Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NHL Offers 50/50 Revenue Split To NHLPA In Latest CBA Proposal

We may finally have gotten the breakthrough in negotiations between the NHL owners and players that we've seemingly been waiting forever for. The NHL delivered a proposal to the players today - the first proposal offered between either side within the last 34 days - that calls for a 50-50 split in total revenue between owners and players. The NHL's original proposal made in September had them asking for a 53-47 split in revenue with the owners getting the 53-percent cut of revenue.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that both sides have approximately nine to 10 days to hammer out a new deal so that a full 82-game season could begin on Nov. 2. The specifics on how scheduling and all that would work has not yet been revealed

NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr called the NHL's latest proposal "an excellent starting point" for negotiations to move forward, but declined to comment any further beyond that. The NHLPA reportedly scheduled a conference call for later today to go over the new proposal, so it's possible we'll hear more tonight or tomorrow about whether or not they will approve this deal.

It's worth noting, however, that even though the owners have lowered their demands to getting 50-percent of the revenue, the players would still be taking a pay cut from the 57-percent of revenue they were receiving in the last CBA.

In the NHL's latest proposal, they reportedly went back to wanting three-year Entry Level contracts as opposed to five-year deals that they asked for in their first proposal. The owners also were asking for players to be in the league for 10 years before becoming unrestricted free agents in their first proposal and lowered it to eight years in this proposal (one year more than the previous CBA allowed players to become UFAs). The only one rule that remained unchanged in the NHL's latest proposal is that the maximum length of future contracts would be five years.

I've been firmly in the NHLPA's corner throughout this process after learning how absurd the owners' original proposal was, but I must say this is a gigantic step forward. Gary Bettman and the owners' original stance seemed obnoxious and unwilling to move off any of their demands after they made their first proposal, so kudos to them for being more realistic with what they're asking for in this latest offer. Dare I say it actually seems like Bettman is actually doing something to help get hockey back? It sure seems like it. I'm not going to completely applaud the owners and Bettman for softening their stance, but this is absolutely a good sign that the owners seem willing to bend on what they originally were asking for.

So now the ball (or puck) is in the players' court (or ice). Don Fehr is on record saying that the players had no problem continuing to play under terms of the previous CBA, and the NHL's latest proposal is certainly a lot closer to that than their first. One thing people have repeatedly said is that with Don Fehr involved these negotiations never go smoothly. I'm too young to remember his role in the strike when he was head of the MLBPA; I just know that these things are never officially resolved until both sides sign on the dotted lines. All I know is there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Report: Rick Nash To Play In Switzerland During Lockout

Katie Strang of ESPN.com reported today that Rick Nash will be heading to Switzerland to play hockey until the NHL lockout ends, according to sources. Nash will be playing for the team Davos of the Swiss-A league, where Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks is also playing during the lockout. Neither Nash or his agent have officially confirmed that he'll be playing in Europe yet, but the writing is pretty much on the wall considering guys are jumping ship to Europe left and right since the NHL lockout became official on Sunday.

Nash, according to Strang, "wants to hit the ground running in New York once the lockout ends and feels that playing overseas will help him stay sharp."

No players on the Rangers have agreed to play elsewhere during the lockout thus far, so if Nash does indeed play in Switzerland he'll be the first.

Outside of that, there hasn't been any other news regarding the Rangers since the lockout began on Sunday. The NHLPA and the owners have not spoken since the lockout began and have no future talks scheduled, but that could reportedly change on Wednesday after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah ends. Right now the only activity going on in the NHL are players exploring options playing in Europe and teams sending young players down to their AHL affiliates so that they can remain playing hockey within their organizations while the lockout goes on.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NHL Lockout Nearly Official; No CBA Talks Scheduled For Saturday

The NHL is headed to a lockout. Any optimism we got when both sides reopened negotiations last Friday is dead, and at midnight tonight players will be locked out by the owners. The NHL owners and NHLPA have no meetings scheduled for today, meaning there will be no further attempts to reach a deal before players are locked out by owners at midnight. This really shouldn't surprise anybody at this point, but that doesn't make any of this suck any less for hockey fans all over the world.

Teams have already started making contingency plans by assigning players who are still eligible to their AHL affiliates so that they can play until the NHL season begins. Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, for instance, was optioned to their AHL team specifically for that reason. The Rangers announced that they have assigned eight players to the Connecticut Whale, although all of them (Forwards Kris Newbury, Chad Kolarik, Michael Haley, Tommy Grant and Brandon Segal and defensemen Sean Collins, Logan Pyett, and Mike Vernace) are veteran AHL guys who had virtually no shot of landing a roster spot with the big club anyway. There have been whispers over the past week that the Rangers would send Chris Kreider down to the Whale, but nothing has been officially announced by the team yet.

As far as what the rest of the team has planned, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards told Larry Brooks of The New York Post that the players have already begun looking to rent ice rinks in the New York area so that the team can still do conditioning drills and skate together as a team. John Tortorella has reportedly been in touch with Richards, Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist about keeping the team together and remaining conditioned. It's worth noting that as of right now no players on the Rangers have agreed to play overseas in Europe like other NHL players have. The Rangers obviously wouldn't admit to this, but it seems like the plan is for the team to stick together for now while they wait and hope that a new CBA is agreed upon fairly quickly. If weeks and months begin to go by with no progress towards a new deal I wouldn't be surprised if players begin to explore options playing in Europe. Lundqvist, for instance, has already indicated that he would likely go back to Sweden to play if the lockout drags on. Nevertheless, it's still great to see this team sticking together and shows the comradery of these guys for not wanting to immediately go their separate ways when the lockout begins.

Where things go from here is anybody's guess. The fact that both sides are still reportedly $1 billion apart in negotiations would seem to indicate that at the very least the lockout will drag on for a few weeks. I also think the fact that the NHL and NHLPA didn't even bother to meet today seems to indicate that both sides are still so far apart that there's no way they could settle everything in just one day. Gary Bettman's stubborn, two-faced approach has been the most aggravating part of all of this to me, personally. One day he gives the NHLPA a "take it or leave it" offer in an almost threateningly manner, and the next he's talking about how nobody wants to see hockey more than him. I'll have more on my disgust with Bettman and the owners in the next few days, though.

Oh, and just in case you wanted some more bad news on top of all this, there is virtually "no chance" restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto agrees to a new contract with the Rangers before the lockout begins at midnight tonight, according to both Bob McKenzie of TSN and Katie Strang of ESPN. All this really means is that whenever the season resumes and a new CBA is agreed to Glen Sather will immediately have to work on getting Del Zotto signed before the start of the season. Fantastic.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rangers Re-Sign Steve Eminger; Updates On Sauer, Del Zotto

The Rangers announced today that they have agreed to a new contract with unrestricted free agent defenseman Steve Eminger. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly a one-year, $750,000 deal, which would be a pay cut since Eminger earned $800,000 last season. Eminger skated in 42 games with the Rangers this past season, registering two goals and three assists for five points to go along with 28 penalty minutes. Eminger was a mainstay in the lineup early on in the season, but pretty much lost his spot in the lineup when he separated his shoulder in December and Anton Stralman stepped in and played well in his absence.

You can read the Rangers' official press release here.

Click below to read more from John Tortorella and Glen Sather on Michael Sauer's recovery from a concussion he suffered last December, as well as Michael Del Zotto's contract negotiations.

