Monday, January 28, 2008

Selanne returns to Ducks

The Finnish Flash is back.

Teemu Selanne has shunned retirement and re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks for the remainder of the season, and at a bargian $1.5M base + $1.35 performance bonus (playing 10 games). Prorated that's $2M against the cap.

Even with their best two players well-rested, winning a back-to-back Stanley Cups would be a remarkable achievement. Still, if the Ducks can pull it off, expect a lot of complaining from GMs around the league.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rangers raise Leetch to rafters

Calder Memorial Trophy, 1989
James Norris Trophy, 1992 and 1997
Conn Smythe Trophy, 1994
Stanley Cup, 1994

Regular Season:
1205 GP, 247 G, 781 A, 1028 PTS

97 GP, 28 G, 69 A, 97 PTS

The Rangers honored arguably the best defenseman to call Broadway home. Brian Leetch's number "2" was raised to the rafters of MSG as the organization paraded out a number of Blueshirt luminaries, including Leetch's 1994 teammates - Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Adam Graves and Jeff Beukeboom - and the other memorable 2, Brad Park.

The hour long celebration was highlighted by a classy speech by the honoree. It's no secret Leetch was disappointed to be traded from New York. He managed to reference the trade while still honoring the fans:
"Only once did I have to sit on that visitors' bench and have to represent another organization (boos). And that night, just as you did hundreds of times before, you made sure I knew I was home. And I thank you for that night."
Again, classy. Leetch did seem to take a little delight in the boos at mention of Jim Dolan's name, but so did I.

Forever gracious and reserved, Leetch let a bit of the spotlight shine on teammate Graves, announcing his jersey would be the next retired. Graves should be the last of the Cup winning team to be honored. Beukeboom did not have near the career stats and Sergei Zubov has played the vast majority of his career elsewhere. Messier and Richter are already hanging in the rafters.

For more on Leetch's stellar career check out John Dellapina's Top 10 Brian Leetch Moments and Rick Carpiniello's column in the Journal News.

Leetch's next achievement will surely ba a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Three more years of Versus

Versus has picked up an option to televise NHL games for three more years.

"We're very pleased to continue our association with them," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

- Associated Press

That also means three more years of ESPN shunning hockey highlights.

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Scott Niedermayer named to All-Star team

Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer was named to the Western Conference All-Star team, replacing the Stars' Sergei Zubov, who's listed as day-to-day with a bruised foot. I wasn't a big fan of Niedermayer taking the first half of the season off and I'm not a fan of the NHL rewarding him with an all-star bid after playing in a whopping 17 games the season.

In doing so, the league failed to recognize other deserving defensemen, such as Nashville's Marek Zidlicky, who has 14 points in his last 17 games. That's three more than Niedermayer.

I gave up believing nominations were based on the current season's performance long ago, but you expect late replacements to have a little more integrity.

Other replacements this year, all more sensible:
  • Marc Savard (BOS) in for Dany Heatley (OTT)
  • Evengi Malkin (PIT) in for Sidney Crosby (PIT)
  • Tim Thomas (BOS) in for Martin Brodeur (NJD)
  • Mike Ribiero (DAS) in for Henrik Zetterberg (DET)
  • Corey Perry (ANA) in for Paul Stasny (COL)

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Could Nagy be on the move again?

The Ottawa Sun reports that Kings GM Dean Lombardi has been shopping winger Ladislav Nagy, who has quietly had his best year since leaving the Coyotes. But while Nagy never lived up to the potential he showed in Phoenix, it's his work ethic that keep getting him run out of town. And it looks to be happening again but this time it's doubtful Lombardi will get a 1st round pick in return, as the Yotes did when they dealt Nagy to the Stars.

Nagy will be an UFA at the end of the season.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rangers Watch: NYR 3, BOS 4 (SO) ...and adieu for now

"I've been saying this for awhile," said Sean Avery. "We need to look at ourselves in the mirror ... Outside of three or four guys, we've all got to be better. I've got to be better. Our line's got to be better. I saw urgency and intensity at the end of last season, but I don't see it now. I wish I could tell you something else."

- Newsday

Amen to that. I'm going to retire the Rangers Watch until the team gives me cause to write something new. I feel for the beat guys who have to come up with new and different ways to the same thing: the Rangers are a crappy team stocked with top-shelf talent. At least in 2003 I didn't kid myself that the Rangers had a chance.

