Guest blogger: Authorben (Part I)

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First and foremost, thanks to Carp for letting me take a couple of shifts for him this week. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

It certainly has been an interesting and incredible first half of the season for the Rangers. Who could have imagined they’d be in first place overall in the Eastern Conference at this point? Who could have predicted they’d get 31 opportunities to rock the Broadway Hat? So many things — most of them good — have happened with this team since training camp. Here are the highlights/happenings/things of note — as I see ‘em:

1. On the road again, and again, and again — The first phase of renovations at MSG led the Rangers on their extended European vacation during training camp — and beyond. There were four exhibition games against Euro teams from Prague to Zug, followed by two regular-season games in Stockholm against the Kings and the Ducks. All of that topped off by a plane ride across the Atlantic, a stop at the Nassau Mausoleum and a four-game swing through Western Canada before even playing a single match on Garden ice. Lots of frequent flyer miles, a 3-2-2 record to start the season — and plenty of time for this young team to bond.

2. Defending the home front — We haven’t seen the Rangers play this well at home in many years: 15-5-2 so far. That’s the difference between struggling to make a 7th or 8th seed, and playing for a top-four spot in the conference.

3. The “D” gets an “A” — In the absence of backline aces Marc Staal and Michael Sauer and missing the solid contributions the team gets from Steven Eminger, the play of All-Star Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh has been a revelation. Girardi leads the league in time on ice (27:24 per game), and McDonagh — in only his second season in the NHL — has become one of the league’s better shutdown defensemen. Anton Stralman, Jeff Woywitka, Stu Bickel and the re-emergence of Michael Del Zotto (plus 22) have also been integral to the team’s success.

4. The gold standard in goaltending — Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Biron have formed a superior netminding tandem – perhaps the league’s best. The psychological advantage that King Henrik (22-10-4, 1.87 goals against average, 5 shutouts — 40 in his career) has given this team on a game-in, game-out basis cannot be underestimated. Perhaps this is the year he nabs the Vezina Trophy. Maybe the Hart as MVP, too. Biron (9-2, 1.87 goals against average, 2 shutouts) has consistently provided a calming presence between the pipes.

5. Outside and outstanding — Winning the Flyer-centric Winter Classic in Philly was one of the highlights of the season so far. Down 2-zip in the second period, and dealing with deteriorating playing conditions, the Rangers persevered — even in the wake of some of the worst officiating we’ve seen in years. Amazing theatre at the end of the match when Lundqvist locked down the penalty shot attempt by Danny Briere. HBO’s “24/7” leading up to the game was a compelling look at both teams. Loved the camera work, the trash talking on the ice, Grandma Callahan and the Boyle family Christmas party. HBO even managed to portray a couple of the Flyers as human.

6. No Mr. Softies — Remember the Rangers beating the Sharks 5-2 on Halloween at MSG, and Joe Thornton calling the Rangers the “softest team they’ve faced” on their road trip? The Rangers record since Jumbo Joe opened his trap: 27-9-1. And John Tortorella ripped him when he heard about the remark — “Joe hasn’t won a *&^%$ thing in this league.” Priceless.

7. Totally Tortorella — Speaking of the coach — many people who post on this blog do not like John Tortorella and his methods for some strange reason. I couldn’t disagree with them more. The man obviously knows how to coach — he did an outstanding job as he kept his team focused through the European vacation, HBO, the Winter Classic — with no long losing streaks. Tortorella’s tirade in St. Louis after the first period of an eventual loss as seen on “24/7” tells you how we feels about his team and the way they need to play. Trust me — anybody who thinks they have it bad with their boss should take a look at this gem on YouTube.

8. Getting Rich quick — I thought the Brad Richards signing back in July was a strong move and I’m sticking to my guns here. He has six game-winners already this season and he serves as a main conduit between the coach and the rest of the team. Hoisting a cup with the Tortorella-coached Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 goes a long way towards giving him major credibility in the room.

9. Gabby=goals — Marian Gaborik is playing with passion and purpose — skating with abandon, finding the openings and scoring goals at an impressive clip. Twenty-five markers as of this writing. He had only 22 all of last season.

