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Just when you think it can’t get worse, the Rangers come to town. Join us for an open thread!

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Dear Flyers,

You’re probably all really busy getting ready for this afternoon’s big win-and-you’re-in game, but we’d like to bug you for just one quick second. See, we have a problem. The Rangers have stolen all our marbles. What do we mean? Well, you know that foxy blogger up in Buffalo, Katebits? She once explained to us that sometimes you lose your marbles, but sometimes you let yourself give your marbles away. We know we’ve been guilty of that ourselves, like when we throw our marbles at the television set every time the Devils go on the power play, but this is different. The Rangers forcibly stole our marbles years ago.

April 9 2010

Our precious, precious marbles.

We know at this point the Devils can’t play the Rangers in the first round and that helps a lot. But it would help a lot more if we knew they can’t play anyone in the first round. No one wins if the Rangers make the post-season. No one. Trust us. So that brings us to today. You’re our only hope. We’re counting on you to get some of our marbles back. Think of it like a big game of high-stakes Capture the Flag. That’s fun, right? Gagne, you can use your speed to dart behind the enemy lines to snag the marbles, while Beaks, you can use your wily ways to be a decoy, pretending you have the marbles, while Farts, you can use your good looks to distract the marble guards. Pronger, Carle, and Boucher? You guys, uh, just arrange the Gatorade and orange slices, m’kay? Just… don’t go on the playing field. Everyone else? Play the Capture the Marbles game of your life!

You’re our only hope.

Hugs and kisses,
The Ookies

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There’s nothing like getting one of the many Rangers games out of the way right off the bat! Join us as we partake of some woolgathering during the first Devils-Rangers match-up.

— We’ve been patting ourselves on the back for being smart enough to get a cable box in addition to our satellite (for a number of reasons, only two of which don’t have to do with being able to see a certain team who’s name rhymes with Blanny Blides) but now we’re kicking ourselves. If we didn’t have the stinking cable, we wouldn’t have to watch this game tonight! (Moreover, if we didn’t have cable, we could call Directv and complain about this whole Blersus sitch and wheedle into some free Center Ice; instead we have to admit we’re terrible liars and would get about thirty seconds into a complaining call before we broke down in tears asking them to charge us double for Center Ice in punishment for being dishonest.)

— SHOUT OUT! SHOUT OUT! Doc’s totally giving Schnookie’s fantasy team a shout out tonight. He is way too orange.

— At the end of the pregame stuff, Versus’s studio host sends us back to the game coverage by calling this matchup “an Atlantic Division donnybrook.” Pookie: “There better not be lots of fights. I don’t want to miss the start of the Blue Jackets game.”

— Hm. It seems as if some of the Devils do have some pride! The Poppers, Paulie, and Oduya come out with a huge amount of energy, and actually rip off a few shots. And then the third line follows their cue, with Pando being a complete wrecking ball of puck-hungry awesomeness on the forecheck to feed Rob Niedermayer (Pookie: “My new favorite Devil!”) to beat the Prawn over his shoulder from the slot. 1-0 Devils, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

— Our joy is relatively short-lived, as the Devils can’t maintain their focus, start getting lazy about not taking shots when they have chances, then eventually put the fourth line on the ice. A penalty ensues, and the Rangers score with ease on the PP. 1-1 game.

— DirecTV subscribers who are missing this game should take a moment to be happy they don’t have Versus. Mere moments after the Rangers tie the game, the Devils get called for another defensive-zone penalty, but instead of showing the infraction, Versus opts to give us some highlights of Gilroy’s college days. Now, we realize Gilroy joined the Rangers after descending from heaven down a golden staircase in an ivory litter held aloft by the angels of deceased hockey greats, but still. We’d like to know how much we should be hating Brian Rolston right now for taking that penalty. Oh, who are we kidding? There’s no way it wasn’t idiotic.

— The Rangers can give as good as they get, it would seem, so they follow the Devils’ stupid penalty with one of their own. And on the ensuing PP, the Zach remembers that thing he used to do, that thing that made him such a great hockey player, that thing called “hustle”. We all know that good things happen when Zach’s got his little motor going, and after he frees up a puck at the far boards, just a couple of passes later Travis is tapping the puck past the Prawn. 2-1 Devils, and once again, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

— We come back from a commercial shortly after the goal, and Versus gives us a split screen of the New Jersey goal scorers. It’s like a comparison study of ugly vs. handsome.

