The Rangers Are Headed To The Finals!

The chants echoed loud and clear in the stairways and lobby of Madison Square Garden around 11 pm Eastern Standard Time:



Eighteen thousand fans celebrating the incredible game their boys just played. Yes, their boys. The Rangers have become a part of this town in a way that finally makes the videos they play before each game true – we are one.

Was it easy to watch? Of course not! This is the Rangers after all. But somehow they got it done. I still am not sure how as through 38 minutes it seemed there was a shield around the net maned by Dustin Tokarski and the Rangers would never get one past him. Then, this happened:

Those screams you heard coming from the Garden were loud sighs of relief. Of course we had no idea that goal would be the only one scored tonight. But Tokarski had finally been beat and the anxiousness and nervousness turned to hope as 18,000 fans saw a light at the end of the tunnel. It was the glare coming off the Prince of Wales trophy.

I don’t think I could put into words the third period. It was an absolute perfect period of hockey played by the home team. So perfect that I honestly can’t think of the last time they played that well through twenty minutes.

But it was nerve-wracking. Most people probably couldn’t tell by watching on TV but those screams weren’t just to convince the Rangers they were able to win this game. The people screaming were trying to convince themselves this was possible. And each whistle brought stares to the scoreboard as the fans tried to will the time down as quickly as possible.

Sixteen minutes to go.

Thirteen minutes to go.

Eight minutes to go.

A power play with 5:42 remaining, only notable because of who took it. Brandon Prust didn’t want us to be his fans anymore. Tonight we made sure he knew we weren’t.

I remember looking at the clock at a stoppage with 2:22 remaining and thinking there was too much time left. A quick look at the old timers around me saw they were thinking the same thing. They had been there before and until the clock struck zero, they were not confident.

But the clock wound down. And finally a clear with less than five seconds remaining made our dreams a reality. The Rangers had won the game by the slimmest of margins. But they won and that was all that mattered. The win made them Eastern Conference Champions, a title that cannot be taken away from them no matter what happens over the next few weeks.

If you had asked us at the start of November how we would feel about having that title, we would’ve taken it gladly. But now we want more. Twelve wins aren’t enough. We want sixteen. And we can feel those last four within our reach.



I can still hear the chants ringing in my ear two hours later. Still see the smiles on the boys faces as they high-fived each other and threw hats on their heads. This is really happening Rangers fans. And while part of me wants to just enjoy the ride, another part of me feels the fun is just beginning. The prize is within our reach. They earned the first twelve wins. Now it’s time to go above and beyond and get the last four.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)


John Moore Done For Eastern Conference Finals

Dan Girardi put it best when he said last nights’ game in Montreal was a “gong show”. I had some other choice words but that about sums it up. It was what had been a typical night in the Bell Centre for the Rangers for many years and I for one didn’t miss those games. The good news was (to my knowledge) the Rangers came out of the game as healthy as they were going into it. The bad news was it doesn’t mean that exact roster will be available for game six tomorrow night.

Just when we all thought we had seen everything, John Moore went and did this:

Really John Moore? If someone had told me a Ranger was going to throw that hit last night, you might have been the last skater I would’ve named as the one to do it. Then again you were running around all night so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Have you been hanging out with Kreider and Zuccarello too much? If so, take note that you need to make sure the guy you are lining up isn’t admiring his pass before leveling him like that. (Oh and maybe make sure his helmet is strapped on so the hit doesn’t look so bad when the thing comes flying off.)

Anyway, we’re not going to be hypocrites here so let’s call a spade a spade – that wasn’t a clean hit and therefore I was not surprised in the least when word came out he would have a hearing with the league about it. I hate when the Rangers do this. Their fans and writers sit there and back them and scream about a hit thrown on one of their players that should’ve received more discipline. Then two games later they go and throw the same hit.

The good news for Moore was that the hit wasn’t as late as the one Brandon Prust threw last week. (CBC clocked it at .5 seconds while Prust was at .9 seconds.) Unfortunately that meant the hearing was for an “illegal check to the head” rather than “interference” and Moore ended up with the same suspension Prust did.