10. Movin’ at 62 MPH — At times, it seems that’s how fast #62 — Carl Hagelin, can skate. Since his Thanksgiving call up, he has provided jet-engine speed, skill and a bit of snarl, too. Hagelin does an outstanding job of backing up the opponent’s defense with his superior skating, creating time and space for numerous scoring chances. Works the cycle pretty well, too. Would love to see him get more minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill.

11. Response-ability — All season long, the Rangers have shown an uncanny ability to bounce back from tough losses — as they put a lid on potential losing streaks. After flops against Ottawa, Montreal and Pittsburgh, they followed with shutout wins against the Leafs and Predators — as well as the battle royale OT victory in Boston this past Saturday.

12. Streakers — A seven-game winning and three five-gamers have given the Rangers the separation they need in the standings — so they don’t have to struggle at season’s end just to make the playoffs.

13. Callahan can — Last, but certainly not least — in his first season as Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan has exhibited all the traits you could want in a leader. #24 is the embodiment of what the Rangers have become. He is all heart, all hustle, doggedly determined and extremely talented. The prototypical Tortorella-type player, he can be counted on by the coach to deliver in all situations. Plus, coming through the ranks in the Rangers organization shows that they can draft and develop the type of players who can hold such high authority.

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Tomorrow – Part 2:

What needs to happen (and not happen) in the second half of the regular season, in order for the Rangers to have a great Spring.

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172 Comments

  1. Good morning, boneheads!

    Wow, pleasant surprise. Good overview, Ben. And very well written. Thanks for helping the blog.
    Couldn’t agree more. I want to praise you especially for nailing number 8. Callahan is the captain, and embodies what this team is all about. But Richards gives JT another tool in the room- that calming assurance that Torts knows how to lead them to an ultimate goal. And I too believe that Brad is yet to show that he can do much more. Conduit is a good term to use.

    LMAO@ “managed to portray a couple of Flyers as human”!

  2. Good post Ben, it’s been a great first half of the year so far and I’m excited to see how this team does in the spring. It’s been a while for the fans to feel that this team is giving an honest effort every time they take the ice and we’re not hoping and praying they keep up with the better teams in the league but rather they can play side by side with the best of them.

  3. Ne Gingrich has pledged to build a colony on the moon (I will refer to it as Moon Colony) by 2020. My question to you all is this: Will there be hockey on the moon and if there is, will the ice be better there than it is at MSG?

  4. Good stuff, Ben!

    Make sure you include “bush-league” or “amateur-hour” when describing the power-play in tomorrow’s entry.

  5. Lol, Miami….Are you sure you need to hyphenate power play? Or is it that bad? And I’m certain you can answer Manny’s question as to which team should be playing on the moon.

  6. Stranger nation on

    Re #4 – MDZ re-emergence should not be considered an extra boost, but probably MVP of D in first half given his level of play on BOTH sides of the ice. We saw McD play well last season, amazingly so given his lack of NHL experience. We have watched Danny G improve by realizing it is easier to play D on your skates and not sliding across the ice and he just gets better and better. Both have played an enormous role in teams success.

    MDZ has stabilized the second pair of D with a host of partners (Sauer, Eminger, Stralman) by stopping the low percentage home run pass, playing the body effectively, and winning the 1on1 board battles. As fodder for the blog last year, he has surprised most if not all with his level of play. Maybe a combo of MVP and comeback player…

  7. Superb write up – covering all the bases ( uh, pardon the MLB insertion there) and an excellent analysis of all that has gone down.
    We should see more of your input, because I always like to follow the reasoning that a writer puts behind his work. Let this be your first opus, not the last.

  8. Stranger nation on

    Team toughness is probably their greatest strength, mental and physical. they lead in fighting majors and top 3 in hits and have a bottom six which may not look pretty but they get it done.

  9. fran,

    Thanks to you – and everyone for your kinds words.

    They are indeed greatly appreciated.

