Hartford Signings + Rangers Goodbyes

While fans and analysts continue to worry about the Rangers depth taking a hit, the Rangers keep shoring up their organizational depth by signing players to play with the Wolf Pack. Why is this relevant? Because these guys are probably replacing the ones who were in Hartford last year and will be in New York in October.

Yesterday, the Rangers signed Chris Bourque to what is believed to be a one year, $600k deal (per capgeek). If the last name sounds familiar, it should. He’s the son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque. He’s also the older brother of Rangers prospect Ryan Bourque, who received a qualifying offer last week to remain with the Rangers. He hasn’t been officially signed but the assumption here is he will be if the organization brought his brother in.

Today, it was time to work on goaltending as the team re-signed Jason Missiaen to a one year, two-way extension:

Lavoie covers the Canadiens, hence the mention in his tweet. Missiaen didn’t have the best season last year, going back and forth between the AHL and ECHL, but the organization must see something in him to keep him around.

**UPDATE: The Rangers also signed journeyman forward Nick Tarnasky to presumably a one year deal. He has 245 NHL games on his resume (Tampa, Nashville and Florida) but has been in the AHL for the past two years so this is another Hartford signing. Although he played in Tampa for three years between 2005-2008, so who knows what connection he has to St. Louis and Boyle.

I expect signings like these to continue as the organization needs to make sure we have a competitive team in Hartford next year. And for those freaking out about the Rangers not being able to get better, stop worrying. (And read these great posts (here and here) by guys who were able to put into words how I’m feeling much better than I could.) I personally don’t think the team has taken that big of a step back and they usually play their best when everyone counts them out (as they are doing now).

Speaking of last years’ team, the Rangers tweeted this out yesterday:

Did they have to send a tweet like that out? Absolutely not. I’m actually surprised they did. But in my opinion, it was a great gesture to a group of guys who were a big part of a special team. Honestly I expected to see them all go but that tweet made it feel more real. I’ve said a number of times I wasn’t attached to this years’ team but that tweet brought out emotions I felt after the 2012 run. I guess I was more attached than I wanted to believe.

I wrote a complete post thanking Richards for everything he’s done (and hope to have the chance to do so personally in a couple of weeks), but I want to quickly thank the other three as well.

I was never a Boyle fan, but that’s because I understood his role and couldn’t understand why everyone expected more out of him. He was a great penalty killer and decent at face-offs. Any time he tried to do anything else, I just closed my eyes. (One of my lasting memories of him will probably be watching everyone stand up at MSG when he came down on a semi-breakaway and the guys in my section screaming “Sit down! It’s Boyle!” knowing the rush wouldn’t end in a goal. It might be mean to say that but the truth is it never did.) But the big guy was a staple with the team the past few years and it will be weird to not see him out there next season.

As for Stralman, I didn’t get the hype with him all season. I continually saw a guy who one minute looked like a top two defenseman and the next looked like he belonged in the press box. You just never knew which guy would come out for each shift. But he impressed me in the playoffs. He stepped up when others weren’t able to and earned the contact Tampa gave him. Will I miss him? I still think he was fourth on our depth chart but that doesn’t mean he won’t be missed. I do think he’s replaceable so I’m not worrying as much as everyone else.

Finally, Benoit Pouliot. Talk about a guy who managed to get Rangers fans to feel every emotion in just one season. His start was horrible and I’m sure there were people who thought he wouldn’t make it through the season. But he found a spot on that third line that we need to hope is still as good with a new winger. (Maybe replace Pouliot with Hagelin? I’m thinking it could work depending on where everyone else falls. Either Hagelin or Miller are my guesses.) That said, I won’t miss his offensive zone penalties.

And that will be the last time I talk about those three until the Rangers play the Tampa Bay Rangers Lightning or Edmonton Oilers. Good luck to all three of you!

 

(Photo: Chris Rutsch/flickr)

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Free Agent Frenzy: Rangers Comings + Goings

July 1st is considered Christmas for hockey fans. Some fans get presents, others get coal. Rangers fans were worried what would be under their tree as they knew a number of players from the 2013-14 team would be leaving. The question was who was replacing them. Rather than write a long post about each player, here’s a complete cheat sheet.

