Thursday, January 31, 2013

New York Rangers: Penguins Skate To Easy Victory Off Broadway


NEW YORK RANGERS - Blueshirts Looked Lethargic Against Penguins.  The Power Play Was Worse.

Thursday evening I attended my first game of the year.  I sat in my new seats and looked through glass...!  My new seats in the renovated Garden have its pros and cons.  But aside from the view, I didn't like what I saw on the ice.   I sense this is going to be a long season.

I watched the Rangers skate minus their Captain, Ryan Callahan.  I watched the Penguins score on their first shot on goal of the game.  I watched Pittsburgh deflect another shot passed Henrik Lundqvist for their second goal.  I also painfully watched the Rangers clunk the post twice.  Those kind of things happen.  But on the other hand, the Rangers are committing an average of five penalties per game.  And I watched them go 0 for 4 on the power play against Pittsburgh.  For the season, they are 3 for 28 on the power play.  This is the stuff that happens repeatedly.

The Rangers were shut-out for the first time this season.  What's more, at no time did I see the Penguins overly exert themselves.  By comparison, the Rangers looked lethargic.

That's all I really care to say.  I'm tired.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hockey Round-Up: Arnott Deal Off - Devils and Islanders Both Lose In Canada

Metropolitan Area Hockey Report: Sunday Night Pucks
1) - DEVILS............3-0-1   7 pts.
2) - ISLANDERS.....2-2-1   5 pts.
3) - RANGERS........2-3-0   4 pts.

NEW YORK RANGERS - Jason Arnott Fails Physical - Deal For Free Agent Center Is Off.

Thirty-eight year old free agent centerman Jason Arnott did not pass his physical.  He will not be joining the Rangers.  Several team doctors saw him on Saturday.  But an espnNY report states the team hasn't disclosed why Arnott did not pass.  Regardless, for the Rangers it's now back to the 'ol drawing board.

As they still need to acquire reinforcements for their back forward lines, on Thursday the Rangers completed a deal with the Penguins sending Chad Kolarik to Pittsburgh in exchange for twenty-five year old winger, Benn Ferriero.  Kolarik was the Whale's leading scorer this season, while Ferriero is labeled as a strong two way player.  He immediately saw ice time as Chris Kreider spent last Thursday's game in Coach Tortorella's doghouse.  But he also did not play Saturday against the Leafs.  It turns out he is day-to-day with a bone chip in his ankle.  Kreider is also speculated to be headed back to the AHL Connecticut Whale.

The Rangers get to enjoy a rare few days off until they host the Flyers on Tuesday, and the Penguins on Thursday.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS - Lose To Habs In Overtime.  Patrick Elias Scores Point #900 Of His Devils Career.

Up in the Great White North, the New Jersey Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit, and a 3-1 deficit to tie the Montreal Canadiens, and send their game into overtime.  The Devils got a second period goal from Patrick Elias to make it a 2-1 game.  Two minutes into the third period, former Rangers, Brando Prust put Montreal 3-1 again.  David Clarkson then scored his third goal of the season on a power play.  And Dainius Zubrus tied the game 3-3 with seven minutes left in regulation time.  Four minutes into the extra session, Andy Greene got whistled for holding.  Twenty one seconds later, career long Canadien Andrei Markov scored the game winner for Montreal.  In four games played, that was the Devils first loss, overtime or otherwise.

* Patrick Elias' second period goal was the 363rd score of his Devils career.  His third period assist of Clarkson's goal was the 536th assist of his career.  He then assisted again on Dainius Zubrus' goal.    His three point evening gives him 900 points for his Devils career.  All three are Devils records.

* corrected 1am Monday morning - failed to realize Elias had second assist.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS - Brooklyn's Foster Team Starts Season With Five Points In First Five Games.

After two more seasons playing in Uniondale, Long Island, the Islanders Hockey Club will relocate to Brooklyn for the 2015-2016 regular season, and call it home for at least the following twenty-five years thereafter.  That's how long the lease to play in Barclays Center extends.  If the Islanders moving to another city represented the worst case scenario, then I guess a move to Brooklyn was a best case scenario for their fans.  After a very long and drawn out negotiation process trying to secure a deal with Nassau County on a new arena, and a No-Vote by the local residents who's taxes would have been affected by such a deal, and in addition to losing millions of his own dollars in the process, give Charles Wang all due credit for keeping the team in the area and still well within reach of its core fan base.

Sunday evening, the Islanders visited the Great White North as well.  The Isles were trailing the Jets 2-1 after two periods in Winnipeg.  It was the Islanders who jumped out to a 1-0 lead on David Ullstrom's 2nd goal of the season.  But midway through the period, Winnipeg tied it.  In the second period, the Jets went ahead.  Just 0:22 into the third period, John Tavares scored his first goal of the season, tying the game at two all.  Then at 5:09, Matt Moulson (3) deflected a John Tavares shot which fooled Winnipeg's Al Montoya to give the Isles a 3-2 lead.  At the midway point of the third, Mark Streit scored on a power play to make it 4-2 Islanders.

Three third period goals by the Islanders however, went for not.  At 12:59, Winnieg scored on a power play, after David Ullstrom got whistled for hooking.  Then just one minute and five seconds later, Winnipeg put another puck passed Isles goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, to tie the game at four goals apiece.  And so, like the Devils/Canadiens game, this contest went into overtime.

When Keith Aucoin misfired and turned the puck over in the offensive zone, Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen rushed up the left side and ripped a shot on goal at Nabokov.  At 1:59 of the extra session, the rebound went to Evander Kane who then scored the game winner.

Like the Devils, the Islanders also lose in overtime up in the Great White North.


New York Rangers: Is Signing Jason Arnott Enough?


NEW YORK RANGERS - In Saturday's Blueshirts/Leafs Game, Mike Rupp and Colton Orr Combined for 5:37 Minutes Of Ice-Time.  At 4:01 of the 1st Period, They Fought.


Since the onset of this condensed 2013 NHL season, I have, in order, A) - complained about the Rangers lack of quality fighters, B) - fretted about how they are getting pushed off the puck too easily, and C) - have been itching for the Rangers to tweak the roster accordingly

 Ask and ye shall receive.

The Rangers signed 38-year old center-man Jason Arnott to a one year contract.  Assuming he passes his physical, Jason will provide the Blueshirts with size, depth, experience, and toughness at forward. Jason Arnott, at 6'6" and 220 lbs., will not be easily moved off the puck.  Even at thirty-eight years of age, I feel he will fit in very well in what we should assume will be limited minutes.  Then again, who can really say for sure considering Coach's incessant line changes.  I digress.  Arnott's play, and that of his new mates will dictate that.  For now,  Jason Arnott instantly improves the back lines.

If you are one of the three or so people who actually follow my stuff, you know then, Saturday's game against the Leafs was one I have been eagerly anticipating.  Hello Colton Orr.  It was good seeing you again.  On January 22nd, I wrote... THIS..!  Last night's Rangers/Leafs game from Madison Square Garden featured a fight, a what? - between Colton Orr and Mike Rupp.  Check it out.

Orr contributed 3:29 minutes of ice-time.  Rupp contributed 2:08 minutes.  Orr bested Rupp in hits by a 1-0 margin.  Yeah, what does that prove?  Well, certainly not the main point I've been tyring to drive home.  But, like the tape says..., Colton Orr is in his contract year.  Yes, he suffered a concussion problem recently.  But he looks okay to me now.  Lets bring him back.  Lets make Colton Orr a member of the Rangers again.  He'd be perfect for this team.  The league's cap number is shrinking next season.  But I'm sure "we" can make him fit and correct the mistake of not signing him in the first place...  Then again, why wait?  A short season sometimes warrants a different approach as it relates to a team like the Rangers.  Continue being a good GM, and keep seeking periphery parts that will improve the club short term.  Sometimes it is okay to instigate a trade.  So here is the bottom line - who would you rather have... Mike Rupp or Colton Orr?

The Rangers have assembled all the skilled players they possibly can in order to score against the Western Conference.  The Rangers will not be acquiring another.  But this season is only going to be about getting out of the rough and tumble Eastern Conference first, and then secondly, coming out on top alive.   In this conference physicallity matters, and the Rangers need more of it in order to improve upon last season.  Jason Arnott knows how to win.  He is a very good acquisition.  Colton Orr would be another.

