The Sidney Debates


Written on 11/30/2010 by Jim Cerny

The debates began in the stands, locker rooms, and press box at Madison Square Garden last night and have raged ever since on the internet, in Twitter-verse, and in the hockey blogosphere.

These debates are ones that have been hotly contested before, and will be for years to come.

Is Sidney Crosby a dirty hockey player? Does Sid do dirty things as a way to protect himself from non-stop abuse from opponents? Does the league and its officials protect Crosby more-so than other star players? Why is it that Crosby evokes so much emotion from fans and players around the league? Quite simply, why is he hated more than fellow superstars Alex Ovehckin and Steven Stamkos, just to name two?

These debates sprung up for a couple of reasons yesterday. First, at his team's morning skate Rangers head coach John Tortorella said he had spoken with league officials about how games against the Penguins were called by the referees. Torts did not single out Crosby by name, but it was clearly inferred when he spoke about Penguins transgressions which were not penalized by the league's referees when the Rangers and Penguins met two weeks ago in Pittsburgh---a game which saw the Penguins receive six power plays and the Rangers zero.

Then last night the Rangers claimed that Crosby delivered a slew foot to Ryan Callahan and another to Sean Avery over the course of Pittsburgh's 3-1 victory over the Blueshirts. New York's Brandon Dubinsky, who has long been vocal regarding his disgust with Crosby, said of Sid's alleged slew foot on Callahan, "Yeah, that's a dirty play. That's the kind of player he is." Callahan added that it was "absolutely" a slew foot---a dirty play where one player kicks out the skates from underneath an opposing player, usually from behind...often believed to be one of the more gutless and dangerous plays in hockey.

When Crosby fired back---"How many penalty minutes do I have this year if I am that dirty? Please. Show me all of those dirty plays. It's a battle and he falls. I think Dubi has done his fair share of things out there that are questionable. I guess he's talking again, but I am not surprised. I'm not a dirty hockey player, c'mon. I think Dubi is smarter than that, c'mon"---the debates took on even more legs.

Is Crosby a dirty hockey player? No, I would not call him a dirty hockey player. I would call him a hockey player prone to doing some dirty and sneaky things out on the ice. He seems very cold and calculated about what he does, not posessing the obvious Ovechkin intensity, but rather an icy assasin's insides. It is part of what makes him a great player. If you are a Penguins fan you say he is just doing whatever it takes to win, and that's why he is a great captain and is already a proven Stanley Cup winner. Plus he is such a target from the opposition, he needs to protect himself out there on the ice. If you are not a Pens or Crosby fan, you'll say that Sid is a dirty little snot who gets away with everything because the league and its officials protect his rear end and he deserves whatever opponents can inflict on him. I say both sides are right to an extent.

Does the league and its officials protect Sid more than other star players? I would say that most star players get away with more illegal things than your average mucker-and-grinder does, no question about it. And I would have to also say, without watching every game by every team every night, that Crosby does seem to get away with a bit more than other elite players. But is that because he is just more sneaky or because it is overlooked? Great question. Not sure of that answer, though I will say that Sid is one sneaky son of a gun. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh as play headed back the other way Crosby whipped through Henrik Lundqvist's crease as Sid turned to head up ice. As he did, Crosby's skate clipped Lundqvist's sending the Rangers goalie to the ice. Refs skating the other way never saw it. Accident? Or just another case for Sneaky Sid? Hmmm. Also because Sid plays a different game from Ovechkin it is more likely that Ovie will receive more penalty minutes. And Ovie has received suspensions  for some of his actions. But the Gordie Howes and Mark Messiers and Ovechkins who play more physically and stand up more for themselves in an aggressive manner are clearly more respected than a Crosby, who does not initiate that aggressiveness, but instead is prone to the subtle paybacks out on the ice.