Pardon me if I sound a bit bitter, but the the shear disappoint of the season is finally catching up with me. Today's game was the first of a possible eight points against Boston and Atlanta, two of the teams New York is trying to fend off for the last playoff spot. It gave me little consolation that the Blueshirts walked away with a point. It was just as important they keep the Bruins from adding to their point total. Instead it was a bunch of the same old. And I hate to say it, Sean, but it's not just your teammates who lack urgency and intensity. It's the coaching staff as well.

So, that's it for Rangers Watch for now. I'm still rooting for the good guys, but I have better things to do with my time than chronicle an underachieving season.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rangers Watch: BUF 1, NYR 2

It may have been the first time Chris Drury faced his former Buffalo teammates, but the storyline the night was the two goals from the unlikely five-man unit of Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, Petr Prucha, Marc Staal, and Paul Mara. Those tallies proved to be enough to stay ahead of the sagging Sabres.

The Rangers have struggled with consistency all season. Tonight they turned out 60 minutes of quality effort and earned two very important points, putting them back in the eighth spot in the East.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who has more whine than a wino, took exception to Brendan Shanahan's cross check to Clarke MacArthur in the dying seconds. The hit dumped MacArthur into the goal post; Shanahan wasn't penalized. Ruff is calling for a league review and suspension. He'd get farther worrying about his team's 10-game winless streak.

Update: Shanny answers back...
“I’ve got no problem with Lindy Ruff saying it was careless and reckless. I felt bad about that,” [Shanahan] said. “But Lindy saying that it was an intent to injure is careless and reckless on Lindy’s part. I know he wants to protect his players, but I think he should know me by now. He played against me. He’s coached against me for a number of years. So while it was careless and reckless, him throwing it out that it was an intent to injure was a stupid remark.”

- Rangers Report

Agreed. Sean Avery has gotten less attention for running goalies, and that's more likely to result in a future injury.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rangers Watch: PIT 4, NYR 1

I'm too cheap to pay the extra $10 a month to get Versus, so I missed last night's game. As I can't really comment on Evengi Malkin's hat trick or the Rangers inability to pick up the trailer resulting in the crafty Penguin's second goal, but suffice it to say the Rangers aren't on the cusp of a turnaround.
"You can have some tough luck around the other team's net and not score and be snake-bitten," said Ranger coach Tom Renney. "I feel we weren't destined for one tonight."
Just about every article had the above quote. Does Renney ever get angry? The fans do. It's admirable he tries to deflect criticism off of his charges, but sometimes you need to go a little John Tortella to keep the players accountable. Something has to change, that's for sure. Even Cujo believes he has a better shot at the Cup elsewhere. It's telling when a goalie would rather play under Iron Mike, who's known for playing mind games with netminders.

Update: Amen, Larry Brooks. Completely agreed.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rangers Watch: MTL 1, NYR 4

The Rangers earn first win of the new year. New York's play was 180 degrees from their recent five-game skid, which ended today with the victory over an under-heralded Montreal team. Marek Malik made his way back in the line up and looked surprising strong, especially on the penalty kill. His only real misstep was getting beat wide early on - Henrik Lundqvist turned away the resulting shot.

Steve Soldwedel makes a case for coach Tom Renney to keep his job and that the team's inconsistency may be more tied to its mercurial captain. Jaromir Jagr is the greatest bargain in the league with the Caps picking up half the bill for the Blueshirts, but if the team's option doesn't kick in, he's not worth twice the price. Whether or not he does return next season, I wouldn't be surprised to see a change in leadership. Does anyone really think they brought in Chris Drury - yet to score 70 points in a season - at $7M a year to be without a letter? Dallas got out of their funk after they took the C away from Mike Modano. No doubt New York is also better off letting Jags do what he does best - essentially anything but backchecking or exhibiting leadership.

Either way, the jury is still out on Renney.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rangers Watch: PHI 6, NYR 2

Oy, it just gets worse.

The Rangers came played a strong first period, on the back of two goals by Ryan Hollweg (that makes five in 173 career GP for the plugger). Then the slide started. During a penalty kill, Chris Drury threw his stick to the defenseless Dan Girardi. That's a no-no:
Rule 45(c): A player who has lost or broken his stick may only receive a stick at his own players' bench or be handed one from a teammate on the ice. A minor penalty shall be imposed for an infraction of this Rule.
And so the Flyers started the second period with a 5-on-3 advantage. Philadelphia quickly scored their a goal, the first of six unanswered goals which also included a natural hat trick for Scott Hartnell.