And yes, I'm being totally fan-sensible about this.


Friday, January 25, 2013

New York Mets: On Second Thought, How Will Club Afford 2014 Season Again?

From the desk of:   HEAD BUTTING MR. MET

2002 - 2012
A Decade Of WILPONianism:

* In 2002, Fred Wilpon Pays Nelson Doubleday $135 Million
For His 50% Stake In The Mets.
* By End Of 2012, Fred Wilpon Negotiates $700 Million Debt Refinancing
And Loan Package.


Demolishion Of Shea Stadium
Construction of Citi Field
One Financial Scandal

Four General Managers
Five Field Managers
Overall Record:
794 - 825  .490
One N.L. East Title
Two 2nd Place Finishes
One 3rd Place Finish
Four 4th Place Finishes
One 5th Place Finish
Four Seasons Above .500
Six Seasons Below .500
Average New York Mets Season
Over Last Ten Years:
79 - 83   .487
Welcome To Mets Year 11 A.D. - After Doubleday
and counting....

Meet the Mess, Meet the Mess.  Step right up and fix your eyes on a big fat monetary mess.  Bring your kiddies, and bring your wives, for this mess has been ten years in the making.  Congratulations must go to the Wilpons, for this has been a complete and utter mess of the highest order.  As messes go, this was a grand slam - an upper deck job - a walk off.....

For those of you not familiar with the Saul B.Katz Dilemma, in proper form, I use it as a metaphor to describe the utter state of chaos which has existed ever since Fred Wilpon bought out his former partner, Nelson Doubleday.  The Saul B.Katz Dilemma as a verb is to watch the prophecy unfold - the one where Nelson Doubleday predicted the Wilpons would drive the Mets into the ground.  Saul Katz is to Igor as Mr.Wilpon is to Dr. Frankenstein.  Poor loyal Saul Katz is helpless to stop him.  Hence, his dilemma.

Today's Episode: Accounting For Dummies

Hey Mets fans, can you spare $700 million dollars?  Ownership might as well just come out and ask us for the money.  They will passing the costs on to us anyway.  So why not be open about it?  Truth be told, even before we start discussing the on-field product, Mets fans are primarily disgusted with the prohibitive costs related to attending Citi Field, flex pricing for premium games, and a minimum ticket price of $63 dollars for Opening Day.  But hey, what's a few million dollars between friends?  Just as with him, so it is with us.  It's all about the money.  And the average guy/gal just doesn't make enough of it.  Now, if the Wilpons want even more of my cash, they will have to appeal to President Obama for it.  The more government takes from me, the less there is to spend at Citi Field.

We fans are being asked to believe that achieving closure in the Madoff Mess, successfully refinancing all outstanding debt, and securing roughly another $160 million dollars in operating capital, is good news and cause for optimism.  I see it as being $700 million dollars in debt.  Period.  After we figure in the 2013 payroll, the Wilpons are left with roughly $65 to $75 million dollars for other expenses and rolling over into the 2014 season..  Here's the rub.  Ownership considered the 2012 season a disappointment after "only" 2.2 million fans crashed the Citi Field gates.  The attendance forecast for 2013 calls for much of the same, which according to Wilpon's economic Law of Appreciative Depreciation Of Gross Projections, represents another loss.  That means ownership will not be improving upon the money left over from 2013 season pay-outs.  So who are we kidding here?  At some point in the 2014 calendar year, the Wilpons will be right back where they started - with no operating budget worth speaking of and challenged to pay off what they owe.

Perhaps that is why the Mets have but two players signed beyond the 2014 season.  I'm guessing the Wilpon's situation is precarious as ever.  There will be no relief coming this season.  Getting through the 2014 season therefore, still seems like a monumental task.  Paying for it, seems even more questionable.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

New York Rangers: Getting Pushed Off The Puck


NEW YORK RANGERS - ...And Getting Pushed Around.


With less than a minute left of regulation time in Wednesday's game, the Rangers and Bruins were tied at three apiece.  While he didn't convert, Rick Nash showed the Garden crowd just how good he is.  He broke someones ankles on a rush up the right side and fed Marian Gaborik.  But Gabby couldn't convert, and so they went into overtime.  At 4:33 into the extra session, Marian Gaborik ended the game when he picked off a pass in the defensive zone, then steamed up ice on a break away straight up the slot.  Marian Gaborik completed his 14th career hot trick.  But more importantly, he gave the Rangers their first two points of the season in front of raucous home crowd.  Nice.

But as I sit here watching the Rangers/Flyers game, my ongoing rant unfortunately continues.

Not Signing Colton Orr Still A Mistake
Bruins Expose A Fist Full Of Problems
Who Will Fight Our Battles Now That Brandon Prust Is Gone?

Brian Boyle got into a fight with Boston's Adam McQuaid and couldn't handle himself.  We know Boyle is not generally considered a fighter, where Adam McQuaid is.  McQuaid was reacting to a late shot taken by Boyle after a whistle to stop play.  Fine.  But I am still a little dismayed about watching Mike Rupp lumbering around and getting this much ice time.  There he was Wednesday night gathering an instigator penalty while trying to pick a fight.  Fine.

So for Thursday night's game, Coach dressed Jeff Halpern instead of Rupp, and also called up Kris Newbury to replace Chris Kreider.  Kreider's healthy scratch may have been because he might already be in Coach's doghouse, or out of necessity because, hell, the Rangers were headed into Philadelphia.  It was nice to see Stu Bickel go after Philly's Tom Sestito.  Bickel did the right thing.  He protected his teammate.  Fine.  Then Newbury and Tye McGinn wound up dropping gloves.  Unfortunately, McGinn got the better of the Rangers fill-in center.  Newbury also wound up earning the two extra minutes for instigating/roughing.  Fine.

On one hand, physicality is a case by case basis.  Fine.  But as an overall condition, the Rangers have a big problem they will not easily overcome.  The situation is convoluted.  I can see where Coach wants his team to remain being the aggressors.  But the Rangers are being moved off the puck way too easily.  Here's the rub.  Fighting and physical hockey go hand in hand and can compliment each other handsomely.  But fighting can not compensate for lack of in-game physicality, or lack of players skilled enough to drop gloves and at least contribute Bickel.

I know I'm missing something.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  I do know however, more and more teams of the Eastern Conference will be taking runs at Henrik Lundqvist and several other Rangers.

Meanwhile, Colton Orr was busy doing THIS..!

As far as the game I just watched, it all goes back to the same 'ol power play.  But I'm getting to that.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New York Rangers: Not Signing Colton Orr Still A Mistake


NEW YORK RANGERS - Penny Foolish, Orr, Dollar Foolish; The Four Year Mistake Still Lives.  Blueshirts Still Paying Price For Not Re-Signing Colton Orr.

Bruins Expose A Fist Full Of Problems
Who Will Fight Our Battles Now That Brandon Prust Is Gone?

....Since before they dropped the puck in game one, this is all I have been talking about.

Is Arron Asham the new Rangers enforcer now?  Is that the plan?  And exactly how much ice time will the Rangers allot him so as to make a difference?  How much time are the Rangers willing to give both Mike Rupp and Arron Asham?  At least Stu Bickel has a legitimate skill level to warrant ice time.  Asham isn't a scrub.  But, c'mon.  Ideally, you want someone who can fight, but someone who still warrants ice time, and can contribute to a forward line.

You know how the Rangers could have avoided this whole mess (in my opinion) they suddenly find themselves in?  Let me put it this way.  When Glen Sather was obsessed with doling out ridiculo-dollars for apathy inspiring players like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and Wade Redden, he failed to put money aside for a very worthwhile enforcer named Colton Orr.  Donald Brashear, Derek Boogaard, and the departure of Brandon Prust are all the continuing reminders of the mistake Sather made by simply not signing Colton Orr back then.

Maybe I'm just partial.  But Colton Orr would have fit in beautifully right now.  As you can see, filling this need has been a problem for the Rangers ever since his departure to Toronto four seasons ago.

