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Bluelines: With Goalie Power Off, the Rangers Are Doomed

Stan Fischler talks about why the Rangers need a better backup goaltender, shares a chat with John Forslund, praises Jake Oettinger's play, receives a scouting report on the Colorado Avalanche and much, much, much more.
Alexandar Georgiev

Goalie Power wins Cups.

Turk Broda did it for the Maple Leafs in the late 1940s.

Glenn Hall did it for Chicago in 1961.

And Johnny Bower followed Hall for four more Toronto Cups in the 1960s.

In Rangerville, the thinking has been -- for more than half a season, mind you -- that Igor Shesterkin could do a Broda-Hall-Bower imitation.

Iggie's goal had been so hermetically sealed that he was projected to win the Hart Trophy and maybe a Vezina and maybe even a Cup. And all because of New York's Goalie Power.

Trouble is that someone recently shut off the power. Or, to put it another way, there was another Rangers goalie being paid big bucks to keep the power on while Iggie rested his weary bones. That other fella is named Alexandar Georgiev.

You may remember him from the off-ice spat last year that resulted in current Norris Trophy candidate -- Canes ace D-man -- Tony DeAngelo getting the eventual heave off Seventh Avenue.

To say that Georgiev has turned into a netminding disaster this term might be the understatement of Winter. Which means that coach Gerard Gallant has been forced to play Shesty more than he'd like and more than Iggie's body can take.

This was evident last night in St.Louis. Shesterkin started and relinquished four goals on 17 shots. Gallant yanked him 15 seconds into the second period and gave Georgie Boy another audition.

Not too good; two more goals went into the Rangers net. Final score: 6-2, St.Louis.

When it was over I received a swift note from my buddy Sean Mccaffrey. He's written an excellent Rangers book and does a juicy, independent Blueshirt website.

"I think we've seen Georgiev's last game," Sean buzzed.

Frankly, that wouldn't be such a bad thing, provided that GM Chris Drury can find an adequate backup. That way Shesterkin can get some relief and regain the Goalie Power he'd been demonstrating through three-quarters of the season.

Without Iggy in mint condition, a Stanley Cup parade down Broadway will be out of the question.

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ANOTHER PESSIMISTIC RANGERS REVIEW

Rangers author George Grimm ("We Did Everything But Win") agrees with me. "The Rangers have weaknesses," he insists. "They rarely dominate a game for the full 60 minutes and have trouble scoring 5-on-5. Plus, so many of their victories have been 'stolen' by Shesterkin. He will be able to get away with that in the regular season but not in the playoffs."

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HO-HO-HO HO-SANG

Here's the update on the gifted Josh Ho-Sang who's still looking for a big-league break. According to Toronto correspondent, Rob Del Mundo, the erratic Ho-Sang had a good Olympics run with Team Canada while playing fourth-line minutes. Now he's back with the AHL Marlies.

"His age and career NHL games played means that he needs waivers to be returned to the AHL. It's all but certain he won't be signed in the NHL this season," Del Mundo reports.

"The waiver provision won't be in effect next year and the Leafs would still be considered front-runners for his services. If not Toronto, then Arizona or Seattle -- teams with money to spend and in need of goals -- would be a good fit.'

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EXCLUSIVE: THE SCOUT'S REPORT – COLORADO MELTING?

In every issue, Bluelines and The Fischler Report will bring you a special, in-depth report by David Kolb, whose scouting career dates back to the early 2000s working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As you will see by the following, this is an in-depth, no-nonsense evaluation of specific tactical success.

After amassing a ridiculous number of points in the standings, the Colorado Avalanche seemed to be cruising to the top spot finish in the West, and viewed as favorites to get to, and win the Stanley Cup.

Yet over the past five games, the Avs are quietly 1-3-1 and flaws have emerged. Most notably, their bottom-six forwards, who are not producing the secondary points needed to win in June. The second issue is their hot and cold in-game ups and downs.

The top two forward lines along with backliners, Cale Makar, Devon Toews and Sam Girard (injured) are breathtaking to watch. The speed, skill and cohesiveness they possess is like nothing I’ve seen before. However, when I look at a team, I’m always thinking, what can this team do during the playoffs?

Secondary scoring is a big part of playoff runs and right now Colorado is getting little offensively from its depth players. Over the past five games, their bottom-six forwards have contributed one goal, and their bottom four defensemen – none.

With their torrid start, and still in possession of a double-digit lead in the West, the Avalanche now carry a target each game. Teams are ready to play – every night. And when the focus is to shut down the top two lines, the bottom two must help out on the scoreboard.

Last night, the Hurricanes played brilliantly defensively, not allowing the odd-man rushes usually squandered to the lightning-fast Avalanche. Impressively, Hurricanes defensemen, Brett Pesce, Jacob Slavin and Brady Skjei were brilliant, each playing over 20 minutes and combined for nine important blocked shots.

