Dominic Moore Officially Nominated For The Masterton

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Dominic Moore’s name was on the list of three top nominees for the Masterton Trophy. As mentioned when he was announced as the Rangers nominee, the Masterton award is one players never want to win. That said, it’s basically a given that Dominic Moore will win it.

For those who have been watching all season, I don’t need to explain why he will win this award. The award is for perservance or in essence overcoming something to still be able to play hockey. If you are unsure what he has overcome, have tissues ready and click here.

It’s truly amazing that he is able to get out of bed each day, forget play at the level he has. And his teammates have noticed as Marc Staal said this yesterday:

“I have no idea what that would be like to come back from and still be such a positive influence on the team and room.  He’s been invaluable to us.”

Invaluable indeed. I honestly want him to be the first one re-signed once Glen Sather goes back to re-signing guys. I’m not worried as I know he will be back and I expect him to get an even louder ovation opening night next year than he did this year. (And he got a pretty big ovation this year.)

Oddly enough the other two nominees were ex-Rangers as Carolina’s Manny Maholtra and the Devils’ Jaromir Jagr round out the top three.

Malholtra is no surprise as many thought his career was over after suffering an eye injury last season. He finally signed with Carolina’s AHL team after the start of the season and worked his way into a permanent role with the Hurricanes. Honestly, he would probably be a given to win if it wasn’t for Moore.

As for Jagr, I guess persevering at his age gets you nominated for this award. Many believe it shouldn’t be the “sob story” award so I can respect that. At least Kris Letang didn’t get the nomination for stupidly coming back and playing after suffering a stroke.

But as I said, this is Moore’s award to lose and I expect the tears to be flowing for everyone when he walks on that stage on June 24th to accept it.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Never Do Things Easy

I have said all series that the first team to show up to the series, the first team to show they actually wanted to move on to the second round, would win. The Flyers showed up tonight. The Rangers didn’t. Now the two teams are scheduled to be in New York tomorrow for game seven.

I say scheduled because I’m not positive the Rangers were in Philadelphia tonight. I thought I saw them to start the game. Then I have no idea what happened. Sadly I’m not surprised. But I am annoyed because earlier in the day we received quotes like:

“Their backs are against the wall, for sure you’re going to see desperation. But we’ve got to match that and more.”

And:

“I think we’ve got to finish it here tonight.”

Yes they are cliche and exactly what you expect from the players but one day they are actually going to listen to their own words. One day they are going to surprise me and those quotes will be more than just words. Today wasn’t that day.

The Rangers came out well to start the game. It was shocking but they actually looked like they cared. I didn’t think the Flyers looked horrible but when the Rangers controlled play, they clearly dominated. Unfortunately that was only the first five minutes. Then Benoit Pouliot took another dumb penalty and the Flyers capitalized. The Rangers had some chances after that but you could feel momentum changing.

And change it did.

I don’t think there is a single fan who wants to re-live the final forty minutes of this game. If you do, I’m sure you can find a recap somewhere. Simply put, it was what it was and as the players said we move on. The question is what happens tomorrow.

Look, it’s game seven. Anything can happen. We can witness a continuation from what we saw tonight or we can see the exact reverse and the Rangers do what they did in game seven of the first round last year. I’m not even going to try and predict what will happen.

I know what I saw tonight and what I saw wasn’t nearly good enough. But that’s been this team all year. On paper, they should be a threat in the East. Apparently their fancy stats say that too. But my eyes have watched games like this for six months. Usually after a bad game, they bounce back. The quick turnaround might help that. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think there is a single outcome that would surprise me tomorrow night. That’s probably not a good thing.

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I’m sure some people are wondering why I placed a picture of Dan Girardi with this recap being that the typically great defenseman didn’t have the best night. Well no one on the Rangers played well and Girardi celebrated a birthday today so he gets the spotlight. Don’t worry Dan, I’ve tried to forget my 30th birthday as well.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Overcome Officiating To Take Series Lead

At some point in time one of these teams might actually show up to the series. The referees sure have as the pair of Justin St. Pierre and Brad Watson were incredible today. The fact that I know the referees names tells you the type of job they did. That said, they missed calls on both sides and sadly enough, it probably wasn’t close to the worst referred game these playoffs.

So I go back to my original thought – at some point one of these teams might show up to the series. If not, it will be the team that fails at losing that moves onto the next round. Fortunately for the Rangers, they only have to fail one more time.