Why is Crosby hated so much? Jealousy tops the reasons why Sid the Kid is hated so much by opposing fans and players. No question about it. Ever since he was drafted first overall Crosby has had a certain smugness and arrogance about him, which he has backed up with superstar-level play, four 100+ point seasons, two Cup Finals, one Stanley Cup ring, and an Olympic gold medal, all by the age of 23. If you have him on your team, you love him. If you don't have him, well, you don't love him. Quite simple. But beyond his play Crosby has a well-earned reputation for complaining to the officials about every little thing. Pens fans would say that is great leadership and gamesmanship. Everyone else says he is a spoiled whining man-child who gets everything he wants. A bit of both is correct. Fans are more prone to throw their arms around a Steven Stamkos because he is a respectful, good-natured kid, with no outward signs of arrogance with a Lady Byng style on the ice, or an Ovechkin who wears his heart on his sleeve, can play reckless, out of control, and blatently dirty, but is not viewed as being sneaky or a whiner. Crosby comes off as obnoxious and that hurts his image. Fans are OK if the true superstars---and I mean the true elite, like Crosby is now--- are dirty---see Howe and Messier---or not---see Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. They are not as keen when a player of that elite level is viewed as sneaky and obnoxious, as Crosby is.

It's an image thing really. Crosby is not a dirty hockey player, but he does do dirty things. But it's his overall persona that gets underneath the skin of opposing players---like Dubinsky---and fans so much.

It is what causes him to be at the root of these particular debates.

It will also be what keeps him from being universally loved---a la Gretzky and Lemieux and Yzerman---unless something fundamnetally changes in his personality over the course of his career.

Then again, why should Sidney Crosby change anything? Seems to be working out quite nicely for him, I'd say.

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimcerny

Through Hard Work, Team-First Rangers Find Their Way


Written on 11/27/2010 by Jim Cerny

Rangers head coach John Tortorella repeated something last night that he has been subtlely saying more and more often recently: "we are a tired team".

Nine games in 14 days in seven different cities will do that to a team. As will playing a hard-skating in-your-face style, which is the Rangers calling card this season.

Listen, I can see how tired they are. And I can understand it better than most. I mean, shoot, I keep the same travel, practice, and game schedules as the Rangers do, but with one big difference: they play...I report on it. And I am tired, and a bit beat up from this recent grind. So I can only imagine how the players feel.

But yet, even as Tortorella says this about his club, they stick together and battle. And they are a resilient team, much more so than last year. Bad loss in Tampa on Wednesday? No problem, bounce back with a 40-save Henrik Lundqvist shutout last night against the Panthers. Lousy loss in Denver two Fridays ago? Not an issue because they come back with an impressive victory in Minnesota the very next night. Lose two games in a row on a couple different occasions this season? Not going to panic because they are staying away from lengthy losing streaks this year, never losing more than two in a row, so far.

If you are a Rangers fan, this is the type of team you can really throw your arms around and embrace. It is a likable team, both in on-ice and off-ice personality.

"What I really like about this team is how together they are," Tortorella said the other day.

"This team has come together early in the season...we really like each other and get along well and have really gelled together quickly," added forward Brandon Prust, who is not one of the team's stars, but is a vital part of the fabric in the locker room and on the ice.

When Prust scored his first goal of the season last night, the bench erupted with  just a dose more excitement than usual. Yes, it was a big goal---the one to ice a 3-0 victory---but it was "Pruster" who scored it, and that meant something to his teammates.

"If you see our bench when he scores, that's the important thing, the cameraderie they feel about him, and each other," explained Tortorella. "Guys pull for him. It's good for him, but for me as a coach, it's good for the team. Crap, he's done a lot of good things for us, and I am happy for him."

Every good and successful team in the National Hockey League has a Brandon Prust on its roster. Trust me on that one. Yes, you need your star players---in the Rangers case Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik---playing their best, but you need other intangibles, as well, in order to achieve success. Prust provides that. Brian Boyle is providing that. Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal,  and Dan Girardi are stepping up their level of play nad providing more. Derek Stepan is as good a rookie as there is in the NHL this year.

You can see it's coming together for the Rangers. There are going to be some bumps along the way, but it's coming together. You get the feel the team is on the right track. And you get the feel that the Tortorella has established an excellent foundation, and that the players are playing hard for their coach---just as they do for one another.

"Character" is an important word when you speak about a team. And the Rangers are proving they have it. Heck, just check out how they have weathered injuries to four key veterans---Gaborik, Chris Drury, Vinny Prospal, and Michal Rozsival---without major issue already this season.

