Tag:New York Rangers
Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 6:10 pm

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

DucheneBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the shootout success of the Colorado Avalanche and what it might mean for them going forward.

Thanks to a recent hot streak that's seen the team win nine of its past 11 games the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday in what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of those recent wins have come by way of the shootout, and for the season, Colorado has been the best team in the league in the tie-breaking skills competition, posting a perfect 7-0 record, after an impressive 6-1 performance a season ago.

They're relying heavily on the shootout, and that may not be a good thing for the team going forward.

Their 2010-11 performance in the shootout earned them absolutely nothing as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished with one of the worst records in the NHL. This season, for the short-term anyway, it's at least helping to keep them competitive for a while, and as one of only two teams in the league to still be perfect in the shootout (the other is Detroit -- which has only been involved in one shootout this season) those seven extra points have certainly helped.

For Colorado, its shootout success this season has a lot to do with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. During actual game play he's been terrible and currently owns a .900 save percentage, well below the league average. In shootouts, however, he's actually been one of the best goalies in the league and has stopped 17 of the 19 shots he's faced, winning every shootout he's been involved in. His individual performance in this area has improved in each of the past three seasons, and for his career owns one of the best all-time shootout save percentages in league shootout history (brief as it may be).

Meanwhile, forwards like Milan Hejduk, the currently injured Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have been their most called upon skaters and have managed to convert on 10 of their 17 chances, including five of the seven game-deciding goals.

Of course, the shootout still has its share of critics around the league, mainly among hockey purists, and the NHL has even taken steps to minimize the impact it has at the end of the season, as those wins no longer count when it comes to breaking ties for playoff spots. 

It's also worth pointing out that teams that rely heavily on the shootout during the regular season don't have much success in the postseason, for obvious reasons.

First, if your team is taking part in a lot of shootouts it probably means they're not pulling away from the opposition and find themselves in a lot of close games that can be decided with one bounce. And, even more importantly, there's no shootout in the playoffs, which means those teams will then have to rely on actual 5-on-5 hockey to win, and if they were successful in that area, they wouldn't have had to rely on so many shootouts over the course of the regular season.

Since the NHL added the shootout coming out of the lockout for the 2005-06 season, the average NHL team takes part in 10-12 shootouts per year, usually winning somewhere around five or six of them per season. Only once did the NHL average number of shootout wins drop below five in a season (4.76 per team in '05-06) and only once did it go above 6 (6.1 during the '09-10 season).

The Avalanche already have seven this season, and with half of the season still to go, it's a good bet they're probably going to win a few more.

How have teams that relied on shootout success done in the playoffs? Not well. Not well at all. Over the past six seasons 13 teams have won at least 10 shootouts in a single season, and here's what they did in the playoffs, assuming they qualified:

Teams with 10-or-more shootout wins in a season
Team Year Shootout Wins Playoff Success
Edmonton Oilers 2007-08 15 Did Not Qualify
Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10 14 Lost In First Round
Dallas Stars 2005-06 12 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 10 Did Not Qualify
Boston Bruins 2009-10 10 Lost In Second Round
New York Rangers 2008-09 10 Lost In Second Round
New Jersey Devils 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
Buffalo Sabres 2006-07 10 Lost In Conference Finals
Minnesota Wild 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
New York Rangers 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round

Only five made it past the first round of the playoffs, while only Buffalo during the 2006-07 season went as far as the Conference Finals.

Whether or not the Avalanche have to worry about that at the end of the season remains to be seen at this point. As a team they've been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play, mainly due to the struggles of Varlamov when he's not taking part in a shootout.

Right now they're relying almost exclusively on their power play (which is quite good) and their ability to scratch out extra points in a skills competition. How long can that reasonably be expected to continue?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 1:19 pm

Tortorella: I tainted the Classic with my mouth

By Brian Stubits

You knew it was only a matter of time before John Tortorella would apologize for his remarks regarding the officiating in the Winter Classic. Either that or face a fine (or both, which is still entirely possible).

Following the Rangers' 3-2 win at Citizen's Bank Park, Tortorella was asked about the officiating at the end of the game. He went on to joke -- at least that was my impression there -- that NBC and the NHL were conspiring to take the game into overtime. He went on to call the officiating disgusting. Of course that perked some ears in the NHL offices.

