Henrik Lundqvist

Prized Rangers’ prospect and junior Team USA captain Derek Stepan (above).

“His (Stepan’s) passing is all really top-end — under sticks and between skates to hit the right man that’s open all the time,” said Clark. “Everybody is watching the game, but Derek sees way more than all of us that are watching. Before he even gets the puck, he’s got a guy that he’s going to.”


Gordie Clark, author of the above quote and Director of Player Personnel for theNew York Rangers, obviously thinks very highly of Derek Stepan.  And so do we.  Clark has almost singlehandedly revamped the Rangers’ organization in a novel way for the Blueshirts–through the draft.  To be perfectly honest, we weren’t big on Stepan’s selection in 2008 when Clark grabbed the Minnesota native at # 51 overall.  A goofy looking kid still, Stepan was made to look all the more goofy back at the draft with low grade videos of the kid tap dancing, of all things.  I took a look, cringed, and thought, not NHL material.

Though NHL material is exactly what he is.  Stepan, out of Shattuck St. Mary’s–like Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise, went on to star in his 2 year stint at the University of Wisconsin, and last year, led junior Team USA to a gold as captain.  He will wear # 21 when the Rangers open their season tonight in Buffalo, and will center blue chip instigator Sean Avery and a big, hungry RW in Ruslan Fedotenko–more new blood for the Rangers and a Stanley Cup champion.

Fedotenko may be big, but if he were dropped to the 4th line, he’d be relatively small on the right of 6’7 Brian Boyle and 6’8 Derek Boogard.  Boogard is more new blood for this team, and comes in with a reputation as one of the most fierce enforcers in the game.  But he can’t play hockey right?  His zero regular season goals might suggest that to some, but Boogard is here to fight and to play.  When asked about his career long stay on the snide Boogard said he was looking to score in Buffalo Saturday night.  We like his attitude and absolutely love his fists.  And then there’s Brandon Prust, albeit a middle weight, but one who led the league in fighting majors.

A fighting team doesn’t necessarily win, but a winning team usually fights, figuratively and literally.  The biggest move the Rangers made to stamp out complacency on the team, by far, was by waiving D Wade Redden, the $ 39 M man who showed zero fight when he was in NY, who took the money and ran.  In his place this year will be big young defenseman Michael Sauer, who Rangers fans have been waiting for, and who most importantly, earned his way and wants to be here. 

This year?  It seems they all want to be here, and some might be extra motivated by being in contract years, like Callahan and Dubinsky–two of the league’s finer young American forwards.  Callahan grabbed a silver in Vancouver last winter, and we think that Dubinsky will be featured in a prominent role on the 2014 Olympic team.  As for this year, the Rangers are expecting big things from both, and from their young centerman, Artem Anisimov, the 6’4, 205 lbs. 22 year old, coming off an impressive rookie campaign. 

His countryman, Alexander Frolov, brought in to play with the Rangers’ most talented in-his-prime sniper/game changer, RW Marian Gaborik, perhaps ever.  Frolov, on a one year deal should flourish in New York, and needs to in order to secure a lucrative new contract.  Erik Christensen, a waiver claim from last season who played hard, and showed nice offensive skills, will be between the 2 Rangers big time wings. 

Coaching you ask?  Dumb-de-dumb-dumb.  We’ll say it.  We hate Tortorella.  For this team.  Did we love him in Tampa?  How could you not?  Winning the Stanley Cup from down 3 games to two, and needing a win on the road in Calgary to get back home for game 7, Tortorella gave his Bolts a stirring  speech during the pivotal intermission.  He told his troops that all the pressure was on them, that “the mayor of fucking Canada was in their locker room right now”–referring to the Canadian P.M.

Unfortunately for us, we think Torts might still believe Canada is governed by a mayor.  And we’ve come to see Tortorella in his time here as an ugly caricature–a screaming lunatic and a tyrant who, worse than that, does not hold all Rangers miscreants equally accountable.  This needs to be a kinder, gentler Tortorella, especially with our youth, and the coach must divorce himself of his awful habit of tethering guys to the bench. 

As for Henrik Lundqvist, we’ve saved the best for last.  The Swedish gold medal goalie who loves house music.  Is that king or god?  Neither, ’til he delivers the cup.  But he gets extra points for going to Pacha.  But Henrik?  Tiesto?  You can do better than trance, my man, but I’d even be willing to suffer Tiesto for a 2nd Stanley Cup in my lifetime.


Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Forget the mid first set call by Chair Pascal Maria (above) that he seemed to change in favor of Federer when the great man grumbled to Maria under his breath.  Ask anyone.  In tennis, you play the calls.  Once upon a time in the 2008 Open final, a green Andy Murray failed to put his arm up for a review on a ball that seemed clearly beyond the baseline, and went on to lose the game, the match, and to this day, the British heir apparent is still major-less. 

Back to Soderling, who we are not about to absolve for the beating he took last night on account of Pascal Maria being possibly intimidated by Federer.  The comprehensive, clinical beating doled out by Federer, who flashed perhaps his finest form since routing Murray in the Australian Open final almost 8 months ago, had to be a real treat for Federer fans nervous about Soderling’s prowess going into the match.  The trip to the woodshed that Federer took Soderling to on one of the windiest Open nights perhaps in the history of the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows did more to re-inforce Federer’s immense advantage he has when playing in Flushing, where he is now 46-1 in his last 47 matches.

