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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Did I Just Completely Revolutionize The All-Star Game?

Well, it’s that time of year again. With the Winter Classic behind us and the trade deadline/playoff race a couple months away, the hockey world is forced to give full coverage to the least exciting and most trivial gimmick in all of sports – the All-Star Game. This year’s event will be held in Ottawa, and anyone looking for evidence on how little the league’s fans care about the game should look no further than the Starter’s Ballot voting results. Four of the six selected players are members of the host team with only goalie Tim Thomas and defenseman Dion Phaneuf coming from outside the Senators. Clearly, everyone not located in or around the Canadian capital has tuned out of this supposedly fan-centric event.

But you know what annoys me more than the flat, passionless game played once a year in front of a flat, passionless audience? People who rip on it without proposing better alternatives. Literally every time the subject is brought up in an ESPN article, LeBrun and Burnside seize their one chance to seem edgy and proclaim that the league should “blow it up”. Ohhh, look at you! So cool and brash! Blow it up, you say? How super-punk of you graying curmudgeons to have an opinion so bold! Picking on the single easiest aspect of the NHL season over and over again without providing an alternative option is now the norm, and that feels a bit lazy to me. Is this NHL still too busy patting themselves on the back for thinking up the Classic? Is no one working on turning this joke into a watchable night of hockey? With those thoughts in mind, I’m here to save the day with my completely revolutionary All-Star Game proposition…

Educated fans will remember that last year brought the game’s first real revolution in a number of years – the fantasy draft. While this extra event did provide us another night of All-Star coverage (something that will actually be a drag on the event once the initial novelty wears off), slightly interesting team-choosing storylines and a rash of Phil Kessel jokes, it did nothing to improve the actual game itself. Come Sunday, we were once again treated to a high-scoring, low-excitement game that even the most die-hard fans had no trouble turning off. The fantasy aspect was actually an ingenious idea, but it didn’t go far enough to alter the game’s identity. The event is not the problem, the game is…

So what’s my idea? Blow up the game, of course! But rather than settling on that simplistic and unoriginal opinion, I propose a Phoenix-from-the-Flames-type event revision. No more All-Star Game. Instead, an All-Star Tournament! The Game is already lambasted for being a gimmicky scrimmage that rarely resembles what hockey is all about, so why not embrace the gimmickry full-on? With an average score line more reminiscent of a bad football game, it’s not like we’re destroying something pure with this move. Hear me out on the logistics…

- Eight mini-teams (comprised of six players and one goalie) selected by the eight starters/captains (determined by a suddenly much more dynamic and interesting fan balloting system) will play a NCAA-type knockout tournament consisting of 7 total games.

- Each game would be two four-minute period of three-on-three, full-ice hockey. This gives fans the chance to see the wide-open, would-be overtime format we’ve been hearing so much about from those Research & Development camps. The length of the games is actually the easiest thing to revise here. Eight total minutes is the max, I think, and even that's reasonable based on the below. One 5-minute period is my back-up plan.

- The total game time would decrease from 60 minutes of action down to 56 (with the two four-minute periods), but logistics regarding when “intermissions” would take place and when the ice would be resurfaced would still have to be hammered out. So to answer the inevitable first concern, yes, a tournament is totally doable in the course of the regular ASG time slot.

- There are a couple of concerns that come with a tourney format. Firstly, losing teams might feel gipped that they only played 8 minutes of hockey before being eliminated. Winning teams might be concerned that more time on the ice increases the risk of getting injured. They play too much, they complain. They play too little, they complain. Well, what about if the winning team picks two or three players from a dispatched opponent in order to bolster their numbers along the way? Mercenary-style. That way the All-Stars get more AND less playing time. Problem solved...

- Instead of losing interest 15 minutes into a 8-3 game, fans would be compelled to watch by their desire to see who wins it all. Fan interest is recycled into much smaller segments ensuring it doesn't burn out by the second period of this traditional snooze-fest. The MVP award can become the Stanley Car, awarded to the winning team’s best player, or to a charity of the captain's chosing. We want to see a champion, a winner at the end of it who can walk away with actual pride in their still-meaningless victory. In the nobody-really-loses Game we’ve got going now, us fans certainly aren’t coming out on top.

- Fan interest can also surge given the team drafting possibilities. Last year’s “Ooo, let’s see what happens to the Sedins” dynamic was actually quite one-dimensional because there were only two possibilities - either they'd be on the same team or they wouldn't. You can already tell with this year's event that the only interesting story line is who gets picked last. With eight different players selecting much smaller groups, each choice is packed with power and intrigue. Imagine the fifth captain Steven Stamkos selecting childhood best friend Michael Del Zotto while Zdeno Chara is still on the board. Or maybe Chara’s a captain as well and he takes Ryan Callahan in an “I’m sorry I broke your ankle, you’re obviously nasty”-type move. With two teams and two captains, the possibilities were limited (and repeatedly mentioned by the NHL ad nausea until the thrill of the unknown was all dried up). With eight captains selecting eight teams, the possibilities for compelling, dynamic temporary-teammate storylines are actually endless.

