Rangers vs. Caps: Schedule, Memories + A Plea

First things first, in case you were living in a bubble yesterday, the second round begins tomorrow night for the Rangers and Capitals. Here is most of the schedule:

round2

You will notice that is only six games. Game seven depends on who wins tonight. If Detroit does, it will be on May 12th. If Tampa does, it will be on May 13th. And I want the league to fine Tampa for not having their building available for playoff games. If Madison Square Garden is willing to move a Saturday night Eric Clapton concert, there is not a single team or building that has an excuse for not having their arena available.

Anyway, that’s not really our problem and honestly I hope that information is irrelevant because we don’t need a game seven. Oh and while game six is listed as TBD, we all know that will be a NBC game so assume 12:30pm or 3pm depending on the time slot they have that day.

Now moving on to the season series. As with the Penguins, the Rangers won three out of four games against the Capitals, going 3-1-0. Most of the game were recently, with three of the games being in the last month of the season. The one exception? Right before Christmas when Rick Nash was given a hat trick two days after the final buzzer sounded.

Rather then talk about the season series, since most of it should be fresh in your minds, I’m going to touch on the past playoff series because if there is one thing I remember from seasons’ past, it’s the playoffs series between these two teams. Problem is with four of them, they tend to combine into one series in my brain.

I know 2009 was the infamous water bottle toss as the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead to lose in seven games. When your coach gets suspended for game six, you’re probably headed in the wrong direction. That said, I still don’t blame him for what he did as any fan would’ve reacted the same way. Unfortunately, the players and coaches aren’t allowed to act like fans, even if they are egged on by them.

The only memorable part about the 2011 series? Rangers fans coming together to chant “Can you hear us?” to Bruce Boudreau after he stupidly commented that Verizon Center was louder than MSG after game three. Everyone on both teams got a good laugh out of that. Unfortunately it didn’t help as the Capitals would go on to win that game in double overtime (on what I believe was almost an own goal as Marian Gaborik bobbled the puck by Henrik Lundqvist) to take a 3-1 series lead and closed it out in five.

Speaking of that chant, two quick notes. One, I appreciate the Islanders fans taking it when the Capitals players made the same mistake of once again saying their building was louder. (It was guys who were around for the 2011 series so they should’ve known better.) Secondly, any Rangers fans planning to chant it tomorrow night shouldn’t bother. The chant was towards Bruce Boudreau. If the Rangers play the Ducks in the Final, then you can bring it out. Otherwise, save it.

Then came 2012. Ask me about games 1, 2, 4, 6 and maybe even 7 and I can’t tell you much. But game 3 went to triple overtime with Gaborik being the hero on a pass from Brad Richards from behind the net with less than five minutes to go before they completed the second game. You remember goals like that. You also remember stories about the boys going sightseeing around DC the next day and them dragging Ryan McDonagh out after he played over 50 minutes the night before.

And then there was game 5. I was at MSG last year for the clincher against Montreal and both games in the Final. Maybe I’m crazy but I think it was louder for that game 5 then at any point last year. I don’t remember 59 minutes of the game. I’m pretty sure the Rangers had a 1-0 lead, blew it and were down 2-1 with a minute to go in the third period. And then Joel Ward high-sticked Carl Hagelin. And as we’ve since learned, Swedish blood brings us luck.

To this day I have no idea how they scored it but Richards got the tying goal with seven seconds to go. The fans never sat down through the entire intermission. Less than two minutes into overtime, they were celebrating an improbable win as a John Mitchell (why was John Mitchell even out on the power play?) face-off win lead to a Marc Staal blast from the point for the winner. Those are the games and moments that we live for with the NHL playoffs. You never know when they will happen but you remember them for a long time after they do.

In 2013, after both teams won their home games, the Capitals took game five with the Rangers headed home on the brink. In the next 120 minutes, Henrik Lundqvist didn’t allow a single puck past him. Talk about winning the series for your team. I’ll never forget the game winner in game six. After hearing the crowd scream “shoot”, Derick Brassard let one go and it was the only puck to find the back of the net all night. He admitted after the game that he heard the crowd, closed his eyes and shot. It’s hard to tell fans not to scream that when a player admits it led to a game winner.

And game seven? If you thought the Islanders played their game seven badly the other night, you should’ve seen the Capitals in 2013. There is no excuse for allowing a team to come into your building for a do-or-die game and easily win 5-0. None.

