Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rangers Win...What is Wrong with Phoenix?

Well last night the New York Rangers beat up on the Phoenix Coyotes winning by a final score of 4-1. Enver Lisin had the only Coyote goal which was the first goal of the game. However, the New York Rangers woke up and put 4 past Ilya Bryzgalov.
Yes I was rooting for the Coyotes. But the Rangers won which is always a positive. Despite playing a game I wouldn't call fantastic *cough* Rozsival *cough* the Rangers were playing a team that is in complete disarray at the moment, that being their 6th straight loss. 
Last night confirmed to me one thing that I had been thinking about but was hoping was wrong. The Coyotes are not a playoff team. General Manager Don Maloney said that this team is a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot at the beginning of the year. Things certainly looked that way as Shane Doan, Olli Jokinen and other had some good starts to the year. But the youth factor is very high on this team and that is ultimately what will bring this team down. It would be wonderful to see the Coyotes youngsters start lighting the lamp and being a factor in the offense but they haven't picked up the load that I am sure Don Maloney was looking for.
Should they be shouldered with all that responsibility? Probably not. These kids are barely older than me and are expected to be immediate offensive talents in the NHL when in reality they aren't. I am not saying that some of these guys won't turn into great players but immediate greatness is not in the cards here. 
There is one other problem that I know will not be addressed simply because of politics and that is the coaching. Yes Wayne Gretzky has a stake in the Phoenix Coyotes organization as a managing partner and alternate governor. However, that should not give him untouchable status in terms of his job as a coach. 
The Coyotes have a very young team which needs a coach who can teach players how to play at the NHL level. You would think that Wayne would be the best person for that but being a coach is more than that. The Coyotes need a system that works and a coach who has been a coach. Someone who can keep the development of the young players going while inputting a system that will be hard to beat every night. 
I understand that Gretzky just signed a 5 year extension as a coach but this is what I think. Put Gretzky as an assistant coach for awhile...maybe he can figure out this abysmal powerplay of the Coyotes. When Ulf Samuelsson is your powerplay coach, it isn't going to work. Get a real coach in there for a couple of years. If Wayne is itching to be head coach again then that is fine but for a team that is rebuilding a coach is important in getting a system of play down that will inspire younger players and help them learn the nuances of the NHL game. Afterwards Gretzky can take things back.

It is rough to be a Coyotes fan with the NHL team on a 6 game losing streak. Things aren't much better down on the AHL affiliate in San Antonio where the Rampage have dropped 13 straight games. They are 2-17 on the season. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Predicament

The question that I get asked many times will be answered tomorrow. "When the Rangers and the Coyotes play, who do you root for?". The Coyotes are visiting the Rangers on Monday night with two teams that are on losing streaks. Last season, the Coyotes came into MSG hot and beat the Rangers 5-2. The Coyotes come in tomorrow having lost 5 straight while the Rangers have lost their last two games in horrible fashion. 
So who am I rooting for? The Coyotes. The Rangers may be near the top of the conference but they certainly aren't playing like they belong there. Besides, I don't get to be a Coyotes fan very often. 
Who is going to win? Probably the Rangers but I am hoping that the Coyotes can kick some serious butt and knock some sense into the Rangers like they did last season. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Billy Tibbetts Suspended and Leaves Hatters

Forward Billy Tibbetts was suspended by the Danbury Mad Hatters (Reasons undisclosed) and has left the team. Read the full story here
Whatever the reason for the suspension, the Hatters will miss Tibbetts. He was the most skilled player not only on the team but also in the EPHL. For a team that is having trouble putting up goals on the scoreboard this is a bold move but breaking team policies is something that has to be dealt with. 
What do the Hatters do now? Rumors have been floating around about certain players coming to Danbury but what ever the case may be at this point, Danbury needs to get skilled forwards if they want to succeed. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Fix the Hatters?