- Well what about the Young Stars Game? Although it never became must-see TV, the focus given to the league's promising kids was a step in the right direction. When a kid like Jeff Skinner starts tearing up the league in his rookie year, it's in the NHL's best interest to get him out in front of the masses. Maybe instead of eight elected captains, the fans chose seven and the league selects last year's Calder winner to be the Young Stars Team captain. He can select his team from a group of promising first and second year players, and the kids can have a go of it. The only stipulation is that they're not allowed to name their own team - each year, the they'll simply be known as the Cinderellas.

- The white-noise, nobody-gives-a-shit build up to the game can actually take on a whole new form with the mini-touney set up. All the sudden, fans are figuring out which team they’ll cheer for based on the captains and who’s selected who. There’s more to contemplate pre-event, like the bracket drawing for instance and what strategy the captains will take in selecting their teams. Team naming could be another fun aspect of the event – imagine watching Sidney Crosby's Subdued Psychos lineup against Tim Thomas and the Tea Party Express! Jerseys would be an issue to overcome, but with all the "thought" going into this year's ASG sweaters, I expect we can figure out something feasible.

- Speaking of captains, imagine if my system was in place for this year’s game. Instead of having a wholly-mockable quartet of Senators receive the somewhat meaningless “starting” honor, they would be captaining different teams intent on taking each other down come Sunday's knock-out. Ottawa fans would be torn into factions based on their favorite player instead of just sitting there unsure of what to care about. Literally every craptastic aspect of the current format turns into pure gold upon my revision. How am I not employed by the NHL yet?!

I’m sure people will poke holes in my still-in-its-infancy idea, but I’m telling you this would save-slash-revolutionize the NHL’s All-Star Game. The draft-day event would be drastically more dynamic. The skills competition is still sweet and deserves to stay as is in at least some way, shape or form. Come Sunday, however, it should be Tourney Time. No more meaningless game, I think we'd all prefer a meaningless tournament instead. Am I right, people?!

Good ideas of mine
It's like I can't control it
I just think in gold...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest Writer: Winter Classic Wrap Up Live From Mississippi

Well, while my down-south perspective of the Winter Classic certainly can't compare to Osgood's front row seats, I'm gonna throw my review of it out there anyway. In a word, it was AWESOME! I mean really, could there have been any more drama out there? Sure, the common perception is that the refs seemed to have some kind of deal with NBC to make the game as intense as possible, but since the Rangers held on to win it, I say “Kudos! That shit worked!!” Consider that I'm trying to sell the sport to my friends and fellow Mississippians, I need all the last second excitement the NHL can give me. The only thing it lacked, in my opinion, was someone rearranging Scott Hartnell's face just a little. Oh well, we play these pumpkins three more times so maybe next time, eh Rupper?

Forgive me, but I'm just gonna skip commenting on the first half of the game. Lundqvist made some huge saves early (does anyone expect anything less than God-like performances from this guy now?) and play was physical, but none matched the excitement of the last thirty minutes. When the Flyers opened the scoring, it was upsetting, but not devastating. We're a good team when we're only down by one. However, when they doubled up just shy of two minutes later, I could feel the panic setting in. Luckily that panic didn't even have time to fully manifest before... Mike Rupp sniped one in to cut the lead back in half? Huh? I never thought he'd be so clutch with his snap shot and open the scoring for the Rangers but yes! Just thirty seconds after the Flyers' second goal, Rupp picked up a super sweet feed from Prust and buried it on Bobrovsky. Oh, but it got better from there! Rupp's inflamatory Jagr salute was the perfect blueshirt jab for the former Ranger on his new home turf (kind of). I LOVED that! (Almost as much as I loved Jagr's thinly veiled attempt at not caring during the post game interviews. Nice try, buddy.) What surprised me was how many Flyer fans were incesenced about it. Um, the guy's been on your team for all of two months and suddenly he's unmockable? Considering Jagr's history with us, we're not going to get too hung up on a tough guy teasing the "future hall of famer" with a salute that, when watched in slo-mo, does seem semi Nazi-ish in its form and hold. Come to think of it, Rupp looks like he could have been an Arian extra in American History X.

The start of the third brought a little more fire to our guys and clearly the intermission hadn't broken the Rangers' momentum at all. Less than three minutes in, it became a tie game with...another goal from Rupp!?! No salute this time around, but this enforcer clearly earned his Broadway Hat after another nice pass from Prust found him driving down the side boards. Rupp's sniped wrister finds a tiny hole on Bobrovsky's short side and we were back to being deadlocked. I'm curious, do they have a number assigned to the armpit hole? That was like the .5 hole with how little space he had! As surprised as everyone was that Rupp came with his best Gaborik impression, unexpected heroes are usually the one's best suited for storybook endings...

