Change Is Coming As Rangers Breakup For Summer

Yesterday, the 2015-16 Rangers met up for the final time as they packed up their things and headed to their longest summer break in five years. While recently break up day quotes have been nothing more than players saying they will be better next year, this years’ final day had a different vibe. This year, things were a lot more questionable than definite.

Let’s start with the biggest news. Unless you had absolutely no internet access yesterday, you heard about the blow up from Dan Boyle directed at New York Post writers Larry Brooks and Brett Cyrgalis. While Cyrgalis wasn’t in attendance, Brooks was and things got a little heated. Of course there was video which you can see here. For those who don’t want to watch, the transcript can be found here.

I’m not going to rehash the entire thing as everyone has seen and heard it. Was Boyle out of line? Maybe that situation wasn’t the best place to completely lose his cool. But I’ve always been taught to treat others with the same respect you would want to be treated with. There is no question Boyle has received very little respect from many in the NY media so if he felt like returning the favor on his last day speaking to them, fine by me. Especially when one of the writers in question felt the need to respond and then apologize after he was called out by fans everywhere for his original response.

Somewhere, John Tortorella read about what happened and smiled.


Moving on, the next player to speak was Dan Girardi who confirmed what anyone who had any common sense had already figured out – he missed three games during the playoffs due to injury. What was that injury? A concussion stemming from the hit he received from Brian Boyle.

To me, it was clear as day that was the injury and I was actually shocked to see him back for game 1. After seeing how that game went, it was no surprise when Girardi admitted he didn’t feel right as the game went on and that the symptoms returned after the game. I’m still not sure how he was able to come back for game 5 but he did say he felt fine during and after the game so hopefully the concussion issues are behind him. But you never know with head injuries. (I’ll save that rant for another time.)

Girardi also confirmed what many had suspected – that the crack in his knee never fully healed.

“If I could go back, I’d probably try and take more time off, but a lot of you guys know I’m not that guy who’s just not going to play. Missing whatever I did — six games — was already a lot for me.”

I plan to hold him to that quote next year when he inevitably tries to play through another injury received early in the season. Speaking of next year, Girardi told reporters he was confident this year was a one-time thing and that he can and will be much better next season. When asked if he thought that would be with the Rangers, his response was “Well, I think so.”

And that seemed to be the trend in the quotes I saw coming out of the room. Everyone saying “I think so”. Reading between the lines, you could tell the players aren’t sure what to think but are aware changes are coming.

For instance, when Henrik Lundqvist was asked if the team could contend again next year, he replied “I think so”. Lundqvist has been the most vocal saying while he knows change is coming, the organization shouldn’t “overreact”.


If there is anyone who will take the way the season ended the hardest, it is Lundqvist. And if there is as much change as everyone is assuming, he might be the only one untouchable (assuming he doesn’t ask for a trade himself).

Returning to injuries for a moment, Lundqvist said that there was no lingering issues from his eye injury, although he almost wished there was so he could blame his performance on that. All due respect, I would prefer to accept he played bad then be worried about his eyesight. Rangers fans already have to deal with that with another player.

Captain Ryan McDonagh finally admitted what his “mysterious upper body injury” was – he broke his right pointer finger. I actually thought it was a lot worse than that but I guess that explains why he was able to come back as quickly as he did. He won’t need surgery but the finger does need a few more weeks to completely heal.

Actually, for the first time in years, no one needs surgery unless there will be random injuries coming about in the following weeks.

Also for the first time in years? Rangers players are eligible to play at the World Championships and three will be going – Brady Skjei will be representing the Americans, Derick Brassard is joining Team Canada and Mats Zuccarello is expected to join Norway’s team. (As of this writing, I don’t believe that is official but it sounds like he is going.)

Everyone else is headed home. Will they back next year? Individually they want to think so. But since Vigneault said even the coaching staff isn’t guaranteed to be the same, I think the players know that this year, no one is safe.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)


Rangers Sleepwalk To Game 82 Win

While no team wants to go into the playoffs on a losing streak, it was no secret todays game meant nothing to the Rangers. It reportedly meant something to the Red Wings, but you couldn’t tell by their play as both teams seemed to just want to get the game over with.

