Now that that’s taken care of…


Morning skate update, 11:57 a.m.: So much for resting players. Brendan Shanahan will go back in alongside Scott Gomez and Sean Avery. Petr Prucha will go back to the fourth line with Fred Sjostrom and Ryan Hollweg, and Henrik Lundqvist will get another start in net.

The lone holdout is Blair Betts, who Tom Renney said wants to return, but needs another day of conditioning. Betts is likely for Sunday.

More from the Garden later…

The Rangers are only expecting a skeleton crew at the skate this morning now that they have the trivial matter of locking up a playoff spot out of the way.

Tom Renney has decisions to make on Brendan Shanahan and Blair Betts, as well as whether he gives Stephen Valiquette the start in goal. The coach hinted before the game last night that he might sit Shanahan out another game if the Rangers had secured a spot, and I don’t see why not: it’s a chance for not only Shanahan to get healthy, but also for Petr Prucha to get back his own game a bit before the playoffs — especially if he’s a long-term replacement for Colton Orr.

As for Valiquette, it makes sense to give him another start just to keep him sharp. As much as you might not want to think about it, teams occasionally need their backup goalie in the playoffs.

But Renney was noncommittal on the matter last night, and seeing how home-ice still looms on the horizon, he may not want to leave anything left to chance.


And now a few words on the playoffs, the blog, and mankind in general:

Loyal readers of the blog may recall last year that I skipped out on the last week of the regular season to cover the Masters, the scheduling quirk a byproduct of my “dual responsibilities at The Journal News”: But at least then I was back to cover the Rangers in the playoffs from start to finish, and didn’t miss much.

Well, this year the conflict is even worse, with the Masters beginning next Thursday and concluding Sunday evening. Curiously enough, I didn’t notice the problem until midway through the hockey season, and the Rangers were still very much a disjointed group.

“You might not even have to worry about it,” a couple of observers said to me.

Well, now I do. I’m headed to Augusta Monday morning, and don’t come back until the following Monday, meaning I will miss hopefully no more than two games but possibly three. Obviously the blog will be manned in my absence so other than missing my whimsical references to my own recreational hockey career, this will have minimal impact on you. It just might not be the ideal way for me to start what could be a long playoff run.

Of course, if the 23-year-old version of me ever learned I would be complaining about having to cover the Masters 10 years later, I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed (he’d also ask, “Hey, when did your forehead expand?” and “Whose kids are those?”). And believe me, I’m not complaining. I have a great gig, and at a time in the newspaper industry when everyone’s cutting back, I’m fortunate that my paper continues to give me such plum assignments (yes, that’s needless pandering to the bosses, but also true).

The problem is I simply can’t be in two places at once, and as much as I love covering a simple regular season hockey game, the playoffs represent this sport at its best.

But hey, I’m not leaving yet, and by the time this run is over, it may end up being only two games of a very long spring for your Rangers.

More in a bit…

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  1. Sam, doesn’t the media get a chance to play the course the Monday after the tournament? I’d miss a couple of playoffs games for a chance to go to the Masters so don’t sweat it.

  2. I think it says alot how lowly regarded Hockey is when the teams beat writer is pulled off the beat to cover Golf.That would not happen to the Nba, Nfl or Mlb beat writers. I am sure Gary Buttman would spin that into a good thing but in reality it is a joke.

  3. Graves9…It is the biggest golfing event of the year. It’s not like it’s just a regular tour stop.

  4. Pretty amazing after seven of the worst years in franchise history I didn’t think the team would ever make the playoffs again. They now have made it three years in a row. The two biggest reasons they went from a laughingstock to a top team Jagr and Lundqvist were tremendous last night. Jagr looked like the 05-06 version of himself last night. He was shooting the puck every chance he got not overpassing and being strong on the puck. The majority of the goals he scored in 05-06 were off opne timers and he did so last night. I guess getting away from Shanny on the pp reivigorated him. He had always looked to Shanny instead of taking his own shot. Backman will seriously flawed 5 on 5 in pretty solid on the point of the pp. Backman also makes a good first pass. That Mara-Backman pairing is really scary in it’s own end,. Mara has struggled mightily since returning and I would replace him with Malik. Dubinsky imo played the best game he likely played in a month. He was strong and confident with the puck and along the boards. I can’t say enough about the effort and grit Dawes and Cally play with. They surely deserved to be rewarded with a goal. Prucha also had some nice game playing with Avery and Gomez. Gomez must have been surprised playing with guys that can actually move. The Tyutin-Girardi pair had struggled lately and their icetime had gone down but imo they played a very very good game.