Well on Wednesday Tortorella began the backtracking, explaining in his apology that he said his comments re: NBC were tongue-in-cheek but understands they might not have come across that way. Here is his apology from the Rangers' website.

"They were sarcastic comments by me at the wrong time, and it was frustration on my part, as far as the referees on my part and what was done at the end of the game," Tortorella explained. "Not for a second in no way, time, shape, or form did I think anything like that [fixing the game so that it goes to overtime] goes on within our league, or ever will."

Tortorella added that his comments regarding the referees meeting with NBC to conspire at having the Winter Classic go to overtime were completely "tongue-in-cheek." "For me to question the integrity of the league, the integrity of NBC, the integrity of [referees] Denny [LaRue] and Ian [Walsh], the Flyers, the Rangers, go right on through all the people here -- there's not a chance I am thinking that way," Tortorella continued. "It was wrong with my sarcasm and my frustration and I apologize to everyone involved.

"I tainted the Classic with my mouth," Tortorella said.

In his apology, Tortorella explained that he went so far as to call everybody he could think of to apologize to, including Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. Tortorella has apologized to just about everybody, except the referees who he did call good referees before criticizing them on Monday. He's saving those apologies for in-person.

I don't know Tortorella very well in the coach-reporter sense, but I've had the chance to be around him and see him in the locker room after a few recent games. He has a gruff exterior to be sure, but he has a sincerity to him. I respect the fact that he's taking his apology as far as he is, including apologizing to the officials in person.

With that said, you can't criticize league officials, jokingly or not. Behind every joke lies some truth, so they say. The over-the-top part about the conspiracy was obviously the joke, but his criticism of the officials still had some seriousness to it.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:39 pm

Leafs coach Wilson echoes Tortorella's remarks

By Brian Stubits

Even after his New York Rangers won the Winter Classic on Monday in Philadelphia, coach John Tortorella still had reason to complain. Let's just say he wasn't fond of the officiating that included a penalty shot being awarded to the Flyers with 19.6 seconds to go.

Asked after the game what his thoughts were about the calls at the end of the game, Torts didn't hold back. You can see it beginning at the 8:45 mark in the video below.

For the audio impaired, here's a refresher on what he said.

"I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game," Tortorella said afterward. "It started with the non-call on Gabby's [Marian Gaborik] walk, he gets pitch-forked in the stomach and then everything starts going against us.

"For two good referees, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they did want to get it to an overtime. I'm not sure if they have meetings about that or what. They're good guys, I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was disgusting."

Gary Bettman was on that same podium just a few minutes earlier. You know that caught the attention of the league offices and Torts could end up paying for what he said -- literally. That in spite of the fact that a lot of people would agree with Tortorella's view of the officiating. Including Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

"I kind of agreed with Torts at the end and his postgame comments," Wilson said on Tuesday. "I was wondering what the heck was going on."

Presumably, Wilson is just a neutral third party watching the game as an experienced hockey man making that observation. Of course, when you are a head coach, the expectations are different. If Tortorella is fined for his remarks, you might expect that Wilson will at least get a talking to that he shouldn't make such comments.

However they're only saying what a lot of people were thinking.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:33 pm

Flyers-Rangers give Winter Classic worst ratings

By Brian Stubits

The 2012 edition of the Winter Classic might have arguably been the best game, but it was the worst in another category: ratings.

The overnight rating for the game Monday between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers drew a 2.4 on NBC, down from last year's 2.8 and below the high in 2009 of 2.9 in the game between the Red Wings and Blackhawks at Wrigley Field.

Looking at the overnight ratings (from Sports Business Journal) in the two participating cities -- Philadelphia and New York -- Philly had a very solid 11.9 while New York produced just a 4.3. Steve Lepore of Puck the Media points out that's well below what the Knicks drew for their Christmas game against the Celtics, a 7.2.

Time for the question that everybody is thinking ... is this a sign that the novelty is wearing off? Too soon to tell, honestly. This game had some differences from years past, the primary one is the fact that it was played on Jan. 2 instead of New Year's Day. Blame the NFL for that one.

Another factor that some are citing is the fact that the start of the game was delayed two hours, beginning at 3 ET instead of 1 p.m. I don't buy that as a good explanation. Last year's game between the Penguins and Capitals was pushed back until 7 p.m. ET and it drew a 2.8. A later start presumably means that you have a chance for more viewers on the West Coast, no? But to be fair, 3 p.m. isn't prime time like last year was.