For me, I just wanted no injuries. But as has been the case the past few games, we again didn’t get that lucky. This time it was Eric Staal who needed help off the ice late in the second period after a collision on an offensive zone faceoff. I didn’t see what happened, just the aftermath of him lying face down on ice. After the game it was announced he was taken out for precautionary reasons and should be fine. We can only hope. I would feel horrible for him if he couldn’t play in playoffs.

Other good news? During the post game on ice ceremony, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Mats Zuccarello were on the bench and came on the ice to give their jerseys. McDonagh had his drapped over his right hand but the other two looked perfectly fine. Viktor Stalberg, who also missed todays game, was not part of the events but he reportedly will be ready for game one as well.

As for the game, there’s not much to say. Both teams played like it was game 82 and the result didn’t matter. Fortunately for the Red Wings, the Bruins did the same thing against Ottawa so they still were able to clinch a playoff spot. It was interesting in the building as a number of Red Wings fans were in attendance and kept trying to start a “Let’s Go Red Wings!” chant. You could tell Rangers fans were reluctant to stop them cause many were secretly rooting for the Wings.

On the ice, the most noteable thing to happen? With Oscar Lindberg scoring the empty net goal, the rookie can say he scored the first and last goal of the regular season. That’s all I got.

And so the regular season comes to a close. If the Islanders win tomorrow (as they got a point tonight), the Rangers will be headed to Florida. Otherwise it’s another trip to Pittsburgh. While most fans don’t want that, Marc Staal was right in saying it is really bad hockey karma to play to lose. Problem is I’m not sure they played either of last two games to win. Hopefully playing as if you don’t care brings them luck.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Lose Isles + Penguins In One Sweep

It almost looked staged, as if the Rangers agreed with the fans and some of the media that they should intentionally fail so they could fall into fourth place. One period of evenly played hockey resulting in no goals. More than half of another period with great chances but “unable to solve” the opposing goaltender. A shot going ten feet wide “accidentally” deflected into their own net, two more quick ones after that and then going through the motions in the final twenty. Honestly, it couldn’t have been written any better if they wanted to fail without making it obvious.

Do I think that’s what happened? Not really. But in losing yet again to the Islanders, the Rangers not only were swept for the first time in franchise history by their rivals but they also probably lost third place in the Metro and a trip to Pittsburgh next week. It’s not the worst thing in the world…minus the fact the youthful ignorance mixed with a couple of savvy veterans on the Panthers could be the worst match up of all for anyone in the playoffs. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I could recap the game but that first paragraph basically says it all so let’s discuss everything else that happened today.

First, the newest injury update. While no one would’ve been completely surprised to see Dan Girardi somehow on the ice for practice this morning, it wasn’t all that shocking he wasn’t. After practice, Vigneault gave some possible good news:

I agree with Larry Brooks when he said there is no reason for Girardi to play on Saturday but the fact they are saying “day to day” instead of “out indefinitely” could be a good sign. I say could because you have to take all injury updates with a grain of salt during this time of year. Remember, we all thought there was a chance Zuccarello would play again last season and later found out there was no way that was happening. But let’s hope the iron man is well enough to be on the ice for the post game events on Saturday afternoon.

And in even better injury related news, no one got hurt against the Islanders tonight. There were close calls but to everyone’s knowledge, the team thankfully came out in one piece.

In other news, a couple of team awards were announced today.

Earlier in the day, the team announced that Henrik Lundqvist had been voted as Team MVP by the media while the players voted for Jesper Fast as the Player’s Player award.

Lundqvist being MVP is no surprise – when there is no clear MVP, just go with the goaltender. I’m going to assume that was the thinking of most of the writers who voted for that. But Fast being the players pick was a nice surprise. Vigneault has said that players like playing with him and he honestly was my MVP vote for the season. It’s just nice to see him get the recognition.