— Doc just loves it when teams have their goons skating, so he always mentions during his play-by-play that the fourth lines are out. Schnookie remarks, “I’m glad that Doc tells us when the fourth line is out so I don’t have to pay attention to know when the Devils are about to be pinned in their own zone.” As soon as she says it, Egg Pelley takes a tripping penalty about a mile behind the play. Andrew Peters looks at us smugly and says, “Who’s the only fourth-liner who hasn’t taken a penalty tonight?” To which we say, “Yet.”

— PaulieMartinNation adds another name to The List as Drury comes out of nowhere to clip Martin knee-on-knee. It was such a grievous transgression that Blersus replayed it immediately. Yes, you heard us. Blersus showed us the replay immediately. Paulie appeared to be up and drifting around aimlessly, while Oduya pounded on the back of Drury’s turtled head, so there’s hope that the Devils season didn’t just go even further down the tubes.

— For FUCK’S sake. Drury takes a run at Paulie, Oduya pounds on Drury, the Rangers get a power play out of everything, and they score off the faceoff. 2-2 game, and Blersus is so outraged by the grave injustice of it all that they actually go back and show a missed too-many-men situation on the Rangers’ previous PP that didn’t get called. Yeah, it’s just that bad. Of course, so are the Devils.

— We are still quivering with outrage when the Devils settle into some ineffective cycling in the Rangers zone, and then a sudden, random whistle stops play with the Rangers touching the puck. Eddie tells us the center-ice official is calling a penalty, and Schnookie erupts, “It better be bullshit. I don’t want to see the Rangers get called for something legit. I want them called for complete, utter bullshit.” Blersus actually gives us a replay (they’re still outraged too!), and sure enough, it is complete, utter bullshit. It’s a roughing call to Prospal for standing near Paulie. Fantastic!

— The second period starts, and we have graduated from the “watching the game while eating dinner” portion of our evening to the “watching the game while working on our stitching”. And so we’re not paying hugely close attention when Eddie starts talking about Del Zotto. Without looking up from the seam allowances she’s marking, Pookie mutters, “Del Zotto is the poor man’s Gilroy. In that it’s easier for Del Zotto to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for Gilroy to be bad at hockey.”

— Eddie states the obvious when he says that the Rangers’ fourth line is getting the better of the Devils’. We think that might be a theme for every team that plays against the Devils this year.

— A Devil attempts a long dump-in to the Rangers zone about midway through the period, but the puck hits off Del Zotto’s skate and ricochets onto the Devils bench, where it smacks Langer in the face. Pookie: “It’s like Del Zotto’s foot just challenged Langer to a duel.”

— Blersus goes off on a history-of-the-Devils video tangent, and we come back to find the Rangers starting a power play. Doc and Eddie are totally flummoxed by this. Blersus is really, really good at televising hockey. (The power play is quickly negated by a tripping call on a Ranger.)

— Well, of course Gilroy gets his first NHL goal tonight, because there’s nothing Marty does better than give up guys’ first career goals. It’s 3-2 Rangers.

— Callahan seems not to have noticed that Marty is plenty crappy without any help, and he takes a goaltender interference penalty. It won’t matter in the long run, though.

— Blersus had an exciting week last week what with its record ratings and all. We’re having our own Blersus-related party here as, finally, after however many years, we no longer have to consciously mute the intermission show. It’s just second nature to enjoy fifteen minutes of blissful silence at the end of each period.

— You know how there are certain things in sports that you never miss the opportunity to see happening in real time? Like, no matter how badly you have to answer that surprise doorbell, or replenish your snacks, or go to the bathroom, you won’t walk away from the TV until after whatever that special sportsy thing is has happened? The Devils’ 5-on-3 is the opposite of that.

— We have come to a shocking realization: it’s much more pleasant listening to a game the Devils are losing without Chico. It’s so refreshing not having to hear anyone making excuses for them. (To be fair, they’re playing significantly better tonight than they did against the Flyers, but still, there’s nary an excuse in sight. We love it.)