The Rangers have back-to-back games now against Boston, then Philadelphia.  We already witnessed bad blood carry over from last season when the Rangers and Bruins opened the season.  The Devils routed the Flyers Tuesday night, which makes Philly 0-3 to start the season.  So I fully expect the Flyers to try and thug their way toward an eventual win.  And why not?  If the word isn't out already, it should be.  The Rangers have a problem.


Brooklyn Nets: Half Way Through Borough's Inaugural NBA Season

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS - First Half Report:

Forty One Games Of Sizzle, Sputter, Streaks and Struggles

That's it.  That's all you get.  The 2012-2013 intra-city rivalry against the Knicks is over.  Let's hear it for the schedule makers.  If the deities of basketball will it, perhaps the Nets and Knicks will meet up in the playoffs.

Year one in the Battle of the Boroughs goes to.....  It's a tie.  Not only was the first ever meeting between Brooklyn and Manhattan supposed to take place on November 1st, their game was also  supposed to open up the 2012-2013 regular season.  But Hurricane Sandy had other ideas.  The first showdown would have to wait.  Eventually they did meet, on November 26th at Barclays Center.  In the first meeting between the two, Brooklyn came out victorious in a 96-89 overtime thriller.  When they met again on December 11th for the second time at Barclays, it was the Knicks who came away winning on a last second shot in a 100-97 chiller.  Just eight days later, in Brooklyn's first game at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan flexed.  The establishment came down on the Nets with a heavy hand during a lop-sided 100-86 lesson.  Then on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Nets evened the series by defeating the Knicks 88-85, in their second visit to the Garden.

The Nets are now half way into their inaugural season in the Borough of Kings.  Forty one games have been played.  They own a 25-16 record, good for second place and just one game behind the first place Knicks in the Atlantic Division standings.  The Nets also have a division best 9-3 record against their Atlantic foes.  They are one of five Eastern Conference teams playing above a .600 win percentage.  The Brooks currently rank fourth in the conference.  They are tied with the Bulls for most conference wins.  In twenty three games at Barclays Center, the Nets own a 16-7 mark.  They are playing .500 on the road, with a 9-9 record.

Brooklyn's inaugural season in the NBA commenced with an 11-4 record in November.  The month was highlighted by two wins over the Celtics, a win over the Clippers, and Brooklyn's first victory in the Battle of the Boroughs over the Knicks.

But that didn't translate into good times in December.  An injury to Brook Lopez, an overall lack of cohesion, bowing down to stiffer competition, and a pink slip for Avery Johnson marred the month, and even soured the mood around downtown Brooklyn.  In a reversal of fortunes, the Nets struggled to a 5-11 record in December.  Speculation started running rampant accusing the Nets of not being able to beat teams with winning records.  The numbers were starting to bear that out.  Through two full months, the Nets only compiled a 4-13 record versus teams playing above the .500 level.  Meanwhile, twelve of their sixteen wins to this point came against sub .500 teams.  The list of good teams to defeat the Nets grew by the day - Heat, Thunder, Warriors, Bucks, Knicks, Bulls, Jazz, Celtics, and Spurs.

On Christmas Day, the Nets put forth four brutal quarters in their third encounter versus Boston.  The Celtics handed Brooklyn a most embarrassing defeat - one that inspired changes.  When the Nets followed up the Celtics loss with yet another pitiful effort against the Milwaukee Bucks, those changes came post haste.  Because November's start became a distant memory, and the loss against the Bucks dropped the Nets to 14-14, the Nets owner felt compelled to make a change himself.  After twenty eight games into Brooklyn's inaugural season, Mikhail Prokhorov dismissed Avery Johnson as head coach.  It was reported GM Billy King tried lobbying on Avery Johnson's behalf, but to no avail.  P.J. Carlesimo was promoted from the staff, and named interim coach of the Nets.

Since then, the Brooklyn Nets have been on fire.  The Nets won their first two games under P.J. but dropped game three in San Antonio to end the 2012 calendar year.

So far, it has been a Happy New Year on Flatbush Avenue.  The Nets opened 2013 with a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Then proceeded to win their next six games, marked by additional victories over the Pacers, Hawks, and the New York Knicks.  The Nets have lost once in January, and are now 11-2 under coach P.J. Carlesimo.

With a very noticeable improvement in their overall play under P.J., it has become clear to many the Nets stopped responding to former coach Avery Johnson.  The most notable differences have come from Deron Williams and Kris Humphries.  Coach Johnson's dismissal came uncomfortably soon after Williams expressed his issues with Avery Johnson's system to the media.  However, Deron Williams did not escape some mild criticism, as he was also widely rumored to have been at the root of Jerry Sloan's firing in Utah as well.  Kris Humphries was nursing a sprained ankle in December.  But even more troubling to his performance was his inability to escape Avery Johnson's dog house.  But he is out now.  And against the Knicks Monday afternoon, he flourished.

Overall, the ageless one Jerry Stackhouse, Marshon Brooks, C.J. Watson, and Keith Bogans have been very good off the bench.  But extra mention should be made for Andray Blatch and Reggie Evans.  Despite being questioned involving a hotel incident, Blatch has been making the most of a second chance after being jettisoned by the Wizards.  By the end of the season, he could conceivably play himself into contention for the NBA's 6th Man award.  Reggie Evans has been tremendous on the boards this season.

If you're asking me, this most recent win over the Knicks was Joe Johnson's signature game since joining the Brooklyn Nets.  He is averaging 17.4 points per game, and seems to be just getting started.  He is exerting himself more, as he and Deron Williams continue working together.  If you remember, there was much hype surrounding Billy King's newly formed, Brooklyn Backcourt.  But Deron Williams continues to be a very interesting case study.  He has been streaky, and is not quite playing up to the level he exhibited in Utah with the Jazz.

The biggest difference maker on the Nets has no doubt been a healthy Brook Lopez.  Almost two years of having to deal with Dwight Howard rumors would have broken a lesser man.  But Brook Lopez responded this season by, so far, becoming the NBA's top scoring center.

Every player brings something different to the court.  That's why I left Crash for last.  Gerald Wallace is the backbone of this team.  This guy is indefatigable.  His nickname is well earned.

With regards to the battle for the city, the Knicks have had problems on the court, off the court, and along side the court.  But have the battle lines really been drawn?  Yes, kind of.  But a fierce playoff series between the two should expedite the process.  There's the second half of the season to play first.  Then, who knows?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: Flatbush Knots Season Series Against Knicks

From the desks of:

Nets and Knicks End Series 2-2
I - Hurricane Sandy
II - BK 96; NY 89 *
III - NY 100; BK 97
IV - NY 100; BK 86
* overtime

Brooklyn     88
Manhattan  85

GAME SUMMARY - Nineteen Turnovers Prevent Nets From Cruising To An Easier Victory.  Without Ray Felton On Floor, Carmelo Anthony Could Not Beat Brooklyn By Himself.

The Brooklyn Nets made things significantly more difficult for themselves by turning the ball over nineteen times.  Otherwise, this afternoon they rode Deron Williams' ball distribution, Kris Humphries' and Brook Lopez' strong rebounding, and Joe Johnson's clutch buckets to victory over the New York Knicks before a festive Martin Luther King Jr. Day crowd inside Madison Square Garden. The Flatbush Hoops owned a 26-24 lead after the first quarter, and took a 47-41 advantage into the break.

Even though Melo dropped his obligatory eighteen first half points, offensively the Knicks remain a team out of sync.  A compare and contrast will bare that out.  After Pablo Prigioni got wiped out on a pick and left the game, Melo was forced to play the fourth quarter as a point/forward.  But that only compounded the Knicks greater problems without Ray Felton on the floor.