Do I agree with it? I can’t really argue it. I was hoping for only one game but I can’t sit here and say he didn’t deserve two when Prust got two. It sucks but at least he’ll be ready for the Finals, assuming the Rangers remember how to play hockey before tomorrow night.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Blow Chance To Move On

For the past two days, all I kept saying was I didn’t want to be at the Garden on Thursday night. I wanted the Rangers to shock me and end a series early. I didn’t care to see handshakes live. I didn’t want Brandon Prust to get the chance to play another game. The Rangers had other ideas and now have a problem on their hands.

About the only good news of the night was the fact that Derek Stepan returned to the lineup. I have no idea how but you would never know he hadn’t been able to eat solid food for five days other than the additional equipment surrounding his face. He was flying out there and his linemates definitely benefited from it. Unfortunately it was all downhill after he stepped on the ice.

From the end of game four to the start of game five, all the Rangers kept saying was they needed to take less penalties. So what did they do? Take a penalty just 22 seconds in. On replay I could see what Kreider was trying to do as he was trying to avoid hitting Subban so as to not take a penalty. But he stuck out his leg and tripped him instead. Although the belly flop Subban took was a little excessive if you ask me. (Not saying it wasn’t a penalty, just for a big man he went down quite hard.)

Of course the Rangers weren’t going to kill that because it would’ve been a miracle if they had and Montreal had the early lead less than two minutes into the game. The Rangers response? It wasn’t good. Yes the Habs as expected threw everything they had into every shift to start the game but the Rangers looked tentative and I honestly figured the game was over. You could just see how bad the Habs wanted it and the Rangers were back to looking like they had no response.

Then a little over halfway through the period, Kreider got the puck to Stepan who rather than passing it like he usually does decided to wrist one on net. It hit the post and deflected into the back of the net to tie the game. Honestly plays like that one is why everyone screams for him to shoot more. He has a good shot. He just never uses it. Guess he decided to go with what he could see which was the net right in front of him.

The Rangers had a couple of good shits after that and I thought maybe the game wasn’t over after all. I should know better with this team.

Less than two minutes later, I’m not sure what Staal and Stralman were doing in trying to defend Plekanec but it didn’t work as the Canadien split the two and put one behind Lundqvist to regain the lead. Sure Lundqvist could’ve had that one but I’m sure he also expected his defenseman to, I don’t know, play defense in front of him. I’ll just blame everyone on the ice.

Momentum switched back to the Habs and the Rangers were lucky to get out of the period with only a one goal deficit. They did get a power play late in the period that looked semi-competent but wasn’t able to get the equalizer.

They got another power play opportunity early in the second but that was straight power kill time. And for those who say they kept control of the puck in the zone, that means nothing when you get no shots on net. It’s actually amazing the puck stayed in the zone as long as it did with how many times the Rangers threw it to the middle of the ice where there were four Habs waiting.

Shortly after it ended, the Habs came up the ice and extended their lead to 3-1. A minute later Zuccarello took a penalty and while they technically killed it, I don’t consider it a kill when the Habs scored right after he exited the box.

At that point, it looked like the rout was on. The worst part was it lead to Lundqvist getting pulled. Did he play great through a period and a half? No. But now he has to think about this and now you have a completely new series. All it takes is one game. Rangers fans know this. And at that moment it felt like the Rangers would be the first team in NHL history to come back from and blow a 3-1 series lead in the same playoffs. (I have no idea if that stat is correct but I can’t imagine a lot of teams have done both in the same playoffs.)

But the Rangers weren’t done just yet. At 9:48 into the period, they finally took their first shot on net. Actually, I’m not sure if it was really a shot on net as Nash threw it towards the net and Gorges deflected it in for him. If Gorges hadn’t touched it, it would’ve gone right through the crease. But again, the fact that it was their first shot just showed which team seemed to want tonights’ game more. And again, it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. We were just on the other side.

