Rangers Sweep Home-And-Home With Flyers

I was trying to come up with a creative title that had something along the lines of “Brassard and the Rookies Lead Rangers To Victory” but decided to keep it basic. But basically that’s what today was, the Derick Brassard and Rangers Rookies show. It helped that the Flyers put about as much effort into today’s game as they did yesterday. I don’t get it but I would be furious if I was a Flyers fan. As I always say, there’s losing while trying and then there’s straight out not giving a damn. The Flyers were in the second category for both games. Something has to give in Philly.

But that’s not my problem. My problem is the Rangers winning both of these games and thinking they played well. If they play the game they played today on Monday, they will again get their butts kicked by the Lightning. Before we get to the Lightning though, we have another problem:

The Mumps.

Yes you read that correctly. The freaking mumps have invaded the Rangers locker room. I was worried about this from the moment I heard they had an issue out west. It seems to be based in So Cal and the Rangers haven’t come in contact with those teams yet. But it has also been in the Wild and Blues rooms. I thought enough time had passed so we were clear. The Blues were in town 26 days ago. It sounds like they became aware of symptoms in Tampa which would bring the gap to around 22 days ago. They say symptoms appear roughly 17-19 days after being contaminated. I’m blaming the Blues.

For now, the only one who has it is Tanner Glass. The Rangers said after the game that the players were tested and received booster shots if necessary when the outbreak first came out but apparently that wasn’t soon enough. It sounds like there is still fear it could be in other players so they are being extremely cautious. (The players each had their own water bottle today.) I am praying that no one else has it. That would be the last thing they need to deal with now.

Glass was already out of the lineup (and away from the team, another hint we should’ve known it was more than the flu) but there were a few other lineup changes today. Dan Boyle was out with flu-like symptoms but the Rangers repeatedly said they didn’t think it was the mumps and that he was already feeling better. My guess, assuming they are telling the truth on that, is he woke up feeling sick and since it was an afternoon game decided better to stay home. Fine by me. Rather him get better than contaminate everyone else. John Moore took his place. And as announced yesterday Chris Kreider missed the game due to the death of his grandfather with J.T. Miller getting the call instead.

Needing to respond right from the start, Flyers captain Claude Giroux did what all captains would do – took a double minor high-sticking penalty just a minute into the game. It would’ve been nice to have Boyle for that but after a bad start to the power play, Derick Brassard got his first of the afternoon with ten seconds remaining on the first minor. Only against the Flyers do we manage that. Otherwise it would be right after the two minute mark of the power play. Derek Stepan got the secondary assist extending his point streak to six games and giving him assists on all goals scored against the Flyers this weekend to that point. (If you want to vote a Rangers into the all-star game, he would be a good one.)

Of course the Rangers couldn’t do anything on the back end of the power play but at least they got one. They continued to push the play but couldn’t get another one passed Emery. Eleven minutes after their goal, the inevitable happened. The Flyers finally scored against the Rangers this year. It only took almost seven periods. I wasn’t happy that happened in the first game Lundqvist played but they weren’t shutting them out again. Fortunately that was all the damage in the first period and the two teams went to intermission tied at one.

You know how I mention the Rangers playing bad second periods? The first half of the second period today was a perfect example of that. The Rangers basically slept walk through the first half of the period. The Flyers weren’t much better but they got a power play seven minutes in and were able to capitalize to take a 2-1 lead. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon when the rookies stepped in.

J.T. Miller got the puck to Kevin Klein who got the puck to Jesper Fast. There really wasn’t a shot there but Fast quickly threw the puck towards the net and the outcome was his first NHL goal. I don’t think you could wipe the smile off his face the rest of the afternoon.

That goal woke the Rangers up. They didn’t get another one past Emery the rest of the period but they had all the momentum going into the third. They finally did capitalize three minutes into the third as Kevin Hayes got the puck to Brassard for his second of the game. Almost seven minutes later, Miller got the puck at his blue line, came down the ice, went around the net and tucked it in for his first of the season. I literally watched him come down the ice and screamed “go J.T., go J.T.” the entire way. I just knew he was scoring on the play.

