Sunday, May 31, 2015

L.I. Ducks: Salvage Split Against Somerset Patriots.

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Ducks and Patriots split series 2-2
I - LID 7; SOM 6
II - SOM 1; LID 0
III - SOM 3; LID 0
IV - LID 3; SOM 0

LIBERTY DIVISION
1) Somerset       23-11
2) Long Island  19-15

Long Island Ducks: Flock enters the second leg trailing the Somerset Patriots by 4 games.  After Saturday's performance, Andrew Barbosa appears poised to help close the gap,

Starter Andrew Barbosa delivered a message Saturday, which Somerset heard loud and clear.  His Game Four performance boldly proclaimed - Careful how you proceed forward, the Ducks can pitch too!

Andrew Barbosa's signing allowed Eric Niesen, whom struggled as a starter, to return to his customary reliever role.

Making his third appearance as a Duck, Barbosa out-dueled Somerset starter Matt Zielinski for 7 innings.  He allowed no runs on just 4 hits, walked 2 and fanned 10 Patriots batters.  He exited on the winning side of a 3-0 game.

His opponent threw 7 innings as well, but allowed 3 earned runs on 9 hits.  He walked none and fanned 4 batters before exiting on the losing side.

Jon Griffin put the Ducks ahead with a 2-run home run in the top of the 4th, and Mike Blanke's base hit in the top of the 7th scored Reegie Corona to give the Ducks their 3-0 margin of victory.

Ryan Kussmaul earned his league leading 9th save.

The Ducks are now 19-15 for the season, and with a series split in Somerset they've gotten back within 4 games of the 1st place Patriots again.

While starter Mark Rogers continues trying to straighten himself out, Andrew Barbosa joins John Brownell, Mickey Jannis, and Ian Marshall to form an effective quartet as the Ducks try and chase down Somerset in the second leg of their race for a first half flag.

These teams will meet again over the 4th of July weekend.  The series also closes out the first half, and might even decide who captures the first half flag.

The Ducks second leg starts Sunday against the visiting York Revolution.  The Patriots head to Bridgeport for an encounter with the Bluefish.



Mike

Saturday, May 30, 2015

N.Y. Mets: Jon Niese's performance belie his words



Here's my latest for 






Mike
senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Tampa Bay Lightning Reduce MSG Ice to a Puddle

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESH WITH THE GREATS


It's Over Johnny!

2014-2015
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Eastern Conference Finals

Lightning Win Series 4-3
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2
III - TBL 6; NYR 5
IV - NYR 5; TBL 1
V - TBL 2; NYR 0
VI - NYR 7; TBL 3
VII - TBL 2; NYR 0

NEW YORK RANGERS: That makes one small Stanley Cup in the last 21-years, and one giant Stanley Cup Championship in the last 75-years.

Sorry.....

Mike couldn't make it today.  He's kinda tied up at the moment (with duct tape and rope in the closet).

He looks kinda stupid bound in his blue Ron Greschner #4 jersey if I may say so myself.

Doesn't he remember the Rangers lost the Cup as a child in '79 to the Canadiens?

Doesn't he realize the Rangers sold their souls to the devil in return for a double-overtime victory over New Jersey in Game Seven of the '94 Eastern Conference Finals, and then for the opportunity to hoist the Cup in Game Seven fashion at MSG a round later?

You thought he got rid of me, didn't you?

Pffft!

Fools!

I shouted out who killed the Kennedy's, when after all it was you and me.

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name....!

KILLJOY'S REVENGE:

> > > > > > > > > > > > >  ?  > > > > >  ?  > > > > STOP.
DETOUR!  No royal road for you!  

Not that they wanted to go there anyway...

Killjoy here, and if you've ever experienced one of my occasional Trolley hijackings, then you know Alain Vigneault has no friend in me.

For my opening face-off, I offer you this: his former team, the Vancouver Canucks were soft like Charmin.

At first glance, the Rangers are going home because they failed to score in Game Seven at home.   But, drill just an inch deep into the fragile ice of Madison Square Garden for a core sample that reveals the New York Rangers season ended last night because they couldn't find it within themselves to push around a smaller team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were faster, more consistent, more explosive, and defensively better than Alain Vigneault's team.  In essence, the Bolts beat the (new and improved) Rangers at their own game.  The one advantage I was sure they held was in being bigger, stronger, and tougher, like the Rangers used to be, because, they still seemed capable of resorting to that style when necessary.

...or so I thought, or, just not last year versus the Kings, or last night in Game Seven.

The Rangers seemingly exhausted their allotted physical time in three previous victories this series, as they were unable to dip into the well one last time.

DETOUR: Head West Young Man!

Once upon a time, Tex's Rangers would have ground Tampa down to a fine powder.  However, that type of play has largely been phased out along Broadway and headed west (see Anaheim and Chicago).  Nowadays, the Rangers can only muster a supreme physical effort ever so infrequently.

The Rangers season is over because the smaller sized Tampa Bay Lightning laid the bigger hits and more meaningful hits (just ask Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh), and because Tampa was flat out tougher in the neutral zone, and more stout in front of Ben Bishop.

Both head coaches had their adaptability challenged, and were required to dramatically change styles in order to even make Game Seven possible.  But, where Coach Cooper resorted to what worked for Tampa, particularly in Game Five at MSG, Alain Vigneault ponderously strayed from what worked in games One, Four, and Six - just as he had in games Two and Five.

In other words, take your 3rd career President's Trophy, and get out of the way so the NHL can present the Prince of Wales Trophy to the Tampa Bay Lightning - Eastern Conference Champions.

Misguided as it may be, for the rest of Summer and even through the start of next season, unfortunately, the talk will inevitably focus on King Henrik's failure to stop Tampa.

Why don't we just blame Henrik for making 23 saves, but for not heading up ice with the puck and scoring goals too?

Note to Rangers forwards: You can't win if you do not score goals.  I think that's an official NHL rule.

The final score was not -  Lightning 2; Lundqvist 0.

No my friends - this was not an isolated incident either.  Game 7 made it two shutouts, three losses, and just 6 overall Rangers goals scored in 4 games played at Madison Square Garden.

The Blueshirts and Bolts remained scoreless through the initial 40:00 minutes of Game Seven.  Then at 1:54 of the 3rd, Tampa's Alex Killorn finally broke the ice.  Did Henrik give up a cheap goal - a backhand shot that slithered through his pads and barely slid across the goal line, or, did Dominic Moore get badly beaten by Killorn in the slot?

That's debatable.

At 12:04 of the 3rd, Henrik made an absolutely ridiculous save to keep it a 1-0 game.  Then, for the next 2:00 minutes Ben Bishop performed some brilliant net-minding of his own, but wasn't terribly disrupted by any converging traffic.