— Welp, on paper it’s the same result as the last game, but we don’t feel nearly as sick, so it must not have been quite as bad. Or maybe that’s just the effect of HD. Or maybe it’s the novelty of the Devils pulling Marty for the extra attacker with almost an entire minute left in the game, and the other team not scoring into the empty net. That never happened with Sutter.

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Here we go, Game 2 of the Official Series We Care About — Go Pens! Go Stars! We’ll be filling this with what little thoughts pop into our heads as we watch the games today and tonight.

— This game has been a game of extremes: Extreme craptitude by Hossa, extreme awesomeness by Malkin and Sid; extreme coolness from Doc, extreme annoyingness by Pierre who’s decided it’s not enough to over-pronounce the French names and is now attempting to add some “Swedish” flair to Lundqvist.

— We learn that Sid requested there be no white-out in the crowd today. We’re hoping this is just the beginning of Sid flexing his divo muscles. Next up, he’ll demand the crowd wear only lilac. Then he’ll threaten to not skate unless every other seat is occupied by a shih tzu wearing a top hat. Finally, he’ll refuse to leave the dressing room unless the entirety of the upper deck is filled with pure white roses with the thorns removed.

— Just as we’re reliving Pierre’s awesome “Finno-Pierre” pronunciation of Jarko Rutuu in last year’s Playoffs (it sounded a little like “yahrkhuuu rrrhuttttuahwah”) he shocks us with this analysis: “I think that that # 87 had a lot to do with turning this franchise [the Penguins] around.” Wha-huh? Next up he’ll tell us the team with the most goals at the end of the game wins!

— Gronk scores for a case of sod! Woo-hoo! It’s a good thing he did, too, since we were getting to the hair-tearing-out-point with the Pens. Throughout the entire Devils series all we wanted to see was some players getting to the puck around the net. The Pens were doing that, then stopping to say, “Hey, look, we got he puck!” without following up on the play, as if to prove we have to be more specific in our directions. It was a tiresome little game, and we’re glad Jordan Staal had had enough of it!

— Mike Richter, makes Boomer’s day, by appearing on the intermission show to discuss his business ventures to fund green companies while encouraging major sports leagues to go greener. Despite her Devils fan-ness, Boomer will never forget that Richter was her first hockey true love. As an eco-conscious person herself (she spent her morning attempting to fix a leak in one of her five rain barrels) this whole segment is like a Cupid’s arrow making a direct hit on her heart. Meanwhile, Pierre continues to make himself look like an idiot by looking bored and asking Richter derisively, “Do you really think this will work?!” Also, he reduces the NHL players’ attempt to go carbon neutral by giggling over the Niedermayer brothers driving to games in a *scoff scoff* hybrid car. He also spews some nonsense about them drinking their Starbucks coffee out of “cups that can be refashioned into… um… other cups!” Meanwhile, we wonder why the Niedermayer brothers weren’t brining their own refillable cups to Starbucks in the first place. Do they want our Earth to die?

— Adam Hall scores for a case of sod-filled Tastykakes! The empty netter seals the Game 2 win for the Pens. We are loving this series so far!

— We’ll admit we very much enjoyed seeing Laraque appear of out nowhere to help Hal Gill defend Fleury there after the final whistle. Heh.

— Is it just us, or did Pierre look a little sad that Malone took the time to give Gronk a buddy-buddy facewash just before the post-game interview but didn’t give Pierre a second glance?

— We realize that Jordan Staal is the Pookie of the Staal brothers. The third of four, he doesn’t have the special status of being oldest or youngest, and Marc is most likely more concerned with framing his life in relation to his older brother not his parents. Pookie is fairly certain this means Gronk must be the smartest, most wonderful of the Staal children. Schnookie is concerned that this makes her the Marc Staal of the Ookie Family. “Does this mean I’m the one who looks like an especially inbred Prince Harry?” she asks. Pookie hates to be the one to tell her, but… yes.

— We will now take a brief intermission (if you can call a four hour break a “brief intermission”) but will return for the drop of the puck for the late game. Go Stars!

— Aaaaaand, we’re back! Go Stars!