So what will 2015 bring? We’ll find out soon. As with the first round, I’m not making a prediction but I stand by what I’ve said all along – the only way this team loses is if they beat themselves. (I don’t mean that literally, captain!) I am, however, going to make a plea.

If you plan on attending any game in this series, please, I beg you, do not chant that Alex Ovechkin sucks. He doesn’t suck. He’s actually a really good hockey player who somehow becomes even better when you chant something like that at him. He loves when opposing fans chant that. And for those who like to do it on the 8-minute mark? If you are going to laugh at Islanders fans for stealing our “Can you hear us?” chant (as you should), then you can’t do that. Because that was stolen from the Ottawa Senators in 2012.

Instead, I beg that you ignore him. Don’t chant anything at him. Pretend he is just another player on the ice. Don’t give him the motivation he is looking for. If he needs motivation to play in this series, let him get it from somewhere else. Don’t, under any circumstances, help him beat us. Chanting at him does that. (For those who don’t believe me, watch his first shift after one of those chants. It won’t be hard to miss him.)

And with that it’s time for Rangers vs. Caps, part 5. You have a good thing going, boys. Let’s keep it going.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Road to 16: Rangers Meet Up With Old Friend

We finally know who the Rangers next opponent will be and…the Rangers are playing the Capitals! It’s officially the playoffs!

All kidding aside, as soon as both teams made the playoffs everyone had to know this match-up was inevitable. In the past six seasons, the Rangers and Caps have met four times. The only times they didn’t meet? 2010 when the Rangers missed the playoffs and 2014 when the Capitals did. As long as they are both in the playoffs, they end up playing each other. We just have to accept it.

Personally, I’m looking forward to it. The playoff series is tied, with the Capitals taking the first two in 2009 and 2011 while the Rangers won in 2012 and 2013. Three of those series went seven games. Yes there have been some changes but these two teams know each other and they know each other well. Should be an excellent series.

We’re hoping the schedule will be released today but if I had to guess, game one will be Thursday night with game two on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Honestly neither will be ideal with Eric Clapton having concerts as Madison Square Garden this weekend so expect the ice to be even worse than normal for game two.

While we wait for that, the Rangers began to prepare for the next round. Yesterday they returned to practice, albeit an optional one, to get a good workout while they waited for their opponent. The good news was Kevin Klein wasn’t just on the ice but declared that he would be playing in game one. Apparently that was news to Vigneault but it’s no secret that once Klein is cleared to play, he will play. Ironic that his first game back will be against the team that knocked him out the past month.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news as Mats Zuccarello, Keith Yandle and Marc Staal “took the option” and were not on the ice. I have no worries about Staal. Obviously he has something lingering from the end of the season but he looked fine the last five games and we all know he plays even better when Ovechkin is on the ice.

As for Yandle, this is probably a little more than a stomach flu. That said, I didn’t notice any issues the past few games for him so maybe it was a really bad case and he just needed an extra day. Vigneault said afterwards he was dealing with “general body soreness”. That’s exactly how I would describe feeling when I’m sick so right now I’m not worried about him either.

Then there is Zuccarello. Inside I knew he wouldn’t be on the ice yesterday but I was hoping for the best. Realistically, I knew this was coming:

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The Rangers can call it whatever they want but there is not a single person who thinks Zuccarello is dealing with anything other than a concussion. And it sucks. We need to have a serious talk Ryan McDonagh, because you are not being a good captain right now. Just because I said the only way the Rangers would lose was if they beat themselves didn’t mean I expected you to take that literally and actually take out your teammates.

All kidding aside, this hurts. Zuccarello is made for this time of year and against the Capitals, he will be missed. Is it possible he will play in the series? Sure, anything is possible. It’s also possible he never steps on the ice again. That’s the “fun” with concussions, players are literally out indefinitely because no one has any idea when they will be okay to play again. Here’s to hoping he is able to shake the symptoms quickly. That said, I’m not going to become a hypocrite because I want him back – if he isn’t 100% healthy, he better stay off the ice. You want to mess with a broken bone, fine. You don’t mess with your brain. You only have one and it can’t be fixed easily.

So what does the loss of Zuccarello mean? There’s no denying it’s a big loss but to me, it’s not the end of the world. Yes the Rangers depth will be tested. That’s what happens this time of year. And while Zuccarello is important to the team, if you asked me the top five players the Rangers can not afford to lose in the playoffs, I’m not sure he would be included. (To me, he’d probably be right outside that group.)