It is all part of what makes this Rangers team so appealing.

True, they will be in a dogfight all year to secure a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference. No question about that.

But as a Rangers fan, I think you'll at least be able to enjoy this ride more than some other recent ones.

Talkin' Steven Stamkos


Written on 11/24/2010 by Jim Cerny

Am down here in Tampa to cover the Rangers and Lightning tilt at the St. Pete Times Forum, one that features two good up-and-coming Eastern Conference teams and the subplot of Henrik Lundqvist's return to the starting lineup after watching back-up Marty Biron backstop two straight wins over Minnesota and Calgary.

But really all anyone down here wishes to talk about is Steven Stamkos. And that makes perfect sense actually.

You see, Stamkos, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft and coming off a breakout 51-goal campaign in his second NHL season a year ago, has already scored 20 goals in the first 21 games this season. And even though it's a long way off, people are already talking non-stop about the chance of Stamkos scoring 50-in-50---fifty goals in fifty games, something ever only achieved by two Hall-of-Famers, Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky.

I have compiled a host of quotes about Stamkos and will share them with you below, but first just had to say what a pleasure it was this morning to, first, sit in on Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher's morning gathering with the media and then to sit and chat with Stamkos in the Lightning dressing room afterwards.

Boucher is as engaging and personable a head coach as there is in the entire National Hockey League. This was my first personal encounter with him, and I came away extremely impressed---and that's not even including his obvious coaching skills. You can see why Steve Yzerman wanted Boucher to be leading this team.

And the 20 year-old Stamkos is such a polite, respectful, thoughtful, intelligent, and mature person. It's almost hard to fathom that he is so young. He speaks so respectfully of his father and his upbringing, you just can tell that his parents raised him the right way. But even behind that silly mustache he has going on right now, you can see that Stamkos is still just a kid having an amazing time playing the game he loves.

Everyone that is around Stamkos on a regular basis says he is a totally down-to-earth joy. I can see what they mean.

Lightning Coach Guy Boucher

On Stamkos' love of the game: "He loves to play the game just to play the game. He does it for the right reasons. It has nothing to do with money, it's about the enjoyment of it all. I think he'll still be a kid, loving the game like a kid, when he's 30."

On the pressure of 50 in 50: "It's so early to talk about this, so much time before we reach 50 games. And do we say that he's no good if he has 49 in 50? And then we miss the joy of the other 49 goals he did score? He's very humble and unselfish and the 50/50 talk creates unnecessary pressure."

Steven Stamkos

On being asked about 50-in-50 already: "It's just something that I've realized at a young age that is part of the game and comes with the territory. When you're not being asked the questions it probably means you're not playing that well. Obviously this year with the start I've had and the team has had I'm getting a lot more requests, but you have to be good to the media because hopefully then they'll be good to you."

On how he handles media scrutiny: "It's just basic respect. You respect what other people do and they'll respect you for what you do. Not only did I learn that from my parents, but my minor hockey coach was big about respecting your opponents, the refs, other players, the media. It's something I learned at a young age and it's pretty simple. My dad didn't have to raise his voice or yell too much. When I was a kid it was tell me once or maybe twice and that was it."

On loving his job: "I am just having fun. I am doing something I've done my whole life, and now it's my job. I love playing hockey, and am just lucky and fortunate enough to have a job like this where you play a game that you have loved so much since you were a kid. I am always going to have a smile on my face coming to the rink every day, working at being better, and trying to win every day. You don't take anything for granted because we are so lucky to be doing what we are doing as our job."

Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger

On Stamkos: "He plays with a lot of energy and he can do things that other players can't at a high speed with the puck. He's full speed when he's coming at you, with the puck or without the puck. He's really talented that way, and he's shifty. He's put himself into a category in this league where he is one of the top."

On containing Stamkos: "We have to play physical on him and that line, not give him time to go from one end to the other at full speed. He can't go untouched. He's got to be slowed up."