Then, a mere three minutes after that, Dubinsky drew a crowd to Bobrovsky's right, which left Brad Richards all alone on the other side of the net. By the time Claude Giroux realized how bad his defensive zone positioning was and tried to recover, it was too late. The rebound of Dubinsky's second stab made its way over to Richards, who made no mistake in hitting the back of the net. 3-2 Rangers, and that's how it would end. But not before some tense moments in the Foxwoods final five...

The bullshit “delay of game” penalty given to McDonagh with 5:12 left to play was the just the start of what seemed like an incredibly skewed attempt to let Philly tie things up. Callahan also took a terrible penalty, this one with just 1:06 left as he raced in seemingly alone on an empty net, when the refs should have been looking to give him the auto-goal. With Bob-O out of the net and matching minors in the box, the Flyers still had an extra man advantage, but Lundqvist stood tall as the clock wound down. Under a minute...45 seconds...30 seconds...we're gonna make it...oh, hell no! Did the refs really award a penalty shot with only 19.6 seconds left in a one goal game? Of course they did! Honestly, it's a miracle this game didn't kill me. Thankfully, Lunqvist showed everyone in Philly why he's called the King. Briere displayed hardly any skill or forethought at all and he was awarded with a stoning for the ages. The clock finally made it's excruciatingly slow journey all the way to zero and the game was in the books. The Rangers persevered again. We won. I was finally able to breathe again...

I know this counted for just two point like any other game, but so much more was on the line here. First place in the East, for one thing, a cushion atop the Atlantic for another. Pride over the biggest regular season win we'll have all year, as well. Not to mention beating a huge division rival for the third straight time this season. And if anyone else around my neck of the woods was a hockey fan, I'd certainly be enjoying my fair share of bragging rights! There's still half a season to play, but this year feels different, and it sure would be nice to be able to claim 35 pounds of sterling silver come June. Again boys, please don't let the cries of a misplaced hockey fan go unheeded. Keep up the hustle, keep up the winning, and LET'S GO RANGERS!!

PS - Just to further illustrate how much it sucks being a hockey fan in Mississippi, I had to watch the game on a laptop via NBC Sports live-streaming, complete with buffering and the occasional time lapse. For reasons still unknown, about 10 minutes before the puck drop, my local NBC station cut back to "already in progress, regularly scheduled, local programming". Yeah, I came pretty close to losing my shit right about then. Thank God for the internet...

By Kelly Caldwell

If you'd like to contribute to '94 Parade by penning an article of your own, please feel free! Just a reminder though to send your drafts to because I'm such a lazy scrub that I find it nearly impossible to check more than two email accounts daily...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Writer: ¿Qué es el “Hockey”?

In the beginning, there was Arroz con Pollo. Then there was hockey. Or “El Jockey”, as my mom calls it to this day. What follows is a little anecdote about growing up being a hockey playing fan in a first-generation 1990's Colombian household. Sound weird? Well yes, it was a mucho weirdo journey indeed…

My parents moved us to the U.S. when I was 7 years old. I eventually learned English in school but like any normal South American kid, I grew up on a steady diet of Fútbol and horribly addicting TV Novelas on Telemundo. Back then, we had just the one TV set and certainly no cable, so Madre and Padre picked what my sister and I watched, listened to, and clothed ourselves in. No ifs, ands or buts. I had no clue about American sports, music or pop culture until the time I hit middle school.

When I was 13, two universe-altering things entered my life: I was introduced to Metallica, and later, to floor hockey via phys ed. I fell in love with both on the spot. In that fateful awkward year, I morphed into a braces-wearing, tomboy-ish headbanger geek (think a chubby version of Darlene from Roseanne) and needless to say, I got picked on a lot. Aside from an innately weird sense of humor and the pleasure procured from always kicking the prissy girls’ asses in gym class, it was my love for hockey that really got me through those stereotypically miserable years.

On school nights, while occasionally doing homework, I listened to every Rangers games on my AM/FM Walkman radio. I actually looked forward to school the next morning, eagerly in fact, to talk about the game with my hockey buddies in Home Room. In math class, we used to draw the Rangers logo on our arms in pen ink out of boredom. My most memorable moment EVER was purposefully rushing through the questions (and almost failing) my English Regents* exam in June of 1994 because it got in the way of us making it to the Rangers Stanley Cup Parade that morning. My friend Aaron and I made it to the Bowling Green subway stop with just enough time to run up the stairs, sprint a few blocks, and catch the float as it passed by with Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted above Mess’s head. So worth it!