Friday, September 7, 2012

NHL, NHLPA Reopen CBA Talks In New York

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Sept. 15, the NHL owners and NHLPA reopened CBA talks today in New York, according to TSN. Both NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were in attendance for the meeting, which lasted two hours long. No other details about the meeting have been leaked up to this point, but they reportedly may meet again later tonight or sometime on Saturday. It was a week ago today that both sides agreed to "recess" and break off talks.

It's obviously good news that both sides have reopened dialogue, but beyond that it's hard to delve too much into this until more details from the meeting leaks out. It was inevitable that both sides were going to talk several more times before the owners plan to lock players out on Sept. 15, so I'm not overly optimistic just because they're talking again.

Hopefully, though, this is the start of something big, and both sides can make some headway towards a new deal as the clock continues to tick closer to the Sept. 15 deadline.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NHL, NHLPA Remain At Stalemate Over CBA Talks

It's officially time to panic.

Late last week news broke that negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHLPA, headed by Don Fehr, and the owners, headed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, have broken off after the owners rejected the players' first proposal last Friday. According to Fehr, it was ultimately the owner' decision who decided to break off talks, and the players remain willing to reopen negotiations whenever the owners want to come back to the table to talk about a new deal. Both sides had been negotiation for three days last week prior to the breakdown of talks. No other talks between the two sides have been planned at this time.

Click below to read more details on the latest breakdown of CBA talks, plus my thoughts on this whole mess and where we go from here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rangers Re-Sign Stralman To Two-Year, $3.4 Million Deal

The Rangers and restricted free agent defenseman Anton Stralman avoided arbitration by agreeing to a new contract that is reportedly worth two years, $3.4 million, the team confirmed on Thursday. Stralman previously had an arbitration hearing with the Rangers scheduled for July 31, but it seemed like it was a given that both sides would reach a deal before then, which they did today.

You can read the Rangers' official press release here.

The initial thought amongst the media after the season ended was that Anton Stralman was leaning towards returning to Sweden to continue his playing career, but he ultimately decided he wanted to return to the Rangers when he filed for arbitration earlier this month.

Glad to see Stralman get rewarded with a fair deal for both sides after he put together a solid second half this past season once he became more familiar with the Rangers' system under John Tortorella. Stralman also seemed to get his offensive game going in the as the regular season went on and carried it into the postseason. Stralman's shot from the point proved to be a nice weapon last season, and I expect he'll see some more time on the power play once again this season.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

John Tortorella On The Michael Kay Show July 23 (Audio Inside)

John Tortorella was a guest on The Michael Kay Show yesterday evening on ESPN New York radio with Michael Kay and Don La Greca and offered his comments on a bunch of stuff, including his thoughts on the Rick Nash trade, losing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, why Chris Kreider was absolutely untouchable in trade talks, and how he felt to come within two games of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals this past season. It's definitely worth a listen for any Ranger fan.

You can listen to the interview by clicking here and clicking Torts' name under the "sound bytes" section if you scroll down a bit.

The most interesting part of the interview to me was Torts' thoughts on Tim Erixon, who was also sent to Columbus in the Rick Nash trade. Torts said about Erixon: "Erixon has potential, I haven’t seen it yet, to be a really good player." I thought that was a fair assessment of how the Rangers felt about him last season. He was up and down a few times over the course of the season, but unlike Ryan McDonagh the previous season, John Tortorella clearly did not feel like Erixon had matured enough yet to make that jump from Hartford to the NHL. Erixon is projected to develop into a fantastic two-way defenseman down the road, and I have no reason to believe he won't, but it appears as if he still needs some more seasoning in the AHL before being a regular mainstay in an NHL team's lineup.

Then again, the Columbus Blue Jackets may now have a completely different view on Erixon than the Rangers, and maybe they'll throw him right into the fire and let him take his bumps and bruises at the NHL level this season. He's still only 21 years old, though, and some kids just take longer than others to reach their potential. I do think, though, that if he was ready, he would've been playing in the NHL last season with all the injuries the Rangers had on defense last season.

Anyway, I'd definitely give the interview a listen, like I said.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blockbuster: Rangers Acquire Rick Nash From Blue Jackets

It's safe to say nobody saw this coming when they woke up this morning. The New York Rangers have officially confirmed that they have acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon, and the Rangers' first round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft. The Rangers also got back 21-year-old AHL defenseman Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round draft pick. The Blue Jackets would reportedly only get that draft pick back if the Rangers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this upcoming season.

Click below to read more on my thoughts on this blockbuster trade, as well as the official press release from the Rangers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flyers Sign Shea Weber To Massive 14-Year Offer Sheet; Rangers Tried To Sign Him

The Philadelphia Flyers signed restricted free agent Shea Weber to an offer sheet today that is reportedly for 14 years and worth over $100 million, with $52 million of the payout coming in the first four years of the contract, according to NHL.com.

Weber's current team, the Nashville Predators, have seven days to decide whether to match the Flyers' offer or to decline and let Shea Weber go to Philadelphia. If the Predators decline to match Weber's 14-year contract with Philly they would reportedly receive four future first-round draft picks from the Flyers as compensation.

The Predators have since confirmed Weber's signing with the Flyers and issued a statement earlier today on their website that read:

"We are in receipt of the offer sheet signed between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. Under the rules pertaining to an offer sheet, the Predators have one week to decide whether to match or accept the compensation. We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea. Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.
“We do not anticipate any further comments on this situation until we make our decision within the next seven days.”

Click below to read more on Weber's deal with the Flyers, as well as the Rangers jumping into talks to try and acquire the defenseman before the Flyers signed him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rangers Sign Jeff Halpern, AHLer Logan Pyett To One-Year Deals

The depth signings just keep on coming. News broke late last night that the Rangers have signed veteran center Jeff Halpern, who spent last season with the Washington Capitals, to a one-year, $700,000 deal. The team has since confirmed the deal. Halpern recorded 4 G, 12 A for 16 PTS to go along with 24 PIM in 69 games last season while playing primarily on the fourth line for the Caps, but more important than that was what he gave the Capitals on the faceoff circle. Halpern won 58.3 percent of his faceoffs last season, which was good for the fifth highest faceoff percentage in the league. As everyone knows, faceoffs were an area the Rangers struggled in greatly last season, so it's easy to see why they would bring in a guy like Halpern considering the cost is next to nothing.

I don't mind the Halpern signing, and I understand why the Rangers did it. I would've personally preferred them to sign Zenon Konopka when he was available since the Rangers really needed help on faceoffs, in addition to that grittiness that they lost when Brandon Prust signed with Montreal, but this is still a decent depth move by Glen Sather. It's a cheap signing that could wind up paying big dividends if Halpern can give the Rangers a steady presence in the faceoff circle. The biggest knock on Halpern is that at he's 36 years old now and is a pretty slow skater, but you don't have to be the fastest of skaters to have a role in John Tortorella's system.