But to keep things in perspective, it wasn't a massive drop. A 2.4 rating is still going to beat any other hockey broadcast during the regular season. In that sense it's still a very good number of viewers. But as an NHL fan, I'm greedy. I want to see these numbers continue to climb. At the very least, I hope that it causes the rest of the national broadcasts to see jumps in their numbers in the windfall of a very good Winter Classic.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:43 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:49 pm

Classic ends in penalty shot; Torts rips refs

By Brian Stubits

PHILADELPHIA -- For the first 35 or so minutes, the fifth edition of the Winter Classic was on its way to being the most forgettable. By the end, it was one of the most memorable. And it was a Henrik Lundqvist save away from being the most controversial.

With 19.6 seconds left and a mad scramble in front of the Rangers net, the play was blown dead. What came next was a penalty shot from Danny Briere, the Flyers trailing 3-2, the result of Ryan McDonagh covering the puck in the crease according to the officials.

It was the most dramatic moment in a Winter Classic to date.

"It was just a big scramble in the end they started to get pucks in front," Lundqvist said. "I didn't really see the puck I just stretched out my right leg and tried to stay on the post there and then I hear the whistle and then I hear the ref 'penalty shot.' I couldn't believe it."

Not surprisingly, neither could Rangers coach John Tortorella. "The penalty shot, I still don't understand."

The fans came to their feet when Briere circled in his own of the ice, getting ready for the chance to tie the game. Briere got the call instead of Claude Giroux, tied for the NHL's league lead in points after his beautiful backhand goal earlier in the game.

"We had a choice between the guys that were on the ice," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "It comes down to really between Danny and Claude, they're both regulars in the shootout. I think Danny, being a natural goal scorer, thrives in that area a little bit more. It was my decision."

So Briere came down deliberately, eventually firing the shot at Lundqvist's five hole. Denied.

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"I just tried to be patient and do my thing," Lundqvist said. "He's a tricky guy. If I make the first move he's going to score. Obviously there's a lot of pressure on me there. I couldn't believe when he called it a penalty shot but it was exciting. The whole game was exciting. The end was pretty intense but it was great."

It was definitely intense. The Rangers had to find every bit of strength to hold off a massive Flyers push to close the game that was aided by some penalties, ones that Tortorella wondered about after the game. For as forthright as Lundqvist was admitting to his surprise, Tortorella was as subtle as an elephant walking across down the street.

"I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game," Tortorella said afterward. "It started with the non-call on Gabby's [Marian Gaborik] walk, he gets pitch-forked in the stomach and then everything starts going against us.

"For two good referees, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they did want to get it to an overtime. I'm not sure if they have meetings about that or what. They're good guys, I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was disgusting."

One of those calls that didn't go their way was against Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. He was advancing up the left wing with about a minute to go, hunting an empty-net goal to end the suspense. He was taken down by Kimmo Timonen. Instead of a goal for the Rangers, Callahan was called for holding the stick to match Timonen's interference.

"Apparently I was holding his stick," a bewildered Callahan said after the game. "The stick was up by my chin. It was a tough one."

As a result Callahan, one of the Rangers' best shot-blockers, was left to watch that dramatic sequence from the penalty box.

"I was in the box but from what I saw it looked like Richards was pushing the puck out of the crease," Callahan said. "Hankie then comes up with a huge save to win it for us."

It was a huge save that likely saved the Winter Classic conspiracy talk from being at a fever pitch. What Tortorella said was a bit tongue in cheek -- I think -- but there would have been a lot more of the same cries coming from outside.

It certainly made for one memorable finish, that much can't be disputed.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:21 pm

Bobrovsky, Flyers can't hold off Rangers

By: Adam Gretz

PHILADELPHIA -- You can't blame Flyers coach Peter Laviolette for starting Sergei Bobrovsky in net for the 2012 Winter Classic.

The team's regular starter -- and highest paid player -- Ilya Bryzgalov is currently fighting through a brutal slump and sits near the bottom of the NHL in most goaltending categories, while Bobrovsky has played extremely well in recent games, including the Flyers' past two wins on the road in Dallas and Pittsburgh. Laviolette was basically playing the hot hand, and at the moment, his best goalie.