Less than two and a half minutes later, the Rangers got another shot. Tokarski got that one but the rebound bounced to Stepan stick who buried it for his second of the game and all of a sudden we were back to a one-goal game. A minute later, Plekanec tried to sell a high stick and got caught. The most shocking part was the only call was the dive he took. Actually the most shocking part was the Rangers made them pay as halfway through we had a tie game, this time it was Kreider on a great feed from McDonagh. The goal gave the rookie (yes he is still a rookie) a four point night. Guess that’s how you try and make up for a bad penalty to start the game.

I won’t tell you how much of my recap was written at that point but needless to say I needed to do some rewriting due to those four and a half minutes. Of course the joy didn’t last long as the Habs retook the lead a minute later. Somehow that was all the goals for the period and the Rangers entered the third only down a goal. They did tempt fate when they took another tripping penalty with a little less than a minute and a half to go. I’ll give you one guess who took it. Hint, it was the guy who said he expected to be glued to the bench at times this morning.

But of course the comeback was just to put the Montreal fans on edge for a little bit as it wasn’t meant to be tonight. Bourque completed a hat trick to make it 6-4 just six and a half minutes into the third and that was all they wrote. Honestly, any chance the Rangers had to get back into the game was lost halfway through the period when John Moore became Brandon Prust, throwing an almost identical hit the ex-Ranger threw two games ago. (Weise was admiring his pass more than Stepan was but otherwise I see too many similarities.) Of course this time it was caught and he was thrown. Don’t think he’ll be playing again the rest of this series either.

Honestly the Rangers got the outcome they deserved in this game. Then again, they got the outcome they deserved in almost every game for the past few weeks. Since the start of round two, I can think of three games they deserved to win – games one and five against the Penguins and game one against the Habs. Maybe you put game seven against the Penguins on that list as well. The rest they were lucky to come out on top. It’s why I’ve said all along that I wonder if we would be here if not for outside circumstances. It’s a shame it comes to that but I really wonder.

And so the teams head back to New York and I get to sit through another game on pins and needles at MSG because this team never does anything easy. Don’t ask me what I expect the outcome of game six to be. It has nothing to do with being pessimistic. It has to do with being realistic. And unless some unexpected circumstance happens in the next 48 hours, I don’t have any reason to believe this team will get up and play that game at the level it needs to be played. Hopefully they prove me wrong.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Stepan Gametime Decision As Rangers Prepare For Game 5

When it was reported yesterday that Derek Stepan traveled to Montreal with his teammates, most assumed that was a good sign. When Vigneault said the only other spare forwards available were Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg, most assumed that meant Stepan was playing. Well it hasn’t been confirmed yet but it sure looks like that will be the case unless something changes in the next few hours.

Earlier today, the Rangers took to the ice for a full morning skate. Stepan took to the ice wearing the contraption you see above. I expected a full cage and I wonder if breathing would be easier with one between that and the visor he regularly wears. Honestly there is no way not to look ridiculous with a lower shield but that almost takes ridiculousness to a whole new level. Anything to be able to play, I guess.

During practice he took line rushes with his regular linemates, Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, while also practicing on the first power play unit. To me, that says he plays but Vigneault refused to confirm that.

I’m not sure which is worse – allowing a player to determine if they are healthy enough to play or allowing the Rangers medical staff to make that decision. Hopefully both use logic in this decision and make the right one, whatever that may be.

Vigneault also stated that Stepan has been on a “soft diet” (I’m guessing that means liquids only) and is able to speak. I wonder if speaking involves words or just mumbling at this point.

Simply put, whether he plays tonight or not, all of this is a good sign. Most players who have surgery to their jaw miss a minimum of a month so the fact that he is already on the ice is a great sign. I’m 100% positive he wouldn’t be if this was November but hopefully the fact he can be means this isn’t as bad as we all feared.

But as much as I want to see him on the ice, I want him to be able to play. I remember all too clearly him trying to play through the flu back in March. He didn’t even make it through two periods. If there is any chance of that happening again, he has to sit. The stakes are too high now to take that chance.


In other news, one player we know we won’t be seeing is J.T. Miller as he did not make the trip to New York. That’s probably not good news unless they expected Stepan to play so wanted him to stay home and rest. According to ESPN’s Katie Strang, Miller’s injury isn’t expected to be serious so he could be available if the series extends after tonight or for the next round. Hopefully the Rangers won’t need him but that’s a good sign, if true.


