New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins
The Battle for Eastern Conference Supremacy
NEW YORK RANGERS: The Stanley Cup Is Silver and Not Part of Our Vocabulary Right Now. Silence on the Other Hand, Is Golden. Coaches Should be Heard. GM's Should Be Heard. For the Most Part, Owners Should Just Shut Up.
What ever possessed and compelled James Dolan to speak-out on the State of the Rangers needs to be exorcised from his entitled and inherited being at once. In the short term, hopefully John Tortorella's stern rebuke of his current employer is enough to alienate Jimmy Gig and keep him away from the team till well after the season is over; - in which ever manner this season ends. For certain, nothing good can come out of Jimmy Jam's want for sticking around locker rooms, much less talking to the press about something he knows absolutely nothing about. For the only thing he ever knew was that he hired Glen Sather and his past accomplishments.
Way back in 1940, he and Glen Sather came up with this plan which just magically propelled the Rangers to sixty-two points and the Eastern Conference lead? Really? How about hatching a plan to lower my cable bill? With all due respect to the guy who signs the checks, - Shut Up! As a Ranger Fan, his anecdote about a stupid little gift he gave Sather was nothing less than an embarrassment.
The Big Dolt thinks we're closer to a Stanley Cup. Ya think? And all this time I thought he didn't care (as if). But amazingly, he's right on at least two counts. He's right in a sense about being closer to a Stanley Cup since the day his Pop purchased the team and gave it to him to play with. And yes, the New York Rangers are closer to winning a Cup than we were on Day One of Sather's administration and for the entire DECADE that followed. So yeah, I'd define that as being closer too.
As for the General Manager, getting his share of credit comes with the territory; he's GM after all. But I'm sure most feel like I do in that much of the new talent we've procured and developed these last few years would not likely be skating in Ranger uniforms today for having been traded were it not for what I perceive as John Tortorella's influence in the Front Office as well as behind the bench. Although I have never been shy about crediting Glen Sather with hiring Gordie Clark after Don Maloney left for Phoenix.
I couldn't have been prouder of Coach Torts than I was at that moment he called his boss's comments "Bullshit". Look - three cheers for seemingly good hockey and even better moments in the future. But I'm with him. We have a big January game against the Boston Bruins and that's where the team focus should be. Here's my angle though. Coach better be careful he doesn't wind up like Donnie Walsh. Because like Donnie Walsh, Coach Torts stands in the way of Dolan's impetuousness and claims to glory for turning this team around. That press conference was all about steeling some limelight. Other than having no experience in the art of winning championships, why else would he act out in such a self-serving manner?
I like many Ranger fans would have fired Sather long ago. But that's for another day. Because over the years he's actually served a most under-spoken and crucial role for us fans of the Blueshirts. Glen Sather has long shielded us from the Coney Island-like freak show that became and still qualifies as the New York Knicks. What Glen Sather meant for the Rangers team itself, like I said is another matter. But at least with Sather around, Ranger Fans were shielded and largely immune from random Acts of Dolanism.
Perfect example - Jimmy Gotta Gig pushed little kids out of the way and kicked old ladies to the curb, not to mention trampled all over Donnie Walsh's toes in his pursuit of Carmelo Anthony. In taking the lead role in that transaction, he left the Knicks bereft of role players; a bench; and depth of talent; not to mention assembling an inharmonious product on the court. The manner in which Dolan out-negotiated himself was really no different than the recent press conference in which The Dolt shared an anecdote of a gift he gave Sather, and that only through winning a Stanley Cup can it be returned. Both instances demonstrate the attributes of a giddy amateur. And Coach Torts isn't afraid to point one out when he sees one either. I just hope that doesn't get him in trouble with the Boss' son one day. It's not like he's Isiah Thomas.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled season. Without looking beyond Saturday, there were three games I badly wanted to win. Not so much the Winter Classic, but I really wanted to win the December 23rd game against Philly which gave us our initial taste of first place. The Blueshirts won that game in fine fashion. The second game of major importance to me was our recent victory over Toronto just so we knew that at some level, we've dealt will all comers this season. And now, game number three is upon us. Saturday afternoon's game against the Bruins in Boston begins the season's second half struggle to maintain this level of play and protecting the Blueshirts' position in the standings. This is the time of year when the schedule is just one game against adversity after another. And with today's game, the season series against Boston is only just beginning.
We are also entering the time of season when the sceptre of the trade deadline looms and two things remain true; the Rangers need more scoring; and still need even more help on the power play as Brad Richards has yet to emerge as the answer. I'm not entirely sure how far I'd like Sather to go in trying to secure someone (ex.- as if Bobby Ryan were still available). I'm hesitant to move anyone right now. But we all know you have to give quality to get quality. And well, if they can't maintain this level, there's always the ol' battle for eighth place again. Then of course there's Plan C - playing for self-respect and dignity. And by the way, that last moment of humility was brought to you by the Fans Jimmy. Try some.
For now, the New York Rangers have sixty-two points and lead the Eastern Conference. The Boston Bruins, with one less game played are one point behind with sixty-one points. Both teams are thus far the only Eastern Conf. teams to break the sixty point plateau. The mighty Bruins are leading the NHL in goals scored with 160. That number spiked earlier in the month after a 6-1 bashing of the Devils, and a 9-0 romp over Calgary. Defensively, Boston is also the League's best. The Northeast Division leaders have allowed a League low 89 goals against. The Rangers rank second in the NHL with 94 goals allowed. But the Rangers' 126 goals scored only rank fourth within their own division, much less ranking ninth in the Conference.
Boston and the Rangers are playing near identical Hockey at the moment. Both teams are 6-3 in January. And both teams enter Saturday's game caught within the eddy of a win-loss-win-loss trend. In Boston's last game, the Devils failed to do what I hoped they would. The Bruins abused Marty Brodeur and New Jersey again by a 4-1 score while the Rangers are coming off a mistake-riddled loss to Pittsburgh. Based on the strength of two shut-outs the Rangers have allowed eight goals in the last four games to go along with eight goals for. Boston has scored twelve goals over their last four games but have allowed eleven.
BOSTON ~ Last Four Games:
WIN 4-1; N.J.
LOSS 5-3; T.B.
WIN 3-2; FLA - S.O.
LOSS 4-2 CAR
RANGERS ~ Last Four Games:
LOSS 4-1; PITT
WIN 3-0; NASH
LOSS 4-1; MON
WIN 3-0; TOR
The schedule couldn't have set this game up any better. This is what you call a great regular season match-up. Today, like the December 23rd game against Philly are statement games. This is the type of game good teams seize. Also-rans merely participate. Days like today make for equally great stories. Today marks only the first chapter in the season series between these Original Six Eastern Conference foes in what will no doubt turn into a second-half battle to be king of the hill. And if history has taught us anything, we've learned the one's who get to write the history books are the winners.
This game has been two years and half a season in the making. And now, it's time to get it on. We beat these guys before. For two seasons running we've hung around with Boston. Last season in particular, we learned these young Rangers can skate with the Bruins on any day. Both teams have sputtered lately, so that puts us both on equal ground this afternoon. As a word to the wise, skate with heads up through the neutral zone so as to not wind up getting crunched by Zdeno Chara...., and look out for Boston's latest tactic; the hip check. Otherwise, let's drop the puck!
#1 - NEW YORK RANGERS
29-12-4 62-Points; 1st Place - Atlantic Division
#2 - Boston Bruins
30-13-1 61-Points; 1st Place - Northeast Division
Bean Town's North Side