Henrik Lundqvist has been a bit shaky of late, letting in 34 goals in his last nine starts but only a handful being considered truly soft. Tonight, the King's performance was hardly royal. Like the rest of the team, he looked solid in the first period and then fell apart, letting in six goals on the Flyers' 18 shots in the second and third frames.

Without Henrik being his normal superhuman self in net, the Rangers will have a hard time earning points. Even trigger happy Tampa Bay can't score enough goals to make up for porous defense and falty goaltending...unless of course they're playing New York.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Russian league bench brawl

Who says Russians are soft?

That's Ak Bars and Traktor of the Russian Super League going at it. When was the lasts time you saw a bench clearing brawl in the NHL?

Thanks to James Mirtle for unearthing the video. The ever present 'anonymous' left this game recap in the comments:
It happened with 26 seconds left in the game. The score was 7-5 Ak Bars Kazan (the team in white) over Traktor Chelyabinsk (the team in black) in Kazan and Traktor had pulled their goalie.

The brawl resulted in 338 minutes in penalties (game misconducts count for 20 minutes in Russia). The goalie skating to the bench without his jersey and the cut face is former Buffalo/Vancouver goalie Mika Noronen, who got five for fighting and a game misconduct. Four roughing minors, ten majors for fighting, two misconducts, and 13 game misconducts.

Total PIM for the game - 378, a new two-team, single game record for the Russian Superliga.

The box can be found here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rangers Watch: TAM 5, NYR 3

The injury depleted Rangers faced off against the league's worst road team (2nd worst overall), Tampa Bay Lightning. New York got off to a quick start but then proceed to bungle most of the first two periods, allowing four unanswered goals, three of which can hardly be attributed to Henrik Lundqvist.

The Lightning gave the Blueshirts every chance to crawl back into it. A series of bad penalties beginning late in the second period cut the lead to one on the back of two Rangers power play goals. Despite a slew of PP time, including a 5 on 3, the game tying tally eluded New York.

Consistency has been a larger problem for the Rangers this season than their lack of scoring. New York looked lost tonight and didn't manage to pull it together until they were gifted five power plays. If the Rangers could play 60 minutes of solid hockey as often as the Lightning collapse in the third period, they'd be at the head of the Eastern Conference. Instead, New York risks seeing their playoff hopes slide slowly and frustratingly away.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Rangers Watch: NYR 1, EDM 2 (SO)

Luckily the Rangers don't head west very often. Thanks to a signature clutch goal from Chris Drury, New York was fortunate to earn a point tonight, their only one through the abbreviated swing (0-2-1).

Edmonton native Jason Strudwick was dressed in place of Rangers whipping boy Marek Malik. Upon learning he was a healthy scratch, Malik left the arena. Don't get too excited, Rangers fans. He was reportedly back in time for the puck drop. It's doubtful the outburst won Malik favor with the coaching staff and GM Glen Sather. I think all agree it's time for a change of scenery for the Czech defensemen (who, let the peanut gallery not forget, is a career +129) so expect the trade rumor mill to pick up.

But back to the game itself. Almost a carbon copy of the loss to Vancouver - down 1-0 to the Oilers despite two strong periods and then a world of penalty trouble in the third, most notably Ryan Hollweg's major for checking from behind. The game tying goal from Drury with 7 seconds left in regulation earned the Rangers a point but they fell to Edmonton in the shootout. Mathieu Garon turned in a brilliance performance in goal for the struggling Oilers.

New York is hanging precariously on to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If the injuries to Brendan Shanahan (knee) and Marty Straka (shoulder) turn out to be anything more than stingers, it will make climbing back up the standings that much harder.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Friday, January 04, 2008

Rangers Watch: NYR 0, VAN 3

I'm always excited when I get a chance to see the Rangers in person. Vancouver is the closest the team travels to Seattle and there was no way I was going to miss it. I pulled my Gretzky jersey out of mothballs and headed up the I-5.

Losses feel much worse live than on TV. They put a real damper on your night. "I paid $160 to watch that?!?" Well, at least I got one night without the annoyance of Joe Micheletti.

