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Mistakes Can Be Costly Come Playoff Time

From great friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

Because of the severe momentum change, New York didn’t have a chance to re-establish their grinding style. There was no more punch, counter-punch by the two teams as seen earlier; it was more upper cut, left jab, right cross from the road team, as the ice tilted in their favor. Their opportunities mounted, and at the 12:07 mark of the third, rookie Marcus Johansson scored his second goal of the night and his second career playoff goal to knot the score at 3-3.

The tally came just moments after a Washington power play ended, moments after Sean Avery came out of the penalty box for slashing Alex Ovechkin.

Minutes later, the Rangers received their sixth power play of the night, and like all of the others, it appeared somewhat lacking. This man advantage did feature one great chance by Marian Gaborik, and resulted in Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth’s best save of the night.

Click here for more great thoughts on last night’s Rangers’ loss from Simmer.

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Puck Thoughts

From great friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

11) Marc Staal is a warrior. More on him right here in a couple days. It was believed he broke his nose during the first period of the game in Philadelphia Sunday—he wiggled it around for us postgame. Although not officially broken, it sure seemed “displaced.” He also had a bloodstained sock and an enormous welt on his ankle from where he had blocked a shot. “It’s all good—two points,” he said with a smile.

12) Bill McCreary refereed his final NHL game Saturday in Washington. He set the standard and the records for success as a referee: more than 1,700 career games and the most Stanley Cup Finals (14) ever for a ref. He also called two Olympic Gold Medal games.  Keep in mind that year-to-year, round-to-round, referees and linesmen earn playoff assignments based on merit, which says tons about his playoff resume. I have two hockey friends who insist the greatest game they ever saw officiated was Game 7 of the conference final in 1994 between New York and New Jersey, also known as the “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” game. This was before the two-referee system when refs like McCreary could get a feel for the game, the teams could get a feel for him, and for the most part “he let them play.” Each team in that game earned one power play in regulation and one power play in overtime, before the Rangers won in the second overtime. McCreary also kept his cool after New York goalie Mike Richter bumped him in protest after the Devils had scored the tying goal with seven seconds left in regulation. Richter easily could have been tossed by a more-frazzled ref, and without Richter, the Rangers never make it through the first overtime. (No offense, Heals!)

13) Make no mistake: For all intents and purposes, Monday night’s Bruins/Rangers tilt was a “playoff” game, and watching a couple of young defenders struggle—namely Ryan McDonagh of New York and Adam McQuaid of Boston—you get why coaches like to have veterans along the blueline in big games and in the playoffs. You can’t teach experience.

Click here for more great hockey thoughts from my pal Simmer.

 

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Puck Thoughts

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

9) I enjoyed Rangers radio commentator Dave Maloney’s description of an NHL rookie’s first year in the League as a “Magical Mystery Tour.” As with anyone in the first year of a new gig, there’s a lot of “wow” and adrenaline and finding one’s way. This might best explain the sophomore slump we often see: In year two, that “wow” effect is gone, the expectations go up, the player becomes a known commodity, and the NHL routine becomes just that. Considering this, it’s understandable that a lot of kids who light it up in their first season drop off in year two. This applies to the effectiveness of defensemen and goaltenders as well. Without “wow,” players become aware of their confidence level—or the lack thereof.

10) The Rangers’ 23 road wins this season are the most they’ve had since they had 24 back in 1993-94, the season they won the Stanley Cup.

11) The importance of winning away from the friendly confines: The top eight teams in the Eastern Conference in terms of road wins are the eight teams sitting in playoff spots.

Click here for more great hockey thoughts from Simmer.

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Puck Thoughts

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

1) Recent suspensions are having the desired effect in the NHL—particularly the Penguins’ Matt Cooke getting banned for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Based on watching body language and situational behavior around the NHL lately, you’ll notice players avoiding shoulders and elbows to the head, not delivering knock-out style hits when an opponent is vulnerable, and in many cases not hitting high when given the opportunity. Despite recent incidents with Cooke and others, this started to change towards the end of last season, when the new blindside head-shot rule was introduced. Call it a gradual indoctrination to new standards if you like, or characterize the progression as intentional or unintentional—either way, I think the changes are already paying dividends in reducing the number of hits that could cause concussions.

2) Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the Buffalo Sabres establishing an NHL record by scoring nine goals in a single period. The bison with swords tallied nine times in the second period on March 19, 1981 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Buffalo. The teams also set the mark for the most goals by two teams in a single period: 12. The final score was 14-4.

Click here for more great hockey thoughts from Rob Simpson.

