Monday, October 31, 2011

Rangers Defeat Sharks 5-2

It took a while, but the Rangers finally got that complete game, 60 minute effort from start to finish tonight that they've been lacking so far this season. Powered by Ryan Callahan's 2 G, 1 A effort, the Rangers beat the Sharks by a final score of 5-2. They also outshot the Sharks 31-26 - the first time the Rangers have outshot an opponent this season.

As you can see from the picture above, Ryan Callahan was awarded the Broadway Hat, and was also the game's first star tonight.

The Rangers really got plenty of contributions from everybody tonight. Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov scored their first goals of the season and Erik Christensen added two assists, including a beautiful feed on a Callahan power play goal. Ryan McDonagh also scored his third goal of the season after scoring two goals combined with the Rangers and Connecticut Whale last season. Wojtek Wolski didn't record a point in the game, but today was easily his best game of the season. He registered a game-high seven shots on goal while playing primarily with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik tonight and was very involved in the offensive zone from start to finish. Although Brandon Dubinsky registered no shots on goal, he picked up two assists and shot just wide on two or three occasions. He seemed just a hair off and if he continues with games like these, the goals will come soon enough.

Marty Biron was solid in the net tonight, making 24 saves. It wasn't an easy night in goal for Biron by any stretch of the imagination, as he was often times barraged with shots in the second period when the Sharks tied the game 2-2, but Biron held his ground and played as well as you could want your backup to play.

You can view the boxscore to the game here.

Tomorrow at noon we will learn if Sean Avery has cleared waivers and if No. 16 will rejoin the Rangers for his third tour of duty with the Blueshirts. More news to come then.

Sean Avery Placed On Re-Entry Waivers

It's official. Today at noon, the Rangers placed Sean Avery on re-entry waivers, presumably with the intention of him rejoining the team in time to suit up for Thursday's game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Garden if he clears waivers. Teams will have a chance until noon tomorrow to claim Avery for half his salary.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Return of Page Six Sean?

Larry Brooks of the New York Post is one of several people today who is reporting that The Grate One himself, Sean Avery, will be placed on re-entry waivers tomorrow with the intention of him rejoining the Rangers in time for Thursday's game against Anaheim at MSG. Avery was cut after the preseason in favor of the Rangers keeping Mats Zuccarello, Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen on the roster - all of whom have a grand total of 2 assists and no shootout goals combined this season - but it looks as if Rangers management has decided to reinsert the spark plug back into the heart of the team yet again.

And who gets credit for breaking this news in the first place? Well, longtime hockey journalist Boomer Esiason of course (huh?). Earlier in the day, the longtime Rangers fan/ex-NFL quarterback/WFAN talk show host/NFL on CBS analyst, Tweeted, "Little birdie telling me Sean Avery is back! Thank God! Finally some energy! For the NYR." I, like many others I talked with, pretty much dismissed this as wishful thinking on Boomer's part since he's always been a huge Rangers fan, but it appears he was onto something because several other reporters began confirming Boomer's Tweet within the next several hours today. Who would've thought?

Sean Avery will have to clear waivers if he is recalled, which means every other team in the league has a chance to claim him for half of his salary. Most don't seem to think another team will claim him, though, and expect him to clear waivers and be a Broadway Blueshirt once again.

Avery skated in two games for the Connecticut Whale, recording 1 goal and scoring in the shootout last night to propel the Whale to victory.

My feelings on Sean Avery have been well-documented already, so I won't really delve too much deeper into this. Just to recap: I have always been a fan of Sean Avery and feel like John Tortorella never gave him a fair chance. Even on the occasions when Avery did play well for the Rangers Torts would waste little time demoting him in the lineup the first time things went wrong. Furthermore, I think Avery is absolutely an improvement over the other forwards the Rangers have tried on the fourth line this year (Kris Newbury, Erik Christensen, Mats Zuccarello, etc.) and he gives the team an identity and personality that they need. The players clearly love him, as evidenced by Henrik Lundqvist's remarks in the New York Post earlier this week that seemed like a subtle shot at management's decision to cut Avery in the first place, and I'm assuming that the decision to bring Avery back is being led by Glen Sather. Slats has gone on record on more than one occasion about how much he likes Sean and what he brings to the table and he must feel like Avery's energy is what this team needs to get going. I just can't see John Tortorella going to Glen Sather and asking him to bring Avery back so quickly, but maybe I'm wrong.