  5. Rob L would an Mlb, NFL, or Nba beat writer be pulled off the beat to cover that instead of the team they’ve been covering for six months? I think not. Why can’t they get someone else?

  6. Graves9 I have to disagree with you on Backman-Mara…
    What did you see that make them scary back there…
    Mara was hitting…Backman was hitting and making good first passes out of the zone…

  7. Great to watch another clincher, especially against the Isles. Of the 16,200 at the game last night, how many Ranger fans were there? Sounded like about 10,000. The Isles are a disgrace.

    Jagr seems to be coming alive at the right time. In the last two seasons, he probably scored half his goals in the exact same manner he scored both last night. That’s really encouraging. No, he’s not the player he used to be, but he can still be a HUGE help in the playoffs.

    Backman has some nice offensive ability. I still get nervous when he hesitates in the defensive zone. He’s gotta think and move the puck quicker! That kind of tentativeness is what leads to mistakes in the playoffs against more talented teams than the Islanders.

    Still though, congrats to our Blueshirts. Now it’s time to chase the Cup!

  8. Sam should feel priviledged to cover the Masters. If someone told me I could HAVE a week-long pass to the Masters and have access to the greatest golfers the game has ever seen…I’d miss a playoff game or two.

    Enjoy Augusta Sam! Lucky bastard.

    I have a potential conflict this year too. I’ll be on my honeymoon 5/19-5/26. I can only HOPE that we’re still playing. No biggie, I’ll just record the games and watch when I get back.

  9. robC – hit the nail on the head with moving the puck out of the Dzone. It’s not just backman that does it too. And that’s hurt us a but this year. That 1st pass out of the zone is as importnant as getting a shot off as a result of a good 1st pass.

  10. SeamusORiley on

    anyone have the schedule for Round 1?

    I have to manipulate work schedule….

    I have a week’s vacation next week that I really did nt want to take but got forced into it….any games next week?

  11. Staal I dunno Mara turning the puck over time after time and also not shooting the puck on the pp.

  12. Seamus – All you can really go by at this point is the knicks schedule. But all that will tell you is what days the Rangers cannot play at msg. So the earliest you could know, would be after the devil/philthy game tonight. Devils win, they get home ice. And we would most likely play next wednesday @ newark. If they lose(which I hope), and we win(which I also hope as you would assume), then we won’t know until sunday night.

  13. Beer Me – Truth. And I don’t know if anyone else notices this, but doesn’t it seem like our D-men would rather tie the puck up in the corner than move it quickly up the boards? How frustrating is this to watch? Just chip the puck off the glass and get it out! Especially under pressure.

    First pass is definitely important. Move that puck forward!

  14. rob – And this I REALLY hate to admit. But at least from the a.s. break on, Malik was doing it the best.

    I saw Mara do it a few times recently. But this needs to be consistent, night in and night out, from all Dmen. I think the inexperience leads to a bit of lacking confidence, leading to slow decision making. no?

    Pavel – I know it’s not for everyone. But the ones who really love golf, know what kind of opportunity it is. That’s all, it’s hard to make someone understand.

  15. ‘inexperience’. ok, I’m pretty sure that’s a word, but I wanted to clarify that I meant it towards toots, girardi, staal….the younger guys.

    But honestly, that excuse is wearing thin on toots. There’s NO excuse next year for him. Don’t get me wrong…I like him, and think he’s DEF part of our future blueline, but he needs to pick his game up.

  16. graves9,

    of course it wouldn’t happen in those sports. they haven’t been driven into the ground by their league management. get real as to hockey’s place in the sports universe. the problem isn’t sam or his bosses.

    sam, enjoy your week. let us know how phil’s wife looks.

