Rangers Blow Chance To Clinch

Three years ago, the Rangers entered a late season game in Carolina with a chance to clinch a playoff spot. That game was also an important one for the Staal family as Jared Staal had just been called up by the Hurricanes. Tonight was similar, the Rangers had a chance to clinch while the Staal family had another milestone – Eric Staal playing his first game in Carolina as a visitor. Unfortunately the clinching scenario went better the last time they were there.

The highlight of the first period (honestly the highlight of the evening and not just because of the emotion behind it) was the video tribute to Eric during the first TV timeout:

Beautifully done and you could tell it hit the ex-Canes captain hard. Too bad the rest of his teammates couldn’t use that as motivation, as they were outshot 13-4 (with two of those shots coming in the last minute) over the first twenty. Sometimes the shots on goal don’t tell the entire story. They don’t here as the Rangers played worse than a team that managed four shots on net.

I’m not sure if the Rangers were screamed at during intermission or finally found their legs but it was a completely different team in the second period, where the tables turned and the visitors outshot the home team 13-4. (Yes, the exact same shot total.) Unfortunately 20 minutes doesn’t win you a hockey game, which is sad since there were plenty of highlights during the middle frame.

It started less than two minutes in when Derek Stepan found Mats Zuccarello at the doorstep to tie the game at one and give the Norwegian his 200th career NHL point. Three and a half minutes later, Rick Nash did this:


Who is that guy wearing #61 and is there any chance the Rangers can keep him? That was a typical Rick Nash goal and we can only hope that means he is coming around at the absolute best possible time. Speaking of guys coming around, the Rangers other big power forward pulled this move late in the period:


Of course the Canes had gotten one in between those goals but if you want any positives from tonight, the goals by Nash and Chris Kreider definitely qualify as two of them. (Probably the only two, as even Henrik Lundqvist had another bad night, but they are pretty big ones.)

The Rangers kept that lead until intermission. I’m not sure what happened during those 17-18 minutes but the second period Rangers disappeared and were replaced by the first period Rangers as the Canes dominated the period. They also dominated the scoreboard getting two goals to the Rangers none giving the Rangers their second regulation loss of the year when leading after 40 minutes. Their second in the same season after going the prior four or five seasons without losing one of those games. It also prevented the Rangers from clinching a playoff spot (and we won’t even discuss the damage it did in the standings).

There’s no way to sugar coat it – this is a game the Rangers should have won. No, Carolina isn’t a pushover. They are closer to a playoff team than having a chance at a number one draft pick. But if the Rangers want to be taken seriously, they need to beat the teams not in playoff position. There’s no excuses at this point in the season. These aren’t “must wins”, these are games contenders don’t come close to losing. And the Rangers handed it away.

You come here for recaps but there really is nothing else to say about this game. It happened, it shouldn’t have and that has happened way too many times this season. Am I giving up on the boys? No. I’ve supported them for better or worse all year so I won’t give up now. Will I be surprised if I’m writing a eulogy instead of a game recap in a month? Sadly I’m starting to think no. But there is no way I’m writing that eulogy until the lockers are cleaned out.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Announce Halligan, Masterton Winners

Besides the constant reminder of how many games are left in the season and the sudden daily look at the standings, there is one other tale-tell sign that the regular season is coming to an end – when awards start being announced.

Over the weekend, the Rangers beat writers announced that captain Ryan McDonagh was this years’ winner of the John Halligan Good Guy Award, which is awarded each year to a Rangers player for their cooperation with the media. The only catch is players can only win the award once meaning Henrik Lundqvist (2008), Dan Girardi (2013), Marc Staal (2014) and Derek Stepan (2015) were ineligible.

The fact that McDonagh hadn’t won the award made him the obvious choice for this year but according to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record, the vote was acually close:

The 26-year-old defenseman, as diligent with his off-ice responsibilities as he is with his on-ice ones, earned 15 points in the media balloting, conducted on a 3-2-1 scale for first- through third-place votes. Derick Brassard and Keith Yandle tied for second with 12 points and J.T. Miller had eight points. Eleven chapter members voted.