At that point, the two teams just played the rest of the game out. Sure the Flyers tried a little bit to get back into it but everyone knew it wasn’t happening. With a couple of minutes remaining, the Garden started the familiar “you can’t beat us!” chant, which they can’t as that was their 10th straight loss at MSG in the regular season.

The Rangers did have one scare as Matt Hunwick tried to set up Brassard for the empty net goal. Only problem was he made a cross-ice pass that everyone knew he was making and Giroux intercepted it. Luckily no harm done. While I want to ream him for it, I sadly know a few of the other defensemen would’ve probably attempted the same ill-advised pass. Lee Stempniak would add an empty net goal a few shifts later and the Rangers would sweep the weekend.

If you had told me the Rangers would beat the Flyers three times in eleven days when I saw on the schedule this would be happening, I would’ve laughed at you. Even knowing their record, I keep assuming it will end at some point. I guess not. Now let’s hope the Lightning don’t do the same to the Rangers in a span of 15 days. The boys have off Sunday before getting their last crack at their ex-mates Monday evening. Please no one else come down with the flu…or worse, the mumps.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Once Again Shutout Flyers

Sometimes teams get shutouts with complete efforts from start to finish. The Rangers shutouts of the Penguins and Canadiens this month fall into that category. And sometimes a team gets a shutout because the team they are playing puts in very little effort and they try just enough to make themselves look good. I would place today’s win against the Flyers in that category. Not to take anything away from Cam Talbot or any of the Rangers, who compared to some other games this month, put in a great effort. But if the Flyers had shown up today, I’m not sure the score would’ve ended up as it did.

The big news before the game was the return of the captain. Seeing the schedule and the fact that Ryan McDonagh hadn’t skated with the team before they made their trip to Tampa, I assumed he wouldn’t be back until next weekend. (The Rangers had four games in six days and then a lot of time off so I figured he would need some practice time.) When he appeared at his first practice without a non-contact jersey, I realized he would be back sooner (and thought our ex-captain had returned). Turns out I was right as two practices and he was back in. And in monitoring his minutes, Vigneault played him only 22:12 which is basically around what we all expected. And no that wasn’t the most, only the second highest of both teams. Dan Girardi had the lead with 25:26. (No wonder the Rangers won today.)

McDonagh returning meant another defenseman was out. I incorrectly assumed it would be Matt Hunwick. Not that Hunwick has played poorly as he has not. But I still consider him the teams’ seventh defenseman. Apparently Vigneault disagrees as it was John Moore who drew the short end of the stick today. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I can’t see Moore happily sitting there as the seventh in the long term.

His return also meant it was the first time all season the Rangers had all five of their captains in the line up at one time. On November 28th. I guess it could’ve been worse. Today Stepan and Girardi got the A’s. Not sure if that means they will be permanent road A’s or if they will rotate every game. Hopefully all five will stay healthy long enough for us to find out.

As expected was the game started a little slow. This is what happens when teams are forced to play a matinee after a holiday. The Rangers always look slow in early starts and I guess the Flyers follow the same formula. A little over five minute in, Zac Rinaldo did what Zac Rinaldo does – took a stupid penalty in the offensive zone.

I was a little worried with the power play at first but somehow the Rangers turned a bad play into a great one. Dan Boyle had the puck in the neutral zone and with no where to go, almost turned it over. It made it into the zone but shortly later was headed back out when Derek Stepan made a great play on the blue line to keep it in and pass it to Boyle at the opposing point. Boyle ripped one that Mason is still looking for and the Rangers had the early lead.

A minute later, the Rangers tried to give it back as Dominic Moore took an offensive zone penalty. It wasn’t as clean as some recent penalty kills but the Rangers managed to kill it to keep the 1-0 lead. A minute after that ended, the Flyers got caught with too many men on the ice leading to two minutes of Rangers power kill time. It was bad, we’ll just leave it at that.