The tone for the game was set early in the first period when the ‘Canes held a 10-1 lead in shots, only seven minutes in. Their offense served as their best defense, making sure MacKinnon and Co. weren’t going to “go-to-work” in the Carolina end early on.

The Mile-High top-dogs stepped it up from there, and were limited, but not completely stopped, and at times the uber-skilled Avs did their thing, remarkably ending the game only one shot behind the Hurricanes -- finishing with 36 shots, yet losing 2-0. Again, help didn’t come from the third and fourth liners.

Looking great at times during games and then having mental lapses is also a developing trend for Colorado. Against the Islanders on Monday they owned a 5-1 lead in the third period, before New York made a game of it late, closing out the game, 5-4. The next night in New Jersey, 25:52 into the game, they were dominating, winning 3-0. Then the Devils scored five straight goals, notching a 5-3 win.

Consistency, health, team defense and four lines that can contribute are primary ingredients for the NHL’s postseason. Right now, the Avalanche are just a bit off, and more is needed to win a Cup.

Frustration is starting to grow – and it showed last night when captain Gabriel Landeskog was given a 10-minute misconduct with 52-seconds left in the game, for complaining too harshly to referee, T.J. Luxmore. Then uncharacteristically No. 92 vented to the media post-game.

But it’s only early March and the trade deadline hasn't been crossed yet. I have confidence GM Joe Sakic has time to address the emerging depth woes. The downward Avalanche trend however is certainly something that bears watching. 

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I'M JUST SAYIN':

* Itinerant goalie Craig Anderson's 300 wins are a lot more impressive than the mere math. He's rarely had a strong club in front of him.

* A healthy Andy can be a backup for any contender. As Craig says, "My game is to help the young guys not fall back a few steps."

* Andy's one-time goalie coach Pierre Giroux said it best about Craig's asset: "His ability to read a game always was second to none."

* Tyler Toffoli's nickname should be "Mr. Consistency.". He's scored for every team he's played on and has been doing it lately for Calgary.

* With Dougie Hamilton back in the Devils lineup, the club looks 50 percent better.

* Kidding aside, a full season out of Hamilton would turn New Jersey into a playoff team.

* Now all maestro Tom Fitzgerald has to do is find a genuine Number One goalie for next season. It also would help if he Dougie stays healthy.

* As wise as ever, Jaromir Jagr points out why Al Ovechkin can continue to dominate. "Because," Jagr insists, "nobody is as strong as Ovie."

* Marc-Andre Fleury's saying he wants to remain in Chi should be a reminder to other Hawks that 2022-23 can be a playoff year in the Windy City.

* Speaking of playoffs, the (Junior) WHL's homestretch run is hugely exciting this year en route to the Memorial Cup.

* Full Disclosure: I'm rooting for the Winterhawks because my Portland hockey roots go deep.

* There's a ton of candidates for the Adams (Best Coach Of The Year) Award. Try Rod Brind'Amour, Gerard Gallant, Cousin Brucie Boudreau and, if it's not too late, Marty St.Louis.

* Arizona fans can only ask why it's taken the Yotes so long to wail for attention. Consecutive wins over Colorado, Ottawa and Detroit provided a wake-up call to NHL foes.

* Granted that The Sons Of Glendale don't have an imposing, pure Arizonan -- like Auston Matthews -- in their lineup but Nick Schmaltz, the pride of Madison, Wisconsin, is fast becoming a reasonable facsimile thereof.

* Schmaltz's superior play poses a question for GM Bill Armstrong; whether or not to trade Nick The Quick. (I'd keep him as part of the new foundation.)

*Does it surprise you that Forbes, the money magazine, has the Stars valued at $1 Billion and the Avalanche at $750,000? (Does me.)

* I didn't think the Red Wings scene required any special watching. That is until I read Adam Proteau's compelling piece here in THN the other day about the tumult in Hockeytown.

* The way Adam sees it Detroit's 9-2 loss to Arizona was a "Coach-Killer." We shall see if Steve Yzerman agrees. (I dunno.)

* Then, I read NHL.com's Dan Rosen calling the Wings and Devils teams of the future and eventual Cup contenders.

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DON'T FORSAKE JAKE: It seems as if the goaltending garage always has room for one more prize. As far as the Stars are concerned, Jake Oettinger has made life easier for Dallas coach Rick Bowness. While Braden Holtby had been the assumed numero uno between Big D's' pipes, Jake The Rake has come on strong as heir apparent.

Since being elevated from the AHL in November, the Lakeville, Minnesota product has produced positively outstanding numbers.

Our man about goal creases, Alan (Himself) Greenberg, sees Oettinger's stellar work possibly forcing trades.

"Jake's hot play raises the possibility of Holtby being expendable before the trade deadline," Big Al opines. "If that happens Anton Khudobin will return from the AHL.

"Whether it's Holtby or Khudobin as backup, the Stars now look on Oettinger to help them secure a playoff spot. in the very tight Western Conference."

