And now back to hockey


Based on the last few posts, you would think that the Rangers are either A) comfortably in control of a playoff spot, or B) well out of reach of a playoff spot, with nothing left relevant to discuss.

The reality, we all know is different, and tonight against the Hurricanes is the latest biggest-game-of-the-season in an inevitable string of biggest-game-of-the-seasons for a team scrambling to work its way back to respectability.

I believe it was before the Tampa Bay game last week when I said a win for the Rangers was essential for two reasons: one, they obviously needed to make up ground in the standings. But two, they needed to prove *they are capable* of making up ground in the standings. This is still a team a long way off in terms of the first part. But the second part no longer seems so absurd, and certainly a win tonight would reinforce as much.

And yes, as many of you have noted, part of the reason for a renewed confidence has to do with the balancing of the lines, both at even strength and the power play. As I said in “my story today”:, the decision by Tom Renney to put Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan on two different power play units not only allows both players to each embrace the style they’re more comfortable with, but it allows the Rangers to throw two different looks at an opponent in the same power play.

And while you’d be right in wondering why Renney didn’t consider this option sooner, you also can’t dismiss the fact that the coach now has more potent personnel at his disposal. And in that sense I guess, better late than never.

A few other quick hits:

  • The team arrived safely in Carolina yesterday and there are no lineup changes to report. Henrik Lundqvist will start Game No. 12 in a row, and Pascal Dupuis will make his debut at left wing alongside Tim Curry…I mean Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer.
  • Speaking of Cullen, here we’ve been this whole time lamenting the fact that he hasn’t been used on the point on the power play this season, and now comes this admission from the forward:

    “I don’t necessarily love the point,” he said. “It’s fine, but it’s kind of a tough spot because if you screw up it’s in your net. But it worked well for me last year. Hopefully it will work well for me this year.”

    What? Say that again? In other words, something that’s been gnawing at a lot of fans this year hasn’t necessarily been keeping Cullen up at night.

  • And now time for another example of me typing without thinking, which, all kidding aside, I’m not very proud of: I mentioned yesterday the “medical exception” granted to the Rangers over Stephen Valiquette not having to pass through waivers. Um yea, that was wrong. Turns out Valiquette simply hasn’t played enough NHL games to need to go through re-entry waivers.

    I could give you a whole string of explanations of how this happened, some of it having to do with my rudimentary understanding of waivers rules, some of it having to do with miscommunication. The bottom line is some of you poined out earlier that this sounded goofy, so I’ll go ahead and take my two minutes in the box.

    OK, more later…

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    1. It would be very nice to see the Balanced lines stay that way for the rest of the year. It would be awsome to balance the lines even further with the addition of Peter Forsberg.

    2. John M: Only if he only costs a mid round pick and lets say…Immo…other than that, I dont want any vets comeing…well unless a 1st round pick comes along with them…

    3. Doodie Machetto on

      John M, let Forsberg go. I don’t want to give the Flyers anything that’s gonna bite us in the ass for the next 10 years.

    4. Sam,

      As John continues to push Forsberg as if he’d already bought the jersey and was ticked off because it’s nonrefundable, do you have any new intel on trades? Renney seems completely disconnected from that, but has Maloney said anything to make you believe they’re still shopping?

    5. No way do the Rangers need a 30+ year old center who is going to play 10 games for them and be injured for the rest of them. Plus, if Straka continues to play well at center (which I believe he will), we don’t need a 2nd line center.

      We’re 6 points behind Carolina for #7 (with 3 games in hand for a potential 6 points) and 5 points behind Montreal for #8 (also with 3 games in hand for a potential 6 points). We’re 3 points behind Toronto and the NYI (#9 and #10) (with 1 game in hand for a potential 2 points).

      My point (and I am sure I will draw the wrath of all non-playoff believers): the Rangers, although currently seeded 11th, are not as far off as some might think.

    6. If this new hossa playing on the 1st line works out with jagr and straka, and if nylander can get going with shanny and avery on the second line, and if the 3rd and 4th lines can define a role for themselves and get some chemistry going…. Where would forsberg, or any other foward for that matter, fit in to the line up? If we’re going to go after anything else at this point, it should be on defense.