First lets talk points.  After Melo's eighteen, Chris Copeland and Jason Kidd were the Knicks next high scorers with five and six points respectively.  Amare Stoudemire did not factor into the game until the second half.  For the Nets, scoring was more balanced.  Joe Johnson scored thirteen points, Brook Lopez eleven, and Kris Humphries dropped nine first half points.  Lets talk assists now.  Melo was also Knicks high man with three first half assists.  Chris Chandler and Ronnie Brewer had one apiece.  Deron Williams had seven first half assists for the Nets alone.  Now lets talk rebounds.  The Nets really excelled on the glass.  They held a 27-16 advantage after two quarters.  Twenty one of the Nets boards came on the defensive end.  And that has nothing to do with Ray Felton being injured.  Tyson Chandler led the Knicks with six first half boards.  Kris Humphries pulled down eight.  Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez pulled down five apiece.  For the Knicks, all that adds up to a six point deficit at the half.  All didn't go perfectly for Brooklyn however.  The Nets turned the ball over eleven times in the first half versus just two times by the Knicks.

Brook Lopez opened the third quarter with a jumper.  Crash Wallace then gave Brooklyn a nine point lead by nailing a three-pointer, and shortly followed with another layup to make it a 54-45 game.  Midway through the third quarter, Tyson Chandler ripped through the lane for a dunk to get the Knicks within three.  Deron Williams responded with a pair of three's.  But with 3:32 left in the quarter, J.R. Smith helped reduce a 60-55 Brooklyn lead to one point with consecutive buckets.  The Knicks completed a 10-0 run with 2:20 left, and owned a 63-60 lead.  With 0:52 on the clock, Joe Johnson hit two free throws to tie the game at sixty three all.  By this time, the Nets had committed fifteen turnovers and were paying a price for repeated miscues and losing the defensive bearing they adhered to in the first half.  A Melo three-pointer, and Amare Stoudemire's closing dunk gave the Knicks a 68-65 lead after three quarters.

To open the fourth quarter, and to the chagrin of Brooklyn fans, Marshon Brooks and Kris Humphries joined forces to execute and score on a fast break.  The Nets scored exactly zero fast break points in the first half, and only two all game.  Keith Bogans helped Flatbush regain their lead with a trey to make it a 70-68 game.  But Amare's dunk at 10:23 tied the game again at seventy all.

Fresh off two more Brooklyn turnovers (#16 and #17), J.R. Smith nailed a three pointer to give the Knicks a 75-72 lead, then headed back the other way while he mimicked spinning his still smokin' six-shooters back into their holsters.

With 8:09 left in the fourth, C.J. Watson came off Brooklyn's bench and tied the game again at 75-75 with a three.  Then Joe Johnson took over.  A three pointer at 7:20 gave Brooklyn a 78-75 lead.  After a J.R. Smith basket, another Joe Johnson three pointer gave Brooklyn an 81-77 lead.  And yet another Joe Johnson jumper gave the Nets an 83-77 lead, and completed an 11-2 Flatbush run.

The Nets continued turning over the ball until they reached number nineteen halfway through the quarter.  Brooklyn was leading 83-77 with 5:30 left in the game.  And then their scoring stopped.  A series of key blocked shots by Brook Lopez and continued tenacious rebounding kept the Nets going until the clock read 0:52 seconds, with the score reading 83-82 Nets.  After a foul, Melo completed two free throws to complete a 7-0 Knicks run, giving Manhattan an 84-83 lead again.

Later with 22.3 seconds left, Joe Johnson popped from outside again.  At the other end, Brook Lopez pulled down another huge rebound off a Melo miss.  After Deron Williams nailed two free throws, the Nets were up by an 87-84 score with 8.3 seconds to go.  P.J.Carlesimo perhaps made the call of the night in deciding to foul Jason Kidd, putting him at the line with 7.5 seconds.  Kidd hit his first shot, then fouled Deron Williams with 5.7 seconds left after the Nets guard drew the rebound and tried heading the other way off the miss.  Deron hit one of two.  After J.R. Smith's last attempt at a three pointer missed, Brooklyn walked off the MSG floor with an 88-85 victory.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with twenty nine points.  Next high man on the Knicks was J.R. Smith with sixteen points off the bench.  Amare Stoudemire scored fifteen mostly second half points.  Jason Kidd kicked in eleven, and Tyson Chandler contributed seven points in the Knicks losing effort.

The Knicks shot 40.5% from the floor.  That's not the Knicks main matter as the Nets shot at a 41.9% clip.  Brooklyn wound up beating the Knicks at their own game, outscoring them 36-18 from three point land.  The Nets shot 50%, hitting twelve of twenty four from behind the three-point line.  The Knicks only shot 28.6% from behind the arch, making only six of twenty one shots.

Joe Johnson was the Nets high man with twenty five points.  Deron Williams and Brook Lopez each dropped fourteen.  Off the bench, Kris Humphries kicked in eleven points, and Keith Bogans added eight.  Deron Williams led all players with twelve assists.  As a team, the Knicks totalled fourteen.  Seven assists came from Melo.

Brooklyn dominated the boards.  Brook Lopez (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Kris Humphries (11 points, 13 rebounds) are the Nets double-doubles.  For the game, Brooklyn out-rebounded Manhattan by a wide 52-37 margin.  Both teams were actually sub-par from the free throw line.

The 2012-2013 inaugural battle for the city ends in a tie.  Both teams won a game apiece.  Unless these teams meet again in the playoffs, they will not play each other again this season.  But with regard to the Atlantic Division standings, the Nets and Knicks now have an equal number of wins.  Brooklyn improved to 25-16, while the team from Manhattan sports a 25-14 record.  With Monday's win, Brooklyn moves to within one game of the first place New York Knicks.  The Nets also improved their road record to a 9-9 mark.  This was the Knicks sixth loss at Madison Square Garden.

This game marked the mid-point in Brooklyn's inaugural season.  Forty one games are in the books.  Forty one more games to go.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

New York Rangers: Bruins Expose Fist Full Of Problems


NEW YORK RANGERS - How Can You Not Be Worried Without Brandon Prust Around?  Will The League Revert To Picking On The 'Lil Blue Smurfs Again?

When I watched Rick Nash drop down to block a shot, I wondered, is he here to do the same things everyone else has been doing?  You know..., the kind of Mayan sacrificial stuff Coach Torts makes 'em do.  Or, is he here to do what Rick Nash does differently?  I know that's a little conflicting to say, as the Blueshirts were on defense.  But the notion was reinforced when the Rangers had a 5 on 3 power play advantage.  Not only did they only manage three shots, they committed a penalty to negate their advantage, and in turn put Boston up a man.  The Rangers were flawless on the penalty kill though...  One could only think, this looked familiar.

I'll tell you what else looked uncomfortably familiar - skaters loitering in front of Henrik Lundqvist creating a nuisances and waiting to feed on garbage.

Try this then.

Knock, knock Ranger fans...  Say hello to your new biggest fighters - Mike Rupp, and Stu Bickel.

I told you!

After the departed Brandon Prust, these two led the Rangers last season in fighting.  But Bickel and Rupp trailed Prust in fights by a wide margin.  Last night the Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton, all let Rangers fans know right from the start, the next forty seven games are going to be a long season.  This is going to be a big problem Ranger fans.  Think about it... how often do you really want Mike Rupp on the ice?  Bickel, fine.  Rupp?  Rick Nash is no slouch.  Do you want him in the box?  Okay, that's a stretch.  Much of Friday night was in retaliation from last year's entanglement.  I get it.  But perhaps the Rangers need a minor roster adjustment.  It's better to be proactive in a shortened season, than skate around with black eyes and busted noses.  No one ever feared the Smurfs of yore.

The first game at Madison Square Garden in eight months is finally upon us.  Pittsburgh has a new look without Marc Staal's brother.  Jordan Staal now plays in Carolina with their other other brother from the same mother.  Circling back to the point, perhaps PITT might be slightly more compromised on defense without Staal.  Riiiiiight.  Just don't tell that to Philly.  Sidney Crosby and Ivgeni Malkin are starting the season healthy, and together, which they haven't always managed in recent years.  We're playing on back-to-back nights.  Pittsburgh is playing back-to-back as well.  Let's get it on!  Bring on the Penguins!

Madison Square Garden Opening Night
Pittsburgh Penguins
33rd Street & 8th Avenue

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Jersey Devils: Newark Needs Kovalchuk Of Old

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY DEMONS

NEW JERSEY DEVILS - With Zach Parise Gone To Be Wild, Who Will Fan The Fires Of Newark Now?

Patrick Elias' Swan Song?