I’m not surprised Derick Brassard or Keith Yandle had as many votes as they did. I wasn’t expecting to see J.T. Miller in third place. Nice to see he gets that side of his job this early in his career.

After the Halligan award comes the Masterton nominees, although if we’re being honest, this announcement was more a formality than anything else. While the actual definition of the award is “the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey”, it is also known in hockey circles as the award for the player with the best sob story. Basically, this is the one award players usually don’t want to be nominated for as it means they went through something bad in the past year.

Considering the second part, this announcement came as no surprise:

Anyone surprised Mats Zuccarello is nominated for this is lying. Honestly, I’m expecting him to be in Vegas in June as part of the top 3 in the league. (Each team nominates a player and then three are chosen to be on the final ballot league-wide.)

Again Andrew Gross gave the results of the voting by the Rangers chapter of the PHWA – Zuccarello was the clear winner with 27 votes. Next in line? Dan Girardi (11 votes) and Henrik Lundqvist (10 votes). Interesting choices…

As for Zuccarello being this years’ nominee, I don’t think I need to explain why. That said, just when I thought I knew everything of what he went through last spring, this story from Dan Rosen came out last week. If you haven’t read it, go read it now. In it, Zuccarello admitted he still slurs some words occasionally when speaking in English but he also admitted to other issues:

It seemed bigger to Zuccarello in the winter, when he realized his slurring got worse as the weather got colder. He also toe picks more often now than before. It happens regardless of if he’s skating or walking. And then there is the occasional numbness in his right leg.

I’m not sure if we should just hand him the award or take away his skates after reading that. I understand hockey is these players’ lives but how doctors’ approve someone playing when they still have issues such as these is mindboggling.

But he’s playing, is the Rangers leading points scorer and will be the Rangers lone representative in Vegas in mid-June. Well, that isn’t official. But neither was him being the nominee until this morning, even though we all knew he would be.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

The Day After: Thoughts On Rangers After Game 74

After 74 games, I have come to one conclusion on this years’ Rangers – this team is maddening to follow. I understand there are ups and downs in an 82 game season but usually there is a flow to them. This year there is no rhyme or reason to any game we’ve witnessed.

Anyway, some quick thoughts after yesterday’s performance.

  • After the disaster in San Jose, I immediately thought about last nights’ game against the Bruins. Yes, the Rangers had a game on Monday night against the Panthers. I expected them to show up for that one. While this team is consistently inconsistent, they more times than not have a bounce back game after a stinker like they had on Saturday. But how would they follow that? I refuse to think the message finally got through but it was nice to see the Rangers follow up Monday with another solid performance. It makes me feel a little better for continuing to believe in them when everything else says I should give up.
  • Let’s discuss Keith Yandle. It is not a secret how I feel about him – I think of him as a forward who spends time on the blue line (and who won’t be back next year no matter how much fans beg him to be). His performance yesterday is why the Rangers traded for him. He ran the power play better than I’ve seen anyone attempt to in years. He helped create offensive chances every time on the ice. His vision and passing was exactly what the Rangers hoped and expected it would be when he first arrived on Broadway. There is no one who questions this side of his game. But if the Bruins had even put an ounce of effort in last night, he wouldn’t have been the clear star of the night he was. When he can play the bulk of his 20 or so minutes in the offensive zone, he looks like a superstar. When he’s forced to play the majority of that in the defensive zone, he looks like he belongs in the press box. That’s my main issue with him. But if we are going to see more of what we saw last night over the next few weeks (and hopefully months), then he was worth every penny it cost to get him.
  • Speaking of the power play, I think the Rangers officially have one unit. Their first unit of Yandle, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider works, or at least has worked recently. Their second unit is a tire fire which is why the first power play of the night last night was a disaster. As long as the Rangers are able to start their “first unit”, we should be talking about more actual power plays than power kills for the rest of the season.
  • Side note: Where did that Derick Brassard rocket come from? He’s been here for three years and I had no idea he could do that. He might want to try more often.
  • I love this quote by Henrik Lundqvist on ex-Ranger Lee Stempniak:
    “I don’t know what’s up with Lee,” he laughed. “If we did something bad to him when he played here. He’s just out of control against us, I can’t believe it. I felt like we treated him really nice when he was here. You have to give him credit, he’s been extremely good against us.”
    I know there are people who think Stempniak is a good player. He is definitely an-NHL caliber player who is having a great season. I refuse to believe he is as good as the Rangers make him look. If they even attempted to defend him, there wouldn’t be a single person wishing the team had kept him. Again, he’s good. He’s not anywhere close to as good as he looks against the Rangers, hence the reason he’s been on six teams in the last three years.
  • Finally, I have to talk about the “bounces” the Rangers got last night. I can’t remember a game where they had more puck luck than they did against the Bruins. Honestly the only time they didn’t get a bounce was the Bruins first actual goal. If certain other defensemen had attempted that pass, they would’ve been immediately (and correctly) burned at the stake by fans.
    • The first Rangers goal? The correct call was actually made but if that happens in December, referees would’ve blown it dead by mistake.
    • The Bruins first disallowed goal? The Rangers are lucky it was offsides as I’m not sure they would’ve won the challenge on goalie interference and as has been the case a lot recently, the five guys on the ice left Lundqvist completely out to dry. (No surprise on Brassard being one of them but the defensive pair was Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein, who somehow couldn’t handle Stempniak all night.)
    • The penalty that led to the Rangers second goal? Questionable call, at best. And the fact the Rangers never really received a make-up call on it is actually surprising.
    • The Bruins no goal call to start the third period? I’m guessing because it was Lundqvist, the referees assumed he saved it so called “no goal” on the ice. But while you can’t actually see the puck over the line, we all know it was. At least that call goes both ways. And because it was no goal, we can pretend Stempniak wasn’t left completely wide open by McDonagh and Klein yet again.