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BROADCASTER JOHN FORSLUND'S VIEW FROM THE BOOTH

(Celebrating his 30th anniversary broadcasting NHL games, John Forslund's granted us an exclusive interview with Blueline's Glenn Dreyfuss. In this first part of a four-part series, the Kraken's play-by-play man examines GM Ron Francis' game plan for Seattle's new major league team. Take it away, John:

"Ron Francis always had an introspective way of looking at the game. On the ice, he was highly intelligent, aware of everything within the contest and how the game operated. Funny thing, when we were together in Raleigh, one day he got on the team bus and pointed to the first set of seats behind the driver. 'Someday,' he said, 'that (the GM's seat) will be my seat.'

"He always had a desire to stay in the game and he did his diligence; from scouting and eventually becoming an assistant coach under Paul Maurice. He did all the necessary things -- from the ground up -- to learn about the hockey business.

"As for the Kraken and his stewardship of the team, start with the fact that everyone expected Seattle to perform at a high level right away or, at least, be around the cut line of the playoffs. Well, it hasn't happened for a variety of reasons.

"That said, it will give Ron an opportunity to sift through the pieces he wants to keep and try to acquire as many assets as possible moving forward. I saw him do that in Carolina and he was very good at it, The cupboard was pretty bare in Raleigh when he took over

"He figured that drafting and developing was the only ways to get it done; and the proof is in the pudding. He's laid the foundation for what they've been able to execute now and you can see how great that Hurricanes team has become."

(NEXT ISSUE: Forslung tells a story about his encounter -- as a youngster in Springfield, Mass.-- with tough-as-nails Hall of Fame defenseman and later club owner, Eddie Shore. Cute story.)

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WHO SAID IT? "That's not me. I must have entered someone else's body." (Answer below.)

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THE OILERS WATCH:

Everyone in Edmonton Village is wondering whether residual coach Jay Woodcroft can avoid the horror of a playoff miss. His daily dilemma goes like this: "Should I keep King Connor on a line with Leon The Lion or not?" I say it doesn't matter. Really it's all a physical thing. Can McDavid carry this team to the postseason on his broad shoulders? On Wednesday night he showed how he could with the OT winner over Washington. Connor's issue is whether his shoulders can last through April because the Oilers simply don't have enough quality players to support him.

LOOKING BACKWARD: STEVE BAKER ON 80-81 RANGERS

Our roving historian Joltin' Joe Dionisio tells about the goalie who backstopped his favorite Rangers team -- the 1980-81 Blueshirts:

"Steve Baker led Craig Patrick's team to not one but two stellar upsets. Amid the glorious 1 vs. 16 postseason format, the Rangers upended the #5 seeded Kings with one of the most penalty-ridden affairs in league annals.

"Baker then outdueled Mike Liut, the NHL's Hart Trophy runner-up, to

Wayne Gretzky and the Blues -- the NHL's #2 seed -- in another huge upset. The New York-St.Louis series also had a landmark moment: It featured only the second playoff penalty shot goal in league history. Liut was beaten five-hole by Swedish ace Anders Hedberg!

"After that, the Islandeers spanked their Manhattan rivals into submission with a four-game sweep. It ended Steve Baker's dream run; much as the mighty Isles did to Steve Penney and the Canadiens."

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VANCOUVER INVADES MANHATTAN -- THE NEW BEER-LEAGUERS PUB

There are enough Canadians in New York City who love hockey to make a new stick handlers tavern a going concern. The trick here is that if you want to watch, say, Winnipeg at Calgary on tv, only one Gotham bar will show it.

For that, we thank a former hockey pro named Denis Ladouceur. His inspiration germinated one night when he could not find a Big Apple bar featuring hockey games on its big screen.

This sad fact of life so offended Ladouceur that he decided to do something about it. And that explains why "The Canuck" exists; the hockey bar of all hockey bars.

Within walking distance of Madison Square Garden -- Ninth Avenue and 23d Street -- "The Canuck" already has caused a stir, not to mention a lengthy article in The Athletic by Kevin Kurz.

Ladouceur told Kurz that his new hockey bar is his dream come true; and he'd been fantasizing about it for a long time.

"I thought that New York City should have one," Denis explained.

Well since it has just about everything else -- including three Met Area hockey teams -- Ladouceur has stocked the most obvious Canadian items from Miolson's nectar to assorted flavored poutine, a French-Canadian taste-tempter.

With the playoffs just ahead and a thrilling homestretch upon us, "The Canuck" figures to be as big a hit as the Blueshirted team situated only ten blocks away.

"To see hockey at other bars in the city," Ladouceur told Kurz, "just doesn't happen."

That's why he can't wait for Toronto to meet one of those Florida teams in the opening round. Who knows maybe Connor McDavid will show up for a brew or two -- assuming his guys don't make it!

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Low-scoring Vancouver defenseman Harold Snepsts after getting two assists in a game.

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