How is New Jersey going to get back to the finals?  That's a devil of a question.  I've been forecasting the Devils' demise for a couple of years now.   Yet they earned 102 points last season, defeated the Eastern Conference regular season champs, and competed for a Stanley Cup.  But was Adam Henrique's goal in Game 6 of last season's Eastern Conference final the Devils last hurrah?  Because after celebrating that goal, they had nothing left.

Martin Brodeur, the NHL's soon to be forty-one year old, all-time, multi category leader for goalies, is, well..., forty-years old.  Was last season his final hurrah?  In fifty nine starts, Brodeur was 31-21 last season.  His .908 Save% ranked below his career average.  His 2.41 GAA was certainly not his highest.  Brodeur's work load is clearly on the way down.  But in a compressed forty eight game schedule, how many games should he start?  Marty's history says he will have another solid season.  Even though Johan Hedberg is ancient in his own right at thirty nine years old, he proved he is no slouch between the pipes.  Between these two geezers, the Devils should have flexibility in net and enough potassium and zinc to get through a season.  They will both benefit from having a good defense in front of them.

What of the Devils other Renaissance Man?  Last year Patrick Elias matched his highest point total (78) since he tallied 81 points during the 2003-2004 season.  His twenty six goals were his second most over the last seven years.  Patrick Elias will now turn thirty seven years old in April.  He will also be a free agent after the season.  Will the 2013 season be his swan song?  The answer should be yes.  But then, look at Marty.

Patrick Elias rewrote the Devils offensive records:

* Holds record for most points in a single season - 96
* Devils all-time playoffs leader in goals, assists, points;  45-80-125
* Devils all-time regular season leader in goals - 361
* Devils all-time regular season leader in assists - 440
* Devils all-time regular season leader in points - 894

He and Martin Brodeur will surely be the next Devils greats to have their numbers retired, and their jerseys lifted to the rafters........ if they ever retire!  But if last season was the hypothetical question, then the answer should surely be - Why should they?  Unfortunately for Devils fans, Patrick Elias' goal count will not change the new condition of the Devils.

Without Zack Parise, the Devils scoring ability has been severely depleted.  All sticks quite literally now point to their ridiculo-million dollar forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, who, through his own devise, recently made fans question his commitment to the New Jersey Devils.  He is here now.  But will he score goals....lots of them?  Last season his total finally started creeping back near his earlier career numbers.  For seven seasons between 2002-2003 and 2009-1010, Ilya Kovalchuk averaged forty four goals a year.  Over that span, he eclipsed forty goals a season six times, and fifty goals twice.  Last year's thirty seven goals was a step in the right direction.  But the Devils need the Kovalchuk of just three years ago to partly compensate for the departure of Zach Parise and Petr Sykora.  Kovalchuk is still only twenty-nine years of age.  That is a good thing.  But they need the former younger Atlanta sniper of old.

I think Adam Henrique is a marvelous player.  But the Devils must first wait till he fully recovers from off-season thumb surgery.  Then maybe the Devils can hope to get more than sixteen goals from him.  Travis Zajac, recently signed to a big money deal, missed most of last season.  The Devils need for him to contribute a respectable number of goals.  If he can get back to his twenty to twenty five goal form, that would sure go a long way towards getting his team from Point-A to the playoffs.

I hold a small notion that as David Clarkson goes, so go the Devils.  Last season was a career year for him, as he scored thirty goals, which was thirteen more than his previous regular season high of seventeen.  Somewhere between ten and thirty goals, lies Clarkson's upcoming season assuming he stays healthy.  Can he duplicate a thirty goal season?  I think the Devils will be happy with twenty, and ecstatic with twenty five.  But they need at least fifteen goals from their twenty eight year old center.  They can not afford to have Clarkson disappear the way he did at times throughout the playoffs.  He needs to be a nightly force.., when he is not in the box, that is.

After that, the Devils utilize the neutral zone like a nursery for potential goals.  Once again, they will rely more on a system than they will on one individual not named Kovalchuk.  Thing is, the Devils, Lou Lamoriello, and Coach DeBoer all know how to make it work.

Congratulations to Bryce Salvador for being named new Captain of the Devils.

New Jersey Devils
Long Island/Brooklyn Islanders
Uniondale, Long Island


New York Rangers: Importing Scorers Has Been Mixed Bag Of Pucks


National Hockey League
Boston Bruins
Not The Boston Garden
Legends Way, North End

Four Blueshirt Points Of Interest and Concern (and Worry)

1) - Improve the Power Play - The Rangers, it turns out, were very very good last season - just not great.  An overall lack of key scoring hurt.  But an abysmal power play killed.  In consecutive seasons, Brad Richards and Rick Nash have been brought to New York with the expectation they can help turn the PP unit around and have it become an offensive weapon for a change.  Because let us be honest here.  The Rangers power play has short circuited ever since Sergei Zubov last manned the point two decades ago.

2) - Give Marty Biron twelve to fifteen starts unless otherwise dictated by necessity; or it adversely affects Henrik's timing; or Marty proves it is a bad idea.  With the additional back-to-back games and an overall compressed schedule, he will obviously get his chances.  I know giving Biron that many starts seems a bit much.  Henrik would still get 33/35 starts.  Once the playoffs start, Marty Biron will effectively disappear.  However, should something unfortunately befall Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Biron will need to be up to game speed, meaning playoff speed.  In a short season scenario, everything moves fast.

3) - Will the real Brad Richards please stand up?  See below.  But all we need from Brad Richards is to be Brad Richards.  Judging by the way he performed in the playoffs, we might get it.  Then again.......

4) - Who will fight our battles now that Brandon Prust is gone?  Mike Rupp?  Brian Boyle?  Okay..., then who?    ...............(*sigh*)...............?  I thought so.  With all due respect to our Captain, the Rangers are shy in the pugilist department.  For the moment, lets leave Rick Nash out of this one.  He is a qualified tough guy.  Otherwise, this is highly concerning to me.  The Rangers led, or were among the top two (which?) NHL teams in fighting majors last season.  Now fear this.  Brandon Prust led the Rangers by far, engaging in twenty regular season fights last season.  Mike Rupp came in second with thirteen.  Stu Bickel..! - exchanged hey-makers twelve times.  Good for him.  Labelled as a bit soft, the dearly departed Brandon Dubinsky is next on the list with six fights.  Then...., Brian Boyle comes in with three.  How important is fighting to the Rangers overall game?  It depends how many fights they themselves instigated, and how many times they needed to meet the challenge.  Was their willingness to drop gloves born of necessity because veteran teams like Philly, Pittsburgh, and others thought they could take their liberties against a very young club?  Or was fighting inevitable because of their rabid, and possessed-like grinding style?  Go figure...

Finally!  It's Time To Drop The Puck And Get Broadway's Big Blue Glacier Moving FORWARD Again.

Is Marian Gaborik The Rangers Version Of Howard Johnson?

The most glaring problem facing the Rangers these past two seasons has been their ability, or inability, to score the big goal, a put-away goal, the Say Goodnight Gracie type goal.  More simply, the Rangers just need to score more goals, period.  For it is heartbreaking when fifty nine minutes of hard work and effort falls through a crack in the ice due to one very brief or fleeting defensive lapse or misplay.  With alarming frequency in last season's playoffs and culminating against the Devils, any deviation from perfection without the puck torpedoed their game.  They possessed the puck just fine.  They just couldn't find net.  Other times, they over-possessed and failed to get off shots.

The Rangers lost their bearing in the neutral zone as well.  But teams adept at scoring can many times outscore their mistakes.  The Rangers never could.  The goals the Blueshirts did score oft times came only after a supreme physical effort - the kind of effort it takes to grind granite into sand.  And as fans, we were going to buy into it no matter what.  But to their credit, Coach Torts and the team moved forward with the steady movement and power of a glacier as long as they could.  Maybe by the time they faced the surging Devils, the long grind of the Rangers style of play just caught up to Team Torts...  Or, maybe they just couldn't score.  Everything would have been fine, as is, if they could only have mustered a goal or two more.

Mind you, that's at even strength.  Because worse yet, when fans would rather fore go a power play just to continue playing at even strength, that's a problem.  The power play has been a dilemma; a crisis even; for the Rangers - not an advantage.  And that is so unlike many John Tortorella teams of the past.