Eventually I started playing roller hockey with the neighborhood boys and, to my mother’s delight, I would come home with my fingers all smashed up, bloody knuckles, scraped knees and elbows. Fuck pads and gloves, we thought. I cannot tell you how many times I got grounded or punished for this. Colombian girls don’t play boys’ sports. We’re supposed to be dainty and pretty and watch beauty pageants and get good grades. Not me. I just never fit that traditional, I mean boring, mold…

Thankfully I got good grades all through school, and it took my mom a few years to realize that hockey-love wasn’t just a phase. With Dad out of the picture at this point, I think she figured out that playing this sport kept me out of trouble and made me a stronger person despite all the bruises I used to bring home. Eventually she started liking the sport because it was, as she called it, “Fútbol on Ice,” and to my surprise, it was she who bought me my first pair of ice hockey skates and my first ice hockey equipment bag.

At this point we lived in Long Island, and being poor as hell with no car, had to bus it everywhere**, but somehow I made it to the rinks after school to get as much ice time as possible. The Cantiague Park P.A.L. Wednesday night men’s league “adopted” me as their “little sister” and I got to play for free every week. I cut my teeth, as they say, on the ice with Nassau County’s finest

Through the years, I have made most of my good friends around the sport and evenwhen not playing for long stretches at time, I always find myself going back to it. It even gave me the most entertaining job I ever had for three years after College — I worked for the New York Islanders and got to meet many interesting characters (next time I’ll tell you about the time Zdeno Chara and I went to the Empire State Building***). Oh yes I have so, so, so many stories…

However, I’ll end my story here, but will thank you for reading if you got to this point. Thanks to '94 Parade for letting me share this because to this day, I’m pretty sure I am still the only Colombian chick that plays hockey in Queens, maybe even all of New York City. But if any of you out there know of any other Colombian girls who do, please let me know, it’d be great to compare notes, and bruises, with someone else who’s traveled the same path...

*Regents exams are mandatory in NYC, you must pass them in order to pass the school year.
**If anyone that has lived in Long Island can attest to this, public transportation out there is a fucking joke.
***True story.

By Sandra Ximena

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Writer: What's It Like To Be A Rangers Fan Stuck in the South? Better Now That We're Winning...

I frequently have to admit that I very much live in the wrong part of the country to be an avid hockey fan - south Mississippi. It's football country, and there's no escaping the pigskin preference. On Fridays, the talk of the town is high school football. On Saturdays, college (and lucky me, I live in a college town. They won their championship today, whoop-di-do.) Of course, Sundays and Monday nights bring the NFL (along with a facebook news feed inundated with cries of “Who Dat?” With New Orleans only about 90 miles away, I can't escape it!) Despite the fact that I an part of an overwhelming minority, my love of hockey, and the Rangers in particular, is unwavering. For 17 years I've watched the game and tried to discuss it with with anyone who will listen. Around here, that's not too many people.

Well, with that brief introduction and short rant out of the way, all I've got to say is, “Holy CRAP, is this how it feels to like a team that's more than just mediocre?!” If so, I am LOVING it! We're a quarter of the way through the season and the Rangers are ranked third in the league. It's all so new and emotionally confusing. All of this “solid team effort” stuff, it's been crazy to watch for a fan base that always expects to hit inevitable speed bumps. Rangers fans are used to one or two consistent guys who are inevitably going to get injured in late January. It's insane. At the start of the season, I talked and talked (to anybody around me who would listen, which I already explained totals about four people) about how I had high hopes for our Blueshirts this year. But let's face it, I say that every year. Every new season brings me promise and then pitfalls. This year though, our wishes seem to be the Rangers' command.

So to be a little more specific and a little less fan-girl, let's discuss the specifics further. Callahan came out of the gate proving that he was meant to lead and hasn't slowed down since. I would love to see Lundqvist with the “C”, but as a self professed goalie groupie up against the NHL's official rules, my biased opinion was certainly improbable. Cally's play has been physical and aggressive without being distracting, and his 10 goals on the season so far are tied with Richards for second most on the team. Gaborik leads the team with 12 tallys after deciding to show up for the games this year. A healthy Gaborik is a huge plus for our offense, despite how infuriating he could be at times last year. Richards seems to be doing exactly what the Rangers are paying him for - generating excitement and masterminding our offensive output. He sets up plays just as well as he puts pucks in the net.