At the 8:43 mark, Palat put the nail into Tex's Rangers coffin.  The winning play was arguably born of a bad pinch, although most will pin that one on Lundqvist for failing to stop a straight forward shot to his glove side.

Do it then.

Truth of the matter is the Rangers failed to score.  The bulls failed to rummage through Tampa's china shop...., again.  Ben Bishop pitched his second shutout of the series, this time in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, because the Rangers could not muster the energy, desire, and/or fortitude to overcome Tampa's net presence.

That's easier to digest when it's five-on-five hockey, but the reality is Alain Vigneault was brought here to improve the power play and we're still waiting.

Still flawed after all these years - The Rangers ranked 21st on the man-advantage during the regular season.  Overall against Tampa, the Rangers went 7 for 24, but only 1 for 9 in the final 3 games of the series, and were scoreless in two PP opportunities in Game Seven.

It doesn't stop there.  After pulling Henrik Lundqvist down 2-0 with 3:34 still left in regulation, six Rangers skaters remained ineffective and down right pathetic against Tampa's five.

Look, Alain Vigneault is a good guy, and a good coach.  But he had trouble getting Montreal and Vancouver over the top, and is experiencing the same kind of trouble here on 8th Avenue.  To that I say, once is an isolated event, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend.

However, AV was merely Glen Sather's on-ice agent in application.  The wholesale change in style and philosophy was born of Glen Sather, whom is a finalist for Executive of the Year.

Some will argue Henrik Lundqvist's hefty contract in the salary cap era prevents Glen Sather from upgrading the offense.   But then, who signed him to that money?


For my next trick, I'll undress several forwards for their underwhelming performances.....




Mike
KILLJOY!

L.I. Ducks: Somerset Patriots deliver key blow in pivotal Game Three

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



Showdown in Somerset

Patriots lead series 2-1
I - LID 7; SOM 6
II - SOM 1; LID 0
III - SOM; 3; LID 0

Game Four
Long Island Ducks
vs.
Somerset Patriots
FROM
Noo Joisey

Long Island Ducks: Somerset delivers key blow in Game Three. Flock needs win in series finale just to get back where they started from.

Mother Nature, nor six Patriots runs against Ducks ace John Brownell in the 4th inning of Wednesday's series opener could deny Long Island from striking a crucial first blow in their Liberty Division showdown in Somerset.

Storms rumbled through the area delaying the game for 53:00 minutes.

Lew Ford promptly plated Bryan Sabatella for the game's opening run in the 1st inning.  Cody Puckett and Jon Griffin then combined to create a pair of runs in the top of the 4th.

After retiring the first 9 batters he faced, John Brownell took the mound in the bottom of the 4th staked to a 3-0 lead.  He surrendered a lead-off single, then a 2-run home run to Scott Cousins.  David Vidal singled home another run.  With the bases jammed, Brownell walked home the Patriots 4th run. Another 2-out, 2-run single by Jonny Tucker suddenly gave Somerset a 6-3 lead.

In the 5th, runs batted in by Sabatella and Cody Puckett brought the Ducks within a run.  In the 8th, Reegie Corona and Lew Ford drove in two more, making a winner of reliever Patrick Crider, whom pitched a scoreless 7th.  Ryan Kussmaul pitched a scoreless 9th for his 8th save of the season.

At the time, the victory brought the Ducks to within 3 games of the 1st place Patriots, whom had finally suffered their 10th loss of the season.  They were the last team boast single-digits in the loss column.

*         *

In Game Two, the Ducks failed to maximize on a great effort by starter Mickey Jannis.  He and Somerset's Sean Bierman dueled for 8 scoreless innings.  Jannis allowed just 3 hits, walked none and fanned 8 before departing the game to a no decision.  Bierman likewise allowed 6 hits, walked one and fanned 4 before exiting to a no decision.

Into extra innings they went.

In the 12th, reliever Amalio Diaz broke a cardinal rule of baseball - he walked lead-off batter Jonny Tucker, whom then stole second base.  In his first game back after getting hit by a pitch earlier in the week, Aharon Eggleston singled to plate Tucker with the winning, and game's only run.

*         *         *

Then came Friday's Game Three.  After Thursday's stingy 12-inning performance, Somerset continued demonstrating why they lead the league in pitching.

Starter David Harden faced 18 batters, and threw just 60 pitches with 40 going for strikes.  In 5 innings of work, he allowed no runs on just 4 hits and a walk, and fanned a pair upon exiting on the winning side of a 3-0 game.

Shortstop Robert Andino's RBI off Long Island starter Billy Buckner opened the scoring in the 2nd.   Somerset's main slugging threat, clean-up hitter Chris Marrero then connected off Buckner with a 2-run home run in the 3rd that gave the Patriots their eventual 3-0 margin of victory.

Four Patriots relievers combined to keep Long Island silent.  They allowed just one hit, walked one and fanned 3 batters over 4 innings pitched.  Former Duck John Hunton earned his 6th save.

The Ducks are now forced to win Game Four on Saturday in order to get back where they started from - meaning 4 games out of first.



Mike

Thursday, May 28, 2015

N.Y. Rangers: Game Seven; Defend This House!

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS



Defend This House!

2014-2015
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Eastern Conference Finals

Series tied 3-3
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2
III - TBL 6; NYR 5
IV - NYR 5; TBL 1
V - TBL 2; NYR 0
VI - NYR 7; TBL 3

GAME SEVEN
Tampa Bay Lightning
vs.
NEW YORK RANGERS
FROM
The Center of the Universe
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue
N.Y.C.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Both teams drove their flag into each other's ice this series.  Now it's time for Tex's Rangers to Defend This House!

ICYMI:

Derick Brassard enjoyed the best regular season of his career, and has been the Rangers best forward throughout the post-season.  Facing elimination in Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals, he played his finest game.

As a team, the Rangers came correct!

Just 3:36 into the opening period, Brassard lit the lamp on the Rangers first shot of the game, and muted the arena with haste (except for all those Rangers fans in attendance that is..).  Roughly 12:00 minutes later, Brassard fed Keith Yandle, whose goal gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

At the 17:00 mark, Derek Stepan, Steven Stamkos, and Chris Kreider (who actually started the whole thing) were all awarded minor box time for beating each other with sticks, fists, and fists holding sticks.

With Tampa on the power play, an Anton Stralman pass split Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi like a football through the uprights, and caught Callahan's stick mid-stride at the blue line.   For 8 seasons as a member of the New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan took shots against Henrik Lundqvist every day in practice.  In Game Six, he took one more and converted on a breakaway to make it a 2-1 Rangers lead.