And finally, I’ll leave you with this nugget from the Daily News’ Pat Leonard from his discussion with Benoit Pouliot this morning:

The fans have thought the same thing and have been just as surprised when you’re back on the ice. Maybe you want to fix this? Just an idea.


(Photo: New York Rangers official twitter account)

Rangers Overcome Penalties To Get Within One Win Of Final

After game two, Michel Therrien complained about not getting breaks. The difference between these two teams? Tonight the Rangers got none yet they still managed to come out on top.

As expected Derick Brassard returned to the lineup today in place of Dan Carcillo but the Rangers had one other lineup change and it was a big one. For the first time in 348 regular season and playoff games, Derek Stepan was not on the ice for the boys in blue and instead J.T. Miller was. I guess the “doctors” on the Habs should stick to hockey. He was released from the hospital last night and was reported to have visited the team this morning before the morning skate.

Honestly, it was so weird watching warmups and not seeing him fishing pucks out of the net as the players ran their drills. Although his replacement was a team effort as it was hilarious watching Boyle, Brassard and Girardi try and figure out how to do it. There is still no timetable for his return so I am going to continue to hold out hope for a miracle and that we get to see him play again. Just not this series cause I don’t expect him to be ready Tuesday and I don’t plan to be at MSG on Thursday. But subconsciously I’m beginning to realize that probably isn’t realistic.

I want to sit here and recap the entire game but I can’t because it’s really all a mush in my brain right now so I’m just going to discuss highlights.

Penalties. The Rangers took too many of them. I wanted to be pissed at the referees each time another one was called but then they showed a replay and each time it looked like a penalty. Yes the Habs took some dives but that didn’t mean the Rangers sticks were where they were supposed to be.

The part that pissed me off was the Habs were not clean and innocent all game yet the Rangers got only three power plays and two were only half power plays (one was cut short due to a Rangers penalty and the other was called during a Habs power play). Granted after watching them, I wasn’t too upset they didn’t get anymore. The power kill was on full display tonight for the home team. Fortunately the Habs had the same thing going on for most of the game but the law of averages said they were bound to get one and of course they did to tie the game at the start of the third.

As for the goals, the Hagelin shorthanded one was beautiful. It was an incredible pass from Boyle to spring him and he just took his time rather than rushing the puck on net. It helps when you have all the time in the world because you are that far away from the opposition. It amuses me that the Habs thought they had speed. Those defensemen are still trying to figure out where Hagelin and Kreider are each time they are on the ice.

The Habs first goal was a misplay by Staal and Stralman. I believe Stralman pinched leaving Staal all alone on the odd-man rush and they just roofed it. You could feel it coming though as no one in the building felt secure with the 1-0 lead. Well other than the Rangers who seemed to be trying to hold it more than extend it.

Shortly after that goal, J.T. Miller was thrown into the goal post by Andrei Markov and the young winger was down for the count. Even in the stands we knew he was hurt. He got off on his own but shortly afterwards went to the locker room. During the next stoppage in play I noticed Ramsay back on the bench but didn’t see Miller and assumed he was done for the night (and series). He did come out for the third period but never played a shift so I’m not really sure why he was on the bench if he was injured. It also meant the Rangers played the bulk of the game once again with only 11 forwards. Third time in four games they’ve had to do that. Somehow they are 2-1 in those games.

As the second period wound down, I honestly just wanted to go into the third with a tie. Then Brassard ended up with the puck on his stick with less than a minute to go and he rifled it to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. His reaction was absolutely priceless:

Usually he celebrates like he just won the Cup but this one was so matter of a fact as if to say “what are you guys worried about? I’m back and I got this!”. I couldn’t stop laughing as they kept re-showing it.

The best part about that goal was the assists – Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist. Yes Lundqvist got an assist which was his first ever playoff point. The building went absolutely crazy when that was announced.

Then came the second longest intermission of the night. We as Rangers fans are trained to not be comfortable with one goal leads. Especially when there is twenty minutes to kill on the clock. It took the Habs exactly two minutes to prove us right as they finally got a power play goal. It only took till their 6th try tonight and 15th of the series.