    7. Agreed Rob. The way I see it, their biggest need is for a defenseman who can play the point on the PP…and hit the net!

      We do have a defenseman who can do that, but his name is Thomas Pock and he has season tickets at the Garden in the 400s.

    8. IMO, Pock has not lived up to the hype. Yeah he shows potential, but Girardi appears to be much more stable of a defensemen. And what this team needs badly is stable defensemen. We have Roszival to QB and Tyutin as well. What we want are more Wards and Girardis.

    9. Girardi has definitely been much more of a stable defenseman, but I don’t think Roszival or Tyutin are the answer at the point. But for now, they are decent and probably the best options we have on the point.

      No defenseman on the team shoots the puck from the point as well as Pock. His shot is hard and accurate.

    10. Anthony (Abev) on

      Sam, did you choose that photo because of the two kids with the funny hair in the first row?

    11. when given the green light to shoot, rozival has proven to be more than capable of manning the point on the pp

    12. Hey Sam:

      Don’t fret over not understanding the waiver rules. They and the cap stuff are very confusing and give me headaches when I try to read stories about them.

      Who remembers Jason LaBarbara when he was with Hartford. One of the best AHL goalies who left and made it last year in the NHL on the west coast. The crazy waiver rule has left him down in the AHL when his team needs him on the parent team because of injury.

      I am a huge Pock supporter. The more he plays, the better he gets. And I think there is a problem with the waiver rule to send him back to Hartford – or something like that which also is confusing. Renney needs to play him consistently.

    13. What we need is a D man who can not only be the QB but someone who can skate the puck in the zone like zubov or leetch type.

    14. Good news is that the Rangers have 2 excellent prospects who can do this. Bad news is both (Staal and Sanguinetti) are in juniors.

    15. Which Aaron Ward have you been watching all season?
      I’ve seen the one that takes dumb penalties, scores on his own Goalie, gives the puck away, shoots wide of the net, and gives the team the flu every few weeks.

      Guy’s gotta go-

    16. The steady Aaron Ward that doesn’t get enough credit for what he does right, but gets picked on because some how a puck bounces off of his skate.

    17. Come on, (Ward) he gets picked on because he has many bad games.

      Last year on a stanley cup winning team, he was a +2 over 71 games. Now, he is dead even at 0.

      He averages almost a penalty a game and one shot on goal every 1.5 games now. I’d like to see a stat on how many shots he fired that went wide of net.

    18. NYRich82: you forgot to add, the Ward that tries to make every player take a seat if they are behind the net or near it. I think people overlook how mean and nasty he can be in the Rangers zone…but than they will complain about the D being soft, than right away say Ward should be gone in favor of Pock…doesnt make to much sense.

    19. Ward is not bad compared to some of the other guys on D on the team.

      Just saying that he is nothing special, with zero offensive skill. He should be expendable should the right opportunity come along.

    20. Steady Aaron Ward ha! now that a laugh. I guess you missed him being caught out of position and asleep(must of been thinking of giving the media a good post game quote) leading to an Oveckin breakaway with the Rangers up 3-2. Ward is good at blocking shots on the pk, but his lack of footspeed and hockey sense hurts the team.

    21. Thank you blueshirts2k7.

      I was starting to think I was watching a different Aaron Ward on a different team.

      Ward can also never take a puck away cleanly from an opponent on a partial breakaway using just the stick without taking a penalty. That is Defense 101.

    22. I’m shocked I mean shocked that Wildcard is sticking up for another failed Senile Sather free agent signing.

    23. Ward is exactly what he’s been his whole career: a #5 or #6 d-man. Problem is that when the NYR signed him, some people thought we were getting a top 3 or 4 d-man. Definitely not the case.

      I know he’s a 3 time Cup winner, but look at those 2 Detroit teams: he was playing with guys named Nicklas Lidstrom, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov, and Larry Murphy. He was a #5/#6 d-man on those teams as well. Not taking anything away from him, just saying some people are overrating him.