As the period went on, you could see the tide turning as the Flyers continued to hem the Rangers in their zone. Somehow the Rangers kept the puck out of the net and got out of the period with the lead. The problem was next came the second period. And we know how the Rangers tend to play in second periods. The good news was the Flyers decided to play the same way.

After staying on the ice longer than he should have, Chris Kreider got caught with a high-stick and to the penalty box he went. But the Flyers decided to steal the Rangers power kill so no harm done.

Shortly after Kreider came out of the box, he stole the puck from the Flyers got it to Stepan who got it to Marty St. Louis for his 1000th career point in the NHL. We can all think whatever we want about him but an undrafted player hitting 1,000 points in 1,082 games is basically incredible. Congrats Marty!

Other than three penalties called throughout the remainder of the period, all of which were easily killed by whichever team needed to kill it, not a lot of action for the rest of the second period. Considering how many times second periods have burned them, I’m assuming the Rangers gladly took that.

The Rangers started the third period on the penalty kill but the Flyers couldn’t get anything going. Then the Flyers took another penalty and as was the case throughout the afternoon, the Ranger power play continued to get worse. As bad as the three before this one were, that one was easily the worst. And of course, the only one who showed even a little bit of effort was Kreider who ended up taking a penalty at the end of it. And when Kreider takes penalties, he doesn’t take little ones. This one was a double minor for high-sticking due to drawing blood.

But the Flyers just couldn’t get anything going and the Rangers got a 3-on-1 just a minute into it to extend the lead to 3-0. Needless to say, Philly fans weren’t pleased. Rick Nash enjoyed his 16th goal of the season and Stepan his third assist of the game though.

The Rangers would kill the rest of the penalty as well as the rest of the period to take their second shutout of the Flyers in 10 days. This is one time I wish we didn’t have a back-to-back with them. Law of averages says this can’t continue. (Although if the Flyers play like they did today and the Rangers merely show up to the game tomorrow, it probably will.) I just hope the Rangers play as well in front of Lundqvist as they did in front of Talbot today.

* One note for tomorrow as Larry Brooks broke the news that Chris Kreider will not be available after the passing of his grandfather today. Sounds like J.T. Miller will be recalled to replace him. Our condolences are with Chris and his family over the loss.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Boyle’s First Not Enough To Lead Rangers Over Bolts

I don’t care what their record says, I want to know how this Tampa team looks against a team not named the Rangers. They are a good team but the Rangers just make them look like…like the Blackhawks or Kings. I just have a lot of trouble believing they belong in that category. (And no, I don’t think the Rangers belong their either.)

I want to know how Ryan Callahan looks against a team not named the Rangers. In 16 games this season, he has 6 goals. Decent numbers. In two games against the Rangers, he has four. Four. That’s how many goals the Rangers have against Tampa in total this season. That’s just not acceptable. Neither is the way his friends keep playing him. He doesn’t seem to care about how they look, they need to stop letting him do whatever he wants.

I’m sorry. Watching some of the things this team does just infuriates me. I get that Ben Bishop has a ridiculous record against the Rangers. But this is two games in a row where that record means nothing to me because of course he is going to have great numbers when he isn’t tested. 19 shots with most of them being shots I could’ve stopped if you put me in net isn’t testing a goalie.

What bothers me most is that they probably think they were in this game. Because it was a one goal game, they probably thought they had a chance to win. Technically they did. A bounce here or there and technically they could have. Did they deserve to? Not to me. And I hope they realize that or this inconsistency is going to continue.

Anyway, onto the game. Yes I am actually going to recap this one. As bad as it was, it was better than whatever I was stuck witnessing live last Monday.

It looked like it was going to be a long night just four and a half minutes in when Mats Zuccarello was called for interference leading to a Stamkos power play goal less than a minute later. Granted it wasn’t so much the goal as to how it was scored. Four Rangers players on one side of the ice with four Lightning players while one lone Lightning player was wide open on the other side of the ice. That lone player? Steven Stamkos. How do you forget about Steven Stamkos?