In addition to the signing of Halpern, the Rangers also inked AHL defenseman Logan Pyett to a one-year contract this morning worth $600,000 (hat tip to TheNYRBlog). Terms of the deal haven't been announced, but it's a decent depth move. Pyett, 24, was drafted in the 7th round of the 2006 NHL Entry Level Draft (212th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings and has spent his entire career in their system. Pyett has not appeared in an NHL game yet in his career. He's a right-handed shot - an area the Rangers needed to add depth in - and recorded 9 G, 13 A for 22 PTS in 74 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season. He has a little bit of offense to his game and is still pretty young, but this is really just a depth move to stash away in Hartford.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Anton Stralman Files For Arbitration

Some good news to pass along (at least to me it is): Anton Stralman officially filed for arbitration today, meaning that the 25-year-old defenseman who the Rangers signed last November likely plans on playing in the NHL next season. The Rangers submitted a qualifying offer of 105-percent of Stralman's salary from last season, which was $900,000, and the arbitration hearing will take place somewhere between July 20 and August 4, according to Andrew Gross. Gross speculates that Stralman and the Rangers will likely hash out a long-term deal before going to arbitration, perhaps settling on a two-year, $2.6 million deal or a three-year, $3.9 million deal. Not sure I would commit to Stralman for three years, but I've got no problem giving him a two-year contract at that price. Sign me up.

Stralman became a regular in the Rangers' lineup back in December after injuries to Michael Sauer (concussion) and Steve Eminger (separated shoulder) gave the Rangers a pressing need for a right-handed defenseman. After starting out slowly, Stralman really put together a very good season and became a very dependable defenseman down the stretch for the Rangers. It seemed like once he got in better shape and familiar with the Rangers' system he really excelled from that point forward and was able to play a steady game while also chipping in with some offense (2 G, 16 A in 53 regular season games and 3 G, 3 A in 20 playoff games). John Tortorella also showed a lot of trust in Stralman as the season went along, often times playing him between 15 to 25 minutes a game. On breakup day, Stralman indicated to the media that he would talk things over with his family on what he would do next season and seemed to be leaning towards going back home to play in Sweden at the time, but I guess he had a change of heart and wants back in.

I like Stralman and think bringing him back fills a big hole for the Rangers. Stralman is a solid and reliable right-handed defenseman who can do a nice job on the second pairing. The Rangers could look to add one more veteran defenseman at some point this offseason, but that really all depends on how comfortable they are with Stu Bickel and possibly Tim Erixon holding down the fort at that sixth d-man spot. John Tortorella, if you recall, said back on breakup day that the Rangers cannot count on Michael Sauer to return to the lineup this season, which is just another reason why bringing back Stralman was important, in my opinion.

Recapping Free Agency For The Rangers So Far

Apologies for being away the past few weeks, but I was away on vacation and really didn't have time to sit down and post news on the blog. Anyway, I'm back now and will be on top of things going forward.

To recap, here are all the Rangers' moves so far in free agency:

- Re-signed goalie Marty Biron to a two-year deal.
- Re-signed defenseman Stu Bickel to a two-year deal.
- Re-signed forward Kris Newbury to a one-year deal.
- Retained the rights to forward Mats Zuccarello and defenseman Anton Stralman, meaning they will be Rangers property if either decides to play in the NHL this upcoming season.
- Signed forward Aaron Asham to a two-year deal.
- Signed forward Micheal Bailey to a one-year deal.
- Signed forward Taylor Pyatt to a two-year deal.
- Signed forward Kyle Jean, who participated in the Rangers' prospect camp last week after spending the last two seasons playing for Lake Superior State. The terms are undisclosed, but he's a kid just coming out of college who's just 22 years old, so it's a good depth move for Harford.
- Lost forwards John Mitchell to Colorado Avalanche, Brandon Prust to Montreal Canadiens, and Ruslan Fedotenko to Philadelphia Flyers.
- Lost defensemen Jeff Woywitka to St. Louis Blues and John Scott to Buffalo Sabres.
- Lost the following players, who were on the Connecticut Whale last season: goalie Chad Johnson to Phoenix Coyotes and forward Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to Columbus Blue Jackets.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lundqvist Wins First Career Vezina Trophy

The yearly NHL Awards were unveiled tonight in their annual awards ceremony from Las Vegas, and Henrik Lundqvist took home his first career Vezina Trophy (awarded to the NHL's best goaltender), beating out the Kings' Jonathan Quick and Predators' Pekka Rinne for the award. Lundqvist collected an overwhelming 17 first-place votes from NHL general managers, while Quick had six votes and Rinne had four.

I didn't see the speech live, but Lundqvist apparently dropped an F-bomb during his acceptance speech. It seemed like he was really surprised by winning the Vezina, and also genuinely excited. It's good to see Lundqvist finally get the recognition he deserves for the work he's done to carry the Rangers as a whole year after year since he came into the league.

Beyond that, there were no other awards taken home by anyone from the Rangers, nor did I really expect there to be. I thought Lundqvist had a legitimate at the Vezina and possibly the Hart, but even with the Hart I ultimately felt that it would go to Evgeni Malkin. Ryan Callahan lost out on the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award to Shane Doan, and John Tortorella lost out on the Jack Adams Award to Ken Hitchcock. Considering these awards are voted on by the same collective group of writers that Torts routinely pisses off in his press conferences, though, it would've been a real shock if he would've won.

For those who didn't see the awards show, you didn't miss much. I checked it out in the beginning for a bit, but I didn't stay tuned into the channel for very long. Everybody who went up there to present the awards felt the need to make corny jokes that were cheesy beyond belief. I will say, though, that the Tracy Morgan 24/7 Rangers-Flyers spoof and Will Arnett's impression of Brendan Shanahan were very funny and are worth checking out if you get the chance, though. I commend the NHL for trying to get creative with the awards show, but to be honest I just don't think enough people care to sit down and watch for two hours when there's really only three or four awards the majority of fans care about.

So, congrats to Henrik Lundqvist on winning his first career Vezina. I, like most Rangers fans, have felt for years that Hank is the best goalie in hockey, and he absolutely deserved winning the Vezina this year after coming up short the previous three times he's been nominated in his career. Lundqvist told the audience while accepting the award that his wife wasn't in attendance because she's due to give birth with their first child in a few weeks. In case you didn't already believe it - it truly is good to be the King.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rumor: Brandon Dubinsky Being "Aggressively" Shopped By Rangers

Not a whole lot of news surrounding the Rangers lately, but there was an interesting blurb Tweeted by Ottawa radio station TEAM 1200 earlier today, which you can read below.

"According to rumours out of New York, the Rangers are shopping Brandon Dubinsky aggressively."
@TEAM1200Ottawa on Twitter

 That's it. No mention of what those supposed "rumors out of New York" are surrounding Brandon Dubinsky, nor was there any mention of who exactly the sources are that the station is getting this information from. I have a hard time believing there's any truth to this rumor because there's been absolutely nothing mentioned by any of the Rangers beat writers, such as Steve Zipay of Newsday or Larry Brooks of The New York Post, and those guys are usually on top of all those rumors. If there was any news about the Rangers trying to aggressively move Dubi, I have to believe at least one of the million Rangers beat writers I follow daily on Twitter would've mentioned it.

So, I'm not really sure where these supposed rumors came from, but I doubt there's anything to it. The fact of the matter is that the Rangers very well may be shopping Dubinsky, but I still think dealing him now when his value is at an all-time low would be a mistake. After all, if the Rangers gave up on Marian Gaborik after one bad season, who knows how far the team would've gotten this season? I really only see Dubinsky moving if he's a part of a large package to bring in a Rick Nash type of prolific goal-scorer. Other than that, I'd be surprised if Dubi isn't a Blueshirt again next season.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Los Angeles Kings Win Stanley Cup, Quick Named Conn Smythe Winner

The 2011-2012 NHL season officially came to a close tonight with the Los Angeles Kings defeating the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals by a score of 6-1. Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy after posting a brilliant 1.46 GAA and .946 SV% while going 16-4 in 20 playoff games.