But to be fair, the Rangers earned those bounces last night. They played well enough to deserve them. And while it isn’t an exact science, usually teams who deserve them get them. Here’s to hoping the Rangers continue to deserve them for the next 8 games and then the three months following them.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Get Job Done Vs. Panthers

It’s an hour after the game and I’m trying to figure out what the biggest miracle of the night was – Rick Nash scoring, Tanner Glass scoring or the fact the Rangers actually got two points in this game without giving any to the Panthers? It’s a close race.

I’ve said it a lot the past few weeks, that every point is valuable. The Rangers got two tonight so you won’t hear a complaint from me. (Remember my favorite saying, never critique a win.) Plus we all know every win isn’t pretty.

The first period…okay, I’m not going to say it happened. I think it happened? Honestly I was pretty sure we were all in for a long night after the first ten minutes. Then with less than nine minutes remaining, Viktor Stalberg stole the puck from Jaromir Jagr leading to a 2-on-1 with Dominic Moore. I will fully admit I thought they passed one time too many and watching replay, I’m actually surprised they didn’t pass it one more time before putting it on net. But Stalberg elected to shoot and managed to slip it right under Montoya for the 1-0 lead.

I’m pretty sure that was the only thing to happen in the first period.

Two and a half minutes into the second, the Rangers were given the first power play of the game. To no one’s surprise, the initial draw was lost and the puck was down the ice. As the boys attempted to bring it back in, they lost it and the puck headed right back towards Lundqvist. To say I wasn’t hopeful would be an understatement. But they proved me wrong as they finally did set up and then passed and passed and passed some more. Then randomly, Mats Zuccarello quickly snapped a Derick Brassard pass and the score was 2-0. I still have no idea how he managed to get that just inside the top corner. I’m convinced during some of the Rangers lulls this season, that puck would’ve gone ten feet wide.

With nine minutes remaining, Steven Kampfer caught Tanner Glass with his head down in center ice and got him with a hard, clean hit. For some reason, Derick Brassard decided he didn’t like the hit so went to kind of challenge Kampfer. He didn’t really challenge him and the two ended up hugging for about ten seconds before the referees broke it up and sent both to the box. So easy two minutes each for either roughing or unsportsmanlike conduct, right? Apparently not. Instead the referees called:


You can’t make that up. The crowd chuckled in disbelief when the referee announced the call. MSG’s Joe Tolleson was having trouble not laughing as he announced it. I mean, sure, I guess they did technically delay the game because they caused the whistle to be blown. But I have never seen that called like that.