Before the game, I had seen a rumor that J.T. Miller might be playing today. I thought it was weird but something like that wouldn’t be thrown out without the writer knowing something. Not sure who Pat Leonard of the Daily News’ connection is but he got a scoop no one else had as Miller was not only on the ice for warmups but taking line rushes with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, the line that started the game for the home team.

I will fully admit I didn’t like the move. Carcillo had two good games and his style was one needed for this series just in case the Flyers became goons. Add that to fact Miller had not only never played a playoff game but wasn’t exactly in Vigneault’s good graces and the move made no sense to me. I’m not about to give Vigneault credit cause it was one game but Miller played a lot better than I expected him to. It didn’t help his linemates though.

Actually Carl Hagelin was seen plenty this game as he had a hat trick…of penalties. Being at the game, it’s hard to judge the calls but the first one just three minutes in definitely looked like a penalty to me. The second, two minutes after he got out of the box for the first one, I honestly don’t remember if I saw or not. Fortunately the Flyers killed both of them for the Rangers. (Actually that’s not fair, the Rangers penalty kill was great but the Flyers really didn’t try to do much.)

A little over halfway through the period, the Rangers took a shot on net that Mason saved but he wasn’t sure he saved it. I was hoping the Rangers noticed he didn’t look confident and started peppering him with shots. They didn’t but roughly a minute later St. Louis left a drop pass for Staal who took a shot that should’ve been an easy save for the Flyers goalie. He probably would’ve saved it on Friday night. But today he was off and it went right past him to give the Rangers the lead. Even Staal looked surprised it went in.

As the Garden cheered and screamed, the puck was dropped and Lecavalier took a penalty exactly ten seconds later. My thought? So much for momentum. I was right as any momentum the team could’ve gotten from the goal was zapped right out of the building over the two minute power kill. Part of me thinks Lecavalier took the penalty on purpose.

Just thirty seconds into the second period, the Flyers took their second penalty of the game. This power play looked semi-competent and almost scored. Actually, they did score but it didn’t count because St. Pierre had blown the whistle. Here was the thing with the call – since the whistle blew, which it clearly did, the call was correct. That said, the whistle never should’ve blown as the puck wasn’t frozen, and St. Pierre was in perfect position to see that. (Honestly, if he couldn’t see the puck from where he was, he needs his eyes checked.) although from where he was St. Pierre couldn’t see that. (I re-watched the play and St. Pierre was in the wrong place to make that call. He just assumed Mason had the puck and blew the whistle.) It was a quick whistle that benefited the Flyers. Was I happy about it? No, of course not. Doesn’t mean the actual call itself wasn’t correct.

While in the past a call like that would’ve gotten the Rangers down, this time it didn’t. The Rangers still tried to play their game the rest of the power play and the minutes following it. Granted the Flyers weren’t doing much of anything so that helped. Eight minutes in, a rebound of a shot from Miller bounced to Richards who buried it for his second of the playoffs. The Rangers were lucky to get that chance as Miller completely whiffed on a shot a few seconds earlier but the puck went behind the net where Hagelin tried to bang it in allowing it to bounce to Miller and then to Richards for the goal.

At that point, the referees really took over. I didn’t make notes while at the game and don’t feel like going back to watch the entire period but I know there were a bunch of missed calls for both teams. The calls made? An unsportsmanlike penalty on Klein that I still have no idea what he did to get it and then just as it ended, Hagelin completed the hat trick with his third penalty of the game. Hagelin’s penalty might have been legit – I missed it in real time and they obviously didn’t re-show it in the building – but the Flyers did so many illegal things during their power play that it just sucked it was called.

The Rangers killed both of them and then Read received a penalty. Honestly don’t remember if it was deserved or not. Going to assume not since most of the calls in the second period were phantom ones. The Rangers killed that off as well. Then a miscommunication between Coburn and Gill led to Dominic Moore getting the puck right in front of Mason and burying it to extend the lead to 3-0. To say he was excited about the goal would be an understatement. I think he tried to kill Boyle with the way he jumped on top of him. (Think Callahan jumping on Stralman when the Rangers clinched a playoff spot last season.)

Two minutes later we had what looked like another phantom call as Stralman went off for goalie interference. I was told after the fact that he did hit Mason while going through the crease so maybe that one was legit. By that point though, the odds weren’t in the Rangers favor of killing it and they didn’t as Lecavalier got the Flyers on the board with thirty-three seconds remaining in the period.