Congratulations to the Kings, and also to the Devils for putting him quite a fight after it looked like this series would be an easy win for the Kings after the first three games. I said after the Rangers were eliminated that I really had no plans to watch any of the Stanley Cup Finals, and I really didn't. Aside from being out at places where it may have been on I didn't go out of my way and put any of the games on. I'm a fan of the game of hockey, but after the rollercoaster the Rangers put everybody through in the playoffs, I really just had no interest in watching the Devils attempt to win a Stanley Cup when the Rangers came so close to being in that position. That being said, you have to give the Devils credit where it's due. They turned this into a series after losing the first three games and showed a lot of heart coming winning the past two games. But, as is the case nine times out of ten, the Devils ultimately found out that putting themselves in a 3-0 hole was just too much to overcome. There's a reason only one team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit to go onto win the series - it's kind of hard to do. You just need to have so many things go right while your opponent needs to have so many things go wrong to be able to turn the entire series upside down, and it obviously takes everything out of you. The Devils deserve credit for climbing back into the series, though, so good for them.

And now we play the waiting game. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire this offseason, the NHL and NHLPA will need to get to work on reaching a new CBA as soon as possible. Many people expect a lockout could be in the future, and after the way things went the last time the CBA expired, it's certainly a realistic worry to have. I'll get into it more in the next few weeks and months, but the one thing I'll say is that if another full season is canceled under Gary Bettman's watch, it will absolutely ruin what's left of his already tarnished legacy as NHL Commissioner. That reason alone makes me thing a deal will be reached. When that will come, though, is anyone's guess. If a lockout happens that extends into the regular season, however, I think it would actually be beneficial to the Rangers. For one, the style of hockey they play is so physical and rough that playing less games would only be a good thing for these guys' bodies. Secondly, it would also mean the Rangers would have less games to play without Marian Gaborik, whose offseason shoulder surgery is expected to keep him sidelined until November or December.

As I said, though, there will be plenty of time to discuss all that, along with the Draft and free agency in the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Marian Gaborik Out 5-6 Months With Torn Labrum

In case you didn't think things could get any worse after the way the Rangers saw their season end just over a week ago, think again. 

The Rangers announced on Friday that Marian Gaborik will be undergoing surgery this week to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which Gaborik believes he suffered in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators during a collision along the boards behind the net. Gaborik is expected to miss five to six months; five months being an absolute best case scenario. That means the Rangers will be without their leading goal-scorer until November or December, and that's assuming Gaborik doesn't suffer any setbacks in his recovery.

Obviously, this is huge news, and very disappointing for a team that already has enough trouble scoring goals as it is. I guess the one good part from all of this (if you can really call it that) is that he's having surgery in June, so Glen Sather still has a long time to make some moves and do what he has to do to bring in another scorer. I'm sure the news on Gaborik will only increase speculation that the Rangers may go hard after Zach Parise in free agency or revisit talks with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash, but it's really way too early to assume any of that. All I know is that this team needed offensive help before this news broke, and this only intensifies the need to bring in another goal-scorer.

Gaborik told reporters in a conference call that he never considered sitting out in the playoffs and tried not to think about the injury while he was playing through it.

Here's part of what Gaborik told the press:

"There was no point (in getting surgery during the playoffs). I tried to put it aside and focus on playing because you don't get these situations where you're playing for The Cup (often). I just wanted to go out there and go for it."
 Blueshirts United

For all the flack Gaborik took in the postseason from fans and the media (myself included), you really have to appreciate the heart the guy showed to play through this injury and not use it as an excuse for his inconsistent play. Gaborik never let on that he was injured and never even missed practice throughout the playoffs from what I can recall. He also told the media the injury had nothing to do with his benching in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils, when he played just three minutes in the third period.

You can read the Rangers' press release on Gaborik's injury here, and more on what Gaborik had to tell the media about his injury here.

Also, in some minor news, the Rangers announced that they have signed center Oscar Lindberg out of the Swedish Elite League (SEL). Lindberg, 20, was acquired last May from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Ethan Werek, but really doesn't project to be anything special. He recorded just five goals and five assists in 46 games playing in the SEL with 18 penalty minutes this past season and is really nothing more than Hartford depth at this point.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rangers Agree To Terms With LW Marek Hrivik

The Rangers announced today that they have agreed to terms with undrafted free agent LW Marek Hrivik on a professional contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hrivik, 20, is a native of Cadka, Slovakia and signed an Amateur Tryout Agreement (which is really just a fancy of saying a minor league contract) with the Whale earlier this year. After recording just one goal in eight regular season games with the Whale, Hrivik skated in nine playoff games and recorded five goals and four assists for nine points, which led the team.

You can read more about Marek Hrivik in the Rangers' press release here.

Hrivik is only 20 years old and has a bit of size on him at 6-foot-1, 197-pounds. He's put up monster numbers while playing three seasons in the QMJHL, including 29 G, 41 A, 70 PTS in 54 games this past season. It's basically a nice depth signing for the Whale with Mats Zuccarello unlikely to return next season. You may recall the Rangers made a similar move last offseason, when they signed undrafted free agent Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to an Amateur Tryout Agreement after putting up strong numbers in the QMJHL. Audy-Marchessault wound up posting 24 G, 40 A, 64 PTS in 70 games with the Whale this past season and, according to some, has legitimized himself as being a real NHL prospect with his strong showing in the pros.

The Rangers certainly seem to have some good scouts who do their due diligence watching up and coming youngsters playing in the juniors, and that's definitely not a bad thing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

News and Notes From Rangers Breakup Day; Dubi, Prust, Sauer Injury Updates

Some news and notes courtesy of various beat reporters on Twitter today from the Rangers' breakup day:

- Brandon Dubinsky said he suffered a high right ankle sprain in Game 7 of the Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and that he'll need another 6 to 8 weeks for the injury to fully heal. Yikes. I think we all assumed Dubinsky was playing at less than 100-percent, and major props to him for going out there and trying to give the team anything he had with the season on the line the past two games. Hopefully, Dubi can just erase this entire season from his mind because there was really nothing positive that came from it.

- When asked if he was playing injured, Ryan Callahan only said, "Everything's fine." I'm sure Cally was banged up and hurting, but he's not going to point to an injury and make excuses. Callahan is a warrior and there was nothing that was going to keep him from playing in the postseason.

- Speaking of Callahan, he said his wife gave birth to a baby girl named Charlotte, and everybody is healthy and well. Congrats to Daddy Cally!

- Brandon Prust played through a torn tendon in his left ring finger that he suffered in a fight with Zenon Konopka during the regular season. Prust, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is a huge part of that gritty, tough attitude that this Rangers team has become famous for and I fully expect him to be back next season.

- Marian Gaborik said he may need to have surgery in the offseason for an undisclosed injury. He wouldn't reveal any other details beyond that, so I guess we'll just need to stay tuned and hope it isn't serious. Gaborik said he might reveal more about the injury within the next few days.

- Brad Richards said that he felt a lot more comfortable as the season went along and said it was good to get his first season in New York under his belt. He said he expects to be much better next season. Many Rangers fans will disagree considering his poor series against the Devils, but I thought overall Richards had a very good first season as a Ranger. There's no doubt he's already a team leader and someone who wants nothing more than to win a Cup here.