For some reason that I can’t explain, the Rangers appeared to play the next eighteen minutes as if they were trying to hold on to a lead. I saw no push for another goal and while in some cases that could be the opposition, I didn’t think the Habs were doing enough to say they controlled play either. They did get a great opportunity with only a couple of minutes to go that somehow hit the crossbar but otherwise play was just kind of happening. The result was overtime.

To say the building felt uneasy during that intermission would be an understatement. Then when Pouliot took that penalty we all said at least it would end early. The Rangers managed to kill it but of course Pouliot goes and ices the puck on his next shift. I have this feeling he will be back next year but I still can’t decide if the good he does outweighs the bad. He honestly drives me nuts.

Then just six minutes into overtime, St. Louis finally figured out Tokarski as the building went crazy and the home team mobbed the newest Ranger. He had gotten so many chances the past few games that we all knew one was bound to go in. I figured it would be when he tried a different type of shot but he stuck with what he knew and it finally worked.

Honestly I can’t believe they won that game. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve to cause I’m not sure either team deserved to. But with all the penalties and then being short a forward again, it just seemed that everything was stacked against them. I guess that’s when they play their best.

And now they have a chance to do something they haven’t done in years – end a series before game 7. With all the streaks they’ve ended this postseason, you would think they could finally end that one. But they know how it feels and what can happen when a team is down 3-1 in a series. It’s not going to be easy but I feel a trip to the finals is in our future. And if you had asked me if I saw that earlier this month, I would’ve said no way. But this team has something special going on that even I am starting to believe. You’ve drawn me back in Rangers. Don’t let me down.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)


Dan Carcillo To Appeal His Suspension

Alain Vigneault put it best yesterday when he said “two wrongs don’t make a right” in talking about the suspension handed down to Dan Carcillo. That doesn’t mean the suspension was completely fair.

I’m going to say this from the start – I am not defending what Carcillo did. No matter what happened before it, he was wrong to push the linesman. But from the moment it happened, I thought something seemed off. When Carcillo joined the Rangers back in December, I cursed that the team was getting a loose cannon who would cost them games. But he hasn’t been like that so to see him snap in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals seemed strange to me. Then came this explanation from Vigneault:

 “At the end of the day if the right call is made on the ice, that whole situation doesn’t happen.  Dan didn’t have a penalty on that play. There was no penalty there.  I still don’t understand why Scott grabbed him in that fashion.  All Scott had to do was tell him he had a penalty; Dan didn’t know he had a penalty.  Just ‘can you come to the box with me?’  Here, you have a penalty, and it would have been over.  In that split moment of grabbing him like that, obviously, it’s inexcusable what Dan did, but those situations or incidences put one after the other leads to a young gentleman’s career moving forward might be very tough here.”

Carcillo had no idea why the linesman grabbed him. To be honest, at the time neither did I. Again, that doesn’t excuse what he did. He needs to keep his cool in that situation. But he wasn’t expecting to be grabbed that way and reacted how most of us would have if being “attacked” (for lack of a better word) without reason.

Due to that, it’s no surprise Carcillo is appealing his suspension. The suspension will take place in the next few days. (Under the rule it is supposed to take place before the player would miss their second game so in the case before Tuesday night.) My guess is Carcillo would like it dropped down from a category two offense to a category three offense. Category two goes with rule 40.3 which states:

40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official,shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.

Category three, on the other hand, says:

40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.

Personally, and this has nothing to do with him being on my team or not as he wouldn’t be playing if Stepan is healthy and no one else gets injured, I think what he did falls into category three more than category two. I have seen players do a lot more than Carcillo did and not get anything. Yes he applied physical force but he was just trying to get free. He had no idea the linesman was trying to send him to the penalty box. If Driscoll had just said a penalty was called so before you get another let’s go to the box, none of this would’ve happened. He wasn’t trying to get at the fight or cause trouble. He was trying to figure out why he was being pushed.