To anyone who honestly thinks the Rangers won’t go far if he’s out long term, remember this – the Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist for two months. They went from playoff bubble to Presidents’ Trophy in that span. If they can overcome that, they can live without their favorite Norwegian for a little bit.

While the Rangers plan to call up a forward from Hartford later tonight, my guess is James Sheppard will be in the lineup whenever game one is. Is it ideal? No. But what team has an ideal roster at this point of the season? No one does. You go with what you have and hope it works. We’ll find out soon enough if it does.

In the meantime, time to get ready for what should be a long, grueling series.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Four Down: Rangers Headed To Conference Semis

The Rangers won a series in five games. You have to go back to the first round in 2008 to find the last time the Rangers did that. Or in other words, you get quotes like this:

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It’s not as if the Rangers haven’t played playoff series since that round. There have been twelve playoff series since then. Twelve. Lucky number thirteen gives them a win in five. Honestly, every win in that span was in seven except the conference final last year. So you can imagine the shock when the Rangers actually did what they were supposed to this series.

But it wasn’t easy. Five one goal games, two in overtime and all the Rangers wins were 2-1. But at the end of the day, none of that mattered. Because the Penguins are headed home and the Rangers will be playing the Capitals or Islanders next week.

As for the game, I’m honestly trying to remember it. I was never worried because I had a gut feeling they would win. But it wasn’t easy to watch.

A little over four minutes into the game, the Penguins took their first penalty of the night. Half of the Garden cheered, half the building groaned as many were expecting another power kill. I don’t know what happened or how it happened but 12 seconds into the man advantage, Dan Boyle took a shot that ended up in the crease were Derek Stepan was standing to pounce on the rebound. The Rangers scored a power play goal.

Less than a minute later, Derick Brassard took a dumb penalty and I figured the Rangers would give it right back. Somehow they killed it along with the power kill they got five minutes after it ended. We couldn’t expect them to have more than one competent power play, could we?

With four and a half minutes remaining in the period, the Rangers got some bad news. Ryan McDonagh took a shot from the point that ended up hitting Mats Zuccarello as he battled in front of the net. It hit him high and I believe off the helmet. He slowly went off the ice, spoke with Jim Ramsay but never looked right. At the next stoppage he went to the locker room and never returned. After the game Vigneault said he heard Zuccarello was “okay”. I hope he’s right. That would be a huge loss if he were to miss any time. It also made winning this game that much more important.

Brassard would take another dumb penalty in the closing seconds but the Rangers would get out of the period with a 1-0 lead.

The second period…happened. I know stuff happened during it but I honestly don’t remember much. I know both teams had some chances and the Rangers had another power kill. And as the period went on, the Penguins kept pushing and it just felt like they would score. And they did, with less than three minutes remaining. It was reviewed for some reason but I didn’t see anything that would say it shouldn’t have counted. I’ve mentioned my thoughts on the second goal of the game so I figured we were headed to Pittsburgh on Sunday. (Through four games, the team that scored the second goal of the game ended up winning.)

The teams would head to intermission tied at one and there was a little uneasiness in the building. Not because fans were worried but we all knew it would take one bounce to end the game. Both teams had a chance at that bounce, specifically Dan Boyle who shanked one late in the period and slammed his stick in frustration, but both goalies were up to the task and to overtime we went.

Before I get to overtime, I need to mention one thing about the goaltending – it was phenomenal on both sides the entire series. Marc-Andre Fleury has a reputation as a playoff choker. I kept waiting for playoff Fleury to arrive but he never did. Fleury was easily the best Penguins player and honestly deserved a better fate. Who would’ve thought the Penguins problem would be scoring goals rather than keeping them out of their net?

The thing with overtime is anything goes. Once bounce and it’s over. One bounce and a building full of fans is either throwing a party or walking out as if they just attended a funeral. The good news for the Rangers was worst case scenario they went back to Pittsburgh. But they didn’t really want to do that.

Both teams had chances as we finally saw wide open hockey during the first ten minutes of overtime. Then, with a little over nine minutes remaining the first OT, this happened:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014030135-870-h

Have I mentioned how much I love Carl Hagelin? And to think, I fully expected the Rangers to trade him this past deadline. (I’m still not convinced he stays after the season since that goal raised his already too high price.) But Hagelin was the hero, two nights after his center Kevin Hayes was. I guess that line is waking up at the right time. I need to give credit to Dominic Moore as well who got the puck out of the corner. The Rangers don’t win many of those battles but that was a big one.