- Derek Stepan admitted that he wasn't as sharp as he could've been in these playoffs. Going deep into the playoffs hopefully will give Step a real feel for what playoff hockey is like and how he'll need to play going forward. Stepan had a very up and down season, but he's still a big part of the Rangers' future and someone they'll need to, no pun intended, step his game up going forward. He's now been to the playoffs twice in his two seasons in the NHL and the learning curve is just about over.

- Ruslan Fedotenko said he'll take some time to evaluate his future going forward, but his desire is to still win a Stanley Cup. He said he's open to doing another one-year deal with the Rangers or another team should he decide to continue his NHL career. I wrote a few days ago that I thought Feds' postseason play may have bought him another season with the Rangers, and I still stand by that.

- Something that went under the radar yesterday and wasn't talked about much was what Andrew Gross reported on Michael Sauer. Gross wrote that the Rangers can't count on Sauer for next season and it's possible the concussion he suffered in December might be career-ending. Michael's older brother, Kurt, had his NHL career cut short because of concussions. It's definitely some scary stuff. Sauer had a long history of being injury prone in the minors, but I don't think he ever had a history of concussions before suffering this one. It would be an absolute shame if he never fully recovers considering how important of a defenseman he was developing into for the Rangers the last season and a half. It would also create a need for the Rangers to go out and acquire a right-handed defenseman to step into the second or third d-pairing. It should be worth noting, though, that a lot of this is completely speculation and there's nothing concrete from Sauer or anyone in the Rangers organization about Sauer's condition. The team has given no official update in months.

Report: Zuccarello To Sign With KHL If No NHL Teams Come Calling

It didn't take long for Rangers news to start trickling down. A day after their season ended yesterday, word leaked out on Saturday that RW Mats Zuccarello had reportedly inked a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. Zucc's agent denied those rumors,though according to Katie Strang of ESPN, Zuccarello apparently will eventually sign with Metallurg Magnitogorsk if no teams offer him an NHL contract

Zuccarello will officially be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, when his two-year deal with the Rangers expires.

Zucc certainly won't get paid any more by a team in the NHL than what KHL teams are willing to pay him, so the fact that he's holding off on accepting a deal to play in the KHL tells me he really would love for an NHL team to give him another opportunity at cracking an NHL lineup somewhere. We'd heard rumblings over the past few years that Zuccarello wanted a trade or to be released from his contract so he could go back to play in Europe, though both he and Glen Sather denied those rumors on several occasions. Nevertheless, I get the impression from everything I've read that Zuccarello simply is tired of playing in the AHL, and I can't say I really blame him. He's proven he can dominate in Europe and the minors, but when it comes to the NHL his play has been very inconsistent. I definitely don't see a place for him on the Rangers going forward, and I think if he had any value to other NHL teams they would've explored trading for him last year. But teams can never have enough forward depth, so we'll see what happens.

I've never been that high on Zuccarello and have always felt like he was a long shot to make it in the NHL because of his small size. When you're a small player you have to have such good hands and puck control to make up for it, and Zucc really didn't flash much of either outside of a few times. I certainly hope he latches on with another NHL team, though, and can continue living his dream of playing in the NHL.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rangers Season Ends With 3-2 Loss To Devils In Game 6

It was over before it felt like it even started. After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Rangers rallied to tie the game in the second period before playing a scoreless third period and then heading to overtime. As has been the case all postseason long, every Rangers fan's stomach was in knots knowing that the next goal would decide the game, and more importantly, perhaps even the Rangers' season. I still hadn't even settled in when I saw a mad scramble in front of the net and before I knew it, the game was over. The series was over. The season was over. It seems like most times you have that type of chaos in the crease the ref will blow the play dead because he'll lose sight of the puck, but of course the Rangers couldn't catch that break. After all, if things came easy for the Rangers we all wouldn't have grown to love this team as much as we have this season.

I wanted to write about the game last night, but honestly, after the way it ended I just couldn't bring myself to it. It was just like the Marian Hossa overtime goal against the Penguins that eliminated the Rangers in the playoffs a few years ago, only this time it was much worse. I haven't looked at a replay of the goal to break it down, and probably won't. I'd like to go as long as possible without seeing that goal if I can. I needed some time to reflect on the game, the playoffs, and the Rangers' season as a whole and I knew anything I wrote wouldn't come across the way I wanted it to because of the sour mood I was in after the game.

Click below to read more on my thoughts on the game, the series, and the Rangers going forward.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rangers vs. Devils, Game 6 Tonight At 8 p.m.

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals is set to begin in just about two hours from now, and the Rangers will be looking to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The Devils, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to end this series tonight so that they can get at least a few days off before the Stanley Cup Finals start on Tuesday, where the Los Angeles Kings are laying in wait for whoever wins this series.

There's only one lineup change expected tonight, and that's Steve Eminger returning to the lineup in place of Stu Bickel, who had a brutal game on Wednesday and would be a healthy scratch for the second time in the past three games. The Devils are expected to dress the same lines they had in Game 6.

Overall, from what I've been reading it seems like this Rangers team is a confident bunch heading into tonight's game. They're not overly confident, but they've already been in this scenario three times this postseason and are almost veterans at this point in facing elimination games. So all the heart-racing, down-to-the-wire moments they've given the fans over the course of the last few weeks do actually have some positives to them. John Tortorella likes to talk about gaining experience playing in these types of games, and the team is certainly getting all the experience they needed and then some. This team is battle-tested and has proven they relish games like tonight. The Black and Blueshirts style that the Rangers play with is certainly, in my opinion, the type of style you want to play in elimination games because of how important and how tough every single shift is.

Click below to read my thoughts on tonight's game and the keys to victory for the Rangers tonight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rangers vs. Devils, Game 5 Tonight From MSG; Dubinsky and Prust Return To Lineup

As the Rangers and Devils get set to drop the puck for a pivotal Game 5 in about a half hour from now, the Rangers will get two added boosts to their lineup with the returns of Brandon Prust, who was suspended for Game 4, and Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since suffering a right ankle injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. John Tortorella, of course, hasn't officially announced that Dubinsky will return tonight, but all indications from practice this morning were that Dubinsky will be in the lineup for John Mitchell. Stu Bickel, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3 and dressed as an extra forward in Game 4 to replace Prust in the lineup, is also expected back in the lineup tonight at defense while Steve Eminger takes a seat.

Here are the projected lines for tonight's game:

Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov-Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp-Brandon Dubinsky-Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Stu Bickel

I would expect that John Tortorella will be mixing and matching his lines often and early tonight to try and create some different looks to throw the Devils off guard.

As for the gameplan itself, I really don't think it's any different than it's been for any game in this series. The Rangers have to use the home crowd to their advantage and get pucks to the net. Martin Brodeur, in my opinion, has been average in this series and some of the goals he's let in have been brutal. If the Rangers just get pucks to the net and feed off the energy in Madison Square Garden tonight then they have a chance to really rattle Brodeur early. The absolute worse case scenario would be a repeat of the Rangers' performance in Game 4, where they just looked unprepared and disorganized. They usually tend to follow up those games with much better performances and raise their intensity, though, so we'll see what happens.

Also of note is that Mats Zuccarello also fully-practiced this morning for the first time since fracturing his wrist, but it's not clear if he'll be in the lineup tonight. Truthfully, I don't see Torts putting him in for anybody in the lineup unless an injury occurs or someone has a truly abysmal performance tonight.