Either way, this whole situation comes as a huge surprise. I never thought Avery would skate in the NHL this year after he was waived, and I definitely didn't think that if he did it would come with the Rangers. Nearly everybody reported that Sean's career with the Rangers was over and done with after he was waived, but maybe it isn't quite yet.

More on this situation as it develops. There should be more news come tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Biron, Wolski, Woywitka in Lineup for Rangers Tonight

News today from the Rangers is that Wojtek Wolski will make his return to the lineup for the first time since Opening Day in Sweden and Marty Biron will make his season debut in Winnipeg tonight against the Jets. Jeff Woywitka will also suit up for tonight after being a healthy scratch Saturday in Edmonton in favor of Brendan Bell.

Wolski's return to the lineup means that Erik Christensen (thankfully) will take a seat in the press box. As much of a disappointment as Wolski has been since being traded to the Rangers last season, there's really no way he can provide any less than Erik Christensen has so far this season. I expect Wolski will open the game on the fourth line, but he'll probably move around and get some power play time as the game goes on. Wolski, you'll recall, was called out by John Tortorella last week when Torts took a subtle shot at Wolski by insinuating he was taking his sweet time recovering from a groin injury that has lingered ever since the preseason.

Evidently, the Rangers weren't all that impressed by Brendan Bell on Saturday because Jeff Woywitka is back in after a one game absence. Ideally, neither of these guys should be suiting up regularly for the Rangers (or any other NHL team for that matter), but the Rangers really don't have any choice with Marc Staal still suffering from concussion symptoms and Michael Sauer's right shoulder still an issue.

Tonight's game will break a string of 37 consecutive games that Henrik Lundqvist has started for the Rangers (including the postseason) dating back to last season. The decision to start Biron, apparently, has nothing to do with Henrik Lundqvist leaving Saturday's game against Edmonton with cramps in his foot from the new skates he's been wearing this year. Lundqvist has insisted he's fine and he practiced fully, so I have no reason to believe this is a lingering thing. Fact is, Biron was likely to start at some point on this road trip since John Tortorella likely wants to get him into a game early in the season so he can get some work in.

More later from Winnipeg as game time draws near...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rangers Defeat Flames 3-2 in Overtime

The Rangers won a thrilling game by the score of 3-2 in overtime tonight after Ryan McDonagh buried the game-winner top-shelf with just 0.5 seconds remaining in the game.

Much more reaction to come later, but I will say this - Ryan McDonagh continues to impress offensively, the first line continued to be strong, Brandon Dubinsky had his best game of the season and Henrik Lundqvist, as usual, was outstanding.

McDonagh had 26:25 TOI tonight for a total of 36 shifts and now has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last two games.

Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves on the night and now has a .973 save percentage in his last two games.

The Rangers other two goals came from Marian Gaborik (the team's first power play goal of the season) and Brandon Prust (the team's first short-handed goal of the season).

Henrik Lundqvist said the victory hat tonight goes to...Brandon Prust "for being the homeboy."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rangers vs. Canucks Pregame Notes, Marc Staal Update Coming Tomorrow?

Some pregame notes for the Rangers-Canucks game tonight from Vancouver (10 p.m. EST on MSG Network), courtesy of Steve Zipay of Newsday.

Rangers lines:


Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Tim Erixon
Jeff Woywitka-Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratches: Wolski (Groin), Sauer (Shoulder)

Canucks lines:


Roberto Luongo

- The Canucks will honor Rick Rypien prior to tonight's game, who committed suicide this past August at the age of 27. Rypien played in 119 games with the Canucks over six seasons.