    24. Rozsival has been the worst pp quarterback I’ve ever seen other than Saturday night vs the Caps he has refused to shoot the puck on the pp all year.

    25. Ward’s first period against the Lightning in NY the other night was a textbook example of how NOT to play defense. Stupid reads, ridiculous backing in on even-handed rushes, and two incredibly harebrained attempted clears through the middle of the ice.

      You count on veterans at the very least to make very few mental mistakes —- Ward makes several bad decisions every single game. Good teams like Detroit and the Devils simply do not tolerate defensemen who repeatedly brain-lock — that’s why they’re good teams.

    26. That’s because Jagr has a leash around his neck!

      Maybe Renney is finally commanding him to shoot since Jagr hasn’t scored pp goals in ages. Either that, or Jagr turned him loose.

      Either way, It’s about time and I hope the trend continues-

      The guy CAN shoot-

    27. Was I the only person watching that game last week against NJ when the NYR had the 4 on 3 PP in OT? Roszival missed the net by a mile at least 3 or 4 times, and he had more room to shoot since it wasn’t a 5 on 4.

    28. Im not sticking up for a failed Sather signing…Ward is a good 3rd pair defender. Yes he makes mistakes…but NO MORE defensive mistakes than Pock. I dont understand why some people are so blind…Ward makes just as many good plays as bad…but I guess admiting that would make your heads explode or something. Why is it that for some of you a player is either 100% good or 100% bad?? You either say a player sucks and had failed completely and has nothing to bring to the team, or they are the best thing ever and cant do wrong. I ONLY hear about negative things about players Sather signed or traded for, but if they are a young kid who ISNT talked about by Renney in the way YOU want to hear about them they can do no wrong. Like Prucha, yes some of it is from the way he has been used…but when he plays like crap, its not Renneys fault, but that why you say…If Ward makes a great defensive play, or has a game when he doesnt turn the puck over once, he is not brought up…it makes me wonder if you all just sit in fron to the TV waiting for something bad to happen, so much so that you dont see the good things that happen.

    29. NJ MARK

      That’s because Roszival’s head is all messed up in regards to shooting.

      He hesitates and thinks too much due to pleasing Jagr in my opinion.

      If he naturally shoots more and thinks less, he will hit the net and will score more often.

    30. Yes, he CAN shoot, but he’s not consistent. There are nights like the Washington game where he looked good shooting the puck, and nights like the the NJ game where he couldn’t hit the net if it were as wide as a volleyball net.

    31. Wildcard

      This whole thing got started with NYRICH82 posting above-

      “What we want are more Wards and Girardis.”

      Everyone was just responding to THAT.

      Girardi looks to be solid thus far, but what this team does NOT need are more WARDS!

    32. Talafous: The Devils have White and Hale who makes a lot of mistakes…if you watch, those guys don’t make good decisions with the puck…lets not pretend that teams like that don’t have mediocre defenders…every team has a guy who can be a decent player, than can have horrid games. Every team has 3rd pair defenders, they are 3rd pair for a reason…if they made no boneheaded mistakes they would be top 4 defenders on another team. The reason you don’t notice those mistakes is because 1) you arnt looking for them like you do with the team you’re a fan of 2) the team plays a better overall game together as a 5 man unit so there is “backup” for those mistakes. Hell Look at Rafalski the other night…there was a goal scored because he panicked with the puck and flung it up the middle…I know he doesn’t do it a lot, but he dose it sometimes….a guy like Ward who is a 3rd pair guy is going to make more mistakes…but he also plays a physical game, and that is something you cant just brush off on a team with a overall soft D.

    33. Well, lets hope Roszival starts hitting the net more often and Ward stops hitting his own net.

      Big night tonight. Almost every team ahead of us in action as well.