One player to watch is Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto, of course, had an awful game on Monday night and was benched for a majority of the second and third periods following a few awful giveaways. Torts said after the game that Del Zotto's grandmother died recently and Game 4 was his first time playing since it happened, so I think it's safe to say his mind was on other things, and rightfully so. But I expect Del Zotto to come out determined and with a renewed fire tonight. The Rangers will certainly need him to be back to himself or else they'll be forced to give more minutes to Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman late in the game, which Torts typically likes to stay away from.

We'll see what happens. Gametime is 8 p.m. so the time for talk and analyzing is just about over.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rangers vs. Devils, Game 4 Tonight From Newark

As the Rangers look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Devils in Game 4 tonight from Newark, they'll be without Brandon Prust (one-game suspension) and Brandon Dubinsky (right ankle). Prust was suspended one game by the NHL yesterday for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in the back of the head in Game 3 that went unpenalized, while Dubinsky has been sidelined with a right ankle injury since Game 7 of the Quarterfinals against the Senators. Dubinsky practiced with the team today, but evidently isn't ready to give it a go yet.

That means swingman Stu Bickel will make his return to the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch in Game 3 for Steve Eminger. Bickel will dress as a forward on the fourth line, where he appeared a few times earlier in the regular season when the Rangers were banged up. I thought Bickel handled himself pretty well in the limited time we saw him as a forward, but the truth is that he probably won't be playing more than three or four minutes anyway.

John Tortorella, of course, hasn't confirmed that Bickel will dress as a forward tonight, but here's what you can likely expect the lines to look like:

Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov-Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp-John Mitchell-Stu Bickel

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist

Obviously, expect those lines and d-pairings to change numerously later on in the game based on where exactly the Rangers find themselves in the scoreboard come the third period.

In regards to Prust, just to give you an idea of how screwed up the NHL disciplinary system is, here are my quick thoughts on Prust's suspension: I don't think he should've been suspended at all, but I'm actually surprised he wasn't suspended more than one game. By now we all know there doesn't seem to be any consistency with suspensions Brendan Shanahan hands out, so I'm not quite sure how the elbow Prust threw was, according to the NHL, just as lethal as when Matt Carkner dropped his gloves and punched Brian Boyle square in the face several times or if it was any worse than Alex Ovechkin leaving his feet and clearly aiming for Dan Girardi's head in the Semifinals. But, as I said, there's really no rhyme or reason for the way suspensions are handed out, so we just have to continue living with this ridiculous system.

 The game starts at 8 p.m. It would certainly be great for the Rangers to go up by more than one game for the first time this postseason, but it's gotten to a point now where I really have no idea what to expect from the team. For whatever reason they just play differently when their backs aren't up against the wall. I just hope that isn't the same case tonight. Taking a 3-1 series lead back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday would be huge, and I really believe it's imperative the Rangers show some killer instinct in these playoffs to put teams away and not let them hang around.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rangers Set For Game 2 Wednesday Night Versus Devils

After taking a 1-0 series lead in last night's 3-0 victory over the Devils at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will look to do something they haven't done all postseason long on Wednesday night, and that's go up by two games in a series. So far in the playoffs the Rangers are 3-0 in Game 1 and 0-2 in Game 2. A win tomorrow night obviously wouldn't guarantee a series victory, but it sure would make things a lot easier for the Rangers to take the first two games of the series at home.

Click below to read more on my thoughts of last night's game, and what the Rangers will have to do to pull out a victory in Game 2.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rangers Lose Game 6, Will Play Game 7 Saturday Night

Here we go again. The Rangers and Capitals will meet in Game 7 on Saturday night after the Caps fought off elimination and defeated the Rangers 2-1 tonight. I'd like to say that the Rangers played a hard fought game and just couldn't come out on top tonight, but if I did I'd be lying. The Capitals just looked like the better team from the start, and the Rangers looked like they were sleepwalking.

Click below to read more on my thoughts on Game 6, and what the Rangers need to fix and do differently heading into Game 7.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rangers Stun Capitals 3-2 In OT, Lead Series 3-2

I'll admit it - I was in the middle of writing a new blog post about the Rangers being down in the series 3-2 and having to face back-to-back do or die games for the second consecutive series in this year's playoffs. But with 6.6 seconds left Brad Richards made me, and I'm sure many other writers and bloggers, make good use of the backspace key and start over from scratch. Because with their backs against the wall and seemingly on the verge of losing a game in which the Rangers vastly outplayed the Washington Capitals, the Rangers reminded everybody why, to steal a phrase from the MSG Network ad campaigns, it really is different here.

Joel Ward, who was the cult hero of the Capitals for scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Quarterfinals to eliminate the Boston Bruins, took a double-minor with 22 seconds left in the game when his stick came up and caught Carl Hagelin in the face. The Rangers had a two man advantage with Henrik Lundqvist pulled, and the series completely changed after Brad Richards somehow got the puck past Braden Holtby and just inside the far post to tie the game at two during a mad scramble at the side of the net. Then, 1:35 into overtime, Marc Staal capped off an improbable comeback with a rocket from the point for another power play goal after a big faceoff win by John Mitchell that nearly tore the roof off of the newly renovated Madison Square Garden to give the Rangers a 3-2 series lead and leaves them one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tonight was another game in which the Rangers took us all on another roller coaster of emotions. There was excitement, anger, disappointment, sadness, then back to excitement, and then, finally, relief. Basically, it was just another typical New York Rangers playoff game.

Click below to read more on tonight's game, including why Chris Drury's name was being tossed around on Twitter in regards to tonight's game.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rangers Defeat Senators 2-1, Advance To Eastern Conference Semifinals

Photo Credit: NY Times

The Rangers are moving on. Backed by Henrik Lundqvist's 26 saves and goals by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the Rangers squeaked out a thrilling 2-1 win in Game 7 to eliminate the Ottawa Senators and move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they'll meet the Washington Capitals.

The third period was about as nerve-racking as you could possibly imagine. By the time it got to around the midway point it became clear that the Rangers were going to rely on shot blocking and Henrik Lundqvist to preserve their one-goal lead. I still think playing this way is extremely risky in the playoffs, especially when playing teams who have more offensive weapons than Ottawa, but this series has taught us that this is the way the Rangers are going to play every game from here on out. They got this far because of this system, and they're going to continue to ride it as far as it'll take them. That means we can expect to be in-store for a lot more games that cause our hearts to race, butterflies in our stomachs, and sweaty palms as we countdown every second on the clock as the Rangers try and hold onto a slim lead. Not exactly my idea of fun times, but it sure is a better alternative than the team being sent home for the summer.

Click below to read more on tonight's game.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keys To Game 7: New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

So, it all comes down to this. Tonight's Game 7 will determine whether the Rangers' 2011-2012 season will continue to the next round, where they would play the Washington Capitals, or whether the Rangers are sent home early once again.

Ryan Callahan told the media he's "fine" for tonight's game after blocking a shot off his middle finger in Game 6. Callahan didn't miss a shift, but was in considerable pain on the bench when he was having his finger looked at. He was also given the day off yesterday for maintenance, but there was never any real doubt that Cally would play tonight. With the Rangers' season on the line there was little to no chance that their team captain would miss the game because of his finger.

John Tortorella will presumably dress the same lines as Game 6, meaning Brian Boyle will remain out with a concussion. Boyle reportedly did workout a bit in the weight room at the Rangers' practice facility this morning, but he hasn't skated since he suffered a concussion at the hands of a cheap shot from Chris Neil in Game 5.