With a little over three minutes remaining, a horrible turnover by Marc Staal led to a scramble in front of the Rangers net. The referee had a perfect view to make the call since he was standing in the crease behind Henrik Lundqvist. (He actually jumped over Lundqvist at one point.) I have no idea what he was doing there but he was and fortunately the puck stayed out of the net and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead into the third period.

Now most people will say the Rangers went into their usual defensive shell with 20 minutes to go. I’m not going to give them that credit. Instead, I’m going to go on the theory the Panthers finally woke up leading to their early domination.

It looked like the visitors were on the board just two and a half minutes in when the puck did find the back of the net, but apparently off the high stick of a Panther. Kevin Hayes, standing right next to the net and not doing much to stop the play, immediately had his hands up to say high stick. The referee in the corner apparently immediately waived it off (something I only realized on replay). They went to review and the play was ruled inconclusive so original call stood. Basically the Rangers dodged a huge bullet.

Of course that didn’t wake them up and just four and a half minutes later, the Panthers did cut the deficit in half. Dan Girardi put a perfect, low shot on net that Montoya saved and then the puck headed up the ice. Keith Yandle lost Trocheck, who managed to tip a pass (that probably shouldn’t have gotten through) past Lundqvist to make the score 2-1.

Two and a half minutes later, the Rangers drew another power play. They didn’t score during those two minutes but right as the power play ended, this happened:


Yes, that is a Rick Nash goal. One can only hope that means he is headed for a hot streak. The Rangers sure could use that right now. I also love that he appeared as if he didn’t know how to react to scoring a goal.

That gave the Rangers a little bit of breathing room but there was still plenty of time left. They managed to get to 2:01 remaining in the game before taking their first non-coincidental penalty as Viktor Stalberg was called for a trip. It surprisingly took the Panthers almost a minute and a half to get the goal but of course they got it.

Then all the Rangers had to do was kill 35.7 seconds. They almost didn’t. Kevin Klein would take the puck on his backhand right in front of Lundqvist and then pass it up to Tanner Glass who would get the empty net goal and seal the victory. I understand what Klein was trying to do but he is extremely lucky it worked. One bad bounce of the puck or a Panther close enough to poke check it and we had a tie game.

Instead, the Rangers got a much needed two points. I won’t believe the message from Saturday got across to the team until I see what they do on Wednesday. To me, that game is even more important than tonight’s was.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers End California Roadtrip With Dud

It’s very rare you see a losing goalie who got pulled in the third period be a star of a game. But then again most goalies in this league aren’t Henrik Lundqvist. One day he will lose it and murder one of his teammates. And there won’t be a single person who will bat an eye before defending him for doing it.

I’m just going to get right to it if for some reason you want to re-live this game.

So what did we learn in the first period? If you put your hand over the puck in the defensive zone, it will be ignored by the referee standing right next to the play but called by the referee further away from the infraction. But if you crosscheck a player in the head or send him face first into the boards, neither referee sees anything. I guess after watching the Rangers power kill on the play that was actually called, I should be glad the referees ignored the other two infractions. Also fortunate that both Dominic Moore and Dan Girardi, respectively, appeared to be okay.

As for the second, we learned the Rangers need to learn how to count.

Just six minutes in, an awful line change led to too many men on the ice against one of the best power plays in the league. It ended as you would expect. The surprising part was it took the Sharks almost the full two minutes to get the goal.

That goal would really wake the Sharks up and the barrage would start, as the home team had 21 shots on net in the middle frame. Since we know the Rangers can’t count, by my math that’s more than a shot per minute. Someone might want to tell them that isn’t good. Of course it won’t be the MSG crew who apparently had their brains fried by the California sun. Not only did Sam and Joe think that number of shots was generously high (it wasn’t) but they also kept repeating how well the Rangers were playing. Henrik Lundqvist was playing phenomenally. The rest of the Rangers? Not even close. I guess the two “numbers” combined equals playing well? Only in Rangertown math.

But somehow with how badly the Rangers were being outplayed, they managed to get out of the period tied when Derick Brassard found a streaking Dan Boyle for the backhand tap in with two and half minutes remaining in the period. It was actually quite the goal:


Of course that was the last happy moment for the team as we learned in the third period the Rangers still know how to give away a game.