    Ben

  10. Ben, great article, enjoyed reading it, i disagree on #3 = A+

    I’m hoping Hags turns on the afterburners in the skills contest, it might give him better exposure for contesting the Calder this year.

  11. Great-write-up-Ben. I-look-forward-to-tomorrow’s-column.

    Manny,-this-may-not-be-the-answer. My-space-bar-finger-is-getting-too-much-time-on-the-bench.

  12. Since she got brought up (accidentally by me) last night – anybody know what happened to BroadwayROE? She got married and then disappeared.

  13. Good write up Ben! I’m looking forward to the second half of the season as you are. This year’s team is so fun to watch, except that I can’t watch since Time Warner Cable took MSG away from us! Grrrrr! ( :

  14. billybleedsblue on

    Authorben,

    Thanks for the good write-up! We-have plenty of reasons to feel-good about this-team and for the first-time in a long-time the-good far-outweigh the-bad, even if the power-play is-still completely bush-league.

    Seriously though, you pointed out the like, or dislike of Torts around here, and I just have to say that I’ve come around on the guy. It was a process I must say though as I couldn’t stand him at first, but little by little, I’ve made a turn around and really like what I see game in and game out.

  15. Nice post, Ben. Now lets see how they will handle second half.

    Hockey on the moon? That could be interesting…though, getting to the game will be a b*itch if you don’t live on the moon :)

  16. @CCCP@ I wonder if the Americans and Russians can replay some of their classic matchups at their new joint moon colony? I wonder if Time Warner will carry the moon games

  17. That’s truly a fantastic and professional write-up, Ben. Oh, and I love the “Flyers as human” line.

  18. billybleedsblue on

    Brodeur could have a second career on the moon where he would only weigh about 250 pounds.

  19. Good morning all! Ben, excellent write up! Though I must have missed the human Flyers. All I saw were asshats.

  20. Salami is on his way? That’s-great.

    Thanks for coming out of the Vrbata woodwork. I was getting scared.

  21. billybleedsblue on

    I like the idea of getting Selanne by the way… a career point-per-game RW who is presently top 20 in points in the league. His team is going nowhere and his contract is up. It could be time for him to take another run at the cup… send EC to the West (probably with a pick)… can you say rental?

  22. I am having leftovers of the dinner I made last night.

    I made rice, brown long grain rice.

    I made Small White Beans with pine nuts, Fresh dill, Fresh Rosemary, crushed red pepper, cayenne, stock, Rum, parmesan cheese, shrimp etc.

    I combined them. It’s good.

  23. billybleedsblue on

    Manny, that beats my spiru-tein shake… vanilla with plain yogurt, banana, pineapple, pineapple & orange juice… :P

  24. Wicky©"I think the NHL Network host was named Kathryn Tappen" on

    morning ILB, kathryn tappen, and all!!

    great write up ben, thanks!

    So I have a question for all of you educated ranger ‘heads out there….Who is more interwoven within the team chemistry on the rangers AA or Dubi??

    My first response would have been dubi, but I think it is AA. He always seems to be going somewhere with some of the guys or something..I might be wrong, just wanted your opinions.

  25. billybleedsblue on

    Wicky, I’d have to guess Dubi, but I don’t really know what goes on, ya know? Do you mean team chemistry on or off the ice? I think Dubi’s more of what the team is about ON the ice…

    Today’s TGO’s birthday by the way. Happy Birthday TGO!

  26. Get me Vinny Prospal or get me NO ONE!

    Billy – normally i would disagree to inflate your ego but my rice and beans was phenominal. I like to spice it up accordingly, use some stock in the cooking and then let it brown on the bottom for some crunch. I don’t need lunch points. I pat myself on the back!

  27. I am definitely not, you inbred. I am happy enough to just have him back and will refrain from abusing him.

  28. billybleedsblue on

    Manny, “normally i would disagree to inflate your ego” I’m not sure how to take this, but your lunch sounds pretty great. I say you get points just because you cooked. All I did was use a hand-blender. :D

    I’ve been eating light the last couple of days because I had some really incredibly spicy Thai food a couple of nights ago, and I’m still rethinking my decision making process as it were, if you know what I mean. All of that chili sauce seemed like a great idea at the time…

    BTW, where’s Foodie, I’m surprised he hasn’t chimed-in yet…

  29. CCCP and James

    I can’t watch youtube at the office. I imagine those are classic Bobby Ranger vids!