Rangers forward Ryan Callahan

On containing Stamkos: (laughing) "...or trying to at least! They key is for us to get the puck in deep and not let them turn us over in the neutral zone and counter back. When you have a guy like St. Louis with his speed and Stamkos, I think they prey on that, the turnovers in the neutral zone. So we have to get it in deep and then not let them build up speed through the neutral zone. And from a D standpoint, it's about taking away time and space. Get in his face and don't give him time to move the puck or shoot the puck."

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi

On challenge of facing Stamkos: (laughing) "I don't know that I look forward to facing him, but listen he's got 20 goals in 21 games, so you know he's a real deadly player out there and we have to make sure that somebody is always on him in the D zone. We have to be hard on him, make him work for his chances."

On trying to contain Stamkos: "He's one of the elite players in the league. If you can do a good job on him then you can feel good about yourself and the team. Obviously we are focused on shutting him down, but it's going to be hard and we're going to have to do a good job tonight."

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Gaborik Makes Long-Awaited Return to Minnesota


Written on 11/20/2010 by Jim Cerny

For eight seasons he was the face of the Minnesota Wild franchise. He was the expansion team's first-ever first-round draft pick, and went on to become its all-time leader in goals, assists, and points.

Now, finally, tonight Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota for the first time since signing a lucrative free agent deal with the Rangers on July 1, 2009, and after missing last year's clash due to a minor knee injury.

It is easily the most-anticipated game on the Wild schedule this season, and the debates as to whether Gaborik will be cheered for his accomplishments with the Wild or booed for leaving the smaller market club for the big bucks and bright lights of Broadway has been a hotly debated topic out here in Minnesota.

It is easy for me, with nothing emotionally invested in the Wild, to say that Gaborik clearly deserves a long standing ovation and a video tribute on the scoreboard tonight. Unlike many who will show up at Excel Energy Center, I do not feel jilted by the star sniper's exodus to New York, nor do I share the angst of Gaby's many injuries while in Minnesota.

Nonetheless, should be quite the interesting night tonight in frigid St. Paul when Gaborik's Rangers face off with the Wild.

For a more detailed account of Gaborik's return, read my story at

For a wide-ranging take on Gaborik and his return this evening, check out these quotes from some of the major players in the story, including Gaby himself.

And special thanks to my buddies Michael Russo from The Star Tribune out here in Minnesota (@RussosTrib on Twitter) and Andrew Gross from The Bergen Record in New Jersey (@AGrossRecord on Twitter) for sharing and swapping quotes with me.

Marian Gaborik:

On his return to Minnesota: “Well it’s definitely going to be the first time. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years there. It’s going to be definitely something special so I just need to get ready for that game. Maybe I’ll be a little nervous or it might be a little emotional but it has to happen at some point. I’m excited to play there and hopefully we’ll have a much game than (Friday's 5-1 loss in Colorado).”

On Missing last year's game vs. the Wild with a knee injury: “Yeah, you’re coming back, you want to play. The circumstances obviously weren’t good but now it’s going to be my first time there and I’m looking forward to that. I don’t know, it’s tough to explain but hopefully we’ll have a good game.”

On what type of reception he expects from the Wild fans: “It’s hard to say. Last year when I wasn’t playing it wasn’t that great when they announced injured guys. I can’t control how they’re going to react. Hopefully it’s going to be pleasant. I think I’ve done a lot of good things there and had good success as an expansion team so hopefully it’s going to be positive.”

On what emotional ties he still has to Wild: “It was a big chapter of my hockey career and my life as well. Definitely I have great memories there but now I’m a Ranger and that’s the way it is. I really enjoy it here. I’m always going to have good memories from Minnesota.”

Rangers forward (and former Wild forward) Derek Boogaard

On Gaborik's return: "I'm not sure what kind of reaction he will get. He put in a lot of good years for that organization and he did a lot of good things there. If anything it should be all positive, I think anyways."

On his own first return to Minnesota tonight: "It'll be a good feeling, but it'll definitely be different, especially being on the other side. I don't know if I am nervous, but it's somewhere along those lines. They'll be 'Booing' either way. That's exactly it!"

Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck

On fans expected reaction to Gaborik: "I mean, I can guarantee you they’re going to boo him. But I don’t know whether that’s out of them not liking him or them just being upset we don’t have him anymore. He took some heat when he was here, but I can tell you firsthand, love him or hate him, they loved him when he was scoring goals. You can’t say no to having a guy like that on your team."

On Boogaard's return: "What's it going to be like to see him? Hilarious. His number alone (97) is going to make me laugh. You miss that guy when he’s not around. He’s one of a kind. Obviously he needed a little change of scenery to get his offensive production boosted!"

Wild forward Andrew Brunette

On Gaborik: "I bet he’ll have his emotions more under control than if it would have happened last year. The first year after you leave a place is always the toughest coming back, so I think he’s more comfortable being in New York and with the team. I still think it’ll be hard. It’s never easy, especially he’s here nine, 10 years and the impact he had here, to come back, it’s never easy."

On the Minnesota fans: "A year ago might been a different story for the fans. Time kind of changes and heals different things. I think the people I've talked to, you come to appreciate him when he’s gone (because they don’t have a game-breaker anymore)."

Wild head coach Todd Richards

On the build-up to tonight's game: "I’ve had lots of requests for tickets from people to come to that game. It seems like people that I know, friends of mine, this is the game they want to come to. You can see the impact [Gaborik] had in this organization, this franchise and this city. It’s the same with Boogey, too. They were both fan favorites. They both helped get the franchise to this point. … I’m looking forward to it. Plus, it’s the New York Rangers anyway. There’s something about playing the Rangers with their colors and their jerseys and their history."

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Gordon Had No Chance on the Island


Written on 11/17/2010 by Jim Cerny

Does it seem logical and make sense that a National Hockey League coach is fired after two straight last-place finishes and in the midst of a ten-game losing streak in Year No. 3?

Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. And for that I believe Islanders GM Garth Snow was certainly justified in sacking head coach Scott Gordon on Monday morning.

However Gordon was not the problem on Long Island. Just as interim coach Jack Capuano will not be the problem beginning with this evening's home tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Islanders' issues start much further up the food chain than the head coach. And higher up than the general manager for that matter, as well.

For all of their good young talent---and make no mistake, the Isles do have a good group of talented youngsters both on their current roster and in the organizational pipeline---the Islanders are headed nowhere under the petty and penny-pinching ownership of Charles Wang.

Once hailed as the savior of the franchise---and rightfully so---at the start of his ownership tenure earlier this decade, Wang has now become a mirror image of some of the disasterous ownerships that preceded him, ones that I was more than well-acquainted with when I served as the club's play-by-play broadcaster.

There was the unfortunate end of the John Pickett regime. There was the embarrassing tenure of the Howard Milstein group, led by clueless hatchet man David Seldin. The "Gang of Four", whose names I can't even remember they were in and out so fast. And of course Gary Bettman's personal black eye, John Spano, a fraud with hardly a dime in his pocket who was personally endorsed by the commisioner of the NHL.

It was embarrassing to be an Islander for all of those years---whether being an Islander meant as a player, a coach, an employee, or more importantly, a fan. The team was mismanaged, a last-place guarantee year after year on the ice, and played to an empty house on a regular basis at the Nassau Coliseum.

Sound familiar?

Sure it does because history is repeating itself these past several years under Wang's stewardship.

Listen, he helped build this franchise back up, and it wasn't too long ago that under his guidance the Islanders were back in the playoffs and the old barn in Hempstead was rocking again. But those days are gone, and I can't envision them coming back.

Wang either wants his Lighthouse real estate project---which includes a new arena, retail, and hotels---to be approved by the Town of Hempstead or he wants out, spending the absolute bare minimum on his team until his lease is up at the Coliseum.

It's his money, so it's his decision. But in the meantime he is holding Islanders fans---what few of them actually still care---captive.

And a good man, and solid coach, like Gordon is given absolutely no chance to win with the roster he is handed. Then he is fired when the team doesn't win. Same will hold true for Capuano for as long as he is here. And the next coach, probably another minor league guy because they are the least expensive to pay, will face the same the situation down the road.

It's going to get worse before it get's better, too. Wang is committed to not spending much more in player salary than what the CBA mandates as the bare minimum. Heck, the Islanders only reach the salary cap floor because they still have Alexei Yashin's buyout on the books.