After last year's break-out season, Dubinsky has disappointed some people with his numbers so far. Despite not scoring the goals we'd like to expect from him, he still plays an insanely solid game and has made some key assists in big spots. Plus, with Stepan streaking his way to superstar status, nobody seems to be dwelling too much on Dubinsky. Prust also isn't doing much offensively, but he still knows how to get things going and bring the energy level up to 11. Philly game, 4 seconds in, dropping the gloves? That's what I'm freaking talking about. That's what a real Ranger does when his team needs a spark. How about this Carl Hagelin kid? Where'd this kid come from? Wait, who cares, he's fast and he's talented, along with his fellow Whale linemate Mitchell. As of right now, there are only two Rangers on the roster who haven't scored a goal this season, and each of them has an excuse (Wolski is on IR, and Stralamn's only suited up for one game in a blueshirt). We've been getting contributions from multiple players and multiple lines game in and game out this season, and clearly, it's a system that works. Even Biron has been nearly perfect in his starts because let's face it, we fans need to blame our whole team for that lackluster effort displayed in Montreal a couple weeks back. I could go on, but for the sake of not boring anyone, I think I've made my point - we're now a damn good hockey team.

It's still early, but dare I hope that this year may be different? Maybe come April I can look forward to something other than a disappointing, yet totally expected, first round exit. Maybe 17 years of torture and heartbreak will pay off in early June. I know I can, but I don't really want to deal with another manic, roller coaster ride of a season. Sure, I'll just be back in the same place next season even if the roof collapses on our seemingly promising season, but it sure would be nice to have something to brag about for a change. Please, boys in blue? Consider it the Christmas wish of a misplaced hockey fan stuck in pigskin country.

By Kelly Caldwell

Friday, December 2, 2011

Snap Shot: Sean Avery Sleeping With Teammate's Girlfriend Rumor

Opening sentence overused joke alert - It looks like Sean Avery could once again be on the wrong side of a sloppy seconds situation. For the record, this is nothing more than a rumor put out there by some dickbag on twitter with deplorable grammar and unsubstantiated source-citing. His name is Incarcerated Bob, and he’s one cocky bastard. Unfortunately for our currently chemistry-laden team, cocky bastards sometimes base their confidence on being correct. Given the player in question and his pension for poonani, this is one rumor that could catch fire fast in a marketplace ripe with Sean Avery-haters. Let’s examine…

After last night’s 5-3 win over the Hurricanes, a game in which Avery scored his third goal of the season (and received a lot praise from the press in the process), we were all on cloud nine. Winning streaks left and right with literally everyone short of the back-up goalie putting their name on the score sheet night after night. Umm, is this fake life? Mirage or not, I thought, I’m going to enjoy this I-root-for-a-good-team feeling!

Wait, hold that. Here comes Incarcerated Bob with a couple tweets about a confrontation between Avery and an unnamed teammate about philandering fornication and the whole world goes insane. I’d never even heard of this ex-con wannabe until another fan-run Rangers facebook page (though I’m obviously much more than a facebook page) posted the rumor. Within the hour, I had my opinion set. Here’s how I’d break it down…

A trustworthy twitter friend told me that this dude throws shit against the wall all day long without naming sources and about 20% of it ends up happening. If you question his methods or integrity, you get blocked. I put in the “follow” request, saw the tweets myself, saw his general demeanor, and saw his “I’ve been on Boomer & Carton” caption (also heard he’s been banned from calling because of his rumor-mongering). Despite the seemingly sketchy nature of this twitter-based source (trying not to laugh), I have to admit that I’m scared it’s all true. I don’t know it or think it, I FEAR it. Sean Avery could definitely do this kind of thing. Despite the fact that he’s a fan favorite and pays proper lip-service when it comes to “his love of this team”, he’s still flesh-and-blood and a known womanizer. I wouldn’t put it past him, but I think we, as fans, all expect better from him. He’s supposed to embody the personality of this team, and I think it’s fair to say that we don’t envision that true Ranger as a white Tiger Woods fashionisto on skates.

Adding fuel to the fire is the extremely odd interaction that seemed to occur between Avery and Michael Del Zotto in the embrace-filled wake of Avery’s snap shot goal. Cutting away from an obviously embarrassed Cam Ward (two of Sean’s three goals this season have now come against the Canes, and let’s face it, Sean’s no sniper), the camera caught a shot of Avery’s contorted and seemingly pissed-off facial expression. It looked like his words were directed at the young defenseman Del Zotto, or maybe it was the other way around. Could Avery simply have been reacting to a snide “scoring” comment from MDZ? Is that whose chick he cuckolded? Who else could it be – Prust? Boyle? If he banged Brad Richards’ new date companion, Olivia Munn, than we’ve really got page six material waiting in the wings for just a sliver of verification. Someone needs to step up and set the record straight so I can go back to believing in these blueshirts. Incarcerated Bob, I’m looking at you.

Final question - Were the 24/7 cameras going? Please tell me someone in that seemingly contentious celebration circle was miked up. Considering the inexplicable success of those god-awful Basketball Housewives of Beverly County New Jersey shows, maybe HBO thought sprinkling in some soap opera-like sleeping scandals would help hockey get more popular. Can’t hurt the sport’s popularity; can hurt team chemistry.