Lets face it. The Danbury Mad Hatters have not started the season off the way they wanted to. They were looking to make an impression in the first year of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL) and certainly have but maybe not the way they wanted to. They are 2nd in the league with 212 penalty minutes in just 4 games, an average of 53 minutes a game. Danbury is last in goals for with 15 and has a record of 1-3-0-0 which puts them in last along with the Hudson Valley Bears who are seemingly turning into the main rivals. 
So what needs to be done? How can this team be fixed this early in the season? Lets look at this a bit more in depth with questions.
Is it the Coach? Absolutely not. Coach MacIsaac has done very well in terms of keeping the team together and getting his players ready for games. The Hatters have scored first in 3 of their first four games this season and jumped out to leads. They made a comeback in the third game of the season after being down 2 goals going into the third period. Mac has a system of hard work and grinding in place with the team that is working well. Obviously it isn't perfect but Mac has a solid base set down. 
Is it the players? Obviously some blame does have to go on the players because they are the ones on the ice but it isn't entirely theirs. Yes they blew multiple goal leads in their first few games and maybe have come out flat when they couldn't afford to. But the players on this team have offensive talent. Igor Karlov and Billy Tibbetts are two guys on the team who have the offensive skills to light up the league. Dan Hickman on the back end has the smarts to run the point on the power play and a shot to add another dimension to the Hatters offense. On the goaltending side of things, it has been a rough go for Derek MacIntyre and Jeff Hill. MacIntyre has been in goal for 3 of the 4 Hatters games with a 5.38 goals against average while Jeff Hill gave up 6 in his only game. With the Hatters giving up an average of 35 shots a game, the defense needs to step up in reducing quality scoring chances while the goaltenders need to make more saves...including some desperation ones. 
So where is the blame? The builders. I personally believe that the mantra of the team is a carry over from the Danbury Trashers and New England Stars franchises of being mean and pounding the opposition into the ice. But even the Trashers had scorers in their second season as they realized that the all tough guy teams except for a few guys weren't as effective in winning games. 
What this team needs is a change of theme. Instead of being mean and focusing on pounding the other team, go for a hard working mantra. Obviously don't completely do away with the toughness factor considering the rivalries that are bound to be forged but a focus on creating an atmosphere that promotes hard work and speed. Coach Dave MacIsaac will be needed if this is to become a reality but that is the way to go if this team wants to succeed in this league.
Another thing that needs to be done is getting the right players to fit in the system. Fast players are essential in a league where the ice surface is smaller. Players like Igor Karlov who have incredible speed will rack up points in this league. The management needs to invest in players who have speed but aren't afraid to mix it up as well. Danbury Trashers fans will remember Bruce Richardson from their inaugural season when he had 87 points in 76 games. His style of play is exactly the type that this Hatters team needs to adopt and the kind of players that are needed. Hard working, speed oriented, edgy guys who feed off the crowd and the energy on the ice, bench and in the locker room are the answer to the Hatters.
It is very early in the season and there is no reason to hit the panic button. But management should be looking for ways to fix this team which they undoubtedly are. They want a winner in Danbury and this start certainly will bring changes to the team. 

Comeback Kids

As mentioned in my last post, I was at the Bruin Ranger game at MSG. Of course by the end of the 2nd period I wanted to leave but it is a rule of mine to never leave a game early no matter the score. Good thing I followed that rule.
The Rangers dominated the third period and stormed back from a 2-0 deficit against a very good defensive team. Nigel Dawes got his second goal of the season (hopefully this will wake him up) at the 13:55 mark of the third period. Markus Naslund was then fed a beautiful pass and put one of his patented wrist shots past Tim Thomas to tie the game up with 52 seconds to go in the third period. The Rangers had come back from a two goal deficit against a very good team in the third period.....again.
Chris Drury scored the lone goal in the shootout and after a reviewed attempt by Patrice Bergeron which clearly didn't go in, the Rangers had won. 
Talk about a roller coaster ride. The Rangers came back against a team that was on a roll and maybe are beginning to get on one themselves. 
The Coyotes lost 3-2 to the Stars. Kevin Porter and Steven Reinprecht had the goals for the Coyotes but they couldn't muster a third one to tie the game.
The Hatters got blown out in their first game on the road 7-1. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big Night Tonight

Tonight is another big night of hockey.