Speaking of the fans’ MVP vote, before tonight’s game Steven McDonald was on-hand to award the Extra Effort award. It’s always a highlight of the season as the ex-police officer always leaves the team and fans with words of wisdom. Tonight he started by asking “Are we ready to chase Lord Stanley’s Cup?”. The fans are, I just hope the players are as well.

He then went on to say that we all know “…there are no easy victories. That’s how they play the game. That’s how we live our lives. That’s how we like it.” Rangers fans probably don’t like it but we know there are no easy victories, and I expect that to be written on top of the Stanley Cup puzzle placed in the locker room next week.

As I previously stated, my vote had been for Fast. Since there was no clear cut favorite, the fans went with a fan favorite meaning it was no surprise to see Mats Zuccarello take the award again. I can’t really argue with the pick as he’s had a good year.

While the entire ceremony wasn’t as inspiring as previous years, the one thing that stuck with me was how he repeated there were no easy victories. The players know this all too well and learned it again tonight. Hopefully they will be able to gut out 16 more wins starting next week.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Flip Script With Third Period Comeback

When I saw this game on the schedule, I thought maybe by April I would be over the bitterness of last May and therefore be able to handle seeing the Tampa Bay Lightning on MSG ice. Well, there’s always next season.

I make it no secret my feelings towards the Penguins and Canadiens. That said, I screamed more at the visitors tonight than I ever have at those two teams. I mean, they gave me plenty of reasons to do so but still not something I’m entirely proud of.

There’s a lot to get to so we’ll deal with Tampa in a minute. First, to the surprise of no one, Ryan McDonagh missed tonight’s game and was ruled out of the rest of the regular season with an “upper body injury”. He broke his hand. Every single person who saw the play knows what happened. There is no reason to be secretive about this. You don’t want to say how bad the break is, fine. But the team looks ridiculous calling it an undisclosed upper body injury.

Fortunately we have Larry Brooks who always manages to get the details:

“…sources have told The Post that McDonagh could very well be sidelined for at least the opening games(s) of the first round with what is believed a small fracture of the right hand the captain sustained blocking a Brandon Dubinsky shot at 14:47 of the first period of the Blueshirts’ playoff-clinching 4-2 victory in Columbus on Monday.”

That sounds about right. Hopefully it’s only a couple of games.

In his place, the Rangers recalled rookie Brady Skjei. By doing so, they were also able to give Dan Boyle a rest and allow Dylan McIlrath to get a game in as well. Both rookies weren’t great tonight but hopefully they will be able to get better the more they play. Vigneault also finally allowed Oscar Lindberg back in the lineup, giving Kevin Hayes the night off. (If the team had clinched earlier, those last two moves would’ve been made already.) For some reason, Henrik Lundqvist started in net. He’s the only reason the Rangers had a chance to come back in this game.

As for the first period, this quote says it best:

We’ll just leave it at that.

Oh and Tanner Glass got thrown for a late hit on Namestnikov. Depending on which side you look at will depend if a suspension is expected. I’m not even going to begin to guess. From replays I’ve seen, while Namestnikov was admiring his pass, the hit was late and may have been blindside so probably not good for Glass. Fortunately the Tampa power play is worse than most Rangers power kills.

The second period looked like it would be slightly better simply because it couldn’t be worse. Then with less than five minutes remaining, Derek Stepan gave me what I wanted. All I wanted was to hear the goal song. I couldn’t take another shutout to the Lightning. On the power play, Mats Zuccarello made one of his incredible cross-ice passes and Stepan rifled it in the net to get the Rangers on the board.

That gave the Rangers momentum until the last minute when they tried to give it back.

Then came the third period, where the Rangers finally turned the tables. Two and a half minutes in, right after another Rangers power play had ended, it was Derek Stepan again to tie the game with his career high 22nd of the season. I’m pretty sure Vasilevskiy will want that one back (but he can’t have it).

Two minutes later, Chris Kreider did this:

Hi Christopher. We’ve missed you. It’s so nice to see you.

In all seriousness, that was an incredible move. I have no idea what changed but if he finally has his confidence, I will take it.