- Wojtek Wolski and Michael Sauer are both out as they continue to try and comeback from their injuries. It sounds like Sauer may miss most of the games on this Canada trip, if not all of them. Brendan Bell was obviously recalled because the Rangers aren't very confident in Sauer suiting up within the next few days.

- Dale Weise is in the lineup and will suit up against his former team for the first time. Weise, of course, was lost on waivers a few weeks ago to the Canucks.

- Joe Micheletti said on the Rangers pregame show on MSG that the Rangers will likely give an official update tomorrow on Marc Staal's recovery from his concussion. Hold your breath, Rangers fans. I'm assuming we're either going to get very good news or not so good news, unless Staal pulls a Sidney Crosby and has a press conference to announce that nothing has changed in his recovery.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mats Zuccarello Sent To Connecticut Whale, Brendan Bell and Kris Newbury Recalled

The Rangers announced after their loss to the Islanders on Saturday that they have sent down Mats Zuccarello to the AHL and recalled center Kris Newbury to take his place on the roster. On Sunday, the team also announced that they have recalled defenseman Brendan Bell to join them on their road trip through Canada that begins with a game tomorrow night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Kris Newbury was leading the Connecticut Whale with 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in four games this season, while Bell had recorded an assist in two games with the Whale since he was assigned there after the Rangers got back from Sweden.

Read more below for comments from Mats Zuccarello on being sent down to the Connecticut Whale.

The Good and The Bad: Rangers Fall To Islanders 4-2

It almost seems unfair, doesn't it? After starting the season with back-to-back losses in Sweden we had to wait an entire week before seeing the Rangers play again on Saturday, and now that they finally are back on the ice they lost, yet again, for the third time this season while displaying pretty much the same patterns we saw from them in the first two games in Sweden.

There were some good signs that the Rangers showed on Saturday, but there were also a lot of bad signs, too. Read more to see what went right and what went wrong.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sean Avery Reports To Connecticut, Staal Likely Out Saturday

Sean Avery has officially reported to the Connecticut Whale in the AHL and it seems like as of right now he'll be spending the rest of the season there unless something unexpected happens. Avery's agent Pat Morris was looking at options for Avery to possibly play in Europe this season, but according to Andrew Gross, those negotiations never got very far and Avery and his agent ultimately decided he'd earn more money playing out the final year of his contract in the AHL.

The Whale play the Devils' AHL affiliate in Albany on Friday, but it remains to be seen if Avery will be in uniform for the game.

Also, Marc Staal is continuing to receive treatment for headaches he's been experiencing as a result of the concussion he suffered last February. John Tortorella said yesterday that he hadn't spoken to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsey about Staal's progress in two days. Staal is rumored to be receiving acupuncture treatments regularly, but the Rangers have been very hush-hush about Marc Staal's recovery so far.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rangers Claim Defenseman Jeff Woywitka Off Waivers From Canadiens

The Rangers announced today on Twitter that they have claimed veteran defenseman Jeff Woywitka off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens. It's being reported that Woywitka will fly to Sweden today to join the team in time for tomorrow's game, although I doubt he'll play. The move also means the Rangers will officially option both Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel to the Connecticut Whale, who both cleared waivers yesterday.

Jeff Woywitka is a big body - 6'3", 227 lbs. - who plays with some toughness and is a lefty shot. Last season he skated in 63 games with the Dallas Stars, recording 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points with a plus-5 rating and 24 penalty minutes. Overall, he's skated in a total of 251 NHL games.

The addition of Woywitka obviously means that the Rangers will no longer be pursuing Paul Mara. Woywitka can step in and play some games for the Rangers, but he'll ideally become the extra seventh defenseman once Marc Staal comes back. I think the Rangers will play Tim Erixon for the two games in Sweden and then depending on what they see from him will decide whether to keep him with the team or send him back to the Connecticut Whale once they get back to the US.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rangers Could Sign Defenseman Paul Mara Soon

Following the news this morning that Marc Staal has been played on IR, Larry Brooks is reporting that the Rangers have reopened contract talks with free agent defenseman Paul Mara, and a deal could happen relatively quickly. Brooks says Mara would join the team on Monday when they return from Europe so that he could get in a week of practice with the team before their next game.