Still, the decision was one of the biggest talking points heading into Monday afternoon's game, and for the first two periods it was looking as if his decision was a wise one. Not only because Bobrovsky was once again playing well, but also because it didn't really matter which goalie the Flyers had in net as the Rangers struggled to generate any sustained offensive zone pressure or scoring chances.

Through 40 minutes of play many of the Rangers' shots were simply weak wrist shots from out near the blue line that were easily turned aside or gloved out of the air. Even the Rangers' first goal, the first one of the day that went to forward Mike Rupp, wasn't entirely Bobrovsky's fault as the puck was deflected between the circles off the stick of Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros.

And then early in the third period everything started to shift in the Rangers' direction, and it all began with Rupp's second goal, a bad angle shot that somehow found a way to sneak in behind Bobrovsky. It was a bad goal, and in the end, it proved to be a costly one.

"It was tough," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "I thought he played a strong game, and certainly he'd probably like to have another crack at that one. He seems to be confident in there. I think it did set us back for a little bit there, and the third one to go ahead on the backdoor rebound. It was tough for our team for a five-minute stretch there, and then we seemed to get back going there at the end of the game but it was hard to get through, with the ice the way it was and they were just dumping it behind us and playing defense in front of us, and it was tough to get back through the neutral zone and get back to generating the offense we did in the first two periods."
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Along with jumping out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, thanks to goals from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux, a breakthrough on the scoreboard that seemed to validate their early dominatino of the puck possession game, the Flyers held a commanding 26-16 edge in the shots department heading into the third period. But that advantage was quickly erased over the final 20 minutes as the Rangers started to pour it on offensively while also preventing the Flyers from entering their zone and creating the type of chances they were getting with regularity over the first two periods.

"It seemed after they got up a goal, maybe five, six, seven minutes into the third period they got pucks redirected down into our end and we found ourselves breaking out a lot and I thought maybe we got a little bit spread out and couldn't generate anything. It didn't seem like we could get the puck in, I don't know about the forecheck but it seemed like we had trouble getting through the neutral zone based on the way they were putting the puck behind us."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:17 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 10:11 pm

Jagr talks injury, Rupp salute

By: Adam Gretz

PHILADELPHIA -- Jaromir Jagr played just seven minutes during the Flyers' 3-2 loss to New York in the Winter Classic on Monday evening, leaving the game with a left leg injury.

He was seen leaving the ice late in the first period to head to the locker room with what was originally described as an equipment issue. But when he left the game for good after just two shifts in the second period it was obvious that it was something related to an injury.

When asked after the game if it was an old injury Jagr simply said, "I got speared last game and there was swelling in that muscle. Maybe because it was too cold and we couldn't heat it."
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He would only say that the injury was to his left leg and would not specify where, exactly, the injury was bothering him. He also said that he knew immediately after his second shift in the second period that he wouldn't be able to return to the game, and even though he never took another shift, he remained on the bench the remainder of the game and even hinted that he might have had an opportunity to play in the third period if the Flyers would have had a two-man advantage.

"I like my teammates and wanted to part of that," said Jagr of his decision to return to the bench. "I knew it wasn't going to get any worse if I sit on the bench, and I want to be part of that. I'm part of the team and to sit here I would watch it on TV anyway. That way I was close, and you never know, maybe there would be a power play or a 5-on-3 and coach would put me back in there."

Jagr said he didn't think the injury was serious and that he "should be back soon."

Even though he never returned to the game, or factored into the goal scoring during his limited time on the ice, his presence was still felt in some small way as Rangers forward Mike Rupp celebrated the first of his two goals by saluting the crowd at Citizens Bank Park, a celebration that Jagr has been doing after every goal he scores throughout his NHL career (including in his first return to Pittsburgh as a member of the Flyers last week).

"I don't really pay attention to that stuff," said Jagr when asked about his reaction to Rupp's celebration. "He decided to do it, and he scored, and it was a good goal, too.

He then paused for a moment and smiled, "We still got to play them three more times and I think I'm going to score and salute him back."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 6:02 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:51 pm

Rupp turns tide for Rangers' Winter Classic win

By Brian Stubits

PHILADELPHIA -- You always hear about how important the next minute after a goal is. The game can flip like a switch in a heartbeat. One second a team is celebrating their goal, the next they're reminded to get back in the game.