Leaving the Rangers

Benoit Pouliot

One of the first dominoes of the day to drop was Benoit Pouliot who signed with the Edmonton Oilers…for FIVE YEARS, $20 million. I’m going to be nice and just wish him good luck up north. And say thank you to the Rangers for not touching that contract.

Anton Stralman

To the surprise of no one, Stralman decided he could find money and term elsewhere. And he did, by signing with…the Tampa Bay Lightning. I’m not surprised Tampa went after him but I am going to assume Ryan Callahan put in a good word. The strange part is he got less than I expected as his cap will be $4.5 million per year. But he signed for five years. I’m going to guess Sather refused the term part.

That said, I’m not surprised about this. I’ve been saying he will be gone for awhile now. I just expected him to sign a ridiculous contract and never live up to it. Now the bigger question is was the Stralman for Dan Boyle swap worth it? (Keep reading for thoughts on that signing.) Guess we’ll find out over the next two years.

(By the way, have I mentioned how much I like what the Lightning are doing? Because I do. A lot. Look out for them Eastern Conference.)

Brian Boyle

He’s on this list because we know he’s leaving. (Another signing made today confirmed that.) I’ve heard rumors he was also offered a five year deal, to which I will have the same response I did to the one Pouliot received. The question is where is he going. I’ll update as soon as he signs.

UPDATE: So apparently if you want to watch the Rangers and can’t get to New York, you should go visit Tampa. Boyle signed a three year deal with the Lightning for $2.3 million per year. He was one of the guys who were really bothered by Callahan leaving. Now he gets to play with him again.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I would’ve debated that contract if I was the Rangers. Although guessing Tampa told him he would play on the third line. Three games between November 17th and December 1st just got a little more interesting.

Brad Richards

We knew Richards was gone due to the buyout but now we know where he’s going:

As a Blackhawks follower, I’m a little surprised this. The Hawks desperately needed a second line center but I’m not sure Richards fits that. They don’t need the power play help (not that he gave the Rangers any) and they definitely don’t need the veteran leadership to show the kids how to win. But at that price, I can’t blame them for taking a flyer. And I can still root for him to succeed, which I really wanted to be able to do.

Staying with the Rangers

Dominic Moore

Rangers fans started to panic yesterday when it sounded like Moore would be headed to free agency. He did get there and then decided he liked what the Rangers offered and decided to stay instead. For two years at $1.5 million per year (which is less than the rumors originally mentioned). He also received a limited no trade clause. I’m okay with that because I doubt he’s going anywhere anyway. I can tell you there will be a party in section 225 next year on opening night because of this signing.

Was Moore replaceable? Of course he was. But it was a great story and fans grew attached. Plus he had no problem playing the role he was given. Mix that all together and I’m happy he’s staying.

Joining the Rangers

Dan Boyle

For those few worried that their #22 Boyle jersey won’t be put to good use, worry no more as the Rangers signed Dan Boyle for the next two years. He previously wore #22 in San Jose so we just swapped a 29-year old for a 38-year old with the same name.

On a serious note, I personally didn’t want Boyle but I’m willing to give him a chance. He signed for two years, $9 million with a no-move clause. Not crazy about that but he supposedly left money on the table to come to New York so I guess I can root for someone who really wants to be here. (As long as he doesn’t bash his previous employer during his introduction interview.)

After quotes like that, I don’t think it will be an issue. He can teach St. Louis a lesson or two on how to leave a team. (Sorry, I know I need to let it go. I will before the season starts, I promise.) I can also handle those numbers considering what other teams did (cough Caps.)

He is known as a power play quarterback so here’s to hoping he doesn’t forget how to do that now that he’s in a blueshirt like his ex-teammate did. Actually, let’s hope he doesn’t try to run a power play like his ex-teammate did. That was the one positive to Brad Richards being bought out. Basically he will replace a combination of Stralman and Richards. Expect him to slot in next to Marc Staal and hope the two have chemistry.

Mike Kostka

Say hello to your new Justin Falk or Steve Eminger, a.k.a. the seventh defenseman who everyone hopes doesn’t mess up when gets to play. Kostka may be slightly better than Falk but he jumped between the NHL and AHL with Tampa last year so we’ll see what happens. He signed for one year at $650,000. I can handle that.