But things got better as less than four minutes later, Rick Nash stole the puck from Sustr and fed Zuccarello to give us a tie game. Less than two minutes later, the Lightning got caught with too many men on the ice. It took the Rangers 11 seconds to take the lead. Yes, the Rangers scored 11 seconds into a power play. Dan Boyle (and Derek Stepan) really do make a difference. The goal was Boyle’s first as a Ranger. He looked relieved so hopefully it means many more to come.

Unfortunately the craziness of the period continued five minutes later when Nash was called for a double minor. Depending on which side you follow, depends on how you saw the play. Lightning writers and fans thought Nash basically “close lined” Palat and should have been given a major. Rangers writers and fans saw Nash try to avoid a hit from Palat and ended up high-sticking while trying to get out of the way. Fortunately the referees saw the correct way which was the second one and just called it a 2-minute minor for high-sticking. (One view looked bad but from the other angle, Nash was absolutely trying to get out of the way and due to height difference and fact his stick was not where it was supposed to be, he got him.) Johnson went after Nash leading to Nash somehow tackling him and getting an extra two minutes for roughing while Johnson somehow got nothing. I have no idea on that one. It should’ve been four and two.

Long story short, the Lightning had a four minute power play. They cashed in on the first half of it to tie the game off a shot by Garrison. It was deflected in front but we won’t talk about that because then I have to ask what Marc Staal was doing since he wasn’t clearing the crease. They did kill the second half and we went to intermission tied at two.

As crazy as the first period was equals how boring the second period was. The Rangers broadcast kept harping on the fact the Rangers had very few shots through the first half of the period. Pretty sure the Lightning had just as many. It looked like both teams tried to play it safe and put the other to sleep before pouncing. Halfway through the period, the Lightning pounced as they took a lead when a certain player deflected another shot in the net after Staal again did something, just not sure what. (I hate going after just Staal but he lost him twice. That said, it’s not as if Girardi would’ve done much better.)

The Rangers got two power play chances during the second half of the period but nothing worth writing about and the Rangers went to intermission down by one. During his interview in intermission, Derick Brassard made a comment that “they could tie it with five minutes to go”. I was hoping he suddenly had the ability to predict the future. He didn’t.

I figured the next goal would be a big one. It was as it ended up being the game winner. Unfortunately it came off a Lightning player nine and a half minutes in giving the home team a 4-2 lead. The Rangers would get one back as Nash would score his 15th of the season on a beautiful individual effort after the Lightning iced the puck three times in a row but that would be as close as they could get as they would fall 4-3. Honestly, I was just happy the Lightning didn’t get the chance to tack on an empty net goal. We all know who would’ve scored it if they had.

And so the Rangers head to Philly. I would say the inconsistency continues but this game was far from their worst of the season. Actually maybe they think they played well because compared to some recent losses, this game looked fantastic. Maybe one day we will get to the point where a loss like tonight is looked at as a bad game. The boys definitely aren’t there yet.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Prepare For Bolts On “Lovefest” Anniversary

Exactly one year ago today, the Rangers entered Tampa for a game that was due to be a memorable night for the Lightning. Before the game, the Lightning had a pregame ceremony planned for their captain who had just played his 1,000th game. The timing was perfect as his good friend would be in town to help with the festivities.

And after the ceremony, we would have a hockey game. One which allowed Rangers fans to see Alain Vigneault at maybe his angriest since becoming head coach as he titled the night a “lovefest” to that player who was honored saying the Rangers basically allowed the celebration to last all night. They did – Marty St. Louis had two goals and an assist on his night as the Lightning beat the Rangers 5-0. Lightning fans couldn’t have been happier with how the night went for their adored captain. My how things have changed since then.

St. Louis will be returning to the scene of that crime tomorrow. I think it’s safe to say there won’t be another St. Louis “lovefest” in Tampa during that game, although the Rangers wouldn’t mind one this time around. I just want them not to roll out the red carpet for yet another Bolts player.