That's how the 2012 Winter Classic flipped and how the Rangers came away with the win. For the first 35 minutes or so it was all Flyers. They had the chances, they had the possession and they had the lead.

The Rangers have guys who can do that. Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards ... they both come to mind. Mike Rupp can flip momentum in a game too, but that's usually by dropping his gloves, not by dropping pucks in the other team's net.

It was Rupp's goal just 49 seconds after Matt Carle gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 2-0 lead in their (neighbor's) house. That's when the Rangers finally seem to find their footing on the patchwork outdoor ice of Citizen's Bank Park, just shy of 38 minutes into the game. Or maybe it was his Jaromir Jagr salute after the goal that juiced up the Rangers. Either way, they had life.

"The crowd's going, you're down 2-0," Rupp said after the game while sporting the Broadway Hat, the Rangers' victory token this season. "Any game that you get that next shift -- there's times where you're looking to maybe pick a fight, you're trying to get a big hit, you're trying to play in their zone -- just to change the tide a little bit. I think a goal is the best way you can but it's just trying to throw things at net and keep it simple."

That's a good way to describe it, it was simple. It wasn't a thing of beauty -- nothing that's going to make Rupp look like the scorer that he isn't -- just a wrister from the slot with a defenseman trying to close the shooting lane.

"It was a key moment of the game because they had all the momentum on their side," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Again, the game is a series of momentums, how quickly you get it back vs. losing it. We go down 3-0 that's tough sledding, as far as trying to come back there. We end up scoring the next goal right there and it puts you right back in."

As for that salute? Well at first Rupp didn't want to talk about it, pulling a Peter Laviolette and saying "I don't know what you're talking about" with a smirk. But it happened, and he knew it.

"No pre-thoughts, just kind of excited in the moment," Rupp said.

The Flyers and Scott Hartnell sure seemed to notice it as he appeared to be chirping at Rupp before the third period. You were thinking that's how Rupp affects a game for the better for his team, with a little tangle, not a stick and dangle.

"He [Hartnell] just wished me a happy new year and I did the same," Rupp said, leaving what's said on the ice to stay on the ice. "So, hopefully he has a good year and he wished me the same."

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Good thing for the Rangers that didn't result in a fight. It was within the next few minutes -- when Rupp would have still been serving a five-minute major if he did fight -- that he struck again.

It was Rupp again that tied things up and took us back to square one, before the lights were making an impact on the ice. His high, short-side goal somehow leaked by Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

From there it was all Rangers, save for the final two-minute flurry from the Flyers after the flurries had finished falling at Citizen's Bank Park.

"We've been a good third period team all year long," Tortorella said. "We just wanted to just try to get pucks to the net and grind away. I thought we really started grinding -- and really in the conditions that's the only way you're going to be able to play. It suited well for us. I don't think we did a good job in the first half but I think we found ourselves as it went on."

As big as that first goal for Rupp was, the key to this game for New York might well have been the first period. The ice was tilted -- against the wind, mind you -- in favor of the Flyers. They dominated play. It was all Philly. Still, the Rangers took the long walk back to the clubhouse through the third base dugout at a 0-0 tie. The Flyers had some very good chances to notch the first goal then but couldn't get it in.

That won't be as obvious of a key to victory as Rupp's two goals, but it certainly was.

"Early on in the first period there a couple breakaways, some breakdowns, he makes the saves there," Tortorella said. "He was put right on the center stage there and answered."

Lundqvist is used to center stage. He owns center stage. But Rupp? It's not often he gets to have the leading role. That would explain his humility with the Broadway Hat on. Either that or he was really humiliated. Artem Anisimov interrupted his interview after the game and asked 'Why they give you Broadway Hat?"

"Just wanted to see how dumb I look because it doesn't fit," Rupp responded. "Good question."

It might have looked dumb, but it had to feel great. The whole thing had to feel great, really. From playing in the Winter Classic again and getting the snow he wished for last year -- albeit briefly -- to scoring two goals, his first two since returning from injury.

"It was a great experience again and it feels good to win this time," Rupp said, referring to last year's Winter Classic loss while a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I just got to shoot the puck twice and fortunately it went in.

"You want to contribute; I was able to tonight so it felt good."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com