  • On that note, one of the keys in Tuesday's victory was limiting penalties and preventing Tampa from going on what's been a highly fruitful power play.  The Blueshirst committed just two penalties all game, which matched their low from Game Three.  They did not commit their second until Dan Girardi's delay of game infraction with 4:24 left in the game.  Otherwise, the Rangers have put Tampa on the PP an average of 3.7 times per game.  Tampa in turn has gone 7 for 22 (32%) and scored in every game except Game Four.  The Rangers mission for Friday night, then, is to keep penalties at a minimum.

Henrik Lundqvist played an inspired 2nd period to preserve the Rangers precarious 2-1 lead.

Then came New York's unforeseen, nevertheless explosive 3rd period.

It's not so much that Tex's Rangers scored 3 times within the first 7:30 of the period, or scored 5 goals throughout the period, that should be taken away from their performance.  It was refreshing to see them opt against the defensive shell strategy and continue pressing the Bolts instead.  They came out strong and stayed on the attack.

  • The Nash/Brassard/Miller line played like titans.  They combined to score 13 points, on 5 goals and 8 assists.  Derick Brassard scored 5 of those points, while Miller had a goal and 3 assists, as did Rick Nash.

After Nash and Brassard set up J.T. Miller's goal at 3:02 of the 3rd, the Rangers kept coming in waves.  A mere 3:00 later, James Sheppard literally crashed the net and scored again.  Then just over a minute later, Rick "the Brute" Nash brilliantly picked Nikita Kucherov's pocket, and set up Miller who fired on net - Brassard then cleaned up a juicy weak side rebound to make it a 5-1 game.

That was the back breaker, literally - to see Ben Bishop sprawled on the ice in the dead cockroach position, then heading towards the bench when Coach Cooper pulled him in favor of back-up Andrei Vasilevskiy with nearly 13:00 minutes still left in regulation.

Rick Nash eventually went on to score, and at 18:19, Derick Brassard shot into an empty net to complete a hat trick and give the Rangers their 7-3 margin of victory.

Like Bulls in a China Shop! 

As noted, Derick Brassard's third goal was scored into an empty net, while Keith Yandle scored in the 1st period from the point.   Otherwise, 5 of the Rangers 7 goals in Game Six were scored from Ben Bishop's (and Vasilevskiy's) doorstep.  You could even say Yandle scored because Bishop was screened.  He never saw the puck coming, which means the Rangers had sufficient traffic in front during 6 of their scoring opportunities.

You can't deny that I've been screaming about that since Game One.

Whenever Alain Vigneault let the bulls loose inside Tampa's china shop this series, the Rangers won each and every time.  Tampa has left the gates to their front porch wide open, and have displayed no desire to push the Rangers out of the way.  That's why I found it utterly ponderous Coach Vigneault and the Rangers went away from it in games Two and Five.

Don't stray again!

Line in the Sand:

There's a lot of familiarity that builds over the course of a 7 game series.  Alain Vigneault's line adjustments have been subtle, yet very effective.  Maybe another not so subtle shuffle is warranted.

My Spidey sense tells me there is a shake up in store for Game Seven, partly in an effort to awaken Carl Hagelin, and to get anything they can from Martin St. Louis (who by the way should finally be excused from the power play).  The Rangers have had two days off, which is plenty of time for new line partners to get acquainted.

That said, I'm very curious to see how often Coach deploys Dominic Moore (who is the only one pulling his weight on face-offs), and with whom.

James Sheppard and Kevin Hayes saw limited minutes in Game Six.  All I know is that Hayes is big, physical, skates with speed, will crash the net when told, and as a rookie doesn't seem the least bit intimidated by the enormity of playing in the conference finals.

If both teams aim to dominate the neutral zone, there's going to be a lot of dumping and chasing.  I would think some of the Rangers larger forwards should be able to bull their way through Tampa's smaller bodies, and retrieve the puck..., right?

Stop Bullying Those Blueshirts:

Steve Stamkos has been the Lightning's toughest player...all 6'1", 188 pounds of him!  I wonder if it's time to give him some Tanner Glass?

I was okay with Chris Kreider going after Stamkos for his hit on McDonagh.  He just didn't need to go after Stamkos twice.  I think that's the general consensus.  Stupid on Kreider's part..., again, but still worthy of a pat on the back this time.  Chris obviously needs to exercise more self-control Friday night, and get back to being the play maker he's been during this post-season.  The Rangers do not get this far without some gritty play on his part.  That's the Kreider the Rangers need in Game Seven.

Don't get me wrong though, Friday night Steven Stamkos needs to get hit, repeatedly.

The Triplets haven't exactly responded well to physicality either.  That needs to continue.

Ice Breakers:

So much for Ben Bishop being lauded as some net-minding hero after Game Five.  In the 3rd period, he got caught in a crossfire hurricane.  And I howled, at my ma in the drivin' ....  Sorry, I digress.

How quickly can he recover?  Is his confidence even recoverable?  I expect Tampa to execute a similar game plan to Game Five in order to minimize opportunities against him.

In truth, it may be too late for Bishop, as the book on him is already out.  By now, everyone knows how to beat Tampa's goalie.  If you don't know, then you haven't been watching.  The Rangers just need to follow through with what got them to Game Seven, which has been playing tough and being relentless around the net.

Meanwhile, the book on Lundqvist is still being researched.  The league has been trying to figure him out for a decade now.

Henrik Lundqvist has been in Ben Bishop's shoes before, but he's a master at deleting such poor performances from his mind and moving on.  Henrik is also an experienced proven performer under elimination circumstances.

About that...

A lot is being made of Henrik's brilliance in past Game 7 performances.  I don't pay mind to that, as none of it has any bearing on Friday's game.  This is strictly about playing hard for 60-minutes, defending well in front of Henrik, and coming out on top.

I will cede, however, that Henrik Lundqvist needs to tighten up his game.  He has no doubt surrendered a handful of questionable goals this series.   However, when I listen to Coach Cooper speak, this is what I interpret from him: 
...the Rangers goalie is better than my goalie; my goalie's confidence is questionably shattered; and I don't trust him to win Game 7 on the road.

I was drowned, I was washed up and left for dead.  I fell down to my feet and I saw they bled.


Yeah, yeah, I frowned at the crumbs of a crust of bread.



Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was crowned with a spike right through my head.



But it's all right now, in fact it's a gas!


That's what I hear...




Mike

Episode #104: Rising Apple Podcast



From Wednesday
5/27/2015


Sam theConvertedMetFan and I covered the present state of the Mets, then strayed.
Yankees, a Jeff Loria rant, the Musk of Champions (you read that right..), some other stuff,
the 2004 NY Mets season, and the players whom wore #4 through the years.

Episode #104 - The Rising Apple Report: Two Mets Fans With Free Time


Don't forget, I got the Friday Night Recap.