I didn’t know what to expect from the third period. I wouldn’t say the Rangers sat back and just tried to defend but whatever their game plan was led to not much going on for either side. Fortunately the referees swallowed their whistles and let the boys play. Berube chose to pull Mason with almost three minutes remaining and it honestly almost worked. The Flyers got one back with a minute and a half to go. Then the linesmen stepped in calling bad icing calls for both teams to help kill the clock. The Rangers would finally get an empty netter with fifteen seconds remaining to take the game 4-2.

Did the Rangers play a bad game today? No, they didn’t. They’ve definitely played worse this year and in this series. But I still don’t think they’ve gotten to playoffs level yet. They could have easily ended this series already but haven’t done so. Honestly, they didn’t even make today’s game easy on the fans and they had a 3-0 lead at one point.

That said, the Flyers could’ve done the same if they had shown up to the series as well. It’s two teams who swear they hate each other but aren’t showing any hate on the ice. Granted whichever team gets out of the series won’t be worn out from a hard first round but if they play this way against Pittsburgh or Columbus, they probably will be joining the other team on the golf course within a week.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Series Tied After Rangers Fail At Flyers Game

Before the series began, most analysts said the winner of the series would be the one that dictated the style of play most. The Flyers play a scrappy, in your face type of game while the Rangers game is based on speed and offense. In game three, the Rangers style won. Tonight went to the home team.

Earlier in the day, the Flyers talked about how they needed to be more physical in this series and play their game. Zac Rinaldo especially pointed out that he needed to be better at doing what he does best. Two and a half minutes into the game, Rinaldo felt Dominic Moore’s stick on his wrist and made sure a penalty was called. (Not saying he dove but if Zuccarello dove in game two, then there could’ve been two penalties on that play.) The Flyers had chances but the Rangers were able to successfully get the kill.

As Moore came out of the box, Boyle got him the puck and he raced down for a shot on goal. Mason made the save but he got his own rebound, went around the net and tucked the puck in to give the Rangers the lead. You would think after Carcillo scored coming out of the box in game three, the Flyers would’ve made a change to prevent that from happening again. Guess not.

A little over four minutes later, the Flyers took advantage of their own rebound as Akeson put a hard shot on the boards behind Lundqvist allowing Read to pounce on the rebound to tie the game. Akeson said during intermission he meant to missed the net with the initial shot and watching the replay, I believe him. Absolutely fitting that Read would score tonight since many people believed he shouldn’t be playing. (I said he would get a fine at most. He didn’t even get that.)

The Rangers received their first power play a minute and a half later. The good news about that power kill? Brayden Schenn didn’t come out of the box and score. Otherwise it was a waste of two minutes on the clock as the visitors didn’t even get a shot on net.

Both teams did get chances over the remainder of the period but the goalies were up to the task allowing the game to remain tied through twenty minutes. Mason in particular had to be good as the Rangers put 16 shots on net in the first period. I’m amazed they said they needed to get shots on him since he hadn’t played in a couple of weeks and actually went out and did that.

Of course they couldn’t sustain it as the Flyers finally started bringing some physicality to the series. While the Rangers can play physical, trying to go toe-to-toe with a team known for it usually puts them off their game. And in the second period it did.

The period started with the Rangers getting another chance at the power play just three and a half minutes in. Compared to the first one, they looked incredible. But that didn’t mean it looked good so I’m calling it another power kill. Shortly after it ended Dominic Moore took his second penalty of the game. This one didn’t go as well for him or the Rangers as the Flyers took the lead on a deflection halfway through.

The penalty was a dumb one as the Rangers started to play the Flyers game. Due to that, the Flyers controlled most of the second period. I don’t mind the Rangers trying to play a physical style game but when their focus is on just that, they get away from their game plan that got them to this point. The second period was exhibit A of just that.

Somehow, the period ended with the Rangers having over a minute of 4-on-3 remaining to start the third. Of course they completely killed it by not even getting a shot on net until it was back to 5-on-4. (And they only got one shot during that portion.) Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised when watching the setup of the four guys on the ice – Richards, Stepan and St. Louis controlled the puck with McDonagh screening Mason. The only guy of those four who would actually take a shot was the one in front of the net.

Honestly, the only highlight of the period for the Rangers was this:

Yes, that was Mats Zuccarello placing a perfect hip check on Claude Giroux. How can you not love the little guy? Although that little guy is going to get paid this offseason.