Tanner Glass

I will be honest and say I don’t know a lot about the ex-Penguin but I guess I’m going to learn as the winger signed a three year deal for $1.45 million per year. He’s penciled in on the fourth line which means we traded $1.6 million winger for someone making $1.45 million. I get the cap was lower but that’s really pinching pennies.

The first thing I noticed on this signing (other than trying to accept the fact I would need to root for an ex-Penguin) was he played in Vancouver under Vigneault. Guess AV liked him and we can expect more of his players to be joining the team. Also might have been Vignault picking Glass over Dorsett. We’ll see how that works out but right now, I’m not jumping for joy over this signing. Especially the term.

Chris Mueller

I know nothing about Mueller other than he won the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars this past season. I’m expecting him to be a guy who fights for a spot in training camp and gets called up if injuries become an issue. He’s a center so we can never have too many of those. I haven’t seen term or money but guess it’s a year or two and under $1 million per year.

Steve Kampfer

This is another depth player headed to Hartford to start the season. It’s a two-way deal which definitely means he will be in the AHL next year. But the Wolf Pack need defensemen and he’s a decent AHL one so that’s okay. Unless something happens, I’m guessing this is the last time I will mention him unless I am writing about the Wolf Pack.

Matt Hunwick

Another depth defenseman who may battle Kostka for the seventh D role. He spent most of last year in the AHL but otherwise had been a lower pairing defenseman the rest of his career. I honestly have no idea what to think of this signing. It’s one year at $600k so maybe Sather found another gem no one thought twice about. Or maybe this is another signing we won’t think twice about after today.

Cedrick Desjardins

Another signing for Hartford and a much needed one as they desperately need goaltenders. Here’s to hoping he lasts the full year, something the Wolf Pack didn’t have happen with a goaltender last season.

**********

Overall, I don’t think Rangers fans can complain. We knew Stralman, Pouliot and Boyle were leaving and if the worst contract Sather gives out this summer is the one to Dan Boyle, I can definitely live with that. (Especially since that contract isn’t really that horrible.) Next up comes the hard part – RFAs. Get them signed before someone tries to steal them, Glen!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Offseason: Weddings + Charity Events

While the fans continued to try and swallow the bitter pill of defeat, the Rangers themselves have been quite busy the last two weeks. Well the last two Fridays.

Last Friday, Carl Hagelin made his way to Norway to partake in a charity event for Right to Play hosted by his friend and teammate, Mats Zuccarello. (I honestly never realized the level of “bromance” between these two but check out Zuccarello’s instagram account. Almost every picture is of the two of them. Too adorable!) Hagelin posted this picture from during intermission:

I am dying to know the story behind that hashtag. I haven’t been able to find a final score for the game but it looks like they did make a lot of money for the organization which you can read more about here.

Over in the states, Brian Boyle was in Disney World that day…getting married.

So how do we know the wedding took place in Disney World? Turns out an ex-teammate was there:

There are usually rumors or pictures showing which players were around for the wedding but I haven’t seen anything so it’s possible Dubinsky was the only other player there. Either way, congrats to Brian and Lauren!

And while he is no longer with the team, I’m going to send congrats to Derek Dorsett as well, who married his longtime girlfriend Allison, this past Saturday (the day after he was traded to Vancouver; nice wedding present from Glen Sather).

As for this past Friday? Another charity event. This time in Madison, Wisconsin where Blake Geoffrion held his inaugural charity event at the University of Wisconsin. A hockey charity event involving the Badgers can only mean one thing – Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan were involved. And they were as they played for the victorious white team during the game. Full rosters can be found here.

The event was a huge success raising $40,000 for the UW Burn Center, one of 45 in the nation verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons. Here are highlights from the game:

McDonagh and Stepan weren’t interviewed but you can see them a couple of time in those clips. I believe it was McDonagh who put home goalie Brian Elliot’s rebound. Yes, Elliot skated up the ice and tried to score. You have to love charity events.

Great job boys helping out others and congrats to the two who recently tied the knot!

 

(Photo: Mats Zuccarello official twitter account)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part II

Earlier in the week, I tackled the Rangers goaltending and defense. There were no real surprises there but if you missed it, you can read it here. The forwards bring some interesting dilemmas.