Unfortunately that left the home team over 15 minutes to try and kill. Fifteen minutes to not allow a goal and to stay healthy through. They were successful on the first part.

But with a little over a minute to go, Dan Girardi went to play the puck behind the Rangers net. Ex-Ranger Brian Boyle felt the need to check Girardi while he was headed behind the net, and not in the legal way. That combined with the fact Boyle had bowled over Lundqvist in the first period, left the Garden crowd not too pleased with the ex-Ranger.

Was it a hard hit from behind directly into the boards? While I want to say yes just so I have more of a reason to be mad at Boyle, no it was not. It was a shove. But it was a dangerous shove as the two were too close to the boards for that hit to be made. The ironman went down and didn’t get up.

A scrum ensued and after it cleared, Girardi was seen lying on his back talking to the trainers. He slowly was helped to sit up, talked to them a little longer and then somehow was able to skate to the locker room with only a little help from his teammates. But even from my seat upstairs at MSG, I could tell he looked dazed.

After the game, Vigneault gave some promising news:

“He’s being evaluated by our medical staff right now,” Vigneault said of Girardi. “But as far as I could tell when I left everything looked good.”

But did he lose consciousness?

“Uh, I didn’t get into the details,” Vigneault said. “I just asked if Dan was all right and everybody shook their head (yes).”

From what I saw, both in person and on replay, it didn’t look like he did. But he definitely looked dazed so it’s possible. The scrum also took place basically on top of him so if he had, there may be no video that would show that. It’s just never a good sign when Girardi stays down. Here’s to hoping the ironman is okay.

Boyle was thrown from the remainder of the game and while the Rangers didn’t make it easy on themselves, they did manage to hang on for the 3-2 comeback victory. Does it make up for last year? No way. Did I enjoy watching Tampa lose a game they were leading after two? Absolutely.

Now only two games left. I don’t even care what happens in the standings but can we please not have to give another injury update on Thursday night?


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Only Trip To Detroit Not A Pleasant One

After a couple days off, the Rangers started another grueling stretch with a trip to Detroit. More than halfway through the game, it looked like there was going to be two goals total between these two teams in the two games they’ve played so far this year. Instead, the Rangers sloppy play finally caught up to them in the third. I wish the Rangers could decline afternoon games.

First, some pregame news as there is light at the end of the tunnel in regards to our daily injury updates. The good news? Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms), Rick Nash (“bone bruise”) and Marc Staal (back spasms) all returned to the lineup. There’s been no question what Lundqvist’s injury is and I think everyone had given up guessing what really happened to Nash. As for Marc, the New York Post quoted him as explaining his injury as:

Staal said it stemmed from his spine being “a little out of line, and something happens where it’s a way it doesn’t want me to move, it just spasms up on me. The muscles just lock up, and I can’t put my socks on anymore.”

Apparently getting the flu didn’t help (which makes sense to me) but that sounds even more miserable than I originally thought. Hopefully he’s correct in saying it’s behind him.

Of course the Rangers can’t have a complete lineup so Derick Brassard stayed in New York with the flu. There is a chance he plays tomorrow. Personally, I would allow him to get completely healthy but that’s just me. (And Dylan McIlrath is still out but he wouldn’t have been playing anyway with the other six healthy.)

Speaking of staying in New York, it looked like most of the team was with Brassard. Actually, after being outshot 15-6 through 19 minutes, I think it’s safe to say Henrik Lundqvist was the only Rangers player in Detroit.

But this is the Rangers so of course their seventh shot of the period, taken with 49 seconds to go, actually ended up in the net to give the visitors a lead they absolutely didn’t deserve. (Honestly trying to figure out how that was their seventh shot since the entire period was played in their zone.) Chris Kreider attempted a pass to Derek Stepan that bounced over his stick. Somehow Stepan got the puck back and put it towards the net. After a scramble in front, the puck bounced back to Stepan who put it in the wide open net. If anyone wants to know what puck luck is, watch that goal.

Then came the second period. It was twenty minutes that…happened. There were penalties (mostly bad ones by both teams) and a few chances but otherwise nothing of note, which is probably a good thing considering the way the Rangers have played second periods recently.