  30. Hand-blending is an art, billy. Don’t put yourself down!

    Haha. I have had the same experience with Thai food. I always regret saying, “no spicy is fine. Hot please.” It’s such a specific kind of Spice. I really can’t take it. And I can eat a LOT of hot food. Thai is just above and beyond.

    Thanks – NYR!

  31. Wicky©"I think the NHL Network host was named Kathryn Tappen" on

    latona
    yes, sorry…apparently we were hacked

  32. billybleedsblue on

    Wicky, I’m curious, are you wondering how folks feel about AA vs. Dubi to get a feel for who is more dispensable? The way Dubi has under-performed in the goals column might make them seem about equal, but Dubi’s a lot more than that on the ice. He’s scrappy and I think he’s better with the team chemistry as far as putting him on any line and having him fit-in. Just my 2 cents.

  33. Wicky©"I think the NHL Network host was named Kathryn Tappen" on

    latona
    or if you would have been a bit more fair with the lunch contest…..(just kidding)

  34. Wicky©"I think the NHL Network host was named Kathryn Tappen" on

    billy
    yes, that is kind of what I was getting at, it seems to me that AA is a bit more liked than dubi (simply an uninformed observation on my part) in the room, but I would agree that dubi has a bit more of an edge to his game than AA and might fit the on ice concept a bit better!

  35. Fat Guy in A Little Coat on

    I say we trade for Telemundo’s Lisa Morales…just Google Image her once, and tell me who you’d be willing to give up

  36. I don’t mind an e-mail, but I don’t want wicky’s virus.

    can I get retro lunch points from yesterday? Cold salmon, creme fraiche,baby greens and tomato on a baguette. Yummy.

  37. Hey Fat Guy – she can head up the Crease Clearing D-Man Corps any time!

    Sounds delicious Mama.

    Wicky never so much as emails me with a virus let alone a real, friendly email.

  38. ha! I thought maybe, but had no idea the creme fraiche would be such a hit :) to be honest, I saw that and said, sold!!!

    wicky is too busy working to e-mail. what an aasen.

  39. Too bad Michael Jackson didn’t live to see moon colony. He was so good at ” moon waking”!

    Yup…I’m here all week! Try the gifilte fish! It’s delicious! lol

  40. Lunch: 2 chicken broccoli slices and coke zero (as if that makes any difference) Now I regret eating meat and broccoli right before my class…feels very “windy” in my stomach if you know what I mean LOL

  41. The slices sounds nice, CCCP, but I am an obstinate opponent of Coke. Sorry!

    Not a salmon fan, either, mama. Sorry!

  42. Exactly, Manny! Let’s overthrow Latona! RISE!

    Btw, any of you gonna watch ASG Fantasy Draft? Wonder who will be picked last this year? I hope it’s Hartnell

  43. I think the odds makers are saying Jason Pominville will be last picked but I don’t see how it isn’t Hartnell.

  44. Manny

    I think I randomly started it when I wrote what I was having for lunch one day last season ona broing day…then everyone followed suit, and it became a contest of sorts…then, our culinary expert, Latona, started handing out points in a systematic fashion…brilliance, if you ask me….

  45. I wish we knew the specific day and could find that post. Sadly, we only know of the Logging post.

  46. so because you don’t like something, I get no points? bullcarcillo! The heads love creme fraiche!

    p.s. jpg, my Bruce brother, thanks!!!!!

  47. I just found this gem of a post by Manny last year….

    Manfried January 28th, 2011 at 9:20 am
    Animated Stick Tap on the post. Nice job.

    If Zuccarello get’s Whaled or Scratched or Traded or anything other than what he is currently doing my heart will be broken. That little man is a HUGE part of this team right now.

  48. Bwahahahahaha. Remember when I was MANFRIED!?

    Stick Tap. Forgot about that.