Mike

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

N.Y. Rangers: Barely Alive After Disappointing Game Five

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS




Backs Against the Wall

Lightning Lead Series 3-2
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2
III - TBL 6; NYR 5
IV - NYR 5; TBL 1
V - TBL 2; NYR 0

GAME SIX
New York Rangers
vs.
Tampa Bay Lightning
FROM
The Century Village Ice House
FLA

NEW YORK RANGERS: I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls away the football.  Good Grief!

I thought we established there was no use in playing the same style as Tampa?

The Blueshirts have the superior goalie, but, they generally can't out-skate the Bolts, and they can't afford to get into a shoot-out against the Bolts.  And for one game at least, Tampa also played superior defense - the Rangers forte.

Yes, much to their discredit, all the Rangers have accomplished this year is win more regular season games than any other NHL team, except that none came against Tampa.

Regular Season
I - TBL 5; NYR 1
II - TBL 4; NYR 3
III - TBL 6; NYR 3
FINAL - TBL 15; NYR7

In a clear departure from their regular season selves, and fresh off a tough series against Washington, the Rangers finally emerged victorious over Tampa in Game One of this series because they played big boy hockey.

Games Two and Three, however, reiterated the Rangers were coming up a goal and a game short by sticking with their preferred style, which is also Tampa's style.  The head-to-head match-ups say it all.  The Rangers consistently got beat when they employed Alain Vigneault's preferred system.

Game Five now makes it three times this series they've reverted back to Blueshirts Light, and twice that they've lost home ice advantage in their building.  As a result, they must now win on the road to force a Game Seven, or, turn in their skates and sticks for flip-flops and BBQ tongs.

Nothing changes; everything I wanted to say is here:


The Rangers are in this position not for a lack of execution; not because of failed face-offs; not because of a failed power play; and not because of an obvious failure to score any goals in Game Five....

The Rangers took 26 shots on goal to the Bolts 22 shots, and posted a 10-7 advantage in the final period.  Technically speaking, opportunities presented themselves.  However, that's different that say, forcing the action, establishing position in front, stamping out roaches along the boards, or creating turnovers and opportunities off the forecheck.

No.

Tex's Rangers are in this predicament because of an ill-conceived, or ill-advised, and utterly ponderous change in tactics.

In truth, Ben Bishop is being lauded as a hero for shutting out the Rangers in Game Five partly because of Tampa's blocked shots, but particularly because the Rangers all-star game like sense of urgency provided Bishop with a relatively easy night.  The Rangers settled for shots Bishop had no problem seeing, and stopping.  In turn, Bishop stopped shots the Rangers had no business taking.  It was as if they were in practice against Henrik.

Where was the traffic in front?  Where were the disruptive bodies?  Why weren't a few select forwards crashing the net?  Where was the freakin' bull in a china shop?  That goes for the power play as well as even strength.

Bishop probably didn't even need a shower after the game.

The Rangers are in this dilemma because the several players whom can step-up this team's overall physicality chose do so only sporadically, if at all, or are restrained for sake of Coach's preferred style of play.

That's frustrating considering we know the Rangers have the grit and grinding spirit within them to break down speedy play through physicality.

The Rangers pulled the same now you fear me, now you don't routine in games Three and Four against Pittsburgh. and again after games Two and Five against the Capitals.  Three times is now a trend.  When things get hot, they muster an effectively physical and smartly played game only to follow up next time on the ice with another deflating ice-capades Smurf gaggle.  They're sometimes guilty from period to period as well.

What the Rangers needed was physical consistency out of Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and a few others, but what they got instead was a stubborn reboot of the kid friendly standard operating system.

I thought the physicality that defeated Tampa in both games One and Four was understood to be the best way to slow the Lightning down and achieve victory?

What happened to that?  I was working so well.

Why did the Rangers go away from what worked......, again?

I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls away the football.

Good grief!



Mike

Long Island Ducks vs. Somerset Patriots Series Preview: Ducks at the Gates!

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




DUCKS AT THE GATES!

LIBERTY DIVISION SHOWDOWN
GAME ONE

WEDNESDAY
Long Island Ducks
vs.
Somerset Patriots
FROM
T.D. Bank Ballpark
N.J.

Long Island Ducks: Flock Invades Somerset For Showdown Against Patriots.

The Ducks were off on Memorial Day.  The Somerset Patriots played Monday, and the league as a whole is off on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Ducks and Patriots will open a 4-game showdown at TD Bank Ballpark that could very well pave the way towards a first-half title for either team.

It just so happens, with Somerset's Monday loss to York, the Patriots allowed the Ducks to get within 4 games of 1st place.

So, at best, a sweep by the Ducks would put the Liberty Division standings in a tourniquet.  Easier said than done, I know.

Long Island is nonetheless entering the series on a high of sorts.  On Sunday, Prentice Redman stroked the game winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning, plating Cody Puckett for an elating 3-2 victory over the Riversharks.

Moreover, the Flock would need to continue playing inspired baseball until they meet Somerset again over the 4th of July weekend.  That series concludes the regular season's first half, and if all goes well for the Ducks till then, those games could very well decide the all-important First Half champ.

...that is unless Bridgeport or Camden has something to say.

Long Island is presently one of the two hottest teams in the league.  They enter the series with a 17-13 record; they most recently took 3 of 4 games from Camden, and have won 7 of their last 8 games. They had their 6-game winning streak snapped by Camden on Saturday.  Otherwise, the Ducks are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Opposing them, the Somerset Patriots are in fact the league's hottest team.  Despite Monday's loss, they are still 8-2 in their last 10 games.  They successfully invaded York, and exacted a 3-1 series dismantling of the Revolution.

The Somerset Patriots have now won 5 straight series.

Another series victory over the Ducks could conceivably put the division lead out of Long Island's reach.  Of course, it's still relatively early in the first session, but, the Patriots have been playing that well.

Series Preview: A Showdown Between Somerset Pitching Against Long Island Hitting.

What Somerset does, is pitch, and pitch well.  They (once) boasted three starting pitchers with ERA's under two, and a 4th with a 2.23 mark.  As a team, the Patriots lead the league with a 2.08 ERA, while the next closest staff (Southern Maryland) owns a 3.02 mark.  The Ducks are 4th with a 3.50 team ERA.

The Patriots own the league's best average against (.215); the Ducks (.237) are 2nd.  Somerset also owns the league's top WHiP (1.10); Long Island (1.35) is 3rd.

Here are the two biggest disparities:
  1. The Patriots have issued a league low 76 walks, while the Ducks have issued the 2nd most (117).
  2. The Patriots have surrendered a league low 5 home runs, while the Ducks (22) have surrendered the 2nd most.
Is there a bright side?  Long Island pitching leads with 235 strikeouts.  Somerset is last with 161 strikeouts.

