Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts on Championship Sunday and BELIEVE in the New York Rangers.

Green Bay 21, Chicago 14.

- STOP!!! Stop hating on Jay Cutler!

I couldn't believe the amount of NFL players outraged over Jay Cutler not returning to the NFC title game after ripping apart his MCL. All of this anti-Cutler backlash is not about a football player not playing an enormous game hurt. It is an opportunity for those that dislike Cutler to jump all over him. Let me ask a question to these players: did you see the way Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey's ankle was injured in the AFC title game? Where's the backlash over him not playing on one leg. Also, Hines Ward, one the toughest, most hard-nosed players in the NFL injured his knee in the '09 title game and stood on the sideline the remainder of the game. Where was the backlash then? I rest my case.

-Aaron Rodgers' tackle on Brian Urlacher saved the game for the Packers.

By far the most important play of the game. If Urlacher goes all the way, it's very possible the Bears win that game. Other than the first drive of the game, Rodgers did nothing the rest of the game offensively.

-If that score had happened, Caleb Haney (who?) would have won the NFC title for Chicago.

Give the kid props. He overcame some early jitters to make some key plays in the fourth quarter, including two TD passes, to keep the game interesting. He may have earned a 2nd-string job somewhere next year.

-The Steelers should take notice on how the Bears' D flustered Aaron Rodgers.

In the Week 17 game at Lambeau and the NFC title game, Rodgers was clearly not at his best. The Steelers shoulds study game tape of both games to see how the Bears' D confused him all day long.

Pittsburgh 24, NY Jets 19.

-The Steelers are lucky they didn't complete one of the worst choke jobs in playoff history.

If not for a couple of key Ben Roethlisberger passes, and a major goal line stand in the 4th quarter, chances are we may be seeing the Jets in Dallas, and not Pittsburgh. The Steelers did NOT bring their A-game in the 2nd half. It was almost as if they were counting down the minutes instead of playing football. If they want to beat Green Bay on Feb. 6 in Dallas, they must play a FULL 60 minutes, not 30-35.

-On 4th and goal during that goal line stand, why are the Jets running an old, beat up LaDainian Tomlinson instead of the bigger and more athletic Shonn Greene or even a quarterback sneak from Mark Sanchez? I personally did not have a problem with the passes on 2nd and 3rd down; they just simply weren't executed.

-Give Mark Sanchez credit for not letting his team quit after getting down 24-3. If the second half of this game and the Patriot game are any indication, the Jet franchise is in good hands with Sanchez for the next decade. He will be better next year.

-Big Ben does not need the gaudy stats as long as he makes the big plays and show the heart of a lion.

He threw two interceptions (and should have thrown at least 4 or 5) and no TD passes. But he made many key 3rd down rushes and completed two key passes to Heath Miller and Antonio Brown on 3rd down to ice the game for the Steelers in the final minutes. He may not be glamorous, but Roethlisberger simply knows how to win.

****Full Super Bowl Preview next week!!!****

Believe in the 2010-11 New York Rangers.

I don't want to jinx anything, but this New York Rangers team is capable of something special this year. Disclaimer: I am NOT guaranteeing a Stanley Cup or even a finals apperance, but don't be surprised if either happen. Here's why:

1. This team's blue-collar work ethic is putting the league on it's toes. Their games may not always be pretty, but they will play 60 hard minutes night in and night out, and every single man in the lineup contributes, whether on the score sheet or on the intangible side. You want the greatest example? The team's leading goal scorer is Brian Boyle, a career 4th liner, with 18. He hadn't scored more than 10 in a season ever before.

2. They have proved they can beat the elite. A 1-0 grindfest against Vancouver. A 7-0 home win against Ovechkin and the Capitals, plus a 2-1 shootout win in D.C. last night. Two wins against Pittsburgh on the road, with Sidney Crosby in the lineup both times. They are capable of beating anyone at any time.

3. Martin Biron has been excellent as Henrik Lundqvist's backup. Ranger fans no longer have to cringe when King Henrik doesn't play. Biron has played like a #1 on most nights that he gives Hank a rest. This will benefit him greatly come playoff time.

4. No Ranger fan wants to admit it, but give Glen Sather credit for stocking a very, very deep farm system. This is something this franchise has never had. Interchangeable parts coming to and from Hartford to fill in for injured veterans. More than half the lineup is homegrown, and more potential stars are waiting in the wings. Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan make up a core of hard-working, blue collar players that will guide the Blueshirts through the next decade. Others include Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, and Artem Anisimov. This season alone, the majority of the Rangers' top prospects have tasted NHL Life: Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, and Evgeny Grachev. Stepan and Zuccarello are now major components of this unit. More, such as Chris Kreider, are on the way soon. Also, give Sather credit for ridding the Rangers of some horrible contracts, such as Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, and now Michal Roszival. The only bad one remaining is Chris Drury.

5. That all being said, they need more consistent play from their best player, Marian Gaborik. A 4-goal game to break out of a slump is nice, but a goal per game for Gabby will catapult this team to the next level. Come playoff time, him and Lundqvist will have to be on their A game.

6. If this team is fully healthy come playoff time, they will be scary. Look at all their injured players. Ryan Callahan has missed a month and a half. Brandon Dubinsky is likely out until Mid-February. Vinny Prospal hasn't played a game yet. Marian Gaborik missed a month. Chris Drury nearly missed two. Erik Christensen has been out a long time. Ruslan Fedotenko is hurt. Alex Frolov is out for the season. Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust are banged up. Despite all that, the Rangers are on the verge of 30 wins before the All-Star break. They didn't reach their 30th win of last season until March 12. And they finished one point out of a playoff spot. Believe, Ranger fans. Believe. It's going to be a fun second half and playoff run.

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