I’m going to preface these choices with two things. First, I do believe this team was close so am not sure if that much change is needed. (Some change is needed but this isn’t one of those times where I think the organization should sell while stocks are high.) Secondly, I’m not that impressed with this years’ free agent crop so some of these guys might stick around just because there aren’t better options.

And with that, here we go!

Brian Boyle (C, 82 games played, 6-12-18, +1) – Let me start by saying I have never been a big Brian Boyle fan. It’s not because he’s a big guy who doesn’t hit. It’s because I can’t for the life of me figure out how he was a first round draft choice. Granted the goal he scored in game five, which ended up being the last Rangers goal of the year, was a beauty but I can’t think of another time he’s ever done that. But this year he found a big role with the team by killing penalties, taking important face-offs and being a part of a very steady fourth line. Problem is he wants a bigger role than that. I don’t blame him but as I said on break up day, he won’t get it in New York. He also won’t get the money he wants in New York. So while I’m going to say “dump”, I don’t mean it in the sense to get rid of him. I mean it as it’s time for the two sides to say thanks and move on… DUMP

Brassard

See you next year Brass!

Derick Brassard (C, 81 games played, 18-27-45, +2) – This one is actually tough for me. I like Brassard. A lot. And want him to stay. But his qualifying offer is close to $4 million and he is going to want at least that. Was he good for the Rangers this year? Absolutely. Plus he centered what was probably the best and most consistent line all season. I just can’t bring myself to say he is good enough to deserve that. That said, there aren’t really many centers available right now who will be any more cost efficient so while he will be overpaid, I have to go with… KEEP (and I’ll be happy he stays. I just will hate the contract he has as there is no reason he should be paid more than Stepan and he will be.)

Daniel Carcillo (LW, as a Ranger: 31 games played, 3-0-3, even) – I hated this trade when it happened because I was worried what version of Carcillo we would be getting. I fully admit when I’m wrong and this was one of those cases as Carcillo was a million times better as a Ranger than I ever expected. That said, he and Dorsett are the same player and we don’t need both. Mix his incident in the playoffs with Dorsett already being signed for another year and I think we’ve seen the last of Carcillo in blue. I still thank him for the goal he scored against the Flyers but… DUMP

Derek Dorsett (RW, 51 games played, 4-4-8, -1) – Since I just said I expect the Rangers to dump Carcillo, you probably already know what I’m going to say for Dorsett. He’s signed for another year and while he takes the occasional stupid penalty or two, he’s not the worst culprit of that on the team. He brings grit and can score so I have no problem with him being on the team. He hasn’t grown into the fan favorite he was in Columbus but I still give him another chance. Will he be on this list this time next year? No clue but I expect him on the opening night roster so… KEEP

Carl Hagelin (LW, 72 games played, 17-16-33, +8) – The new NHL is based on speed. Carl Hagelin can fly. While he would be a great trade chip to bring in a missing piece (true number one center, power play quarterback, etc.), I’m not sure he can just be replaced. His play on the penalty kill is outstanding and he beats more than half the league down the ice to prevent icings (as long as the dumb hybrid rule doesn’t come into play). Is he the most important player on the roster? Not even close. But he’s an important piece to the style the Rangers now play so moving him would make no sense to me. Could he be a deadline move next season? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t make that move now so… KEEP

Chris Kreider (LW, 66 games played, 17-20-37, +14) – Anyone remember when Kreider started the season in Hartford and everyone called him a bust? Looking back, I laugh because that month helped him in more ways than one – not that this stat matters but his plus/minus was always higher than everyone else since he didn’t play those games that killed everyone. Anyway, we all know what Kreider is and what he has done to help the team. Everyone says the Rangers turned the series against the Penguins around for St. Louis. Didn’t hurt that Kreider returned right as that switch was flicked. He is a player 29 other teams would love to have and we now all understand why Sather refused to trade him for Nash. He may not sign until training camp since he doesn’t have arbitration rights, but he’s not going anywhere… KEEP

Boyle-DMoore-DorsettDominic Moore (C, 73 games played, 6-12-18, even) – There is no one who had a problem with the Moore signing when it happened and there will be no one who will have a problem when he re-signs. Honestly, I expected him to mean the end of Boyle as a Ranger and while that still might be the case, I expected it to happen sooner. Yes Boyle is younger but Moore is willing to play the fourth line role and plays it well. He just wants to play and his positive energy is a bonus in a locker room full of good character guys. I don’t expect contract to be an issue so #28 should still be on the roster come September… KEEP