And what of John Tavares? Remember him? First overall pick in 2009. The player the Islanders craved to build around and center all of their off-ice marketing strategies around?

What of Tavares today? He has a respectable 10 points in 14 games, but his relevance on the National Hockey League landscape has just vanished. This is a guy, similar to a Steven Stamkos, who should be one of the faces of the new NHL. Instead he is adrift on the Island. There can't be a week that goes by that he doesn't speak to his agent or his family about the day that he can finally become a free agent and quickly flee to another organization.

This story could go on and on. But the bottom line point as it regards to Scott Gordon's firing is that yes, the Islanders were justified in letting their head coach go.

But Scott Gordon never had a chance to succeed in the first place.

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny


Rink Rap Roundup


Written on 11/12/2010 by Jim Cerny

In a league where fans and media members have been calling for John Maclean's head only ten games or so into his rookie season as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, it is rather amazing that earlier this week Lindy Ruff reached the 1,000 games coached plateau---ironically in a game against Maclean's Devils.

Perhaps even more incredible is that Ruff has coached all 1,000---or 1,001 now after last night's contest with the Rangers---with the same team, the Buffalo Sabres.

He is one of only 18 men to have coached more than 1,000 games in the National Hockey League, one of only three to have been behind the bench for that many for one team, and the only coach in league history to reach the 1,000 games coached milestone having coached for only one NHL organization.

Ruff became head coach of the Sabres back in July of 1997. Since then there have been 155 coaching changes in the league, with every team except the Sabres and Nashville Predators (who entered the league in 1998-99) having made at least one.

Now with the Sabres off to a 5-9-2 start---a record that mainly reveals the early struggles and subsequent injury absence of the team's most important player, goaltender Ryan Miller---some have called for an end to Ruff's time in Buffalo. This after an even-keeled approach that has seen Ruff compile a solid 488-370-142 all-time mark with seven post-season appearances in 12 years for a small-market club that has undergone multiple ownership changes in his tenure and has never been known to ice a team with a large payroll. Not to mention Ruff led the Sabres to another division title last year.

Ludicrous, I say. Ruff has adapted to different personnel and different rules and style of play in the NHL from year-to-year as well, if not better, than any coach I can remember.

There might be issues with the Sabres, but Ruff is not one of them.

Congrats to a good man. And may these rumors soon fall by the side.

St. Louis and Tampa Bay Hit With Big Losses

The St. Louis Blues have been pretty much rolling along to start the season, winning 8 of their first ten games. However they hit some speed bumps this week, getting hammered by the Blue Jackets 8-1 on Wednesday and then finding out that the team's leading scorer T.J. Oshie (1-9-10) is going to miss three months of action with a fractured left ankle---joining four other key Blues, including forward David Perron and defenseman Barret Jackman---on the IR.

The Blues have a tremendous team-first concept and their depth of many interchangable parts is impressive. But now they are really being put to the test, and it will  be quite interesting to see how they navigate this stretch. Since two of their five players out of the lineup have concussion-like symptoms, there is no telling how long coach Davis Payne will have to piece things together, especially now with Oshie gone until mid-February, as well.

There will be an inordinate amount of pressure on Jaroslav Halak to work some magic in goal in order to keep the good ship St. Louis sailing along.

And Tampa Bay is off to a pretty strong start, too, 8-5-2 good for second place in the Southeast and fourth in the Eastern Conference with 18 points. However during last night's 6-3 loss to Washington, the Lightning lost Vincent Lecavalier to a broken bone in his left hand. He will be sidelined 3-4 weeks.

Because Tampa Bay does not have a host of top-flight scorers outside of the league's leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos, high-flying Martin St. Louis, and Lecavalier, this injury could really slow down what has been a strong start to Guy Boucher's rookie season behind the Lightning bench.

Though his numbers are a bit down, Lecavalier has been creating scoring chances on a consistent basis and is still considered a threat when he's on the ice. His absence makes it easier for opposing teams to zero in even more on shutting down Stamkos and St. Louis.