    34. BlueClue : That’s true…but if we didn’t have a Ward it would be good to get one…I think his Physicality is overlooked by some. And with the D the Rangers have..I will take some week D for physical play…he at least can keep up most of the time..he isn’t out of position due to lack of speed to often…and he tries to be nasty around the net. Girardi has been a surprise to me though…I thought he would play well, but he has really stepped in and become one of the top 3 on the Blueline, and with the young Defenders coming up through the system…and with the way the team plays Pock, maybe it’s a smart move to move Pock…he has value and cost nothing to get, there wont be room for all the young D on the roster…and before he walks in the off-season, he can bring back some decent return.

    35. White is matched up night after night against top lines and much more often than not stops them. Ward on the other hand hands the opposing team prime scoring chances shift after shift, either by his lack of footspeed or bad decisions with the puck or dumb penalty.

    36. Giradi is being used as the 6th dman he plays about 12 minutes a night while Tyutin icetime is way down they are the 3rd d pair.

    37. To deal Pock, we atleast need to play him on some consistent basis to showcase his skills.

      For some reason unbeknownst to most Rangers Fans, he gets scratched more often than not.

      Sometimes I think that Renney needs to get his head checked.
      Pock is smart, capable and healthy.

      What’s the issue?

    38. “What? Say that again? In other words, something that’s been gnawing at a lot of fans this year hasn’t necessarily been keeping Cullen up at night.”

      Ha, nice work Sam ;o)

    39. Wildcard

      Rafalski was staring at a puck in a goalmouth scramble and did what he did to clear it at all costs, which is his first responsibility. Ward — twice, within minutes of each other, when there was no duress, no goalmouth scramble, no pressure of any sort — simply tried to clear the zone through center ice…..and created two glorious scoring chances. Out of thin air. When neither should have ever been imagined, much less occur.

      I trust you see the problem with your comparison?

    40. give me a break. Ward WON the series vs. White and Rafalski and won the Stanley Cup while Rafalski and White went home early.

      Ward is exactly what some said, a good vet 2nd and 3rd pair shot blocker, PKer and winner who hits.

    41. This is from the Raleigh News & Observer

      In the game preview under a section called, “players to watch”


      Malik’s departure in the fall of 2002 heralded the beginning of the end for the Canes that season but the start of something for Malik, who led the NHL in plus/minus at plus-35 in 2003-04 with Vancouver. He was plus-28 last season with the Rangers and leads the team at plus-21 this season.

    42. Speaking of NYR P.R. —

      This is from the Raleigh News & Observer

      In the game preview under a section called, “players to watch”


      Malik’s departure in the fall of 2002 heralded the beginning of the end for the Canes that season but the start of something for Malik, who led the NHL in plus/minus at plus-35 in 2003-04 with Vancouver. He was plus-28 last season with the Rangers and leads the team at plus-21 this season.

    43. and Malik played with the Bertuzzi Naslund line when they were at their peak, and then with the Jagr line. so the opposition seldom even has the puck when malik is out there the last 4 seasons.

      let’s look at his plus minus before he won the forward line lottery.

      he is plus 11 without the 2 big lines, and plus 107 with the 2 big lines.

      so, it is clear that he has benefited from who he is playing with more than anything else.

    44. I guess he (Malik) is a pretty good defender after all. I will try to watch him closely today to see how he does it.

    45. he is not. I just showed you that he stats are avg, when he is playing without the superstar forward lines.

    46. jimbo:

      you wrote:
      “give me a break. Ward WON the series vs. White and Rafalski and won the Stanley Cup while Rafalski and White went home early.”

      “Ward is exactly what some said, a good vet 2nd and 3rd pair shot blocker, PKer and winner who hits.”

      Are you by any chance Jimbo Dolan?

    47. “better late know than never” I don’t know Sam if we are to late we will miss the playoffs by a few points but the big problem will be if the Rangers feel they have a chance to make the playoffs we may be buyers at trade deadline at the cost of youth no doubt. I think this season i’d rather have “never” and bring up some rookies sell off some vets and position ourselves for the next few years.I know I’ll take some heat for this but I don’t see this team doing much even if they did some how manage to make the post season.