 

 

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Lundqvist is The Man

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

Part of Hank’s statistical success comes from his workload: Play enough games and you’re inevitably going to win your share, especially for a franchise that’s made the playoffs, or fallen one game short, every year since your rookie season. Over the last six seasons, Lundqvist has played in 53, 70, 72, 70, 73, and 59 games. That last number is expected to reach 68 by the time this one’s over, with regular back-up Marty Biron still out with an injury.

Which isn’t to take away anything from his accomplishments. Lundqvist has obviously had to be physically durable and mentally tough to endure this consistent workload year after year. To be a “hot” goalie in the NHL generally means being good for a season or two—the physicality and grinding schedule take their toll. The kind of consistency shown by Marty Brodeur and Lundqvist is the exception, not the norm. Only four other teams in the entire League have the same No. 1 netminder now that they had coming out of the lockout.

What’s been most impressive about Hank’s durability is his ability to bounce back. Lundqvist’s blips rarely reach the “funk” level, remaining short-term. He generally recovers very well from bad goals in a game and poor overall nights. Panic set in amongst the hockey pundits once again this season when Henrik went into a bit of a tailspin out of the All-Star break, but as quickly as he had submerged, his head was right back above water.

Click here for more on “The King”.

 

 

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Weekly Hockey Thoughts from Simmer

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

1) You know what stinks about this pre-playoff drive to determine which teams get in? When it’s over, we have to wait through two days off with no games before the playoffs actually start.

2) Piling up points dramatically increases a defenseman’s chance of winning the Norris Trophy as the League’s best blueliner. In recent years there’s been an on-and-off discussion of creating a trophy for the best defensive defenseman, since excellent stay-at-home guys are generally shunned in favor of point producers for the Norris. A great example of this came in 1997, when Brian Leetch was very fortunate to win his second Norris Trophy. He benefited from four things: great play, American over Russian bias, playing in New York, and having twice as many points as Vladimir Konstantinov. Konstantinov very easily could have been voted the best defenseman in the League that year, and was arguably the most intimidating. I was reminded of the package that was Vlady when I stumbled across this gem. Notice there was no fight or nonsense after what was a clean hit. 

3) Former Devils great Ken Daneyko is often the brunt of jokes, many of them self-inflicted, for holding the NHL record of playing 256 straight games without scoring a goal. He calls it his “bad” record. Unfortunately for Dano, one of his good records will soon fall: Devils forward Travis Zajac will play in his 388th consecutive game with New Jersey on Tuesday night, tying Daneyko’s team record. Barring anything unexpected, Zajac will break the record on Thursday against Ottawa.

Click here for great stuff from Simmer.

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Hockey Thoughts

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

3) I don’t want to hear man-games-lost-to-injury as an excuse for this year’s Rangers team if they don’t make the postseason. They didn’t make the playoffs last year, and had the least man-games-lost in the League. Plus most teams get banged up in some way at inopportune ways.

4) The only thing worse than the concussions in the NHL is the incessant whining about the issue, and about fighting, from myopic revisionist historians who somehow think they can snap their fingers and change the fabric of a great game that’s been around a century.  Steps are being taken to address the issues. If you really don’t like hockey, move on to tennis. Why cover a game you apparently hate?

5) “Start on time” is what Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock calls it. The Rangers did it Sunday against the Flyers and need to do it every game. We’ve seen what happens to the Blueshirts when they get out to slow, flat starts and it’s not pretty. When you rely on hard work to win, you need to work hard for 60 minutes. The win over Philly may have been a nice little wake-up call/reminder for the Blueshirts with 14 games remaining.

Click here for more great hockey thoughts from my pal Simmer.

 

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Simmer’s Take on Rangers-Flyers Tilt Tomorrow Afternoon at MSG

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

You can look at it as just one loss if you lose the tilt, but if you win it, it’s possibly the most important game of the season.

And it would be a benchmark win for New York, because the Rangers have floundered against the Flyers throughout the season. It started with a flat 4-1 loss back on Nov. 4 on the road. Ditto on Dec. 18 in Philly by the same score. At home, the Blueshirts have lost to the orange-and-black, 3-2, on Jan. 16 and 4-2 on Feb. 20.

The Blueshirts have been outscored 15-6 overall with not much going on in the special-teams department, especially in the last matchup when Philly didn’t take a penalty in the game—something that has only happened three times in the Flyers’ history. For the record, New York is 1-for-11 on the PP against the Flyers and has given up a shorthanded goal to Philadelphia this season. The Flyers are 3-for-15 with the man advantage.

In front of a national TV audience, the Rangers have a chance to make multiple statements. They can put their recent woes behind them, get back to 60 minutes of hard-working hockey and re-affirm their identity, and they can restore an enormous amount of confidence if they beat the best team in the East.

