blog, it would be that our old buddy Christensen is the furthest thing from “elite”.
Almost halfway through the season, Gaborik has already surpassed last season’s total with 23 goals. The biggest difference though is that Gaborik has that extra jump in his step. He has never been the type of sniper who is stationary and needs to be fed the puck. Gaborik can create space with his speed and explosiveness, which is what he lacked last season. Whether it was the separated shoulder he suffered in the home opener or his ailing groin, Gaborik clearly lacked the extra jump that he has regained this season. The winger is healthy again and is visible whenever he is on the ice. His confidence is clearly back too, not only on the ice but off it as well. He tweeted at Pam Anderson last week asking her when she’ll be back in NYC. Now THAT’S confidence!
Gaborik’s play has been integral part of the Rangers offense this season. His chemistry with youngsters Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov has allowed Richards to play on the other scoring line, providing balance and two lines that are consistent threats. John Tortorella has challenged Gaborik to play better and he has certainly answered the call. Do you remember the game vs. Buffalo in 24/7 when Torts angrily cursed out Gaborik on the bench yelling, “Are you gonna stop on a f*cking puck tonight?!” Well, I do and I still haven’t figured out what that quote means, but Gaborik scored later in that game so apparently he received the message. Let’s hope that he can continue to stay healthy and keep scoring big goals, because the Rangers success depends on him.
When the best of sports collides with the best of television, you are left with what we witnessed tonight on HBO. So, without further ado, the final Minutes of 24/7: Flyers-Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic.
Again, all times are approximate…
10:03- I don’t know about you, but it was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see Ilya Bryzgalov so angry and upset. It would be how I imagine young lads feel when they find out Santa doesn’t really exist. I just wanted him to stop cursing and being so sarcastic. You’re supposed to make me laugh and smile, goddamn it!
10:06- I’m as big a Sean Avery supporter as anyone, but wearing those pseudo-sunglasses indoors really does make him seem like a douche. I obviously have no idea what he’s like behind closed doors (well, I guess we do now, actually), but he doesn’t seem to bring much to the locker room. I don’t agree with Torts’ treatment of him, but I do get it now.
10:11- For those of us who have ever had a bad moment at work where you utterly screw up, and you know you did, and so does your boss, and he makes it clear he knows, well, you had to sympathize with the Rangers video guy Jerry Dineen when the projector burned out during Torts’ rip session of the team.
Torts was already in a pissy, yet happy mood, as you could see he was enjoying going around the room criticizing every player who effed up in the Capitals game. Much needed comic relief was delivered when a member of the coaching staff began singing, “Jerry’s in a pile of shit doo-dah, dooh-dah…”
That’s the thing about Torts. I don’t think he’s a great motivator because he endears himself to his players, but rather that he is so miserable when he’s pissed that you just don’t want to fuck up because it’s not worth getting yelled at.
10:16- When the Flyers-Pens game first started, I felt like I was rooting for the Penguins (I knew what happened in the game, of course…you know what I mean…), but then they showed all the quasi-hicks in the stands, and I remembered these people are Steelers fans. What a terrible state. (Note: I can’t even say Penn State is its lone redeeming quality anymore. It now has NOTHING.)
10:18- I don’t know who said it—maybe Chris Kunitz?—but I enjoyed Hartnell being called the “ugliest guy in the league,” followed by the Flyers bench telling him he looks nice. See, we’re all a little sensitive!
10:22- “Right in my fuckin’ penis!” – Max Talbot, reacting to getting speared in the groin.
10:24- The Rangers have come a long way from the days of Dan Girardi watching patiently as Marian Gaborik got his ass kicked by Daniel Carcillo. Prust felt so guilty he wasn’t the one to pummel Tomas Kopecky that he had to justify his inaction when he returned to the bench. I also like Del Zaster asking “who stepped in for me?”