Before we get to that game, last night I sat and re-watched the Montreal game (partially because I had nothing else to do, partially because I always like watching wins over teams I hate) so some additional thoughts from a very convincing win two nights ago:

* During the game, I noticed Chris Kreider was all over the place and had a number of chances but I didn’t realize he had seven shots on net. Seven. He actually had two attempts blocked as well which means he attempted nine shots on net. Before Sunday night, he had gone six games without a point. He got two assists against the Canadiens. Simply put, he’s due to breakout. Maybe he gets the red carpet treatment tomorrow night?

* I mentioned when Dan Girardi received his penalty that he argued the call and I heard that his stick had been held. It was. Badly. And the referee who made the call was starring right at them as it happened. There is no way he couldn’t see what we did on TV. Horrible call that could’ve had a huge impact on the game if they had scored. Should’ve been no call or both of them going. (I think Girardi’s hook was slight but his stick was obviously not where it was supposed to be to allow Desharnais to hold it.)

* This is going to pain me to write. I re-watched the collision between Brandon Prust and Henrik Lundqvist. Sunday night I was convinced he didn’t intentionally hit him but he didn’t try to avoid him either. After seeing the replay? He didn’t see him. I want to hate him (I do hate him) and want to say he meant to do it after saying last year he would go after Lundqvist. But he didn’t there. He was coming in and never in a million years expected to see Lundqvist that high up. How could he expect that? He played with him for a number of years and I don’t think Lundqvist ever did that while he was here. I don’t remember the last time I saw Lundqvist try a move like that. After they collided, he dropped his stick and just stood there as if to say he didn’t do anything. I saw that and just thought he was trying to get out of it. He really didn’t do anything. And I’m sure Kevin Klein knew that when he dropped the gloves. But it still had to be done and again, as much as it pains me, credit to Prust for responding. I still want someone to wipe the floor with him one of these days.

And with that, let’s move away from Montreal and not think about them until the end of January. Now it’s time to put our focus on two teams whom the Rangers will play a total of four games against in the next week – Lightning and Flyers. First up, Tampa. Remember what happened a week ago tonight? Fans do. Please don’t let that happen again tomorrow.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Shutout Tired Habs

I wanted to make the title “Habs Moms’ See Back-to-Back Shutouts” but figured I should focus on the Rangers instead. Honestly, the Habs looked like a team on a back to back who just won a big game against their arch rival. It makes sense but I figured they would have some fight left for the team that kicked them out of the playoffs last year. Instead, they barely made it on the ice before the start of each period. (I have never seen a team come out as late as they did at the start of one period, nonetheless all three.)

The Rangers and Habs started the game with their fourth lines and my first thought was that this was going to be a long night. Not sure if they were warned or what but nothing came of that other than the Habs icing the puck twice and then taking a penalty to allow those guys to finally get off the ice. At that point I was worried it was going to be another one of those boring nights where they spent half the game icing the puck. (They did that I believe opening night last year. One of the worst games I’ve seen.)

While the power play had some chances, they weren’t able to get anything behind Tokarski. Then almost halfway through the period, Jesper Fast got the puck to Tanner Glass who took a shot on net. Tokarski made the save but Dominic Moore got to the rebound to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. I wonder if the Habs had flashbacks at that point as Moore was the last person to score against the Habs at MSG as well. I was really hoping I didn’t have to watch a game and hope that one goal stood up again. Was nice to see him get consecutive game winners against them at MSG though. The goal was Moore’s first of the season as well as Glass’ first point as a Ranger and Fast’s first official NHL point. (He hadn’t had a regular season point yet.)

With under four minutes remaining in the period, the Habs got their best chance as Desharnais came in by himself on Lundqvist. He was quickly surrounded by Rangers with Dan Girardi drawing a penalty for hooking. Girardi argued the call and I’ve heard that Desharnais was holding his stick but I’m not surprised the Rangers got a penalty on the play from what I saw. Fortunately the Rangers were able to kill it and went to intermission with a one goal lead.