— This game is giving us an opportunity to see how the Hockey Gods feel about defense. In one corner we have the Hero of Defense, Sergei Zubov. In the opposite corner we have the Zero of Defense, Brian “Spin-o-Rama O’ Despair” Campbell. Who will prevail?

— Schnookie is momentarily distracted from the game by a kamikaze bug that dive-bombs the back of her throat. Her surprised hacking drowns out the sound of the VS announcers. Pookie wonders if she can train an army of bugs to execute that move on command every time Pierre gets airtime.

— Anyone who doubts the power of recessive colors making the crowd look smaller should take a look at the wide angle of the sea of dark teal sweaters at the Shark Tank. Maybe it’s the lighting at the arena, but from far out, the building looks like swath of empty seats. Did Sid demand that this game be played without fans?

— We are assuming, after the Sharks score their second goal of the game on a breakaway, that Turco is thinking of his choice to try to race the attacking skater to the puck, “If I could go back, I might do that differently.”

— The VS intermission show reveals quite the shocker from the postgame comments following G1 of this series. What a surprise — Ron Wilson is blaming Patrick Marleau for the Sharks’ problems.

— Allow us to go out on a limb here and say that the Stars are looking really good. For all that they were in a deep and terrible swoon to end the season, they’re remarkably mentally resilient now. We’re ever so happy to have picked them as our favorite WC playoff team. Of course, there are still three minutes left in the third period as we say this, so if the Sharks end up coming back and winning this game, you can blame us.

— And even with us declaring this one over with a bit of time left in the final frame, the Stars still pull out the decisive win. No offense to our good friends who are pulling for the Sharks, but we’re delighted. It’s another great day of hockey!

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— We talked a big game last night about caring about the match-up tonight — Penguins vs. Rangers and Stars vs. Sharks. Now’s the test of whether we can talk the talk.

— Sid Crosby is usually so accommodating to fans, so can he please keep those of us who get these games in HD in mind when “growing” his “facial hair”?

— Keith Jones announces in the pre-game that this series includes “eight superstars I’d pay money to see play”. Huh? We do a quick count and come up with six, if we stretch the term “superstar” to include Marc-Andre Fleury and Scott Gomez. Surely Jonesy can’t be including Shanahan and Drury on that list, can he?

— Blersus shows us the large crowd taking in the video feed on the rolling lawns around Mellon Arena and segues into talking about how ESPN the Magazine ranked Pittsburgh #1 in Fan Relations. Blersus explains that part of this is because of the “arena experience” at the Igloo and how while it has its perks, it’s a great place for watching hockey. Well, as long as we’re not getting pelted with beer-soaked mouse pads, we agree!

— The Rangers are criticized for not having a great penalty kill against the Devils in Round 1. Seriously people, the laptop we’re typing this on could have killed the NJ “power play”.

— Riddle us this, Batman. Why are the Bruins roundly blamed for playing soul-killing hockey and the Rangers are just playing “a mature defensive game”?

— Why does Hockey want us to hate it? Why?! Seriously, we have other things we can be doing, Hockey. There’s Katamari to be played, Season 5 of “The Wire” to be caught up on, vegetable plants to watch growing. Any old time you want to start having Good triumph over Evil, that’d be great with us. This Rangers 1, Penguins 0 thing just isn’t cutting it.

— We’re writing this game off, anyway, though, as the Pens have had nine days off. Nine! Sid’s probably forgotten how to pass in that time off!

— We’re speechless. Jonesy’s “ShoutyShoutShout” Segment — er, pardon us, “Odd Man Rush” segment — is about Johan Franzen, who’s nickname is “The Mule”. Jonsey shouts, “I looked it up in the dictionary and a mule is… half-horse and half-donkey!!!.” We looked up Jonsey in the OED (nerd-alert: Stately IPB Manor is home to a complete, unabridged, gazillion-volume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary) and learned he’s half-dullard and half-nincompoop. You learn something new every day.

— Rangers 2, Penguins 0. Looks like we picked the wrong day to stop soldering our eyeballs in disgust over bad hockey.

— We can hear it, ever so softly, ringing in our ears. The siren song of the Katamari. Naa-na-na-na-na-na-na-na….