The Rangers are saying all the right things heading into Game 7. Torts and his players have refused to comment on the Senators' controversial third period goal in Game 6, nor did they get into a war of words after Chris Neil insinuated that he could be out for payback on Michael Del Zotto after Del Zotto's hit left Neil dazed for a few minutes in Game 6. Brad Richards' veteran presence, in particular, seems to be a big plus for the Rangers and easing some nerves. The guy basically has ice water in his veins, and insisted today that the Rangers just have to keep their cool, stick to playing their game, and not to let the pressures of a Game 7 get to them.

Here are my keys to Game 7 and what the Rangers must do to pull out the victory:

1. Keep the front of the net clear. This one is the most important. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have done a great job of clearing the crease so that Henrik Lundqvist can see most of Ottawa's shots from the point. Last night, Ottawa's first goal came because Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal did absolutely nothing to clear the front of the net, and Chris Neil was standing directly in front of Lundqvist as a result. If Lundqvist can see it, chances are he'll stop it. If the Rangers can manage to give Neil some good shots when he tries to head to the net he might get frustrated and try to take a stupid penalty, which would obviously benefit the Rangers. That's assuming, though, that the referees are competent enough to make the right calls against Ottawa, though, when they need to be made, unlike in Game 6.

2. Fire away at Craig Anderson. The Rangers showed themselves that Craig Anderson is beatable in Game 6, and they'll need to continue to capitalize on that confidence they built as a team. Even though Anderson is a veteran goaltender, he's never won a playoff series. If the Rangers can get off to a fast start and grab an early lead with the Garden rocking they might be able to rattle Anderson a bit. But that's not going to happen if the Rangers sit back and don't get any sustained offensive pressure going. If they have a shot opportunity they have to take it. And the Rangers should not deviate from this approach even if they jump out to an early lead in the game. They did that in Game 5 and blew the game, in my opinion, because they spent the second and third periods playing back in their own zone trying to protect a slim lead. The Rangers need to be aggressive with their shots like they were in Game 6 and make sure their offense doesn't go long stretches without doing anything.

3. Give Chris Kreider more ice time. Kreider was the Rangers' best forward on the ice in Game 6 and was rewarded with more ice time late in the game. If he comes out flying like last game, John Tortorella needs to get him more involved. Kreider specifically should be seeing power play time over John Mitchell, who has done nothing to warrant any power play time, much less a spot in the lineup, in this series.

4. Get Marian Gaborik more involved. This will be easier to do since the Rangers have the last line change at home, and John Tortorella will be able to try and take advantage of mismatches depending on who the Senators have on the ice at any given time. Gaborik needs to get going, plain and simple, and that's only going to happen by increasing his ice time. I also would like to see Gaborik double-shifted in place of Mitchell, Mike Rupp or Ruslan Fedotenko if the Rangers are trying to get something going offensively over the course of the game.

5. Don't panic! This is the most important key to me, and it's actually pretty simple. The Rangers hold all the cards and don't need to deviate from who they are. They're coming off of an emotional win, Game 7 is in their building, and now is the time to prove why they were the No. 1 seed in the East. The Rangers already survived one elimination game, so I think they have an advantage in knowing what to expect heading into a Game 7 versus a fairly young Ottawa Senators team. The Rangers need to stay focused on blocking shots and playing physical without crossing the line and taking stupid penalties, which they've been good at for the most part in this series. If the Rangers play the same type of game they played in Game 6, get their power play going, and get some secondary scoring, they should win this game.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rangers Defeat Senators 3-2, Force Game 7 On Thursday

The Rangers will live to see another day. After a 25-save performance in goal by Henrik Lundqvist and Chris Kreider's first career NHL goal that went down as the game-winner, the Rangers prevailed with their backs against the wall, and defeated the Ottawa Senators, 3-2 to force a Game 7 back in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

The Rangers also got huge nights from Derek Stepan (1 goal, 2 assists) and Brad Richards (1 goal, 1 assist) when they needed them the most.

There were several calls that were missed or went against the Rangers in this game, but the one everyone will be talking about is the Senators' second goal of the game that came at 19:21 of the third period. The puck was loose in the crease and Chris Neil speared Henrik Lundqvist in the stomach with his stick and blatantly kicked the puck in the net. The call on the ice was a good goal, but everybody assumed it would be overturned. After a long video review, though, the referees unbelievably ruled it a good goal. The Rangers held on and won, but Lundqvist was furious, yelling obscenities at the referees after the game as they skated off the ice.

Quite frankly, I don't blame him.

There is no way to justifiably defend that call of a good goal, and to me it's been clear for a while now that the NHL has gone out of their way trying to fix games, which was clearly the case tonight. The NHL's official ruling was that Neil didn't touch the puck on Jason Spezza's shot, but one simple look at any replay available could see that excuse was an absolute farce.

After the game, Henrik Lundqvist called the Senators goal "an absolute joke," and said "somebody wanted them in the game, for sure." He was absolutely correct, and I don't blame him one bit for being furious. The Rangers have had to overcome several awful calls and missed calls in this series, but this one by far takes the cake. Nobody can watch that sequence and convince me the NHL isn't out to get the Rangers.

I'll have much more later on the game later, including my thoughts on the horrendous officiating.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rangers Lose Game 5 To Ottawa, Face Do Or Die Game 6 Monday

It all comes down to this. The Rangers dropped a pivotal Game 5 at Madison Square Garden last night to the Ottawa Senators by a score of 2-0 and now trail the series 3-2. The Rangers will need to string together a two-game winning streak starting tomorrow night in Ottawa to avoid an early and disappointing first-round exit for the second consecutive season.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rangers Defeat Senators 1-0, Take 2-1 Series Lead

In what might have been the finest moment of his postseason career thus far, Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 39 shots he faced tonight as the Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators in a 1-0 thriller. The only goal of the game came at 7:35 of the third period when the red-hot Brian Boyle backhanded the puck right past Craig Anderson after a lively bounce off the boards that came right back in front of Ottawa's net.

Henrik Lundqvist was in absolute beast mode tonight. His 39 saves earned Lundqvist his 17 career postseason win, which moves him past John Davidson for the franchise record in playoff victories. His fourth career playoff shutout also tied him with Mike Richter and Dave Kerr for the franchise lead in playoff shutouts. I bet those stats make you feel old, huh? He made a series of phenomenal saves with the game on the line, including two unreal saves in the final minute, the second of which I still have no idea how he stopped. This might've been Lundqvist's best game of his postseason career. at least in my opinion, and it was one of those nights you could tell Lundqvist was just locked in from the very beginning.

Click below to read more on the game, including Brian Boyle's huge game and Chris Kreider's NHL debut.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chris Kreider Will Make NHL Debut In Game 3 Tonight

It's now being reported that Chris Kreider will be in the lineup for the Rangers tonight in place of Carl Hagelin (suspension).

Very, very weird situation. Within the last half hour everybody was reporting that John Scott would make his return to the lineup, and literally seconds before the end of the Rangers pregame show on MSG Al Trautwig said that Kreider is in. Perhaps some mind games from John Tortorella?

Rangers Get Set For Game 3 In Ottawa, Alfredsson A Game-Time Decision

The news from practice today is that apparently Daniel Alfredsson has turned into Wolverine from the X-Men and has developed supernatural healing powers. That's the only way to explain how the Senators' team captain skated through a full practice this morning and will officially be a game-time decision tonight after supposedly suffering a concussion for the second time this season against the Rangers on Saturday night.