This edition of Ranger Haikus is entitled, “I Totally Know That This Whole Article Is Slightly Hypocritical”.

I’m no Bob Costas
But at least I cite my sources
Pot Calling Kettle!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Night Lookback: NYR (4) vs PIT (3) + Bobby Ryan Trade Rumors

For those Ranger fans who felt slighted by the media, wondering what our team need to do to be considered an elite contender, you now have an answer. Beat the Crosby-led Penguins. Immediately after registering last night’s 4-3 win, the New York Rangers were officially nominated for elite team status. Usually these sorts of suggestions spend anywhere from a week to a month kicked around as rhetorical questions by the hockey media before being confirmed or denied by the team’s on-ice performance. After the Rangers’ next five games, we’ll know the consensus – two games on the road against Carolina (should win) and Tampa Bay (could win), two more back at home where they’ve been fire on ice (avenging the home opener against Toronto and then another look at the Lightning), finished up by a trip to Buffalo. If they win all five games, expect to read a lot about the Rangers going into the New Year. Drop more than two of those games and we’ll all be back in schitzo-mode before you can say “Bobby Ryan Trade Rumors”. Speaking of which, we’ll get to those later…

Last night’s battle was an intense one. It was the first meeting between the two teams since Matt Cooke went elbow first at Ryan McDonagh’s head, and the obvious tension was on display with two early fights between Avery and Kennedy. The game had a very physical feel to it, almost chippy, but the pace was fast enough that the refs let them play on, at least for the first 8 minutes and 40 seconds. Three straight Pittsburgh power plays, and the obvious league-wide pro-Crosby conspiracy, helped the Penguins gain momentum and finally put one in. Down by a goal going into the second, but as I said in my last post, anything is possible for this team in a close game.

The tying goal, scored just over eight minutes into the second by Ryan Callahan, was pure sex on ice. With the power play winding down, Gaborik sparked a final chance by dancing around one defender, juking past another and sliding Callahan a brilliant pass between the legs of a third helpless penalty killer. After such a nasty goal, you could hear the Garden faithful injecting life into their team, and the Rangers responded appropriately. Six minutes later, Carl Hagelin’s fast-as-fuck-flow was back it again, this time assisting on John Mitchell’s first goal as a blueshirt with a beautiful back pass. Mitchell’s tally, a gorgeous wrister that made Mark Andre-Fleury look like moldy Swiss cheese, earned him the Broadway hat when all was said and done. Two more tallys, one from Richards and another power play tally from Gaborik, brough the score to 4-1 heading into the second intermission… or not! Malkin’s goal, off a rebound with 6 seconds to go, really changed the nature of this game and let the Penguins roll into the third with momentum they shouldn’t have been allowed to have. Then again, I thought we really dodged a bullet with that called-off Sauer own-goal. Oh well, I thought, still a two goal cushion…

Make that a one goal lead. Pascal Dupuis’ goal less than four minutes into the third brought the shock back into blueshirt fans. Everyone knows we have a propensity to give up our three goal leads, and against a quality team like the Penguins, letting them crawl back into a game like that is very dangerous. Thankfully, the Pens decided to shoot themselves in the foot by taking 4 penalties over the last 10 minutes, allowing us play the Foxwood’s Final Five and beyond with at least a one man advantage. Our five-on-three looks toothless, and in my opinion it’s a microcosm of this team’s true problem. We should be burying those opportunities, making things easier on ourselves. Instead, we let teams chip away at our lead and make it a game again. We missed about two or three quality odd-man-rush chances yesterday, usually without even registering a shot. If we play that Penguins game the right way, capitalize on one five-on-three chance and one odd-man-rush while eliminating the penalties, we probably win that game 6-2, fully embarrassing Crosby in the process. Instead, second chances for visiting teams and heart attacks for Ranger fans. Jeez boys, let’s make it easy for ourselves every once and a while. At least everyone showed up – Gabby, Richards, and Cally led the way while Girardi and McD shut down Sid and Co. Lundy once again was a huge part of the win, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Biron in net on Thursday considering the opposition and the team’s upcoming schedule. All in all, a good team performance to extend the new winning streak to three.

So you’d think the Rangers are satisfied with how things are going, yes? You’d think they’d be content with their core, ready to rise up the rankings one game at a time, but you’d be wrong. According to rumors, Glen Sather is very interested in acquiring the Ducks’ Bobby Ryan. The Ducks have been struggling all season and are supposedly looking to add offensive depth and a top-4 defenseman, as well as a pick or prospect in exchange for the young star. Ryan is a bonafide NHL star with an extremely bright future. The New Jersey native was drafted one place behind Sidney Crosbitch for crying out loud! When this kid of star comes to the trading block, you at least need to kick the tires and see what it’ll take to get him.