Just as the Blues are faced with a big challenge, so, too, now are the Lightning.

A Real Boogey Night

Rangers coach John Tortorella scratched Derek Boogaard for last night's game against the Sabres. During his pre-game press briefing, Tortorella was asked by a half-joking reporter, "How can you do that? He's on a goal scring streak!"

Torts laughed, and you can't count one goal in 235 games a streak, but indeed the Boogey Man did pot a goal Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, and it was a real legit goal, too. Long hard slap shot. It's the type of goal no other Ranger has scored this season really. Not red-hot Brandon Dubinsky and his 10 goals, not sniper Marian Gaborik (who only played his fourth game last night due to an early season shoulder injury), not the revived Brian Boyle and his 7 goals.

No one on the Blueshirts has ripped a slapper past the goalie like that all season. Except for the Boogey Man.

If you have not seen it already, check out Boogaard's work here.

And enjoy it. Savor it.

Boogey's goals only come once every four-or-five years.

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Ex-Rangers Betts and Shelley Loving Life on Broad Street


Written on 11/09/2010 by Jim Cerny

Blair Betts wore Rangers red, white, and blue for four seasons, establishing himself as one of the top defensive forwards and penalty killers in the entire National Hockey League.

Jody Shelley (photo) is a rugged nine-year NHL veteran who played an important role last season for the Blueshirts when they made a late-season---albeit failed---playoff push, after being acquired in a trade from San Jose in early February.

Both heart-and-soul players made an impact on Broadway, and now both are playing key supporting roles on a Flyers team that is tied with Washington, Los Angeles, and St. Louis for the most points currently in the NHL with 20.

Betts signed with the Flyers last season as a free agent when the Rangers let him walk. Shelley followed the same path this past summer when the Rangers would not commit to a third year and Philly did.

I had a chance to catch up with both late last week when I was down in Philadelphia, and was able to touch on several interesting topics with Betts and Shelley.

On Playing in the Stanley Cup Finals Last Spring

Betts: "It was a great experience, exciting. I can remember watching the Stanley Cup Finals the last few years and just feeling the intensity just watching the games, but to actually be on the ice playing, it's a different experience, a lot different from the day-to-days of the regular season. The intensity just gradually got bigger and bigger. It was crazy. It was disappointing to not end up winning, but maybe we'll learn from it and get there again and win it next time."

On Patrick Kane's Overtime Cup-Winning Goal for Chicago

Betts: "Nobody realized it was a goal. I just remember Kane jumping up and down, but he was kind of by himself. I don't think their team realized it was in. We were just kind of looking at the refs and it was like time stood still for a second. I think when (Michael) Leighton came to the bench and said it was a goal it kind of hit us pretty hard, kind of a weird ending to the year."

Losing in Finals is Motivation for This Year

Betts: "Look at Pittsburgh, maybe that first loss to Detroit helped them win the Cup the next year. There's just so much emotion and intensity, it's just all about controlling your mind. You want to be prepared for the game, but at the same time not get so worked up that you can't play. It's a tough thing to do, but you learn from having done it now."

Shelley: "Things that have gone on, situations they were in over the last year, I betcha' I haven't heard 20 words about them this year. There are some groups where that's all they would be taking about. 'Oh, we did this. Oh, we did that'. In this room there is the sense that they accomplished nothing. I don't know if you put that on the leadership or the whole group or what. But I have been very impressed. You know, I walk in and think Wow, this is a team that's really good, I don't want to walk in there and chink it up or step on anyone's toes. But the mindset is that it's a totally new year, which is great for the new guys coming in."

Peter Laviolette, the Motivator

Shelley: "He's very good day-to-day. He's like (John Tortorella) in that sense. He's a great motivator, understands what we are going through on a day-to-day situation. He knows on a day's situation where we're at, and he's very good where his last words (in meetings) are the most important. And that's the way Torts is, a great motivator. It really gets beyond the X's and O's. It's more words that motivate you before you go out there, and (Laviolette) really keeps us focused that way."