10:27- The scene where Callahan and Co. were fucking with Staal as he slept on the plane would NEVER happen on a flight with a basketball team or the New York Jets. They would all sit there with their headphones that are bigger than hockey helmets, staring straight ahead, slowly nodding their heads to their music. Or they would play cards and whip out guns and threaten to kill each other (see: Washington Wizards). One or the other.
10:30: OK. That guy just poked a HOLE in Wayne Simmonds’ FINGERNAIL. OK.
10:34- Brandon Dubinsky’s grandpa was TANKED on New Year’s Eve. What did he say to the cameras? “Break up?” What the hell does that mean? He wants his grandson to break up with his smokin’ hot fiancee whom he greatly overachieved with in the first place? Or did he say something else? Either way, I’ve never seen an old dude so intoxicated. Good for him.
10:36- Bryzgalov tries to make a joke about him not starting to the reporters (good news: I no play, better news: we have chance to win), and has an ear-to-ear grin as he looks back and forth for someone to laugh, but no one responds. Poor guy. Too bad he’s on the Flyers. I’d buy his jersey in a heartbeat.
10:42: Prior to faceoff in the Winter Classic, Torts asks Rupp for advice on winning the game. Rupp, clearly a bit thrown off he’s being asked for words of motivation, mumbles, “Ya gotta get a lead. It’s tough coming from behind…” WOAH! Easy there, Heart and Soul! We can’t even comprehend what you REALLY mean. Please enlighten us great Rupper!
10:45- The pre-game shots of the rink are absolutely beautiful. What a visually pleasing event. Year after year it gets better and better.
DATELINE GARDEN FAITHFUL
At 10:49 and 43 seconds, in a black coat, sidled along the walls of the corridor leading to the home dugout, Brendan Shanahan is spotted clandestinely whispering words of encouragement to the Flyers.
THAT MY FRIENDS IS EVIDENCE. THE FIX WAS IN. If you slow down the video to a frame-by-frame sequence, you see him mouthing, “If you blow this lead, we will get you to a shootout.” No, you can’t actually see that, but really, what was he doing there and what was he saying? I thought you were one of us, Shanny! (H/T: GJK)
10:52- Giroux is such a punk. He thought he was so fuckin’ tough challenging the Rangers to fights at the start of the third period. He would never dare drop his gloves with anyone on the Rangers. And if you listen carefully, the player he picks to fight is Carl Hagelin, the skinniest player on the team. If Zukes was there he may have actually dropped his gloves. (NOTE: Giroux has two career fighting majors. In one he got his ass kicked by Nick Foligno, in the other he fought Marek Svatos is who is about 5-8, 170 pounds. He lost that one, too.)
10:55- I enjoy Brad Richards’ goal and celebration more and more everytime I see it.
10:56- As the final buzzer sounds and Ryan McDonagh gets into a scrum with Hartnell, it hits me that McD was the only player on the team whose voice you did not hear in the four episodes. You even get some Woywitka! What the fuck?!
10:57- Another killer music selection by HBO, choosing Sigur Rós’ “Festival” as the song to finish the show. For those who liked the tune, listen to their leader singer, Jónsi, and his album “Go.” He’s openly gay, blind in his right eye, and makes beautiful music. Fascinating character.
10:58- For the first time I ever, I really liked Del Zaster when he gave the smile of, “What the fuck?” when a stumbling, fat Jim Dolan comes into the locker room after the win and says, “I’m very proud of our…wait, what sport is this? Right…hockey club.”
10:58- For me the locker room reactions after the game were the two teams in a nutshell. The Flyers: quiet, tight, boring. The Rangers: happy, talking, entertaining. It makes sense, though. The Flyers live in Philadelphia. The Rangers live in New York City. They never had a chance.
10:59- Whoever wrote the script for the final sequence of the episode, well, that person is brilliant.
“Never get caught telling a hockey player it’s just a game. Never get caught trying to explain to him all the things in the world that matter so much more. His mind might well acknowledge the truth to your point, but his soul would be powerless to accept it…
“Considering the immensity of what he gives to the sport. The immeasurability of all it offers in return…
“This is why it’s so unforgettable when absolute passion yields ultimate reward.”