  17. Let’s Go RANGERS!!

    On to MSG


    I just got on and I haven’t gone back over the comments but it was mostly Ranger fans in the 300’s and such. We chanted Let’s Go RANGERS, We Want the CUp, Season’t Over, Tee Time… and something else, and every time the Potvin whistle was sounded it was Rangers fans responding.

    The only chant the Isles got ws when they played the Chicken Dance and yelled The RAngers $uçk, and I think thats just cause it the chicken dance and the Ranger fans were just stunned that it was being played…

    Latest video if anyone cares…
    Its about Herb Brooks.

  18. graves9 – It would happen if the MLB, NBA, or NFL writer is also assigned to golf. It would make most sense for the NFL writer, since the majors are over by NFL season, but now they have the “playoffs.”

    Seamus – We won’t know the schedule until Versus comes up with it on Monday. I would guess that the Rangers play on different days than the Penguins, especially if the Penguins get matched up with Philly or Washington. I think these are the two teams (NYR & PIT) in the East where Versus wants to put their focus, though they might choose Washington over the Rangers if Washington gets in a different pairing. I bet Versus would open with PIT-WAS if it happens, so the Rangers will most likely start on Thursday and play again on Saturday, then I think it’s three days off.

  19. beer me,

    i think you misunderstood me in the last post. or maybe i am just that sloshed. what i was saying is that when you see jagr dominate you realize just how scary he can be. if he had true snipers playing with him i think he’d have 25 more assists. straka, dubinsky, i really like ’em both, but they’re no kurri.

  20. Sam, Speaking of covering big golf events, might you be in line to cover the Ryder Cup in Sept. I ask because it’s 10 minutes from my place and if you will be in town I would welcome the chance to hook up talk about the Ranger Stanley Cup highlights. A home cooked meal could be in the offering too. Just wondering.
    Now as for these last 2 games I say leave it all on the ice. I would be great to go into the playoffs in the midst of a solid winnig streak. That’s not something you can just turn on and off. Beating the Devs 8 straight is no guarrantee of anything in the playoffs but it would have to bug them a little. Especially if we were to take the 1st game. That’s assuming that we would be playing them at some point, which I thing is a fair assumption.

  21. graves9 (and others) —
    If you must know, as a hockey guy, I don’t like what this might say about the sport, either. But the reality is I was the golf writer at our paper before I started covering hockey, so I was told this was a possibility going in.

    It would be worse if not for the fact that we have people who can more than competently keep my seat warm. Hell, you guys might not even want me back.

  22. chrisF – “maybe I am just that sloshed”.

    RIGHT NOW?!? Please tell me know. I don’t want to be at work as it is, let alone listen to people saying they’re already drinking! noooooo!!

    anyway…I see what you’re saying. But that case could be made for even the Great One. Would HE have been that successful without the rest of that team? Personally, I doubt he woulda ever passed Howe. At least not as quickly as he did.

  23. Who Needs Lohan on

    graves9 wrote ” guess getting away from Shanny on the pp reivigorated him. He had always looked to Shanny instead of taking his own shot.

    Now dont fall out of your chair graves9 but I am about to praise you on something you said!!! Normally its just bashing and ridicule! Anyway, I couldnt agree anymore with that statement. Its not that either is bad on the PP, its that they are bad together out there. Both are shooters, and both (Jagr especially) are unselfish for the most part. I really really really hope that Renney realizes this becuase if he puts them back on the PP together in the Playoffs we will be hurt by it.

  24. sloshed? no. hungover as hell? yes.

    gimme a couple hours then it’ll be:

    sloshed? yes. hungover as hell? not anymore.

  25. Oh, and I do think Wayne Gretzky was, well, Wayne Gretzky. Which is to say, Malik would be in the hall of fame if he’d played with 99 in his prime. Imagine: his +/- would be like a +jillion.

  26. chrisF – yup. And that’s part of the reason Slats thinks he’s god. He helped build that team. The right players, at the right time is no easy task.

    Newman – I saw it last night. Technically it’s a clean hit, but I always thought it was cowardly to hit a guy like that when they don’t know you’re coming. I know that our guys have done it before, and I still don’t like it.

    At least for Murray’s sake, he has an excuse now.

  27. does anyone know if we are stuck with versus for the whole playoffs? or will we get sam and joe occasionally?