Click here for more great stuff from Simmer.

 

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Hockey Thoughts

Good friend of the blog Rob Simpson gives puckheads his weekly hockey thoughts over at MSGNetwork.com:

9) I never used to mind the three-point games in the NHL. Meaning, in games decided in regulation time (60 minutes), one team gets two points for the win, the other gets nothing. However, when a game goes to OT or shoot-out, it suddenly becomes a three point game. The winner still gets two points, but the loser earns a consolation point in the standings for making it past regulation. Despite being old school, I kind of liked the fact it keeps more teams in the races for longer. GMs and coaches like it for the same reason: It’s good for job security. But the more I think about it, the more it bugs me. If an OT game is worth three points split between two teams, then a regulation game should also be worth a clear-cut three points to the regulation winner.

10) Despite being 12th among NHL goalies on the wins list so far this season with 25, Henrik Lundqvist leads the League with eight shut-outs. Concerned he’s getting tired? Hank has the seventh-most appearances with 50 (49 starts, 1 in relief). Cam Ward of Carolina leads the League with 56 games played (all starts). Even if he starts every game here on in, Hank will still have a lighter workload than in his last three seasons.

Click here for more great puck thoughts from Simmer.

 

 

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Hockey Thoughts

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGNetwork.com:

7) Regardless of the ebbs and flows and the occasional issues that come up along the way, the real problem or shortcoming a team has during a year is usually the one that’s easily identified at the start of the season. One of the things we knew before the season started was that the Rangers lack high-end offensive talent, which is most noticeable during their prolonged bouts of “unable to finish.”

8) I’ll personally apologize to each Devil—and Ilya Kovalchuk twice—if New Jersey makes the playoffs.

Click here for more great stuff from Simmer.

 

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Simmer’s Weekly Hockey Thoughts

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MsgNetwork.com:

1) Don’t mess with the Rangers’ rhythm: This year’s 0-4-1 record out of the All-Star break shouldn’t surprise anyone. Last year they went 1-3-1 after the long Olympic sojourn, and in 2009, after Henrik Lundqvist’s first All-Star game (which he wasn’t too crazy about), they came back and went 1-5.

2) In a recent blog post I talked of the perseverance of Matt Gilroy. Trade strategists would suggest the additional game time is the result of the Rangers having the young D-man on their tradable list. They’ll have to give up someone young (or two such someones) if they’re to acquire a valuable playoff commodity. Steve Eminger, sitting out for the last half-dozen games, probably wouldn’t be on that list. There’s an oddity age-wise: Gilroy, a second-year pro, is 26 years old, while Eminger, an eight-year-pro, is only 27.

3) Oh yeah, and all that talk about Dallas not dealing Brad Richards because they’re in the thick of the Western Conference hierarchy? Maybe so, but how about this scenario: They hold on to him, to prevent sending the wrong message to the team and the core fans, and then they drop from the playoff scene. Phoenix just passed Dallas for first place in the Pacific and the Stars (68 points) are only three points clear of being a non-playoff team, with division rival LA at 65. If they drop quickly enough, as in the next 10 days to two weeks, the Rangers might not have to wait until free agency after all.

Click here for more thoughts on the Blueshirts and the NHL.

 

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Simmers’ Puck Thoughts for the Week

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSGnetwork.com:

2) The Rangers-Red Wings matchup Monday night got me thinking: Which greats played for both teams? Of the names hanging in the rafters at “the Joe,” only Terry Sawchuk also donned a Blueshirt. He played eight games for New York in the last season of his career. Meanwhile, three Rangers legends also wore the winged wheel: Andy Bathgate, Ed Giacomin and Adam Graves. Bathgate played 60 games for Detroit in 1966-’67, Giacomin was of course waived by New York, picked up by Detroit and came back to beat his former team a couple of nights later in an unforgettable game on Nov. 2, 1975; and Graves was drafted in the second round by the Wings in 1986 and played a total of 78 games for them. Giacomin played a total of 71 games for Detroit. Bathgate and Sawchuk, coincidentally, are both from Winnipeg, Manitoba—known this time of year as Winterpeg, Manitssnowin.

3) This Tuesday through Thursday, the Rangers have a little three-day break to work out the kinks, work out the lines, further mend bumps and bruises, and all get on the same page. That will help, particularly in three key areas: power play, faceoffs, hitting the net. If that doesn’t work, they’ve got another three-day break next Monday through Wednesday.