But that left the Rangers clinging to a one goal lead against a Red Wings team who had dominated most of the play through the first forty. That lead lasted all of 4:28 before the Wings finally got on the board.

Somehow the game remained tied for the next ten minutes. Then, with a number of Rangers completely gassed Abdelkader decided to help them out by taking an extremely stupid goaltender interference penalty. (When I say completely gassed, I mean two guys had been stuck out there for over a minute and a half because of a horrible change by the other three.) And then a miracle, as the Rangers took advantage and regained the lead on the power play:

It all started with a phenomenal keep-in by Derek Stepan to keep the play alive. The puck then makes it’s way to the net as Chris Kreider perfectly deflects the shot by Keith Yandle to regain the lead.

That left the Rangers four and a half minutes to kill to get the victory. Instead, with 2:05 to go, Eric Staal returned the favor for the Wings by holding Larkin in front of the Rangers net. (Sometimes those penalties have to be taken. This one didn’t.) The sad part is the Rangers almost killed it. After a couple of loose clears, they remembered they could shoot for the empty net and started blasting the puck down whenever they could. But they couldn’t hit it and with 32 seconds remaining, we had a tie game.

Actually, the sad part was I wasn’t confident it was headed to overtime at that point and it almost didn’t as the Wings got a golden chance in the dying seconds that fortunately Lundqvist saved to salvage a point. But he couldn’t salvage the second as the Wings finally capitalized on the Rangers numerous turnovers to take the victory. (Let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure most knew it was over when they saw the Rangers put out Hayes, Miller and Yandle even with the face-off in the Wings zone. That shift lasted exactly 15 seconds.)

As I’ve said in previous recaps, points are points and the Rangers will take them any way they can get them. Did they deserve two points tonight? Henrik Lundqvist did. The rest? Not so much. So take the point, say thank you and somehow find a way to be ready to play another game in roughly 18 hours.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Practice Brings Lots Of Updates

With nine days to go before the trade deadline, it’s safe to assume that you can never assume what updates will come out of an off day practice. For instance, I’m sure no one expected the Rangers to place Dan Paille on waivers today. But they did, meaning that the wingers run with the Rangers is over after 12 games.

Is that really news? I guess. The Rangers signing of Paille was basically a no-risk tryout. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, they would send him back to the AHL which is where he was before they signed him. No harm, no foul and I don’t blame them one bit for giving it a try. It didn’t work and so we move on.

The question becomes who will be playing on the fourth line tomorrow night if it isn’t Paille. After practice, Vigneault said that Jeff Gorton and Scott Arniel will be at Hartford’s game tonight to make a decision on who the call up will be. The belief among the beat writers seems to be that it won’t be Jayson Megna but instead either Marek Hrivik or Ryan Bourque. The fact that all of them are saying that tells me they know more then they are letting on but we’ll see tomorrow who it is.

Two other players who won’t be on the ice tomorrow night against the Red Wings are Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh. Neither is really a surprise.

In regards to Nash, they said there is no update and then admitted he has been working out in the gym on his own. That’s a start since the last we heard he had been shut down. I’m still not expecting to see him until some time in March. Although if it’s early March, that could be one great (and cheap, since they are already paying him) “deadline acquisition”.

As for McDonagh, there was good news and bad news:

The Rangers are insisting that is all and that he did not suffer a second concussion. To me, neck spasms are whiplash which usually coincides with concussions. But the captain went through protocol both on Thursday in Toronto and again today, passing the tests both times. If he did manage to escape a second concussion, that is huge. But it would be foolish to rush him back after two hits to the jaw in less than a two week span. At the moment, the Rangers are saying he’s day-to-day.