Rick Nash (LW, 65 games played, 26-13-39, +10) – Let’s get this out of the way – Rick Nash is not being traded. Nor is he being bought out. Yes he is horrible in the playoffs and no I have no idea how to change that but he had a very good regular season and is the only true offensive threat on the roster. He just needs help whether it be a different center to play with or another offensive weapon on the team for the opposition to focus on. (Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I feel like we say the same thing every year.) If he gets it or not won’t affect his status with the team as he isn’t going anywhere… KEEP

Benoit Pouliot (LW, 80 games played, 15-21-36, +10) – If you had told me back in December that I would even be thinking about keeping Pouliot for another year, I would’ve had the same response Vigneault did when asked what his response would’ve been in October if he was told team was going to Final. His stupid penalties still drive me insane and I wouldn’t be upset if he left. But unlike Boyle, I actually see the potential of a first round pick in Pouliot. The talent is there. It’s just not consistent. But he found a spot with Brassard and Zuccarello and while I wonder if that line was so good because they were all playing for contracts, I’d be willing to give it another shot. So while I will probably regret this by December of this year if it happens… KEEP

Brad Richards (C, 82 games played, 20-31-51, -8) – Oh Brad. This one hurts. I didn’t like the signing when it happened but Richards grew on me to the point that I never thought I would be upset he was gone. But I am. Well I’m not upset I won’t have to watch him on the power play point anymore but I am upset the guy who took over the room over the past three months won’t be there next year. He’s on a decline due to his age and no matter how hard he tries, there’s nothing he can do to stop that. If his contract was different, this may be a harder decision. But with six years remaining and penalties for him retiring early, the Ranger have no choice but to… DUMP

Stepan-cropped

I still don’t know how you played like this…

Derek Stepan (C, 82 games played, 17-40-57, +12) – Derek Stepan is the forward version of Dan Girardi (and not because the two are my favorite players on the team). No matter what is going on with the team, you always know they will be on the ice for a game. Stepan was forced to miss his first game of his four year career in the playoffs due to an injury that would’ve had most guys out for weeks. He was back after that one game. But it’s what he does on the ice that makes him so valuable. Yes we all want him to be a first line center and as much as it pains me to say, he isn’t right now. But I still think he can be and if not, he is a very good second line center. (Just please learn how to win a face-off!) Either way, we don’t have to deal with another contract until next summer so for now he better not be going anywhere… KEEP

Martin St. Louis (RW, as a Ranger: 19 games played, 1-7-8, +1) – Sigh. I’m going to keep this one short because it doesn’t matter what I say or think. St. Louis demanded a trade to New York three months ago and still has one year left on his contract. He’s staying whether we want him to or not so… KEEP (For those who want to know, I’m still not sure I will ever be able to truly root for him but he was a huge help in the playoffs so I’m not upset he’s on the team. I just don’t like what he felt he needed to do to get here and can’t let that go. This is one case where I’ll root for name on front and ignore what’s on the back.)

Mats Zuccarello (LW, 77 games played, 19-40-59, +11) – Raise your hand if you thought Zuccarello was going to have as good of a season as he did when he signed last summer. Anyone who has their hands up, put them down because you’re lying. We all hoped Zuccarello would be a good player but the question of if he could do it was still there. Well question no more as the little Norwegian finally proved doubters wrong. The bad news for the Rangers is that is going to cost them. My guess is they won’t mind paying if he continues to bring what he did this year… KEEP

Don't know what's going to happen with you...

Don’t know what’s going to happen with you…

J.T. Miller (C, 30 games played, 3-3-6, -6) – I am including Miller because he played 30 games but he’s an interesting one. Is this another situation like Kreider where he needed a little extra time to put everything together? Or will he never be what everyone hoped he would become? The Rangers will need him to make the team out of camp next year. If they think he can, they will keep him. If not, they may very well package him in a deal to get another piece they need. I’m not ready to give up on him but I really have no idea where the Rangers stand. I’m going to take a cop out on this one and say… UNDECIDED (Miller is the only player I did this for this year. Cut me some slack on this.)