I was worried that the Habs would find their legs in the second period and the Rangers would play a typical Rangers second period. Fortunately I had nothing to worry about as just 35 seconds in, Chris Kreider got the puck to Marty St. Louis who made a ridiculous pass to Derek Stepan for his second of the season on a just as ridiculous wrist shot. (Derek, I have no idea what happened to you over the summer but all these things you’re suddenly able to do – win face-offs, score in shootouts, shooting the puck – please keep doing them.) I loved seeing Subban just starring at Stepan as he shot the puck too.

At that point, six of the Rangers forwards had points. The Rangers would get a power play three minutes later but again weren’t able to do anything with it. But the boys kept pushing and continued to dominate play as the period went one. Finally they were able to cash in as with four and a half minutes remaining St. Louis stole the puck from Emelin and buried it behind Tokarski (who somehow never saw the shot, at least that’s what it looked like from his reaction). Honestly, I have to give credit where it’s due – St. Louis lifted his stick and Emelin never had a chance. He needed his goalie to bail him out and Tokarski didn’t.

The Rangers would take that 3-0 lead into the third period. At that point the entire building was thinking “20 minutes…just 20 minutes…you can do this…” or at least that’s what everyone around me was saying.

Less than two minutes in, the Rangers answered their fans as Kevin Hayes got the puck to Anthony Duclair who made a terrific pass to allow Carl Hagelin to bury it into the open net. And nine Rangers forwards had points on the night.

If there was any question on if the Rangers were going to make sure to take this game, they were answered two minutes later when Henrik Lundqvist came out to the slot to play a puck with Brandon Prust barreling down. I still need to find a replay but my initial reaction was Prust did let up. But he still hit him. And knowing what he said last year (when he was caught on video saying he was going to go after Lundqvist), I don’t think he tried to avoid the hit. I will say he let up as he definitely could’ve hit him harder. But he hit him, Lundqvist went flying and Kevin Klein dropped the gloves with the ex-Ranger for the second time in two games. I would really like an actual fighter to be on the ice one of the times he pulls this crap as he deserves to get his butt kicked. Klein did an admirable job but throwing punches isn’t his specialty. It was pretty clear the Rangers fans feeling towards the once fan favorite at that point – any fans he had left were officially gone as we all wanted to see Klein wipe the floor with him.

Vigneault wanted a goalie interference call, at least I assume that’s what he was arguing, but I’m not sure that would’ve been the right call. Lundqvist was in-between the circles. At that point, he’s fair game. I’m just glad he was okay and they only gave each five for fighting as Klein probably could’ve ended up with an instigator there since it was clear he went after Prust. (Not sure if he dropped gloves first but common sense says he started that fight.)

After that, it was clear the Rangers were not only determined to win the game but to get their goaltender the shutout. Yes the Habs had chances but I saw things that had been missing from the Rangers game in those recent bad losses – backchecking, forechecking, actual defense to make sure the Habs never had an open opportunity to just shoot the puck. If a guy in white got the puck, there was a guy in blue on top of him before he could do anything with it. It was actually a welcome sight to see considering some of the games we’ve witnessed recently.

Then with less than five minutes to go, our supposed first line finally showed up on the scoresheet as Mats Zuccarello got the puck to Derick Brassard who gave the puck to Rick Nash as he broke in and we had a 5-0 game. Oh and every forward had a point. First time that has happened since 12/17/1980 against Winnipeg (the original Winnipeg Jets, for those who are wondering). And that wasn’t a knock on that line, who had just as good of a game as the rest of the team. Just funny they were the last ones to get points.

While the Habs wanted to break the shutout, the Rangers weren’t having any of that and the home team walked away with the 5-0 victory. Sorry the Habs moms’ saw such a bad loss but at least the Garden crowd wasn’t too brutal to their team. (Who in the Montreal organization thought it was a good idea to have a moms trip to Boston and MSG? Because those two crowds will be completely appropriate to the Canadiens.)