So now the Rangers get a few days off before the next series. I’m not sure if the boys know what to do with the time off, but I’m sure they will take it. Especially since they don’t even have to go to the rink until Monday. We will know no later than Monday night who their opponent will be but don’t expect a schedule until Tuesday or Wednesday. Either way the Rangers know they will be playing again in May. Four wins down as they continue to try to change the ending.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Lesson Learned As Rangers Take 3-1 Series Lead

No matter how calm a coach is or appears, sometimes they feel the need to scream. Tonight may have been the first time since he started his tenure as coach that Alain Vigneault entered the locker room after twenty minutes and as Marc Staal said “let the team have it”. They deserved whatever he did and probably more. But since that is not Vigneault’s style, the message was heard loud and clear and the Rangers got back to the way they have played all year. In other words, they once again found a way.

Throughout the series, the one constant that everyone has talked about is the Penguins starts. For some reason, the Penguins haven’t come out ready to play in any of the first three games. Everyone had to know that wouldn’t last. Somehow the Rangers aren’t everyone.

The first period was probably the worst period of hockey for the Rangers throughout the entire series. (Yes I know how bad they looked in the second period of game two. I honestly think they looked worse in the first period tonight.) Forget shots or even possession of the puck, the Penguins finally came out ready to play and the Rangers had no answer. The Penguins scored early and continued to dominate from there.

It took the Rangers half the period to get their first shot and they only got one other before heading to locker room. They were given two gift power plays and killed them both with authority. I guess if you want a positive they took two penalties and killed those as well. (The second wasn’t a penalty as Lapierre deserved an award for his acting job as he not only pretended to get hit in the head, he continued it while sitting on the bench to make sure the call was made. Vigneault was livid.) Simply put, the Rangers were lucky to only be down 1-0 after twenty minutes.

After the game, the boys admitted Vigneault laid into them in the intermission. The good news was it worked as the Rangers looked better in the second period. Granted they couldn’t look worse but after the first couple of minutes, they looked like they actually cared about the game. But it still wasn’t good enough as halfway through the period, Daily News’ Pat Leonard tweeted this:

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He was right. There really were no other words. (And I’m not even mentioning the third power kill of the night, as Ian Cole went to his second home after losing his stick. He has taken a penalty every game of the series.)

But then something seemed to click. I don’t know what it was but the Rangers started to, honestly for a lack of a better way of saying it, they put forth some effort. I don’t like questioning the effort of this team because I know it is there every night. But they appeared slow and lazy on every play through the first half of this game.

It seemed like it would be too little, too late as Fleury was on his game. So I did what any superstitious hockey fan would do – I started talking about there being a shutout. No harm in saying the word when your goalie already gave up a goal, right? The following play, Chris Kreider had a great chance but shot wide and I figured it wouldn’t work. (Side note: Kreider was a wrecking ball tonight, hitting everything in black. Officially he was credited with ten hits.)

Then with less than three minutes remaining in the period, the Penguin killer struck again. The play started with Mats Zuccarello, who didn’t get an assist, and ended with Derick Brassard stuffing in a second opportunity to tie the game. I don’t know what it is about playing against the Penguins but Brassard relishes it.

From that point to the end of the period, the Rangers finally looked like the team I’ve watched all season. They controlled the puck and did everything they could to take the lead before intermission but Fleury was up to the task.

As the third period started, the question would be would my theory on the second goal stand? It took a while to confirm but turns out I may be onto something here.

The third period might have been the best period of actual hockey in this game. The referees let the boys play which probably helped both teams but definitely benefited the Rangers. Instead of horrible power kills, both teams had numerous chances to take the lead. But both goalies were up to the task and we remained tied as time wound down.

It looked like we were heading to overtime when in the last minute, Henrik Lundqvist came out to play a puck and missed, with it deflecting behind him. Dan Girardi was standing there and on his backhand managed to flip it not only out of the crease but over the stick of an oncoming Crosby and to safety to allow the team to get to overtime.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from overtime other than I hoped it didn’t go as long as the Blackhawks and Predators did last night. (They made it through one minute of the third OT.) It didn’t as Girardi once again had a huge block two minutes in that helped get the puck out of the Rangers zone. The block stunned him but obviously he was okay as we’ve already established he isn’t human.