 

We’ll see how well I did in a couple of weeks. For now, I like the fact that we have a team that doesn’t need a ton of changes. Sure people come and go but we’re not looking at a full overhaul this summer and honestly, I don’t think they need one. But with so many contracts up, it will be interesting to see what Sather does. Oddly enough I have faith in him. He better not let me down.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Rangers + Game Seven + Henrik Lundqvist = Victory!

So about the series being over and the Rangers not winning three games in a row…

Let’s be honest. Anyone who says now that they expected the Rangers to win the series after game four, I mean actually win not saying they would because they always support the team, is lying to you. No one in their right mind thought the Rangers were coming back in this series. I’m still not convinced they would have if other circumstances hadn’t come into play.

But I’m not going to role out all the cliches such as what’s done is done or everything happens for a reason because the truth of the matter is simple:

The Rangers don’t lose game sevens.

They just don’t. I have no idea when or how it happened but I just feel like they never lose game sevens anymore. Might have something to do with some guy named Henrik Lundqvist.

So when the Rangers won games five and six, I did think they had a chance to pull off the miracle. It’s game seven and you never know what could happen. For instance if I told you earlier in the day that the Rangers got goals from Brian Boyle and their power play, you would have laughed at me. I would’ve laughed at me and said no way both of those things were happening. But they did. Cause it’s game seven.

Both teams came out flying but to be honest, I thought it looked like the Penguins might have wanted it more. Then again, the Penguins had more on the line and weren’t as familiar with game sevens as their players were only a combined 21-15 going into tonight’s game. The Rangers kind of played with a “been there, done that” mentality where they were willing to wait till an opportunity presented itself. I guess being a combined 62-6 in game sevens could help that. (By the way, that stat is ridiculous. Not just for how many wins but how many game sevens guys on this team have played.)

A little over five minutes in, that opportunity came as the Rangers fourth line came down on an odd man rush with Dominic Moore (the guy who had already won two game sevens in Pittsburgh and had points in both) passed to Brian Boyle who was able to put the puck through Fleury’s five hole to give the Rangers the lead and more importantly the first goal. We all knew the stat regarding the first goal in this series (i.e. that team had won every game).

I said after game six that the Penguins needed veteran leadership. They needed someone to keep them calm when they faced adversity. It pains me to do it but I have to give them credit – they didn’t become the Penguins after that goal. They stuck to their game plan and continued to push play while fighting for the equalizer. It came almost a period later as Jokinen continued his great postseason by tying it four minutes into the second period.

And the Penguins didn’t stop there. You could tell they wanted this game. The funny part was in trying to make sure they dominated play in all aspects they almost became the Flyers, hitting everything in white any chance they got. All I kept thinking was that it didn’t work for Philadelphia so why did they think it would work for them? It did help them dominate play but it obviously didn’t give them the outcome they wanted.

Two and a half minutes later, the Penguins took a penalty. With everything they seemed to be letting go, I was surprised they called it but it was a trip. I had no idea what to expect from the power play but I would say a Brad Richards goal was not high on the list. But halfway through, that’s what we got as Derek Stepan tried to pass to Marty St. Louis by the side of the net. The pass didn’t work as well as he hoped but St. Louis backhanded into the slot where Richards was waiting to bury it. It wound up being the game winner. The Rangers scored on the power play to come back from a series deficit they had never overcome in their history. You can’t make this stuff up.

The rest of the game, which involved roughly half of the game, involved the Rangers basically playing trap defense. I use the word “trap” loosely but you get the picture. They rarely tried to get another goal and instead sat on their lead content to let their goaltender be their best player. He is their best player so it worked. And he was phenomenal. But it wasn’t easy to watch as a fan.

And so the Rangers move on to the conference finals. I never in my wildest dreams expected them to do that. Then again, I will fully admit I didn’t expect them to beat the Flyers either. (We all make mistakes.) The best part in all of this is they don’t even know who they are playing yet as they were the first series to end. Crazy to think they went seven and still ended their series before the other three being played. I’m sure they’re not complaining as that means they get something called “rest” for a couple of days. It goes without say they sure can use it.