Other than all 12 forwards scoring, it was also the first time the Rangers had shutout the Habs and scored at least five goals in doing so since 2/25/1967 and the first time the Rangers had back-to-back regular season shutouts since March 2003. That second one surprised me. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the team recorded back-to-back shutouts in the regular season. I guess Lundqvist saves those for the playoffs.

The win also give the Rangers their first back-to-back regulation wins of the season. Right before Thanksgiving. That’s pathetic boys. Can this finally be the start of some consistency? I know, I know…the fact that you are inconsistent is a constant. But I’d like some actual consistency. You know a real winning streak? I believe you can do it. Now is as good a time as any especially since you owe your next opponent anyway.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Late Thoughts On Flyers As Rangers Have Unexpected Day Off

This has been a weird week for the Rangers. Last Saturday they won a game…and then they didn’t. Today they had a game…and then they didn’t. Yesterday the NHL announced the game scheduled between the Rangers and Sabres tonight in Buffalo would be postponed due to “extreme weather conditions”. In other words, they have a lot of snow in Buffalo.

While the teams probably could’ve gotten to the rink (I heard the airports and area around the arena weren’t as bad), the NHL rightly realized it wasn’t right to ask the fans to venture out for the game and postponed it. I think the team heard all the fans say show me that type of effort you showed against the Flyers against a non-Pennsylvania team and found a way out of the game. (I kid.) The make-up date hasn’t been decided yet. The problem is figuring out when the roads will be clear to hold the game. After over six feet of snow, my guess is sometime in May. But the game will be played before that.

The Rangers are taking advantage of the unexpected day off by giving themselves a complete day off – no practice or meetings today. I just hope they are ready for Sunday. Montreal will not take them lightly.

But before we get to Montreal, some late thoughts on the Flyers…and what the Rangers will have to keep doing to turn that win into a streak. (Besides play Philly again. They have two games before they do that.)

* I’ve focused a lot on the defense and their return to health but haven’t mentioned much about Derek Stepan. Yes he is technically on the second line right now. But he is also the first guy out there on the penalty kill, power play or when Vigneault needs a big face-off won. (I still don’t understand that part but he has been doing decent in them this year.) As each game passes, he says he is getting better and better and it’s noticeable. He looks like the Stepan we have all become accustomed to watching. The good news is the team needs him to be that way. The bad news? He is going to cost a fortune this summer. But it’s a price I think the Rangers are willing to pay. (I never know with them but I doubt they let him go.)

* Those passes on the power play goal by Stepan and Marty St. Louis really were things of beauty. But that’s why when everyone said the Rangers didn’t have someone who passed and saw the ice like St. Louis did, I disagreed. Stepan is right there with him and we can only hope he has the same hall of fame career as his teammate who is exactly 15 years older than him (to the day). Well, everything except wanting to go home at the end of his career the way Marty did.

* I joked that I wanted to know when Kevin Klein became a goal scorer. Vigneault was asked if he knew he was getting a goal scorer when they got him and he replied “what do you think?”. Basically, no one expected this and I’m sure most don’t expect it to last. But we’ll take it while it’s happening.

* Kevin Hayes still isn’t winning face-offs (he went 2-for-8 against the Flyers) but you can definitely see the talent is there. You can also see the mentality of a kid who always dominated and thinks he can still make some of those moves in the NHL. He’s definitely learning but there has been a number of times per game that I see a rookie on the ice. Am I worried or saying he needs to go down because of it? Not at the moment. He hasn’t been burned too badly because of it. But he will be one day if it continues. It will be interesting to see the reaction when it happens.

It’s been a few days so I’m sure everyone else has moved on from the Flyers game. We can talk about them again this time next week. And while this long break wasn’t planned and the rest is probably needed, I am getting bored of this one game in five days routine. The Canadiens will be on the second half of a back-to-back on Sunday night. They better not look like the more rested team.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

“Goalbuster” Gets Rangers Back In Win Column

Watching this team makes me want to quote Katy Perry:

You’re hot then you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down…

Honestly, can you think of better words to describe this Rangers team right now? I have absolutely no idea what to expect each night.