On the next play, with the puck in the Penguins zone, the Rangers scrambled to get it on net. Carl Hagelin standing near the crease missed the open net but the puck somehow squirted under Fleury and to Kevin Hayes who buried it for his first playoff goal. And once again, the team who scored second won the game. To say the team celebrated would be an understatement. I don’t know how they didn’t hurt each other with the way they jumped in that pile.

With the win, the Rangers are now one win away from the second round with three chances to get it. You will see a lot of stats saying the odds are in the Rangers favor. Ignore them. Last year, the Rangers were down 3-1 to the Penguins before winning three straight and while circumstances won’t be the same, you know the Penguins plan on using that to motivate themselves. The Penguins are going to push starting right from puck drop on Friday night. The question is can the Rangers push back. Tonight they didn’t right away but still found a way to win. Not sure they get that lucky the next time so here’s to hoping they play like they did in game three, and we get to see handshakes before Friday night is over.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Shut Down Penguins For 2-1 Series Lead

There are a lot of stats out there about winning game three when a series is tied after two or scoring the first goal. The series has a different one – whoever scores the second goal of the game wins. It makes sense if you think about it. Either a team has a 2-0 lead and can play shut down defense or it’s tied 1-1 and both teams are scrambling. Fortunately the Rangers got the 2-0 lead tonight.

At the morning skate, the players all said they needed to want to win as much as the Penguins did in game two. I’ve said it before and Derick Brassard reiterated it during the pregame, if the Rangers lose it’s because they beat themselves. Tonight, they came out with a purpose and it started with the fourth line of Dominic Moore, Tanner Glass and Jesper Fast who were simply fantastic in this game.

The game started similar to game two in the sense there were no shots on net during the first five minutes. During those five minutes, another Rangers power kill. I don’t even know anymore, I just wish the Penguins would stop taking stupid penalties.

But after it ended, the Rangers started to get zone time and began putting Fleury to work. Unfortunately he seemed to be up to the task. Eight and a half minutes into the period, Crosby came down the ice on Keith Yandle who played him perfectly making sure he didn’t get a shot off. The Penguins fans wanted a penalty and I’ll fully admit to questioning it at first but on replay it did look like the right call.

The Rangers regained control of the puck with Yandle sending a perfect headman pass to Carl Hagelin who had just jumped off the bench. Hagelin skated right down the middle and put the puck through Fleury’s five-hole to get the scoring started for the third straight game.

After the goal, the boys kept going getting another couple of chances that were denied by Fleury. Then with seven minutes remaining, Rick Nash took his stupid penalty of the night as he high-sticked Crosby in front of the Penguins net. Somehow the Rangers killed that and the Penguins still didn’t have a shot on net. They got one shortly after the power play ended with less than five minutes remaining in the period. Shockingly it didn’t go in the net. They would get two more but the Rangers would escape unscathed with a 1-0 lead.

Then came the second period. The Rangers remembered to play the second period tonight.

How to put into words the second period? The Rangers played an almost perfect defensive road period. The Penguins didn’t really get any chances and you could see the frustration seeping into their game. It started nine minutes into the period when they took another penalty and the Rangers once again put their power kill on the ice. This one almost gave me a heart attack as with time winding down Derek Stepan attempted a no look back pass that was taken by the Penguins and brought up the ice for a shorthanded chance that Lundqvist was able to save.

Shortly after the penalty ended, the Rangers were in the Penguins zone with control of the puck. Dan Girardi got it to Marc Staal who took a perfect miss shot that bounced off the end boards and right in front of the net where Chris Kreider was waiting to bury it for the 2-0 lead. The assist was Girardi’s second of the night in a game leading 26:06 of ice time. He earned the Broadway Hat tonight.

A minute later the teams would end up 4-on-4. I have no idea why as MSG showed Hornqvist tussling with Hagelin but the penalties went to Kunitz and Ryan McDonagh. The Penguins had a couple of chances during those two minutes but Lundqvist was up to the task, even while the Penguins tried to run him. (Crosby hit him as he skated by and then I believe it was Kunitz later fell into him hard.)