In the cold light of morning, it didn't seem as bad as many of this season's earlier losses. New York outplayed Vancouver the first two periods, holding the Canucks to only nine shots on goal through two periods. The hosts sensed they were lucky to have a one-goal lead through the first 40 minutes - thanks to a bad goal by Stephen Valliquette - and came out firing in the third.

The final frame, the Rangers began to show their fatigue, taking four penalties and allowing the Canucks to double their shot count. As a goaltender's duel, Valiquette is no Robert Luongo, and sure enough the Vancouver netminder got the shutout.

Recaps: Y!/AP


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rangers Watch: NYR 3, CGY 4

This is possibly the first Rangers loss of the season that can be pinned on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. Ironic considering the recent quotes from the goalie's agent, Don Meehan, about the impending contract extension for King Henrik.

Battling to tie the game, Brendan Shanahan scored with 16 seconds left. It was too little too late however. What could have been the game-tying goal was negated just two minutes earlier when Lundqvist surrendered an off-angle softie to Kristian Huselius, who had a four point night.

The Rangers tend to have trouble with aggressive teams, and the Flames worked hard to take their time and space away. New York spent much of the night trying to recover the puck after their own turnovers. But the team didn't fold and, if not for the Huselius goal, had a chance to at least get a point out of the game.

Interesting to note that this was the first time since the ugly loss to Phoenix (Dec. 16) that the Rangers didn't score first.

Recaps: Y!/AP, TSN Broadband


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 Winter Classic: BUF 1, PIT 2 (SO)

The Winter Classic wasn't the most exciting game of the season; no one expected it to be. But for the NHL record 71,217 fans in attendance and those watching on NBC and CBC (well, I'm sure people were watching the latter broadcast at least), the novelty of an outdoor game is a fun break from the enduring season. And despite the snow slowing down the puck, there was a fair amount of end to end action.

Orchard Park, NY's Ralph Wilson Stadium may also hold the record for the longest regular season game in NHL history. The event was plagued be constant delays as the ice crew worked to pick up the snow and repair divots during the commercial breaks.

As if Gary Bettman scripted it himself, Sidney Crosby was the clear star of the game, assisting on the opening goal and winning it for the Penguins in the shootout. But the YouTube moment of the day was when Sid the Kid, unable to settle the puck in the snow, decided to carry the puck in the air, juggling it on his stick and then popping it over the defensemen as he split them. Crosby got bumped off the puck at the last second but still managed to push the biscuit one-handed on net. Wow.

Pittsburgh and Buffalo donned the throwback sweaters, a la the 2003 Heritage Game. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller tacked a toque to his goalie mask for charity, reviving the look made famous by then Habs netminder Jose Theodore. The players should have gone retro by using wood sticks. The cold temperature made it difficult to get anything on a slapshot using a composite. Brian Campbell smartly unleashed a well-paced wrister to beat Pens goaltender Ty Conklin to tie the game.

There is talk of making the Winter Classic an annual event, but I think it's better every four years or so. But then again, I thought the novelty of a shootout would wear off, and that seems here to stay.

And thank you to NBC for unearthing the clip of commentator and ex-Islanders GM Mike Milbury beating a Rangers fan in the stands with his own shoe when he played for the Bruins. Now that's a classic.

Recaps: THN/CP, TSN Broadband


Sean Avery: Myth or Legend

Sean Avery's a jerk. That fact is undisputed. But is he really the secret to the Rangers' success?

True, so far this season they're 12-5-1 with him in the lineup and 8-10-3 without. But Avery has contributed a whopping two goals in 18 games and has 11 points. That's 0.61 PPG, behind linemates Brendan Shanahan (0.74) and Chris Drury (0.71), who spent much of the season with the third line. Avery only has two points on the PP, where he plays on the second unit. provides a more concise analysis, thanks to the Simpsons.

Though Avery's precence may be a placebo affect, it's real to his teammates.
"Yeah, he does make a difference," Chris Drury said. "Just look at the games he's been back - we've definitely been a different team."

"He's definitely a spark - he stirs it up," said Scott Gomez. "He's like Claude Lemieux that way. They bring it every night. So they can do whatever they want. I mean, what can you say to a guy that brings it every night? You have to respect that. And yeah, we are a different team when he's in our lineup."

- New York Daily News

Players are often praised for the intangibles they bring to a team. For Avery, that involves saying things that would make a normal man cry but not necessarily putting the puck in the net.

So long as the Rangers continue to win, Sean Avery is a legend in the making to Blueshirt fans.

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