That’s it right there.
A magical end to a magical show, with a magical team on a magical run.
As an overly cynical yet die-hard Ranger Fan, I have been humbled by the consistent performance of this team throughout the season. Of course there have been times I have been irate and outright dumbfounded at the conclusion of games (see: Edmonton, St. Louis, and our first Florida game to just name a few), but at the end of day, the wins and loss column is all that matters. And after our thrilling Winter Classic victory yesterday in that disgusting city they call Philadelphia, our New York Rangers sit on top of the NHL all by themselves.
Quick starts are certainly not unchartered territory for the Rangers, as they have started strong in four of the five past seasons, only to find themselves fighting desperately for the right to compete for Lord Stanley come April. So while a lot of Ranger fans sense something special is brewing here on Broadway, I will proceed with a bit more caution and still say we are an overachieving six seed with the potential of wreaking havoc come spring. Regardless of how this season transpires, these early points the Rangers are accumulating now will prove to be invaluable, and I honestly hope the Blueshirts continue to prove me wrong. With all this being said, here a few thoughts on our beloved Rangers in no particular order:
Brad Richards was the most coveted free agent this past offseason, and it was only fitting that Glen Sather opened up his wallet to award him a 9 year, $60 million dollar contract. For that kind of mula, you would think the Rangers were getting a top game breaker who impacts the the game almost every time he jumps over the boards, right? Wrong. Richards at times has shown flashes of brilliance, but for the most part, in my opinion, he has been non-existent in many games leaving me to wonder if he had been a healthy scratch, or sent to Hartford with Avery. Before everyone jumps on me for this assessment of Richey, I will provide the flip side of the argument. Richards has fit in extremely well with our team enhancing the chemistry and further providing a nice balance of talented youth and experienced veterans. While he has not propelled the power play in the ways we had hoped, (lets’ be honest here though, what can really save our power play? Tim Tebow couldn’t even help it), he has provided several late game heroics, most notably in Phoenix, and as recently as yesterday in the Classic. The late game goals Richards has CONSISTENTLY provided are priceless, allowing me to forgive him and his salary when he takes nights off every now and then.
Ryan Callahan. Wow. Not much negative to say here. Our captain has hands down been our most consistent player leading our team night in and night out with his effort. Whether on the power play, penalty kill, or even-strength, this guy is a gamer. He can be utilized in all scenarios and makes his presence known every shift.
Boyle, Fedotenko, and Rupp. Where to begin with this motley crew? It is only fitting I discuss them all at the same time, because they simply don’t belong on this team. They are a disgrace to the uniform. Even Rupp’s performance yesterday cannot change my feelings. In addition to not belonging on this team, I’m not sure any team in the NHL would take fliers on these guys. The have a combined 10 goals (Boyle-2, Feds-5, and Rupp-3) this year, and if you don’t include Rupp who missed most of the season, it is a combined 7! Seven goals from Boyle and Feds who have not missed a single game this year. In 15 games Avery alone netted 3 goals. Not to mention all of the other intangibles he provides to our team a nightly basis. They would even be a questionable 4th line to me. But because they are all “Torts” guys, their position in the lineup is cemented. (NOTE: If Feds didn’t score those two goals in Game 7 vs. Calgary in ’04, neither would have a job right now.) Boyle has not scored a goal since the Washington game back in November, and God only knows the next time he will find the back of the net. Probably never. He’s completely and utterly useless. I can only think of three less logical and shocking events in life than the presence of Boyle, Feds and Rupp in the Ranger lineup: 1) The beheading of Ned Starks in The Game of Thrones. (Sorry if i ruined it for you, but if you haven’t seen this show by now it deserves to be ruined for you) 2) A blackjack dealer pulling a 5 card 21 after showing a 6, and (3) Toney Douglas of the New York Knicks taking any jump shot. Please let me know any other suggestions of events that would be less rationale.