Then with two minutes remaining, the Rangers looked like they might throw a great period away as Marc Staal took an interference penalty. Right before the penalty, Derek Stepan got a one-on-one opportunity on Fleury with the Penguins goaltender making the save. Mix the two together and I didn’t have high hopes for the kill. But the Rangers seemed to remember how to penalty kill and were almost perfect in killing the remaining two minutes in the period.

But then came third period. The Rangers holding a 2-0 lead, it was pretty clear what they were going to try and do. To their credit, it wasn’t a complete sit back and defend style but it was close. And it frustrated the Penguins but they kept with it knowing there was no way the Rangers would succeed in playing that way for a full twenty minutes. They were right.

With seven minutes remaining and the puck in the Rangers zone, Henrik Lundqvist came out to play it. It’s been a while since I’ve screamed at him for this (and not because of the injury) but he needs to stay in his net. Stay where the blue paint is. Because his teammates obviously aren’t helping him to tell him where to put the puck and it constantly ends up on the oppositions stick.

He got away with it a few times earlier in the period but that time he didn’t. The puck remained in the Rangers zone and before the shift ended, it was behind Lundqvist and we had a 2-1 game. I honestly can’t even blame the five skaters for not getting it out. Lundqvist handed it over and they couldn’t recover. He needs to not do that.

The remaining seven minutes were typical hold your breath hockey as the Ranger clung to a one goal lead. In the end, they managed to defend just enough to keep the puck out of the net and take the 2-1 series lead. I really wish they would make it easier to watch but tonight was textbook playoff hockey. Shut them down for forty minutes and then weather the storm in the final twenty. If they can do this for two more games, we’ll be a quarter of way to changing the ending.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Lose Another Game Two

Here’s a fun stat regarding the Rangers and game twos in their building:

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Now granted they’ve had some game twos on the road over that span but I’m pretty sure they haven’t won most of those either. We know they haven’t in recent history since the series are either tied or 0-2 after the first two games. I don’t understand it.

The other thing I don’t understand? The way the Rangers played tonight. I still believe they are the better team. I still believe they are going to win this series and may even surprise us and do it in less than seven games. But they weren’t good tonight. Neither were the Penguins but they were a little bit better. They also won the special teams battle. I don’t think the Rangers are used to losing both sides of that.

But there is a positive in all of this. I am 100% positive the Rangers can be and are better than they played tonight. As long as they play the way we know they can, this game will be a distant memory really soon.

Before I get to the game, I need to acknowledge one thing – John Amirante. Word came out shortly before the game that tonight would be his last night singing the anthem at the Garden. I’m not going to lie, I hope it isn’t true. I knew the time was coming soon with how little he’s been around but we need him in the playoffs. No he isn’t flashy, but he’s ours. He’s a staple in that building and the thought of him not being around bothers me. A lot. But if it was his last game, I hope the full story comes out. I can’t believe MSG just pushed him out the door like some are implying. There has to be more to it.

Onto the game.

The first period…happened. I think. Honestly there’s part of me that thinks the Rangers started the game at 9pm with a 1-0 lead. The shots after one period were 5-3 in favor of the Penguins. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, I think it was accurate. There really wasn’t anything to talk about in the period. The Penguins took a penalty which the Rangers killed and then another late in the period, which carried into the second but was also killed. (There was a pattern there tonight.) Oh and Derek Stepan did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014030132-80-h

Seriously? I don’t know what was prettier, the shot by Stepan or the pass by J.T. Miller. Either way we need to see that more often.

Then the second period…happened. The Penguins enjoyed the period but the Rangers not so much. After the Rangers killed the power play they got at the end of the first period, they got another four minutes later. This one they killed in spectacular fashion. Lucky for them Sutter hit the post or we would’ve had a tie game then.

A minute after it ended, the Penguins got their first power play as Carl Hagelin went off for tripping. I saw a lot of people commenting it was a bad call. To me, it looked like a penalty. Hagelin reached with his stick and Chorney went down. Is it possible Chorney helped it and the ref had a bad angle? Absolutely. But that’s still called every time. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they couldn’t kill it and we were tied at one.

Shortly after the goal, the Penguins took another penalty which the Rangers killed again. I can’t even call them power kills, they were just bad two minute stretches of play. Or as Blackhawks beat writer Chris Kuc once said, the team was having trouble with that “pesky extra man” on the ice.