I - Somerset Rotation:

The Ducks won't have Mickey Storey to contend with.  He WAS a major component of Somerset's rotation until being gobbled up by the L.A. Dodgers.  He reported to their AA affiliate over the weekend.  In 5 starts for the Patriots, he was dominant with a 4-0 record and a league leading 0.93 ERA.  In 29.0 innings, he allowed a mere 10 hits, 4 walks, and posted 23 strikeouts.  Without him, this is a different Patriots team.

  • Lucas Irvine entered Monday's start against York boasting a 1-3 record, but with a 1.35 ERA.   In 26.2 innings, he previously allowed 21 hits and just 3 walks, and fanned 17 batters.  The Revolution then tagged him for 3 runs in the first 2 innings, and for 4 runs on 9 hits through 4 innings.  He faced 23 batters, walked 3 and fanned 5 batters in earning his 4th loss.
  • Randy Boone is just 1-0 in 5 starts, but with a 1.72 ERA.  In 31.1 innings, he's allowed 22 hits and just 4 walks, with 17 strikeouts.
  • Southpaw Matt Zielinski is yet another who pitches to contact.  He owns a 2.92 ERA after 27.2 innings pitched, in which he's allowed 25 hits, 5 walks, and fanned just 10 batters.  He last pitched on Sunday.
  • Another southpaw, Sean Bierman is a bit of an enigma.  He owns a 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 6 starts.  But, in 32.1 innings, he surrendered 36 hits and 11 walks, while fanning just 13 batters.

The familiar reliever Jon Hunton leads Somerset with 5 saves.  In 9.2 innings, he's been touched for 8 hits, fanned 6 and walked none.  Behind him, however, Kyler Newby, Andrew Carignan, Buddy Boshers, and R.J. Seidel, all help to form a very formidable bullpen.  Prior to Monday, the four   combined on 1.65 ERA over 49 innings, with 43 strikeouts.

II - Ducks Rotation:

Eric Niesen has struggled as a starter this season.  After 6 appearances and 4 starts, his ERA is up at 7.06 off 17 earned runs on 29 hits and 16 walks in only 21.2 innings pitched.  He fanned 23 batters though.
  • However, recently signed (May 19th) Andrew Barbosa is apparently here to step in.  He pitched an introductory 3 innings on May 19th, then tossed 5 solid innings in Long Island's victory on Sunday.   He allowed one earned run on 4 hits, walked none and fanned 4 as part of a no-decision against Camden.
Mark Rogers has endured an equally troubling start to his season.  In 5 starts, he owns a 5.94 ERA after 19.2 innings.  He's walked 13, and fanned 18 batters.

A pitcher giving the Ducks no worries is John Brownell.  He dominated the Lancaster Barnstormers his last time on the hill.

How ever you shake it, Mickey Jannis and Ian Marshall will be this year's difference makers.  If they can stay on the straight and narrow, the Ducks will be in a strong position to challenge, and maybe even win the division flag.

LOOK WHO's NUMBER ONE: The Formidable Flock..

The old adage is good pitching stops good hitting.  To that I say, there's weaknesses in Patriots pitching, and a few mirrors at work as well.

The Long Island Ducks lead the league in hits, runs, OBP, and stolen bases.

They're #2 in total bases, team average, and team slugging, and are tied-4th for home runs.  Somerset has hit the 2nd fewest home runs.

League Batting:
3rd - Lew Ford .353
7th - Aharon Eggleston .329
9th - Chris Marrero .319
10th - Reegie Corona .313

Lew Ford leads the Atlantic League with 11 doubles and 31 RBI.  He is 2nd with 41 hits and 27.9 runs created, and 3rd with a .569 slugging average and in OBP.

Bryan Sabatella leads the league with 24 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases (and has only been caught twice).

The Ducks Jon Griffin and Somerset's Chris Marrero lead their respective teams with 5 home runs.   Marrero also leads the Patriots with 18 RBI, and is 4th in the circuit with 21.5 runs created.   Outfielder Thomas Neil would have to be considered Somerset's next biggest threat at .294, with 2 home runs and 14 RBI.  Mat Gamel came to the Patriots from the Milwaukee Brewers.  He has 9 RBI in his last 3 games.

The Patriots offense has experienced an eruption of late.  They outscored the Revs 25-15 over 4 games.


Monday Update: Revolution 5; Patriots 4
  • Despite putting the tying run on third with 2-outs in the 9th, the Patriots fell 5-4 to the Revolution in the series finale.  They will enter the series against Long Island with a 21-9 record.
  • Second baseman Aharon Eggleston did not play the last two games, after being hit by a pitch in the top of the 7th inning Saturday against York.  He was removed for a defensive substitution in the bottom of the frame.
  • Starter pitcher Lucas Irvine got hammered.
  • Chris Marrero went 1 for 5, and extended his consecutive hitting streak to 14 games.

Should be fun.

Let the games begin!



Mike

Monday, May 25, 2015

N.Y. Yankees retire Bernie Williams' #51 !Bien Hecho!

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY




#51
Bernie Williams
CENTER FIELD
N.Y.Y.
1991-2006

New York Yankees: Bernie Williams Inducted Into Monument Park, as Bronx Bombers Retire #51.

I remember when Bernie Williams first came up.  The Yankees were a shell of their former selves.   The owner, George Steinbrenner, was suspended from the team.  And, so Gene "Stick" Michael was free to rebuild the Yankees at his own discretion, direction and speed.

Bernie Williams was promoted to the big club nearly a full 5 years before the Core Four came into being, and boy was he raw - not necessarily with a bat (which was a troubling sight), but in patrolling the expansive Yankees Stadium center field.

After just a few minutes reinstated back into baseball, George Steinbrenner seemed to zero in on Bernie.  There wasn't a day that passed in which the Boss didn't want Bernie traded.  The brilliant Stick Michael kept stonewalling George (perhaps one of the few to possess the balls to do so...), and the Yankees wound up keeping the young Williams.

That said, the Core Four just might owe their existence to Bernie, as he was the Boss' first true exercise in (acute) benevolence and patience in the aftermath of Fay Vincent's suspension.

That said, not another word (from me) without expressing my dismay over the Core Four.  The notion is a disservice to Bernie Williams, and quite honestly, it's disrespectful too.  To me, it has always been the Core Five.

In the strike marred year of 1994, you could sense his game was finally coalescing.  Then in 1995, Bernie arguably broke out.  He slashed .307/.392/.487 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI.

From then on, Bernie Williams was the clean-up hitter for the most recent New York Yankees dynasty.

For 7 years spanning 1996-2002, Bernie Williams averaged .323, 25 HR, and 104 RBI per season.   He appeared in 5 all-star games, won 4 gold gloves, a silver slugger award, and won the 1998 batting title.