You remember Paul Mara, don't you? He's the guy John Tortorella bragged about running out of town with the Tampa Bay Lightning the first day he met with the media as the head coach of the Rangers. He's also the guy with one of the most epic playoff beards of all time, as seen in the pic above.

All kidding aside, I would love to have Paul Mara back. I never had a problem with his play when he was here, and I think he'd be a fine addition as the 6th/7th defenseman on this team once Marc Staal gets healthy. Mara brought a lot of toughness and physicality and wasn't afraid to stand up for his teammates or himself at a moment's notice. He also emerged as one of the team's leaders when he was brought to the Rangers in a trade that sent Aaron Ward to the Boston Bruins in return.

Rangers Place Staal on IR, Recall Tim Erixon, Send Avery, Bickel and Bell to AHL

Lots of news from the Rangers today, and not all of it is good. First and most importantly, Marc Staal has been placed on Injured Reserve which means the absolute earliest he can play is October 15 against the Islanders, though right now that seems highly unlikely. Glen Sather told Larry Brooks in the New York Post today that "doctors have said it could be a week, but it could also be a month" before Marc Staal comes back. Earlier in the day Bob McKenzie of TSN Tweeted that the Rangers were shutting down Marc Staal's rehab completely because he wasn't getting any better, but Larry Brooks Tweeted in response that the Rangers "emphatically deny" that Staal has suffered a setback.

Meanwhile, Stu Bickel, Brendan Bell and Sean Avery have all cleared waivers and been optioned to the Connecticut Whale. Avery was on the first flight out of Sweden this morning, while Bell and Bickel are still with the team in Sweden. Again, I'm not quite sure what the point was in putting them through waivers yesterday if there's a chance either defenseman could suit up for the team in the event of an emergency. Larry Brooks Tweeted that Avery is not immediately expected to report to Connecticut, and his agent will continue exploring other options.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rangers Lose Dale Weise On Waivers To Canucks, Waive Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel

The Vancouver Canucks claimed now ex-Rangers forward Dale Weise on waivers today, and the Rangers also announced that they have placed Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel on waivers in addition to Sean Avery today at noon.

I really have no idea why the Rangers would waive Bell and Bickel when Marc Staal is already out for at least the first two games in Europe and possibly longer, and Michael Sauer's shoulder is banged up. Even though there's little to no chance either guy will be claimed off waivers, why would they possibly take the chance of losing them when the team is all the way in Sweden right now? It just doesn't make sense to me. I thought that maybe they would have made these roster moves if they were set to acquire another defenseman before the season opens on Friday, but John Tortorella said today that it's unlikely the team will add anyone by then.

The team has 30 days to assign Bickel and Bell to Connecticut, assuming they clear waivers, and they would both still be eligible to play for the NHL club until the 30 days are up. As of right now the Rangers technically have only five defensemen on their active roster - Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh,

Meanwhile, Dale Weise is no longer a Ranger after putting together what I thought was a pretty impressive training camp and two very good seasons in the AHL. This is another head scratcher to me. Weise is a big body who proved he could score at the AHL level and showed a lot of toughness during his few stints with the Rangers. At the very least he was a nice depth player for the organization. But it doesn't really make sense to me why the Rangers would waive both Dale Weise and Sean Avery and get rid of a lot of that toughness and grit that the Rangers quite frankly don't have enough of right now. The Rangers are short enough on forward prospects as it is, so losing Weise hurts. One could even say that he deserved the 13th forward spot over Erik Christensen and it'd be hard to argue against that.

A weird day for the Rangers and their fans. They cut a fan favorite, have their head coach bury him when being interviewed by the media, waive two depth defensemen and lose a tough forward who I thought showed a lot of potential.