In other news, when speaking about Paille being waived, Vigneault discussed the entire fourth line. Per Andrew Gross:

“I think it’s safe to say our expectations of that line is a little bit higher than what we’re getting at this time,” Vigneault said. “The only player really that I want to (say we’re) satisfied with what he’s bringing is Tanner. I know what he’s going to bring, that physicality to the game. Dan, I thought, was all right in that he brings us depth. I think we’re looking for a little upgrade there and Dom’s play needs to be better, there’s no doubt – faceoffs and penalty killing aspect, the defensive aspect, all areas that he’s done better in the past, he’s not doing as well right now. We’ve talked to him about it and we’re hoping he’s going to get his game together. There’s more to it than just the faceoffs. In Dom’s case there’s puck decisions and reads when we don’t have the puck. We’ve tried different players on that line. We’re still looking for a combination that will make us a more effective four-line team. We’ve still got a little bit of time to figure it out and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

Look, I never like to see players called out but sometimes it has to happen and I’m glad Vigneault is mentioning the recent play of Dominic Moore. I know a lot of people will blame his linemates but his decisions recently with and without the puck have nothing to do with who is on the ice with him. To prove that point, he’s made bad ones at even strength, during the penalty kill and during the last minutes of play in the past couple of games. He has different linemates in each of those situations.

(On a separate note, I know a lot of people say the Rangers have missed a few past players on the penalty kill. My response is they are right – we are missing Moore and Jesper Fast. Watch the two of them attempt to kill penalties and you’ll see what I mean.)

The other part of that quote that I found interesting was him mentioning the play of Tanner Glass. Honestly, Glass has been fine. He is what he is and he hasn’t been a liability since, well since his call up from Hartford. He hasn’t. But if he’s the best player on the fourth line, that means we have a serious problem with the fourth line. Removing Paille is fine but that isn’t solving the problem.

Which brings us back to the date – February 20th. Nine days until the trade deadline. In the past it’s been clear by now what area the Rangers are expected to address. This year, I couldn’t even begin to guess. It’s one reason a lot of people believe the team isn’t a contender. I still don’t buy that but I expect it to be an extremely interesting nine days. The team will do something because they always do. Only time will tell if it’s something of significance.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Strange Happenings Around Rangers

With a little over three weeks until the trade deadline, most assume something will happen with the current Rangers lineup. At today’s morning skate, we got more questions than answers.

Let’s start with the good news. Yesterday, the Rangers announced that Kevin Klein was out indefinitely with a broken thumb. Fans and media both panicked that Klein would be out and rejoiced that Dylan McIlrath would get to play. Fast forward to this morning and…

I know this time of year is all about mind games but that is some hard core trolling by the Rangers, if you ask me. There is no way they had no idea he would be able to skate today when they announced the injury yesterday. Yes “out indefinitely” could mean two days or two months but from yesterday’s talk, it sounded like we wouldn’t be seeing the steady defenseman any time soon. That obviously was not the case.

The good news is that means “out indefinitely” will definitely be on the lower end of that spectrum. Even though he was able to stickhandle and shoot during practice, he will miss tonight’s game. How many more after that is yet to be seen.

In other lineup news, the Rangers randomly called up Jayson Megna last night. (The fact they called up a forward instead of a defenseman should have been a hint they knew Klein wasn’t out long term.) He will play tonight…for Tanner Glass.

Now if there is anyone who thinks this is a permanent switch, they are delusional. We all know Glass isn’t going anywhere so the question is are they showcasing Megna or a different forward? My guess is a different forward and they need to see if Megna can replace that forward when they are moved. (I’ve been on record as saying I don’t expect Viktor Stalberg to be here on March 1st.) That’s just my guess. With the way this season has gone, I won’t begin to even pretend I know what the Rangers are thinking or planning.

But they are planning something because Vigneault wasn’t on the ice for the full morning skate this morning. (Another unusual occurence as the team never has a full morning skate after they practiced the day before.) Where was he?

Well that’s not normal. It’s not unusual for this time of year but definitely not normal. Again, I won’t begin to guess who or what they were discussing. But I can guarantee they weren’t talking about the weather or just saying hi as Vigneault implied when he spoke to the media.

The Ranger never sit quiet at the trade deadline. I was hoping this year we wouldn’t have a major trade in the last 24 hours. I’m still not sure we will because I’m not sure who they can trade. But it will definitely be an interesting three and a half weeks around MSG.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)