Bernie Williams: Career Yankee
Games - 6th
Hits - 5th
Doubles - 3rd
Home Runs - 7th
RBI - 7th
Runs Scored - 6th

He was one of the finest ambassadors of Puerto Rico, ever.

To locals, he was a beloved, and an integral part of four Yankees championships.  He was perhaps the most quiet and unassuming as well.  The man never lacked class.., never.  Outside of the city, there's a chance he'll go down as one of the greatest Yankees that people never heard of.  Blame the Core Four, in a manner of speaking.

Not here though.  New Yorkers will forever know who Bernie Williams was in a town where no one really cares to know your name.

!Bien hecho!



Mike

N.Y. Mets: Another Swing and a Miss

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET





NEW YORK METS: The Amazin's Have Three Credits Left Before Their 11-Game Winning Streak Fails to Matter.

Q:  After 45 games, what have we learned?

A:  Superb pitching will not be enough to sustain a competitive level of play unless the position players pull their weight at the plate.

The Mets offense has truly become a sad state of affairs.  As of Sunday night, here's where they rank in relation to the rest of their Senior Circuit competitors:
  • Average 14th
  • OBP 13th
  • SLG 15th
  • Hits - 13th
  • Doubles - 13th
  • Home Runs - 11th
  • Runs Scored - 13th
  • Walks - 8th
  • Stolen Bases - 13th
  • Strikeouts - 6th most
Those are hardly competitive numbers.  In fact, they're even worse against the league's best competition.  Until they play the Dodgers, that list includes the National, Cardinals, and Pirates.  You could arguably include the Cubs on the list.  Despite getting swept in Chicago, I opted not to because while they're 5th in batting, they only rank 7th in ERA.  So, they would only serve to belabor my point.

The Cardinals own the league's best ERA.  The Mets entered their series against the Pirates with the league's 2nd best ERA, but fell to 3rd over the weekend behind Pittsburgh.  The Nationals sport the circuit's 5th best ERA.

There's really no need to over complicate this.  At present, the Mets sport a .234 team average.  But against the aforementioned three, here's how they fared:
  • In 7 games against the Nationals, they faced the whole arsenal of Max Scherzer (2) Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg (2), Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister.  They batted 47 for 229 (.205), with 14 walks, and 63 strikeouts (27%).
  • In 4 games against the Cardinals, they faced John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia.  They went 28 for 136 (.206), with 15 walks, and 30 strikeouts (22%).
  • In 3 recently completed games against the Pirates, they faced Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano.  They went 20 for 95 (.211), with 3 walks, and 36 strikeouts (36%).
  • The overall tally: 14 games, 95 for 460 (.206), with 32 walks, and 129 strikeouts (28%).
Those are some feeble numbers folks.  

As you'd expect, the Mets have gone a combined 5-9 against the Nats, Cards, and Bucs.  And, if I include the Cubs, then the Mets own a 5-13 record against the N.L.'s top competition to date.

Their dearth of offensive production comes at a time when Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright have been on the disabled list since mid-April.  The other components, however, have been playing regularly and hitting poorly.
  • Travis d'Arnaud was the team's leading slugger when he went down on April 19th, while David Wright was knocked out of action on April 14th after just 8 games played.
In truth, offensively speaking at least, the Mets are 26th (MLB) in runs scored, and have become one of the most boring teams to watch in all of baseball.  Their record is now 24-21, and trending downward with haste.  They have three credits left before their 11-game winnings streak fails to matter.  The Mets are 11-18 since the Yankees snapped their string back on April 24th.

As an owner, all this would be concerning to me, but, when you're burdened with the Wilpon'$ problem$, I guess yawn inspiring baseball doesn't even make the list of top three things to fret about.



Mike

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Long Island Ducks Look to Close Out Camden Before Showdown Against Patriots

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




Last tune up before showdown against Somerset Patriots.

Long Island Ducks: Calm Before The Storm - Flock Needs a Good Game in Series Finale Against Camden to Set Tone for Showdown Versus Somerset Patriots.


Sunday
Camden Riversharks
vs.
Long Island Ducks
FROM
The Pond

The Ducks and visiting Camden Riversharks split a double-header Saturday, thus ending Long Island's 6-game winning streak.

In the opening game, Coach Baez tabbed Sergio Perez for another short start.  He tossed 2 innings, allowed no runs and no hits, walked 3 and fanned two before giving way to Bruce Kern.

Kern in turn, threw 3 innings, allowed no runs on just one hit, walked one and fanned 3 to earn the victory.

Camden's lone run came in the 6th inning off reliever Patrick Crider.

Delta Cleary Jr. was one man show in the 3rd inning as Long Island rallied for 3 runs off Riversharks starter Zachary Clark.  Cleary singled home Dan Lyons and Bryan Sabatella, then stole second base, and scored on Cody Puckett's RBI single.

After leading off the 4th with a base hit, Jose morales eventually scored the Ducks' 4th run on a wild pitch.  In the 5th, Cody Puckett drove in Delta Cleary Jr. for a second time to give the Ducks their final 5-1 margin of victory.

In the night cap, Camden roared back to post their 15th victory of the season, and snap Long Island's winning streak at 6 games.

Ian Marshall made 109 pitches in a conventional start for Long Island, but battled with control issues. He lasted 5 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits and an untenable 7 walks, while fanning 5 batters.  Eric Niesen entered the game in the 6th in relief of Marshall and surrendered another 3 earned runs, but the damage had already been done.

Long Island only managed a run in the 4th, and an unearned run in the 9th, in bowing 7-2 to the Riversharks.  Dan Lyons and Mike Blanke delivered the run scoring hits.

Lew Ford Tracker:
4th in batting - .351
3rd in OBP - .434
2nd in slugging - .577
1st in RBI - 31

The Ducks and Riversharks conclude their 4-game series this afternoon.  After which they'll get 2 days off, then head to Somerset for a 4-game showdown against the 1st place Patriots.

This will be the team's first meeting of the season.

Somerset remains the hottest team in the league.  They're the lone Atlantic League team left with single-digit losses.  They enter today's action with a 20-8 record, and are winners of 8 of their last 10 games.  The Ducks are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and enter this afternoon's game in 2nd place of the Liberty Division with a 16-13 record, 4.5 games back of 1st, and with the Bridgeport Bluefish also on hot on their tail feathers.




Mike

N.Y. Rangers: The Goonies Strike Back; Regain Home Ice Advantage

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS


Tonight:
SUNDAY NIGHT STREET FIGHT at MSG

ICYMI:

2014-2015
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Series tied 2-2
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2
III - TBL 6; NYR 5
IV - NYR 5; TBL 1

GAME FIVE
Tampa Bay Lightning
vs.
NEW YORK RANGERS
FROM
Animal House
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue
N.Y.C.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Revenge of the Goonies!  See what happens when you bring your backbone to work?

Big Guns Power Rangers

Not only was Friday's game a complete, and necessary devolution from the spineless Smurf misadventures of games Two and Three (I'm happy to report), it fundamentally regressed into something much more primal than even Game One, or any game Tex's Rangers played during this post-season, or in two seasons under Alain Vigneault for that matter.

Game Four (or worse, a potential series loss) was, and effectively remains a fan referendum after last year's L.A. Kings series.

Prior to Game Four, I left off saying physicality starts behind the bench.  Simply put, Alain Vigneault was getting beat at his own game by Tampa, and so the onus was on him to make an adjustment.   After failing to keep up with Tampa's speed, a much more primitive approach was clearly in order.   Therefore, it came time to sound a call to arms, and demand his players follow through, or else face what would have arguably been an insurmountable 3-1 series deficit.

Sound familiar?

The coach deserves a lot of credit.  He is very adept at making quick, and timely adjustments.  He is far more adaptable when a change of style is warranted than his predecessor John Tortorella was.   The Rangers former coach was far more rigid in his approach, and terribly unyielding in his precepts and style.  Tortorella's strategy against adversity was more defense and intensity, but not much in the way of offensive logistics.

Rick Nash did for Alain Vigneault what he could not do for John Tortorella - bailed him out of a tight spot.

For the 1st period of Friday's game, the Rangers upped their intensity, and shocked the Bolts with some considerable physicality.  Late in the period, Carl Hagelin caused a turnover in the defensive zone and kicked it to Kevin Hayes, whom fed Rick Nash steaming down center ice with speed.  He utilized his size, brushing off Cedric Paquette like a toy clown buoy, and with 2:42 left on the clock, slid the puck passed Ben Bishop.  It was the bull in a china shop type performance the Rangers have lacked from Nash all post-season.

In the 2nd period, the Rangers lost their bearing, and regressed into a softer mode of play.  They were grossly out-shot in the session, and midway through, Steven Stamkos' goal had the Rangers looking miffed.  A few minutes later, however, Chris Kreider cleaned up a Kevin Hayes shot and rebound, whom shortly thereafter set up Keith Yandle for a 3-1 Rangers lead.

In the 3rd, the Rangers stuck it the Bolts again.  Tampa committed a pair of penalties, and the Rangers made them pay.  At the 5:08 mark, Martin St. Louis finally scored his first goal of the playoffs, and midway through the period Rick Nash was credited for his second goal of the game, thanks in part to the traffic he created in front.

The game effectively ended there, because, with less than 3-minutes left in the final period, the game truly deteriorated into an orgy of high sticking, cross-checking, and roughing penalties, a goalie interference, and some unsportsmanlike and misconducts for others.

Way to go Boys!  I'm so proud.

The goalie interference was perpetrated by Tampa's Brenden Morrow, which finally did not sit well with the Rangers - or lest we forget Sidney Crosby's indiscretion against Lundqvist in round one, that went ignored....?

The numbers say Tampa hit slightly more often than did the Rangers, but there's no arguing the Rangers hit harder, and strategically smarter than did the Lightning.

Now, all was not necessarily peaches and creme.  The Rangers were out-shot in that 2nd period by a 19-6 margin.  Tampa totaled 28 shot attempts.  Only Henrik Lundqvist prevented a complete meltdown by making 18 saves in the period, and 38 for the game.  The Bolts out-shot the Rangers 39-24 overall, but it was Ben Bishop whom allowed 5 pucks into his net.

Henrik Lundqvist was indeed brilliant, pitching a quasi-shutout after allowing back-to-back 6-goal games.  If not for a slight Dan Girardi deflection, Henrik most likely makes a save on Stamkos.

Most importantly, all the King's horses, and all the King's men actually showed up.

With a 2 for 4 performance, the Rangers PP is now 6 for 15 (40%) in the series.  I knew the power play could be an advantage for the Rangers - and will be if they only let it!  They are still committing too many themselves (then again, that's what Tampa's speed is designed to do).  The Bolts went 0 for 4 in Game Four, but are 11 of 16 for the series.

Here's the other side of that:  The Rangers and Lightning are now tied at 14 goals apiece.

The Rangers have the edge in the series, but, they've always had it.  They just decided to shelve it for a pair of games.  After a job well done, they have home ice back in their hands with Game Five at MSG.

Now that we know Vigneault and the Rangers have this kind of fight in them, they had better keep it up.



Mike

Saturday, May 23, 2015

L.I. Ducks: John Brownell Dominates Camden Riversharks; Flock Takes Series Opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE





Long Island Ducks: Can't Rain on Flock's Parade.

If not for a very questionable decision made by the umpiring crew to play through Monday's tempest in Lancaster, the Ducks could very well be winners of 6 in a row this evening.  They'll settle for 5 in a row instead, with a suspended game, I'm sure.

Flock Thwart a Struggling Revolution; Sweep Series.

5/19 Game 1 - L.I.D 4; York 1

  • Coach Baez really out-did himself in this one.  After starter Andrew Barbosa exited after just 3 innings pitched, the Ducks skipper summoned 8 relievers from the bullpen.  Eric Neisen earned the win, and Amalio Diaz earned the save.  Lew Ford drove in all four Long Island runs, going 3 for 4 with a home run.

5/20 Game 2 - L.I.D. 11; York 9

  • Coach Baez wasn't done, although, this was a wild one.  After starter Mark Rogers allowed back to back home runs in the very first inning, Coach Baez made the call for 9 more relievers. First in, Matt Soren fared no better, allowing a 2-run homer in the 2nd, and yet another 2-run homer in the 3rd as part of a 3-run inning.  The Ducks went 16 for 41 (.390) at the plate, led by Jon Griffin's 3 RBI, and a pair each from Lew Ford and Dan Lyons.

5/21 Game 3 - L.I.D. 6; York 1

  • Newly signed Billy Buckner, 31, started for Long Island, pitched through a neat 2 innings.  He allowed no runs on 3 hits, walked one and fanned a pair.  Mickey Jannis then entered in the third, and pitched masterfully for the next 7 innings.  He allowed just a run on 6 hits and 2 walks, and fanned 6 to earn his 2nd victory of the season.  He owns a 2.45 ERA over 29.1 innings this season.  Playing in just his 8th game for the Ducks, center fielder Delta Cleary jr. went 3 for 3, with a double and 2 RBI.  With a 2 for 3 game, Jon Griffin posted his 7th multi-hit game in his last 8 played, and raised his average up to a .283 mark.

John Brownell Pitches Gem Over Camden Riversharks:

Ducks lead series 1-0
I - L.I.D. 10; CAM 1

Saturday Twin Bill
Camden Riversharks
vs.
Long Island Ducks
FROM
The Pond

Back in the Pond, Long Island rolled to a 10-1 victory over the now .500 Camden RiverSharks. Starter John Brownell turned in a brilliant performance over 8 innings of work.  He faced 27 batters, and threw 109 pitches with 66 going for strikes.  He allowed one earned run on just 2 hits and a walk, and tied his career high with 12 strikeouts.

Jon Griffin and Lew Ford continue punishing A.L. pitching.  The surging Griffin was 2 for 3, with a home run and 3 RBI, and the white hot Lew Ford was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI.  Ryan Sabatella also erupted for a 3 for 4 night, with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI.

Lew Ford is now 2nd in the circuit in batting, and tops the league with 31 RBI.  While John Brownell now leads the Atlantic League with 4 victories, and 34 strikeouts.

What a Difference a Week Makes:

The 2nd place Ducks are presently in the midst of a 5 game winning streak, and have improved their record to a 15-12 mark.  The Somerset Patriots, however, still maintain a 4 game lead over Long Island in the Liberty Division standings.  The Patriots are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and are the only team remaining with single digit losses.



Mike

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Friday Recap: Noah Syndergaard, Mets flustered by Pirates; lose series opener 4-1



Here's my Friday Recap for 


Behind Starter Gerrit Cole, Pirates Fluster Noah Syndergaard; Mets Lose 4-1


Check in every week for my
 Friday Night Recap



Mike
senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Resistance Has Been Futile

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESH WITH THE GREATS




You didn't have to like him.  He was never the most composed player, and his team mates didn't necessarily like him either.  In truth, his general misconduct belied his true hockey abilities.  Sean Avery could skate, and knew how to play, and was a brilliant passer, particularly from behind the net.  Avery also knew how to crash the net, and possessed down-low killer instinct.  He didn't get pushed off the puck, and knew when a well timed fight was in order.  If he and John Tortorella could have only found an inch of common ground, they would have made sweet music together...,
(Ryan Callahan withstanding).  Just saying.........



Gotta turn this into a street hockey game.  No blood, no penalty.

2014-2015
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

GAME FOUR
New York Rangers
vs.
Tampa Bay Lightning
FROM
Century Village Ice Hut
SoFlo

NEW YORK RANGERS: Physical play starts behind the bench, meaning, Alain Vigneault has a tough adjustment to make.

The Rangers scored 5 times in Game Three.  That should have been good enough..., anytime..,

....except, when you commit another offensive turnover near the blue line that went the other way for a goal; allow Tampa the offensive zone with numbers off one stretch pass; play with a complete lack of resistance in the neutral zone; arrive late to the boards and shy away from dirty ice; and commit stupid penalties because they can't keep up (or they're either just stupid, or Chris Kreider, or both).   All that demonstrated just how much faster the Lightning are than Tex's Rangers.

Henrik was the one who said he's having trouble zeroing in on the puck, and that Tampa was doing anything they pleased these last two games - not me.  Yeah, Henrik has been a little sketchy of late, but I still refuse to unload my ire on him.  I chose to direct it towards the forwards, and to a lesser extent, the blue liners.

So, what can the Blueshirts do to slow Tampa down?  You know the answer to that as well as I do.

Refer to Game One.

The Lightning are even smaller than the (Smurfs) Rangers!  C'mon!  The Rangers should be pushing and plowing their way towards net, and laying the body wherever necessary, just like in Game One.   Furthermore, Tampa has shown no inclination to clean the front of Ben Bishop's crease.  The Rangers should be living on his doorstep.

With regards to style, Coach Vigneault is getting beat at his own game.  Therefore, the directive must come from him.  This is his adjustment to make.

On another front, how many Rangers bells have been rung so far?  Ryan McDonagh, Dan Boyle, Kevin Hayes...   Who's next?  Where has the response been?  What bells have they rung?  Don't think I forgot the cheap shot Sindy Crosby took on Henrik that went completely ignored.  I don't want people getting hurt.  I just want the Rangers finishing their checks, and initiating effective physical play, but I also want them administering justice for any opposing indiscretions.

Coach must make the call for tougher play, and demand his players respond accordingly - all of them, including Rick Nash.  He should be the lead bull in Tampa's china shop.  If he's been veering wide, demand that he turns toward net.  Toughness starts behind the bench.

I predicted the Rangers would be enjoying an advantage with regards to PP opportunities, but they lost their bearing along the way.  The Rangers are 4 for 9 on the power play this series.  That would ordinarily have been considered a glorious success, as they were just 6 for 36 during the two previous series against Pittsburgh and Washington.  Instead, it's an inglorious performance, because they've let Tampa on the power play 12 times this series, and the Lightning converted on 7 of them.  That's unacceptable!  The Rangers are having too much trouble skating with Tampa at even strength as it is. If they're going to allow Tampa goals on special teams as well, then this will be a much shorter series than anticipated.

Last point...

At 9:55 of the 1st period, Jesper Fast (and the Rangers) did it again.  They proved once again Ben Bishop can be beat if you make him move side to side.  Yet, the Rangers have largely settled for outside shots, and generally played the last two games with a major lack of killer instinct.  Sure, they did well to stay somewhat competitive in a 6-5 loss (as if..).  But, a loss in the playoffs is a huge loss nonetheless.

Be Better, Do More, Get Tougher.




Mike

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

N.Y. Mets: Sandy Alderson Can Improve the Offense with Dollars and Sense




Here's my latest for 






Mike
senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Game 3 - Get Back to What Worked

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS




2014-2015
* * * STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS * * *
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

GAME THREE
New York Rangers
vs.
Tampa Bay Lightning
FROM
Century Village Arena
in too hot Florida


NEW YORK RANGERS: Lessons learned over first two games.

In Game One, the Blue shirts did a great job initiating physical play.  In Game Two they did not because they were too busy killing off 6 penalties.

In Game One, the Blue shirts did well to get Ben Bishop away from his set position, and getting him to move laterally.  In Game Two they did not.  The Rangers need to get his skates and head moving in different directions, otherwise he is literally too big to get beaten straight on - (with Alex Ovechkin's slap shot, maybe).

Here comes the big one:

In games One and Two, the Lightning defense demonstrated little inclination to push Rangers players out from in front and away from Bishop.  Therefore, the Rangers can seemingly set up in front any time they chose with little to no resistance from Tampa.  Yet, they seemed reluctant to establish position in Game Two, particularly during their failed 1st period 5 on 3 opportunity, prior to Martin St. Louis' turnover.

Mission: Come out of Tampa with at least a split, but try like hell to reestablish home ice advantage.

We'll talk more later...



Mike