Avery's Ranger Career Comes To An End Just How John Tortorella Wanted It

I try not to be overly critical of the New York Rangers management and roster on here because I've tried to keep this blog strictly about news as it pertains to the team. Furthermore, since I started this blog I really haven't been given much of a reason to be very critical of the Rangers and the way they've handled things. I thought the Rangers had a fantastic offseason and improved the team vastly with the moves they made and felt like it was silly to nitpick at little things until the team actually hit the ice.

All that being said, I just have to vent on the news that came today that the Rangers have waived The Artist Formerly Known As Page Six Sean. Sean Avery has not only been my favorite Ranger ever since he was first acquired from the Kings - he's been amongst my favorite athletes in all of sports. I just loved his attitude, his style, his swag - it was something of a rarity to see from professional athletes in this day and age, and especially in the NHL, where Gary Bettman has always preferred his poster boys to be the prototypical straight-laced, monotone Canadian with no personality (I'm looking at you, Sidney Crosby). Avery is the polar opposite and was what I always thought was a perfect fit for playing in New York. Avery isn't a New Yorker, but he just played like one. The way he carried himself from day one just made him a natural fit here and gave the team something Rangers fans hadn't seen in a long time. Ironically enough, Avery became a fan favorite for all the reasons that everyone else hated him - kind of like how New Yorkers are looked at by people outside of New York.

Look, I won't sit here and write about how Sean Avery has enough skill that he should be opening the season on the first line. I couldn't possibly justify that considering he's coming off the worst season of his career. But can anyone really say that out of everybody at camp this year, Sean Avery was only the 14th best forward on the team? I know I can't. If you think John Tortorella really gave Avery a chance to win a roster spot in camp this season you are sadly mistaken. The writing was on the wall when Avery opened camp on a line with John Mitchell and J.T. Miller - two guys who had no chance of making the Rangers. Torts may have claimed that Avery had a shot at making this team, but there was simply nothing Avery could've done to remain a Ranger. He wasn't put in a position where he could succeed and even though he clearly outplayed Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen (two guys who were also supposedly on the roster bubble when camp started, according to Torts) that apparently didn't matter. John Tortorella has preached repeatedly since he's gotten here about how players will have to earn their roster spots and if they perform well they would play. That applied to everybody except Sean Avery. Tortorella went on the record when he was an analyst with TSN when he called Avery an idiot and said he should be sent home following his "sloppy seconds" comment that got him suspended by the NHL and even though he's never said it since he's come here, it's clear that the guy just flat out didn't like Sean and didn't want him here.

When Torts was hired as the head coach of the Rangers the wheels were already in motion to bring Sean Avery back to Broadway following his exile from the Dallas Stars. Even if Torts didn't want Sean here, that sure as hell wasn't going to be a deal breaker for Tortorella when he was negotiating a new contract to return to coaching. Even in the past few years when Sean enjoyed some success and put together some good games, Torts never entrusted him with much responsibility for very long. He was given no Power Play time and really only had an increase in playing time if there was an injury and John Totorella needed bodies to pick up more ice time. The few games Avery spent last season on the first line with Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik, he actually played quite well. Yet, whenever he began to do some positive things it seemed like Torts would always pull back his leash and stick him right back down on the fourth line where he'd get his eight minutes of ice time a game. Let's face it, Sean Avery has always been a Glen Sather and Jim Dolan type of player. Avery has been known to be somewhat close to Dolan, or at least closer to him than any other hockey player on the Rangers since Dolan first bought the Rangers. Larry Brooks reported that Dolan actually visited Avery in the hospital when he ruptured his spleen in the playoffs against the Penguins, and Avery has also gone to see Jim Dolan's band play at various charity events over the past few years, too. Glen Sather has also talked publicly about how much he likes Avery's game and the type of player he is. It seems like ultimately Glen Sather sided with John Tortorella, and it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering Torts is Sather's head coach and will be with the organization for the foreseeable future versus Avery, who would've likely been playing elsewhere next year even if he did spend this season with the Rangers. I think Sather just felt like it wouldn't be worth fighting for, especially when you consider the fact that from everything we've all heard/read points to the fact that Torts and Avery just flat out don't like each other. But still, John Tortorella's job as head coach first and foremost is to assemble the team that he thinks has the best chance of winning. If Avery was a better choice for the 13th forward role - and he clearly was - and Torts let his ego get in the way of things, then perhaps that's the most troubling part of this whole ordeal.