We’ll know their opponent within 24 hours. Until then, sit back and breathe Rangers fans. Your boys just beat the Flyers and Penguins. I would call these playoffs a success just based on that but I have this feeling they aren’t done yet.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

St. Louis Scores As Rangers Win But Is McDonagh Injured?

The media tried their hardest to make this game about the coaches and the different directions each team is headed. It didn’t work as the game became about a guy who finally scored a goal and a hit that happened right before the final buzzer. And no matter what angle the press takes, the Rangers are still headed to the playoffs and the Canucks are not.

After watching two entirely different teams during the first  two games of this road trip, I had no idea what to expect from the Rangers to start this one. I wouldn’t say they played a great first period as Lundqvist needed to make a couple of quality saves. But fortunately for them he did and it appeared the Canucks were more like the Oilers than the Flames.

It started just five minutes in when the puck was loose in the Vancouver crease and the referee shockingly did not blow the whistle. The revamped fourth line kept whacking at it with Carcillo finally putting it in the back of the net. I completely expected it to be called back for something as the Rangers never get that luck. Instead, the players celebrated and the next face-off was at center ice as the visitors had a 1-0 lead. Boyle got an assist on the goal for his 100th career point.

Eight and a half minutes later everyone’s favorite fantasy camp kid did what he does best – take a dumb penalty. (For those who don’t get the reference, here you go.) On the ensuing power play, Brassard found Pouliot wide open in the slot to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Zuccarello got the second assist giving him his team leading 54th point. That point was significant for something else:

I’m sure there hasn’t been a lot of Norwegian players in the NHL but that stat is still amazing to me. As for the goal, that meant in one period of play the Rangers didn’t get a quick whistle on a play in the crease and got a power play goal. Things really are going bad for Tortorella right now. Sadly they got worse later in the game.

Of course the Rangers never make it easy on themselves as they allowed the Canucks to wake up in the second. The one play I hope we aren’t talking about after the game happened early in the period when Daniel Sedin held McDonagh into the boards. Saying it that way sounds dirty and this play wasn’t but the two did go into the boards. Both were fine but as they came away from the boards, McDonagh fell backwards and hit his head on the ice. That wasn’t pretty. It took him a few minutes to shake it off but of course he didn’t miss a shift. Watching him, I’m not sure that was the best idea. Hopefully he doesn’t wake up with a headache tomorrow. Then again, he might have something else to worry about first.

Shortly after that, the Rangers lost a face-off leading to Kesler getting the Canucks on the board. You could kind of feel it coming. That said, you could also feel the equalizer coming and that didn’t happen before the period ended.

What did happen was the Canucks taking another penalty right before the buzzer sounded allowing the Rangers to start the third period on the power play. It got a couple of chances but not sure I can truly call it a power play. But due to it getting shots on net, I can’t call it a power kill. That said, it’s never good when you miss the net on a breakaway. I guess Pouliot wasn’t used to having that much time.

Seven minutes into the period, the Rangers took their first penalty of the game. They managed to (barely) kill it off but decided to take another one just as it ended. During that one, they got a couple of chances shorthanded. First it was Stepan whose shot was saved by Lack and then the rebound bounced off the post and out. Then a little less than a minute later, Nash and St. Louis came down on a 2-on-1 with Nash controlling the puck. For some reason, he passed it to St. Louis who actually managed to put it in the net. The MSG broadcast immediately showed Tortorella and, well Jesse Spector put it best:

Side note, but I really miss Jesse covering hockey. (Baseball stole him from us.)

After that it was a game of keep away as the Rangers tried to escape Vancouver in one piece. But this is the Canucks and that is never a guarantee when certain guys are on the ice. Today’s culprit? Alex Burrows who got a five minute major for elbowing Ryan McDonagh with 44 seconds to go. I will be good and leave my thoughts on Burrows out of this. I did enjoy Girardi’s punch to his head after the hit, though.

My concern is for McDonagh, who was down for some time and didn’t look good going off. But he was able to go off on his own and it honestly didn’t look like a head injury but instead an arm or shoulder issue. There was no update after the game except for the team saying he will travel to Denver tomorrow and the players who spoke expressing their concern. For now I am just going to hope it’s nothing and he’s fine. Until we hear for sure, I am slightly concerned. Not as concerned as I should be though so hopefully that means it isn’t serious. Please be okay, Mac…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Notes From Rangers Practice + Thoughts On Miller, Nash & More

I had every intention of posting a bunch of random news and notes today. Then the Rangers took to the ice to practice today and iced a line that included Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and…Dan Carcillo.