Dubinsky is a tricky one. A long scoring slump to begin the season sent him down to the third and fourth line for a considerable amount of time. Even before he was demoted I thought he was playing well, despite his inability to put the biscuit in the basket. Dubs has to be, and will be, a critical player for us if we are to make any sort of a run come playoff time, and I am very happy to see his play coming alive as of late, scoring goals against the Islanders, Capitals, and the Panthers.
The Stepan, Gaborik, and Anisimov line has been our ONLY great line of the season. If this line is not evidence enough to Torts that trusting and keeping a line together is the only way to develop consistency, well, I don’t know what will be. Torts is always tinkering with line combinations to change the flow of the game in an attempt to gain momentum because he thinks he’s so f*cking smart. (Truthfully, I wanted to photoshop Torts ugly head on a stake for this post…no such luck.) I for one hate this coaching style because it does not allow the players to develop a chemistry with one another. The only line that has been kept together through good and bad has been the Step, Gab, Arty one. Just seems a bit ironic.
Next up is Florida at home Thursday night. Definitely an expected and realistic two points for the Rangers, but I’m sure Torts will f*ck it up by moving Boyle onto the Step-Gabs-Arty line…that f*cking condescending prick.
I can only hope the Rangers continue to humble me.
I’m not sure what to make of yesterday. Was it a Sign of a Special Season? Or was it simply a 3-2 win in January?
The only thing I’m certain of is that it was my first, and probably last, positive memory from Citizens Bank Park. The Rangers had every reason to concede two points when the Flyers went up 2-0, but they didn’t. They fought back, tied the game, or Mike Rupp tied the game I should say, Brad Richards put them ahead, and then Henrik Lundqvist told the referees, the NHL and NBC to go f*ck themselves when he stoned Danny Briere’s penalty shot attempt. It was a remarkable win in a remarkable setting. One that no Rangers fan will ever forget. (Unless you were my dad who loathes the Winter Classic and refused to watch or my brother who was flying over the Atlantic when Henrik said, “No.” Combined they will not miss a home game this season, but today, there were nowhere to be found. Bizarre.)
When a Rangers team gets off to as good a start as this one has, a natural comparison is made to the ’94 team. Through 37 games that season the Blueshirts record was 26-8-3; the ’12 club boasts a 24-9-4 mark. The ’94 Rangers had a memorable last second victory in Los Angeles when Mark Messier defeated Wayne Gretzky’s Kings in the waning moments of overtime; the ’12 Rangers pulled that very trick two weeks ago in Phoenix. The ’94 Rangers had their season defined by a penalty shot save by Mike Richter; the ’12 Rangers had their season defined by…
Not yet. It’s too damn early. In my heart of hearts I still think the Rangers are a year away from reaching their max. potential. That’s not to say they can’t win the Stanley Cup this year, though. The only team the Rangers cannot beat is the Canadiens in Montreal on a Saturday night. It’s just f*cking impossible. The Bruins, though? The Rangers match up with them very well. The Flyers? They’re soft and have suffered a recurrence of Niittymaki-Esche Syndrome. The Penguins? As long as 87 is out, the Rangers can take them. The Capitals? They melt come springtime. And out West? The Blackhawks are fatally flawed in net with Corey Crawford, and for very different reasons, the Canucks are equally screwed with Roberto Luongo in net. There is no dominant team in the NHL this season. If you needed any better illustration of that, look at the NHL standings this morning. The Rangers, who have played the entire season without their best defenseman, would have home-ice through the Stanley Cup Finals if the playoffs started today.
But they don’t. And that’s the point. The beauty that unfolded yesterday in that waste of a city will either be a chapter in a wonderful book the Rangers are writing, or it will simply read Rangers 3, Flyers 2 in a list of 82 fruitless games
The weather is too damn cold to know yet.