The New York Rangers are back home to take on the Boston Bruins. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference will certainly be in for a huge battle tonight. The Bruins and 3 points behind the Rangers with three games in hand, making this game that much more important. Two of the best goalies in the league right now, Henrik Lundqvist and Tim Thomas, will be in net tonight. Look for a low scoring defensive affair tonight. I will be at the game certainly losing my voice. 
The Coyotes return home tonight after a good road trip to take on the struggling Dallas Stars. Look for Phoenix to come out strong after being shut out by the Wild who seem to have the Coyotes' number. I expect a big game out of the young players tonight as they will need to be more involved if the Coyotes want to succeed. 
The Danbury Mad Hatters play their first road game tonight as they visit the Brooklyn Aces. The Hatters are 1-2 on the season so far and are looking to string wins together to get to the top of the EPHL. 
A busy night tonight in the NHL with 10 games on the slate which is plenty of hockey action to keep any fan busy. LETS GO RANGERS! GO YOTES GO! LETS GO HATTERS!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leader of the Pack

When it comes to the Phoenix Coyotes organization, there is one person who exemplifies consistency and dedication...Shane Doan. 
The only remaining Winnipeg Jet on the team Shane Doan has quickly become one of the best players in Coyotes/Jets history and has a few more years ahead of him as a Phoenix Coyote.
His dedication showed when he signed a 5 year extension in February of 2007 for a bargain price of $4.5 million a year. Doan could have left Phoenix and easily have gotten much more than that. But he was dedicated to the Coyotes organization and stayed. 
After being drafted in 1995 (first round, 7th overall) Doan has risen to the top of the Coyotes and is now the captain. Despite sub-par offensive seasons, Shane took off last season when he had 28 goals and 50 assists for 78 points in 80 games, a career high. 
This season the offensive onus is still on Doan but he has help in the new arrival of Olli Jokinen who may be the one type of player to elevate Doan from good to great. Through 14 games this season Doan has 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points and is on pace to break the 50 goal plateau. Whether he gets there or not remains to be seen but he is earning the C on his shoulder right now. If he continues to play like this, can anyone spell M-V-P? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big Night for Rangers and Coyotes

First of all, sorry for the inconsistent articles being written. School has been a bit busy the last couple of days making me unable to put anything here.
But getting to tonight's action, the Rangers traveled across the Hudson to face off against the injury riddled Devils. Martin Brodeur, Bobby Holik, Brian Rolston, and Paul Martin were all out of the lineup for the Devils while the Rangers were without Scott Gomez who was kept out for precautionary reasons. He is listed as day to day. 
The Rangers, who have had problems playing the full 60 minutes the past few games, didn't play a full 60 minutes tonight. However, the 4o minutes they were playing, they played spectacular with Henrik Lundqvist picking up the other 20 minutes as best as he could. Nikolai Zherdev lead the Ranger scoring rush as he finished the night with 2 goals. Chris Drury had a goal and an assist with Michal Rozsival and Lauri Korpikoski scoring the other 2 goals. Rotating forwards Nigel Dawes and Dan Fritsche had 2 assists a piece as did Dan Girardi. 
This is an important win for the Rangers as their tough schedule continues on Saturday when they host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.
The Phoenix Coyotes came into Columbus on a two game winning streak, looking to get three wins in a row for the first time this season. They certainly did that with a convincing 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets. Shane Doan had 2 goals and an assist. He was very close to getting his first career hat trick but hit the post on the empty net which was followed up by Martin Hanzal. Kevin Porter and Steven Reinprecht rounded out the scoring for the Desert Dogs. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 31 of 33 shots and continues his stellar play over this stretch which has the Coyotes winning four of their last five games. 
At some point in the near future I will have a feature on Shane Doan of the Coyotes considering his great play to begin this season so look for that. Until then....Lets Go Rangers and Go Yotes Go. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mad Hatters Get First Win with 6-4 Victory Over Hudson Valley

Coming into tonight, the Danbury Mad Hatters had blown a three goal lead in each of their first two games. Despite blowing a one goal lead early and going down by two, they stormed back to get their first win in the franchise's history.