Just 19 seconds into the third, Marc Staal put the puck over the glass. Somehow, the Rangers killed that. They must have thought that would guarantee them the win because over the next seven minutes, the Sharks made it 4-1 and Henrik Lundqvist finally got put out of the misery of having to play behind the lackluster effort his team brought today.

I guess we should’ve seen it coming. Not because it was the last game of the road trip or the third game in technically three and a half days. But because it was an afternoon game. The game started at 1pm local time. The Rangers never play well in afternoon games.

Anyway, a road trip that couldn’t have started better turns into one that couldn’t have ended worse. I will never complain about this years’ Rangers taking three out of six points. But they needed more. They needed at least four. Especially with the teams behind them holding games in hand and continuing to win.

The Rangers return home with only ten games remaining before they really count. I want to believe this team will turn it on once the playoffs begin. I’m not giving up but it’s getting harder and harder to think that is realistic.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Déjà Vu For Rangers In LA

For many, the Rangers being in Los Angeles brings back bad memories from two years ago. Personally, I’m over that series loss. The Kings were the better team and I’ve accepted that. I just wish the Rangers would stop playing the exact same game we had to watch over and over again during that faithful June.

For the first time in weeks, there was no pregame news (other than Ryan McDonagh being okay after the puck to the head he took right at the final buzzer last night) so we can get right to this predictable game.

It was pretty obvious which team played last night and which had been sitting at home waiting over the first few minutes. That got compounded by a high sticking penalty to Chris Kreider at the five and a half minute mark. Somehow the Rangers killed that as well as withstood the early Kings dominance due to the fantastic play of Henrik Lundqvist.

Right before the halfway mark, the teams went to 4-on-4 after Tanner Glass and Vincent Lecavalier were sent off. With time winding down in that, Lundqvist made a fantastic save that allowed J.T. Miller to pick up the puck, race up the ice and snap it behind Quick to give the visitors the lead. Of course as we know, the Rangers don’t hold leads in LA so that lasted all of 19 seconds. I’m not sure how many penalties Dan Boyle attempted to take to try and stop the goal but none of them worked and the game was tied at one.

The remainder of the period was the two teams trading chances as the Rangers finally found their legs.

That continued in the second period until the Rangers got hemmed in their zone halfway through the middle frame. Most mentions of that shift will blame one player. I’m blaming all five – Dan GirardiKeith YandleDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello and Rick Nash all played a part in the puck not being able to get out of the zone. I understand it’s the defenses’ job to help move the puck out but the forwards have to help. Instead, I watched as Brassard and Zuccarello either starred at the puck as the Kings regained possession or handed it directly to them. There’s only so much the defense can do in those cases.

Brassard finally got the puck and iced it, leading to the Rangers trying to kill time to avoid calling their timeout. They chose not to and Yandle took a penalty seconds later. Again, no one was innocent on that shift. Somehow the Rangers killed the penalty.

A minute later, a Kings turnover in their zone led to a Dan Boyle takeaway, snipe and Rangers 2-1 lead. Somehow the Rangers would take that lead into the third.

Less than three minutes into the final frame, the Rangers extended their lead to 3-1 as J.T. Miller made a fantastic play to get the puck out front. It would end up on the stick of Kevin Klein who rifled one on net. Quick would make the save but the puck would deflect to Kevin Hayes for the rebound goal. The Kings would challenge the goal for some reason but after a quick review, the call on the ice stood and the score was 3-1.

So the Rangers had a two goal lead in the third period in Los Angeles. I think we all know what happened next. You honestly can’t even make this stuff up.

Exactly two minutes later, the Kings got within one. Remember the five I mentioned being on for a long shift in the second period? It was the same five on the ice there. Yandle turnover plus Brassard covering no one equals Kings goal. I really have no idea why those five see the ice together at the same time.

Then with a little over four minutes remaining, the Kings finally tied the game. The goal was inevitable so I’m surprised it took that long. The Rangers challenged this one and while they probably had a better argument, the call again stood and the Rangers had once again blown a two goal lead in the third period in LA.