A little over a minute after the fourth power play ended, the Penguins made it 2-1. We won’t talk about who scored the goal, I just want to know why Dan Boyle was on the ice against him. The Rangers got another power play two minutes after the goal which might have been the worst of the night. The Penguins scored again shortly after it ended. Same guy after Kevin Hayes lost the puck in the Rangers zone and team couldn’t recover.

(Side note: Both of those guys did not have good nights. For Boyle, that’s not good. For Hayes, tonight he looked like a rookie in a playoff game. He’ll learn but he definitely did not have a good game tonight.)

That would be all for the second and you could feel the disappointment in the building as the boys went to the locker room. But to the fans credit, when they came out for the third, they cheered and tried to will them to tie it. They would be given another power play less than two minutes into the period. That was a power play. It was the most competent they’ve looked with the man advantage in quite some time. Oddly enough, it was also the first time they went with four forwards and one defenseman with Boyle manning the first unit and Keith Yandle manning the second. The first unit looked good but it was the second unit who capitalized as Derick Brassard batted in a rebound to get the Rangers to within one.

The Rangers would get yet another power play two minutes later. The entire building was convinced Derek Stepan had tied it early in the man advantage. I have no idea what the puck hit but it apparently didn’t hit the back of the net. We never saw a replay and they didn’t review it. But everyone thought it was in. Unfortunately it wasn’t, the Rangers wouldn’t get anything on that power play and then Kevin Hayes would take a penalty leading to the Penguins making it 4-2.

For those not keeping track, that made the Penguins 2-for-2 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-7. Something about that doesn’t work for me. The Rangers would take two more penalties before the end of the game which they fortunately killed. And Rick Nash would score with five seconds remaining but it was too late and the Penguins had tied the series. (As much as I usually hate garbage goals, hopefully Nash getting one is a good sign of things to come.)

I don’t know what else to say about this one. The Rangers need to play better. I’m pretty sure they know that and hopefully they fix their issues in the next 48 hours. The good news is I really don’t think they’ve played much more than one period over the last six so if they play, they’ll be fine. The bad news is they haven’t played five of the past six periods and I have no clue why. Now is not a good time to hit a slump boys. That said, I’m still not worried. I truly believe they will be better in game three.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Road To 16: Girardi Fine, Rangers Look To “Change The Ending”

As the Rangers prepare for game two, there are a couple of notes I forgot to mention in last nights’ recap. First an injury update as to the surprise of no one, Dan Girardi is fine:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWhy do we worry? Honestly, have we not learned anything about this man? There is nothing that takes him down. I still haven’t seen a replay of the play but most guys who get hit in the face with a frozen piece of rubber have a problem the next day. Girardi has some minor swelling (that apparently makes it look like he has the mumps, only he would say that) but didn’t miss practice nor need any additional protection.  

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And that is why I wanted him to be captain. But back to the injury, even his teammates are amazed by him. The man is not human.

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Now onto some notes and thoughts from last night.

* During the National Anthem, Marc Andre Fleury stood in his net facing down the ice (as if play was in motion). I understand everyone has their pregame rituals but that’s just disrespectful to me. Even if it isn’t your flag, every player turns and faces the flag. American players have started to stay on the blue line until it leaves the ice but you at least face it during the anthem. Fleury didn’t. I’ve never noticed him (nor anyone else) do that before but found it very interesting.

* The Rangers playoff motto this year is “Barkin’! Change the Ending!”. I absolutely love the second part and it needs no explanation. As for the first part, apparently it is a catch phrase they use in the room. The example Ryan McDonagh gave was:

…whenever defenseman Kevin Klein would jump into the rush, the Rangers would say “Kleiner was barking up the ice.”

Interesting way to put it. Hey, whatever works for them. I’ll be using “change the ending” whenever I can though.

* The boys also have a puzzle again with 16 pieces to make the Stanley Cup:

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I love that they put Steven McDonald’s quote at the top. This team just gets it.

* I’ve seen mixed reaction on the “kids” play last night. Honestly I thought J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes looked fine. I didn’t see nerves, I saw two guys who proved why they belonged. (I wasn’t totally surprised by Miller as it wasn’t his first playoff game, no matter what everyone keeps saying. He played four games last year.) Same with Jesper Fast. None of them looked like rookies who didn’t deserve the ice time they were getting. The best part though? They will get even better as the games go on.

 

I’m sure there were other things I wanted to mention but we’ll keep this short. One down, 15 to go – change the ending boys!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)