Rick Nash was imported to address such issues.  This is what I said a few posts ago:

...securing a second high profile player in consecutive years (also) brings expectations. So hello Rick Nash. This ain't Columbus chum. Show me.  Rick Nash is actually the player the Rangers have been seeking on the wing for decades, or at least since the days Nick Fotiu played. Difference being, Nash is a legit scorer. He is big, and tough like Fotiu was, but a vastly more skilled forward than Fotiu could ever aspire to be. And he's young. He is entering his prime years. Alas, recent years of making mistakes with forwards such as Scott Gomez and Chris Drury seem like ages ago - perchance to dream.

On paper, this acquisition is a home run.  However, until they drop the puck to start the season, let us just keep it at that.  Because the fact is, the Rangers still have carry-over issues with two of their other recent, and fairly recent high profile acquisitions.

Will the real Brad Richard please stand up?  I'm not complaining.  This blog gave him a season's grace.  And after all, he had big moments in last year's playoffs.  But Brad without a doubt struggled during the regular season.....mightily.  So much so, Coach Torts had no choice but to demote him to the fourth line for a time.  That can not be the case this season.  But he only needs to be Brad Richards, not a savior.

With Nash on board, everyone should be carrying a lighter load, and benefiting.  But then again, that's what we fans said when the team acquired Marian Gaborik.  And we said it again when we acquired Richards.  I know many of the real cynical fans, and even some more moderate ones can't help but think, even fleetingly....., here we go again.

Within a four season stretch, the Rangers (ideally speaking) have now acquired their top three scorers.  Marian Gaborik was the first.  During Marian Gaborik's '07-'08 season with Minnesota, he scored forty two goals.  The following season, injury limited him to seventeen games and thirteen goals.  He returned healthy for the '09-'10 season, but only he now played for the Rangers.  In his first season wearing a Blueshirt, he matched his career high set two seasons ago, by scoring forty two goals.  The next season, he managed sixty two games played, but only scored twenty two goals.  There was much speculation as to whether he played the season injured.  At the end of the season, he admitted he did.  Last year, Marian Gaborik "the sniper" returned.  For the third time in the last five alternating seasons, he topped (41) the forty goal mark.  He did in fact play through injury again through last season's playoffs.  Marian Gaborik is now coming off shoulder surgery, but appears quite ready to get going.  But which Marian Gaborik will the Rangers be getting?  The forty goal scorer, or, the alternating stinker scheduled to appear this year?  In local terms, he is like the Howard Johnson of hockey.


Brooklyn Nets: Flatbush Defends Home Turf Against Visiting Hawks

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS - Flatbush Salvages Back End Of Home-And-Home Against Atlanta.  Team Saves Face In Brooklyn.

Last Wednesday was supposed to be Joe Johnson's night in the spotlight as he was due to face his former team for the first time since being traded to the Nets.  But the Brooks showed up lethargic in Atlanta and lost by a deflating 109-95 disparity.  As it turned out, it was former Nets guard Devin Harris who had himself a rather enjoyable game with eighteen points and five assists against his former team.

In the Friday night follow up, the Nets were having to work hard in order to play with the Hawks at Barclays.  The teams were tied after the first period, and remained tied after the second period, and third period.  However, Brooklyn's first half effort was marked by turnovers that really kept Atlanta hanging around.

With just over a minute remaining in the game, the Hawks pulled down a defensive rebound and quickly went into transition.  Josh Smith received an outlet pass and fended off Brook Lopez as the two headed up court.  Once they gained the paint, Josh Smith shoved down a vicious dunk in the face of Lopez that pulled the Hawks within a point of Brooklyn, in what was now a 90-89 game.  The play punctuated a 7-0 run by the Hawks......

I then sensed the sharks beginning to circle.  There was sure to be a wave of media criticism headed the Nets way if they dropped the back end of this home-and-home series.  The knock on Flatbush during their inaugural season is them only being able to defeat sub-par teams.  And heading into Atlanta Wednesday evening, the numbers supported that growing sentiment.  The Nets were only 7-14 against teams with winning records before facing the Hawks.  After Wednesday, they had dropped to a 7-15 record.

Despite Atlanta's 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter, the final quarter was actually highlighted by a much improved defensive effort in which the Brooks limited visiting Atlanta to fifteen points.

For the game, Deron Williams led all scorers with twenty four points.  Brook Lopez dropped twenty points.  Joe Johnson improved by three points over his effort in Atlanta and scored eighteen points Friday evening at home.  Andray Blatch joined the double digit scorers club with eleven points in sixteen minutes off the bench.  Keith Bogans was Nets high man logging twenty one minutes off the bench, in which he scored eight points. Of the starters, Joe Johnson logged in a whopping forty one minutes.

Brooklyn out-rebounded Atlanta by a formidable 48-35 margin.  Reggie Evans was a monster on the glass, recording twice as many boards as Atlanta's top rebounder, Josh Smith, who pulled down nine.  Reggie Evans pulled down twenty rebounds.  Fifteen of those came on the defensive end.

Atlanta actually out-shot the Nets in all respects.  From the floor, the Hawks shot 43% versus just 40% for Brooklyn.  Both teams hit nine three-pointers.  But Atlanta came in at almost 43%, while the Brooks shot 34% from behind the arch.  And from the free throw line, the Hawks enjoyed a 71% versus 68% edge.  However, Brooklyn bested the Hawks twenty five points versus ten.

Crash Wallace was on the floor Friday.  In his first game back since bruising ribs against Phoenix, he played twenty nine minutes and scored a quiet eight points, pulled down four rebounds, and issued three assists.  He had one block and managed one steal.

Brooklyn held on Friday evening.  The Nets salvaged the back end of this home-and-home by a 94-89 final score.  The Nets are now 16-7 at Barclays.  They upped their record to 10-2 under P.J. Carlesimo.  But more importantly, they provided a response.  They rebounded, and improved their record to 8-15 against teams with winning records.  Perhaps the media sharks will remain docile, and not bite on Saturday.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

N.J. Devils: Jeff Vanderbeek and Travis Zajac Moving Devils Forward

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY DEMONS

NEW JERSEY DEVILS - Carving A New Path Without Zach Parise.

Money changes everything.

New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek went from having the NHL threaten to separate him from the team, to recently buying out his partners, and solidifying his place as sole owner.  In the process, he refinanced the team's debt, and ultimately removed the Devils from under a constant cloud of organizational uncertainty.

With Jeff Vanderbeek's new found operational certainty, I guess comes operational flexibility as well.  And with a new CBA in place, I guess operational predictability plays a part too.  The result?  Wednesday, Lou Lamoriello announced the Devils signed their seventh year center, Travis Zajac, to an eight year contract extension worth $46 million dollars.  Last year, Zajac's season was derailed by an Achilles injury.  He only managed to play in fifteen regular season games before participating in the Devils inspired playoff run to the Cup Finals.  Zajac would have become a free agent at the conclusion of this season.

In the 2010's at least, it seems as if the Devils have turned over a new leaf.  This is twice now the Devils have bucked the trend and doled out major dollars for a player.  Money couldn't solve all the Devils problem though.  Sandwiched between signing Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk's pact, was the  departure of free agent Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild.  The Devils offer was representative.  But apparently, Zach Parise wanted to be home.  And speaking of home, Ilya Kovalchuk finally returned from Russia and reported to Devils camp.

So what do the reigning Eastern Conference champions do now?  They continue the relentless search for interchangeable players, like the Devils always have.  This is not the first time money came between a player and the Devils.  Instead, this is a way of life in New Jersey.  They will absorb the impact of Parise's defection, who was a Devils 2003 first round pick, and somehow find themselves right in the mix again this Spring.  It is now the turn of more recent first round selections like Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, and Adam Larsson, and an outstanding hockey player picked in the third round named Adam Henrique to carve a new path.  But without a suitable replacement for Zach Parise, the Devils certainly have their work cut out for them indeed.  However, if we've learned anything about the New Jersey Devils in the Lou Lamoriello era, it is to never count them out until they're out.