Honestly, the shocking part was that it got to overtime so the Rangers managed a point. Although come to think of it, I guess that is the way it works. And as happened in the past, it only took 94 seconds for the Kings to get the victory.

I’m not even going to get mad about it. For some reason the Rangers can’t play in that building. Every team has it’s kryptonite so it just is what it is. The good news is the Rangers got a point. Sure they needed two but every point is huge right now.

Next up, they finish the west coast swing with a trip to San Jose on Saturday afternoon. Take two points from the Sharks and I’ll consider this road trip a success.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Klein Plays Hero As Rangers Sweep Ducks

There has been plenty of times I, along with everyone else, has questioned this years’ Rangers team. You watch them against certain teams and you just wonder if maybe the ride is coming to an end. I haven’t had any reason to question them against the beasts of the West. That was the case again after watching the boys getting back to their defensive calling and play an almost perfectly played road game in Anaheim last night.

First some pregame news – we actually have a positive injury update as everyone is healthy! (Well everyone but Dylan McIlrath who isn’t on the trip. Apparently due to cap concerns, there was no call up to replace him.) With everyone healthy, that meant someone had to be a healthy scratch. Last night, that was Oscar Lindberg. It easily could have been a few other guys so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back soon.

As for the game, the first period…happened. I know I have been saying that a lot lately but there really was nothing worth discussing in the first twenty minutes. Unless you want to talk about Kevin Klein having his pocket picked in the defensive zone leading to the Ducks getting on the board first. But pretty sure no one reading this wants to discuss that. Other than that, a Rangers power kill and nine total shots on net, nothing happened in the first frame. I guess the good news is the Rangers held the high-flying Ducks to only five shots.

Then came the second period. Surprisingly, the Rangers showed up. Actually both teams did. Neither played a bad first period but for some reason the action seemed slow through the first twenty. It didn’t in the middle frame.

Just three minutes into the period, the Hockey Gods showed they have a sense of humor as Kevin Klein went from goat to hero by depositing a rebound of a Tanner Glass shot into a wide open net. (I thought Glass had one of his best games of the year last night.) I honestly didn’t think he got a lot on the shot but most of the forwards on this team probably would’ve missed the net so I’ll give credit where it’s due.

A minute later, Ryan Getzlaf would finally be called for a penalty. To the surprise of no one who’s watched him play, he had been throwing questionable hits all night. So what gets called? A slash that everyone but the referee missed. Of course the clear punch to the head of Dan Boyle was ignored. Only in the NHL. It wouldn’t matter as the Rangers power kill appeared again, getting no shots on net. (To be fair, the Ducks have the best penalty kill in the league so it wasn’t all the Rangers incompetency.)

Both teams would have opportunities to take the lead over the next 10+ minutes but neither was able to leading to an important final frame. Win a period, win the game. And the Rangers won the period.

The defensive tug of war continued, with both teams getting opportunities but nothing that Antti Raanta and John Gibson couldn’t handle. Until with less than seven minutes remaining, this happened:


And that is why players are supposed to keep their stick on the ice. As I said, the Hockey Gods felt bad for the giveaway in the first period. That goal gave Kevin Klein his first ever NHL 2-goal game. Not really surprising for a defensive defenseman.

That left the Rangers exactly 6:41 to kill off, which for this years’ group is way too much time. They would receive another power kill with three minutes to go but shockingly no penalties of their own. Somehow, even after missing two shots at the empty net, they came away with the win.

Of course it wasn’t all good as the final shot at the buzzer deflected and hit Ryan McDonagh in the side of the face. The captain went down and stayed down as his teammates tried to figure out if the game was over and if they could or should celebrate. Finally, after a couple of minutes, McDonagh got up on his own, celebrated briefly with his teammates and headed off the ice. Afterwards, the Rangers said he was “okay”. We’ll find out for sure tonight.

And so the Rangers re-gained second place in the Metro division, although the Islanders again have two games in hand. (I really want to know when they are making these games up.) They also got another big win in an almost perfectly played game against a very formidable western conference team. If the Rangers could just figure out how to beat teams in the East, people would stop questioning if they were a contender or not this year. Next up, the Kings. We all know what that means…


(Photo: Melissa Andus)