Sure the Rangers have had the Flyers number recently, especially at MSG. But that streak is bound to end at some point so figured tonight, when they “miraculously” had their captain ready to play, would be a good time. Instead the Rangers pitch a shutout. I give up.

Forgetting all the ridiculousness with the Flyers and if Giroux would play or not, I was very curious to see how the Rangers responded to their “disaster” on Monday night. As usual, they were all saying the right words and it was clear Vigneault had spoken to them but would they actually show up? I’ll give them credit because they did dominate most of the play in the first period.

It started just five minutes in when Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello were able to keep the puck in the Flyers zone. The puck made it’s way behind the net where Carl Hagelin found Kevin Klein wide open in the slot to give the home team the lead. Speaking of which, someone needs to tell me when Klein became a goal scorer. I know we only had him for half a season last year, but I think I saw enough to know he isn’t exactly a goal scorer. Or at least I thought he wasn’t.

The Rangers continued getting chances for the next ten minutes but Mason was up to the task. Then Matt Hunwick put the puck in the crowd. The Rangers managed to kill the penalty but it was clear momentum was shifting as the puck spent a lot of time near Cam Talbot for the remainder of the period. And with a minute to go, Dan Girardi took the Rangers second penalty of the night. Rick Nash got a great chance shorthanded but the boys got out of the period unscathed, taking a 1-0 lead into intermission.

I always say I hate what I call “split power plays” (power plays that are half in one period and half in the other). The Flyers helped prove why as by the time they got something going, Girardi was coming out of the box and the Rangers were back in control. By the six minute mark, they had 18 shots on net. (Think about that – 18 shots in 26 minutes. That tells you how bad their 16 total Monday night was.)

Then a little after the seven minute mark, Schultz decided to slash Stepan’s stick out of his hand right in front of the ref. The Rangers made the league’s worst penalty kill pay on a beautiful tic-tac-toe between Derek Stepan, Marty St. Louis and Rick Nash, who buried his 13th of the year.

Other than that, the second period was a little bit of a track meet with both teams getting numerous breakaway chances. Not really the game the Rangers want to play but fortunately Talbot was up to the task. So was Mason, who had a little bit of a scare with a minute remaining in the period when he went to play the puck behind the net and got clocked in the head by his own defenseman (Coburn). Tanner Glass was going past him but never touched him. Of course Simmonds assumed he did and went after him. Fortunately the refs not only realized that Glass never touched Mason but broke the two up before anything more could happen. Mason would finish the period and return for the third period.

The Rangers got some chances early in the third period with back to back power plays but Mason was not letting another puck past him. As the period wore on, the Flyers started to push. Then with three and a half minutes remaining, they decided to pull Mason. That was quite possibly the longest three and a half minutes of hockey I’ve seen in quite some time. There were 11 whistles during that time and almost all of it was played in the Rangers defensive zone. Somehow, I’m not sure how, the Rangers didn’t get burned and walked away with the 2-0 victory.

Actually, that’s not true. I do know how they didn’t get burned. Because Cam Talbot finally came back from summer break. I don’t know who that guy was in net during his first three starts but tonight looked like the Talbot Rangers fans had become familiar with last season. Here’s to hoping he sticks around for the rest of the year.

And while this was a big win for the Rangers, I’m not celebrating just yet. One, because there are a handful of teams this team always gets up for and one of them is Flyers. Two, because I don’t know what it is about MSG but it spooks the heck out of the Flyers as they haven’t won here in the regular season in nine tries. And three, most importantly, I’m not getting excited over one game. Do it again in Buffalo and then maybe we’ll talk.

That said, I never don’t enjoy beating the Flyers. Especially when they wear their Winter Classic-like jerseys. Brings back great memories. Pretty sure the Flyers are now 0-3 in those jerseys against the Rangers. And there’s a rumor they will be wearing them again next Friday.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)