N.Y. Giants: The Off Season Search For Daylight

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL - Don't Let Big Blue Fool You.  The Running Game Didn't Improve Much.

It's always something.  If it's not one thing, it's another.  When Eli Manning was a wee QB still wet behind the ears, he was protected by the best offensive line in football, and supplemented by the league's number one running game.  Two Super Bowls later, now that Eli is the Mann he plays behind an offensive line that is painstakingly undergoing an overhaul, as well as getting little to no help from a largely non existent running game.

Don't let them fool you.  The Giants protected Eli well enough.  They also improved upon their dreadful 2011 season when they ranked dead last in rushing.  They upped their ranking to 14th in the NFL running the ball this season.  But that could unfortunately make it easy to overlook their real dilemma.  Not only have they have lost their ability to dominate the clock utilizing the run, worse, after Andre Brown went down Big Blue became exceptionally futile in short yardage situations.  Far too often, the Giants settled for field goals because they puttered in the red zone.  If they failed to gain short yardage, then naturally they failed to gain first downs.

Once again Ahmad Bradshaw showed he is a compromised player.  Yet he still posted another 1,000 yard season.  But how much longer can he last before his lower appendages break apart?  Does Jerry Reese plan on bringing Andre Brown back?  Does he even bring Bradshaw back?  Will Coach Coughlin and the Giants feature David Wilson more often in the backfield next season?  Has David Wilson sufficiently learned how to pick up a blitz yet?  The Giants have three uncertain scenarios in their backfield.  For two backs at least, the future seems unclear.  However, I think it is unlikely Jerry Reese uses a top two pick on a running back in the next draft.  So perhaps David Wilson's starting time will be born of necessity.

Up front, the biggest question facing the Offensive Line is what to do about David Diehl.  Let's face it, he's fading fast.  He is clearly not coming off a good, or healthy, two year stretch.  The time has come to replace him, or, move him back to Guard again, which is where he came from.  Tackle is just not his forte.  Although he was far from being a liability, David Diehl just wasn't effective enough.  Sean Locklear was clearly the better Tackle when given playing time.  But as luck would have it, Locklear was felled by a season ending knee injury.

At Right Guard, Chris Snee had himself another good season, but continues to pay a high physical toll.  His time is growing shorter.  And at Center, I still maintain David Baas is undersized.  The left side of the line was manned by Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe.  Individually, I do not have much to gripe about.  But collectively, this line has become very average.  Will Beatty is a pending free agent.

If I had my way, Jerry Reese would be spending a high draft pick on a Center or Tackle.  The Giants need a stud on the line.  And in the mean time, hand the starting Right Tackle position to Sean Locklear assuming he is okay to return.  Then relegate David Diehl to back up Guard.  Re-signing Will Beatty almost seems necessary right now.  The Giants lack depth.  So keep enough money within the cap and see which free agent linemen might possibly fit in.  If Locklear doesn't heal up, the Giants will need to find someone fast.


Brooklyn Nets: In Search Of More Legitimate Wins

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS - Are The Nets Oppressors Of The Weak?  The Best Of The Bad?

Back in Hot-Lanta! - the place Joe Johnson became an all-star, to play the team that didn't want him anymore.  Games like this always make for a good story, in any sport, in any league.  And the timing couldn't have been more right.  For Joe Johnson is heating up.  But the Hawks aren't all the worse for trading him.  At 21-16, they only trail the Miami Heat by 3 1/2 games in the Southeast Division.

The Nets enter the game with a 23-15 record.  But the Nets are white hot right now.  They are undefeated in the new year, and are 9-1 since P.J. took over the reigns.  Have the Nets been getting fat on sub-par competition?  Yeah, absolutely.  But their victories over the Thunder and Pacers gives this latest stretch legitimacy.  Tonight, the Nets will be tested by another competitive team.  Or will they?  Atlanta's top scorer, Josh Smith, has been suspended one game by the Hawks for conduct detrimental to the team.  The Nets may still be without Crash Wallace for a third game, after he bruised ribs against Phoenix.

But has too much been made of the Nets success against weaker opponents?  Fourteen of their fifteen losses came against the Heat (2), Warriors (2), Bucks (2), Knicks (2), Lakers, Thunder, Bulls, Jazz, Celtics, and most recently, the Spurs.  The fifteenth loss came very early in the season against Minnesota.  Minus the T-Wolves, those are all above .500 teams.  On the win side, Brooklyn defeated the Clippers, Blazers, Knicks, Thunder, Pacers, and the Celtics twice.  So that makes them 7-14 versus above .500 teams, and 16-1 against sub .500 teams.  The Nets had a stretch where they lost consecutive games to the Heat, Thunder, Warriors, Bucks, and Knicks.  But they also had a string of victories over the Clippers, Blazers, Knicks, and Celtics.

They've had two good months.  One in November, and so far, January has been pretty successful.  They had one bad month in December which cost Avery Johnson his job.  I think they can hang with the big boys.  So how harshly are you judging?


N.Y. Rangers: Blueshirts Set To Finally Rid Themselves Of Redden


NEW YORK RANGERS - Providing For The Common DEFENSE, And Promoting The Blueshirt Welfare.

"Hey, hey Paula..., I wanna marry you!"

That little diddy was sung by Boone and his girlfriend Katie in the movie Animal House, while they were getting high at their college professor's house.  And that's how I feel right now - high, and with a need to sing.

"Bye, bye Redden..., we're finally through with you!"

The New York Rangers will work out the terms to finally waive useless defenseman Wade Redden, and rid themselves of a financial albatross.  He no doubt had to be one of the highest paid players in AHL history!  In a nutshell, terms of the new collective bargaining agreement allow each team to jettison two costly club mistakes.  This was the big break the Rangers needed.  Damn the cap hit..., the season is a resounding success already.

Six years at thirty nine million dollars....   What the hell was Glen Sather thinking?  Those were the years Sather was possessed by the devil himself; Mike Milbury.  Redden, Scott Gomez; Chris Drury; - need I say more?  By the way, Montreal called, they want their defenseman back.  If I said it once, I said it a thousand times.  If you want to pat someone on the back for turning this organization around, credit Gordie Clark and John Tortorella.  But if you must, credit Sather for hiring Clark after Don Maloney left to work for Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix.  These two have kept Glen Sather on the straight, and narrow, and have made him look far smarter than he deserves credit for.  But hey, that's just me.

With or without Wade Redden, a compressed schedule poses a challenge for the Rangers blue line.  The third and fourth lines are more important than ever.  The onus will be on guys like Stu Bickel, Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy (who recently agreed to a deal), and Anton Stralman to gain Coach's trust, and share the burden he places on Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.  Meanwhile, the Canadiens are no doubt kicking themselves in le posterior, after handing Scott Gomez a pink slip and watching Ryan McDonagh develop into a blue line star.  And now that Michael Del Zotto is signed, we know the Rangers are confidently three lines deep.  The trick will be in creating a good fourth line pair.  Here's a nice stat that should go a long way.  All eight Rangers defensemen are below the age of thirty.

On a more distressing note, I think Michael Sauer's career might be over.  He is still unable to shake the effects of a concussion suffered back in December 2011 when Toronto's Dion Phaneuf checked him into the boards.  Sauer missed the rest of 2011-2012, and all of last season.

I think the Rangers have the best collection of defensemen in the division.  Sure the Penguins still have Kris Letang.  But without Jordan Staal, I think they are substantially compromised.  Philly's defense corp is unsettled.  They are trying to infuse some youth among a collection of fossils like Kimmo Timonen and returning dinosaur, Chris Pronger.  The Islanders?  No, stop.  Really....  But the Devils are the Devils.  Their defense will be stout and physical.  They played in the finals for a reason.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: Farewell Old Friends and Hello Expectations


NEW YORK RANGERS - Time To Don The Blueshirts And Lace Up The Skates.  The 2012-2013 Regular Season is FINALLY Upon Us.