But as for the game, the Rangers kept the puck in the Flyers zone during the final two minutes as they pushed for the equalizer. Someone needs to tell them that in order to score you need to put the puck on net. Or even towards it. They were still looking for the perfect pass or fancy play.

So the series is tied. Anyone who is surprised was delusional to start the series. I know there were a lot of people who thought the Rangers would win in five. I thought they were crazy then and still think they are now. These two teams are too equal for it to be that lopsided.

And now it is a best of three series, as I predicted it would be. It didn’t get there how I said but I still say the series ends in six. But I haven’t a clue which team will take it. It will come down to which one is able to dictate the style of play.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Taxi Squad Arrives As Rangers Prepare For Return To Philly

With the Wolfpack’s season officially over, it was only a matter of time before the taxi squad (a.k.a. the players who would stick around in case needed) arrived. While the Rangers haven’t officially announced who this years’ black aces are, a look at the scratches list from Tuesday’s game tells us all we need to know:

black aces

Diaz, Falk, Fast, Kreider and I believe Miller will remain with the team. The rest of the guys on that list will practice separately and only been seen when needed. They do get prime seats to every game though.

Not really any surprises on the list although a little surprised Asham isn’t included. I’m guessing the veteran would rather be with his family and said to give the spot to a kid for the experience. (As Powe is included, I find it hard to believe Asham wouldn’t have been offered a spot as well. Unless he has an injury that I’m not aware of.)

As for who I think would get called up if needed? With the extra players already around the team (two healthy forwards and two healthy defensemen), I’m going to hope it doesn’t come to that. My guess is Bourque and Allen would be the first two called upon but that is based on nothing but pure speculation on my part.

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As for the guys playing tomorrow, to the surprise of no one, no changes are expected in the Rangers lineup. Carcillo did exactly what was expected of him and honestly, the four who didn’t play don’t really have a chance to get in unless someone gets injured. And goaltending won’t be a question until September.

Speaking of goaltending the Flyers will be making a change there as Berube announced, again to the surprise of no one, that Steve Mason would be starting for game four. I said from the start of the series I wasn’t sure which goaltender would be better for the Rangers to face. We saw what Emery’s weakness was. Now the hope is the Rangers can figure out Mason’s quickly as he has played well against them in his career. The Rangers knew this change was coming so should be prepared for it. That said, why do I have this feeling we’ll be talking about this again after the game tomorrow?

Road Success Continues As Rangers Take Series Lead

Through two games I said there was something missing in this series. Not only did it not feel like the playoffs, but the games didn’t even feel like regular season Ranger-Flyers games. Apparently orange brings out the worst in people and we have a chance at having ourselves a series.

Earlier in the day, Ryan McDonagh had the quote of the series when he said:

Even though the Flyers played better through large portions of the game, the Rangers will won. 

Technically the game started well as less than four minutes in, Derek Stepan found a loose puck to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was his second goal of the series and I for one am enjoying seeing regular season Stepan in the playoffs. I guess he’s making up for how bad he played the first half of the year. Whatever it is, it’s a nice sight to see.

I said that was technically good as every team in the Metro division bracket who had scored first these playoffs, had lost so I was a little concerned. Making matter worse? The Rangers would double their lead six and a half minutes later when Marty St. Louis deflected a Dan Girardi shot past Emery making the score 2-0. Two goal leads were even more trouble then scoring first in our divisional bracket. Both of those trends ended tonight.

We also had penalties in the first period, every one of them dumber than the one before. Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen were the guilty parties in orange. For the boys in blue? Benoit Pouliot. Twice. Both times while the Rangers were on the power play. The second one led to an extended 4-on-4 where the Flyers cut the lead in half.

I’m not sure how but the Rangers were able to get out of the period with a one goal lead. But all the momentum was on the Flyers side in what looked to be turning into a nasty affair. (You know, the kind of games we all expected this series would have but hadn’t seen through the first six periods.) Unfortunately the teams had time to cool down during the intermission and we were back to a regular season pace to start the second period.

Five minutes into the period, the boys found Dan Girardi coming off the bench who rifled one past Emery to regain the two goal lead. That gave the veteran defenseman a goal and an assist. Mix that with his usual shutdown defensive play and you get voted the number one star of the game. My guess is he would’ve gotten the Hat as well if not for what happened in the third period.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, from that moment on it was all Flyers for the rest of the period. Fortunately their shots were Rangers shots meaning they really didn’t have much of a chance of going in. But the Flyers controlled play for the next fifteen minutes, outshooting the Rangers 8-2 over that time frame and 15-4 for the period. Somehow the visitors were able to come out with a two goal lead.