  28. Renney doesn’t owe Shanahan anything! Get him off the 2nd line. Makes me sick. Did you not see how the PP clicked without him last night!? Did you not see how well the 2nd line played with Prucha on it!? It’s really is vexing that Renney cannot see this as well. What a moron.

  29. have to agree with josh.. that line with prucha is much faster and more fluid.. prucha and avery can keep up with gomer..shanny not so much

  30. Don – We’ll get some MSG games for sure, but the later in the playoffs we go (fingers crossed), there will be more Versus/NBC games.

    I’d much rather listen to Sam and Joe. I know they’re homers (you’d expect that from your home network), but the National Networks HATE the Rangers, especially those idiots Mcguire and Milbury.

  31. I hate to say I told you so, but……I told you so. And thank god for that. I believe earlier in the year I told everyone on here that if the Rangers missed the playoffs that I would buy a round at the Blarney Stone. Well at least now I don’t have to. But I will go on now and say this. If they win the cup, I will buy everyone a round. Let’s go Rangers! It has been a real pain at times during this season, but I am glad we are in. Now let’s see what happens. To all I have butted heads with, well brothers, we are in it now. So agree or disagree, we are at the dance. Let’s do some damage!

    Peace and ass crease,
    The Nasty 1

  32. Does anyone else find that they spend 1/2 the game correcting Micheletti? Out loud?

  33. acdaviddc

    If you listen to McGuire analyze a game, he says very few things to praise the Rangers. It was noticeable last week, although that game involved Sid the Kid. When it was REALLY noticeable was the Super Bowl Sunday come back vs. the Canadiens.

    In that game, the Habs dominated early, and McGuire WOULD NOT STOP raving about the Canadiens. “Oh they’re skating” “The Rangers look lost” “Tom Renney needs to fire up the troops” etc etc etc. When the Rangers absolutely DOMINATED the second half of that game, McGuire barely spoke. He refuses to compliment Avery, Jagr, Straka, even BRENDAN SHANAHAN, one of the greatest players of all time (I guarantee if he was on another team, they’d be gushing all game).

    There just seems to be this general contempt for the Rangers sweater in the national media. People outside of NY HATE this hockey team. Makes it that much sweeter when we shut them up and win :-)

  34. Tony from AZ on

    Our Rangers made this old timer a very, very happy man !
    How far can we go ? – We’re going to find out !!
    God, I love this time of year.
    LET’S GO RANGERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Beer, I find myself correcting Sam more often than Joe…

    Is it just me or is this day moving at an absolute Craw…
    BTW I’m gonna miss the game tonight…They better have it on at the Chart House in Hoboken

  36. ADAM

    I voted for Orr !!! He’s been good this year, he’s cut down on penalties, and he didn’t cut down on ass kicking ! Plus he got a goal.

    I would have voted for Ortmeyer but i couldn’t find him !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Anyway, Lets go Rangers.

    Its a win win tonight. If we win then its awesome, but also if Devils lose its great, but if they win and clinch the division, i wont cry. Cause then that would mean Flyers are stuck at 9th, with one game left, and Caps have one game left. How awesome would it be if the Caps replaced the Flyers.

    I neeeed to see the Caps vs Pens in round one. That would be 3 seasons in the making.

    Forget Sidney Crabby vs OV, i wanna see OV vs Evgeni Milkman

    But hopefully Flyers win, cause i really want home ice, and it would be awesome if we can battle for it on sunday.

  37. Actually what I read this that they’re going to make the “Blue Seats” actually BLUE AGAIN. How cool will that be?

  38. Chris F that was exactly my point. Lohan I fell out of my chair and broke my leg. You will be hearing from my lawyer.

  39. graves9 you have no idea about hockey or the rangers…mara and backman are fine together and make the team a lot stronger without malik in there…toots is playing a lot better since taken off the pp…the denfense is plaing great hence the shut out and holding pitt to two goals a game

  40. Forget about resting players, play every game to win and hopefully we’ll get home ice. We need some help from Philly tonight but you’d think Philly would bring their “A” game because they need to win to get into the playoffs. So this isn’t over yet. The Rangers need to win to assure themselves the 5th seed and a win tonight and Sunday could mean home ice, which would be very nice since they haven’t started a playoff series at home in over 10 years!

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