The Hatters got the scoring started as Billy Tibbetts made a beautiful cross ice pass to find defenseman Andrew Scampoli breaking down the wing. Scampoli tapped it past Bears starting goalie Scott Rowan just over 15 minutes into the first frame. However, Hudson Valley would not be behind for long as Chris Seifert tied things up, beating Hatters starting goalie Drew MacIntyre. At the end of the first period it was all tied up at one.

The second period started out very well for the Hatters. Dan Hickman ripped a one timer at the net after receiving a pass from Igor Karlov. Adam Sinewitz was in front creating problems for the Hudson Valley defense. Danbury was in control with a 2-1 lead. But the Bears would not go down quietly as they rang off three unanswered goals with Seifert getting his second goal while Scott Estey and Brandon Doria potted one each. It seemed like Danbury was in for another long night as they ended the second down 4-2.

What happened or what was said in the locker room during the second intermission is unknown but it worked. The Hatters came out flying as Eric Linkowski scored just 26 seconds in followed up by Alex Redmond scoring just 29 seconds later. Suddenly, the game was tied. Danbury kept coming as Drew Madeiros scored to give Danbury the lead for good with Igor Karlov getting an insurance goal to complete the big comeback for Danbury.

Karlov lead the team in points tonight with a goal and two assists while Drew MacIntyre stopped 27 of 31 shots. 

The Danbury Mad Hatters next home game is Wednesday November 26th at 7pm as they host the Jersey Rockhoppers. Tickets are available at the Danbury Ice Arena and at www.madhattershockey.com. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Full Slate Tonight

Another full slate of games tonight to pay attention to. The Rangers better play ALOT better than they did against the Islanders as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (7pm EST). The Coyotes need to start stringing wins together as they head for Vancouver to take on the Canucks (10pm EST). The Danbury Mad Hatters are looking for their first win of the season as they host the Brooklyn Aces at the Danbury Ice Arena. Tickets are available so click the link in the upper right hand corner to purchase them. It is a really great time. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dear Glen Sather...Trade Michal Rozsival...

If I could be GM of the Rangers for a day, the first thing I would do is dump Michal Rozsival. I don't for what or to who. A box of broken sticks, pucks, a Mats Sundin jersey, or even a chicken tenders meal at Madison Square Garden. Anything at this point would satisfy my need to get rid of Rozsival.
If Sather was smart, which he can be at some points but usually isn't, he wouldn't even have re-signed Rozsival this summer. Not only did he re-sign him....he gave him an outrageous contract. 4 years with a cap hit of $5 million a year. Technically he is getting paid $7 million this season. WHY? What do people see in him? A true belief I have is that he was thought of as good because of playing next to Marek Malik. Malik was the focus of everyone's attention and all the bad play was accredited to him whether he warranted it or not. 
This allowed Rozsival to make mistakes without the fan focus on him. I noticed that he was terrible along with Malik. So why the $5 million? 
We may never know what Glen Sather was thinking when Rozsival was signing that contract in his office, but I can guess that his mind was on his fishing retreat in Canada's wilderness than in the salary cap situation for the Rangers. 
The Rangers will have Brandon Dubinsky and Nikolai Zherdev, among others, in the restricted free agent category. I don't think I have to explain the importance of those two to the future of the organization. 
To address the Mats Sundin rumors that have been floating, this is how it should work. I personally don't want Sundin but if it has to happen, it should happen like this. Trade Rozsival anywhere for anything cheap. Draft picks, prospects, used sticks...whatever is needed. Then give whatever money that is left to Sundin for this year ONLY! After this season, Sundin leaves to go wherever and you split that money up between Dubinsky and Zherdev somehow. Its not perfect but if Sundin is indeed to become a New York Ranger, this is how it must be done to ensure the future of the franchise.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mad Hatters Come Up Short in Season Opener: Fall 5-4 to Hudson Valley

The Eastern Professional Hockey League had its first games this Saturday, November 1st 2008. The Danbury Mad Hatters had their UNO Chicago Bar and Grill Opening Night in Danbury, CT in front of a raucous crowd of 1,891.