— Rangers 3, Penguins 0. We have no words for how over this we are. T-Minus 1 hour, 45 minutes ’til the Stars start.

— We’ve noticed an phenomenon with our Wii. When playing “Super Mario Galaxy”, all Pookie has to do to win a level is to get to breaking point and say out loud, “I hate this game and I’m turning off as soon as I die next.” It’s like the Wii hears her and feels threatened, that it might never be powered on again, left to molder and grow dusty before finally being tossed in the trash. It then serves up some softball levels to lure Pookie into playing some more. This game is like our Wii. Just as we are going to switch inputs to the PS2, the Penguins pop in two quick goals, one by the Other Superpest and one off a beautiful feed from Sid. Sweet! Still… that Katamari music is still running through our heads, and if this starts to look bleak again, we will not hesitate to turn the game off. Are you listening, TV?

— The “Bud Light At-A-Glance” is a bit too ironical for us — it obscures 1/3 of the screen keeping us from seeing the action for the amount of time it’s up on the screen.

— Speaking of screens, there’s some weird smudge on our TV that we can’t see to wipe off… Oh! That’s just Sid’s “facial hair”.

— OK, Hockey, this is more like it! Two more quick goals and it’s Pens 4, Rangers 3. However, we could still turn on Katamari whenever we feel like it, so don’t get complacent, Hockey!

— Also, we’re gobsmacked that we forgot one of the greatest things about hockey in our 118 Reasons We Love Hockey Series — people dressed as the Stanley Cup. We catch a glimpse of a man in the crowd wearing a tin-foil Cup head-dress. While it follows the pretty standard “full head Cup costume” template, the wearer has gone the extra step to sport a Lone Ranger mask under the eye-hole. This attention to detail delights us. However, it’s not as good as the fan we saw at Game 7 of the SCF in 2003 who rocked the very rare, and awesomely sublime “full body Cup costume”. He was wearing a giant garbage can with arm-holes cut in it and could barely move, but he was still the toast of every section he teetered past.

— WOOOOO!!! That’s RAWK! That’s one a beauty of a shot, and a beauty of a goal celebration. No concussions, no showboating, no skating past one’s teammates. That’s what we like to see!

— Wow. That game turned out awwwwesome! Good thing we didn’t turn it off. That said, we’ll have the Xbox controllers in hand at the start of the next game just in case.

— We are treated to one of those oddly satisfying TCM-ish filler spots that feature some odd history lesson about hockey. In this case, the subject is Red Berenson, famous to Devils fan as the man who put the finishing touch on the chip on John Madden’s shoulder by suggesting, horror of horrors, that Maddog maybe consider writing up a resume upon finishing his last year of eligibility since he wasn’t going to get drafted. The clip ends and we cut to Keith Jones saying he knew the fun fact about Berenson’s biggest night in the NHL because the only homework he did in college was to look up what happened on the day he was born; of course he skipped the news sections and went straight to the sports page, where the hockey column was all about what Berenson had accomplished that day. Now if only VS wouldn’t command Jonsey to ape Cherry, he’d be adorable! He’d almost be like Kelly Hrudey South!

— We’re having a little trouble getting into the late game here, perhaps still on a bit of a high from the Pens win, but we have to say, whoever thought to assign Andy Brickley to the Stahs/Shahks series has genius bits.

— Whoops. We take back everything nice we said about Jonesy. In the second intermission of the Stahs/Shahks tilt, he tells us that Marty Turco’s stickhandling was “the focal point you had to focus your eyes on” during the first round. Sigh.

— We feel compelled to write an open letter to the Stars about the third period:

Dear Stars,

We have learned, after a long, painful season with the Devils, that trying to play an entire period in your own zone is really not a great game plan. Oops. Now you’ve learned it too.

Kind Regards,
The -Ookies

— Okay, after looking totally disinterested in trying to win the hockey game, the Stars figured their shit out and took care of things quickly in OT, making this into a decidedly wonderful night of hockey. Since this playoffs has been characterized by wild mood swings from “fantastically enjoyable” to “utterly craptastic”, this bodes poorly for tomorrow. Considering these are the two series we really care about, we’ll take it, though.