The Rangers now become a team with a very vanilla personality much like every other team in the NHL, which I guess is the way they wanted it. This isn't a knock on the leaders of the team such as Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist; they just don't have the same type of character and personality that Sean Avery has. The situation is kind of ironic, too, considering we will be getting a behind the scenes look on the team on HBO's 24/7 series this year, and now their once most personable player will no longer be in the dressing room with them. The Rangers tried this situation in the past going with a business-first dressing room without a lot of character in it in 2008 and it didn't work out well - Scott Gomez and Chris Drury both had their leadership qualities questioned by Tom Renney after he was fired by the Rangers during the middle of the season, and Glen Sather eventually made the move to bring Sean Avery back to add a spark to the dressing room. It's hard to say for sure why the Rangers think it'll work this time around. My personal opinion on the matter is that there was only room for one of John Tortorella and Sean Avery to remain with the team, and there was no doubt Torts would be the last man standing. Tortorella and Avery have similar personalities and two big egos that didn't clash well. I have no doubt there were conflicts between both men and I sure would love to hear about it if Sean comes out and speaks about his relationship with Tortorella once he is no longer a part of the Rangers organization.

The biggest slap in the face to me wasn't even that John Tortorella made it sound like Avery had a real chance of making the team when he really didn't, but the fact that the team actually flew Sean to Europe with them when it was clear the decision was already made that Avery wasn't going to make the team. The Rangers and Torts, of course, will claim that Avery was still being evaluated and given a chance to win a roster spot even though Rangers fans are smart enough to realize that wasn't the case. It was clearly a situation in which Avery was doomed from the start. It's not right to do that to a veteran athlete. Stringing him along is bad enough, but dragging him to Europe considering how much Avery has given to this franchise just wasn't fair to Sean or other players that may have really had a better shot at making the team than Avery. The Rangers should've cut Avery loose during the offseason if he didn't have a chance at continuing his NHL career with the Rangers. Now, with every team's roster pretty much set, Avery will have a hard time getting a shot with another NHL team and may be forced to spend this season playing in the AHL or in Europe if his agent can work out a deal for him to play there.

I'll miss the things that Sean Avery brought to the New York Rangers both on and off the ice. Yes, he was a distraction. Yes, he would give you moments that would make you shake your head in disbelief. But you can't say it wasn't an adventure with him. Sean left a lasting impression on the Rangers and their fans and I think he'll always remain a cult hero in the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere. Avery's agent Pat Morris said today that Avery is still fully committed to continuing his hockey career beyond this year, and I certainly hope he's able to get an opportunity elsewhere. I've met Sean a few times in the past and he was always down to earth and a standup guy off the ice who was always willing to chat and make time for fans.

So, thanks for the memories, Sean. New York will miss you and your crazy antics, even if every other hockey fan never had the chance to truly appreciate them like we did.

Breaking News: Sean Avery Waived By Rangers, Europe Next?

Farewell, Sean.

Larry Brooks has just broke news that the Rangers have waived Sean Avery, meaning that Erik Christensen will make the team and be the 13th and final forward that the Rangers carry this season. Brooks said it's unknown if Avery would be assigned to the Connecticut Whale if he clears waivers as expected, but that Avery has been told there's no chance he'll play again for the Rangers.

Avery's agent has confirmed the news to target="_blank" that the Rangers have informed him Avery will be waived today, and says that playing in Europe is the most likely destination for Sean to continue his hockey career.

More to come later on what I think is a big mistake by the Rangers and specifically John Tortorella...