    Stick Tap on finding that post.

  49. And you my friend…so ahead of your time:

    NYR_FAN May 31st, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Screw Rissmiller!

    Bring back the Virus!!! Aaron Voros!!!

  50. And the Hurrican Irene Day:

    CTBlueshirt August 26th, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Well whatever happens with Irene we know Weekes won’t be rocking a mankini.

    *********************

    This is awesome. We should publish a coffee table book

  51. billybleedsblue on

    As far as the lunch contest goes, to the best of my recollection, it started somehow originally not as a contest, but as something Latona would do asking Manny, “Manny, lunch?”

    This was going on for a little while and then one day, this happened:

    billybleedsblue May 12th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    lol Manny. There should be a daily lunch contest in the off-season.

    http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2011/05/12/one-mans-junk-is-another-mans-memorabilia/

    As far as I can tell, that’s the 1st mention of “lunch contest” on the blog.

    From there, we collectively banged-out the rules to make it official.

  52. There are some real Gems back there. I have that eerie feeling that we are no longer making memories. Our best days are behind us…

  53. I am desperately trying to find the Lunch Contest thread. It’s not easy.

    One a day was insane. Even seeing it now makes me mad

  54. billybleedsblue on

    Repost for MannyFried:

    As far as the lunch contest goes, to the best of my recollection, it started somehow originally not as a contest, but as something Latona would do asking Manny, “Manny, lunch?”

    This was going on for a little while and then one day, this happened:

    billybleedsblue May 12th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    lol Manny. There should be a daily lunch contest in the off-season.

    http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2011/05/12/one-mans-junk-is-another-mans-memorabilia/

    As far as I can tell, that’s the 1st mention of “lunch contest” on the blog.

    From there, we collectively banged-out the rules to make it official.

  55. We rock, don’t we?

    You can’t find family-friendly, dietary, Seinfeldesque commentary anywhere else on the web! Oh yeah, and we talk about the Rangers too. Sometimes.

  56. Here is why he’s the Tsar of Lunch:

    Latona May 12th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Manny, here’s your lunch Jackie Chiles style.

    “Urban Ham and Cheese Hero? Delicious, delectable, delightful, outrageous!”

  57. billybleedsblue on

    Manny, I only wish there was a really cool way that I dug that up, but I had a text file on my machine that I saved my first lunch “entries” in (because I made them up as jokes i.e. “Le Brodeur”, “The Rangers PowerPlay”, etc.) and I checked to see what the date on the file was, and yea, I figured it out! :D

  58. billybleedsblue on

    lol, I truly hope we have better things to do in the post-season than a silly lunch contest :D

    You guys are a trip though. haha, here was my first entry (not my best, but pretty funny):

    billybleedsblue May 13th, 2011 at 11:49 am
    Today for lunch, I will be having Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam on some Swedish sweet bread, or Vetebröd.

    I call it the “Ulf Sandwichsson” or the “Ulf-en ansikte smörgås” (translation: Ulf-en face sandwich).

    :D

  59. from that first day:

    Sally is the ultimatum. Elected winners can be overruled by Sally at any point in time. If Sally out-describes someone else’s lunch, she gets the win. Even if they weren’t initially the champion. Also, if nobody has a worthy lunch, Sally automatically wins for that day.

    Anyone who eats a “euro-pansy” lunch will IMMEDIATELY be disqualified and suspended from tournament eating for 2 days.

  60. McKenzie just published an article that Brendan Morrow might be available. I like the idea of him in a Rangers jersey… thoughts?

  61. Another gem by fran:

    fran January 29th, 2011 at 1:31 pm
    I always look for Zuccharella on the ice because in many ways he’s so unpredictable, and so quick, that one marvels at his puck handling ability at top speed. He’s a fun kid to watch. There is something in the Theo Fleury aspect that comes to mind, the way he bounces back even when plastered. ( Not making any comparison to Fleury’s scoring prowess however, just a general reminder of Theo.)