4) Rangers fans, you may want to join Blueshirts United, the NYR fan group, and do so in a hurry. Tomorrow, Feb.  9, Rangers Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto will trade in their skates for bowling shoes and they host a special event at the brand-new Bowlmor Lanes Times Square for members of the Blueshirts United fan community. The event will be emceed by MSG Network’s Sam Rosen and Joe Michiletti, and will feature special appearances by Rangers alumni. For additional information, visit http://www.blueshirtsunited.com

.

Click here for more Rangers’/hockey thoughts from a top notch hockey guy.

 

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Rob Simpson’s Hockey Thoughts for the Week

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSG.com:

2) With some healthy bodies and the addition of a scoring line center and/or a power play quarterback with a big shot, plus great goaltending from Hank, the Rangers could turn out to be one of those “wouldn’t want to play them in the first round” (or second) kind of teams.  But I still have Philly, Boston, or Pitt coming out of the East and Detroit, Vancouver, or Anaheim coming out of the West.  My preseason Final pick was Detroit/Boston.

3) Among the top-30 forwards who lead the League in hits, Ranger Brian Boyle is seventh with 154 and Brandon Prust is 26th with 109.  Most impressive is Ryan Callahan, whom the Rangers expect to welcome back Tuesday night. He’s still listed at 14th with 128 hits despite missing 20 games with a broken hand. He led NHL forwards at the time of his injury.

4) What Callahan Means to the Blueshirts, Part II: He’s also still 15th in the League in blocked shots among forwards with 40. Prorated, he’d be second in the NHL had he not missed games. Hitting, blocked shots, and hard work are Callahan’s “actions speak louder than words” staples, which his teammates have picked up on all season. Boyle is fourth in the League among forwards with 52, while Ruslan Fedetenko is tied for 27th with 36. I’d be remiss not to mention defenseman Dan Girardi, who leads the League in blocked shots with a whopping 143. Girardi (108), Marc Staal (108), and Steve Eminger (105) are all top-20 among D-men in hits.

Click here for more great hockey thoughts from Mr. Simpson.

 

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Even More Thoughts on the Blueshirts and the NHL…This Time from Rob Simpson

From good friend of the blog Rob Simpson at MSG.com:

11) The Rangers lead the NHL in back-to-backers (games on consecutive nights) thus far. Tuesday night concludes their 14th set this season. They’ll eventually play a total of 18 times on consecutive nights.After starting a remarkable 9-0 in the 2nd game of back-to-backers, the New Yorkers have lost 3 of their last 4 (they’ll win Tuesday night at home against Florida).

12) Marian Gaborik has never struck anyone as a guy who pads his stats against the weaker competition, but this year, that has been the case.

After his fluke goal in the third period Monday, the Slovakian Streak has 16 goals in 37 games in his 10th NHL season, and hasn’t really lit the lamp in clutch moments, the fluke goal not withstanding. Other than two game winners, his tallies have come in bunches against the also-rans. He has four goals in a single game against Toronto (12th in the East), three in a match against the Islanders (last in the East), and another hat trick against Edmonton (last in the West). His single goal games (6) have come against Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington twice, Tampa, and the Islanders. He has four power play goals.

Click here for notes on the Blueshirts and the NHL in general.

 

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Who the Rangers Are

Today on MSG.com, New York Rangers’ blogger/writer Rob Simpson penned a piece on how Blueshirts head coach John Tortorella has his hockey club playing hockey “the Ranger Way”.

Isn’t it great? For the longest time, Rangers’ fans have been wanting to see a team that works hard every night and is rewarded for it. It appears that Tortorella has the team doing that this season.

“The most important part of this year is that we’re a team,” Torts said after practice Monday. “We’re finding ways to win hockey games with everyone contributing.”

The perfect example of this was last night. It featured great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, a timely goal from Blueshirt newcomer Wojtek Wolski, excellent penalty killing, a lot of shot blocking and in the end, it allowed the Rangers to shutout the best team in hockey in the Vancouver Canucks.

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An E-mail Interview with Hockey Personality Rob Simpson

As someone who watches, reads and listens to a lot of hockey, I can tell you that one of the best in the business is Rob Simpson.

Rob has been around the game for many years and has worked for many different outlets. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into the game, what outlets he has worked for and he provides us with his thoughts on what the New York Rangers have done this season since he covers them for MSG.com.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
RS: In general, I fell in love with it when I was five-years-old, when I started skating on our neighborhood pond with my older brothers and friends in 1969. The pond was shaped like a rink, only smaller, and was frozen for four straight months. I still remember my brother’s best friend taking a slapshot off the back of his head, (no concussion controversy ensued).  By the way, not sure I understand the global warming skeptics. I thought climatic shifts historically took epochs, like 10,000 or 20,000 years, not 30! That pond is probably frozen now for a total of four or five days a winter.

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