The Senators are still sticking to their original story that Alfredsson did in fact suffer a concussion in Game 2 and based a base-line test yesterday, but I personally don't believe it for one second.

Click below to read more news and notes on Alfredsson possibly playing tonight, along with who the Rangers might will dress in Carl Hagelin's place.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rangers Defeat Senators 4-2, Lead Series 1-0

One down, 15 to go. The Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators by a score of 4-2 tonight to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and were led in large part thanks to the efforts of Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves, and Ryan Callahan, who had a goal and a game-high seven hits on the night.

Despite the Rangers heading into the first intermission up 1-0 after Ryan Callahan opened the scoring at 12:01 in the first period, they never really controlled the flow of the game until midway through the second period. The Rangers were out-shot 13-8 in the first period, and the game very well could've taken a turn for the worse if not for Henrik Lundqvist's brilliance in net yet again and a game that proved why Ryan Callahan is the captain of this hockey team.

Click below to read more notes and my thoughts on tonight's game.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chris Kreider Practices With Rangers, Status For Tomorrow Night Uncertain

Chris Kreider getting his new Rangers jersey made at practice today. (Photo Credit: New York Rangers)

Chris Kreider is officially a New York Ranger. The team introduced Kreider to the New York media today following the team's practice, where Kreider practiced as the fourth forward rotating in and out on a line with Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko. Kreider, who will wear No. 20 with the Rangers, said he fully understands Coach John Tortorella's mantra that you have to earn your playing time if you want to be in the lineup.

 “They definitely sent the message if you want to play you’re going to have to prove you’re ready to play and you’re going to have to earn your ice time, which is the way I think it should be,” Kreider said. “No expectations coming in, I’m just going to try to be a sponge.”
Andrew Gross (Rangers Beat Writer)

Also of note: just by practicing today, the first year of Kreider's three-year Entry Level deal was burned off. He's now signed from this point forward through the 2013-2014 season.

Click below to read more on Kreider's first day as a New York Ranger.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reports: Chris Kreider Agrees To 3-Year Entry Level Deal With Rangers

Multiple media outlets, including the always reliable Bob McKenzie of TSN, are reporting that the Rangers have signed their 2009 first round draft pick, Chris Kreider, to a three-year Entry Level contract. The Rangers have not officially confirmed the deal yet, but Larry Brooks of the New York Post says that Kreider will report to the Rangers tomorrow to sign his contract, which will then make the deal official.

Larry Brooks reports that Kreider's deal will be worth $1.3 million per season. According to Bob McKenzie, he'll get no signing bonus for this season or have a salary for the playoffs, but will get bonuses for the remainder of the playoffs for games that he plays in.

Click below to read more on the Rangers signing Kreider.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rangers vs. Flyers Tonight At 7 p.m.

The Rangers are back at it tonight against the Flyers, and will once again look to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division. The Rangers need just one point or a Penguins loss to do so. The Rangers will look to sweep the season series against the Flyers tonight and move to 6-0-0 against them on the season.

Same lineups for the Rangers tonight as Sunday against the Bruins, meaning Henrik Lundqvist will start his tenth straight game. As I said on Sunday, I think the only way the Rangers will play Marty Biron again this season is if the Rangers clinch everything before the last game of the season against Washington.

There has been a ton of fighting in the Rangers-Flyers series this season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see players on both teams drop the gloves early to try and set a tone for the game. It's interesting to note that Jody Shelley is in the lineup for the Flyers and will play against the Rangers for the first time since December. If you don't remember, Shelley and Brandon Dubinsky took several verbal jabs at each other on 24/7 leading up to the Winter Classic.

For the Flyers, Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal after missing the last three games with an injured foot. Bryzgalov went 10-2-1 with a 1.43 GAA in the month of March, but he's 0-2 with a 4.11 GAA against the Rangers this season. Danny Briere, who was injured in the Flyers' Sunday afternoon game against the Penguins, will miss the game and is out indefinitely with a back injury.

Also, a reminder that the game is on MSG2 tonight. The Knicks are on MSG and the Devils are on MSG+.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rangers Can Clinch No. 1 Seed In Eastern Conference Tonight

With the Penguins' 6-4 loss this afternoon to the Flyers, the Rangers need just one more point to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, and they'll look to lock it up in tonight's game against the Boston Bruins. Even though the Rangers technically can clinch with an overtime or shootout loss tonight, it would still be a much more satisfying feeling to get the win and clinch over the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Even though it's now pretty much just a matter of when, not "if," the Rangers will lock up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, I don't think for one second that John Tortorella will let this team take the rest of the regular season off. You might see guys like Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust get a couple of games off to help heal some of their nagging injuries that have plagued them all season long, and I'm sure Henrik Lundqvist will get at least one more game off down the stretch, but that's about it. Torts is not going to let this team get lazy and stop playing hard the way they have all season long.

The Rangers will roll with the same lineup tonight, meaning Henrik Lundqvist will start his ninth straight game and John Scott, Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger will be the scratches.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lundqvist Back In Goal For Rangers vs. Jets Tonight

As the Rangers and Jets get set to faceoff in just a matter of minutes, Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers as they look to move five points ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. This marks the second consecutive back-to-back series of games in which Lundqvist has started both games, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which Marty Biron will play again this year. I thought this may be the last game of the season where John Tortorella would try and get Biron some work, but it's clear the Rangers are planning to ride King Henrik the rest of the way heading into the playoffs. Personally, I think it's a smart move. Lundqvist is the type of goalie who thrives on competition and playing as much as possible, and with the recent funk he's been in I think this is the only way for him to snap out of it and get back to playing at the top of his game.

Same lineups for the Rangers tonight as last night in Minnesota. The Rangers are 3-0 so far against the Winnipeg Jets this season and will look to sweep the season series tonight.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chris Kreider's Boston College Eagles Advance To NCAA Frozen Four

If the Rangers really want Chris Kreider to join their team this season, they're going to have to wait a little bit longer. With their dominating 4-0 win against Minnesota Duluth yesterday, Kreider's Boston College Eagles moved on and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 10th time in the last 15 years. That means, of course, that Kreider's college hockey season isn't over yet, and the Rangers cannot sign him until the season is officially over.

There's no guarantee that the Rangers will sign Kreider immediately after Boston College's season ends, but I'm sure that's their intention. Whether or not he actually plays for the NHL club or joins the Connecticut Whale for their playoff run remains to be seen. I know Glen Sather said he expects to sign Kreider as soon as his season is over and I'm sure the Rangers would love to have him as an addition to their roster for the playoffs, but they'll have to decide if it's worth it to waist an entire year of his Entry Level contract on less than half a season. It also would be a lot to expect the kid to go directly from playing a full college season to an NHL team in the middle of a Stanley Cup run while having to learn a whole new system for a head coach he's never played for before.

We'll see what happens. I don't want the Rangers to rush the kid along and risk stunting his growth just to add another offensive player to the postseason roster, though the Rangers have definitely played it smart with the way they've brought along their recent top prospects like Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Tim Erixon and Derek Stepan. It's clear they have a plan in place and wouldn't stick the kid in the NHL if they didn't feel he was ready.

And let's face it - if the Rangers do in fact add Chris Kreider to their NHL roster and they go onto win the Cup this year, that alone will be all that matters and Glen Sather will look like a genius.