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Metropolitan Division Bloggers Fantasy Hockey League

This year I’ll be participating in a Fantasy Hockey League with seven other Metropolitan Division Bloggers.

Representing:
The Islanders: Eyes On Isles
The Devils: Kevin Canessa Jr. of NJDevsBlog.com
The Flyers: Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey
The Penguins: Jesse Marshall of Face-Off Factor
The Capitals: Andy Wallace and Charlie Lehnertz of Capitals Outsider
The Hurricanes: Andrew Williams of North Carolina Sports Buzz
The Blue Jackets: John Kemp of The Dark Blue Jacket

I will provide updates infrequently if I’m doing well and never if I’m doing poorly. I will keep the league open to all viewers, though, in case you want to track how I’m doing against our hated and not-yet-hated divisional rivals.

The draft will be held at the end this month. I’m not going to rule out drafting and benching Crosby.

Hey, Sean!

By now, most Ranger fans that follow online sources have seen former Garden favorite, Sean Avery’s latest provoking quote. Via twitter, Avery called for coach John Tortorella to be fired. You can stop now and just say that Sean Avery is thinking like an average fan, combined with a guy who never saw eye-to-eye with John Tortorella. What’s the flipside? The team is talented, and is clearly failing to meet expectations. When there are premier players on a team that day in and day isn’t putting up premier results, it’s easy to look at the guy managing the day-to-day operations. What’s missing from this team? Some say chemistry, and there’s something to be said about that. Depth? Sure, this isn’t a deep team like last year’s. A sparkplug? Well, that’s where Avery knows a thing or two. A bodyguard? He can be that. Someone who fights when needed? You bet. Someone who draws penalties? Ditto.

Putting all motivations aside, it seems that Avery doesn’t see “himself” in this team. If this was a team that actually put the puck in the net, it wouldn’t be an issue. In that case he probably fumes about Tortorella internally, and if he actually says anything, he’s brushed off by pointing to the scoreboard. But Avery, while possibly missing on the fire Tortorella point, conjures up an accurate point, this team has no balls.

It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to get shown up. Teams have had their way with the Rangers. While a guy like Rick Nash can defend himself (not that he should have to), players like Richards and Gaborik should not have to worry about guys going after them. There should be an idea of: “if I take a shot at Gaborik, someone is going to make me pay.” Instead, hit a Ranger, and feel free to not have to answer it.

Last year, the answer was Brandon Prust. Take a cheap shot at Gaborik, take a shot in the face from Prust. A few years ago, it was Avery. Team needs a spark? Get underneath someones skin that they can’t help but fight you. Maybe even take a dive and draw a penalty. It was a type game that made you swallow your pride to be proud to win. This year, nobody on the team has that. The Rangers deemed 2.5 Million for Brandon Prust as simply too much for someone who despite all he does, is a role player. The issue is, the Rangers didn’t fill his shoes. The 2.5 Million was basically given to Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt. Asham has been in the division forever, so Ranger fans have seen him for a while. He clearly isn’t the replacement of Brandon Prust. To steal a term from baseball, Pyatt is a replacement player.

The Rangers made the right move in trading Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon for Rick Nash. But they didn’t address the dirty part of the team. They basically built a Titanic, handed Edward Smith a gin and tonic, and told him to do laps around icebergs.

And now the Rangers approach the part of the season where the schedule is tough. They aren’t playing the bottom feeders, they’re playing the teams that are in the playoffs for the most part. Take a team like Pittsburgh that can fly around the ice, who on the Rangers is going to hack at Sidney Crosby or Jarome Iginla? Who’s going to throw sand in their gears and slow their game down, wear them down, throw them off their game, make them take bad penalties, get into their heads? I’m looking at the roster right now, and I don’t see that guy anywhere. I see prolific goal scorers and playmakers with no space to play. I see a Hall Of Fame goalie who gets regularly battered. I see a team that collectively makes the body of a great male athlete, but he’s got no balls.

So paging Esa Tikkanen, paging Jed Ortmeyer, paging Brandon Prust, paging Sean Avery. Please teach this team how to win a hockey game, because it takes a lot more than a few goal scorers to win a hockey game.

Sorry, Braden

It was a game that seemed tailor-made for the Rangers pessimism. A bad start for the Rangers, and a fast start for the Washington Capitals, led to Washington drawing first blood. On the goal, Taylor Pyatt played poorly, getting out-muscled by Marcus Johansson, and then not getting to the point fast enough. A player like Pyatt, does not have the skating skills to get out-muscled on a play, and when he isn’t winning with brute strength, he’s going to be exposed. That was apparent on the first goal. As play started picking up, the catalyst that spurred the Rangers was Derek Stepan’s goal. As a person who hates using clichés, that was a real goal scorer’s goal. It was a risky move by Stepan, trying to bank the puck off Braden Holtby, but it worked and it marked the point of the game where the Rangers started to take care of business.

The second period started off a little stagnant for the Rangers, but Brian Boyle, back from John Tortorella’s doghouse started to grind pretty well and helped break up the Capitals momentum. When he scored, it was a result of him using his massive 6’7” frame to grind in the corners that led to him getting a chance to score. While it has been disproven (in any sport) that players are “due” to score, in hockey, I do think there is a merit to getting a goal due to one’s hustle. Simply by skating hard and forcing a chance, Boyle earned the extra opportunity to get a puck on net. He wasn’t doing that earlier in the year, and it’s why some nights he was a spectator, instead of Stu Bickel. On the goal, there was another penalty called, and the Rangers power-play (now showing signs of competency) put one in for the key insurance goal. The goal led to Braden Holtby being pulled from the game, which didn’t draw any tears from  anyone who saw the conference semi-finals last year. Switching the goalie was a tactic by Capitals coach Adam Oates, but as the final score shows, it didn’t work.

The third period was the typical Ranger keep-away period. Washington tried to get back in, but the Rangers defense, especially including Martin Biron, showed up this afternoon and put the game out of reach for the Caps. The last goal, a Brad Richards bang in, was a great “hey, Washington, don’t bother pulling the goalie moment” in a game where the Rangers finally flexed some muscle.

Martin Biron earned the first star today, and while it’s nice to hand it to the backup goalie who hasn’t played in two weeks, Ryan McDonagh played his best game of the season. He started joining in on the rush, and played his typical solid defense. Also deserving of credit on the blueline were Michael Del Zotto, and Steve Eminger. Del Zotto played a physical game, which he has the capacity, but not always the penchant to play. Eminger had some big hits and is making a case for himself to be the sixth defenseman once Staal comes back. Finally, while I skipped over Biron earlier, he did play a great game, and there’s no way the Rangers win without him making some key saves. The Capitals aren’t the same team they were a few years ago, but they still have some guys who can put the puck in the net, and it’s big for a team to have a backup goalie who can come in and play a solid game after a long layoff.

Finally, I mentioned that the Rangers need someone who can score on the third line. While I’m not sure it’s Brian Boyle; him, Miller, and maybe that third person would make the Rangers a team with three scoring lines. Though the question of how useful Pyatt would be on the fourth line remains debatable. That said, Brian Boyle playing up to his ability makes a huge difference on this team, and it showed today. Let’s see if it shows against Buffalo.