There is part of me that thinks this is just Vigneault messing with everyone and that there is no way that line will see the ice in Edmonton tomorrow. Then there is another part of me who knows Carcillo has actually played on top lines before and been effective when he’s not being stupid (which to his credit, he hasn’t been since he got here).

But the thought most running through my mind? How do you take a guy who has either been a healthy scratch or received regular fourth line minutes (i.e. under 10 minutes a night) for the past month and throw him on the top line? Am I missing something? The best part is the power play units stayed the same meaning Girardi and Diaz will be out there with Nash, Stepan and St. Louis. I agree that forward line isn’t working so why keep it as a power play unit?

I think Vigneault just wants to make sure I am always shaking my head at him for something.

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Now to the questions I intended to ask after last nights’ game against Calgary (some of which have now been answered).

Was J.T. Miller benched last night?

Answer is yes he was. Vigneault admitted it by saying he thought he could’ve made better plays both offensively and defensively. I thought he was one of the best players on the ice through two periods. Unfortunately for Miller, he’s a kid who happened to be on the ice for the Flames third goal. To me, he wasn’t the one who made the biggest mistake leading to the goal but add those two plus fact coach felt need to shorten bench to get back in game and he inevitably wasn’t going to see the ice. And we thought those days were done when Tortorella moved to Vancouver.

But not only was he benched last night, he appears to be moved even lower down for tomorrow’s game. As mentioned above, it sounds like Carcillo is drawing back in. So who’s coming out? You see where this is going.

I have an idea. Why not place Miller on the line with Stepan and Nash? You know, place an offensive guy who goes into the corners with those two. I mean that’s the type of guy who was on their line when it was being successful so wouldn’t it make sense to place a similar one if you have him to use? Maybe that’s just me.

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How did everyone think Nash played last night?

He had his moments but I didn’t think it was a great game for #61. Now I will admit I was watching him more closely than normal. Why was that? Because of this:

(Editors Note: I tried to find video of the hit but couldn’t.)

That happened on his first shift of the night. He was extremely slow to get up and yes I feared the worst. He finished the game but that honestly means nothing to me as we’ve seen how the Rangers medical staff treats their players. (Word of Kreider being shutdown due to Sather rather than team doctors doesn’t help their reputation.)

I’m not saying Nash is injured but he has a history so I think it’s something to keep an eye on.

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Speaking of injuries, full credit to Brian Boyle last night. I have no idea how badly he was limping afterwards but it’s amazing he made it through the game with how many shots that hit him where padding is to a minimum. The best way I can explain it is you know how when you bite the side of your mouth while eating and then end up continuing to do it no matter how hard you try not to? Well Boyle kept getting hit in the same spot with the puck every time he managed to get back on the ice after blocking the initial shot. Felt so bad for him but there was someone willing to do whatever it took to win that game.

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Finally, a quick note about an ex-Ranger. No, I’m not going to discuss how Michael Del Zotto got his first goal as a Predator last night or how well Ryan Callahan is fitting in with the Lightning right now. This is an ex-Ranger from a few years ago.

Yesterday, Martin Straka quietly announced his retirement after his Czech team was eliminated from the playoffs.

I know he hasn’t been in the NHL for a couple of years but he still is a part of Rangers history. Yes the “Czech teams” after the lockout weren’t the best but they got the Rangers back to relevance. And in Straka’s case, I remember him being the guy always to stand in front of Zdeno Chara’s slapshots while Boston was on the power play. He sustained a couple of injuries by doing it but inspired others (namely an ex-captain mentioned above) from doing what was necessary to win games. You also have to love a guy who says this in making the announcement (quote loosely translated from this article):

“I’ll have a beer, a cigarette .. It was a beautiful twenty-five years, “said Straka in the bowels of the Brnohall Rondo few minutes after his Plzeň fell in the quarterfinals with a comet Extra League play-off.

Enjoy that beer and cigarette, Marty. You’ve earned it. Congrats on a great career and good luck with whatever you choose to do next.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)