On Rookie Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

Shelley: "The Bob! That's what everyone calls him here. Bob! He's always smiling, great kid. He and (Brian) Boucher do a great job, and Bouch is the type of guy who helps another guy like that. Bouch is like that, too, one that smiles in all situations, which is good for Bob to see. I don't pay much attention to goalies (laughs), but seriously he's doing a really good job here."

Betts: "He's been great, a really big surprise. Nobody thought he'd push for a spot like he did, but he is so calm, so poised and relaxed. For a young goaltender that's a pretty tough job to jump into. He doesn't speak too much English so he doesn't have too many distractions, you know?! He's very quick side-to-side. It was a revolving door last year (when Philly used 5 different goalies). It seemed like when one goaltender went down, someone else would just be healthy in time to start and then would coming and play well. Even at the end of the playoffs, guys coming back from injuries probably sooner than they would have wanted to."

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

If Not For Bad Luck...


Written on 11/03/2010 by Jim Cerny

In the cases of Penguins center Jordan Staal, individually, and the New Jersey Devils team, collectively, that old saying rings so true: If not for bad luck, they would not have any luck at all.

Case No. 1: Jordan Staal

Tonight, after missing the first 12 games of the season due to a miserable lingering infection in his foot that had plagued him since last spring, Staal was expected to return to the Pens lineup and center their second line.

Instead, Staal will once again be a spectator, and, no, not because the infection has reared its vicious self again. This time Staal will be sidelined due to a broken hand he suffered in practice the other day.

The latest estimate now pegs Staal's return as mid-December.

Staal has to be thinking "You've got to be kidding me!"

Remember this is a player who had never missed a game due to injury his entire four-year career until P.K. Subban's blade cut through his skate during the last spring's playoffs, causing the gash that cut a tendon in Staal's foot, leading to several operations and the ensuing nasty infection that robbed him of summer workouts and starting the season on time.

His brother Marc, the Rangers' defenseman, told me back in September that Jordan was going through "just a brutal" time dealing with the infection and being so far behind in his training. To miss training camp and the first 12 games had to be hell for a player who personifies the term "gamer".

Then with the reward for all of his patience and hard work right in sight, Staal is struck by a puck in practice, no less, and is set back another 6-8 weeks.

If not for bad luck, indeed.

Case No. 2, the New Jersey Devils

As if the Devils have not been a complete cluster-you-know-what since the whole Ilya Kovalchuk contract mess this past summer right on up through all of their injuries and horrible play under rookie coach John Maclean to start the season, now they find out that star winger Zach Parise will miss three months of action after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

And in typical fashion for how their year is progressing, so far, Parise's injured knee was, at first, thought to be minor. Lou Lamoriello let it be known that something was bothering Parise and that exploratory arthroscopic surgery would find out the exact problem, correct it, and get Zach back on the ice in fairly short order.

Torn meniscus and a February return date were not exactly expected by anyone.

But the black cloud that has enveloped the Devils since late last summer knows no limits it seems. It covers everyone and everything in the organization, which is currently stumbling through a disasterous road trip en-route to a 3-9-1 start overall, and an Eastern Conference-worst 7 points.

There was the Kovalchuk contract mess that cost the team a hefty fine and much pain when deemed it first circumvented the league's salary cap. Then there is the case of how Kovy's current contract so ties Lamoriello's hands as far as the Cap goes that New Jersey was forced to play one game this season with only 9 forwards because injured and suspended players could not be replaced by call-ups because the team would have flown over the salary cap.

Then the injuries that have come in waves, picking off Bryce Salvador, Brian Rolston, Anton Volchenkov, and most recently Parise and rookie Jacob Josefson.

How about the sub-par play of nearly the entire roster---headed by Travis Zajac (4 points in 13 games), Jamie Langenbrunner (1 goal in 13 games), Patrick Elias (2 goals in 13 games), and Kovalchuk himself (3 goals in 12 games)?

And, of course, there was the one-game benching of Kovalchuk which sparked the Devils to an ugly 6-1 home-ice loss to the Buffalo Sabres, and only raised more questions about Maclean, the rookie head coach who is under serious fire right now

Finally a seemingly minor injury to Parise---a four-time 30-goal scorer, who netted 45 two years ago---turns into a three-month major problem.

If not for bad luck....

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers