One Down, One To Go: Dan Girardi Remains With Rangers!

If you all saw the look on my face a little while ago, you would think I was nuts. But I have said and thought all along that after Lundqvist, the Rangers needed to get Dan Girardi locked up. Yes Callahan is important. Yes the Rangers have a bunch of RFAs I don’t want to lose. But I have always thought the Rangers needed Girardi. He’s not flashy, he hides behind the scenes but he gets the job done. And he does a good job at doing it.

So when this tweet went out, I was beyond ecstatic:

Of course the Rangers don’t release terms, so these two are important as well:

I have absolutely no problem with that term or that money. Will the sixth year be questionable? Probably. But he would’ve gotten it on the open market so Sather had no choice. Plus to get him to sign for that amount, I’m fine with the extra year. I am a little surprised he got the no-move/ no-trade clause but it just means we definitely have him for the next three years which is fine by me.

As for those who think he isn’t worth the money, unfortunately the market says he is. I honestly believe he could have easily gotten 7 years, $49 million this summer if he didn’t care where he played so the fact he stayed for less makes me one happy fan. And I’m not surprised as I truly believed loyalty meant something to him and he wanted to stay.

And that was confirmed by this quote from Glen Sather after the signing:

“Dan has been a Ranger for his entire career, signing with us as an undrafted free agent and working his way to become a top defenseman in the NHL. His dedication to this club, as a leader both on the ice and in the locker room, is invaluable to this team. We are happy to have been able to ensure that he will continue to wear the Blueshirt.”

And I am happy too 🙂

The question is how does this affect his best friend. I’m not saying he should sign because Girardi did but if he doesn’t, the two will be on different teams for the first time in over a decade. So is this a business to Callahan or is it something more personal? Guess we’ll find out in the next few days. Until then, welcome back Dan Girardi!!!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Goalbuster Saves The Day As Questions Linger Around Rangers

Going into tonight’s game, the big news should’ve been how the Rangers would fair in their first game in almost three weeks. Or it could’ve been about the defending Stanley Cup champions coming into town. Instead, everyone waited with baited breath to see if two guys stepped on the ice. As the lights came on to start warmups, I watched the guys walk on the ice. Talbot, McDonagh, Girardi, Callahan, Stepan…

And everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The Rangers were still in tact for another night.

I get that in the end, while it is a game to us, it is a business to those involved in it. But I finally understand how teams feel when there is a potential trade hanging over them for weeks before the deadline. Thank goodness for the Olympic break because otherwise this would be much, much worse.

Personally I don’t expect anything to happen (if anything even does happen) until Wednesday. By allowing both Callahan and Girardi to play tonight, the Rangers essentially said they don’t want to trade either of them. If they wanted to trade them, they would’ve held them out to make sure they didn’t get hurt.

But the issue could be felt in the building throughout the entire game, more so for the captain. Callahan threw a big hit and you could hear fans scream “that was a seven million dollar hit right there!”. A missed chance to tuck in the puck in the crease received “that’s why you’re not worth seven million!”. And yet his face on the screen during the Olympics montage (which by the way, stick tap to MSG for not pointing out each country who won so we didn’t need to boo Nash) received one of the louder cheers of the montage. We’ve been forced into conflicting emotions. The good news there is an end in sight.

Speaking of conflicting emotions, there was also a game and that’s how I felt all night. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for the Blackhawks but you will all be happy to hear I never once found myself rooting for them tonight. I just happened to know who every guy was by number or figured it out while seeing who else was on the ice since I know their lines.

And maybe it was because I did kind of want to root for both teams or maybe it was because more than half the guys were still trying to figure out what time zone they were in, but I couldn’t even tell you what happened during the game. It happened. I can’t say either team was sloppy because they weren’t really. That said, I can’t say either team played well either. The one guy I did notice from both teams – the goalbuster, Cam Talbot.

If I was writing this as the game was going on, I would probably have listed specific saves he made. But after the fact they all meshed together so I will simply say to anyone who questioned him starting against the mighty Blackhawks, there is a reason you aren’t a NHL coach. Lundqvist will always be the starting goaltending for the Rangers as long as he’s healthy, but Talbot is everything you could want in a backup and more. And tonight he was easily the best player on the ice and would’ve had a shutout if not for one play. Well one play and one stupid move by MSG.

With a little less than six minutes to go in the third period and the Rangers desperately clinging on to a 1-0 lead (on a goal by Brassard halfway through the first period), there was a stoppage of play and a TV timeout. During that timeout, the Garden thought it was a great idea to show a Cam Talbot montage to the Ghostbusters theme. They’ve done it before and I usually think it’s great. But in a 1-0 game with that little time left, are you really highlighting the goaltender who has a shutout? There wasn’t a single person in the building who thought the montage was a good idea at the time and we all planned to hold are breath for the next six minutes.

Fortunately Rick Nash decided to save the Garden from their own stupidity by scoring an absolute beauty 1:46 later. And while the shutout was broken with 11.6 seconds remaining, I can confidently say Cam Talbot did the rest. (Yes I am pretending the Blackhawks didn’t almost tie it at the buzzer because the Rangers wanted Talbot to know how Lundqvist feels on a nightly basis.) It sucked to see him lose the shutout but the win, number one star and Broadway Hat were well-deserved.

Because for a moment, the fans and organization were able to pay attention to something other than the news that has been surrounding the team all week. They were able to pay attention to the game and the players who play it.

Of course the first quote I see from the post game was this:

At least he plans to do his job. I thought he once again looked pretty good tonight so hopefully the two sides can “bang something out” cause losing Girardi would be a huge blow to this team.

The next thing the beat writers pointed out – his best friend didn’t talk to the media tonight. I would say he let his play do the talking but while I noticed him on the ice, I think it’s pretty obvious he wants this resolved as much as the rest of us.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Shiny New Toy Looking For New Home With Rangers

Back in November, the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets played their first game after the big trades. Before that game, players on both sides spoke to the media and it was no surprise that Brandon Dubinsky came away with the quote of the night:

“But sometimes that’s just how New York is, they like the flash and they want the dash and they want a new toy, I guess.”

Sadly, he’s right. New York loves getting a new toy. In that case, the player they were able to tout wanted to go to only a couple of teams, New York being near or at the top of his list.

This time the player want to come to New York…and apparently only New York.

You can hear the full quote from McKenzie here.

I really don’t know what to think about the Marty St. Louis rumors. My initial instinct is “woo hoo, another toy wants to come and destroy my team!” but I’m not sure that’s fair. If St. Louis does indeed want a trade, which this quote from this morning implies, can we blame him for wanting to come to New York?

No, John Tortorella isn’t here anymore but he is good friends with Brad Richards. (More on that later.) He also spends his summer in Connecticut meaning a move to NYC would be moving closer to home. And as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, players like the idea of playing in Madison Square Garden. Fans joke about the “World’s Most Famous Arena” moniker but they aren’t lying when they say that.

But here’s where I don’t get it for the Rangers.

First, you have the Richards-St. Louis connection. That’s great and all but St. Louis is signed for next year and while technically so is Richards, there isn’t a single person (fan, writer, MSG/national analyst) who expects him to be on the Rangers roster on opening night next season. So they are basically being reunited for at most three and a half months, if the Rangers go all the way to the finals, but more than likely around two months.

Secondly, the cost to get him. The original rumor on this came from Boomer Esiason who implied over the weekend and then confirmed on Monday that he heard it would be a one for one deal with the two teams switching captains. I could write a book on my views on what the Rangers should or shouldn’t do with Ryan Callahan but we’ll leave that for another time. Right now, let’s assume there is no way the two sides will come to an agreement and Callahan will definitely be a free agent this summer.

Therefore Tampa is trading their best player for a rental who let’s be honest isn’t as good, while the Rangers are trading away a guy who in the not so distant past people believed they were a different team without (and not for the better) in hopes that the team won’t be affected by that. Those are moves teams make if they think they are one piece away or are having a fire sale and rebuilding for next year. Neither the Lightning nor Rangers fit in either category. So why does either team make this move? And don’t tell me cause St. Louis wants out or so the Rangers don’t lose Callahan for nothing. Both these teams have a legitimate chance at challenging for the Cup this year and this move would make both teams worse in my mind.

So let’s say the GMs realize that and the trade becomes something else. So now you’re going to rip apart your team and pray they come together in six weeks so you can go on a Cup run? The Lightning are going to want pieces who are signed past this season, something the Rangers don’t have a whole lot of. And if (more likely when) the Rangers don’t make it any further in the playoffs than they have the past few seasons, all they gained is a 38-year old that they can market the heck out of for next season while praying they can replace the depth they were once again forced to trade to get him. In other words, a shiny new toy but not the one I’m looking for.

I want a Stanley Cup. Yes I was alive for 1994 but to be honest, I don’t remember it. And even if I did, I want to experience it again. I’m not saying this team as it’s currently construed is a Cup Contender because I’m honestly not sure it is. But I don’t see how Marty St. Louis makes it better due to the pieces that would have to be given up to get him. I’m fine giving them up if he was that last missing piece. He’s not so I just don’t get why the Rangers would do this.

And on the Tampa side, there’s this:

The Rangers can afford a PR nightmare. They’ve been through it before and no matter how bad it gets, the fans will still throw their money at the organization. Tampa can’t afford that and after buying out Lecavalier last summer, a move fans eventually understood, I’m not sure they would understand this one. Especially if the rumors are true that St. Louis wants out. Steve Yzerman is loved in the city of Tampa. My guess is he wouldn’t be after this.

And why exactly does St. Louis want out of Tampa? Because Yzerman didn’t originally place him on the Team Canada roster? If so, why exactly do we want a player who basically wants out due to a decision that has nothing to do with the team he plays for? I honestly have nothing but respect for St. Louis. He’s a fantastic player who I don’t believe is hated by any fan base. This doesn’t play into that so I have a hard time believing that’s why he wants out. The question is, if it’s not that then why is it? If I’m being honest, Tampa is probably closer to a Stanley Cup at this very second than the Rangers are.

But in the end, what Tampa does isn’t my problem (no disrespect to the team and organization). Which brings me back to the Rangers. If they can turn a player known more for his grit than goals and who apparently wants out of New York (Ryan Callahan) into a guy with Marty St. Louis’ offensive ability, I can’t really argue that. But if Sather is refusing to talk with Callahan’s camp so he can make a deal like this (I’m sorry but I’m not ruling anything out when things start leaking to the press the way they have), well that brings me back to Dubinsky:

“…they like the flash and they want the dash and they want a new toy…”

I want a new toy too. But mine is silver and weighs about 35 pounds. I know he’s small but St. Louis weighs more than that. And I’ve seen nothing that says he will help bring me the toy I want.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Practice Notes: Dorsett Close, Staal Still M.I.A.

It was another day on the ice for most of the New York Rangers as they continued to prepare for Thursday’s game against the Blackhawks. First they were run through training camp conditioning skates. There was no news from that other than it happened so I assume everyone survived.

Afterwards, it was on to actual practice. Derek Dorsett remained in a non-contact jersey but said afterwards he was allowed light contact. This nugget, per Andrew Gross, might have been my favorite piece of news from practice today:

At one point during today’s practice, the Rangers were doing close quarter drills, moving the two nets to either side of the right faceoff circle and playing three on three. Dorsett knocked Dan Carcillo down from behind along the boards, then skated away with a big, wide smile.

Obviously Carcillo was brought in to replace Dorsett after he got hurt so Dorsett probably (correctly) assumes he will be battling him for a roster spot once the team is healthy. It sounds like Dorsett is close, although they plan to have more confirmation on that either Monday or Tuesday. If he can go on Thursday, he will be the one to replace Mats Zuccarello in the lineup. If not, a call-up will be made. From the sounds of it, they want and expect Dorsett to play on Thursday.

Of course the news can’t always be good for the Rangers as Marc Staal missed his second day of practice due to back spasms. (Personally I think he didn’t want to run the conditioning drills. He always manages to get out of those.) According to Vigneault, Staal’s back seized up so he just needs rest and treatment till it subsides.

“Usually, that’s a couple of days thing,” Vigneault said. “I can’t see anything major coming out of that.”

Let’s hope not. When it comes to Staal, I think it’s safe to throw normal out the window.

The other bad news with the NHL season set to resume soon is that it means the trade rumors start up again as the trade freeze ends tomorrow at midnight. (I believe it’s Monday at 12:01am trades can begin, not tonight.) With the trade deadline a week and a half away there will be no shortage of rumors. And unfortunately, with no updates on contracts, it looks like the Rangers will be right in the middle of those. Not going to lie, I’m a little disappointed Dan Girardi hasn’t taken his name out of that by signing a contract…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Updates From Rangers Practice + Quick Note On Olympics

There was a mixed bag of news coming out of the Rangers practices the past two days. We’ll start with the good news as yesterday, Derek Dorsett took to the ice in a non-contact jersey. After practice, both he and Vigneault said they expect him to either be ready when the Rangers return to action next Thursday or extremely close to ready.

That is good news as the team may need him. While we all hoped Mats Zuccarello would be ready for NHL action next week, as soon as it was confirmed the hand was broken I knew he wouldn’t be. Today the Rangers confirmed that by saying that he will be out 3-4 weeks from the date of injury. The good news is that he was injured last Sunday which means a week to 10 days will be taken out without him missing a single game. Unfortunately he will miss time though.

After practice, he spoke to the media and said the break happened when he blocked a shot but he managed to play the rest of the game. Obviously he isn’t happy he’s going to miss time but he’s supposedly already working to stay in shape so hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later. At least the time frame isn’t longer than a couple of weeks.

The only other player to have injury-related news coming out of practice was Marc Staal. Before everyone panics, he missed practice today due to back spasms but is expected to be back on the ice tomorrow. My initial reaction when hearing that? Someone didn’t follow their conditioning assignment over the break. I’ll give him a pass though because he’s getting used to being a dad. If I had the option of sitting on the couch with my newborn baby or going to work out, I would’ve picked option one too.

**********

In regards to the Olympics, I know writers are supposed to stay impartial. But one I’m not a writer (I’m a blogger and I know it) and two, when it comes to the Olympics that hasn’t seemed to apply. So for me, the Olympics are over. Yes I know the USA could still win the bronze but I don’t want the bronze. I wanted to beat Canada. Instead the US team looked completely overwhelmed from the first puck drop to the point that part of me will actually be surprised if they get the bronze. But right now it’s just too disappointing to discuss.

I will add one thing – good luck Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin. Go Sweden!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Six Rangers Head To The Semis!

The first thing I noticed when I saw the playoff round bracket for the first time was the fact that the semi-finals could be a repeat of the last two gold medal games. I expected someone to mess that up so didn’t really think much of it. Apparently Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States liked that idea so on Friday we get to watch a re-match of the 2006 gold medal game in the morning and then a re-match of the 2010 gold medal game in the afternoon.

So how did we get there? During the first quarterfinals game, Sweden played Slovenia. I did see a few people predicting an upset in this one and Slovenia did manage to keep the score only 1-0 going into the third period. But then the Swedes decided the joke was over and made the game a 5-0 blowout.

Henrik Lundqvist ended the game with 19 saves for his second shutout of the Sochi Olympics. And of course, because he’s Henrik Lundqvist, he can’t go without making a save like this:

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, I really wish he would stop doing that. I know he’s got it down and is known for it at this point, but I still don’t like him batting the puck away with his head.

Carl Hagelin played 12:28 taking two shots and ending with a plus-2 rating so it looks like he is okay. As for those two shots, here was the first one:

And here was the second:

Two goals on two shots? I like those numbers Hagelin! We’re going to need you to do that when you get back to New York. (Especially if Zuccarello is out long term. It doesn’t sound like he will be but we won’t know for sure until he is re-evaluated later today or tomorrow. That said, I don’t like hearing he has a non-displaced fracture in his hand. I’m no expert in broken bones but whenever something is broken, I know it’s not good.)

While no Rangers played in the second quarterfinal game of the day, it might have been the best game as Finland came back to beat the host Russians 3-1 sending Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk and co. home without out a medal. As mentioned previously, that set up the first semi-final match which will take place at 7am EST tomorrow.

Then came games three and four of the quarterfinals, played at the same time because of course Canada and the United States would be playing at the same time without playing each other. (I imagine the situation with those two games being at the same time went on the list of reasons why the NHL shouldn’t go to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.)

Canada decided to make things difficult for themselves. They got a goal halfway through the first period but allowed Latvia to tie the game roughly two minutes later. The game would remain tied at one until there was less than seven minutes to go in the third period when the Canadians would allow an entire country to breath a sigh of relief as they re-took the lead. And while Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis was sensational making 55 of 57 saves, the Latvians couldn’t find a second equalizer and dropped the game 2-1.

Rick Nash was once again on the line with four players although he did manage to get 10:58 in ice time. He had one shot on goal and was a plus-one in the game. And while his shooting percentage wasn’t as good as Hagelin’s, he did help set up the games first goal:

Nice pass Rick. Although that was a perfect shot from Sharp. You can pass to him for two more games. But three games from now, you better not.

Across the street, the Americans were having a good time at the expense of the Czech Republic. They scored early, then scored into their own net to allow the Czechs to think they had a chance and then scored some more into the right net. In the end, they had a 5-2 victory and a re-match with Canada at noon EST on Friday.

Ryan Callahan was his usual wrecking ball self, hitting everyone and everything in site.

When we say everything, we mean everything:

Yes that is Callahan barreling through the crease. He actually spent half of his shifts hanging out in the crease with Ondrej Pavelec and later in the game Alexander Salak. His linemates seemed to appreciate that. I really hope this version of Callahan comes back to New York as I miss seeing this guy on the ice. I’m sure part of it has to do with his contract negotiations but this version of Callahan, while better than the one we’ve seen all year, still isn’t worth close to $7 million a year (if that is what he is asking for).

Sometime after the game (which means probably after midnight his time), he called into the Michael Kay show in New York to talk about his time in Sochi. You can hear that interview here. (It was a decent interview so I suggest giving it a listen if you haven’t heard it.)

Callahan ended up with 14:57 of ice time, one shot and a plus-one rating. Since his linemates both scored and he was on the ice for both goals, that means he was on for one of the Czech goals. Turns out it was there first one which means it wasn’t his fault.

Speaking of the Czechs first goal, Ryan McDonagh played 19:39 (second most on the team) with one shot on net (a beauty that the Czech goalie, don’t remember which was in at that point, made a great save on) and a plus-1. He would’ve been a plus-2 if he hadn’t also had a goal…behind Jonathan Quick.

Oh Ryan. I thought we got past those plays. You haven’t done that in months. Please go back to not doing it again. Thanks.

He did make a fantastic play as the clock rolled down at the end of the first to keep the puck in play in the offensive zone allowing David Backes to make it 3-1 with less than two seconds to go. You can’t really see it here but it was McDonagh who jumped into the play and handed the puck back to Suter at the point. (He’s the guy backing up right before Backes scores in the top right corner.)

Honestly other than that gaffe that allowed the Czechs to get back into the game, McDonagh was his usual phenomenal self throughout the game. It’s amazing listening to the reactions of people who are seeing him play for the first time. Yes, we know how great he is and no, you can’t have him.

Unfortunately after his five minute debut, Derek Stepan was back in the stands for this game. Although being that Blake Wheeler played only 1:39 and didn’t get his first shift till over halfway through the third period, I’m okay with the fact he was scratched. I would rather him have the opportunity to stretch his legs rather than just sit there. I would be very surprised to see him get into either of the next two games unless a center gets hurt and while I feel bad for him, this is a great experience and I’m sure he is loving every minute of it. (And I honestly can’t say he deserves to play over any of the other four centers right now.)

While our six Olympians won’t be making headlines today, the rest of the team will as they meet for their first practice since the break began this afternoon. I don’t expect a lot of news from practice (maybe an update on Zuccarello) but if anything breaks we’ll let you know. Although now that I’ve typed that, expect something to happen. (Maybe Dan Girardi putting his name on an important piece of paper?)

 

Photo at top: Melissa Andus

Stick tap to Pete Blackburn for all the gifs.

Injury Bug Hits Rangers + QF Match-ups Set

Everyone’s fear with NHL players going over to the Olympics was injuries. What if an injury to a superstar player prevented a team from going on a long playoff run or even making the playoffs at all? There are a couple of teams that might be living in this reality and as each word of an injury came about, I just kept hoping that seven specific players stayed safe.

Unfortunately the Rangers didn’t get so lucky.

Now before I get to the bad news, the good news is none of these injuries seem serious. Case in point, there are no obvious signs of distress in this picture (other than Hagelin’s poor face):

Photo: Tre Kronor/twitter

Photo: Tre Kronor/twitter

And all three of those guys are on the injury report right now.

Let’s start with the guy we knew was injured. Carl Hagelin missed the end of Sweden’s last game with an undisclosed injury. There is still no word on what the injury is but Hagelin does plan to play through it so let’s hope it’s nothing serious. According to reports from practice, he looked like his speedy self so that has to be a good sign.

His Swedish teammate Henrik Lundqvist was also back on the ice today after a scare yesterday which had fans ready to tell Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson he should stay in Russia. Karlsson was coming down on a drill with Boston’s Loui Eriksson. Apparently Karlsson was so worried about taking out Eriksson, he didn’t think how hard he was going towards the net and barreled into Lundqvist. Reports from the practice were Lundqvist took a few minutes to get up, then skated on his own to the bench and watched the remainder of practice. (The collision happened towards the end of practice so that isn’t as bad as it sounds.)

He better have apologized more than 500 times. Lundqvist declined to speak to reporters yesterday but as mentioned was back on the ice today and did speak to them afterwards. I didn’t see anything new mentioned about the collision today so I’m going to assume he just got shaken up and is fine. Guess we’ll find out for sure when Sweden plays the first game of the quarterfinals at 3am EST tomorrow against Slovenia. (Yes, Slovenia beat Austria earlier today to get their first trip to the quarterfinals. Surprisingly though, that wasn’t the biggest shocker of the day.)

In the middle of the picture above is everyone’s favorite Norwegian, Mats Zuccarello, who appears to have the most serious injury. You can’t tell from that picture but he is dealing with an issue with his left hand. The hand was so swollen and bruised that he missed Norway’s game against Russia today. Granted Norway didn’t have a chance even with him in the lineup but you can imagine what happened without him.

Zuccarello was seen at the game with his hand bandaged. The good news is it is reportedly not fractured, just severely bruised. Hopefully a week off is all he needs and he’ll be back on MSG ice next Thursday. Unfortunately his and Norway’s Olympic medal hopes are over as the Russians won 4-0, securing the 7:30am EST meeting with Finland everyone expected yesterday.

The other meeting everyone expected was Canada and Switzerland but that one wasn’t meant to be as the Swiss lost to Latvia today. Yes Latvia is in the quarterfinals. The only reason I think this is more surprising than Slovenia is because Slovenia was playing Austria. Technically either of them were a surprise but someone had to make it. The Swiss getting to the quarterfinals was basically a given to everyone and many thought they would be a tough competitor for Canada. Instead the Canadians get Latvia at noon EST tomorrow.

As for the last play-in game of the day, that was the toss up between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both nations have had glory days in the not so decent past but neither has had a good tournament. The Czechs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second and everyone assumed they would be playing the United States at noon EST tomorrow. (I also worried that they wouldn’t be an easy match-up with the way they were playing.) And they will be playing the United States tomorrow after beating Slovakia…5-3 with the fifth goal being an empty netter.

I’m still not guaranteeing a victory for the Americans but they should win that game after that almost collapse. As should Canada and Sweden win theirs. Then again, Slovenia and Latvia are in the quarterfinals while Switzerland and Slovakia are headed home.

 

(Photo at top: Melissa Andus)