For the Rangers, it sounds like Dubinsky is the main attraction of a trade package that could include additional pieces. This is nothing new for Dubinsky, who is always part of any rumored deal involving New York. He and Cally used to be the foils – if you wanted a young star, you were asking for one or the other. Now, there’s no chance Cally ever gets moved, so it’s Dubinsky by default. I know this is a sensitive subject for Ranger fans as Brandon has proven himself to be a fan favorite for all the right reasons. I had to talk my fiancé off a ledge after telling her about the rumor. The fact that she just bought a Dubinsky heritage jersey may have influenced her fury, but I could tell that she wouldn’t be the only angry party if this Bobby Ryan trigger is pulled.

Can they avoid dishing Dubi? Probably not. Anisimov is the likely substitution, but he doesn’t have as much of an offensive upside and you’ll likely need to add in another established forward to sweeten the pot. Wojtek Wolski fits the bill, as do Christensen and Zuccarello, but I don’t see any of those options intriguing Anaheim. Wolski’s trade history shows he probably won’t pan out, Christensen was already waived by the Ducks back in ’09, and there are too many TBD factors about Zuccy’s strength and ability to thrive in this league. So along with Dubi, we’d most likely be losing a defenseman, prospect or top-4 (Staal, Girardi and McD are reportedly off-limits). I can see Sauer or MDZ as part of the deal, but if we somehow avoid giving up a starting player than we’ll be on the hook to lose either McIlrath or Erixon. Factor in the chance of losing kids like Krieder or Bourque and you have a lot of Ranger fans questioning why we’d break up the chemistry of a winning team and ship out some of our future for one underperforming Duck. It’s a fair question, too, but I think it has an obvious answer. Bobby Ryan makes our team more talented. We’ll lose a little depth for a strong superstar upside. Look at what two threatening lines has done for us this season with just the Richards addition. Throw Ryan on any line and all of the sudden it becomes a lot harder to strategize defending the Rangers.

The more interesting question to me is why the Ducks want to trade Ryan at all. He IS the future of that team, one of only two players on their roster locked up under contract until 2015, and he just signed an extension. I’ve heard rumors that the Ducks have internal payroll problems and it’s one of the reason they simply haven’t just fired Randy Carlisle, who himself recently signed an extension. Think about it. Your team is struggling and they need a kick in the dick to get going. Do you fire the coach and bring in a new voice, a proven tactic that often works wonders (see: last year’s New Jersey Devils) or do you trade the youngest of your super-star goal-scorers. I go with the former 99 times out of 100. Only time I vote to trade Ryan is if payroll calls me up and says, “Hey, can we think twice about firing the coach we just agreed to pay millions of dollars regardless of whether he’s actually coaching here?” At that point, with saving cash as my main motivation, then I start taking calls to see what I can get in return. It’s an interesting situation with almost every team in on the young forward. Sather’s offer is going to go up against good ones from Nashville, Detroit, Buffalo, New Jersey and Boston. Let’s reserve the intense panic for AFTER something actually happens. Until then, plenty of space on the ’94 Parade facebook page to bitch about how awful this would be.

Well that was fun! Until next time, here’s another Ranger Haiku courtesy of yours truly. I call this one “Local Blackouts Kind Of Rule”.

Thank you, MSG
For not subjecting me to

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snap Shot: Making Up For Lost Time

Excuses are for the weak – I’ve just been slacking off. Half of me would love to sit back and rationalize the laziness. After all, isn’t my I-don’t-just-break-rules-I-make-them writing style and go-fuck-yourself approach to blogging what you love about ’94 Parade in the first place? Unfortunately, the other half of me spends his day reading hockey-related articles written by paid professionals who actually make their living in the sport we all love. It takes a real secure person to admit that they are driven by a sick mixture of topical passion, professional ambition and ever-evolving jealousy…

A lot has gone down since the last time I checked in here. The Rangers took their winning streak from four games to seven before squeezing out a stinker in Montoiletreal. Their minislide continued four days later in a typical South Florida snoozer, but things turned around on the flip side of Thanksgiving with two straight wins over Washington and Philly. 24/7 got started with a 12-minute preview, the Blueshirts also unveiled their cream-colored Winter Classic jerseys… and… what else… oh yeah, I got my shit ripped open all over the internet. You need thick skin to put yourself out there on the world wide web. I should have thought about that before hand…

Oh well. There are tons of more pertinent topics at hand besides my barbaric, frat hazing-like welcome into the tenured pantheon of established Stool writers. I will tackle them all in the following order: the miniskid and the flaws it exposed, the rebound ministreak and the strengths displayed, the crazy Winter Classic circus and its recent developments, and finally Carl Hagelin’s sexy-ass flow. Grab a hold of your seats, hockey fans, because here we go!