First things first.  To the Commissioner and the owners of the NHL - For the simple fact you instigated a lockout for the second time in a decade, you're all a bunch of puckin' idiots!
Thank you very much.
Welcome back my Blueshirts Brothers and Sisters to "Raise Gresch With The Greats" - the New York Rangers portion of my BrooklynTrolleyBlogger.  Its been a long time since last summer ended on a sad note.....  Can't wait to get started again.
Thank you Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko.  And so long Brandon Prust.  I'm upset to lose Prust like I was upset when the Rangers let Colton Orr get away.  And sadly, bye bye Brandon Dubinsky.  He was one of Coach Torts original core players.  Without a doubt, he helped rebuild the Rangers into the contender they are today.  Inevitably, his last act as a Rangers player was smashing a water cooler on his way off the ice versus New Jersey.  In hindsight, that was a great way to go.  I'll remember him well.  But in the bigger picture, last season was the Blueshirts greatest season in some time.  And so, they will all be missed.
But nothing ventured, nothing gained.  With success come expectations.  The bar has been set.  We've been to the conference finals and lost out by a goal and a game.  Now we want to win round three, and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.  That said, securing a second high profile player in consecutive years also brings expectations.  So hello Rick Nash.  This ain't Columbus chum.  Show me.
Rick Nash is actually the player the Rangers have been seeking on the wing for for decades, or at least since the days Nick Fotiu played.  Difference being, Nash is a legit scorer.  He is big, and tough like Fotiu was, but a vastly more skilled forward than Fotiu could ever aspire to be.  And he's young.  He is entering his prime years.  Alas, recent years of making mistakes with Scott Gomez and Chris Drury seem like ages ago - perchance to dream.
Dare we?  Dare we dream of the Finals?  Or do we follow Coach Torts' dictate, and just try to win shifts, periods, and games?  Well, as fans, WE could do all that, and chew gum too.  But what about the Media?  Problem is Staal, Callahan, Girardi, and Lundqvist are no longer considered kids anymore.  They are full fledged vets now, as are Brad Richards and Nash.  Fact is, with a conference final appearance under their belts, Coach Torts has a veteran team now.  The "We're not good enough for..." tact may no longer fly with the scribes.
One veteran the New York Rangers will have to rely heavily on this season in particular because of the condensed schedule, is back-up goalie Marty Biron.  Damn I'm glad he's back.
This was my first hockey warm-up.  I'm sore already.  But I'm glad they're all back.

Friday, January 11, 2013

BKN Nets: Flatbush Kicks Off Weekend With Friday Night Win

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS - The P.J. Era Keeps Rolling Along.  The Flatbush Hoops Are 7-1 Under Their New Head Coach.

Friday Night Final:
Phoenix Suns   79

So far so good right?  All is proceeding smoothly under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.  Under him, the Nets are 7-1 since the firing of Avery Johnson.  Prior to their Friday night contest against the Phoenix Suns at Barclays Center, several outlets were reporting a Nets source as saying P.J. would be able to finish out the season.  And why not?  That only makes sense.  Three coaches in one season would be absurd.  And besides, P.J. is well equipped to handle the head coaching position, as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. itself.  He is a long time resident of the metro area.  Whether you like him or not is a matter of preference, and something for next off season.  For now, there is an appreciable difference in Deron Williams' game, and that of the overall team.  If this success is coming against the lesser teams of the league, so be it.  You can only play who is on the schedule.

There is no doubt a different atmosphere around the team.  Avery Johnson was always very intense.  Two things about Coach Avery - he was forever going to exert his will, and he would forever be pushing, pushing, pushing.  In a subtle manner, P.J. has given the team a little less structure, and a little more playing time and discretion.

The Phoenix Suns, in the midst of an awful 12-25 season, and sporting a 2-16 road record, gave the Nets more troubles than the home crowd in Brooklyn cared to mind.  After jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead, the Nets were behind 19-17 with 1:42 left in the opening quarter.  Midway through the first, Gerald Wallace had to leave the game after receiving a hard foul by Shannon Brown which was ruled a flagrant.  Brown caught Wallace in mid-air as he drove to the basket.  In attempting to close the angle and block, he sent Wallace spiraling feet over head to the floor.  Gerald's right shoulder and arm took the full impact of the fall.  It was later reported Crash suffered bruised ribs.  The Nets had a chance to tie the game at 21-21 with under 0:30 left in the first, but a travelling violation called on Andray Blatche turned the ball over.  The first quarter ended with Phoenix staked to a 25-21 lead.

With 3:40 left in the half and the Suns holding on to a 40-37 lead, I watched C.J. Watson, Marshon Brooks, and Reggie Evans, run a fast break that made Spain's running of the bulls look artful.  With less than two minutes left in the half, Phoenix opened up a double digit 52-42 lead against the Brooks.  The teams went into the break with the Suns ahead by a 53-46 score.

To begin the second half, the home crowd watched Deron Williams drop to the floor after knocking knees, or perhaps his thigh, with Phoenix guard Goran Dragic at the high elbow.  D-Will limped off the court in very obvious discomfort, but did not leave the game.

Three minutes into the second half, the Nets closed to within 55-54, then went ahead 56-55 on a Brook Lopez rebound and put back after Joe Johnson's drive failed to drop.  Halfway through the third quarter, Phoenix went ahead by four again, 60-54, as Brooklyn started settling for lazy perimeter shots.

Unlike in the second quarter, C.J. Watson and Blatche actually converted on a fast break after a Phoenix turnover, and looked smooth doing it.  Blatche finished with a slam at the other end to bring the Brooks within two.  C.J. Watson factored again on the next possession when he tied the game at 60-60 with a high arching jumper from the left corner.  The teams muddled through scoreless possessions until Andray Blatche broke the deadlock with 2:30 to go.  But Phoenix responded on their next possession with a trey for a 63-62 lead.  But Andray Blatche struck again, driving, scoring, and drawing a foul.  A free throw later, the score was 65-63 Brooklyn.  Then it was Blatche yet again with two more points on a scoop lay-up to make it 67-64 Nets.  Marshon Brooks nailed a three before the period expired.  And the Nets finally won their first quarter of the night.  They held a 74-66 lead heading into the final session.

After the Suns shot 55% from the floor in the first half, the Nets were clearly much more committed to defense in the second half.  They had a series of defensive stops to start the fourth quarter.  Brook Lopez finally scored the first points of the fourth, and gave the Nets a ten point 76-66 lead.  Deron Williams' own scoop layup gave Brooklyn a 78-66 lead, making Phoenix call time out.  After the break, back-to-back three pointers by Joe Johnson opened up an eighteen point 84-66 lead for Brooklyn with 7:30 still left on the clock.  With two minutes left, the Nets were staked to a 93-75 lead.

Finally in the end, Tornike Shengelia, who hadn't seen action all night, made his way on the court and gave the Nets their first twenty point lead of the evening.  The buzzer then sounded making official the Nets defeat of the Suns by a 99-79 final.  The win was Brooklyn's fifth consecutive victory, and sixth in seven games under P.J. Carlesimo.

Joe Johnson led all scorers with nineteen points.  Five Nets scored in double digits.  Marshon Brooks and Andray Blatche contributed handsomely off the bench.  Marshon was next high man with seventeen points.  Andray Blatche dropped another fifteen.  Deron Williams, although somewhat hobbled in the second half also finished with fifteen points.  Brook Lopez dropped thirteen points and came up with several key rebounds.

But Friday night, rebounds were Reggie Evans' department.  He led all players in rebounds with fifteen.  Ten of those boards came on the defensive end.  Brook Lopez pulled down eight rebounds, as did Andray Blatche.  Overall, the Nets out rebounded the Suns by a 44-39 margin.

With only six assists, Deron Williams still managed the game high.  In the second half, the Nets cut down their turnovers, and only lost the ball eleven times for the night.  Phoenix turned the ball over eighteen times.  The Nets pounded Phoenix from the line.  They got to the stripe twice as many times as Phoenix.  The Suns shot ten for sixteen, while Brooklyn buried twenty five of thirty two free throws, good for 78% shooting.

Phoenix shot the ball considerably worse from the field during the second half, and ended the evening shooting 39% from the floor versus a consistent 45% by the Brooks.  Again, credit the Nets' second half defensive effort which clamped down on Phoenix, and limited the Suns to thirteen points in each of the third and fourth quarters.

The Nets next opponents are the Indiana Pacers, who will visit Barclays Center for the first time this Sunday afternoon.