The Hatters came out flying as Dan Hickman scored the first goal in Danbury Mad Hatters history on the powerplay from Duane Whitehead and Igor Karlov. Less than one minute later former New York Ranger Billy Tibbetts made it 2-0 on the power play.  Duane Whitehead scored in the second period to give the Hatters a 3 goal lead. 

Hudson Valley got on the board as Eric Lind and Ryan Hughes got the Bears within a goal. Eric Lind got his second of the night to tie the game and the Bears took over the game. Tom Westfall scored with Brett Aimone scoring less than 20 seconds later.

Penalties called on Hudson Valley put them on their heels, including a 5 minute power play for Danbury. Obi Aduba scored just over 7 minutes into the third to put the Hatters within 1 but they couldn't tie it up as Bears goaltender Ryan Hull stopped 44 of 48 shots. 

The Danbury Mad Hatters next game is Thursday, November 6th at 7pm as they host the Brooklyn Aces at the Danbury Ice Arena. Tickets are available online at www.madhattershockey.com or at the Danbury Ice Arena box office. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Full Slate of Hockey Tonight

What a night to be a hockey fan. 
The NHL boasts a 12 game schedule this Saturday night. Obviously this blog will be focusing in on two of those.
The New York Rangers are on the road tonight in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. Steve Valiquette will get the start in goal as he looks to improve on his 3-0 record in 4 career starts versus his hometown team. His most recent victory over them was in October when he shut them out in a Ranger shootout victory that saw the Rangers win 1-0. Henrik Lundqvist has played six games straight and has certainly earned a night off.
The roster for the Rangers remains the same from Thursday night's contest against the Thrashers. New acquisitions Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund have been hot as of late and will look to continue their stellar play tonight. The Rangers are looking for their second 5 game winning streak in this very early season. 
Toronto is a team that was projected to finish very low in the standings but has been turning heads as of late. They pushed the Rangers in the last meeting and outscored the New Jersey Devils in a 6-5 shootout victory over Martin Brodeur. Not to mention they beat the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit on the first night of the regular season. Vesa Toskala has been playing very well and is giving the Leafs a chance to win every night. Luke Schenn has earned the right to stay with his team past the 10 game tryout that is given to players who may return to juniors. Ryan Hollweg is back from his second 2 game suspension and faces his former team for the first time. 
On the other side of the continent, the Phoenix Coyotes are looking to get their second straight win at home as they wrap up a 4 game home stand hosting the Minnesota Wild. 
The Coyotes are coming off a big win against the Pittsburgh Penguins and are going to take that momentum into this game. Kevin Porter got his first NHL after an unbelievable move by Steven Reinprecht. Shane Doan had two goals and Olli Jokinen got one for himself. Ilya Bryzgalov played stellar in holding Sidney Crosby and his Penguins to just one goal. 
However tonight they are playing a team that they have lost to 8 consecutive times. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is 6-0-0 with a 1.17 GAA lifetime vs the Coyotes, including 2 shutouts. 
On the bright side of things, the Coyotes won't have to worry about Marian Gaborik or Owen Nolan, both of whom will be out tonight for the Wild. 
The Coyotes special teams has to improve if they want a chance at snapping this bad streak against Minnesota. The power play is ranked 21st in the league at 15.6% while the penalty is also 21st with a 78.1%. It will be even tougher tonight to improve those as the Wild are first in the league on the penalty kill and 7th on the power play. 
The Coyotes need to string some wins together if they want to keep up with the rest of the Western Conference this year. Doing it at home is as good a place to do it. This would also be a huge confidence booster, going 3-1 on a home stand that has been against 4 teams that are among the top in the NHL. 
The third game tonight that I will be not only focusing on but also at is the Danbury Mad Hatters opening night tonight at the Danbury Ice Arena as they take on the Hudson Valley Bears. This is the first night of the regular season for the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL). Despite only having four teams the league will provide a great brand of hockey. 
The final roster for the Hatters has been updated on the right hand side of the page (scroll down a little). If you are in the Danbury area, check this game out! Buy tickets either online through the link on the right or at the door.