But all of that would imply the guys in stripes had any control over that game and they definitely did not during the first period. I really am interested to see when those four work their next game. We don’t get to hear about punishment to referees and linesmen but not being given games in the playoffs implies punishment was handed down. Honestly if Carcillo has to miss games so should Driscoll. He applied just as much force as the Rangers agitator did.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Avoid Sideshow + Updates On Stepan, Brassard

Everyone says John Tortorella is a sideshow. No, Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens are a sideshow. And they are embarrassing their franchise in doing it.

When Marty St. Louis came to the New York Rangers, I said I would have trouble rooting for him because of the way he came here. Not because he asked for a trade at an inopportune time for the organization he was currently with or because he wanted to be closer to family. I can respect that. It was because he felt the need to air certain things in public and basically trash an organization who took care of him for 13+ years. After listening to the Habs today, I might be able to put all that to the side. I’ve also never been prouder to be a New York Rangers fan because my team doesn’t say or do things like that.

But let’s start with the Rangers.

By now, everyone knows Brandon Prust was suspended two games for his hit. He spoke to the media today and said he contacted Stepan to apologize. Being that his number was already in his phone, I’m not surprised. Also not surprised he admitted Stepan’s response was “short”. My guess is he acknowledged he got the text and that was it. The two were friends a week ago. I’m not so sure anymore nor am I sure time will change that as Prust hopes.

I really never wanted to hate Prust and his quotes today for the most part explain why. But I don’t forgive easily on hits like this. Although apparently Prust doesn’t care about if I’m a fan of his as he said this today:

You’re right, Prust. Rangers fans aren’t your fans right now. But many of them still were before this series began.

All of this comes back to Derek Stepan, who had a plate placed into his fractured jaw last night. Vigneault said he was “unlikely” to play tomorrow since he was still recovering in hospital and while that could mean anything, so far that status has been no-go in the playoffs. It’s no secret how I feel about about Stepan and I’m not sure how it will be watching the game tomorrow without him playing. (I’ve watched him in 348 regular season and playoff games so don’t remember him not being there.) At least I’ll be at the game so won’t have to hear it mentioned every five minutes.

Although if you listen to the Habs, he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow:

I don’t even know how to comment to those quotes other than to say I wish I was in public relations as it seems the Habs need a new PR team. Yes I understand it’s gamesmanship but questioning an injury when a guy is still in the hospital after having surgery is ridiculous and just plain classless. And while I want to get mad at the players for these quotes, I know it’s all coming from Therrien. It’s amazing how much a team takes on their coach but I’ve seen it first hand in the past two seasons.

Personally I hope the Habs are right and Stepan does play. I don’t think it will be a matter of re-injury but a matter of being ready to play. My guess is he hasn’t eaten or drank that much since the injury and especially since the surgery which means he won’t have the necessary energy. And while he tried playing through that once before, we all saw how that went. But this is the playoffs so until he doesn’t step on the ice for warmups tomorrow night, I’m holding out hope.

One player we don’t have to hold out hope for is Derick Brassard who told the media he would be playing tomorrow. (When that was told to Vigneault he laughed and said it was good to know since he wasn’t aware of that yet.) Thank goodness. If both he and Stepan were out, the Rangers would’ve been in trouble. Let’s just hope Brassard can make it through the game as Therrien made it clear he knew where he was injured. I’m sure he does know. It’s why I laugh at the secretiveness with the media. Both teams are fully aware of any and all injuries yet the media and fans can’t know anything.

So we know Brassard is back in. Reports from practice say that J.T. Miller will play if Stepan can’t although it was hard to tell from the lines with Chris Kreider taking a maintenance day. (Side note: Read that link for quotes from Vigneault about Carcillo’s situation. Going to touch on that another time but Vigneault had some good quotes today.)

Honestly, I would expect Miller over Fast due to experience. I’m just not sure who is centering the line with Nash and Kreider if Stepan doesn’t go. It looked like it would be Dominic Moore from practice today. I love Moore but not sure how I feel about that.

Guess all will be revealed tomorrow. No matter who plays, I just hope the Rangers win the next two games. Throughout these playoffs, we’ve had to deal with the Flyers, Penguins and Canadiens. This series is the first time I really want to end the oppositions’ season. There is something wrong with that scenario.