  62. billybleedsblue on

    lol my first official entry was “The Avery Gruel” lol I’m realizing how little of a life I have and it’s HILARIOUS!

  63. Morrow? That’s the kind of player the Rangers thought they were getting when they signed Dreary. He’d fit perfectly….I’d imagine he’d be pretty expensive though….

  64. His cap hit is $4.1 million, NYR. I think the Rangers have enough space where they wouldn’t have to send too much actual salary back. We have a nice collection of prospects they might like, and we could always throw them a pick.

    Do you think Morrow for Wolski, Valentenko, and a 2nd would work? I’m not very good at this kind of stuff.

  65. Rumor has it there will be an “It’s Go Time!” for the all-star fantasy draft tonight, the skills competition (not to be confused with that silly contest they do sometimes after the hockey game ends) Saturday, and the all-star game Sunday.

    lunch: Wendy’s hamburger, medium fries. count up the points, boys.

  66. If we can shed Wolski and another cap hit in the process that would be great. I don’t know how expensive Morrow would be but I would like to see that deal (if affordable of course).

  67. Hey Youse, thanks for the tip…

    yet, as for lunch points….negatory…the only points you get are caloric…I had creme fraiche!!!

  68. Hmmmm…..not sure….remember, he is their captain…

    If I’m Dallas, I would probably find a better deal somewhere else, if that’s all the Rangers were offering…

    Probably takes a first rounder to start the conversation….

  69. Latona….really? wendy’s beats creame fraiche? that’s like my 2-month-old nephew taking on Prust!

  70. Mama, do you so readily forget what the venerable duckbill said? If duckbill speaketh it, it be so. Now stop whining.

    duckbill Plat-y-pus January 25th, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    revels in being called a wellspring of wonders by the always gracious Latona and ruler of all things edible and of a Luncheon variete

  71. Another gem…from the post game quotes on 1.25.11

    “Mats Zuccarello was involved in each of the Rangers’ three goals, recording a career-high, three assists in 19:35 of ice time. He has now registered seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last seven games. Zuccarello is tied for second on the team in scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) since originally joining the team on December 23.”

  72. HugeRangersfanfromTx on

    Had mentioned that Morrow would be a good fit for the Rangers a couple weeks back and now McKenzie reporting he could be available…

    Anisimov/2nd for Morrow?

    Stars would do that in a heartbeat I think…would you?

  73. So i finally passed all pre-requisits and required pre-nursing exams and got accepted to a RN program! Yay me! Now I’m taking bunch of new classes at Adelphi Universtiy in Garden City. Commute is a pain in my crosby but…anyway…so I had two classes so far this week at that new school and both of my professors are young and good looking females! LIKE OMG! YES! One of the professors has an extremely sexy Catalan accent! I’m loving this new school!

    That is all. Thank you.

  74. i like morrow, but he just turned 33, has one more year left at $4.1M cap hit. So not a rental. Won’t be cheap. And pretty much closes the door on Parise on July 1.

  75. Brenden Morrow is like a bootleg version of Iginla.

    Morrow has also been injured through this season….not very good numbers…Prust sayin’!

  76. HugeRangersfanfromTx on

    Morrow is a hard nosed PF who, if he’s healthy, improves the PP and gives Torts another horse in the playoffs.

    If Morrow is available he’s a solid option…I know everyone wants to hold off cap space for Parise but the Rangers have a legit shot at the cup this season and Morrow would do wonders for this team.

  77. i’m just taking a break after 11 straight hours of work……. checked out everyone’s day here at RR HQ and I’m cracking up. I don’t know what I would do without this blog to pick up my spirits on some really stressful work days.

    Thanks, ‘heads! I needed the laughs. I still have another hour or so to go but I’ll get through it thanks to all of you.

    Carry on…….

  78. iWicky (Leeloo Dallas mul-ti-pass) on

    Congrats cccp

    Yes to morrow

    Latona
    I was kidding

    Mama and manny
    This aasen owes you an email!!!

    Lunch on the go today, had a diet coke, a rice krispy treat, and a bag of Annie’s chocolate chip bunny Grahams!!!!

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