From Kings to Pwns: Exposed Flaws from the Rangers’ Miniskid
After winning seven straight, the Rangers snapped their own streak two Saturday night’s ago with an ugly loss to le Caladiens. After a second straight defeat, this time to the once-toothless Panthers, critics started circling ready to chew at the first sniff of blood. The obvious pouncing point was the blueshirts’ lack of physical play, especially early on. Unless the Rangers step up and intimidate their opponent in the first minutes of the game with a serious forecheck, they’re stuck in neutral, skating on their heels waiting for a tie-breaking goal to be scored. That first goal of the game also seems to be an important turning point for this team. If they get it, we’re good. If they don’t, we’ve got a 50/50 shot on coming back. Down by two, consider us done for (read: Florida game). Take that Montreal game for example; it was completely up for grabs until Biron gives up that blunder (starting said back up was another criticized coaching decision). Say the Rangers tie that game up at one off some odd deflection, despite how terrible they were playing. That whole game, history itself even, changes at that moment. They’re built to sustain tie games and jump on that one chance to take the lead while Henrik saves their ass every fifteen seconds. Instead, they give up a second and, having shown absolutely no offensive bite at all, gave up entirely, same as the Florida game. The Rangers are fueled by offensive confidence and it doesn’t take more than a favorable bounce to refuel their tank. The key, of course, is getting that first goal. Then we’re golden.

Winning Ways: One Team’s Journey from Turkeys to Carvers
Fortunately for us fans, the Rangers were back in the win column as soon as Thanksgiving was over. Friday’s coach-killing massacre of the Capitals was thoroughly enjoyable viewing material after a coma-inducing holiday feast. A scoreless first period gave way to a second frame outburst by the blueshirts. Four goals – one from Gabby, Anisimov, Fedotenko and Boyle – shot some confidence back into our secondary scoring unit. Those are key guys you’d like to see on the stats sheet more often, especially Boyle and Anisimov. After breakout seasons last year, both young guns are shouldering bigger expectations and haven’t lived up to the promise just yet. The Capitals win was another total team effort, starting in the defensive zone. Lots of blocked shots and great goaltending made the difference in the end. After dropping a game to Florida that we know they should have won, it was good to see the entire bench chip in to beat a struggling, yet undeniably explosive, Washington team. Saturday was more of the same as our Rangers came back home to battle the Classic-bound Flyers. Great goaltending (imagine if Hartnell’s first period breakaway goes in, for example), solid defensive zone coverage, and a physical forecheck all helped send a clear message to Philadelphia – you’ll need to beat us, because we’re not going to beat ourselves. Let’s hope the boys bring that same hustle and grit to the Garden tonight. We got Crosby coming to town…

Winter Classic Wonderland: Updates from the Best Circus on Ice
Due to our devout dedication and unrelenting reverence, we continue to receive post-Thanksgiving gifts from those generous hockey gods above. Black Friday brought us HBO’s 12-minute preview of “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic”. The appetizer glimpse was a little too general to orgasm over, lots of regurgitated sentiments and clips from last year’s show, but the preview did its job in full as a fluffer for the real thing. I’m hard as a rock and can’t wait for the 14th of December to roll around. Tons of trash talking already on display too – former blueshirt Jody Shelley’s likened Brandon Dubinsky to a weasel, which prompted a response by the Ranger forward on Monday afternoon. “First of all, if I was him, I’d keep my mouth shut, especially since I never see him on the ice. Jody Shelley – he’s a terrible hockey player.” Juicy stuff indeed, and that’s even before Sean Avery chimes in with sloppy seconds comments about Jeff Carter banging Scott Hartnell’s wife. But that wasn’t all we Ranger fans were treated to in the days following Thanksgiving! We also got a first look at the new Winter Classic jerseys. Opinions seem to be split on the new sweaters. On the one hand, they’re better than the crowded, unimaginative, cheap Chinese knock-offs I’ve seen around the Garden this season. The retro 1926-era logo shield looks a little weak to my modern eyes (I wish they had chosen a rainbow-shaped Rangers wordmark with numbers underneath) but it’s a respectable addition to our on-ice wardrobe. I’m also not a fan of that bottom red piping line on the shoulders, feels a bit crowded once you see the nameplates. Other than those initial observations, I’ll reserve judgment until I see them in person. Package it all together with a sexy sock and pant combo and we’ll all be drooling come New Years. Plus we’re still waiting to see Henrik’s one-game-only Classic mask, which he said will “look like it’s been in the closest for the past forty years”. Well whip out the sharpies and color me pumped!

Well that does it for this edition of ’94 Parade. Can’t wait for tonight’s test against the Penguins! LET’S GO RANGERS! And on that note, I’d like to close this post with yet another edition of Ranger Haikus. This one is titled, “Carl Hagelin Has One Sexy-Ass Flow”.

Goal, assist, and hat
Skating with hair in the wind
Ron Duguay 2K