And anyone going in thinking that Soderling would somehow be better equipped to deal with the wind than Federer, who ran his record in night matches on Ashe to a ridiculous 16-0 last night, wasn’t smoking the right stuff.  Federer, perhaps the greatest player since Rod Laver and definitely the best player since Pete Sampras, had such a great handle on the conditions that the fabulous announcing team of Patrick McEnroe, John McEnroe, and Pam Shriver could not help but marvel as they continually remarked on Federer’s greatness.  And every platitude fit Roger last night, who took the match over in the first set by serving so well with and against the wind, whereas the hard thumping Soderling who Johnny Mac billed as having perhaps more power than any other player he has ever seen, did not hit an ace until the 25th game of the match–a stunning reversal of fortune from the Federer-Soderling quarter-final at Roland Garros that broke Federer’s run of 23 straight major semi-final appearances.



Here are the match stats from last night’s bloodbath:

  Match Summary
     Soderling(SWE)   Federer(SUI)
  1st Serve %
54 of 93 = 58 %
58 of 91 = 64 %
  Double Faults
  Unforced Errors
  Winning % on 1st Serve
36 of 54 = 67 %
50 of 58 = 86 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve
20 of 39 = 51 %
15 of 33 = 45 %
  Receiving Points Won
26 of 91 = 29 %
37 of 93 = 40 %
  Break Point Conversions
2 of 6 = 33 %
5 of 6 = 83 %
  Net Approaches
9 of 17 = 53 %
6 of 15 = 40 %
  Total Points Won
  Fastest Serve Speed
136 MPH
129 MPH
  Average 1st Serve Speed
119 MPH
119 MPH
  Average 2nd Serve Speed
92 MPH
95 MPH


Soderling’s 16 winners and 2 aces, compared with Federer’s 36 winners and 18 aces go along way in explaining Roger’s total edge on points, 102-82.  John McEnroe, who was also in rare form, argued with little brother Patrick over why Soderling was serving so poorly, and insisted that Soderling was having trouble safe serving or as we tennis nerds like to call it, “spinning it in” over PMac’s objections that Soderling was going for too much on his serve.  The average first serve speed of Soderling (119 MPH) would seem to support Johnny Mac, as Soderling usually averages in the high 120’s on first balls.

John McEnroe also classicly trashed the New York Rangers at one point in the broadcast.  Pam Shriver was interviewing Wayne Gretzky who was in the crowd, and Gretzky called McEnroe “one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever seen.”  McEnroe countered by saying that he hoped someone spoke to him about coaching the Rangers while he was in New York, and then mentioned that Soderling was good friends with Rangers star net keeper Henrik Lundqvist, who McEnroe said was also on hand.  But Mac called the goaltender “Henrik Lundstrom”, before making the necessary correction.  After taking John’s ribbing for most of the night, PMac shot back when the camera flashed a visual of music producer Clive Davis, and Patrick McEnroe told John to expect a call from the mega-producer about his music career.  Johnny Mac, quick on the retort, said that Davis did call him, but it wasn’t about music.  “He was seeing if I wanted to hit some tennis balls.” said the 4 time Open Champion.  And the two brothers took ample occasion to rib Pam Shriver, who is quickly becoming one of the best tennis analysts I have ever heard.  On a strange play–a serve by Federer which bounced up big off the net cord and nearly hit Soderling on the baseline–the trio debated as to whether it would have been Roger’s point had the ball hit the Swede.  The McEnroe brothers said the point would have gone to Roger had it hit Soderling, but Shriver argued that it would have been ruled a fault and a second serve for Roger.  The McEnroe brothers laughed Shriver off, and John McEnroe remarked that Shriver wouldn’t know and that she “never even graduated from high school”, knowing full well that Shriver was already an excellent professional tennis player by the age of 15.

McEnroe, who picked Nadal to win the event prior to its commencement, made no mention of that pick last night.  Instead, it was Federer of whom he spoke with complete reverance, citing the great man’s serve with and against the wind, and the gruelling conditions which Federer handled with aplomb, as testaments to Federer’s greatness and to the US Open, which McEnroe definitively called “the toughest major to win.”

We have long agreed with McEnroe on that score.  The players come in to The Open after playing 8 months, almost non-stop, and then are asked to brave Flushing’s heat, or last night’s wind and cold.  And Federer usually looks the best here despite a season’s worth of wear and tear, the conditions, and the big time pressure on Roger to win.  Federer used the conditions to his advantage all night, but on two highlight reel shots in particular–one, a forehand drop shot into the wind on a break point that made the throng go “ooh!” and another, a hard backhanded slice lob into the wind that made them go “aah!”

In fact, Federer was deep into his bag of tricks last night, despite only winning 4 points at the net, a play that neither player seemed too willing to tackle.  But the most memorable volleys of the night came off of Federer’s racquet.  One, when the puppet master brought Soderling in on a drop shot, and then followed it in and volleyed the reply right at Soderling’s body, who had no chance on the play.  The other was one for the ages, when Federer again used a drop shot to bring in Soderling whose two-handed reply hit the net cord.  Federer, caught between the baseline and the service box, picked up the net cord somehow, held the ball on his racquet for the extra split second, and then flicked the 3/4 court forehand volley cross court for a winner that was a signature Federer shot, in my mind, way more impressive than the tweeners he pulled off here this year and last year.

To Federer’s credit, when asked about the wind after the match by Pam Shriver, the Swiss master said “I’ve been practicing my serve my whole life.  If I can’t serve in the wind, it’s a problem.”  No problem, as it turned out for Roger, who is yet to drop a set at this year’s US Open.

A command performance by the master.  Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour and 56 minutes.  At least the loser had Jenni Mostrom to comfort him afterward.  No small consolation.


Allez Roger!

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)