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We’ve suffered through the Rangers/Penguins home-and-home these last two days, and here’s a look at what’s on our minds now.

— Pierre McGuire is consistently the most annoying man in sports broadcasting. At one point during Sunday’s game on NBC there seemed to be some promotion where you could log on to some website after the game and, if you could answer enough questions right about what Pierre said during the broadcast, you would get 20% off on purchases from the NHL store. Or something. We decided we’d rather pay 20% more for our purchases at the NHL store than listen to Pierre. We’re also convinced that Doc’s follow-up to reading the instructions for the contest — “So do your best impersonation of Nipper, the RCA dog, and keep your eyes pricked for your master’s voice!” — was the subtlest dig at Pierre yet. When does he get hit with another out-of-control puck?

— We’ve finally seen Getzi’s “The Cup changes everything” commercial, and we think it’s fantastic. He does such an hilariously wooden job of making sure to EMPHASIZE at least one WORD in every sentence. Pookie suggested after we collected ourselves, post-laughing fit, that Getzi is secretly a student of the Meisner Technique, and he spends his days driving his teammates nuts by saying, “OOPS, my shirt fell off” … “Oops, MY shirt fell off” … “Oops, my SHIRT fell off” …and so on.

— Last year we were quite fond of the spunky Penguins. This year we’ve hated them, despite our efforts to feel otherwise. That said, as soon as Sid is back in their lineup, we like them a lot more. So yeah, we’re fully putting forth that we are completely shallow, but you know what, Gentle Reader? We don’t care. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to say, like Geraldine, that no, we’re not sports fans. We’re man fans. Or, um, little wooden manboy fans.

— We’re fairly certain that when Scott Gomez burned every single bridge he’d built in his entire career to sign for zillions of dollars to be Mr. A-One Super-Duper Star in NYC, he didn’t think the Iso-Cams on NBC’s Game Of The Week would be Sid Crosby and… Sean Avery.

— Daryl Sydor? Surely he died in Vegas!

— Hollweg’s mustache and Jagr’s, um, whatever you call that thing on his chin (is it a chin version of a bikini wax?) would be vaguely acceptable as facial hair if they were combined. As it stands, they’re not sharing the same face, so they’re both atrocities.

— With each progressive commercial break on Versus, we’ve become increasingly convinced that we are not the demographic that the advertisers think we are. We also wonder if Versus never sent us our playoff tracker because they figured the address we’d provided for them was no longer valid because we’d moved into an old-folk’s home. An old-folk’s home with walk-in bathtubs. (Walk-in bathtubs! Will wonders never cease?)

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For as long as we can remember we’ve had one reliable Crazy Team, an organization we could count on to defy our every expectation of how wacked out they could possibly be. And that team, Gentle Reader, was the Philadelphia Flyers. When we wished on them a playoff failure, they’d go and top our wildest dreams by losing 8-0 on their own ice to significantly inferior teams. When we hoped to see a colossal collapse, they’d go out and have their goalie give up impossibly crazy goals, then skate toward his own bench while play was going on, screaming furiously in unintelligible Czech at his own teammates. When we prayed to the hockey gods that they’d reveal a tragicomic leadership void in that organization, we were treated to the Great Debacle of the 2000 Eastern Conference Final. But we’re wondering now, at the outset of this new season, if maybe the Flyers’ Reign of Crazy is coming to an end. Are we looking at the dawn of a new age of crazy?

See, here’s the thing: last season the Flyers peaked in Craziness. (Okay, that’s not entirely true. They peaked in the aforementioned Great Debacle, that was so debaclous that it was like a pandemic of debacling. But we digress.) They stunk up the Eastern Conference so badly at the start of the year that they broke their fans’ spirits, sent Peter Forsberg into a legacy-destroying tailspin, and finally, finally got Bobby Clarke fired. But then they quietly started acquiring decent players, installed a coach who seems to be a pretty good fit for those players, and became almost unrecognizable for how they went about their business like a team that has its head screwed on relatively straight. We realize it’s probably too much to expect a team that is no longer run by Bobby Clarke to be reliably Crazy, but we’re also curious about the way things played out on July 1. We think we may have seen a glimmer of the New Crazy. And that New Crazy is the New York Rangers.
(more…)

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