    48. Canes are hurting with Cole and Stillman out tonight.

      if Rangers can’t win this one, they are where they belong.

    49. I think that might have been the big guy himself….you know, Jimbo Dolan. He heard this was the place to be if you want to learn about hockey.

    50. baron — sorry, I was late on the trigger on that one. great minds think alike….or is that sick minds

    51. i think Nashville is the perfect place for him. A young teanm leading the league that might just need an established guy like Forsberg to get them the Cup.

      As far as Nashville having to give up two first rounders, that’s a pick at #29, way past any of the top guys. Almost like a second pick.

    52. Micheletti’s constant brown-nosing of Hossa is becoming unwatchable.

      Rachunek looks awful in 1st period. beaten twice.

    53. Rangers looked sharp in the 1st. But they always do fall asleep and become complacent after they get any lead.

      I mean, c’mon, less than a minute to play in the period..Keep a f—in lead-

    54. Doodie Machetto on

      Rachunek and Ward are our worst defenders. Rachunek REALLY blew it on that one. Ward blew it too by:
      1) a lazy pass across the top of the zone with 2 forwards pressing, and
      2) going to the guy with the puck(Staal) instead of just taking away the pass. That’s just 2 on 1s 101.

      Typical Ranger fashion of blowing a lead on the next play.

    55. that play is so disappointing

      hopefully the rangers will take all the positives out of that period and keep pressing.

      but one has to think, why did it take so long to finally get one past cam ward?

    56. Ward was clearly studying the Poti tapes from last year’s playoffs on how NOT to play a 2 on 1. This guy has absolutely nothing between the ears except a desire to cash checks and enjoy his current retirement.

    57. Doodie Machetto on

      They got one past him early, but they couldn’t get a conclusive replay. That Jagr one was in, no question.

      Straka and Hossa have been unlucky too.

      PS, I forgot we had Malik, who is our worst defender.

      Dupuis has looked like a reincarnation of Jason Ward so far, so I’d rather see Prucha back on the 3rd line ASAP. Although, I like giving him a bodyguard of sorts in Hollweg. He got his ass whooped by Krusty the Clown until he managed to land just one punch and then throw him down.

      Looking good overall though. I’m impressed.

      PS, John M, how’s it feel to be the only person with a Forsberg Rangers jersey?

    58. “Ward was clearly studying the Poti tapes from last year’s playoffs on how NOT to play a 2 on 1.”

      moron Talafous says that as Ward turns game around with perfect 2-on-1 shot block.

    59. Doodie Machetto on

      Moron? I’m sorry, but he really did BLOW that first 2 on 1 for a goal. Nice try zhv, learn how to play hockey.

    60. some try to defend ward and say that he SOMETIMES makes great plays. But in reality, more often than not, he is stinking it up big time.

    61. hah, good catch on the dupuis/dp thing. they’re looking pretty good- lets see if they can maintain it through the third…

    62. moron Doodie. I do play hockey, and I know that the guy caught out of position CAUSING the 2-on-1 is the culprit no matter what happens after that.

      so when Rachunek pinches stupidly and gives up a 2-on-1, it is Wards or Henriks fault that a goal is scored?? about as stupid as you could be.

    63. Doodie Machetto on

      I did blame Rachunek, I just also pointed out Ward’s terrible choice afterwards. No blame to Henrik. Go back to your bantam team, it’s apst your bedtime.

      And yes, I predicted the collapse.

    64. Doodie…hopefully we hold on to the 3 up here.

      Really liking what I see tonight-

      The little things Avery does really is a difference maker-

    65. Doodie Machetto on

      Yeah, I’m really happy with how he has done as well. Let’s all move over to Sam’s latest post, which was about the Forsberg trade.

    66. Sam Cullen just contradicted what he said to you about playing the point on the PP. He said he did last year from day 1 & is really comfortable there.

    67. “”Sam Cullen just contradicted what he said to you about playing the point on the PP. He said he did last year from day 1 & is really comfortable there.””

      and anyone who watched the Canes games last season would know that. Sorry Sam, but you missed that one.

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