The third period was the period of Dan Carcillo. Yes, Dan Carcillo. His first two shifts were quiet. Then six minutes in, he was hit with a high elbow by Matt Read. There was no penalty on the play but replay shows there should have been. I’m sure some will say it should’ve been a major penalty. I’m not positive on that but definitely should’ve been a penalty and it will be looked at by the league. (Knowing the department of safety, I’m expecting a fine at most.) Carcillo was down for a little bit before finally getting to his feet and going to the bench.

He got his next shift two minutes later and was called for a penalty fitting for these playoffs. In other words, it was a horrible call. I was waiting for one of those to reach our series. (I’m still trying to find the penalty.) The Rangers killed the penalty and shortly after coming out of the box, Carcillo tipped in a Brian Boyle shot to extend the lead to 4-1. So in three shifts:

As EJ Hradek said on the post game, the Hockey Gods were looking out for him to give him that goal after the previous two shifts he had.

The goal ended any momentum the Flyers had and the Rangers took the victory and a 2-1 series lead. Due to the two day layoff, they are actually coming back to New York tonight, will probably have tomorrow off and then practice Thursday before heading back to Philly. It’s only about an hour train ride so I get why they are doing what they are doing. Let’s just hope they can keep the momentum even with the “travel”.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Blow Chance To Take 2-0 Series Lead

At the end of my game recap Thursday night, I said the following:

That said, no one should be fooled by the score or the shot totals. The Flyers were in this game even with the Rangers appearing to dominate at times due to the Rangers one glaring weakness – the inability to finish. The shots were 14-6 after one and game was tied. It was tied early in the third when shots were 23-14. And if it wasn’t for the two power play goals, the Rangers would’ve outshot the Flyers 13-1 in the third with only one goal to show for it. Basically what I’m saying is this series is far from over.

What I was trying to say was the Flyers were in a game they probably shouldn’t have been as they didn’t play their best. Today they played better and the Rangers…well the Rangers played very similar to how they did in game one. The only difference was the shot totals. Mix all of that together and you have a tied series.

I know what came out of the Rangers locker room after the game. The boys thought they had their chances and just couldn’t bury them. I don’t know if they were just saying that or actually believed it but I was surrounded by people who have been watching this team for decades and they didn’t agree. Yes the Rangers had a couple of chances. Almost every team gets at least a few each game. But there was never a moment, even when they somehow had a 2-0 lead, that we ever felt the boys in blue had control. There was never a moment we felt confident they were going to win. And sure enough they didn’t.

The game did start well when the Rangers first line looked like a first line just four minutes in to give the home team the lead. I really don’t have words for the play they made so here you go:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2013030142-65-h

Nash to Stepan to St. Louis to the back of the net. We need to see more of that boys.

Four minutes later while the Flyers were killing a penalty we were surprised they called, it was the other first line as the puck went from Zuccarello to Brassard to Pouliot to the back of the net. The best part? Pouliot absolutely fanned on the shot. He knew it too. Yet somehow it got passed Emery and the Rangers had a 2-0 lead less than halfway through the first.

I don’t know what happened after that (other than the power play becoming a power kill) but something changed. I don’t know if the Flyers woke up or the Rangers thought it would be easy but from that moment on, the Rangers really looked like they were being outplayed.

The Flyers would cut the lead in half on a beautiful play by their first line with a little over five minutes to go in the period. They would get two more in the second and seal the game with an empty net power play goal as the Rangers couldn’t figure out how to pull Lundqvist without putting too many guys on the ice. I haven’t watched the replay to know who to blame for that one but no one around me was surprised they took it. They looked off the entire third period so it just confirmed the loss a minute and a half early.

So why after this game should the Rangers have hope? Well for one, they didn’t play their best. Assuming they realize that, they can fix this and take care of business. Secondly, they have this funny little stat on their side:

Personally I don’t know what to make of that stat other than to say we apparently should’ve expected a loss today. Granted on the other side of things, the Flyers are apparently 30-7 all time when winning game two so maybe those two stats wash each other out. At the end of the day, the first reason is why this series isn’t over. Neither team has played to their ability yet in this series. The first one who does will still be playing in May.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)